bendy, stretchy, zen

I’m not the most flexible person I know. Not even close. I can touch my toes but can I do a split? Gimme a break. Too many years of running and not stretching before or after have left a legacy of tight hips and hamstrings. Not to mention the whole lower back problem.

I can’t do a handstand without the assistance of a wall. Forearm stand is not in my practice either. In fact, I don’t particularly like dolphin pose or any posture that requires me to be on my forearms because it causes pain in my outer wrists.

I’m getting better at arm balances, headstand, standing balance poses, etc. but my level of success really depends on the day. Some days I can float from one-legged pose to one-legged pose to one-legged pose without a bobble and others I’m a wildly swaying tree. I’ve taken my fair share of tumbles on the mat.

But yoga is not about how many hard poses you can do or not do. It’s not about getting it “right” each time, which is maybe why I love it so much. Living in a city and working in a profession that thrives on picking on the carcass of failure, it’s refreshing to have a sanctuary on the yoga mat, even if the physical aspect of yoga is really just a small part of the overall practice.

At the beginning of each yoga class, I set an intention and it’s usually a variation on a theme. Be playful, open-minded, graceful. Don’t be afraid. Just try. I don’t check these intentions at the door when class is over, but carry them with me long after the mat is rolled up and put away.
All of this is a long-winded way of telling you that this weekend I started a six-month, 200-hour yoga teacher training course at Mind the Mat. After two days I’m exhausted but also exhilarated and eager to get back to class today. I credit yoga with leading me to writing, my dharma, and while I don’t know where the next six months will take me, I feel a sense of purpose and fulfillment in setting off on this journey.

Namaste.

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mirror, mirror on the yogic wall

Since having a life-balance-happiness epiphany in a yoga class in New York my friend Margaret brought me to in August, I’ve been trying to incorporate more of the practice into my life.

My first thought was to test a few different studios, taking advantage of the “one month unlimited” deals that many offer for new students. While studio hopping made me feel a bit of a yoga slut, it did expose me to some different places for relatively cheap. (They suck you in, make you like them, then triple the price, but it’s all in the name of inner harmony, right?)

My first stop was a small studio-not-to-be-named in Columbia Heights. The commute was awful. Parking was worse. And many who practice there eschew leg shaving. And some, deodorant. I know it sounds shallow, but I like my yoga pretty.

Next I tried Flow in Logan Circle. I like it there. A lot. Except its fiscally challenging location: next to Whole Foods and across the street from Lululemon. Though in a private deal I made with myself when I splurged on a regularly priced full month of unlimited classes, I can only go into Whole Foods if feeding my children is dependent upon it. And no more Lulu visits unless I forget to pack yoga pants. Unintentionally forget, that is.

Capitol Hill Yoga offers a pleasant setting and challenging classes that aren’t over-crowded, but the schedule rarely seems to work with mine. (Though for those who have workplace flexibility, I highly recommend the 4:00 class on Mondays taught by Joan.)

Last week, Nancy and her neighbor Riikka invited me to join them for hot yoga at Mind the Mat. And when I say invited, I mean I crashed on their plans to do yoga and then cook a fabulous holiday dinner. (But I made up for inserting myself by contributing my new favorite dish, Leek, Shiitake and Truffle Risotto.)

And this is where the mirror comes in.

I’d never done yoga in front of a mirror. After four relatively short months of yoga practice, I was feeling pretty good. In my heart, my “Warrior Two” is solid. I gracefully move from “Reverse the Warrior” to “Triangle Pose” with ease. I look strong and determined and lean. But the mirror told a different story… I was like who is this clumsy, uneven person trying to do yoga in front of me? Yeah. Right. That’s me.

But it’s not how you look, it’s how you feel. And I felt great after class. The ultimate and universal beauty advice applies across the board. Did you put on a few extra pounds over the holidays? But enjoy yourself doing it? It’s all good. Maybe you aren’t any closer to becoming a yoga instructor than you are into fitting into the jeans formerly known as your favorite pair. But if you are living honestly and happily, you’ll glow on the outside.

Just remind me never to bring a love interest to yoga class.