Wednesday, June 24, 2009

letting go of judgements - allow ones own experience

Last night I had the opportunity to observe an intro class taught by an amazing instructor. This particular class was a great class to observe since for most of the students this was their 1st or 2nd yoga class ever - they truly needed to be "introduced to yoga".

I had many ah ha moments during the class and then contemplating after the class. One that sticks out to me is allowing each person to have their own experience.

In our society we typically look at someones figure and make assumptions about their health, fitness level, etc.. based on their figure. Someone is tall and thin - they must be healthy and fit. Someone is short and round - they are not. Someone is young - they must be flexible. And so on. As I observed this class I could see 9 completely unique bodies with their own special qualities. Each person was unique and in many cases was very different than societal conventions would have said.

A beautiful very tall thin young woman who could barely reach the blocks, let alone the floor and had little, if any body awareness. A mid 40's woman who was shorter and rounder yet her hands could touch the floor completely and eased into down dog and parsvokanasana with grace. As I observed I had to consciously remind myself that each person is their own person, in their own moment and having their own experience. They are not to be judged or compared against each other or a standard that I may have created in my own mind.

Through out conversations about how to teach a intro or basic class there is a re-occurring theme that as the teacher you need to be aware of each person's capabilities/limitations and take the seat with an open mind instead of trying to "fix them". You need to allow them to have THEIR experience. During this class I observed this teacher truly have an open mind and not try to "fix them". She emphasized trying to create a pulsation and allowed them to each have their own unique experience.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

My 1st Beginner Class Sequence

We started teacher training going over sequencing. For the past 2 weeks I have been working on writing a number of different class sequences. I have been struggling most with intro and beginner class sequences. I have an intermediate/advanced practice and typically take those type of classes. It has been very difficult for me to step back and write a beginner sequence. I struggle with making it not too advanced yet at the same time not boring and too easy.

This morning I decided to do one of my beginner sequences as my practice and see how it felt. I found some changes that I wanted to make and feel pretty good about it. Here is the sequence below.

Key to my abbreviations
RBS = repeat both sides 3x - repeat 3x
DD – Down Dog AOH – Arms over head


Hands and knees
Cat cow
Hands and knees, melt heart
RBS Hands & knees, lift right leg back straight and left arm forward
DD, walk forward
3x Uttanasana, flat back
Tadasana, AOH, uttanasana
Right leg back lunge
DD, Plank, DD
Right leg forward- lunge
DD, plank, knees to floor, lower to belly, Baby cobra
DD
RBS Low lunge, walk hands to inside, gecko (emphasis on hip opening)
DD, plank, knees to floor, lower to belly, Baby cobra
DD, walk forward
3x Uttanasana, flat back
Tadasana, AOH
RBS Tadasana, bend & lift right leg, hold knee, work on getting tall, & opening
hips, release
tadasana , wide stance, clasp hands behind back, bend forward
3x Uttanasana, flat back
hands on knees, utkatasana, stand up, AOH, fold forward
Uttanasana, DD, Plank, knees to floor, lower to belly, clasp hands behind
back & rise
Rest on belly
DD
Right leg Parsvakonasana prep
wide leg forward bend, flat back 3x
Parsvakonasana prep side 2
Wide leg forward bend, clasp arms, bend forward, rotate foot forward, lunge
DD, plank, knees to floor, lower to belly, cobra
RBS DD, Parsvakonasana, warrior 2, DD
uttanasana
RBS tadasana, tree
Uttanasana
Malasana
Take seat
Badakonasana
RBS ardha matsyendrasana
RBS janu sirsasana (bend over front leg)
Lay on back
ananda balasana (happy baby)
reclined twist
sivasana

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Envy

Envy: a painful awareness of an advantage enjoyed by another joined with a desire to possess the same advantage

Where does it come from? Why does it pop up from time to time? How do I make it stop?

I am very content in my life. I have a beautiful home, I am surrounded by wonderful friends and family, I have more "things" then I know what to do with. I have never known what it is like to be homeless, hungry, cold or to really know what is like to go without something I want. I am extremely lucky and grateful for that.

So why when I hear a friend or colleague scheduling a trip to Ireland, buying a new boat, renovating their house do I feel that little bit of pain? I am truly happy for them in their success and enjoyment and at the same time I start to wonder why can't I do that? Why can't I have that? What are we doing wrong that we need to make restrictions and hold back? I then of course get frustrated with myself because I know I have no reason to be envious. I wish there was a way to delete the feeling envy from my mind. I know deep down that I have an amazing life.

Life is good!

Monday, June 15, 2009

New Eyes

The voyage of discovery is not
in seeking new landscapes but
in having new eyes.
–Marcel Proust

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Cry (or Meow) for Help

I have 2 cats, both are extremely vocal. I think Thomas has one of the largest vocabularies of any cat I have every met. He loves to communicate with us and gives us a play by play of what he is doing. Going to jump on bed - meow a. Going to jump off the bed - meow b. Going downstairs - yet another meow, and so on. Besides being very talkative is VERY loud. He does an excellent imitation of a fire truck. If he is in the basement and you are on the 2nd floor and he wants you to hear him, trust me you will.

Last night as I climbed into bed I thought it a little odd that Thomas did not come and announce he was coming to bed and then get in bed with us. I figured he must be snacking downstairs. This morning I woke and while getting dressed I heard these faint cries. I called to Thomas to get him to come in the room and he didn't. A couple minutes later as I started heading downstairs I heard these faint cries again. A light went off in my head and I realized where the cries were coming from - the closed door to the guest room. Last night he snuck into the guest room (which they are not allowed in.) He proceeded to get locked in that room for the duration of the evening.

I am sure in the beginning he thought it was a great thing he accomplished - getting into the room he is not allowed in. At some point I am sure he realized he was stuck but yet did not cry for help. Why would an extremely vocal cat not let us know he is stuck. I started thinking about this and realized this is not far off from what we "smarter" humans do all the time. We get ourselves in a situation. We don't realize that this situation can only lead us to a place of being stuck. Once we realize it, we don't ask for help. We give small signs that we need help and hope someone passing by will notice. We don't cry out and make it know - I'M STUCK - HELP ME! How much quicker could we become unstuck if we spoke out, if we put our pride to the side and asked for help.

A little boy was having difficulty lifting a heavy stone.
His father came along just then.

Noting the boy's failure, he asked, "Are you using all your strength?"

"Yes, I am," the little boy said impatiently.

"No, you are not," the father answered. "I am right here just waiting, and you haven't asked me to help you."

~author unknown

Monday, June 8, 2009

Roasted Grape Tomatoes

So simple to make and so flavorful.

Simply pre-heat an oven (or toaster oven) to 400 degrees. Line a cookie sheet with foil. Place the tomatoes on the cookie sheet. Drizzle with olive oil, salt (gray salt is my preference) and pepper - mix around so all tomatoes are coated well. Place in oven and roast for 20 -25 minutes.

So many ways in which to use:
  • In a salad - toss arugula with lemon & oil, place tomatoes on top, shave big pieces of Parmesan on top
  • Pasta - cook your favorite pasta, toss with olive oil, add roasted tomatoes, ricotta salata and arugula
  • Bruschetta - toast bread slices, mash the roasted tomatoes and mix with white beans, spread over toast

Consciously Incompetent

I'm a smart person. I am good at what I do. At work, I am one of the people that someone comes to for the answers and most of the time - I have the answers or know who/where to send them to get the answers. I am comfortable with this and I like it.

I spent this weekend in my 1st weekend of yoga teacher training. To be faced with the challenge of learning something knew is exhilarating and at the same time terrifying. At times, it was a very unsettling experience. To realize that I don't know the answers. I don't know where to begin or where I am trying to go. I don't even know the questions to ask. Can you say FRUSTRATION! This is not me - I have the answers, I know my stuff!

When learning something new there are 4 stages we go through. Each stage generates different emotions and fears.
  • unconsciously incompetent - you don't know what you don't know
  • consciously incompetent - you know you don't know
  • consciously competent - you know you know
  • unconsciously competent - you don't know you know
I am currently consciously (and unconsciously) incompetent as a yoga teacher in training. The emotions that this stage brings up are ones I don't experience on a regular basis (and prefer to avoid). I am contemplating things I haven't in many years. A truly humbling experience. As I go through this process I am sure that I will progress through the stages. I am looking forward to experiencing these different emotions and stages. It is all part of the journey.

Friday, June 5, 2009

vegetarian, flexatarian, whatever...

What do I call myself, how do I label myself - vegetarian, flexatarian, pseudo vegetarian? What does this matter? Why do I need a label?

I stopped eating meat, foul and fish over 10 years ago - basically I became a vegetarian. I was always a picky eater. As a teenager meal time was always a bit difficult depending on the latest fad food idea I was going through. I never particularly liked meat. I ate it because it was served to me and I had to. When I went to college I had the ability to decide for myself what I wanted to eat. For years I danced with the idea of being a vegetarian. Much of the dance back towards the meat was due to difficulties in finding good vegetarian food in western New York and convenience.

When I finally stopped the dance it was mainly under the guise that it was healthier not to eat meat. As with many vegetarians once you become vegetarian you start to read & learn more. Your reasons become more ethical than health based. My reasons to date are both ethical and health based. I am an animal lover and truly believe it is healthier not to eat animal products. (I believe eliminating dairy is one of the healthiest things to do - however I LOVE CHEESE and need some vices.)

About 8 years ago I was going out to lunch with clients in Manhattan. In many instances my dietary choices would become a topic of conversation at lunch, much to my disappointment and avoidance techniques. Many NYC restaurants are extremely open and accommodating to vegetarians. Unfortunately, I have found that French style restaurants are typically the least accommodating and many of my clients at that time would choose French restaurants for meals. The menu rarely had a vegetarian entree on the menu. I would need to ask the server if they would make a vegetarian dish. The resulting meal was usually an extremely boring vegetable plate. The frustrating part of this experience was that my food preferences were brought to the attention of my clients and then it was inevitable that a conversation would start - can we say NOT FUN. After a number of these undesirable experiences I caved and decide I would order fish dishes. I could justify the fish in my mind because it wasn't on a farm, in a small cage, being tortured. I would have a couple bites of the fish, eat the sides and no one knew the better. But I did, and my body did (and my body rebelled). I did this for a year or two and decided to stop the fish again.

A couple years ago I decided to occasionally (maybe once a month) eat fish. I am not sure what made me decide to do this. I have struggled with this and struggle with this decision each time I choose to eat fish. I can eat it as long as it doesn't look like fish or look like flesh. I struggle with the fact that I am eating another living creature. It was killed to be eaten by me or some other person. Sometimes I can simply get past this because the King Tuna Roll TASTES SO GOOD! My body still does not like it when I choose to have fish - it rebels the next day.

I struggle with what do I now label myself. I am a vegetarian that occasionally eats fish. So does that make me a hypocrite, how can I say I am a vegetarian when I eat fish. How do I explain to people when they invite us over for dinner that I only occasionally eat fish when "it feels right." it could feel right at 4pm when I buy the tuna but by 7pm when I go to cook it I cant. Does it matter? Why do we need the labels? Why do we have to complicate life and put people into categories. We limit our experiences with people by creating images of who they are and limit our own experiences by trying to fit into this mold that we say we are. If we can just stop and pause, just be who we are without this idea of who we were, who we are suppose to be life could be so much sweeter.

1st Day in a New Adventure

I completed my Anusara Immersion in April and gained so much from the experience. A new deeper understanding & technique in the physical asana aspect. Deep bonds I made with the people who shared the experience with me. The emotionally and spiritual roller coaster challenging who I am, who I thought I was and who I see myself becoming. A year long experience I wouldn't trade for anything.

Today is my 1st day of the Anusara Teacher Training program. I am excited and nervous at the same time. I love to learn and be challenged. I have been out of college 14 years. Even though I know I have continued to study and learn new things during this time there is nothing that compares to the experience of learning with a group of people. The different experiences, beliefs and ideas each person brings to the learning arena creates a dynamic environment which helps me to challenge & question myself.

This is where the nervous comes in. To challenge myself to question what I think, what I thought was going to happen, what I have been told in the past, who I really am and who I want to be. It is very easy to go through our daily routine without asking these questions. We (I) get caught up in the daily things that need to be done - laundry, groceries, dishes, work, etc... without taking (making) the time to look at the other deeper more important parts of life. In this training program I will have to look at these questions and many more on a daily basis - which is both exciting and scary. I have no doubt that in the end I will be happy with who I have become during the discovery process.

It is all about the journey...

Next Door at Blu

We had dinner last night at Next Door in Montclair for the 1st time. Next Door is the sister restaurant to Blu which we have enjoyed on many occasions. They share the same kitchen.

Next Door has a more casual atmosphere and service style than Blu. The food style is more homestyle (mashed potatos, meatloaf, burgers) while at the same time has a great mix with specialty and exotic dishes. Their prices are about 20%-25% less than Blue which can make a week night meal out more reasonable. They are also offering a great 3 course pric-fix for $20.

Scott started with an octopus, white bean and roasted red pepper salad that was out of this world. The octopus was carmalized perfectly and cooked just right. The slight hint of rosemary with the beans was just perfect and not overpowering as rosemary can sometimes be. The broth that was left was perfect for dipping some good peasant bread in (and their bread is good, worth dipping and eating.) I had a an arugula salad with goat cheese, roasted beets and walnuts. I thought the menu had said pecans but I must have misread. I am not a big walnut fan, they make my mouth itch. Even with the walnuts the salad was excellent. Just the right amount of dressing - nothing was swimming - and the goat cheese was fresh, creamy and delcious.

For our entrees Scott had penne with duck, white beans and hot peppers. Wow, were those peppers hot. I had linguine with wild mushrooms, garlic and oil which was faboulous. The portions were enormous, as so many restaurants are. By the time we were both finished we each had 1/2 a bowl of pasta left in the bowl. We had eaten all of the "stuff" with some pasta and then left the balance of pasta.

I know many people like the large portions. I personally prefer "right size" portions. I don't need (or want) a heaping bowl of pasta. I would prefer to have a small amount of pasta and heaping amounts of vegetables, beans, etc... I like to be able to eat 2 -3 courses and not feel like I need to be rolled out of a place. I know, I know, I can always stop eating so I can have the next course. The problem is I have very little willpower. If I have a dish in front of me that is delicious I will continue to eat and eat and eat. It takes all my effort to stop - even though I know I should, and know I will regret it if I dont. I have started resorting to other means to prevent myself from eating to much. I will put my fork in Scott's meat dish that way I no longer have utensils to eat with. Other times I have been known to dump tons of salt on top so it no longer is tasty. I would much prefer if restaurants served more "correct" size portions - do we really need 1/2 lb of pasta in one course.

We had a wonderful bottle of Rosenblum Aparicio Zinfandel with the meal. We love zins, and Rosenblum is one of our favorite vinters. This was the 1st time we had this particular Rosenblum zin. It was a nice combination of pepper, blackberry with a bit of chocolate.

All in all a wonderful Thursday evening in Monclair.




What a wonderful meal we had.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Life is short

Life is short.

This is a saying that we here all the time and wave away without another thought. It takes particular situations that occur to remind us - life is really short and precious. You never know what the next hour or day may bring so you need to make each moment count. Celebrate every aspect of your life from the mundane to the extraordinary. Put your energies into things that count and not waste them on the inconsequential things you can not change.

I was at a funeral for my husband's grandmother over the weekend. She lived a long, good and at times very hard life of 86 years. The last 4 years had been very difficult as she suffered with dimension and was not always present. As I sat through the service and the events of the day that followed I was reminded how short life is and that this was truly a time to celebrate her life.

Through out the day I listened to gripes from one family member to another - this person didn't contribute money for the lunch, how could that person show up dressed like that, this person never calls me back. This went on for hours and hours. It was exhausting and emotionally draining. No one knows when their time or a loved one's time is going to come. To focus energies in a negative way serves no purpose in my world. This day wasn't about the individuals, it was about celebrating her.

Life is short! Make every moment count! Celebrate life fully!
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