This is my first “official” week of summer vacation from school. It won’t last long, as I am continuing writing curriculum and other fun things to keep myself busy. One of the things that I plan to do this summer is focus on two yoga goals, until I become “Frau” again to my freshmen and sophomore babies, and I invite you to join me!
There are a few things to keep in mind before we begin our 2-month challenge:
- Attainable goals: as you will see below, one of my goals might seem high up on the totem pole, however I am perfectly comfortable accepting that it might not be reached by the time we corral students back into their desks in August. In fact, I fully expect to have obstacles that keep me from getting there and will NOT stress my self-esteem, nor my body, to achieve something for the sake of it alone. Making advancements TOWARDS the end in mind with concentrated dedication, is what is important here. Progress is the goal, not the perfection.
- Safety: Duh. I will employ a variety of methods to perhaps meet my desired August self. I urge you to do the same. Yoga isn’t cross fit. Baby steps; be the tortoise, not the hare; pound of prevention is better than an ounce of cure. Need ideas? Ask for help!
- Positive Reinforcement: Give yourself mini-goals that you can achieve faster, and more safely, and then REWARD yourself when you do! I bet if you allowed yourself to buy that cute new yoga top as you reached each checkpoint, you will definitely find the incentive you need. 🙂 Any progress is something worth celebrating!
Are you ready!?!?
Challenge: Pick 2 Yoga Elements to focus on this summer, to spend more time researching, practicing, and dedicating some effort to improving. Ideas: Asanas: Specific ones, or those targeting particular body parts, Pranayama, Meditation, Anna Yoga, Seva Yoga, Bhakti Yoga, Santosha, Svadhyaya, Chakras, Kriya, Tapas, I could keep going on and on and on!!, etc. Either focus both on one Element to intensify your dedication to those goals, or have two different Element goals to play with, to broaden your horizons.
Then think, WHY have you chosen your 2 goals? Make sure you know what you wish to achieve! Have you given yourself a target that is worthy? This is a YOGA goal, which encompasses making the world a better place, being kind to and honoring everyone who crosses your path, mental health, fitness, acknowledging the truth, and searching for the divine in all. And those are just a few of the zillion things we practice yoga for.
Good reasons: To improve your mental, physical and emotional health; to gain insight, awareness and understanding; to challenge yourself so your practice remains dynamic; to try something new that is safe, etc.
Bad reasons: To prove that you can, either to yourself or others; to show off; to force yourself into a situation or practice that you aren’t really ready for, but wish you were.
Step Two (Ideas)
Take intentional motions to make those Elements a part of your daily life, without stressing yourself out. If Asana, Pranayama or Meditation related, 10 minutes is plenty of time to add to your busy schedule. If Anna Yoga, make an effort to eliminate one unhealthy thing you eat a day. If Seva Yoga, give yourself one step daily that serves others and pays it forward. Bhakti Yoga: find a devotional journal to write in, take time to spend in prayer or reading your religious text. There are so many options to increase your physical, spiritual or emotional practice. I would love to hear your ideas!
My 2 Challenges:
Luckily, I find yoga breath and meditation easier than some, otherwise I would focus one of my goals on either, because I enjoy both immensely. Perhaps this is due to my being an asthmatic (and thus, controlling my breath in some way was a large part of my childhood). Although I am a Type- A crazy person, I also enjoy just simmering and being. Long Savasanas have been a part of my yoga practice ever since I started in 2006, and since I have been attempting acupuncture for a sore neck/shoulder for the past month, I have had lots of practice lately. The Dr. sticks me and leaves me to breathe in a quiet and warm room, focusing on my belly-button, for up to an hour. It is fabulous.
Therefore I am giving myself one Asana goal and a mixed mental/Asana purpose goal for the summertime. Would you like to follow suit? I would love to see your progress and be your cheerleader, as I am sure the great yogis of the past did for their students. Remember: even experts were once beginners and had a supporter!
Goal #1: Monkey Pose (Full Splits)
As I said before, big pose. The main reason why I wish to get, eventually, if (most likely) not by August, into Monkey Pose, is because of my hamstrings. They are tight, and, I believe, pulling on my back, which is contributing to my shoulder/neck issues. Whenever I do anything that involves the strength or flexibility of my hamstrings, be it a dead lift with weights, crescent lunge, yard work or picking up dog poo in the backyard (dead lift- like movement), they are always barking at me in some way later. (The hamstrings, not my dogs for picking up their poo). I can get into a deep lizard and pigeon, but extending the front leg into monkey just isn’t happening. I can do every part of bird of paradise, sometimes with less grace than I would like, except extending my leg- because of tight hams. I adore pyramid pose and usually sneak one in a Vinyasa class if it wasn’t given, because my hammies need it so much! However, I know I can improve my pyramid and half monkey more- which will help me gradually into deeper hamstring openers.
Therefore, I will be spending some time this summer doing various and dedicated hamstring stretches that can help to open the backs of my legs more so that one day, Hanumanasana could potentially be in my repertoire. I will post progress and varieties weekly, so you can see what I am doing and how my progress is going. I would LOVE to share yours as well! 🙂
Goal #2: CORE awareness in various Asanas
I don’t like core work, ’cause it is hard and I am core lazy. I want to stop being a person who focuses on muscles I like using (legs, for example), when I really should be using my trunk. This is a big deal to me for especially balances, of any kind. Arm balances demand core more than strength and standing balances require me to actively not clench my toes, so that I use my deep abdomen muscles instead. I went to an arm balances workshop and disliked that I literally needed to hurl myself forward to get into handstand up the wall, when others looked light and effortless. I know that yoga is not about comparing ourselves to others, however, I admired their ability to use their bodies to their potential. I wish to honor my body by following their example. The reason why they looked this way is simple: they were utilizing their core to help them do the movement, not gravity nor momentum. I recently started paying more attention to my hasta bandhas when going through Sun Sals and the difference was remarkable. My floating was actually floaty, as opposed to chucking my feet back and forward. That is what I wish to achieve: a handstand up the wall where I don’t look like I am doing a handspring for gymnastics; balancing 1/2 moon by utilizing obliques more; extended hand to big-toe pose without needing to hold the wall; and doing 3 legged plank- a pose I usually avoid. I am usually trying to use my belly to breathe and therefore forget that there are powerful and vital muscles there that are my powerhouse, and surround my power chakra.
Bringing attention to certain parts of your body, or emotions, or things, is a pillar of yoga practice. We get lazy sometimes or comfortable being comfortable. Yoga is about learning to find contentment in your (safe) edge. If stretching weren’t a tad uncomfortable, there would really be no reason to do it. The first step to meditation is being able to focus your attention, for any length of time, before your monkey mind decides to jump elsewhere. Do you have an area of your body where you need to divert your focus? Something a simple as moving a finger or your heel can alter your Asana entirely. I wonder, if I dedicate my energy to more CORE when I should, and my poses change because of it, how could my mental practice during yoga improve as well? Could my attention move inward more? What other potential will I find because of this focus?
I give your 2 month challenge my loudest, “You can do it!” and hope that your practice is all the better because of your dedication.