Friday, December 4, 2009

Take Good Care

Parents say ‘be careful’ all the time. Especially in this day and age when internet news and Youtube don’t let us forget that anything can happen, anywhere, anytime.

You go to school: ‘’Have a good day. Be careful!”

You walk to your friend’s house: “Have fun. Be careful!”

You go to your first Green Day concert: “BE CAREFUL! BE CAREFUL! BE CAREFUL! DID I TELL YOU TO BE CAREFUL? BE CAREFUL!!!!”

And it’s not like it goes in one ear and out the other, like they might think, because your parents are generally pretty smart people, so it’s good to listen to them, probably most of the time. But you don’t really THINK about the words – really think about them – because, let’s face it, you’re busy.

But let’s think about it now. It seems to me that what lies at the heart of ‘be careful’ is that we -- each and all of us -- need to TAKE CARE OF OURSELVES, on every level, all the time. So while your parents et al are talking about things like Purell-ing yourself from ponytail to platforms during flu season and not taking a ride to school from a guy you hardly know, no matter how cute he might be (and these are two INCREDIBLY IMPORTANT pieces of wisdom to be listened to at all costs!), what I’m talking about here is not judging yourself harshly if you don’t look like a Juicy Couture model or Blake Lively, not pushing yourself to the point of pain just to fit into a pair of size 2 jeans, not giving Doritos and Vitamin Water too much real estate on the food pyramid, not allowing people into your life who don’t show you respect.

For those of us who practice yoga, this whole idea is covered by the word ‘ahimsa’ which is Sanskrit for ‘non-harming’ (take care of yourself…don’t harm yourself…you get the picture). And on the yoga mat this translates into not getting down on yourself if you can’t get your foot behind your head, forgiving yourself for not being able to express a yoga pose as fully on your right side as you can on your left (or on Friday as completely as you did on Tuesday), relaxing into a forward bend without judging yourself on how far you go. The idea of taking care of yourself in a yoga class certainly keeps you safe and makes a class more healthful and even fun. But I think the lesson of ahimsa when taken off the mat means a whole lot more.

Just for fun, try this: sit up straight, let your shoulders relax away from your ears and your spine grow a little taller with every inhale and every exhale as you hook into a smooth, slow, ever-deepening breath. Your legs should be stretched out in front of you and you should feel nice and grounded in your seat. Now, on an in-breath, raise your arms overhead alongside your ears and on a slow, relaxed ex-breath, bend forward at the waist. Maybe your hands reach your toes, maybe they reach your shins, maybe they reach your knees, but practice NOT JUDGING HOW FAR YOU REACH and just breathe. See what it feels like to just be okay with yourself no matter where you are.

That, Beautiful Yoga Girl, is a fine example of ahimsa -- non-harming, taking care of yourself -- in action. Take care:)

Friday, October 30, 2009

Halloween? Seriously? Just Breathe!

So, it’s Halloween.

Amazingly enough, school is seriously underway, the soccer/hockey/volleyball seasons are two months in, plays are in rehearsal…



I remember getting thru the beginning of the school year mostly by surrendering to the momentum, the forward motion of the calendar. I wasn’t the most athletic gal on the Upper West Side of Manhattan so for me, it went something like this:

Math quiz Tuesday
Glee Club rehearsal Wednesday
Play auditions Thursday
History test Friday
Paper due Monday
Play call-backs Tuesday
Glee Club rehearsal Wednesday
Spanish quiz Thursday
Yearbook meeting Thursday
Ideas for end of term paper due Monday

And so on until Winter break. You just hit your deadlines, you keep showing up where you’re supposed to having done the best job on A, B, or C possible, you embrace the one-thing-after-another of it all like the good girl you are as you tumble along like Jill after Jack. You do it cuz you have to. You do it cuz you can.

But, at a certain point, you might find yourself stepping back and saying ‘Whoa’. At a certain point, you might find yourself feeling more than a little overwhelmed, feeling the weight of a plate that is overly full.

And I’m sure you know this but I’ll say it to you anyway: totally normal. What you might not know is that it’s completely in your power to slow things down, even for a few minutes, and regain some control, perspective and calm.

Try this: take a seat on the floor. Sit up straight – against a wall, not against a wall – Indian Style (in yoga we call this Sukasana or ‘Easy Pose’), eyes closed, hands on your knees. Let your shoulders relax, your shoulder blades almost drip down your back. Now, take slow, easy breaths thru your nose, each inhale and each exhale getting a little longer, a little slower, a little deeper. Let go of your full plate, your schedule, the quizzes and papers, the call backs and rehearsals, the ‘what comes next and next and next’, and just breathe.

In this simple act of breathing for even as little as 5 minutes, a lot of what yoga is comes together: staying in the present, letting go physically and mentally, connecting to the breath, carving out time for yourself to just be still. There will be more as we take this yoga journey together but for now, for 5 minutes out of your incredibly busy day, let this be enough.
You can do it! Remember, you’re awesome! You’re a Beautiful Yoga Girl!