Still Leaning Into Yoga

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The above picture is from March. Mini Me took it while I was in my yoga rut.

Whenever I crawled into downward dog, I felt stiff and awkward. I could say that Lil Ma camping underneath me didn’t help, but it’s not her fault. This was my standard pose.

When Hubs suggested I take pictures of my poses and compare them to ones from a trusted yoga source, I gave him some serious side eye, but he wasn’t totally off base. What he didn’t know is that I had tried that, and I couldn’t always figure out how to adjust my poses. I needed help from a certified yoga instructor.

I got three.

The first was my former colleague-now-full-time-yogi, Becky. She saw my tragic downward dog pic on Facebook and offered advice on keeping my shoulders down and stretching my spine. “Breathe and think loooooong spine,” she wrote.

My second and third instructors, Angie and Karen, are from a local yoga studio, Om Turtle Yoga. They too encouraged me to stop hunching my shoulders and to lift my rear-end, or “cupcake,” to lengthen the pose. In every class, Karen dutifully and gently adjusted my pose to get me to lengthen and lift.

I took the advice home every week. I pressed and pulled and lifted to try for a better down dog. None of them felt right.

Last week, I noticed that Karen took a deep breath as she adjusted my pose. It made me think about Becky’s advice again.

“Breathe and think loooooong spine.”

Breathe. Think.

Sure, I was breathing. Actually, I was huffing and puffing. I was thinking too, but I was thinking about how much I didn’t like the pose. What I wasn’t doing was connecting my breath, my movements, and my thoughts. This connection is a yoga fundamental, and it’s really hard to do. (At least for me it is.) 

Instead of worrying about what my down dog looked like, I started paying attention to how it felt.  I appreciated the strength of my hands as they pressed into the mat. I took in full, deep breaths that were both relaxing and energizing. And when I remembered to lift my cupcake, my back got a great stretch. Down dog felt really good. Who knew?

Turns out, the change in focus improved my pose too.  Here’s my latest yoga selfie. More soon!

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Leaning Into Yoga

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I love yoga, but my actions aren’t consistent with my emotions. I can practice faithfully for weeks, and then one missed session will lead to eons of slacking.

Yoga is a journey. I just wish I stayed on the road more consistently. Some days, I feel as if I’m in the same place as I was five years ago. In other words, I’m stuck.

My desire to advance my practice is no longer a fleeting thought. It’s an imperative. At-home practice is good, but I need help climbing out of my yoga rut. I need to take my butt back to class. The fact that I haven’t been able to make time for it has me frustrated to no end.

I tried to explain my feelings to Hubs. As an example, I told him about a cousin who recently started yoga and learned to do a headstand.

“Why are you comparing yourself to her?” he asked. “Do you even want to do a headstand?”

“The headstand isn’t the point,” I said. “The point is that she has been consistently practicing with an instructor, so she has improved. I need to go to class more, and I can’t figure out how to make that work with our schedules.”

“You don’t think you’re getting better?” he asked. “I don’t believe that. Aren’t you working out at home?”

I told him I can’t see myself to correct the poses. And there are some moves I can’t figure out how to do on my own. He suggested that I photograph myself and make corrections.

I don’t think he got it. I’m certain that when he’s ready to return to martial arts, he won’t requalify for his black belt by practicing alone and recording sparring matches with a punching bag.

But, I digress.

My stuckness made me tentative on the rare occasions I attended a class. I wouldn’t push. I internally cited a bum knee or lack of flexibility as a reason to avoid more advanced poses. I applauded myself for listening to my body.

This week, I snapped out of it. I took Thursday off to shuttle my dad to eye surgery, but it was cancelled at the last minute. So I took advantage of the free time to read Lean In, a book I’ve renewed four times from the library without cracking a page.

You can read a synopsis or review of the book on any number of sites, so I won’t get into that. I’ll just tell you what I’ve learned after reading about half of it.

I need to give myself more credit. I need to push for what I want, or I won’t get it. I need to speak up for my good work.

With that in mind, I signed up for an evening yoga session. At the onset of class, the instructor asked us each to set an intention. I wanted to work on a lot that night, but I tried to keep it simple.

Stop being afraid. Breathe. Reach.

The instructor, Angie, suggested we “play” after stretching our legs in half pigeon pose. I eyed her suspiciously as she lifted her straightened leg, bound her foot in a strap, and pulled the strap over her shoulder.

My intentions drowned out my hesitance.

Stop being afraid. Breathe. Reach.

I grabbed the strap and wrapped it over my foot. As I pulled the strap over my shoulders, I waited for my knee to protest. It didn’t. I took a deep breath and sank as far into the pose as my body would allow. Leaning in, or in this case, sinking in, felt right. The pose was easier to hold once I trusted my ability.

“You all look so beautiful!” Angie cried. “I’m taking a picture.”

The above pic is the one she took. I like who I see here. Strong. Confident. Focused.

I need to lean in more often.

 

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#TBT – My Vintage Jacket

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On Today this morning, the theme of a short Throwback Thursday segment was repeat outfits. The topic was inspired by a recent article about German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who’s been wearing the same tunic since 1996. For the average person, repeating outfits is not a big deal. I, for one, do not have an unlimited budget for an expansive wardrobe. But, I do ok. If I used every item in my closet, I could go for a good stretch without wearing the same thing from head to toe twice. (Does anyone else remember those fashion articles where they took 10 pieces and made a month’s worth of outfits? I will have to try that.) Eighteen years, though, is a long time. Initially, I couldn’t think of any item of clothing I’ve had for nearly that long. Jewelry? Bags? That’s another matter entirely. Clothing, I thought, just doesn’t last like it used to. Plus, I’m a little fickle, and I purge at the several times a year. Then I remembered this Caro of Honolulu jacket I bought at a church yard sale. I don’t remember the year I bought it, but I do remember I still lived with my parents. That was at least 15 years ago.

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The jacket was dingy and reeked of old perfume. But it was only $1, so I gave it a chance. An overnight soak in salt water proved my dollar investment worthwhile. Every now and then, I have to touch up a small section of embroidery, but this baby has stood the test of time. I LOVE this jacket. I wear it every spring and summer. It looks great with jeans or layered over a sundress. It’s apparently also a great maternity piece, because I could only find pictures of myself wearing it while I was pregnant. I know I had it on last week.

What item of clothing has stayed with you through the years?

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Relaxed to Natural: New Stylist, New Hair

I spent the better part of Thursday on pins and needles. I had an appointment with a new hairstylist that evening.

My relationship with my previous stylist, L, ended somewhat suddenly after a 21-year run. I spent a good six weeks in denial before I made an appointment with T, a stylist who specializes in natural hair care.

Three good friends sang her praises, but that did little to ease my nerves. After 21 years, I was spoiled. I could walk into the salon, sit in L’s chair, and know that whatever she did would be fabulous.

I first met T for a consultation. She examined my hair while going over a list of styling options and prices. I pointed to the small halo of gray forming at my brow.

“How do we get rid of this?” I asked.

T explained (as L had months before) that rinses didn’t take well to non-relaxed hair. A full-blown color treatment was the way to go. I took a deep breath and told her I wanted color and a rod set. We made the appointment for the following week.

I changed my mind by the time I got home. I wasn’t ready to color my hair. I want to grow out the relaxer completely before I layered on another chemical treatment. It would be nice to see my natural hair completely natural.

Plus, rod sets barely last a week, which meant I’d be doing my hair again before I knew it. The thought of planning my after-next hairstyle before the next one was even done made my head hurt. I needed a break.

I sent T a text message and told her I wanted to get an interlock weave instead. It would hide my halo, allow me to play with color, and give me the break I needed. But, it would also be a drastic change. Other than blond highlights I had during my college years, I had never worn a weave. That’s when my nerves went haywire.

By the time I sat in T’s chair, I was a wreck, but I tried to hide it. She could sense my uneasiness.

“A few things,” she said. “The hairstyle you picked is really BIG, but I’m going to try to keep it as small as possible.”

“Ok,” I nodded.

“And,” she went on. “The colors you picked — I bought more dark than light. I’m going to put the lighter color around your face, like highlights. It looks more natural that way.”

I nodded again.

“Some people are afraid of color, so I didn’t want to overdo it. If it were me, I’d go for it with color.” I looked up at her hair. It was nearly bleach blond. It was brown with gold highlights last week.

I kept nodding.

T worked fast. She shampooed, blow dried, and braided my hair within an hour. It took two hours for her to put in the hair and style it. When I finally saw the finished product, I was thrilled. It didn’t look ridiculous or overly fake. It just looked like me.

I sent a pic to L to see what she thought.

“I really like it. I’m proud of you for being adventurous. You look like the creative person you are!”

I can’t wait to see what Hubs thinks. He gets home later this week.

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Relaxed to Natural: Curl Today, Straight Tomorrow

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If you’ve been following along, then you already know I’m in the midst of growing out my relaxer. So far, the journey has been a mixed bag. Some days, I’m extremely happy with the way my hair looks. On others, I wish I could wear a hat to the office.

Speaking of the office, it appears my evolving hairstyle has attracted the interest and occasional confusion of my coworkers. The first day I wore a twist-out, I was showered with question-laced compliments. Colleagues wanted to know if the curls were my natural texture, and upon learning the answer, they then inquired about how I created the curls.

“You’re hair looks great,” a woman said. “Did you get a perm?”

“Um, do people still get those?” I asked.

I went to a nearby whiteboard and drew a squiggly line with a straight end. I explained my hair was in the process of returning to full squiggle. Until I cut off all my relaxed hair, I wouldn’t know its true texture. I told her we’d find out together. She nodded, but I think she was still confused.

The following week, my hairstylist flat-ironed my locks.

“What happened to your fancy new hairdo?” someone asked me as I stepped onto the elevator.

“Check with me in two weeks.” I replied.

My curl-today-straight-tomorrow phase has attracted more attention than I expected, but I’m glad I’m doing it. Trying new styles and techniques has made this experience fun.

I have a hair appointment on Thursday, and we’re doing something totally new. Friday will be very interesting.

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