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I’ve always loved the connection between yoga and life. The work done on the mat finds its shadow in life situations when, for instance, the controlled breath learned through challenging asanas appears during a personal conflict. The outcome being so different when breath replaces immediate action in the midst of discomfort.
I am not a perfect yogi. I am a wife, mother, daughter, runner and teacher. Sometimes life interferes with my practice. I notice when I have neglected my practice. My mind becomes cluttered with worries. My body becomes tight due to running or stress. My reactions become involuntary instead of with purpose. I begin to question myself—my direction and purpose.
Similar to yoga, running has always been an outlet and passion of mine. Running is a form of meditation and way to connect to myself and my friends. Yoga helps my running by aiding me mentally toward achieving my goals be it getting faster or running longer.
This year, instead of focusing on individual running goals, I have found myself signing up for endurance relays. The first was Cast A Shadow this winter. A 6 hour snowshoe race of teams of three. The joining with others to complete a common goal has been motivating but not without an added sprinkle stress. I don’t want to fail my team. I don’t want to be the weak link. On top of the training now lies the fear of disappointing more than just myself.
Next week I will be participating in a new race called the Seneca 7. At 7am teams of 7 will begin to run around Seneca Lake in the Finger Lakes totaling 77 miles and ending by 7pm. I happily joined in on the fun thinking that three legs of about 4 miles each with hours in between talking to my girlfriends would be no problem-a piece of cake. Much to my horror, my teammates (in which half are training for the Lake Placid Ironman) decided to bike the in-between miles. That means no rest. That means big hills. That means a lot of uncertainty.
I have missed yoga due to adding spin classes in the attempts to train for a bike ride that is longer by more than 20 miles than any ride I’ve cycled thus far. I’ve managed a yoga class a week but can tell from my mind and body that I have not done enough. I miss yoga.
After this race I have a few months to begin reconnecting to my practice. I’m determined to immerse myself in yoga this summer. I’ve been accepted in Baron Baptiste’s Level 1 Teacher Training taking place this August in the Catskills. A week of learning and growing. I am excited to take this next step. To be accountable for only myself for a week. To leave my comfort zone. To push myself mentally and physically on my mat instead of on the road or trails for a change. To replenish my soul and then ultimately to come back ready to give and share.
Whether found in quiet focus on one’s yoga mat or flying through a dirt trail in the woods, life’s essential purpose can be discovered through learning, growing and sharing. How do you choose to push yourself, to grow and to live most fully?
In the last couple of years, I have started to educate myself more and more about food. I have posted here and there about some of my findings and always try to spread the awareness—hopefully without being preachy!
I recently came across another blog that helps to clarify the link between nutrition and health. NourishMD.com authors, Dr. Sue McCreadle and Angelle Batten (a holistic health and parenting coach), have assembled a very intuitive website that provides information and practical solutions for creating optimal family health. Check out this valuable site to find real information, real recipes and real ways to make changes that will make a real difference in your life and the lives of those you love.
This week I decided to take out the balls. Balls in yoga? I know… it may not be traditional but it is a fun and helpful way to teach asana!
There are many ways to use balls in class.
To start class we pass a ball around with our feet. Sitting in a modified boat pose, we pass the ball around the circle. When you receive the ball, you must hold it up with your feet and answer questions about yourself before passing the ball to your neighbor. I love starting the class with the kids sharing information about themselves. It creates a teacher/student connection that helps maintain classroom management. Sometimes I introduce smaller balls that involve greater dexterity and concentration.
Another core exercise is to hold boat pose while twisting side to side touching the ball to the ground each side.
Begin with the kids lying flat on their backs with hands extended above their heads. Place balls between feet and have the children lift the ball over their heads to their hands. Then have the kids sit up holding the ball using their stomach muscles. If you are using one ball, each student can toss you the ball from a reclined position which also activates the core.
Forward and back bends:
Have the class line up in a row. Using one ball, the first in line does a back bend and passes the ball to the person in back of them over their head, that person does a forward bend and passes the ball between their legs. Repeat this sequence down the line.
More back bends:
Students begin standing on their knees. Using a giant exercise ball, place the ball between their legs and have them lean back opening their chest in a modified camel pose.
Students turn onto their stomachs with arms extended toward their legs. Place the ball on their lower backs and have them reach up to hold the ball while lifting their legs off the ground in a modified bow pose. I find that kids don’t always understand the process of lifting their chests off the ground in a locust or bow pose. Reaching up for the ball helps create a connection of lifting and opening the chest.
Full back bend:
Starting in mountain pose. The kids sit on the large exercise ball and begin to walk their legs forward until the ball is resting on their lower back. The kids can then open their chest and reach toward the floor. Not all children like to be suspended in this vulnerable way. Ask if they would like you to support them floating on the ball if their feet start to lift before their hands touch the floor.
Ending class with fun breathing exercises using pom poms. Have the kids count how many breathes it takes to blow their pom pom from one end of the room to the next and then see if they can reduce the number of breaths on the way back.
Kids love balls. What better way to engage and have fun while teaching valuable asana form.