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Helm of the Heart

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Category Archives: Asanas

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I’ve decided that I absolutely LOVE Super Bowl Sunday. It’s one day out of the year when there’s no traffic, the beaches are empty, and you can go out to eat and feel like you rented a private room at almost any restaurant. I’ve had such an amazing day, just spending time with Daniel and Rumo, practicing yoga on the beach and soaking up the sun in Southern California on this beautiful February day.

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I’ve been thinking about how my relationship with my body has changed through yoga. The word “yoga” means to “yoke” or “unite”. Yoga is forging a connection between your mind, body and spirit. Not only have I become more sensitive to my body- what I consume and what I expose my physical form to, but I have also developed a greater love and respect for my body.

I feel as though my physical form has changed in many positive ways since I started practicing regularly two years ago. I have developed stronger core muscles, (and muscle-tone in general), my posture has improved, my hips have widened and my waist has narrowed. I feel that yoga gifted me a woman’s body.

In terms of genetics, I am on the thinner side. I am 5’8 inches tall and I tend to be a bit lanky. When I do put on weight, it all goes to my stomach (thanks cortisol!). While yoga does help me stay healthy and trim, I feel as though I am fit and muscular, and not just “skinny”. My concept of beauty has also changed, helping me to embrace parts of myself that I would have previously been ashamed of. I feel much more comfortable in my own skin.

Our culture seems incredibly comfortable with violence, while the human form is often considered “scandalous” or “taboo”. Clearly there is a distinction between nudity and pornography, but overall I think our squeamishness with our physicality is absurd.

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A year or so ago, I’m not sure if I would have shared pictures of myself in a bikini on the internet. I even hesitated today, and I almost went back and deleted pictures that show “tummy fat” or “rolls”, but I’ve decided that I’d rather celebrate the aspects of my practice that make me feel strong and capable, rather than picking at so-called imperfections, or being overly critical. I have been practicing yoga 4-5 times a week and eating well… most of the time. Sundays are definitely my “anything goes” day. Daniel has Sundays off from work so we usually feast. Today we went to “Fortune Cookies” in Fountain Valley and ravenously devoured sushi and Chinese food (they serve both there and it is delicious!!).

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I hope everyone enjoyed their Sunday. I wholeheartedly encourage America to continue its love of football so that I will continue to have such marvelous Sundays like these ūüėČ

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Amanda

 

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Hanuman

Most yogis have a pose or two that they avoid like the plague. For me, that pose is called “Hanumanasana”, also known as “monkey pose” or the splits.

Even as a child in gymnastics and dance, this was extremely challenging for me, and I never mastered the splits in any way, shape, or form. When I began practicing yoga regularly, I was saddened to see this pose as a part of my practice because it always meant that I would have to hold myself up high on my hands or use bolsters/blocks to even hold the shape remotely.

Often I would become so frustrated that I would resign myself to a half hanuman, sitting on my back thigh. I told myself that my body just doesn’t bend that way. Every body is unique and we all have our own strengths and limitations. Honoring these limitations is beneficial, but creating a mental block can be a trap.

Lord Hanuman has an interesting story, which you can read about here: http://www.hinduwebsite.com/hanuman.asp

Symbolically, Hanuman represents a pure devotion, a complete surrender to a higher power. His ego is completely absent and he demonstrates what is possible when we completely let go of our attachments and expectations.

Hanumanasana embodies Hanuman’s great leap from the southern tip of India to Sri Lanka to save Lord Rama’s beloved wife Sita. Hanuman represents the magnificent feats that we are able to master when we let go of the fear and the uncertainty in our “monkey mind” (the lower, turbulent forces that keep our minds from calmness and peace) and surrender ourselves to something higher.

Today in yoga, the teacher guided us into Hanuman, and I was instantly filled with dread. I decided that instead of feeling frustrated, I should just do my best and hope that an ounce of progress might be made. On the first side, things were still pretty shaky, but when I switched to my second side, I was amazed to see my hips sink down further into the pose than I have ever been in my life! It wasn’t perfect, and I still had a few inches from being flat in the ground, but it was a huge milestone for me! It made me rethink the stories that I have built up around my body. The things people have told me about myself, as well as the expectations I have created on my own. Realizing that these are all just stories that rattle around in my mind and that they have very little relevance is incredibly liberating.

We all have stories that we carry with us, and usually for a reason. In my quest to embody a guru mentality, I have been trying to judge myself less. Being able to get deeper into a yoga pose is not an end result. The greater flexibility and space in my body is a direct reflection of the space in my mind that is clearing and making way for new possibilities.

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Amanda

It’s been awhile since I spent some time reflecting here on pandasana, and it feels great to be back. The past month or so has been ripe with changes of all types.

I recently wrote about the “Cycle of Dissolution” and about how I felt as though I was in the Kali or destructive/rebirth phase, and because of this, I have begun a creation phase that’s a pretty radical departure from my previous life in San Jose.

I really only moved a few hundred miles down the coast of California, but moving is always an adjustment. We took our belated honeymoon in France from June 26-July 10th and it was an amazing experience that really helped put some things into perspective.

Before we left for our trip, we had every intention of returning to San Jose, finding a new apartment (our lease was up at our previous place in downtown San Jose and since they have raised our rent over 400$ in the past three years, we figured it was time to move. We had all of our stuff in storage and we planned to find a new place upon our return.

Daniel’s parents have been generous enough to offer us a place to stay in Dana Point while we find new jobs and look for a new place to live, and Daniel and I both felt like it was a good step for us, for a variety of reasons.

I will miss Northern California very much, but since I am still going back pretty regularly until September when I finish yoga school, I have a little time to soak it all up and say goodbye. Mostly, I’m going to miss the school I taught at for four years and the amazing friendships I’ve made. That part hasn’t really hit me yet, but I’m sure it will soon.

Anyway, I’m happy to be visiting my mom right now, smelling the amazing aroma of her cooking and having a few minutes to write and reflect on all that is changing. Being close to family and old friends is definitely making the transition comfortable.

It is interesting that I seem to have a four year cycle of transitions that take place in my life: four years of high school in San Diego, four years of college in Irvine, four years of teaching in San Jose. Each stage has had highs and lows, but I am able to observe some pretty significant differences in who I’ve become through each stage.

I am excited for creation. Building something new is always a little scary, but I know that I am always evolving into something better, stronger, and hopefully wiser.

Regardless of where I am, I’ll be yoga-ing ūüėČ

At the airport in Toronto

In Père Lachaise

More later, I promise. In the meantime…. lots of ¬†‚ô•/‚ėľ

Amanda

Pincha¬†Mayurasana¬†(feathered peacock pose or forearm stand), Vrschikasana¬†(Scorpion pose), and forearm wheel pose (not sure¬†about the sanskrit name).¬† I’m so excited for inversions tomorrow!

Navasana (boat pose)

After the amazing, exhausting weekend of yoga, coming back to the real world (aka state testing/middle school spring fever) has been a bit of an adjustment.  After all the glorious heart-opening and back bending on Sunday, I was blissed-out and ready to spread my joy with the world.

Then Monday materializes:

  • my back- oh so achy
  • students- tired of testing, hormones raging, attitudes flaring
  • my mental/emotional/physical state-¬†4 hours of sleep, allergies in full force, iced venti hazelnut soy latte in hand,¬†followed by a major crash

Thankfully, I made it through the day and came home to my couch and a good book. I’ve been pretty consistent with my yoga practice, and I had every intention of keeping my disciplined routine going. That is, until I brewed some kava tea and melted into the couch. I realized how exhausted I truly was, and of course began to go through my usual mental pattern of wanting to blow something off, feeling guilty, rationalizing…. rinse & repeat.

I have always struggled to find¬†a healthy balance. I’m a very all-or-nothing type of person in most aspects of my life. There is a side of me that is incredibly organized, disciplined, punctual and motivated.¬†I’m a compulsive list-maker. I’m almost always early or on time.

There is also a side of me that completely abhors responsibility, rules, structure, and that is basically a wild thing.

What usually happens to me is that I will be very regimented and then I reach a breaking point and go let my wild thing take over until I exhaust myself and feel awful about shirking my responsibilities (not eating well, sleeping or giving my body and mind the nourishment that it needs). It’s like a see-saw of stoicism and epicureanism.

I’m¬†learning to balance these two aspects of myself. I’m not completely one or the other. These two¬†elements must find a way to peacefully coexist.

So on this Monday, I decided to have some compassion for myself. I rested, relaxed and indulged a little. I decided not to feel guilty. I did a few couch-asanas, just stretching in ways that my body craved. When I painted my toes I held navasana (above) and strengthened my abdominal muscles. I felt accomplished in that I was allowing myself to do what my body and mind craved, without letting myself spiral out of control. Little indulgences here and there.

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Amanda

¬†(aka Camatkarasana or “wild thing”)

Weekend three of yoga school has left me feeling inspired, accomplished and open-hearted. Yesterday we all taught a series of five standing poses with transitions, which was wonderful practice and physically demanding. We did countless standing splits, revolved triangles, pyramids and half-moons.¬† Today was backbends, which are so invigorating! The above picture¬†is a backbend¬†called Camatkarasana¬†which translates to “the ecstatic unfolding of the enraptured heart”. I love sanskrit.

We also read more of the Bhagavad Gita.

The wise man does not unsettle

the minds of the ignorant; quietly

acting in the spirit of yoga,

he inspires them to do the same

Leading by example¬†is the most powerful way to have a positive influence on others. It is great to share your experiences¬†to help other people when they seek assistance, but¬†trying to shove an ideology down¬†a person’s throat is never the answer.

I began this week feeling energetically drained and emotionally heavy. I still managed to practiced yoga daily and I believe that really helped to keep my emotions in check. That is not to say that I repressed what I was feeling or tried to hide it. I practiced being an observer of my thoughts and feelings and by doing so I let a lot of baggage go. On Monday, when my emotions were at their most vulnerable, I allowed myself the time to really indulge those feelings. I cried like a baby and took a nap.

Throughout the week I continued to come to face with some habits that aren’t serving me, as well as some frustrations/annoyances that I needed to examine at a root level. I’m not saying that I am cured of all these maladaptive behaviors, but¬†they don’t control me any more.

Yoga has really helped me to work on my mind, body and spirit. You might think “How does stretching your body help you to become a better, happier person?” and the truth is I don’t really have a definitive answer. I only know what it has done for me, and that so many others report its amazing benefits. Yoga makes you more aware of your body (its strengths and limitations), which then extends to your mind, calming your thoughts and allowing you to reflect on your own conscious state.

Once you venture down the path of awareness, you can never go back. I think this frightens many people because it means facing some not-so-pleasant aspects of themselves. But what is amazing is the fact that by just acknowledging our shadow self, not judging it, we diminish its power over us. You make room for so much more love and light and joy in your life.

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Amanda

This woman has such a beautiful practice.

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Amanda