Friday, December 16, 2011

Lil Asana Playshop, Christmas Eve, 1-3pm at Open Heart

Lil' Asana Christmas Eve Playshop!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Shenpa

A few weeks back, just as I was getting into a routine of teaching yoga full-time, a water disaster in my home rendered it temporarily uninhabitable and all of my feelings of insecurity, groundlessness, and fear surfaced. My yoga practice, my yoga community, my family, and my friends have been my refuge during this trying time. Really, everything has worked out quite well. Tomorrow, I can move back in to a home with new flooring in every room. Lots of stuff was destroyed, but I feel a sense of freedom when I have fewer physical possessions to care for. I'd been wanting to declutter for some time, and now I must. It feels like a fresh start, and I really love fresh starts.
That's not what this post is really about, though. I've noticed that every time a crisis arises in my life, I turn to the teachings of Pema Chodron for solace, specifically her teachings on shenpa or being "hooked". My copy of When Things Fall Apart is there waiting for me each time a romantic relationship dissolves, a family drama ensues, or my house floods. As I was feeling the stress of trying to move out of my temporary housing, clean my home (covered in sawdust from the laying of the new subfloor) and move back into my home in just two days, along with teaching four yoga classes in those same two days, I started listening (again) to Pema's audio book, Getting Unstuck: Breaking Your Habitual Patterns and Encountering Naked Reality.
Since becoming a yoga teacher, I look for potential themes for classes or lesson plans in my everyday experience. My teacher, Allison, teaches from a place of personal experience, and I believe that's one of the reasons she is so effective as a teacher. If she's teaching about contentment, she's going to tell a personal story about how she's had to practice contentment. I aspire to emulate her in that way, and I think I've had some success with that so far.
I noticed today, as I was listening to Pema Chodron's teachings on shenpa, that I am only really interested in breaking some of the emotional patterns that aren't serving me well when they really aren't serving me well. The rest of the time, I basically just pretend they don't exist. Shenpa is something like attachment, so is related to the yogic goal of vairagya, non-attachment, but shenpa as interpreted by Pema Chodron is a noticing of a sort of tightening up or "hooked" feeling (the feeling--and the habitual response to it--is the shenpa). Shenpa is pre-verbal, before thoughts, so it's easy to overlook it unless you're really practicing staying in the present moment and really being honest with yourself about how you react to situations as they arise. So, my practice this week is to stay really, really present as shenpa arises even in the more mundane moments. And, I have a lesson plan for my next class. :-)

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Practicing yoga off the mat and in the moment...

In the wee hours of last Saturday morning, I awoke from my sleep and placed my foot down on the carpet. Squish. Water everywhere. I had started a load of laundry around 8:30pm or so, then lay down on the couch and fell asleep. During those four or so hours, something happened with the plumbing or the washer so that the water never stopped running and ended up seeping to almost every corner of our one-story duplex. For a moment I froze in shock, then rajasic mind kicked in and I started freaking out about everything that needed to be done: first, this water needed to be stopped, then it needed to be cleaned up, I would have to call my landlord and break the news to him, and I would have to find a way to pay for it all. And I just quit my very secure, full-time job at UNC to pursue teaching yoga full-time. Then tamasic mind kicked in: "What's the use of even doing anything? This is such a disaster. I'll never be able to handle it." I was frozen again. For at least an hour, my mind bounced from rajas (overly active, anxious, tumultuous, frenetic) to tamas (inertia, gloomy, sluggish, dark, hopeless). Then I remembered yoga. The main reason I practice yoga is to cultivate more peace, kindness, and love in my life and to share that with others. I needed sattva mind (clarity, purity, calm, centered), so I took some deep breaths, Googled "how to clean up water damage", called my landlord, and called a great company called Disaster One who came right over to begin cleanup immediately (at 3:00am). I'm not going to pretend everything was all rainbows and butterflies after that, but I did keep coming back to my breath (almost) every time anxiety about money or attachment to objects would arise.
This was a great gift of remembrance from the Universe that I am not in control of anything, and using my energy to try to be in control is pointless. Rather, I should surrender (isvara pranidhana) to the moment, just as it is given, and bow to it as my holy teacher. This is not an easy practice, but yoga is not easy. It requires tapas (burning effort), abhyasa (practice), and vairagya (non-attachment) in addition to surrender (isvara pranidhana) to work with the qualities of rajas and tamas that are inherent to the structure of our mind and to cultivare more of the quality sattva.
Once I began to remember that the Universe is unfolding exactly as it should, I was able to dwell in a place of gratitude for my dear friends who offered me places to stay, made me food, and listened to me as I worked through the situation. The members of my yoga community at Open Heart Yoga School and Triangle Yoga have been amazing through this experience. Special thanks to Andrea for subbing Lil' Asana while I was freaking out and in shock; Caroline, who made me dinner and dropped it off at the studio while I was teaching; Andrea & Rob, Katherine, Amanda, Caroline, Eileen, Krystal, and my dear teacher Allison for offering me housing; and Katie, Tom, Maureen, Danielle, Julia, Krystal, Mafe, Tracy, Mom, my brother Michael, my sister Robin, and so many others for their kind words, prayers, love, and encouragement. I love you all dearly.
As is turns out, my renter's insurance (MetLife) has put me up in a sweet little townhouse a few blocks away from Triangle Yoga, where I teach most of my classes. Their adjusters have been kind and helpful, and I am confident that I will have everything I need when I return home. My landlord has even agreed to get me laminate flooring instead of nasty carpet!
All is well.

“…feelings like disappointment, embarrassment, irritation, resentment, anger, jealousy, and fear, instead of being bad news, are actually very clear moments that teach us where it is that we’re holding back. They teach us to perk up and lean in when we feel we’d rather collapse and back away. They’re like messengers that show us, with terrifying clarity, exactly where we’re stuck. This very moment is the perfect teacher, and, lucky for us, it’s with us wherever we are.”
― Pema Chödrön

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Lil Asana Playshop, Christmas Eve, 1-3pm at Open Heart

Parents, need some alone time to shop or just relax on Christmas Eve? I'll be offering a two-hour Lil Asana Playshop for ages 6-12 at Open Heart Yoga School from 1:00-3:00pm. We'll do some yoga poses, play some games, cultivate gratitude and compassion, and maybe even make a craft. Pre-register online!

Friday, November 4, 2011

weekend yoga teaching schedule

This weekend, I'm taking Ray Long's Anatomic Yoga workshop at Triangle Yoga, but will still be teaching my Kids Yoga class at 11:00am on Saturday (ages 3-6). Allegra Gulino will sub my Hatha Yoga 1 class at 12:30pm on Saturday at Triangle.
On Sunday, I have the enormous honor of subbing Allison Dennis's Veda Vinyasa class at 10:30am at Open Heart Yoga School. We'll do a creative vinyasa sequence and discuss a few selections from chapter 2 of the Bhagavad Gita.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Thanksgiving Day Yoga

I'll be offering a special donation-based class on Thanksgiving Day from 9:00-10:30am at Triangle Yoga to benefit TABLE, an awesome local organization that feeds school-age children from low-income families in Chapel Hill and Carrboro that are at risk for hunger. Come support a great cause and get your practice in before celebrating all that you're grateful for with your family and friends.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

In all my Thursday classes, HULA HOOPS!

This afternoon and this evening we will continue to explore the balancing poses, supported by our breath, practicing contentment (santosha) and effort (tapas) while using the hula hoop as a tool to add playfulness and a fresh perspective to our practice. See you for Tween Yoga (4:30-5:30), Vinyasa Flow 1-2 (5:45-7:15), and/or Hatha Yoga 1 (7:30-9) at Triangle Yoga!

new weekly class schedule flier

Nicole Mark Yoga

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Balancing effort (tapas) and contentment (santosha) in Hatha Yoga 1

In my Hatha Yoga 1 classes this month, we will focus on balancing effort (tapas) and contentment (santosha) by way of practicing the balancing poses. The physical postures of hatha yoga are metaphors, so whatever happens on our mat can tell us something about what is happening in our lives if we listen deeply to the quiet voice of the heart. Our efforts (tapas) to attain physical balance in our yoga asana practice help us to cultivate more balance in our lives outside of the yoga studio, off the mat. Effort is different from struggling, striving, or pushing. Effort is using our energy purposefully and mindfully to move towards a goal while being content (santosha) with where we are physically, today, at this moment. One of my teachers, Ti Harmony, often summarizes the relationship between effort and contentment by saying, “Everything is perfect, but there’s always room for improvement.” Join me for this exploration on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 7:30pm and Saturdays at 12:30pm at Triangle Yoga.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Flier for my new class, Lil Asana, which begins Oct. 3!

lilasana

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Autumn's almost here!

As the new season approaches, lots of transitions and changes are happening.  My yoga practice helps me maintain my equanimity as I transition from one role to another at work, as I perform household chores and try to allocate my financial resources wisely, as I take on new yoga teaching gigs (more about those in a bit), and as I try to remember to do everything with a sincere intention to be of service.

Some highlights from recent weeks:

  • The lovely Lila Donnolo taught a super fun Partner Yoga workshop at Open Heart Yoga School while she was in town teaching AcroYoga at the Flowjo.  John and I both had a blast.  We met some new people, got a great workout, and deepened our connection to each other--all at the same time!  The experience got me really excited about playful ways of experiencing movement, so I've signed up for an aerial dance class at the Flowjo beginning on Sept. 28.  
  • Jonathan Safran Foer came to UNC's Memorial Hall to talk about his book, Eating Animals.  If you haven't read it, it's a wonderful examination of the American way of raising and eating animals from the days of traditional animal husbandry to the current systems of agribusiness and factory farming.  If it leaves you really inspired to change the world one plate at a time, or if you just want to try a healthier way of eating, join the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine's 21-Day Vegan Kickstart, starting tomorrow.        
  • Veda Vinyasa Yoga Teacher Training is winding down, with only two weekends left!  I'm excited to be graduating, but I will miss meeting regularly with the amazing group of yogis I've been on this journey with since March.  As I work to complete the course's writing assignments and re-read my notes as I plan my yoga classes, I realize just how much I've grown during the course of the training, and how much more I want to learn.  At the end of October, during Halloween/Moogfest weekend, I'll be taking the Radiant Child training at Asheville Yoga Center between electronic music shows and frolicking about the city with John.  Another long teacher training is definitely on the horizon.  The question is, which one and when?  Maybe Jivamukti...
Yoga teaching updates:
  • Caroline Kilaru and I will be co-teaching a FREE yoga class at Wilson Park in Carrboro on SUNDAYS from 8-9 am starting next Sunday, Sept. 11.
  • I'll be teaching a second children's yoga class, Lil' Asana for ages 4-10, on MONDAYS from 4-5:15pm at Open Heart Yoga School in Carrboro beginning October 3.  
  • I'll continue to teach Kids Yoga for ages 3-5 from 11am-noon on SATURDAYS and Hatha Yoga 1 from 12:30-2pm on SATURDAYS at Triangle Yoga during the fall session.  The new session begins on Sept. 17.  Please e-mail me at nicolelilyoga@gmail.com if you have any questions about any of the classes.    
Love to you all!

My friend Cab in tree pose, then drawing at the end of class.  So sweet! 

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Summer photoblog part 2

Mom and I took a mother/daughter weekend trip to Wilmington, NC.


We enjoyed the sun, sand, and surf at Wrightsville Beach...
We successfully avoided tsunamis...
And we ate.  A lot.

Summer photoblog part 1

I had my first Padron pepper at a farm dinner at Foster's Market.

Our farmer friend Alex told me shishito peppers are very similar, so I cooked some up at home!

Bounty from a recent trip to the Carrboro Farmers' Market
My new Kona, a birthday gift from John.
John's sweet niece Kensie turned 3!

Swiss chard from the Carrboro Farmers Market

Sunday, May 1, 2011

spring!

The first time I ever visited Chapel Hill and Carrboro was in April of 2007 with my beautiful mother Alexis, about a year before I moved here.  The Carolina blue sky, balmy temperatures, and wealth of good food and places to practice yoga won me over immediately.  A job at UNC and a perfect living situation in Hillsborough with my friend Charna sealed the deal--I was moving here.  I arrived at Charna's beautiful home on April 20, 2008, after midnight, exhausted and exhilarated.  A lot has happened over the past three years, but moving to North Carolina was the best decision I've ever made.
April is still the most beautiful month in the Piedmont region of North Carolina.  Everything is bursting with spring energy!
It's been a fantastic couple of weeks:

Yoga teacher training is going fabulously well.  I am learning about yoga poses, but I am learning so much more about myself.  Big thanks to Allison Dennis at Open Heart for guiding me and my thirteen classmates through this transformative journey.  So much love to Allison, Ti Harmony, and Open Heart!!  Speaking of Ti, I am taking a Mantra and Kirtan class with him for the next few weeks. (I didn't have enough to do--ha!)  I'm finding that, of all the yoga practices, chanting is the most powerful for me.  It focuses my mind and just generally brings good vibes all around.  John is an amazing musician, and he and his friend played guitar and keys while we chanted the Gayatri mantra together at our house for two hours the other night.  Bliss!  John's friend even called us last night, asking us if we wanted to chant again.

    Dad, me, and Mom at Weaver Street
    Michael, me, Mom at the Siena
    My parents, Alexis and Don, visited from Baltimore over Easter weekend, and we had a splendid time.  They stayed at my favorite hotel in Chapel Hill, the spectacular Siena Hotel, where we had  Easter Sunday breakfast and fellowship with my brother Michael (who I'm blessed to have living right around the corner from me in Carrboro these days), John's super cool parents Mary Jane and Clem, John's gorgeous and kind sister Jordan and brother-in-law Joe, and Jordan and Joe's beautiful children Kensie and Oliver.  After breakfast, we attended Sunday service at Grace Church, the Ferris family's church, and heard a great message about mercy.  I have to say that even though I've had mixed feelings about Christianity and church in the past, I love Grace!  Later that day, the Mark family and John ate a big Easter feast at The Washington Duke Inn's Fairview Dining Room.  I had the opportunity to take my Dad to Johnny's, my favorite Carrboro community gathering spot, for a quick beverage and a chat at a picnic table.  On Saturday night, Michael, Dad and I ate a huge feast at Vimala's.  The Mark family LOVES to eat, obviously.   
    feast at Vimala's!
    More to come soon, including updates on the little garden John and I have started in our backyard with the help of his Mom, MJ.
    Little baby squash plant from our new garden.


      Friday, March 25, 2011

      Blogging my way through 230 hours of yoga teacher training, starting tomorrow!

      I'll keep this short and sweet since I've got studying to do.  Tomorrow is the official start of my 230 hours of Veda Vinyasa Yoga Teacher Training at Open Heart Yoga School!  We're kicking things off with an anatomy quiz, so I'm dusting off my old textbooks tonight. 
      Two weekends ago, John and I went to a beautiful evening of kirtan with Prema Hara, and they were truly amazing.  They've got a new album coming out on April 12.  Check it out! 
      Love love love...

      Saturday, February 19, 2011

      Lazy Blogini

      I haven't blogged for a few weeks, due in equal parts to laziness, busyness, and time mismanagement.  But I'm back, and I've got a super exciting new yoga adventure coming up!  In a few weeks, I'll be starting Open Heart Yoga School's 230-hour, six-month Veda Vinyasa yoga teacher training program with the amazing Allison Dennis.  I did a shorter Anusara Yoga immersion and teacher training back in 2004 with the lovely and talented Mona DeFrawi at Quantum Yoga in Baltimore (now under new ownership as Baltimore Yoga Village), and taught beginner-level classes in the Baltimore area for a while.  Back then, I was still figuring out my career path and who I was as a person, so I didn't stick with teaching for very long.
      Ready to delve into a deeper exploration of yoga asana and philosophy, I decided that it is time to do another training so that I may share the amazing gift of yoga with others once again and with greater knowledge and experience.

      We are so blessed in the Chapel Hill/Durham/Raleigh metropolitan area (the "Triangle" for y'all non-Carolinians) with a plethora of places to practice yoga and to train to become teachers, including (but certainly not limited to):
      • Open Heart Yoga School, linked above, is a donation-based and spiritually-focused yoga studio in the heart of the lovely town of Carrboro where I am blessed and grateful to live.
      • Carrboro Yoga Company, another amazing Carrboro studio, offers a wide variety of styles and levels of classes (everything from Yoga for Athletes to Kunga Vinyasa to Yoga for Recovery).  I practice there often and especially enjoy classes with Molly Drake, Melissa Peng (on maternity leave now, but back soon!), and Michelle Johnson.  I recently tried co-owner Sage Rountree's Yoga for Athletes, and was pleasantly surprised (see my blog post on the subject for more).  CYCo. usually offers several free classes monthly, or donation-based classes whose proceeds benefit charities such as the Orange County Rape Crisis Center or Goathouse Refuge.  They have two different teacher training programs, too: one with a variety of great local teachers and one with the Asheville-based Stephanie Keach, who is a true master. 
      • Triangle Yoga is home to superstar Anusara instructors Paul and Sommer Sobin and Aerial Dance instructor extraordinaire Rebecca Drake.  Triangle offers many workshops with master yoga teachers throughout the year, including Paul Grilley this May.  
      • Franklin Street Yoga Center, right on Franklin Street in the heart of Chapel Hill, offers Baron Baptiste-style power yoga classes.  Although I don't make it there too often, I especially enjoy the super fun and light-hearted Rock Your Asana class with studio owner Lori Burgwyn. 
      • Blue Point Yoga Center, right across the street from Duke's West Campus, offers a variety of yoga and Pilates classes and OM Yoga teacher training.  
      • Patanjali's Place is another Durham yoga space.  I haven't yet had the opportunity to visit, but I hear great things. 
      • Hillsborough Yoga and Healing Arts, a bit north of Chapel Hill/Carrboro in Orange County, offers a variety of yoga classes, along with Nia, bellydance, and Pilates. 
      (This list doesn't even begin to include the rest of Durham or any of Raleigh.)  
        The decision regarding the right training program was initially complicated by the number of programs available, but became simple when I stumbled upon the right fit for my particular yogic interests, schedule, and financial situation with the right instructor.

        My first assignment is to re-read Yoga and Vegetarianism by Sharon Gannon.  I initially read this text after taking a Jivamukti workshop with Gannon at CYCo. in February of 2009.  As a 14-year vegetarian and occasional vegan who has incorporated a small amount of humanely-raised meat into my diet over the past two years, I'm looking forward to revisiting the ethics of eating, one of my favorite philosophical topics. 

        Sunday, January 23, 2011

        Days 12, 13, 14

        A nice, restful weekend was in order following the crazy busyness of my work week.  On Friday night, I did the Day 12 Peak Pose Sequence (Bakasana).  Instructor Jason Crandell choreographed a moderately challenging, progressive sequence to open the hips and strengthen the arms and core in preparation for the main event, bakasana (crow pose).  After successfully lifting my toes off the mat for a few moments, I felt rather accomplished and ready to celebrate my bakasana success, so I walked the few steps from my house (brr, it was cold!) to Johnny's to indulge in a treat from the taco truck.
        I didn't do a yoga practice yesterday. I did some laundry and light house cleaning, talked on the phone with some family and friends, cooked a simple pasta dish for dinner, and read several chapers of the fantastic book The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer.  
        This morning, John and I got up and had a yummy biscuit at Sunrise Biscuit Kitchen, then went to Grace Church to meet his family for Sunday service.  After devouring several more chapters of my book, I did the Day 10 Core Focus sequence and the Day 13 Tension Release Shoulder Openers Sequence.  The Core Focus sequence is a repeat from last week (and well worth doing again and again).  The Shoulder Openers sequence was low-key, but would be excellent to do at the office during my lunch break.  The whole sequence is performed in a chair, and all of the movements are a good foil to the actions of hunching over a computer, talking on the phone, and sitting stationary for most of the day.  
        Tonight, I think I'll cook that soup I've been planning to cook all week long, then enjoy a new episode of Big Love.

        Thursday, January 20, 2011

        Day 11

        After spending most of the day sitting in chairs in meetings, my back welcomed the opportunity to explore several variations of shalabasana during the Day 11 Aligning and Refining Backbends practice.  Elise Lorimer introduced several interesting arm variations intended to open the shoulders during the standing poses portion of the practice.  Lorimer seems to love one of my least favorite asanas, utkatasana (chair pose), weaving it in to nearly every sequence she has led during the Yoga Journal 21 Day Challenge and providing me with multiple opportunities to practice non-aversion.   

        Tuesday, January 18, 2011

        Day 9

        Work sucked today. I'm a Pharmacy Benefits Counselor, which seemed to have gotten confused somehow with Pharmacy Magic Worker. The day following a weekday holiday is always challenging in the Hematology Oncology Clinic, because we have to treat all the patients we normally would have scheduled for the previous day, and deal with all the prior authorization requests and other insurance (or lack thereof, more often) issues that we would have handled that day as well. Normally, I maintain a calm attitude and handle it all with relative grace, but today I nearly lost it.  Everything went wrong, it seemed, from the vending machine eating my $1.25 without giving me my caffeine fix to being transferred by Aetna a record seven times in 57 minutes while trying to obtain authorization for a patient's pain medication, on which he has been stable for nearly three years. At one point, I hastily scarfed down six mini Twix bars.  The day got progressively better, thankfully (I got that OxyContin authorization after all) but I was elated when the clock struck 4:30pm.  All I wanted to do when I got home was lie down on the sofa and numb my brain, courtesy of Time Warner Cable.  But I knew I'd feel better if I did my yoga practice.
        So, for Day 9 of the Yoga Journal 21-Day Challenge, I did Day 8's "Fun Flow". (I'll admit it: I was hungover on Day 8 and didn't do anything.)  Elise Lorimer led another lovely mandala vinyasa sequence, followed by some back-bending and hip openers.  It was slightly more challenging than I'd been hoping for, but by then end of the 45-minute practice, all the stress of my day had melted away. John even joined me for a few forward folds at the end. 
        As Judith Lasater reminds us on January 16 in A Year of Living Your Yoga, "Yoga does not solve our problems."  True, but it sure puts them back into perspective and helps us handle them with more ease, gently reminding us when we've gotten out of balance and pulling us back toward center.  

          

        Sunday, January 16, 2011

        Day 7

        A third of the way through the Yoga Journal 21-Day Challenge!  My friend Gia, a yoga teacher and all-around awesome gal who lives in DC, was kind enough to agree to do the challenge with me, and we've both made reasonable modifications along the way (e.g., she counted teaching yoga as her practice one day, and I counted practicing ahimsa toward myself as my practice on another day) but we've made it this far.  We agree that the challenge sequences vary wildly in difficulty.  For instance, today's Day 7 Evening Sequence is appropriate for all levels of yoga practitioners.  However, as experienced yoginis, we both found the Day 5 Hanumanasana "Peak Pose" sequence quite challenging.     
        I didn't post a blog yesterday, but I did both the Day 6 Tension Release Hip Opener Sequence and the Day 5 Hanumanasana sequence, in that order.  It worked out well, because the hip opening I achieved from the first sequence helped me release further into hanumanasana in the following sequence. 

        Friday, January 14, 2011

        Yoga Journal 21-Day Yoga Challenge Day 5

        Today, I did the Day 4 Aligning and Refining Practice: Standing Poses with Jason Crandell, followed by a repeat of Day 3's 20-Minute Core Focus with Rebecca Urban.  The standing poses sequence focused on good alignment and stability in the postures, and reminded me of the way my former Anusara Yoga teacher, Mona DeFrawi, used to teach them.  This is another sequence I'll do again.  
        I'm keeping it brief today because I am exhausted and hungry, but I've got a three-day weekend to look forward to!   

        Thursday, January 13, 2011

        Day 4

        After a busy and productive day of fighting the evil forces of health insurance companies and educating prescribers about the prior authorization process, I headed over to Carrboro Yoga Company to try out Sage Rountree's Yoga for Athletes class.  (I opted out of Yoga Journal's Day 4 Standing Poses sequence because I felt like taking a class today instead of practicing at home.)  I've tried most of the classes at CYCo., but I've avoided this one for a full two years because of the word "athletes".  But, I'd heard great things about Sage's teaching style (and we're Twitter buddies, after all), so I thought I'd give it a shot.  Apparently, the class is "for athletes" because it focuses on athletes' typical problem areas like the hips and hamstrings.  If it were a very athletic class, I guess it would be called Athletic Yoga (or Ashtanga!).  Sage began class with a quick yoga philosophy lesson on one of the five yamas (satya, or truthfulness) and some nice spine stretches, followed by a mandala vinyasa sequence.  After a little gentle back-bending, we moved over to the wall for a hip-opening sequence which brought much-needed attention (for me, anyway) to proper alignment for forward folds.  I realized that I use the flexibility of my hamstrings to make my forward folds happen, but need to balance that with better back alignment.
        Now, laundry followed by Grey's Anatomy and a piece of pie...

        Wednesday, January 12, 2011

        Yoga Journal Challenge Day 3

        Everyone who knows me knows that I am super lazy when it comes to abdominal exercises.  (When I was a ballet dancer, I'd find various ways to cheat in order to avoid working my core too hard.)  Yet, I loved the Day 3 core sequence.  It avoided all the typical, boring approaches to core strengthening (repetitious crunches, too many boat poses).  This sequence focused on slowing down in order to bring awareness to core integration, rather than muscling through a bunch of uncomfortable exercises.  The Anusara alignment influence was evident in Rebecca Urban's approach to core strength, along with a gentleness reminiscent of one of her teachers,  master yogi Erich Schiffmann
        Before work, I did the Day 2 morning sequence that I skipped yesterday.  While it was not challenging, it was a nice way to bring breath awareness into my day.  And it ended up being just that kind of day where I needed to focus on my breath.  The beginning of a new insurance plan year always brings the stress of new deductibles ($5,000 for one of my patients), insurance changes, and many frustrated patients and health care providers.  I strive to be a beacon of sanity in the midst of the chaos, and for the most part I was able to do that today thanks to my yoga practice.     

        Tuesday, January 11, 2011

        Yoga Journal Challenge Day 2: The Verdict

        In my mind, there is a judiciary which only prosecutes one defendant: me.  There is no element of suspense in the courtroom of my cortex:  I'm always found guilty.  (There is a lesser court which doles out far fewer guilty verdicts, but that one is reserved for others.)  I didn't do an asana practice today, and I am full of excuses (including, but not limited to, the cold weather, late receipt of Yoga Journal's Day 2 practice e-mail, and PMS), none of which are adequate reason for acquittal.  One count of laziness: guilty, three counts of procrastination: guilty, one count of chocolate over-indulgence: guilty.  The great thing about the judicial branch in my mind is that--since I am judge, jury, and defendant--I can change the rules.  Today, Judge Nicole is suspending Defendant Nicole's usual sentence of several hours of self-loathing and ordering her to practice compassion toward herself for 24 hours.

        Monday, January 10, 2011

        Yoga Journal 21-Day Yoga Challenge, Day 1

        In a new year's resolution-style effort to renew my commitment to a daily yoga practice, I decided to sign up for Yoga Journal's 21-Day Yoga Challenge.  I'm blogging about it mainly to keep myself accountable.  I've never had a truly consistent home practice.  The structure of a class keeps me from lazily avoiding navasana and vasisthasana, and I enjoy the social aspect of practicing with a community of like-minded people.  But I realize having a good home practice will allow me more freedom to explore various asanas on a deeper level. 
        Yoga Journal's day 1 practice was a fantastic mandala vinyasa sequence by super yogini Elise Lorimer.  I confess, I rested several times during the 45-minute sequence because I'm recovering from an upper respiratory infection and didn't want to overdo it. 
        Yoga instructors with dance backgrounds tend to be my favorite teachers, and they always seem to love mandala vinyasa sequences for obvious reasons (they're generally choreographed and follow modern dance-like patterns).  Rebecca Drake taught a similar style for a session at Triangle Yoga not too long ago, and her other classes are clearly influenced by her dance training.  Having danced for most of my life, a creatively crafted yoga sequence allows me a freedom of expression through movement that I really miss.

        Ever the over-achiever, I am also working my way through Judith Lasater's book, A Year Of Living Your Yoga.  A short aphorism is presented for each date on the calendar.  I read and reflect upon the day's words of wisdom in the morning, and then try to remember them a few times throughout the day.  I'm still working on the one from January 3: "We are not seeing a situation as it truly is if we have expectations."  Particularly applicable to both my work and personal lives right now, I could work on this one all month.  And maybe I will.