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.