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  Wednesday, January 05, 2011
What Do I Practice?
This week I got back on the mat for the first time after the holidays. I had been teaching and doing a very simple practice at home for the past two weeks, but on Monday, after my family left, I had an opportunity to attend a full class. Since some of my students may be curious about what I observe about my own physical practice, I thought I would put down my top 4 key-takeaways from my first time on the mat in what felt like a long time. For many teachers, we often practice what we preach, and thus, it is a good way to further explain what I try to slip in between asana instruction in the studio.

1. Hello Mat. Hello Me.
The first thing I did when I got into the studio was rush into Child's Pose. My body was drawn to it like a magnet and it made me realize I was craving some alone time. It was the first time in two weeks that I hadn't been in someone else's presence during waking hours. Over the holidays, I had my dad, uncle, and aunt to visit, and the companionship was wonderful. We made meals together, we hiked, we visited relatives, and it was really great to have three good pals around all the time. But, I realized again, we also need time for ourselves and to return to our own true selves. On the mat, there is no one to influence your decisions, and you have time to look inward. Child's Pose is a great metaphor for this, and it is no surprise my body had an impulse to go there. I then savored every minute of the 90-minute class, since I felt me body and soul requiring it. I returned to my own wishes and wants, where at the end of class, I knew confidently where my life was now able to head according to me.

2. Hello Cookies. I Remember You, Mr. Cake.
Not every moment of yoga class was full of flowers and butterflies. With each challenging pose, I could feel the thousands of calories I had eaten over the last few weeks. The desert table at Aunt Kathi's had looked so innocent. As the yoga teacher asked me to lift one leg solely with my core strength, I could feel each cookie and piece of cake weighing me down. As we twisted to help detoxify the liver, I felt those glasses of champagne from New Years' Eve stopping me from twisting to my full capacity. Ok, butter, alcohol, and sugar, good-bye for now, my sweet friends.

3. Sleep, You Were Good To Me.
In class, especially my prenatal classes, where women who are pregnant need a lot of rest, I tell my students that balancing poses tell us if we are getting enough sleep. If we have a harder time staying in Warrior Three or Tree Pose, then perhaps we had better get to bed earlier tonight. With a full night's sleep behind me, I was able to hold my balance like I had never done before. At least there was one success from the previous week off.

4. Attention Shoppers (and Yoga Practitioners): Keep Your Mind in the Room.
Throughout my entire practice, I also needed to continue reminding myself to keep my mind in the room. It is easier when we are focusing on the challenging dynamic sequences, but when the movements slow down, it is common for our minds to jump back to our daily tasks. When I teach, you may notice, I start to speak (or preach) more when our bodies are slow. It is a technique I like from my own practice, where I appreciate something to help me stay focused when my mind starts to race. I try to include optimistic, helpful tips that help guide our lives. As an alternative to my voice, I often turn up the music. If you can't concentrate on your breath, then focus on something external to help keep your mind from racing away.

It is with these observations from my mat, that I wish everyone a happy and healthy new year. Whether you are practicing either on or off the mat, make sure to take time to find your true self. In addition, it doesn't hurt to stay away from the cookies for a little while, and also remember to get lots of rest. With these basic yoga practices, I feel my 2011 is off to a great start!

Posted by Ingrid on 01/05 at 07:22 PM
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