Yoga Where You’re Planted

It’s Groundhog’s day, Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow, and Chicago’s just endured its 5th largest snowstorm. As I sit cooped in our condo with my stir-crazy 1 ½ year old, I’m ready to get outside and spring cannot come soon enough. The internet is filled with photos of half-naked yogis practicing yoga with ocean or mountain background and I’m sick of being jealous. Snow, wind, frigidly cold, I love this city regardless of the weather so my yoga practice is going to show it! I invite you to join me and post your pics of practicing yoga outside wherever you live.

Head Stand in the Snow

Bend Over Backwards For MS is all about raising funds and awareness to help fight and put an end to MS.  Through completing 108 days of yoga I hope to make some noise, meet some great people, and share how living in a compassionate and mindful manner can strengthen our community and benefit us all!  To donate to or learn more about #BendOverBackwardsMS please visit http://www.nationalmssociety.org/goto/108daysofyogaMS

Day 54! The Top Ten Things I’ve Learned

We’ve reached the half way mark! And what an adventure it’s been already.

Things I’ve learned in the first 54 days of Bend Over Backwards For MS:

  1. Practicing yoga is contagious. The more I do it, the more I want to do. With a regular practice I’ve found myself more aware of my body posture and thoughts throughout the day. I have become quicker to correct old habits and transition to the new ways I wish to inhabit.
  2. Attending a full class is amazing! I was able to open the New Year in a one of the largest most packed classes I’ve ever been to and it was wonderful! There energy everyone brought to the class was the most beautiful way to start 2015.
  3. If my ego leads my practice, I will pay for it. I never want to pass on an opportunity to do an inversion or an advanced variation being offered by a teacher. But that doesn’t mean my body is ready to tackle it all the time. While trying to maintain a daily practice, my body has let me know when I pushed it too far or let the excitement of the pose move faster than the readiness of my body. Listening to what my body has to say each day has been a valuable lesson in keeping it healthy.
  4. Yoga is for all bodies. There is no one-way to practice yoga.  I’ve practiced with so many different types of people and listened to how yoga has improved their lives. So thankful such a practice has been developed.
  5. Less is more. When I rush into a pose I sometimes miss the opportunity to notice what is happening with my body and neglect the little parts and how they’re engaging. Backing off and easing into a pose allows me to maintain correct alignment and recruit my whole body to work together in a healthy way.
  6. Breathing is the most important thing we can do. Duh. But seriously, it is.
  7. The physical practice is just as much about stability as it is flexibility. I finally learned how to stabilize my hips in warrior poses and lunges and it has made all the difference.
  8. I cannot heal my body if I don’t love my body. Perhaps one of the hardest lessons for me to really own, but I practice it daily. And in the meantime I have the words “I am wonderfully made” written on the top of my yoga mat as a reminder.
  9. Blocks are not just for beginners. Not every pose is designed to fit every body. Sometimes having a block to bring the floor a little closer is exactly what I need to engage in a pose.
  10. Yoga is a practice!  Have a sense of humor about it and enjoy!

Why 108 days?

Many have asked me why 108 days?  The number 108 has multiple significances in many eastern traditions. Its presence in mathematics, nature, and spirituality has drawn the attention of many yogis. Some choose to focus on the geometric significance of the number—108 equals 1 to the first power, 2 to the second power, and 3 to the third power, it also has 10 factors and is divisible by three which is a stable and balanced number. It is also the average distance of the Sun and Moon to the Earth. Some choose to focus on more spiritual significances- there are 108 beads on a mala (string of beads) that is used to help count mantras in meditation, it is believed that there are 108 energy lines that stem through the heart chakra. And these are just a few of the connections to the number 108. For all the reasons, it is not uncommon for a group of people to do a yoga mala, or 108 sun salutations in honor of a celebration or for a special cause.

Having a special cause of my own, I was always attracted to the idea of doing 108. I first aspired to do a yoga mala as a fundraiser to fight MS, but as the idea sat with me, something never seemed quite right. While the competitor in me grew excited with the challenge, it didn’t seem to honor the meaning behind my yoga practice or the cause I was fighting for. Since yoga, to me, is about being able to shift, adjust, and provide myself with whatever it may need to feel good, strong, and healthy, I felt it more appropriate to be kind to my body, and commit to my yoga practice.

Committing to 108 days of yoga, just like the number itself, provides many possibilities. I can give my ever-changing body the ever-adapting practice it needs. I can recruit a community to practice with me and strengthen our voice about fighting MS, practicing yoga, and keeping people healthy. I can share my practice as I travel with family, friends, new studios and teachers. I can raise a ton of money for MS that will hopefully lead to better treatments and a cure. Doing 108 days is not about rallying to complete a strenuous physical challenge, it’s about finding the patience to engage with my body on a daily basis and keep myself healthy.

For more about the significance of the number 108, check out these sites:

http://www.swamij.com/108.htm

http://www.yogajournal.com/article/practice-section/the-number-108/

http://satyayoganorfolk.com/uncategorized/yoga-fundamentals-the-meaning-and-mysticism-of-108-and-furthermore-a-little-explanation-of-malas-and-mantras/