Yoga from the Third Eye Chakra: Or Trusting My Intuition

third-eye-chakraAs you have probably noticed, things have been pretty quiet around here. Over the last year, I was enmeshed in several projects on the work and home fronts that slowed down my blogging and refocused my attention. In the month of June, I spent a lot of time packing and preparing to end a job at a place I had worked for 18 years. And then on July 1, I started a new position that involves working away from home for much of the week. This has cut down on my cooking and, when I do cook (I batch cook on the weekends), I’m in a hurry to get it all done and don’t take pretty pictures. Eventually, I’ll probably post my batch cooking plans, but for now it’s been a bit of a drought of blogging.

To be honest, I don’t anticipate the blogging rate picking up much while I’m getting into the swing of a new job, but I thought I would share a little bit about where I am with my yoga practice at the moment.

With several health issues, including a major surgery, a severe infection (related to the major surgery), a fall down a flight of stairs resulting in a broken tailbone, and a plethora of RA flares, my practice really waned in the last two years. It never completely left, but it wasn’t very present either. As I relocated, and had a little space with no one in it but me and a cat, the possibility of leaving a yoga mat front and center at all times seemed to make it more possible to get in a regular practice.

Five plus weeks later, I find myself practicing at least 5 days a week, sometimes more, for at least 40 minutes a day. Whee! I started out doing a very traditional vinyasa/ashtanga surya namaskara a & b pattern, followed by a planned set of poses that I had often used in my vinyasa classes or been led through in classes I attended. After a week or so of this, I gradually let go more of that pattern and began to really tune in to what my body needed in any particular moment.

At this point, I’m calling this “intuition yoga” when I think about it. If I get on the mat and I need sun salutations to warm up the muscles and get the joints lubricated, that’s what I do. But, if my joints are very painful, I’ll opt for an easier flow followed by more static poses. If the front of my body feels really tight, I focus on opening it up. If I’ve accidentally slept on my back and wake up with horrible tailbone pain, I do very gradual standing forward folds that take the muscles surrounding that area to the edge and stretch them gently, but never move beyond. Because of the sacral pain, I’m rarely doing seated folds, even the ones I enjoy (like janu sirsasana) because I know my body will pay me back for that momentary pleasure with hours of spasms.

Doing yoga this way is working well for me right now. I have seen my practice change so much in the last 8+ years of serious yoga focus that I know it will likely shift again, but if feels good to know where I am and what is working for me and notice the positive impacts on my body and mind as I move through my day.

Do you follow your intuition in your practice, or are you more of a “by the book” kind of yogi right now?

 

Being Not Ok With It – or – Where Is My Equanimity?

Long time readers, if there are any of you left, have probably noticed my horrible lack of posting, and that almost no posts about yoga have happened for months (there have been a lot of posts about cookies, though, so that counts for something). The reason for my yoga silence is that I’m not in a good place in my own practice, and I don’t know what to say.

Starting in the spring, some medical problems beyond my usual rheumatoid arthritis began happening. They included a significant amount of pain and pretty much ground my asana practice to a halt. At the end of May, this culminated in surgery, and then almost 10 weeks of no-yoga restrictions.

By the end of the imposed restrictions, I had very little stamina and still had a good amount of discomfort, plus the surgical after-effects that had boosted the arthritis into high gear. But, I started slowly back into my practice.

And here we are in November. I expected that my practice would be fully back on track now, but it is not. I had to eliminate a major part of my RA medications after surgery due to some liver issues (yes, I am a mess, thanks for asking), so the arthritis won’t calm down and most weeks, there is one or more parts of my body that just won’t cooperate. This has been compounded by daily headaches – maybe sinus, maybe migraine, maybe cluster, maybe gremlins – that I often have at this time of year, but that have been particularly bad and hard to deal with on top of the RA pain.

And, even the act of writing this makes me feel like a crazy woman. When I go to practice and have to sit out poses again, I am sure I look lazy or like a hypochondriac. When I realize that I haven’t attempted wheel, and only rarely inversions, in months, I wonder if I am lazy or a hypochondriac. When I don’t go to practice because something hurts, I am sure I AM lazy or a hypochondriac.

This morning, I got up with a nasty headache. It hurt to open my eyes or breathe. Yoga class was right out. But, it was a class that I really really wanted to go to – the last class in the studio that has been my yoga home for as long as I’ve been doing yoga. I’m so very sad right now to have missed it. I feel like I let myself, my yoga mentor, and my community down.

I know that yoga isn’t just about asana. I know that practice doesn’t have to happen in a vigorous class. I know that I should let go of attachment to a certain schedule or particular poses. I do. I say these things often to students in my gentle class (and I’m not even going to go into my feelings about not deserving to teach when my own practice is such a mess). I know them, but I’m having much trouble feeling them.

I can’t find my equanimity about this. It’s in there, somewhere. But, I can’t access it.

So, yeah, I don’t have a big point to make here. I guess I am writing this partly because I’ve spoken to many people over the years who say that they can’t seem to get started in a yoga practice, or can’t seem to maintain one, or are so busy fighting their body demons that they can’t find the space for it. And, they look at me with guilt and shame in their eyes when they say it. But, they don’t have to – if it’s you, you don’t have to – because I understand.

I’m writing this partly to also explain why the blog has been quiet and focused on, well, cookies. I’m a little too mired down in my own yoga funk to have much good that I can add to anyone else’s contemplation of yoga. So, if you have hung in there waiting to read something interesting about yoga, I still hope it will be back, but I don’t know when. And, I thank you.

Namaste,

Lorin

Hybrid Eco-Mat by Barefoot Yoga – A Good Choice for a Light Mat

IMG_1542aRecently, Barefoot Yoga offered to send me one of their products to review for you. I selected the Hybrid Eco Mat, since I’m always looking for environmentally friendly yoga products. My full review follows, but the bottom line on this mat is that it’s priced right, very light, and would be easy to tote around; however, if you like a really sticky mat or a lot of padding and don’t mind spending quite a bit more for something more hefty, it may not be for you.

The Hybrid Eco-Mat I received is a pretty color purple they called Violet. When I received the mat and took it out of the packaging the first thing that I noticed was a slight plasticky smell. This didn’t surprise me, as the mat is made of a poly resin. After I left the mat laying out for several days, the smell almost entirely dissipated.

I also quickly noted that the map was very light. It is certainly much lighter than the (far more pricey) Manduka black mat that I regularly use. This made the eco-mat more comfortable to tote to class, and I think if I was regularly taking public transportation to my yoga classes I might prefer a mat of this weight.

I’ve now used the mat for several vinyasa practices, including gentle and more vigorous sequences. The first use, I noticed that the mat was rather slippery when compared to the Manduka. My hands were sliding quite a bit in downward dog and I felt like I had to use extra effort just to keep them still. However, I’m sure this was excellent for my core! After a couple of uses, the mat seemed to become less slippery. So, I assume that part of the slipperiness at first was the coating of the new mat, which I didn’t wash off as the site advises (as I cleverly only looked after). After a few uses, while it still is less sticky than my usual mat, it is certainly acceptable.

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Eco-Mat

Another difference between this mat and my standard mat is that the eco-mat is thinner. The Manduka is only about 2.5 mm thicker than the Eco Mat, but I do notice this difference. Because I have rheumatoid arthritis, I need some degree of padding between my hands and feet and the floor. So, I think if I were to use this mat regularly for an active practice, I would probably want to place a rug on top of it, particularly on days when the arthritis is worse.

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Manduka Black Mat

While the reduction in thickness makes the mat somewhat less comfortable on sore joints, it does allow you to feel the floor beneath the mat during practice. This may make balancing poses easier and facilitate a greater connection to the ground.

The Hybrid Eco-Mat is made of Polyolefin, a poly resin. And, it is worth noting that Barefoot Yoga states that this mat is fully biodegradable.

The eco-mat runs at about $30 (currently on sale for $23!) for the standard 68 inch length, so it is very affordable, and shipping speed is quite fast. You can purchase the mat at http://barefootyoga.com.

I hope this review has been helpful and feel free to let me know if you have additional questions about this mat.

Namaste,
Lorin

 

I was not financially compensated for this post. I received a sample for review purposes. The opinions are my own based on my experience with this product.