Sunday, August 31, 2008
So my nerves started to fray a bit amidst all the bear warnings in Glacier National Park. A very exciting prospect, to see one of these magnificent animals, but I wasn't all that interested in seeing one on the hiking trail. Just the size of the precautionary bear spray container that everyone carries is enough to spark some serious reflection on the scene that may play out should one need to actually use the bear spray. On our first day in the park, we embarked on a hike that promised sweeping mountain views and the captivating Appekunny Falls at the top of the trail; my husband started talking to me about what to do if he got "taken down first" by a bear, how exactly to use aforementioned bear spray, etc...and no joke, at this point we arrived at bear scat on the trail (for those not familiar with this term, which I was not prior to moving to these parts, scat = poop). Cue yogic breathing, because I was starting to hyperventilate. Gorgeous trail and promise of waterfall or not, at that moment I was questioning why people hike in Glacier Park at all. I was ready to give it up. But, we saw some fellow hikers on the trail (not carrying bear spray, I might add), I started breathing again, and we had a lovely hike without incident. The next day, we were driving by the trailhead spot and saw many cars pulled off the road; lo and behold there was our bear, a grizzly, happily munching away at berries in front of his audience. Turns out that was his territory after all. I am still pondering the risk-benefit scenario involved here...here's a picture of some much-needed yoga at the falls.
Thursday, August 28, 2008
Just back from my first visit to Glacier National Park late last night, and a much-needed break from phone and email. A bit of practicing what I preach and getting out in nature. My husband and I soaked up the scenery and...the rain. Our first day there was summer-like, sunny and 80 degrees, but that all changed overnight. Our second day was wet, windy and cold. I have never seen weather change as fast as it does here in Montana. You really just have to roll with it and be prepared; our bags included both summer and wintery clothing. One of the items in my bag was the Athleta Dipper Pant, which I wore on our 13-mile day hike to Glacier's Cracker Lake. The hike was so breathtaking that wind, rain, and sleet didn't deter us. And I think I owe a big thank you to my Dipper pants as well, which kept me warm and dry. My husband was amazed at how they shed water. I rinsed them out and wore them the next day too. Like everything from Athleta, they are versatile, perform well, and look good. Even after a six-hour, 13 mile, super wet and muddy hike. Pictures coming soon, meanwhile check out the Dipper and the rest of the new Athleta fall lineup for some retail therapy.
Saturday, August 23, 2008
So, even though a lot of my life under the Big Sky takes place outdoors with my favorite activities - hiking, skiing, and horseback riding - I have to say that most of the time my yoga takes place indoors. Today I found a peaceful spot on the porch at my in-laws to do my practice, and I felt like the benefits I enjoy from yoga increased tenfold, just from taking my mat outside. It's that simple connection to nature that we so often lose amidst all things modern. But when we reconnect to it, the inner peace that results can change your perspective significantly. Yoga in nature is a winning combination. Even if you live in the city, see if you can find a place to practice outside and experience the feeling of nothing between your mat and the sky above you. Here's the view from my downward dog today. Namaste.
We're in Missoula dropping Morgane off at her grandparents' and heading to Glacier National Park for my first visit. I'm very much looking forward to a change of scenery, not to mention some of the most stunning scenery in the country...more to come post-trip, but on the topic of change, my friend and fellow yogini Jessica Young just opened a new yoga studio in Bozeman offering vinyasa flow called Be The Change. I am excited not only to practice there as often as possible, but also to start teaching a weekly class in September. Change is good.
Thursday, August 21, 2008
Sometimes you pick up a book that resonates so much with your present life stuff that it almost seems as if a higher power led your hand there on purpose. My daughter Morgane hit the "terrible threes" hard this summer, and I'll admit to it bringing me to my knees a few times. Particularly since we've been in the no-man's land of summer break from school and not a lot of babysitters in town, we've been navigating some rough waters. So I managed to somehow pick up a book again one evening (vs. just crumpling into bed in an exhausted heap) and once I started reading Mommy Mantras - Affirmations & Insights to Keep You from Losing Your Mind, I couldn't stop turning the pages. Sure, all the yogic insights on their own are helpful and inspiring, but when they are put into the context of challenges you can totally identify with - such as, a 3 year old bringing you to your knees - it's enough to bring tears of relief to your eyes. Here's a great Mommy Mantra:
I'm not Buddha
Of course there are many days when eight o'clock can't come soon enough. Having young children is physically demanding work and we're only human. Sometimes, even though we know that fully embracing the present moment will offer us relief, we cannot surrender. The mind is often a powerful adversary to our emotional well-being. It traps us into holding on to old familiar patterns and ways of tackling problems even when they are proven to be ineffective.
When you find yourself unable or unwilling to be totally in the present, when you are counting the seconds to bedtime, when a paralyzed look of dread and angst takes over your face for the last two hours of the day, remind yourself you're not Buddha (although you do have Buddha nature within you). There are days when getting through is good enough. In fact, it's better than good enough. It's incredible.
Ooooo boy, can I ever relate to that. This book has great insights and will make you laugh too. Check it out on amazon.
Tuesday, August 19, 2008
As I recently mentioned, I've had a tough time reconnecting with my yoga mat lately. You know when you fall out of a routine, and the more you are away from it the harder it is to get back to it? I should honestly know better by now...after dragging my sorry self to my mat this afternoon, I feel like I've been reborn. No kidding. Why did this take me so long? I've been so caught up in my to-dos and feeling sorry for myself during a tough time that I've prevented myself from doing what I needed most to get back on track. But as I tell my students, yoga is always there for you when you come back to it.
My favorite yoga pose is pigeon. One-legged king pigeon pose, to be exact, or Eka Pada Rajakapotasana in Sanskrit. Most people have a love-hate relationship with EPR. It starts out falling into the I-hate-this-pose category, but then as people allow their bodies to soften into it and stop resisting, the many benefits of pigeon move it rapidly into wow-this-is-amazing-why-don't-I-do-this-more-often. If I had to pick one yoga pose, this would be it. I tell my students just starting out with pigeon to watch tv while in it for 5 minutes each side. That's what I did when I was pregnant, and believe me, it opened up my hips!
I had a yoga teacher once that called the hips the "attic of the body"; there's all kinds of dusty old stuff in there that needs to be cleaned out. And it's both physical and emotional stuff. I attended a workshop last summer where we held pigeon for about 25 minutes on each side; you should have heard the crying going on in that room. You don't have to hold it for that long to get something out of it, but I definitely recommend 25-50 slow, deep breaths on each side. Here's a picture of me in bound pigeon. Get the how-to here.
Sunday, August 17, 2008
I am definitely a cool-weather person. I think I could be happy if I lived someplace where it snowed all year round. Montana: close enough. It's mid-August, typically the dog days of summer where I come from, and here there is already a lovely chill in the air in the evenings. About this time every year I start longing for fall clothes, but it wasn't until October if I was lucky that I could break them out.
I've been working on Big Sky Yoga's early fall newsletter and was trying to think of how to put into words the natural beauty Montana has to offer, and came up with the following: Montana boasts some of the most stunning scenery in the US, where you can immerse yourself in soothing naturescapes: snow-capped peaks, mountain meadows, cool waterfalls, glacial lakes, fresh pine forests. Does this all sound like a bunch of cliches to you, or descriptions used for your white noise machine or aromatherapy products? Yeah, well, that's where I live. It may not be tropical, but it's one of the most beautiful (and comfortable) places I've ever been. And I've found that no matter what the weather here, it is always breathtaking. And I'll take wearing a cozy sweater over sweating my butt off any day.
This photo is of Grotto Falls, a hiking trail with multiple waterfalls that is about, oh, 20 minutes from where I live. Morgane and I are sitting here waiting for her dad to arrive home from his manly night-out-in-the-woods alone up there. I keep asking myself this question: where else but Montana...?
Thursday, August 14, 2008
When you live in Montana, you can go over to a friends' place for dinner, and be able to hop on their horses and ride out their backyard into the mountains. Yep, that's what I did last night. I rode the sweetest girl named Misty - a 24 year old part-thoroughbred with cancer throughout her body. And let me tell you, this girl did not act like she was the least bit sick. I've been thinking about her all day, and how wonderful it is that she lives in the moment. Perhaps she knows that she is ill; but even so, an obsessive worry about what the future will bring does not rule her days. A member of our family has recently been going through cancer treatment; the diagnosis was a big surprise for someone so young. I've spent a lot of time thinking about him this summer, and feeling pain at how much anxiety about the future he's suffered. How can we as humans learn to focus on the precious present moment? I'm signing up for ongoing lessons from horses...here's a picture of my daughter on Misty.
Wednesday, August 13, 2008
Yikes, I've been very delinquent on blogging. It's like when you have a journal and you know you need to write in it, but so much is swirling around in your head that you don't even know where to start. The same life swirling that leads us to our yoga mat to try and sort it all out with some clarity of heart and mind...I must confess that the last few weeks have been challenging for me in many ways, so the aforementioned clarity has been pretty elusive. First of all, my 3 year old Morgane and I are doing the power-struggle dance. Mostly over nap time and sleeping in one bed, vs. every bed in our house. I have been clinging to sacred nap time like Morgane clings to her "pink blankie", since it is one of the few windows in the day that I can actually hear myself think. But there is a lesson in letting go here, right? The more I push the nap, the harder it will be. So I backed off, and as it turns out, she just isn't sleepy at the same time anymore. Who knew? Now that we've got that figured out the struggle is gone. Poof. Just like that. I believe this knowledge is somewhere within all of us - that the more we struggle and force things to happen, the less likely the desired outcome will be. But it sure is tough to tap into just when we need it most.
And while I have had the wonderful opportunity to teach a lot of yoga lately - to our group of cowgirl yoginis on our last summer retreat - my own practice has suffered a bit on account of schedule disruptions and other distractions. I always find it a bit ironic to not be on my mat as often as I have deemed necessary, given my profession...but I've been here before. It is challenging for everyone, including yoga teachers, to be as dedicated as we would like sometimes. So I know it is temporary, and that soon enough I will find my yoga groove again. Meanwhile, I need to practice yoga off the mat too. I've recently found inspiration and intention in a Sanskrit saying: lokah samastah sukhino bhavantu. It means, may all beings everywhere be happy and free. It's felt really appropriate to call upon during our retreats this summer, when humans, horses, and nature have merged and we've all been asked to honor and respect one other. It's also something to remember in times of anger, conflict and when things just aren't going the way we want them to. Because ultimately what we all want is to be happy and free. And sometimes, we need to give up the fight in order to get there.