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A Reason to Get Out of Bed

Today, when I was trying to burrow more deeply under the covers when invoked to wake by the usual sounds, I thought about the way young children or pets are eager to get out of bed and to get you out of bed, even if it is for nothing more than to say good morning or eat breakfast.  The moment they open their eyes, the day looks promising.  At what point does bed (even if we have had enough sleep) come to seem more desirable than getting up?

I am not particularly eager to go to work today — things are rather stressful at this juncture on my project.  I do know, though, that sitting for meditation is always good.  I also know that on the days I practice fully in the morning, my day is more enjoyable no matter what happens.  Knowing that I have the time and space to practice if I wake timely is always a good reason to get out of bed and is what drew me out of the comfort of lying under the covers this morning.

Now that I am done with my practice, I can also enjoy what spectacular weather is on offer today.  An added bonus.

Calf Loop (and enhancing the integrity of the energy flow)

When I think of the Anusara principle of calf loop, I think of playing with drinking straws as a child.  I’d take the straw out of the glass and bend it back and forth.  The straw would end up with a horizontal crease where it was bent — not quite a break — but the place where it bulged at the bend would prevent the straw from serving the purpose of enabling liquid to be drawn up through it.  When our knees (or our elbows for that matter) are hyper-extended, I think it disrupts the energy flow from the periphery to the core, weakening the pose, and breaking the integrity of the alignment.

As one whose legs started out bowed (though less after over six solid years of working “shins in/thighs out”), my natural tendency is to hyper-extend.  I find that using calf loop, I do not hyper-extend.  Calf loop (also called “shin loop”) has us draw energy from the base of the shin, up the back of the lower leg, and loop it through the top of the shin and then back down the front of the leg.  We wouldn’t ever start a pose thinking about calf loop, but in the flow of a pose, after the major principles are activated, including muscular energy, we can enhance muscular energy and the integrity of the alignment of the knees by focusing on calf loop.  When I practice calf loop, I find that it lifts the calf muscle and draws it more firmly into the top of the shin, and moves the top of the shin forward.  These actions do not bend the knee, but firm the muscles behind the lower leg, including the calf and the popliteus (which is the muscle behind the knee that flexes the knee) to the bone.

What is tricky — especially for those who tend to hyper-extend, is that getting the knee in proper alignment feels like bending the knee.  If we have been out of alignment, changing our stance will feel strange and perhaps “not right” at first.  The sweet subtlety of practice (whether trying to expand our ability to do poses, heal and injury, or live in better alignment overall)  is learning what is true integrity in a pose and what is habit, what will serve and enhance and what does not.

Staying Indoors (or Not)

Of my friends on facebook, several reveled in staying inside because of the rain yesterday.  Others complained about being unable to do things that would have been better on a dry day.  Reporters and anchor persons seemed to think it newsworthy whether the rain will impact football or baseball games.  How about telling us whether the rain we are getting is optimal for the native flora and fauna and how it is impacting the farmers?  We seem as a society to have forgotten the relationship of the weather to food.

Web Version of November Newsletter

Dear ,

I think this is one of the most spectacular years for fall foliage that I can remember.  The world seems to be pulsating with an ecstasy of color.  I am beside myself with joy just walking around (especially when I have my camera with me).  I hope you are getting the opportunity to be outside; the work commute is definitely a great time to be able to look around (especially if some of it is walking).

Expand the inherent joy in witnessing and experiencing the transformation between summer and fall, partaking in the abundant harvest, and accepting the sweetness of a more introspective climate by practicing forward bends with twists, restoratives, and inversions.

To deepen the revelry and to find respite when needed, come join me and pretty wonderful group of people on Tuesdays at William Penn House or Saturdays at Willow Street Yoga (level 2 at 8:30 and Gentle/Therapeutics at 12 noon) on a drop-in basis.

This month’s Serenity Saturday at Capitol Hill Yoga, which is on the Saturday before Thanksgiving, will be a special treat.  Whether you are preparing to travel or to host guests or to have a quiet weekend to yourself, a long, sweet, easeful restorative practice is just right.  Feel free to bring early, out of town guests and family. To register, please go to the workshops page at www.capitolhillyoga.com.

If you’ll be in town for Thanksgiving, I hope to see you, along with friends, family, and guests of all age and yoga ability, at my 7th Annual Thanksgiving Day Fundraiser to benefit Oxfam.  It’s from 10-11:30 on Thanksgiving Day in the beautiful and spacious Willow Street, Takoma Park Studio.  As has been my practice, I will be matching all donations over the suggested donation of $20.

For more information about the classes and workshops and to catch up on the blog, please visit the website at www.rosegardenyoga.com.

Peace and light,

Elizabeth

Toasted Pumpkin Seeds (and Jack-O-Lanterns)

Jack-O-Lanternspumpkin-skullAs I walk around the neighborhood seeing all the pumpkins on stoops, like Proust with his madeleines, I remember the scent of roasting pumpkin seeds and the salty taste on my tongue, and I return to the place of my childhood.  My mother wasn’t much for holidays, but she very much enjoyed arts and crafts projects.   The jack-o-lantern, was something then that showed up when we were little kids.  I don’t think there was ever a jack-o-lantern carved when we did not eat the seeds.  Part of the project was cleaning the seeds, oiling a cookie sheet, spreading the seeds out on the sheet, salting them, and roasting them until golden, and then enjoying the seeds as a special salty treat.  I think it unlikely she has decorated a pumpkin at home since I was in early elementary school, but if she were to do it now, in addition to roasting the pumpkin seeds, I am sure she would decorate the outside instead of cutting it into a jack-o-lantern, so that the pumpkin could also be used for soup or pie.

Ready for EST (and another aspect of refinement)

About a week ago, maybe even a little earlier in the month, daylight savings time started feeling artificial.  My body started insisting on sleeping nearly an hour later, and I found that I wasn’t really using the hour of light at the end of the day.  It was time to go inside and cook or read or otherwise move inward.  When we change the clocks this weekend, I will already have shifted, and the clock will feel as natural as living by a clock can feel.  Part of the refinement of a deeper yoga practice is learning to pay attention to such subtleties, to learn what is most optimal and when, both time of day and time of year.  This applies to asana practice (i.e., when to emphasize forward bending v. backbending),what we eat and how much, and what kind of activities we choose.