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Tropicals Inside

My friend and former neighbor Robert shared with me his great love and knowledge of tropical plants.  When he was still living in DC, he’d call me up and ask me whether I wanted to make a pilgrimage to the now gone Kensington Orchids.  The lush beauty took my breath away, especially on a cold, winter day.  I have my tropical plants indoors from October/November to April.  (I have a very protected, sunny back yard and danger of last frost can be weeks earlier for me than neighbors just outside the District limits. For some, the time outdoors would be shorter.)  When I first bring them inside, I get a burst of the tropics right when it is truly showing signs of late fall/early winter.  When it is time, in the Spring to start shifting from winter-hardy greens to early planting of seedlings for summer harvest, I bring out the tropicals.  My garden, then, is already lush by late April.  My garden’s small size is an advantage here; a dozen tropical plants completely transforms the whole garden.  I then have room to do Spring cleaning.

Although I generally try to follow the seasons, the use of tropical plants does seem to assist me in weathering the external diminishment of light and warmth in winter.

Getting Out of My Own Way (and thigh loop)

A couple of years ago, I took a brilliant class with Desiree Rumbaugh in which she used the theme of “getting out of our own way” to lead us to a place to better integrate our shoulders.  As I was practicing with the Anusara principle of “thigh loop” this week, I was reminded of that class.  We’ve all been in the situation where our habitual mindset, physical posture, life style, or emotions get in the way of our finding more freedom and happiness.

When our thigh bones move into the front plane of the body, the forward movement keeps us from opening our hips more fully and from getting into deeper and stronger poses that require our hips to be open (in fact, out of the way).  When we take our thigh bones back, we physically have more freedom, more range of motion and are better able to access the deepest places of power and openness that allow us to soar on the mat.  I’m working on it on the mat as a great reminder to get out of my own way off the mat.

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.