Friend-spiration

I struggle.  With lots of random things, but especially with my voice in the world.  The last two days I have been going back and forth in my mind on the #followmeyoga format that I’ve been doing this week and posting online.

The idea was to share a different yoga pose everyday, January 1st through 30th, and then on the last day of the month, put them all together to create a full class that my readers can do at home.

On the one hand, I love my yoga practice and enjoy sharing anything that I love with everyone that I love.  When I began a yoga practice almost two years, I learned a ton from the teachers at the studio where I took classes, but I also learned quite a bit and found a lot of motivation from online “yogalebrities” who perform crazy, other-wordly poses and host monthly pose challenges for prizes and fame.

And there you have the other hand of my conundrum.  I want to be an inspiration and teacher and light for others.  I do not want to be a 41-year-old, selfie-obsessed, embarrassing mom who needs to LOG OFF.

So, I talked myself out of posting yesterday’s pose.  I convinced myself that for the few of you out there reading these daily posts, there are a myriad of online resources for you to learn yoga.  I told myself that my little addition to the yoga world will never be missed.  I decided to remove myself from the wide world of yoga.

And then I enjoyed sitting next to a new – yet precious and fabulous – friend at a lunch meeting today.  She asked about my yoga teacher training and my yoga teaching plans, and then she went on to say how much she (who is a fitness instructor and amazing athlete herself) enjoys my yoga posts.

WHAT?!?  This incredible runner, Zumba instructor, and former gymnast finds value in ME??  It was mind boggling, really.  So I told her all about my internal “angel/devil on the shoulder” argument that I had with myself yesterday.  She was wonderfully supportive, and as there was no need for her to make that stuff up out of thin air, I believed her.

So here I am, posting yesterday’s pose as well as today’s: Urdhva Mukha Svanasana or Upward-Facing Dog.

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Inhale while lifting heart and gaze upwards, rest on the tops of the feet, and straighten the arms.  Try not to sink or settle into the shoulders which might cause them to “shrug” but rather think of rolling them back, facing the sun above and allowing the shoulder blades to reach towards the gentle backbend created from opening of hips.

Take a moment to enjoy the multitude of stretches and opportunities for release in Up Dog.  Explore how it feels to look over each shoulder, shift your hips around, roll side to side a little.  Just like I mentioned a couple of days ago, the posture should push you but not hurt you.  See where you are today, and when we put the whole class together in a few weeks, see if you feel stronger in the pose.

I can tell you that yoga is a dance…like a Texas 2 Step…or the Hokie-Pokie…a few steps forward, then a few steps back, and a few steps this way and that way and every which way.  Some days I feel great in a pose, and the very next day I will struggle with that exact same movement.

Give yourself grace.  Enjoy wherever you find yourself TODAY.

And please know that my goal and my purpose here is to provide friend-spiration in whatever ways you need me.

With love and hugs,

Ashli

Today’s scripture:  Ecclesiastes 4:9-10

Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work: 10 If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up!

Chaturanga

Chaturanga Dandasana.  Also known as simply Chaturanga, 4-Limbed Staff Pose, and Tricep Push Up.  And Hell. And Heaven. And everything in between…

Chaturanga is the pose that I both abhor and adore because it is so dang tough to do with any semblance of control, and yet, it is the one pose that strengthens my arms, legs, and core faster than any other.

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Essentially, Chaturanga is the bottom half of a good old fashioned push up.  My goal is always to do Chaturanga slowly, controlled, and while keeping  my body in a tight, straight, plank position.  I exhale as I lower down, attempting to create a 90 degree angle with my elbows, upper arms parallel to the ground while planting the balls of my feet firmly on the ground.

It took me a year and a half before I accomplished one that I felt proud of doing.  Yes, for 18 months I modified, tried, fell, and failed at my goal.  But Chaturanga is one of the most commonly used poses in a practice (YEA!!), so I just kept at it, and eventually I lowered down without putting down a knee – or both – and without collapsing on my belly and without arching or sinking into my back.

I still struggle to do every Chaturanga every day in every practice, but I can do a few to my level of expectation each time I hit the mat.  And in a few more days or weeks or months, I will be able to more than a few.  Maybe several.  And someday, I will be able to them all the way I envision.

The moral of the story today:  NEVER GIVE UP!

With love and hugs,

Ashli

Scripture for today: Psalm 31:24

Be strong, and let your heart take courage,
    all you who wait for the Lord!

 

30 Days of Clean(s)ing Out

Day 4 of my Follow Me yoga adventure is Uttanasana B, also called Ardha Uttanasana and Half-Lift, and it is very conveniently just a slight transition from yesterday’s Uttanasana A

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From Uttanasana A (Forward Fold), inhale as you lift your upper body half-way up.  Think of creating a flat table top with your back, put your hands on your knees, shins, or the ground for support, stretch your spine long, and look out over the horizon.  That’s all there is to it, and yet it feels so good!

Another thing that feels so good is cleaning out!!  If you are like me (and the bazillion others I’ve seen online), you included cleaning out, decluttering, and organizing on your 2016 To Do List.  My list includes cleaning out my closet, my garage, my pantry, and myself.

The first three are actually the toughest on the list, and the last one – myself – is the easiest.  Next Monday I’m jumping in on an IsaGenix 30 Day Cleanse with a Facebook Group.  I won’t go in to detail on the 30 Day program as I’ve written about it before and don’t want to be THAT friend.  I will, however, say that I am just as pleased with the program and see just as great of benefits now as when I first tried IsaGenix several years ago.IMG_6161

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You are welcome to do it with us, just hit me up on FB so I can “invite you” to the group.  And be sure to order your 30 Day System by 11 pm tomorrow night (January 5th) to receive your products in time to begin with everyone.

The next clean(s)ing out I am tackling is my closet, and I’m using the nifty Hanger Reversal Method that has been all over social media.  If you have not seen it yet, Google “Reverse Hanger Trick” and you will return about 304,000 results in just over half a second.

Essentially, I started at the far left side of my closet, picked up the first article of clothing and asked myself, “Does this even fit?”

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No! The answer is that I will NEVER fit into a size zero again in this lifetime.

No! The answer is that I will NEVER fit into a size zero again in this lifetime.

If my answer was “yes” then I asked myself, “Do I even like this anymore?”  If my answer was still “yes” then I asked myself, “Do I honestly see myself wearing this ever again?”  If my answer was STILL “yes” I put it back on the rack but with the hanger reversed.

After an article is worn and laundered this year, I will put it up with the hanger facing the “normal” way, and at the end of the year, any hangers still reversed are the items not worn, no longer needed, and ready to be donated.

As a girl who has not grown much since 6th grade – at least not any taller – I have wayyyyy tooooo manyyyyy clothes.  I have simple tastes, and I gravitate towards the same styles and looks year after year, so I always hesitate to throw out perfectly good clothes that still fit.  The result?  I have wayyyyy tooooo manyyyyy clothes!!

I am confident that by the end of 2016, my half 3/4 of the closet will be neater and tidier than ever before!

Love and hugs,

Ashli

PS:  Scripture for today is Luke 12:15-21.

15 Then he said to them, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.”16 And he told them this parable: “The ground of a certain rich man yielded an abundant harvest. 17 He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’18 “Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store my surplus grain. 19 And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.”’20 “But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’21 “This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God.”

The Air I Breath

Have you heard AIR I BREATHE by Mat Kearney?

 

So beautiful!!

Just hearing the word breathe brings that song to mind…You are the air I breathe. You are the song I bleed.  You are the war that I can’t win.  This is my white flag in the wind.  Every word you speak is the air I breathe.

In yoga practice, much attention, time, and focus is given to breathing and breaths, inhales and exhales.  And just like the song above, at the root of all this oxygenation one finds surrender.

Surrendering is so very tough for me to do well at all.  I like to know it all, control it all, and succeed at it all.  My yoga practice has taught me that through breath and breathing I can reign in my energy, I can release discomforts and anxieties, I can slow down a moment, and I can harness power and strength.

I still need a lot of practice in utilizing my breath.  In fact, in a full lifetime I may not get it mastered!  But I have found a few tricks that help me:

  • Inhale and exhale through the nose during yoga practice to fully filter the air breathed in and out; deep breaths fully utilize postures, poses, and transitions.
  • Imagine a soft ribbon floating through the torso and lungs and out through the fingers and toes to visualize air being breathed or pushed to every cell of the body.
  • Silently count the beats it takes to inhale/exhale.  Try to increase the length or number of beats with each breath when slowing the moment, relaxing anxiety, or struggling to fall asleep.
  • Remember to take intentional breaths throughout the day, and refocus the mind by coming back to conscious breath when stressed, scared, or overwhelmed.

We will talk much more about breathing as our practice progresses.  For now, just enjoy the gift of a deep, cleansing, “feel good” breath!

Day 3 of our “follow me” practice is Uttanasana A, also called Standing Forward Bend or Forward Fold.

Begin from yesterday’s Urdhva Vrikshasana (Upward Tree).  Exhale and swan dive hands toward the mat, folding at the hips.  Look through legs or up at navel.  Don’t worry about straight legs.  It is absolutely okay to bend the knees as much as is needed…you might even rest the chest on the thighs first and then lengthen the legs.

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Did you find room to release the hamstrings?  No room today?  No problem.

While in the posture, take a few breaths, try out a few hand placements.  Maybe rest hands or fists on the floor.  Maybe grab the big toes with the first two fingers of each hand and bend the elbow to deepen the pose.  Maybe stand on your palms.  Maybe shake the head “no” and shake the head “yes” to relax the neck.  Maybe hang like a rag doll.  Maybe hold opposite elbows and swing like an elephant.  You can do whatever you like, and you should explore and discover what makes this practice your own.

When you’ve had enough, inhale deeply and come back to a standing position.  Congratulations!!  We’ve completed 3 days…only 363 to go 😉

Now go read 2 Timothy 3:16-17.

16 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.

May you find surrender in the air you breathe.

With love and hugs,

Ashli

Right is Wrong

Good morning, and happy January 2nd…

We are on to Day 2 of this new year and my new yoga adventure.  Did you try Day 1?

Did you do it right?  Me either!

And do you know why we didn’t “do it right?”  Because there is no such thing in my yoga.  The whole concept of doing poses and postures the right way is in complete conflict to my idea of what a yoga practice is all about, and I refuse to allow you to worry with it while we practice together.

Our practice will be a place of non-judgment, and the determination of whether or not a thing is right or wrong is by definition a judgement.  Perfect, correct, and right are all wrong.

The only other thing that is wrong in our practice is pain.  If it hurts, don’t do it.  If it stretches and challenges you, stay there, but when it hurts – truly causes pain – back off from that edge and give yourself time and patience and grace to enjoy where you are right now.  This moment matters most.

This is where I insert the standard disclaimer for CYA purposes…I am not a doctor, I am not an expert, I have been a certified yoga instructor for less than 1 month.  If you have medical questions, consult a doctor.  If you have a yoga question, let’s find an answer together.  I am a friend who loves exploring yoga and who finds beautiful benefits from my yoga practice.  I share it with you in hopes that you, too, will find peace and love within your own yoga practice.

Now back to the good stuff.

How did your Sukhasana go yesterday?  Easy Pose is not quite as easy as one might imagine.  I had to restart my 5 minute timer 3 times before I made it through to the pretty little chime at the end.

The first time I started my timer, I did not even make it to a seated position.  It was really, really, REALLY chilly outside where I had set up my mat, so I made a quick location change and added my uncle’s awesome and portable fire pit to my space:

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The second time I started my timer, I made it to a seated position, and I was just almost settled when our dog started a barking frenzy with every other dog on the block.  I hopped up, took her inside, and luckily, the third time was a charm.

Throughout my five minutes of meditation, my mind wandered.  A lot.  And that is okay.  Author Dan Harris describes this perfectly in his Preface of 10% Happier, one of the books I mentioned yesterday:

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While my attention span is slightly better than that of a six-month-old yellow Lab, I definitely struggle to quiet my mind.  I can spend an entire night restlessly thinking about all the things I need to do tomorrow, what I did not get finished today, and what I will do first and next and after that.  At times, my thought process feels like a pinball shooting around all the walls of my mind, causing light bursts and ping-y noises that rival an arcade.  Sitting still and being quiet for 5 minutes is not an easy pose for me.

But I have found that the result of those 5 minutes is worth the effort.  Again, Harris explains far better than I am able:

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Aside from my difficulty in stopping the ever-present flow of thoughts in my head, I was also resistant to trying mediation because it felt a little silly, even hokey, and a bit “out there” for me.  For the third time, Harris says it best:

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Please, learn from my mistakes.  Put your preconceived notions aside, do not worry about looking silly or being hokey, and if you did not do it with me yesterday, give Sukhasana a try today.  In fact, allow yourself those 5 minutes of silence and stillness every single day.  And when those 5 minutes become 8 and then 10 and then 20, enjoy every second!

The next pose in our year of “follow me” is Urdhva Vrikshasana.  In English, you will hear this as many different poses: Upward Salute, Tree Pose, and/or Extended Mountain:

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With feel balanced and rooted to the mat, inhale deeply and raise arms and gaze to the sky.  Think about lifting your body rather than sinking into your feet.  Enjoy the lengthening stretch from feet to hands, the opening of your chest and heart, and the sun’s warmth on your face.

For today’s scripture, read with me Proverbs 14:12.

There is a way that appears to be right, but in the end it leads to death.

Moral of the story?  Worry not about being right nor about your poses being correct.  Instead, embrace where and who you are today.

With love and hugs,

Ashli

A Place to Begin

Just like the rest of the world, I am “beginning again” today, setting new goals for the new year, and searching for ways to keep myself on track and motivated to accomplish my dreams.  Ahhhhh, the beauty of a fresh start.

For me 2016 will be a year of self direction.  At least, that’s the plan.  This past year was quite a whirlwind – albeit a fun one, a whirlwind just the same.  Between moving to a new city, setting up a new home, getting the kids going in a new school, following Coach in a new job, and jumping into a new realm of education and learning for myself, the last 12 months were full of activity, movement, and feeling a bit out of control.  (Perhaps “new” should be a banned word around here!!)

I realize that my life over the last 365 days was directed by commitments, obligations, meetings, schedules, and “have to” items on my calendar.  I had a fantastic time, I would not go back in time to change a thing, and yet the time was not my own.  All those experiences provided beautiful growth and discovery; they also planted in me a huge desire to take back the reigns and steer the cart for a while.

This year I want to be self-directed.

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Saying that is the easy part; defining what that means is something else entirely.  I figure that the first step in directing my own days is to determine what I want to be doing:

  • Finish settling into our home, complete house projects that I have neglected, and [FINALLY] sort/clean/purge/organize/file/burn/shred paperwork that multiplies exponentially every time I turn around.
  • Return to my hobbies such as scrapbooking, quilting, reading, and writing.
  • Stay home, get back to meal planning and home cooking, keep the kitchen clean and the laundry reasonably caught up throughout the week.
  • Be present.  Focus on what I am doing rather than multi-tasking to the point that no person, no pet, no chore, no job gets my full attention at any time.
  • Slow down to savor the days I have left with my children at home, create lasting moments and memories for us all to cherish, and promote “down time” spent together.
  • Develop my yoga life through both practice, education, and development of my teaching abilities.
  • Be consistent!

Doesn’t that look fabulous on paper?  I admit, it really does!  But how does it translate into real life?  MY real life??

Well, I’m an analytical kind of girl, so it makes sense to me that the above wish list must now become a concrete set of goals:

  • MONTHLY:  Attend a workshop, training, or intensive practice to continue my growth and improvement as a yoga teacher. Publish a sample yoga class online to practice my craft.  Preserve empty days to spend on me, doing things I enjoy, and not allowing guilt or judgement to dampen nor diminish my spirit when those days arrive.
  • WEEKLY:  Schedule my calendar to match my intentions rather than chasing my schedule as others set it for me on the fly.  Plan meals according to the week’s activities.  Block out time to tackle paperwork, bills, and phone calls.
  • DAILY:  Share a pose, a scripture, and a thought that others might find inspiring or helpful in their own lives.  Write.  Be still.  Be silent.  Set everything else aside to have focused time with SonShine and Angel Girl.

So, here we are: Day 1 of 2016.

A great place to begin yoga is in a nice, comfortable, seated position.  Many well-known yoga postures have commonly used names in both Sanskrit and English.  Today’s selection is Sukhasana, or Easy Pose.

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You might use a wall or chair for support.  Your legs might be crossed, butterflied, resting on a chair seat, underneath you, or straight out in front of you.  Once you are settled comfortably, close your eyes, take a deep breath, and just sit.  Sit there quietly for a good, long while.  Try to stay there for a full 5 minutes, perhaps even 10 or 15.

That sounds easy, right?  I mean, 5 minutes??   Five short minutes fly by over and over throughout a normal day.  But 5 QUIET, STILL minutes are something else.  You might even find that they are a tumultuous force with which to be reckoned.

When I began yoga teacher training last fall, 5 minutes of silent reflection was torture.  I am still not great at it, but I do understand the necessity in it.  Your mind might flit and fly and fling itself around like a fast pinball in a flashy arcade.  Mine sure does.  That is just fine.  Let those thoughts come, and then let them go.  Release them.  Give yourself permission to take a break from those mental meanderings.

If you need some help or would like to learn more, take a look at these two books:

10% Happier by Dan Harris

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Real Happiness: The Power of Meditation: A 28-Day Program

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They were recommended to me by my YTT (yoga teacher training) instructor, and they are phenomenal.  Truly worth the read!!

Finally for today, I’m reading Genesis 1:1-5.  It’s where it all begins, so it’s a great place to start a new year:

The Beginning

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness. God called the light “day,” and the darkness he called “night.” And there was evening, and there was morning—the first day.

With love and hugs on New Year’s Day,

Ashli