Snowga. Part 2…

“Snow provokes responses that reach right back to childhood.” ~Andy Goldsworthy

Snowga

Here I go again! Snowga from Park City, Utah this time! Darren and I have made it a yearly trip to go skiing out West and it’s the highlight of my year. This was my 3rd ski trip (ever!) and we went with a group of 10 people. We had a blast! I love everything about travelling and all the better when you spend the most part of your day outdoors being active. I honestly don’t know how people ski all day without stretching first (or how I did without on my first trip). Every morning I rolled out my travel mat and practiced for at least 20 minutes. My morning yoga routine stretched out my sore muscles from the day before and woke them up for another day on the slopes. My quads, knees, shoulders, and triceps were the most sore so I did whatever pose/sequence that felt good to my body.

ski lift

A glimpse at my snowga morning routine… (click on the name of the pose to see a full description courtesy of Yoga Journal)

  • 5 rounds of sun salutations… (surya namaskar A) (or more depending on if I needed more to get my muscles moving) Warms up the entire body. Slow and easy.
  • Cat/Cow… Loosens your spine and neck. Slow and easy, move how ever feels good to your body.
  • Downward facing dog… (adho mukha svanasana) Lots of breaths here. Move your feet around to stretch the hamstrings. Move however feels best! Drop down to your elbows into Dolphin Pose to get an extra shoulder opening stretch.
  • Forward fold with arm variation… (uttanasana) Stretches the shoulders and hamstrings… From standing, interlace your fingers behind your back. Fold forward over your legs and let your hands fall over your head with gravity. Feel the good stretch in your shoulders. Option to bend your knees and just focus on the shoulders.
  • Warrior I & II… (virabhadrasana I & II) Builds strength and confidence.
  • Chair pose… (utkatasana) The essential pose for snow skiing. Builds strength in the knees and quads and gets your body used to the skiers stance.
  • High lunge variation… Stretches the hips… Take both hands to the inside of your front leg (on the ground) and go as deep as you can. Elbows to the ground if it’s available to you. Option to drop your back knee and go into low lunge (anjaneyasana)
  • Pigeon pose… (eka pada rajakapotasana) Stretches the hips and glutes… Lots of breaths here. Wiggle around to find the perfect stretch.
  • Cow face pose… (gomukhasana) Stretches the shoulders and hips at the same time… Use a strap if you cannot yet bind your hands behind your back.
  • Hero’s pose… (virasana & supta virasana) Stretches the knees… Lean back onto your elbows if your knees say it’s okay and get a really good stretch in your quads and knees. This may be my favorite pose of all time.
  • Half moon pose…  (ardha chandrasana) or any other balance of your liking. This pose requires both strength and balance, two things very important on the slopes.
  • Easy seat with neck rolls… (sukhasana) Stretches the neck and shoulders… Sit however is comfortable to you and gently roll your neck.
  • Spinal twist… (jathara parivartanasana) Twist it out. Relieves soreness in the lower back and can help relieve upper back stiffness.
  • Corpse pose… (savasana) Breathe.

What kind of snowga post would this be without evidence of me actually skiing? Here’s the “official video” of my Park City 2014 ski trip… awesomely edited by my brother! That’s me, the pink jacket wonder. (not available on mobile devices for some reason. Watch on your laptop or desktop!)

Shanti,

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Related posts: Snowga

Beach ready yogi…

It’s officially summer time! Are you a beach ready yogi? I didn’t feel like it! Not with work, grad school, nightly homework, projects, and trying not to neglect my dog. So here’s what I did for the two weeks leading up to my beach trip:

Breakfast… 

  • green smoothie
  • herbal tea with honey (local honey is best)
breakfast green smoothie

breakfast green smoothie

Snack… a fat and a fruit to give you energy and keep you full

  • celery with peanut butter (add raisins if you like)
  • apple with peanut butter
  • ***sun butter (sunflower-seed butter) works great if you have a nut allergy***

Lunch… I used to be completely against frozen entrees until I found the Amy’s brand. No preservatives and so yummy. And I had to compromise somewhere with my lack of time.

  • Amy’s frozen lunch 
  • any other sensible lunch that includes a carb, protein, and vegetable

Snack… Watch your quantities. I prepare it ahead of time and bring it to class with me. Bringing the whole box of crackers is always a bad idea.

  • fruit with peanut butter (I like to use a half apple or banana)
  • cheese and crackers with fruit

Dinner… Here’s what I think is the most important part. Juice for dinner! Super kick of vegetables and gives your digestive tract a short fast every night. Also, if you don’t get home until 8pm like me, it’s too late to eat a full meal but you’re hungry!

  • fresh juice! 
Green juice sponsored by my friend's wedding...

Green juice sponsored by my friend’s wedding…

My secret cheat… For when I just have to have some chocolate. It’s an addiction, we’re all human.

  • Dark chocolate square with a scoop of peanut butter. 

I’m an ingredient snob. Look at the ingredients list, not the nutrition facts… you can find out a lot more. In the above foods this means check out your peanut butter, frozen lunches, crackers, and cheese.

At the beach… 

  • Go to the grocery store… We stocked up on healthy snack items, sandwich stuff for lunch on the beach, and green smoothie ingredients. (We ended up with: Spinach, mango, banana, strawberries, apples, watermelon, pineapple, bread, cheese, avocado, deli meat, peanut butter, peanut/raisin/cranberry trail mix)
  • Go on walks/runs… We brought our dogs so this one was easy to remember to do. We walked once in the morning and once at night. In the morning it’s not too hot and at night we waited until sunset so it was cool. It felt great to walk twice a day and vacay with our babies.
Our morning walks included duck watching...

Our morning walks included duck watching…

  • Find a local yoga studio… This is a must. I love visiting new studios and experiencing new teachers. I found a studio right in the area we were staying. Walking distance is definitely a plus!
I spy a yoga studio!

I spy a yoga studio!

  • Bring your blender… I left my juicer at home but I brought my blender. Nothing fancy, just a small single serving blender and I continued to have green smoothies for breakfast. It made me feel light and ready to put on my bikini! (Beach condos usually provide you with a blender but I brought mine just in case)
  • Yoga on the beach… because it’s fun!
Yoga on a cloudy day...

Yoga on a cloudy day…

Shanti,

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Snowga…

On my last ski trip, I regretfully have to say that I did not practice yoga while there. However, while I was in my beginners ski class the ski instructor asked me if I played sports. I said, “No, but I do yoga” and he said, “You yoga people! You’re all naturals!” I was pretty happy that he thought I was a natural! And I really do believe that yoga helped me with my balance on the slopes. Of course, I took another ski lesson this trip. This time my ski instructor, Bill said that he does yoga himself and that it “promotes a body awareness that is very important on the slopes.”

This time, I came across a Yoga Journal article about “Yoga for snow sports” and of course, wanted to try it and tell you about my “snowga” experience!

With this being my second ski trip ever  I was willing to try anything to keep me from breaking bones, tearing muscles, or, ya know, running into trees… especially if it involves yoga.

Warm up before you Fly down… I didn’t take pics this time (sorry for my slacking!) so click on the name of the pose and it will take you a detailed explanation of the pose courtesy of Yoga Journal. I did, however, take a picture of my feet:

Early morning yoga before hitting the slopes…

“Utkatasana (chair pose) is essential. It gets the lower body comfortable with the bent-knee, flexed-ankle position that is the downhill skier’s default stance. And it strengthens the quads so they can protect the knees.” ~Anne Anderson, certified professional ski instructor and Kripalu-trained yoga teacher

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Me & Darren at 12,000 feet

Poses that Hurt so Good after a few days on the slopes… These are poses that I practiced every morning to ease my aching muscles!

I had one fall on the slopes where I twisted my knee and I had an “ah-ha” moment. I am quite positive that if I didn’t stretch and strengthen my knees and legs that I could have seriously hurt my knee in that moment. So my conclusion is… snowga works!

Ski on,
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The yoga of driving…

This summer I have a new found hour-long commute to “work” a.k.a. my student teaching internship. I am not worried about the actual internship, I know it will be amazing; however, I am worried about sitting in the car for that long, road rage, traffic, and yes, teenage/college student drivers. Yesterday, leaving my intern meeting I witnessed a college student (most likely) get extremely mad at someone on the road. She honked repeatedly, gave him the bird, all the while screaming at him and talking on the phone. All of this was to move up one car link and sit at a red light. I laughed at her. But if she had done it to me, would I have reacted the same way?

The Yoga of Driving…

How often do we hop into our cars and absentmindedly drive, numb to our bodies and lost in thought? Once we strap our seat belts, many of us automatically set ourselves on autopilot and figuratively “fall asleep at the wheel.” What if, instead, we take advantage of this time to practice mindfulness – to turn off the radio and concentrate on the present moment, while keeping ourselves and others safe?

Step 1 – Take a moment before starting your car to scan your body and mind. Why? Otherwise, whatever you’re feeling will be there for the remainder of the trip. Prior to pressing the gas pedal, adjust your posture, relax your muscles, and take several deep abdominal breaths to calm your mind. Lowering the breath into the belly relaxes the nervous system and helps us be more grounded.

Step 2 – On the road the key to “waking up” is to maintain an open, spacious awareness of your surroundings while employing all your senses. Touch, sight, and sound in particular can help steer you back to the present moment. Concentrate on your hands to anchor your mind, noting sensations such as the steering wheel’s temperature, vibrations, and texture.

Step 3 – When your mind wanders… To reestablish mindful awareness when it wanes, choose a recurring landmark on the road, such as traffic lights, stop signs, or every second telephone pole. Each time you approach a landmark, check in with your awareness. If your attention has veered off into daydreaming, to-do lists, or rehashing of an argument you had with a co-worker (you know we all do it), simply bring your mind back to the sensation of your hands.

Step 4 – Explore your body’s experience and refine your posture… Am I clenching my hip flexors? Am I gripping the steering wheel too tightly, or sticking my chin forward in anticipation of my arrival? Once you become conscious of where your body feels stressed on the road, you can give tense areas added attention on your yoga mat, then apply this new awareness to your driving.

When you’ve become more skilled at general mindfulness at the wheel, you can practice full awareness, embracing all of your senses, thoughts, and emotions. If someone cuts you off, or if you’re stuck in traffic, notice the sensations and feelings that surface. Become curious about how these experiences affect your body and mind. Then, dissolve any agitation by repeating an affirmation of compassion such as, “May I feel at ease,” or “May we all have safe travels.”

Gradually, as you learn to use the time in your car as mindfully as you do in your yoga practice, you will set in motion a more relaxed, awake driving state, which will not only promote safety but allow you to arrive at your destination with a greater sense of peace and ease.

As for the stiffness that an hour-long commute will bring, I am really excited to head straight to Birmingham Yoga’s new studio and practice the same mindfulness on my mat. (New B’ham Yoga website coming soon!)

Happy summer!

p.s. Here is where I will be spending all of my time this summer! … The Children’s Program at UA

Reference: Yoga International, Winter 2011-12

Blogging hiatus…

So I’ve been on a bit of a blogging hiatus… but I’m still here! Going to my morning Mysore classes, studying like a fool in my last two semesters of school, fitting in some pleasure reading when possible, working with the adorable preschoolers… my life is pretty jam packed. But not too packed to take a little vacation out West…

This was my third day EVER on snow ski’s. I loved it. Can’t wait to go back. But for now, I have a paper to write…

Do what you love, love what you do.

Adventures with David Swenson…

One word for my weekend… Amazing. I loved every bit of the yoga, travel, site-seeing, and food. I have learned more from David that I can put into words. He leaves me with a want to study with him again! David has this amazing fun demeanor that makes you laugh. He has a wonderful way of conveying hard-to-grasp concepts in a fun and easy way. I was browsing his website and found a Q&A section that I liked a lot: Thoughts. His website is http://www.ashtanga.net/.
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We not only learned about yoga asana, modifications, and how to get into harder poses. But we learned that asana isn’t the most important. Will it make your life any better if you can do the Advanced A series? No. David also gave a whole new meaning to bringing awareness into our practice by comparing our bodies to a car. If you are driving down the road and your car starts making a “thud, thud, thud” noise, what do you do? Do you speed up and ignore it? Do you stop and look at it and say, “eh, we can make it 100 more miles?” No, you pull over to the side of the road immediately, change the tire, and go about your way. So why do we ignore our body’s “thud, thud, thuds?” If your knee is hurting it is sending you a message, “Hello Lindsey, this is your left knee speaking. We’re having a little discomfort down here.” And maybe I ignore it because I really want to do that next asana. “Hello Lindsey, just in case you didn’t hear the first time. This is your left knee. Ouch, ouch, ouch!” And I ignore again because I really have to try that jump-through… “HEY! Lindsey! Left knee here! Ouch, ouch, ouch, OUCH!” Not only did this make me laugh, but it really sank in. We’ve all heard our teachers say, “listen to your body” but this made it even more clear.
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In the last class of the weekend we had a philosophical discussion on the 8 Limbs of Yoga. Why do you do yoga? Fitness? Stress relief? Or maybe to make yourself a more peaceful person? If you go to yoga, does it make you a better person? Not by any means. Just because the person next to you in class can put their foot behind their head does it make them a more “enlightened” person? Absolutely not. What if that person is horribly mean outside the yoga studio? In simple terms, the 8 Limbs are about how to apply yoga to your every day life.
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The definition of Ashtanga is “8 limb path.”
  • Yamas: self restraint, vows of abstension, control
    • Ahimsa: Non-Violence
    • Satya: Truthfulness, Honesty
    • Asteya: Non-stealing, or Non-misappropriating
    • Brahmacharya: Chastity, Continence
    • Aparigraha: Without possessions
  • Niyamas: fixed observation, rules, precepts established orders
    • Saucha: Cleanliness, Purity
    • Santosha: Contentment, Peaceful
    • Tapah: Fire of Ordeal, A Burning Desire
    • Svadhyaya: Study leading to knowledge of self
    • Ishvara-Pranidhana: God or Higher Self the target of concentration, surrender
  • Asana: posture comfortably held, seat
  • Pranayama: regulation of breath, restraint of breath
  • Pratyahara: withdrawal of senses
  • Dharana: concentration, fixing of the mind (mono-task, stay present)
  • Dhyana: meditation, contemplation, reflection
  • Samadhi: profound meditation, putting it all together
We had a two and a half hour discussion on all of this so it is definitely not possible for me to explain it all or even explain half as well as David did. But maybe it will spark an interest in your practice.
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David also mentioned that no matter the reason that we come to yoga, whether it be fitness, a simple want to do the poses seen on magazine covers, stress relief or anything else… we all end up in the same place. Yoga has this magical power to make you crave more. Why? We don’t really know, it seems to be magical. But at the same time, “yoga is not easy” (Sri K. Pattabhi Jois). Putting all the 8 Limbs into practice is not easy. Pattabhi Jois is not talking about putting your foot behind your head, he’s talking about applying yoga to your everyday life.
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David ended the discussion with a question that I want to pose to you.
Is the world a better place because of our presence in it?
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Wonderful food at The Laughing Seed vegan restaurant.
After an amazing & enlightening weekend with David Swenson!
New friend! Marian Bull.
Wouldn’t be the same without my best yoga bud! Susan Hall.
Scenic ride home.
In addition to wonderful yoga inspiration by David, I met an amazing new friend. Marian Bull is a fellow yogini in search of yoga and she will be embarking on an amazing journey to Mysore, India in January 2012. Follow her blog posts to “live vicariously” through her experiences in India! www.MarianWrites.com. I love meeting new friends!
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I also have a big “thank you” to extend to my friend, Swapna Gupta. This weekend would not have been possible with out you and I thank you from the bottom of my heart. Karma is a wonderful thing and you have a bountiful amount coming your way!
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Love,

Inspiration…

While I was in North Carolina for Labor Day weekend I stumbled upon The Highlands Village Square Arts & Crafts show. There were many amazing artists but this one truly opened my eyes. His name is Marcus Thomas and he is a quadriplegic by way of a skiing accident. The first day, I walked by and saw him sitting in front of a booth and thought he was just visiting as I was. But when I went back the second day he was in front of his booth painting a very intricately detailed picture! Marcus holds the paint brush in his mouth and paints these amazing pictures.

***When I arrived home I started looking for who he is and his story. I found this inspiring video…  http://youtu.be/dg_B2r3a5zk***

This one is my favorite. We all know I love labs! And also the dog, Bella was laying at his side while he was painting!

Click here for Marcus’ amazing story on his website.

Does this not give a whole new meaning to the phrase, “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade??”