Monthly Archives: May 2010

Yoga Zombies

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I was at a meditation retreat last week. Do you know what they’re like? Grainy, leafy food in portions your pet fish couldn’t survive on, no talking, no reading, no car keys, no wallet, no calling home. It isn’t Club Med.

Just meditating, dawn ’till after dusk. It can be lonely. But some fantastic things happen.   
Here is one very cool thing.  Picture this: 5am, maybe.  (No watches.)  Still dark out, anyway. I come out of my room each morning, slowly and silently, and head toward the meditation hall, dressed in pajamas.

As I walk down the hall, every third or fourth door opens, and another person in pajamas comes out, quietly closing a door behind her.  We look like something from a zombie movie, except that some of the zombies have mats under their arms.

We walk in bare feet to the hall where we each pick a spot on the floor. We begin our practice. All you can hear is breathing and the soft thuds of feet jumping forward and back. It’s impromptu Mysore.  No one organized or announced it.

It goes on for perhaps forty minutes, people drifting in and out of the hall.  All of this happens before we begin meditating for the day.
And, holy mackerel, even though we don’t speak, don’t even look at each other for the most part, even though we’re about to begin another grueling day of seated meditation, I am deliriously happy.
I don’t want to leave the impression that meditating is awful from start to finish. Other very cool things that happen on these retreats are an empty, quiet head and a sense of peace that will knock you over if you let it.  I love it. Days later I can still feel it.
I feel a need to express some thanks to these zombie yogis. They were my family away from home.  We showed up for each other first thing in the morning on days when it mattered.
So to these men and women I don’t know, and to the ones I do know but didn’t say a word to: thank you, thank you, thank you.You made meditating a little easier, and you made me fall in love with yoga all over again.

Thanks to yoga zombies for making me fall in love with yoga, and thanks to you for the conversation. Continue reading

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Thanks to The Naked Guy

I keep thinking of this naked guy I had a thing with last week. I wish I could see him again. I was at a theatre festival, and I was strung out. By strung out, I mean that I was … Continue reading

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Following Delicious: Build Your Home Practice One Bite at a Time

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I’d love to thank a couple of Yoga Journal readers who commented on a blog I posted about morning practice. Both Ty and Kelly said things about wishing they could summon the discipline or the inspiration to do morning practice. 

I found myself shouting back to them when I read their lovely comments.  Turns out they can’t hear me when I’m shouting. So I’ll say this in writing.
First, there are experts to listen to.  So don’t listen to me unless it inspires you. I’m a yoga weenie.  So new I squeak. But here’s one weenie’s thought on the subject of building a home practice.
I started my home practice in three minutes one night on my living room carpet. I did it because I found Friday tough.  I loved my Tuesday class but I was doing drive-bys on Fridays. Do you know about those? You drive to class and your car goes right by.  You drive by again and you end up at home, eating S&V chips and wishing you had some willpower. I was up to it on Tuesday but not at the end of the week.
So I did two Sun Salutations one night. I liked it. It grew slowly, slowly from there. Three Sun Salutations. Four Sun Salutations and a quickie Warrior II. Five Sun Salutations, Warrior II, and Savasana. And so it went.  
One of the huge reasons I’m so into yoga is that it is DELICIOUS. In my home practice, I follow delicious as it gets bigger and longer.  It’s like following a trail of chocolate brownies, but better.

To Ty and Kelly, I hope this is helpful in some way.  If not, keep looking and you’ll find the answer that inspires you. 

In the meantime: thanks to all who comment for your thoughts, and thanks to you for continuing the conversation. Continue reading

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Yoga Junkie

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It’s 7:30 in the morning, and my phone rings.  It’s my sister sounding like an undercover cop on surveillance: whispery voice, hand cupped over the phone, shifty eyes.
“I really love yoga,” she says. “You have no idea how much I love yoga right now.”
She’s a new yoga junkie. It happens. We arrive here from other sports, other pastimes, other loves, and we fall into yoga like matter into black holes.
I’ll bet you’ve had these hushed conversations. 
“What about running?” I asked a yoga friend when he first fell. “I dunno,” he said. “I don’t want to run as much. It doesn’t help my yoga.” This, from marathon runner to marathon runner.
“I’m supposed to ride tomorrow, and all I want to do is go to yoga,” my sister continues. “I know,” I say. “I know the feeling.”
“I can jump through to a seated position,” she says. “Learned that last night.” 
“Oh yeah,” I say, knowingly. “That’s good.”
“And I’m starting to get that thing about lifting my heart without sticking my front ribs out. You have no idea how good that is.”
“Oh yeah?” I say.
“Oh yeah,” she confirms. “And another thing: did I mention that my knees don’t hurt when I’m walking to work, now? Did I mention that?”
Yeah, you did, but that’s okay.
“You have no idea how good that is,” she persists.
I don’t want to scare anybody, but this is the way you begin to talk to the people you love. You can go on running, cycling, and all the rest of it. No one’s going to stop you, but you might love this yoga thing more than you thought.
Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
Thanks to yoga for the inspiration, and thanks to you for the conversation.

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Cover Girl

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I mentioned I was visiting Toronto on the weekend, going to a new yoga studio for the first time, and doing a class with my sister (and my nephew, it turns out). I was nervous about venturing away from my home studio, and I wanted to share a few things I learned from toeing my comfort line:

1. Sun Salutations are not so different from place to place. This makes me very happy. No matter where I travel–now–I can find a home. Makes me feel warm all over, thinking that.

2. Speaking of warm all over, the studio I visited was a few degrees warmer than my home base. It only mattered when I stood up from one of those hanging my head poses (just a second, I’ll look it up – aha!) when I stood up from Prasarita Padottanasana (Wide-Legged Forward Bend), and came the closest I’ve ever come to fainting. Maybe that’s peri-menopause. Maybe it’s a surge of some fantastic yogi energy. I don’t know; it’s a new yoga mystery.
3. The chanting was completely different in this class. And it was fast. It was like trying to sing the Italian national anthem.
4. Bandas. What are they? I think I understand the idea of Bandas, but I do not have any control over them yet. Foolishly, I asked our teacher Oliver to pick a pose for our photograph (see above). This pose (I’m not looking this one up. I’ll look it up when I’m 76, when I might be able to do it!) requires some Banda control. It’s his favorite pose. It’s my least favorite pose. I just sit on the floor and make faces.
5. Speaking of faces, my head was recently shaved for a theatre production. I look like a 13-year-old boy at the moment. It’s not my favorite look. It occurs to me that I may never end up on the cover of Yoga Journal.
6. I love my sister Tory and my nephew Stefano. There’s nothing like doing a yoga class with people you love. 
7. I learned again that I adore yoga. Thanks to everyone and everything that brought me here, including Tory, Stef, and Oliver.
I’d like to know who would you love to do yoga with, if you could do it with anyone?
Thanks to yoga for helping me grow, and thanks to you for the conversation.

–Kristin Shepherd

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Meditate Your Head Off

I shouldn’t be writing this. No question. I should be on a chair at home staring at a speck on the wall. I’ve just come home from a four day meditation retreat. You know the kind. They take your watch, … Continue reading

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Some Days We Are Enormous

AA052612.jpgI go to two yoga classes a week, but I do my own practice at home every single day. I adore it, and I wouldn’t miss it for much.

It’s still dark when I get out of bed, I shuffle to the kitchen and make a coffee (perhaps when I am a real yogi I’ll drink something healthier), drink half of it, set the timer on the microwave, and begin.

The first three Sun Salutations feel a bit tight, a bit creaky. Even my mind is tight and creaky. I’m thinking about getting my hands positioned correctly, thinking about rotating my thighs inward and pulling that lower belly in (something I have no idea how to do, still). Heels closer to the floor, shoulder blades down, etc. You know all of this.

Then something or someone–some larger part of me, perhaps–begins to well up. The rabid thinking slows down. Something warm and delicious takes its place. I begin to feel more generous with my positioning. I feel happy all of a sudden, and light.

Some days, about ten Sun Salutations in, this thing takes over and I go crazy, like a whirling dervish. My breath pours in and squeezes out, I’m warm from the inside out, I am strong, I am beautiful, and I am huge, somehow. Unconstrained. You should see my Warrior II pose. I fill the living room. I fill the house.

I love those days.

This morning was one of those days. I’d set the timer for 70 minutes and was so enormous by the end of it that I didn’t hear it go off. Best Savasana ever.

Does this ever happen to you? 

Thanks to yoga for making us huge, and thanks to you for the conversation.

–Kristin Shepherd

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