You know those days when you just really really don’t want to get out of bed and it takes every ounce of strength you have to leave the warm cocoon you’ve worked so hard all night to create? I have a lot a lot of those, a LOT because when you go to 6 AM yoga- and let’s be real here, class starting at 6 means getting up at 5:30- with any amount of regularity waking up becomes much more challenging. Today, however, was not one of those days. Today was one of those days I beat the alarm, woke up at 5:23, and actually tried to convince myself to go back to sleep unsuccessfully! I don’t know if that means it’s more of an accomplishment getting on my mat (because I did it naturally), or less of one (because my sleep-brain actually wanted to), but I was more than happy, I was serene this morning. In class (thankfully after my 7 mile long run!) we did plenty of hip opening including my favorite figure-4 chair and worked our way to a little side crow play time. I’m thrilled with the lift I’ve been finding in my crows and side crows & I know that work will get a big boost after the Arm Balance & Transitions workshop I’m taking Friday night with Carson Clay Calhoun! 😀 Here’s a quick shot of my floaty side crow (see that hip lift!), but really the big day will be posting a strong Eka Pada Koundinyasana I or even an Eka Pada Bakasana- that’ll be the day I really fly!
Tonight I took a 2 hour workshop with Carson Clay Calhoun and boy am I going to be sore! The workshop was supposed to be focused on arm balances and transitions but really it was whatever people wanted to work on mixed between more crow than I ever thought I could do in 2 hours! One of the biggest takeaways for me was… don’t flat back in sun salutation if your goal is to handstand! This was kind of a revelation because coming up to a flat back on my fingertips has always been engraned in my sun sals but Carson pointed out that unless your goal is a really flat back (sometimes it is, the hamstring stretch is always welcome), keep your hands flat on the floor, lean forward and press press press into your hands as much as you can. I could feel my core super engaging doing this and even though I know I have a lot of work to do before I have liftoff, I felt like it really prepared me for handstands later on and gets me used to leaning my weight forward. So, if you want to handstand, keep your hands flat on the mat both on your jump forward from down dog and your jump back to chatarungua!
Even though I spent alllll daaayyyyy beign super sor yesterday, I decided the chances I have to practice and learn from a master are few and far between so why not do another workshop with CCC! The workshop was set for 2 hours but I think I was in the studio for upwards of 3.5 because it ran wonderfully long and I stayed after for some acro play and fun photo ops! Today was also a real breakthrough for me on my backbending. I’ve always been hyperflexible (hence the saga of my knees & dislocations), but my back is a point of extra flexibility. I do a lot of back and core strengthening because even though I can bend, I know I’ll get hurt if I don’t have the strength to back it up. SO! I had this brief (ie- 2 week) period last year where I was doing drop backs but as soon as I went a few days without doing them all the fear came back and I stopped. On Friday night I took a deep breath (or 5) and went for it. Well, flash forward to today and I decided I didn’t just want to drop back, I wanted to be able to get back up too. Going down is a factor of fear, trust, and, ultimately, gravity. Coming back up feels like my hands are cemented to the ground. I asked Carson if he would help me start coming back up. Here’s how he helped me learn to stand up from a drop back: he assisted me by lightly holding/guiding my back and once I dropped back he had me sway forward and backwards a few times (this was hard for me to understand at first, but it helps if you think about your knees being pulled towards the wall at the top of your mat). The he had me drop back and stand up without stopping in between, so I would touch down and come right back up. We did this five times in a row. After I tried it on my own a few times and, of course, crashed down! That’s okay though, by that point I had been practicing for 2 hours and had dropped back nearly 10 times. What I really took away was HOW to get up, WHAT to work on, and the feeling of KNOWING it’s 100% in my ability. I’ll post a video once I nail it but for now, enjoy these shots of our pincha play!
October 9, 10, 11
This weekend we traveled up to our favorite place (besides Disney!), Ogunquit, Maine. On Friday David went in for a half day so I stayed home and tried an online class with One O Eight. The classes are great but our baby kitten Kili was waayyyy too interested in eating my laptop screaming for me to be able to really focus.
On Saturday we managed to roll out of bed at the crack of dawn so I could do some sunrise yoga on the beach. Usually if I’m taking a yoga picture it’s of a specific posture- I’ll either video and screenshot or get into it and tell David “okay take the picture!” but today was different. Today I just flowed and let David capture whatever moments he wanted. It was beautiful but freezing, we got some gorgeous pictures and I just love how it feels to be out in the open air with the Sun and waves, not worrying about doing a posture in a certain way, just being free. My fingers might not be lined up perfectly, my gaze might be in a funky place, but these moments are just me being present and I love them. (I promise, more pictures coming asap!). I am looking forward to going back to normal studio classes tomorrow, Tuesday, I have spent the last week and workshops and traveling and as wonderful as those are I am excited for the simple peace of being led in a class- and the heat! Definitely excited for the heat on these chilly days.
One thing I have learned is to let go of expectations of what a yoga practice should look like. I want as much studio time as I can get, but I’m learning to see how I bring my practice into the world. Being flexible gives me the chance to learn from a new teacher be it an inversion workshop or the sun and sky. Yoga is everywhere and the more I accept all these different places and ways to practice, the more joyful I find myself becoming. Anyway, here’s a few of my yoga in the world pictures, there are few places more beautiful than Ogunquit!
I know, it seems like it’s been a while since I practiced! The truth is I had a family emergency that took all the mental energy I have.
Everything is completely fine now but it left me emotionally drained. One thing I took away, though, was that I never “didn’t feel like a yogi” and I hope that makes sense. What I mean is that when I go without practicing for a while, sometimes those doubts creep in, doubts about my relationship to yoga, it’s part in my life, my ability to authentically practice. This time, though, despite not feeling a mat under my toes in over a week and not taking a studio class in two weeks, those doubts never found a footing.
Of course I’m a yogi, of course yoga is a meaningful part of my life, of course my practice shapes how I live, how I hold myself. I don’t know if others struggle with this, but I spent a lifetime bouncing between one broken bone and another until my right knee just gave up that whole functioning thing for 6 years, so to feel like I can define myself by any athletic endeavor is something recent (aka, the last few years), which meaning it’s not what comes naturally. I’m so glad this past week, being a yogi is what’s come naturally. I’m so thankful for all the time I spent not being athletic and not feeling athletic because now, today, I can really appreciate not only the physicality of my practice, but also my emotional love of it.
Okay, on to the practice! Today was a 6 AM and holy smokes was it hard to roll out of bed! It went a little something like this…. 5:42 “Katie are you going to yoga?” Katie: “No, I’ve had 6 hours of sleep and I’m too tired”… 20 seconds later “Well, I guess I physically could get myself out of bed right now so I should probably go”.. 30 seconds later “RAAAWWWWRRRR… okay let’s go”
The practice was good, not the sweatiest and my knees (still a little sore after my 9 mile long run last week!) were having nothing to do with Crescent Lunges and only the barest tolerance for warriors, but I was glad to be there, glad I froze my knuckles biking to the studio in the night-time hours of the morning. Plus! I added a new asana to my arsenal- chin stand! Seriously, this is probably the scariest looking posture I’ve ever tried but it was super fun!
Another 6 AM class on the books! This was one of those great just roll out of bed and go mornings. No internal dialogue trying to convince me to stay in bed, no fur babies cuddling with me (nothing makes getting out of bed harder than your 4 month old kitten laying on your shoulder), just alarm and up and go. Class was unexpected, it wasn’t the normal Thursday teacher who is so inspiring one class with her convinced me to join the studio. The teacher subbing was fine, the class was fine, my knee put up with maybe half the warriors I asked it to do (which is better than normal for me). The class wasn’t what I wanted and I spent most of it, honestly, telling myself to stop being judgmental, but I think encountering classes like this- when they’re “fine” but not what you wanted- is good every once in a while. On a simple level, it makes me appreciate the “normal” classes even more, but it’s even more so a great practice in awareness. Rather than being judgmental I was telling myself not to be. Of course it would be better to just not have those feelings at all, but on this journey, I see having the mental clarity and presence to recognize those thoughts and put them aside (even for a little while) as making great progress. In the face of disappointment, all I can ask of myself is to try to take what good I can from it so even if those negative thoughts still float their way in, I’m glad for the ability to begin the process of changing my attitude.
ANNOUCEMENT! New things coming!
I am so excited to share this with you! Today (October 23) I’m embarking on a new adventure. Here’s the plan. Using the Instagram Account KatieTraufferYoga I’ll be posting a different asana every day for 60 days (60 poses, maybe a few bonus days). Once those 60 postures are done, I’l do them all over again. Then again, for a year. The goal is that by this time next year I’ll have taken a picture of each of the 60 poses 6 times. Through this I hope to be able to follow and share how my physical practice changes and grows while still writing about my mental takeaways here. At the end of this project I’d like to turn it into a book not only showing my progress, but also breaking down those poses. Through this I would hope readers can see not only great alignment and prep, but also a real example of how they change over time. The book’s a pipe dream but the photo log is starting today!
Up today for the 8 AM and it’s starting to feel like sleeping in! It’s not unique to yoga, but I love working out early and feeling (A) like I have SO MUCH TIME left in the day and (B) like I’ve been so productive and accomplished when I get home. Today’s class was hard- slow and challenging. The teacher focused on the feeling of “discomfort” and being okay with being uncomfortable. Both my knees were just not having lunges today so I ended up in probably 4 minutes worth of child’s pose midclass which, for me, is one of the most uncomfortable things. For me yoga is where I find strength, it’s a huge part of what’s helped me change my mindset after a lifetime of injuries to think I am strong and capable, so resting in child’s pose is a struggle when I want to be up and moving. For the health and safety of my knees, as the teacher talked about, it’s so important for me to accept that mental discomfort and respect what my body tells me it needs. Speaking of knees, this has been a bad month for crescent and all the warriors, we think because of my running. Against all odds, every prediction, somehow my knees have become strong enough to run, so strong that I’ll be running the Philly Half Marathon next month. Even though (with a LOT of TLC) they’ve held up better than anyone could have imagined, I think the toll my running is taking shows up in the increased arthritis pain and tenderness in my ligaments I get in these lunge postures. I’m hoping once my running scales back after the race my knees will be feeling more up to it.
Breakthrough! Sometimes they come from a fixed goal and absolute dedication. Other times they come from releasing yourself from expectations and just trying. That’s what I found this morning in Eka Pada Bakasana. This has been a “pipe dream” pose for me as long as I’ve known about it because, really, isn’t crow hard enough without saying hey, let’s try having half the support now! Now, I am far, far away from “mastering” this pose, but my first flight taught me a lot of great beginner pointers that would have helped me get some hang time sooner if I’d known.
First, though, I want to break down a little of what makes this pose so darn (wonderfully) challenging. In a typical crow, the weight is evenly distributed between your planted hands. The key to a great crow, however, is resisting the urge to let your arms do all the work, resisting the urge to sink. Rather, in crow you aim to use your core to lift your torso up almost away from your triceps (try videoing yourself it you’re working on this to see the lift action) while at the same time squeezing your abs with all your might. Now here’s why eka pada is crazy (in a good way!). Crow is about that ball shape, imagine it’s like the up part of a crunch (scratch that, it looks exactly like an inverted elbows to knees crunch!). In eka pada you’re keeping all that engagement, all that fire, and, without losing an ounce of it, asking your body to straighten out half your core. WHAT! So you’re pulling in and in and up and in and all of a sudden you want to straighten that hard working muscle group? Yes friends, this is the joy and pain of eka pada.
So here’s what I learned today:
- There’s more than one way to get into it. If starting from traditional crow and lifting off (lifting off here=super big deal) doesn’t work for you, try the draggy foot way (I made that up). Start in down dog, bring your left knee as high up into your left tricep as you can then silmotaniously bend your elbows (like crow), lean your weight forward, and drag your right foot forward. As you lean forward, lift through your core and hips until that back foot feels a strange-awesome lightness. When you get that lightness lift the foot to tuck it into your body, take a deep breath and SLOWLY extend up.
- Lift your hips UP UP UP! When you lean forward it is vital, necessary in fact, to lift your hips way up high towards the sky. If you’re one of the low-crowers (shins parallel to the ground) trust me, I’m with you, and this is not that. Lift up, everything in this pose can be summed up with “lift up”
- Press your empty hand down. Whatever arm is not getting a knee will want to be lazy- don’t let it. Pressing down equally with both arms will give you oodles, yes oodles, of core engagement and back engagement. The trick here is that your empty arm doesn’t have the benefit of weight so it’s up to you to press with all your might.
So in summary- lean, lift, engage, lift, press, lift, lift, lift. Got it? Here’s the most important advice I can give: just try it. Your body is amazing, truly amazing, and if you practice regularly and treat it well, it will astound you. One of the beautiful things about yoga is the way it gives back to you. A regular practice changes your whole body, strengthens and tones and teaches you how to use your whole body. If your crow isn’t quite steady yet, that’s fine, keep working on it. If your crow is steady, though, just give this a shot. Warm up and play with it a little. Someday you’ll feel that click, that “oh, like this” and you’ll just do it, you’ll just fly.