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August 29 Embracing Imperfect Alignment-Vanquishing Negative Visual Perceptions-Cool Cucumber Salad

Our Practice – Letting Go of “Perfect Alignment”

This week’s blog and practice is focusing on letting go of negative perceptions of external beauty, flaws and even our fixation on “perfect alignment” in a pose. As a teacher, I am (trying to) step back from over cueing individuals who may not embody a pose the way I “see” it. However, if someone is in a pose that I think could be injurious, I will step in with suggestions. Everyone’s body and practice is different, and most of us, unless we are hyper-mobile, are not going to look like the cover of a yoga magazine. So rather than focus on a specific pose this week, I am suggesting we spend time enjoying our practice, meeting our body where it is and just “go with the flow” (a vinyasa flow that is!). Practicing yoga the way that feels good.

My first yoga classes were Ashtanga - I stumbled in not knowing any “kinds” of yoga - and I really enjoyed it. I liked the challenge, the routine, and its tradition. What I did not love was the routine (I know I just said I liked it- love-hate) and the rigidity of the practice. After practicing yoga for awhile I became exposed to other styles and realized that Ashtanga yoga wasn’t all yoga. Looking back I remember thinking about my then Ashtanga only practice, “I thought yoga was supposed to relax me, there sure are a lot of rules!” As I learned more about the many variations of yoga practices, I came to realize that I like variety, creativity and a practice that allows me to flow the way I am feeling on a particular day. I enjoy taking all sorts of classes and just recently returned to my Ashtanga roots taking a class at SouthernOm in Greenville, SC. It was 2 hours, challenging, energizing, and finished with the most amazing savasana whereby the teacher chanted mantras to us. I love this article about the rigidity of Ashtanga, pros and cons and why it may not work well for many of us.

Meditation – Focus on Inner Beauty

Do you look at a photo of yourself or look in the mirror and immediately spot “negatives”?

Guilty as charged. My son took this photo of me in Warrior 2 when my yoga studio was first built and gave it to me as a Christmas gift. I immediately saw my back arm drooping low and my weight shift forward (constant “faults” I am aware of in this pose). Of course, I was touched by the gift but considered not hanging it up because of these “flaws”. I have come to love that photo and hang it proudly in my studio. I realized I needed to work to focus on the joy I see in my face, with my practice, with and with my new space; more importantly, it always reminds me of my son, Luke’s thoughtfulness.

Why are we so hyper critical, focused on the external self rather than seeing the emotions on our faces- if we are taking a picture, there is likely something we want to document – a joyful gathering of friends or family, a somber occasion of reflection….

Do we carry this negative reflection over to our yoga practice? Do our perceptions of the external inhibit the way we move through life, choices we make in what we choose to participate in?

This week I found two quotes reflective of this topic, one more yogic by Sri Ravi Shankar and one by my personal favorite, Audrey Hepburn. She was well quoted on her reflections on inner beauty and goodness.

“For external beauty, you put on things; for real beauty, you have to drop all things. For external beauty you have to have make-up; for real beauty you only have to realize that you are already made up.” - Sri Ravi Shankar

"For beautiful eyes, look for the good in others; for beautiful lips, speak only words of kindness; and for poise, walk with the knowledge that you are never alone." - Audrey Hepburn

Nurturing with Food - Nana's Cucumber Salad

We called my grandmother (my mom’s mom, also Julia), Nana. She was Irish and an excellent cook. Admittedly, her meals tended toward the traditional, but she had a way with all things baked, she made her own bread and had a home-made dessert each day. She and my grandfather had a prolific garden and canned and preserved vegetables and fruits (her brandied peaches were amazing) that lasted them all through the winter months. They lived in a farmhouse in Mount Kisco, NY that they bought abandoned, windowless and without indoor plumbing in the late 1930’s; our “vacations” were trips there where we ran wild in the woods, played in the brook and ate her delicious meals. Mind you by then they had windows and plumbing. My grandfather could fix anything, and my grandmother could make a meal out of whatever she had in the house. During the summer, when cucumbers were prolific, this salad was on her table every night for dinner. We ate these meals at a long table on her front porch; eating this salad reminds me of her pachysandra bed that we kids would try to jump over off her front porch, the fireflies and spitting watermelon seeds into the lawn (again – off her front porch). I guess in those days we still ate non engineered watermelons, in my mind, the good ones. Enjoy!

See you on the mat!


Julia Anne

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