Learning to Love Utkatasana (Chair Pose)
I was practicing last week via Zoom with one of my students (who is also a longtime friend) and she said, “have I ever mentioned how much I hate chair pose?”. We both cracked about, not a yogic moment some might say but since laughter is so very healing, I think that was indeed yoga at its best! What are the benefits of this challenging pose? Chair pose (also known as fierce pose and thunderbolt pose) strengthens the muscles in your thighs and feet; increases ankle mobility; tones your core muscles. So, how to get the most out of the pose without saying bad words in your head? I find for me the most important thing to do is breathe. I know I say this a lot, but I tend to hold my breath in the most challenging poses which makes it that much more difficult. Every time I bring my awareness back to the breath it is like a revelation (clearly, I am very forgetful).
· Start in tadasana (mountain pose)-check in that you have weight equally distributed through all four corners of your feet weight evenly distributed between both legs.
· Exhale as you bend your knees, press your buttocks back imagining you are seated on a chair. Check in that knees are in line with each other.
· Raise your arms overhead, with your palms facing each other. If that does not feel good in your shoulders, try widening them or use cactus arms. Most important is to take good breaths, lengthen the spine, relax. While this can be very intense, the focused breathing really helps.
· As you sink deeper be sure that you can see your toes, if you cannot, shift weight back a bit into your heels and maybe come back up a bit.
My favorite way to come out of the pose is to forward fold.
Meditation – Healthy Reactions
I am guilty of being defensive. It is not a trait I am proud of, and I am always working on it. It goes hand in hand with my being a little thin skinned, not about work or about my abilities to do things, more in terms of getting my feelings hurt – usually misinterpreting tone. In readings I have done including The Four Agreements , by Michael Ruiz and Buddha’s Brain by Rick Hanson I have gleaned simple advice about not taking things personally. Think about it, who know how that person’s day has gone thus far?; how do we really know the intention?; and really, at the end of the day, it isn’t all about us! We cannot control another person’s comments or actions, we can only control how we react. Sometimes doing or saying nothing is the best way to handle these situations. A work colleague and I were once talking about how to respond to something that you just either disagree with or want to respond negatively to. She told me that when stumped in those situations she just laughs or says nothing. It is powerful (I should know, I noticed she had used it on me!) So, this week, let’s look outward, shine our best selves forward and let more things roll off us with a smile.
“Don’t take anything personally. Nothing others do is because of you. What others say and do is a projection of their own reality, their own dream. When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won’t be the victim of needless suffering.” – Michael Ruiz
Nurturing through Food – Mexican Breakfast
So I am a self-defined “almost vegan”. I do not eat meat, poultry or dairy (knowingly). I eat some seafood, although less and less as time progresses, and eggs (fresh from a friend’s farm). I include seafood since my husband does a lot of cooking in our house and my plant-based diet sometimes needs to be expanded to keep domestic harmony. My husband and sons eat meat and dairy but at varying levels: Peter, my husband, eats mostly plant based but does include meat and dairy in his diet; my son Sam eats primarily vegetarian and lapses to eat meat when he “needs protein” (saying it is only until he figures out more plant-based options) and my son Luke, while a healthy eater, fully enjoys meat products! Admittedly, I sometimes genuinely enjoy some steamed clams (especially when we dig them ourselves in summer) and some other seafood on occasion.
This breakfast is easy to put together and is extremely satisfying. If you are a vegan, just omit the egg, the black beans supply good protein on their own! Muy Delisioso!
See you on the mat