The past few days have found me negotiating with myself about the holidays and making promises about staying present, not getting obsessed with holiday details, and enjoying what I love best: foraging in the woods and decorating with things found in nature, cooking and relaxing with friends and family and listening to old Christmas songs and watching old movies. Progress is being made, I believe, as today I was in midst of holiday chaos with open boxes of decorations around me and I walked out of the house -leaving it all in disarray - to meet friends for a movie (my first since the pandemic started). This is progress!
The studio is in disarray with the walls and trim in midst of being sealed (raw wood was never treated since it was built) so bear with me this week!
Our Practice – Anjaneyasana – Low Lunge
Last week in preparation for Thanksgiving, we focused on gratitude and heart opening poses. This week we will continue the theme of heart opening revisiting some themes we have discussed before relative to the heart chakra.
When we talk about friendship and relationships in yoga speak, we think of the heart chakra. We know that physically yoga supports a healthy heart physically. In life, however, hurts, betrayal and other emotional experiences block our hearts-we allow this to avoid additional hurt or pain. This results in the heart chakra, one of the primary energy centers in the body, becoming closed or unbalanced. We then may find it difficult to experience love, compassion, grace. Physical ailments can also develop. As we work through our physical and mental yoga and meditation practice, we strive to open our heart, balance the heart chakra and be receptive to love and human connections, friendships.
As we opened our heart with many poses including camel and fish pose, we discussed opening to receive gratitude. These heart opening poses help balance the heart chakra, and releases tension. This week we will focus on anjaneyasana (low lunge) with gentle back bend, arms in cactus and other variations.
The pose honors the monkey god Hanuman using his mother’s name, Anjani. Lord Hanuman is a central part of Hindu devotional worship, believed to be an incarnation of Lord Shiva. The pose resembles a young, divine child (anjaneya), reaching towards the sky and the warmth of the sun.
The physical benefits of low lunge can strengthen the hips and quadriceps, stretches the psoas, quadriceps, and groin. This is especially good to do after running which contracts our leg muscles. The lifted arms opens our chest (and heart) and helps improve posture.
Anjaneyasana (low lunge):
Starting in downward dog, inhale. As you exhale, step your right foot forward, between your hands. Lower your left knee to the floor, sliding the foot back until you feel a nice stretch in the left hip and thigh. Keep the hips low and level with each other. As you inhale, engage your lower belly and lift your chest away from the thigh, sweeping the arms up alongside your ears. Come into a gentle backbend lifting your chest toward the sky, arms over head or in cactus. To protect your low back direct your tail bone dow toward the mat with the backbend coming more in your upper spine. As you exhale, lower your hands back down and step back to Downward Facing Dog. Repeat on the other side.
Meditation – Forgiveness
It’s one of the greatest gifts you can give yourself, to forgive. Forgive everybody” - Maya Angelou
When I think about forgiveness it is almost always in the context of how it pertains to the other person, like I am doing them a favor to forgive them. I read about families who experience great tragedy or are victims of crime and they have forgiveness for their adversary. I always wonder, could I do that? I hope so. My personal faith has always taught forgiveness and I recognize that forgiveness is “the right thing to do”. I will admit, however, it is often done grudgingly or at least not always generously. When I came across this quote it made me stop and think. This reminded me that in the act of forgiveness I would be giving a gift to myself as well. Forgiveness can alleviate the time and energy spent on negativity or guilt and allows one to move forward. I thought about what could be gained by forgiveness versus what is lost by not forgiving. Whether it be the restoration of good will or feelings toward another person, or the negative energy spent harboring the grudge or pain, it can be very healing and empowering to embrace forgiveness.
Keep in mind all of the heart opening poses that that we have been discussing and doing in our practice; is there room for some forgiveness there? Living our yoga off the mat.
Nurturing With Food – Vegan Kimchi
Kimchi is an acquired taste. I happen to really like it. It is sort of the Korean version of sauerkraut meets hot and spicy and is a great condiment on many things and as a side dish with dumplings, rice and, in my opinion, almost anything. I like it so much I eat it straight sometimes as a snack. My family, on the other hand, are not fans. I was eating a lot of kimchi and wondered if I could make it myself. It is surprisingly easy to make. When I make it I usually double the recipe because my cabbage is usually at least 4 Lbs. To make it vegan, I omit the fish sauce. I experiment with vegetables, but the staples are always Asian or Napa cabbage, scallions and daikon radish.
Aside from tasting good, it is extremely healthful, especially in its probiotic benefits as with naturally fermented foods it aids digestion. For more on the health benefits of kimchi see below.
See you on the mat!