Is it better to give or to receive?

Is it better to give or to receive?

Solomon peed on me the very first time I changed his diaper. I took it as a sign of affection. I drove the hour plus to Spartanburg, SC to visit my friend Kristin and her new baby on a sunny Saturday afternoon with my 9 year old daughter. Just one week old, Solomon has it made. Adoring mom, doting dad, and two (much) older siblings very much in love. This baby is not neglected (understatement). When he’s not nursing, he is being cuddled by one of his other family members. Every time I tried to hold him my own daughter begged for a turn. Rarely does his adorable little butt get put down. I marveled at the softness of his skin and the floppy mobility of his little body. I smelled his head, brushed my lips over his cheek, and stroked his neck. What an incredible adaptation for such a tiny vulnerable being to become so adorable that every human in sight wants to not only protect, but practically worship him. A friend of mine once told me that we love babies and animals because they are such generous receivers. We usually think of generosity in terms of giving. But what if receiving is as much of a gift as giving is? Many of us have an unhealthy relationship with receiving; we think of it as being greedy or weak. When we see in those terms, we set up a power differential between giver and receiver. This causes us to either avoid receiving at all costs or accept the generosity of others at the cost of our own self...
One yoga pose to strengthen your upper body, core, legs, and well… everything

One yoga pose to strengthen your upper body, core, legs, and well… everything

Two variations of the same pose, plank (with straight arms) doesn’t have a commonly used Sanskrit equivalent and chaturanga (with elbows bent) doesn’t have an English one.  Chaturanga Dandasana means four-limbed staff pose and the implication that your body should be straight and strong applies to both variations.  Though plank and chaturanga are currently two of my favorite poses, we didn’t always get along so well.  I grew up one of those reedy slouching girls who looked as though a strong wind might knock them over (yes, I probably had a scowl to match).  My upper arms were the bane of my existence.  With zero awareness that a rather large sub-sect of the population would trade arms in a minute, I always lamented my lack of biceps and complained that my upper arms were barely larger than my forearms.  This body type is often associated with a total lack of awareness of the abdominal muscles and I was no exception. My first introduction to push ups (yes, basically these two poses together become a glorified push up) was when I started doing martial arts in college.  I couldn’t do a single one.  Not even on my knees.  Yet we did them every day in karate class, so I had to cheat by not going all the way down to the ground.  But with all that practice, I got stronger and stronger to the point that I can now do about 20 all the way down to the ground.   Over the course of the last decade and then some, I have learned to love push ups or at least their...
Yoga Question: What’s the best time of day to practice?

Yoga Question: What’s the best time of day to practice?

Q: I’ve heard that it’s best to practice yoga in the morning, is this true?  My mornings are so rushed I can’t imagine adding anything else to them, but I want to make sure that I’m getting the most from the time I do spend on my mat. A: One traditional way to practice yoga is during the Amrit Vela or time of ambrosia, just before dawn.  It is thought to be a powerful time for spiritual practice.  And there is something special about waking up early to do your rituals, whether you consider them to be spiritual practice or self-care.  In addition, when you practice yoga in the morning, then it is done and over with for the day, and you are less likely to get distracted or tired and skip yoga altogether. Doing your yoga practice at the same time every day is a great way to notice subtle differences day to day.  For most people, this also speaks in support of an early morning yoga practice.  Our morning rituals and habits tend to be more regular than any other time of day.  Plus practicing yoga in the morning allows you to start your day on the right foot and reap the benefits all day long. Another factor to take into consideration is that you will feel stiffer in the morning than later in the day.  If you are already flexible, than a morning practice will feel richer and more beneficial.  If you are dealing with chronically stiff muscles and joints, than a later day yoga practice will allow more ease and more enjoyment.  This is helpful because the more you enjoy your yoga...
3 mistakes smart people make when they do yoga

3 mistakes smart people make when they do yoga

Even smart people make mistakes that keep them from getting the most from their time in yoga class. Here are some mistakes that you might not have considered. Pass them on to your (smart) friends who are just starting out. #3. Attend the wrong class. “Well, I know it’s a level 3 Hot Vinyasa, but it fits in with my schedule and I can get my cardio out of the way while I’m at it.” As a recent article in the New York Times pointed out, yoga is not without risk. It’s an incredibly worthwhile practice, but it needs to be approached with respect. Many people take classes based on price, time, and location rather than the level and style of the class. This is understandable since smart people are busy and the names of classes can be confusing and even misleading. However attending the wrong class can sometimes be worse than doing no yoga at all. If you are out of shape and you start out with a class that leaves you feeling out of your league, you may give up entirely thinking that yoga is not for you and even worse you could injure yourself. However if you are an adrenaline junkie, starting out with a gentle beginner class may actually wind up working against you. If you don’t yet know how to slow down then the pace of the class may leave you bored and unmotivated to come back for more. If you have serious physical impairments, then spending time working with a skilled instructor one-on-one can give you the confidence to be able to modify...
Planting Seeds: Resolutions, Challenges, and Long Term Growth

Planting Seeds: Resolutions, Challenges, and Long Term Growth

As the craziness of the holiday season begins to wind down, my attention turns to the possibility of growth upon the clean slate of a new year. For several years I became jaded by all the people who excitedly signed up for self improvement only to fall off the wagon again and again within a few short months or even weeks… Or do they? Sure, most of us don’t keep our new year’s resolutions, but is it really true that nothing changes? Growth requires sustained effort. Some people will quit smoking again and again only to have it stick on the fourteenth try. So even if we don’t fulfill our resolutions perfectly, does it really mean we have failed? Or is this ritual of self improvement in the new year a healthy part of our long term growth? One sub sect of the resolution trend is the 30, 60, or 90 day challenge. This usually consists of a major lifestyle change for the specified period of time. It could be a dietary change, exercise-related, or something else such as sleep or computer time. The advantage of a challenge over a resolution is that since it is a set period of time, people may actually stick to it longer in order to complete the challenge. The disadvantage is that we might actually reinforce the deprivation-reward cycle that keeps many people from making lasting change by going back to our old ways with a vengeance once the challenge is over. Cory and Shanna Duvall, owners of Crossfit Asheville, recently came down on opposite sides of this issue. Cory wrote a convincing...
How to become stronger than you ever thought possible…

How to become stronger than you ever thought possible…

 My senior year of college I had the brilliant idea of writing and directing my own play. What I didn’t take into consideration was that I had never written a full length play before. I had no idea what goes into it or how long it takes to create a coherent story that works well on stage. What I had was a few scenes written in my play-writing class that had received a positive response from the other students. Since those scenes had been generated fairly quickly and the characters showed potential, I assumed I could do more of the same and whip up a full length play. When rehearsals were scheduled to begin and the play wasn’t even remotely making sense, I decided that it was no problem – I would just workshop the scenes with my actors and use that to polish it up. Of course when you are busy working with actors, props masters, lighting designers, costumers, etc… there isn’t a lot of time or energy left to finish your play. And all of the other elements of the play hinge on having a finished script to go by. To make a long story short, opening night was one of the most painful nights of my life. Not just because the play wasn’t ready. Mostly because I wasn’t ready. When you put your creation in front of an audience and it is not up to your own standards… that hurts. Some of it was funny, some of it was real, and some of it was cliché. The audience laughed and cringed and presumably went home and...