2011 has been quite a year so far, filled with many, many things that I am thankful for. In that spirit of giving thanks, here are many things that I am thankful for (in words and images)
1. A family who loves and supports me and continues to grow
9. Being open to taking chances, making mistakes, and learning from them
10. My health
What are you thankful for this year?
Today was a rather long day, at this point I’ve been up for nearly 21 hours, and seemingly still going. Knowing that this was going to be a rather long day, I thought it might be fun to chronicle it. So here’s my day in timestamps and photos.
This sunrise and views from the train were breathtaking. Here are some images from the ride…
Arriving in Jersey City was a little surreal. I felt nostalgic, recalling commuting into NY when I lived in NJ 3 years ago.
At lunch, I had an opportunity to take in the breathtaking views from the conference location and can’t resist sharing them.
It was a great day. I even got an opportunity to catch up with my friend, Tanya. We used to work together at the firm and are indirectly working together again now.
After the conference ended, donning my deceptively comfortable dressy shoes and my jeans, we all headed back to Newark to catch our return train.
It was a really great day and a really long day and definitely not my normal Friday. For as much as long days like this knock me out, it’s nice to have one every once in a while.
How was your Friday?
I have struggled for nearly the last two weeks trying to write about my last advanced teacher training (“ATT”) weekend. I’ve wanted to share all the information I learned about knowing your flow and anatomy trains, and I’ve tried to keep it short (but there was so much good information). I was at a loss of how to approach it, until I taught a yoga class again last night. My studio selects an asana and a theme of the month, and teachers have the responsibility to work both into class. This month’s theme is having a beginner’s mind and as I taught class night, it struck me that it’s with that perspective that I would approach sharing what I learned.
Of all the workshops this last ATT weekend, two of the workshops led by Jane Bahneman – Know Your Flow and Ride the Train – resonated with me the most. I found a beginner’s mind in these workshops that helped me to be open to learning new material and now I am really seeking to bring the elements of what I learned into my teaching and personal practice.
In Know Your Flow, Jane emphasized that by achieving proper alignment of the bones, you could then train the proper muscles to engage (from the deepest to the most superficial). Since we have many muscles that we can’t touch physically, the only way to activate them is through proper bone alignment. I’m way oversimplifying this, but this was the general idea. And on Friday evening of that weekend, we did a 90 minute alignment-based flow that demonstrated this point and also reinforced that some of the smallest changes we make in our form, can have a significant impact on the end result – it was like doing some of this asana for the first time. There are many examples that I could walk you through, but I will limit them to these two (and for the record, I had heard some of these before, but they didn’t sink in until this ATT weekend).
1) Lunge – before coming up to a full lunge, check that the knee of the front leg aligns over the ankle; place the same thumb as front leg in the hip crease and roll the thigh out (externally rotate it), while drawing the inner thigh towards the midline of the body; draw up through the pelvic floor and draw the lower belly in and up (belly button pulls towards the spine); now that you’ve made these adjustments sweep arms up alongside the ears.
2) Warrior II – back foot is parallel to the back edge of the mat, toes just slightly angled in; front foot pointing straight towards the front of the mat, heel perpendicular to the arch of the back foot; bend into the front knee (knee aligned over ankle); draw up through the pelvic floor and draw the lower belly in and up (belly button pulls towards the spine, as the tailbone lengthens towards the floor); feel the hips energetically pushing down towards the floor as you lift the inner arch of the back foot, pressing the outer edge of the foot into the ground.
And in all cases, the breath is extremely important, so always breathing in and out through the nose, feeling the diaphragm fill on the inhale, feeling it collapse as it empties on the exhale. And in general, engaging the pelvic floor and lower belly (mula and uddiyana bandha) help to draw the body into better alignment. Engaging these bandhas and breathing help to tone the deep core muscles, which are not always reached when doing traditional core work (such as abdominal crunches).
In Ride the Train, we learned about the 7 myofascial meridians as discussed in the book Anatomy Trains: Myofascial Meridan Manual for Movement Therapists by Thomas W. Myers. (After the workshop, I ordered this book and it now sits on my coffee table, since I am seeking to dig deeper into this topic.) My biggest take away here was that when something happens in one part of the body, it causes a vibration that has an effect on other parts of the body along the same line (or train). What does this mean: “pain, tightness, weakness, mal-alignment, and injury in the body are likely set in motion from strain likely occurring in other parts of the body.” (Jane Bahneman, Ride the Train handout)
So, that’s all well and great for me, but how do I know what connects with what? After some discussion of the general concepts of anatomy trains, we discussed the 7 lines/trains. I won’t bore you with the details about all of them. Some things that I would like to “bore” you with though. Did you know that working the muscles and fascia in the bottom of the feet through massage or MFR (myofascial release) can help relax your shoulders and potentially help to alleviate a tension headache? The Superficial Back Line (“SBL”) runs from along the back of the body, starting at the tips of the toes on the sole of the foot and travelling all the way over the skull connecting about your eyebrows. So, releasing parts of the fascia anywhere along the SBL can help to release other areas of the SBL. Similar things can be said about all of the lines, take the lateral lines (“LL”), that run from the outer ankle along side the body up to the ear (this includes the iliotibial band or IT band, which tends to be very tight on many of us). Releasing the LL through foam rolling the IT band may help release stress on the knees.
The trickiest part about these anatomy trains is that many areas of the body are part of multiple lines, so a well-rounded program that works to open up all lines can be extremely beneficial. A great example is the knee; it is directly impacted by all lines, except for the Arm Line (“AL”). The AL has an indirect impact though, as the AL includes part of the muscles of the back and shoulder, which are part of both the SBL and the Superficial Front Line. It’s all connected.
Having a beginner’s mind helped me to be open to learning and feeling these concepts. It enabled me to take a fresh look at each pose and explore it as if it was the first time I did it. It was almost like exploring these very scientific concepts with a child’s mine, not judging the information but taking it in, digesting it, and seeing what happened.
When was the last time you had a beginner’s mind? When was the last time you allowed yourself the freedom to explore what you were doing with a fresh perspective, a fresh eye and didn’t judge the results?
So, I don’t usually write about my work in accounting, but I had an incredible opportunity yesterday and I wanted to share it. I got the opportunity to present for the first time at an open board meeting. We were finally proposing after nearly 6 months of work on this. I got to present part of the staff opening remarks and answer a few of the Board members’ questions. It was really exciting and a little scary too. It was my first time doing an oral presentation in this format, but then I took a step and realized, I had all the tools and many have recently been developed through my yoga teacher training
One of the first things that they taught us in my yoga teacher training was to take the seat of a teacher when you are teaching a class. This is less about being in command and more about having a certain presence in the space you are in. Apply that concept in this forum and it meant taking my seat as a professional, translating to being and staying present in the meeting and conveying confidence as I sat at the table.
Then in my yoga teacher training, in addition to taking my seat as a teacher, I have to develop my teaching voice. Part of finding that voice includes learning how to be clear, concise, non-repetitive, and articulate as I teach (plus having fun). As I continue to teach, I continue to refine my voice and my ability to learn these skills. These are also key traits of being an effective public speaker. And my teaching practice helps me to refine these skills (I’d like to say, they helped me, but in reality, it’s on-going development and growth), which I brought with me into the meeting.
I also took a comfortable seat in a different way. Generally, we talk about this when preparing for meditation – come to a comfortable seat. In this case, I took what I’ve learned from meditation and brought it into the meeting with me. When you take the seat of a professional, especially in this forum, you don’t want to fidget, you want to be still and focused. So, when I wasn’t talking, I took a comfortable seat (modified for my situation – feet flat on the floor, spine long, shoulders broad, hands in my lap). I then spent the majority of the open meeting breathing softly, focusing on each person who was speaking, using my breath to help me stay focused, not fidget, and be present. It worked rather well. It was so effective and I stayed so relaxed that I intend to try this in other meetings I attend.
I was really happy with how everything turned out. And the feedback I’ve gotten from my colleagues has been incredibly positive. This experience really reinforced to me how yoga teaching is as much of a practice for life outside the studio as the physical asana practice is. I hadn’t thought about it until I was preparing for this meeting.
Do you do anything that helps you out both in life and in the activity (team sports, individual sports, etc.)? If you are a teacher, how do you take what you’ve learned from taking the seat of a teacher into other areas of your life?
Parts of my opening remarks were quoted on the FEI Financial Reporting Blog today and I was almost quoted in a local newspaper.
Click here if you’re interested in hearing any part of this open meeting or just getting some insight into what I do during the day. You can find me approximately at the following markers: 0:07:23, 1:23:00, 1:33:00, and 1:44:00.