As I continue to be inspired (and schooled) in the ways of yoga and personal fitness through my work, I always am reminded that this is only a small portion of wellness. Health is found primarily in the relationships we keep and the food we eat. Fitness is only attainable when in combination with a healthy spirit, mind and tummy. The body will follow, as nurturing relationships (starting with the relationship you have with yourself) and a nutrient-rich diet gives energy. Physical fitness requires energy. Fill up on the good stuff and you'll find more results in the studio, on your run or at the gym. So, that being said, today's post is a plug for my friend Jill. Her retreats are amazing. Go to one!
SCHEDULE OF RETREATS: http://www.vegangal.com/events/schedule/
I've been thinking about muscle memory. Most of the time, this is a great thing. Our bodies can remember how it feels to perform a pose, an exercise or a task at work almost without thinking at all. This instantaneous reaction allows you to bypass the learning curve and dive right into the work. How wonderful! Voluntary reactions can becoming almost involuntary with time and training.
But, is this always a good thing? Not always. In your workouts, relying on muscle memory, without mindfulness, becomes autopilot. Autopilot leads to inefficient workouts and sometimes worse, injury. At work the same can be true. Keeping your job on autopilot can make you fail to see opportunity, or fall into silly mistakes.
So, how do you hone your skills, your muscle memory, without falling into the autopilot trap? Try new things! New exercises, new teachers, new challenges at work will allow you to apply the knowledge you already have in a way that keeps your brain and body stimulated.
Muscle memory is a wonderful tool that should be used to help you grow into the next, greater challenge. Use the skills you've gained to build confidence to tackle the next mile, the next pose or the next project. Step out of the monotony. Do something new and do it with care. Finding the familiar in unfamiliar territory is how we adapt and grow.
If you've been practicing regularly, your muscle memory is in tact and many poses are familiar in your body. Isn't that a great feeling? But beware, complacency is the enemy of progress. So, try something new this week. I offer the challenge of an arm balance.
All arm balances start with the same foundation - your hands and wrists. And, they rely on the same stabilizer - your core. Try these confidence building asanas that build a strong foundation for arm balances. These poses will guide you to foundational arm balances - like crow or crane pose (the difference between the two is knee placement and degree of bend in the arm).
Ardha Chandrasana (Half-Moon); challenge your balance by lifting your bottom fingers from the ground. This posture sculpts your obliques, challenges your balance and encourages a present-mind. http://www.yogajournal.com/poses/784
Utthita Chaturanga Dhandasana (Plank Pose); work up to holding plank for 2 minutes. Ensure that your hips and shoulders form one line. Your entire core will thank you. http://www.yogajournal.com/poses/470/
Eka Pada Adho Mukha Svanasana (One-legged Downward Facing Dog); press through all of your knuckles (especially the thumb and index finger), square your hips, tighten your core, roll your shoulders away from your ears. This posture will help you become familiar with the sensation of weight shifting from 4 points of contact to 3. http://www.yogajournal.com/basics/2338
Is there a challenge outside of the studio that you've put off because of self-doubt? Use your mat as practice for the first steps towards the impossible and see how possible it may be. If you've been in my class, you may have heard me say "Standing on your hands is not essential for life. But, the ability to trying something new is a skill you'll use forever."
Climb to the edge, and take a leap!
Peace and love,
Whenever a new student takes my class I always ask them to to stay in the room, even if the class gets challenging or overwhelming. I ask this for important safety reasons: 1) I want to know students are safe, which means being able to SEE them; and 2) exercise without proper cool down, can increase the feelings of discomfort. But, there is also an important psychological factor; the sense of accomplishment that comes from sticking out a tough class, even if that means briefly taking savasana (corpse pose) or simply putting your head between your knees.
Setting a goal, and sticking to it, should feel empowering! Use physical activity to combat feelings of self-doubt and fear. Let your yoga practice, or any other exercise regime, become brain training for taking on challenges outside of the room. Recall a time when you overcame an obstacle or finished a difficult task. Boil that experience down to one word: determination, perseverance, focus, etc. Use that word as your intention each time you hit the mat or lace up your shoes. Let each session be a reminder of how mentally and physically strong you really are.
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