Can we really see clearly?

MH-706

Living in San Francisco, also means living in an incredible city with the big red and impressive Golden Gate bridge in our backyard. When you don’t live in this city (or country) you often don’t realize that the city and the bridge are often covered in fog, which leads to a beautiful metaphor for this blog.

When the sun shines in the city, the Golden Gate Bridge shines bright and is a beautiful site in the city, it looks magical, connected the city to the impressive Marin Headlands. However, a lot of days, the bridge is covered in fog and is nowhere to be found in the skyline of the city.

When you live in the city you know where to look for the bridge, even if the thick layer of fog makes it impossible to see. You know that you can cross it and get over safely. But if you have never seen it, it almost seems like the bridge isn’t there. And even when you come close, you can’t see the full bridge, but only parts of it – the parts close to you.

The bridge can be a metaphor for the Self, because often the Self is covered in a layer of fog. We know it is there, we most often know where to look for it, but it can be really unclear. And even when we come close to the Self, we cannot always see the complete road leading from one side to the other.

Yoga is a practice where we turn inside and we try to find a deeper connection with the Self, with our own shiny and strong Golden Gate bridge – which I will continue to refer to as your inner diamond.

The more we focus on our diamond, the more we want to clean it and the deeper the connection we make. However, the more we focus on it, the more we realize that life and living is messy, so the cleaning is an endless job. There will always be dust, there will always be a veil of dirt, and there will always be splatters.

We can see the diamond as our internal world and the splatters as the external world. It is the relationship between the internal and the external that makes it hard to keep our diamond clean. The cleaning process focuses on what goes in and what goes out. The stuff that sticks is what clouds the mind.

We often get trapped in cleaning our external environment, because it creates that feeling of space in the mind, clarity. And exactly this is the moment when we have to turn inside and start doing the dirty work. The clearer we get about ourselves, the more dirt and disgust comes up about ourselves.

And however much work we do, there is no promise you are going to be perfect. You need to recognize where behaviours come from, you need to work on the gunk that is covering your diamond. You cannot beat yourself up over what is being presented to you, this is a process without judgment, this is a process of acceptance, this is a process of finding your one true love: the Self.

So can we really see clearly? Who knows, but the clearer we see, the more space we will experience. The clearer we see, the calmer and more focused the mind will be. The clearer we see, the more content we can be with where we are and who we are, because we are able to make decision based on deeper layers of our self and in connection to the Self.

So polish that diamond, put in the work, un-dust yourself, and step in the light. Let your diamond shine as bright as it can be!

Yoga for runners

Yoga for runners
Yoga and running are two sports that combine very well. The running keeps you fit and gives you endurance, while yoga helps you to stretch those tightened muscles and helps you to prevent injures. Both sports will help you clear your mind and as a bonus, yoga will also help you deal with the physical stress you built up in your body while running.

Yoga will also help you create a better balance, it will elongate your muscles and improve your body & breath awareness. The combination of these three will help you to improve your running and become more aware of possible injuries during your training.

But maybe most important is the stretching of the muscles we tighten while running: our hips, hamstrings and gluteus (butt).

The following sequence will work on the different elements described above:

  • Stretching your legs (pictures: 8-9-10-11-12)
  • Opening your hips (pictures: 1-2-17)
  • Creating balance (pictures: 13-14)
  • Work on body awareness and breathing (pictures: 3-15-16)
  • Strengthen your core muscles (pictures: 4-5-6-7)

This sequence can vary from 15 minutes up to 30 minutes, it depends on how long you hold the poses and how many repetitions you do. The basic rule is: better to do it 15 minutes then to not do it at all.

It is advisable to start the practice with 5 minutes of meditation, to calm the mind and be focused during the practice. End the practice with a Savasana pose (corpse pose) for a minimum of 10 breaths.

Some basis rules when you perform the poses:

  • Make long, deep and controlled breathes through your nose. Focus on your breath going in and out while being in a posture. Try to make your exhale slightly longer then your inhale.
  • Let your breath initiate a movement. Inhale is a movement upwards, exhale is a movement downwards or a twist.
  • Work both sides of your body. Do every posture on the right side and then switch to the left.
  • While you’re in a standing pose always check your front knee. When it is bent, it makes a 90-degree angle with your ankle; however, it should never go over your ankle.
  • There is NO pose in yoga where we have our shoulders close to our ears. So when you are settled in a pose, always pay attention to your shoulders. Roll them backwards and down.

If you have doubts about the poses, below you can find the basic ideas and adjustments per picture:

  • Picture 1: Bound Angle Pose. Place the soles of your feet together. Interlace your fingers and hold around your feet. Try to keep your back as straight as possible when you come forward. Stay for 3 cycles of breath.
  • Picture 2: Cow Face Pose. Legs: Bend your knees and put your feet on the floor. Slide your left foot under the right knee to the outside of the right hip. Then cross your right leg over the left, stacking the right knee on top of the left, and bring the right foot to the outside of the left hip. Try to bring the heels parallel next to the hips. Sit evenly on your sitting bones.
    Arms: Bring your right arm forward; place your left one over it. Back of your hands are facing each other, thumbs are up. Make one more bind by bringing your hands in a position where your palms are facing each other. Bring your shoulders down and your elbows up. Do at least 3 cycles of breath.
  • Picture 3: Thread and needle pose. With an inhale take one arm up, look towards it and then bring it through the hole of your knee and hand. Shoulder and ear to the ground. Try to keep your hips aligned.
  • Picture 4: Locust pose. Start by having your whole body on the mat. Bring your arms back. On the inhale take both your arms and legs up. If this is too much to begin with, then start with only taking your chest of the mat. Second time only the legs. And third time both the chest (arms) and the legs.
  • Picture 5: Boat pose. Place your feet in front of you, hips distance apart. Hold with your hands under your knees; use this force to straighten your back. Keep your back as straight as possible during the entire pose. Balance on your sit bones; take your feet of the floor. If possible stretch arms out on shoulder height and a next step is to straighten your legs.
  • Picture 6: Plank pose with one knee forward. Make it look like you are a straight plank. Have your hips aligned with your body, so not high in the air or close to the ground. Shoulders are 90 degrees over your wrists. Contract your abdominal muscles. Bring your right knee to your right elbow. Try to stay here for 5 cycles of breath.
  • Picture 7: Downward facing dog: Come onto the mat on your hands and knees. Knees are 90 degrees with your hips, hands straight under your shoulders. Tuck your toes under and on an exhale lift your knees away from the floor. Keep them slightly bent. Stretch one knee, bend the other. Switch several times. Bend both needs slightly and push your sitbones up in the air, while you push yourself away from your hands. On an exhale push your heels towards the mat. Stay for a minimum of three breaths.
  • Picture 8: Standing forward bend pose. Hang forward, have your knees slightly bent or straight (your own preference) while holding your elbows. Feel how, due to your head hanging down, the vertebras in your neck are getting some space. Stay in this pose for at least 5 cycles of inhales and exhales.
  • Picture 9: Chair pose. Come up from your previous pose by bending your knees. On an inhale bring both arms up. Arms are in line with the shoulders, palms are facing each other. Your tailbone is turned inwards.
  • Picture 10: Warrior 2 pose. Turn your back foot to a 45-degree angle. Open your hips towards the side. Roll your shoulders down and back. Look over your front hand. Stay for at least 3 cycles of breath.
  • Picture 11: Extended triangle pose. Straighten your front leg. Have your torso similar to the Warrior 2 pose. Bring your body weight forward. Bring your arm down towards your leg. Either grab your thigh, lower part of the leg or ankle. Make sure your torso is parallel with your front leg. Stay for at least 3 cycles of breath.
  • Picture 12: Side angle pose. Both feet are pointing straight forward. Place your hands under your face. Inhale, lengthen your spine, exhale fold forward. Stay here with a minimum of 5 cycles of breath.
  • Picture 13: Tree pose. Put all the weight on one leg. Place the other one in your thigh or on your lower leg. Never on the knee!! Focus on a point in front of you and don’t let it go. Stand up tall. Hands in prayer in front of your chest. Minimum of 5 cycles of breath.
  • Picture 14: Warrior 3 pose. From the previous pose keep your arms where they are. Bring your knee forward, bring your leg to the back and stretch your leg completely. Make your leg, torso and arms parallel to the floor. Contract your abdominal muscles for balance and make both your legs as active as possible. Stay for 3 cycles of breath.
  • Picture 15: Camel pose. Sit on your heels, knees on the mat. Bring your knees hips distance apart. Push yourself up, so you have your hips 90 degrees over your knees. Freeze this – your knees and hips remain 90 degrees throughout the entire pose. Tuck your toes under and place your hands on your lower back. Inhale into your chest and bring your torso backwards. If this is enough for a backward bend stay here. To continue, bring your hands down and reach for your heels. Look straight up, be aware of the 90 degree angle of knee and hips. Stay here for a minimum of 3 cycles of breath. To come out: bring your hands back on your lower back. Move your hips towards your heels. Your head comes back last. Go to child’s pose.
  • Picture 16: Bridge pose. Lay down on your back, knees are up, feet are hips distance apart. Measure the positioning of your legs by bringing your arms next to your body; the tip of your middle finger needs to just barely touch your heel. Then interlace your fingers behind your back. Push your hips up as far as you can, roll your shoulders together. Breathe into your chest.
  • Picture 17: One-legged king pigeon pose. Come to a downward facing dog pose (picture 7). Bring your right leg up and bring it forward. Right knee goes to your right wrist. Your foot goes as close to your left wrist as possible. Your hips need to be open to do this, so you might want to walk your foot closer to your body. Place your hands next to your hips. Breathe into your chest and stay up straight. A possible next step is to bring your body forward on an exhale. Make a diamond of your hands (hands are on the mat) and place your forehead in the diamond space of your hands. Stay for 5 cycles of breath.
  • Picture 18: Rotation pose. Lay on your back. Arms are out in a cross. Bring your knees towards your chest. Make a 90-degree angle with your hips and your knees and knees and ankle. Move your legs to the right, look to the left; keep both shoulders on the mat. If you want you can place your right hand on your knees, to add extra pressure.

Yoga on your wedding day

Yoga on your wedding day

A week and a half ago I made a big step in my personal journey; I got married. Many people tell you beforehand, it is supposed to be the best day of your life and it goes by really fast. Well that turned out to be true! I couldn’t have wished for a more perfect and amazing love-filled day, and afterwards I couldn’t believe how quickly it passed by.

On the day itself I woke up extremely early, an hour and a half before the alarm was supposed to go off. I tossed and turned, thinking I should stay in bed, but then quickly realized that the nerves and excitement that were waking me up, were most definitely not going away. So I looked over at my soon to be husband and also his eyes were wide open; “Morning”, he said, “can you also not sleep anymore”. I responded, “No, too much excitement, want to do some yoga?” And so we did.

On the day itself I made a rather big and great decision about life, but this small decision to do yoga was amongst the best of that day. We went outside and started practicing. Instead of thinking of a routine I was letting my body tell me what it needed. Which was not my standard fast-paced and more hardcore sequence, but a gentle one: a sequence with lots of twisting, warriors, but all in a slow pace. The slow pace helped me to calm down, get more control over the nerves, but most importantly it gave me more confidence to face the day however it would come to me.

A wedding day is one where everything is about you as a couple, so all guests want your attention and many small decisions have to be made, and most definitely at some point in the day things will go differently than you had planned. Doing yoga in the morning truly helped me to face this day in a calm matter (as far as that is possible), gave me a clear mind to experience all that comes to you at the day and got me focused on what was most important: enjoy and be present, whatever happens.

So lesson learned: whenever you have an important day ahead. However much work you have left in front of you, or how ever many nerves or excitements are running through your body: practice yoga!