Online Resources to Master Physical Distancing

OM

Sanjay Gupta has advised using the term “physical distancing” rather than “social distancing” since that’s more accurate… we’re actually probably more social than usual with all the virtual happy hours, dance parties, web calls, etc.

Nothing about this is usual. As life around us changes, we have to find ways to move forward with our own lives and families. Hence the dramatic and sudden proliferation of excellent online content to help maintain our well-being, learn new things and explore our creative interior worlds.

I have seen so many great resources and am quickly getting overwhelmed by all the content now available and thinking other folks may be feeling the same. So I am providing yoga and running resources, as well as resources for kids for all the parents out there who are suddenly home schooling.

Check back often as I will be updating this information! Also check out my resources page for some of my all-time favorites.

YOGA FOR RUNNERS

Brand New: My Yoga for Runners Channel, I’ll be starting with very brief videos on “practices” then moving on to 30- and 45-minute yoga sessions

Sun and Moon Yoga Studio: While not specifically for runners, they have excellent online classes that are helpful for building strength, increasing flexibility, strengthening mind-body connection… all the good stuff. Plus, it’s where I got my certification so they have a special place in my heart.

How to start an at-home yoga practice: Good tips here. Remember that you do not need any special equipment, I don’t even use a mat for gentle yoga… but if you want props then there are good suggestions here.

Tara Brach: One of my favorite yogic philosophy modern-day authors, she’s offering live guided meditations and talks Wednesdays 7:30pm eastern and numerous resources

Calm app: You can sign up for a free trial, then afterwards check out the resources they are offering for free during this crisis.

Yogaville Silent Retreat April 2-5: While there is a $75 registration fee, this retreat is usually exponentially more expensive so it is a bargain, trust me. Four days of tuning out and tuning in and it will be a full schedule so be prepared for great speakers and sessions.

Yale Happiness Course: While not directly related to yoga for runners, this very popular course can help improve well-being through this stressful time

Krishna Das Every Thursday 7pm eastern discussion and chanting session – for folks who love Krishna Das and chanting, this will help you connect to yourself

 


FOR KIDS AT HOME

Academics: Khan Academy is offering free robust resources for various ages. My plan is to dive in and identify what is most appropriate for my 13-year-old because I expect she’ll probably convenient “miss” all the algebra classes

Top online museum and art tours: A curated collection of the top tours now available online

Washington Post Museum Tour: 12 Historic sites that you can visit virtually

Broadway online – 1 week of free streaming

International Spy Museum, Spy at Home Survival Guide: Lots of great resources here if your child is into this sort of thing

Lunch Doodles 1pm eastern each weekday: Offered through Kennedy Center, artist teaches doodle classes everyday (seriously, kids get to have all.the.fun.)

Joe Wicks is the nation’s PE teacher – online workouts

 

Funny commentary from sports commentator

 

Check back often as I’ll be adding to and updating this list periodically, and please leave a comment if you have found resources that you are loving!

Om Shanti. Shanti. Shanti.

 

Progress may be a stretch

I am a firm believer in habits, good or bad… they work. So, if we get to choose good habits and choose bad habits, we should do so carefully.

This was the theme of my January. I kicked the month of strong – Aiming to meditate just 10 minutes each day. Up to this point, I had only participated in very long meditation sessions (up to 90 minutes) but I had never had a regular meditation practice.

I quickly shifted from 10 minute sessions to 20 minute sessions because I thoroughly enjoyed the silence. But then I got sick, and everything went out the window. Then I got better and failed to find my way back to my meditation habit.

February started off strong by adding in a 10-minute yoga session each night. This lasted about a week before I got busy, got distracted, got brain numb.

Occasionally, I will meditate… and occasionally I will do 10-minutes of yoga before bed. Several times a week, I have a regular yoga practice but it’s the before bed part that I am struggling with…

Despite the minimal progress, I wanted to focus on a challenge each month to consider why it’s so hard to form habits and what can be done to turn it around because I know these habits would be life-transforming.

Here is what I have learned so far:

  • The weight of the January challenge has sufficiently convinced me to take more quiet moments during the day, and work with a mantra while I run so that it becomes a moving meditation. Lord knows I spend a lot of time running, so this has essentially become found time for meditation. And it is working as I am becoming more contemplative and better able to slow my thoughts and focus.
  • The weight of the February challenge has convinced me to connect movement to pleasure, so when I wake up in the morning I am instantly moving and stretching. (I am learning this from my dog!) While this is not what I intended, I do consider it a solid 10-minutes of am yoga. As for bed time, I am doing more long deep stretches (yin) and twists, which are excellent for improving my sleep.

If I can count lessons as progress, then I am making progress. If reaching my goal was all that mattered, then progress may be a stretch.

Perhaps most importantly – and I hope others find this valuable – what I have taken away from the process of trying to create habits is that I have become a habit-creating machine.

The discipline has moved to other areas of my life, including nutrition and hydration… I’ve made many minor changes that are paying off. I would not have this natural inclination to start up new healthy habits unless I had already been in habit-forming mode.

As I have learned from running, I am choosing to let go of my failures and shortcomings because holding on to them does not serve me. Instead, I am going to focus on the positive changes that I have made and will continue to make.

The destination isn’t the journey for me, the journey is the journey.

Jai. (Victory!)

adventures with headstand

Full disclosure right upfront – I am terrible at headstand. Yet I love it. It’s an issue for me as a yoga teacher but there it is.

The issue is I can’t really teach it since I nearly always use a wall as a prop and flail my legs because I can get some serious stretches in while upside down. I don’t advise practicing this at home and not even sure if it’s helpful, but it feels natural and gosh darn good so I do it.

I love doing headstand at the gym most of all. Primarily because I can watch people walk by when I’m inverted. It’s highly entertaining – probably a lot like watching aliens walk on the moon. Sometimes I even wonder if the person just has a really bizarre gait or if it just looks that way since I’m upside down.

I’ve gotten used to the 3-minute timeframe, which is how long it takes for the blood to circulate throughout the entire body. And sometimes I’m even diligent enough to do fish pose afterwards for my counter-pose treat.

Now here is what I would advise for headstand if I were a teacher who could practice what I preach:

  • Wake up every morning and do headstand right away (after a few sun salutations, of course). Since you get a rush from inversions, it’s a good way to quickly get up and get going with the brightest feeling deep inside.
  • I was taught by the masters at Yogaville (check it out) who advised setting up your tripod (on forearms and upper forehead) and (with straight legs) gently moving the tip toes toward the body until they are close enough to your elbows that they float upwards with little effort. (Incidentally, if you have tight hips this may be nearly as difficult as pulling your bottom lip over the top of your head.)
  • Once in headstand, adding a lotus by moving your legs into the shape of a pretzel can further open the hips.
  • Post-headstand, staying in child’s pose for a few breaths can be helpful (I can do this!). Then fish or camel pose to loosen up any tightness that may have built up in the shoulders or upper back. Counterposes are important for restoring balance in the body, particularly after more challenging poses such as headstand (sirsasana in sanskrit).

If you do only one yoga pose, go for this one as it can change your perspective. Best done in the morning as an energizer. If you start against the wall, it will quickly get easier and intuitive to kick the legs up the wall. Over time, start to move away to work on balance. (Ok, I cheat a lot… but still enjoy a good headstand without a wall when I’m feeling balance-curious.)

Sirsasana is especially helpful for runners for faster recovery times. In fact, I’ve fantasized about doing headstand at aid stations, not sure if it would be altogether helpful but certainly sounds like a good idea worth checking out. Just need to figure out how to avoid getting dirt in my hair, not that details like that ever stopped me. Maybe handstand?!?

Seriously, try it out as it will change your perspective (obviously… you are upside down). Tune in to the energizing feeling in the body and dive in deep to all the amazing loveliness of this one.

Om Shanti. Shanti. Shanti.

 

 

 

Dude-asana

The Big Lebowski is one of my all-time favorite movies. But it had been years since I watched it and recently found myself wanting to check out of reality and clicking on the Dude.

Since I had last seen it, I have spent hundreds of hours on the mat and another 200 hours or so getting certified. So, imagine my surprise when I noticed all the references to yoga philosophy.

The most obvious, and therefore perhaps least compelling, is near the beginning of the movie. Jeff Bridges who plays the Dude actually does a rather inspired yoga move before bowling in which he arches his head back and splays his arms out and seems to have a moment of quiet contemplation. (I’m definitely using this, calling it the Dude-asana.)

But the over-arching theme of the movie is the most relevant – throughout the movie he struggles to find peace from the crazy characters who relentlessly try to disturb his sense of calm.

The Stranger, played by Sam Elliott, mysteriously appears at the bar in the bowling alley twice during the movie to explain to viewers the point of the story. The line that he highlights – the Dude abides – is actually a reference to Ecclesiastes 1:4. “One generation passes away, and another generation comes: but the Earth abides forever.”

This refers to how the Dude, like the Earth, can remain the same in spite of any changes or chaotic stirrings.

In yoga terms, these fluctuations are referred to as “citta” (prounced chee-tah) or mind stuff or stirrings that threaten to disturb our peace. One of my teachers at Sun and Moon described it as similar to a washing machine mixing up our thoughts and our clarity.

These stirrings come in many forms – from thugs urinating on our rugs, to unpredictable and bold best friends who rip the rug out from under us just when we think we have it all figured out, to green toenail polish-wearing seductresses who appear to be an angel before we realize that they are the devil in disguise.

Two terms that can be helpful for understanding how best to overcome fluctuations of the mind are parusha (supreme knowledge) and prakriti (experience of life). When faced with challenges, recognizing these experiences as such – prakriti – to help overcome any disturbance to knowledge of the higher self – parusha – can be helpful in returning us to peace.

A question that is often posed for further consideration is whether or not we are spiritual beings having a human experience, or human beings having a spiritual experience. Each of us must answer this question in our own unique way.

The Dude answers this question by using the word ‘man’ exactly 147 times during the movie, or approximately one and a half times per minute. This seems to be his way of level-setting, in addition to drinking many white Russians.

Here’s a bit of real-life commentary based on the movie, Metallica is referenced in the movie as the Dude says that he was once a roadie for the band, but called them a bunch of “ass holes”. Apparently, members of Metallica appreciated being mentioned in the movie and loved it. BUT, Glen Frey did not like the fact that the Dude did not like the Eagles and even told the Coen brothers when he crossed paths with them at a party.

Finally, for anyone familiar with the band Kraftwerk – they had a single called Autobahn… and in the movie there are a few cameo appearances from the fictitious although based on a real-band band (Autobahn), which coincidentally included Flea from the Red Hot Chili Peppers.

The Dude is an inspiration and I’ll enjoy his unique asana… and I don’t think I’m alone. Whether or not it works is the subject of many miracles to be realized and those that will never come to fruition either through yoga or on the big screen but are great fodder for endless commentary.

Om Shanti. Shanti. Shanti.

 

Balance as Breakthrough

A lot can be learned from a good tree. Vrksasana helps to improve balance and the ability to center and focus, which can be very helpful for running as it helps prevent injury and improve overall performance.

There are many ways to approach tree, from resting the bottom of your foot on the opposite ankle while using the wall for stability to placing the bottom of your foot on your opposite inner thigh with arms outstretched and eyes closed.

Moving gradually through the variations of this pose provides an opportunity to explore limitations and capabilities. At any point, if you feel challenged then tune in to identify what is happening in your body that may need special attention.

What I love best about this pose is that it quiets the mind and encourages inward gazing to pinpoint where there may be imbalances or weaknesses that need to be addressed. Runners can learn a lot from these slow quiet practices of drawing inward and strengthening the mind’s ability to identify what is happening in the body.

Don’t under-estimate the power of this pose to prepare you for miles on your feet, the subtle shifts require attention and care.

Tree can also be fun with friends, simply touch the tips of your fingers together in a circle while in the pose. The subtle shifts can represent a strengthening connection and build trust and a stronger bond. Also, experiment with swaying tree by moving your arms gently overhead for an added challenge.

Since there is no such thing as mastering tree pose, you can keep this asana in your repertoire of movements and come back to it again and again, each time experiencing slightly different sensations in the body.

Enjoy. OM.

 

Go with the flow

flowThis book – Flow by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi – was on my reading list for as long as I can remember and it did not disappoint. It is a book about yoga… it is a book about running… it is a book about life and how to find happiness.

Not the superficial kind of happiness that leaves you feeling hollow but the deep-down rock-your-world happiness. In one word – flow… it’s all about flow.

Csikszentmihalyi defines flow as ‘the state in which people are so involved in an activity that nothing else seems to matter; the experience itself is so enjoyable that people will do it even at great cost, for the sheer sake of doing it.’ (Sound familiar, ultra running friends??)

He cautions that problems can arise when people are so fixated on what they are trying to achieve that they don’t derive pleasure from the present moment (the golden present!). Here he starts to uncover the secret to contentment in life…

Many beautiful concepts in this book center on the ability to find enjoyment and purpose regardless of external circumstances. Again, meaning of life stuff and reminiscent of many foundational yogic philosophies that connect state-of-mind and perspective with inward bliss.

So many profound truths in this book, here are a few:

  • We create ourselves by how we invest our energy
  • Attention shapes the self, and is in turn shaped by it
  • To improve life one must improve the quality of experience
  • The meaning of life is meaning: Whatever it is, wherever it comes from, a unified purpose is what gives meaning to life

When I read this passage, I put the book down and cried happy tears for a while because it perfectly describes the flow experience that I have had difficulty relating to others who aren’t familiar with or who don’t regularly experience ‘flow’…

Flow helps to integrate the self because in that state of deep concentration consciousness is unusually well ordered. Thoughts, intentions, feelings and all the senses are focused on the same goal. Experience is in harmony. And when the flow episode is over, one feels more “together” than before, not only internally but also with respect to other people and to the world in general

And…

The self becomes complex as a result of experiencing flow. Paradoxically, it is when we act freely, for the sake of the action itself rather than for ulterior motives, that we learn to become more than what we were. When we choose a goal and invest ourselves in it to the limits of our concentration, whatever we do will be enjoyable. And once we have tasted this joy, we will redouble our efforts to taste it again. This is the way the self grows.

All truly dedicated yogis/yoginis and runners and lovers of life know what this is all about, but it helps to refine our thinking around the flow experience and this book explores every dimension in-depth.

Check it out!

OM

 

 

Why start with OM

Friends, I have a new blog to share yoga practices that can help and support runners and people who are new to yoga. Please visit and sign up to get emails.

Why start with OM? I believe that the greatest benefit of yoga for runners is meditation and pranayama (breathing) practices to build a foundation for developing a stronger mind-body-soul connection. Asanas (poses) flow more freely from this deep connection, and running becomes a moving meditation and celebration of the self.

Starting with OM is a reminder to tune into the golden present. Most yoga classes start with a simple OM chant or a moment of peace through silence. The OM discipline is profound and life-changing, and while I’ve only experienced it briefly in my life… I hope to explore how to instill a greater commitment to OM through practice.

My next exploration will be following the Daily Schedule that is used at Yogaville for one week. So, here it is – The Daily Schedule:

5am – 6:15 Morning Meditation

6:20 – 7:50am Hatha Yoga

Noon meditation (30 minutes)

5pm – 6:30 Hatha Yoga

6:30 – 7pm Meditation

And of course, no alcohol, no caffeine, no sweets and vegetarian or vegan diet. I will be journaling everyday to record my experience. I have followed this schedule at Yogaville, but I’m interested in assessing the effects of the Daily Schedule integrated with my life in Arlington, which is very different than my life at Yogaville.

Looking for others to join, let me know if you are interested! Ooh and sign up for my newsletters, please and thank you!

Hari OM.