July 6, 2011

Stabilizing unstable waters.

Looking for stability? Try Paddle board Yoga.

Attending a film festival the other week, I matched my gala dress with a pair of flip-flops on the red carpet. I spend hours a day on my MacBook Pro, but I don’t like to carry a cell phone – far too stressful (it’s from 1998 and never has credit on it anyway). I have an insatiable love for the ocean but I am trying to buy a house surrounded by cacti in the Aruban desert. Being an evening person is great yet I enjoy getting up before the sun for my morning practice just as much as the thrill of a late night out. My biggest passion in life is traveling, yet for some reason I have committed to three street dogs in need of so much attention they can’t be left alone for more than a few hours (also, they chew things, and no one wants to dog sit). Skiing is my favorite thing but I live so close to the equator I need a shower every time I step out of my car. I like to wear black but feel pretty in white. And, if I only got to practice one single type of yoga for the rest of my life, I wouldn’t be able to choose between a tough Vinyasa Flow or a soft Restorative.

What I’m saying is; I like opposites.

My favorite thing to do when I feel unbalanced? Paddle board Yoga. I know. Can you imagine anything more unstable? Standing on a wet surfboard in the middle of the ocean has to be the toughest way to try and find stability. Waves shaking the board, sun in your eyes, wind pushing you from side to side. It’s wobbly, your hands slide; just standing up is a challenge. It’s the opposite of balance! But sometimes, you just gotta switch things up a little.

Life is all about opposites. I find that when I am feeling down or out of balance, it’s easier to find calm in the storm than anywhere else. Really. So next time you spin into that “everything sucks”-spiral (and we all do from time to time), let’s try something new. Instead of shying away from what’s difficult – try to go into it. Sit with it. Let it be there! It’s usually fighting the present moment, fighting what is, that makes it hurt. Acceptance is key, key, key. Try to let everything be the way it is, because everything is already perfect. Didn’t you know? If there were no downs there would be no ups, and whatever it is you are feeling right now is a blessing. Appreciate that! Knowing there is nothing to fix, nothing to change, and finding that surrender is what will get you out of your funk and back on the fun train again. So if you’re feeling ungrounded, let it be. Be ungrounded. Life is not always rainbows and butterflies and that’s ok. Know that this, too, shall pass.

Then, do what I do—intensify it. Find the opposite of whatever it is that you want. For instance; looking for happiness? Go deeper into sadness. When I’m feeling sad, I watch “Terms of Endearment”. Maybe “The Notebook”, or “Steel Magnolias”. Anyway, 10 out of 10 times I cry my eyes out when Emma dies. I cry and I cry and I cry and suddenly that cry turns into something else—it becomes personal. So then I cry a little more over whatever injustice life has brought upon me this time (usually life-changing things like me losing my wallet or perhaps arguing with my dad about however teaching yoga is a “real” way of making a living or not), and before I know it I’m not so sad anymore. Happiness comes.

So back to feeling ungrounded. When you’re sick of lying in your bed with curtains drawn, put that pint of Ben & Jerry’s down and go find yourself a paddle board. Yes. Change into your bikini (or board short, or Speedo if that’s your thing) and try doing a sun salutation on the water. Ha! Are you laughing at me now? Yoga is hard enough as it is, why would you want to take your practice onto an 11-foot piece of wood in the middle of the ocean? Well, quite frankly – because it’s kick-ass.

Whenever I teach balancing poses in yoga class, I always have my students close their eyes and go deeper into a place of stillness before we go into our trees and dancer’s. First we need to find that place on the inside where everything is completely quiet. When we connect with that inner balance, Utthita Hasta Padangustasana, wont be that intimidating anymore. Same thing goes on the paddle board, things are just slightly more difficult. Ok, a lot more difficult. Imagine someone grabs you by the shoulders in Warrior II, pushes you to the side and then starts shaking you around. Oh, and add water up your nose. This is paddle board yoga. You’ll hate it. You’ll feel ungrounded. Unbalanced. But that’s the point! As you go deeper into it, as you find the opposite, before you know itit—balance comes.

You’ll fall; I guarantee that. But it won’t be so bad. You try again. You’ll fall this time too. And the next, and the next. But little by little you start to get it. Trust me on this. It won’t take long. You will find some balance, even if just for a moment. You’ll figure out how to distribute your weight in Down Dog so you don’t tip over. Maybe try a Cat-Cow. Tripod headstand next? Perhaps not, but you’ll find out that balance has absolutely nothing to do with the waves or the wind or the board. It comes from you.

So if you’re looking for stability, give Paddle board Yoga a try. It’s a challenge. It gets you out of your routine. You get to connect with nature. It’s a great workout, and trying those inversions you’ve been avoiding is less scary; if you fall, you just get wet! The water won’t hurt you. Paddle board Yoga is fun, it’s different, it’s empowering. And let’s face it, floating on a thin piece of wood in the middle of the ocean is pretty cool. Practicing yoga on it; even cooler. Finding balance? Kick-ass.

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