Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Sanskrit Word of the Week: Prasaada: Grace through the eyes of a child.

I hate to lose.

While I'm sure most people don't enjoy finishing second or worse--last--I really, really despise it.  And, I'm really bad at it too...do not handle losing well.AT.ALL.

 In Sanskrit, the word PRASAADA means GRACE.

In English, GRACE means many different things depending on the context or situation.  It can mean:  elegance or beauty of form, courteous goodwill; or in Christianity, the free and unmerited favor of God.  In Sanskrit, PRASAADA, means the expression of a positive disposition to someone or something, which is also an English translation for the word GRACE.

Last Friday, started off with a two hour school delay, which resulted in me not being able to go to yoga.


When I stepped on the scales, I weighed an additional 4 pounds; my indulgences in Dallas finding their way to my hips and thighs.


The dog peed on the carpeting twice and pooped thrice, and the highlight of my day was mopping the floors and cleaning the inside of the refrigerator.

Boohoo.  Boohoo.  Boohoo.

While I could have been grateful that I slept an additional hour that morning or that the tortilla shells I ate in Texas were the best I've ever tasted, I wasn't. 

The day came and went and I had found very little to celebrate.

That evening, my youngest son played in his first basketball game. EVER.  If I had a million dollars to bet, I'd guess it was his teammates first time ever playing in a basketball game too.  Every time, his team had the ball, they would either in-bound it to the other team, pass it to the other team, or make a mistake which resulted in the other team gaining possession.  Every time the other team had the ball, they would shoot and score.
Too painful to watch, I occupied myself with Candy Crush Saga and Facebook status updates, from time to time sneaking a quick glimpse of the court.  His team lost by A LOT.  The exact number unknown because the scorekeeper quit posting the numbers once the game reached 15-0.

When the game was over, my son ran up to me, big smile on his face and exclaimed, "THAT WAS FUN!"

My heart broke as I realized my mistake.

While my son exemplified GRACE, I needed to ask for mercy.  Not only was I a poor sport, I barely paid attention to my son's first basketball game. EVER.

Boohoo...for real this time.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Thai Yoga Massage

I began my yoga teacher training in November 2013 with a weekend immersion in Restorative Yoga.  After my first weekend, I returned home and began mapping out a plan for completion.  I had every class scheduled but one. 

I struggle with decision-making.  Always looking for a connection or a sign, I cannot even buy potholders if they don’t speak to me.    And then an email appeared in my inbox.  The subject line read:  THAI YOGA MASSAGE EARLY BIRD REGISTRATION EXTENDED.  Just a few days earlier when asked what I intended to do after completing yoga teacher training, I declared my intention was to retire to Thailand and teach yoga.  This email was my sign, my message from the Universe.

As the weekend for Thai Yoga approached, my enthusiasm started to fade and I wondered if I had misread the cue from the Universe.  After all, chances of me actually retiring to Thailand are slim; the logistics messy…especially given my new found fear of flying.   I also had no real concept of what Thai Yoga massage was or how I could eventually apply it to my practice.  I hoped I was not wasting my time and money.

She had me at, “Hello, I’m Melissa.”  Melissa Smith, 500 E-RYT (500 hour Experienced-Registered Yoga Teacher) and founder of Grace Yoga, greeted everyone with a warm hug and confident demeanor.  Captivated by her energy, I listened intently trying to harness as much knowledge, enthusiasm, and Metta (loving kindness) as I could.  Quickly, I could see the therapeutic benefits of Thai Yoga massage and began to formulate imaginary classes in my head.  Wouldn't it be great to follow a fast-paced vinyasa with a short massage sequence using partners or self massage techniques? I thought.

After our first full day of class, I returned home and announced to my husband that I wanted to practice my newly acquired massage skills on him.  He was excited.  And then I told him he would remain clothed and there would be no oil involved.  His excitement waned.

I created a comfortable space on the floor, about the width of two yoga mats and instructed him to lie on his back.  I began at his feet.  He grimaced.  I continued.  He grimaced again.  And then I performed the Russian Dance, a move which twists the torso, one leg over the other.  And again, he grimaced, this time announcing, “This is not anything I’d ever pay for.”  I stopped.  Certain he would enjoy the stretching, traction and twisting, this was not the reaction I expected.  I must be doing it wrong, I thought.  After a few brief moments and some deep inhales, I composed myself and continued, making mental notes of what he appeared to like and not like.  After I finished the entire sequence, he asked me to do it again.  

Shocked, “You want me to do it again?” I asked. 

“Yeah…well…it got better as you went along,” he replied. 

When I finished going through the entire sequence again, he asked, “Did you learn anything else you want to practice?”  As a matter of fact I had.   Happy to perform a seated massage and facial sequence, he pronounced both of those worthy of payment!

Thai Yoga massage is vastly different than the more commonly experienced Swedish massage.  With Swedish massage, the receiver lies on a table unclothed while his/her muscles are kneaded or stroked using oil to release tension.  Thai Yoga Massage requires the receiver lie on a mat on the floor.  The giver utilizes his or her body weight to apply pressure in a series of stretches and twists in a rhythmic meditation that resembles a graceful dance.  It incorporates elements of yoga, acupressure, reflexology and meditation, as well as, physiotherapy, energy healing, and Ayurveda

According to this article posted at www.muditathaiyoga.com:
The benefits of Thai Yoga Massage are countless. By freeing the flow of vital energy in the body, Thai Massage can improve posture, breathing, flexibility, digestion and circulation. Muscles are stretched, inner organs toned and emotional and nervous tension is reduced.

During the training, I could see the tremendous value in Thai Yoga massage, especially for people with less flexibility and mobility, such as those with paralysis or rheumatoid arthritisAs I continue my yoga journey, I believe the path I am to travel will reveal itself to me.  My first goal is to achieve my 200 hour teacher training certification.  After that, I may consider a certification in Thai Yoga Massage, but like my decision to attend the Thai Yoga Massage weekend immersion, I will wait for a sign from the Universe!

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

A weekend's worth of gratitude

On Thursday, we flew to Dallas, Texas to attend Taekwondo America’s annual National Tournament.  Teenage Mutant Ninja Son competed with his club’s demo team and also individually in forms and sparring as a Senior Blue belt.

  • Grateful this busy weekend started with a great yoga session.
  • Despite a few mid-flight bumps, I am grateful we landed safely.
  • And despite having trouble understanding the GPS and getting lost multiple times leaving the DFW airport, we eventually found our way and arrived at the hotel without incident.
  • Because we were able to buy four seats to Dallas direct on American Airlines for the low, low price of $560, we opted to drive 2 ½ hours to the Raleigh airport instead of flying out of the much closer/more convenient Charlotte airport.  The decision to do this could have been a disaster given the fact we have never traveled to or flown from this airport before, but ultimately everything ran smoothly…right down to how polite the shuttle bus driver treated everyone on her route.   I am grateful for the ease of travel and the cost savings we achieved with this decision.
  • Grateful that when we checked our bags at the kiosk, our new American Airlines credit card had been activated thus waving the fees resulting in a savings of $100.
  • Grateful for the suggestion to go to the Perot Museum in downtown Dallas.  We would have loved more time to explore the amazing exhibits, but are grateful for the time we had…well worth the visit.
  • Numero Uno and Numero Dos were invited to tour the museum with the other TKD kids.  They had so much more fun with the group than they would have had with their dad and I.  It always feels good to be included.
  •  Despite the fact the demo team did not place in the top three, I could not have been prouder.  The team worked hard and gave their best performance to date.  Grateful to Mr. O’Regan for spearheading this venture and giving Teenage Mutant Ninja Son a place in this world to shine.
  • After the competition Master Dang took the demo team out for dinner.  It was after 10 p.m. CST, so we arranged for Teenage Mutant Ninja Son to go with the group while we stayed back at the hotel.  Very grateful to Master Dang and the other parents for keeping a watchful eye and transporting him safely to and from dinner.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Sanskrit Word of the Day: NAMASTE

NAMASTE written in Sanskrit

After our physical yoga practice, we relax on our backs, legs splayed apart, hands by our sides, palms face up as if ready to receive an offering.  Fingers retain their natural curl. We are in the most important pose of our practice, Savasana or Corpse Pose, where the breath and heart rate return to normal and our body and systems (digestive, immune, nervous, etc.) absorb the information from the stimulation of the poses we have just performed. After about ten minutes, we are instructed to begin moving fingers and toes and then told to turn and lie on our right side before returning to our comfortable seated position.  Eyes remain closed.  We bring our hands to heart center, anjali mudra, prayer positon.  Before sending us back into the world, my teacher prays:

May I take my yoga today with me in my heart, 
keeping it open to all situations I encounter.
May I take my yoga today with me in my mouth, 
speaking only my truth.
May I take my yoga today with me in my eyes, 
viewing all beings, 
 including myself, 
 with eyes that are filled with compassion.*

When she finishes speaking these lovely words, she honors the class by saying, "Namaste".  
"Namaste," we echo back bowing.

In Sanskrit, NAMA means "bow",  AS means "I", and TE means "you".  Therefore, NAMASTE literally translates to "I bow to you." However, it is more commonly translated as “The divine light in me honors the divine light in you."

In the West, we typically only speak the word, NAMASTE before and/or after a yoga practice.  Initiated by the teacher, NAMASTE is a symbol of gratitude and respect toward her students and her own teachers and in return invites the students to connect with their lineage.

For more information regarding the use of the word NAMASTE, check out this article in Yoga Journal or this article from the Chopra Center website.

NAMASTE as defined by Urban Dictionary:
an ancient Sanskrit greeting still in everyday use in India and especially on the trail in the Nepal Himalaya. Translated roughly, it means "I bow to the God within you", or "The Spirit within me salutes the Spirit in you" - a knowing that we are all made from the same One Divine Consciousness.
 NAMASTE as defined by dictionary.com:
a conventional Hindu expression on meeting or parting, used by the speaker usually while holding the palms together vertically in front of the bosom.
*My teacher, Talei, credits Vietnamese, Buddhist monk, Thich Nhat Hanh for the beautiful, inspiring prayer she delivers at the end of her classes with slight modifications made by her.