Add “nap” to your to-do list

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A few years ago I wrote a blog about naps during the summer season. It’s worth a reminder. And if you’re the type who needs a reminder to nap, this blog post is for you!

The summer months bring Fire, and with it, a level of intensity that is tough for many of us with Fire in our constitution (did you read my blog about jalapenos?) Too much heat in the body, mind and spirit can create a “burning up” effect. Symptoms include irritation or frustration, skin conditions such as acne, heartburn, and a general feeling of exhaustion.

Now I know some of you, like me, think “just push through it.” I have a lot of Pitta (fire) in my constitution and we Pitta-types tend to push ourselves a little too much. I plan a bunch of tasks for my day and I can’t relax until I’ve completed them all. For exercise I love to swim in the summer months. And while I’m in the pool, it’s all good but when I get out? Sometimes I feel like “whoa that was a few too many laps.” And yes, I do love jalapenos and spicy sriracha mayo on my sushi rolls.

As some of you know, I also love to travel. Have you visited places near the equator where people take a siesta? Or the Mediterranean countries that shut down during the hours of 1-4? They’ve got the right idea! The middle of the day (10am-2pm) is known in Ayurveda as the Pitta time of the day. Ayurveda teaches us to slow down during these hot hours. Don’t go for a jog! Take a nap.

It’s been quite hot here in Long Beach over the last few weeks. And I have given myself  permission to nap when the symptoms of too much Fire strike me. During the hot months of summer, you, too, can add “nap” to your to-do list.

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Are you complaining about the heat while eating jalapenos?

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Let’s say you’re running out of an air conditioned car to an air conditioned restaurant, eating a spicy meal, and then going back into 90 degrees heat, and then going back into an air conditioned building. Sound familiar? Not great for our physical, mental or spiritual health.

Don’t let your eyes glaze over. Here’s a quick paragraph about Ayurveda:

Ayurveda is the holistic medicine sister-science of Yoga. Ayurveda teaches that we are all made up of the 5 elements present in nature: air, water, earth, fire and ether. Kava believes Ayurveda and Yoga need to work hand in hand. We cannot do yoga, or live our lives, for that matter, without recognizing our connection to the seasons, the outside temperature, the food we eat, the company we keep, the exercise we do, etc. Regulating the body to the reality of the season by cooling down from the INSIDE is what Ayurveda is about. 

Adjust to nature. Don’t fight it.

So we all have some level of fire in our physical and emotional constitution. So when it’s 90 degrees outside, should we add FIRE to the FIRE we already have, while the temperatures bring more FIRE, eat more FIRE and keep accumulating MORE FIRE? At Kava, we say NO.

An accumulation of fire in the body, mind and spirit will cause an IMBALANCE of heat, causing physical, mental and emotional symptoms that basically resemble burning yourself up. Biting people’s heads off for no good reason, heart burn, skin conditions (think acne & excema) and mental frustration are common symptoms of too much FIRE.

Are you complaining about the heat while you’re eating jalapenos?

At Kava we adjust our classes to flow in a cooling and calming style. We use postures that Ayurveda says create a “cooling off” effect in the body and mind. We remind you to rest and drink your water. Drink iced water. Eat cooling foods such as watermelon, avocados, cilantro, coconut water, cucumbers. Avoid heat producing foods such as peppers, onions and garlic. Hey – we like these things too! But it’s summer. Try taking the heat down a notch!

Yes, sometimes a little air conditioning is needed. But for a truly natural, nourishing and calming tonic for the whole body, cool yourself down from the INSIDE.

“Ugh. I feel like I have to start all over again.” Yep. And that’s OK.

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Several students have come back to Kava recently, after recovering from an injury or sickness. And many say, “Ugh, I feel like I have to start all over again.” I know for many of us it’s hard to imagine starting a yoga practice all over again when it feels like you’ll be at Square One.

But listen. You might be surprised that I have been at Square One many many times in my practice. I think sometimes Yoga students build up in their minds that we yoga teachers a) know how to do every posture (nope!), b) practice every day (we wish!) and/or c) have dedicated our lives to the practice and therefore always make getting on the yoga mat our first priority (also, no). Over the 25-ish years that I have been practicing yoga, my Square One do-overs have been caused by injuries, life events and just plain-old bad priorities.

I, like many of you, have been injured. When you have an injuries, you learn to slow down. The crazy arm balance that I had recently achieved was certainly not possible while recovering from a shoulder injury. When my dad died of cancer 5 years ago, that shook up my reality and my daily routines tremendously. Do you think that I was getting on my yoga mat all the time while he wasted away from bone cancer? Nope. I was barely able to eat, do laundry, teach or run my business. And there were those years in my 20’s and 30’s when I worked in the corporate world when my priorities often didn’t feel like my own. Business trips, conferences, client meetings, work projects. I got caught up in that other world and took my eye off the ball.

This up-and-down stuff in life is NORMAL. Yoga practice is not a linear progression. We don’t start on Day One, then progress and improve and improve and improve and then BOOM! one day you are DONE. Doesn’t work like that. Even people who practice every day – their progression slips back and moves forward in fits and spurts.

If you’re contemplating coming back to start again, I say “No time like the present.” When you do return, I encourage you to embody compassion for your body, humility, and a sense of humor. And realize that while you might be thinking everyone in the room is better or more consistent than you, remember we ALL have many Square One moments over a lifetime.

 

Cindy Zackney is a single mom, small business owner and yoga teacher enjoying life in Long Beach CA. Named one of 30 “Women to Watch in Long Beach,” she has an MBA from Loyola Marymount (Los Angeles CA), which provided real-world practicality for 20 years in the corporate world. Her 15 years of teaching and 25+ years of practicing Yoga has given her spirit balance and fulfillment. The blending of both worlds continues to guide her small business, her blog writing, her yoga classes and life raising her daughter and dog.

Yes. We really do want to know about your injuries. Again.

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“Are there any injuries or physical conditions I need to know about?”

Hear this question from your Kava Yoga teacher? Sometimes what we hear in response is ……………………crickets……………………

We have our suspicions why we hear crickets. Here are the reasons we think students don’t tell us about their injuries. Do you fall into any of these categories? Would you add any other reason to this list?

1. “I’ve mentioned my injury to a few teachers in a few classes so I feel like I’m being repetitive or annoying by saying it again and again.”

Nope! You are not being annoying – and repetitive in this case is a GOOD thing! We don’t always remember injuries our students have and we see quite a few people throughout a week. Always good to repeat them and don’t feel embarrassed…which leads me to…

2. “I’m a little shy and don’t want to discuss my issue in front of 10 other people.”

Totally understandable! But wave to the teacher and ask them to come over to you so we can discuss it more privately. We are totally used to that and it’s not weird to us at all. Like if a woman is newly pregnant and doesn’t want to announce it to the world, we get that. But TELL US ANYWAY because pregnancy (and many other physical conditions) require us to make modifications for you so you don’t hurt yourself or cause complications.

3. “This shoulder/knee/back/ankle/wrist thing is something I’m used to dealing with for years. I don’t mention it in class because I know how to manage it and modify my practice.”

Great! We know there are a lot of cases like this. However we might be able to a) offer a new suggestion you haven’t tried, b) be planning to give you a physical adjustment that could aggravate that injury and we don’t want to do that, c) might be planning to focus the entire class on that area of the body and it might be super annoying for you to modify the whole class without help. So mention it ANYWAY so we can work with you to make the class as enjoyable as possible!

This is when the real practice of Yoga begins by Cindy Zackney

fun-partner-boat-pose-bamYoga means Union. The teachings acknowledge and embrace the dark and the light. As teachers of yoga we are asked to uphold the values of nonviolence, compassion, humility and truth, as well as many other yamas and niyamas about self-regulation and behavior toward others. If you are angry and can’t hear that right now, I understand. But know that Kava Yoga has never been nor will it ever be a place for political divisiveness. Whether you are celebrating or grieving, an activist who wants to fight or a quiet being who just wants to feel part of a community. You have a safe place here to practice your yoga. I have seen and this morning continue to witness how this election season has caused great separation between people. I rely on my spiritual foundation, which is Yoga and Buddhism. And as yogis, we do not teach separation, we teach Union. So this week I encourage you to get on your mat, get grounded, centered and find your breath. If you are struggling to figure out how to feel or what to do, the best answer I can give you is what I ALWAYS say, and what I turned to myself: MEDITATE! Your best guidance will come when you get quiet and listen to your Higher Consciousness.  See you on the mat!

Meditation is like waiting for your dog to calm its ass down. By Cindy Zackney

dog-waiting-at-door-headerYou stand at the threshold of a door with your (real or imagined) dog. Your dog knows you are waiting at the door because its time for a walk! He is SUPER excited to take a walk. He is full of energy, jumping around, yelping gleefully. He’s so hyper that he isn’t focused on anything but getting out that door and exploring every single smell, sight and sound out there. This happens every single time you collect the leash, get your shoes on and head for the door.

So you are standing at the threshold, waiting for your dog to calm down. If you get more animated, mimicking his actions, he will just get MORE excited. If you calm yourself, take some deep breaths, stand still and wait, your dog will calm down (it might take a while. Be patient).

YOUR MIND IS THAT DOG.

In classes this week I have been using this analogy for students to focus on during savasana (final meditation at the end of a yoga class) Then the other day, it occurred to me that the “new age” eastern meditation teacher I picked this up from and Cesar Milan (aka “The Dog Whisperer”) say the exact same thing.

I’m a huge believer in Cesar’s methods for communicating with dogs (I don’t believe it’s dog “training.” I think it’s about getting humans to understand that dogs are dogs and that we can learn to communicate better if we understand their dog culture better.) If you know Cesar’s “way,” one of his primary lessons for us humans is that we need to manifest calm, assertive energy. We are in control. We are the Pack Leader. The dog is a pack animal who needs a leader. They need the human to assert control and set the example so they can follow. Otherwise, the dog will run amok, doing whatever it wants in an uncontrollable whirlwind of dysfunction.

SO, back to the meditation analogy. Your mind is the dog. Your Soul, your Higher Self, your Heart Center, whatever you’d like to call it, is the human in this dog walk scenario. The mind should be submissive to the Soul. The mind should follow the instructions of the Soul. If you allow your mind to take over, you will have chaos, constant movement, an inability to focus, jumping around and non-stop gibberish. And perhaps poop on the bedroom floor, a few chewed up shoes, an over-turned garbage can and crap everywhere.

Cesar says that dogs need to be in a calm, submissive state before they are rewarded with anything. Walk, food, toy, affection, a jump up on the couch. Anything. And here’s the trick: your dog will not be in a calm, submissive state until you are in a calm, assertive state.

It’s the EXACT SAME THING when you are trying to meditate. Your mind, left to run amok, will follow thoughts, make plans, remember conversations and daydream. It will try to solve all of your problems, your family’s problems and your work projects. It will try to balance your checking account, create a menu for dinner and on and on and on. That is, if you LET IT.

But You are in charge. That’s You with a capital Y. Your Soul, Your Intuition, Your Heart is supposed to be in charge. You are the human, standing at the threshold of the door, waiting for the dog to calm its ass down. When the dog pulls on the leash, trying to lead you out the door, you say calmly and assertively, “Heel” and the dog heels. Similarly, when you have a thought during meditation, you say “Breathe” and you bring your awareness back to your breath. When you mind is focused on your breath, it calms its ass down.

When you get that hierarchy of who’s in control, your mind will quiet down and your Heart will sing. And you will hear it finally! That’s your meditation practice.