A Lesson in Yoga

As I may have mentioned before, I’m a member of the Junior League of London, a service organization aimed at developing the potential of women and aiding those living in poverty. A few weeks ago was All Service Day for the Junior League. This is a day in which the league coordinates service opportunities with various organizations across London and encourages all of their members and their members’ friends to volunteer.

For All Service Day, my friend Jen and I decided to organize a wellness event at a local center that provides accommodation for homeless teenage girls. We arranged for the girls to partake in a yoga class, receive goodies bags, and brought in lunch donated by Whole Foods.

The yoga class was a really special experience to witness. It was mixed between Junior League members who had practiced yoga before and the center residents, most of whom had never been exposed to yoga.

Everyone started out a bit timid and tentative but as the hour progressed the dynamic in the room evolved. Each of the girls reacted to the class differently but those shared reactions slowly formed a communal vibe. At points during the practice the entire room would erupt in laughter as they tried to achieve a tricky pose. At other times the mood was more serious, everyone concentrating on challenging themselves.

Throughout the entire class there were distractions, though. It was unlike any yoga class I’ve ever witnessed. Instead of an attentive class focused on the teacher and themselves, there were distractions and interruptions and times when girls would drop out then rejoin. But somehow, amidst the chaos, the class continued. One pose continued to flow into another and there was a beautiful serenity that stayed in the room and was passed to whoever was practicing at that very moment.

Watching that class was such a wonderful lesson in many of the things practicing yoga can teach — endurance, acceptance, and finding your own way while being part of a whole. Overall the day was such a unique and special experience. Definitely one we’ll want to try to do again!

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Early Mornings

The sun rose at 5:58am this morning but it was light much earlier. We’re gradually making our way toward the height of summer when sunrise will happen at 4:42am. About this time every year, I dig out the ol’ eye mask just so I can sleep until my 6:15am alarm.

This year, though, I decided to go fancy and got a brand new eye mask. I figured since it becomes such a vital part of my springtime routine, I might as well splash out on a high quality one. Enter the Binchotan charcoal eye mask designed to relieve fatigue and stress.

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I have no idea whether the infrared rays are easing pressure on my optic nerve and promoting blood circulation, as advertised, but I am enjoying the upgrade to a really nice eye mask. Sure beats the free one I got on my last red-eye flight!

Even with my new toy to block out the light, the sun still got to me this morning and I was wide awake by 5:30am. Instead of fighting it, I decided to embrace the early start with a sunrise run. I love being out and about in the early morning when it’s quiet and you have the whole world to yourself. This morning was especially nice because everything was covered in a pinky glow from the sunrise.

Park Run @ Bushy Park

In the UK, there’s a fantastic organization called ParkRun that hosts timed 5K runs in local parks across the country. The runs take place every Saturday morning at 9am and are non-competitive. Some people come ready to fly around the course in their personal best time while others are just there to have fun, bringing along dogs or strollers.

Peter’s friend told us about the park runs over a year ago but we didn’t get a chance to check them out until yesterday. We went to Bushy Park’s run which is apparently one of the biggest. They have an average of 477 runners per event! As we drove into the park, we saw people converging from every direction either on foot or on bike. Even though it’s a low-key, friendly event, there was something exciting about getting together with that many people to just to run!

Luckily we made friends with someone in the crowd who gave us a few pointers before the run started. Yesterday’s event had pacers (people running at a specific pace holding up flags with that time) so you can manage your pace. Also, he told us that some people had on shirts showing how many park runs they’d participated in – 50, 100, and even 250! We saw them throughout the run and were very impressed.

For our first run, Peter and I had the conservative goal of beating the 33 minute pacer. Turns out we well exceeded that time can came in at 30 minutes and 1 second! I think we’ll definitely be back to beat that time and work toward a ’50 run’ t-shirt.

Hippy Dippy

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Yesterday morning, I treated myself to a massage at a spa next to this beautiful river. It felt so good to completely relax, release, and allow myself to be pampered. While I was on the table and focusing on relaxing, I noticed one of the areas I was the tightest was the hips. In fact, I had to really concentrate to get those muscles to completely let go.

When practicing yoga, they tell you that the body stores negative emotions and stress in the hip area. Yoga teachers often encourage their students to release negative thoughts and feelings during particularly hip-intensive postures.

Recognizing that my hips were so tense yesterday was a bit of a wake up call. Could I be more stressed than I realise? Is it possible that I have deeply rooted emotional baggage that is manifesting itself as saddlebags?

I’ve decided to explore this a little bit further and embark on a week of focused exercises and stretches to “open” my hips, as they say in yoga. Will stretching my hips lead me to feeling happier and more relaxed? Will it bring up deeply rooted emotions that need to be released? Will it turn out to be some miracle weight-loss solution? We shall see…

Each day for the next week, I’ll be doing a hip-opening yoga practice I found on yogajournal.com. I’ve just finished it for the first time and I’m feeling ultra-relaxed so that’s a good sign. I’ll let you know how it goes by the end of the week!

Made My Monday

From the beginning, we planned for this narrow room in the new house to be my “Yoga Studio” and office. As the months of waiting for the house stretched on, my excitement for early morning workouts and late night relaxation in this space continued to grow.

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This morning, I finally put it to use with a yoga session before work! What a great way to start the day.

Now that the room is functional, I’m looking forward to decorating it myself. As sweet as it is, nursery wallpaper doesn’t really match the yoga theme I’m going for.