Just a little Farmhouse Zen...

Need a little zen? Grab a big pot and boil together the ordinary, the quirky, the simple, and the sweet. Reduce to a simmer and add a sprinkling of yoga and a dash of country charm. Enjoy!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Chipping Paint and the Perfect Pose...

I guess it's fair to say that I spend and unusual amount of time staring at my toenails. No, I don't think I have a "thing" for toes, but given the fact that I have spent most of the last decade teaching yoga, it's understandable that I spend at least an hour or two each day in some form of a forward bend (both on and off of the mat) gazing at my toenails. I'm still not impressed with what I see.

I don't have pretty feet. Aside from genetics, my feet have been fairly banged up from running, hiking, and time on the mat. Still, I do my best to disguise my shortcomings with bright, funky nail polish carefully applied to each nail. (After all, I wouldn't want my weekly parade of yoga students to be distracted by the sight of my naked toenails and topple out of a Downward Facing Dog!) The problem with nail color is that it eventually thins and chips, leaving the nails looking sadly neglected and less than perfect. But wait...my nails were never perfect to begin with, so why does chipping nail polish bother me so much?

Let's face it...we aren't a perfect bunch. We eat too much, move to little, laugh inappropriately, tell secrets, and set completely unrealistic expectations for ourselves and others. Still, we all want to improve...to look better, act better, do better, be better. From finances to friendships, we measure our perfection by these arbitrary and external standards. Sometimes, we achieve our goal, briefly...then, just like chipping paint, perfection thins and chips, exposing us for what we really are: perfectly normal.
I'm not saying that we shouldn't have goals or abide by certain ethical, moral, and virtuous standards. I'm simply saying that there is a certain freedom in embracing chipped nail polish, peeling paint, gray hair, wrinkles, second place, an average test score, an old car, an unfriendly neighbor, and yes, even that Downward Facing Dog (your heels don't really have to touch the ground, you know!).

Look around today...not with judgement, but with an appreciation for all of the little imperfections. Smile a little and know that it's OK to be something less than perfect. Forward Bend:

First, there is no such thing as a Perfect Pose...but there is definitely such a thing as feeling perfect in a pose! Forward Bend is simply that, bending the body in half...reaching beyond the mind to bring the heart closer to the earth. This pose provides for an intense stretch through the back as well as hamstrings, calfs, and perhaps even the shoulders. Following is my very modified version...it allows for imperfection (and a opportunity to check out your toenail polish!).

  1. Sitting comfortably on the mat, extend both legs out in front of you. Breathe deeply and let your breath pull you up through the crown of your head until you spine feels really long and your body resembles the letter "L".
  2. Exhale and relax your shoulders. Inhale and extend your arms overhead. Exhale and gently reach forward with your chest. Bend your knees slightly and/or widen your legs, if necessary, to reach forward.
  3. Breathe deeply and come back to a sitting position. Exhale and lower the arms.
  4. Repeat 3 to 5 times
  5. On your final repetition, exhale gently reaching forward with your chest. Inhale and remain here. Exhale, relax your head, neck, and shoulders and allow your upper body to sink deeply toward your thighs. Although your back may have begun to round a bit, continue to lengthen your spine with each breath and sink deeper into the pose as you exhale.
  6. Finally, breathe and lift the face and chest slightly, then exhale and gently roll up the spine until you come back to a sitting position.
  7. Smile.

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