Enough

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“A flower does not think of competing with the flower next to it. It just blooms.” [Zen Shin]

You know that story—the one you tell yourself about how you’re not enough? Not fit enough to go to the gym, not pretty enough to wear makeup, not smart enough to take that class, not brave enough to speak your truth, not worthy enough to love? That one?

It’s a bad story. By which I mean poorly written. It’s flat-out boring, and that’s a problem. I’m bored with this narrative I have of myself. Yeah, it can keep me safe, but it also keeps me in. It holds me back.

A lot of times, there’s no way of knowing whether I am enough if I don’t try the thing more than once. Or, more likely, being enough just doesn’t have much to do with it. And pretending like it’s all that matters is lazy—a poorly written, boring story. It’s a stereotype—girl gets a makeover and finds out she’s pretty after all, smarty-pants guy gets the professional recognition he deserves. Neither of these are about the journey of acquiring enough-ness; they don’t show us the real grit and failure of an honest story.

Because I’m mostly not enough. I could be better—a better teacher, a better writer, a better listener, a better friend, a better daughter, a better student, a better climber…. But all those take work; they’re risky and difficult. And they’re also not boring. If “enough” were really the goal, how boring it’d be once we got there!

So instead of denying that story, instead of telling it, “No, you’re wrong—I am enough,” next time it stops in for a visit, I’ll be honest: “You bore me. I’ve heard enough of you, and this life I’m getting to live is too interesting for me to stop and listen to another boring story.”

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What I’ve Learned about Forgiveness

In light of the #metoo movement, I’ve come across some interesting discussions about the role of forgiveness–whether it’s an outdated concept, what its utility even is, who gets to give and receive it.

I’ve been on this long road of forgiveness for a few years myself, and I’ve done some helpful reading on the topic, too. Below are a few things I’ve learned about forgiving others:

  1. Forgiving isn’t just for people who go to church. Or temple, or mosque, or people who sit regularly on their meditation cushions. Certainly these traditions help us witness, contextualize, and understand forgiveness in action, but they’re not prerequisites to meaning or purpose in our lives–much less forgiveness. What is a prerequisite to forgiveness, I think, is the desire to heal. To want to move on, lighten the load. Hurt and betrayal weigh us down, and the kind of fear that (naturally) results from experiencing them often keeps us from trying what we want to try, and accomplishing what we’re aiming to accomplish.
  2. Forgiveness doesn’t mean that anyone gets to forgo the consequences of their actions. You can look to forgive a coworker for harassing you while you pursue the repercussions available to you at your workplace. You can forgive a thief and still file a police report. These aren’t mutually exclusive actions. You can forgive while pursuing justice and, often, we really should do both. An essential part of forgiveness is coming to terms with what happened and what needs to happen going forward. So much of forgiveness has to do with working against our own denial. And yes, it’s uncomfortable to dwell in a place where we’re both hurt and open to the possibility of letting go of that hurt. This is why it’s helpful to consider how…
  3. Forgiveness is a journey. Like almost anything worth doing in this life, forgiveness isn’t a split-second decision resulting in immediate transformation. As Dear Sugar says in this wonderful letter, “You know how alcoholics who go to AA are always using that phrase one day at a time? They say that because to say I will never drink again is just too f***ing much. It’s big and hard and bound to fail.” Committing to a once-and-for-all forgiveness (a “just let it go” moment) is too big and hard, and it’s most often bound to fail. The first step, as Dear Sugar suggests, is acceptance: just recognizing what happened, and maybe how. Being able to say, even silently to yourself, “I was harassed,” or “He humiliated me,” exemplifies this step. Sometimes this process of acceptance, this inquiry into what happened, opens up the reality that there is more than one person to forgive. For example, I know that I’ve reacted in ways I’ve regretted to people who’ve hurt me; so in accepting what all happened, I’ve realized that I needed to forgive myself, too. For me, the act of forgiving is ongoing, a practice. It doesn’t do any good to pretend you’re not angry, or not hurting–there’s acceptance again. So, once you’ve accepted what’s already present, how can you best process it in a way that moves toward forgiveness?
  4. Nobody deserves forgiveness. Nobody is more deserving of forgiveness than anybody else. Someone doesn’t (and can’t!) earn your forgiveness by apologizing to you, “making it up” to you in some way, or by doing something that was no big deal in the first place. (Side note: who else needs to practice responding to “I’m sorry” with “Thank you” instead of “Oh, it’s okay”???) Similarly, you can forgive someone whether or not they apologize to you. You don’t even have to communicate with the perpetrator to forgive them, especially if reaching out to them is going to cause more pain for either of you. Forgiveness doesn’t have to be something you say to the person who hurt you at all, because…
  5. Forgiveness is about showing yourself mercy. Carrying the burden of knowing someone took advantage of you, hurt you, betrayed you–in any way and for any reason–is painful. This kind of pain drains your energy, takes away the joy and color from so many other parts of our lives. And it’s hard enough to be hurt in the first place! One of my favorite yoga teachers Kathryn Budig once said in an Instagram post, “Doubt will try to wiggle its way in, but its only fuel is your permission. Starve it with your faith.” I think this can also be true, to an extent, when it comes to trauma. Of course we have no control over what other people say or do to us, how they decide to treat us. But we do have control over our reactions–what we let steep into our consciousness and why, what we continue to mull over. We can “starve” these painful moments and toxic memories by revoking our permission to let them stick around and continue to hurt us, by forgiving.
  6. You don’t get to forgive someone for harming someone else. I think this is especially important in light of #metoo. You can only forgive someone for the harm they did to you. Yes, it’s terrible and difficult when it’s revealed that yet another public figure, maybe one you admired, has done something awful to a woman or girl–or many women and girls. But what they did to those people is not the same betrayal that you’ve experienced. And notice that I’m not saying your pain in that situation is invalid–it certainly is valid–but it’s a fundamentally different kind of pain. Bill Cosby, for example, violated our trust. But the trust he allegedly violated for so many women was personal, physical, and deliberate–related to our pain too, but very different in scope from our own. We don’t get to claim others’ traumas, others’ pain; and in that same vein, we can only forgive Cosby for the harm he’s done to us, not others.

Do these ring true to you? What have you learned about forgiveness? Please share in the comments, if you wish!

Love to all.

Being Injured, Being Humbled

Being Injured, Being Humbled

I’ve never understood why people respond to winning awards or recognition with “I am so humbled by this.” My instinct says the opposite of that should be true – now that everyone knows you’re the most eligible bachelor in Tampa under the age of 30, or whatever, you should feel like hot stuff. And feeling like hot stuff isn’t inherently bad; there’s no need to feel guilty for celebrating our accomplishments or the qualities we love about ourselves. (After all, loving ourselves is the root of loving others.) We are, however, always balancing those feelings with humbling experiences, too. Failures. Close calls. Setbacks.

I’ve had a couple of setbacks myself recently. Part of how I define myself is through what I’m able to do, and worked hard to achieve, physically. I am a rock climber. I am a yogi and yoga teacher. I get outside and play outside.

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Can’t do this right now 😦 Working through the moves last July on “Butch Pocket and the Sundance Pump,” 5.12a, at Wild Iris, WY. Photo by Andrew Hudson.

Last September I woke up one morning after “camping” in my car in Ten Sleep, Wyoming, with an intense ache in my neck. While driving back home, the pain worsened. When I woke up the next day, I could barely look up or down, much less side to side. I immediately booked myself a massage, but walked out feeling about the same level of crappy as I’d felt before. After a referral and a physical therapy consultation, I learned I’d acquired an inflamed cervical disk.

This immediately had consequences for me. No more headstands. No more backbend-y yoga poses where I need to gaze up and back. And, as I learned on our next climbing trip, it also meant I couldn’t look down to find my next foothold, or up at the climber I was belaying.

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Couldn’t do this either. Tripod headstand playtime in the park with Jessie (center) and Amy (right), summer 2014

After months of physical therapy, I’d finally reached a point of comfort (and I mean physically, not financially- yikes). My neck still hurts on occasion, but the muscles in my back no longer seize up to protect it, and I have almost the same range of motion as I had before that doomed morning in September.

Come late October the outdoor climbing season ended and, in late November, ski season began. Knowing I’d improved my skills significantly over the course of the last season, I was excited to get back on the snowy slopes.

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A beautiful snowy Sunday in Steamboat Springs, CO

After the new year, I went down to Steamboat Springs with friends Georgia and Tom, and Tom’s family. Saturday night it snowed over a foot, maybe around two feet, even. In the morning we laughed as we tossed armfuls of snow off our cars. The lifts carried us out of the sun and into the icy clouds surrounding the mountaintops, still dumping snow.

On what became our last run of the day, the front end of my right ski lodged itself in a mound of heavy, powdery snow, twisting my foot out to the right. The rest of my body didn’t get the message and kept sailing downhill until my right knee jerked inward, and popped. I dropped to my back, dug out my sunken ski, and held my right knee into my chest while I made some pathetic wails. Fortunately Tom and Georgia heard/saw me, and came over. After about five minutes of feeling sorry for myself, I swallowed the pain, got up, and we made our way to the bottom of the mountain- slowly.

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Just before I hurt my knee! Steamboat Springs, CO. Photo by Tom Ashley.

My physical therapy appointment for my knee is later this week, but the preliminary diagnosis is a partially torn MCL. This means no more skiing, climbing, or running (honestly I won’t miss that one), and avoiding certain yoga poses- again.

I hate being injured, and not just because of the pain. I hate the limitations it brings. I find myself sitting at work, feeling blah, and thinking, “Oh I know- I’ll just go to the climbing gym tonight,” and as soon as I start to feel cheery again, I realize I can’t. Yoga class? Nope, not if there are any deep lunges or squats or psoas stretching. So I settle for gentle movement on my mat followed by some resistance band nonsense to make my knee feel more stable.

So much goes into those Instagram photos of flexible yogis in breathtaking poses, or YouTube videos of skinny guys break-dancing. So much has to go right. Just because that guy in the gym is only lifting 5 pounds or walking around the track instead of jogging doesn’t mean he’s lazy or unmotivated. He could very well be recovering from illness or injury. He could be on chemo and unable to do any high-impact exercise for fear that his fragile bones could fracture underneath him. Maybe that woman in my yoga class is in child’s pose instead of the pose I’m teaching because she just had a baby, or she has a herniated disk in her spine, or that pose is just too intense for her and that’s not what her body needs right now.

So. What do I do when I’m not climbing up mountains or skiing down them? I cook. I eat. I read. I tell our new puppy that I don’t appreciate his chewing a hole in the curtains, or constantly sniffing our butts, or jumping on our laps while we’re on the couch so he can gnaw on our fingers. I stress about being out-of-shape. I scroll through social media sites feeling envy at all the beautiful photos of my able-bodied friends. I paint my nails. I clean my closet. I cry. I drink wine. I play the piano. I try some yoga, and slowly back out of all the poses I can’t do, and try to be kind to myself.

Last night I met with my friend Amy (pictured above doing tripod headstand) to discuss our plans for the kids/adults yoga event we’re leading next weekend (learn more about it here!). Our theme for the classes is kindness, and Amy shared with me a kindness-centered visualization and meditation exercise she has used in the past as a kids’ yoga teacher. I invite you to try it.

Kindness Visualization:

Situate yourself in a comfortable seat, or lie down comfortably. Now, begin to visualize a person you love- not a person with whom you’re mad right now, or with whom you’ve had a recent argument- but for whom you just feel love. Maybe it’s a family member, or a partner, or a best friend. Picture this person’s face with as much detail as you can muster. Maybe you find your lips curling into a smile as you think of them. Now, with this person’s image in your head, say silently to them, “May you be healthy. May you be happy. May you be at peace.”

Begin to shift your focus inward. Notice your breath. Notice the feeling of your clothes on your skin. Notice the parts of your body touching the floor. Notice how you feel. Now say silently to yourself, “May I be healthy. May I be happy. May I be at peace.” It may be hard to repeat this words to yourself, but try to be receptive to them. “May I be healthy. May I be happy. May I be at peace.”

~

Love to all.

Poem: A Beat Behind

A Beat Behind

AspeninWY

Kant says we are removed from these moments
of our lives and we only know their effect
just as our vision of stars’ light, living on after
their technicolored deaths, is distant from the star
itself, heaving gas and heat, a flame – no, a frame
of light just visible and always a beat behind.
Millennia ago they sang their swan songs.

I’m learning to let myself be in time, in this
very second. Between chimes of the ting-sha
Tolle says that past and future are both illusions;
all we have is now. Kant has said we don’t
even have that so I choose to believe in beauty
over truth, to see echoes of stars and be struck
dumb by their pinpricks through this dark
matter fabric lightyears away, years ago.

PoudreCanyonCOSunset

Looking to Try Aerial Yoga?

Aerial yoga has been in the news a lot lately. Are you wondering what the hype is all about? Or what aerial yoga even is?

Mya recently opened Laramie’s first aerial yoga-equipped studio, Infinite Balance, and I was lucky enough to take an aerial yoga teacher training with her last month. As a “floor” yogi, I had no idea what to expect at my first aerial yoga class. Should I bring a mat? Can I bring water? Will we be upside-down the whole time?

Keep reading for answers to these questions and more, and I hope that you will enjoy aerial yoga as much as I do!

Aerial yoga is built on the same basics as your typical yoga class (breath + movement), but with the added bonus of an aerial silk, or a hammock.

Inside Infinite Balance Studio in Laramie

Inside Infinite Balance Studio in Laramie

The hammock is one long piece of super strong and somewhat stretchy fabric that hangs from a rig or the ceiling via a locking carabiner clipped through both knotted ends of the fabric. At Infinite Balance, Mya hired an engineer to construct the wooden rig you see, which can hold tens of thousands of pounds.

This rig is strong and sturdy

This rig is strong and sturdy

Because of the added expense of acquiring and caring for the aerial rig and silks (and additional training the instructor must have), aerial yoga classes are more expensive than your standard floor class, typically ranging from $20 to $30 per class, depending on where you live. In addition, class size is limited by the number of available hammocks, so be sure to either sign up for your aerial class ahead of time online, or to show up early (10-20 minutes before class start time).

You can prepare for your first aerial yoga class similar to how you would for any other yoga class: don’t eat shortly before class, bring a yoga mat if you have one and a water bottle, wear tight-fitting athletic clothing. One additional concern for aerial yoga is to not wear any jewelry, but especially anything sharp or bulky that could snag on the silk fabric.

The aerial yoga silk is one long piece of fabric that hangs from one point above

The aerial yoga silk is one long piece of fabric that hangs from one point above

When you first arrive at the aerial yoga studio, look around the room for a silk hammock that appears as if it might fall at your hip crease, or the line that forms across your hips as you bend over. If one looks right, approach it and find the “U” shape of the hammock, as demonstrated above, then walk under where the hammock is hanging and see if the hammock fits into your hip crease.

This hammock falls right at my hip crease, so it will work!

This hammock falls right at my hip crease, so it will work!

The instructor will have you set up your yoga mat underneath the silk you have chosen. If none work (i.e. if you are extraordinarily tall or short) the teacher can make adjustments using a ladder, so just ask. He or she may also ask you to pick up any props that you might use during any yoga class, such as blocks or bolsters. You can stay seated on your mat, or do any pose that feels good, until class starts.

I'll just be in this pose until class starts, thanks!

I’ll just be in this pose until class starts, thanks!

If you have never been to an aerial yoga class, I highly recommend attending a beginners’ class, as it can be challenging to get the hang (no pun intended) of different wraps and body positioning the first time. Expertise in floor yoga can help in aerial, but it does not guarantee immediate success, so move slowly and listen to your body.

Here are some of the basic poses, wraps, and hangs you will see in an introductory aerial class.

1. Wrist wrap

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The wrist wrap is great for stretching the chest and shoulders. You get into a wrist wrap by wrapping your hands from the outside (like you’re giving your hammock a hug) in. Once the karate-chop side of your hands are covered, slide them toward one another for the wrist wrap.

2. Hip hang

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You can get into hip hang by approaching the hammock the same way you did to measure if it fit you. Standing behind the hammock, snuggle it into your hip crease, and bend over. From here you can come into many different, fun poses!

For aerial downward-facing dog, press down through the hands until the feet lift up. Press your chest toward the back edge of your mat

For aerial downward-facing dog, press down through the hands until the feet lift up. Press your chest toward the back edge of your mat

3. Rib Hang

For rib hang, come to standing in front of your hammock, facing away so the hammock is along your back. Reach behind you, spreading the fabric wide with your hands under the shoulder blades.

Use "jazz hands" to widen the silk for a more comfortable hang

Use “jazz hands” to widen the silk for a more comfortable hang

Then, begin to walk backwards, away from the plum line (where the carabiner holding the silk is located), until the silk becomes taut.

Lean away from the plum line to feel the silk support you

Lean away from the plum line to feel the silk support you

Relax your shoulders and keep the hips low as you walk forward, back under the plum line.

Rib hang!

Rib hang!

And there you have it! Feel free to walk backwards and readjust the silk if it is uncomfortable. Rib hang is a great starting place for many poses that require backbending while maintaining a lifted chest.

4. Back straddle

This hang is commonly used to get into inversions (poses where you’re upside-down). Supported inversions are, in my opinion, one of the biggest benefits of aerial yoga since, without the silk hammock, inversions are inaccessible for most people.

How to set up your silk for back straddle

How to set up your silk for back straddle

To get into back straddle, use the same “jazz hands” technique you used for rib hang to spread the silk wide. This time, align the silk with the top of the pelvis, or where the waistband of your pants typically sits.  Lean back into your silk to feel it support you.

Leaning into the silk

Leaning into the silk

From here, many inversions or backbending postures are accessible because the hammock is holding you near your center of gravity.

Wide-legged back straddle, a great way to come into inversions

Wide-legged back straddle, a great way to come into inversions

When you come into an inversion from back straddle, you will hear your teacher tell you to keep your legs wide, like pictured above. Imagine with me, for a moment, that my legs were together in the above photo. What would happen? SPOILER ALERT: I would somersault out of the hammock and embarrassingly land on my butt/face/elbows. Moral of the story is LISTEN to your teacher, even if that means that you have to stop moving for a moment to pay attention.

5. Savasana, or final resting pose

If you’ve ever been to a regular yoga class before, you know this pose. It’s traditionally done at the end of every class for several minutes. Savasana (shah-vah-sah-nah) is Sanskrit for corpse pose, essentially meaning you just lie still on your back with your eyes closed for the duration of the pose.

In aerial yoga, this pose looks a little different.

Aerial savasana

Aerial savasana

Yes- that is me, enveloped in a silk hammock. Essentially, you spread your silk wide, then crawl into it, and lie down. The first time you try aerial savasana may be slightly uncomfortable because of the pressure of the hammock; feel free to do anything that feels good with your arms. I alternate between crossing them over my chest in a X-shape and letting them fall to my sides. The teacher will walk around the room to stop everyone’s swaying so that you can be truly still.

If the aerial version of savasana just isn’t doing it for you, feel free to always come out of the hammock and sit/lie down/mutter to yourself on your mat instead.

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Great! Now you know the basic building blocks of aerial yoga, and what to expect for your first few classes. There are so many directions your instructor can take your class, so anticipate surprises!

Aerial ustrasana, or camel pose

Aerial ustrasana, or camel pose

If you live in Laramie and would like to try a class locally, please visit Infinite Balance’s website to check the schedule. As of the writing of this blog post, the aerial classes on the schedule are as follows:

  • Mondays, 12-1PM: Aerial 1 with Mya
  • Mondays, 5:30-6:30PM: Aerial for Flexibility with Mya
  • Tuesdays, 5:30-6:30PM: Aerial for Strength with Mya
  • Wednesdays, 12-1PM: Aerial 1 with Mya
  • Fridays, 10-11:15AM: Aerial 1 with Mya
  • Fridays, 6-7PM: Happy Hour Aerial with Jessie
  • Saturdays, 11AM-12PM: Aerial with Jessie
Aerial yoga instructor Jessie Quinn doing some weird & awesome stuff

Aerial yoga instructor Jessie Quinn doing some weird & awesome stuff

Please remember to show up early and/or sign up online, as class space is limited, no matter which aerial studio you attend.

Come fly with Jessie on Fridays & Saturdays at Infinite Balance!

Come fly with Jessie on Fridays & Saturdays at Infinite Balance!

If you have any questions, leave me a note in the comments. I hope you try out aerial yoga soon! Namaste.

Love to all!

Love to all!

For those curious, my top in this blog post is from Athleta, and my pants and my mat are from Prana.

Rainy Weekend at Shelf Road, Colorado

For Memorial Day weekend, Matt and I drove down to Shelf Road, Colorado, which is an area of BLM (Bureau of Land Management) land outside of Cañon City. We met up with some friends we knew from UNC (that’s North Carolina, not Northern Colorado), John- who is doing a multi-week road trip out west from Asheville, NC with his friend Stephanie- and Kevin, an adventure videographer and photographer now living in Boulder, CO. We knew it would be a little crowded at the campgrounds since it was a long weekend, and we ended up sharing a campsite with a very kind and obliging group of parents and small children, which ended up being fine since we didn’t stay up very late anyway.

The drive to Shelf Road from Laramie takes us through Fort Collins, Denver, and Colorado Springs, so we hit a lot of traffic on the way, despite leaving Laramie before 5PM.

A view of Colorado Springs from the highway. Photo by yours truly

A view of Colorado Springs from the highway. Photo by yours truly

We didn’t get to Shelf Road until about 11, and it rained a little as we set up the tent and chatted. Poor Kevin tried to come in from Boulder down Shelf Road itself, which was closed because of flooding. Colorado normally gets a large amount of precipitation this time of year, and this spring has been no exception. Kevin drove his Subaru up to a bonafide stream running across Shelf Road, and decided to test the current. He picked up a rock which he described as weighing about 30 pounds, tossed it in, and watched with shock as it barely bounced off the road underwater before being swept downstream quickly enough to dissuade him from fording it Oregon Trail-style.

On Saturday, we woke up to sunshine, discovered Abe had made his way from the back of Matt’s car to the front passenger seat (fur everywhere!!), made breakfast, and decided to hit up the Sand Gulch area of Shelf Road since we could hike there directly from our campsite. Unfortunately, the recent rain thwarted us.

John and I, with the

John and I, with the “trail” between us. Photo by Kevin

The guide book describes the trail to the climbing area from our campsite as going down a hill, then following a dry creekbed for a while before a sign points you up a trail toward the near end of the cliff line, or you can keep going down the creedbed for the second trail, which takes you to the cliff’s far end. Unfortunately, as you can see above, the creekbed had turned into a stream. The picture makes it look worse than it really was; the water was actually quite shallow and manageable, but still deep enough to thoroughly soak your shoes and socks, and to scare Abe.

Abe hates water- he doesn’t seem to have inherited a love for water from any labrador ancestors he may have. Matt had to carry him across a couple times, and we were able to coax him across a few more narrow sections.

Stephanie crossing the treacherous trail. Photo by Kevin

Stephanie crossing the treacherous trail. Photo by Kevin

The worst part of this amended trail wasn’t actually crossing the stream, but then bushwhacking our way alongside it as we searched for the trail where it exited the water and took us to the climbing. Never a dull moment!

We did a couple of warm-up routes before rain and thunder loomed in the distance. Up on a cliff is not exactly the best place to be during a thunderstorm, so we cleaned our routes (climber-speak for “retrieved all of our gear”) and retreated back down toward camp. Abe hates thunder, so Matt and I vacated the climbing area before John, Stephanie, and Kevin. Because we couldn’t follow the trail due to the stream it had become, Matt and I (and Abe) got separated from the rest of the group. The storm passed fairly quickly (but lasted long enough to make the trail muddy and the rock damp) so, after it ended, Matt and I headed back up to the climbing area- crossing the creek again on the way- to catch up with everyone else. We hiked part of the length of the cliff and didn’t see them, so we sat down and had lunch. Finally, convinced they must have either gone back to camp or to a different climbing area (there isn’t reliable cell phone service near the actual climbing), we packed up and headed back down toward the menacing creek, crossed it several times to navigate the “trail,” and made it back to our tent. Everyone was down there waiting for us- oops.

The view from our campground. My photo

The view from our campground. My photo

When you’re in a canyon like you are in Shelf Road, the steep hills and cliffs block oncoming bad weather and make it almost impossible to anticipate storms. This is why hikers and climbers in the mountains get caught in surprise thunder- and snowstorms so often. By the time you see and hear the weather, it’s sometimes too late to act upon it.

In the meantime, after we reunited at camp, the weather had calmed down again and the sun was shining like nothing had ever happened. Since the rock was still too wet to climb, we took a break. Some opted for naps; John and I opted for a private yoga lesson! John took a great video from Saturday, including sped-up compilations of morning and afternoon climbing as well as our yoga session. Check it out!

While Matt was relaxing on the ground outside of the tent, and next to Abe, one of the little girls sharing the campsite wandered up and said to him, “Do you want to hear something embarrassing?”

Matt said, “Uh, okay.”

She responded, “I peed outside- over there,” and gestured to some bushes and cacti behind our tent.

Matt said, “Yeah, I think a lot of people do that.”

The little girl insisted, “No, I peed outside,” possibly referring to the pit toilet located inside a shelter about twenty yards away. After this heartfelt confession, she walked away and rejoined her family.

We decided it had been long enough for the rock to dry out, and got ready to do some more climbing. Literally as soon as we began buckling our packs, it started raining again. “I thought this was supposed to be a desert!” Someone said. The cacti everywhere had tricked us.

Cactus, the liar! My photo

Cactus, the liar! My photo

We went climbing anyway, this time hiking to a different area of Sand Gulch called the Freeform Wall, which involved precisely ZERO river crossings, to everyone’s relief.

Deciding what to climb. from left Stephanie, John, Matt, and me. Kevin is taking the picture

Deciding what to climb. from left Stephanie, John, Matt, and me. Kevin is taking the picture

We climbed another few routes and I got shut down by a height-dependent dynamic move to a small pocket on the start of a 5.11c. Afterwards, we hiked back to camp and cooked dinner under some intermittent rain showers.

The next morning, we drove up to a different campground to hike into a climbing area called, ironically, The Gym. We spent about 15 minutes in the car waiting for the rain to stop before beginning the approach, which involved a much smaller and more manageable stream crossing. Nonetheless, Abe didn’t appreciate it.

The rock at Shelf Road is limestone, which is essentially squished marine life from when this part of the country used to be underwater. Sometimes you can spot fossils in the limestone while climbing. Limestone is also heavily featured (meaning lots of great places to put your hands and feet), but has a tendency to be sharp, which is tough on one’s skin.

John on Head Cheese, a solid 5.12d, at The Gym. Photo by Kevin

John on Head Cheese, a solid 5.12d, at The Gym (also, helmets are cool!). Photo by Kevin

I top-roped (meaning we already put the rope up, so I didn’t have to) a pumpy 5.11+ with a roof called Pulley Mammoth (roofs are kind of my nemesis) and led a fun 5.10b called The Crack of Dawn which followed a very distinct flake up a sheer face. Matt got on a really challenging 5.12c called Gym Arete Direct, which joins up with Gym Arete, a 5.12a, but has a particularly tough start with very small holds.

Matt on the 5.12a part of Gym Arete. Photo by Kevin

Matt on the 5.12a part of Gym Arete. Photo by Kevin

Before the sun set, I wanted to get in a route we had passed on the hike up called The Raw and the Roasted. It was a beautiful 5.11c sheer face climb, and several people were climbing it as we’d hiked by. We climbed a fun 5.9 to the left of it called Ga-Stoned Again, so I’d heard a couple climbers fall at the top of the route.

We don't have any photos of this route, so here is a photo from MountainProject.com of The Raw and The Roasted 5.11c

We didn’t take any photos of this route, so here is a photo from MountainProject.com of The Raw and The Roasted 5.11c

The first three bolts of the climb are very easy, a 5.9 sort of warm-up, as you approach a ledge from which the clean limestone face emerges, and the real climbing begins.

Since we moved out to Wyoming, I’ve been working on my leading technique and all the little things leading a route entails, almost more than I’ve worked on my actual climbing technique. On a sport climb, every 5-15 feet or so, depending on the route, are bolts that have been drilled into the rock. The first climber to put up the route ties the rope to her harness and brings up as many quickdraws (essentially two carabiners connected by very strong fabric- see this post for what it looks like) as there are bolts. As she reaches a bolt, she clips one carabiner on her quickdraw to the bolt, and then clips her rope into the bottom carabiner of the quickdraw, which is now hanging from the bolt. This is purely a safety measure and essentially keeps sport climbers from hitting the ground or hitting any protruding rock feature (e.g. a ledge) below them should they fall. There are 13 bolts on The Raw and the Roasted, plus an anchor (made up of two bolts next to one another, marking the top of the climb), so it’s a pretty long route.

Face climbing, where the rock is almost exactly at a 90° angle, is probably my favorite type of climbing. It requires balance, body awareness, finger strength, and finesse. It’s beautiful to both do and see done.

In the picture above, you can see a small roof by the climber’s right knee. I kept climbing and clipping quickdraws methodically, pulling past a hard move around that little outcropping and continuing onto the face. I shut out any fear of but-what-if-I-fall-here-oh-wow-that-would-be-scary and kept going. The handholds were smaller and required more finger strength at the top, but I did it! I on-sighted (i.e. ascended a climbing route without falling, and with no prior practice or advice on how to successfully complete) a 5.11c on our first climbing trip of the summer season! I can’t wait to see what’s in store for the rest of the summer for us.

We plan on meeting up with John and Stephanie again as they continue their road trip, and we hope to climb with Kevin again soon, but he sure is a busy man. If you’ll be in the Colorado/Wyoming area this summer and want to spend some time outside, let me know!

To the summer! Love to all.

Office Yoga: Part II

This is a follow-up to my previous post, “Office Yoga: Part I,” in which I gave options for stretching while still at your desk or in your office. In this post, we’ll delve into options for after you’ve come home for the day. These stretches will be focused on the same body parts mentioned in my last post, but will go deeper into the body and would look pretty weird if you busted them out at your desk, if that’s something you’re worried about.

Sitting all day at a desk, in a car, or on an airplane can cause lots of tension in certain areas of our bodies. You’ll feel it as soon as you stand up to head home from a day at the office – the front of your thighs and the sides of your hips get tight, the neck and shoulders can feel crunchy and uncomfortable, and the wrists are overworked from hours of typing and clicking or gripping a steering wheel.

So what are you to do once you come home from a day spent sitting? I know it’s tempting to crawl to the couch, and then from there to bed, BUT! before you get there, see if you can’t set aside just 10-15 minutes to go through a few of these stretches. I promise you’ll feel better, and your body will thank you!

The Neck: There are many yoga poses to which you can add just slight movements that encourage relaxation of muscle and joint tension. Here’s just one example.

Sphinx pose

 

To get into sphinx pose, clear some space on the floor into which it will be comfy for you to press your elbows, like on a carpet, rug, or towel. Lie down on your belly, and then stack your elbows under your shoulders. Pull your shoulders down and away from your ears to create space for the neck. Spread your fingers wide and inhale. On your exhale, begin to drop the chin down toward your chest. On your next inhale, roll the chin up toward the right shoulder. Exhale back to center, and inhale over to the left shoulder. Continue this pattern, and feel free to stop anywhere that feels particularly good. To come out of sphinx pose, widen your elbows away from one another and stack palms under the forehead to rest. Then push back up into a tabletop position.

The Wrist: Our wrists can over-develop in one direction when we spend lots of time at a computer keyboard or a steering wheel. Rock climbers also over-develop in this way, creating tight forearms. Below is one of my favorite stretches for the wrists and forearms.

Preparation for peacock pose

Preparation for peacock pose

Start kneeling with tucked toes (as pictured above), then lower your hips down onto your heels. If you have tender knees, you can always place extra cushion under them in the form of a rolled-up blanket or towel, or place that blanket or towel between behind the knee to create a little space between the calf and the thigh. Begin to lean forward over the knees as you place the fingertips on the ground in front of you, the forearms facing away from you. Continue to push the wrists down toward the ground. With increased flexibility, you will be able to lower the entire palm of each hand down. This is, as the caption notes, a preparation for a very challenging arm balance pose called peacock pose.

The Psoas: If you have no idea what the psoas (pronounced SOH-azz) is, feel free to refer to my last post, which includes an illustration of the muscle.

You can take many different variations of lunges to open up the psoas. As you grow more flexible, you’ll be able to lower your hips closer to the ground, stretching the psoas more deeply.

A last lunge option

Deep lunge

This is the same final variation that was included in my last post. The front knee stacks over the front ankle and the top of the back foot presses down into the ground. For a very deep stretch, lift the arms up overhead, palms facing one another, and begin to lean back, away from the front leg. The sternum will lift up toward the ceiling for a gentle backbend as you drop the head back to open the front of the neck as well. Yummy!

The Hips: Sitting in a cubicle, car, or airplane usually requires us to take up as little space as possible, meaning we’re not given the opportunity to open and stretch our hips very often. The pose pictured below is more passive and restorative, meaning it requires little effort to “stay” in the pose and instead utilizes gravity and props to help stretch the body.

Supported reclined bound ankle pose

Supported reclined bound ankle pose

To get into this posture, begin in a seated butterfly or bound ankle pose, bringing the bottoms of the feet together in front of you (and, if your hair is up in any fashion, undo it so your neck can release down). In the picture above, I’m using yoga blocks to support my knees, which allows me to stay in this pose for a long time and provides a more gentle stretch. If you don’t have yoga blocks at home, you can always stack books under each knee as well, or anything sturdy and solid. Once you’ve arranged the blocks or block-substitutes, lower yourself down onto your back. From here, you can do anything with the hands that feels good and relaxing, whether that’s hands on the belly, as pictured, or palms face-up on either side of the hips. Stay here for 3-5 minutes to feel the full benefits of this amazing pose.

The Shoulders: As I described in my previous post, our shoulders hold loads of tension, just like our hips, and this is exacerbated by spending lots of time in public spaces, where we are regularly encouraged to take up as little space as possible. Our shoulders are designed to move in many different ways, and we only access a couple of them in our everyday lives. This is why opening and stretching the shoulders can feel so good!

Another variation on reclined bound ankle pose

Another variation on reclined bound ankle pose

I promise I’m not cheating, even though this pose looks exactly like the one pictured above it! Take a closer look- what’s the one difference? In this variation of reclined bound ankle, I have placed a bolster, another type of yoga prop, along the length of my spine to support my back and head. So in addition to opening the hips here, I am also opening the chest by pushing the sternum up with the bolster and allowing gravity to pull the shoulders down, away from the chest. If you don’t own a bolster, you can substitute it with a rolled-up blanket or towel- just make sure it’s long enough to support the full length of the spine as well as the head. If your substitute isn’t quite long enough, you can always place a pillow under the head too. Allow the hands to come to either side of the hips, palms face-up.

When you try this pose, don’t be surprised if you feel lots of tension along the upper arms. This can be a very deep stretch for many people, so be gentle going in and out of the pose. As in the first variation, stay here for a good 3-5 minutes to reap the full benefits of the stretch, and to feel relaxed too.

The Hamstrings: The hamstring is the large muscle that runs from the knee to the butt along the back of your thigh, and it grows tight from both activity (e.g. running, hiking, cycling, swimming) as well as inactivity (mainly, sitting). Below is also a more passive stretch that can help to stretch the backs of the legs.

Aaahhhhh

Aaahhhhh

This is a great, relaxing pose to practice after a long day on the road or at the office. It can help to relieve tension in the belly and low back as well. It’s actually harder to get into than it looks, so don’t get discouraged. Find an open wall space, and begin to scoot your butt up toward the wall. Start with knees bent and the bottoms of the feet pushing into the wall. Slowly inch yourself closer to the wall, working the legs toward straight. It’s fine if the legs don’t straighten completely. Lower yourself onto your back, maybe placing a pillow/rolled-up blanket/rolled-up yoga mat (as pictured above) under your head for a little extra support, and relax. You can flex the toes back toward your face, as pictured, if that feels good. Hands can go wherever you’d like. Stay here for several minutes, but not so long that your legs begin to fall asleep!

If you have any feedback or suggestions for other stretches, please let me know in the comments. Many thanks to fellow yoga teacher Jessie Carlson for taking all the above photos for me. My outfit and yoga mat are from Prana, and the pictures were taken inside the lovely Blossom Yoga studio in Laramie, Wyoming. Love to all.