Firm Roots

Angel the pony and me.

Angel the pony and me.

Sharing this beautiful post by Bruce Black. One way my yoga practice is rooted is with my pony. She’s been battling a neurological disorder for about a year, so our time together is no longer about trotting or cantering or getting out in the woods.
These days we walk beside each other in the covered ring. I sing Train & Ray LaMontagne songs to keep time. Angel steps carefully and with intent, not fully aware of where her hind end is in space.
We walk for about 20 minutes, then end always with a short yoga practice, one where she keeps me rooted and grounded. Warrior I, Warrior II, Exalted Warrior, Reverse Triangle, King Dancer. Change sides; repeat.
Big sigh from pony; big sigh from me. Namaste.

Writing Yoga with Bruce Black

“The practice of yoga will be firmly rooted when it is maintained consistently and with dedication over a long period.” – from The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali

I love the image of a tree that Patanjali paints with a single word: rooted.

And I love how he suggests our practice is like a tree, rooted deeply into the earth, expanding toward the sky, bending with the wind, swaying, dancing, celebrating the miracle of our bodies, the joy of life, the mystery of the divine.

But what does it mean to be firmly rooted?

Perhaps it means feeling not just that our roots are planted in the earth, but that they are held in the earth’s embrace in such a way that they form a strong foundation for our practice and our life.

How would you describe the “roots” of your practice?

What might you “plant” into the earth to gain…

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Horse Therapy

Albert.0327

Our horse Albert spent sixteen years as a school horse in therapeutic riding programs here in Virginia. Sometimes, I’d just go out to the barn and look at him working. His heart and focus and concentration during therapeutic lessons inspired me to write Chancey.

The amazing thing is that there are hundreds..maybe even thousands of horses working in therapeutic settings all over the world. Of course, if you love horses and have one or two in your life you probably agree with me that EVERY minute spent with a horse is therapeutic in one way or another. Even on those days when my will and Albert’s will diverge, there is something honest in that interaction that holds me accountable to being aware and present to myself and to him.

Here’s another inspiring story about the therapeutic impact of the horse-human relationship. There are so many more stories like this; I love sharing them with you when I find them. This story highlights the Rose of Sharon Equestrian School in Maryland.

Enjoy:

http://www.abc2news.com/video/videoplayer.swf?dppversion=16926

For more information about therapeutic riding visit PATH International (Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship International)

Walk On

Boulder, Colorado 1969

Boulder, Colorado 1969

My sister recently found this old picture of my very first ride. My family had just moved from Oxford, Mississippi to Boulder, Colorado. We lived in Boulder for the year that I was five, then moved back to the south.

What I remember about this ride is how I insisted on wearing a mini-dress and how the saddle chafed my legs. The age and stage of being five just means you dress inappropriately at all times, right? Out there, I wore pajamas to kindergarten on a regular basis – especially a certain green and white polka-dotted number with bell bottoms and a mid-riff bearing top. I loved wearing that outfit to school. Miss Cutey.

I also remember this big horse didn’t scare me. Was I uncomfortable with my pale little legs pinching against the horn? Yes. Afraid? Not that day.

Erica Orloff recently wrote a piece called Things That Go Bump in the Night, where she wrote about things that still scare her and asked her readers to consider how fear shows up in our lives. It got me thinking about how we learn to be afraid, and what makes us not afraid.

I remember just before we moved to Colorado, sitting on my grandmother’s carpeted stairs crying my eyes out and feeling very afraid of I don’t know what. Maybe scared of leaving Mississippi, of going some place new, of leaving my family and friends. My father comforted me by singing Walk On. He sang it with gusto until I felt better. About thirty years later, I sang Walk On to my daughter in the car on the way home from day care on a day when she, too, felt afraid and alone. I wonder if the thing that makes us not afraid is the thing that makes us feel not alone.

What makes you not afraid? What makes you feel not alone?

Nooks and Crannies: 21 Days of Yoga and Writing

21.5.800 Member

I discovered Bindu Wiles and her 21 days of yoga and writing project on Twitter. We’ve never met, nor have we spoken, but I love writing. I love yoga and, for me, these two passions are so connected that I couldn’t resist participating.

It’s funny. I came to yoga about ten years ago, after a horse accident that cracked my sacrum. The horse, ironically named Achy Breaky, and I both were pretty green. I was working crazy 80-hour weeks trying to get SeniorNavigator (a resource for family caregivers and older adults) launched, so I was shy on sleep and way-shy on good judgment. Achy and I were cantering around and it felt too fast for me. My legs were loose and flapping all around. I was probably squeezing the reins like mad. I remember thinking to myself: after we get around the corner, I’ll bring him back to a trot. Well, we got around the corner and a guy came out from behind the tack room beside the ring with a fishing pole, heading down to the pond. Achy freaked out and I was on the ground wondering how I got there.

Horse people can act very macho, you know. I gave my body a quick scan. I hurt, but I could walk. So, I did the right thing and got back on Achy to finish the lesson. Did I say I did the right thing? Yes, I did the right thing for my ego. I rode through the rest of the lesson – jumping and cantering around. And, when the lesson ended and I dismounted, I knew I had done exactly the wrong thing for my body. I could hardly walk. I literally could not sit, so I worked for weeks lying on my stomach or my side in the bed, with my laptop. My physical-self changed dramatically from that day. I could no longer run without pain and found that I my back needed kindness and gentleness more than anything. (Self-care has never been a strength of mine.)

A few months later, I started doing yoga with Rodney Yee videos. I hoped yoga would build up my core and improve the strength in my upper and lower back. Really, I think I hoped yoga would let me get back to “normal.” Pushing myself too hard. Demanding more and more when sometimes, my body clearly needed less. Yoga has its way of taking care of all sorts of injuries and it has its way of seeping into all the nooks and crannies of a life. My yoga practice has definitely made me stronger in my core. But, in those nooks and crannies, yoga has filled me up with a greater capacity to be kind and gentle with myself, with my family, with the earth.

Still, it is called practice. Kindness and gentleness take practice. Self-care takes practice. My yoga practice has grown over the past decade from a body-oriented practice into one that is beginning to incorporate breath, meditation, and reading. Beginning. With horses and yoga and writing, I feel like I am always beginning, always practicing.

For the last few years, I’ve been drawn to linking my yoga and writing practices together. I think a lot of yogis and writers are beginning to practice and explore how yoga and writing complement each other. I am lucky to have worked with the poet and dancer, Cheryl Pallant. When I was writing the first draft of a middle grade novel (which is in production), Cheryl created yoga and dance meditations to help me attend to the playful voice of the main character. We explored how crisp, staccato revision-movement is different from wild, untethered first-imagining movement.

This year, I started working with with Richmond yoga teacher, Dana Walters. She recently put together a pretty amazing practice for me that evokes where I am in the process of writing of a historical fiction novel. With this story, what I think I need is endurance and a deeper awareness of how each chapter relates with the next and the next, all leading to this transformation, this change by the end. Dana’s practice frightened me in some places because I had to do new things like turn upside down, like really expose my heart. Practicing on the mat gave me the courage to practice reaching into those places on the page, too.

So, that’s why I love what Bindu Wiles is doing with 215800. For me, this is a challenge to attend to the nooks and crannies of body, mind, and spirit. 21 days to build a habit for a lifetime.

Meet Mia

Mia

Mia

This sweet girl is Mia! She’s a Thoroughbred rescue mare, who – the way we heard it – ran one race and one race only. She stumbled out of the gate, threw her jockey, and then she jumped the rail and walked back to her stall. A rescue foundation saved her directly and kept her for two years. An eventer purchased her, and two years ago we bought her.

I don’t know that I’ve meet a horse with a sweeter disposition. She loves my daughter and will follow her anywhere. She likes to be comforted and sweet-talked, when she’s getting her feet done or her teeth floated. Mia takes treats with the gentlest mouth.

Sometimes I like to call her name, just so I can watch her look up: Did I hear my name?

Mia’s so curious and she’s so willing to try, but God bless her, she has high anxiety. High Anxiety, whenever you’re near. Hey ‘Xiety, it’s you that I fear.

Not a spooky horse really, just nervous in a bless-your-heart sort of way.

On Sunday, Albert and I were in the big ring at the south barn doing our Albert Yoga. My daughter and Mia joined us, and the mare was just as anxious as could be, I think because she hadn’t been in the big ring for a while. When she saw Albert, she settled down. She walked and trotted around him and came up to tell him hello, then she calmed down and dropped her head.

Albert benefited from being in the ring with Miss Mia, himself. He kept his ears following her, and even when she came up close on his blind side, he never moved, shifted, or tensed up…just twitching the ears. That was a nice morning, Sunday, being out with my girl and our horses.

I love Mia's face.

I love Mia's face.