Monday, June 29, 2009

Hip Openers

I've been working on a lot of hip opening practices recently, both in my own practice and in my teaching. Most yoga asanas work on the hips and pelvis in one way or another, but by focusing particularly on hip opening practices we are, on a physical level specifically working into the mobility and strength of the hip joint.

It seems incredibly important to me to work this part of the body. The hips are the point in the body where the upper and lower parts meet, securing our spine to our legs and providing the beginnings of both the grounded feeling through our feet and the lifted feeling through our torso neck and head.

We all move the hips forward and back. It is called walking, most of us do it for long periods of time every single day. But how often to we use the full rotation of the hip? How often in daily life do we sit cross-legged or squat? And the reason most of us don't - because it's too difficult.

The hip joint is extremely solid - it has to be to hold us up, to provide that connection I was talking about before. This means that working through the hip joint is a slow process. We cannot force the joint - that will just cause knock-on damage to the knee; so we have to cultivate patience and a sense of inner awareness to slowly, slowly work through the tension towards release with compassion, without judgement, without comparison to others. Hip openes need to be practiced regularly, daily if possible and maybe, maybe you will one day be sitting in full lotus position (see picture)!

As any student of mine will tell you, my hips are notoriously stiff. I'm afraid sitting in full lotus is not for me in this lifetime. You see, our hips joints are set a certain way in their sockets. For some people this means hip opening practices will develop into half lotus at least, for others this means they have been able to sit in lotus since they were kids. But when bone meets bone in the socket you cannot stretch any further. If you try it will only twist into the knee.

Just because I know I will not sit in lotus does not mean I shouldn't bother with hip openers however. We carry and awful lot of tension it the hips and pelvis, and therefore a lot of unrealeased emotion. Slow and patient release is key. And a healthy hip joint will carry a healthy body!

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Paris is burning all night long...

I've always had a love/hate relationship with Paris. My memories are always in sync with books like this (which I'm currently reading), but the reality is quite different. Every time I go, Paris is an even bigger, even dirtier city and my love affair with busy polluted cities is rapidly coming to a close. Honestly? Paris disappointed me this weekend. I'm sorry Paris, it's not you, it's me.....

Paris is not a city of romance for me either. At least not of the "I love you" branch of romance. Italian cities do that a lot better. Paris is Romantic with a capital R - dark, gothic, melancholy - looks much better in the rain.

Exhausted as we both are at the moment, a city break was probably not really the holiday we both needed. Himself needed a rest and I needed somewhere I could be a little more introspective as I turned 35. I'm not sure how much good it's done us. That is of course not to say we didn't have fun!

The two main things that stand out for me are two things I have wanted to do for a long time and never got around too.

The Palace of Versailles - about half an hour out of Paris (on a very exciting double decker train!!!) is the palace made famous by the various King Louis and Marie Antoinette before all the beheading and so forth began. It has the most breathtaking gardens I have ever seen and the best thing about it? You can go in the gardens for free, you only have to pay for the Palace (which we didn't really want to go in anyway). Himself spent a lot of time dreaming about being a Muskateer and saying "en garde" a lot.

Pere Lachaise Cemetary - this cemetary in the east of Paris is probably most famous for just two of its hundreds and hundreds of graves. Oscar Wilde's and Jim Morrison's. I have wanted to see Jim's grave since I was about 17 and I felt a door close (in a good way - and pun very much intended) as I stood before the last resting place of James Douglas Morrison. And Oscar Wilde's stunning tombstone brought a tear to my eye engraved as it was with a verse from "The Ballad of Reading Gaol" (imho the most moving and beautiful work of poetry ever).

I also had a lot of fun showing Himself around the Latin Quarter and St Germaine (my favourite parts of Paris) as well as taking him to the Musee National du Moyen Ages to show him the amazing Lady and the Unicorn series of tapestries made famous by Tracy Chevelier's novel. I could sit and look at these for hours and hours (except even this relatively unknown museum is crawling with tourists these days. I was particularly amused by an old Australian woman holding forth to her friends about the tapestries with such confidence whilst spouting so much misinformation a French woman intervened to give a more accurate account - ah the Australians!)

I also had a very special birthday lunch in a gorgeous restaurant on Rue Bonaparte. I had sea bass and Himself had duck and I spent two lovely hours just watching the painfully cool Parisians eating their lunch (including a woman who had a little dog in her handbag!).

AND I managed to do my yoga practice every morning despite having the smallest hotel room in the world!

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Paris is just around the corner!

So, the cats are in their cat hotel (very expensive and exclusive with underfloor heating/air con, separate dining rooms and toilets and an outside run -- so good in fact they will not want to come home), I have packed all the things that are important to me (clothes, make up, hair straighteners, travelling yoga mat), passport, tickets, money all checked...

Tomorrow morning we're off to Paris until Sunday. It's my 35th birthday on Saturday and to soften the blow my honey is very kindly taking me away (many Brownie points for him).

Life has been a bit crazy recently and this will be just what we need to reconnect, relax and take check of our lives.

See you when we get back!