Just another Friday…

…except that it’s Valentine’s Day :)

My husband and I used to go out and celebrate Valentine’s Day with the best of them.  Flowers, wine, a romantic card.  Some people say that when a couple has been together for a long time, they start to slack a bit on the ole’ romance.  Maybe that could be said about us too, since we don’t really do anything for Valentine’s Day anymore.  Instead, we try to show that we appreciate one another all of the time instead of making a grand gesture once a year.  Frankly, every day would be Valentine’s Day if Craig would put his dirty dishes actually into the dishwasher instead of setting them on the counter directly above the dishwasher (come on man, it literally takes three seconds more to just put them inside – and yes, I timed it!) and although I can’t speak for my husband, I’m sure the same could be said if only I would remember to shut the kitchen cupboard doors  - a bad habit I’ve been trying to break for about, oh – I don’t know…13 years now?  

The truth is, I don’t need a special day to know that this man loves me.  He shows me in some form all of the time with subtle things like putting gas in my car or offering to go to the grocery store because he knows how much I dislike it.  Call me strange, but one of the most romantic things my husband does for me is when he tries to cheer me up.  If I’m feeling discouraged or depressed, he’ll spontaneously begin performing his best impersonation of Paul Rudd dancing (no music necessary) – always when I least expect it.    It never fails to make me laugh no matter how blue I am.  I don’t think he’d mind me telling you this; just don’t ever ask him to do it for you, cause ladies, – that’s reserved for me and me alone ;)

To me, Valentine’s Day is about telling everyone in my life how much they mean to me.  My intention today is to honor the people I know and tell them that they are appreciated, that they are loved.  If you’re reading this, that includes you.

Happy Valentine’s Day.

 

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Yoga Challenge – Final Day

Today’s pose was Half Bound Lotus Standing Forward Bend.  I needed to use a strap because I couldn’t reach my right hand to my right foot as you can see in the photo (yikes, I’m far away!!) but will be working on this pose hoping to become more flexible in my shoulders so I can eventually let go of the strap.  I look angry in this photo but really it’s just my ‘Don’t face-plant!’ face – I promise :)

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Each of the poses I worked on these last 8 days aids in different things within the body.  This one for example, contains the following benefits:

It opens the hips and shoulders and stretches the hamstrings. This pose also increases blood flow circulation to the lungs & head.  It also helps with balance and focus.

Thanks for coming along with me during these last 8 days.  I hope if nothing else, at least you found the photos entertaining ;)  Since I am always practicing, I thought I might occasionally post poses that I’m currently working on.

Tomorrow is my art show and I am exhausted beyond belief.  Signing off so that I can finish packing up the car and head off to bed!   Have a great weekend, everyone.

xo

Yoga Challenge: Day 7

My art show is on Sunday. This is a big one for me and I've been trying to pace myself. I have this vision of how a perfect art booth would look like and if it didn't take so long to haul everything and put things up, my vision of a cozy little living space filled with wall to wall art might actually happen; for a two day show, maybe. But this one isn't so I need to be realistic and not so hard on the fact that there simply isn't enough time to do it all. In other words, I need to just let go.

Speaking of letting go, today's challenge pose was wheel, which is basically an inverted downdog. I can't help but laugh at some of these challenge poses as I think to myself, “how can anyone DO that??” Then I panic, wondering how I can contribute a photo and not feel uncomfortable about it. This of course is my ego talking; I type this here but I simply cannot afford to bring that kind of attitude onto the mat or else I will hurt myself.

I admit it, though: doing a pose correctly feels wonderful. For someone who has always been terrible at sports and undeniably uncoordinated, being able to embrace something physical is, for me, a staggering feat so I sometimes struggle whenever I am unable to attain a pose without the need to ask for a modification. Again, there's that ego rearing it's ugly head.

It all comes down to the photos, I've decided. I don't worry about attaining a certain pose when I'm practicing for me alone. I just practice. But when I know that dozens or hundreds of others will be seeing my photo? Well now, that can be quite intimidating to say the least. I have decided though, that photos are necessary for me right now. Not only can I visually see what I'm doing incorrectly, but I believe that while I may feel uncomfortable now, in time I will value these photos as they'll be evidence of my progress. I just need to let go of the ego and realize that anything worth doing takes time – and patience. Besides, these challenges are meant to be for fun; photos only capture a hint of what the practice is all about.

So, my modification for Wheel is Bridge pose, except I added a bit of extra height by balancing on my toes. Gotta show some flair sometimes! lol

 

 

 

Balance your heart: Day Six

Today’s challenge yoga pose was Big Toe Pose.  It’s important to lead with your heart when getting into position for this pose, keeping your head and torso straight and in unison as you bend at the waist.  This is my go-to pose whenever I know I’m going to be sitting in my studio working on a painting.  It really releases the back and stretches out the legs, and sometimes I clasp my hands behind me (keeping shoulders down) to stretch out my shoulder and neck muscles.   The great thing about this pose is that it can be done anywhere and you don’t need a mat :)

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As you can see I’m not alone in this photo.  Brulee simply refused to step out of the way, so here he is doing a modification of corpse pose for you.

Only two more poses to go before this Instagram challenge is over. See you tomorrow.

Balance Your Heart: Day Five!

I am not going to lie – I will be sad when this challenge is over (only three more days).  Even though I dislike having to take photos of me doing my poses I’ve come to find that, surprisingly, they are extremely helpful!  Can’t beat physical evidence when you need to see where you’ve come from and where you’re going, right?

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Today’s pose is One-legged King Pigeon Pose which is probably my most favorite of all the yoga poses.  It opens the heart, throat and neck and when you settle into this pose I imagine it feeling like all kinds of positive energy is being allowed into the body.  Of course, I wouldn’t know because I cannot get my  back foot off the floor. I have tried to come into the pose (in the full version the hands reach behind and grab hold of the foot) but for the life of me, cannot do it.  I’m calling on all you yogis out there for a link or SOME kind of directional article on what to do from this stage.  I have searched and come up empty handed. I’d greatly appreciate it!  xo

Balance your heart Day Four

Day four of the Balance Your Heart Challenge via Instagram is wide-angled seated forward bend.

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Begin by spreading the legs wide on the mat, keeping the legs as straight as possible and position the feet into what my yoga instructor calls ‘Barbie feet’ – love that, by the way.  lol

When you begin bending, imagine yourself leading with your heart.  You can rest your hands out in front and slowly inch forward, or place your hands on your feet, bending deeper with each breath.  Stop wherever you’re comfortable.

This is one pose that really allows you to see your progress.  Six months ago I felt stiff and awkward while working on this pose.  Now, it is much easier as long as I do a proper warm-up first.  Always, always warm up your muscles before attempting any deep stretch to prevent injury.  Believe me, I learned this the hard way.

We are due for yet MORE snow beginning tonight.  Six to eight inches predicted by morning. This will be on top of the already 2 feet we already have.  This will likely mean another ‘inside’ day tomorrow.  If that’s the case, I may just have to get creative and make a big batch of soup.  Does anyone have a recipe for making soup or stew using common, everyday ingredients? I’m afraid if I don’t have any instructions to adhere to who knows what I’ll come up with!

See you tomorrow :)

Wild Thing

Today’s pose was a true challenge:  Wild Thing, or Camatkarasana pose.  I remember trying to do this pose in class once and it was a disaster.  Not only does it require balance but also strength and the ability to do a backbend.  I had the arm strength to hold up my body and was getting more flexible in my back but for some reason I couldn’t hold the pose without falling over.  It was as though my body refused to bend that way.  When I saw that our next pose was Wild Thing I suddenly became self conscious about sharing a photo of a pose that I felt uncomfortable doing, especially when I know what it’s supposed to look like.  Take a look at this:

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But then of course I realized that one of the beautiful things about yoga is the subtle changes that take place over time –  if every pose was shown in ‘perfect form’, what would we have to aspire to?

So, for this Monday, here is my version of this difficult pose:

 

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Hey, I was able to hold it long enough for a photo so that’s something, right?  Although Brulee doesn’t look all that impressed now, does he?  ;)

Day Two: Balance your heart challenge

Today is Day Two of the Balance Your Heart yoga challenge I’m participating in via Instagram.  Today’s heart opening pose Wide-legged Forward Fold.  This is one of my favorite stretches to do when I’ve been working on a painting for too long.  This would also be great for anyone who has to site at a desk or hunched over a computer all day.  It stretches the chest, back, shoulders and legs.  I usually hold this pose for 5 long breaths.  My shoulders have been incredibly tight lately (I tend to hold stress and tension there) so this is an extra beneficial pose for me. Maybe someday my shoulders will be so loose that my hands will touch the floor.  Maybe….

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Have a great rest of your weekend, and to you Super Bowl watchers, good luck to your team!  See you tomorrow :)

A February Challenge to Open My Heart

I am busily preparing for a very important art fair that is a week from tomorrow. I've started forcing myself to think of other things as I mat and frame because I dislike it so, so much – mainly because it always takes me 5 or 6 tries before I am succesful in not getting either a single strand of dog hair or dust of some sort between the mat and frame. It's maddening to take everything apart over and over again. Grr!

I'm still carving out bits of time for myself however, which includes my first-ever yoga challenge which I signed up for via Instagram. I am not one who likes being in front of a camera and I rarely take selfies, especially when it comes to my yoga practice; I just find that I become too focused on the way a pose is going to look to others instead of keeping my mind focused on the practice itself which then defeats the purpose of yoga altogether. This challenge though I like, because it concentrates more on heart opening poses which can be beneficial since they counteract our natural wintertime postures of hunching over and drawing ourselves inward to keep warm. These poses are also psychologically beneficial as they tend to lift ones spirits which for me is an added bonus since February is usually the coldest and dreariest months of the year around here.

 

This challenge is scheduled to run for a little over a week and because I'll already be posting my yoga pose-of-the-day over on Instagram I thought I'd post my poses here as well. For those interested and/or curious about the challenge, just head on over to Instagram and use the hashtag #balanceyourheart. You can find me on Instagram at @ellenbrennemanstudio

February 1st, 2014 – Day One of Balance Your Heart – Camel Pose:

 

See you tomorrow!

 

The Polar Vortex

If you haven’t heard the term ‘Polar Vortex’ yet you must be living in Hawaii or some other tropical location.  I’ve never experienced weather quite like this before.  I’m normally not one to give in to weather conditions but I’ve been waving my white flag since returning home from a treacherous trip to Indianapolis this past weekend.  I needed to retrieve several original paintings for an art fair I’m participating in next Sunday.  My husband and both dogs went with me and I’m glad they did because the extra weight in the car likely prevented me from ending up in a ditch.  I lost count of how many trucks we passed that had jack-knifed off the road:

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Monday morning I awoke to an actual temperature of -13 degrees.  The windchill was nearly forty below.  By mid morning a driving ban had been put in place and if you were found on the road you’d quickly be ticketed.  The ban wasn’t lifted until Noon on Tuesday but the temps stayed well below zero.

Luckily I had plenty to keep me busy.  In between matting and framing I decided to make homemade bread and finished my first inspiration/yoga painting of the year:

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It was also a good time to start watching a new-to-me series called Falling Skies.  Nothing like dystopian sci-fi to take ones mind off the weather ;) I also had plenty of time to take photos.  Since cars weren’t allowed on the roads it was very peaceful outside and soon I found myself welcoming the sight of all the birds that gravitated to my feeders.  Cardinals have most definitely been a prominent presence in my yard all winter.  Here is a male sitting on the windowsill of my studio while a female looks on:

 

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How has the weather affected you these last couple of weeks?  What do you do with yourself when you’re stuck at home?

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