Sunday, April 13, 2014

Science Sunday: Cool Trajectories

A few weeks ago, a friend forwarded a link to a very interesting video showing a new way to visualize the flight of starlings as they flock around power lines. Later, I located a link to an article in Wired about it, explaining this new way of manipulating video footage. The resulting movie makes the trajectory of each bird's flight path visible. Take a look! This is totally mesmerizing....

Monday, April 7, 2014

Yoga Monday: The Importance of Daily Practice

As a yoga teacher, I often tell my students that they really won't begin to experience the full value of yoga until they develop a daily practice. It doesn't have to take a lot of time, I tell them. Even fifteen minutes a day of consistent practice will make a world of difference in the benefits that yoga can produce in one's life.

I say this a lot, so it was with a pang of guilt and humility that I came to realize a few months ago that my own daily practice had taken a nose dive. For years before I became a teacher I practiced every day. I continued that daily practice during my teacher training. As I began teaching, though, my own practice began to change and, before I realized what was happening, had nearly disappeared from my routine.

It was the need to prepare lesson plans that started this change. My own practice began to be geared toward working out sequences through which I could teach certain concepts and ideas in my class. My students certainly benefited from a well-thought-out class plan, but I noticed that my own practice began to become more sporadic and unbalanced.

Apparently, this is a well-known problem that yoga teachers often face, as I found out after talking with several colleagues. We know the importance of a daily practice, we believe in it--but the message quickly becomes, "Do as I say, not as I do."

A few months ago, in December, I had a couple of weeks off from teaching at the same time I also had a few quiet weeks at home, so I took the opportunity to tackle this problem of a terribly inconsistent personal practice. I set an intention to practice asana and meditation every day for those two weeks.

Instead of directing my own practice, I pulled out Judith Lasater's book, "Thirty Essential Yoga Poses for Beginning Students and their Teachers," and followed her Day of the Week sequences. These seven pose collections cycle through all the essential basic poses. Within a week, I had rediscovered the joy of a well-rounded and consistent yoga practice. After two weeks, I was feeling more centered and calm than I had in a very long time.

The new year began and I started to teach again, but by then I was stuck on my daily practice, unwilling to give up this special time for myself each morning. I continued with a daily asana and meditation routine, sometimes using Lasater's book, sometimes dipping into the essential sequences in Patricia Walden's book, "The Woman's Book of Yoga and Health." Occasionally, I went back to my own self-guided practice, but I enjoyed having these two wise and experienced teachers to guide my practice through their writing.

I've been keeping a journal about this, each day writing a short entry, just a sentence or two, about what I did in my practice that day. Recently, I passed the 100-day mark in my journal, and while it felt like a great accomplishment to have reached this number, I knew I was not a bit interested in stopping.

I will keep doing this practice every day, even if I have only ten minutes to do it. No amount of yoga is too small. What is important is the consistency and commitment. This is a truth I have known for a long time and I'm very happy to admit that I am now, finally, practicing what I teach.


Friday, March 28, 2014

The Writing Report for March

We're about to close out the month of March in a few days and with April right around the corner, I've started to think about writing conferences. In trying to decide if I will go to any this year, I've needed to consider all the other obligations in my life, as well as the intent of each conference. I've made my first choice, and will be attending the annual Conversations and Connections conference next Saturday, April 5th.

This conference, organized by Barrelhouse Magazine and sponsored by the Johns Hopkins University Master of Arts in Writing program (in which I'm enrolled) has been going on since 2007. I've attended two or three of these conferences and it was actually at last year's conference that I first began to realize that an MA program might be what I needed to move my writing to the next level.

This insight came during the popular "Speed Dating with Editors" event that takes place over the lunch hour. Participants bring a few pages of a piece--any type, fiction, poetry, creative nonfiction--and sit with an editor from a literary magazine or small press for instant feedback.

Another upcoming conference that I considered attending but couldn't fit into my schedule is the second annual Books Alive! conference sponsored by the Washington Independent Review of Books. That conference is tomorrow, so if you're interested, check it out right now.

There will be more conferences over the next few months. One I won't be able to attend again (since I will be enrolled in a workshop at Hopkins) is the Iowa Summer Writing Festival. This is not actually a conference, but an ongoing series of workshops that takes place over most of June and July. I had a fantastic experience there last summer and would go again if I could work it into my schedule. I highly recommend it!

Wednesday, March 19, 2014