Counting Crows

A decade or more ago, my teenage kids played a lot of Counting Crows and when I could understand the lyrics (yes, I have trouble with that) I got into a lot of the songs. One, “Nothing but a Child” was a favorite, mainly for this first line,
“Nothing but a Child Glass upon me walking on the ocean
Sun upon me walking on a wave ”

(PS That is NOT me in the photo below!)
Back then it had to have been about 30 years since I’d surfed and quite a few years before SUP became along. But, ocean people (you know who you are) find the sounds and images of the sea resonate and attract. What could be better than walking on the ocean?
Over the past 3 months as summer blew into fall and darker wintry days, I re-connected with my yoga practice. Hot Bikram and some ventures to another studio, “Groove Yoga.”  Over the past year I have been meandering at various goals because, to me, this is a very unique year.  On June 2 (6/2) I turned 62. How cool is that!

All summer I had noticed people enjoying yoga on their SUP boards, in the river and in the ocean. Triangle, Warrior, Headstands and hand stands – and that seemed incredible, strong, balanced and wonderful.  So returning to yoga this Fall I had some goals.  Last night – I gave up those goals. Not in a negative way, but in a manner full of new awareness.

I want to do a head stand on my SUP board – friends, family and ElderSUP readers have been hearing that message. Last night in a packed room at Groove Yoga in a class led by Gerry Lopez I finally heard what I should have already known. In a calm voice that guided our practice, one of the first things Gerry mentioned was that the goal is not the pose.  It is our intent and willingness to listen to our own body and relax, with strength, into what our body can do right now that matters.

How many times have I heard something similar – but for some reason, with my focus on “getting to a head stand” I had forgotten.  During the class breathing, relaxing, focusing, awareness and intent guided my practice. At the same time I continued to mull over the new awareness that the “practice” is everything.  So it went throughout the class. Then as we were winding down Gerry announced that it was time for practicing inversions. Most of the class seemed to immediately hop into a head stand  and handstand, some needed a small tutorial from Gerry or others helping in the class.

I place my hands and head on the floor – oops, a minute later I was sitting up. Whew! That was difficult. Everyone else still inverted, so I gave it another try.  I heard a voice say, “press into the floor, engage your core.” Oh, OK, I thought. Arghhhhh!

I was up and sitting again. “How can you say that doesn’t take strength?” I implored. Several people nearby gave knowing smiles (from their upside-down vantage point).

By then I had attracted the attention of both instructors and Gerry.  With a calm series of guiding instructions I was back into an equilateral triangle made up of my two hands and head on the mat. Listening and working toward pressing into the floor, using my forearms and engaging my core I was sweating and muscles trembled (apparently i was working too hard at it).

“Let go, walk your toes toward your hands and lift your toes off the floor. Knee onto your elbow.”  I gave it a try. Collapse. Again – and one, then the other toe lifted off the floor and for two milli-seconds I was in Crow posture.

And for a milli-second I got how it was supposed to feel.  Now I cannot wait to practice that again – and again. Not for the eventual headstand, but for the awareness of “I am at this stage now but I can move to the next stage.”

What does this have to do with an Elder SUP article? Knowing the self  as a being rather than merely as an athlete or surfer or paddler or racer, is a genuine kind of knowledge.  That sort of knowledge usually gets lost in the rush of activities and push of goals. The value of discovering one’s self and of enjoying one’s self as it is, rather than as it is going to be, is a treasure. Have you had an experience similar to this? Comments or e-mail, we love to hear your story.  Join us on Facebook. for short comments and links to your stories.

Wet Balancing Act

Always had this yen to do a hand stand or head stand. Hey, I am coordinated and have a really strong upper body. Now that I have been seriously trying to accomplish this before my 63rd birthday (so i can enjoy the SUP handstand this summer) I realize there’s something lacking. Probably – balance.

Like you, I enjoy balance in my life. It takes awareness and practice to gain actual balance and balance in the body as a metaphor. For even the most grounded and centered person, the body can only stay consistently in that state fora short time. We breathe, we move, life changes. With the movement of the breath comes movement in the body, and in our lives. And with this ever present force keeping us alive and creating movement, to find balance requires the ability to maintain focus on one thing in order to minimize the swing of the pendulum. Not one thing only, but one thing at a time. I try to stay aware – how will this help me with that hand stand or head stand?

To be balanced we need to first be centered, balancing the right and the left and the front and back hemispheres of our body along the centerline axis. In my Bikram and other yoga practice that’s a common routine for every pose.  Each instruction and movement is designed to draw the body parts and energy in to the center of the body.  Wobbly and wiggly – I do give it all my effort and love the outcomes. Even a teeny percent of improvement is a celebration – but is it getting me close to that headstand goal?

Focal points, visual or mental, serve as anchors for the mind and the body. In virtually every balance posture, yoga teachers tell us what to look at as we begin the posture. We use that visual focal point as an anchor to hold our attention in place. Using a mantra, a single word or short phrase that gets repeated over and over either out loud or within the mind, is a form of meditation that serves as an anchor and to eliminate the mind chatter. My mantra? ‘Lock the knee lock the knee lock the knee breathe breathe breathe.” With all of these methods, the goal is to create single pointed focus of mind and intention. Ahhh, intention! There’s the magic.

During the practice of Yoga exercises, we not only relax the muscles but we also build up strength, structure and stability in the right spots. In Head Stand, (I want to learn the Sirshasana) you build up power and structure in both the neck and the upper back and at the same time, you train your arm muscles and coordination.  But there is more. With intention toward one day enjoying a head stand on my paddleboard I will take a journey through many many stages and steps.  I will need the support and instruction from others. I will need to practice other moves, breathing, balance, strength and flexibility along the way.

As lame as I am in completing the Sirshasana today I have the intent and a vision of a clear blue lake or mirrored ocean with me balanced (however precariously) on the foundation of my own forearms and head.  Reframing the goal – the headstand on the paddleboard- into a journey makes the entire process a practice.  One day the journey will be punctuated with a splash and a full on wet ending to the balancing act. And the journey will continue.

What’s your balancing act as you gain the SUP Perspective? Links, blogs, comments and quotes are invited and welcome.