Happy New Year 2020

Vasistasana – Pose of the Sage Vasista

I began gymnastics when I was 5 years old. It was an immediate love affair with moving and stretching and making beauty, or at least attempting to, with my body. I continued through high school, competing on my intermediate and high school gymnastics teams, even going to the state championships one year. I was never that great; one year I won the “Most Improved” award, but I loved the discipline of the practice and some of my teammates were really amazing, one having studied with Béla Károlyi, and it was a privilege to watch them practice and compete up close.

So it was a natural transition in college to take up yoga. There is a similar discipline of the physical body as well as the mind. My first yoga teacher was actually a meditation teacher first and foremost and I then had a new obsession.

Both meditation and yoga have served me well over the years, providing a firm grounding in self-care and a basis from which to live fully, and now that it is 2020, I am reaching a landmark birthday this summer. Dare I say it? 5-0. Yikes. It is causing me to be a bit more reflective at the start of this new year.

Each year I like to choose a word that represents my intention for the year to come; past words have included “ease” and “curiosity,” and this year, I choose “forgive.” To me forgiveness represents a way to allow things to just be, as they are, without me trying to change them. Forgiveness goes along with “allowing.” Allowing things to unfold as nature would have it, and “welcome,” creating a sense of welcome within your own body and mind so that you can inhabit yourself with love and kindness.

At a certain point in life, you realize you have to live with the choices you’ve made. You are no longer making choices about career, house, children, or partner, for examples, and you are living with those choices. Some things can still be changed, for sure, but many times it is the art of living with your choices where the real depth of life, feeling, and emotion occurs.

My teacher Douglas Brooks says, if you choose to love, you will grieve. So, we must accept that, allow that, and when the time comes, even welcome grief as an inevitable part of living fully. This welcoming of grief is in the recognition that we have loved and do still love fully.

I find that yoga has taught me how to exist with all of the rasas, all of the flavors of life. It is not simply a bondage to liberation model of yoga where you meditate long enough and hard enough and eventually become liberated from this world, free of the fetters of life itself to experience eternal bliss. This seems the way for the storied yogis who remove themselves from society and go live in the caves of the Himalayas to reach enlightenment.

This photo was in Maine, not India

I once sat in Ramana Maharishi’s cave (in Arunachalam, Tamil Nadu) and found my own unique experience. However, most of us have a daily life of responsibilities. The 10, 30, or 60 minutes of meditation and 10, 30, or 60 minutes of yoga practice daily builds a rhythm of deeper understanding and insight that allows me to recognize that everything is okay, just as it is. I want to live in this world, I choose to have friends and a community that is meaningful to me. This is how I define “living a full life.”

And the great thing about forgiveness is that enlightenment standard I may be reaching for occurs everyday in the simple relationships between family, friends, community, yoga students. In that recognition, I am truly free.

50? Bring it on.

Chidambaram, Tamil Nadu, 2017

Yoga Indulgence in Costa Rica

On November 9-16, my friend and fellow Yoga Therapist and teacher Lucy Lomax and I led a true Yoga Indulgence at Pura Vida Retreat and Spa outside of San José, Costa Rica. This was an amazing week of yoga, adventure, and spa treatments. Oh and, of course the food was excellent.

Each morning, I led meditation and yoga classes based around the idea of creating sacred space for yourself. A ritual is an act one engages in with awareness, thoughtfulness, and intention. Yoga practice, and meditation, pranayama, or yoga nidra, is a ritual act, and it can provide a sense of place, connection, and belonging. Our 15 yogis and yoginis formed a bond during our week together: “One striking aspect of this event was the absolute cordiality of the yogis. It was as though we had known and loved each other for years.” Lucy led the afternoon yoga practice and yoga nidra, also based on this idea of sacred space for oneself, and Susanna Harwood Rubin’s book Yoga 365, as seen below with Julia, the retreat cat, provided wise words for our exploration together.

It is faded out, but that book is Yoga 365. Julia ran the place.

During yoga practice, we worked with flexibility and adaptability, strength, balance, and how a ritual of regular yoga practice can support our lives through the challenging times and the good. In between the daily bookends of yoga practice, there was time for adventure! Ziplining, hiking in the rainforest, boating with the crocodiles, visiting a toucan and sloth rescue. Some pics:

We had so much fun, we plan to do it again next year. If you are interested in joining us, please contact me!

Provence Yoga Retreat 2018

This year, we stayed in a wine village in the south of France, Saint Christol.  Our residence used to be a home for nuns.  It is a stunning Clos, walled home or cloistered home, with salt water pool and tennis court.  Like last year, we had to move the furniture out of the living-dining area in order to make way for yoga.

Each morning we had meditation before breakfast.  The boulangerie was a block away, walkable, so we had the freshest croissants possible.  Rita also treated us to plum compote and fresh goat cheese.  Ah, the French.  Then, we had yoga class each morning focusing on the different elements within nature: earth, water, fire, air, and space.  The final day of our retreat was the UN International Day of Peace so we had a partner yoga class to foster community support and offered our “Om”s so that Peace May Prevail On Earth.

Afternoon yoga classes were more restorative with forward bends, twists, and yoga nidra because most days after yoga we were out exploring somewhere.  Annette chose amazing places for us to visit.  Below are some photos from our trip.

Morning Yogis at Clos Saint Christol

Il est interdit d’ interdir: It is prohibited to prohibit. I.e. no censorship! at the first local brewery in Saint Christol

Yogis enjoying some wine

Plums!

Horses and bulls get along in Camargue.

Camargue horses

Saintes Maires de la Mer fishing boats

Aigues Mortes salt harvest

Aigues Mortes castle

Flamingoes in Aigues Mortes

Beep beep!

Saint Paul Asylum, Saint Rémy garden

Van Gogh’s bedroom in Saint Paul Asylum, Saint Rémy

Abbey de Frigolet window

Yogis at Abbey de Frigolet!

Phyllis and Rose in partner Tree Pose

Daria and Linda wishing you Peace

Some of our group in Warrior III on UN International Day of Peace

Sète harbor and lighthouse

Anxiety and Another Brave Warrior

KrishnaArjuna.JPGThe Bhagavad Gita is a great tale of bravery and courage. One where five Pandava brothers who represent dharma, or the inherent laws within nature and culture, the innate sense of goodness and right-ness within the world, and the hundred Kaurava brothers who represent greed, hatred, anger, and nihilistic tendency. The odds are stacked against the good guys. But luckily the good guys are, or were, brave and courageous. This allegory is just as relevant now as when it was written.

Arjuna, our hero, is an amazing archer. His arrow always hits his mark. And he’s something of a hotty too. He’s strong and powerful and the ladies like him. His reputation as a strapping warrior was known throughout the lands. But even he is not beyond debilitating anxiety. And despair. And hopelessness.

The Gita opens with him in such despair. He’s laying on the floor of his chariot, in the middle of the battlefield, telling his charioteer Krishna that he just cannot fight. The Kauravas are his cousins, and other family members, even his archery teacher are on the opposite side and he cannot bring himself to fight this battle against those he cares about.

He must fight, however, as Krishna tells him because it is a battle for his very soul and for humanity to regain a state of balance once again. And Krishna, the divine attractive force, Arjuna’s superego (forgive the hack Freudianism), begins to explain. Yoga is the way to regain inspiration and motivation and to realize the true path that needs to be taken. There are three ways to practice yoga: karma or action, jnana or knowledge, and bhakti or devotion.

Karma Yoga Krishna tells Arjuna that he must act for the sake of humanity. Arjuna has trained all his life to be a warrior, and this is the moment when the world needs him most. The Kaurava brothers have usurped the throne and are spreading their unique brand of adharma — the opposite of righteousness — in the land. People are counting on him, but most of all, he is prepared to do this, he knows how to do this, and he is the best situated to help return society to its proper direction.

Jnana Yoga Krishna then expounds knowledge about why this battle is so important. He offers knowledge about the Infinite, knowledge of consciousness, and why a person’s awareness needs to expand to realize these concepts.

Bhakti Yoga Ultimately, in the Gita, the Divine or Universal Consciousness is LOVE. The expansive absolute is beyond name or form and it inherently contains love. To know this love is every human’s birthright, but it is not easy. It takes focused, dedicated practice. And bravery and courage. To face one’s shadow is no small task, but it is one of great reward as far as peace of mind is concerned.

dsc00558Perhaps reversing the order of these three types of yoga may be helpful to address anxiety. First, be kind to yourself. Take a deep breath and remember that you have choices. And that you are not alone. Give yourself a break and do something you enjoy to help cultivate love in your life. Take a walk in nature, go for a swim, play with the dog, or enjoy some good music or a movie.

Then, a little knowledge can help go a long way. There are studies now that say how even the gut biome has something to do with mood. Personal habits affect how you feel. The foods we eat and the activities we do have consequences. Yoga offers daily habits that may be beneficial to our overall health. Yoga postures affect the hormonal balance in the body. Hormones affect mood. For example, cortisol produced by the adrenal glands plays a role in anxiety. Certain yoga postures and breathing practices can help bring balance to the functioning of the adrenal glands to reduce the fight, flight, or freeze response and help the body return to a state of greater balance and less stress. The benefits of a regular yoga practice cannot be overstated.

Finally, knowledge is not enough. There must be action. The most advanced yoga practice is simply getting on your mat and doing it. If you can face yourself, your Self, you can face the world. Sometimes it can be difficult to be motivated, but again, you are not alone. If you would like assistance in dealing with anxiety, let’s chat.

Scroll To Top