Friday, December 31, 2010

Happiness in ordinary moments


Happiness is when I can hit the pause button and appreciate
the little
quite
ordinary 
moments

1. falling snow on my face
2. watching the sun rise, colors bursting from the sky over the mountains
3. hot, sweet masala chai
4. taking my shoes off
5. when urdhva dhanurasana, 3 times feels easy, freeing and opens my heart 
6. hand stands, staring contests & thumb wrestling with the boys
7. when nana can remember where and when she met my dad: on a plane, I was 9 or 10
8. my precocious son pretending to listen to Kings Of Leon on unplugged headphones... the music is in his head, he said
9. when I can hear music in my head and it's not too off key and I can remember the lyrics
10. a friend calls for no reason at all but to say how much they appreciate you
11. (because 10 is too few and 12 is too many) giving without expectations... it's rare but when I manage it... bliss

nathan & i -- balloon ride
I've been told I have the right to "the pursuit of happiness". But true joy requires me to distinguish between real happiness and the imaginary kind. "Having it all" doesn't equate to finding it. Even striving for equanimity and the action of trying so hard to be unattached to a desired outcome (happiness)... seeking illusive perfection... won't bring lasting joy.  Happiness comes in small moments while pursuing the big stuff. After a while, the small moments become the point.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

India: Nandini

Nandini, a dignified, youthful 40-something Indian woman clad in frumpy mom-jeans rolled up enough to reveal suede turquoise high-top sneakers boldly asked me if she could sit at my table in the Delhi airport and wait with me. After just a few short minutes, she shyly confessed how fearful she was of going out alone at night. (Is it that dangerous? I didn't think so but perhaps if you go where you shouldn't...) I benefited from her desire to wait til the sun would rise, and we talked for at least 4 hours while sipping coffee to stay awake. 
Originally from Calcutta, she now lives in Scotland with a partner. She was married off young (pre-arranged by her parents) and divorced just a few years ago. I felt there is more to her story than she was willing to share, but from what I gathered, the essence is that her husband did not want her to have the higher education she desired, so they parted. Currently getting her PHD in sociology, she seemed heartbroken that she no longer has any communication with her 15 year old son since he chose to live with his father in India. Separation and divorce in India has quite a stigma which is certainly not a surprise. Nandini's mum had an arranged marriage and to this day, she attributes her mum's sudden death of a brain aneurysm at age 47 to a love-less marriage, full of sacrifice.  

graffiti mural along the road in Rishikesh

"As human beings, our greatness lies not so much in being able to remake the world, 
as in being able to remake ourselves." --Gandhi

While India is a world different from Texas culturally, I see more and more how we are all just people looking for contentment and balance. Our lengthy talk about working mums verses stay at home mums could be summed up by our need to do something that would create our own world and fulfill a longing for a sense of purpose in our lives. Her own mum, surrendered a career twice to the needs of her family. Starting over each time, she felt her mum lost a part of herself and became a little more detached from herself- her True self. 
The intension of Nandini's heart was displayed not by what she said but how she said it-- through her eyes. Her eyes revealed a person who's soul was healing. Conversing with this woman, I could clearly see our similarities... as mothers, as women, as a person seeking more.  Two strangers, linked by a common desire to embrace the life we envision for ourselves-- rather than run from it.



Friday, December 24, 2010

Remembering at Christmas

Sri Lanka

And the Grinch, with his Grinch-feet ice cold in the snow, stood puzzling and puzzling, how could it be so?  It came without ribbons.  It came without tags.  It came without packages, boxes or bags.  And he puzzled and puzzled 'till his puzzler was sore.  Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn't before.  What if Christmas, he thought, doesn't come from a store.  What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more.  ~Dr Seuss
Galle, Sri Lanka 

At Christmas, it's difficult not to think about all my growing up years climbing into my mom's pink Mary Kay car, playing backgammon with my brother for the 4 hour drive north to my grandmother's home. Usually, at Thanksgiving, Grandma had my brother dig up a pine tree from the back acreage on her rural Oklahoma farm which we would keep potted and replant some time before we left to return to school in January. My job was to decorate it with all the glass ornaments collected through the years and with the silver tensile she would carefully save and reuse each year (since 1960's). Each year we would give Grandma a special ornament with the year engraved on it. I inherited the precious ornaments from my Grandma Walker when she passed in 2000. It feels so long ago. I miss her chocolate pies and candied sweet potoatoes. I miss Wheel of Fortune and Jepardy game shows playing in the background. I miss sleeping under the living and dining room tables because the house was so overflowing with children and relatives that we were allowed to make a special fort under them. I miss getting apples, oranges and chocolates in my stocking on Christmas morning. 
The photo by the sea reminds me of her, not because she liked the ocean. In fact, I don't know that she ever visited a beach in her lifetime. But, because her eyes were the color of the sky, so clear, light blue. Today I am missing her very much, mainly because in her own cantankerous way, we knew she loved us more than she knew how to say. 

"Christmas - that magic blanket that wraps itself about us, that something so intangible that it is like a fragrance.  It may weave a spell of nostalgia.  Christmas may be a day of feasting, or of prayer, but always it will be a day of remembrance - a day in which we think of everything we have ever loved." ~Augusta E. Rundel

Thursday, December 16, 2010

India, Haridwar

Haridwar
At this rate, I might finish my 14 days in India in about 6 months of blog postings. Taking my time with to savor the beauty of it for as long as my selective memory can. A friend said to me yesterday, that India will stay with me for a very long time. I certainly hope so... India seems to be polarizing. I come across people who either love it or hate it, people who dream of going like I did or people who would never in a million years want to go.

Denise
Still day 1, 36 hours into the journey...
Denise (my new friend and soon to be roommate from the train) and I caught a prepaid taxi from Haridwar to Rishikesh. We arrived on the night of the full moon ceremony (Purnima) at the Ganga- the one that occurs once a year on the eighth month of the Indian lunar calendar. You'll see people moving a small flame held in their right hand in a circular motion before the emmence Lord Shiva statue on a large platform just off the steps of Parmarth Ashram into the Ganga. Symbolizing that the source of all light comes from God. They also put their hands in the flames the oil lamps and in one motion, seem to wipe the energy of the flame onto their head and shoulders as a self blessing or cleansing of sorts.  Aarti is offered as a form of blessing from God to the devotees. Offering baskets of flowers given to the Ganga, and people bathe in the Ganga in the belief that this will grant them immortality in exchange for confession of sins. 

never made it back to Haridwar to explore, although I had heard that the aarti (fire ceremonies) at the Ganga River there are amongst the largest and most festive. The gentleman from Delhi, Prashant, whom I met on the plane on my return flight, had just lost his elderly grandmother a few days prior. She died one year to the day that her son (Prashant's father) died, as if she was just waiting for the right time to go. (Incidentally, his grandmother in India also died the same day as my sons' great grandfather in Texas).
Prashant shared when a Hindu passes in India, the funeral lasts 16 days or so. The body is cremated and the family gathers and gives Puja (usually food and money in exchange for prayers for the soul of the deceased) to the Brahman (priest). The immediate family then travels to the Ganga in Haridwar to release the ashes into the holy river. It must be a certain day, for if it's too early, the Brahman there will not allow it. In Prashant's case, they arrived too soon and sadly were unable to carry out the ceremony. His brother had to go back a few days later on his behalf. The river is considered among the holiest in India and those that worship her believe she will purify everything and anything. In the case of the dead, it's believed that it will bring peace to the departed soul. May his beloved grandmother rest in eternal peace.


I
Shiva, Parmarth Ashram, the Ganga

Sannyasa (Renunciates)
This put a whole new perspective on the Ganga for me. I went to aarti every night for the first 10 days, basking in the beautiful chanting.  Completely mesmerized by the faith and devotion displayed, I was also a bit annoyed, however, at paparatizi-like feel (the number of cameras, including my own!) and how there seemed to be "special people" who were invited to the fire by Swamiji who only seemed to appear when these unique guests were there. I also discovered by the end that there's a look-a-like Swamiji: one with greying hair (Swami Chidanand Saraswati) and one with full dark hair. All that non-sense aside, I enjoyed watching the boys clad in yellow who live in the ashram. Some really seem to be intoxicated with the music, singing and clapping and others seemed bored to tears. They're just kids, after all. All of them seemed quite happy with their spot in the limelight, though, and a few often lead the chanting (a bit off key) but it was charming.
Our Kriya teacher Indu believes that her dip in the Ganga is what cured her eyesight when she was a child. I don't know that I believe the river Ganga contains anything more than what the believers and devotees hold in their own hearts. The power of faith is either there or it's not. I've always been strong in the area of faith. And, indeed, felt the mystical lure of Rishikesh and the Ganga. Having said that, the most intimate I got with the Ganga was an occasional washing of my feet and sandals after stepping in cow dung. (This happened at least 4 or 5 times.) The water was ice-cold, clean and seemed to be in hurry to go somewhere else. Perhaps it was carrying a few souls and offerings along, including the cherished remains of Prashant's loved one.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Zoob Yogi

Son #1 made me a "zoob" yogi in padmasana (lotus pose) last night. Hard to tell from the photo... but made with love. (zoobs are these cool plastic pieces that connect so that you can build all kinds of things... Nathan usually makes swords or weapons of some kind. I told him I prefer the yoga poses. : ))

Life is full of beauty-- and love. We just have to notice it.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

India, Upon Arrival

I've had it on my heart to go to India since I was 18. I was living with my father in Hong Kong at the time and he had just returned from a trip to the Taj, and I was so envious. It was during the Gulf War, so we were not able to travel, or at least my father didn't feel like it was a good idea. Safety aside, I actually think he just didn't want to make the journey again. And, he certainly wouldn't allow me to travel on my own, and I never thought to ask. My father, step-mom and I did make it to Nepal, however, and after a trek up the foothills in Katmandu, I got the dreaded stomach virus (Dehli belly, all same, same), and consequently, spent the next several days after an elephant ride, going between the tent and the toliet. I still loved the adventure of it all and in the back of my mind, dreamed about going again. 
Almost 2 years ago, I signed up and paid in full to go to India with a group from an American yoga organization but then when the trip neared they suddenly claimed that they lost my paperwork and was not allowed to attend. This turned into the biggest blessing. After having been to India now on my own, I cannot fathom going with a group of Americans just like me and not getting to experience all the different classes, teachings and places I saw. The most incredible part of the journey was the day by day serendipitous crossing of paths with people from all over the world.
On the flight over, I sat between 2 Indian gentleman, one who lived in the US working for a large American corporation coming to Delhi to visit his mum and the other man, with limited English, worked for an Indian corporation and was proudly returning from his second trip abroad. Both took it upon themselves to scrutinize my itenerary and decided that my plan to get a train this late was not a good one. I mistakenly thought I could just buy a train ticket upon arrival (in the middle of the night?!). New plan: spend the night in the airport, get 4am prepaid taxi to the New Delhi station, train to Haridware, taxi to Rishikesh.
The Delhi airport is new and just completed this year, so the masses of people I was expecting was not there when I arrived at 10.30pm. Turns out you have to purchase a ticket to get into the arrival area of the airport, which keeps things quite peaceful. I met a lovely woman from Calcutta who joined me for a coffee (my last for the next 3 weeks), and we talked for hours about Indian social issues to stay awake.
4am: taxi to the train station where there were squatters everywhere. I didn't know where to go, so I headed straight for the Entry sign and was stopped and asked where my ticket was (funny he didn't stop anyone else)? He ushered me over to another man, "Babaji" on the other end of the station who then took me across the street to a place that simply said "office" and assured me I could get a ticket there (but only after he tried to put me into a taxi to another office!). I had an enourmous pepto-bismal pink backback strapped on and had to climb stairs that seemed to completely verticle in a dark hall with no railing. Reaching the dim lit office, there was a small man with wirey glasses who told me to take a seat, take a seat. Babaji disappeared while the small man called about a ticket for the train. No tickets. I said, please call again. After another unsuccessful call, he suggested a taxi to Haridwar at the cost of 9900RS! Crazy! I said no thanks and just at that moment a very, very large rat scurried over my foot. Small man didn't even blink. No problem, he said, as he wabbled his head. Finally realzing the scam, I head back across the street to the "Indian" ticket windows. (Why I didn't see this the first time, I don't know.) The woman behind the counter said, no tickets, I must go to the foriegn ticket office which opens at 8am. It's just 5am at this point. Trying not to panic, I go once again past the squatters and beggars and march up the stairs to the foreign office and determine to stand there by the door til 8am, which would mean missing my train (6.30am). Another man comes along with a key to open the foreign office, so I ask him to help me, he then ushers me down to another person... another scam. So, I approach the woman again at the ticket window, I plead that there must be some way. I believe there is a way. She says no, again. I walk back to a corner and survey the area... no way in hell, I decided, am I going to stand here all morning. I go back the woman, and plead again. She rolls her eyes and a man comes over to help. After about 15 minutes of not understanding, another passenger took pity on me and helped me understand that he wants to sell me a ticket to Meerut City which is just part way and that once on the train, I can ask for an extension to my destination. At this point, I didn't care if I got stranded in another city, I just wanted to get moving. He sold me a ticket in E class and off I went to find the platform, which incidently, was listed at 17 when there are only 16 platforms. A drunk Londoner took it upon themselves to help me find my way and the first photo at the top is a photo she insisted on taking of me while I waited for the train to finally arrive.
E class tured out to be "Executive" and all those images I had in my mind of masses of people crammed in with cows and such on a train were unfounded (unlike Slum Dog Millionaire). E class was nearly empty and the station master gladly took more money from me to extend my journey to my destination.
I spent the entire 5 hours taking photos from my view in E class to stay awake. (At this point I'd been awake more than 24 hours). The last thirty minutes of the ride, an beautiful American woman, approached me and asked where I was traveling to. Turns out, we were both going not only to Rishikesh, but to the same ashram.We navigated our way to a prepaid taxi with the help of 2 Austrailian women in their 70's headed to yet another ashram. It flashed in my mind, that I hope to god that I'm able to travel like these 2 ladies one day. (The last photo is of the train station in Haridware.) Another hour in a taxi "up the hill and down the hill", and we arrived at Parmarth Niketan Ashram, my home for the next 14 days.
I sounds like a lot of hassel, but I loved every second- perhaps next time, though, I'll prebook my train ticket.  

Friday, December 10, 2010

India

Look.
Look as long as you can
at the friend you love.
No matter whether that friend
is moving away from you
or coming back to you.
Rumi


Kriya Yoga Class










Returning home from abroad is always an adjustment and often a shock to the system (a Visa fiasco that almost kept me in India, a funeral of a loved one upon arrival, jet lag, a strange allergy rash, and stomach sickness that I managed to avoid whilst there, got me in the end)...

India is oblivious to Christmas and yet in Sri Lanka, Santa is everywhere.... and home (Texas) is returning to Christmas over-board. And, of course, it's returning to loved ones. (I got the best hugs from the boys... then, "What did you bring me, Mom?" Nathan's favorite gift was the Rudrucksha Mala beads and "sacred and magical rocks from the Ganga River", and Drew's was a small notebook made from banana leaves which he promptly drew a picture of himself wearing a shirt with a large "A" on it, for Andrew.)

Drew asked me this morning, "Did the world change while you were away?"  I don't know about that, but I certainly have. It's impossible to experience another culture and not have those who crossed your path leave an imprint on you in some way.

Thanks to my teachers, Mataji and Indu and to all the wonderful new friends-- I am incredibly blessed.

It's safe to say that I'm in love with India and feel abundant gratitude for the serendipitous adventures.

Sunrise over the Himilayas



Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Courageous

What does it mean to be courageous? Someone commented that I was courageous for going to India alone, on my own. Actually, I never thought of it that way. I just thought, it's not possible to go with the group I planned, so I will go anyway... all will be well.

What is it that makes some choices seem braver than others? 

Bravery to me is: to ask for what you want in life, handle conflict with truthful dignity and respect for the other & yourself, move to a new place, drive in an unfamiliar city, introduce yourself to someone you don't know, learn a big new anything (language, job, craft, etc.), give up control, selfless service, fall in love and choose to stay in love or move on. To be a parent or mentor: to take a life and teach them what you know or don't know (thank God for google)... seems to me like a very courageous endeavor.

I can think of a least a half a dozen amazing friends right now doing one of the above... to each of you, I am so grateful for your loving examples of how to live bravely, day by day.

overlooking Santa Barbara, Hwy 101
It's brave to follow your dreams and take a leap into what you love rather than what everyone expects you to do. Taking that leap can be scary, lengthy and lonely but you know you're heading in the right direction it doesn't feel like "work", and it feels more like a hunger inside that needs to be fed by doing what you either know to be the right thing or brings you joy. "It is better to do your own dharma (calling) even imperfectly, than someone else's dharma perfectly." Bhagavad Gita, 3.35

Courage in action is when I commit my whole self to a choice. I find that my highs will be high and lows will be low but life feels so much more tangible and fully lived.

I'd like to say that I'll blog while I'm in India, but I think I'll just use some pen and paper and fill you in December... I'll be in an ashram following the customs there: meditation, asana, lecture, ceremonies at the river, yoga nidra (sleep)... repeat for 14 days. Then, off to Sri Lanka to see a dear friend who I know from living in Kuala Lumpur. And a lovely surprise, 2 other friends from KL will be there at the same time. From winter in Rishikesh to summer-like weather in Columbo, it will be an amazing journey... just me, my large pepto-bismol pink backpack, and my camera, of course. Not courageous, just adventurous.

"If you want to identify me, ask me not where I live, or what I like to eat, or how I comb my hair, but ask me what I am living for, in detail, and ask me what I think is keeping me from living fully for the thing I want to live for."- E Lesser

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Advanced Practice

"When we realize that what we are advancing toward is not some physical form but an inward recognition of the truth of who we are, then we will not feel ourselves to be failing if we cannot attain difficult postures. "Advance" practice is any movement that brings us closer to this recognition of our true self."
~ Donna Farhi, Bringing Yoga to Life: The Everyday Practice of Enlightened Living

Sandy, OR


have to say, I'm more comfortable in my own skin now than I ever have been. But, I occasionally think about the "what if's". I feel myself in a tug of war between trying to get what I want and trying to avoid what I don't want. And when I start to go there and feel frustrated, I try to remind myself that it's all temporary. Everything. Change is the only thing that's certain, right? If I can be a steady rock, and watch the stream flow past me, I will be washed by the water and touched by what floats by without having to respond or worry over every little twig, piece of trash, or boat that comes and threatens to move me. 


LIFE: I'm almost 40 years into it, and it's still hard... to ... let ... go of my need to be perfect and validated (click "like" syndrome)... I have to go back to what I love, what I know to be Truth within me which is in essence, "advanced" practice. 



Thursday, November 4, 2010

Emotional



"Living well is not about being calm; it is about being present. Practice just being present with your emotions without reacting to them. Notice how they come and go." Judith Lasater

Some days are more emotional than others. Yesterday a friend said, I just feel emotional today. Earlier this week another friend, I've just been crying on and off all day, and it feels good. And yet another friend, I'm tired of feeling emotional all the time. This morning, my 9 year old was in tears, completely dramatic over a spelling test he hadn't prepared for. A full out toddler-like fit of tears. 
Ally Marie,
contagious laughter @ Love & Service retreat
Heightened by lack of sleep or circumstances beyond our control... sometimes it just takes one small thing to trigger an emotional release... tears or laughter. In our partner yoga class this week, as the minutes flew, my students seemed to get more and more comfortable with each other and laughed easily when their arm got caught t
wisting the wrong way or with something as ordinary as a stomach growling. Suddenly, the church giggles 
erupted
. (You know when you laugh in church for no reason when everyone else seems to be worshipful and quiet?) 

Expressions of tears and laughter IS being in the present moment. It's our body's way of telling us it's come to the edge, and it can longer hold it inside. It is what we are feeling in that very moment. The spilling over of what we were containing in our hearts that we could no longer hoard, but out of necessity and sometimes preservation of sanity are able to let go of. I think when we are constantly training ourselves to not react to our emotions, they have the potential to build inside or sometimes seep out in destructive ways. The secret is in how we act on our emotions... I think the tears and spontaneous laughter came because they were released in an emotionally safe place. And, in that sense, they were raw displays of what our hearts were saying at the time.

My heart is full and at this point, I'm ready to laugh or cry. I'm not particular, whichever one comes first is fine. 

Friday, October 29, 2010

How transparent are you?

Everyone talks about everything pretty freely these days. It just makes me wonder, should we have a little more filter on our lives? A little less transparency? Connection. In a 2009 survey, 74% of women use email and 61% use the Internet everyday. 12 million women (ages 35-44) use Facebook. I'm one of 12 million.
Car Art in Houston, more random thoughts


Here's a random sampling from my Facebook pages this week.* You know what people:


wearing (bring on the tutu, acro yoga, and champagne in the park) 
eating (a photos of flan drizzled with raspberry sauce or complete descriptions of stomach bug and the cure: kombucha)
thinking ("can you believe that woman had a tatt of Obama on her arm, along with the name of all her children? or could that be her boyfriends names?" or "Someone with horrible breath just walked in my office. I started gagging. Luckily he was trying to give me some breakfast so I blamed it on that but it wasn't that. Apparently I will not be eating much today either.")
"like" ("I dont care about your farm, or your fish, or your park, or your mafia!!!"
don't "like" (the one that made me cringe this week: "whoever ate me lunch from the freezer, I hope you choke on it."), music ("Journey still rocks, man, check this out!")
reading (is everyone a Twilight fan except for me?) or yoga prescriptions for low back
watching (warning, this may bring you to tears)
random ("Bet YOUR toilet doesn't hv a tail !!")
exercising "It is getting easier. I will get there. I will see my abs again by Xmas. I can do it. Yes I can."
animals of all kinds
watching (relationships
quoting ("“At first dreams seem impossible, then improbable, then inevitable.”)
believe "True. He's true I tell you." or "The path to enlightenment is not a group trip. Go inside and concentrate.", influence ("I've succumbed to "peer pressure" from the neighborhood: two baby pumpkins are gracing the porch (no halloween decorations, though)."
parenting ("Dear soccer parents,Shin guards belong under the soccer socks. Please don't let your child wear shin guards without socks or over the socks. They look ridiculous. Sincerely, A Fellow Soccer Parent (who also happens to have a degree in Fashion Merchandising")) 
connecting with friends in far away lands ("thought the two nice gentlemen in fatigues holding rifles who have been outside all day on our driveway might like a cup of tea and a few ginger biccies."  or "2yr old friend came round for a play and showed us a toy he found in the hallway. A closer look revealed he was clutching a live frog." or  "Lucas, on va rencontrer quelqu'un qui s'appelle Vincent....ah bon c'est un numero?" (too bad I don't speak French).)


All this random, "What's on Your mind", transparency is not all bad. I feel significant and perhaps one reason is because it fulfills my need for connection. I'm able to hear from friends who encourage with positive messages. Things like, people remembering my birthday or telling me they enjoyed my class. Media certainly cannot be replaced by the real deal...so I've chosen to unplug for a while. So long Facebook, unessential emails ("unsubscribe", here I come!), and blogging. Going to give myself a little time to wean off. (A few more posts before I go. Well, I'm just being honest.) If I have just 10 or 20 minutes available to me to be in peace, do I really want to spend that time on the computer? 


I'm off to India in a few weeks and will completely unplug except for my phone to call home. You can send love & birthday well wishes via text  (39 on 11/23)... or you can post on Facebook, it'll still be there when I get back, right? 


*gratitude to my friends who are reading what was on their minds in my blog... but I figure.. you posted it for the world to see, right?

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Radio Lab

I have a confession. A new addiction: Radio Lab, thanks for that LC! Yes, a podcast supported by NPR... I can't wait to listen to each episode. I'm a complete inner geek when it comes to all things NPR. It's really seems to be use-less trivial info... but then again, it's not... I think it's more related to my life and to yoga than anything I've listened to in a long, long time. They take something like memory or contact or laugher and ask why? Why do we laugh? Why do we remember some things and not others? Why does touching someone cause a response in the other person?
lovely, nothing to do with radio lab... just lovely. : ) 

In one episode, they talk about our memory... there is an experiment with rats (ok, sorry all you animal loving-non-harming folk... I'm all about non-harming but if it benefits ME, loved ones, or research for a terrible disease like Alzheimer's which will effect 5.1 million in the US this year alone... bring on the rats!) So, the rats can be trained to remember things... but when they are given a chemical to break up a protein in the brain, they can "forget" what they remembered... you'll just have to listen to it, if you want to know more. But, bottom line: this is news- this could change research, this could be the starting point for a cure. I love how exciting it is to learn something about my brain or why I make choices... why not?
There's a new theory for Alzheimer's disease... and it has to do with these proteins.... read on for more.
So, every spare moment in the car, I'm enjoying these podcasts... hope you will too. (Even my 4 year old can't wait to hear & learn.)
Love of learning... that's how you live to be a centenarian. There's a study that shows it's not necessarily what we think that contributes to getting to 100.  Two things they know conclusively: it's how social we are (don't isolate yourself!) and a love of learning... keep on learning new things. Challenge yourself to learn a language, play an instrument, learn a new yoga pose or photography or try writing with your other hand... whatever inspires you... do it. You just may live a long full, life.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

runners and yoga

There are so many documented benefits to yoga for runners, ranging from improved flexibility to improved running times, to greater lung capacity and ability to combat negative thoughts while running with increased mind/ body awareness. Sage Roundtree's book, Athlete's Guide to Yoga is one of the first yoga books I picked up last year when I started to work with KSR (Katy Student's Run) kids who are training for the Houston half marathon. Her book is thorough, easy to use for beginners, and she uses real runners as models, so you have a feel for where their tightness tends to be and it relates to you.  Highly recommend it or you can glean some great info online too.

Sage's columns on balance for competitive runners.

Sage's Blog for everything from runner's yoga sequences to personal triumphs.

ksr stretching 
Happy Running!

Saturday, October 16, 2010

enough Yoga to go around

A beautiful lesson I've learned from observing an amazing entrepreneurial yogi & friend who owns Curayoga (formerly Jennyoga), is that there is enough Yoga to go around in the city (world). She graciously promotes not only her workshops and programs... but anyone, any studio or person, can put fliers or info on their own classes or workshops in her studio. It's Yoga Sangha (community). We're all meant to be united in sharing what we love, right? There's no owning Yoga or exercise or any other fitness technique. You'll get a lot farther in life when you support the little guy along the way, rather than try to tear him down. It only makes you look like the big bad wolf when you act territorial.

Well-being is something that someone must choose for themselves. My belief is that whatever motivates you to move your body is a good thing... whether you go to a big mega gym, find a personal trainer, a yoga class in the park, run with a group of friends who encourage you, gardening, walk or ride your bike, it just doesn't matter... simply move. Move your body in a way that speaks to you. When find something you love... do it! Doesn't offend me, if yoga or pilates is not your thing. I do encourage folks to give it more than one try... you never know (see the last blog post). In the end, it's not what kind of yoga (or fitness) you do that matters, it's doing what you're passionate about consistently -- that's what will matter. What brings you to JOY?
boot camp sangha meets yoga sangha
Feeling like I need to refocus today and put LIFE into perspective. A Gratitude List usually does the trick:

1. Andrew learned to ride his bike without training wheels yesterday! Joy of accomplishment on his face was beyond words.
2. Nathan's delight with finding more Smarties than any other candy in his goodie bag from a fun fair.
3. Got an email from a student who shared a story about how class this week helped her through a tough situation with family.
4. PY (planet yoga) community: a blessing. Entrusting me to do things I never imagined I would get to do.
5. I'm going to India... I N D I A! It's add-on to the life list. And, I can afford to buy new clothes to take with me to India and plan to leave them there.
one more:
6. Friends. Who I know love me... even when they're to busy to call or have coffee... and friends who extend grace to me when I appear to be too busy to call or have coffee. (I'm really not that busy... I'm probably at Starbucks now, if you want to come on. ; ))

In joy & gratitude.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Daily Yoga Meditation Improves Memory, May Prevent Alzheimer's

Older participants not only gained better memory but their brains worked better
June 12, 2007 – Your memory getting faulty? Cognitive ability not what it used to be? New research with older people finds stopping other activity for a daily meditation session can improve your thinking and your memory. The leader of the study thinks these daily 12-minute Yoga sessions may even prevent Alzheimer’s disease.
"While we are planning additional research in this area, we can say today with confidence that daily meditation is recommended as part of an integrated brain longevity strategy to delay, even prevent, cognitive decline," he continued."This exciting study confirms what we have been observing in clinical practice for many years, that meditation is one of the most effective tools to address memory loss," said Dharma Singh Khalsa, M.D., president and medical director of the Alzheimer's Research and Prevention Foundation, the non-profit organization which sponsored the study.
Andrew Newberg, M.D., assistant professor of radiology at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, and the study's principal investigator, concurred.
"For the first time, we are seeing scientific evidence that meditation enables the brain to actually strengthen itself, and battle the processes working to weaken it," said Newberg.
"If this kind of meditation is helping patients with memory loss," he continued, "we are encouraged by the prospects that daily practice may even prevent neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's."
Practiced by millions of individuals to reduce stress and anxiety, improve concentration, and even lower blood pressure, meditation is among the most commonly used alternative therapies in the world.
Yesterday, at the Alzheimer's Association's International Conference on the Prevention of Dementia in Washington, D.C., results from a University of Pennsylvania study were unveiled confirming for the first time that daily practice of meditation can improve cognitive function among individuals with memory complaints.
Researchers began their investigation by conducting a series of neurological and memory tests on each subject, who ranged in age from 52-70, with either a history of memory complaints or a diagnosis of mild cognitive impairment.
Single Photon Emission Computed Tomography (SPECT) scans, a brain imaging technique which measures cerebral blood flow, were also conducted on each subject.
Following the initial tests, subjects were taught the techniques of Kirtan Kriya, the most widely practiced meditation in the Kundalini Yoga tradition, and instructed to practice a 12-minute meditation each day for eight weeks. This form of Yog is a repeated chanting of sounds and finger movements designed to help the mind focus and become sharper. (Read more below)
While follow up testing confirmed statistically significant improvements in memory among all of the study's subjects, the most significant outcome of the study was the stark contrast between the pre and post-training SPECT scans.
Follow up scans showed dramatic increases in blood flow to the posterior cingulate gyrus, the region of the brain associated with learning and memory. It is the first region of the brain to decline in individuals diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease, which helps to explain why the blood flow-producing meditation has such a profound impact on cognitive functioning. 
For more about this study and the Kirtain Kriya practice used -
http://www.alzheimersprevention.org/research.htm
For more information, please visit the Alzheimer's Research and Prevention Foundation -
 http://www.alzheimersprevention.org/.
Center for Spirituality and the Mind, Penn State -
http://www.uphs.upenn.edu/radiology/CSM/index.html

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Yoga is not

Why is there still this perception (in Texas, anyway) that yoga is all about "doing nothing" (i.e. meditation), "just a bunch of stretches and stuff", that it's a girl-thing, or that it's too spritualized?

Yoga varies as broadly as the Christian denominations (Catholics, Methodists, Baptists, etc.). You have Kundalini, Anasara, Forrest, Bikram, Ashtanga, Acro, Kriya, Iyengar, PY(planet yoga method)... I could go on and on. Then, you have the other varieties within that: Flow or Vinyasa, Hatha, Yin, Restorative, Meditation, Therapeutic, athletic, RocknRoll ("shake your asana")... ok, that last one... yep, that's the latest thing.. yoga to a DJ. (Only in the US, I imagine). 

My first yoga class... I was late, couldn't understand what the instructor was saying (seemed like every pose had an 'asana' sound to it and it all sounded the same!), and because the instructor didn't look around at what the class was doing, I had no idea if I was doing it right or not (and I was so distracted, busy looking around, comparing...). Then, once I realized that we had to lay still in the end, I couldn't stop fidgeting and gave up and left in the middle. I'm sure I made plenty of key-rattling, mat rolling up-kind-of racket on my way out.  For some reason, though, I kept coming back and gradually I let myself stay longer and longer until one day, savasana (the final relaxation pose) was over... too soon! I slipped into a meditative dream like state that I can't begin to explain... you just have to experience it. 

Leeann's Yoga Therapy Class
Needless to say, yoga's evolved for me and morphed into much more than "stretches & stuff" or conquering new cool poses. So, yes, yoga is everything above... movement, stretching, breathing, sitting, listening... and whether I practice to music by Prince, Michael Franti, MC Yogi or Ray Lamontange, or in silence, it doesn't matter because what yoga does for my mind and body is beyond words, it just must be experienced. If you can't find your sweet spot with one style or teacher, try another or another... why not? What do you have to lose? In my opinion, you only have so much to gain.... 

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Truth

"When you're firmly established in the practice of Truth, your words become so potent that whatever you say comes to realization." --BKS Iyengar

Yoga Sutra 2.38
Satya or Truth is about being your authentic self and not wearing different masks for different people or circumstances. (We all know people like that, don't we? Agh, I'm guilty at times-- a lot, if I'm honest.) Nothing I enjoy more than being with a friend who is genuine: the same with me, and everyone they meet.

When I read Iyengar's interpretation of Truth, it struck me that Truth goes much deeper- into our being- beyond our mind. "Truth should be integrated on a cellular level." If we say something and part of our being holds back then "success is not assured". If the Truth is said with whole-heartedness with "not one cell dissembling, then we create the reality we desire."

I've set my intention to follow my heart over and over and because of fear (of hurting those I love), I've recoiled. For something to become Truth, I need to surrender to it fully. If I hold back in any way, it won't. But when I live in Truth, my intention will bloom to life.
Bloom to Life

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Busyness

"Today is the tomorrow you worried about yesterday." - unknown


Always thought staying busy kept me from having to do the "big" thing... the thing that's so tough that I don't even want to start it. You know it by procrastination, or "I've got time for that... tomorrow". I never really thought about it being busy an addiction, have you? If you're always looking for a way out of the present moment by filling your time for the next big project, event, or moment, then perhaps it is? What is it that you don't want to be still with? The unknown? Whatever I use to fill the void, it's all temporary.

Plan to spend time today with myself. God. With no goal to accomplish. No where to be. Just simply sitting with stillness and no agenda... quiet. Staying with it, entering it, welcoming it, and using it to know the Truth. Learning to be present. Can I distinguish being in one place from wanting to be somewhere else? That is living radically.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Planet Yoga Workshop Highlights

This weekend was full of some amazing learning, teaching and community! Friday was a free class at Lucy's- thanks for coming! And, thanks Lucy's for sponsoring!
Yaffa, Paige, Mel @Lucy's

A huge thank you to Chyrs Kub who flew in from Charolette to teach 2 great workhops- one the core at Cinco Lifetime and one on shoulders at Jennyoga.


Core Workshop
Core highlights: Your "core" includes your trunk (internal/external obliques, rectus abdominals, transverse abdominals, erector spinae).  Sequencing a class is key with the Planet Yoga Method of teaching. There are preparatory postures to do before you get to your "queen pose" or apex posture for class. One pose prepares the body for the next and so on. We covered some poses with the connection of "belly to throat" in standing warrior postures, plank, and more.



Shoulder highlights:
We worked with shoulder mobility and stabilty (a safe alignment skill) and weaved in the use of the strap to press into to have a tatile feeling of muscle contraction. For example: wrap a yoga strap around forearms with arms shoulder width apart. Standing, with arms straight ahead, round (protract) and depress lightly (feel the shoulder blades moving inward without squeezing them, rather than pushing shoulders forcefully down.) Then, practice chaturanga with the strap. the strap will stop you from going too far with your shoulders toward floor. Feel the breath easy moving from your throat to your belly and back.





After the workshop, we headed to the park for some fab acro yoga! Partner work can be really challenging. However, when you have a confident partner who trusts you... wow! More photos.


“The capacity for delight is the gift of paying attention.”


Finally, ended the day with a rockin concert at the House of Blues to see Michael Franti. (The first song on my playlist is the sound of sunshine. I can't think of a happier song in the world at the moment!)


I'm only teaching 2 classes this week: Tuesday at the park, 9.30am, and Wednesday morning, 5.15 am at Lukes. Hope you'll join me. I'm headed to Santa Barbra for a Planet Yoga retreat with Leeann Carey.

Life is good.