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.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Did I love well?

A friend said to me, you're nearly 40 Mel (39 in November, actually), how do you want to live the rest of your life? And then I read this morning:

"When I imagine myself as an old woman at the end of my life and ask myself how I will evaluate my time here, there is only one question that concerns me: Did I love well? There are a thousand ways to love other people and the world-- with our touch, our words, our silences, our work, our presence. I want to love well. This is my hunger. I want to make love to the world by the way I live in it, by the way I am with myself and others every day. So I seek to increase my ability to be with the Truth in each moment, to be with what I know, the sweet and the bitter. I want to stay aware of the vastness of what I do not know. This is what brings me to the journey. I do not want to live any other way. "--The Invitation by Oriah

Bravely following what in my heart to know to be True.

Steph & Adi
4 yr old son asked "are they kissing? yuck!" ; )