29 January 2010

Sunshine sent today from Nevis - muito obrigada to Maria!!

As we prepare ourselves for a possible state of snow emergency, remember that being snowbound is a perfect opportunity to practice yoga. Take a warm bath, drink hot tea, read something inspirational, light a candle and enjoy your sadhana!

27 January 2010

Bees in my life

I've been admiring these bees for months at my local health food store where they buzzed alongside colorful sister paintings of fat birds, landscapes and horses. I visited the bees frequently and today I brought them home. I loved that one was heading right off the frame - following his own path. There's something about art that gets into your head. It's like getting stung by an image. When I mentioned this to Mehmet Altug, the artist, he compared it to food - we agreed that art feeds the soul.

Earlier this year, I was given a bee pendant made by Casey Sharpe, an artisan on the Eastern Shore. This was another piece of work that captured my imagination and wearing it always invites conversation. I don't collect bees - I do have a small pencil drawing of a bee that was a gift from my friend, Bill Turner.

Once, while picking zinnias, a bee stung me - it sat on my hand and I just watched it, never thought it would sting, but it did. I still trust bees - they feed us, after all.

Thinking about all these bees made me realize that Brahmari pranayama is one of my favorite breathing practices so, of course, I've been considering the significance of all these bees in my life and have decided it's a coincidence (right!). I think I'll just go drink some tea - with honey - and gaze at the new painting!

Our treasure lies in the beehive of our knowledge. We are perpetually on the way thither, being by nature winged insects and honey gatherers of the mind.

Friedrich Nietzsche, The Genealogy of Morals (1887)

25 January 2010

I can't do yoga

I teach a weekly class at a gambling/alcohol rehab center. Each week, patients cycle through so I may have the same group for 4 weeks or have a new person each week - it's never the same. Recently, we received a patient who is 81 years old and his first statement when he met me was, "I can't do yoga." I told him he could try and that I was there to teach him. Indeed, that first afternoon, after about 20 minutes with the group, he got up, said he'd had enough, and left.

Today I arranged to arrive 1/2 hour early and work with him individually. Again he said, "I can't do yoga." I assured him he could, but that we were going to make sure we did it in a way that worked just for him. In the 30 minutes we spent together, I learned that he had been a tennis player, was quite flexible and fit, and could follow instructions perfectly when I was close enough for him to hear me clearly. We didn't do a lot - a few chair postures, some standing and sitting, and about 5 minutes of guided meditation with my hands resting on his shoulders reminding him to relax each time he exhaled. He loved it and thanked me for working with him. I told him we'd do this for as long as he was there. When he left the room, he told the first person he saw, "I was doing yoga!"

Sometimes, when our bodies are tired or we are injured, we think, "I can't do yoga." It's not true - that is our ego mind telling us we can't do things the way we'd like to or the way we used to or the way we think we are supposed to. In 2004, I taught for 6 months with a broken leg! My students urged me back to the studio, put a big chair in front of the room, and I sat there and taught - probably with more attention than ever before.

I thank my teachers and my students for reminding me that I can always do yoga - and so can you!

16 January 2010

Shanti Path & Maha Mrityunjaya Mantra - Swami Satyananda Saraswati

Shanti Path is a mantra for peace and harmony - Maha Mrityunjaya Mantra is considered a great mantra and is often chanted during physical or mental challenge and also brings peace - both are classic. This photo video is beautiful.

13 January 2010

Snot is caustic

I attributed my watery eyes to bitter cold and wind, then spent the entire next day indoors - zero fresh air. By Monday morning, I was a sneezing, runny mess. Benadryl helps me sleep when my allergies act up, that night it didn't do a thing. A mound of used tissues attested to my torment.

A.M. steam infusion: a few drops of tea tree, eucalyptus, lavender and orange essential oils in a bowl of steaming water - cover the head with a towel and breathe. I closed my eyes, and made sure not to swallow the secretions. It smelt and felt good. I was ready to go, still a little sniffly but good enough to head to the office for a few hours.

Later that afternoon, I had a class to teach and was able to muddle through - still in denial about my COLD! I've been using a neti pot for nearly 20 years and, while plagued by allergies since moving to Richmond, it's been ages since I've had a good old fashioned cold. Fortunately, I had an acupuncture appointment the following day and, in addition to needling I experienced gua sha for the first time. This technique involves a scraping of the skin and sounds painful but really isn't. Home to rest and hungry - starve a fever, feed a cold - I made a pot of mung bean soup with fresh ginger, garlic, onions, carrots, celery, chopped kale and mushrooms. To spice it up, along with the usual curry powder and bay leaf, I added some garam masala (just a pinch). I slept better and only used 1/4 box of tissues.

Today the flood has stopped but the neti pot is useless - I've moved from runny to stuffy. Drinking orange juice, more steam infusion and some rose hips tea. Outside temps have risen above freezing, sun is shining - I took a short walk in fresh air. My yoga practice consisted of several rounds of bhramari pranayama, or humming bee breath. This link also describes Swami Naranjananda's "yoga capsules" which is a lovely practice to keep handy. Bhramari is helpful for clearing the sinuses but should not be done if the ears are clogged. I did some easy joint movements and warm ups, uttanasana, prasarita padottanasana and a supported shoulderstand followed by 30 minutes of yoga nidra. Not cured, but on the road to recovery.

 As Ogden Nash put it in Common Cold:
Oh what a derision history holds for the man who belittled the Cold of Colds!

I remembered a few sage words from my beloved teacher, Swami Shantimurti: snot is caustic. So keep it moving. Get it out of there. Post nasal drip will cause throat irritation and indigestion. A runny nose will burn your skin - rub a little vitamin e oil around your irritated nostrils. Colds are nothing to be sneezed at! (I wrote that.) Keep hydrated, rest, take a steamy soaky tub (a cure for everything!). Remember how wonderful it is to breathe - be patient, stay warm, get your favorite jammies and rest some more. Bless you.

10 January 2010

Sleepytime

I love Sleepytime tea! When it comes to tea, I can be a bit of a snob and love my loose greens, blacks, and organic herbals. But I confess to being a hardcore Sleepytime junky, especially in the winter. I was discussing this with friends yesterday at lunch and someone asked if the tea contained skullcap - it doesn't. Ingredients are listed as: chamomile, spearmint, West Indian lemongrass, tilia flowers, blackberry leaves, orange blossoms, hawthorn and rosebuds. I wasn't sure what tilia flowers were and was delighted to discover that they are blossoms from the linden tree, also known as basswood or lime (not the citrus).

My friend, Pooh, has a huge linden tree at the edge of his driveway on the Eastern Shore. When in bloom, its sweetness mixes with the earthy marsh smells around Onancock Creek to create a fragrance unique to that patch of earth. Pooh has fed me linden blossoms - I think they were lightly battered and fried but that could be my imagination.  I found a recipe for linden blossom tea here. With all herbals, don't assume that it is safe for you especially if you have allergies.  Sleepytime tea has provided my evening balm for many years and I'm happy to know more about it.

If sleep eludes you, practicing three-part breathing, or dirgha pranayama, before bed is conducive to easier sleep as are inversions. My favorite nighttime inversion is Viparita Karani, or legs-up-the-wall. Getting exercise for about 30 minutes at least 4 times each week encourages restful sleep. Taking a warm bath at bedtime with some lavender essential oil (just a few drops) always helps me. And, of course, there is the magical tea with its cover story of the nodding bear in his nightcap, a curled up tiger cat, and one blazing fire.

Sweet dreamzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

07 January 2010

Setu Bandhasana - SET-too BAHN-dahs-anna

Bridge pose in sanskrit: setu = dam, dike, or bridge + bandha = lock

When I lived in RI, I was required to regularly cross two long bridges - the Newport Bridge which was lovely and ran from the island of Jamestown over to Newport, where I lived and where I first began my yoga journey. There was also the more sinister Jamestown Bridge - old and scary. It has been replaced by a more sinuous model since I moved south. I've put some photos of these bridges into this post because I think they are beautiful. This is the Newport Bridge.














This is the scary sign that used to be on the old Jamestown Bridge - there was metal grating in the middle that was slippery when wet or snowy (in other words, most of the time in  Rhode Island).

And here are photos of old Jamestown
Bridge and new Jamestown-Verrazzano Bridge. As you can see, the old bridge rose up like a steel mountain and really proved to be challenging in bad weather. Here is a link to the Jamestown Bridge site that's pretty cool. They blew it up after its replacement was built.

After my last post, I started to think about bridges and my sometime anxiety about crossing them - physically, emotionally, spiritually. I never liked driving over bridges, but an experience with high winds on the Chesapeaked Bay Bridge-Tunnel actually caused a sort of ptsd which I overcame by continuing to drive across when I had to and eventually the fear subsided. This was the tactic suggested by both my teacher, Shantimurti, and by a psychiatrist friend. Looking straight ahead was also suggested and was also helpful. What I've learned about this kind of anxiety, is that the best way to deal with either is to gently move forward. First, talk about it to someone you trust. Steady exhalations are calming, chanting aloud or internally creates a sense of groundedness, and facing the obstacle can be the best solution - if it's done mindfully. Mindfulness as medicine.

05 January 2010

Boulevard Bridge Turns 85!

I don't usually read the RTD, but here is a story about the Boulevard Bridge, which is commonly called Nickel Bridge and is actually a 7-nickel bridge because it costs 35 cents to get across. This year marks the bridge's 85th birthday.

I drive over multiple times each week, walk across when the weather is good. You get great views of the river and downtown and you can use EZPass. The toll takers remind me of drivers on the Eastern Shore - if you go through a lane that's not exact change, you might encounter someone having an extended conversation at the toll booth, traffic be damed! On the North end is the entrance to Maymont Park, from my end you get a great view of the Carillon jutting over the trees and the park.

What does this have to do with yoga? I feel like my yoga practice influences everything I do - the bridge makes me think about crossing over, sometimes it's beautiful, sometimes scary, a guy got killed either falling or jumping from the bridge near the canal end by the railroad tracks and there was a sort of shrine there for a while. The bridge changes, the view changes, life changes.


03 January 2010

Windy on the Eastern Shore

My friend Sally told me a story she heard when she moved to the Eastern Shore - it was said that when wind blew off the Atlantic, it swept across the shore and didn't stop until hitting the Washington Monument! I believe it.
Tiggy the cat slept indoors last night - first on the dresser, into my bed, she moved to a chair in the upstairs bathroom and wound up in Bob's bed this morning - the wind howled endlessly - screaming, wrestling with windows, beating bushes, battering trees.

Driving across the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel is a challenge for me - especially when it is windy like today - current wind speed is showing 47 mph! I found that reading this sweet poem about the wind makes it less threatening.

I saw you toss the kites on high
And blow the birds about the sky;
And all around I heard you pass,
Like ladies' skirts across the grass

Oh wind, a blowing all day long,
Oh wind, that sings so loud a song!

I saw the different things you did,
But always you yourself you hid.
I felt you push, I heard you call,
I could not see yourself at all

Oh wind, a blowing all day long!
Oh wind, that sings so loud a song!

O you that are so strong and cold,
O blower, are you young or old?
Are you a beast of field and tree,
Or just a stronger child than me?

O wind, a blowing all day long,
O wind, that sings so loud a song!

R.L. Stevenson

01 January 2010

2010

No matter what we do, time passes. How blessed we are to have the choice to enjoy our time, friends, surroundings, our spiritual practice. Years ago, I heard a talk by Amrit Desai at Kripalu - someone asked him how we can get people to stop pushing our buttons. He replied that we cannot, that people will do what they do. We can, however, take care of ourselves by getting rid of those buttons, but first we must recognize them and accept them as ours.

During a time when we may want to reassess and make plans for the year ahead, we often make resolutions out of habit. With yoga nidra practice, we have the ability to practice resolution but on a deeper level. The sankalpa, or resolve, that we make during yoga nidra is a way to actually embody change. By coming to an understanding of the power of sankalpa, we have access to a tool much more effective than a resolution. The New Year's resolution can hold us hostage to a promise we may or may not be able to keep - then guilt or a sense of weakness results. With sankalpa, we plant a seed of change in our mind while it is in a relaxed state during yoga nidra. That seed grows and takes root on its own - nurtured by our continuing practice.

I wish you all a Happy New Year and encourage you to continue on your path, to veer off the path when it seems necessary, and to love yourself as you are today. Namaste`