yoga pirate…

{November 26, 2009}   and be thankful…

be the change you want to see in the world…

mahatma gandhi


{November 23, 2009}   do we know him from somewhere?

is yoga journal on the mark or should they leave comedy to SNL? for me, it’s like when i watch “the office”–laughing but so uncomfortable because steve carell is doing such a good job portraying a clueless idiot…

let me know what you think…

{November 18, 2009}   getting a leg up…

being a floor nurse on an intensely busy oncology floor, i am on my feet a lot.  i once wore my pedometer and found on that day i had walked five miles,  not to mention all the countless times i had bent over to do a task, lifted a patient up from commodes or boosted them up in bed.  rewarding work–yes. but also physically demanding.

one soothing pose i do after i come home from work is viparita karani, legs up the wall pose.  i take a shower, get into my jammies and put my tired dogs up the wall.  it can be done with blankets or bolsters under the lower back or without them.  this is an excellent pose for restoring tired legs and feet.  it is a nerve soother and inspires deep, relaxing breathwork.  i have seen it contraindicated during menstruation and pregnancy and for those with eye problems as well as high blood pressure.

this asana is one i often use instead of savasana if i’ve done a more restorative session.  this seems to close out my practice with a gentle punctuation.  i lie there, letting my “brain drop” as my teacher ann says.  i release my eyes into their sockets, relax my jaw and tongue and begin to watch my breath.  sometimes i breathe with a normal depth then transition to ujaii breathing  to deepen my relaxation but create wakefulness.  falling asleep happens but i want to go into the rest of my night with a second wind.

i crawl out of this pose carefully, not very gracefully, using a slow inhale to decrease light-headedness.  knowing i have treated myself with kindness at the end of a twelve-hour work day fills my reserve so that i may serve others with energetic joy.


{November 15, 2009}   healthy in a sick society…


Krishnamurti said, “it is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society.”

the “chinese” curse goes, “may you live in interesting times.”  and we certainly seem  to be.  global warming, pandemics, wars, ethinic cleansings,  famine, and an internet to bring it to our doorstep anytime we want to “connect.”

the aikya website has this to say:  “In the pursuit of material goals the body and the mind are constantly overworked, diminishing their natural efficiency to perform. Modern lifestyle, daily routines, food choices, work ethics and even so-called entertainment, such as disco dancing, make even relaxation a difficult proposition. So much so that even while trying to rest, we waste a lot of physical and mental energy through consumption of heavy foods, intoxicants and unnecessary worry. To make things worse the constant readiness required in the current work style with twenty four hours connectivity required on the phone and internet only ensure that all the time we are living a “fight or flight” mode.”

we must all feel exhausted. stress causes such profound dis-ease in body and mind.  it’s so easy to reach for a beer or another hour on facebook or whatever distraction feels like relaxation.  i know i get lazy and instead of getting on my mat i might shop on the internet for a new dress (it came yesterday and it is a beautiful teal organic cotton one). while i do feel pretty wearing it, come to find out yet again, that it does not get me in touch with my breath nor does it work out the kinks in my shoulders.  so i take it off and put on my yoga clothes and truly relax.

Krishnamurti’s words remind me that a diseased mind cannot think its way out of its own disease.  i must get out of this monkey mind and let the power of breathing and silence and movement be the remedy for healing my little cell of this collective body of ours.

{November 14, 2009}   if my head wasn’t attached…


chronic neck pain is, quite simply, a pain in the neck. i’ve had issues with this region of my body since i was a kid.  we would be in our seats waiting for spanish class to start and donny would be over there reefing on his head, popping it past a normal range of motion.  i picked up this nasty  habit.  my girlfriends and i would crack each others’ backs like cheap chiropractors.  by the time i was 16 i was a regular client at a not so cheap one. i was rear-ended in cars a couple of times over the years as well. so now i cannot even look up at my tall husband to plant a kiss without holding the back of my head in order to support it.

weakness in the neck muscles added onto persistant muscle tension can be addressed by regular yoga practice.  for me, sirsasana is  out for now.  injury followed the last time i did plow pose.  so i am very careful about how i treat my head, neck and shoulders.  the trapezius muscle is a major player.    levator scapulea is another one.  don’t forget those pesky,deep scalenes.  gum chewing and teeth grinding at night are culprits in increasing general head tension.

cat/cow is a good warm-up for my neck moving into downward-facing dog which releases my shoulders which are oh-so related to my neck.  probably my favorite neck releasers is bridge pose. that lengthening is divine.  i try to do a modified camel afterward to do an opposite movement.  note that this is a very modified camel as i cannot stand the pressure on my vertebrae doing back bends because my neck is so weak.  warrior II is a good pose for lateral range of motion.  when i am in triangle, sometimes my neck gets pinched nerves from my overhead  raised arm.  then i back it off, not getting the full pose but remembering non-violence toward myself.

i wonder about any significance in this area related to  the throat chakra.  my body is attached to my head via this pathway.  most days i try to keep it that way.  meditation and yoga are about the union of head and heart.  how can i improve this viaduct?  i am known for speaking my truth, so it’s not that the chakra is blocked that way.  hmmm. .. anyone know more about  chakras?


vishuddha, throat chakra

{November 10, 2009}   i love pie…

thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. family and friends gather to talk and eat.  board games, dvds, walks or watching football( go broncos) ensue.  cooking for others is a way i can say ” i love you…i’ll nourish you…i will offer you  life force energy…”(unless you eat way too much which is probably the case; so, really all i’ll give you is gas).  with this holiday there are really no commercials demanding you to enjoy  the day by being a good consumer , spending tons money, and lying to your kids about a jolly ol’ elf.  ( more about that soon…) .  you just make pie and it’s all good.

one tradition we have at our table is giving thanks.  not in formal prayer but in casually going around  and speaking our truth.  verbalizing what i am grateful for gives it power, brings it out into the light and honors the here and now.  being here now…then now…and now…each breath, every nanosecond i can clear out the noise in my brain and remember the music of silence and be grateful for that that i have the skill (at times) to inhale and exhale and be aware of that.

now, don’t get me wrong, i’m grateful for material things too.  during my 20s i had a lot of what i called “white person guilt.”  i was a poor mother on welfare for a couple of years and i was still richer than most of the world, which is not white.  so now that i own (pay mortgage on) a home, make a good living as a nurse, and have clothes and shoes and food,  i am appreciative of items, the stuff that i have. i am not ashamed any more, just deeply aware and appreciative for the luxury to do yoga, read and essentially dive into my spirit instead of having to walk six miles every day to get clean water.

i have a challenge for you.  it you blog or do facebook or twitter or whatever, post what you are grateful for every day until thanksgiving day.  or you can keep going, bringing your thankfulness out into the light of now anytime.

i am thankful for pie.even more pie


{November 5, 2009}   $5 yoga…

poudre valley hospital where i work has a pretty strong culture of supporting physical and mental health.  right now we are in the last part of the american cancer society’s “active for life” campaign.  our oncology team is logging in all those activity points …a point for every minute of exercise.  so, for the team effort, i’ve started running again.

ten years ago i ran a half marathon in under two hours.  but then i let myself get lazy and stopped for awhile…ok, a long while.  why? it really doesn’t matter. the point is because of the active for life competition,  i’ve begun inventory on how much improvement there can always be.  (note to self:  eat more fruit.)    so i get out there most of my days off and shuffle and plod along at my 43 year old, haven’t put adidas to the road in years pace. gawd it feels good to run again.

for even more activity points i’ve upped my time on my mat.  most weeks my goal is five  hours of yoga .  in order for that to happen,  i aim for doing my home practice as well as going to my regular class on tuesdays or thursdays.  pvh offers yoga to us at five bucks a pop. this is a great price for northern colorado where the average cost per class runs around 14 shekels.

our teacher is ann.  she has studied with erich schiffmann. we are lucky to have her… her eclectic hatha class is always engaging.  the class is 1 hour with an additional 15 lucsious minutes of savasana. while it’s not a challenging vinyasa flow class, i do alway leave chill.  i don’t always need challenging.  believe you me, my job as an RN is exacting enough…tonight’s class  included work on virabhadrasana  III.  that was fun…my abs of tinfoil  didn’t think so, though.

the winner of the cancer society’s challenge gets paid time off…so you can see my motivation right there…more time off ,  more time taking care.

{November 2, 2009}   turning myself inside out…

what is “real yoga?”  right now many yoga blogs are investigating, some with a degree of snarkiness, where  western yoga is going…the commercialization, even patenting, of this ancient art is under suspicion.  why return to the mat?  is it for an abdominal six pack ? so one can wear the cool clothing that shows off the body?

Vyaas Houston writes for the american sanskrit institute:

“There’s nothing inherent in a Sanskrit mantra or a yoga posture that’s liberating. It’s only yoga when the real definition of yoga is having an impact on the experience of the mantra or posture and each of these becomes a new type of experience, a progressively purer experience, freer from the intrusions of identity hoping for a good result, or fearing that it will not be reached.” suffering all comes from attachment and seems to be a validation of the mantra “what about me?”

sakyong mipham rinpoche even  reports he says this mantra all day long…he is the lama who holds the shambala lineage who gave me my dharma name “egoless dancer.”  i can only dream  that one day i will be able to live up to this blessing.  if he repeats this narcissistic line then where does that leave me in my puny life?

in the yoga of simplicity article in Yoga + magazine by Nancy Francis she says

“We all think that the thing we desire will give us a sense of satisfaction or wholeness. But I have learned that inner peace is a function of how I manage my mind, which points me toward staying healthy and doing spiritual practice. Nothing external, whether it’s a new possession, a stock portfolio, or a child, is going to bring me inner peace.”

daily i reach for happiness in wanting the next sweater from anthropologie, the next cigarette (yes, for three years back in the day i used to smoke a few), the next warm, sunny day (i hate winter) to be happy. even buying my dream home last year didn’t  bring lasting peace like i thought it would.  i spend  my days reaching for that elusive high  in that which is external to reach that internal, eternal contentment.  as you know, ultimately it doesn’t work.  maybe for a brief moment it does seem that way but i find myself empty again until i can get to my mat or my zafu and remember my breath.

am i observing myself  when doing my daily walk through life that could be a walking meditation?  i do yoga for personal transformation not a yoga butt.  linda over here said, “What does it all come down to? Yoga to turn myself or someone [as a teacher] inside out and back again is where the rubber meets the road for me.”

{November 1, 2009}   i wanna hold my hand…

the buddha did it, belly dancers do it… even renderings of jesus show him doing it…and yogis do it too.  mudras are sacred hand gestures that are part of the body lock knowledge from ancient times from many regions, not just india.  the egyptians , greeks, romans all have images of this practice…from the universal hand gesture for prayer to the more complicated lakshmi devi mudra, mudras are fascinating to me…

lakshmi devi mudra

lakshmi devi mudra

it is said that hand mudras can channel energy, unify the two hemispheres of our brain and open the subconscious to the spiritual…i am starting to use the classic jnana mudra used to bring tranquility while meditating.  according to yogi maharaj this easy pointer to thumb mudra is suggested  to be used not only while sitting in meditation, but in shavasana.

life force energies, for me, can be super subtle…i do not have a teacher at this time who can direct me in energy locks like mulabandha so i feel i am at a loss as to how to skillfully work with mudras.  so i persist with my little ol’ practice and take notes on how i feel before, during and right after integrating different hand positions.  no great insights yet…like different asanas, i’m sure that some will be more significant than others.  in fact, if you think about it, asanas, like garudasana for instance, are certainly body mudras.

here are some starter mudras:

• Gyan Mudra (OM) : put the tip of your index finger to the tip of your thumb. One of the most common mudras, it is mainly used to bring tranquility during meditation.
• Apaan Mudra: bring the tips of your middle and ring fingers to the tip of your thumb for the intention to cleanse the body.
• Hrdayanjali Mudra : bring both hands together with the palms and fingers at the center of your chest to calm the mind.
• Shuni Mudra : tip of your middle finger is brought together to the tip of your thumb to bring patience.
• Prana Mudra : bring the tips of your ring and pinky fingers to the tip of your thumb which sends prana (life force) through your body. (from Annette Rivlin-Gutman for the seattle examiner)

…plus i just think they are beautiful.

do you integrate hand mudras into your practice?  what other body locks are you skilled at?

{October 31, 2009}   yoga thrilla…

et cetera