When do you change course?

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There are many things that have great potential for isolating us from others in our lives. Our schedules. Our work. To live in the boondocks. Our decision to marry… to become parents. I do truly believe that there are friends that you keep for long periods of time with scant maintenance… the Spider Plants of kinship. A phone call here, an email there. A text with a humorous photo that reminds us of a funny past experience,…or not. Just keeps it light and in love. And you are left still with a budding green living thing that brings smiles and sweet air to your day, time and time again.

But then there are the folks that you reach out to again and again. Same channels, but horrible reception. We are all in it, knee high or to our necks… but we try to get past that scrum so we can just keep in touch. And we do so from a place of really wanting to check in with them, to see how the waters fare over in their jetty. Letting go of our shit, just saying Hey! How ARE you sister? I still love and think about you! I know it’s crazy over there because X-Y and Zzzz…. But catch me up! Give me the good word.

And ya get nada. Half-hearted replies, or nothing at all. You persist, again- being sympathetic to the currents, tides and tsunamis. But how may times can you shine the light their way? How many times do you reach out in hopes of connecting? Cuz after awhile, it starts to hurt when they don’t respond. or when they do so only superficially with promises of connecting that just never stay afloat.

To paraphrase a former teacher of mine, we need to stay spaciously aware of our boundaries… To love unconditionally, but stay abreast of where your borders are to avoid Soul Vampires. These creatures come in many forms, with various degrees of malice, whether realized or not, but metta/ loving-kindness starts with us, within, first and foremost. If we cannot care for ourselves deeply enough to build, maintain and nourish this space, this metta – we cannot extend it to others. We are all special beings that possess a lot of love and light, and need to learn and master the art of never giving our power away.

The Universe is an exceptional teacher and offers us wisdom in every cap, crest and breaker. It is an exquisite job to heed the siren call, and find our way home.

with love, always. To all.

Back on my mat…finally.

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As I round the corner into the 2nd trimester, I am starting to get back into my body, (or is it move outward?) as nausea and fatigue is lessening.  I remember with my first pregnancy I was markedly more tired in the 1st trimester and then waking up very near the onset of week 13 feeling as though I could jump over buildings in one bounding leap.  This was a relief- I was teaching a lot of belly dance classes, performing, and working 5 days a week, which was unheard of in my nursing career – 3 twelve hour shifts were de rigeuer as a RN, and I had been fortunate enough to work 4 ten hour days o

so I was thrilled to regain some energy and normalcy in the busy life.

Now I work only 2-3 days per week, I recently stopped teaching any yoga or dance classes, and yet I still have been feeling pretty run down, nauseous, etc. Of course now I am chasing a VERY 2 year old around, so who’s to say the load is lighter. I hit 13 weeks tomorrow and I have high expectations :)

The other week I took a level 2/3 heated vinyasa class from a teacher I know, and it was tough not getting frustrated with how run down, inflexible and weak I felt in the practice. I know better than to push myself beyond what my body asks of me, and I slowed the pace considerably during the class, and sat back in child’s pose as needed. My inversion was leg-up-the-wall/vipariti karani with a block, and it was fabulous. Of course I still felt the need to divulge to the instructor how good it felt to move after having not practiced in a few weeks due to morning sickness (…read: so I’m not just fat and lazy/weak, but pregnant and have been feasting on starchy things that are burly enough to sail the angry seas of my stomach), but even that admission, and her kindly appropriate response wasn’t enough to soothe my ego. Ah- ’tis the practice isn’t it? Still I left the studio feeling better than when I entered and that is a gift.

This morning, I gifted myself a lovely Yoga-Glo practice with the wonderful Elena Brower that was so needed and delicious. Online yoga class subscriptions can be a great way to practice with a little one when you can’t rationalize or afford the $20 class plus the $30 for the babysitter, and compared to following your own sequence can offer still the wisdom of a teacher who isn’t getting distracted by a toddler or dog, UPS man, what have you.

The practice was a great length, only 30 minutes, and I enjoyed the special messages shared by Elena for the momma’s yet the still moderately strong practice that got my blood moving, breath engaged and joints in motion. And of course, there’s the added practice of attention and patience when you are holding Virabradrasana II with your right buttock lightly placed onto a toddlers head. And had the sweet pleasures of kisses on Ari’s keppi while in downward facing dog/ Adho mukha svasana, and back rubs and hugs to him as he stacked blocks on my mat while I released forward toward him in upavistha konasana/seated wide leg forward bend. Even my 90 pound German Shepard, Meka, got involved when she heard me starting to get a little emotional/tearful in pigeon prep/ eka pada rajakapontanasana (ok- I was flat out crying, and I needed that. The hips had been stuck and to be honest, so have I – but damn it feels good to move). Pretty funny when you’re trying to practice while a toddler and a dog lay claim to your mat. But hey- it’s all in the family. And there’s a little member growing inside me right now that needs her/his time on the mat too. Here’s to getting back on it.

ari and joy and sunny matAnd in me.

Namaste and all love.

20 Questions for Thanksgiving – from Daily Good’s post authored by Ms. by Karen Horneffer-Ginter

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I love the quote that started this off:

Nothing that is done for you is a matter of course. Everything originates in a will for the good, which is directed at you. Train yourself never to put off the word or action for the expression of gratitude. –Albert Schweitzer

I love to be reminded to reflect on gratitude. Any one who has ever taken my yoga classes will have been urged to think on our gifts more than once, and this is an important ability and task to keep in a regular practice of yoga, life, what have you. The following questions were adapted from the email blast I get from Daily Good, and couldn’t resist completing and sharing here. Here’s wishing you great love and light, as well as heartfelt gratitude for all that we experience, embody and share.

1) What teacher are you most thankful for and why? What did you learn from him or her?

Oh wow— this one is tough. I am a fan of teachers. I have had many (as we all have) and each one has shared wisdom that has inspired me, whether intentionally or not. There have been unsavory lessons from teachers who should have taken the time to evaluate their position as teacher and role model after leaving me with feelings of inadequacy based on my gender, appearance or ballet anatomical turn out, as it were… But this ultimately led me to adopt that old adage to Question Authority – priceless. And I was also lucky enough to have had teachers who saw gifts of uniqueness and creative beauty in me; English teachers, other art, dance and yoga teachers. It’s all about identifying your creative spark and feeding that flame, sister.

2) What’s the season you’re most thankful for, and what’s your favorite part of each season?

Autumn. Autumn brings about change, mystique, and downright magic. Colors, and sounds and smells, apples and crazy multicolored gourds fer Goddess sake! What’s not to love about that?
However, the Quadfecta of four seasons is what it’s all about:
The shush and ethereal blue glow of snow laden hills and trees. The smell of wood-burning fireplaces. Hot cozy beverages in warm ceramic in your cupped hands. Baking nom’s. Chilled cheeks and legs after crusading down slopes or through fields on whatever sliding device you favor. And that phenomenal first pint of whatever hoppy brew you select after doing so.
The thaw of moss and streams in the woods in Spring. Bird song bursting through ice shell and echoing among the clattering trees, awaiting buffer of budding leaves and blossoms in the branches they soar to and from.
The beach in summer, warm breezes, coconut scented anything, sundresses and exploding freckles (believe me.. they *do* explode… propagate like rabbits I say.)

3) What electronic device are you most grateful for, and what does it add to your life?

Ugh… I don’t KNOW. I mean, I am addicted to my damn iPhone. It’s ridiculous. It adds mad convenience, duh– like on hand GPS for when I ascend topside from the metro north and have no idea whether to turn right or left. And firming up plans, sending emails, blah blah blah. But methinks I need to curtail it’s convenience and maybe be Inconvenienced from time to time. For the sake of human interaction or book reading.

4) What musician or type of music are you most thankful for?

Oh yeah, Geez! Another simple inquiry! I am a lover of music here. MANY kinds. But let’s think formative. Tom Waits. Kim Deal. PJ Harvey… Big ups. David Bowie. Iggy Pop. The Pixies. Garth Stevenson. Snatam Kaur Khalsa. The X. Gaucho. Gottschalk. Ravel. Tchaikovsky. Gershwin. The Toids. I mean, really… This is a blog in itself.

5) What are you most grateful for that brings beauty to your daily life?

My son. Hand’s down. Ari is the most amazing, adaptive, brilliant, entertaining, enlightening, loving, glowing being I have ever encountered in my life and I thank God every day that he is in it and I was part of his amazing creation.

6) What form of exercise or physical activity are you most thankful for?

Yoga and hiking. And dancing. And kayaking. And snowboarding. But these last two, and sometimes number 1-3 as well, have been postponed for the duration due to extenuating circumstances (see #5).

7) What foods are you most thankful for?

HAH! Really? You may run away after reading this– please be mindful that I am 10 weeks pregnant and nauseous as all get out, but what I manage to stoke the digestive fires with lately has been some pretty nasty stuff. But as my midwife states, first trimester is all about survival, and I anticipate maneuvering into a more healthful diet come 2nd and 3rd trimester ( if my first pregnancy was any indication- save those steak and cheese grinders from that deli in the ‘Hill in New Haven when I worked evening clinic). Ok– so biscuits of various varieties, with gravy, without, with cheeseeggsveggiemeats, etc. Ruffles Cheddar chips. yes. that is right. Apples and apple cider. Cheese. bread and butter. Mini-veggie corn-dogs (hey! Where are you going?!?!).

8) What local store or restaurant are you most grateful for? How does it contribute to your quality of life?

Whole Foods for the win. I know it’s not “local” per se, but I do try to purchase local items when there. This little (ahem- BIG) gem of a place offers a sanctuary where my momma-sistren friend, Alison and her son, Robert, can meet after playground-ing it up. We give the boys awesome wood stove pizza and milk, and then chase them up and down the eatery hall while getting sweetly accepting smiles and nods, if not the occasional unsolicited body barrier from one doll of a checkout gal, as we try to inhale our own lunches and catch up. Side note– WF in Fairfield has a great tiny play area for the kids at the terminal end, whereas Milford’s does not. But they both rock.

9) What book are you most grateful for, and why?

I don’t have one…sorry. But again, many- and not complete list: Baby Catcher by Peggy Vincent, My Shining Star- by Rosemary Wells, Jamberry – by Bruce Degen, Finding More on the Mat- by Michelle Marchildron, Nourishing the Teacher by Danny Arguetty, the Sookie Stackhouse books (until about vol 13), George R.R. Martin books, as well as those by Virgina Woolf, David Sedaris. The Bhagavad Gita, Autobiography of a Yogi, and the Yoga Sutra’s.

10) What act of kindness has made the greatest difference in your life?

Being comforted by one of my midwife’s whose firstborn also refused to be born without a c-section despite pushing for many hours and doing “all we were supposed to do” during our pregnancy, and then the amazing support of Dr. Jennifer Young as Ari & I struggled to do the “most natural thing in the world”, breastfeed.

11) What challenging experience has ended up changing your life for the better?

See all above.
Oh- and marriage.

12) What form of art are you most thankful for: music, acting, writing, painting, drawing . . . something else?

ALL! Dance, music, writing, painting… collage, decorative vegetable preparation, sky-writing, mimes, you name it.

13) What place do you feel most grateful for and why?

My body. Because it rocks.

And our home.

And here: Les Cheneaux islands

14) Name three days in your life that you feel especially grateful for.

Wedding day, Ari’s birth date and today.

15) What color do you feel most thankful for—is there a color that you can’t imagine living without?

GREEN.

16) Is there a personal limitation or flaw that you’ve come to appreciate?

My fiery, hot-headed bitchy self. The more I embrace it the easier it is to calm.

17) What vacation are you most grateful for?

Oh- Dave and I had SUCH an amazing time in Old San Juan and Vieques, PR a few years ago. Until I sunburnt my ass while face down snorkeling for 3 hours. But then again, that only accentuated après in the thatch roofed seaside bar.

18) What philanthropic cause or organization do you feel thankful for?
Save the Children, PPFA, NOW.

19) What product do you use on a daily basis that you most appreciate?

St Ives Collagen Elastin facial moisturizer. and toothpaste.

20) What, from this year, do you feel most grateful for?

My perseverance through thick and thin. My family and friends (those who have stuck with me despite my change in parental status and recreational activities) and being able to work part time so I can be with my family as we grow and therefore find more and more love for one another.

Happy Thanksgiving y’all. <3

repost from Jan 2011– Winter Wonderland!

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Holy crow! We got another foot today! That’s 4 storms since Xmas that have yielded at least a foot accumulation… I’m normally a winter lover but this is my 1st winter as a mommy and it’s been quite a trip. Haven’t been on the mountain snowboarding & have been home from work since August. I also haven’t been apt to run out in this weather cuz of the little guy, and I have been such a homebody. I’m a little cabin fevered out! I notice how it has affected my yoga practice. I have been taking a lot of intense, hot yoga or vinyasa classes, seemingly to optimize my time away from home and make my practice “worth it”. This may be also residually pent up from when I was pregnant and had to modify my practice to a simpler style… I have developed some pretty crummy bilateral DeQuervain’s tendonitis since pregnancy and I definitely feel its impact though, sadly. Icing my wrists, using Traumeel (Thanks Meg!) But it makes me wonder what is the yoga for me? It’s amazing to me how yoga means so many different to so many… reading about Tara Stiles in the NYTimes; Bikram, Ashtanga, Kundalini, Anusara…. Researching more and more of Ayurveda, and how we can apply it to ourselves in individual “prescriptions”, if you will, has made me realize that this Pitta probably should cool it on the hot practices. But those hot rooms feel fabulous in this weather! At least for the first 20 mins or so… *laughs*

Anyway, I am going into work tomorrow for a short day with mixed emotions, excitement and regret… Bittersweet. This time at home with my newborn son Ari has been a blessing and I am so lucky to have had it. I’m also so thrilled to be able to work part time, so I can still be home with him 4 days of the week. They all say it, but these times do pass so rapidly, and it’s so true. I am packing up his newborn jammies to send to my brother who has recently become a new father, and his boy, Rowley will need all the jammies he can get— I know this to be true.

I do look forward to fulfilling my role as a nurse practitioner again, particularly in women’s health, and really look forward to getting my schedule more regulated so I can find the niches for classes that allow me to cool it, and breathe. Namaste.

Kriya at 5am (repost from 02/2011)

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Two days in a row, I’ve had waking & rising times at 5 am (as instituted by my infant son, Ari). As de rigeur, I started off with a cup of coffee, and tuned into pandora.com on the laptop to check emails, etc. I started a Snatam Kaur Khalsa station to listen to. Bhakti yoga is the yoga of devotion and chanting, and Snatam aligns with the Kundalini practice of chanting so divinely–her voice is so angelic, and is one of my favorite kirtan-ista’s. Taken with the fresh snowfall and twinkling star & moonlight shining above our humble abode, I aligned with the Adi mantra; Ong Namo Guru Dev Namo, which translates to “”I call upon Divine Wisdom”. I have recently had a lot on my metaphysical plate, so to speak, of the What Color is Your Parachute variety, so when this chant came on the station I listened, and sang along. I was inspired to look into some kriyas and found this on the web.

I was invigorated! Kappalabati breath is a tried and true pranayama for firing up and energizing, so coupled with these kriyas (Kriya (in Sanskrit “action, deed, effort”) most commonly refers to a “completed action”, technique or practice within a yoga discipline meant to achieve a specific result. Types of kriya may vary widely between different schools of yoga. .. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kriya ) I had energy, attention and vigor through the entire day. Pretty tall order for a new mommy who gets two 3 hour spans of sleep throughput the night and requires a nap daily. On my 1st day back to work, I had a similar day, and didn’t have time to nap, and I was still feelin’ the Kundalini love. Rockin’ good findings. Sign me up, Shakti!

http://www.kundaliniyoga.org/mantra.html

repost from old blog- Feb 2011. What is the “right” yoga?

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or rather, what is your yoga? I am sure that you have heard in classes “this is your practice”… but is it? What is yoga to you? And what yoga is the “right” yoga? I have been rolling this thought around in my head for some time now, more so over the last month… There seems to be a strong urge for a strong, vigorous or heated practice in the town where I live, rich with Ivy League-ers, and in this day and age that has made yoga popular now that the realization is there that asana practice and pranayama can cause you to break a sweat and work hard.

I have seen and practiced many types of asana practice, and being the black & white determinant type of gal that i am, have struggled with how many styles prevail in our country now, while wanting to have an idea of whether I am on the “right path” or not. Bikram makes me sweat, reel and excel through intense heat and asana. Ashtanga makes me fly and breathe. Anusara makes me soar though catharsis and deep practice. Kripalu made me giggle and run. Kundalini energizes me and makes me vibrate. Yin makes me settle blissfully.

I have finally been able to sit down and screen the movie EnLighten Up via Netflix and it was a pleasant and interesting film, taking a yoga newbie and submerging him into in depth, intense yoga practice and experiences across many borders…(I should be so lucky!) to determine whether he can find enlightenment. It does become apparent that the film maker herself is projecting her own curious intentions through the films interviews, but I am thankful that her subject was someone other than herself.

Listening to so many yoga gurus sharing their expertise and insight for yet another truth seeker asking what is it all about and why do we do it is a treat. It is interesting how the physical (asana) practice can be all for some, whereas the devotional (bhakti) practice is for others. Yoga as we know it (Ashtanga) technically is an 8 limb practice of yoga and includes a web of interwoven ideals that are not independently achieved, but are instead concurrently striven for along the way.

The eight limbs are as follows: (some explanations utilized and paraphrased from http://www.yogamovement.com/resources/patanjali.html )
Yamas

Yama is social behavior, how you treat others and the world around you. These are moral principles. Sometimes they are called the don’ts or the thou shalt nots. There are five yamas:

Nonviolence (ahimsa). Do no harm to any creature in thought or deed.
Truth and honesty (satya). Tell no lies.
Nonstealing (asteya). Do not steal material objects (a car) or intangibles.
Nonlust (brahmacharya). Moderation in all.
Nonpossessiveness (aparigraha). Covetousness.

Niyama

Niyama is inner discipline and responsibility, how we treat ourselves. These are sometimes called observances. There are five niyamas:

Purity (shauca). Purity is achieved through the practice of the five yamas, which help clear away the negative physical and mental states of being.
Contentment (santosha). Cultivate contentment and tranquility by finding happiness with what you have and who you are. Seek happiness in the moment, take responsibility for where you are, and choose to grow from there.
Austerity (tapas). heat and vigorousness in learning your path. Show discipline in body, speech, and mind.
Study of the sacred text (svadhyaya). Study sacred texts, which are whatever books are relevant to you and inspire and teach you. Education changes a person’s outlook on life. As Iyengar says, a person starts “to realize that all creation is meant for bhakti (adoration) rather than for bhoga (enjoyment), that all creation is divine, that there is divinity within himself and that the energy which moves him is the same that moves the entire universe.”
Living with an awareness of the Divine (ishvara-pranidhana). Be devoted to God, Buddha, or whatever you consider divine.

Asana

“The posture of yoga is steady and easy,” Patanjali says. Patanjali compares this to resting like the cosmic serpent on the waters of infinity. Although Westerners often consider the practice of asana or postures as an exercise regimen or a way to stay fit, Patanjali and other ancient yogis used asana to prepare the body for meditation. To sit for a lengthy time in contemplation required a supple and cooperative body. If you are free of physical distractions — such as your foot going to sleep — and can control the body, you can also control the mind. Patanjali said, “Posture is mastered by freeing the body and mind from tension and restlessness and meditating on the infinite.”
Pranayama

Prana is the life force or energy that exists everywhere and flows through each of us through the breath. Pranayama is the control of breath. The basic movements of pranayama are inhalation, retention of breath, and exhalation. “The yogi’s life is not measured by the number of days but by the number of his breaths,” says Iyengar. “Therefore, he follows the proper rhythmic patterns of slow, deep breathing.” The practice of pranayama purifies and removes distractions from the mind making it easier to concentrate and meditate.
Pratyahara

Pratyahara is withdrawal of the senses. Pratyahara occurs during meditation, breathing exercises, or the practice of yoga postures — any time when you are directing your attention inward. Concentration, in the yoga room or the boardroom, is a battle with distracting senses. When you master pratyahara, you are able to focus because you no longer feel the itch on your big toe or hear the mosquito buzzing by your ear or smell the popcorn popping in the microwave.
Dharana

Concentration or dharana involves teaching the mind to focus on one point or image. “Concentration is binding thought in one place,” says Patanjali. The goal is to still the mind — gently pushing away superfluous thoughts — by fixing your mind on some object such as a candle flame, a flower, or a mantra. In dharana, concentration is effortless. You know the mind is concentrating when there is no sense of time passing.
Dhyana

Uninterrupted meditation without an object is called dhyana. Concentration (dharana) leads to the state of meditation. The goal of meditation is not unconsciousness or nothingness. It is heightened awareness and oneness with the universe. How do you tell the difference between concentration and meditation? If there is awareness of distraction, you are only concentrating and not meditating. The calm achieved in meditation spills over into all aspects of your life — during a hectic day at work, shopping for groceries, coordinating the Halloween party at your child’s school.
Samadhi

The ultimate goal of the eightfold path to yoga is samadhi or absolute bliss. This is pure contemplation, superconsciousness, in which you and the universe are one. Those who have achieved samadhi are enlightened. Paramahansa Yoganananda called it the state of God-Union.

In the film there is an interview with Shri Pattabhi Jois where he explains that four limbs are external: the asana, the pranayama, the yamas, the niyamas; and 4 that are internal: pratayahara, dharana, dhyana, and samadhi. The film goes on to show many other masters in yoga (“Titans”, if you will…but that’s another film) who contradict, clarify or eschew the ideals set previously. Is yoga in fact the practice of unifying with the Divine within and without? Can that be achieved through asana only? or must all paths be acknowledged..Bhakti, the yoga of devotion & divine love, Jnana (yoga of knowledge), Raja (the Royal yoga that follows the 8 fold Path) & Karma yoga ( the yoga of service)? Maybe it’s this.

This is getting entirely too lengthy! Therein lies the rub– Maybe we make it too difficult.