Monday, December 31, 2012

and a Happy New Year

We have all head the song at New Year eve "Auld Lang Syne"  which loosely translates into "for old times sake" or "days gone by".  For a lot of us the New Year means making resolutions that will help make us happy, healthier people in the year to come by letting go of the past.

Our studio, as well as other yoga studio's, fitness centers, gyms, etc., get busier this time of year with everyone trying to follow through with their well meaning resolutions. But then life gets in the way, kids, know the rest of the story.

So I am going to make a suggestion that you start from the inside out this year. You don't have to go anywhere or buy any equipment to make these changes happen.  And you can practice them every waking hour and not even get a least bit tired.  In fact you may find that these actually increase your energy.

But there is one thing you have to do before you start this journey.  You need to buy the book "The Four Agreements" by Don Miquel Ruiz . Don Miquel was born into a family of healers while being raised in rural Mexico.  Distracted by modern life, Miguel  chose to attend medical school and become a surgeon. A near death experience changed his life and he began an intensive practice of self-inquiry.  After you get his book you have to read it.

That's it. You don't have to make it hard because it's not.  Did I forget to mention that you have to follow the four agreements.  I know, I know, there is always a catch.

I am going to briefly share the agreements with you really should read the book.  Here they are:
1. Be impeccable with your words (speak with integrity and say what you mean). 
2. Don't take anything personally (nothing others do or say is because of you).
3. Don't make assumptions (find the courage to ask questions and express what you really want).
4. Always do your best (your best will change from moment to moment).
They aren't hard to remember, simple and to the point but will take some getting used to.  The first time I read the book, the four agreements reminded me of how my parents raised me to treat other people.  Again going back to Karma!
So if you are going to make one change this new year that will be a permanent change in your life, try these 4 simple mantra's and of course don't forget to breath.....

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Aloha Spirit....

Well we survived the end of the world, there is some snow on the ground so it seems more like Christmas, I am officially done with my shopping and the average current temperature in the Hawaiian Islands is around 70 degrees.  And you needed to know that why....?

One of the Santosha students is from this area but lives in Hawaii.  When ever she is in town to visit her family she comes here for classes.  She said that she is used to taking classes on the beach every day but we are the next best thing.

She was here for 12 days over the Thanksgiving holiday and it was a joy to catch up with her.  As she left the studio after her last class before heading back home, as she said goodbye she told me that Santosha Yoga has the Aloha Spirit.  I thanked her and wished her a safe trip back.  I had no idea what the Aloha Spirit was so through the miracle of the Internet, I googled it.  After reading up on it, I realized that she gave us a wonderful compliment.

First of all did you know that the word "aloha" means so much more than hello and goodbye?  I didn't either. In the Hawaiian language, the deeper meaning is "the joyful (oha) sharing (alo) of life energy (ha) in the present (alo)." The joyful sharing of life energy in the present moment. My first thought was how yoga-ish that is. Being in the present moment. Being content (santosha) for the life that we have. Sharing that contentment, that positive energy with everyone around us.

As we share this aloha spirit we become attuned to the Universal Power that the Hawaiians call mana. And the loving use of this incredible Power is the secret for attaining true health, happiness, prosperity and success. To attain these wonderful gifts there is a secret, a simple but powerful secret. Are you ready? Bless everyone and everything that represents what you want! Karma!! I know right! So if you want something you first have to bless someone else to have it. The website The Aloha Spirit goes into much greater detail as to how this process works. They even talk about a breathing process that increases our personal energy which allows us to be in a better balance to bless others which in turn changes our life. Again back to our teachings in yoga.

I was sharing this with one of my students yesterday (Kyle) and we both agreed that isn't it amazing how the need for this spirit crosses over all cultures, religions, classes....we all want the same thing....happiness for ourselves and others.  

In the next week or so most of us will be seeing more of our family and friends than usual as we celebrate the holiday season which gives us even more of a opportunity to bless everyone and everything.  I am not saying we should walk around and wish everyone Aloha Spirit,we might be accused of dipping too much in the eggnog. But have the meaning and intention in your heart and watch the magic unfold.

Blessings to all of you this holiday season...and don't forget to breathe.

Namaste and Aloha 

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Straight from the Dalai Lama....

A few students and teachers from Santosha Yoga had the great pleasure of going to see Deepak Chopra when he was in town last week.  For those of you who may not know of him, he is a physician, writer, a world-renowned mind-body healing pioneer and the founder of the Chopra Center for Wellbeing in Carlsbad, California.
All that went came back excited sharing was they had learned.  But one thing that they all shared was a quote that Deepak attributed to the Dalai Lama.  So what I am sharing with you, came from Cindy, Randy & Stacey who learned it from Deepak Chopra who learned it from the Dalai Lama.  See how that works! is it:
S - Stop what your doing.
T - Take 3 breaths and smile.
O - Observe your body from head to toe.
P - Proceed with a smile.
 That's it, short and sweet but very powerful.  So here is it straight from the Dalai Lama, the importance of our breath, the importance of taking time to center. No wonder he always has a smile on his face.
Remember this when the craziness of the holiday season starts to get the best of you, just S.T.O.P.....and just breathe.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Still as sweet...

I like to keep a basket of fresh apples at the studio for students to munch on after class. We advise students not to practice yoga on a full stomach so we like to have something they can grab and go with.
There was a golden delicious apple that was in the basket with a bruise on it. I would put the fresher apples on the bottom when I replenished the basket, but the bruised apple was still there. So I finally took the apple myself and had it as part of my lunch. Not surprising to me the apple still tasted as sweet with the bruise as it would have without. What was is about the bruise that was putting everyone off?
We had a garden this year and some of the bounty didn't look as pretty as the ones you might buy at the store, but with a little adjusting it all tasted just as good.
Why do we see a slight imperfection as some thing wrong? Why can't we see it as just being unique? Is that how we sometimes view ourselves or others? We all have some type of "bruise". But how we deal with it is what's important. Do we see it as a flaw, as an imperfection? Or something that makes us unique. A bruise doesn't define who we are, it is part of our character. It's what make me me and you you. After all aren't we all still as sweet inside. Of course we are and anytime you doubt it, just close your eye, see your sweetness that is inside of you and just breathe......

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

One Breath at a Time

I found this to be very interesting and thought  I would share it with everyone.  I can't take any credit for it.  The author is Rick Hanson Ph.D. It just reinforces my belief in the importance and magic of a single breath. He is also the co-author of the book "Buddha's Brain".  Good read.
One breath at a time.

[If for you the breath is associated with trauma and discomfort, you probably shouldn't try this practice in its form below. But you might adapt it to something that is more nurturing for you, such as a saying or image.]
Breathing brings you home. Body and mind twine together in the breath. As soon as you become aware of breathing, you're in your body. Speed up the breath and there's new energy. Slow it down and you calm. Inhale and oxygen surges into your brain while the arousing sympathetic nervous system activates and accelerates the heartbeat. Exhale and activate the soothing peaceful parasympathetic nervous system, so the heart beats more slowly. In the breath you are home in this moment, this Now.
The breath feels like life inside. No wonder it's been traditionally linked to spiritual matters. To "inspire" is to inhale - to "inspirit," to uplift.
The breath is always available as an object of attention, whether formally in meditation or informally as a way to recenter yourself. Track the breath in yourself, and know yourself more deeply. Track the breath in others, and know them more deeply.
If all else fails and your mind is screaming in pain or blown open in chaos, there is still the breath. Sometimes all you can do is breathe and know that you are still breathing. One breath at a time. Just getting through this breath. And then the next one. And the next.
Plus, in the knowing of breathing, there is awareness of awareness, not metaphysically or cosmically but as a refuge - if need be, of last resort. Try it: breathing here and now, recognize that awareness is a field or space in which contents come and go, such as the sensations of breathing. You can see directly that no matter what arises and passes away, awareness remains, undamaged and unstained, like the sky that is never harmed by the storm clouds passing through it. When times are terrible, try to be the observing, the awareness, to get some space from the pain and sustain a sense of being intact in your core. You can do this as well when times are good, which will help you both to stay in the sweet spot of enjoying without tipping into the suffering of wanting, and to strengthen your grounding in awareness for when things fall apart.

So far I've always described these "Just One Thing" practices with an active verb, such as "take in the good," "give thanks," or "find strength." I could have done the same here, with "take one breath at a time." But this one felt different. It's not just that we take a breath. Sometimes the breath takes itself. Sometimes it takes us. When the mind and body are really quiet, there's hardly any taking at all.
Whenever you like, find the breath and stay with it through one inhalation and exhalation. You could notice its sensations in your stomach, chest, or around the upper lip. Or the internal sensations inside the throat or in the diaphragm. Or sense the breath in the chest altogether.
Next, see if you can rest your attention in the breath for three full cycles of inhaling and exhaling. Then how about ten full cycles, from beginning to end? Distracting thoughts may nibble at your attention, but disengage from them while sinking more and more deeply into the breath. And if you like, let go of counting and simply give over to the breath, breath after breath.
Somewhere in here, as you become more present in the breath, more absorbed in it, you could experience breathing as the whole body, the whole body breathing.
Try this at night, as you're falling asleep, resting as a body breathing. Or if you wake and can't easily return to sleep, soften the edges of your mind out into only breathing. Breathing blurring out into the quiet of the night.
Be breathing as you do things or have them. One breath at time while dressing, eating, driving, talking, washing, cuddling, writing.
Or simply be breathing. Nothing else to do, no one to be. The simplest job in the world. One breath at a time.
What a relief!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Have You Filled a Bucket Today...

One of my students, Stacey,  who is a school teacher brought in a book for me to read the other day.  I love when students recommend or bring in books , wanting to share their new found knowledge with me.  But this was the first time it was a kids books.

The name of the book is "Have You Filled a Bucket Today"?  Stacey knew that we were practicing random acts of kindness for the month and this book is so appropriate.  Some of the local school systems have brought in this book to the class rooms to teach kids how to fill up others buckets and making sure they understand that is the only way to fill up their own buckets.  Someone who fills up other's buckets with good is a "bucket filler" and someone who dips into other buckets is a "bucket dipper".  Just for clarification a bully would be categorized at a "bucket dipper".

I think that this book should be mandatory reading for kids of all ages.  I read it last Sunday to my yoga teacher training class and had to stifle a little laugh.  As I read, I looked around our circle, they all looked so wide eyed and innocent, like a little group of kindergartners. It was so cute.  But it got the point across.  It's never too early or too late to learn how to perform random acts of kindness.
But I know one thing for sure, I want to be a "bucket filler" when I grow up.  What about you? Oh and of course, don't forget to breathe.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Day 9.....

Are you already running out of ideas for the 30 day challenge of random acts of kindness?  I hope not but if you are here is one that always a sure fire hit....make eye contact with someone and just smile!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Day 5.....

"Wherever there is a human in need, there is an opportunity for kindness and to make a difference."

                                                                  ~Kevin Heath~

Friday, November 2, 2012

Day Three.....

“Remember there's no such thing as a small act of kindness. Every act creates a ripple with no logical end.”
                                                                                                        ~Scott Adams~

Thursday, November 1, 2012

30 Day Yoga Challenge (Off the Mat)

If you opened this expecting to read about a 30 day Sun Salutation challenge, it's not.  But for some of us it may be harder to do.
I am asking everyone, for the next 30 days, to perform at least one random act of kindness each day, preferably anonymously.
Why? Because it's time to change the world one kind act at a time, because it's a win-win for everyone.
Psychologist Sonja Lyubomirsky found that by performing five small acts of kindness/week, particularly a variety of them all in one day, can boost our moods. Dopamine levels raise in the brain and activate the brain's pleasure centers. We are stimulated immediately but the effects also last over time. Not only do random acts of kindness make the person receiving the kindness feel good, but think of the benefits for the person performing the random acts of kindness!
If you follow us on Face Book we will share  an inspirational quote each day for the next 30 to help keep you on track. I will also do my best to post here a little more regular with words of encouragement.  If you would like to share some ideas, that would be appreciate.  Anonymous is better but all random acts of truly appreciated.
Come and join the revolution and become warriors of peace one act of kindness at a time and don't forget to breathe.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

All Up in Arms

That's me in the picture on the left. Well at least me from the back.  I posted this picture to share a aha moment I had the other day.  As I have previously stated, I have been a student of yoga for over 12 years.  Most of that time I have practiced without the benefit of mirrors.  We don't have mirrors in the practice room at Santosha which was deliberate.  I don't think they belong there but that is my opinion and I truly respect others who disagree.

I was doing a few Sun Salutations the other day in one of our massage rooms, which has a mirror.  I happened to glance up and saw my reflection.  Low and behold, my arms don't match. Who knew?

See how the left one has more of a bend in the elbow even though I was extending the same amount of energy in both arms (so I thought).  Both of my pinkie fingers are reaching toward the back of the room but the rotation of my left hand is much less than my right.  And if you look closely, my left shoulder is a little higher than my right. Again, who knew?  I have never had any surgeries or injuries to that shoulder to cause the difference.

This brings us to my aha moment.  This is my body today, this is me.  It is different than the body I had yesterday and will be different again tomorrow.  No one has a perfect body.  They don't exist and this point I will argue.

Come to yoga with the body that you have, be proud of who you are. The position of my arms aren't an imperfection, it is a sign of my uniqueness. Does the fact that I now know what my arms look like change my practice in any way, not at all.  In fact I find it quite amusing.  It reminds me that I am an individual and that is something no one can take away from me.

Embrace who you are today, come to yoga and just breathe.....

Sunday, October 21, 2012

The Yin & Yang of It All

We started another 200 hour teacher training program at Santosha a few weeks ago and I have been introducing the importance of both yin and yang poses in the practice of yoga.

Without getting too technical (life seems complicated enough at times) yang is a more muscularly active pose while yin still has some muscle to it but the poses (seated) are held for a longer period of time, usually 1 to 3 minutes.  Yin poses are needed to help break up "the fuzz" that accumulates between our muscles while we sleep or due to an injury. Remember the old saying "if we don't use it, we will loose it". Exactly!  If you want to learn more about "the fuzz" check out "The Fuzz Speech" by Gil Hedley.  HOWEVER...if are squeamish you may want to pass on this as he does use a cadaver for demonstration.

So, getting back to yin and yang, we need both in our practice to balance out because isn't that what a good portion of yoga is about bringing everything into balance?  Learning to breathe the same whether we are in a yin or yang pose?

This reminded me of how everyday of our life we encounter yin and yang.  Soft and strong.  But can we learn to bring a balanced breath throughout all of it.  Of course we can.

I will even suggest a topic in your life to help you practice this.  Gas prices.  They go up and they go down. Back and forth, yin and yang.  Can complaining, worrying, getting angry or stressing change the gas prices. No.  Can we change how we react to it? Yes.  Getting upset has no effect on lowering the gas prices and being ecstatic when they go down doesn't guarantee that they will stay there.  See where this is going.  It's all about balancing of the yin and yang of our life. Trying to work though it all with the same quality of breathe and mind.

If this concept doesn't speak to you yet then come and try it on your yoga mat first,  work through the breath and the poses, both yin and yang.  Once that feels second nature to you then you are ready to take it off the mat and of course don't forget to breathe.

P.S. Go Tigers!

Monday, October 15, 2012

A Yoga Reality Check

Truth be told, I do still watch TV.  Not near as much as I used to though.  If I did get rid of our TV the man I live with would probably get rid of me and send me packing and I would be living at the studio.  He and I are definitely on different journeys when it comes to that, but we did promise each other for better or worse.

But lets get back to the point here, every time I turn around I hear of another reality show on the boob tube (when was the last time you heard that?).  It never ceases to amaze me that people allow cameras to follow them around to record the good, the bad and the ugly of their life.  Then again they are getting paid for it.

What will they think 5 or ten years from now when they sit down to watch it again?  Will they have any regrets or embarrassment of how they acted? Will their past come back to haunt them.

But let's look at it this way; we have our own reality show going on every day of our lives.  The good, bad and ugly of our lives are being recorded by the video camera in our mind.  Everything we do, say or think is being documented to determine what kind of future that we will have.  What we have happening here, my dear friends, is Karma.

Cause and effect, you reap what you sow; do unto others as you would have them do unto you.  However you want to phrase it, what is recorded today will come back to us in the future.  Think of Karma as a boomerang, if you throw a red one out and red boomerang will come back; throw a white one out, a white one comes back.  OK, so you get the picture.

So what kind of future do you want?  Well that all depends on you.  For the next few days, imagine that you have a camera crew following you around all the time.  But not only can they record your actions, they can record your thoughts also.  Would that change how you acted, spoke or thought knowing that it was going to come back one day as reruns to determine your future.  Practice love, compassion, joy and equanimity tomorrow because there is a camera crew following your every move.  And course, don't forget to breathe.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Yoga & the Peacock

This pose is called "One-Armed Variation Peacock pose (Pungu Mayurasana) and no that is not me in the picture and truth be told that may never be me.  And I am OK with that.  So we have the moral of the story in this blog right out in the open at the beginning of the story. It's OK that you can't do a certain pose. It's just OK.
Instead try and focus on what you can do.  That's it, that's all I have to share.  No drama or lecturing, just short, sweet and to the point. And of course....don't forget to breathe.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Happy Anniversay Santosha Yoga!

This weekend we are joyfully celebrating Santosha Yoga's 3rd Anniversary. The saying "time flies when you are having fun" has never rang truer. It’s hard to believe that three years ago I was nervously signing a lease, hiring contractors and picking out paint colors.

People often comment to me that it was be wonderful that I have achieved my dreams.  Honestly teaching and owning a yoga studio was never in my line of vision.  The main reason I took the training was to deepen my knowledge and person practice.  I never intended to teach at all.

But apparently that isn't what the universe had in mind for me, and for that I am grateful.  Too often we allow ourselves to get pigeon holed into what we think society wants us to do, what is proper for our age, social status, etc. 

I had a new student come in the other day for her very first yoga class ever.  She said that she wasn't sure she should try it because her "friends" told her that she would never be able to do yoga.  I truly had to bite my tongue.  With friends like that who needs enemies.  I know, they thought they had her best interest in mind, but how many times in our lives does that happen to us, that we are afraid to spread out wings.  That's were the magic of yoga comes in. We are on a path that we think we should be on because that is what others told us instead of listening to our heart.

Yoga isn't all about the outer body or if we can touch our touch our toes, it is what we learn about ourselves on the way down.  It is about coming together and forming a community of like minded people.  I have seen friendships forms and even a romance blossom.

As I type this I am listening to Vishnu Blue warming up and doing a sound check for a Candle Light Yin class that they will be performing at 7:00 PM.  Dave & Abbey, who are the main energy of the group and own House of Yoga in Berkley, reached out to me when we first opened and have been friends every since. This practice of Yoga and owning Santosha has brought the most amazing people into my life.  I am truly blessed.

Thank you all for your continued support, energy and love.

Blessings and Namaste


Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Happy Yoga Feet

I had my first real experience with Reflexology this past weekend. We had a four hour workshop at the studio learning the basics of Reflexology with Lori Jones from the Center for the Healing Arts in Sterling Heights. She was a wonderful teacher and her energy and passion was contagious.

The Reflexology Association of Canada defines reflexology as: "A natural healing art based on the principle that there are reflexes in the feet, hands and ears and their referral areas within zone related areas, which correspond to every part, gland and organ of the body. Through application of pressure on these reflexes without the use of tools, crèmes or lotions, the feet being the primary area of application, reflexology relieves tension, improves circulation and helps promote the natural function of the related areas of the body."

We partnered up and with Lori's guidance introduced ourselves to the process and technique. It was WONDERFUL. I came into the class with sinus pressure and left opened up and much, much more relaxed. I kept on asking Lori "why isn't everyone beating down the doors to have this done". She said that it is happening as more find out about it.

We are hoping to have Lori available a few days a month at the studio for appointments. But the moral of this story is don't be afraid to try out different things to help you on your journey of inner and outer healing. And this technique isn't new, it has been around for thousand's of years.

Lori's teaching was positive and encouraging, reminding us that anytime we try something new it is going to take time. A good time was had by all.

But the one thing that really stays with me from the class wasn't anything really related to reflexology. It was words of encouragement that she said during class. She told us that if we break down the word "impossible" it becomes "I’m possible". Short, sweet and to the point. Great words to live by and of course remember to ....just breathe.


Friday, September 28, 2012

A Wise Yogini

I want to introduce you to Liz who practices at Santosha Yoga.  She has a great sense of humor, always has a smile on her face and is just fun to be around. The fact that she is 95 years old and does her practice sitting in a chair while the rest of the class moves about is a minor technicality. 

She comes every Thursday night with her caregiver, Karen, who has been a student of mine for quite a few years.  A few months back Karen asked if Liz could attend the class, even though it wasn't a chair yoga class, just to get her out of the house and keep her active.  She has been here every since.  She can't hear all that well but does her best to follow the rest of the class.  Every so often I ask if she is doing OK and with a twinkle in her eyes she gives me thumbs up.

She has had her share of hardship. She married her husband after he was blinded in WWI, lost a son and has had her own battles with cancer.  But yet when ever you talk to her she has the most amazing positive attitude, I could listen to her stories for hours.  She also does a mean boat pose, she has core strength that youngsters’ in their 40's don't have.

Last Thursday we were talking about her marriage and how she managed to stay married to the same man for over 70 years.  She said that one reason that they were together so long was they didn't kill each other and then she laughed as she winked at me.  But then she became a little more serious and said because they never took each other for granted and always respected each other. 

I remind my students that our teachers and teaching come to us in many different ways and forms and we have to be open to that. Liz is a wise woman and I can't wait for Thursdays for her teachings as she has become my teacher as her wisdom reminds me to.... just breathe.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Yoga Upside Down

When my grandson was younger he used to love being upside down.  I would grab Ethan by the ankles and help him as he would walk on his hands, laughing and giggling. Or he would lie on the couch and hang his head off the edge of it and just chill.  I have often said that since his mom did yoga when she was pregnant with him, he got used to being upside down and tumbled about as his mom went through the different yoga poses. To quote Eeyore, friend of Winnie the Pooh "Sometimes the world looks better upside down.”

When was the last time that you saw the world from Ethan's point of view?  For most us it may have been a while. Usually when I teach an inversion in my class, I tell the students that I would need hours to fully explain the benefits of being upside down. Now I am not just taking about the more advanced poses such as handstand or headstand. Even the gentlest pose of lying on your back with your legs up against the wall has powerful benefits. Modern yogis agree that Viparita Karani may have the power to cure whatever ails you. In fact downward facing dog and a standing forward fold are inversions.

Think of it this way, we stand, walk or sit most of our waking hours.  Or we are lying on the couch watching TV. I think it was Sir Isaac Newton that said "what comes up must come down". Gravity is a powerful force. This nonstop pull of gravity can have some undesired effects in our bodies over the years. Over time, it causes our bodies to literally shrink. Our spinal columns compress, our organs grow sluggish, our skin droops.

Although we cannot fight gravity, in yoga we can use its pull to our advantage. When we turn the body upside down, we reverse the pull of gravity and create long-lasting benefits for our entire system. Some claim that for every minute spent in headstand, the aging process is suspended. Inversions allow a fresh flow of blood to the brain, they enable you to see the world from Ethan's point of view and, when you can get your legs above your heart, they provide a much-welcomed rest for the circulatory system. If you are agitated an inversion will calm you down, if you are lethargic, it will help perk you up.

Not sure what kind of inversion works best for you? Ask your trusted yoga teacher.  If you are new at inversions start with your legs up against the wall.  You can even put a bolster or folded blanket under your hips to make it more of an inversion.  As with any yoga pose honor your body and don't go past your edge. Stay there for a few minutes when you first start out, but as you get more experienced you can stay in the pose for up to 15 minutes. To come out of the pose, bring your knees into your chest, roll to one side and slowly push yourself up to seated. 

Ahhhh, better now?  And of course don't forget to breath.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Yoga Story Time

For the past three summers, our four year grandson's parents have allowed us to bring him up north with my husband and myself for a weeklong vacation with my family. He is a great little guy and he even went SUPing like grandma did!

One of the best parts of the week was reading him a book or two at bedtime. I had forgotten how much fun that was.

We all like to hear stories and kid’s stories always have a positive message or "the moral of the story". Why is it that we seem to remember a topic if it is in story form as opposed if it is presented to us in lecture form? In Buddhism they are known for stories that have a positive message.

I recently came across this story that I thought was worth sharing;

The 84th Problem

One afternoon a farmer who had heard that the Buddha was a wonderful teacher came to the Buddha seeking relief from his suffering. “I’m a farmer,” he said to the Buddha, “And I love farming. But last summer we had a drought and nearly starved, while this summer, we had too much rain and some of my crops did not do as well as I would have liked.”

The Buddha sat and listened to the farmer. “I have a wife, too. She’s a great woman, a wonderful wife. But sometimes she can really nag me. And to tell you the truth, sometimes I get a little tired of her.” The Buddha continued to listen and smile, as the farmer continued. “I’ve got three kids. They’re all really great. I’m really proud of them. But sometimes they don’t listen to me and don’t pay me the respect I deserve”

It went on like this for awhile, and then when finished with his litany, the farmer waited for the Buddha to solve his problems.” I can’t help you,” said the Buddha.

“What!” responded the farmer, “I’ve heard that you are a great master? How can you not help me?”

“Well,” the Buddha replied, “First of all, everyone has problems. In fact, everyone’s got about 83 problems. Of course, you may fix one now and then, but another one will pop up in its place. If you think about it, everyone you know and all that you care for is subject to change — it’s all impermanent. And you yourself are going to die someday. Now there’s a problem.”

The farmer was red in the face. “What kind of teacher are you!? How is this supposed to help me?!” he retorted.

“Well….perhaps I can help you with the 84th problem,” answered the Buddha.

“What 84th problem?” asked the farmer?

“You don’t want to have any problems.”

That Buddha, he sure knows how to turn a tale. The moral of the story? Our problems are never really going to go away.  We may have 83 one day and only six the next, but in our perception they are still problems. So if we can't make them go away how do we get rid of them? By changing how we handle them, think of it as a shift in our way of thinking.  What we thought was a problem 6 days or 6 months ago amazingly no longer is, partly because another problem took its place (see how that works) but maybe because we realized "this too shall pass".

How do you start? By just closing your eyes.....and just breath.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Time Again.....

A few of the students were talking yesterday morning as they waited for the 7:30 am Hot Yoga class to start. The conversation turned to time. The common theme was they just didn't have enough time to do everything they needed to do.  Hmmmm....sounds somewhat similar to my last blog.  I knew I wasn't alone with my dilemma.  But was it really a dilemma? 

If I back track to Buddhism 101, my world is not coming at me, but from me.  If I want to change my outside perception of my world, I first have to change the inside. So what was I doing in my life that caused me to have this lack of time perception?  I don't have a corporate type job to stress me, In fact teaching and running the studio doesn't feel like a job at all.  Another student came in yesterday and said she was glad it was Saturday and without thinking I responded "everyday is like a Saturday to me".  I feel that blessed to have this life. 

What can I do to change this perception?  First of all I did my best to stay focused on the task at hand, finish one thing first before going on to the next. It's like when you are working on the computer and before you know it you have 25 web pages open and don't remember what you were looking for in the first place.  Then I became more realistic with what I can actually fit in my day.  And that it's OK to say no once in a while.  If something that I though would take only a 1/2 hour ended up being a hour, so be it.  Accept it and move on. I haven't balanced my personal checkbook in 3 years and haven't bounced a check once. I check my balance on line to keep track. 

I meditated on patience.  I meditated on the attachment that we have on time.  How we think that if we aren't busy we aren't important or productive.  As my perception started to shift so did my week.  Time opened up where I thought there was none.  I still followed through with responsibilities and deadlines that I had (after all owning a yoga studio is still a business) but with a different frame of mind.  No one or nothing got left by the wayside.  In fact yesterday I  taught in the morning, met friends for lunch that were in from California, worked on advertising and promotions for the 3rd year anniversary celebration next month, went for a bike ride with my husband, chit chatted with the neighbor and still had "time" left over.

When I was thinking of taking my teacher training, I really felt that I didn't have enough time in my life to handle it.  My teacher, Michael Johnson told me that the more time we give away the more we will get back.  Crazy talk!!! But he was right....the time was there.  I just had to shift my perception. So give it a try.

Every time I sit down to blog I tell myself today is the day that I will write about a yoga pose and it just doesn't seem to happen. But I am open to any and all suggestions. Yoga is so much more about changing our inner world and everything else just seems to follow...and just breathe.

By the way tonight at our free meditation class, we will be learning how to use bio feed back techniques to reduce stress.  It is from 7 PM to 8 PM tonight.  The class is free but we do accept donations for local charities.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Time After Time

Clock_face : Wall clock Stock PhotoWhat is time?  When I googled the meaning of time, when used as a noun the definition is "the indefinite continued progress of existence and events in the past, present, and future regarded as a whole. " But when used as a verb the definition is "plan, schedule, or arrange when (something) should happen or be done". That is the one I seem to have a problem with lately. 

In the yogic teachings of the the 8 Limbs of Yoga by Master Pantajali, one of the five Yamas (restraints) is Satya or truthfulness. At first thought we think of lying which is correct, but it goes much deeper than that.  All of the Yamas & Niyamas (observance) do.  (To learn more about the Yamas & Niyamas read the book by Deborah Adele appropriately titled "The Yamas & Niyamas".) But I digress. Am I being truthful about the number of things I can plan in my day?  Do I allow time for hiccups or interruptions of my so called plan and schedule?  Did I allow for the extra time when I took my son grocery shopping with me that he had to read every label?  Do I allow extra time when I take my mom out and take in consideration that being 87, there is no such thing has running in and out of a store (especially Costco, those free samples and all). 

How many times have we heard "we all have the same 24 hours in the day". Are we being truthful in what we make a priority in our 24 hours?  Do we plan for rest, play and sleep?  Don't get me wrong, I love everything I do in my life and I think that is part of my conundrum.  I want to do it all.  But there should be moderation with everything. Who do I say no too?

Goodness, I haven't blogged in over a week.  Sat down several times to do it but.....

As I remind myself and others, I am a work in progress.  So I am still working on this one.  I ordered Mitch Albom's new book of fiction “The Time Keeper” to sell at the studio.  The cover jacket tells us "the inventor of the world's first clock is punished for trying to measure God's greatest gift".  I can't wait to read it...when I can find the time....and just breathe.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Yoga is Hard Work

Most of the time new students come to yoga because they want to make a change in their lives, sometimes they come because they are curious, but occasionally they come because someone more or less strong armed them into coming.

I think this is what happened the other day with two new students. It was obvious pretty much from the start who was who in this duo.  I did my best to offer them both modifications for the poses to help them enjoy the experience.  Student A was appreciative, Student B....well....not so much. I gently reminded the entire class that child's pose was always an option as a modification as it is in any class we teach at Santosha.

As the class was practicing Navasana (boat pose) I offered a suggestion to Student B and she looked at me and said that it was hard and she wasn't going to do it.  OK, not a problem, after all it was her practice. I spoke to them after class, as I try to do with all new students, did they have any questions and reminded them to use their free week to try out other classes and teachers.  I could be wrong, but I don't think I will see Student B anytime soon.

Yep, Yoga is hard work.  We move, breathe and engage muscles that haven't been awake in a long time.  But let's look at this from another angle. What's harder, starting to take care of yourself now while you can still get up and down off the floor or having someone help you in and out of chairs because you have no core strength to lift yourself up?  Lengthen and strengthening your upper body now or hurting your shoulder when you lift a gallon of milk out of the fridge, increasing your stamina now or getting winded walking from your home to the car 20 feet away. These are not fictional situations, these happen to people I love everyday. 

My mom (whom I love dearly) is 87 years old and never has taken care of herself.  I asked her why recently and she said that she didn't think she would live this long.  But it really should be about the quality of the life we live since none of us are guaranteed the length.  It's about the "dash" in between the dates on our tombstone.

Elections are coming up again and with it the talk of health care reform.  But bottom line it is our responsibility to "reform" our health.  My mom says that she never thought that she would age this way, with so many limitations on her body.  But she didn't do anything to prevent it.

Do I know for sure that my practice of yoga will assure me a long, healthy life? Of course not, but all the studies are showing me that it really makes a difference.  Who is going to push you in your wheel chair, drive you to doctor appointments, and remind you to take your daily medications? 

I really didn't mean to get this preachy, I was just trying to make the point that yes yoga is sometimes hard to do, but the benefits are amazing.  For those of us who are mom's, was pregnancy, labor and delivery hard?  It is sometimes hard to be a parent or spouse.  Yes, yes, yes.  But the benefits are worth the labor.  We do things that are hard all day long that don't make us a better person, why not try doing something that does.  Start to take care of yourself now.  Walk, bike, swim, do yoga and.....just breathe.

P.S. I want to share a link with you from the Natural Awakening Magazine . It’s article (starts on page 31)  of the importance of breath and injury free yoga. Enjoy!

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Meditation.....with The Beatles

Last Sunday we had our free Meditation & Study group. We had a nice crowd considering it was a beautiful Sunday evening in Michigan.  Numbers tend to go down in the summer since we are usually cooped up in the winter, in the summer us Michiganders are outside as much as possilbe.

OK, enough about the weather, let's get back to last Sunday. In walks this smiling ittle man who told me his name was Sam.  Sam heard about Santoha Yoga from Fred, one of our students.  Sam has a booth at Gibraltar Trade Center in Mt. Clemens where he sells incense, Buddha statues, things of that nature and that is how the two met. 

Sam was born and raised in India and has practiced yoga and meditation most of his life, so it was a honor to have him here.  He reminded me of the interviews I have seen of the His Holiness the Dalai Lama, always laughing and smiling and with that twinkle in their eyes.  You know the one I mean; where they know something we don't know. But we do know.  It really is no mystery if you think about it.  I am going to take a wild guess and say it might be the practice of meditation. Hmmmmm.
Sam went on to tell me that he was at a Ashram (a kind of spiritual retreat) back in the 60's.  In fact he was there at the same time The Beatles were there.  I will admit that I became a little star struck, the thought that at one time this constantly smiling man shared the same space, the same energy as The Beatles.  So I hugged him!  I had never met anyone who had met the Fab Four and it just seemed to be the thing to do.

Now I know that The Beatles dabbled in more than just meditation and I am not here to judge.  But remember they are the ones that reminded us that "all you need is love, is all you need, love is all you need....and just breathe.

P.S.  I am always telling anyone who will listen that this practice of yoga has brought the most amazing people into my life. What else would bring Sam from GTC, his Holiness the Dalai Lama, The Beatles and little old me together!

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Meditation.....have it your way.

When we think of meditation we usually think of the more traditional forms, like the pictures we see in books and magazines,  someone sitting straight and tall, hands and fingers in some type of configuration (a mudra) resting on the thighs or knees. Eyes closed with a look of peace and contentment on their faces.  And you would be correct to a certain extend. 

But there are other ways to help us calm our minds.  I recently read a definition of meditation in the book Buddhist Boot Camp which I think sums it up.  "Meditation is finding calm when the world is not calm".  How many times did I stress out even more when I thought I couldn't find the time to meditate? This is where operation meditation plan B comes in.

Take a walk among nature.  As you walk really sense the smells and your surroundings.  Take off your shoes and feel the sensations of the sand, the grass or even the sidewalk.  Goodness, there are over 7,000 nerve endings in our feet that connect to different areas of the body. 

Sit by a lake, stream, any body of water and you will find instant calm.  Find a wave and watch it as it takes shape, as it builds momentum and then disappears on the shore.  Let this remind you that that any craziness that is going on in your life will be like the wave as it comes to shore....soon disappearing.

Ride your bike as you feel a slight breeze on your face. Want a stronger breeze, go faster!  Try and match the rhythm of your pedaling to the rhythm of your breath.  Find a balance, calm.

When was the last time you sat and watched a sunset, I mean really watched it. Do this while holding hands with someone you love, both in total silence, and just feel the energy move between you, each helping the other to find peace.

Really, really short on time?   Close you eyes…and just breathe.

P.S.  Join us at Santosha Yoga the 3rd Sunday night of every month (which happens to be tonight) from 7 PM to 8 PM for our free meditation class. 

Monday, August 13, 2012

We Need to Stick Together Till the End

On Sundays I teach Yoga in the Park in downtown New Baltimore from noon to 1:00 (shameless plug, but maybe not since it's a free class).

As I walked to the spot where we meet, I got closer and noticed that there was a seagull lying on the ground, obliviously in some type of distress.  Other birds were around him, maybe 8 or so.  Two of them seemed to be arguing with each other or upset.  As the students started to arrive I steered them away from our friend and we started class.

As the students started to move and breathe, they seemed less concerned about our friend and more about their practice.  At one point in the class, someone motioned to me that the bird had died.  Thankfully Cindy Paparelli, the guru in charge of the New Baltimore Farmers' Market, happened to walk by.  Being as discreet as I could, I whispered to her what going on and she took our friend away.

Only after class was done and the last of the students were on their way home, did I reflex on what had happened and came to an interesting realization.  The other birds had left after the bird died.  They were there until he needed them, and then there were gone.  Birds are like us in the way that we bond and form relationships. 

We all need to be part of a family, a community, a network.  We need to be there for others as we need them there for us. 

The next time you see someone in distress, be there for them.  Not sure how to do that or what to say?  Just your calming presence will help them out and maybe remind them to.....just breathe.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Just for today....

Did you ever have one of those days (weeks, months) where you just can't seem to balance your mind, level out your emotions.

Sometimes all we need are a few little sentences that encourage us first thing in the morning to set a more positive tone for our day ahead. Meaningful words that when read or written down can adjust our thinking, or shift our focus (if needed).
Five simple sentences that can help lift stress dissolve anger, worry or negative thinking. Five refreshing sentences that when read or meditated on, can bring us closer to a more connected and inspiring way of life.

Below are the 5 Reiki principles that I have chosen to share with you today. Read them gently and slowly. Enjoy....and just breathe.

1: Just for today, I will not be angry

2: Just for today, I will not worry
3: Just for today, I will be grateful

4: Just for today, I will do my work honestly

5: Just for today, I will be kind to every living thing

P.S. Reiki (pronounced Ray-Key) is a combination of two Japanese words meaning universal life energy. Reiki is an ancient laying-on of hands healing technique that uses the life force energy (universal energy) to heal and balance the subtle energies in our bodies (physical, emotional, mental and spiritual).



Tuesday, July 31, 2012

What's on your bucket list?

I recently crossed something off my bucket list that wasn't on my bucket list but should have been on my bucket list. Have you ever heard of "SUP”? I didn't before but do now. It stands for "stand up paddle" boarding.

It involves something that looks like a big surf board, but with a better center of balance (thank goodness) and a paddle, thus the name, and a willingness to fall in the water.

My day started out somewhat normal, sitting in the Sprint store to have my phone fixed. By the way the service at the Sprint store at Gratiot & Hall Road rocks. My son tracked me down there and was in a hurry to have a question answered since he was scheduled to have a SUP lesson at Bradenburg Park in Chesterfield Twp. This kid has been in over drive since the day he was born.

When he told me what he was going to do, I asked to tag along to watch. The grass could most definitely wait to be cut.  We met Sarah from at the park and she told me that I was more than welcome to join them since she had extra boards.

Panic instantly set in, you want me go where standing on what with a paddle? I had street clothes on, but my son had an extra pair of swim trunks and Sarah had an extra shirt, so I took a deep breath and said of course I will. I am convinced that if I was given more time to decide, I would have come up with a lot of useless excuses.

Sarah started off with a lesson of how to do what, get on, stand up, how to hold the paddle and of course how to get on again after you fall off.  She was reminding us to put a soft bend in our knees, engage the core, use the whole body and gaze up.  I started laughing; I told her that is what we tell our yoga students on the mat.

And off we went.  It was much easier than I thought it would be, grateful that I over came my initial reaction, to go outside my comfort zone and spread my wings.  Once Sarah made sure I was on board with the concept (get it...on board), she took off after my son who I think was on his way to Canada at the speed he was going.

We had a great time and ended up staying out there for hours.  What adventures are you missing out on because you are hesitant to spread your wings and get on board?  Our instructor was an example of that herself.  She was an attorney for 10 years, quit, took up SUP and the rest is history.  She said that she is having the time of her life.

I am not suggesting that we all quit our jobs, it would be mass chaos (or mass contentment), but let's try a little experiment.  Softly close your eyes and relax your breath.  Now think of one thing that you have wanted to try, but for whatever crazy reason you haven't.  Picture it, feel it, imagine yourself actually doing it in your mind's eye. Now open your eyes....take that first step toward it......and just breathe.

Friday, July 27, 2012

All you need is love, love....

                                                 "It is love that holds everything together..."

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Slow down you move too fast....

Teachers and teachings come to us in many different ways and forms in our lives. And they seem to come when we need them, thank goodness. The other day I was sitting on the edge of the flower boxes in front of our house thinking of all the things I still had to do before my husbands family came in from TN for the weekend. Then something caught my eye on the side walk. It was a tiny snail, just doing his own thing.  He would move a little, then crawl back into his shell, then repeat the whole process over and over again.

Where ever his was going, his was taking his sweet old time.  As I sat there and watched him I thought I bet he doesn't have high blood pressure, or worry about paying bills all the time.  I imagined him breathing long full, even breaths. He was stopping when he needed to and honoring his body when he had to.

Then an appropriate song for the moment popped into my mind (which seems to happen a lot lately) by Simon & Garfunkel ”Feeling Groovy" reminding me to "slow down, you move too fast". I continued to watch my friend as I sang the verses to myself. 

We can learn a lot from Mr. Snail and Simon & Garfunkel, we all need to slow down.  I got everything done that was important for the weekend, and the rest that didn't get done?  Apparently it wasn't that important. And a good time was had by all.

Check out the You Tube video of Simon & Garfunkel from way back when.  I guarantee it will make you smile and that you will humming the song long after you listen to it.

Hey people, slow down, you move too fast, you've got to make the morning last...and just breathe.

Check out the video. 

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Pinch Me!

Did you ever have one of those days where you feel so blessed that you want to ask someone to pinch you to make sure it's real? Jump out of bed; wipe the sleep out of your eyes people!! Everyday day should be a "pinch me" day.  Get outside and enjoy this beautiful day and.....just breathe.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

What's Your Back Story?

We all have a backstory, a past, a history that makes us who we are today.

I was reminded of this the other day and also reminded of how we often come to an incorrect conclusion, because we don't know the back story.

There is a student who has been coming to the studio for a short time. She is new to the practice of yoga and doing her best. In her new practice her body isn't always going to where she would like it to, but again she does her best.

I commented to her that she should be proud of determination and not giving up on this new found practice of yoga and with time and patience, her body will be kinder to her. I shared with her my back story of when I first started yoga and couldn't get my fingers passed my knees in a forward fold.

Then she told me her back story. She just lost her husband this past May and had become out of shape and lost her flexibility because she sat by his bed side for the past six months to help him through his last journey.

Tears welled up in my eyes as I expressed my sympathy for her loss and for her courage to find a new normal for her life.

In Buddhism there is a teaching called the Four Immeasureables which are: love, commpassion, joy and equanimity. We should practice these teachings toward everyone we meet,always. Why? Because we never know what their back story is...let that marinate in your mind a bit...and just breathe.