Thursday, May 31, 2012

Is Your Hair On Fire Yet???

I don’t watch the news on TV anymore and stopped taking the newspaper a year or so ago.  My husband argues that because of this, I don’t keep up with current events.  I do in my own way.  I pick and choose what I want to know about the world from my Yahoo home page. I scroll through the attention grabbing headlines such as “How your finger nails can tell your health.” or “Courteney Cox’s daughter likes to play dress up”.  All earth shattering news! But once in a while there is a headline that does catch my eye, peaks my interest to read further. Today was one of those headlines “Grad’s Poignant Essay”.

It is the story of Marina Keegan, a recent Yale University grad who died this past Saturday in a car accident. The article refers to a column that Marina wrote to her fellow graduates. Yahoo didn’t share the article in its entirety, but bit and pieces of her wisdom. “What we have to remember is that we can still do anything... we can't, we must not lose this sense of possibility because in the end, it's all we have." She said what she wanted out of life was "the opposite of loneliness," and encouraged classmates by saying "the best years of our lives are not behind us." Accompanying the article was a picture of a smiling 22 year old hugging what may have been her younger brother.

When I hear of someone so young dying, my first thought is “such a waste of life”. Westerners don’t like to talk about death (in fact some of you may have stopped reading this already).  We don’t even like to think about it.  But death is part of the cycle of life. It just doesn’t happen to someone who has lived a long, full life.  Death comes to all ages at any time.

There is a meditation I sometimes use called the Death Meditation (now the rest of you have stopped reading.)  It is long and detailed but can be summed up in three short sentences. Death is certain. The time of death is uncertain.  All that will matter at the end is our spiritual life and how we treated others.

When we first opened my yoga studio, we hosted a free meditation workshop and were thrilled that 17 students showed up. We shared with them the Death Meditation.  Poor timing on our part, yep you guessed it, the next class only 4 people showed up and I don’t think any were ones who had attended the first one.  We scared the hell out of them by talking about death. For those few of you who are still with me, you are probably wondering where I am going with this.

We need to live each day as if it were our last. We need to remember that when we say good-bye in the morning to our loved ones that may be the last time we see them.  We need to hug more.  We need to remember that it is not too late to make amends with someone from the past.  That we are never too old to start a new hobby, learn an instrument or fall in love. Instead of running away or ignoring death, try embracing life instead. Follow the golden rule; we call it Karma in the yoga world, “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

My teacher, Lama Marut, says that we should embrace a spiritual life with the same urgency as if “our hair was on fire” stop putting it off, resolve to start today….and just breathe.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

A Kodak Moment

Just in case you were wondering, the yogini in my profile picture is really me and the sunset is compliments of Mother Nature. No retouches or photo shop involved.

We were in Ludington MI staying at a cottage on Higgins Lake, the sun was setting and a Kodak moment presented itself.  My sister Maryanne took the picture (she is still waiting for royalties) and the rest is history.  Beauty is all around us folks; we just have to get off the roller coaster once and a while to enjoy it....and just breathe.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

On The Road Again.....with Yoga

Three weeks.  That was the length of time the doctors estimated that my youngest son would be at U of M Hospital in Ann Arbor.  The drive would be almost an hour and a half each way to be with him, but I am his mom and that is what we do. Not going every day wasn’t even an option in my mind.  The first couple of days weren’t bad, getting used to the route, timing the traffic and Mother Nature was being kind to me with a mild end of November.  Then something happened just after a few days, I started to feel very tired, out of sorts, not feeling well at all. 

I panicked, I can’t get sick.  I have to be there for my son.  If I don’t go who will, the guilt kicked in (a combination of being female, Catholic and Italian, commonly know as the triple whammy). The next day, I got into my car and started to drive.  After a while, complaining to myself how bad I felt, I noticed that I had a vice grip on the steering wheel.  I noticed that my shoulders were up by my ears.  But most importantly, I noticed that I wasn’t breathing…at all.  That was it!  That is why I had started to feel off.  I wasn’t breathing. I wasn’t getting any oxygen to my brain.  My body was in shut down mode. 

Oh my goodness, here I am a yoga teacher and I forgot Yoga 101, first and foremost yoga is a practice of breathing.  Deep inhales and deeps exhales through the nose.  I started breathing in and breathing out.  I relaxed my body, softened my hands on the steering wheel and started to find my balance again.  I needed to meditate to help me center more, but driving west on I-94 (and not really observing the speed limit) wasn’t the place to do it.  So I improvised.  I turned off the radio and focused on my breath, watching it enter and exit my nose.  Sometimes I added a mantra or chant to the breath to help me stay focused.  It worked, even the night that it took me 2 ½ hours to get home in the rain. I started to feel better and continued to use this routine the remainder of my trips out to Ann Arbor.

We have to breathe, but we have to relearn how to breathe properly. Yoga will help us do that. When we are born we use the full capacity of lungs.  The older we get, we use less and less.  Most adults only use 30% and of what they do use, the breath tends to be shallow, jagged and sometimes non existence. 

Are you starting to see a pattern here?  You need to breathe as if your life depends on it and it does! There is an ancient belief that we are born with a certain number of breaths and if we breathe too shallow or rapid we may be knocking years off this precious gift of life that we have been given.

OK, where ever you are, what ever you are doing.  Notice your breath.  Breathe in and out through your nose and try to slow it down.  Watch your inhales become your exhale. We can’t take inhales and exhales at the same time so don’t rush it. Take your time. Find a rhythm….and just breathe.

Saturday, May 19, 2012


"Those who bring sunshine to the lives of others cannot keep it from themselves." ~James Mathew Barrie~ Enjoy this beautiful weekend my lovelies and spread that sunshine where ever you go and don't forget to smile!!!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

My First Breath On the Mat

I paid for 6 weeks of classes through Macomb Twp Parks and Rec and I was determined to get my money’s worth.  Those were the thoughts that were going through my head at my very first yoga class when the teacher asked us to come down and touch our toes. Toes! I couldn’t get my fingers past my knees.  I thought we were just going to all sit around in a circle and chant “om”.  No one said anything about touching toes.  I was sore and cranky the next day but went back the next week and the week after that and the week after that.  Then I was hooked!  I felt what I had only heard others talk about.  I experienced the “yoga high”, that feeling of contentment, bliss and balance that comes from a yoga practice and I wanted more.

Fast forward 13 years. I became certified to teach yoga, opened a yoga studio and now have the honor to teach others to become teachers so they can pass on to others this wonderful journey into the inner and outer workings of yoga.

And that brings us to the purpose of this blog, to share how this practice of yoga has changed my life inside and out over the past 13 years. I learned that it’s OK if you can’t touch your toes, you’re still doing yoga and the seemingly “magical powers” that resides in our breath.  You don’t have to be a size zero and 20 years old to do a headstand (as a 58 years old, I speak from experience) and that the true essence of yoga is so much more that getting a “yoga butt”.

I also learned that even if I complete just one inhale and one exhale, a cycle of breath, that I am doing yoga.  Did you know that the medical term for an inhale is “inspire”.  So be inspired to change your life…..and just breathe.