Monday, December 2, 2013

A Quote a Day.....

"Thanksgiving Day comes, by statute, once a year' to the honest man it comes as frequently as the heart of gratitude will allow". 
                ~Edward Sanford Martin~

I love quotes. I am a self confessed quote junky! They help put into words what I am feeling. They put me on track or back on track with their wisdom and thoughts. When my mind is in chaos about something or someone in my life, I just google and I always find a quote that speaks to me.  Some of the authors names are familiar, some come from the most unusual sources (ie: comedians & politicians ) but it doesn't matter as long as the quote speaks to me.

So when I was searching for a Thanksgiving Day quote I came upon Mr. Martin's quote (he was a poet who was born in 1856, I googled it) and of all the ones that popped up at that point in time, for that breath, for what I needed at that moment I chose him.

Why? Because everyday should be a day of thanksgiving not just once a year.  Not just for the length of time between Thanksgiving and New Year's Day. Why? Because they is so much to be grateful for there is no way in hell you can fit it all into those 30 odd days.Why? Because it should be impossible to do so.

I woke up the other morning well before I needed to and his quote came to mind so I just layed there in the silence of the world not yet stirring and started to make a mental list of all the things I am thankful for in no particular order:

  • My family, my husband, children, siblings and everyone else that fits into that category.
  • My friends.
  • My practice of yoga.
  • Santosha Yoga.
  • The teachers of Santosha.
  • The students of Santosha.
  • My health.
  • The health of my children, especially my two sons who have both battled and won the fight of cancer.
  • That fact that they have health insurance.
  • The fact that I have health insurance.
  • My grandson and my granddaughter who is about 3 weeks away from coming into this world (I know they fall under family but as a grandparent I am allowed to boast.
  • My warm bed.
  • A roof over my head.
  • Food in my belly.
  • A car that runs, gas in the car and money to buy gas for the car to run.
  • My landlord.
  • My husband ((I know that I listed him already but he deserves another mention for putting up with me for over 29 years).
  • My favorite pair of jeans.
  • The change of seasons in Michigan.
  • My grandson's giggle (I know, I know another grandson mention, those of you who are grandparents will understand).
  • The struggles and hard times I have had in my life for they truly have made me who I am today.
  • Dark chocolate!
  • The breath and life that I have in my body.
I could go on and on, and that's my point exactly we need to go on and on to express our gratitude, not just once a year. 

So just take a deep, deep breath and just begin and say to yourself  "I am thankful for.........."

Monday, November 11, 2013

Just Get Off the Couch Damn It!

Wow, if I that title came off a little harsh sorry about that.  But I believe I got my point across.  The reason for my unintended harshness is also the reason I haven't blogged in a while.

Jennie, my 88 year old mom fell mid September and it's been a roller coaster of ER visits, 911 calls hospitals stays, morphine hallucinations and all around concern and craziness. I love my mom very much and have been blessed to have her as my mom, but she is a poster child for how not to age.  I know a lot of it has to do with her generation as she was a child of the Great Depression and finding enough food to eat or coal to heat their homes was a priority in their lives.  She and my dad never went past the 8th grade but they worked hard and provided a wonderful safe life for my siblings and myself. 

As a child she went from selling apples on a street corner with her dad to having a home with my dad filled with warmth, love and lots of food.  She didn't ever want us to go through what she went though and we didn't. 

That generation was so busy taking care and making the lives of their loved ones better, they somehow lost sight of their own health and well being.  They didn't work on farms anymore or walk or bicycle everywhere as their ancestors did. 

My mom just came out of surgery for her back, her second in the past three weeks.  The surgeon said everything went fine, hopefully this one will help with the intense pain that she has been in for the last two months caused by arthritis, spinal stenosis, pinched nerves and crumbling vertebraes.  Please don't see this as picking on my mom, it's meant as a wake up call for the rest of us.  I don't want anyone to have to experience the pain and discomfort that she has been through.

I know that some aspects of aging are inevitable, but there are also a good portion of getting old that's not.  The first thing to do is just get off the couch, damn it.

The yoga classes that I have taught recently have included lots of twists and turns, a great way to keep our backs and spine healthy and that's one example of the health benefits of yoga.  Those who know me or have read my blog in the past know I am advocate any kind of physical exercise, just as long as you get off the couch damn it!

AARP (American Association of Retired Persons) shared statistics of how over the next few decades there will be less and less caregivers for every aging baby boomer.  Scary. Who is going to take care of us if we don't start to take care of ourselves?

Time to get off the couch, move, bend twist and most of all.....just breath.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Take A Seat......Please!

This past Wednesday was the first day of a new class on our schedule, chair yoga.  I have been wanting to offer the class at Santosha since we first opened the doors 4 years ago.  We keep on preaching (sometimes I do get a little preachy) that yoga is for everyone and this type of class proves it even more so.
We purchased sturdy chairs (non-folding) that would be safe for the practice.  Put the chairs on yoga mats in the room so they wouldn't slip along with bolsters, straps, blocks and blankets.  All the  "toys" were brought out to make sure everyone had what they needed.
Stacey, who is teaching the class, and I waited.  We were very excited to have 8 students show up to the first class.  There seemed to be an instant connection with the group and conversations between them started immediately.  The students were of various ages, the youngest being 50.  Their reasons for being there varied but not their need and desire for being healthier and taking better care of themselves. A few of the students were referred by one of our teachers who is also a physical therapist.  They loved it.
I have heard a lot of buzz from our students about this class, my mom gets dizzy in down dog,  my aunt has a hard time getting up and down off the floor.  One sweet gal came in to ask questions about it, she is waiting for a heart transplant and her doctor suggested chair yoga in order for her to get stronger for the surgery, bless her heart indeed!
I have included an article about chair yoga from a news letter I received and thought it was a good one to share.  In the article there are links you can go to for actual studies and research of the benefits of yoga.
Take a minute or two and think of who in your life might benefit from this type of class and give them a call.  They may not even know that this kind of experience is available to them.   If they don't believe me or the studies maybe they will believe Dr. Oz.  He was teaching his studio audience the other day how to do ujjayi breath (yogic diaphragmatic breathing) and explaining all of the benefits.  Yes even in chair yoga we practice the breath. So tell them the first step is just to take a few moments and just breath.


Monday, September 23, 2013

Meditation not Medication!

"The more man meditates upon good thoughts, the better will be his world and the world at large."

 ~ Confucius ~


We had our monthly meditation class two Sunday nights ago (the 3rd Sunday of the month) and some of the students who attended said that they just recently found out about it even though they have been attending yoga classes at Santosha for a while. We have offered this free class since we opened the studio four years ago. They gave me a gentle slap on the wrist and said I needed to advertise it more.  I promised I would so here is it: Free Meditation & Study Group, the 3rd Sunday night of every month from 6 pm to 7 pm.
But what makes this request even more interesting is that the age of the students admonishing me (lovingly) were in their mid 20's.  Of all the things they could be doing on a Sunday night they attended a meditation class.  Wow! We even had 13 year old Evan who attended with his parents.  If this is a sample of future generations, we are in good hands.
My husband is retired now so instead of watching the weather channel as from what I am told, most retirees do, he has taken to watching the stock market channel instead.  Boring!  The other day he called me into the room to watch the a segment. I nicely declined, but he said that I would be interested.  I was.  They had a gentleman on who works for Google and he was telling how he teaches a meditation class there and that there is a waiting list for the class. Imagine a waiting list to attend a meditation class, that to me is close to a perfect world. 
He went through a brief explanation as what meditation is about; calming the breath then the mind, bringing in positive thoughts and not judging yourself if negative thoughts come back in.  Exactly! He stated that teaching meditation to the employees have reduced stress, increased productivity and office moral.  Why isn't all of corporate American listening to this? Probably just unaware, however they could attend the Free Meditation & Study Group, the 3rd Sunday night of every month from 6 pm to 7 pm at Santosha Yoga.
In our asana practice we strengthen our bodies, but what about our minds.  That's where a meditation practice comes in.  If you googled benefits of meditation, you would be blown away at the results.
Not sure what meditation is all about?  Join us the 3rd Sunday of every month from 6 pm to 7 pm (next class is October 20).  Am I forgiven now Erin?

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Taking Yoga to New Heights

Yep, that's me at the very top in the orange about 55 feet up.  Crazy huh?  What's even more crazy is how very yoga like it was.
One of my students, Paul, is an climber extraordinaire.  He has climbed rocks, mountain, ice and is preparing for a climbing trip next year to Peru.
Every time he talks about climbing he says how much like yoga it is.  How you are in the present moment, how much the breath comes into play. How very meditative it is.  Well after many months of gentle prodding on his part, my husband and I found ourselves at Planet Rock in Pontiac this past Friday night.
It is a huge old building that I am not sure what its' previous life was, but it seems to be enjoying it's present reincarnation.  The staff was very welcoming when we came in (very important to me, first impressions and all). We were paired up with Russ who took us through an intro for newbie's.  It took about 40 minutes or so where we learned all about knots, safety, harnesses, safety,  braking with the ropes, safety, belaying (the non climber on the bottom with the rope), safety, checking our harnesses, checking our partners harnesses and did I say safety.  Truth be told, my head was spinning just a little. And then it literally let us loose from the beginners wall and said have fun. Holy crap! Just like that.
Well he did follow us to the big walls to make sure that we could handle the rope if our climber were to start to fall and made sure we knew how to "break" for them when we were belaying.  Because my hubby is a tad heavier than me (giggles), my harness was tethered to the floor to make sure I didn't become Peter Pan if hubby started to fall. There was always staff walking around to make sure everyone was OK and Paul came over occasionally from his climbing partners to help out and give pointers. 
And this is where the yoga kicked in.  After tying the appropriate knots and checking each other's harnesses up I went.  And up and up.  The higher I went the more I seemed to become unaware of the others around me.  My concentration went deeper in as I determined where my feet and hands went next.  I would pause occasionally to make sure that I was breathing deep and full.  Others apparently were climbing within inches of me and I really didn't notice. In a sense I was meditating as I climbed! I reached the top, looked down and realized how high I was and it felt great.  Propelling down was just as much fun....weeee!!!! I went up a few more times taking a different route and still loved it.
The other aspect of where the yoga kicked in was with my physical body.  Using the strength of my upper body to pull me up (thanks to all those down dogs and chatarunga's),  the strength of my legs to climb (compliments of warrior poses, crescent, balancing poses when I had one foot planted as I figured out where to put the next one) and the awareness of my core muscles (bandhas) to bring it all together and of course let's not forget the breath. 
This practice of yoga is used every where we go and whatever we do in our daily lives.  What ever "mountain's" you have to climb in your life bring your yoga with you and don't forget to breath.
P.S. Thanks Paul!

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Good Morning, Namaste

Good morning, Namaste. That was the note that greeted me this morning when I came to the studio, it was written on the back an envelope and tucked under the outside mat. How sweet I thought. 

Then I glanced over to one of the two benches that we have in the front of the studio for gathering purposes (or to cool off after hot yoga) and there was a brown paper bag.  I looked inside and low and behold, not to my surprise, were two empty wine bottles and two plastic cups.

My reaction was bouncing between amused and sadness.  Amused because they chose (since there were two cups I assume it was "they") our studio bench to partake.  Amused because they didn't drink straight out of the bottle, they had some class.  Amused that they neatly had the corks back in the bottles, glasses stacked and put in the bag which was placed to the side so someone wouldn't trip over it.
Sadness because they felt that they needed to find their peace and contentment from a bottle in the dark hiding from others.  Sadness because they may not know that there are others ways to find your inner peace that lasts much longer that the buzz from wine and doesn't result in a hangover.  Sadness because what they are looking for is just on the other side of the door that they left the sweet note.
Sadness because all they have to do is make the first step and.......just breathe.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Just A Coincidence?

I just got back Saturday from a trip my family takes each year to Ludington MI.  It started out 20 years ago with one cottage and around 12 of us. This year it was four cottages and including all the coming and goings we had 42 in attendance. That's al lot of Italians!
A few of my mom's grandchildren in their 30's (including two of my kids) came up for the first time.  They were way too cool to come up when they were in their late teens and early 20's.  Did time make the rest of us more cool or them less judging?
Two of the grandkids were unable to make it due to work commitments and this is where the story gets interesting. Nathan lives in Roseville and Kimberly lives in Royal Oak and they ran into each other at a 7 Eleven at 15 & Crooks.  It's never happened before to them and most likely won't happen again. Crazy huh! 
It reminds me of the movie Casablanca when Humphrey Bogart's character Rick say to Ingrid Bergman's character Ilsa "Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, she walks into min". Well, in all of the 7 Eleven's in all the get the idea.
We are all share the same energy, no matter who or what we are.  Was it the energy of the family coming together, often mentioning that we had wished that they could have made it, that drew them toward each other.  Was it their energy, knowing that they were the only ones not up north that brought them together. Either way there was some intense sharing of energy going on to make that happen.  Of course we will never know, this is one of those mysteries of the universe.
Every thought, action, and word that we put out there does make a difference. It's energy in one form or another.  It connects us in ways beyond our comprehension.  They create situations  that make the hair on our arms stand up.  Most of them we don't realize, they aren't as "in your face" as the 7 Eleven encounter, but they happen.
Moral of the story?  Really pay attention to the energy that you put out there because remember the law of Karma, what you put out comes back. 
So before you open your mouth, think a thought and take action, ask yourself, do you want this coming back to you at some time in the future.....and just breathe.


Thursday, August 8, 2013

$100 Worth of Karma

I went to get the mail the other day and there was an envelope addressed to Santosha Yoga without a return address.  I opened it up and out fell a crisp $100 bill along with a two page typed letter. It took me a second or two to process the money and I admit that I held it up to the light to make sure it was real.  It was.
The letter went on to explain the reason for the money.  It was an anonymous gift to Santohsa Yoga to use for 10 classes for students in need of yoga who maybe couldn't otherwise afford it.  The donor went on to explain that they came upon some unexpected money, that is was too difficult to truly explain but similar to finding money in a purse that you hadn't used in a while. We were to use it as we see fit, taking our time to decide who needs its.
The writer shared how yoga has changed their lives and they are ever so grateful for Santosha, the teachers and fellow students (as am I of course).  They was a lot more soul baring but you get the idea.
I re-read the letter several times first just to absorb the essence of it and then trying to play detective.  Hmmm, who could that be.  Must be a female because of the purse reference.  No, it could be male just trying to throw me off track.  By then I came to my senses and felt gratitude for this wonderful gift.
I have given out 4 classes so far of those I feel deserving at the time.  One is to a teenager who uses her babysitting money to take classes, another to a young gal who I know is struggling with school and bills. But as I give each one of them away, I tell them it has strings attached.  They must pay it forward.  They must preform a random act of kindness for someone else and it doesn't have to involve money. They have all assured me that they would.
Just think, that $100 worth of Karma will turn (not can) I repeat, will turn into so much more.  That's how is all starts.  That is the magic of yoga of the mat. Studies have shown
I was so excited by all this generosity that I had to remind just breathe.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

The Real "Rock Stars" of Yoga

This past Friday night I attended a workshop that was being taught by yoga teacher extraordinaire, Jason Crandell.  Jason was recently named “one of the next generation of teachers shaping yoga’s future” by Yoga Journal. Jason is well know in the world wide yoga community for his skillful, unique approach to vinyasa yoga.
It was a great workshop and I was impressed with his humility and logical approach to teaching.  I really enjoyed it and was disappointed that I was unable to make the rest of his classes while he was in town. The weekend was sponsored by Yoga Association of Great Detroit (YAGD) which is primarily based in Oakland County.  That group of volunteers do a great job in bringing teachers of this caliber to the area.
We arrived at the workshop quite early since we were coming from Chesterfield and unfamiliar with Farmington Hills and then of course I always have to factor in time for getting lost.  Good thing too because the GPS on my phone decided to take us through the scenic route and since I didn't know any better, I let it (we figured out a better route coming back).
The place was buzzing with excitement, everyone waiting to meet and greet "the star".  But truth be told, in my humble opinion, the true stars of the show were some of the fellow yoga teachers and students that were there.  When we came into the space we were greeted by Claudette who introduced herself and showed us around.  She was pumped.  You could literally feel the energy bouncing off of her.  She told us that after the class, which ended at 9:30 PM, she was going dancing! She then proceeded to tell us that she just turned 70....70!!!!  Wow, she had the energy of a teenager at a Justin Bieber concert.
As the room started to fill up I took note as to the ages of a good portion of the other participants, which was clearly 60 and up.  In the ladies room I over heard others talking about a certain teacher who is still teaching in her 80's.  This area is an older more established yoga community, yoga has been around there for quite a while which would account for this. Watching these ladies and gentlemen practice was inspiring.  Yes, yes I know I was suppose to be concentrating on my own practice, but I did have to leave and go to the rest room at one point and just happened to glance here and there.
Do I really need to explain to you all what the moral of this story is?  I again experienced the miracle of what this practice of yoga can do for us. I witnessed what I have been telling everyone and anyone that yoga is not just for the young and nubile. 

Yes of course their bodies have changed over time but they adapted their practice to accommodate that.  Jason kept on telling us all through the class to quit beating ourselves up, to accept and be proud of the bodies that we have today.  He reminded us that we are already "whole" when we come to the mat. Yoga just helps bring it out of us.  These beautiful, seasoned students of yoga were moving, breathing and going dancing.  
It's not too late.  Get off the couch, get away from the computer, stop texting so much and get on the mat....and just breathe.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

My Yoga Off the Mat Day

This past Sunday I had the privilege of practicing yoga off the mat with a vengeance.  If your not sure what yoga off the mat means think of the last time you were stuck in traffic and late for work or an appointment.  How did you react, were you fuming, honking the horn somehow thinking that the the sound of your horn would create a miracle of sorts and make the five mile up back up in front of you move.  Or did  you use the time to breathe, count your blessings, listen to some mellow music, you get the idea.
This past Sunday was another great day in downtown New Baltimore for Yoga in the Park from noon to 1 PM at Burke Park (shameless plug).  It was hot but we were going to have fun as we always do.  My PA system that worked great the week before was not cooperating at all.  I moved it all over the place trying to find a balance, it wasn't going to happen so most of the class I ended up talking really loud and for those who know me that's not hard to do.  I am Italian after all.
Mid way through class I noticed a small group of people walking toward the water near where we were having class and then a wedding commenced! The event was being video recorded and I didn't want this sweet couple 50 years from now watching their ceremony and hear me in the background yelling "inhale and reach your arms up". I stopped the class as we waited for them to take their vows and of course we all applauded when it was done. 
Class started up again when one of the students motioned to me that a wonderful police officer of New Baltimore who was just doing his job was not real happy where I parked my car.  I again stopped class to discuss the situation with him.  OK, I admit it my car wasn't parked all that legal, but as I explained to him we collect so many canned goods donations for St. Mary's food pantry (thank you everyone) it  was just easier to have the car closer to put the food in at the end of class. Seeing that he wasn't impressed with my story, I promised not to park there again.
Practicing yoga off the mat in spite of the heat,  I kept my cool.  Although it was very tempting to toss the entire PA system into the lake, I resisted.
I let go of everything that happened and went on with my day.  I didn't let it determine my mood for the rest of the day. Remember the phase "just laugh it off"?  Exactly.  I told you that we have fun at Yoga in the Park. I cant' guarantee that much fun every Sunday but I will do my best. just breathe on and off your mat.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Yoga and the Ones You Love

Ok, one more quiet rant.
You just discovered yoga and it was love at first down dog. You want everyone to experience the buzz that you do.  Or that hot yoga class that kicked your asana, sweat was flying everywhere and all of your toxins along with it and you want to share it all with the world.  So what do you do, your next hot yoga class you bring your mom (sister, dad, friend.....fill in the blank) with you.  They have never done yoga before and haven't been off the couch in a while. You love them so much that you bring them to a hot yoga class? What happens next is the well meaning gesture usually backfires and the newbie is never to be seen again. Your journey into yoga is not the same for someone else.
I have seen it first hand countless times. Students coming out of the middle of class near tears, one gal admitted that her "friends" forced her to come, she was not happy when she left. Siblings who wanted their mom to be healthier brought her to a vinyasa flow class.  When I suggested to them that it might be better to bring mom to another style class they assured me she would be fine, mom is still MIA.
I have been silent long enough! I applaud all of you for wanting the people you love to be healthier and happier and  yoga will help them get there but find the style that best suites where they are today.  Do you love them so much that you can put your ego aside and accompany them to a basic or gentle yoga class. Boring you say?  Take that opportunity not only to bond with whom you brought but also to really tune into your alignment and breath with the slower pace. They may never progress to a more vigorous style as you may have but at least they are off the couch and you should be ecstatic for the progress they have made.
I had a student tell me this happened to her years ago and she never tried yoga again until recently because she thought that all yoga classes were alike.  She now knows different. And so do you. I have seen anger, frustration,  and embarrassment on the students faces. The practice of yoga is suppose to bring you peace, not make you feel as if you failed.
Share your love of yoga with everyone, but take into consideration what their needs are when you invite them to come and be honest with yourself as to what your intention is.  Help them on this journey and remind them that the most important part of yoga and life is to .......just breathe.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Blowing Off a Little Steam

What is a blog? "A blog is a personal diary. A daily pulpit. A collaborative space. A political soapbox. A breaking-news outlet. A collection of links. Your own private thoughts. Memos to the world." (source
Ok, with that being said on to the topic of this blog which will be a combination of my own private thoughts and soapbox (but not really political).
Yoga is becoming more popular and main streamed everyday which should and does make me very happy. It means more people are exploring and experiencing it's life changing benefits.  But is also means that there are yoga teachers out there who really may not be as qualified as you think.  Have they taken some type of formal training to do what there are doing? If they took a training, did they actually finish it. Or did they just kind of fall into it because a yoga teacher was needed where they currently teach some other type of physical exercise.  You really need to look into these things first, after all it is your body and health that we are talking about. Do you really want someone to cut your hair that wasn't formally trained but yet you don't think twice about it when some one might ask you to stand on your head.
In Michigan to offer a yoga teacher training course you must/should be registered as a proprietary school, pass an inspection of your school and reapply every year with the Sate of Michigan. Is the school they trained with accredited with Yoga Alliance, a national registry that sets guidelines for responsible and competent teachers. The school doesn't have to be local, there are a lot of  great national known and recognized schools and teachers out there. The point is, did they formally train with someone, somewhere?
If I am coming off as sounding a little bit pompous and arrogant so be it.  I am the first to admit that I am not the end all and the guru of all yoga, but I do know that I expect my teachers and myself to create a safe and knowledgeable environment for the students at our studio.  As part of our registration with Yoga Alliance we are required to continue our education.  I will always be a student of yoga, I will continue to learn and expand so I may become a better student and therefore better teacher.
Is this quiet rant a plug for you to come to our studio, not at all.  This quiet rant is for you to research where you do choose to go to make sure that it is a safe environment for you to learn yoga .....and just breathe.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Santosha, Contentment, Gratitude....

We lost our power due to the storms this past Monday, but this time it was at our home and not at the studio. 

I am at a place in my spiritual journey that I believe when I am in need of a teaching. situations arise to help me learn.  What did I need to learn from this recent power outage?  Let me back up just a bit first, just so that we are all on the same page, Santosha is the Sanskrit word for contentment, peace, gratitude. OK, moving forward again.

The power was out......contentment and gratitude?  Sure, we have a small generator (our power goes out enough to have invested in one) so the fridge and freezer were connected.  In fact we ran a power line to the neighbors fridge and they expressed gratitude.   The TV wasn't on, yeah happy dance! The house had a nice calm about it. The temperature had dropped considerably, so sleeping was comfortable. Yes, my husband did have to get up every few hours to put more gas in the generator and it was my job to wake him up when I didn't hear it humming anymore. My maternal instinct of sleeping with one ear opened kicked in again. Small price to pay.

The next morning it was a beautiful day so I opened up all the blinds to let the sun just flood in.  Did my normal morning routine and left for the day.  By the time I got back home later in the afternoon, the power was back on.  Gratitude for having a generator, no TV, that it wasn't hot & sticky, that I have a wonderful husband, that the storms could have been a lot worse and it wasn't pitch black when we woke up. Santosha is about putting a more positive spin and situations in your life.  We may not like what is happening, but it's not the end of the world is it.

Weathering a power outage for less than 24 hours is not that intense, so let's take this a step further. What if someone in our life is ill and needs serious medical care? Do they have health insurance, gratitude.  Do they have a support system to help them, gratitude. Family and friends who are by their side, gratitude. 

Practicing Santosha doesn't mean that we have to like what is happening at the present moment, To quote Deborah from her book The Yama's & Niyama's  "Santosha invited us into contentment by taking refuge in a calm center, opening our hearts in gratitude for what we do have, and practicing the paradox of "not seeking".  

Nothing I did, say or think could change the fact the power was out, in the grand scheme of things it was a very minor adjustment to a very blessed life that I have.  If this way of thinking is new to you I highly suggest to read Deborah's  book, take it slowly and.....just breathe.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Lighten Your Load....

The other day a student came in to the studio that I hadn't seen in a while and she looked different. She had a big smile on her face and for the first time I noticed that she had two adorable dimples. Then she explained to me why the dimples had resurfaced.

She had recently quit a high paying, very demanding job to take a less stressful lower paying job at a different company.  She said that it is somewhat of an adjustment but she felt better and lighter that she has in years. She lightened her load.

A few day's after this I stumbled across a move on cable called "Seeking a Friend for the End of the World".  Without giving too much away of this comedy (yep, a comedy), the world was going to end in 3 weeks due to an asteroid that was plummeting toward earth that was going to make a direct hit.  The movie focused on two neighbors who hardly knew each other, fleeing the apartment building that they lived in that was being vandalized. As they left I noticed they didn't take a thing with them, what do you really need when the world is coming to an end. They fell in love (well it is a Hollywood movie after all) and realized by the movies end that all that mattered was the love they had for each other.

The movie reminded me of a quote from the book "The Yamas & Niyamas" by Deborah Adele regarding the Yama's (5 restraints from the Yogic teaching's of Master Patanjali), Aparigraha (non-possessiveness) which reads "Aparigraha invites us to let go and to pack lightly for our journey through life, all the while caring deeply and enjoying fully".  

What's been weighing you down, what do you need to unpack so you can better enjoy your journey through life.  A dead end job or relationship, a closet or basement full of "stuff" that no longer serves the life you now lead?  Lighten your load and the first step to take of course is to......just breathe.

P.S. I highly recommend watching the movie, a little quirky, but with a really nice message that will keep you thinking for a while.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Namaste Miss Liz

The word Namaste is a greeting or salutation that is most often said at the end of a yoga class, one of the translations is "I bow to you".  

That is why the title of this post is "Namaste Miss Liz" who passed away yesterday.  Liz started coming to the studio just a little over a year ago with her care giver/friend/support team, Karen.  Liz was 94 at the time and wanted to join the class even though it wasn't a chair yoga class and of course I said yes, after all yoga is for everyone.  After that she was a Thursday night regular.

In the beginning I would try and somewhat modify the class for her then I decided that wasn't going to work.  She and I talked and she said that she would keep up the best she could  and for me just to go with the flow for the rest of the class and that she was just happy to be here. She interpreted the poses as what was best for her.

She had the most amazing positive attitude and we all quickly fell in love with her.  As I taught I would check on her often and she would give me a wink and a thumbs up to let me know that all was good. And truth be told she did a kick ass boat pose, her core was stronger than students in their 20's.  

She had a stroke and just couldn't come back from it.  Karen told me that even though one side of her body was paralyzed initially after the stroke she would still watch her exercise program on TV and do her best.  Karen also said that Liz had a breath retention practice and often wondered if that was one reason she had such a long live.

Thursday nights will not be the same. Namaste Miss Liz, Namaste.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Rollin', Rollin' Rollin'.....

As I stated in a few posts ago, I started my week of a lifetime with the Dalai Lama and finished with a 2 day silent retreat.  The retreat center is Lake Huron Retreat Center and it is a beautiful facility. Saturday morning started out kind of cloudy but as the day opened up so did the sun.  The buildings are up on a small hill which means that you have to walk down to get to the water.  Quite a few of us were outside by this time, reading, reflecting, watching nature or recuperating from our mala bead making adventure (more on that later).

I was sitting on the grass on the top of the hill and a thought came to me as I looked down.  When was the last time that I rolled down a hill?  I hadn't a clue. Then I started to have a conversation with myself, after all I was at a silent retreat.  What if I just rolled down the hill?  No, no that wouldn't work, I shouldn't disturb the others around me.  However I am not getting any younger and when will this opportunity present itself again? It was a really was a nice looking hill and if I started rolling to the left I shouldn't hit the stack of wood at the bottom. No, no that's crazy talk, what if you break something.  Oh my goodness, the others will think that I am crazy.  Then again those who know me already know that I am crazy. Oh my, I really want do but I really shouldn't.  Then a very loud voice inside of me shouted  "just do it!"  And I did, I tucked my arms in and just rolled.  It was so much fun!  Once I stopped rolling I could hear the laughter of the group above me.  I went to stand up and decided that was a bad idea, I had forgotten how dizzy one gets when one rolls down a hill.  Once I regained my balance, I got up as gracefully as I could, brushed the grass off my clothes and picked the leaves out of my hair and walked away as if it was something I did everyday.  

Moral of the story? When was the last time you "rolled down the hill". Maybe not literally but metaphorically?  What is holding you back from enjoying life, from being silly, from laughing, from saying to yourself "just do it". Life is not a dress rehearsal people, not sure who to attribute that quote to but it's true.  

I told this story to some of my students and Jean send me a link as to why kids (and big kids) like to spin so I thought I would share it with you also since there seems to be health benefits.

Come on, get up take a deep breath and just roll with it!

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Change Your Mind/Change The World (Part #2)

The second talk of his Holiness the Dalai Lama was the next day and was held in a different venue than the day before, a much more intimate setting with wonderful acoustics and sound system.   This was also different in the fact that it was a panel discussion with , to quote the event website site "some of world's most respected thought leader to discuss how neuroscience,  environments,  economics and healthcare can combine to make the world a healthier, happier place". Amen!

It was a great discussion and instead of me trying to explain it to you through the miracle of technology  I have attached the link to the talk sponsored by the University of WI - Madison.  The guest speakers asked the Dalai Lama how can we make this happen, this "mind training" that they were referring to and and he  kept on telling them that they need to spread the knowledge, keep on doing what they are doing by educating people.

After the talk, the four of us were discussing his Holiness's request and this is what we came up with.  The people attending these events were already of the mind set otherwise they most likely wouldn't have been there.  How to you get the word out to people that this type of thinking may be new to them or don't even know who the Dalai Lama is (sad, but true). What about the portion of the population that would have loved to attend but couldn't financially afford the tickets, travel expenses, time away from work, no one to watch the kids.  That's where you and I come in.  That is when we start to make a difference.  

Watch the videos and then forward them to as many people as you can.  Start a discussion to get them on the right path. You can and do make a difference.  In the afternoon talk on Tuesday his Holiness said that we  all have this potential inside of us, it just needs to be nurtured and brought out.  

Together we can do this.....just take the first step and just breath.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Change Your Mind/ Change The World (Part #1)

The title of this post was also title of the talk that the Dalai Lama gave  last week in Madison WI and as some of you may know I had the honor of attending two of his 3 talks.

The first one was Tuesday morning at the Alliant Center in Madison. When he walked into the room, tears came to my eyes, just knowing what he as been through and what he continues to do for world peace.  It was more a convention center type of venue and unfortunately with the combination of his Holiness accent and the sound system it was at times difficult to understand him, but the mere energy of his presence was very evident.  There were approximately 3500 attendees so with the combination of his energy and ours, the place was buzzing.

His message that day was simple but powerful.  He first reminded us that no matter what religion or spiritual path that you are on, that it's all good. He kept on saying "same, same, it's all the same".  He also reminded us about a very basic principle, that if we want to be happy we first have to help others be happy.  That's it, sounds simple but at times can be very hard since we live in a world of "what about me". He ended up talking 45 minutes passed what he was suppose to.  At the end of the talk we were told how much money was generated, what the actual costs were for the event and the his Holiness donated the difference (I think it was approximately $75,000) to help support a  Buddhist temple in the area.

Security around him was very tight since we were told by a gal one of my group was sitting next to that there are death threats again the Dalai Lama.  

I want to apologize for the quality of the photo, my hand was shaking from excitement! I also want to apologize if my thoughts seemed scattered, still processing it all.

This whole trip was a gift from an unexpected source and I keep on trying to think of ways to thank them more than I already have, what could I get them what can I do?  They are in a good place in their lives and really don't need anything and let it hit me! Of course, just pay it forward and just breathe.

Monday, May 20, 2013

What a Week!

What an amazing week I just had!  A few weeks ago I told you that I had writers blocks, well after this past week thoughts are just pouring out of me. 

In the last 6 days I saw the Dalai Lama speak twice, went to a wonderful zoo that was free, visited a beautiful botanical garden that is home to a gold inlaid Pavilion that was crafted in Bangkok, Thailand, took a car ferry across Lake Michigan, slept in 3 different beds in 5 days, went to a silent retreat, rolled down the side of a hill (I was channeling my inner child and no I didn't break anything), made my very own 108 mala beads, walked along the shores of Lake Huron, got to know one friend better and made two new friends. Somewhere in between all that I taught 5 yoga classes ,a meditation class and participated in a aerial Yin Yoga workshop. Whew! I really wasn't tired until I just re-read what I just typed.  Ahhh, the power of suggestion.

The first order of business is to share with you the wonderful experience of seeing the Dalai Lama, but that's going to have to wait a day or two, I need to catch a few breathes and just breathe.

Monday, May 13, 2013

I'm off to see the Dalai......

Yep, you read right! In mere hours I will traveling to Madison WI to see the Dalai Lama.  I received a totally unexpected invitation from a student who I haven't seen in  a while. That's why you always need to keep your heart open because you never know what gifts might come your way.  If you eyes are down, your face is pinched and your fist's are clenched, you'll never see what's in front of you.

I am so excited.  My wonderful husband and my fantastic teachers will be holding down the fort while I am gone.  I will be back Wednesday. Then home for one day and off to a silent retreat from Friday to Sunday.  Whew!  I will report back next week on both of my adventures.  Did I already say that I was so excited?  I have to keep reminding myself to......just breath.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Mysore Style

I just experienced my first Mysore style Ashtanga class and loved it! Mysore style is a specific way of teaching Ashtanga Yoga as first taught by Sir K. Phattabhi Jois in the city of Mysore in India. It is way, way different that what most westerners are used. First of all the class is not "led" by the teacher as a whole. Think of it as private lessons for all of the students that are practicing at the same time. The teacher assists each student individually by giving physical adjustments & verbal instruction then the student goes at their own pace. Usually the teacher will give you a part of the sequence to work on and repeat it until it becomes more familiar to your body and breath.

The main focus of your practice is your breath, your dhristi (your gaze or focus) and your posture.  No pop music blaring in the background, all you hear is the deep ujjayi breath and the gentle movements of the bodies in the room. No comparing your triangle to the persons next to you  because they are in extended side angle pose, not triangle. I will admit that the concept was a little distracting at first but then I got the hang of it.

What is also different is that students come in during the time frame of the class as they wish and leave when they have finished the series that they came to do. You then go to the finishing room to practice the ending poses as not to disturb the students who are still flowing in the practice room. Did I mention yet that I loved it!

When I go to another studio I don't like to mention that I am a teacher, I just want to be a student and learn just like everyone else, because of course I will always be a student of yoga. I went into the practice room with no ego (it's very liberating to practice without an ego, try it sometime) and imagined myself a brand new student of yoga, a clean slate so to speak. Wow, my body felt lighter, I really paid attention to what I was doing and let go of any and all expectations.  

It is amazing of the things that  you can accomplish when you let go of the ego and ....just breath!

Monday, April 29, 2013

Monkey Mind

In the meditation side of yoga, we have something that we like to call monkey mind where we can't quiet the mind.  Imagine a monkey swinging from vine to vine to vine to.....ok you get the picture.  Well it's been a combination of writer's block/monkey mind and being off the grid for a week that I haven't written.  so I thought I would share some words of wisdom.  Be back in form soon.  Blessings...and just breath.

It is I who must begin 
It is I who must begin.
Once I begin, once I try --
here and now,
right where I am,
not excusing myself
by saying things
would be easier elsewhere,
without grand speeches and
ostentatious gestures,
but all the more persistently
-- to live in harmony
with the "voice of Being," as I
understand it within myself
-- as soon as I begin that,
I suddenly discover,
to my surprise, that
I am neither the only one,
nor the first,
nor the most important one
to have set out
upon that road.

Whether all is really lost
or not depends entirely on
whether or not I am lost.

~ Vaclav Havel ~

Sunday, April 7, 2013

The Impermanence of It All

Jennie circa 1945
I had my soon to be 88 year old mom spend the night with us last weekend as we were hosting Easter for the family. It was going to be a very small group this year as some have moved out of state while others had in-law obligations.  I felt bad for my mom, this was not the Easter of her past, especially with my dad being gone almost seven years now. I remember big loud affairs, kids running all over the place, makeshift tables in my Grandparent's basement in East Detroit (that's what is was called back then) with dishes stacked one atop  another to accommodate all the different courses that were served.  After dinner the ladies would clean up, us kids would go into a sugar induced coma and the men would play cards with their pants unbuttoned from eating way too much pasta.

My mom is not in good health now and often says to me "I never thought growing old would be like this".  I constantly have to bite my tongue, the sassy part of me wants to ask her "well what the hell did you think would happen".  She has watched her parents, siblings, husband and countless other relatives make their way to the other side...but she didn't think it would happen to her?  I know, I know, I did say it was the sassy part of me.

As I was peeling potatoes for dinner she was taking yet another nap even though it was just 11:00 am.  I was using the process of potato peeling as a kind of meditation.  You know,  a one pointed focus (meditation comes in all forms, not just sitting on your bottom and chanting "ommmm") and wondered how could I make this Easter like the ones of her past, I wanted to make her happy.  Then I remembered I can't recreate the past, no one can.  This was the 2013 version of Easter.  Next year will be different and so will the one after that.

The Buddha taught us that everything is impermanent. Most of us think of impermanence as a unpleasant thing but it is the cycle of life. The world we live in is constantly changing whether we accept it or not. This is where the pain of suffering (dukkha) comes from.  I know that this is not a comfortable topic for most westerners to talk about let alone think about.  I am reminded about it every time I look into the mirror and see another gray hair or wrinkle, but then I say to myself this is me today.  I am not the same as yesterday nor will I be the same tomorrow.  I have learned to be OK with impermanence after all we will all die one day.  

My mom is in constant pain due to age related issues and inactivity, but I wish she could try and embrace the blessings that she has in her life today, family love, support of friends, a roof over her head, food, heath insurance. I wish she could make a little more peace with the Jennie of 2013. She wants to be in the past where she was young, healthy, very beautiful and could dance the night away wearing ankle strap high heels.  

As she naps I check on her often to make sure that that her chest is moving up and down, watching her as she just breathes....

Friday, March 8, 2013

There's No Hangover with Yoga.

Every morning on my way to the studio I pass by a local bar and I have made a guessing game of sorts out of how many cars will be in the parking lot left over from the night before.  The other morning it was four.  My first thought is usually, well I am glad they had the common sense, or someone  they were with, not to drive home in an inebriated condition.  But then my second thought is what is going on in their lives that they had to get there in the first place. Some days the same care is still there, staying there for days waiting for the owner to come get it.  What are they doing that they couldn't come back the next day.

If I am sounding somewhat judgmental, I don't mean to be.  Just curious as to what path they are on that has taken them to this point.

I never was a big drinker, I was what you called a cheap drunk.  One glass of wine and I was done for the night.  But the hangover would last longer than the buzz.  I remember one of my first teachers told me the only reason he tired yoga was because someone told him he could get a "high" from it.

Can you get a high from yoga, yep! If you googled "yoga buzz" you will come up with tons of information about it.  It really does exist.

How does it work? You move and you breath, simple as that.  Working the "outer body" you increase the circulation of the blood, bringing in needed nutrients with your inhales and releasing toxins with your exhales.  With the postures you wring out the organs and strengthen and lengthen your muscles. You start to release the "issues that hide in our tissues".  This magic just doesn't happen with a kick ass hot yoga class, it happens with the most gentlest forms of yoga.

On the website there is even a  bonafide definition: "Yoga Buzz: the high or elated feeling upon completion of a focused hatha yoga or meditation practice.  The sensation that arises upon connecting the oneness of the universe".  Just reading that gets me a little loopy.  

We all have drama and obstacles in our life that we need to deal with.  With a chemical high when you come down  the problems are still there and  you haven't learned any coping mechanism.  With a yoga high or buzz when and if you come out of it, you have learned that there is another way. After all yoga is a journey of self realization.  So just don't put a band aid on your drama, hoping that you can drink it away.  Give yoga a try and start to change your life for the better and of course....don't forget to breathe.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Look at Me Ma!

I used to teach chair yoga where my 88 year old mother lives, a community for "active seniors" and if you call it a nursing home she will most definitely take you down, all 4'10"of her.  But I am getting off my topic of choice. I  loved seeing all the little ladies come into class all styled out, heavily dosed in Chanel No. 5.  Hats, broaches ( decorative pins for those of you in a younger age group), scarves, they were adorable. There were a few men here and there, but just like other yoga class, the ladies dominated.  And if you think you can't work up a sweat doing chair yoga, you my friend are sadly mistaken. try it sometimes.  Again I am getting off the topic.

Truth be told, the only reason my mom would attend the class was because I was teaching it.  She loved to show me off to her lady friends, just busting with pride. There were times when she wouldn't let me start class until I showed the students how I could do head stand.  She and I would argue but of course she would win and up (or upside down) I went.  She would just gush and everyone would clap.  Only then was I allowed to start class.

I thought of this recently when I was trying to remind someone yet again that the true essence of yoga isn't about getting up into handstand, even if your mom makes you.  It's about the breath, it's about practicing Seva (selfless service), it's about being there when someone reaches out.  It's so much more than the physical practice.  If you have read my blog in the past, you know that I bring this up time and time again.  But it needs to be.  We get so caught up about the "what about me" mantra that we forget where true happiness comes from. Not happy in your current life, good chance that it's all about you.  All about  showing off in handstand, headstand or what ever advanced pose that you can do. Here is a simple formula for you to follow: you + Seva = happiness.  Get it? Got it? Good!

If your ego is attaching your happiness to the pose of the month, what happens when you find yourself in a chair yoga class. Don't think that's going to happen to you, guess again people  I guarantee neither did any of the lovely ladies in the class that I taught.  

Moral of the story, stay active, move, eat right, practice yoga, but most importantly practice Seva....and don't forget to breath.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Happy Valentine's Day

“Without love,
all worship is a burden,
all dancing is a chore,
all music is mere noise.
All the rain of heaven may fall into the sea.
Without love, 
not one drop could become a pearl.”
~ Rumi ~

Happy Valentine's Day!

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Yoga for One Please!

I remember when I was first interested in wanting to start a yoga practice..  I tried to talk everyone I knew into taking it with me.  Good Lord I didn't want to go alone, way too crazy.  Sisters, girlfriends, cousins, spouse, I couldn't fine any takers.  Years went by and the more I read about it the more I wanted to take it and one day I just put my big girl pants on and went all by myself.
I was reminded of this the other day when two new students came in for class and a third friend who was suppose to join them didn't.  Of the remaining two, one looked at the other and said "boy aren't you glad I came or you would have been all by yourself". Alone in a yoga studio?  Highly unlikely.  She said it has if it was such a bad thing, even though I am sure that she didn't mean it that way but that's how we perceive it.  What is so bad about being alone with yourself.  First of all most anywhere you go you really aren't by yourself.  You are surrounded by countless others, you may not know them but you truly aren't alone.
Why are we afraid to venture out on our own? To try a new experience, meet new friends, to put our big girl (or boy) pants on and embrace the world.  What is on your "to do" list that hasn't been done because you can't find anyone to do it with.  What if you never find someone to do it with, if you continue on the path that you are on you will miss out on it.
A few weeks ago I was to meet a friend for lunch, we got our signals crossed and I ended up eating lunch alone and enjoyed my own company. I was tempted to go to the car and get a book, but I didn't.  My neighbor went to the show by herself the other day to see a movie and enjoyed her own company.  Of course taking a break from 2 active sons was an added bonus. And please explain to me why some women need a bathroom buddy?  I have never understood that one.
Most often we aren't afraid to be physically alone but internally alone.  That means we will have to have a conversation with our own thoughts.  Horrors! What is so bad about being by yourself.  What are you afraid of. Yoga and meditation is a discovery of self realization. Learning about our body and our mind, what makes us move and what makes us tick.  No one else can do that for us or with us .
If I eventually didn't pursue my journey of yoga by myself I wouldn't have the wonderful full life that have today. There are no do overs in life. So listen up everyone, put your big girl or boy pants on and take that leap of faith....and just breathe.


Monday, January 28, 2013

The Hardest Pose in Yoga

Well today is the day that I have promised for a while, I am going to actually talk about a yoga pose!  It is often said to be the hardest pose in your practice, well you may have already guessed by now from the picture that it's not handstand.  Yep, it's Shavasana, corpse pose. Did you read that correctly? Shavasana the hardest pose. Goodness look at the gentleman in the picture, he looks totally "zened" out.  By the way don't you just love how the light is falling across his body. 

As a clarification,  I didn't say it was the hardest physical pose, I said it was the hardest pose and the most important in your yoga practice. Done as the last pose of your practice as you release all muscular tension and you take this time to repair and recharge, find a balance before you come out and enter the world again. Ideally it should last 10 to 15 minutes if not longer.  But of course some of us in the Western world shorten it up considerably so we can get that last boat pose or headstand in.  (as a side note I am working on bringing  a proper Shavasana back into my classes). It is somewhat of an intimidating pose because our heart is open our body is in a vulnerable position and we are asked to just let go and trust.  That's where the hard part comes in.

I always like to think of Shavasana as that final blessings to yourself or from a higher power, to seal up the practice that you just worked so hard at.  I was raised in the Catholic church and  wondered in amazement at all of the people who would leave church right after receiving communion.  They didn't even go back to their seats, just straight out the back door.  I still want to yell at them "wait, where are you going, you are missing the best part, the final blessing".  " The Mass is ended, go in peace" or "Go in peace to love and serve the Lord".  Why would you not want to receive that?  We all could use a lot more peace in our lives.

I remember being in a yoga class years ago where it was like a revolving door, people coming and going during the class and then half the class getting up and leaving before the final "blessing".  I never went back.

Now Shavasana isn't about sleeping, even though that sometimes happens. Think of it as active relaxation. Sort of a reflection of the practice that you just experienced.  Enjoy, noticing the new sensation of your body.

You don't have to save Shavasana for the end of your yoga practice.  Enter it when you need to find some silence or if you are having trouble falling asleep.   Start at your toes and slowing work your way up your body as you consciously release and relax every muscle till you reach the crown of your head.  And yes of course, don't forget to breath.