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Archive for the ‘*Yoga’ Category

A Twitter friend (also known as a “Tweep”) sent me a great link to a post featuring pictures of cats in various yoga poses, one of which is featured below. Be sure to click on the link to see all of the hilarious photos.  Thanks to Danny Ashton for sharing this with me, as well as the folks at SimplySweat for the original post.

10 Yoga Postures Performed By Cats

Most of Yoga actually imitates what animals do easily and many yoga positions will require you to imitate some sort of animal. Old Yoga gurus believed that by taking the posture of a certain animal; we can embody the cosmic energy and thus achieve a stability of mind and body.

Cat doing Cobra (a.k.a. Bhujangasana)

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I heard Dr. Mehmet Oz the other day suggest three easy changes to your morning routine that can make a big difference in your day.

  1. Start each day with stretching. Dr. Oz says he begins his morning with 7 minutes of yoga.
  2. Eat breakfast.
  3. Get to work, appointments, classes, etc., 5 minutes early.

The first two I don’t have a problem accomplishing. But the third point? Well, it addresses time management, one of my great life challenges and no coincidence 🙂 one of new year resolutions.

It is very difficult for me to get a handle on time. I suffer from two critical flaws — I over schedule my day and I underestimate the time it takes to do any given task. If it takes 15 minutes with no traffic to get to the doctor’s office and I have an appointment at 2:00, I will leave at 1:45. I allow for no contingencies. And heaven forbid, I actually get somewhere EARLY.

Dr. Oz says that being late will stress you out and cause high blood pressure. It also shows  — and this is important for me to remember — disrespect to those that are waiting for you. When you keep someone waiting you are in essence saying, “My time is more important than yours.” He pointed out that a late arrival  puts you at a deficit when you come into a meeting. You may have missed information and the other person has an advantage.

I took a yoga teacher training with the esteemed Judith Lasater who is a stickler about time. As those of you who have taught  workshops and classes  know (yoga or otherwise), it can be difficult to get a large group of people assembled and quieted. Not for Judith. She rings the bell and starts (with a moment of silence) whether people are settled in or not. You learn quickly not to be late, and if you are, she’s starting anyway. She also is just as conscientious about ending on time. Judith says, “We start class on time to honor the practice. We end class on time to honor our students.  Be it yoga class, PTA meetings, business appointments or lunch dates with friends, Judith’s words apply.

One more thought from one of my favorite authors which deserves a separate post in and of itself …

Until you value yourself, you will not value your time. Until you value your time, you will not do anything with it. ~M. Scott Peck

THAT takes some digesting!

* * *

In addition to the 3 tips listed above, Dr. Oz spells out several other changes that can positively impact your daily life including: avoid mindless eating, get off the couch,stay connected to family and friends, and have a regular bedtime.  Read more in The Seven Deadly Sins According to Dr Oz: What to Do to Replace  Them.

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As those who have ever kept a gratitude journal can attest, one of the effects of such a practice is that it causes you to become more conscious, to become an active witness of your own life. After all, if you have to write something down about it later, you better be paying attention. I have found the same thing to be true from my practice of composing daily 6-word memoirs. It “forces” me to reflect, to “BE” conscious, and frequently at the very moment I am ready to crawl into the UNconscious world of sleep.

If you stay with it, there are gifts in reflection. Combining a day’s events with my own reactions and then distilling it down to six words involves a certain kind of alchemy. This is not at all unlike the deeper opening you experience in yoga the second or third time you move into a pose. At first take you don’t yield significant results, and the process may be painful, but then … AHHHHHH, there’s the bliss.

I spent yesterday in the company of old friends. At this point in our lives the conversation will inevitably turn to the effects of aging at some point, and our ongoing, futile efforts to hide the ever-increasing lines on our faces. And so it was that on my drive home as I considered my six word memoir for the day, I began to audition a host of words on aging to try to settle on the six finalists that best expressed my frustration with this whole “getting old” thing: Age, Rage, Line, Define, Sag, Bag, Hag. I was on quite a roll.

Then the alchemy began to occur. Sifting through the words, my thoughts turned to how LONG I’ve been blessed to have these friends look into my eyes (aging or otherwise) and the grace that God has granted me with their very presence. I began to play with the words “face” and “grace” until I critically considered, is that the correct use of the word “grace”? So I paused to look it up the definition online: “grace: 1) the freely given, unmerited favor and love of God;” Wow. “2) The influence or spirit of God operating in humans to regenerate or strengthen them.”

Isn’t THAT the definition of friends; “the influence or spirit of God operating in humans to regenerate or strengthen them.” Friendship, a synonym for God’s grace.

“Friends’ Faces Reflect Graces of God”

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Prana recently released a new yoga mat, The Revolution. Over three years in development, the mat was designed by Dave Kennedy in conjunction with Anusara Yoga’s founder, John Friend. It boasts an extra 6″ width over standard mats — a special boon to those of broad shoulders — and with all-natural materials, you can rest well in savasana knowing that YOU are an ecofriend.

Revolution Natural Sticky Yoga Mat by prAna (eco-friendly!) – NEW! From DrishtiYoga.com:

Check it out, guys! This is a new yoga mat that’s just been released by prAna. prAna designed this mat with the help of Anusara Yoga founder John Friend. They claim that this is the best yoga mat available on the market, and we agree that it’s pretty darn cool. The thing that stands out most about this mat is that it’s extremely roomy. Whereas the average yoga mat is 24″x68″ in size, the new Revolution Yoga Mat is a whopping 30″x78″ – wowza that’s big! In addition to its extra-large size, the Revolution Mat is also very well-made. It’s a rubber-based all-natural yoga mat which is made with no hazardous materials (i.e. no PVC), and it’s completely biodegradable. This mat also has excellent anti-slip properties and superior cushioning. At 4mm thick, you won’t experience any moving or bunching underfoot.

The Revolution Yoga Mat is very dense (meaning that it’s therefore incredibly durable), and because of that, it has a hefty weight of about 10 pounds.

Available in grass and burnt orange. 30″x78″x4mm.

For a slightly lighterweight version of this mat which is 26″ wide instead of 30″ wide, see the Neo Natural Yoga Mat by prAna. The only difference between the Neo Natural Mat and the Revolution Mat is that the Neo Natural Mat is 4″ narrower.

A Video Revolution

The videos touting the Revolution’s release are playful, fun and artistic. Put together by Michael Longstaff (aka Milo), they are a series of promotions that emphasize the mat’s features in a fabulously creative out of the box — or should I say, “off the mat” visual array. (FYI: Michael Longstaff produced the Anusara Yoga syllabus poster “From Tadasana to Savasana” featuring Darren Rhodes. For more info on Michael, visit Tirtha Studios.)

The videos are totally fun. For those in the Anusara community, there’s an added bonus of recognizable friends. You can find these on YouTube. It will only take you about 5 minutes to watch these … and don’t miss “The Finale”!

Let’s start a REVOLUTION … order yours today!

The Joy (with Christina) ~ A Revolution Makes Christina Sell TALLER!

The Size: (look for Kelly)

The Construction:

The Smell:

The Finale: (with John Friend, Christina & Kelly Sell, Peter Goodman, Tiffany Grimm, Darren Rhodes & more!)

* * *

Do you Twitter? Follow:

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The Journey Towards My Heels

The Journey Towards My Heels

Face Off with Change

My Face Off with Change

Backbends are challenging for me — both physically and on an energetic level. And as such, it’s a curious study to watch where my mind goes throughout the course of a backbending practice: I am aggravated, frustrated, invigorated and ultimately fascinated by them. If I learn nothing else from backbends, they do illustrate & remind me of the first principle of Anusara Yoga: “Open to Grace.”

These photos were taken at our Anusara group practice yesterday with Christina Sell. For more pictures, check out Christina’s blog.

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I just ran across a yoga article on an online fitness site Testosterone.Muscle Unapologetic Muscle-Building Elitists. (Okay, not your typical yogi reading material, I’ll admit.) Mike Robertson’s article Yoga is Overrated makes a case against the yoga fitness craze. Surprisingly, I agree with him on a number of his assertions. Be sure to read the full text of Robertson’s article, (with my apologies for the cheesecake picture at the end). A summary of his points:

Yoga the Good

  1. Mind-Muscle Connection
  2. Decrease Stress
  3. Balance

Yoga the Bad

  1. Instability
  2. “Tightness” does not equal “Needs to be Stretched”
  3. Group Exercise/Lack of Individualization

Getting the Most Out of Your Yoga

  1. Find an educated teacher
  2. Smaller classes
  3. Focus on Quality vs. Quantity

His points on instability and tightness do not hold water in the context of Anusara Yoga where the emphasis is on balanced action — you do not stretch a muscle until you draw in circumfrentially with muscular energy. However, Robertson’s “Yoga the Bad” reflects what IS bad in what I’ll call psuedo-yoga offerings. Unfortunately, there are all too many of these kinds of teachers and classes, not only in the gym setting but perhaps (more damaging) in the yoga studio as well.

Just like I’m sure Robertson would agree that incorrectly performed body building exercises are not good for you, I whole-heartedly agree with his assertions as they relate to “incorrect” yoga. His tips for getting the most out of your yoga are worth heeding; his summation a great prediction:

“I may be living in a dream world, but I believe that there will be a revolution in the yoga world in the coming years that puts a serious emphasis on moving in a biomechanically efficient manner.” ~ Mike Robertson

That revolution is here baby, it’s called Anusara Yoga.

* * *

I would really love to hear your thoughts and opinions of this article, and invite you to discuss your ideas here. What do you think of his assertions? Side note: My comments are written with an obvious bias towards Anusara Yoga which I study and practice. Other yoga methods also emphasize the biomechanics and provide effective instruction (with a tip of my mat to my Iyengar friends)!

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As the self-proclaimed YogiTechChick, I’m often weighing the effects of technology on our lives. At first glance, technology and a yoga practice seem diametrically opposed to one another. By its very nature, doesn’t it take us further away from “being present”? The endless stream of text messages, emails and 24/7 connectivity certainly bears witness to this shift away from the present moment with distraction only a fingertip away.

Still, many yogis are finding constructive ways to incorporate technology in their practice. Ipods give access to yoga podcasts and practice music. Iphones offer meditation timers. From blogs to Twitter to Facebook, the growth of the online yoga community has allowed like-minded folks to inspire one another, share event notices, and build the kula.

Sites offering online classes are another tech tool yogis are utilizing. Yogaglo launched last month with that purpose and looks promising. Their site “streams yoga classes globally from the Yogaglo studio in Santa Monica, California, to create the experience of participating in the class at your home or on the go.” Currently in their beta version, Yogaglo is offering a 15-day free trial period for unlimited access to their classes which are promised to be updated regularly.

“Classes cover the spectrum of asana styles, meditation, lectures, workshops, and special events.” Their home page displays the six most recent classes and you can sort archived classes according to teacher, style, level and duration. (You can pick by Levels 1-3 and duration of practice 5 – 120 minutes.) Advertised styles include: Anusara, Yin, Hatha, Vinyasa Flow and even meditation. Teachers include: Jo Tastula, Noah Maze, Stephen Espinosa, Genevieve Fischer and Tara Judelle. (Both Tara and Noah are certified Anusara Yoga teachers.) There is also promise of guest teachers as well.

The technology integration continues with a Facebook application:

With our Yogaglo Facebook application you can become part of the global yoga community.  Your friends on Facebook who have installed the Yogaglo app appear in your Yogaglo Friends tab.  With our Facebook app, you see from your profile when your favorite class is uploaded to the Yogaglo website.

While online classes aren’t for everyone, they certainly fill a niche. If you can’t make your regular class or need some guidance for a home practice, inspiration may be just a mouse click away. For those in smaller communities without access to large studios, this may be the only way they can experience a class with a seasoned teacher without traveling. As a yogi in the 21st century, being present may just be at the end of your fingergtips after all.

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Vodpod videos no longer available.

“Late in November 2005, we concocted a crazy plan. 1) Darren Rhodes would perform every asana in the Anusara Syllabus in two days. 2) He would do all of the poses of each type (backbends, armbalancing, forward folds etc) in each level as an uninterrupted set (for Ross’ video purposes). 3) Michael would photograph every pose for output to a syllabus poster. This is some footage from the process.” ~ Ross Evans

Those of you familiar with Anusara Yoga have seen the poster. Darren Rhodes, an accomplished Anusara Yoga practitioner and certified teacher, took on the yogic task of doing every asana on all three Anusara Yoga syllabi … and that he did. Recently, I was directed to this video which was made during the photographic shoot. The beautiful background vocals are those of Darren’s wife, Bronwin. Hanuman Jai is one of ten songs available on her CD Bhavana. In 2008, Yoga Journal named Darren one their Top 21 teachers under 40 who are “shaping the future of yoga.” You can find more information about Darren, his studio in Tuscon, and his upcoming schedule at Yoga Oasis.

* * *

SPECIAL EVENT NOTICE

Anusara Yoga Immersion with Darren Rhodes & Christina Sell in Tuscon

  • Part I – August 2009
  • Part II – October 2009
  • Part III – December 2009

For more information, contact Rachel at Yoga Oasis

* * *

BUT WAIT THERE’S MORE …

  • Read Darren’s approach to Hanumanasana and see more photos of him in the Pose of the Month column for Anusara Yoga’s Currents newsletter, Winter 2008 edition.
  • See photos from his workshop with Christina Sell last summer on this blog.
  • Special thanks to my friend Deirdra ~ my Twitter & Facebook friend ~ for bringing this awesome video to my attention.

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My Teacher

Christina Sell

The story goes that it is not uncommon for John Friend to ask a student, “Who’s your teacher?” during one of his Anusara Yoga workshops. To his experienced legion of teachers, this comes more as an inquiry about THEM than the particular individual being questioned. And as such, there are lighthearted jokes in the Anusara yoga kula ~ but with a very real undercurrent ~ when someone playfully chimes, “Who’s your teacher?”

My teacher, Christina Sell, reminded us of that sentiment frequently in the weeks leading up to John’s visit to Austin last fall. “You know what I’ve taught you,” she’d admonish, “… so do it!” But it was more than simply wanting to “look good” as our teacher. Christina believes that her role is to teach Anusara Yoga culture as well as the methodology. She wanted us to know what to expect and how to behave not just in John’s workshop, but in any setting with seasoned Anusara Yoga teachers and practitioners. With the ferocity of a mother duck quacking at the feet of her ducklings so that they can safely navigate a busy intersection, Christina shared the wisdom of her experience to help us successfully navigate a John Friend workshop.

Lately, her travel schedule has afforded many more students the benefit of that wisdom. Yet this leaves those of us in Austin without her guiding “quack.” I’ve used this time as an opportunity to explore some other proverbial intersections in the yogic world, and last week ventured into a “non” Anusara Yoga class at the studio where I practice.  While I didn’t know the particular teacher, I recognized her from one of Christina’s recent classes that she’d also attended. She came over to me and introduced herself, then added with a nervous laugh, “You’re one of Christina’s students. I don’t want YOU in my class.” I smiled at her reassuringly and casually dismissed it.

Still, as I closed my eyes, I joined my hands in anjali mudra with a prayer of acknowledgment and gratitude. “Who’s MY Teacher?”… Christina Sell.

Yeah, baby!

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Yoga Feed Aggregator

Earlier today, I ran across Yoga Bin, a website desribed as “your one stop shop for EVERYTHING Yoga.” I don’t know about that, but I found their blog somewhat interesting. The site is an aggregate for other yoga blogs, which is a geeky tech term that means it’s automated to go gather up and share other yoga-related posts.  That said, the posts may or may not be of much quality or even yogic value, but it IS kind of interesting. And so, I’ve added the feed to my sidebar where today (January 25, 2009) you can see such things as: a Lego figure doing Legs up the Wall pose, a news feed about Muslims in Indonesia being banned from doing yoga, (which echos some of the rhetoric from fundamental Christian groups), yoga for surfers, and weight control with your exercise ball.  I’ll keep it on the sidebar for awhile and see what happens … after all, it DID pick up a couple of MY posts so how bad can it be?! 😛

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Tomorrow is a big day, and I’m not talking about Barrack Obama’s inauguration! On Tuesday, January 20, 2009, the Goddess that IS Desiree Rumbaugh turns 50, but don’t send the AARP card just yet. One of the first yoga teachers to be certified in the Anusara Yoga method, Desiree is a gifted teacher. As John Friend said, she’s in that class of people who only need a one name introduction: DEZ!

Desiree spent her birthday weekend here in San Francisco doing what she loves to do ~ teaching yoga and inspiring her students to realize the potential that lies within them. Whether that’s the ability to touch their heads to their toes for the first time, heal their own injuries, or live a resilient and vibrant life ~ she not only talks the talk ~ she walks the walk. dez-at-50

All of this made her workshop ~ Late Bloomers: Over 50 ~ all that more poignant! Those who were expecting to be led in a gentle flow were quickly engaged in strength-building asanas. Desiree explained that as we age we lose our flexibility more quickly than our strength. To reestablish our flexibility we MUST build and engage our strength. From push-ups to core work, she put us through our paces with the discipline of a drill sargent. She continued, “You do not have to give up any class of poses simply because you’re aging. When you limit yourself, you limit your teaching.”

Later that evening, there was a small birthday celebration for Dez which included a Japanese Bath House adventure (another story … seriously) followed by some southern Indian food (as if I would know the difference between northern & southern Indian cuisine). Sitting across the table from this strong, spirited woman, it was hard to imagine she was about to turn 50 & especially as I watched her try to lick gelato off the end of her nose.

Frankly, I’M not sure the AARP is ready for Desiree!

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jnaniJnani Chapman is affiliated with Commonweal, a nonprofit health and environmental research institute located in Bolinas, California which conducts programs that contribute to human & ecosystem health. Commonweal’s Cancer Help Program offers a week-long residential support program for people with cancer.

  • The session opened with a reflection technique, The Witness Practice, recommended for beginning yoga work with cancer patients. It is “designed to focus attention on how the body is feeling, enabling us to attend to whatever is happening in that moment.”
  • As a yoga teacher or yoga therapist, being able to love, forgive & accept your SELF may be the greatest teaching/example we can give our students.
  • “Fixing is the work of the ego. Serving is the work of the soul.” ~ Rachel Naomi Remen
  • How to communicate with those we love who have cancer: Whenever we don’t know what to say … Say, “Honey, I love you SO much.”
  • Question arose ~ Could exercise be “bad” for cancer patients? That is, make cancer spread faster? Answer: No blood flow helps general health. It is important to keep in mind that physical exertion is stress. The body needs recovery time. Exhaustion after exertion results in depletion.
  • Teach how to breathe with additional focus on extended exhalation. Poor exhalation fails to rid the body of gaseous waste.
  • Jnani shared a thought-provoking piece written by Rachel Naomi Remen on the difference between service & helping. “Helping is based on inequality … helping incurs debt. Service is a relationship between equals … When I help I have a feeling of satisfaction. When I serve I have the feeling of gratitude.”

“Accept what is, and know that things change.”

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Yoga & Cancer: A LIVE Feed

I am sitting in my last workshop of the San Francisco Yoga Journal Conference, a one day intensive on yoga and cancer. The session is being led by Jnani Chapman, a Registered Nurse and yoga practitioner for over 34 years. She has specialized in yoga as an integral practice for cancer treatment and care for the last 23 years.

Jnani has generously agreed to allow me to set up my computer in the corner of our room and blog “live” throughout the day. So for the next 8 hours or so, I hope to share several shorter posts (which are more likely to be typo-riddled, I’m afraid.) Hopefully, it will useful & interesting.

If you happen to actually be reading this sometime during the day of the workshop — that is on Monday, January 19 — and are particularly interested in this topic, your invited to concurrently follow my Twitter updates.

My deepest gratitude to Jnani and my fellow workshop participants for allowing me to share our experience.

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Sianna Sherman is known for her lyrical weaving of storytelling as she shares the Universal Principles of Alignment that define Anusara Yoga. Sharing yogic stories & philosophies with a theatrical presence, a class with Sianna is like listening to a beautiful soliloquy. With an ambitious agenda to take her students into Hanumanasa, Sianna worked her magic first thing in the morning on Sunday. Say “Hello” to the hamstrings at 8 a.m.

Sianna.jpgHanuman, the great monkey deity, was renowned for his courage, power and faithful service. As Sianna took the class through an asana sequence that opened up the hips and hamstrings, she shared rich stories and how Hanuman made his great LEAP across the continent (hence the origins of the pose) to rescue Sita for Ram.

Sianna worked the class methodically through all of the 5 principles of alignment as she shared these stories. We used a partner exercise to help gain access to the power of the standing leg in standing splits for a different variation of the pose. As the class drew to a close, we all moved into Hanumanasa, our own heroic leap of faith in the yoga process, as WELL as our hamstrings.

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Judith.jpgJudith Lasater always starts her classes on time. I learned this at the first workshop I took from her, a restorative training session in Dallas a year ago. I will never forget her words, “We start class on time to honor the practice. We end class on time to honor our students.” And she always does.

So today as we gathered in the Grand Ballroom and rolled out our mats for her 2 hour workshop on Yoga to Save Your Knees, I turned to the woman next to me and casually remarked, “She always starts on time.” At exactly 12:30, a bell chimed, and Judith called us together.

In addition to being the queen of restorative yoga, Judith Lasater received her education in physical therapy. An Iyengar-trained yogi, she has taught for over 30 years, and authored a number of books. You might say, this girl knows what she’s talking about.

She opened the class with a simple statement, “Pain is not good.” Over the next 2 hours, Judith led participants in experiential exercises punctuated by group gatherings to closely observe alignment details and adjustments. From the orientation of the patella to the arc of the Achilles tendon, Judith urged us to be aware, pay attention, and make the subtle adjustments that can mean the difference between pain and ease.

DSC_5534.jpg 41gsyrmnail_sl500_aa240_As she explained the anatomy of the knee in clear and concise language, she shared this key insight: “The knee joint is the “prisoner” of the hip and the ankle.” Understanding anatomy is key to our practice, and to that end, Judith Lasater has written a new book for yoga teachers to facilitate that understanding. Yogabody: Anatomy, Kinesiology and Asana will be released in May 2009 and is available now for pre-order.

The workshop flew by as participants engaged in the exercises, asked questions, and diligently took notes. The class ended much too soon, but EXACTLY on time. As I watched the line form to ask this yoga master more questions, I realized I probably wasn’t the only one about to pre-order her new book.

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YJSF-4.jpgSeane Corn has good hair. As someone whose lived a lifetime with mousy brown baby fine hair, I can attest that it’s truly something of trademark proportions. Seriously, it’s that good … which reminds me of a funny story.

I first saw Seane at the Estes Park Yoga Journal Conference last September. The event was held at the beautiful YMCA of the Rockies venue, and while most of the people were there for the conference, there were some “non-yogi” types on the grounds.

One afternoon, a gentleman was walking near the main pavilion when he collapsed to the ground, most likely as a result from the effects of altitude. Seane, who happened to be nearby, quickly went to his aid and knelt down beside him.

As the man came to, he opened his eyes to this angelic vision with long, curly, golden hair and sparkling blue eyes. Taking one look at her, he stammered out his first words of consciousness … “Wow, you have pretty hair.” And though HE probably thought he was seeing an angel, everyone else knew he was gonna be just fine.

On Thursday, I attended an intensive on Spiritual Activism which was led by Seane Corn, Suzanne Sterling and Hala Khouri. These three women are partners in the initiative Off the Mat, Into the World described as “a program that aims to inspire and guide you to find and define your purpose and become active in your local or global community in an effective, sustainable and joyful way.”

There is much to share about what these women are doing, and I encourage you to check out their site for more information. Suffice it to say, there’s definitely a lot more to Seane Corn than good hair. Perhaps that man at Estes Park really DID see an angel after all.

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YJSF-9.jpgIn a world that frequently challenges us to PUSH our limits, Jason Crandell offered a different perspective in this morning’s asana workshop. As we began the practice, Crandell asked us to consider that “Integrity and stability are more important than range.”

Throughout the energizing sequence, he focused on the idea that your edge is that balance between effort and relaxation. Crandell made his way around the room, instructing and guiding the practice, while offering up sage insights that were worth stopping and making a note of (and I did more than a few times in the two hour class).

We want to learn to work with conscious effort and not hurl ourselves in (and out) of poses. How many of us can relate to that style of “practice”?? We muscle (and force) our way into some pose exerting maximum effort and then come out of it with equal abandon. Slow down, Crandell advises, and see that the balance of effort and relaxation is more important than achieving any particular form.

The pose is not the goal. (Say “what?!) Instead we use poses to FREE the body. The work of the pose is there to unveil who we really are. In basic poses, we want to learn how to work; in the more challenging ones, we want to learn how to relax. As Crandell reminded us, “Anything that is difficult for you will work better when you relax.” This is true in life as well as our asana practice.

Funny, that’s how most things are.

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When I signed up for Cyndi Lee’s session on Cultivating Lovingkindness, I figured that I was in for a nice little inspirational pep talk on being more loving and kind, and perhaps some tips on dealing with those people who get on my nerves which ~ let’s face it, I certainly could use. If all went well, maybe she’d throw in a good Dalai Lama quote for some blog material.

We started off with asana practice, a nice sequence to wind down after a full week. Then, she sprung it on us. We were gonna meditate.

Now, I have a confession to make; I am a closet non-meditater. I consider myself a serious yoga student and I’ve gone through a 200-hour Teacher Training program, so I KNOW it’s something I’m suppose to do. But I don’t, and this is somewhat of a shameful secret of mine. Trust me, it’s not from lack of supplies, that’s for sure. I’ve bought several books on “How to Start Meditating.” I have a cushion. I certainly have plenty of candles if I need a flame to stare at, and I even have a meditation shawl for those, oh, so chilly mornings in Austin, Texas.

Still, it’s not something I do. I’m not good at sitting still … ask my hairdresser. If I’m not ancy, I’m falling asleep. Prior meditation attempts have resulted in some pretty good head-nodding whiplash, not to mention that one embarrassing public snoring incident. So when she said we were going to meditate, let’s just say, I was not feeling the “loving-kindness.” But I was willing to give it go.

Cyndi offered up two meditation techniques. The first one was Mindfulness Meditation which she called Shamata Meditation. We focused on the breath, and she encouraged us to keep our eyes open in soft focus. (This is supposed to make it harder to sleep, I’m guessing.) Cyndi called this particular technique the “Tadasana of Meditation.” We practiced it for a short period, and I found it hard.

Then she introduced the group to Metta Meditation. In this practice, you begin by calling to mind someone you love unconditionally. With that person as your focal point, you recite these four lines (silently or aloud):

~ May you be safe.
~ May you be healthy.
~ May you be happy.
~ May you live with ease.

You repeat the process with yourself as the focal point, then someone who irritates you as the focal point, next someone who is simply a neutral person in your life, and lastly for all beings. As we moved through this practice, I found myself more sharply focused, more able to stay in the game. Now THIS is something I can do. Interestingly, as I googled “metta meditation,” I came across this reference: “METTA is the word in the Pali Language that means Loving-Kindness” (Is that a collective “duh” that I hear?!)

One final point: Cyndi emphasized that to cultivate loving-kindness we must first start with ourselves. We limit our capacity to love others when we do not love ourselves fully. Perhaps it’s time for me to go of my meditation shame and cultivate some real lovingkindness.

May you ALL live with ease!

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Pamela Walsh

YJSF-12.jpgThe main conference opened today with throngs of yogis filling the Hyatt Regency. Even with the numbers, the registration and check-in moved quickly as folks received their badges and goodie bags filled with all sorts of healthy treats and samples from conference sponsors (not to mention the recent issue of Yoga Journal. There were plenty of staff and volunteers on hand to help participants find their way to the many workshop locations stretched across several floors and ballrooms at the Hyatt.

When I first came across someone carrying a clipboard with a large “ASK ME” sign, I thought to myself, “Ask me WHAT?” (My cynical mind had thought it was some kind of sales approach ~ you know, like “Ask me about my yoga mat,” or “Ask me about my car insurance.” But NO, it was yet another way of providing assistance to the many participants, staff floaters moving about the crowd.
sign.jpg

I’ve asked folks about how they chose their classes, and I’ve been met with all sorts of answers. For some, it was a very detailed, almost scientific process. Others had a more random approach. I have to admit that I DID get a bit of a laugh when my sweet roommate ~ Hi Loretta! ~ said she was headed to “Core Mudras & Essential Tricks” and then asked, “What’s a mudra anyway?” There are those who looked forward to experiencing new teachers and different methods while others returned to more familiar teachings. Whatever the method, with so many great teachers and workshop topics, I’ve heard more than a few mention the difficulty they had in making their schedule selections.

Once folks checked in, many purchased the commemorative conference t-shirts, signed up for massages, or made their way into the busy Market Place before heading to classes. On the escalator to my second workshop, someone remarked to me about the large numbers in attendance, saying she was impressed with the turn-out and somewhat surprised given these difficult economic times.

Maybe it’s a sign of just what’s needed.

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I grant myself permission to buy new magazines whenever I go vacation. This is a little indulgence that I enjoy, whether it’s a road trip down to the beach or a non-stop flight to destinations far & near. And so as I prepared for my flight to San Francisco yesterday, I decadently perused the newsstand at the airport with reckless abandon.

After browsing the latest issue of People, (okay, that might be just a little too indulgent) my eye caught the cover of a Yoga Journal that I had not yet seen. I’ve been a subscriber for a few years, but this was one of the “special editions” that are periodically issued separate from the regular subscription: “Yoga at Home: Everything You Need to Practice on Your Own.”

Touted as the “2009 Complete Guide” from the editors of Yoga Journal, this magazine sports a price of $8.99, which definitely puts it into the “decadent” category as far as impulse magazine buying goes. As I picked it up, the gate attendant announced my flight. I quickly pulled out a $10 bill, purchased the magazine and hurried onto the plane.

I rationalized the purchase as being “work-related research.” Yeah, that’s the ticket. And who among us hasn’t struggled with establishing a home practice? I found with my purchase that age-old question, “What should I do?” was answered in sequences, photos and languaging that’s easy to follow and understand. Several of the sequences are outlined by teachers who are presenting here at the San Francisco conference, and include:

  • Forward bending practice with Yin Yoga’s Sarah Powers
  • Restorative practice with Judith Hanson Lasater
  • Standing poses with Anusara Yoga’s Desiree Rumbaugh
  • Backbends with Rodney Yee
  • Down Dog in De “Tail” (get it, dog-tail) with Jason Crandell
  • Beginner’s Guide to Inversions with Aadil Palkhivala

Additionally, there are practice sequences from other great teachers for inversions, twists, abdominals, block work for strength, and even a beginner’s primer “Meditation for Everybody” by Frank Jude Boccio. As I thumbed through the pages, I was inspired and pleased. Inspired to see so many great do-able sequences, and pleased that my indulgence yielded a worthwhile investment.

Do yourself a favor … go indulge!

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For More Information: Follow all updates to the San Francisco Yoga Journal Conference Blog (including mine & others) or track my conference Twitters.

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Aside: The following is a repost from my entry earlier this evening on the Yoga Journal Conference blog.

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I’m sharing a room this weekend with a woman who responded to my post on the YJ conference site last month. Loretta (from Louisiana) first contacted me through the message board, then called, and we hit it off immediately. Like old high school friends who had just reconnected in time for the big reunion, we’ve exchanged several excited emails and phone calls in preparation for the conference. San Francisco will be her first Yoga Journal gathering, so I wasn’t surprised when she called to ask me what to bring.

Packing for your first conference can be a bit stressful. It’s a new environment. You don’t want to be unprepared, but you also don’t want to over pack either. This makes for a challenging dilemma. First, there’s all those gear decisions: Should I bring my own props? Can I take pictures during the classes? What stuff should I take to the sessions? And how will I carry it all around?

Then you move into your closet and the stress really begins to mount: How many yoga outfits do I REALLY need? Will I change between sessions or hang out all day in the same giddy-up? And what do people wear for the “off-the-mat” functions?

So with one whole Yoga Journal conference under my belt (or should that be “under my yoga strap”), I’ll offer some of my experienced sage yogic advice.

The Gear — Less is More

Props:
Bring what you absolutely must have. With these kinds of numbers, nothing is supplied, of course. If you don’t REALLY need it, don’t bring it. Caveat: Check the program for any class requests. (Eg. in the notes for Judith Lasater’s Practicing Yoga to Save Your Knees, participants are asked to bring a strap and a tennis ball.) Besides the marketplace has all sorts of goodies for sale if you’re really in a pinch.

Cameras — Most presenters seem comfortable with folks taking photographs. If you’re unsure, ask. There’s nothing like a photographic record.

What to Take to Class — Always good to have a notebook and pen, maybe a water bottle; Space considerations may come into play so just use common sense about how much stuff you have around your mat;

How will I Carry It Around: Good to have some sort of mat bag or sling with something for your room key, phone or camera, and of course, credit card for shopping after class. There are all sorts of bags with in a range of prices. Stay tuned for my great economical mat bag idea in an upcoming post.

Moving on to the important stuff — The Clothes

Not sure how San Francisco will compare to Estes Park, but there I was struck by the immense range of yoga “looks” — from the earthy crunchy granola au natural organic cotton to the LA glitz and glitter with a little bit of everything in between. Bottom line: Wear what you like to wear for your yoga practice. (By the way, did I mention there’s a MARKET PLACE just in case you need to pick a little top or two?)

Finally, unless you tend to sweat profusely (and I’m not naming any names from back home), most folks don’t change outfits during the day. One a day should be plenty (with an extra shirt thrown in just in case you spill some Chai tea on yourself. Remember: Less is more, less is more. Unless there’s chai!

The off-the-mat “looks” range as greatly as those on the mat — from leggings and sweaters to jeans and t-shirts. Again, wear what you’re comfortable in, just add lipstick (or whatever). San Francisco is sporting some great weather right now, but I’m told it can get chilly down on the wharf in the evening. A jacket or light coat may be in order. Whatever you do, don’t forget the jewelry, and if you do, there’s always the MARKET place!

All in all, don’t pack too much, keep it simple and have I mentioned? Less is more. After hauling my big old suitcase across the San Francisco airport, onto the BART, and up to the 10th floor of the Hyatt, I feel especially qualified to make that last suggestion.

Up Next — Pammy’s Mat Bag Idea: Saving Money in these Tough Economic Times and still look stylish at the Studio!

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Okay, it’s official … I am ON the Yoga Journal site. My first post ~ Meet Pamela Walsh ~ is now up!  Check it out!  Read, comment, have a glass of wine! Time to pack. My flight is at noon tomorrow. Here’s the link (and the bio anyway)! 🙂

Yoga Journal – San Francisco Conference 2009 – Yoga Blog:

Pamela comes to the San Francisco conference from Texas and the yogic world of Anusara Land. A young yogi in a middle-aged body, she “found” yoga just a little over two years ago. Shortly thereafter, she down-dogged her way into Christina Sell’s class, heard her laughter and her teachings, and she’s never been the same sense. Besides THAT one moment, this self-proclaimed “YogiTechChick” credits four life-changing yogic experiences:

— The afternoon she opened Light on Yoga and found that her college party trick was actually a yoga pose;
— The first time she “caught air” in bakasana;
—The day it dawned on her that savasana actually happened in EVERY class! (Well, except Christina’s, but that’s another post); and
— The precise moment she discovered that — despite looking deceptively similar — a big scoop of wasabi tastes nothing like guacamole. (Okay, so that wasn’t “yogic,” but it was life changing.)

Pamela honed her sharp journalistic skills during a 10-year stint writing a weekly newsletter for her local elementary school — Go, Kiker Comets! — where she reported on such challenging issues as overdue library books and contentious PTA meetings, not to mention the great cupcake controversy of 1999 for which she was nominated for a Pulitzer prize.

She lives in Austin with her husband, a dog, three sons, and two Mac computers. When not blogging for Yoga Journal (which, okay, is most of the time) she posts on her OWN site, PotentialWithin, about yoga, road trips with her parents, and anything else that amuses her.

Like to Twitter? You can also follow her conference tweets between her YJ posts.

Side Note: Pamela was first discovered blogging in the lobby at 2 a.m. during the Yoga Journal Conference at Estes Park last Fall. She has since been issued a key to her own room.

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Just received word that our local newspaper, the Austin-American Statesman, will be featuring my Yoga Journal conference posts on their Austin360 recreation channel (not quite sure why they call it a “channel” instead of a webpage but so it is) as well as on their home page periodically during the conference. My direct feed from their site is: Statesman.com/yogitechchick. More to come later tonight, but NOW it’s time to PACK. Then, I need to get my nails done, have a pedicure … can’t be at a yoga conference with chipped polish!

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California, here I come!”

In short order, I will be posting directly on the Yoga Journal San Francisco Conference Blog. Be sure to bookmark that link & you can follow ~ not only my updates ~ but those of several other attendees as well.  Wait … I think I like the moniker “Conference Media” better!  🙂 Additionally, it appears that I will be able to share my posts from THAT site directly here which is kinda nice for keeping everything together. Just think, folks: All ME, All the Time!

Congruently, I have made some minor changes to the layout of my blog for the conference duration. You will find new links on the sidebar for the San Francisco presenters. (More to come!)  I have also expanded my YogiTechChick Twitter feed on the sidebar to show 10 posts at a time.  This makes a BIG mess, I know, but I plan to be using this tech tool between my blog posts for more frequent short updates AND pictures.

If you’re not familiar with Twitter, it’s yet another social networking site: “Twitter is a service for friends, family, and co–workers to communicate and stay connected through the exchange of quick, frequent answers to one simple question: “What are you doing?” I have to admit that it seems kind of dumb at first ~ yet another public navel gazing site ~ but I have found some valuable resources and reasons to use it. All this technology is a bit daunting.

Now for a test run, I am importing Alan Zucker’s post ~ Yoga Journal – San Francisco Conference 2009 – Yoga Blog ~ in which he shares the bio of Anusara Yoga teacher Sianna Sherman. After my Estes Park experience with her, I am jazzed for Sianna’s workshop “Leap of Love: Dynamic Hip Openers with Hanuman” on Sunday, January 18, 2009.

Opening the hips through alignment, storytelling, and playfulness can bring immense opening into the breath of the heart. Learn about the monkey called Hanuman, whose adventurous and devoted spirit inspires us. Together, we will make the leap with fun, with courage, and-most of all, with love!

Thanks for hanging with me as I figure out all this technology and for joining me on my San Francisco adventure. Please let me know if any of these feeds, imports or links don’t feed, import or link!  Next up … They’ve requested a bio and picture. Okay, now THAT’S daunting!

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imantra1imantra2Over the holidays, my husband generously added an iPhone to my technological tool bag.  Never really thought I needed one … until I got it!  Now, I’ve become somewhat of an iPhone app weirdo, staying up late into the night surfing the web for some little app that I can get for free or an occasional nominal charge.  More on all that at another time, but for now, let me share my recent discovery: iMantra.

Created by Studio Six Digital Software, this little program will run on either an iPhone or iTouch and is designed to “help you learn new mantras, practice mantras, and calm your mind and thoughts.” The mantras in iMantra are separated into four categories: Buddhist, Kundalini, Hindu, and Universal.  From their website:

You can choose to work in two different ways. In either case, you will first touch the info icon and select the mantra category, and then the desired mantra. You can also select the number of malas (set of 108 mantras) and the number of beads on the mala that you wish to perform.

To work interactively, you slide a bead from right to left on the screen, and when you have pushed it far enough a mantra will be spoken. You can speak along with the mantra, or just listen.  Note that the bead that you are able to move, the one that you should move, is slightly see-through. If it seems that you are unable to move a bead, check that you have pushed the see-through bead far enough to the left.  The second way of practicing is to touch the Buddha’s bowl, with the word “chant” on it. When you do this, the beads will move away and the mantra will be spoken over and over, until the number of malas have been reached.

You can also record your own mantras.  (Side note: It does not appear that there are many pre-recorded offerings at this time, but they invite customer submissions.)  Currently, iMantra is available from iTunes for $4.99. Gimmicky?  Perhaps … But then I AM the Yogi Tech Chick! Check out iMantra web page for more information.

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