There’s a pose for that…

Your Immune System.

Are there really yoga poses that can help boost my immunity? Yes, indeed. Iyengar says, “The immune system is the defense mechanism of the body and protects us from disease. Its main agent is the blood, a fluid consisting of plasma and red and white corpuscles or blood cells. It is the white corpuscles that inhibit the invasion of the bloodstream microorganisms. There are two types of immunity: natural and acquired. Yoga strengthens both, and regular practice of the recommended asanas can help to counter the disorders that affect them.”

A practice that includes supported or inverted poses increases the circulation of lymph – a clear, watery fluid that moves through the body picking up bacteria and viruses and filtering them out via the lymph nodes.

Unlike blood, which moves as a result of the heart pumping, lymph moves by muscular contractions. Physical exercise, such as yoga, is key for keeping lymph flowing. The movement of lymph is also affected by gravity, so anytime your head is below your heart – for example, in Uttanasana (standing forward bend) and Sarvangasana (shoulderstand) – lymph moves into the respiratory organs, where germs often enter the body. When you return to an upright position, gravity drains the lymph, sending it through your lymph nodes for cleansing.

The research I have found recommends resting your head on a support in each pose to allow your neck, throat, and tongue to relax fully, thereby encouraging the lymph to flow freely through the nose and throat. Hold each pose for two to five minutes, breathing deeply from your diaphragm for the entire time.

Don’t wait until the sniffles start up to attempt this practice! By that time inversions could agitate both body and mind. Instead, use this sequence to build up your immunity throughout the winter and keep common bugs away!

The sequence… I used poses from the Iyengar method (Path to Holistic Health) along with other poses to help drain the lymph system. Props are used in the Iyengar method to truly relax into the pose and get the full benefits, so use your props if you have them!

  • Setubandha Sarvangasana (bridge pose)
  • Supta Baddhakonasana (reclining fixed angle pose aka. reclining butterfly)
  • Supta Virasana (reclining hero pose)
  • Setubandha Sarvangasana (bridge pose) again.
  • Adhomukha Svanasana (downward-facing dog stretch)
  • Salamba Sirsasana (headstand)
  • Viparita Dandasana (inverted staff pose)… I did not have a chair for a prop so here is me in the full expression of the pose. And Iyengar’s model (from the book) in the relaxing modification.
  • Salamba Sarvangasana (shoulderstand)
  • Halasana (plough pose)
  • Setubandha Sarvangasana (bridge pose) again.
  • Viparita Karani (inverted pose aka. legs up the wall pose)
  • Savasana (corpse pose)… Supported savasana as shown by the model in the book.
  • Ujjayi Pranayama (conquest of energy aka. ujjayi breath)… To be done in savasana (as shown above).
  • Viloma 2 Pranayama (interrupted breathing cycle aka. breath holds)… To be done in savasana (as shown above).

Other holistic ways to boost your immune system… A healthy diet and some natural remedies should do the trick!

Reference: Yoga the Path to Holistic Health (BKS Iyengar), Yoga Journal 2011.

Yoga, a Sex Cult?…

Yep, here I go again talking about the latest high-profile news in yoga.

Just in case you haven’t heard, the New York Times has declared that yoga originated as a “Sex Cult” in an article called, “Yoga and Sex Scandals: No Surprise Here.” I feel the urge to say, “how rude” (Full House style). I’m honestly starting to think that this William Broad guy just likes the attention. (William Broad is the guy that wrote “How Yoga Can Wreck Your Body…” Oh yeah! Remember him?)

The article: Yoga and Sex Scandals: No Surprise Here (William Broad: New York Times)

Response: Please join my Tantric yoga sex cult (Mark Morford: San Francisco Chronicle)

Response: Christopher Wallis addresses “factual errors” in New York Times article: Yoga and Sex Scandals (Flow Yoga Magazine)

“I’m happy to report the NYT and Broad are mostly full of crap on this. Yoga is a physical, spiritual, energetic, wildly interconnected practice that can transform every aspect of your world. It’s based on some powerfully sacred, ancient philosophy and scriptural teachings that only want you to become a fully realized, divinely illuminated being, right now, this very second, on your very next breath — no gods, guilt, cultish sex rites or blind faith required. What’s not to like?” ~Mark Morford

Read the articles, come to your own conclusions.

Oh yeah, and just in case you didn’t know, exercise in general raises libido.

How the New York Times can Wreck Yoga…

Okay, so I stole that heading from Marshall Hagins, but I loved it too much not to use it. So here’s the article that has gotten so much attention lately…

And here are the responses…
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When I first read the article I wasn’t as worked up as some yogi’s. I took it with a grain of salt knowing that the flaws in anything can be taken out of context and made believable. Yes, it’s unfortunate that the article may scare some people away from yoga. But I think that Leslie Kaminoff said it so well that I just have to use his words… “This article said ‘shoulderstand, plow, and head stand are dangerous.’ It didn’t say, when certain people do it who have certain things going on in their body in a certain way, it can be dangerous. That’s a big fat ‘duh.’ I mean, who didn’t know that?”
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The reason yoga is held so high and has so many health claims is not just simply because of the poses. It’s not simply the activity. It is the state of mind that you fall into while breathing deep and stretching your body in such a way that it feels good. If you go so far that it doesn’t feel good, you shouldn’t be there. Simple as that.
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“When there is a great potential for making money, quality is usually the first thing to be sacrificed. Fast food, anyone? It is unfortunate that this is exactly what we are facing now – yoga has been McDona-fied. It has been reduced from a practice that traditionally demanded dedication, discipline, sacrifice, humility, surrender, love, devotion, and self-investigation – and yes, suffering through rigorous practice – to something that one can now learn to ‘teach’ in a weekend. Or, more popularly, in a mere 200 hours you can become a bonafide, registered yoga instructor. 200 hours is spit. It is a joke. And it is a joke that is leading a tradition – one which, granted, has even in India been subject to ridicule – to an even greater harm.  We have an opportunity, in the West, to bring these transformative teachings to places where they will result in the greatest good. It is true that this is already happening – in schools, prisons, hospitals, with veterans, and as well with people who simply walk into a class off of the street – but it is also true that a rotten apple can spoil the barrel, and the yoga industry apple is a mighty big apple.” ~ Marshall Hagins
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We shall see what The Science of Yoga book has to bring. Hopefully not so many inaccuracies.
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Happy and healthy practice to you,

Gratitude…

Today I am reminded of a verse in the bible, “In everything give thanks” (1 Thessalonians 5:18). I am thankful for so many things in my life, mostly the things that didn’t work out as I planned because they turned out even better in the end. I am a true believer of  that old saying, “everything happens for a reason.” I wouldn’t trade my life for anything in the world, problems and all.

Sitting around with the family this morning, dog at foot, dad watching TV (Beauty and the Beast, we have a love for classic Disney movies!), mom cooking breakfast, brothers still asleep, and I’m reading through my Yoga Journal. I am not thinking about how grateful I am for all of these things when I stumble upon an article on Gratitude.

The practice of Selfless Gratitude…

Gratitude is the sweetest of all the practices for living the dharma in daily life and the most easily cultivated, requiring the least sacrifice for what is gained in return. It is a very powerful form of mindfulness practice, particularly for students who have depressive or self-defeating feelings, those who have access to wonder as an ecstatic state, and those with a reactive personality who habitually notice everything that’s wrong in a situation.

The Buddha taught that every human birth is precious and worthy of gratitude. In one of his well-known analogies, he said that receiving a human birth is more rare than the chance that a blind turtle floating in the ocean would stick its head through a small hoop. He would often instruct a monk to take his ground cloth into the forest, sit at the base of a tree, and begin “gladdening the heart” by reflecting on the series of fortunate circumstances that had given the monk the motivation and ability to seek freedom through understanding the dharma.

Practicing mindfulness of gratitude consistently leads to a direct experience of being connected to life and the realization that there is a larger context in which your personal story is unfolding. Being relieved of the endless wants and worries of your life’s drama, even temporarily, is liberating. Cultivating thankfulness for being part of life blossoms into a feeling of being blessed, not in the sense of winning the lottery, but in a more refined appreciation for the interdependent nature of life. It also elicits feelings of generosity, which create further joy. Gratitude can soften a heart that has become too guarded, and it builds the capacity for forgiveness, which creates the clarity of mind that is ideal for spiritual development.

Let me be clear: The practice of gratitude is not in any way a denial of life’s difficulties. We live in troubling times, and no doubt you’ve experienced many challenges, uncertainties, and disappointments in your own life. Nor does the practice of gratitude deny the Buddha’s teaching on death: Death is certain; your death is certain; the time of death is unknown; the time of your death is unknown. Rather, gratitude practice is useful because it turns the mind in such a way that it enables you to live into life or, more accurately, to die into life. Having access to the joy and wonderment of life is the antidote to feelings of scarcity and loss. It allows you to meet life’s difficulties with an open heart. The understanding you gain from practicing gratitude frees you from being lost or identified with either the negative or the positive aspects of life, letting you simply meet life in each moment as it rises.

In the Bible the disciple Paul instructs, “In everything give thanks.” What he means is that from your limited perspective it is not possible to know the outcome of any event. What can seem unfortunate at first may turn out to be an unforeseen blessing.

There is a very old Sufi story about a man whose son captured a strong, beautiful, wild horse, and all the neighbors told the man how fortunate he was. The man patiently replied, “We will see.” One day the horse threw the son who broke his leg, and all the neighbors told the man how cursed he was that the son had ever found the horse. Again the man answered, “We will see.” Soon after the son broke his leg, soldiers came to the village and took away all the able-bodied young men, but the son was spared. When the man’s friends told him how lucky the broken leg was, the man would only say, “We will see.” Gratitude for participating in the mystery of life is like this.

The Sufi poet Rumi speaks of the mystery of life coming from God in his poem “The Guest House:” “This being human is a guest house / Every morning a new arrival. / A joy, a depression, a meanness / some momentary awareness comes as an unexpected visitor. / Welcome and entertain them all! / Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows / who violently sweep your house empty of its furniture. / Still, treat each guest honorably. / He may be clearing you out for some new delight.” (The Essential Rumi. Coleman Barks, HarperSanFrancisco, 1995.) Gratitude practiced in this manner brings delight, balances out your tendency to focus on the negative, and can even lift a dark mood.

Counting Your Blessings…

There are numerous ways to use mindfulness to cultivate gratitude. Of course you acknowledge your appreciation when things are going well. But even more helpful is to notice those things for which you are grateful when you are contracted physically or emotionally. I often instruct students to respond to a difficult situation by acknowledging it as such, then saying to themselves, “Yes, this is terrible, and I am grateful for . . . .” An example would be, “I am angry at this moment, and I am grateful I have a mind which knows this is so and can deal with it.” I also encourage students to focus on the wonderment of nature and the human capacity for learning and creating. It is so easy to only notice the terrible aspects of human beings so that wonderment is often forgotten.

You can reflect on gratitude by inquiring if it is time-based. Ask yourself what happened to all the gratitude you have felt in the past? Where did it go? Do you believe that gratitude is dependent on feeling good right now? If so, isn’t that a very small-minded, “what have you done for me lately?” attitude? Would it not imply that your gratitude is contingent upon an exchange—as long as you feel good, you will be grateful, and if not, forget it. This is not the quality of gratitude that leads to a mystical, direct experience of life; it is an unskillful blackmail or emotional demand on the universe.

You can also practice being consciously grateful to your family, friends, teachers, benefactors, and all those who have come before you who have made it possible for your existence to be comfortable, informed, and empowered. Take a few minutes at the end of each day to mentally note the many people who have invisibly served you by providing medicine, shelter, safety, food, and education.

If you were asked to make a list of things for which you are grateful, how long would this list be—20 items, 100, 500? Most likely you would include your health, your mind’s ability to function well, family, friends, and freedom. But would it include the basics, like a safe place to sleep, clean air and water, food, and medicine? What about for Earth itself, blue skies, a child’s laughter, a warm touch, the smell of spring, the tang of salt, the sweetness of sugar, or that morning cup of coffee?

The making of such a list is not meant to make you feel indebted but is intended to clarify your understanding of how life really is. It is a reflective meditation that uses mindfulness to carry you beyond the superficial to a deeper experience of your life unfolding moment by moment. You learn to throw off the blinders of habitual assumptions that prevent you from perceiving the miracle of life.

The next step in gratitude practice is to actively notice things you are grateful for throughout your regular day. For instance, when you’re stuck in traffic and it’s making you late and irritated, you notice you can be thankful you have transportation and that other drivers are abiding by the agreed-upon driving rules, which prevent chaos and unsafe conditions. In other words, there is a level of well-being and community cooperation that is supporting you even in the midst of your bad day. And you do this not just once or twice, but a hundred times each day. You do so not to get out of a bad mood or to be a nicer person, but with the intention of clearly seeing the true situation of your life. Traffic remains frustrating, but the inner experience of how your life is unfolding begins to shift. Slowly you become clearer about what really matters to you, and there is more ease in your daily experience.

You might ask yourself about your “gratitude ratio.” Do you experience the good things in your life in true proportion to the bad things? Or do the bad things receive a disproportionate amount of your attention, such that you have a distorted sense of your life? It can be shocking to examine your life this way because you may begin to realize how you are being defined by an endless series of emotional reactions, many of which are based on relatively unimportant, temporary desires. When you look at how much griping you do versus how much gratitude you feel, you realize how far off your emotional response is from your real situation. The purpose of this inquiry is not to judge yourself but rather to motivate yourself to find a truer perspective. Why would you want to go around with a distorted view of your life, particularly when it makes you miserable?

Without instruction, reflecting on gratitude can seem boring or sentimental, evoking memories of your mother admonishing you to eat all the food on your plate. Part of the confusion is that many people have come to equate gratitude with obligation. But real gratitude begins as appreciation for that which has come into your life. Out of this appreciation, a natural, spontaneous emotion arises that is gratitude, which is often followed by generosity. When gratitude comes from indebtedness, by definition what’s been given cannot have been a gift.

There is a shadow side to gratitude, in which reality gets distorted in yet another way. It manifests as a hopeless or helpless attitude disguised as gratitude, and it expresses itself in a self-defeating, passive voice—”Yes, these things are wrong and unfair, but I should be grateful for what I have,” or “At least we have this,” or “Compared to these people, look how much better off we are.” This voice, whether it is an inner voice or comes from someone else, is not to be trusted. Gratitude is not an excuse for being passive in the face of personal or societal need or injustice. You are not excused from working to become a caring person, creating a better life for your loved ones, or protecting the innocent. Acknowledging the great gift of a human life through gratitude is just the opposite; it is a call to action to be a caring human being while acknowledging the folly of basing your happiness on the outcome of your actions.

Shortchanging Gratitude…

Many students ask, If experiencing gratitude feels so good, why do we often shortchange it? If you will answer this question for yourself, you will gain much insight into how you make your life more difficult than it need be. Sometimes you shortchange gratitude because your mind is stuck in problem-solving mode; it only notices what isn’t working and sets about trying to resolve it. This might seem desirable, but in fact there will always be things wrong in your life. So you reduce your experience of being alive if you are only responding to the negative. Is that what you want out of life? Do you really want to delay your sense of being alive while you await a future, perfect moment that is unlikely to arrive?

A second reason you might shortchange gratitude is related to the first: The mind tends to take for granted whatever is both desirable and present. This happens because the mind wants constant stimulation, and whatever is present and pleasant tends not to create that stimulation. You can see this for yourself around eating a favorite food: Notice how the first few bites taste so delicious, then how quickly the mind ceases to register the pleasant sensations. It is like this with everything—a cool breeze on a hot day, the sound of a stream as it flows over rocks, the freshness of the morning air after a rain. They all simply disappear from consciousness in the untrained mind. However, a mind trained in mindfulness of gratitude will stay attuned far longer and note more details of that which is good.

The phenomenon of comparing mind is another hindrance to practicing gratitude. It is the aspect of your mind that notices, “She has a nicer car than I do,” “He is stronger than I am,” or “She is a better yogini than I am.” Understand that there is a difference between discernment, the factor of mind that sees things clearly, and comparing mind, which exercises judgment and hides a belief system that says, “If only I have more of the right things, I will be happy.” This is a false belief, of course, a mental habit really, but because it is unacknowledged and seldom examined, it holds enormous power in your life.

Unrecognized arrogance arising from a hidden sense of entitlement can also be an obstacle to practicing gratitude. When you have a strong feeling of entitlement, you don’t notice what is going well, but rather what is not right. It can stem from a sense of either having suffered unfairly or having been deprived. It can also arise from feeling special because you are smart, a hard worker, or successful. At the subtle level of mindfulness, this arrogance is a form of ignorance where these two truths of life are mixed together.

Finding Grace Through Gratitude…

The words “gratitude” and “grace” share a common origin: the Latin word gratus, meaning “pleasing” or “thankful.” When you are in a deep state of gratitude, you will often spontaneously feel the presence of grace. The grace in receiving a human life is that it grants you the capacity to experience that which is beyond the mind and body—call it God, emptiness, Brahman, Allah, or the Ground of the Absolute.

Reflect on this: You, with all your flaws, have been chosen for this opportunity to consciously taste life, to know it for what it is, and to make of it what you are able. This gift of a conscious life is grace, even when your life is filled with great difficulty and it may not feel like a gift at the time.

When Henry Thoreau went into retreat at Walden Pond, he and his friend Ralph Emerson had been studying Hindu, Buddhist, and Taoist texts. He wrote: “I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.” He understood that conscious life was a gift for which the highest form of gratitude was to know it in all its depths.

This grace of conscious life, of having a mind that can know “this moment is like this,” is the root of all wonder, from which gratitude flows. The wonder, the mystery, is that you, like everyone else, are given this short, precious time of conscious embodiment in which you can directly know life for yourself. However you find life to be—cruel or kind, sorrowful or joyous, bland or stimulating, indifferent or filled with love—you get the privilege of knowing it firsthand.

Gratitude for the grace of conscious embodiment evolves into the practice of selfless gratitude, in which your concerns slowly but surely shift from being mostly about yourself and those close to you to being about all living beings. As this occurs, you need less and less in the way of good fortune. It becomes enough that there are those who are happy, who are receiving love, who are safe, and who have a promising future. It is not that you would not prefer good things for yourself, but your sense of well-being is no longer contingent on external circumstances. You are able to rejoice that amidst all life’s suffering there exists joy. You realize that pain and joy are part of a mysterious whole. When this state of selfless gratitude starts to blossom, your mind becomes more spacious, quieter, and your heart receives its first taste of the long-sought release from fear and wanting. This is grace.

Reference: Yoga Journal.com, article by Philip Moffitt

40 day Global Sadhana…

What is Sadhana?

“What is sadhana? It’s a committed prayer. It is something which you want to do, have to do, and which is being done by you. … Sadhana is self enrichment. It is not something which is done to please somebody or to gain something. Sadhana is a personal process in which you bring out your best.” ~Yogi Bhajan

Sadhana or daily spiritual practice is the foundation of all spiritual endeavor. Sadhana is your personal, individual spiritual effort. It is the main tool you use to work on yourself to achieve the purpose of life. It can be done alone or in a group. Sadhana is whatever you do consistently to clear your own consciousness so you can relate to the infinity within you. Before you face the world each day, do yourself a favor and tune up your nervous system and attune yourself to your highest inner self. To cover all your bases, it will include exercise, meditation, and prayer.

Develop a regular sadhana and you take control of your life. Develop a deep sadhana and you open the doors of experience. Commit to meet your higher Self each morning and your decisions and your life become original; your life will bear the signature of your soul; your radiance will express the meaningful intimacy of the Infinite in each moment. Immerse yourself in the joy of victory that comes from starting each day with a powerful sadhana and every challenge becomes opportunity. (taken from the 3HO – Spirit Voyage website)

Why so early in the morning?

During what are called the “ambrosial hours” (the two and a half hours just before sunrise), when the sun is at a sixty-degree angle to the earth, the energy you put into your sadhana gets maximum results. Your world is quieter. It’s easier to meditate and concentrate before the hustle and bustle of the day begins.

“The breeze at dawn has secrets to tell you.
Don’t go back to sleep.
You must ask for what you really want.
Don’t go back to sleep.
People are going back and forth across the doorsill
Where the two worlds touch.
The door is round and open.
Don’t go back to sleep.”  ~ Rumi

If you absolutely cannot get up early in the morning to do sadhana, then do it some other time! Doing sadhana at any time of the day or night will benefit you.

What do I do?

You can do a simple yoga asana exercise followed by sitting in meditation. If you’re not comfortable with kundalini or meditation, anything can be your sadhana. If you read scripture, this can be your daily sadhana. You could take time to write down what you are grateful for every day or write down qualities you would like to see yourself become. You could make a list of goals, short term and long term and write down a way, each day, to make those goals come to light. Add a morning yoga-asana practice to leave you feeling energized and mentally focused for the day ahead. Pray for blessings to rain upon you and for your daily experiences to make you a better person. Remember, “Sadhana is whatever you do consistently to clear your own consciousness so you can relate to the infinity within you.” Take a personal vow to do whatever it is best for you for 40 days.

If you would like to follow the traditional Kundalini, meditations, and prayer as taught by Yoga Bhajan you can find all the information on the Spirit Voyage website:  Spirit Voyages 40 Day Global Sadhana. Be in flow with your highest wisdom with Snatam and Gurmukh.

Why 40 days?

Have you heard the saying, “It takes 21 days to make a habit?” Well, in yoga, they believe it takes 40.

Starting 11.11.11…

On this date, as taught by Yogi Bhajan, we turn the page and move from the Piscean Age to the Aquarian Age.  The Piscean Age is all about seeking knowledge and existing in individual consciousness.  In the Aquarian Age, we are connected to our intuition and therefore know all that we need to, and we have collective consciousness to complete our shared vision.

If you choose to do the kundalini and meditations on the Spirit Voyage website… These meditations will assist in lifting you up out of life’s dramas and deliver you to the Aquarian energy flow that will be readily available in this special window of time for all who open themselves to it.

This is simply a challenge for yourself. To spend time every day to enrich your own life and bring yourself to your full potential.

Serve your soul purpose.

“Happy Journey” ~Pattahbi Jois

Healing Journey…

Yoga proves to be an ideal approach to self-care cancer survivors…

Breast cancer affects many of us: One in eight women in the United States will develop invasive breast cancer in her lifetime. The good news is that more women today are beating the illness. There are more than 2.5 million breast cancer survivors in the United States. 

Yoga can be a valuable part of the process of healing and recovery from the disease, and classes for cancer patients and survivors are readily available. “Yoga can help women who have cancer find solace and learn to deeply care for themselves,” says Linda Sparrowe, a yoga teacher who co-leads yoga and meditation retreats for women touched by cancer.

New academic research backs this up. Several studies published this year show that yoga offers effective relief from the physical and mental affects of the disease and the side effects of treatment. These effects include symptoms such as fatigue, pain, swelling, stiffness, stress, and depression.

Researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles, found that after practicing Iyengar Yoga twice weekly for 12 weeks, breast cancer survivors were less depressed and exhausted and felt greater vitality. In another study of Iyengar Yoga, conducted at Washington State University, Spokane, participants felt better physically and emotionally, and they had lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol. This does more than reduce anxious feelings: Elevated levels of cortisol may contribute to cancer recurrence and earlier mortality among breast cancer survivors. 

Yoga can also help survivors regain trust in their bodies. In a study at Indiana University, Bloomington, women who participated in and eight-week hatha yoga program were stronger and more flexible, felt less self-conscious about scars from surgeries, and were more accepting of their changed bodies. “Yoga helps us feel more comfortable with our bodies and ourselves,” says the study’s lead researcher, Van Marieke Puymbroeck, a professor of recreation therapy at Indiana University. “It helps us build inner resources to respond to life’s challenges.”

Specialized Restorative Yoga Retreats for women living with cancer…

Red Feather Lakes, Colorado – www.shambhalamountain.org 

Bolinas, California – www.commonweal.org

New York City – www.thelibbyrossfoundation.com

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month! The Komen for the Cure fundraiser travels all across the U.S. raising money for breast cancer research. Click on the Komen for the Cure link to find the Race for the Cure event in your town!

In Birmingham the event is Saturday, October 15, 2011 at Linn Park. Click here to see the information for Birmingham’s event. I will be running the 5K in honor of a few amazing women I know! 

Race for the Cure! Or… you can even “sleep in” for the cure!

Shanti Om,

***I’m Pink for breast cancer awareness! If you have trouble reading the pink writing please let me know and I will post in standard black.*** 

Reference: Article by Kelly McGonigal, Yoga Journal 2011

The secret of happiness…

A story…

“A certain shopkeeper sent his son to learn about the secret of happiness from the wisest man in the world.  The lad wandered through the desert for forty days, and finally came upon a beautiful castle, high atop a mountain. It was there that the wise man lived.

“Rather than finding a saintly man, though, our hero, on entering the main room of the castle, saw a hive of activity: tradesmen came and went, people were conversing int he corners, a small orchestra was playing soft music, and there was a table covered with platters of the most delicious food in that part of the world. The wise man conversed with everyone, and the boy had to wait for two hours before it was his turn to be given the man’s attention.

“The wise man listened attentively to the boy’s explanation of why he had come, but told him that he didn’t have time just then to explain the secret of happiness. He suggested that the boy look around the palace and return in two hours.

“‘Meanwhile, I want to ask you something,’ said the wise man, handing the boy a teaspoon that held two drops of oil. ‘As you wander around, carry this spoon with you without allowing the oil to spill.’

“The boy began climbing and descending the many stairways of the palace, keeping his eyes fixed on the spoon. After two hours, he returned to the room where the wise man was.

“‘Well,’ asked the wise man, ‘did you see the Persian tapestries that are hanging in my dining hall? Did you see the garden that it took the master gardener ten years to create? Did you  notice the beautiful parchments in my library?’

“The boy was embarrassed, and confessed that he had observed nothing. His only concern had been not to spill the oil that the wise man had entrusted to him.

“‘Then go back and observe the marvels of my world,’ said the wise man. ‘You cannot trust a man if you don’t know his house.’

“Relieved, the boy picked up the spoon and returned to his exploration of the palace, this time observing all of the works of art on the ceilings and the walls. He saw the gardens, the mountains all around him, the beauty of the flowers, and the taste with which everything had been selected. Upon returning to the wise man, he related in detail everything he had seen.

“‘But where are the drops of oil I entrusted to you?’ asked the wise man.

“Looking down at the spoon he held, the boy saw that the oil was gone.

“‘Well, there is only one piece of advice I can give you,’ said the wisest of men. ‘The secret of happiness is to see all the marvels of the world, and never to forget the drops of oil on the spoon.'”

~Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist

Fuel your life…

It’s a known fact that America is the #1 country for obesity. Why? Because we are lazy. We have too many fast food restaurants and not enough farmer’s markets. We drive cars rather than ride bikes, we watch TV rather than watch nature.

Yoga Journal is currently promoting their Fall Detox program. Read their article on why Fall is the perfect time to detox and the Ayurvedic reasoning behind their methods. They also have lots of yummy recipes!  http://falldetox.yogajournal.com/

I recently made up my own “diet” to live by that is similar to the Yoga Journal Fall Detox. I did with much intensity for 24 days and now I have relaxed a bit. I feel great. What is it? No processed foods. There are so many additives in our food that have no nutritional value and actually act as toxins in our bodies. Now, let me clarify the word “diet.” I am referring to diet as simply the food choices you make day-to-day, not something you do for a short amount of time then go right back to your old habits.

We also eat too much food. We eat for pleasure instead of fuel. What is the purpose of food? To fuel our lives.

“Only half the stomach should be taken up by food that is eaten. One quarter of the other half should be given over to water and the remaining quarter left to the movement of air.” ~Sri K. Pattabhi Jois

Mmmmm, spinach salad with raspberries and pecans.

What is best to eat? Foods in their raw and natural form

  • Fruit: Grapefruit, green apples, peaches, pears, any berries, plums, prunes, papaya, oranges, cantaloupe, honeydew, kiwi, banana, cherries, figs (fresh or frozen)
  • Vegetables: Asparagus, any green salad, green beans, peppers, spinach, onions, tomatoes, cucumbers, cauliflower, broccoli, mushrooms, zucchini (no canned)
  • Healthy fats: Nuts such as cashews, almonds, peanuts, walnuts, seeds (raw, unsalted only).  Peanut butter or almond butter (with oil separation). Olive oil in small amounts. Eggs.
  • Protein: Chicken, turkey breast, ground turkey, white fish, salmon, tuna, egg whites (no red meat)
  • Carbohydrates: Low glycemic such as: sweet potato, whole grain brown rice, yams, black beans, oatmeal (no-instant)
  • Water, water, water! 1 gallon per day is recommended.
What not to eat… processed foods
  • Dairy: milk, cheese, yogurt
  • Flour products: bread (anything with bleached, unbleached or enriched flour, sugar or high fructose corn syrup, pretty much all of them!), pasta, crackers, chips, tortillas, pita bread (flour products of any kind).
  • Fried or breaded foods
  • Sweets: sugar, honey, cakes, cookies, brownies, etc.
  • Drinks: alcohol, sodas, fruit juices
  • Fruits with high glycemic index: watermelon, grapes, pineapple, raisins, apricots, mangoes
  • Starchy vegetables: corn, peas, squash, potatoes, etc.

Read labels! Items purchased should only have foods on the ingredient list (no added sugar, minimal amounts of added salt). For example, my oatmeal label says “ingredients: organic whole grain rolled oats.” My peanut butter says, “ingredients: organic peanuts, contains 1% or less of: salt.” (buying organic is not a necessity, just a personal choice of my own)

An example of my day: This diet worked as a cleanse for my body, riding it of toxins and replacing with nourishing food. Eating small meals every 2-3 hours kept my metabolism up and kept my body from storing fat.

  1. Morning: carb, fruit (Ex. oatmeal [only whole grain rolled oats, no instant] with strawberries)
  2. Snack: fruit, healthy fat (ex: 1/4 cup raw cashews and 1/2 peach)
  3. Lunch: protein, carb, vegetable (ex: 3 oz. lean ground turkey meat mixed with 1/4 cup brown rice, whole green beans)
  4. Snack: fruit, healthy fat (ex: 1 tbsp. peanut butter [with oil separation] and 1/2 green apple)
  5. Dinner: protein, vegetable (ex: 3 oz. baked chicken breast, raw spinach salad with balsamic vinegar)
  6. Night-time treat: Tazo tea or Yogi tea

*I’ve heard it takes 21 days to make a habit… so 24 days should do the trick!

Now that I have relaxed the rules a bit I have re-introduced the following foods in moderation:

  • Greek yogurt (Plain 0% – no fruit added) – I add my own fresh fruit
  • Soy milk
  • Goat cheese (Omelet with goat cheese and spinach? Yes, please!)
  • Lara bar – these protein bars are great. My favorite bar, Cashew Cookie says, “ingredients: cashews, dates” Yum!
  • The occasional social alcoholic drink (nothing too fruity or loaded with calories, my personal favorite is Vodka/water with fresh lime)
Ahara shuddhau sattva shuddih/Sattva shuddhau druvasmrtih [When the food we take in is pure, our minds become pure/When our minds become pure, memory becomes steady].” ~Chandogya Upanishad vii : 26 : 2
I understand that one diet is not right for everyone. I only hope this inspires you to make healthy choices!
p.s. I’m interested in reading Michael Pollan’s, In Defense of Food. It’s a book about eating food at it’s natural source and what it can do for our bodies. Has anyone read this?
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Obviously this has been on my mind for a while! Here’s a related post of mine from August, 2010… “Natural Foods…”

For the love of Surya Namaskara…

In light of Global Mala this weekend and the impending 108 Sun Salutations (Surya Namaskara A) I wanted to share a visualization for each pose that I found both funny and enlightening. These are from the book Downward Dog, Upward Fog by Meryl Davis Landau. In this book, the storyteller, Lorna, does not like Sun Salutations. I personally have a love-hate relationship with them (all 108, that is). Love the way they make me feel, but start to hate them around #25. But then an amazing thing happens, at about #75… I start to link with the energy of all the people around me and just flow. It becomes effortless and I love them once again.

  • Position one: Palms together at my chest. I connect with the loving energy inside my heart
  • Position two: Stretching my arms out, up, and back. I envision the warmth of the sun and indeed the entire universe dancing on my face.
  • Position three: Folding forward toward the ground. I expand my appreciation to all of Mother Earth.
  • Position four: Left leg back, left knee on the floor, back arched, arms stretching up. I remember that even when I feel low, I’m always connected to my higher self.
  • Position five: Both legs back, arms straight in a plank. I get in touch with the inner strength that never leaves me.
  • Position six: Lowering knees, chest, and chin to the ground. I remember to be humble around other people, since they, too, are extensions of the universal energy.
  • Position seven: Pelvis to the floor, chest rises up in a cobra pose. I extend my sense of oneness to all the animals in the world.
  • Position eight: I make the upside-down V that is Downward Dog. I can’t remember what Miss Gumby said about this one, so I just give the universe a quick, friendly wave of my butt.
  • Position nine: Left leg forward, right knee on the floor, back arched, arms stretching up. I start to rise to my full potential.
  • Position ten: Folding forward as in position three. I remember to pause to gather my inner resources before taking action.
  • Position eleven: Stretching up and back. I open to the full universal energy once more.
  • Position twelve: Palms together at my chest. I realize this higher power always resides inside me.

This Saturday we will only be doing a 10-step Surya Namaskara (skipping position 4 & 9 above). But I thought this visualization was too good not to share!

Global Mala 2011

Location: Vulcan Park

Time: 8:00-10:00am

108 Sun Salutations with a view!

There will be a kids circle, pre-natal sun salutations, and a drum circle! Come one, come all!

Free event! For a small donation you will receive a water bottle and/or a Sweet Om Alabama t-shirt.

See you Saturday!