Archive for the ‘friends’ Category

The Stones Do Speak!

June 9, 2019

I am in Greece with a group of yogis, enjoying every moment of this Greek adventure.  I will photo-document this trip and write a few words about the photos.

We started out with two nights in Athens.  Our hotel overlooked the Acropolis so when we did rooftop yoga in the morning, we had a most inspiring view.  About every fifteen minutes, the sound of church bells graced our yoga sessions. Later, we had a fantastic guide show us around the Acropolis and the Acropolis Museum.

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These stones do speak of a rich and long history of Greek and Western civilization!

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Below we have Vasiliki and her cousin Nasi. Vasiliki is the brain-child and genius behind this incredible trip. Over the years, she kept suggesting we do a yoga trip to Greece.  Last year, we began the planning in earnest. The itinerary, the restaurants, and our two hotels are based on some of her favorite places to visit.  We could not be luckier to be on this retreat in Greece and have Vasiliki on this trip with us!

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Our group at the Acropolis in Athens:

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While still in Athens, we had dinner at the Port of Mikrolimanon, a small picturesque port, located near the commercial port of Piraeus.  Stunning setting and fantastic food.

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On our way to Nafpaktos, a lovely quiet town off the beaten track where we are staying for the bulk of our time, we passed this bridge:

The Rio–Antirrio Bridge (Greek: Γέφυρα Ρίου-Αντιρρίου), officially the Charilaos Trikoupis Bridge, is one of the world’s longest multi-span cablestayed bridges and longest of the fully suspended type.

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Taken from a photograph in the small museum next to the bridge. The bridge was completed in 2004, just in time for the opening ceremony of the Olympics in Athens that year. Below is the opening torch bearing ceremony of the bridge and the Olympics!

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And the site of the original Olympics below.  I loved our day at the Olympic archaeological site with the Temple of Zeus, the Temple of Hera, the altar of the Olympic flame, the Stadium, and the archaeological museum.  This day was very hot, but oh so worth the outing!  Three of us ran the original Olympic race course. Yes, I am officially crazy to run that in 95 degree weather, but it was thrilling.

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All the museum pieces come directly from the Olympic site. They are so beautifully preserved and detailed.

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And last but not least, a magical late lunch in a Greek home.  When in Greece, eat like the Greeks! It was Vasiliki’s idea to have our main meals daily at 2pm.  It’s a great idea. That way, in the evenings, we can go to one of the many sidewalk cafes and enjoy some drinks and light appetizers (Greek meze). The food was fresh and delicious.  Our host, Maria, cooked all this amazing food served in her gorgeous home.  Her sister Vasuli helped serve the meal.

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Photo of Maria and Vasuli, our lovely hosts.  Gail took this photo (thank you, Gail!).  These sisters are two of FIVE sisters, just like my family!

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I knew I would love Greece, but I had no idea what that love meant until I came here!

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The Big T.O.

April 6, 2019

This is my Toronto blog post.  I attended the Toronto Yoga Conference last week and really enjoyed it. I learned so much this past week.  I came back to Seattle feeling very inspired in both my yoga practice and in my yoga teaching.

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The week in Toronto turned out to be a wonderful five-fold highlight for me. My time in Toronto was filled with 1) conference classes, lectures, workshops, learning, and an ever deepening yoga practice 2) being comfortably hosted by Cathy and Steve Lewis and deepening friendships with my dear Toronto friends  3) reconnecting to and being warmly embraced by my loving, welcoming Toronto cousins related to me through my mother’s side of the family  4) discovering the dynamic and progressive city of Toronto, Canada and 5) researching a stunning location and venue for a future Field to Table Yoga Retreat in Sturgeon Point, Ontario (details will come your way later).

Exciting to take a workshop with Rodney Yee and Colleen Saidman Yee:

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One of the all day intensives I took was learning how to use Roll Model Therapy Balls to break tension throughout the body.  I was more sore from this practice than I was from any other yoga sessions I took!IMG_8042

My mother’s maternal aunt, Zia Vincenzina, immigrated long ago to Toronto, Canada with her family.  When I was a child, we made an annual drive from Indiana to Toronto to see our relatives.  These trips were our much-anticipated family vacations. We spent many Easter Sundays and summer vacations with our Toronto cousins.  My father drove us to Toronto and our cousins drove to Indiana to see us.  We always had a lovely time with our cousins. What I remember and treasure most about the family visits was the laughter, sitting around the table overflowing with great food and wine, dancing, (lots of dancing!), walking to the shopping areas of Toronto, going to High Park, and going to the Canadian National Exhibition (CNE) in Toronto. I also remember having to beg my parents to allow me to go to CNE with my sisters and cousins.  I was so much younger than my sisters and cousins, so begging to tag along was the only way I could ever manage to get permission. In the end, I did get permission to go. I loved going to fairs, but all I remember about that fair is walking through crowds of people.  I had to walk fast to keep up with the teens and my small feet ached, but I didn’t dare complain!

Reconnecting with my mother’s family in Toronto has been precious. Below are some photos my mother’s cousin showed me. I had never seen these two photos before:

High Park, Toronto, with my mother’s aunt, Zia Vincenzina (my grandmother’s sister). Standing to the left of Zia Vincenzina is my sister Nora. Girls sitting from left to right: my cousin Enza, my sister Toni, me, my sister Jeanie, and my sister Zina:

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Below from left to right: My mom, Zina (in First Holy Communion dress), Toni, Jeanie, Nora, and me:

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Toronto has so many nicknames.  Here are the ones I found online:

1. MUDDY YORK was common in the city’s settlement years, before the streets were paved and rain turned the dirt roads into mud.

2. HOGTOWN might have been coined due to the large meat packing industry in the city. Another theory is that residents from smaller cities throughout Canada referred to this larger city as a ‘hog’.

3. TORONTO THE GOOD is a title referencing the city’s strict moral code in the 19th century.

4. HOLLYWOOD NORTH refers to city’s strong film industry.

5. THE MEGACITY came on the heels of the amalgamation of the cities and boroughs in 1998 that made up Metropolitan Toronto.

6. T.O. is a short form of Toronto, Ontario, and is often shortened further to T-dot.

7. THE 416 refers to the original telephone area code for Toronto.

8. THE 6: Toronto rapper Drake’s latest album is titled Views From The 6, believed to be a salute to his hometown’s more popular area codes, 416 and 647.

An April dusting of snow in Toronto:

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Toronto is Canada’s largest city and has a population of 2.8 million.  Toronto has a very good mass transit system in place.

Toronto reminds me of the Windy City, Chicago.  Like Chicago, Toronto has a fabulous lake front and sits on one of the Great Lakes. Chicago is on Lake Michigan and Toronto is on Lake Ontario.  It was still unusually cold and windy near the lake front while I was in Toronto, but summers in Toronto are just as hot as they are in Chicago.

Toronto’s waterfront on Lake Ontario:

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I love Toronto’s diversity, the sense of environmental awareness I experienced (yes, there’s always room for more improvement everywhere), the feeling of being safe (I felt so safe in the city), and the healthy economy. The city feels open and welcoming. It is truly an international city and is considered to be one of the most multi-culturally diverse cities in the world.  More than half of Toronto’s population was born outside of the country!

Below are some murals in Toronto:

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A welcoming door:

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On the way back from our visit to Sturgeon Point, a beautiful countryside scene waiting to green up for spring:

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Signs of spring at the Lewis’ house:

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Costa Rica Waterfall: Guest Writer

March 24, 2019

One morning during shavasana, while still in Costa Rica, I ended the class with a visualization. The visualization was about becoming the element water. As water, I guided the group into becoming a flowing river. The flowing river was alive and well aware of its tumultuous journey, aware of the enormous boulders made smooth by the power of water to wear away stone.  The river flowed fearlessly forward, aware of other rivers snaking and tumbling through forests and meadows.  The rivers became the veins of the earth, essential to life. My visualization described how other rivers were also striking their own unique course and how eventually the various rivers would meet up in the vast waters of the ocean.

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After shavasana, I learned that Sarah Tsagris, one of the retreat participants, had created a piece of writing along the same lines the night before!  Her body of water was a waterfall.  Her writing is beautiful and she gave me permission to share it on my blog. Below is her writing. This is my first time to have a guest writer appear on my blog.  I’ll also add more photos from our fabulous time in Costa Rica. Slideshow of the retreat is at the bottom of this blog post.

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The Waterfall by Sarah Tsagris

As the molecules of water flow down the waterfall, what must they be thinking?

Maybe they started deep within Mother Earth and were birthed gently by the spring into the river? Maybe they began as cloud vapor and huddled together as a raindrop falling hundreds of feet to moisten the earth before finding the stream? Maybe they crystallized into snowflakes and drifted gently towards the Earth.

Once in the river, the molecules flow along together. Maybe their path is calm, maybe it is turbulent, maybe they get frozen at times, maybe, at other times, they are assaulted by chemicals or pollution. Whatever path they encounter, they will eventually flow down the river.

What must they be thinking the moments before they enter the waterfall? They can hear the roaring water but they cannot see what is coming next. They can sense the anxiety of the surrounding molecules. They cannot turn back. There is no other way to go but downstream. They must surrender to the flow of the river, the flow of life.

As they flow over the edge, they must feel as a child feels going down a slide for the first time: scared, exhilarated, and energized. As the water molecules bounce and cascade down the rocks, maybe they lose their direction, maybe they make contact with the rocks, maybe they have a free fall, or maybe they glide effortlessly down the falls. Finally, they land in the refreshing pool at the bottom of the falls. They regroup, breathe, and look back at where they came with pride and thankfulness.

Their journey does not stop there.  It is a never ending cycle. They will head back into the river with more confidence. This time they know with all their being that they are doing what nature intended. They know they can just BE and THAT is enough. They must surrender to their fate and find faith, trust and fearlessness. They need not exist with uncertainty and anxiety. Eventually they will burrow back into the earth or vaporize into the air and the cycle will repeat itself.

And below is the link to the slideshow I put together from our fabulous week in Costa Rica!

VIEW SLIDESHOW

The next dates for Yoga in Costa Rica will be (two weeks to choose from!):

March 21-March 28, 2020  AND March 28-April 4, 2020

Details/Information

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Embracing Pura Vida in Costa Rica

March 24, 2019

I came back last Sunday from a one week yoga retreat in Costa Rica. I love Costa Rica! The expression Pura Vida takes on a lifestyle in Costa Rica.  This simple beautiful expression refers to the “simple life” embraced by the people of Costa Rica. This expression embraces a philosophy. When you say thank you in Costa Rica, you will hear “pura vida” in response to your gratitude.  The expression can be used to say:

Hello

Goodbye

Everything’s cool!

You’re welcome.

Last week I gave perhaps one of my most successful yoga retreats in Costa Rica.  Everything about the retreat was wonderful. The setting, the delicious fresh and organic food, the kindness of the staff at our boutique hotel, the weather, the views from our yoga platform and sea view terrace, and the birds and sounds of the lush jungle contributed to a perfect place to rejuvenate, rest, and relax!

On the first morning of our yoga practice, I asked everyone to share an affirmation with the group.  The affirmation became a mantra or a set of words carrying a positive message that would keep us focused on peacefulness and well being.  The affirmations are below, accompanied by my favorite photos of the week.

I am healthy and pain free.

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I am enough.

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I am strong.

I am confident.

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I am fearless.

I like me here.

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As I breathe in, I connect to my spirit.  As I breathe out, I smile.

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On day four, we did affirmations again. This time, they were different in an interesting way. When I heard these affirmations, I felt they reflected a deepening of our yoga practice:

I am strong.

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I am happy.

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I am present.

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I am kind.

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I am evolving.

I have strength by being gentle.

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I am getting healthier.

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I have balance.

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I am released.

I am enough.

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Never doubt how powerful words are!

And how about a little free write for you?  Written on the bus on departure day…

iridescent blue butterflies, each wing as big as my hand, flutter magically in the jungle…four days is all they are given..four intense days of life to feed, sleep, breed, reproduce, be beautiful, shine, fly, live, explore the jungle…what would you do with four precious days of life? 

time concepts..it takes nine months for a pineapple to grow and ripen, just like a human baby..think about that next time you eat a pineapple!

pepe-the-coati eats bananas every morning, a coati is related to the raccoon, looks like an anteater and walks like a monkey, suzanne watches pepe’s little tongue lapping up water out of her hot tub, john and i spot a bird with an incredible red head and shiny black body, and on the boat we spot spotted dolphins, they are attracted to our boat and gather round, swimming and showing off! howling monkeys sound like apes and singing cicadas almost make it impossible for everyone to hear me during yin yoga! costa rica is rich with wildlife

dancing tango and salsa moves, music stirs the soul, forty years dance instructor shows his great skill, teaches me salsa steps, encourages and teaches a young man who wants to impress his girlfriend with new dance moves..certainly new dancing skills will give our young man the confidence he needs to dance flawlessly with the love of his life

warm weather..sun turns my skin brown, sunshine factor of 10!!, we all become more flexible, my skin is so clear, my eyes are a deeper brown showing flecks of green i inherited from my dad, clean pure food feeds body and soul, i feel light and healthy and free

morning yoga on the jungle platform filled with birdsong, cool wet towel is comforting, forests are alive and forest bathing is real, the trees give off chemicals that are cancer fighting and ever so soothing to the soul, i am one with the jungle, the rainforest calms me and brings us serenity, hardly any mosquitoes at this elevation, a cool breeze comes just in time and the infinity pool offers cooling waters…evening yoga on hot stone slab, the sound of the cicadas accompany the sunset..everyday is spectacular from start to finish, red streaks in the sky and we hear a bird crying over and over again, “last call, last call, last call” or at least that is what it sounds like and we laugh until our stomachs hurt..spa drink quenches out thirst and is soothing after our evening yoga on the sea view sunset terrace

NEXT COSTA RICA YOGA RETREATS March 2020: LINK

Never too early to sign up! Come join me.

 

 

Living in a Beautiful World

March 1, 2019

I led a Yoga + Snowshoeing Retreat over Presidents’ Day Weekend at Walking Lightly Ranch in Whitefish, Montana.  The weekend retreat was perfect in every way, except that everyone thought it was too short!  We all flew from Seattle to Kalispell for the retreat and I agree we should have had at least one extra day.  Next time around, I am adding an extra day so we can have the option to go into the town of Whitefish to have a look around!

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The NEXT WALKING LIGHTLY RANCH RETREAT is next year:

May 21 – May 25, 2020 (Memorial Day Weekend)

View Details

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If you love mountain landscapes and big blue skies, healthy organic cuisine made to fit every person’s specific dietary needs, kind gentle folk who own and run the ranch, sweet loving Tennessee Walker horses waiting for a pat on the head, and if you love a spacious and pristine yoga studio with warm radiant wood floors where you can practice your yoga while looking at the trees from the many studio windows, you will be in heaven at Walking Lightly Ranch. It’s a very special place.

Kim captured the tomatoes in the pattern of a heart before the salad got tossed and eaten!

One evening, I asked everyone to randomly choose a winter haiku from a stack of index cards.  Earlier, I had sifted through many winter haiku and selected the ones that stood out the most. Though the haiku were written in the late 1600s and early 1700s in Japan, they are so contemporary and they fit our winter retreat scene so perfectly. Below, I will include the haiku I had prepared for the group along with some photos.  Thank you to the yoga retreat participants for contributing some of your photos!

And don’t forget to view the short video below!

photo by Lee Ann

Tethered horse;
Snow
In both stirrups.

-Buson

Awake at night—
The sound of the water jar
Cracking in the cold.

-Basho

The winter sun—
On the horse’s back
My frozen shadow.

-Basho

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Winter solitude—
In a world of one color
The sound of wind.

-Basho

Photo by Kim Johnson

Blow of an ax,
Pine scent,
The winter woods.

-Buson

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Cover my head
Or my feet?
The winter quilt.

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Flowers offered to the Buddha
Come floating
Down the winter river.

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The snow is melting
And the village is flooded
With children.

-Issa

From the end of the nose
Of the Buddha on the moor
Hang icicles.

-Issa

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See the river flow
In a long unbroken line
On the field of snow.
– Boncho

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Napped half the day;
No one
Punished me!

-Issa

VIEW VIDEO of the retreat weekend set to Coldplay’s Beautiful World

Not too early to sign up for next year’s late spring Montana adventure!

View my WEBSITE for details.

Dave and Mata Mandir playing for us.

‘Twas Twain’s Maui

January 12, 2019

I’m back from Maui and my heart is happy to have traveled there. It was relaxing to bask in the sunshine, enjoy the warmth of the island, and marvel at the lava-red sunsets. I still have a few Maui blog posts to write and will write them and line them up for the next couple of days so you can travel vicariously with me! img_7310‘Twas Mark Twain whose heart was captured by the great beauty of Maui way back in 1866. Mark Twain was Missouri’s famed son. He was a quick-witted American writer, journalist, humorist, entrepreneur, publisher, lecturer, silver miner, world traveler, popular public speaker, and keen observer of life.  One of the most influential American writers, he painted word-portraits of the world he lived in.  He was only 30 years old when he traveled to Maui, Oahu, and Hawai’i Island.  Clearly, he had a great time:

Twain hiked through Hawaii’s beauteous jungle. He surfed naked on a wooden surfboard. He rode horseback across the plains.

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When Twain visited Maui, the Hawaiian Islands were a full 93 years away from American statehood.  Hawai’i wasn’t even a US territory when Twain traveled there. It became US territory in 1898 and became the fiftieth state in 1959.  Back in 1866, the islands were known as the “Sandwich Islands”, so named in 1778 by Captain Cook after the man who sponsored Cook’s voyage, the Earl of Sandwich.

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Twain spent five weeks in Maui during an overall four-month visit on the Hawaiian Islands and for the rest of his life, he longed to return.   I had prepared the following excerpts before traveling to Maui, hoping to share them with my fellow traveling friends on the day we went to Haleakala Crater and National Park.  I thought the following Twain quotes would be inspirational because Twain climbed the same crater we were at and described it as the “sublimest spectacle” he had ever seen.  However, sharing what I had prepared was not to be while in Maui, so I am now sharing my selected excerpts from Mark Twain below, along with some of my photos.

On the trail: Haleakala Crater

Haleakala National Park: above the clouds at 10,023 ft (3055 m) above sea level.

“I went to Maui to stay a week and remained five. I never spent so pleasant a month before, or bade any place goodbye so regretfully. I have not once thought of business, or care or human toil or trouble or sorrow or weariness, and the memory of it will remain with me always.”

“The native language is soft and liquid and flexible and in every way efficient and satisfactory–till you get mad; then there you are; there isn’t anything in it to swear with,” he wrote.

No alien land in all the world has any deep, strong charm for me but that one; no other land could so longingly and beseechingly haunt me, sleeping and waking, through half a lifetime, as that one has done. Other things leave me, but it abides; other things change, but it remains the same. For me its balmy airs are always blowing, its summer seas flashing in the sun; the pulsing of its surf-beat in my ear; I can see its garlanded crags, its leaping cascades, its plumy palms drowsing by the shore; its remote summits floating like islands above the cloud rack; I can feel the spirit of its wooded solitudes; I can hear the splash of its brooks; in my nostrils still lives the breath of flowers that perished twenty years ago.
– Samuel M. Clemens (Mark Twain), Paradise of the Pacific, April 1910

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This is the most magnificent, balmy atmosphere in the world–ought to take dead men out of grave. -quoted in Mark Twain in Hawaii

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Slideshow from the Land of Fire and Ice

October 23, 2018

The following slideshow is of our recent yoga retreat in Iceland. It is a trip I hope to offer again and again.  The slideshow is set to the music of the Icelandic group Low Roar and the song playing is called Breathe In.  The words go well with the experience of being in the Land of Fire and Ice.  The melody seems to carry the mystery and stark beauty of the landscape.  Most of the photos in the slideshow are mine, but a few come from some of the other photographers in our group.  I believe all the photos capture the light that is unique to Iceland!  Being so far north, the sun’s rays hit at an angle, which, when captured by camera, makes every person holding a camera appear to be an extraordinary photographer.

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We did yoga every morning and every evening, though you will not find a single picture of our yoga sessions.  We immersed ourselves in our practice.  In our yoga sessions, we became warriors, molten lava, geothermal energy, and pure rays of northern light.

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It was a pleasure to see friendships deepen and new friendships forged.  As the week progressed, everyone in our group appeared to become more luminous. Was it the relaxing and cleansing aspect of the yoga practice?  Or was it the hot springs?  Or perhaps it was the hiking?  Could have been the pure spring-fed water we drank directly from the tap? It was probably a combination of all of these ideas and more.  All I know for sure is that the retreat was a great experience, one that I will never forget.

Turn up your speakers for this 6 minute slideshow of our retreat in Iceland:

Iceland: Yoga in the Land of Fire and Ice 2018 from Fran Gallo on Vimeo.

http://www.frangallo.com

 

Yoga in the Company of Dogs

August 19, 2018

Ruby – Cleopatra – Sidney – Bo 

These four furry characters graced a recent yoga session I led on Marrowstone Island this past weekend.

Don’t know where Marrowstone is?  Neither did I!  This was my first visit to Marrowstone Island, a small island located just 15 miles from Port Townsend.  I was visiting a friend who has a weekend home on the island. We had such a dreamy relaxing time doing yoga outdoors, enjoying an evening dinner together on the large front porch, taking long beach walks, foraging blackberries and apples, eating cobbler. The sky finally cleared of smoke from the terrible Canadian forest fires.

844 fortunate people make beautiful Marrowstone their home.  I saw a sign on a beach house that said:

If you are lucky enough to live on the beach, you are lucky enough.

But back to Yoga in the Company of Dogs!  Not every culture sees dogs as a source of great company, as creatures capable of great affection, as sources of great pleasure and undying faithful love.  I am not a dog owner, but I love dogs.  Dogs can make you feel loved like no other.  They can make you feel safe.  They do not judge people based on social status, physical appearance, or personal hygiene.  No human will ever celebrate your presence the way your dog will when you come home after a couple hours or a few days of being away.

I’ll bet you have heard this prayer:

Lord, help me be the kind of person my dog thinks I am.

Research shows that oxytocin spikes in both human and canine brains when a dog gazes at its owner.  If you are reading this blog post, and have a dog, you probably already knew this before scientists measured oxytocin levels.  And if you are from a country or a culture where dogs (or cats) are seen in a different light and not esteemed in this way, you may be surprised to learn that many or most dog (cat) owners in my culture see their dogs (cats) as full-fledged family members. We will go to great measures and shell out great amounts of money to seek medical/veterinarian care when our pets are ill. Often, in my culture, dogs (or cats) are our best friends.

So it is not surprising that the yoga session I held on Saturday morning, in the company of four dogs (Ruby, Cleopatra, Sidney, and Bo) was delightful and deeply relaxing.  I have done yoga in the company of dogs many times before.  They become deeply relaxed.  Tiny Cleopatra, a chihuahua who is normally very nervous around strangers, became so relaxed that she got out of her little cuddle bed and ventured out to sniff at my legs.  She even started interacting with the larger dogs, who were equally relaxed.

All the dogs were off leash, but none strayed very far.  Toward the end of the yoga session, all four dogs were crowded near us.  Some were lying in Shavasana-like poses.  Others were finding comfortable perches on our bodies.

20+ Reasons to do Yoga Outdoors

July 1, 2018

While I do love all seasons, I find myself anticipating summertime more than any other time of the year. I love the long days of the Pacific Northwest. My garden comes alive and I love spending as much time as possible outdoors. Practicing yoga outdoors is a real treat.  I offer Yoga in the Park on Tuesdays in June, July, and August (in Meridian Park in Wallingford, Seattle). See details at the end of this blog post.  All are welcome to come to my all-levels Hatha Yoga classes.

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I have brainstormed and come up with 20+ reasons to do yoga outdoors. I hope you will give yourself a beneficial outdoor yoga experience this summer!

Note: the photos are from my Yoga in the Park classes.  The blue sketches were done by Tina Koyama, Seattle yogini and sketcher extraordinaire. She sketched these from last Tuesday’s class.

1. Practicing yoga outdoors can change your entire yoga experience!  Be soothed by the greenery around you. Take in the smells of summer, hear birdsong, breathe fresh air.  Natural scenery can heighten your awareness and awaken your sensory mind.  Scent, sight, hearing, and touch activate your brain and make you more present. Fresh air heightens breath awareness. All of your senses will awaken.

2. Practicing yoga outdoors adds a different dimension to your practice.  You experience yoga’s original link with nature.  The word “yoga” means “union” and when practicing outside, you can experience union with birds, butterflies, bees and other insects, flowers, trees, sky, clouds, wind, humankind, and connect to the universe.

A recent Swedish study found viewing nature, especially fractals (the organically occurring patterns in tree branches and fern leaves for example), increased wakeful relaxation and internal focus—two pretty important components of a rewarding yoga practice.

 

3. You will become a part of the photosynthesis process.  When you breathe out, the trees around you breathe in. Talk about feeling connected to the trees!  Experience your deep connection with nature.

4. Yoga outdoors allows you to experience human interaction and has some wonderful social benefits.  All of us, while doing yoga outdoors, hear the sounds of laughter, children playing, the happy sounds of other people enjoying the park.  Other people’s laughter has the effect of boosting your own sense of happiness.   You leave your yoga session with renewed energy.  (You also leave the park super hungry because movement, full breathing, and relaxation have a way of making you crave healthy nourishing food.)

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5. There is nothing more satisfying than doing yoga outdoors and spending time in nature, especially after a day of working indoors. You can spread your wings, take in deep breaths, feel free, and allow your body to be warmed by the sun. Doing yoga outdoors can replenish your depleted energy.

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6. Dr. Matthew Baral, author of This is Your Brain on Nature, says, “Nature connects us to our roots.”  “The grass, the ocean, the trees are all part of our primeval world.  It is where we feel most at home.”  Practice outdoors, connect to your roots, align yourself with nature, and come back to your true home.

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7. The beauty around you can help inspire your practice.  You will find yourself moving away from worry and disconnecting from heavy thoughts by moving away from stress-triggering environments or situations.  You’ll move away from newscasts, newspapers, your computer, TV, desk, paperwork, iphone to an outdoor environment. You will disconnect and reconnect.  In nature, you can connect to yourself in a deeper, more meaningful way.

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8. Being one with nature and exercising outdoors will boost your self-esteem. Perhaps this boost comes from soaking up Vitamin D, which has been shown to decrease depression.  Even if you are limiting your exposure to the sun, practicing in the shade sends feel-good signals to your brain.

9. If you have taken classes with me, you have heard me talk about “grounding” or connecting to the “earth” through your feet. It is a strange term to use indoors as our bare feet are placed on a mat, which is placed on a wood or carpeted floor.  However, when teaching yoga outdoors, telling people to ground their feet to the earth becomes an intensified experience and a new term arises, “Earthing“.

Earthing, also known as grounding, refers to contact with the Earth’s surface. An entire blog post can be dedicated to Earthing! I will include a quoted paragraph about the profound benefits of Earthing as per the following article: Link 

According to research, as read in the article/link above, going barefoot and connecting your feet directly to the earth, has the following benefits:

  • direct contact with Earth’s vast surface supply of electrons
  • sleep better
  • reduce pain
  • regulate diurnal body rhythms, such as cortisol secretion
  • neutralize free radicals
  • decrease inflammatory response
  • increase immune response
  • blood thinning effect
  • reduction of primary indications of osteoporosis
  • shift from sympathetic to parasympathetic tone in the autonomic nervous system (in simpler terms, Earthing helps you to RELAX and RENEW!)  You enter the relaxation zone!
  • increase in blood oxygen
  • stabilize the electric environment of all organs, tissues, and cells
  • grounding yourself, or simply having direct contact with the earth, be it sand, rocks, or grass, can reduce the risk of heart problems, pain, and stress.

“Emerging scientific research has revealed a surprisingly positive and overlooked environmental factor on health: direct physical contact with the vast supply of electrons on the surface of the Earth. Modern lifestyle separates humans from such contact. The research suggests that this disconnect may be a major contributor to physiological dysfunction and unwellness. Reconnection with the Earth’s electrons has been found to promote intriguing physiological changes and subjective reports of well-being. Earthing (or grounding) refers to the discovery of benefits—including better sleep and reduced pain—from walking barefoot outside or sitting, working, or sleeping indoors connected to conductive systems that transfer the Earth’s electrons from the ground into the body. This paper reviews the earthing research and the potential of earthing as a simple and easily accessed global modality of significant clinical importance.”

When I was in Germany, I experienced part of this Earthing movement via Sebastian Kneipp’s barefoot therapy and cold water footbath immersion therapy.  In the village where I stayed, there were barefoot walking paths throughout the fields and a few therapy pools for water wading.  After a long hike, it felt fantastic to walk barefoot on the paths or to immerse our feet in the cold water wading pools.

10. Doing asanas such as Warrior I or Warrior II outdoors can make you feel powerful.  Being outside can make you more attentive and emotionally balanced.  Fresh air can help clear your mind. When you feel balanced and when your mind is clear, stress levels are lowered, which in turn reduces the stress hormone cortisol.

11. Breathe freely, take in prana (life force), and improve your lung capacity.  Being outside improves respiration because we breathe in fresh air. The increased oxygen will make you more alert and improve depleted energy.

Your lungs have 6 liters of air capacity.  Being outside will make you want to breath deeper, allowing more oxygen in. This breaks up any accumulated pollutants and toxins that are trapped in your alveoli due to habitual shallow breathing.

12. You will connect to Mother Nature.  Surely, while being outside, you will hear some annoying sounds such as traffic in the distance, the occasional airplane, a dog barking nonstop, and you’ll be sure to have to swat at an insect or two.  You may have to deal with wind or cooling changes in temperature or drizzle.  The flip side is that you will be witness to sunsets, breathtaking views, varying shades of green.  You may see a butterfly.  It may land on you.  Or the rarest of birds might just land on a branch next to you. These are some aspects of our live planet, Earth. Doing yoga outside provides a means to love and appreciate our planet and all that she provides.

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13. Alleviate stress.  Doing yoga alleviates stress.  And when you take your yoga practice outside, in a forest, a park, or even in your own back yard, you experience nature as healer and a catharsis takes place.

Studies have shown that people who are exposed to a forested environment more often have far less stress than those who are only in urban environments.

14. Improve your balance.  There is rarely such thing as a perfectly level ground in a park, a forest, or a meadow. When practicing yoga, you will find you have to accept the lumps and unevenness under your mat or under your feet. When doing tree pose, for example, on an uneven surface, in order to stabilize your body and reach a point of balance, your legs and core muscles become stronger.

15. Become stronger and more stable in all aspects of life! When you are home, you can control your environment.  Too hot? Open a window, turn on the fan, or the AC. Too cold? Close the window, put on a sweater, turn up the heat, take a hot bath, make a cup of hot tea. Music too loud? Turn it down.  Don’t like the music? Turn if off or change the playlist. When you are out in nature, you are not in a controlled environment and you do not have control of the outer elements. You learn to welcome the breeze, you learn to move faster if you need to keep warm, your learn to use your core in a stronger way if you are sitting on an incline. You will learn to embrace the elements rather than fight or try to change them. You can no longer expect things to be a certain way and begin to accept the situation as it is in a given moment.

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16. Your OM in the great outdoors will sound purely magical.  You may notice a crow cawing in the distance as you OM or you might just notice how your relaxed body and bolstered lungs can really belt out a strong vibrational OM.

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17. You get to feel intoxicated on Nature.  It’s the best high you will ever experience.

18. Sun Salutations were meant to be practiced outside!  There are no ceilings separating you from the sun.  You simply must experience this.

19. Experience the best yoga music ever: waves lapping, wind rustling leaves, birds singing, children laughing, happy murmurings in the distance.  The forest, park, and beach is alive and waiting for you.

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20. When in downward facing dog, look at the trees and see your world upside down.  When in tree pose, root your standing foot into the earth and connect to the trees around you.  When in half moon, imagine you are celestial, in orbit, a satellite.  When in shavasana, melt, surrender, and merge with the earth. Practice shedding an older version of yourself.  Being outdoors gives your asanas (postures) a unique dimension.  Your practice will improve.

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SEATTLE YOGIS:

It’s happening! Yoga in the Park is in full swing. It’s a great outdoor all-levels Hatha Yoga experience and I hope to see you in July and August (no class on August 7th and classes cancelled on rainy days). Classes take place in Meridian Park, Wallingford in Seattle on Tuesdays from 6-7pm (enter the park from Meridian, go up the steps and you will see us on your far right).  It’s a donation based class.  We’ve been going strong since 1998 (with one season hiatus last year)

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Live Music Coming Your Way July 10 at YOGA IN THE PARK:

On Tuesday, July 10, Liz Talley, Glenn Frank, and Lisa Latchford will play and sing for us while we do yoga in Meridian Park! Two years ago, they graced our outdoor yoga class with their music (see photo below). It was a pretty magical experience and I hope you will be able to come on July 10!

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There is a place…

June 2, 2018

There is a place….

where magic happens.  It’s not far from Seattle, just a short ferry ride away on Vashon Island. For a few years now, I’ve offered day retreats at what I will call a “secret garden”.  I’m not allowed to say on social media where this place is because it is a private property, but those of you lucky enough to have been at one of my yoga day retreats there will know exactly where it is.

The photos from this blog post are from a yoga day retreat I offered at this site two weeks ago.  I am afraid that this may have been my last retreat offered at this enchanted site as there are some changes taking place on the property.  I am not to talk about the situation.  Just like Jury Duty!  Being cryptic is not my style, but there you have it!

What I can say is that two weeks ago a group of 14 lucky yogis got to breathe in the emerald forest air, see a bit of Indonesia in the Pacific Northwest, walk among ancient stones imported from Asia, eat organic, locally-sourced food infused with love and tenderly prepared by Karen Biondo of La Biondo Farm on Vashon.  Together, we meditated in an ancient temple, shared some beautiful imagery we observed during our stay on the property, images we continue to carry in our hearts, did yoga in an authentic antique Chinese tea merchant’s house, and shared meals and warm conversations.  New friendships blossomed and old friendships deepened.  It’s the kind of gathering every yogi dreams of.

I will always have a deep gratitude and respect for David Smith, who visualized this lush paradise and created this Indonesian-Meets-Pacific Northwest haven at his home on Vashon. David was a delicate gentle soul. When he passed away, he left this precious legacy behind.  The current caretakers of the property have done a marvelous job of keeping this place vibrant and ever more beautiful when I didn’t think that was possible. I can’t believe we have been lucky enough to practice yoga on this property.  I will continue to search out another treasured place to host my next day retreats on Vashon.  Wish me luck and if you have any leads for future Vashon sites, let me know.

Chillin’ before our meditation session inside this temple:

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Summer
Summertime brings joy
The sun warms us outside in
Nature calls us out

Beach Walk
Nature opens eyes
While great blue Herons hunt fish
Water sparkles wet

Poems by Milo Minnis: fellow yoga instructor, yoga day retreat participant, poet, student of Judith Lasater, visionary, beautiful human being

Serene: photo of statue below taken by Skye McNeill (Surface Designer, Illustrator, Photographer, Graphic Designer extraordinaire! visit Skye’s website)

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“As yoga teachers, our job is to mirror back the inherent goodness and inner wisdom of our students. But first, we have to find it in ourselves.”  – Judith Hanson Lasater

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