Archive for the ‘Teaching’ Category

Gathering Circle

June 18, 2017

Quarterly, I offer a free yoga class at the Chief Seattle Club.  The Chief Seattle Club is in Pioneer Square, Seattle, and is a safe and sacred place where urban native peoples can rest, be nurtured, and receive services to help ease their lives.  Many of the members of Chief Seattle Club are homeless.  The club is open seven days a week from 7am-2pm.  It is a place where members can have a hot shower, get a warm hearty breakfast, receive medical support, housing assistance, computer training, legal assistance, mental health care, and chemical dependency treatment.  It also offers traditional healing practices as a primary method of healing.  There is also a Native Art Program and Gallery and there are regular outings to visit tribes and participate in pow wows.

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There is so much to say about this center!  Mainly, I believe it is a place where urban native peoples can be supported and find acceptance.

Many years ago, the building was a hotel.  The space today has been completely renovated and is environmentally friendly.  It has solar panels that heat all the water in the building and some of the construction material was salvaged from the old hotel.

My favorite part is the circular space with high ceilings and wood carvings located in the center of the Chief Seattle Club.  It serves as the Gathering Circle.  This is the spiritual center of the building. It was designed by Native American architect, John Paul Jones.  Weekly mass is offered in the Gathering Circle.  It is a gorgeous space and I feel honored to offer yoga sessions four times a year in the Gathering Circle.

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There are two ways to describe my teaching yoga experience at the Chief Seattle Club.  One is through this poem, written by Coast Salish Chief Dan George (Tel-Lal-Wah).  I believe this poem captures the spirit of the native people I work with, who are deeply connected to earth, land, and their ancestors.

My Heart Soars

The beauty of the trees,
the softness of the air,
the fragrance of the grass,
speaks to me.

The summit of the mountain,
the thunder of the sky,
the rhythm of the sea,
speaks to me.

The faintness of the stars,
the freshness of the morning,
the dew drop on the flower,
speaks to me.

The strength of fire,
the taste of salmon,
the trail of the sun,
And the life that never goes away,
They speak to me.
And my heart soars

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Teaching yoga at the Chief Seattle Club profoundly moves me.  I always leave feeling they gave me more than I was able to give them! Another way to capture and describe my experience there is to capture fragments of dialogues from discussions before and after the yoga session:

Me: Before we begin, let’s do a check in. Yoga is wholeness, truth, peace, connection….connecting to self, to community, to ancestors, to breath, to universal consciousness, to nature. This is your sacred time to share anything you feel will help you to connect with your yoga today.

I am not lost. I am strong, firmly rooted.  I come from a line of ancestors who live through me.  My work is to help people see that things are not as they appear. The world is an illusion. Things are not what they seem. I want people to see me as an artist, as a visionary.

I love yoga, but I feel unsettled so I can’t get to doing yoga as often as I’d like. I’m so happy to be here.

I’d like to stand and speak to you in my tribal language and then I’ll translate for you…

During the yoga session, they grow wings and become eagles, they grow stronger and become warriors, they grow roots and become trees.  I am humbled by this group.  As we do yoga, I understand they are true yogis, already connected and re-embracing wholeness.  I observe how they relax deeply in shavasana.

Me: How are you feeling?

I am the rock that rises to the top of the mountain as the earth’s plates push me upwards.  Eventually that rock rolls down to the deepest part of the ocean and eventually dissolves into sand.  That’s me.  That’s how I feel…right now.

Once in a dream, I watched a big sheet of glass shatter to the ground..big shards on the ground.  Sometimes I feel that’s me.  Today I was able to fit the pieces together again.  Every piece is needed to make this picture perfect. The ugly parts, the perfect parts, they all came together to make me whole again. 

I feel relaxed.  I almost fell asleep….I think I did.

She puts her jacket on, then takes it off, then puts it on again and off again.  I need to go, but I want to stay!  I feel so peaceful.

I cried.  The pain inside is gone.

I feel alive. 

I feel like all this energy is flowing inside me.  I love this feeling!

I am enough.

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A Simple Mantra

May 24, 2017

So Hum

We breathe in.  We breathe out.

We inhale and silently and hear SO.

We exhale and silently and hear HUM.

Two words create internal sounds that bring us to reflections of beauty.

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So Hum (also spelled Soham). This Sanskrit mantra is made of two simple words which bring us to truth.  I AM THAT.  THAT I AM.  I am the beauty I see around me.  I am a reflection of the trees, the pond, the sky, the trail, the yogis bursting with life, and the exquisite property so tenderly loved.  I identify myself with the universe.

So Hum. The images tumble forth.  The yogis in the group become poets before my very eyes:

Iridescent blue of the damselfly on the pond, SO HUM

 (photo by Rick)

(photo by Rick)

Dark water, red leaves, blue dragonfly SO HUM

The barred owl casing the robin’s nest, SO HUM

(Rick's photo)

(Rick’s photo)

Eye of the owl  SO HUM

Purple blossoms falling on the grass SO HUM

Creek crashing through the sea SO HUM

Moss on the temple  SO HUM

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The color Chinese red on the house door  SO HUM

Path leading to the house where we do our yoga

The skittering wind  SO HUM

Beauty and artistry of the carved wood  SO HUM

(photo by Rick)

(photo by Rick)

Hummingbird by my red bandana  SO HUM

Kathy (wearing her red bandanna) and Dayna

Kathy (wearing her red bandana) and Dayna

So we took a day to experience the glorious nature of Vashon Island and revel in our unique surroundings.  We enjoyed a morning session of Hatha Yoga, followed by an organic lunch made with love from Karen Biondo, farmer of La Biondo Farm & Kitchen on Vashon Island. The weather was fine enough for us to eat at a long table outside, the inviting forest formed a backdrop to our meal.  After lunch, some of us went on an hour hike to Fern Cover and others took naps, walked solo around the property, rested, read, socialized, took time to stop and be.  Some forged new friendships.  After lunch, we met at the temple and meditated.  We also did some standing yoga on the temple grounds. Then we brought our  yoga session indoors again and finished up our yin session with a long shavasana.  A perfect day in so many ways.

One of the entrances to the Chinese Tea Merchant's House, where most of our yoga took place. Gigantic doors open up to the landscaped garden and forest beyond.

One of the entrances to the Chinese Tea Merchant’s House, where most of our yoga took place. Large doors open up to the landscaped garden and forest beyond. (Photo by Milo)

Rhododendron (photo by Rick)

Rhododendron (photo by Rick)

Leaves and Light (photo by Milo)

Leaves and Light (photo by Milo)

Lunchtime! (photo by Fran)

Lunchtime! (photo by Fran)

An exceptionally fine May day! We ate our Salad Nicoise at the outside table. (photo by Fran)

An exceptionally fine May day! We ate our Salad Nicoise at the outside table. (photo by Fran)

A hike to Fern Cove (photo by Fran)

A hike to Fern Cove (photo by Fran)

Rick reads poems at Fern Cove, at the end of Mill Creek Trail (photo by Fran)

Rick reads poems at Fern Cove, at the end of Mill Creek Trail (photo by Fran)

My playful friends!! (photo by Leslie S)

My playful friends!! (photo by Leslie S)

Yes, our chef gone upside down in headstand! (photo by Leslie S)

Yes, our chef Karen turning the world  upside down in headstand! (photo by Leslie S)

Rick's photo of us doing yoga outside of the temple!

Rick’s photo of us doing yoga outside of the temple!

End of the day...shavasana (nice enough to have doors open to the land and forest of Vashon Island.)

End of the day…shavasana (nice enough to have doors open to the land, fresh air, and forest of Vashon Island )

NEXT VASHON DAY RETREAT WILL BE HELD MAY 20, 2018.  NEVER TOO EARLY TO SIGN UP!  (just let me know in your comments below if you’d like to reserve your space and I will be in touch with you!)

And I leave you with a poem I read to the group on Sunday:

Prayer for the Great Family (after a Mohawk Prayer) Gary Snyder

Gratitude to Mother Earth, sailing through night and day–
and to her soil: rich, rare, and sweet

in our minds so be it.

Gratitude to Plants, the sun-facing light-changing leaf
 and fine root-hairs; standing still through wind 
and rain; their dance is in the flowing spiral grain

in our minds so be it.

Gratitude to Air, bearing the soaring Swift and the silent
 Owl at dawn. Breath of our song
 clear spirit breeze

in our minds so be it.

Gratitude to Wild Beings, our brothers, teaching secrets,
 freedoms and ways; who share with us their milk;
 self-complete, brave, and aware

in our minds so be it.

Gratitude to Water: clouds, lakes, rivers, glaciers;
 holding or releasing; streaming through all
 our bodies salty seas

in our minds so be it.

Gratitude to the Sun: blinding pulsing light through 
trunks of trees, through mists, warming caves where
 bears and snakes sleep–he who wakes us–

in our minds so be it.

Gratitude to the Great Sky
 who holds billions of stars–and goes yet beyond that–
beyond all powers, and thoughts 
and yet is within us–
Grandfather Space.
The Mind is his Wife

so be it.

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A very special place, indeed!

Sicily 2017 Slideshow

May 13, 2017

Was it one week or two?

It was one hundred lifetimes lived in a single day.

Warm sun on my skin

Within days, my skin goes brown, my eyes grow bright.

A gentle breeze floats in from the sea.

I am surrounded by beauty

and smiles.

How will I ever go back home?

This ancient land clings to my feet, tugs at my heart.

I am trapped by an invisible seaweed netting.

Cherry tomatoes burst with flavor. The local markets display mounds of dried wild herbs and mountains of colorful fruits and vegetables, which will taste as beautiful as they look.

Every morning and evening, we practice yoga to the sound of birdsong

and to soft lapping of waves.

The fragrance of the zagara flower is intoxicating.

Orange blossoms perfume the wall-less outdoor yoga studio.

Mt. Etna lets out a steady stream of smoke, steam, and dreams.

Mongibello stands tall, shrouded in purple at sunset, pink at sunrise.

What do you call the blue of the Sicilian sky and sea?

Flamingos, not yet fully pink, are feeding at the marsh.

Are there words to describe such insane raw beauty?

At night, I wonder how my parents ever left?  I wonder if I  carry the scars of their pain?

Quarry stones, hewn perfectly, stand witness to ancient history and warm today’s cat.

With the click of my camera, I capture the wild red poppies growing in a field of yellow daisies and I offer the poppies’ perfection to my lost friend Adriana.

We do yoga in the ruins of the tuna fisheries.

I feel the solidity of ancient stone under my feet, the mass suffering of the giants of the sea, and the beauty of the moment.

I watch my friends, long-time friends and new ones, do yoga on this ancient island. I lead them in a yoga sequence and I feel  Madre Terra’s energy coursing through us all.

Mother Earth and the Sicilian Sun nourish our spirits.

I breathe and I am renewed.

Fran’s website: http://www.frangallo.com

Turn up your speakers and enjoy the slideshow below (about 8 minutes long):

Click to play this Smilebox slideshow

Sicily for Adriana

April 27, 2017

I thought to post some of my best photos from the past two days.   This post is dedicated to my friend and co-worker from Seattle Athletic Club, Adriana Allison Brown, 34 years old, married to Aaron Brown and mother of two beautiful little girls.  She passed away two days ago on April 25, was hit by a vehicle as she was walking the crosswalk at Lenora and Western (Seattle) on her way to work at the Seattle Athletic Club as a personal fitness trainer.  I thought of Adriana all day these past two days.  She told me recently that she would like to come to Sicily one day.

I am heartbroken.

Adriana was as bright as the Sicilian Sun.

Adriana was as beautiful as the red poppies below.

Adriana “era buona comu lu pani“, a Sicilian expression which literally translates to Adriana “was as good as bread”  (see explanation below).

 

Yes, I got my poppy photo! Red is the dominant color for the poppies I have been seeing.

Yes, I got my poppy photo! Red is the dominant color for the poppies I have been seeing.

Bread (pane). For my dad, a meal without bread was not a meal at all. The highest compliment you can pay a person in old time Sicily was to say, "Era buonu comu lu pani" = He was as good as bread!

Bread (pane). For my dad, a meal without bread was not a meal at all.  Bread is the staff of life. The highest compliment you can pay a person in old time Sicily was to say of that person, “E buonu (buona) comu lu pani” = He/She is as good as bread!

Old tile detail

Old tile detail

Sweetness: potted geraniums

Sweetness: potted geraniums

Simple delicious ingredients for sauce alla Norma.

Simple delicious ingredients for Pasta alla Norma.

Sicilian Cat. Her name was Meow!

Sicilian Cat. His name was Meow!

Oranges kissed by the sun.

Oranges kissed by the sun.

Cheese at the Siracusa Market

Cheese at the Ortigia Market

One of the pupi (traditional puppet). There is a puppet theater in Ortigia.

And ancient pupi (traditional puppet). There is a puppet theater in Ortigia.

10 Reasons to Rock Your World With Pair Work

February 26, 2017

When I first started practicing Hatha Yoga 26 years ago, my teachers always included at least two or more opportunities to pair up with a fellow yoga student in class in order to explore a given posture more deeply.  I’ve always been comfortable working in pairs.  If there was someone I knew in class, I’d make eye contact with that person as soon as the teacher started suggesting pair work.  If I didn’t know others in class, I tried to find someone with a similar height.  Sometimes it just worked out that I got paired with a 6′ tall guy and all was well!

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Today, the trend is not to do pair work in class.  There are many reasons for the trend and it may have to do with a popularity in a flowing faster paced yoga class where there is no time to pair up, or because instructors are afraid of students getting injured, or some yoga students might not like to touch people they are not married to (or real-life partnered with), or they may be fearful of germs, or disgusted by sweaty hands (their own sweaty hands or the sweaty hands of others).

Fran and Rick on the beach at Ocean Shores

Fran and Rick on the beach at Ocean Shores

At any rate, I do less and less pair work in my classes (and no pair work at all at OmCulture and Seattle Athletic Club) as I try to fit in with the times, with what is needed and desired in a Hatha yoga class, and would like my students to be comfortable.  However, I do love pair work and, as a result, am devoting a whole workshop to Pair Work on Sunday, March 5 at the Seattle Gym at Queen Anne in Seattle (1-4pm).

Having fun at Little Renaissance

Having fun at Little Renaissance

Pair Work is a fun way to explore and strengthen Hatha Yoga postures.  Not only can we improve balance, stretch more deeply, and strengthen muscles, but we can also build confidence, motive and inspire each other, and, at the same time, laugh and have fun.  In my workshop, you will be guided safely into a variety of all-level poses.

Skye and Grace

Squared Up: Skye and Grace

10 Reasons to Rock your World Via Pair Work:

  1. Learn to let go
  2. Enhance your balance
  3. Go deeper in your yoga poses
  4. Concentrate on lengthening and grounding
  5. Pair Work will give you the confidence to go beyond perceived limitations
  6. Increase your sociability
  7. Pair Work produces oxytocin
  8. Reduce anxiety
  9. Add to your sense of adventure
  10. Improve self-awareness and trust

Live in the Seattle area and looking for a fun all-levels Hatha Yoga workshop to do?  SIGN UP for next Sunday’s Hatha Yoga Workshop with Fran here.

Ursula and Drew at the 2014 Sicily Hatha Yoga Retreat

Ursula and Drew at the 2014 Sicily Hatha Yoga Retreat

Yoga: I Love Light

November 21, 2016

Whether he is in Japan or back at home, every morning Don wakes up at 4am and does his yoga practice.  At the end of his yoga practice and meditation, he recites the following mantra:

I am a child of light

I love light.

I serve light.

Light is in me

protecting,

illuminating,

supporting,

sustaining.

I am light.

Don was recently on the Japan tour.  One morning I asked him to share the above mantra with us as we did yoga.  Of the 13 full days touring Japan, we, as a group, had 10 sessions of yoga.  As usual, I am unable to take photos when I am teaching.  But luckily,  Jeff (and Karin) got a few good shots!  I only took some of these photos.

The first set of photos were taken on our cycling trip in Kyoto.  That day we had standing yoga in Kameyama Park.  Since we had been cycling all morning, I told everyone not to worry about bringing their yoga mats along.  And since the ground was a fine white pea gravel, we also wore our shoes.  We called the class Standing Yoga.  It felt so good to take in the clean fresh air of Kyoto!

Debby and Marc forming a bridge of friendship.

Debby and Marc forming a Bridge of Friendship.

One more view of the Vol-Au-Vents (the name of a savory light pastry in France that means Fly With the Wind)

One more view of the Vol-Au-Vents (the name of a savory light pastry in France which means “Fly With the Wind”)

Happiness is the Bridge of Friendship. Ginger and Woody

Happiness is the Bridge of Friendship. Ginger and Woody (pant legs tucked in from the bike ride).

Our team magicians: Chiaki and Yukiko

Our team magicians: Chiaki and Yukiko

Last shot for the Standing Yoga in Kyoto: I think we look we belong to a scene right out of Saturday Night Fever.

Last shot for  Standing Yoga in Kyoto: I think we belong in a scene right out of Saturday Night Fever.

See what I mean?

See what I’m saying??

Then we have lots of yoga photos from the first Ryokan (traditional Japanese Inn with Hot Springs/Onsen) we stayed at on the island of Shikoku.  The room we had was unbelievable!  It was like a ballroom/atrium combo with glass windows overlooking the city of Takamatsu.  We did yoga in the evening, just before dinner and the city lights made for a dramatic and lovely backdrop to our yoga class.  One more thing: I had access to chairs so we did yoga using chairs.  Amazing what you can do using chairs for yoga!

Camel Pose

Camel Pose (Kim in the foreground)

Forward bends using the chair

Forward bends using the chair

Revolved Triangles!

Revolved Triangles! (Bill in the foreground)

Deeper Backbends over a chair (Karin)

Deeper Backbends over a chair (Karin)

Resting Crocodiles!

Resting Crocodiles!

Resting crocodile

Resting crocodile

Deeply Relaxed!

Deeply Relaxed! (Jeff!)

And photos were also taken at the Buddhist monastery at Mt. Koya.  I think that may have been the best room ever.  The floors were made  of tatami mats. There is a nice sweet grass-like smell that comes with tatami mats, which are made of rush grass.  They are gentle but firm.  The room we practiced in was cavernous.  There were several heaters which kept us warm.  This is a good thing because it was pretty cold on the mountain at night. The monastery had a great feel to it. In the morning we watched the monks chant, pray, and do their fire ceremony.  It was very peaceful and meditative. I think their good energy permeated the yoga space.  And it was quiet. A very quiet room with great acoustics so my voice carried over strongly.

Side stretching

Side stretching

Windmill

Windmill

Trees at the Monastery

Trees at the Monastery

Flip Your Dog!

Flip Your Dog!

And lastly, we found that doing Warrior I-or any yoga at all- in our Kimonos was impossible! (Fran and Karin)

And lastly, we found that doing Warrior I-or any yoga at all- in our Kimonos was impossible! (Fran and Karin)

Boosting the Immune System with Yoga and Wholesome Food

October 19, 2016

I am writing from Japan.  Japan posts soon to start coming (so exciting to be here!), but first a follow up on two fabulous in-city one-day retreats that I just offered with MJ Conboy of MJ’s Plant Smart Kitchen this past weekend.  The retreat’s focus was on building and boosting a strong immune system via yoga asanas and learning a few new recipes espousing a plant-based diet.

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Read on below.  I hope you are able to glean some ideas from this blog post, be inspired by the photos, try the yoga sequence, peruse the cook book titles below, and be inspired by the various readings shared in our retreat.

Plant Based Cook Books:

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Books with recipes based on a plant-based diet:

The Urban Vegan by Dynise Balcavage

Salad Samurai, 100 Cutting-Edge, Ultra-Hearty, Easy-To-Make Salads by Terry Hope Romero

Veganomicon, The Ultimate Vegan Cookbook by Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero

The 30-Day Vegan Challenge by Coleen Patrick Goudreau

The Kind Diet by Alicia Silverstone

A Grateful Heart, Daily Blessings for the Evening Meal from Buddha to the Beatles , edited by M. J. Ryan

Chloe’s Vegan Italian Kitchen, 150 Pizzas, Pastas, Pestos, Risottos, and Lots of Cremay Italian Classics by Chloe Coscarelli

The Macrobiotic Path to Total Health by Michio Kushi and Alex Jack

the milf diet, Let The Power of Whole Foods Transform Your Body, Mind, and Spirit…deliciously by Jessica Porter

Macrobiotics for All Seasons by Marlene Watson-Tara

Mayumi’s Kitchen, Macrobiotic Cooking for Body and Soul by Mayumi Nishimura

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A yoga sequence for Immune System Boosting:

  • Seated Forward Bend (relaxes the nervous system)
  • Half Spinal Twist (Seated, twists help to cleanse, stimulate and strengthen the internal organs)
  • Dolphin (like downward facing dog, but on your elbows) to an inverted pose balanced on your elbows (can be done at the wall or with your legs walking up the wall) inversions are excellent for bathing and enhancing function of the endocrine system.
  • Uddyana Bandha (standing breathing exercises sometimes called the Abdominal Lift) breathe in through nose and exhale through the mouth while pulling belly in.
  • Sun Salutations
  • Standing Forward Bends (feet together and feet apart)..when in a wide angle forward bend, you can add twists
  • Arches: lying over a block, camel, bow, cobra, upward facing dog, full backbend (some of these were done in pairs with a helper)
  • Seated side bend
  • Shoulder stand—plough—fish pose
  • Block under your upper back (another way to do fish)
  • Legs up the wall (great for movement of the lymphatic fluids, enhances the lymphatic system)

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Yoga helps boost the immune system by reducing stress and strengthening the lungs (with the breathing).  We all know that psychological stress doubles the chance of a person getting a cold!  Yoga practice lowers stress hormones and calms the nervous system.  The fight or flight response is eclipsed by the relax and renew response.  It also helps by optimizing the functions of the following systems:

  • circulatory system
  • lymphatic system
  • respiratory system (the yoga postures help improve mechanical efficiency of our lungs by conditioning them.  With yoga, we increase the elasticity of the lungs and strengthen them)
  • nervous system
  • immune system

Twists specifically increase oxygen to organs for optimal function.  They also cleanse, rid the organs of toxins, and supply the organs and glands with fresh blood supply.  Twists massage the body and internal organs and help us to relax.

Restorative postures, such as lying over a block or bolster, putting legs up the wall, or lying in shavasana, are soothing.  They help us to relax and they also help build vigor!

In addition to the featured poses and breathing pranayama exercise to help boost the immune system, don’t forget to inject these other essential elements into your daily life:

  • LAUGHTER
  • OPTIMISM
  • ENOUGH SLEEP
  • ANY ACTIVITY THAT HELPS YOU RELIEVE STRESS (can be walking, dancing, listening to music, vigorous aerobic exercise, reading, spending time with people you love)
  • EAT WELL (and eat as much of a plant-based diet and non-processed food diet as is possible_

We also shared several readings (below are a few):

“The food movement is about quality of life. What we eat affects how we feel physically and emotionally. How food is grown and processed has an impact on the health of those who eat it. How our food is produced affects the environment, the existence of wildlife, and the size and characteristics of our country’s farms. It also impacts the local and global economies. How we eat affects our ability to interact with others and provide for ourselves, and it influences relationships with friend and families. Eating and preparing food with those we care about provides a much different experience than driving through a fast-food restaurant or eating in one’s car. How we spend our food dollars determines the kind of food system we create, and the health of our farms, families, and communities. As Wendell Berry said, ‘Eating is an agricultural act.’ With the present focus on local food systems, now is the time to vote with our forks, as well as our ballots, and make positive changes in the food system.”

Marion Kalb, Co-founder, National Farm to School Network

OK, the food we made and ate did not have cheese or meat, but I couldn’t help but read this fun poem by Shel Silverstein.  I read it with gusto…You really have to wet your tongue with a bit of olive oil and recite this aloud.  It’s a mouthful:

Italian Food
Oh, how I love Italian food.
I eat it all the time,
Not just ’cause how good it tastes
But ’cause how good it rhymes.
Minestrone, cannelloni,
Macaroni, rigatoni,
Spaghettini, scallopini,
Escarole, braciole,
Insalata, cremolata, manicotti,
Marinara, carbonara,
Shrimp francese, Bolognese,
Ravioli, mostaccioli,
Mozzarella, tagliatelle,
Fried zucchini, rollatini,
Fettuccine, green linguine,
Tortellini, Tetrazzini,
Oops–I think I split my jeani.

Very exciting was learning how to perfect making Nori Rolls!!

Roll your own! Nori Rolls

Roll your own! Nori Rolls

Got the hang of it. Perfect food to take with you on flights, for travel, or for lunch

Got the hang of it. Perfect food to take with you on flights, for travel, or for lunch

Read to cut

Read to cut

A sharp knife should do the trick of cutting the rolls easily!

A sharp knife should do the trick of cutting the rolls easily!

Macrobiotic Chef MJ Conboy

Macrobiotic Chef MJ Conboy  (So much fun working with her! She brings much nutritional knowledge to the table.)

Wholesome ingredients for making chocolate truffles!

Wholesome ingredients for making chocolate truffles!

Truffles..we also rolled them in cinnamon. Some rolled in cacao powder

Truffles..we also rolled them in cinnamon. Some rolled in cacao powder

Windblown on the rooftop (Saturday's group)!

Windblown on the rooftop (Saturday’s group)!

After the storm (though it was not as much of a storm as was predicted)

After the storm (though-thank goodness- it was not as much of a storm as was predicted)

Sucker Holes and Pure Outdoor Freshness

June 17, 2016

My annual Yoga in the Park classes continue this summer.  Not sure how many years I have been running the classes in the park.  Seventeen years is what comes to mind!  We meet on Tuesdays from 6-7pm during the months of June, July, and August in Meridian Park, Wallingford neighborhood of Seattle.

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The first Tuesday of June was the most lovely of evenings, not too hot, not too cool, around 77 degrees.  We were graced with magical breezes and then bursts of calm, yoga under a big blue sky.  People showed up in large numbers and the session felt dreamy.  That was the first Tuesday this summer.

The second Tuesday, however, was different.  The weather called for thunder storms and showers.  And it was rather cool out.  All day, I fretted over the dark clouds, not knowing if I should cancel or hold class.  I’d look up at the brooding sky and sometimes I’d detect a promising patch of blue.  I kept thinking about my father-in-law and how he calls those “promising” patches of blue “sucker holes”!  “They get you every time!  Don’t plan anything anything grand.”  Only a “sucker”, one easily duped by a false promise, would trust those patches of blue!  This is Seattle after all. I know it rained that day in some areas like on Mercer Island, but it did not rain downtown or in Wallingford.

Warriors We Are

Warriors We Are

Well, since I didn’t cancel class, I went to the park in the hopes that at least a few hearty souls would show up.  And, much to my surprise and delight, three people showed up for yoga!  Tina Koyama, sketcher extraordinaire (Tina’s BLOG), also showed up to sketch the class.  Not sure how she managed to sketch us.  It was so cold out that I just kept everyone moving.  No long holds, just keep moving.  And Tina had to capture our moves.  Her hands were cold and, somehow, she had to keep sketching to keep her fingers from stiffening up!  It was 48 degrees out.  By moving, we yogis managed to stay warm-ish!  Like the Tibetan yogis, we used breath to generate heat and prana.  We practiced the yogi’s adage: “The true yogi feels the cold but does not feel cold.”  Yes, this is why we have come up with the month of June-uary here in Seattle!

Reach for the Sky!

Reach for the Sky!

Below are Tina’s lovely sketches and a wonderful poem Larry Iwafuchi wrote.

Local readers, please note that there is NO CLASS on Tuesday, June 21st, but YES, there WILL BE class on June 28th and forward until and including the last Tuesday of August (last class followed by a potluck!)

Double Trees Sprouting from the Earth

Double Trees Sprouting from the Earth

Bridge of Friendship

Bridge of Friendship

It happened!
Yoga In The Park on Tuesday,
despite the threat of storms.
Kept checking for a cancelling e-mail,
hoping there wouldn’t be one.
There wasn’t.
So there we were.
Just four of us, a small but mighty group.
Big groups have power and spirit.
Small groups have intimacy and connection.
Dark clouds surrounding us,
a ‘sucker hole’ of blue sky above.
Feeling the outside cold
offset by the warmth within.
Sitting back to back,
close yet apart,
reaching upward.
Looking up
and seeing the sky,
my hand,
leaves and branches
bent by the wind.
Out of the corner of my eye,
seeing my partner’s hand,
reaching upward alongside mine,
We are apart in our individual efforts,
and yet
we are connected.

Back to Back Meditation (instead of Shavasana) kept our backs warm!

Back to Back Meditation (instead of Shavasana) kept our backs warm!

The Pulse of the Matter

May 5, 2016

I came across this inspirational quote:

“At the heart of each of us, whatever our imperfections, there exists a silent pulse of perfect rhythm, which is absolutely individual and unique, and yet which connects us to everything else.” —George Leonard

Not sure if Mr. Leonard was intentionally describing yoga when he wrote the above quote, but his words are yoga teachings.  One of the most incredible benefits of the yoga practice is just how connected we become to ourselves, to others, to nature, and to life!

After a yoga session, I feel my feet are more deeply a part of the earth.  And it’s not just me.  Many people leave their yoga sessions feeling more deeply connected to life. During shavasana, we come to stillness and in that stillness, we rediscover the flow of breath, the inhalations and exhalations.  We unearth clarity, we reestablish balance  and embrace wholeness.  Later, we leave our yoga sessions fully connected to a particular season, the earth, trees, grass, all creatures domestic and wild.  The yoga practice reminds us that we are connected to humanity, to possibilities, to wind and breezes, sky and rain and sunshine.

Yoga is a meditative practice, essential to physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual well-being. Yoga helps us unearth the “silent pulse of perfect rhythm” so we can feel more fully connected to life.

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Enjoy the photos below taken last weekend at a privately booked retreat at Little Renaissance.  The retreat participants, a very enlightened and joyful group who enjoy yoga, the beach, good food, and lively conversations, are co-workers from Casey Family Programs, a Seattle-based foundation committed to working with child welfare (keeping children safe and loved) and strengthening the resilience of families.  For more information, read about Casey Family Programs.

Dreamy beach days

Dreamy beach days, Rick photographing shorebirds.

Boot found this way, makes for interesting art. Is someone still looking for a boot?

Boot found this way… makes for interesting art. Is someone missing a boot?

Yoga Group on Log ("How many group photos have you taken on this log?")

Yoga Group on Log (“How many group photos have you taken on this log?”)

Shelter from the wind found!

Found: Shelter from the wind!

Pink!

Pink!

The Six Essential Poses and Other Sequences

January 25, 2016

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Sequence One, The Essential Six:

During the yoga conference last week, I was sitting in a two-hour lecture when the instructor suddenly said, “OK, let’s do the Essential Six.”  It was early morning and my legs felt stiff from sitting in a cross-legged position for so long.  I was happy for the suggestion to do yoga, but had no idea what the Essential Six poses were.  In fairly quick succession, we did the following:

Downward Facing Dog

Forward Bend

Squat

Seated Twist

Half Spinal Twist

Table Top

I was surprised at how good I felt with having done just these six poses!  In just 8 minutes, I felt alive, awakened, alert!  As the lecture started up again, the wheels in my mind started spinning.

Wait!  Was that sequence complete?  What made each posture “essential”?  How can I flesh out this sequence and render it into a full class, adding to it for intensity and modifying it for the gentle classes?

To the sequence above, I added Side Bending Poses and Triangles and Extended Triangles, Tree and Half Moon, and the Shoulder-Stand Cycle, which includes plow, tranquility pose, and fish pose.  For my more advanced classes, I added back-bends and head- or hand-stands. At the very end, I added Shavasana for the sweetest of sweet endings.   I practiced and taught variations on the above sequence all week and at a two-day workshop I taught this weekend  and got wonderful feedback!  I hope you will try the Essential Six and add my suggested variations listed above.

Another exquisite winter scene from my weekend at Tumble Creek, Washington

Tumble Creek, Washington

Sequence Two, The Daily Dozen:

Recently, the New York Times published an article on Yoga for Stronger Bones (see  LINK)

Once again, I was surprised by the relative simplicity of the poses selected for a Bone Strengthening yoga practice.  If the following list is unclear to you, you can refer to the link above for details on the yoga postures for this practice:

  • Tree
  • Triangle
  • Warrior II
  • Side Angle Pose
  • Revolved Triangle
  • Locust
  • Bridge
  • Supine Hand to Foot Pose I
  • Supine Hand to Foot Pose II
  • Straight legged twist
  • Bent knee twist
  • Shavasana
Tumble Creek, Washington

Tumble Creek, Washington

Sequence Three, Strong Abdominal Muscles:

I came up with the following sequence for overall strength and special focus on the abdominal muscles.  The sequence can be modified or intensified according to your yoga practice.  When I teach the following poses, I suggest several variations on each pose and I like to see what different individuals choose to do.  Mostly I enjoy watching everyone grow strong.  At the end of this practice, you can try your most challenging balance pose, an arm balance, or an inverted pose such as headstand and hand-stand and see how you excel!

  1. Tiger
  2. Plank on hands
  3. Side Plank (can be done on the elbow for more challenge)
  4. Plank on elbows
  5. Chair Pose with a twist
  6. Warrior I
  7. Half Moon (with hands at heart center and not touching the mat)
  8. Triangle (with hands extended over head and not touching the mat)
  9. Boat —Canoe
  10. Plank with feet raised on a block, then lift one foot at a time. This can also be done with a partner.  Your yoga partner will lift your legs while you are in plank.  He/She will lift you so that your body is parallel to the floor.  (I call this “Elevator Plank”.)

A note on “Elevator Plank”:  I made up this name for an adorable young boy named Angus!  When his mom came home from her yoga session, he asked her if she had learned something new!  She told him about and showed him plank with the legs up in the air, as done with a partner.  She told me later that, as she described it for him, she was not quite sure what to call it.  Since it is not quite a “wheelbarrow”, I came up with the name “Elevator Plank”.  Angus liked that!

Lastly I leave you with a poem by Leza Lowitz from the book titled Yoga Poems: Lines to Unfold By:

Uttanasana (Standing Forward Bend)

Mind, mind

how much you want to say

am I doing it right?

can I stay here long enough

or even a second longer

can I eat an ice cream sandwich

after class,

oh, but will class ever end?

Mind, will you ever shut up?

will my legs stop shaking?

will my head reach lower?

Will I

can I

should I

could I

let go of my mind

listen to my breath

listen through my breath

let it move through this body

reach out to this moment,

this world,

this life,

& let it go?


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