Archive for the ‘Teaching’ Category

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.

6-26-18 Fran's yoga class and Murphy at Meridian Park, Seattle

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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Yoga and Hiking in Sicily

May 24, 2018

I will let the slideshow of the Yoga and Hiking in Sicily say it all!  The slideshow is set to the music of Carmen Consoli called Madre Terra, Mother Earth.  Carmen Consoli is from Catania, Sicily and has a soulful voice that is as rich as the Sicilian soil.  Turn up the volume!

I do want to mention that most everywhere we went has been deemed a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  The retreat was a complete success and, though I have been back only 10 days, I miss Sicily terribly.  I miss my group, the caretakers and cooks at the villa, and all the wonderful people I have met via my Sicily journeys.

Not too early to sign up for next year’s yoga retreats in Sicily. Contact me for more information:

Week I September 7-14, 2019 (Yoga + Cultural Outings, includes a visit to a ricotta farm, a day at a cooking school, two fabulous winery visits)

Week II  September 14-21, 2019 (Yoga + Hiking, includes one cooking course and a visit to a winery)

So Hum

February 24, 2018

The mantra So Hum inspires me to look around, to see my reflection in all that is. It means “I am that”.  “That” refers to all of creation.

We had a rare snowfall in Seattle yesterday. I woke up to a few inches of snow.  Green Lake looked so pretty from my window. SO HUM.

I hastily put on warm clothing (it’s frigid out there), and walked around the lake. As I walked, I was overtaken by a profound sense of awe. SO HUM.

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I sometimes share the So Hum mantra with my yoga classes.  I tend to guide the classes in a So Hum meditation when we are in a new environment (like in India or in Sicily on a retreat).  It is when we are on a yoga retreat or when we travel that we tend to really open our eyes and see the world as if for the first time.

Recently, I came across the following handwritten journal entry I wrote while in India last month.  It is a meditation on the mantra So Hum in which I use imagery from Ranthambore National Park, home to 62 elusive Royal Bengal Tigers.

So Hum

I am the jungle cat dashing across the road.

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I am the sloth bear, with its anteater-like snout, making its way up the mountain side.

So Hum

I am the barking alarm calls of the spotted deer and the sambar.

So Hum

I am the grazing blue-bull antelope.

So Hum

I am the slumbering crocodiles.

So Hum

I am the colorful kingfisher sitting on the branch of a gum tree.

So Hum

I am the Royal Bengal Tiger sleeping in the tall grass, choosing not to be seen.

So Hum

I am the monkeys jumping from branch to branch, holding their human-like babies tightly, wrestling with one another.

So Hum

I am the elusive leopard, making its rare appearance as it climbs to the top of the cliff.

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I am a dusky eagle-owl, a brown fish owl, a collared scops owl, a spotted owlet living in a gorgeous forest preserve.

So Hum

I am the kindness and enthusiasm of the naturalist guide.

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I am the rough road leading us deep into Ranthambore National Park.

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I am dust. I am sunshine.

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I am the tiger I did not see.

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I am the pink sunset, warming my heart.

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I am India.

So Hum

I am.

So Hum

The Chakra Rainbow

July 20, 2017

Last Saturday, MJ Conboy, of MJ’s Plant Smart Kitchen, and I offered an in-city yoga and cooking day retreat at a very modern and elegant condominium in the Belltown area of Seattle.

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The day could not have been more beautiful.  It was a day filled with pure sunshine and a slight breeze.  It was nice to start our gathering at 8:30am.  The casual half hour before the morning yoga session gave participants leisurely time to meet each other and to connect.

The morning yoga session was held out on the terrace.  I took the above photos during the yoga session. As we practiced yoga, I admired the herb garden.  Obviously, it was planted by loving hands.  And as we practiced yoga, we looked out over the trees that line 4th Avenue downtown Seattle.

Chakras were the theme of the day.  The word “chakra” means wheel in Sanskrit.  Ancient yogis felt specific energy vortices along the spine.  They felt this energy moved like a wheel spinning fast, producing energy.

The chakras are energy centers. There are specific yoga postures or categories of poses for each chakra.  I always find it fascinating that a given posture, or physical movement or stance,  can help bring the various energy centers into balance.  Each chakra has its own color, its own element, and an area of spiritual growth associated with it.   The colors of the chakras make a rainbow.

Root Chakra (Muladhara)

  • Red
  • Earth Energy
  • Represents cultivating stability, ability to thrive when one’s foundation is good, focus on shelter and sustenance, connection to earth, nature, and home.  Root chakra asks us to examine and work through our fears.
  • Postures (Asanas) include all poses that involve balance such as Tree, Eagle, and Half Moon.  Also included are pelvic tilts, bound angle, and child’s pose.

Pelvic Chakra (Svadhisthana)

  • Orange
  • Water Energy
  • Represents physical well-being and learning to honor the body by balancing nutritional needs, sleep, work, and pleasure. This chakra controls our emotional center and how we experience emotions.
  • Postures (Asanas) include all poses that are hip openers.  I included the following: pigeon, crescent moon, horse pose (stretch version), triangle, wide forward bends, seated forward bends, and uttanasana (forward bend with feet hip distance apart).

Navel or Solar Plexus Chakra (Manipura)

  • Yellow
  • Fire Energy
  • Represents internal, physical, emotional and spiritual strength. This chakra rules our sense of self-worth, self-confidence, and self-esteem.  As this chakra comes into balance, we learn how to use our strengths in a very positive way.
  • Postures (Asanas) include all poses to help us grow strong, such as Warrior I, II, and III.  Also included are Horse Pose, Chair Pose, and Archer.  All abdominal strengthening poses are included such as Side Plank (all variations) and Boat Pose.

Heart Chakra (Anahata)

  • Green
  • Air Energy
  • Represents vitality and love, love that nourishes our spirits and this is unconditional and free.  This energy center helps us to become loving, kind, and generous.
  • Postures (Asanas) include all poses that open the chest, lungs, and shoulders.  Arching (backbending) and twists help to move energy into the heart center.

Throat Chakra (Vishuddha)

  • Light Blue or Turquoise
  • Air/Ether (Space) Energy
  • Represents communication, the ability to say what you mean to say, to speak truthfully, to speak one’s own words, to express oneself well.
  • Postures (Asanas) include doing the Shoulderstand Cycle, which includes Shoulderstand (Sarvangasana), Plough, (Halasana), and Fish Pose (Matsyasana).

Brow Chakra (Ajna)

  • Indigo
  • Air/Ether (Space) Energy
  • Represents ability to perceive, to tap into one’s wisdom, to be perceptive and intuitive, to be mindful and aware.  The brow chakra helps us to see, know, and understand ourselves and the world we live in.
  • Postures (Asanas) include seated and guided meditative poses such as Shavasana or Seated Meditation.

Crown Chakra (Sahasrara)

  • Violet
  • Ether (or Cosmos) Energy
  • Represents the source of all healing, the highest attainable energy center.  The crown chakra represents tapping into one’s full potential, connecting to the soul’s longing for peace, love, and happiness.
  • Postures (Asanas) include inverted poses.  In a given chakra class, I work the inversions in before the final meditation portion of the session.  Inverted poses include Legs Up The Wall (Viparita karani asana), headstands, shoulderstands, and downward facing dog.

And of course, the food was as colorful as the Rainbow Chakras!  Below is a photo of a Green Glo Drink:

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MJ’s Green Glo Drink was made with the following ingredients:

  • Green Apples
  • Lemon
  • Ginger
  • Parsley
  • Spinach

A few photos from our outdoor terrace session (choice of sunshine or shade for all).

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Lunch included food preparation demo from MJ.  Below is a delicious and colorful Thai spring roll (dipping sauce was made from almond butter):

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And a Creamy (non dairy) Avocado Cucumber Zucchini Soup made in a blender and served at room temperature, topped with dill and pistachios:

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After lunch, we took a fun and brisk walk over to the Olympic Sculpture Park.  We all marveled at how beautiful this park is.  I always feel so proud that we have this fabulous park in Seattle:FullSizeRender 15

Words of wisdom, with love from Fran:

  • Do yoga and take time to sit still in meditation every day.  Even short bursts of yoga and meditation count!
  • Walk and walk some more and enjoy your environment (even in the city there are many green pockets).  Seek out green spaces and breathe in prana-charged air.
  • Include more plant-based foods into your diet.  Explore new greens, new vegetables, new recipes.  Respect your body and eat wholesome, nutritious foods.
  • Take a day of wellness for yourself.  You deserve it!

A photo of MJ and Fran (moi) in front of a Belltown Mural:

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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)


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