Archive for the ‘Yoga Adventure’ 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.

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

 

Laugarvatn Hot Springs

October 17, 2018

Today was one of those perfect days which I think I’ll replay in my mind again and again. The day started at 6am when my alarm went off.  I made coffee, read the news online, checked email. Then, I went off to teach yoga.  This morning’s yoga was focused on the chakras.  Chakra Yoga was followed by breakfast.

At 10am, we left our cabins for Laugarvatn.  There we hiked a hillside in a wooded area. Along the trail, there were panels with depictions and Icelandic instructions for various stretches recommended while hiking.  After the hike (and the stretches), Einar drove us to the hot springs of Laugarvatn on the Golden Circle.  We first enjoyed lunch, a beautiful spread of delicious fresh vegetables and fish.  Some people in my group enjoyed bread which was baked using geothermal steam.  I have tasted it in the past and it is delicious.  After eating, we enjoyed the hot springs of Laugarvatn.

The hot springs are located in a lakefront spa, featuring natural steam baths, outdoor mineral pools and a sauna. There are various temperatures, one being especially hot. Soaking in geothermal springs is very healthy.  At Laugarvatn, we soaked in a natural pool lined with rocks. While inside the steam rooms (both wet and dry sauna rooms), we listened to the sound of the bubbling hot springs coming from deep within the earth

Every so often, when the heat became too intense, we bravely walked over to Laugarvatn Lake, which is right next to the springs, and took a very fast dip in the 40 degree Fahrenheit water! Every bracing dip came with a yip and a few loud shouts.

The day ended with a second yoga session (a focus on postures to strengthen bones) followed by another delicious dinner (three bean salad for the vegetarians and lamb for the others).

I am including some of the benefits of soaking in geothermal healing waters:

Anti-Ageing Properties  Hot springs are also recognised for their anti-ageing properties. Bathing in a hot spring increases the production of collagen and tightens the elastin within the second layer of the skin.

This leaves your skin looking both firm and youthful.

Other minerals such as calcium, lithium, magnesium and even radium also help improve your skin.

As geothermal water cools, it saturates and then forms into a white mud. This form is completely hypoallergenic and has anti-ageing properties that can firm the skin, reduce pores and revitalise appearances. It is also effective against rashes, sores and skin problems such as dermatitis and psoriasis.

Respiratory Problems  As well as improving your skin, taking a dip in a geothermal spring offers many additional benefits to your overall health. As mentioned above, sulphur is a common mineral found in hot springs.

Sulphur can help treat respiratory problems such as asthma, and it can help clear excess mucus from your lungs.

Pain Relief  Moreover, the heat and buoyancy of a hot spring is very therapeutic for your body. The buoyancy helps to reduce the body’s work load.

As the body is focused on the sudden heat, the nervous system’s sensitivity lowers and the heat becomes a form of therapy for sufferers of muscle pains and arthritis.

Soothe sore muscles and chilly limbs.

Better Blood Circulation Bathing in hot springs helps to boost blood circulation. As the skin soaks in minerals such as calcium and sodium, hydrostatic pressure increases.

This increases the flow of oxygen to our bodies and boosts blood circulation, keeping your body fit and strong.

Increases Endorphins Our bodies absorb minerals in the water which stimulate the immune system and strengthen it. These minerals enhance the production of endorphins within the body and this interacts with receptors in the brain.

Think of it as a “happy chemical”, endorphins release a positive feeling and relieve the body and mind of stress whilst alleviating tension in tired muscles.

Overall, regular geothermal bathing can help normalize your body’s functions and nervous system whilst drastically improving your skin’s condition.

My lovely cabin mates Keira and Colleen.

There’s a whole lot of magic going on here in Iceland!

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Langjökull Glacier

October 16, 2018

Cold weather wears down batteries fast.  On the Langjökull Glacier, I was able to get one quick shot before my camera battery died. It is of Lisa and Rich walking in a near white out, walking to the edge of Iceland’s second largest glacier.

Einar guided us on our hour hike in the freezing temperatures. The snow and wind blotted out the place where you would normally see the edge of the glacier.  We followed the tracks of the snowmobiles and the occasional flag indicating the way towards the glacier.  The glacier visit was thrilling!

Actually, we were so bundled up that I don’t think anyone really felt cold. Under my layers, I was toasty warm.  Once we got back to the bus, I was able to get to my other camera and took a few more photos. The photos below are almost identical, but taken moments apart. You can see that the light changes constantly. One second it could be blizzard like conditions and the next moment, a blue sky peaks through the clouds.

Back at the cabins, we pet Orvar’s elderly dog, the sweet Dexter! After eating a late lunch, we soaked in the hot tubs and then did yoga.  I have not taken a single yoga photo, but Kevin got this shot of our yoga space.Kevin also took this shot of our cabins:

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I read the following poem (and a few others after yoga today). I am not sure of the Icelandic author’s name:

Storming Weather

Boisterous cold wind

Frozen sun fully exposed

Advancing snow storms

Mantra Story: re-posted

September 16, 2018

The following blog post is a re-post.  I hope you enjoy reading it:

When I first arrived at the ashram in Nepal in early spring 1996, where I was about to do an intensive month-long teacher training program, I met one of the newly minted yoga instructors who had just finished her month-long intensive with the previous batch of teacher trainees.  She was all packed up and ready to go home.

“So, how was it?, I asked her, hoping to get some insight into the program.

“It was GREAT!  You are going to learn SO much from Swami Vikashananda.  And at the end of your stay, he will give you your OWN mantra!”

There was something a little wild-eyed about her, which made me want to run in the opposite direction.  But her hyper-enthusiasm also made me want to ask more about the intriguing manta she had just mentioned.

“My own mantra?  Tell me more.”

So she went on to explain how Swami Vikashananda “studies his students in training” and comes up with a unique mantra that is specifically for that very person.  This mantra is to be said during meditation to keep one focused on the moment and it is NOT to be shared with anyone.”

You can just imagine my intrigue all throughout the month-long training program.  I imagined Swami Vikashananda secretly studying me, trying to come up with the perfect mantra for ME!  There was another side of me, the naughty skeptic, who wondered if he simply gave the same mantra to everyone and said, “Don’t share this with anyone!”

So, eventually it was time for me to leave.  One intensive month of learning and hard work flew by, and I found myself all packed up, standing with my luggage at the edge of the ashram property with Swami Vikashananda.  This was my farewell.  And I was feeling super emotional-not because I would miss him- but because he DID NOT give me a mantra!

I would not make a good poker player.  My face betrays my feelings.  I do play Pinochle and everyone instantly knows whether I have a good hand or a lousy one.  It’s just the way I am.  So Vikashananda, standing there next to me in his white flowing robes, looked at me and asked, “Please, tell me, what is the matter?”  Can I tell you how stupid I felt, practically in tears because I didn’t get my mantra?   I told him, “Well, see, I was told you would give me a mantra before I left here, and..”  I couldn’t even finish my words.

And then his whole face lit up!

“You want a MANTRRRA?” …followed by howling laughter.  To hear his voice, you have to roll your rrrs!

When he re-collected his composure, he said, “OK, I will give you your MANTRA!  OM SAHANA VAVATU.  OK?”

I was desperate to write it down, but everything was packed away tightly.  “Vikashananda, I need to write it down!”

“No, No.  Say it VERRRY quickly. OM SAHANA VAVATU. OM SAHANA VAVATU. Like that!  Ten Times!  You will remember.”

“Please tell me what it means. That will help me remember!”

So he explained to me, “This mantra is for YOU!  But this mantra is one that you WILL share from time to time with your students because this mantra means “Let us Grow Together”.  Listen, don’t be sad, but you will not find YOUR own one special guru.  However, you will find that your greatest teachers will be your students.  From them you will learn to be a great teacher.  They will be your guru.  Yes, many many guru coming to you. From time to time, you must share your MANTRA with them.  OM SAHANA VAVATU.  OK?  Om Shanti, Fran.”

This is my MANTRA story.  And yes, I share my mantra story with my students from time to time, just as Vikashananda suggested.  For me, it is powerful because I don’t have ONE guru whose teachings I cling to.  I explore my yoga practice through my readings, through my meditation and personal practice, through my life experiences, and from my students.  My students ARE my greatest teachers.  They teach me to be present.  They teach me how to listen, how to be intuitive, how to give and receive.  They teach me how to be kind, compassionate, and how to be courageous in life.  They teach me how to be the best I can be.  They teach me how to BE.

This is the first time I have written my Mantra Story.  Pia inspired me to write it down in my blog!  When I got back to the states, I began studying Sanskrit and I was surprised to come across my MANTRA.  Through my studies, I have learned that my mantra is part of the Shanti Mantra (the Peace Prayer).  It is a Mantra that originates from the Upanishads.  I have learned my Mantra’s many translations.  One translation of it is:

That is Absolute.  Absolute arises out of Absolute.

Below you will see it written in Sanskrit followed by the translation.  My Mantra is the first line of a well-known chant, the Shanti Mantra:

ॐ सह नाववतु ।
सह नौ भुनक्तु ।
सह वीर्यं करवावहै ।
तेजस्वि नावधीतमस्तु मा विद्विषावहै ।
ॐ शान्तिः शान्तिः शान्तिः ॥
Om Saha Nau-Avatu |  (also read as Om Sahana Vavatu-my mantra!)
Saha Nau Bhunaktu |
Saha Viiryam Karava-Avahai |
Tejasvi Nau-Adhii-Tam-Astu Maa Vidviss-Aavahai |
Om Shaantih Shaantih Shaantih ||

Meaning:
1: May God Protect us Both (the Teacher and the Student),
2: May God Nourish us Both,
3: May we Work Together with Energy and Vigor,
4: May our Study be Enlightening, not giving rise to Hostility,
5: Om, Peace, Peace, Peace.

So from “May we Grow Together” to “May God Protect us Both, the Teacher and the Student, I say to you, OM SAHANA VAVATU!

 

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.


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