Archive for the ‘Yoga Adventure’ Category

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.


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:


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


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)


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:

  • 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)

Jumpin’ Above Hoops

September 25, 2016

He goes by the nickname Dream Caster and I am lucky enough to be graced by his towering and gentle presence three times a week, when he comes to my yoga classes at Seattle Athletic Club.  He always arrives early, rolls out his impressive “runway” mat, which is long enough to accommodate his 6’7″ height.  Once his mat is rolled out, he proceeds to set up his yoga oasis with two bolsters, two Gripitz (props used to protect wrists when doing yoga), four blocks, two straps, an eye pillow filled with beads, and a few blankets.  Intrigued by and respectful of this giant of a gentleman, I asked if I could interview him and write about him in my blog. He happily agreed.

His name is Vester Marshall.

Vester lives his spirituality.

“I’ve been a student all my life. School, education, and society try to put you into a box.  Life is much greater than what we learn in school.  You’ve got to go out on your own and explore! Surround yourself with mentors, people who offer opinions you can respect!  Be a seeker! Be a seeker and have enough trust to go to a counselor, a therapist, a psychologist, or a psychiatrist for help when you need it.  Being a seeker has taken me out of the box.  It’s what takes you outside of being black or white.”

Vester Marshal was a former Seattle Sonics player during the 1973-74 season. He told me once that as a forward he was known for his ability to jump high and now, in his late 60s, his knees are fairly worn out.  That doesn’t stop him from walking.  In fact, he hasn’t owned a car in over 25 years.  He lives in the heart of Belltown in downtown Seattle and walks everywhere.  He has been sober and clean for well over 25 years.  He is the kind of guy you can’t categorize in any way.  He is a father, a street minister, an herbalist, a certified yoga instructor, a visual artist, a fisherman.  As a teen, he was a political activist and marched in support of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the civil rights movement. He was active in registering blacks to vote in the 60s. Later he was a grunge band manager in Seattle! He has been active in the anti-nuclear movement. He worked at the Washington State Penitentiary in Walla Walla. Diversity is the name of Vester’s game!

He was born in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.  He went to the University of Oklahoma on a scholarship and played basketball for the university. “Basketball was a path which allowed me to follow the path to greater knowledge and wisdom.”  Playing for the Sonics led him to great connections, such as meeting governors, senators, and legislators.  He used to go to Olympia to take state politicians fishing!

Dream Caster with his salmon

Dream Caster with his salmon

Vester is a visual artist.  “I’m capable of doing what I want to do.  When we do art, we create. We produce.  We work our way through different problems and become connected.”

What are his words of wisdom?

“You have to know yourself.  You have to be real!”

Warrior I

Warrior I

How do you make a difference in this world?

“By just being me, by making good choices, by being responsible for myself.  Be an example.  You see what I’m saying? You’ve got to be an example for the world to witness.”



How has yoga changed you, Vester?

“I’d be dead now if I hadn’t taken an inventory of my lifestyle. Drugs and other hippy addictions were killing me. I looked around.  My friends were dying all around me.  All the people in the rock ‘n roll scene around me in Seattle were dying.  I felt like there was a strong invitation for me to get clean. I made a decision to clean my life.  I went through a detox program with medical help. Shortly after that, I found yoga.  Yoga taught me how to be mindful, how to be kind.  Yoga IS all about kindness and friendship. Yoga is unconditional love.  Yoga has taught me to be a part of a community where everyone is working on becoming their better selves.”

Warrior II, Spiritual Warrior

Warrior II

What are your keys for good living?

“I always have enough.  I live within God’s means.  Because of this, I’m in a beautiful place and I live a beautiful lifestyle.  I walk a path where life becomes divine.  I never worry.  Yeah, I’ve got issues with my knees, but I seek advice from the right people, the right doctors.  I take action and I never worry.”

Vester Marshall has class!

Vester Marshall

Living Your Yoga

August 17, 2016

Mostly I’d like you to enjoy these photos.  I believe these photos give you a good sense of the feel of Yoga on the Beach Retreat at our home and sanctuary, Little Renaissance on the Washington coast.


The weekend yoga retreat at Little Renaissance is always held in August.  It is an annual event, one we have run every year since 1999! Generally, the weather is warm enough for us to enjoy at least one session of yoga on the beach.  While it was in the 90s in Seattle, it only hit a high of 70 at the coast.  In the morning, when we would generally go to the beach to do yoga, it was 49 degrees one morning and the second morning, we were immersed in the beach fog that covers this area much of the summer.  Beach fog and drizzles made for indoor yoga. Even so, a 70 degree high at midday on the beach is very nice and we got to enjoy a long walk on Saturday.

We enjoyed our walks on the beach and we had lovely retreat participants!  Good company, our organic garden produce used as ingredients for the meals, music, lots of yoga and lots of exploring of yoga toys/props including inverting on a sling, long walks on the beach, fair weather, hot tub, lots of visiting deer, bucks, and fawns, AND whale sightings on Sunday made for a very special weekend!

Mark your calendars for next year’s annual Yoga on the Beach (never too early to sign up!):

The Next Yoga on the Beach Retreat: August 11-13, 2017

Walking on the beach

Walking on the beach

Rick soaking up the rays

Rick soaking up the rays

Delicious meals made from organic garden produce! (Carrot soup)

Delicious meals made from organic garden produce! (Carrot soup)

Trees, Beach, Ocean, Sky!

Trees, Beach, Ocean, Sky!

Reaching for the sky

Reaching for the sky

Hanging out!

Isaac:  Hanging out on the outdoor sling!

Bev: More fun on the inversion sling!

Bev: More fun on the inversion sling!

More yoga props: Backless Yoga Chairs!

More yoga props: Backless Yoga Chairs!



Triangles on the beach (was too cool this year to do a yoga session on the beach in the morning)

Triangles on the beach

Pure Energy!

Pure Energy!

Isaac and Fran: a quick dip of the legs

Isaac and Fran: a quick dip of the feet!



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.


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!

Take a Walk on the Wild Side

May 23, 2016

While in South India a little over a month ago, we really did take a walk on the wild side.  India is a land of extremes.  Summer temperatures can exceed 38 degrees Celsius.  Just two days ago, during one of the longest heat waves in India, India hit a record temperature of 51 degrees Celsius (123.8 Fahrenheit) in the north-western town of Phalodi.

In this land of extremes, I learned about and saw a fascinating variety of animals.  We visited Periyar National Park, a dense tropical forest, a refuge for the native wild Asian elephants.  From a boat on Lake Periyar, we saw elephants come to the lake to drink one evening.  It was an exhilarating experience.  The anticipation of and then actually seeing the elephants in the wild, made us (those sitting near me and myself) giddy and silly, so much that the uptight French tourists on the other side of the boat were giving us dirty looks because they wanted “Du Silence”!  Of course, their disapproving looks only made things worse and we became uncontrollably giddier.  (Yikes, the French tourists ended up at our hotel that very same evening and I am sure they had very strong opinions about us when, at the dinner table, a cicada dropped onto one of my group participant’s clothing  and caused great alarm!  She had never seen a cicada before and had no idea what sort of insect was clinging tightly to her!)

On the following day, in the wee hours of the morning, we were led by three guides/naturalists through the dense forest on foot, where again we saw the elephants and a rich variety of wildlife.  The guides really knew their birds and animals, but they struggled with their English.  Still, they managed to teach us about the wildlife around us.  Later, I did some research on the wildlife of Periyar Park in South India. With the guides’ information and what I found on line, below are some fascinating facts about South Indian wildlife (wildlife habitat of the animals below ranges beyond Periyar National Park):

Dense forest in Periyar Natinal Park

Dense forest in Periyar Natinal Park

A wild Asian elephant:

  • They eat 130 kg-169 kg of vegetation per day!
  • In Periyar National Park, water hyacinth becomes an important food source for elephants when grass dies in the dry season.
  • The tip of the trunk is prehensile for easy grasping of grass and other leafy vegetation.
  • An elephant drinks 100 liters of water every day just to survive.  Tourists who come to Periyar Lake by boat can always expect to see the elephants come to the water’s edge in the evening to quench their thirst.
  • As you can imagine, elephants produce prodigious amounts of dung.  Butterflies feast on the dung, benefiting from the minerals found on it!  There were many colorful butterflies throughout Periyar National Park.
A clump of dry elephant dung

One of our guides proudly displays a clump of dry elephant dung

  • The adult females create a mobile fortress for the baby elephants.  This way, the calf stays safe from the Royal Bengal Tigers.  Mother elephants are fiercely protective of their young.
Baby is in the middle of the elephant fortress

Baby is in the middle of the elephant fortress

  • Female elephants gather to witness births and to witness the first steps of the baby calf!  The calf does not walk immediately, but within hours it will be walking underneath its mother in its early infancy, never losing contact with her body.
  • The elephants stay in herds because an extended family increases chances of survival.
  • A bull can weigh as much as 6 tons (the largest Asian bull ever recorded weighed just over 7 tons).
  • When compared to African elephants, the Asian elephant is slightly smaller and has smaller ears. Elephants are excellent swimmers, using their trunks as snorkels.


Smooth-Coated Otter:

  • These Asian otters are larger than other otters and have shorter coats and fur-less noses.  We saw them swimming in Lake Periyar.
  • They are used for commercial fishing in Bangladesh.  They are bred in captivity and trained to chase fish into fishing nets.
  • Otters can stay underwater for 8 minutes.
Please Note: Otter photo is not my photo, taken from the web

Please Note: Asian Otter photo is not my photo, taken from the web


  • Happy to report I did not see a cobra in the wild.  I did not even see the occasional snake charmer working to collect some money.   Snake charmers are being outlawed these days.  A ban has been in effect since 1991, but only recently is being enforced by the government.  Apparently the government views snake charming as offensive to the culture, a bit backwards.  There was a news article that talked about how upset the snake charmers are.  Some 800,000 snake charmers are up in arms over the now enforced ban and recently took to the streets to protest the loss of their livelihood: article
  • Cobras are snake eaters!
  • The venom from one cobra bite can kill 10 humans.  I read one account that the venom from one bite can kill 26 people. Look on line and you will see a variety of numbers.  Even if the number were just one, it would be a terribly frightening statistic.  Cobra venom is neurotoxic and spreads extremely quickly throughout the bitee (I just made up that word..Cobra is the biter and the victim is the bitee!).

Giant Squirrel:

  • Ok, so when the guide pointed out the Giant Squirrel up in a tree overhead, we didn’t understand him at first.  I truly believe the word “squirrel” is one of the most difficult English words to pronounce for non-native English speakers.  And besides, even if we did understand, the animal we saw up in the tree could not possibly be a squirrel.  We were in disbelief.  The giant squirrel is a beautiful creature.  It mostly stays up in trees, where it is safe from predators.
  • One single leap from tree to tree measures a span of 6 meters or more.
  • The Indian Giant Squirrel is only found in tropical forests.
  • And Indian Giant Squirrel has the cutest round ears and a “hand” with an inner paw for gripping.
  • They weigh over four times more than our common Western squirrel.  The Indian Giant Squirrel weighs up to four and a half pounds and the average squirrel we see in America and Canada weighs about one pound.
  • They are omnivorous, eating flowers, fruit, eggs, and insects.
  • An Indian Giant Squirrel group is called a “dray or scurry”.  We did not see a scurry of squirrels and I am relieved that our guides did not have to use the expression “a scurry of squirrels”
Indian Giant Squirrel (Photo is not mine, and was found on line)

Indian Giant Squirrel (Photo is not mine, and was found on line, but I wanted you to see its adorable ears and human-like hands.)

This is my photo of the Giant Squirrel

This is my photo of the Giant Squirrel


  • Found in Wikipedia: “Macaques have a very intricate social structure and hierarchy. If a macaque of a lower level in the social chain has eaten berries and none are left for a higher-level macaque, then the one higher in status can, within this social organization, remove the berries from the other monkey’s mouth.”
  • Their diets consist mostly of fruits.
  • The number one fruit for the macaque are the figs from the Ficus tree
  • Macaques can live in social groups of 30 members.  The leader is generally a female.
  • Males tend to the young.
  • Macaques can swim (and occasionally can be seen soaking in hot springs in Japan).

I caught this one yawning!

Golden Langur:

  • They use all four legs and tail for balance.
  • The langur and the forest deer have a friendly relationship:  The langurs hang out in trees and disturb the red silk cotton flowers, which then fall to the ground for the deer to feed on.
  • The langur feasts mainly on leaves, but also eats fruits, grass, and flowers.
  • They live in groups of up to 40 individuals.
  • They are capable of jumping over rivers.  They can jump about 10 meters.  They have to jump rivers because they cannot swim!


There are countless frogs in Periyar Park.  There were so many that we had to dodge them so as not to crush them under our boots.  There is also a seemingly infinite variety of birds in the park.  Here is a list I found on line (Some in our group got photos of the blue flycatcher.  It is other-worldly!):

Dee birding!

Dee birding!

About 265 species of birds can be seen in the park, including migrants. Endemic birds include the Malabar grey hornbill, Nilgiri wood pigeon, blue-winged parakeet, Nilgiri flycatcher, crimson-backed sunbird, and white-bellied blue flycatcher.   Other birds include the black baza, spot-bellied eagle-owl, Nilgiri thrush, little spiderhunter, rufous-bellied hawk-eagle, brahminy kite, great hornbill, Sri Lanka frogmouth, Oriental darter, and black-necked stork.

View link to see the variety of wildlife in the park (not all birds and mammals are listed in this blog, for example, we saw kingfishers, wild pigs, sambar, and spotted deer)

Frog Dodging!

Frog Dodging!  All those blurred black lines are frogs jumping (hard to see, but seriously, there were thousands and I am afraid to say that we stepped on more than a few).

We saw a fair number of cormorants and egrets.  The egrets eat fish and the many frogs we were trying so hard not to step on. The egrets appear to be the ambush specialists as they can stand still for hours and wait for a fish to appear.


  • Cormorants are aquatic birds whose feathers are not waterproofed!  That is why they often perch with their wings outspread (in order to dry their feathers in the sun).
  • Cormorants have no external nostrils so they breathe through their mouths.
  • They cool off by fluffing their throats.


  • Last but not least, the termites!  Some 100,000 termites can live in one colony.  They clear up dead wood and turn it into compost for the soil!





A Soaring Heart

May 18, 2016

Permit me to be mysterious….on Sunday I held a one-day yoga retreat on a magical rain-forested island in the Pacific Northwest.  The day was filled with yoga, the beautiful company of lively  yogis/friends, a gorgeous environment, a healthy delicious lunch made of fresh local ingredients, fresh moist oxygen-filled air, and a hike along a dense forest decorated with moss and ferns.  The air was rich.  We did yoga, nourished ourselves with a hearty Salade Nicoise (made with lots of love), went on a hike, and did a meditation.  Below you will find two poems we shared during the day and some photos from our retreat.

Stone Path

Stone Path

During the morning yoga session, I read the poem below by Chief Dan George.  The poem speaks of a deep love of earth and life.  The poem suited the retreat day and the environment perfectly.  It is delicate, grand, and sensitive in nature:

My Heart Soars

By Chief Dan George

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

Maple Tree: Heart Chakra of the Property

Maple Tree: The Heart Chakra (center tree) of the my friends’ private property

Maple Tree II

Maple Tree II (The Heart Chakra Tree)

And while on our hike with the group, I asked Rick to read the poem, Lost, to the group.  No one could have read my fellow-Hoosier-Washington-transplant David Wagoner’s poem better than Rick Clark!  He sustained a captive audience as he read the poem with gusto, humor, curiosity, and a touch of drama.

Blurred, Action-Packed Hiking photo in the thick of the rain forest

Action-Packed (and blurred!) Hiking in the thick of the rain forest (some retreat participants stayed behind and enjoyed reading, resting, napping, walking solo).

Below is the poem “Lost,” by David Wagoner from Collected Poems 1956-1976 © Indiana University Press.


Stand still. The trees ahead and bushes beside you
Are not lost. Wherever you are is called Here,
And you must treat it as a powerful stranger,
Must ask permission to know it and be known.
The forest breathes. Listen. It answers,
I have made this place around you.
If you leave it, you may come back again, saying Here.
No two trees are the same to Raven.
No two branches are the same to Wren.
If what a tree or a bush does is lost on you,
You are surely lost. Stand still. The forest knows
Where you are. You must let it find you.

Wooden Lantern

Wooden Lantern (Our Meditation Hall)

Yes, a Pacific Northwest Gem

Yes, a Pacific Northwest Gem (meditation hall)

Sacred Yoga Space

Our Sacred Yoga Space

Thank you to Tricia Jewell for taking this photo of me

A big thank you to Tricia Jewell for taking this photo of me.

Oxygen-filled environment, thick with trees and ferns, but you will never be LOST!

Oxygen-filled environment, thick with trees and ferns, but you will never be LOST!

Salad Nicoise (view link for recipe)  Note: Recipe on link is not necessarily the exact version of what we had, but it is the foundation for your salad nicoise!

A somewhat blurred photo of our salade nicoise..see link for recipe below

A somewhat blurred photo of our salade nicoise.  Other plates held chunks of tuna, lettuce, various dressings, and olives to complete the salad.  Fresh bread and plenty of delicious fruit complimented the meal.

If you were not present at this retreat and find it of interest, please let me (Fran) know if you’d like to join me in a future day retreat at this unique gorgeous private setting by commenting below.  I will then be in touch with you.


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.


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!



Stewards of the Earth

April 27, 2016

We had our 15th annual Earth Day Retreat last weekend!  We have been running Earth Day Retreats every year since April 2000.  Since April 2000, there was one year in which I took a hiatus from holding yoga retreats at our coastal home and sanctuary Little Renaissance and that was when my mother was very ill and at the end of her life.  Other than that time, we have held steady since the first retreat we held in the autumn of 1999.

Brent Matsuda has come to Little Renaissance year after year, all the way from Vancouver, BC, Canada, to serve as our resident biologist for the Earth Day Retreats.  He is a great asset to our annual Earth Day Retreat.  We met Brent in the early ’90s while trekking in Nepal and have been friends with him since that time.

Below you will see photos from our lovely lively weekend, as well as poems the retreat participants wrote, inspired by Haiku writer, Rick Clark!

Buying flowers at Pike Place Market in Seattle! Part I

Tulips: Buying flowers at Pike Place Market in Seattle for the retreat, Part I

Buying flowers for the retreat in Pike Place Market, Part II

Peonies: Buying flowers in Pike Place Market in Seattle for the retreat, Part II

I'd say my lilacs are fully matured and enjoying spring!

I’d say my lilacs are fully matured and enjoying spring!  You can almost smell them in the photo!

Silent night
Owls calling –
Who cooks for you?

-Brent Matsuda

Of course, the inevitable rain at Ocean Shores! Spring equals rain, sunshine, and flowers!

Of course, the inevitable warm (sometimes cold) spring rain at Ocean Shores! Spring equals rain, sunshine, and flowers!

dedicated to Rick Clark:

The old alder trees
Grounded firmly in the earth
Give yogis Balance

-Brenda Seith

Firmly rooted on the deck

Firmly rooted on the deck (our traditional goodbye pose)

The following was written by Katy Hanson, inspired by a Neil Young Concert she attended:


Written by Kay Hartzog:


Breakfast at Little Renaissance

Breakfast at Little Renaissance (scones still in the oven!)

By Butch Hartzog:


All the garden sculptures got a flower hat!

To further celebrate Earth Day, all the garden sculptures got a rhododendron flower hat!

Four haiku by Lena Hanson:

Green retreat


Warm souls


Blooming yogis

Stretch away

Souls deepen


Sweet stillness


wisps of clouds


Green leaves

alight in fire

the dragon’s mouth


Mr. Frog happy to wear his flower hat

Mr. Frog reverently wears his flower hat

Otter wearing her flower hat

Otter happy to wear her flower hat

Chris Hanson read the inspirational essay, We Were Made For These Times, by Clarissa Pinkola Estes.  Estes is the author of Women Who Run With the Wolves, which is really about the healing power of stories. The essay  starts out with, “Do not lose heart.  We were made for these times.”  It is a letter written to a young activist during troubled times.  It is so appropriate for all of us during the times of Climate Change.  What can I do?  The question and the answers are so bewildering, but Estes gives us a great foundation in which we gain courage to move forward and do our part in becoming stewards of the earth!  You can read the complete essay on this link.

St. Francis sporting his flower hat

St. Francis sporting his flower hat

Serene, he did not seem to mind his flower hat at all.

Serene, he did not seem to mind his flower hat nor the insect on his chest.

And lastly, Ann Fraser read We Have Not Come to Take Prisoners by Hafiz (born in Shiraz, Persia in 1320 AD).  I have included the poem below. Ann recently completed a yoga course, Yoga Behind Bars, a program which brings yoga to prisons across the country.

We have not come here to take prisoners,
But to surrender ever more deeply
To freedom and joy.

We have not come into this exquisite world

to hold ourselves hostage from love.

Run my dear,
From anything
That may not strengthen
Your precious budding wings.

Run like hell my dear,
From anyone likely
To put a sharp knife
Into the sacred, tender vision
Of your beautiful heart.

We have a duty to befriend
Those aspects of obedience
That stand outside of our house
And shout to our reason
“O please, O please,
Come out and play.”

For we have not come here to take prisoners
Or to confine our wondrous spirits,

But to experience ever and ever more deeply
Our divine courage, freedom and

After the retreat, Rick and I headed to Iron Springs to visit friends Gail and Dave and to see a beautiful Earth Day Sunset!

After the retreat, Rick and I headed to Iron Springs to visit and have dinner with our friends Gail and Dave and to see a beautiful Earth Day Sunset!

Sweet ending to a perfect Earth Day Weekend (Iron Springs)

Sweet ending to a perfect Earth Day Weekend (Iron Springs)


Slide Show of South India

April 11, 2016

The photos in the slideshow below say it all.  I love South India!

Putting this show together made me yearn for the lovely lively group of women (just happened to be that only women signed up for this tour with daily yoga this time around).  When I think of South India, I think of the lush vegetation, the beautiful fun-loving children, the kindness and warm-welcoming smiles from everyone we encountered, the temples, history, architecture, art, food, the yoga outdoors, the sweet stray dogs, the wildlife (especially the elephants), the heat, the tropical birdsong greeting me every morning, and the color…everywhere splashes of COLOR to delight the eye and warm my heart!

Enjoy the slideshow below!  It requires about 7 minutes of your time.   Turn up the volume, grab a cup of chai, and experience or relive South India now:

Click to play this Smilebox slideshow
Create your own slideshow - Powered by Smilebox
Personalize your own picture slideshow

Recap on our South India Experience

April 8, 2016

This blog is an overview recap of the recent Tour of South India with Daily Yoga.  Mostly, I have the group of tour participants in mind, as well as myself, as I write down all the significant places we saw and activities we took part in.  We got back on Monday and I taught all week, so this is the first time I have had to really reminisce and savor various experiences.  This weekend is a good time for me to process the enormity, depth, and importance of the trip.  We did and saw so much as you can see from the list and photos below.  I am sure I will have so  much more to write about as the days go by.  Slide show coming your way before the weekend is up.


  • Two nights at Vivanta by Taj
  • Yoga on the hotel rooftop with the honking of Mumbai vehicles in the distance below
Mumbai rooftop yoga

Mumbai rooftop yoga

  • Hanging Gardens  The gardens are also known as Pherozeshah Mehta Gardens. Terraced gardens provide sunset views of the Arabian Sea and feature hedges carved into shapes of animals.  The park dates back to 1881 and lies over Bombay’s main reservoir. Nearby are the Towers of Silence, the place where the Parsi people dispose of their dead.  Whereas Muslims, Christians, and Jews bury their dead in India and Hindus, Buddhists, and Jains cremate their dead, the Parsi people place their dead at the tower’s top platform and allow the vultures to devour the corpse.  Today, vultures are not doing their jobs as they did in the past because they are dying due to various diseases, so solar panels have been placed at the top of the tower to hasten the process of decomposition. Much to everyone’s relief, no one is allowed up on the tower (except when disposing of the corpse)!  A note on the Parsi people and religion:  The Parsi are also knows as the Zoroastrians, originating from Iran (where coincidentally -and not meant to confuse you-the language of Farsi is spoken).  The Parsi/Zoroastrians began being persecuted by the Muslims invading Iran 1,400 years ago, so in 1672, India granted the Parsi people asylum in the state of Gujurat. Today, the largest community of Parsi live in Mumbai.  They revere fire and earth and that is the reason why they do no cremate (fire) or bury (earth) their dead.  At the time of asylum, the Parsi made a promise to the Indian government not to intermarry with others living in India.  To this day, they have kept their promise.  They live and marry among themselves.  Needless to say, their population is dwindling quickly and very few Parsi still exist.  Surprise yourself and click here to see some famous Parsis in India.
  • Visited Chhatrapati Shivaji Train Station, formerly known as Victoria Terminus Train Station.  photo below


  • Mani Bhavan: The house where Mahatma Gandhi stayed during his visits to Mumbai.  (see my previous blog post)
  • Dhobi Ghat: This is a vast area where Mumbai’s “dirties” are scrubbed, bashed, dyed, and hung out to dry.  (view blog post on this subject)
  • Crawford Market: Colorful, lovely time with the vendors there! (some photos on a previous blog post)
  • Visited the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel  (see photo below on the grand staircase of the hotel)



  • Three nights at Vivanta by Taj
  • Yoga by the poolside
Yoga in Aurangabad

Yoga in Aurangabad

  • UNESCO World Heritage Site: Ajanta Caves, caves cut into the crescent-shaped gorge date back to the 2nd century BC, Buddhist monastery caves that have magnificent murals, which narrate the story of Buddha.  The caves have beautifully preserved mineral dye paintings which serve as a record of life in ancient India.
Cave painting at Ajanta

Cave painting at Ajanta


  • UNESCO World Heritage Site:  Ellora Caves.  These monolithic caves include the impressive Kailasa Temple, carved out from the 5th-8th Century AD
Ellora grandness

Ellora grandness

  • Celebration of Holi
putting colors on each other! Holi celebrates the triumph of good over evil

Putting colors on each other! Celebrated since ancient times, Holi celebrates the destruction of evil, the triumph of good.  Holi welcomes spring and celebrates love.


  • Two nights at the Radisson Resort Temple Bay
  • Yoga in the pool and yoga on the beach with strolling cows and friendly stray beach dogs
  • It was so hot that we did water yoga! So fun. I think Kelley took a video of us doing water yoga, but have not seen the video!

    It was so hot that we did water yoga! So fun. I think Kelley took a video of us doing water yoga, but have not seen the video!

    Another view of the pool and hotel grounds (Jodi's photo)

    Another view of the pool and hotel grounds (Jodi’s photo)

    Yoga at Sunrise on the beach at Mahaballipuram

    Yoga at Sunrise on the beach at Mahaballipuram

    Complete with friendly dogs and strolling cows

    Complete with friendly dogs and strolling cows  (can see the cows in the background)

  • The 7th Century AD Shore Temple. It is one of the oldest stone structural temples in India (cut/quarried stone)


  • Shiva’s Butterball (giant stone) and surrounding stone temples
Shiva loved you have the world's largest butterball

Shiva loved butter…here you have the world’s largest butterball

  • Bas-Relief of Arjuna’s Penance:  This is the largest monolithic bas-relief in the world!



  • one night at Le Pondy
  • Yoga in a second level covered pavilion overlooking the gardens of the hotel
Nancy journals before the start of our morning yoga session

Nancy journals before the start of our morning yoga session in Pondicherry

  • Visited the Salt Mines en route to this destination  (see previous blog post)
  • Auroville  (mentioned in a previous blog post)
  • Walked the esplanade (waterfront), visited the main church, viewed colonial architecture, shopped in French quarter, temple elephant blessing


  • one night at Thanjore Hi (This is a small heritage hotel that used to board the dancing temple girls.)
  • Yoga was upstairs at the enclosed rooftop, near the dining area, overlooking the authentic temple town below.
Window art in the yoga space upstairs

Window art in the yoga space upstairs

  • Monumental Bull Temple with our lively guide, Mr. Raja (see below).  The Bull Temple is also knows as Brihadeeshwara and it is capped with an 80-ton monolithic cupola.  Hundreds of elephants and man power traveled up a very long-planked inclined road built expressly for bringing in the heavy cupola. Built in 1010 AD by the Chola dynasty, who ruled between the 9th and 13th centuries AD.



You can barely see the 80-ton monolithic stone cupola at the top of Brihadeeshwara (Bull Temple). The inclined road built to manually place it atop the temple via men and elephants must have been enormous, sturdy, and long to have a safe incline.

You can barely see the 80-ton monolithic stone cupola at the top of this Brihadeeshwara Temple (also knows as Bull Temple). The inclined road built to manually place it atop the temple via men and elephants must have been enormous, sturdy, and long to have a safe incline.

  • Bronze collection of sculptures at the temple museum (see below)
Dancing Shiva bronze sculpture in the museum. Mr. Raja had us imitate Shiva's dance.

Dancing Shiva bronze sculpture in the museum. Mr. Raja had us imitate Shiva’s dance.


  • temple town visited en route to Madurai
  • Rock Fort and Temple called Ganapati and Shiva Temple at the very top of a rock mountain.  We climbed 434 very hot carved-in-the-stone-mountain-steps to get to the top of this temple.  (see below)



  • two nights at the Taj Gateway Hotel (heritage hotel)
  • “Peacock” Yoga at the poolside
Setting up for the early morning yoga session

Setting up for the early morning yoga session

The hotel sits up high overlooking the colorful city below and the mountains.

The hotel sits up high overlooking the colorful city below and the mountains.

Warriors we are!

Warriors we are!

India's national bird, wild peacocks were everywhere!

India’s national bird, wild peacocks were plentiful on the hotel grounds at Madurai, which sits up on a forested hill.

  • Visited the 1000 year old Meenakshi Temple, one of India’s largest pilgrimage sites with 12 towering gopuram (monumental towers at the entrance of South India temples).  During the day we attended a ritual where the women were praying for their husbands’ health.  We joined them in prayer. We entered a carved-out enormous monolithic cave temple with 1000 columns/pillars elaborately carved from existing granite.  We admired the ceiling art/paintings.
Praying for husband's health

Praying for husband’s health


Gopuram at the Meenakshi Temple

  • Tirumala Nayak Palace, built in the 14th century by the Nayak family.  Complete with a dancing hall and built with Italian, Chinese, and Moghul architectural styles all blended together (because the family liked to travel and admired these three styles of buildings seen on their travels).
Roman, Chinese, and Mogul blend together in this palace

Roman, Chinese, and Mogul architectural styles blend together in this palace

  • Evening Aarti (Hindu ritual ceremony) at the Meenakshi Temple to celebrate the nightly ritual in which the god Shiva goes to his wife Parvati for the night.

Periyar National Park, India’s earliest sanctuary

  • one night at The Elephant Court
  • Afternoon Boat Ride on Periyar Lake where we saw a herd of wild Asian elephants come to the lake to drink and feed


  • Spice Plantation visit
  • Early morning three-hour Forest Trek where once again we saw tribal fishermen and women, more elephants, a family wild boar, bison, deer and antelope, beautiful birds, a giant squirrel, birds, otters, and many monkeys!  In the company of three guides/naturalists.
Periyar Trekking grounds

Periyar Trekking grounds (surrounded by and in the guarded company of three naturalist guides).

Kumarakom, Houseboat in Kerala

  • one night on a houseboat
  • yoga on the houseboat
  • Houseboat yoga in Kerala!

    Houseboat yoga in Kerala!

  • cruise and canoe along the backwater of Kerala, watching Kerala’s rural lifestyle. Coconuts, cashew nuts, pepper, delicious fish.
Canoe along the backwaters

Canoe along the backwaters


  • two nights at the Gateway Hotel
  • yoga
  • Attended a cooking school with Maria.  Later her husband George sang for us as we ate dinner together.  Wonderful experience!  Did some shopping in this area of Cochin known as Fort Cochin
Cooking school with Maria in Kochi

Cooking school with Maria in Kochi (photo by Jodi)

  • Went to the harbor and watched the local fishermen bring in the Chinese fishing nets.  Some people in our group got to haul the nets in, too!
Chinese fishing nets

Chinese fishing nets

  • Visited India’s oldest Jewish synagogue in the Jewish settlement called Jew Town. Very interesting.

Jewish settlement in Kochi, South India

  • Attended the 400 year-old classical dance performance called Kathakali.  Absolutely fascinating!


I love this travel group so much and already miss them and our travel and yoga experiences together!

%d bloggers like this: