Posts Tagged ‘health’

Stehekin-Dazzle

July 28, 2017

We made our annual trip to Stehekin last weekend.  Stehekin, Washington is a place that awakens the nature-loving adventurer and dazzles the eye of the outdoor enthusiast.  I didn’t see any bears this year, but I did see a grouse, big as a hen, on the trail.  Leslie and I also spotted a baby osprey in its enormous nest. The baby osprey was squawking for its parents.  While there, we hiked, read by the river, visited Karl’s Stehekin Garden.  And I got in a lot of restful sleeping time.  The bed in the cabin is so comfortable, the night so quiet, and the air coming in from the open window so pure, fresh, and soothing.  I slept deeply and dreamed of the night forest.

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Stehekin is a wilderness place of forests, waterfalls, mountains, and tumbling creeks (26 creeks flow into the river). It is a place where time seems to stand still.

Stehekin refers to the grand 17-mile long river, which carries glacial water from the Cascade Mountains. The Stehekin River a surreal blue as a result of the glacial melt.  It flows into Lake Chelan, a 50.5 mile lake.Stehekin also refers to the community, which sits in the Stehekin Valley and is part of the North Cascades National Park.

One reason why Stehekin remains so pristine and wild is because the area is not accessible by road.  You can only reach Stehekin by hiking, float plane, boat, or ferry.

Below are some photos from last weekend’s visit.  It was not quite as hot this year and the mosquitoes were not so bothersome as they have been in the past.  And there were no forest fires this year so the vistas on our hikes were very clear.

Our champ, Miss Winnie, resting at a creek after a long deep drink of cold water:

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Morning Sun on Cabin:

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The Stehekin River greets us in the morning:

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Reflections, a perfect Stehekin morning:

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And I found these waders drying on the clothesline amusing (along the forest path leading to Karl’s Garden):

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Old cars like this Chevrolet, in excellent running condition, abound in Stehekin:L1390773

Refreshing water stop during one of the hikes:

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A trip to Stehekin requires:

  • Hiking and a visit to Rainbow Falls
  • Fly-fishing (if you are a fisher-person)
  • A visit to the Stehekin Bakery (their pies are ridiculously delicious)
  • A visit to Karl’s Organic Garden

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A visit to Karl’s garden is one of my Stehekin highlights.  Karl’s produce is beautiful.  He keeps bees and sells honey.  And he has goats and sells goat cheese.  The perimeter of his vegetable garden is studded with flowers.  This time of year, Karl’s dahlias are in full bloom.  I could not help myself.  I kind of went crazy on the flower photography.

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Karl also offers food for thought on his white boards.  Here are some examples of his words of wisdom:

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I love Stehekin  (one of our hiking lunch spots below):

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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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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):

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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

The Six Essential Poses and Other Sequences

January 25, 2016

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Sequence One, The Essential Six:

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

Downward Facing Dog

Forward Bend

Squat

Seated Twist

Half Spinal Twist

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

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

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

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

Tumble Creek, Washington

Sequence Two, The Daily Dozen:

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

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

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

Tumble Creek, Washington

Sequence Three, Strong Abdominal Muscles:

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

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

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

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

Uttanasana (Standing Forward Bend)

Mind, mind

how much you want to say

am I doing it right?

can I stay here long enough

or even a second longer

can I eat an ice cream sandwich

after class,

oh, but will class ever end?

Mind, will you ever shut up?

will my legs stop shaking?

will my head reach lower?

Will I

can I

should I

could I

let go of my mind

listen to my breath

listen through my breath

let it move through this body

reach out to this moment,

this world,

this life,

& let it go?

Mothers and Daughters

October 19, 2015

This past weekend, we hosted a Mother Daughter Yoga Retreat at Little Renaissance.  We had three generations present and, yet, we never felt any sort of generational gap.  The inter-generational aspect of the retreat was so fun and all interactions were meaningful.  I observed that the one grandmother present was gleaning wisdom from her grandchild as well as from the other younger retreat participants.  I love how the interactions transcended age and went into the arena of wisdom, love, and deepening relationships.

Circle of Love

Circle of Love

At one point, after a yoga session, I asked everyone to share with one another their ideas on the following: What I admire about you or What I can learn from you.  Everyone freely and openly shared their admiration for one another.  What I have to comment on is how impressed I was with the three youngest present.  They were fun, age-appropriate mature, not glued to social media, and into human interaction which included heart to heart connection with each person present!

Abi and Jen

Abi and Jen

We did a shared reading on Saturday night and here are some of the readings or sources of readings.

Rick read The Waking, a self-reflective poem that describes waking up from sleep by Theodore Roethke.  Rick was quite animated as he read and Cecilia was moved to film him doing his exuberant reading.  Towards the last line, he was so expressive that Ruah spontaneously laughed so hard with delight that she hit her head on her water glass.  She didn’t cut herself, but we had to ice the hummingbird-sized egg on her forehead:

The Waking

By Theodore Roethke

I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.
I feel my fate in what I cannot fear.
I learn by going where I have to go.

We think by feeling. What is there to know?
I hear my being dance from ear to ear.
I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.

Of those so close beside me, which are you?
God bless the Ground! I shall walk softly there,
And learn by going where I have to go.

Light takes the Tree; but who can tell us how?
The lowly worm climbs up a winding stair;
I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.

Great Nature has another thing to do
To you and me; so take the lively air,
And, lovely, learn by going where to go.

This shaking keeps me steady. I should know.
What falls away is always. And is near.
I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.
I learn by going where I have to go.

Theodore Roethke, “The Waking” from Collected Poems of Theodore Roethke. Copyright 1953 by Theodore Roethke.

Harmony and Ruah diligently doing their Spanish homework!

Harmony and Ruah diligently taking time out to complete their Spanish homework!

Other readings included:

The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock (you can view it being read by Anthony Hopkins on youtube).  Abi read this dramatic poem which calls for total sensory involvement as the reader observes with the mind’s eye the  many scenes of sensory images.

The forecast called for rain all weekend, but we had pleasant weather for this time of year. We walked the beach and did not get wet.

The forecast called for rain all weekend, but we had pleasant weather for this time of year. We walked the beach and did not get wet.

Cecilia read from Journey to the Heart:  Daily Meditations on the Path to Freeing Your Soul by Melody Beattie.  She chose the reading from October 11th in the book.  I do not have the book so cannot include the reading, but I did find another quote from the book:

“You don’t need to limit yourself anymore. You’ve opened your heart. Now open your mind. Look around. See all the possibilities. The universe is teaming with them. It will lead and guide you into this abundance if you ask it for help and then allow that to happen. Open to life’s abundance. Open to all its possibilities. The more open you become, the more creative you’ll be—in work, in play, in love, in life. The more creative you are, the more possibilities you’ll see.”

From shared readings, I discover great books.  Jen read from Calling in “The One”, 7 Weeks to Attract Your Soulmate by Katherine Woodward Thomas.  The book is great for people ready to find their soulmate.  The chapters focus on internal change and appeared to offer powerful tools for attracting one’s soulmate.

The whole group (minus Rick who is taking the photo)

The whole group (minus Rick who is taking the photo)

Saturday’s Shared Readings took place around 10pm and I think I was too tired to take note or to remember what everyone read.  The last one I remember is the poem Tiffany read from We’Moon.  We’Moon is an astrological data book and calendar filled with poems and beautiful artwork.  Tiffany read a poem called Trucker’s Language and is about women using words and expressive forms of communication which are actually words of empowerment!  The title really captures your attention and the poem does so even more.  Tiffany will send me the poem and I can come back and include it in this blog entry.

Enjoy the remainder of photos from the weekend retreat at Little Renaissance on Washington’s wild coast.

Trees sprouting from driftwood

Trees sprouting from driftwood

multi-armed goddesses

multi-armed goddesses

Abi meditates under the Bodhi tree

Abi meditates under the Bodhi trees

back at Little Renaissance, Weather so mild in late October that we have lunch outside!

Back at Little Renaissance, the weather is so mild in late October that we have lunch outside!

Yes, that would be Harmony walking on Rick's back!

Yes, that would be Harmony walking on Rick’s back!  That’s it…She’s hired!

Umbria Yoga Part II

November 2, 2012

Seems that I am finally catching up with the last two parts of Umbria Yoga blog posts (one month later!).   Ecco, Part 2.  You will notice that the list of one-minute held poses below can be modified or substituted by  simpler suggested poses.  The sequence is incredibly beneficial.  If pressed for time, you can omit some poses or you can do the sequence by holding each pose for only half a minute.  The poses are powerful and very symmetrical leaving you feeling quite balanced physically, mentally, energetically, and emotionally.  This sequence leaves you feeling peaceful.  Your body will hum with delight!

A) Movements to a breath sequence:  tadasana, hands overhead (inhale), forward bend (exhale), extended forward bend (inhale), come to standing hands overhead (inhale), , tadasana (exhale)

Do as many rounds of the above as you like until you feel warmed up and connected to your breathing.

B) Sun salutations:  one regular round without variations and another round which includes strengthening poses such as a twist from Warrior I with arms outspread, warrior 2, side planks, cobra with ankles crossed

C) Sun Salutations are followed by these asanas, which are each held for one-minute.  The minute-held poses below are in Sanskrit followed by English:

1) Supta Baddha Konasana/Bound Angle Pose:  lying on back with knees bent and feet touching each other,  outside feet touch the floor

2) Kurmasana/ Tortoise Pose   seated in bound angle and round the back, fold forward and try to bring head to feet  (can go more advanced by extending legs to a “V” and slip arms under legs)

3) Supta Virasana/  Reclining Hero Pose (or simplify by stretching one quad at a time)

4) Dhanurasana/ Bow Pose (or half bow or easier yet, quad stretch)

5) Ananda Balasana/ Happy Baby Pose (or extend legs wide to stretch inner thighs while lying on the back)

6) Urdhva Dhanurasana/ Full Back Bend/Wheel Pose (or bridge pose again or cobra)

7) Bakasana/ Crow (or Malasana/ Squat)

8) Ardha Adho Mukha Vrksasana/ Half Handstand at the wall (body forms a 90 degree angle at the wall by walking the feet up the wall)  Since we were outside for most yoga sessions and we did not have a wall, we did half handstand in pair work by coming up against someone in downward facing dog!

9) Balasana/ Child’s pose

10) Sirsasana/ Headstand at the wall

11) Anahatasana (like child’s pose but the hips are up in the air)

12) Makara Adho Mukha Svanasana/ Dolphin Pose (think downward facing dog on the elbows rather than on hands)

13) Inversion: Pincha Mayurasana/ Peacock Pose or also known as Forearm stand (to modify can repeat dolphin pose)

14) Salabhasana/ Locust Pose (on belly, lift both legs or lift one leg at a time..very difficult to hold full locust for one full minute)

15) Halasana/ Plow Pose

16) Matysasana/ Fish Pose  (or you can lie on your back over a rolled towel or blanket under the shoulder blades)

17) Nakarasana/ Crocodile Pose (lie on belly and lift both arms and legs at the same time)

18) Ananda Balasana/ Happy Baby Pose

19) Adho Mukha Vrksasana  Handstand  (or can modify by working on wall splits: downward facing dog with heels to the wall, then lift one leg up the wall)

20) Balasana/ Child’s Pose

21) Ustrasana/ Camel Pose

22) Shasankasana/ Hare or Rabbit Pose

23) Shavasana/ Corpse Pose

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