Posts Tagged ‘health’

Celebrating Winter Solstice

December 4, 2017

I know we are still days away from the Winter Solstice, but this weekend, we had our annual Winter Solstice Hatha Yoga Retreat, always held the first weekend of December.

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For me, this time of year is an opportunity to seek light, a time to put up Christmas lights and light candles in the early evenings.  I also see this as a time to surround myself with light, with people of light and radiance. I did just that this weekend with the lovely retreat participants! The early evenings and long nights leading to the winter solstice give ample time for restorative yoga by candlelight, time to contemplate, rest, reflect, and renew.

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Here is a passage I found on line explaining the significance of the Winter Solstice:

Embrace the return of light.

Winter solstice marks the shortest day and longest night of the year, when the sun is at its lowest arc in the sky. The word solstice is derived from the Latin word solstitiumsol meaning sun and –stitium meaning stoppage. One ancient definition of solstice is “standing still sun.” Because the earth is tilted on its axis, the northern hemisphere leans farthest away from the sun during the winter solstice (on December 21 or 22), resulting in a long, dark night.

The winter solstice has carried strong symbolism for many, many years. Some refer to solstice as the rebirth of the sun—and not coincidentally Christmas celebrates the birth of the Son. Ancient cultures feared the light of the sun would not return unless they performed vigils and rituals on the solstice.

Solstice can be a magical, contemplative time—a night of spiritual reconnection and ritual. While solstice may not have gained the notoriety of Christmas, Hanukah, or Kwanza, many people celebrate it as a deeply meaningful holiday—a time to celebrate renewal, rebirth, and gratitude for the coming light.

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During the weekend retreats, we often do shared readings.  The theme this weekend was winter solstice and I love what the retreat participants shared.  Below is some of what was shared:

“Did you rise this morning
broken and hung over
with weariness and pain
and rage, tattered from waving too long in a brutal wind?
Get up, child.
Pull your bones upright.
Gather your skin and muscle into a patch of sun.
Draw breath deep into your lungs;
you will need it
for another day calls to you.
I know you ache.
I know you wish the work were done
and you
with everyone you have ever loved
were on a distant shore
safe, and unafraid.
But remember this,
tired as you are:
you are not alone.
Here
and here
and here also
there are others weeping
and rising
and gathering their courage.
You belong to them
and they to you,
and together
we will break through
and bend the arc of justice
all the way down
into our lives.”

– Audette Fulbright Fulson

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I found the following poem by Maureen Edden:

The Shortest Day

it is night when I get up each morn
I have hardly made it to the noon
before blue shadows cross the lawn
and I am looking at the moon

L1400277The following Turkish Proverb was shared:

Good people are like candles; they burn themselves up to give others light.”

And here is a good reflective poem by William Stafford:

A Ritual to Read to Each Other

If you don’t know the kind of person I am
and I don’t know the kind of person you are
a pattern that others made may prevail in the
           world
and following the wrong god home we may miss
           our star.
For there is many a small betrayal in the mind,
a shrug that lets the fragile sequence break
sending with shouts the horrible errors of
          childhood
storming out to play through the broken dike.
And as elephants parade holding each
          elephant’s tail,
but if one wanders the circus won’t find the
          park,
I call it cruel and maybe the root of all cruelty
to know what occurs but not recognize the fact.
And so I appeal to a voice, to something
         shadowy,
a remote important region in all who talk:
though we could fool each other, we should
         consider—
lest the parade of our mutual life get lost in the
dark.
For it is important that awake people be awake,
or a breaking line may discourage them back to
          sleep;
the signals we give — yes or no, or maybe —
should be clear: the darkness around us is deep.
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And the following two poems speak to tonight’s Super Moon.
On a night
when the moon shines as brightly as this,
the unspoken thoughts
of even the most discreet heart might be seen.
(Izumi Shikibu 10th-11th century)
All night I could not sleep
Because of the moonlight on my bed
I kept on hearing a voice calling:
Out of Nowhere, Nothing answered, “yes.”
(Tzu Yeh 3rd-6th Century)
We experienced the very bright night skies last night and the night before as the Super Moon, not quiet yet full, was lighting up the cloudy night skies.  We especially experience the brightness of the moon here at Ocean Shores, where there is little light pollution.  Today, because of the gravitational pull of the Super Moon, when we took a walk on the beach, the tide was very high, leaving very little room to walk along the shore.  You can see the long shadows cast by the noon winter sun and the narrow stretch of sand on a beach that normally has a very large span of sand.
L1400275L1400282L1400278Lucky us…Jerry gifted all of us with her freshly pressed apple juice from her apple orchard.  So GOOD!!!!  Stay healthy and hydrated, readers!  And get out there and look at the super moon tonight!

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Giving Thanks

November 27, 2017

Last week, my classes were focused on gratitude.  And I have been especially filled with gratitude these past few days.  Thanksgiving and my birthday invite me to be thankful for the life I have, and for the people in my life: family, friends, students.  I have immense gratitude to be living in one of the most beautiful places in the continental USA, one filled with pristine forests, rivers, wildlife (we saw a herd of elk today!!), hiking and ski trails, and all the bounty that nature provides.  I am grateful for my own effort I put into maintaining my relatively good health.  Embracing yoga and making the yoga practice a part of my life, keeping stress levels low, eating a healthy, organic diet, keeping cardio-active, doing weight training, and getting enough sleep are disciplines woven into the fabric of my being.

I also have tremendous gratitude for my parents, who not only gave me life, but also gave me the best in education.  My parents grew up very poor in Sicily.  They both had to stop school in the 8th grade because of poverty and the need to work to help their parents make ends meet.  Instead of continuing on to the 9th grade, my father left school and did hard manual labor in the fields (no tractors or plows used) and my mother became a seamstress.  They worked hard their entire lives.  As far back as I can remember, they always told me that I’d go to college and, no matter how much my university tuition would cost them, they would cover it and give me the educational opportunities they never had.  And they held true to their dream.  They started this dream by sending me to private Catholic school from early on and supported me throughout my university years.

So thank you, mom and dad.  I am eternally grateful.

To celebrate my birthday and Thanksgiving, two great days of gratitude, Rick and I went to La Push on the Olympic Peninsula.  Rick’s Grandma Glenda went to La Push regularly and she always told us how very special it is.  It is remote, a long way from Seattle. The ocean is wild, and the beaches strewn with much enormous driftwood. We have been there four consecutive years in a row and we now understand why Grandma Glenda went there year after year!

Below you will see many photos from the weekend, along with descriptions of the place and of my experience there.

In gratitude, Fran

Below: Lake Crescent, the third deepest lake in the USA.  Our long drive to La Push passes this lake:

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Arrival at La Push: stormy skies, wind, frothy sea, sun setting early

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My new rain boots. Every year, I have seen these boots for sale at the resort reception.  I leave, later wondering with much regret why I didn’t buy them. This year, they were on clearance and I was lucky enough to get the last pair in my size!  They were meant to be mine:

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La Push is on the Quileute tribal lands and these boots are decorated with the tribe’s hummingbird design:

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I was obsessed by both my new boots and this RED driftwood that looks like red-hot burning coals:

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IMG_0857And had to include the photo below..a friendly dog jumped into my photo as I was taking yet another shot of the RED driftwood:

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Most of the time we were there, it was storming.  At some point, the sky opened up…briefly. IMG_0862

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We cooked most of our own meals, but went out for breakfast twice.  There is one place to get a meal and we found it on our first trip to La Push.  Every time we go, we see a charming Quileute elder named Bev.  She always sits in the same seat in the restaurant. This time, as soon as she saw me, she held her arms wide open and gave me the warmest hug! She did the same for Rick. When she found out it was my birthday, she promptly disappeared for a while. I thought she left without saying goodbye, but she came back with a gift for me.  She gave me this precious woven basket, a miniature with a rose motif on one side and a duck on the other side, woven from cedar and local grasses:

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I had my heart set on buying fresh crab while out there, but we found out it is not quite yet the season. We saw crab pots everywhere..the crabbers are ready and waiting for the right time set out their pots.

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Salmon! The quote below comes from a board educating people about the importance of saving the salmon as they dwindle in population:

Generation upon Generation, the salmon have returned to our waters offering of themselves so that the Quileute People might live. There was a time, not long ago, salmon were many. Now they are few.  Generation upon Generation the salmon have helped the Quileute People.  Now the Quileute People must help the salmon.

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You can see the small island offshore, beyond the boats. It is called James Island, but in ancient times, the island was called Aka’lat, Top of the Rock, in the language of the Quileute People.  Aka’lat was the burial ground for chiefs. It was also a fortress in times of defense.  The steep walls protected the Quileute People.  The island is unoccupied, but the Quileute People believe the spirit of their ancestors live there.

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Quileute Tribal Art: Salmon

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Rialto Beach is a nearby gem in the Olympic National Park:

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Dancer’s Pose on slick/wet driftwood:

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The sea brings in a sofa!

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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):

Click to play this Smilebox slideshow

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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