Inside, Homesick and Reading. or I Love My Tribe.

Monday. March 14th, 2011.

It is not very often I find myself confined to bed. This is one of those few times. This winter has brought upon us one of the worst cold and flu seasons in recent memory. My son had his first bought with influenza the week before I left for California. My partner came down with the flu while we were in California, and now home, and hoping to get to work- I am at long last sick too.

What a perfect time to turn to some of the reading material I’ve been putting off! There are stacks of books on my bedside tables; some of which I’ve been playing with for the past several months, some of which I’ve made good progress with, and even one book I managed to read cover-to-cover (a true feat for those of us rearing children single-handedly while working several jobs). If I turn my head to the left the book bindings that call out include:

  1. The Wave by Susan Casey
  2. Radical Acceptance by Tara Brach
  3. The Ramayana
  4. Orangutan by Colin Broderick
  5. The Bhagavad Gita
  6. Mary Oliver’s book of poetry, House of Light and
  7. Keith Richards’ memoir Life.

A quick look to my right and I could choose from:

  1. Enlightened Living; a New Interperative Translation of the Yoga Sutra of Maharsi Patanjali
  2. Ram Dass’s newest path of the heart, Be Love Now
  3. a wonderfully short text written by the Buddha himself called The Dhammapada, and
  4. a fantastically easy to read, laugh-out-loud memoir called Poser: My Life in 23 Yoga Poses by Claire Dederer.

Can you tell which side of the bed I sleep on? Maybe not… and that’s kind of the point.

I woke up the other day and found myself finally in a place in my life surrounded by like-minded people who accept me for who I am, and I realized how grateful I am. My partner, my friends, and my children, all seem to hold dear the same basic tenants of the mindfulness. We all try our best to live a healthy, clean and conscious life… and though this sounds relatively fundamental or obvious, it’s actually amazing how long it’s taken me to get to this place.

Ashtanga Yoga, or the 8-Limbed path, includes several restraints and observances, which act as the guiding tenants of an uplifted and happy quality of life. These include the following: ahimsa (non-violence), satya (non-lying), brahmacharya (moderation), aparigraha (non-hoarding), soucha (cleanliness), santosha (contentment), svadyaya (self-study), tapas (zeal) and ishvarapranidhana (surrender). Sounds like a mouthful right? But these ideals are in fact a prescription of sorts, which when followed or applied actually make life so much more meaningful, more thoughtful, and actually more simple.

As of today, most of my close friends practice yoga (asana) and conscious breathing (pranayama). Many of them have a regular meditation practice (dhyana). And many are comitted to improving themselves and learning about themselves (svadyaya). Some of my tribe attend AA.  Some of us go to Al-anon. Some of us believe in regularly acupuncture, chiropractic, or naturopathic care. Many of us have had babies without epidurals; some of us at home – with a midwife and a doula. Most of my friends celebrate our connection to nature and to our community (perhaps through pagen worship, community service or even surfing), and they try to live a more seasonally-aware, sustainable, or at least environmentally-friendly lifestyle. We eat locally when we can, or cultivate our vegetable gardens. If some of my friends are not vegan or vegetarian, my choice to be so is not looked down upon, and is in fact honored and respected, instead of poked-fun at or derided.

  • a perfect example of this respect and acceptance would be last night’s dinner party at The Murphy home. We were three couples and two children. The only person in the house who hadn’t practiced yoga with me was youngest Murphy son, Ben. Although the Murphys eat meat, and merrily drink wine, one guest at the table was/is lactose-intollerant, and Burr and I are vegetarian. Burr does not drink, and I haven’t (except for the truly ocaisional sip of wine) since my yoga teacher training in March of 2009. With all these restrictions, entertaining our group might have proven to be extra work. But our gracious hostess, Melissa, set out a spread of goat’s milk cheeses (sans the lactose) and crackers, and prepared a beautiful dinner of chickpea burgers with roasted veggies. Our friend Murray brought a gorgeous green salad, and Burr made not one, but two dairy-free pies for dessert.  There was plenty of  red and white wine, but also an array of non-alcoholic beverages. And as I sat there looking across the table at my friends I couldn’t help but bask in their acceptance of who I am, and rejoice in our hosts’ willingness to honor our various lifestyle choices.

When I reflect back on my life, I realize that it wasn’t long ago that I was cruising around Chicago on the back of a motorcycle engaged in various degrees of reckless behavior. Many of the friends I had at the time were involved in the industry (restaurant or bar) and embraced the life. And though I practiced yoga from time-to-time, it was a solo journey which often took me away from, not closer to, the social epicenter of my Chicago family. The men I dated were bartenders and restaurateurs, and my friends (and I’m saying this without judgment) spent Sunday afternoons indoors watching the Bears and shooting Jameson or Jagermeister. My late husband, Aaron, was the ringleader of them all; a charming Maker’s Mark drinking bartender, who held court at The Village Tap. He played base guitar in a rock band called The Peelers, and often was on tour. At the end of our relationship (before he passed away) Aaron was beginning to get away from the drinking scene, and had been making in-roads to finishing his degree in Fine Arts at The Art Institute, with an eye to teaching Art to highschool students. When he passed away on June 25th, 2005 I was devastated.

In my grief I turned to weekend binge drinking and sporadic drug use. I did crazy things, and put myself in crazy, sometimes life-threatening situations just to feel alive. I numbed the pain of Aaron’s death with shots of whiskey and beer backs, lines of cocaine; partying until 4 am and sleeping until noon. I smoked cigarettes for crying out loud! And I had friends who did the same. We avoided, diluted and droped-out. No one held a gun to my head- I did it without any cajoling. Maybe I wanted to die too.

I consider myself so lucky to have awoken when I did. It wasn’t an overnight experience. There was no brilliant opening of the sky, no bright beams of sunlight, no happy-shinny-people music in the background. It was a slowly unfolding process that involved several hundred baby steps, and lots of agonize self-examination… but when you’ve hit rock bottom, there’s really no where else to go but up.

I found Moksha Yoga in Lakeview. I enrolled in graduate school and did several semesters of a masters in Chinese Medicine. Then I left Chicago and returned to Nantucket. I grieved Aaron’s passing, this time consciously and fully. I re-comitted to yoga. I started to meditate. I began reading again, and researching the things that had previously interested me: alternative medicine, healing modalities and bodywork. I embarked on a new career path, and became a yoga teacher. I gave birth to a beautiful baby boy – naturally and at home. I breast fed, cloth diapered, co-slept, and attachment parented. I bought only non-toxic household cleaners. I used environmentally friendly paint in the baby’s nursery. And though never a big meat-eater, last August I gave up eating meat 100%. That same month, I left a marriage that wasn’t working.

Looking back at all the steps it took to get me here, I am even more aware of all the steps yet to come. The process of growth has, thus far, been painful and joyful, full of small victories and accomplishments, huge disappointments, and some major failures… but here I am, and it’s exactly where I’m supposed to be.

I’m in bed, on a Monday, thinking and writing about yoga, and reflecting on my not-so traditional life as a single-mother of two, partner to one, and teacher to many. I’ve actually managed to read 100 pages of my new book and three articles by my teacher Ganga White. I’ve taken a eucalyptus bath, and had a large bowl of homemade miso, kale, ginger and brown rice soup served up to me bedside. It’s been a pretty great day…………. and I am very, very grateful for my Tribe.

 

home coming & dynamic vinyasa flow

Monday. March 6th, 2011

Palm Springs International Airport.

Jai Yogis!

So, this is it: the last entry from the road. We’ve completed a whirlwind tour of yoga teachers, studios and classes, and are now winding it all down, and heading home. As I write we sit in the terminal waiting to board our flight home to the great Eastern state of Massachusetts. It’s been an amazing trip- and I’m left feeling super blissed out on great yoga, full of California sunshine, thick with love and teaming with gratitude. In the last week I’ve taken some of the greatest sadhanas, and had some of the most eye opening instruction. I’d like to send out a huge shout-out to all the wonderful teachers at Exhale: Annie Carpenter, Seane Corn, and especially Erich Shiffmann, and Kathryn Budig and Vinnie Marino at YogaWorks, and to my amazing yoga partner-in-crime Burr Tupper- who not only made this trip happen, but who has taught me much about my practice and my path as a yoga teacher in these past few months, and especially in the past 2 weeks.

There’s not enough time before our flight leaves to describe all the fantastic yoga that happened between my last entry (and class with Seane Corn) and the most recent complimentary class I took yesterday morning at The Parker Palm Springs. Vinnie Marino’s class on Friday morning was rockin’… and the yoga Burr and I did while hiking up the Tahquitz Canyon today was breath taking.

We had an amazing time today, hiking up through the canyon and stopping to take yoga photos. To my great enjoyment I watched as Burr regress 30 years when he braved the icy snow-melt water fall and completely submerged underwater. (Burrrrrr!) Can you see the 13 year-old boy in the photo below? So worth the cold.

I feel so very, very lucky to have had such an amazing trip… and I cannot wait to get home and share it all with my favorite yogis – the yogis I practice with 12 months a year, right at home.

Please join me for a Dynamic Vinyasa flow tomorrow night at The Yoga Room. I’ll be back at the studio for my regularly scheduled class- Tuesday night 5:30-7:00 p.m. Come practice! Om shanti. Om peace. Om love.

YogLa: days 4-6

March 3rd, 2011

Venice Beach, CA. 3:30 p.m.

Namaste Yogis!

So I’m happy to report that yesterday and the day before were both pretty awesome. They more than made up for the rocky start we got off to (i.e. flu viruses, injuries, bad weather and substitute teachers).

On Tuesday I woke up again at 4:45 a.m., made coffee and did my obscenely early morning thing. Leaving Burr at home, I headed out around 7:15 a.m.  and went to Santa Monica to Yoga Works, where I took a lively class with Kathryn Budig. It was a level 2/3 Vinyasa class, and was well attended by very fit, able bodied students who ranged from about 30 to 45 years old. Once again, no music was played (except for the Tibetian bowls which were performed live during meditation and savasana) and Kathryn did a great job of coaxing the class into a dynamic group flow. She dedicated a nice amount of time to the practice of inversions, and led us through a unique sequence involving tripod headstand with a twist into side crow moving back up into tripod headstand. I loved it. Holy oblique abdominals batman. I was super psyched to get back to the house and share it all with Burr…. who, to my pleasant surprise was UP when I got back.

Kathryn Budig

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lh6h4_67ae8]

Not only was he up, but he was ready to go to class. So, that being said I did a quick about face, showered and got back into my lycra-spandex, and off we went- this time to Exhale, for a class with none other than Erich Shiffmann himself. I was thrilled Burr was with me for that one, as Erich started off class with an amazing Dharma Talk I knew was right up Burr’s alley, and was exactly the material I needed to hear myself. Erich really deserves a blog entry of his own- and I’ll get there at some point, however I’ll say this for now;  he is RICH with spiritual knowledge and uses a vocabulary out of the 60’s to convey it. He looks like Santa Claus, if Santa was a Buddhist and formidable yogi who maybe ate Ben & Jerry’s Wavy Gravy. He refers to our world as the Psycho-sphere, believes we are all brothers and sisters, and touts the benefits of living and participating in the Magic Kingdom. He is warm and funny, very tall and pleasantly round in the middle. He’s also extremely flexible, especially for a dude.

Erich Shiffmann

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9OiyYhEYT0I]

In the afternoon Burr and I got to visit with some relocated ACK friends of ours, and then drove up to Topanga Canyon. We were blessed enough to be invited into the home of one very prominent (and world famous) yogini, whom shall remain nameless. Suffice to say that we were honored to chat with her in her living room, tour her newly acquired property at the top of the mountain, survey the construction of her new yurt, and share a mexican meal with her for dinner. I found myself blown away that this most beloved, most well-known and busy woman wanted to share her precious time with us. I should point out that this connection happened all because of Burr – who despite his self-deprecating insistence that he is nothing special– was indeed the one who made the magic happen, and was gracious enough to share it with me. The conversation was rapid-fire (true to this yogini’s teaching style), and free flowing. And in the nearly 5 hours w spent with her we talked of LA, home crafting, life sharing, family, parenting, relationships, love, yoga, teaching yoga, mentorship and how to support one another as women and teachers. She was grounded and real, giving and funny- and for a yogi, she sure does like to say fuck a lot. She was inspiring.

Yesterday (Wednesday) Burr and I were fortunate enough to take a private with Annie Carpenter. I have to say it was the best money we have spent since arriving here. I think I learned more in the hour and 15 minutes with spent with Annie than I have in most weekend-long or even week-long yoga workshops. She welcomed us into her beautiful Venice home (no kids, three cats), and up into her private studio. Photographs and posters of ground breaking modern dancer/choreographer Martha Graham graced the walls, and I immediately felt I was exactly where I was supposed to be, studying with exactly whom I was meant to learn from. Annie asked me what I wanted to focus on, and we did just that: Pranayama, and internal rotation of the legs. We worked on Vira I, Vira III, standing splits and Hanumanasana. I struggled to apply the key alignment points she illuminated- but I left with a vastly different understanding of these 4 poses.. … which was fortuitous, because those were the posed we ended up working in our evening asana class with Seane Corn! I couldn’t have planned it any better. And as a result I had the best feeling, deepest Hanuman in Seane’s class I’ve had in my entire practice. I knew after working with Annie, that I’d be back in her studio in the future.

Annie Carpenter

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pIuZsD5zvaE]

Seane Corn‘s class closed out our Wednesday evening. Practicing yoga in LA has been very interesting and emotionally challenging. I’ve cried a lot since we’ve been here. On the mat, off the mat, in the house, at the beach, on the bicycle, and in the Jeep. You name it and I’ve probably cried in it or on it or at it. So in any event, Burr promised me- no wagered me- a good cry in Seane’s class. But I have to say, though I was open to it- no tears came. For probably the first time in weeks I felt really strong, and really grounded- and though I was soaking wet by the end of practice it was pure sweat. I heard Annie’s corrections in my head and plugged them into the vinyasa and prayers Seane was leading, and I had a rock solid, stellar experience. It was without a doubt the best class I’ve had all week.

Seane Corn

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PZ5Ss0ayF-Q]

 

Today (Thursday) Burr and I parted ways to do some solo stuff. I ventured back to Exhale, and took a 9 o’clock class with Annie, and a 10:30 a.m. class with Erich. Burr went to a local meeting, and then met up with an ACK friend at Yoga Works to take a class with Vinnie Marino. We rejoined for lunch with an old friend from my East Coast Seafood days, and then came home to Cactus Flower for a nap. Class with Saul David Raye is on the table for tonight, and tomorrow I hope to get one or even two more classes in in the morning before we pack it up and say good-bye.

That’s it from the yogic path for today. I hope to write more about tonight’s yoga tomorrow.

Om shanti. Om peace.

YogLa: day two & three

February 28th 2011

5:30 a.m.

Greetings from Venice Beach. Today is Monday, and we’ve now been in LA for 3 complete days- I think we’ve finally gotten settled, and on local time, though I still can’t sleep much past 5 a.m.

Saturday was full of exploration and yoga; with visits to the Santa Monica Farmer’s Market and AcroYoga at The Hub. After enjoying some coffee at Cactus Flower, we mounted our beach cruisers and took a nice biker ride along the beach. 

The Farmer’s Market was fairly impressive; not large but chalk full of beautiful organic produce, much of which we stocked up on with the intention of cooking a huge dinner on Sunday night for some local friends.

We drooled over Pink Lady and Fuji apples,  sunset colored carrots, blue and purple fingerling potatoes, huge bulbs of green garlic, organic cheeses, and more. We loaded our messenger bags with fresh veggies then sat down on a park-side bench to enjoy some tamales while watching kids play on one of the most modern looking jungle gyms I’ve ever seen. Even the jungle gyms in California are cool.

After enjoying some sunshine, we hopped back in the Jeep and drove up S. Burlington Ave to The Hub. There I took my first AcroYoga class with a lady named Sonia. It was a good class, and certainly a nice way to connect with Burr- but it didn’t blow my mind- and there’s probably a lesson there about overblown expectations. We did some nice partner stretching and 2 balancing poses: a double handstand and some reverse flying. On our way back from class, we stopped off at a surf shop so that Burr could rent a board- hoping to get some time on the water in on Sunday.

Saturday evening Burr and I took a yoga class back at Exhale (the local of Friday evening’s coo coo Kirtan) with John Sahakian. Not having heard of John before, we looked him up online and learned that not only is he a father, but also an avid surfer. Not often getting the chance to study with a male teacher, I thought this might be an opportunity for Burr to connect with another Yoga Dude. Class was good, and I think I held a bow pose the longest I have ever been asked to hold one- but poor Burr was hit out of nowhere with a massive allergy attack.

He hasn’t really been the same since. We managed to make it back to Cactus Flower after class- and Burr climbed into bed. I think he stayed there from 8 p.m. until 10:30 the next day. Anyone with experience with a tree pollen allergy- feel free to offer up advice below. We’re not exactly sure how to navigate this particular challenge, and his symptoms do not seem to be abating.

Sunday I spent a good deal of on my own. Highlights included an amazing 3 and 1/2 hours of pranayama, meditation and asana practice with Annie Carpenter at Exhale, who might just be the teacher I didn’t know I was looking for, and an sunset stroll along the Venice Beach blvd. While walking through throngs of gypsies, tourists, homeless people, and rebelous teenagers, Burr and I stumbled upon the biggest drum circle I’ve ever seen. There must have been 200 people there, drumming, belly dancing, hooping, smoking, jumping up and down, and thumping to the beat. One transient looking being stood on high, blessing people with magician-like movements and extended feathers in each hand. My iPhone photos do not do it justice.

The Feather Man

After the drum circle, we walked past a group of older people break dancing on roller skates, to some very 80’s breakbeats, and then over to the brand new skate park where the younger generation was showing off their high speed ariel tricks.


We canceled the dinner party we had hoped to host, and had a mellow evening at the house. I cooked up the organic kale and star broccoli from the Farmer’s Market – with garlic, onions and lime juice. And we watched the Oscars while eating a dessert of marinated strawberries and kumquats over mocha coconut milk ice cream. If you have to be in bed suffering with allergies, this is probably the way to do it.

YogLa: day one

Saturday. February 26th, 2011

5 am. (west coast time)

We left Nantucket on Thursday (24 Feb 11); a sunny but chilly winter day. Hopping over the Sound on a Island Air flight, and arriving in Hyannis, I was reminded again how lucky we are to live where we do. Hyannis: not a pretty place. Burr charmed the older woman working the Hertz counter, and moments later we were zipping up to Boston on rt. 3. We stopped off in Beacon Hill for a quick visit with my family  before checking into the Oh-So-Glamorous Logan Airport Hilton.

While Burr returned the car to Hertz, our bell man, John B., and I took our bags up the room. “Lucky Number Five”  he said with swagger, at least 4 times. John (a fit and friendly 60 years old) was feeling very chatty, especially for 9 pm., and asked me where we were from, where we were going and what we were doing. When I told him we were on our way to LA to study yoga, he nodded knowingly, and told me he could tell we were “cool people”. He said he had inferred this from our luggage (Patagonia), and pointed to our yoga mats (strapped to the outside of said luggage), and the two boxes of new shoes we were carrying (Simple), made from sustainable materials. I was flattered by the description. A mother of two small children, I’m often covered in baby drool, and food particles. Some days I’m lucky to get a decent shower in, and let’s face it- I pretty much live in a spandex-lycra blend. I don’t usually feel very cool.

John asked what I did “out in Nantucket”, and I told him I was/am a yoga teacher. This opened up a remarkable conversation about the practice- and I ended up giving John my card, and telling him about our family B&B (The Nesbitt Inn). Studying yoga on Nantucket sounded good to him – something “he’s always wanted to try”. He’s retired after all, and owns several houses. He doesn’t need to work. He’s at the Hilton to keep busy and to meet people, and to have conversations much like the one we were having. So who knows, perhaps we’ll see John again. I wouldn’t be surprised.

For someone about to embark on a pretty exciting trip, I slept incredible well. We got up at 6:30 a.m. and headed to the airport. Burr’s charm, disarming warmth, and Tweed jacket, came in handy once again, when we circumnavigated the 2-hour plus wait at the baggage check-in, and were led to cub-side check-in by a more than happy to help older woman. (Older ladies LOVE Burr).

What could have been a stressful process quickly ameliorated into an enjoyable and exciting process of making our way to the gate. We had just enough time to fire off a few e-mails, including one to my teacher Coral Brown, who is one of Shiva Rea’s  PranaFlow teachers. Coral had suggested some time ago that we send her a photo of ourselves, that she could then forward to Shiva, as a gentle reminder of who we were. (Though I have now taken Shiva’s YTTs and several workshops with her I’m under no illusion that she’ll remember me- although it would be nice to connect on a more personal level).

We boarded the plane with a huge group of tourists from Quebec, all busy speaking in rapid-fire French… and off we went!

The flight was nearly 8 hours long, due to some nasty wind- and though I struggled to get comfortable, the excitement of my first trip (sans children) in two years carried me through the long commute with little issue. We landed at LAX at 1:30 Pacific time, took the shuttle to Fox Rent-a-Car, and were on the 405 headed North towards Santa Monica in no time. The very first thing we did? We found a chiropractor.

Burr got a tip from his friend Joan, and we jumped off the highway just short of Venice. By 3:30 we were signing into a “Stress Free Zone” at The Life Center, and being asked to take our shoes off. There were patients rolling around on the floor and using the complimentary cervical traction wall. Apparently it was time to let go of my salty sarcastic New England edge. It was clear from that moment that we were in California.

There were Tibetan prayer flags hanging in the corner, and books about yoga everywhere. Dr. Jeremy came and introduced himself, did a quick intake, and in a few minutes, I found myself getting my first ever cervical x-ray. Then we heard all about the disk degeneration between my C-2 and C-3 and my C-7 and T-1 vertebrae that I never knew I had. (fun stuff)

Dr. Jeremy Brook gave me a thorough adjustment and talked to us about the LA Yoga scene. He told me I had a reverse curvature in my cervical neck, and that while Pincha Mayurasana (forearm stand) and Adho Muka Vrksasana (handstand) were fine, Sirsasana (headstand) was not. This would be okay with me if I still didn’t feel like the only person in California without a consistent handstand practice! In any event, the guy was amazing.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3pKQ5ZRWEvQ]

 

As it turns out Dr. Jeremy is engaged to be married to a yogini named Jo Tastula. She teaches at Exhale here in Venice, and he’s friends with Kathryn Budig. He also teaches anatomy to Erich Shiffmann’s students during his YTT. He likes vinyasa yoga.

Did I mention what a great adjustment he gave me? Ahhh……..

Anyway, after getting put back together, Burr and I checked into our new home, The Cactus Flower. It’s a carbon-free studio cottage, set off Lincoln Avenue- one of Venice’s main drags. It’s everything we had hoped it would be. Perhaps more. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen someone so instantly at home as Burr was yesterday afternoon.  The place is ultra Mod and super swanky. The shag rugs and (repro) Eames lounge chair might as well have been pulled out of his ideal living room.

Starving we thumbed through the Cactus Flower take-out menu binder, but decided to venture into Santa Monica for a more substantial meal. California boasts a large array of vegetarian, vegan and raw cuisine and I realized pretty quickly that this first meal would be a great opportunity to get on the dietary good foot so to speak. In March of 2009 I stopped in Santa Monica on my way to my YTT at White Lotus in Santa Barbara. My first night in CA my friend Becky took me to what was then called Juliano’s, now called Planet Raw. I knew this would be right up Burr’s alley, so off we went.

I hadn’t planned it that way, but some how on my first night back in California nearly two years to the date, I ended up at the same restaurant, seated at the same table, in the very same chair. The big difference? This time I was sharing the experience with a partner.

About an hour and a half later, Burr and I emerged from raw food Heaven and found ourselves in the thick of the Venice Yoga Scene. It was 8 p.m. Pacific time, but 11 at home. I was wrecked from a day of travel and no sleep, but I had signed us up for a Kirtan at Exhale; a special Birthday Celebration for Shiva Rea, with emerging Kirtan artist C.C. White, and there was no way we were going to miss it.

Ok, so being judgmental is human… but yogis work towards being non-judgmental, and I really do try my best. Keeping that in mind, I still couldn’t help but assess the other Kirtan goers in all their freaky Bhakti glory. I have never seen so many exhuberant and colorful tribespeople. There were characters from all walks of life in that studio- and they all drank the Kool-Aid, man.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NaxWOfAgoaY]

Burr and I gave it our best shot. We clapped to the beat, did some call and response, and even got up and swayed to the music. It was fun. It was interesting- but I can’t say I felt the divine channeling through me. Maybe I was jet lagged. Maybe I was just exhausted. Don’t get me wrong, I love Shiva… and I do love a good Kirtan- but after a few songs, it was time to call it a day. If you can stomach watching another poorly filmed clip, check out the one below. We call it “Burr’s Not Sure”…

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OR3csRjiK2g]

We took off early, stopped by the BIGGEST Whole Foods Market I’ve ever had the pleasure to cruise, and went home.

Today is another day, with a whole host of exciting things to choose from. We’re thinking Santa Monica Farmer’s Market, AcroYoga and perhaps a Celtics/Clippers’ game. Yee haw Yogla!

 

 

 

new schedule at The Yoga Room

Monday. February 21, 2011

Hey there Tribe,

Just a quick heads-up on a few things on the Local Yoga front. There is a new schedule coming out for classes at The Yoga Room as well as a new set of prices and class book options. Drop-in rates for EVERYONE, including Year-Round residents will now be $15 per class. Our dearly valued Year-Round residents will still be able to save money when buying class cards- however purchase of a 24 class book will be necessary to lock in the $10 per class rate. Books of 10 classes will be available for everyone for $130 (or $13 per class), and non-residents will be able to purchase 24 class cards for $264.

On the schedule you will notice there have been several class time adjustments. The morning 8:15 a.m. classes will now only be held on Monday and Saturday mornings. Tuesday morning class will be held at 10:00 a.m. and there is now a 9:00 a.m. class on Wednesdays and Fridays. Evening classes Monday through Saturday will stay at 5:30 p.m. and Taoist yoga will be back in effect for the month of April on Sundays at 5 p.m. Bettina will be back and teaching several classes in March. Susan Browne returns to teaching her regularly scheduled classes in April.

Here’s a copy of the March-April TYR schedule, which will soon be available at the studio. Just click on it to enlarge.

A few other things…

I am teaching class today, Monday, through this Wednesday morning, and then I will then be on hiatus until Monday evening the 7th of March. Clay Twombly will be covering most of my classes while I’m away, but please note that there will be NO SLOW FLOW CLASS next Monday the 1st.

I’m hoping to update my blog while in Venice. So stayed tuned for new editions of The Yogi Spotlight, studio reviews, and my trials and travel travails on the yogic path.

Om shanti,

~Cailtin

The Kriya Challenge

Saturday. February 19th, 2011

The Challenge. (2/12-2/19)

On the ever deepening path to yogic bliss, last week Burr and I decided to set up a structured  Challenge for ourselves. For one week we committed to following a check list of yogic kriyas (cleansing techniques) and day-to-day rituals, with the intention of honing our self-decipline. A yogic kriya, generally speaking, is a practice which purifies the body. The big six important kriyas in the Hatha Yoga tradition are nauli (churning of the stomach), neti (cleansing of the nasal passages), vasti (colon cleansing), tratakam (candle flame meditation), kapalabhati (a pranayama or breathing technique) and dhauti (cleansing of the stomach, teeth, throat and rectum). But wanting to take a more modern approach and include things that were applicable in facilitating or purifying our businesses practices and our family responsibilities, our list included the following:

1. a 15 minute eyes open meditation for mental detoxification

2. 2 held handstands against the wall (90 seconds for me, 60 seconds for Burr) for strength building

3. some kind of excercise or yoga for total body detoxification

4. blogging or networking about yoga (for me) business strategizing for Burr (which for some reason was printed up as business stargazing…)

5. family correspondance

6. music research or class planning (for me) and praying for Burr

7. neti

8. flossing

As we learned, some of the rituals were easier to follow than others. While the evening neti was easy for me, it was more difficult for Burr. Meditation was hard for me (and my racing monkey mind), probably easier for Burr who has been practicing longer and with more diligence. Daily exercise and/or asana practice was not hard to honor, but getting in not one but two held handstands was challenging for us both, especially when there wasn’t time to do either of the handstands until the end of the day. There were a couple of days when holding a 90 second handstand after teaching 2 yoga classes, working out at the gym and working on 2 deep tissue massage clients was nearly impossible.

Then there was the time commitment. Because the bedtime routine of sitting in meditation, flossing and brushing our teeth could take up nearly an hour, I found myself continually running out of steam, especially on the evenings when the kids were around and required their own bedtime activities and attentions: bath time, supervised teeth brushing, hair care, story time, bed time bottle feedings, etc. But we made it through the week and I think found a certain degree of comfort in the structure. And I have to admit, there was something very satisfying about checking off the boxes at the end of the day.

What’s the point you might ask? Well, my teacher Ganga White put’s it very nicely in his article Yogic Cleansing and Purificatory Practices:

“An important principle we learn in Yoga is to become intimate with our own body’s internal processes. This goes beyond only muscle, bone and joint to breathing, blood chemistry, vital forces, internal organs and subtle energies. Learning to care for and cleanse our respiratory and digestive systems are an important part of the Yoga’s owner’s manual for the body.”

In addition to all that, the kriyas give one a sense of deeper connection to the body and ultimately the self. Isn’t that what yoga’s all about? Connection? I think that with a deeper connection to ourselves we can go forth and foster deeper connections to others, to the earth, and quite possibly the universal consciousness. Jai yoga!

By the end of the week Isabella & baby Griffin got caught up in the momentum as well, and Izzy requested I write her up her own check list. Here’s what we wrote down for her:

1. 2 minute meditation

2. morning teeth brushing

3. practice headstand

4. biking or skating

5. school

6. art

7. good eating

8. reading

9. evening teeth brushing

We’ve had great success with getting to and from school on time this week, and profound progress in the healthy eating department. With the sunny weather we’ve managed to get in one nice long afternoon bike ride (Griffin in the Bob stroller), and several headstand sessions. I’m very proud of her.

Saturday morning Waffles & Headstands

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tXBhWDULO9M]

bhakti baby

Wednesday.

February 16th, 2011

So last week, my half of the week, when I had my two kids, my son had his first experience with The Flu. There was not much happening in the way of asana practice, but man was there some yoga going on. The yoga of pushing fluids, taking temperatures, and battening down the hatches. Isabella got to leave the house for school of course, but Griffin and I barely stepped outside for nearly 3 days.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ETMDle9cMKU]

By the end of our time together my heart was just about broken. There is a certain helplessness about parenting a sick baby, and I found myself struggling harder than usual to decipher Griffin’s non-verbal communication. How do you let a 14 month old baby with a temperature of 101.7 know the discomfort is only temporary? Bhakti baby! It’s all about the love.

 

Dig In Deep: Eminemasana

Tuesday. February 8th, 2011

Nantucket, MA.

Isn’t there something about a good struggle that just pumps you up? You hear a story about someone or something overcoming the odds; it’s a real life anicdote, something you hear at the checkout counter in the grocery store, a friend’s personal narrative, a great rise-up-against-the-man blockbuster film, the history of a people, a culture, maybe even a city. There’s a buzzing that happens on a cellular level. As the story unfolds, and the underdog becomes the champion, your heart starts to thump, blood rushes into your ears. You become invested. You dig in. Maybe there’s a soundtrack. Maybe there’s one good song that starts to carry the protagonist through her difficulties. A beat that tells her, just one more try. Just one more breath…

The movie 8 Mile was like that. It was the perfect Underdog Rises Out of the Trenches story. It drew us in and with the help of Eminem’s brilliant soundtrack and it hooked us. Chrysler did it again on Sunday night, when it aired it’s “Motor City” Super Bowl add for the new Chrysler 200. Chrysler took 8 Mile’s Grammy winning song Lose Yourself, and footage of a struggling Detroit City, and successful evoked the same feelings we had for Eminem’s character Rabbit,  for the city of Detroit herself. If you haven’t seen it- take a moment now. I promise, it’s worth it.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SKL254Y_jtc]

As I was watching the add (and not so much the Super Bowl), I was reminded of the power a great song can have; the way a single baseline or beat can push you deeper into the moment, drive you longer, take you farther. The song Lose Yourself is a perfect example. It has such power.

Come play with this musical magic tonight. Our vinyasa practice this evening will be built around the idea that sometimes, when circumstances are hard, and it becomes difficult to detach from the external drama, a good song is all you need. It can help you find the breath. It can ground you in the moment. It can help you rise above.

 

Caitlin’s Vinyasa Flow Yoga. Tuesday nights at The Yoga Room. 5:30-7:00 p.m.
Breathe.                              Flow.                         Connect.

The yoga of Cancer & Yogi spotlight on Kevin Courtney

Nantucket.
Saturday.
February 5th, 2011

As many of you know by now my parents are temporarily living in Boston. My Dad, Steve, was diagnosed with throat cancer back in November, and he and my mother moved to Boston the day after Christmas to begin an aggressive regime of radiation and chemotherapy. Last weekend things took a turn for the worse, and my Dad was hospitalized twice for a high temperature and low platelet counts. I ventured up to Boston Thursday morning to visit.

I am thrilled to report that my Dad is in stable condition; his temperature has finally broken, and it looks like his bc counts are on the rise. He is scheduled for 3 more radiation treatments and one last chemo treatment next week, and if all goes well- he will be on his way to recovery.

Over the past several months there has been such an outpouring of love and warmth from our Nantucket community, my family and I have felt truly blessed. I think I can speak for us all when I say that we feel the love. So to all of you who have passed on your regards, your well-wishes and your heartfelt concern- Thank you from the depths of my heart. We live in such a special place and I for one feel honored to be a part of this Tribe.

THE YOGI SPOTLIGHT: Kevin Courtney from The Kula Yoga Project.


So while I was in Boston this week, I broke away from the hospital to take a special workshop with Kevin from Kula @ Back Bay Yoga. Kevin is an inter-disciplinary teacher who draws on a background of Qi Gong and Kundalini yoga, and this 2 hour master class was described as a combination of  “dynamic Vinyasa sequences, pranayama, qi-gong and kundalini kriyas with the intention of getting to the heart of our personal yoga practice.”  It was his hope that we’d “stretch the boundaries of traditional asana, connect to your inner Teacher, and experience our practice in a totally new way.” And yes, I’d say that was about what we did.

I had some concerns about class, when we started our practice by bouncing up and down and slapping ourselves for nearly 20 minutes. As ridiculous as this sounds, I couldn’t help but embrace the hilarity of my own inner monologue while thumping my heels into the ground and vibrating from head to toe. We added some vocalizations, and soon I caught myself smiling. My smiles we broad yet inwardly directed, and felt particularly powerful having just come from the oncology ward at Beth Israel Hospital.

Certainly no stranger to martial arts nor Qi Gong, this was still virgin territory for me- especially as a warm-up for a vinyasa yoga practice.  Kevin joked warmly with us as we all traversed into the foreign territory, and did his best to diffuse our self-consciousness. An hour into the class I found myself wishing the workshop was longer, and that I could have easier access to Kevin’s unique blend of modalities.

Kevin ended our practice with an intense round of kapalabhati pranayama. He turned on some driving, but not over the top, techno music and instructed us to raise our arms up in a “V” with our hands high above our heads; wrists flexed and palms pressing flat towards the sky. After a few deep cleansing breaths, the short forceful exhalations of kapalabhati commenced. And continued…and continued…and continued. This kundalini practice lasted well over ten minutes, with no stopping, no pausing between rounds- arms raised all the while.

At one point I found myself standing on the precipice of complete exhaustion…tears of some kind of emotional-somatic release poised in my eyes. “Those of you who are struggling, just know that there are at least 25 other people in this room supporting you.” Kevin told us. I thought of my Dad back at Beth Israel. I thought of his journey, and the big life-changing things he was facing. I offered up the breath to him, praying for his health and return to wellness with every intake of oxygen. I felt the community of yogis in the studio around me, and even the yogis of my own Tribe back home. I felt connected. I felt the unity. I felt the yoga.

It was an empowering practice.

More about Kevin:

Kevin Courtney is known for his spontaneous and creative vinyasa classes, combining the use of kundalini kriyas, qigong techniques, and vinyasa sequences to create a deeply ecstatic experience. A graduate of Integral Yoga Institute’s Hatha and Raja yoga trainings, and the Nosara Yoga Institute’s Interdisciplinary TT, Kevin draws influence and inspiration from a broad range of experiences, creating union through many paths of yoga. He lives in New York City with his wife Dana, and teaches at the Kula Yoga Project. Yogahappens.com