Saturday, June 29, 2013

Yoga Lessons from Trees

Tree Teacher
Some of the advantages of taking yoga lessons from trees are that the classes are on-going and open 24 hours a day!
A great way to begin is by observing any tree that catches your attention. When you feel ready, follow the silent instructions of the tree and move into the shape demonstrated by the tree. Move with inner guidance and intuition into your own felt interpretation of the shape. Extra Bonus:You might notice that you have more energy for sustaining dynamic yoga poses out in an oxygen rich forest setting!

Monday, June 24, 2013

Stay on the Path!

Rock art/inspiration.
     Traveling without an exact plan brings up some uneasy feelings from time to time. My basic need for security is challenged, which ignites some questions from the 'what if...' part of my brain. What if I am wasting precious time? What if I don't have enough of this, that, and the other? What if I loose this, that, and the other?

I'm taking a sojourn with trust that I will be guided along the way. I know that if I stay present and awake, it will be clear what to do (or not do) in any given moment.

Just keep breathing.

On the outside, the road I'm traveling doesn't look much different than the road I've always been on. It's my understanding that feels different. Life feels more interesting now that I'm not spending energy as 'Director of Every Detail and Outcome'. I have given that job back to The Universe. I appreciate the subtle, as well as the loud blaring signs that are guiding me along. Keep Going, read the rock. My instincts interpret this message as a reminder to keep tending to the inhale/exhale, as my path.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Oasis in the Concrete

The yoga studio in the mission district of San Francisco stopped me in my tracks. An entire day of walking around and feeling the street life had me drooling outside the door for a yoga class. I needed to land more fully in my body without trying to comprehend the state of the streets for an hour or so.
Once up the extra tall flight of stairs, I was not surprised by the beauty of the studio. I've never been to an uninviting yoga studio and this one was no exception. Sure, the outside looks like a prison, but inside was a stunning oasis of light, natural coloring, and space. The volunteer checking me in at the desk received unlimited classes as a barter exchange, which I imagined to explain the glow she had going on. Like many yoga studios, they provided the mats, and because it was a donation based happy-hour class, I felt extra grateful for the savings. I basked in this mind/body saving retreat for under $10.00, a real yoga deal.
I ended up being the only participant in the 4:30pm Friday class. I tried to let the teacher off the hook, but thankfully she didn't go for it. She said she'd be happy to teach for just me. I decided to believe her, and we had the private class. What a heart warming, body repairing session! I left the sanctuary ready to roam the streets for another several hours, this time with restored nerves and a centered mind.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Sound Medicine
     Even though my stomach was upset from the curvy road driving and lack of proper nutrition, having my close friend up from central California was still a favorite treat. After entertaining her children with trinket shops and talk of going to the wax museum, we wandered down to the wave organ to do some ocean listening. I recognized that the kids had lost some enthusiasm as we approached what looked like not much of anything, the wave organ.

The wave organ makes the best sounds during a full or new moon, but one of the pipes was still producing some ambient sounds from the sea during this particular half moon. To my grateful amazement, the deep and primal sound of the gurgling water had an immediate healing effect on my upset stomach! I was both surprised and not surprised by this. I know we are connected to nature and made mostly of water ourselves, but never had I experienced this kind of direct sound medicine from the sea! We all walked away feeling more attuned and balanced.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Harbor Seal Flow


     Today I had just the lesson I needed from the harbor seals in Half Moon Bay. The seals were basking, playing, and sometimes passionately arguing on the warm sand. Some would find their way back out to sea on purpose, while others just waited to be drawn back in by the certainty of the ebb. In either case, they did so not only with grace, but seemingly with glee. They inspired me to move my own body in a relaxed and playful way, and communicate as needed. Even more importantly, they seemed to say, 'it's totally okay to chill out.' I could not agree more. 

Monday, June 10, 2013

Arriving and Exhaling on the West Coast

West coast welcome
     A one-way ticket brought me here yesterday morning, but not as smoothly as my mind/body would have wanted. The baggage, even after many weeks of what I thought was precision packing, was still way too heavy for comfort. The Osprey Porter backpack was loaded down so much that one of the straps is already tearing apart at the seams. My carry-on roller case felt like it was full of boulders. At least I was able to sling it around and make it look easier than it felt. I did not fall down any escalators and I boarded public transportation in the quick time demanded. Today, my back, hips and neck feel strained.

Inquiring into the tension, I discover that although my mind was ready to travel, my body was still holding on for dear life as I knew it. The next few days will be dedicated to breathing, with a special emphasis on the exhale, and releasing tension in my body. Many weeks will unfold here in the presence of another inspiring body of water. The breathing tide is already showing me the way.

Yoga lesson: Focus on the letting go nature of the exhale throughout the day. Every out-going breath is an opportunity to let go of past and future concerns. Every in-coming breath is an invitation to be present. Do you have a wandering, planning, reviewing mind? Yes? Ok, notice those tendencies as they arise, then return to the exhale as mainstay of the present moment.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Nature as Guru

Banks of the Mississippi river
     It was a long and magical winter, living in close proximity to the Mississippi river. I've always loved the Mighty Miss, but had never felt her true power until living just a few blocks away. Sleeping close to the river, waking up close to the river, I got her message and it was clear. Go with the flow. "Yes, I do that already," I answered. "No, I mean really go with the flow," the river seemed to be insisting. "Trust yourself, trust the world, trust the flow."

I thought about the river valley and the strong tree roots connected to the river banks. "Stay rooted and go with the flow." It was an overnight realization, that I could live like the freedom of a river.

In a few days I will be heading out for some extended adventures in yoga (life).  Perhaps making all sorts of plans was necessary in order to explain this urge to depart from routine. My logical brain and the rational world wanted to know exactly what I was planning to do. Plans were an important part of the process and helped me to make sure I got on my way. Now that I am on my way, I have thrown my plans out the window and am back to trusting the river energy. Bold, fluid, trusting. The teachings of the rivers & trees have been inspiring yoga teachers for thousands of years.

Sunday, June 2, 2013


Too much stuff?
    As I prepare to live simply without an external home base for awhile, it seems obvious that having a bunch of stuff to tote around would be burdensome. Still, my first attempts at packing for this journey included 20 pounds of yoga books, way too many shoes, and hair products that I haven't used in many years. Am I hanging onto some image of myself from the 8th grade and trying to bring it with me? Who knows. Feelings of attachment were coming out of the woodwork and into my luggage. Dragging the past around is incredibly heavy. I would much prefer to take this open-ended adventure with 2 carry-on pieces of luggage, so I'm hoping most of these things will not make the final cut. Packing is a very insightful part of a journey. 

Minimalism is very appealing.  It has me wondering, what keeps me from such a lifestyle? A hoarding mentality? Looking at Patanjali's 8 limbs of yoga, aparigraha reminds us to take only what is necessary. To collect or hoard things implies a lack of trust in the Universe to provide for the future. Aparigraha also speaks of letting go of attachments in order to understand that impermanence and change are the only constants in life. This ancient philosophy may inspire me to get a little lighter. If not, I will practice accepting my choice to have more "comforts" then I can comfortably carry.