I was at the window
when a fly near the latch
was on its back spinning—
legs furious, going nowhere.
I thought to swat it
but something in its struggle
was too much my own.
It kept spinning and began to tire.
Without moving closer, I exhaled
steadily, my breath a sudden wind
and the fly found its legs,
rubbed its face
and flew away.
I continued to stare at the latch
hoping that someday, the breath
of something incomprehensible
would right me and
enable me to fly.
The initial thing that we do as individuals is to take our first breath. We are brought into this world dependent upon the person who birthed us. Taking in oxygen through the miraculous placenta and umbilical cord is something we do from the support of the body we are housed in utero; our lungs are collapsed and don’t take in air at this point. The first action we carry out on our own is to fill our lungs with air and breathe… this may come as a scream or cry but it is still our first breath.
Before I became pregnant I was unaware of this.
After witnessing the miracle of birth and the first breath of my son Everett, I know now without a doubt that there is even more fascination with the breath that I have yet to discover.
During the first month with my baby it was interesting to watch his little body become accustomed to breathing on his own. There were moments when he would breathe more rapidly; others that were more sporadic, and often lengthy stretches of time would go by without a breath. As a new parent it was very unnerving and I was on the edge of my seat waiting to hear his next breath. My husband Jeff and I were constantly checking him during his sleep to hear his breath.
When Everett turned two months old I would watch him take long sweet deep breaths into his belly. It is the breath of trust, love, and simplicity. The weight of the world wasn’t weighing down on him and he doesn’t even know what the word stress means. He was in a constant state of rest and digest of the parasympathetic nervous system.
Now that he is six months old, the world is starting to open up to him and I can see that his emotions are beginning to take charge. The perceived stress from not being able to grab a toy just out of his reach, when he wants a sip of my tea, or wants to play with something that isn’t for six months old to play with gets him worked up. When this is happening I pick him up, hold him to my chest and breathe deeply. Often I’ll add a sigh so that he can hear it and feel my breath on his chest. Almost instantly his body responds and he calms down. This is all the proof I need to know that these pranayama practices work.
Prana is vitality, life force energy, and respiration. Yama means to extend, regulate, and control. The two words coming together to form Pranayama meaning to extend our vitality and respiration, as well as move energy throughout our body with different breath exercises. Pranayama can help regulate our mood, digest our food and emotions, and bring us into the present moment. What always amazes me is that this is what our body is built and naturally equipped to do.
As life starts to get more complicated, our natural inclination of taking those deep belly breaths starts to decline and it can become a habit to keep the breath at a shallow place in our chest. Stress and anxiety can cause us to take more shallow breaths as a response to fight or flight, operating from the sympathetic nervous system. We become wired for stress and anxiety, and this becomes a normal way of going about life. When this happens it can be very easy to find a quick fix that will mask the stress in the form of something that can be damaging like alcohol or drugs.
What if we could just trust in this built in pranic system that we already have inside of us that the yogis discovered hundreds of years ago. It only takes a few seconds to close your eyes take a deep inhale and a deeper exhale.
Now if only as adults we had someone around us at all times to pick us up, hold us against their chest and remind us to breathe.
Being a mother is my biggest daily reminder that life is so precious and that each breath is amazing and each breath counts.
“There is one way of breathing that is shameful and constricted. Then, there’s another way: a breath of love that takes you all the way to infinity.” – Rumi
Come join us this Sunday 2/21/16 to help clean up Ocean Beach! We will be meeting at 11:30am on the beach where you enter on Noriega. Bring garbage bags (or smaller bags), gloves, and layers. We discovered that sifters are nice to have since there are very small pieces of plastic strewn about and it helps to separate the plastic from the seaweed and sand. Hope to see you there!
For all that has been written,
for all that has been read, we
are led to this instant where one
of us will speak and one of us will
listen, as if no one has ever placed
an oar into that water.
It doesn’t matter how we come
to this. We may jump to it or be
worn to it. Because of great pain.
Or a sudden raw feeling that this
is all very real. It may happen in a
parking lot when we break the eggs
in the rain. Or watching each other
in our grief.
But here we will come. With very
little left in the way.
When we meet like this, I may not
have the words, so let me say it now:
Nothing compares to the sensation
of being alive in the company of
another. It is God breathing on
the embers of our soul.
Stripped of causes and plans
and things to strive for,
I have discovered everything
I could need or ask for
is right here—
in flawed abundance.
We cannot eliminate hunger,
but we can feed each other.
We cannot eliminate loneliness,
but we can hold each other.
We cannot eliminate pain,
but we can live a life
we are small living things
awakened in the stream,
not gods who carve out rivers.
Like human fish,
we are asked to experience
meaning in the life that moves
through the gill of our heart.
There is nothing to do
and nowhere to go.
we can do everything
and go anywhere.
Someone asked me last week what good ways of reducing plastic are. I have been mulling over this and after Everett and I did a little beach clean up as we walked this morning the answers were so clear. Looking at all the trash that we picked up today I would say about 85% of what was in our trash bag today was related to packaging of processed foods...from chip bags, nutrition bar wrappers, to sauce packets from fast food, and the winner...plastic caps from water bottles, milk cartons, soft drinks etc....
Eat less processed foods! It's way more healthier for your body, but also the environment! I know I'm preaching to the choir for the majority of my friends on FB, but maybe this is a good way of spreading it even more to the masses. Here are some ways that I am inspired to reduce my plastic consumption. I am sure it will grow, and I would love to hear your ideas...here's my list:
1. Buy food from farmers markets - no packaging is needed, if you need a bag to put it in, use a reusable produce bag
2. Buy food from bulk bins and reuse the bags that you put them in, place the items in glass jars after getting home because it preserves it better anyhow
3. Don't drink water from plastic bottles, invest in a hydroflask, kleen kanteen or re use a glass bottle from other drinks that are purchased
4. Eat foods that don't come in packaging (unless it's citrus, bananas, avocado, eggs that has his own wrapping)
5. Use biodegradable bags instead of plastic when ever possible, re use biodegradable bags for your compost
6. If you must use plastic make sure it's recyclable
Thank you for reading, thank you for caring. I hope we all can motivate each other to keep making a difference.
It has been a long time since I have been on my mat. Having a baby and recovering have kept me away, this week was the first time I unrolled my mat and attempted at some sort of practice. I must say that I was half expecting to just get on there and have things be as they were before, but that is far from what my experience had in store. It was very humbling to arrive at a place I haven't been in a long time, back to the beginning.
Every movement created a sensation that I have long forgotten, sensations that you feel when you are just discovering and stepping into your practice.
I know this is going to be a long and slow journey back, and I am actually looking forward to feeling the newness and discovering these postures all over again, but this time with such different eyes. I will be treating the practice like it was my baby, attentively with care from a place of nurturing and love.
I am planning on taking the next 2 months of finding out how my body moves now, slowly building strength, and using the practice to heal. I am excited about how this could potentially change my teaching with a greater understanding from this side of things.
I am excited to say that my first classes back teaching will be in the New Year, Tuesday January 5th and Thursday the 7th 9:30 - 10:45am at Purusha Yoga. Slowly making the transition back into teaching I will hold these classes for a bit and gradually add more in as it fits.
When I was growing up, I remember my mom taking sign language classes and coming home to show us kids the different signs. “Thank you”, “Please”, “What’s wrong with you” (my favorite) and “I love you” (still used to this day whenever I say goodbye to my mom). This was my first introduction to understanding that our hands can speak, our gestures have meanings, and our body language can say something
In asana practice we use different poses to do the same thing, connect and personify movements, gestures, and intentions with our body. Whether traditional poses brought to us by yogi’s past, or newer poses from the west, when we move our body with this kind of awareness we are creating language with our limbs.
Mudras are sign language (seals) of the soul. They are gestures to take our intentions further with the use of our hands. I have even heard them expressed as icing on the asana cake, something to bring us more fully into the present moment. We can use our hands, which can often times be limp or unexpressive or forgotten about in practice, to drive the pose deeper and bring more awareness. To seal the deal, so to speak.
One mudra that always seems to be speaking to me is the Ksepana Muda, the gesture of pouring out and letting go. As human beings we are constantly changing, shape shifting, and transforming who we are. The idea behind the Ksepana mudra is that we let go of the layers that no longer fit us: the identity, the preconceived ideas of ourselves, and the stuff that just doesn’t have any room in our lives anymore.
I often refer to the body as a storage unit. We accumulate past traumas, dramas, memories, habits, addictions, toxins, movements, and thoughts. It takes a constant clearing out process to help eliminate whatever negative energy we are storing and free that space up for what’s good. The entire practice of yoga is geared toward this action and to free of these things that bind us.
The Ksepana Mudra functions curiously like a hose. The fingers are clasped together, while the index fingers point out towards the ground, and the thumbs cross over each other. You can envision a stream of sludge or sewage pouring out of the index fingers unclogging the muck that has been stored for years, decades, or lifetimes. This mudra is to be held for 7–15 breaths with the concentration on the exhale.
It is no wonder that this mudra also stimulates elimination through the skin (sweat), lungs, and large intestines, releasing stored tensions as well for a physical and emotional clearing. It is all part of the letting go process.
With a baby on the way less then five weeks out, I find this mudra quite appropriate for my life. I am in a constant state of clearing and uncluttering my apartment, my body and mind. There has got to be an emptying out of my life to ensure space for this little one when he arrives. I don’t want my baggage to be stored in his closet so to speak.
An interesting occurrence I have recently been witnessing is my absorption of other people’s energy. This month I attended a large, 3-day music and arts festival here in San Francisco, surrounded by many people in a different situation than I was and found myself needing to have as much space as possible. Not only did I feel crowded but also like a sponge absorbing other’s energy that wasn’t always pure or aware. The Ksepana Mudra can help with draining the unconscious energy we pick up from others that we don’t want to hold onto.
Gertrud Hirschi, author of the book MUDRAS – Yoga in Your Hands, offers an affirmation to go along with the Ksepana mudra. “Spent energy in my body, mind and soul flows away from me, and I thankfully accept all things that refresh me.”
As you hold the mudra and think these positive thoughts you can envision the sludge becoming expulsed with each exhale; becoming more clear, all the while, knowing that this process of pouring out and letting go is a constant and gradual practice.
As time gets closer to Baby Starr's arrival, I am winding my classes down. It is harder to let go of classes I have put my heart and soul into than I thought it would be! ! I am filled with so much love, gratitude, excitement, and also sadness as I let the strings start to loosen.
Here is my wind down schedule for Laughing Lotus Yoga SF
Last Sunday 10 am Lotus 2/3 - August 23
Last Friday 10:15am Lotus 2 - August 28
Last Thursday 5:30pm Happy Hour - September 3
And for Purusha Yoga School
Last Saturday 11:30am class - August 22
Last Friday 5:45pm class - September 4
Last Tuesday 9:30am class - September 8
LAST CLASS Thursday 9:30 am class - September 10
One of my favorite by-products of being a yoga teacher is that for a duration of time we get to become DJ’s. I love digging through music sites, making playlists, and finding new songs to inspire. Music can be a great tool to drive your practice deeper and we are vibrational beings that respond to vibration. There is a beautiful connection that can occur between our body and soul when we resonate to sounds during a heart-opening experience such as yoga.
This practice of connection is called Nada Yoga.
When we consciously move our bodies in harmony with our breath we are attuning the internal vibration (anahata); when we dance to music, we move through the external vibration (ahata). The external and internal worlds have a hypnotizing, spiritual partnership that is evident in our bodies, our world and throughout the cosmos. We connect to this when we chant the sounds of Om.
This leads me into one of my favorite theories, entrainment, which is an aspect of sound that is closely related to the way rhythm affects us. Entrainment happens when one powerful rhythmic vibration of an object causes a less powerful vibration of another object to oscillate at the first objects rate.
We feel this when listening to a song and we start to tap our feet to the rhythm. Or, when a pendulum is swinging and syncs with another that was originally at a different pace.
In our body we are always in a state of entrainment as our heart rate, respiration and brain waves entrain each other. When we are flowing in the middle of a vinyasa and the music is playing, often times we feel like we are moving and synced with the music, tuning deeper into our breath. At the end of a class, when we are sitting in meditation and slowing our breath, our heartbeat starts to decrease as well. The same concept happens with music. When we listen to fast pace music our heart rate rises and when the sound is softer, our heart rate slows. A research paper by Doctors Janet and Hobart Landreth called “Effects of Music on Physiological Response” reported that heart rate changes were directly related to changes in tempo.”
Recently, I have been more aware of how important sound is now that I have been pregnant for nearly six months. To think that this little one inside of me is listening to not only my heart beat, but also my tummy growling, my respiration, and the outside sounds around me! (How crazy is that?!?) I find myself becoming more aware of what I say, the music I am listening to, the people I surround myself with, the conversations I have, the movies I watch, and even the thoughts that I have.
I am a lover of electronic music and it is often remarked by class-goers that my playlists makes people feel as if they are on the Burning Man playa in Black Rock City. However, I am not sure that my little one in utero is quite ready for that just yet. I have been finding softer versions of songs, and trading out dubstep for chillstep, Nine Inch Nails for the Rockabye Baby Lullaby version of Nine Inch Nails songs.
In his paper “On the Effects of Lullabies” Johannes Kneutgen reported on the soothing effects of lullabies played for infants and noted that breathing rhythms became synchronized with the rhythm of the music. Using the idea of Nada yoga connecting the outside vibration to the internal vibration I find it a beautiful way to not only find a deeper connection within myself, but also to this little Starr inside.
Be careful of your thoughts, for your thoughts become your words. Be careful of your words, for your words become your actions. Be careful of your actions, for your actions become your habits. Be careful of your habits, for your habits become your character. Be careful of your character, for your character becomes your destiny. -- Chinese proverb, author unknown
Savasana = Ar intch lav er by Armand Amar & Levon Minassian
Cleaning out my laptop, I found this video that I took this video about 30 minutes before finding out I was pregnant, boy has my practice changed since then!!!
Happy New Year Everyone, I hope this finds you healthy and happy!
I am trying something new for 2015, and focusing on cultivating ease in bringing all items on my back burner to the front burner. I have been wanting to teach this workshop for years now and for some reason or another something gets in the way. Without further ado, I will be teaching my first workshop series this month starting Tuesday, January 20th at 5:30 - 7pm Purusha Yoga School!!!! This will be a 6 week series that focuses on one of my favorite aspects of the asana practice - ARM BALANCES!!! Here is a bit of info below:
This is an all levels workshop that will focus on breaking down and explaining arm balances. We will be building strength by activating the bandhas, cultivating focus, and facing fears while
having fun! Poses will include Crow, Side Crow, Galavasana, Vishvamitrasana, Ashtavakrasana, Koundinasana and more!
It is $108.00 for all 6 weeks, or $25.00 for drop in!
Come hang out, try new things and fly with me!!!