December 02, 2010

Holiday Schedule 2010

Amazingly enough the holiday season is upon us once again. I am happy to report that none of the holidays occur on any regular class there will be no cancellations. So take advantage of this time when the stress levels can rise, to return home to your practice and to the solace that it brings. There is no better time than the present to be at one with yourself so that you can freely share your spirit with others.

Whatever this season brings for you I hope it is filled with much love, light and laughter. All of which we can find within ourselves.


September 22, 2010

Balancing an Unbalanced Body, Mind and Soul

I was a few minutes late and the door was closed and people were all kinds of posed, lights low and I just figured it was terrible manners to walk in on a calm atmosphere like that all loud & late (since I am no delicate butterfly when I enter a room)... Defeated I turned around headed back down the hall and ran smack dab into a pregnant woman all geared up in YOGA wear

"Oh hi --are you in the YOGA class?"

"Yes I am"

"Did it start already? I don't want to be rude"

"No I just think people are getting situated its ok to go in"

"Well its my first time here I was unsure what to expect"

"Mine too" she says and we exchanged pleasantries and I followed her lead as we entered the room

It was spectacular...had I not lived in Chicago myself I would have never felt we were in the middle of the city (ok except that the train came by quite a few It was a huge lofted old warehouse space..hardwood floors, exposed brick walls, cool lighting and stairs leading to an outside terrace adorned with flowers and all sorts of zen.

I didn't know what to expect as I took my place on the floor next to an older woman who didn't so much as smile at me. I was happy when the instructor welcomed all the "new faces" and some of the regulars clapped as the class began. At first I loathed the bodies around me. These women had long, lean amazing, amazing bodies and then it hit me...I WANT to be in a YOGA class with women who look like this...they are a very good example of what the outcome may be if I stick with it.

I "centered" myself, but struggled to keep my eyes closed at first and be one with my breathing. But then the stretching, and tree poses, my cat and dog and downward dog felt amazing, my sun pose was spectacular and my body started to quiver as I stood on one leg and tried to balance a body so totally and completely foreign to trying to center itself to anything or be one with any sort of calm or balance in its life.

I did get really into it though.

I loved the instructor and her soothing voice, I loved the atmosphere, the people grew on me when I realized we were all in the same boat, I was happy with my cute little YOGA outfit and secretly prayed to God to give me a body JUST like the woman in front of me.

After a good stretch in my child's pose and rocking myself side to side....the class was coming to an end. She slowly talked us into being completely flat on our backs, palms upward, arms at a 45* angle at our sides...softly speaking to let us know where we should "be" as she walked around the room shutting off the lights one by one.

When all was silent and the room pitch black I closed my eyes and was completely alone in my own head.

And for the first time in a loooong time I felt calmness come over me, peace in my heart, spirit in my soul and the tears started to fall.....they ever so lightly rolled to the sides of my temples , into my hair releasing the pain I have been fighting inside for so long. I missed this "happy place" I forgot it existed within me, I didn't think I could find it without Doug in my life, I didn't think I had it in me to be "centered" with out someONE as opposed to someTHING making me feel better.

And the tears that come out when there is only pain....tonight brought me peace instead...

September 16, 2010

Welcome to Fall

Another summer has come, shared her immense beauty with us, and is now packing her bags. As we enter into the fall season remember that this is a wonderful time to deepen your yoga practice.

The days become shorter, encouraging us to become more introspective. The temperature becomes cooler allowing us to explore our own internal radiant fire with more gusto. The air is crisper and cleaner allowing us to practice our pranayama techniques with new vigor...

Although it is often hard to say goodbye to summer, each season, (yes even winter) brings with it a chance of renewal and excitement. May you find this approaching season filling you with purpose and joy......

"Summer is already better, but the best is autumn.
It is mature, reasonable and serious, it glows
moderately and not frivolously ... It cools down,
clears up, makes you reasonable ...
- Valentin

June 16, 2010

Oil Spill Got You Down? Don't fret, seize the opportunity —Sheryl Eisenberg

In 1968, when I learned about the population bomb in biology class, I was overwhelmed. The planet was heading for disaster and there was nothing I could do to stop it. In the 70s, it was nuclear weapons; in the 80s, the ozone hole. This spring, it's the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. But these days I know something I didn't know then. There is always something I/you/we can do.

I don't mean we can erase the disaster that has already occurred. That's oil under the bridge—and if we're unlucky, into the Gulf Stream. What we can do is help prevent recurrence. For recurrence is not only likely but inevitable as long as we allow offshore drilling, depend on oil and, indeed, continue to consume energy as if there were an unlimited supply.

Therefore, this is the time—when we are sick at the thought of the workers killed, sea turtles and other endangered species harmed, fisheries ruined, coastline polluted and coral reefs destroyed—to change our lives.

To begin, we must change our mindset.

We are running on borrowed energy. Oil is just one part of the problem—and oil spills just one of the risks. The trouble is our whole fossil fuel driven way of life. There is not a big enough store of fossil fuels on earth to sustain it, and if there were, it would only make matters worse. Prices would go down and use would go up. The environmental costs of extraction would rise and the climate would be wrecked that much sooner and more completely, perhaps irretrievably so.

We who care need to follow Gandhi's dictum and "be the change we wish to see in the world."

Here's how.

Step 1: Drive less. Do you hop in the car whenever you need something? Zigzag across the landscape to perform errands in opposite directions? Drive where you could easily walk? Join the club.

Americans burn up gas so freely because it hardly seems to cost them anything. The price at the pump is deceptively low and the true price—environmental destruction—is hard to recognize.

But for this brief moment in time, thanks to the oil spill, we can connect the dots. Use the opportunity to change the way—and amount—you drive. Plan your trips. Carpool. Walk. Bike. Give public transportation a chance.

Step 2: Care and repair. Cars and appliances, along with virtually everything else in our consumer culture, are considered more or less disposable nowadays. Since we expect to replace them, we don't keep them in good working order. Thus, they continue to operate, but grow less and less efficient, eating up energy unnecessarily when they run.

So take your car for regular tune-ups, keep the tires inflated, change your air conditioner filters, lubricate the moving parts of motors and do all those other pesky maintenance tasks recommended in the manuals.

Step 3: Get energy-efficient equipment. The difference between conventional products and energy-efficient ones can be quite staggering. For instance, an incandescent bulb uses four times as much energy to produce a given quantity of light as a compact fluorescent bulb—and 10 times as much as an LED. Yes, the energy-efficient alternatives cost more to buy, but they also cost less to operate. Besides, becoming the change you want to see in the world includes paying more for a cleaner, safer future. So, shop for Energy Star appliances and factor fuel economy into your choice of car.

Step 4: Go local—and not just with food. It's simple: goods need to be transported to market. The shorter the distance, the less energy required. Therefore, look for products made close to home.

Step 5: Change your habits. Today's norm is to live wastefully, but you don' t have to go along. To save energy:

• Turn off lights when not in use.
• Wash full loads of dishes and laundry.
• Air dry both.
• Change your clothes before the thermostat.
• Unplug chargers and always-on appliances.
• Reuse and recycle.
• Eat less meat.

Step 6: Buy less stuff. It takes energy to produce goods. Think twice before you throw it away on things you do not need.

Whatever you do, don't let this moment pass without some step toward change.

June 10, 2010

Yoga and Pregnancy...Perfect Partners by Emily Kneer

It was a shock to me when I learned that I was pregnant. Well, maybe not that big of a shock, but still, I did feel my whole world tilt sideways for a while.

So many questions—How does this work? (We’re going to need some books! Which books?!) What can I eat? What can’t I eat? When? What do I do about work? My job is so physical—can I continue working? For how long?

On and on the questions arose, and I found myself wondering, How will being pregnant affect my yoga practice? How long will I be able to continue practicing? And then later in my pregnancy, when I was more comfortable with the idea of being pregnant, the question became, How will yoga affect my pregnancy?

In the beginning, pregnancy didn’t affect my practice at all. I felt pretty good! I was still able to do all the poses and activites I always could do. I was tired pretty often and practice was taxing after a long day, but it was important to my self-esteem to do “as much as I could for as long as I could.” These were explicit doctor’s orders too, and I clung to them as my mantra as the weeks went by. Since I didn’t know exactly how my body was going to change, I was uncertain as to when would be the last time I could do a beloved pose or when I would have to dial down the intensity on the tough stuff.

Further into the first trimester and on through the second, I felt particularly betrayed by my body—I felt I couldn’t trust it anymore. My body’s chemistry, shape, balance, and distribution were all changing on me, and I had zero control over it. I was mad at my body for not being able to do what I demanded of it. That’s when yoga first started affecting my pregnancy. I had to start being forgiving of myself, in my practice and in life. I had to learn to be patient with my body, to think before I demanded something of myself, and to listen to what my body or the little voice in my head said. These were skills I had learned in practice but had not taken into my life yet. And by learning to take these skills into my life, not only did my yoga practice affect my pregnancy, but also my pregnancy affected my yoga practice.

The third trimester brought on big shifts in my body as the baby put on weight. By this time, there were definitely activities and poses that I couldn’t do, but now I was skilled at listening, trusting, and forgiving myself for what I could no longer do. I was much more comfortable, both with the pregnancy and with being Pregnant Emily. (Besides, I had an active little Chili Pepper in there, a growing person that I was rather endeared to by that point!)

Frankly, I was able to do quite a lot even when I was quite far along in my pregnancy. Practice was still challenging, fulfilling, and fun. But in my day-to-day life, folks were really stepping up the rhetoric: “Oh, let me get that for you!” “Oh, you shouldn’t be lifting/pushing/pulling/standing like that!” and other comments of the like became increasingly common. I would laugh and graciously let the person help me, but I was thinking, “If you could see what I do in my yoga class, you’d know there’s no need to jump to my aid. I’m quite capable.” All in all, I had a healthy and easy pregnancy, and not only was I able to stay active longer than I expected, but my body was capable of more than I expected late in my pregnancy too.

By the time my nine months were up, I really could trust my body (although I guarantee you I was not pondering such abstracts at the time!). I had started out feeling betrayed by my body and the seemingly certain sharp decline of my physical capabilities, but I’d since come to realize that because of yoga, I could acutely and completely trust my body (and mind) on the journey of pregnancy. My practice had made me healthy, active, and mindful. I could trust my body to tell me when it had had enough and was tired or in discomfort. I had the presence of mind to listen and adjust without hesitation or judgment.

Moreover, and perhaps most importantly, I could trust my body to do what I asked of it during the delivery itself. I was focused, existing entirely in the present—not frightened or worried about the future. Because of my practice, I was able to relax on cue—so much so that I was able to doze between contractions and save my strength. I was able to quickly identify where I was holding tension and promptly let it go. And finally, being so familiar with my body and its groups of muscles, I was adept at focusing on the physical demands of delivery, allowing me to really isolate my pushes.

So, like so many relationships in this world, one condition helped the other, and vice versa. Yoga absolutely smoothed the path of my pregnancy, in so many ways. And being pregnant brought my yoga practice to a new level of challenge, patience, mindfulness, and forgiveness.

These lessons are continuing to evolve for me as I get back on the mat. I’m fighting hard to get back to the level at which I was practicing before I became pregnant. I’m also fighting hard to forgive myself as I slowly make my progress. But if I never get there again, that’s okay too. I have a sweet little daughter to look after!

May 24, 2010

The Summer Schedule is Almost Here!

Those of you that have studied with me for any length of time know two things. 1) That summer is unequivocally my favorite time of year and 2) that means specialty classes during June, July and August at the Tai Chi Center. Most years I've jammed packed the calendar with every variation of yoga I can teach making for a fun but perhaps dizzying array of practices. So this year will be a little different. We will continue to explore fun and new styles, but with a little more time for each one to evolve. Each exploration will develop over the course of a few weeks, and will be taught in the Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday night classes so everyone can be a part of it. Of course the teachings will be level appropriate. I am currently putting the final touches on the schedule and I will post it on the web page as soon as I do. As always, I'm looking forward to a summer of great yoga, and I hope you are too!

April 20, 2010

Happy Earth Day...April 22 2010 !

My favorite quote for Earth Day is simply "Everyday is Earth Day" by an unknown author. Indeed, if we treated Mother Earth in this manner things would be very different today. But as spring flowers are blooming and the trees budding and the chirp of birds returning I find I am still very passionate about the beauty of this Earth, despite the dire situation we've put her in. Passionate enough to try and live everyday as if it were Earth Day. Here are a few more quotes that I love, as well as a few ways to help keep Mother Earth happy.....Have a blessed Earth Day!

"Earth provides enough to satisfy every man's need, but not every man's greed." Mahatma Ghandi, Spiritual Leader 1869-1948

"I only went out for a walk and finally concluded to stay out till sundown, for going out, I found, was really going in." John Muir, Preservationist 1838-1914

"To see a world in a grain of sand, And a heaven in a wild flower, Hold infinity in the palm of your hand, And eternity in an hour." William BlakePoet, painter1757-1827

Some "green" tips:
Consider going vegetarian, at least occasionally. There is more toxic waste produced from animal fields, slaughter, processing, and distribution that there is pollution from passenger cars. And besides, going veggie is paramount in the practice of of the first rules of yoga..."non harming".

Shop everywhere with re-usable bags. Some stores even offer you a discount if you bring your own bag. And some are now offering to plant a tree if you purchase one of their re-usable bags.

Turn off the water when you brush your teeth, or combine teeth brushing with showering.Collect the running bath water while you wait for it to heat up for your shower. You can use it on plants, to wash dishes, or the next time you flush the toilet.

Recycle your old yoga mat. They make great sticky strips for drawers, closets, or shoe racks. They provide extra cushioning on a hard chair. You can also cut it into really small pieces and use it for packaging padding. (remember to tell the recipient of your package to re-use it too!)

Don't throw away that junk mail. Much of it can be used for scratch paper!

Wash out freezer baggies and re-use them. I find I can get at least 10 uses out of one bag before it's spent. Saves money too!

Switch to organic, eco friendly products wherever you can. It really makes a big impact. And pretty soon the farmers markets will be them and support sustainability!

Go to Uncommon Ground on Devon Ave and order a "tree-tini". For every '"tree-tini" purchased a tree is planted....and it's yummy too!

However you celebrate Earth Day, I hope you do it with a smile! That too makes the Earth a much better place!

April 18, 2010

Look Well To This Day

Many of you have commented on the simple beauty of this and last months closing proverb. I'd like to post it for you so that it is yours whenever you want to refer to it. Enjoy

Look Well To This Day

Look well to this day for it is life
The very life of life
In it's brief course lie all the realities and verities of existence
The bliss of growth
The splendor of action
The glory of power

For yesterday is but a dream
And tomorrow is only a vision,
But today, well lived, makes every yesterday a dream of happiness
And every tomorrow a vision of hope

Look well, therefore, to THIS day

January 01, 2010

Resolve to Evolve

Give your New Year's resolutions a yogic twist—set an intention and infuse the New Year with positive change. By Catherine Guthrie

A new year's resolution is a noteworthy concept—start off the year with a change for the better. So how did it devolve into a subconscious exercise in self-loathing? Lose 10 pounds! (Message to self: You're fat.) Stop drinking caffeine! (You're unhealthy.) Call Mom and Dad once a week! (You're ungrateful.) Why not celebrate this new year by trading in your tired (and probably familiar) resolutions for a Samkalpa instead?

A Sanskrit word, Samkalpa means "will, purpose, or determination." To make a Samkalpa is to set an intention—it's like a New Year's resolution with a yogic twist. While a resolution often zeros in on a perceived negative aspect of ourselves (as in, "I want to lose weight, so no more chocolate chip cookies or ice cream or cheese"), a Samkalpa explores what's behind the thought or feeling ("I crave chocolate chip cookies or ice cream or cheese when I'm feeling stressed or sad. I will set an intention to become conscious of this craving and allow my feelings to arise and pass, rather than fill up on fats").

A Samkalpa also praises the nobility of the effort rather than focusing on what you are doing wrong. "New Year's resolutions leave me feeling guilty and mad at myself for not keeping them," says Wendy McClellan, a yoga teacher in Louisville, Kentucky. So, last year, in a conscious effort to reject the resolution rut, she taught a special New Year's Eve yoga class and encouraged students to look back and let go. Her intention or Samkalpa? To open her heart to new possibilities. "An intention has much more of a global sense than a resolution," she says. "It helps me be softer with myself." With a Samkalpa, the self-loathing that comes from dwelling on past transgressions can begin to dissolve. In its place is an exercise in effort and surrender—create an intention and open yourself to the universe.

Samkalpa Setting

LOOK INWARD For several days, set aside time to write in a journal and meditate. Mull over your typical resolutions. How do they make you feel? Anxious? Unsettled? Incomplete? Now contemplate how you would like to feel during the coming year. Is there any way you can reframe your results-oriented resolutions into something that will make this year's journey more joyful and worthwhile?
REPHRASE IT Create a short sentence or phrase for your Samkalpa. Be careful not to set limitations based on fear. For example, instead of "May life bring me only happiness and joy this year" consider "May I be happy and open to what life brings me."
BE FIRM BUT FAIR Change doesn't happen overnight. When you stray from the essence of your Samkalpa, don't berate yourself. Instead, gently remind yourself of your intention. But be firm in your resolve—it's a good idea to incorporate your Samkalpa into your daily routine. Use it as a mantra during pranayama or meditation practice; post it on your computer, phone, or mirror; or simply say it to yourself quietly before going to sleep. —C.G