Refilling Your Well, Holiday Edition

Kripalu is a heart home for me. I can’t pinpoint what it is, exactly, since the place is always changing. But it’s like the summer camp where I had my first kiss, except it’s a yoga retreat and I never kissed anyone there. I don’t know. Whether I’m able to articulate it or not, I love the place.

I first volunteered there over a decade ago, and lately I’ve been attending programs as an assistant with my teacher and friend. I’m incredibly excited to go this December. In the last ten years, I’ve somehow managed to miss winter there. I can only hope for snow.

And, you guys, it’s one of my favorite programs: Refilling Your Well. You can read more about the details of the program at the Kripalu site, but I can tell you it is an immersive nurturing experience with a mix of science and self-indulgence. Sounds good, right?

I really encourage people to do something like this at least once in their lives: a weekend dedicated to you and your personal health that is more than just pampering. It’s a learning opportunity with lasting lessons for self-care.

Are you interested? Because you’re invited.

Image from The Dual Life.

Do you wanna go out?

So much of my life is routine, even my practice. And I tend to be a homebody, which sometimes means spending a LOT of time in my studio apartment. One of the things I love about practicing outdoors is simply the shake up of it. It’s like crossing my feet in the non-habitual way. It just FEELS different.

I can’t help but connect with the air around me and the ground under my feet and get out of my own head. There’s just something about a real live breeze and the actual sunshine – GAH! – I just adore it. (Daily Downward Dog agrees.)

You can bring your mat outside anytime. If you’re like me, and appreciate a little structure to keep you going, here are some FREE outdoor classes in and around New York City.

These three are on my list.

Bryant Park
Classes are on the Upper Terrace on Tuesdays at 10 a.m. and on the lawn on Thursdays at 6 p.m. May-September

Gantry Plaza State Park
On Pier 1 August 12 at 10 a.m., September 9 at 5 p.m.

Socrates Sculpture Park
Kripalu yoga on Saturdays at 9:30 and 11 a.m. May
12–September 30

I haven’t tried these yet. Have you?

Chelsea 14th Street Park
Laughing Lotus yoga classes on Saturdays
at 9 a.m. June–August

Target East Harlem Community Garden
Saturdays at 11 a.m. May–September

Prospect Park
Thursday nights at 7 p.m. (near the
Grand Army Plaza entrance). May
24–September 6

Recommend: Magician, Heal Thyself

[image from GOOD magazine]

Sometimes, I think that reading about how someone else improved their life will help me improve mine. More often than not, it’s an escape fantasy. I can achieve inner peace, too, if only I started gardening or went to Tuscany or India or … did almost anything but immerse myself in my own life.

Scrambling down an internet rabbit hole while doing some research for a work project, I found this article by Starlee Kine called, “Magician, Heal Thyself!” She doesn’t offer advice or tell anyone how to do it. She hasn’t fixed herself, but she’s exploring. And her honesty is awesome.

Anna is from Olympia, Washington. This means if she were given a crystal for her birthday, she would say, “Oh my god, I love it!” and this would be the truth. Still we manage to get along because she’s good at trash-talking.

Leela and Chakra Game Play

Have you heard about Deepak Chopra’s latest venture, Leela? Launching today, it’s a meditation based video game where players work through the seven chakras focusing on movement and pranayama. The Leela website calls it:

a groundbreaking game concept that combines ancient relation and meditation techniques with technology to bring focus, energy and balance to your life.

The whole thing seems to be predicated on biofeedback, which makes sense to me. Yoga Dork is right, the demo makes the whole thing look pretty “trippy” (YD saw a live demo and reviewed the game. The demo I saw was on the Leela site.) but I have to say I’m intrigued.

I don’t think I’ll be going out to buy an Xbox anytime soon, so I’ll probably miss the opportunity to play. But who knows, maybe my niece and nephew will stop playing Lego Starwars long enough for me to sidle up to the Wii.

Student and Teacher

I often find myself looking outside for wisdom I later realize I already have. I forget that I’ve studied. That I know anatomy and physiology, that I know asana. And more than that, I forget to listen to the wisdom of my own instincts and my own body.

My back has been bothering me lately, and I went online today looking up yoga postures to ease the strain. What I found was a series of postures from Sadie Nardini (here) all of which, I realized, I have been doing on my own for the past couple of days.

I’ve been lingering in forward fold and pigeon in my daily practice. I stay in down dog and child’s pose for extra breaths. I found myself in wall plank at my niece’s birthday party yesterday, taking deep breaths as the cake pops were served.

Seeing an ‘expert’ affirm what I’d already been doing felt good, but it also reminded me that I know this. I know my body and what it needs. I’ll always look for advice from others because I’m always a student. But what I’m learning is more than a posture recommendation. I’m learning that sometimes I am my own best teacher, too.

Integrity Daily

I’ve been thinking about intention and integrity a lot lately. When I read anything from Gwen Bell, I feel a mix of admiration and envy. In this case, I am admiring her daily routine and taking inspiration from it. Intention and integrity from dawn to dusk. It sounds like hard work, and delicious.

This is an image of Gwen Bell from her site, linked above.

Will Soup Save Your Life?

[image via shutterstock]

Will this “joyless vegetable soup” help you live longer? That, I don’t know. But it looks easy to make, so I’m in!

Lured by a simple soup recipe, (below via Gawker) the soup is simply not the most interesting part of the, admittedly long, article about David Murdock, a billionaire obsessed with nutrition.

He wants to reach 125, and sees no reason he can’t, provided that he continues eating the way he has for the last quarter century: with a methodical, messianic correctness that he believes can, and will, ward off major disease and minor ailment alike.

[You can read the full article here, at the New York Times Magazine]

Doctors are skeptical, saying genes may trump soup. But I say a little extra veggie soup can’t hurt. And so does Murdock. Here’s the recipe, as quoted in Gawker.

Murdock Recipe: Vegetable Soup

1 quart organic vegetable broth

4 cups diced vegetables, like: ½ yellow onion, 1 medium carrot, large handful kale leaves, 1 medium zucchini, 1 medium tomato, 1 handful spinach, 1 handful green beans

2 tablespoons chopped fresh herbs, like basil and Italian parsley

Freshly ground black pepper and sea salt, to taste.

1. In a medium soup pot, heat broth to a boil, then reduce to simmer.

2. Add onion and carrots and simmer covered for 2 minutes. Add remaining vegetables and simmer until just tender.

3. Add fresh herbs and salt and pepper, to taste. Serves 4.

Head Cold Asana (Again)

I took some time off of work recently to focus, to work on Condo Yoga (shameless plug), and to get my head together. And you know what happened? I crashed. In bed with a cold for a couple of days, I didn’t cross anything off the to-do list I’d prepared for myself. I did, however, get some rest.

I’m feeling better, but still stuffy. So I searched in ye olde archives for some stuffy head yoga medicine, and found this post. It looks delicious, and I figured I’d share it again.

Here we go:

Usually when I practice at home I have an MP3 to guide me, or at least a cut out from Yoga Journal. When I just go it alone, I tend to get distracted. I know I’m supposed to be able to let the energy flow through me and guide me into poses that my body needs. But with this cold? Nothing is flowing. So, with a little research, here’s a Head Cold Plan:

Balasana (Child’s Pose)
This is a great way to start, especially when I haven’t really decided I want to be on my mat. It gives me time to get grounded and get excited for practice.

Adho Muka Svanasana (Downward-Facing Dog) Variation
I know, upside down with a head full of snot is not the most appealing thing. So, instead, I used the back of my couch for support. I put my hands on the back of the couch instead of the floor. This way, I can get the same gentle opening in the shoulders without inverting, and without stressing this body that’s been lying on the couch for 3 days.

Gate Pose
Back on the mat to your knees. I find it’s great to move from Child’s Pose into Gate and back out again. It adds a nice flowing movement. For Gate, come from Child’s Pose up onto your knees. Extend the right leg to the side, knee and foot and hips all facing forward. Then reach up out of your pelvis until the whole spine lifts. Once lifted, then tilt over to the right – extending the entire side body. Do both sides.

For a break, come into Hero’s Pose or back into Child’s Pose.

Ardha Matseyendrasana (Seated twist)
From Hero’s Pose, swing the right leg gently around to the front and cross it over the left with the right knee pointed up. Raise your right arm and lift the body out of the hips. Then hook the right arm over the right knee, or hold the knee into the chest. Twist slowly and breathe. Twist on both sides.

Paschimittanasana (Seated Forward Bend)
With both legs straight in front of you, rise up from the torso. Then extend the arms and go forward. Breathe here for 1-3 minutes. Inhale to come up. Don’t go too quickly. Breathe in a seated position for a couple of breaths.

Setu Bandha Sarvangasana (Supported Bridge Pose)
Lean back onto your back. Take a moment here to breathe. I was still a little wonked from the forward bend, so I stayed here for a couple rounds of breath. When I was ready I folded my knees into my chest and rocked a little, massaging the spine. THEN, I laid supine and prepared for supported bridge.

In this pose, you can support the torso on a block or bolster, depending on how open your chest is. After coughing for a day or two, my chest is not very open. So I opted for a rolled up blanket under my shoulder blades instead of a block. I love this pose. Stay here for as long as you can, opening the chest, breathing with your head and arms resting comfortably on the floor.

If you’re feeling it, go ahead into plow pose or shoulder stand. To be honest, even though I wrote down these poses, I didn’t end up doing them. Maybe next time.

Supta Baddha Konasana (Supine bound angle)
Take that rolled up blanket and lay down on it so it’s parallel to the spine. Bend the knees with feet touching, knees falling out. I love this pose.

Reclining Twist
Still on the back, having removed the bolster, go right into a supine twist. Pull one knee into the chest, across and toward the floor. Try to keep the shoulders on the floor and look over the opposite arm. Twist on both sides, taking your time.

Legs up the Wall
I actually didn’t think of this until I was writing all this up, but this might have been a nice addition here.

Savasana (Corpse Pose)
Breathe. My nose was still a little stuffy at this point, but I gave it the old College try and then just relaxed into whatever breathing I could muster.

Thanks to Yoga Journal’s Pose Guide for all the sanskrit names. I don’t know those by heart. Yet.

Renunciation and Dace in NY

At the Rubin Museum of Art Thomas Kelly exhibits striking photographs of sadhus, wandering ascetic of Huduism, called Body Language: The Yogis of India and Nepal.

And from those who renounce to those who dance. I’m also hypnotized by Jordan Matter’s series of photographs entitled Dancers Among Us.

These are joyful shots of gorgeous dancers camouflaged by an unsuspecting public. I just love the joy and surprise of these photos. They’re a great reminder of what the body is capable of, and I also see them as a simple call to celebrate.
[via flavorwire]

5 Chinese New Year’s Resolutions (Including Lingerie)

Well and Good NYC has a little article up celebrating Chinese New Year and the resolutions don’t say anything about losing ten pounds or putting more money into your retirement account.

Focusing on a fresh start all around, here are the top five New Year’s to-do’s they listed. [read full article]

1. Add flowers
Live plants bring beauty and good fortune into your home.
2. Clean house.
Get rid of anything old, expired and cluttering up your space to make room for the new.
3. Get your hair cut.
Take this fresh-start attitude beyond your home and freshen yourself up too.
4. Wear new clothes.
This means new lingerie too, preferably in red for good fortune. Very fresh. (Really?)
5. Mend relationships.
Get rid of old grudges and move on.

Chinese New Year or not, I can get behind these to-dos. In the middle of this extreme-weather winter, a fresh start looks pretty good right now.

The Daily Show

A daily on-mat practice is not always the easiest thing to do. Every morning I wake up to my phone alarm, church bells clanging in the distance. Cling, clang, cling, clang. And each morning I snooze, snooze, snooze until I have to start crossing things off my morning must list (snooze: I’ll grab breakfast at work. snooze: I’ll do a short yoga practice. snooze: I showered yesterday!)

But lately I’ve been waking up excited about my morning yoga. I’ve moved away from easing into the morning with gentle stretching. And now I’m up and ready to kick some ass. Sometimes all it takes is a switch in the routine. And my routine-switching ass-kicking is coming by way of Dave Farmar power yoga podcasts.

He’s pushy, he’s funny, he’s calm and real. And somehow he makes me think that after 15 years on the mat, I’ll finally be able to float to the top of my mat without landing like a frog in a squat. Now, that may or may not be possible but, for whatever reason, his tone and guidance is resonating with me right now. I’ve extended my 20 minutes to 30. Let’s see if I can’t work my way back up to an hour and half practice. Daily? Well, we’ll see how it goes.