Counteracting Consumerism: We don't need no Stimulation

Ah, the economy. What is "the economy" anyway? It is certainly not economical in nature. Our country has spent a chunk of money that we did not have and now we are going to quantitatively ease billions more into print, theoretically fighting deflation and probably lighting the match under inflation, although when it will ignite is unknown. Personally, I'm up to here with economic stimulation. I think most of us need a rest and they're going to force us to charge back out and spend more! Let's consider a new idea, producerism. Create more than we take!

What led to our current problems? Pretty much a lot of people buying things that they couldn't afford. Some shady CEOs el al took it from there. Things we didn't need. Cavernous houses, shiny new cars, stuff, matter, atoms and now some people are losing jobs so the things that aren't paid for become an even steeper and more costly burden. It's stressful to have too much, whether it's someone handing you a huge plate of food, too many gifts over the holidays, so many items to sort and place and clean and try to use. How can we get out of this cycle? We didn't enter in consciously, we were born into it. But to exit this pattern, we will have to be very conscious and proactive.

Yoga can help us let go of our consumerism by sharing with us the yamas and niyamas, the first two of eight limbs within the yoga philosophy. Particularly, aparigraha and satya will remind us of what we need to gain the strength to stand strong against the cultural drive to buy buy buy. Aparigraha can also be called non-possessiveness and is about letting go of greed, and taking only what is necessary. This might mean we chose to live in an apartment for now, or purchase a used car that will get good mileage, or maybe drive our current car until it honestly won't go anymore. This means we will have to resist the urge to give in to another cultural pressure, conspicuous consumption, aka keeping up with the Joneses. Satya can help us by highlighting truthfulness within ourselves. We must ask what really makes us happy at the end of each day. When we honestly answer, the breathless rush to acquire will be stilled .

I am not saying this is easy. I am not saying we can always attain it. This is years of ingrained pressure from tv, billboards, and people around us. However, I am making an effort to consider what I have and what I really need, and working to give away what I do not need. Here are a few ideas to try. If you already do these, see if you can make it better, or more frequent.

  • Consider having an exchange with friends. Bring any items you don't want or need any more (clothes, books, gifts you could not use) and see who might have a real need for it. At the end, box everything up and take it to a place where it will be used, salvation army or to a school in a poor area, they will find someone that needs it, trust me. There is so much need in these places that it can knock you over if you don't steel yourself. A lot of the need isn't even material. Think about giving your time to someone, friend, family, or stranger.

  • Recycle. Have two trash cans so it just flows easily. Make a list of what can be recycled and take a little time to make sure the system you create works and is manageable. Make a visit to the recycling center something enjoyable, go with a friend and have coffee after. Allow yourself to feel so good about letting go, just as our culture makes us feel good when we bring home bags of something new.

  • Sort mail and cancel any magazines you don't really buy from. Usually you can just email them to remove you from the list. Make a stack of 10 and it will take you 10 minutes. Think of all the recycling you won't have to do later!!

If you have any other ideas, please, comment here. Here's resolving to practice aparigraha and satya in 2009. Please practice these New Year's Eve too, and I will see you for yoga soon :) Thank you for being open to "producerism". May we all create rather than consume in the coming year!



Finding Home Wherever you Are!

Many people head home around the holidays. It turns out that his word has many meanings, and that is an understatement! On dictionary.com (click to read them all), there are 31 different definitions or relationships. And just as complex is the experience of returning home. For some of us this trek is a common thing, for others it might be yearly or less. And others may even go to a new place, to be with those important to them and creating home there. No matter how often or where we go, going home can bring us into connection with our past, those things that have shaped us, old roles and expectations that might or might not fit with who we are right now. This can be a very positive thing and may also be a difficult experience at times.

Yoga teaches us to seek and find the present moment and so as we go home, we might be faced with how the present and past get along. If we can allow ourselves to be who we are today, we are able to stay true to our yoga frame of mind. In fact, actually doing some asanas daily (poses) may aid in finding this capacity within ourselves and allow us to relax and shake away from falling into the past. While the old memories can be wonderful, nostalgia may not be and so grounding ourselves in the "right now" will aid in making each journey home a new and fresh delight. Consider sharing what is new and present in your life, and also listening to the present experiences of your loves ones. In addition, as we look forward to a New Year, we will be able to find ourselves happy and at peace, balanced and prepared, yet taking all things as them come.



Yin Yoga

We have all seen that funky little black and white symbol. I sometimes imagine two whales circling, a balanced swirl, a hippie anthem on par with tie-die. However, we can also ask, what is the meaning behind this ancient Chinese concept, and how can we incorporate these ideas into yoga and our lives? Today we will consider the yin side, and leave the yang half for a toastier moment.

According to Wikipedia, (see link here yin yang):

"Yin is usually characterized as slow, soft, insubstantial, diffuse, cold, wet, and tranquil. It is generally associated with the feminine, birth and generation, and with the night."

In terms of the seasons, this appears to relate to the winter facet of life. Ice, rain, sleet, snow, shortened dark days, quiet long nights. Maybe a strong full moon allowing white glittering glows to shine in through the frosty window.

How then can yin relate to our yoga practice? I believe we can consciously welcome yin, related to our path in yoga. One might easily wonder how long it takes to do yoga right, or really find a pose. The truth is, a pose can always be right and found. This occurs when we are able to embrace the tranquility or yin of our current experience of a pose, rather than pushing on to anything else. Change does come in yoga and of course we allow ourselves this path as well, but it will happen gradually, and at times almost imperceptibly. While we may seek strength, warmth, energy, and growth, it is also okay to move slowly and softly.

So, whether you love Restoration and Gentle yoga, or Ashtanga Bikram Power moments, perhaps give the other side a chance to submerge in your practice, and you may notice that both together actually fit, like a key in a lock or a loving hug.



Hatha for the Holidays

As the days begin to shorten, and the cold is deepening, we enter the resting phase of the ecological year. Most plants have shed their leaves and scattered seeds for next year, and many colors have faded in the landscape. However, bright evergreens begin to make their presence known as they stand out quietly, and crisp air clarifies each breath we draw. We may find ourselves staying inside more often, and the holidays begin to enter the scene. This is a time to reconnect with family and friends and enjoy a few precious days "off". In our society that considers work such a central identity-defining thing, we may feel a bit adrift during this time. The fact is, many people experience difficulty during this season, but truly it is a chance for us to rest and find stillness, just as nature does.

The Mayo Clinic web page offers 12 helpful suggestions for coping below. And don't forget to consider yoga as suggestion 13, courtesy of yours truly!

12 tips to prevent holiday stress and depression

When stress is at its peak, it's hard to stop and regroup. Try to prevent stress and depression in the first place, especially if you know the holidays have taken an emotional toll in previous years.

Tips you can try to head off holiday stress and depression:

  1. Acknowledge your feelings. If a loved one has recently died or you aren't able to be with your loved ones, realize that it's normal to feel sadness or grief. It's OK now and then to take time just to cry or express your feelings. You can't force yourself to be happy just because it's the holiday season.
  2. Seek support. If you feel isolated or down, seek out family members and friends, or community, religious or social services. They can offer support and companionship. Consider volunteering at a community or religious function. Getting involved and helping others can lift your spirits and broaden your friendships. Also, enlist support for organizing holiday gatherings, as well as meal preparation and cleanup. You don't have to go it alone. Don't be a martyr.
  3. Be realistic. As families change and grow, traditions and rituals often change as well. Hold on to those you can and want to. But accept that you may have to let go of others. For example, if your adult children and grandchildren can't all gather at your house as usual, find new ways to celebrate together from afar, such as sharing pictures, e-mails or videotapes.
  4. Set differences aside. Try to accept family members and friends as they are, even if they don't live up to all your expectations. Practice forgiveness. Set aside grievances until a more appropriate time for discussion. With stress and activity levels high, the holidays might not be conducive to making quality time for relationships. And be understanding if others get upset or distressed when something goes awry. Chances are they're feeling the effects of holiday stress and depression, too.
  5. Stick to a budget. Before you go shopping, decide how much money you can afford to spend on gifts and other items. Then be sure to stick to your budget. If you don't, you could feel anxious and tense for months afterward as you struggle to pay the bills. Don't try to buy happiness with an avalanche of gifts. Donate to a charity in someone's name, give homemade gifts or start a family gift exchange.
  6. Plan ahead. Set aside specific days for shopping, baking, visiting friends and other activities. Plan your menus and then make one big food-shopping trip. That'll help prevent a last-minute scramble to buy forgotten ingredients — and you'll have time to make another pie, if the first one's a flop. Expect travel delays, especially if you're flying.
  7. Learn to say no. Believe it or not, people will understand if you can't do certain projects or activities. If you say yes only to what you really want to do, you'll avoid feeling resentful, bitter and overwhelmed. If it's really not possible to say no when your boss asks you to work overtime, try to remove something else from your agenda to make up for the lost time.
  8. Don't abandon healthy habits. Don't let the holidays become a dietary free-for-all. Some indulgence is OK, but overindulgence only adds to your stress and guilt. Have a healthy snack before holiday parties so that you don't go overboard on sweets, cheese or drinks. Continue to get plenty of sleep and schedule time for physical activity.
  9. Take a breather. Make some time for yourself. Spending just 15 minutes alone, without distractions, may refresh you enough to handle everything you need to do. Steal away to a quiet place, even if it's to the bathroom for a few moments of solitude. Take a walk at night and stargaze. Listen to soothing music. Find something that reduces stress by clearing your mind, slowing your breathing and restoring inner calm.
  10. Rethink resolutions. Resolutions can set you up for failure if they're unrealistic. Don't resolve to change your whole life to make up for past excess. Instead, try to return to basic, healthy lifestyle routines. Set smaller, more specific goals with a reasonable time frame. Choose only those resolutions that help you feel valuable and that provide more than only fleeting moments of happiness.
  11. Forget about perfection. Holiday TV specials are filled with happy endings. But in real life, people don't usually resolve problems within an hour or two. Something always comes up. You may get stuck late at the office and miss your daughter's school play, your sister may dredge up an old argument, your partner may burn the cookies, and your mother may criticize how you're raising the kids. All in the same day. Accept imperfections in yourself and in others.
  12. Seek professional help if you need it. Despite your best efforts, you may find yourself feeling persistently sad or anxious, plagued by physical complaints, unable to sleep, irritable and hopeless, and unable to face routine chores. If these feelings last for several weeks, talk to your doctor or a mental health professional. You may have depression.


Moon Flowers

The photo at the top of this blog is a true Moon Flower (ipomoea alba) that I grew! I began this vine from seed starting late last winter in a sunny window in the front of my house. I transplanted it outside and watched over the months as healthy heart-shaped leaves grew and it twirled up a trellis. Each vine tendril would reach out bravely, searching to rise ever taller. I am amazing by these lovely and fragrant flowers that briskly whirl open just as dusk arrives. They are strong yet fragile, and allow their delicate sweet scent to waft through the evening air. I will definitely grow them again, maybe planting several to wind in various areas of the garden. If you would like to see a movie of one opening, click here.

In yoga, we often incorporate moon flowers into our practice, sometimes as we transition. This standing pose is quite active, involving muscles of the legs and arms, while gently opening the hips and shoulders. Just as much as this flower holds potential as it waits for just the moment to flower each night, our yoga asana allows major joints to open and relax.


Tango and Yoga

When I first moved to Kansas City, I missed Spain. My heart yearned for the beauty of even a simple Spanish street, and the glow of energy I experienced while living in Valencia for a year. I became connected to tango in Kansas City through a woman I worked with, her story is for another day, it is a rich one, I thank her for the gift of tango. I was joined to their email list, and when I began to attend tango sessions, the essense of Spain came to life for me here in the midwest. Enjoying each tango practice, I met new people, and came to know or at least recognize a few. A dear visiting baker from Switzerland was so nice and funny. I loved the beautiful shoes, luscious dancing, and sparkling auras. Small snacks and wine, a little dancing room, and music from all over the world brought a few strangers together as darkness fell over Westport. The city disappeared completely and I felt myself transported. Everyone was beautiful in a unique way, inside and out. Each person's style appeared in their dance, sometimes even just a temporary mood.
These alluring people joined together to dance, and most importantly, the kindness, and warm energy of the tango bathed us all. It was a gentle energy, with compassion. I was never an expert. One older gentleman with a grip like iron would leave me tripping around, feeling foolish, but we had a nice chat. Another shy person would dance carefully but we were much more in sync. Yet a third would allow me to feel light as a feather and even graceful as we smiled through the dance and felt ourselves to be chums.
Does tango have a connection to yoga? Having experienced both, I would say absolutely yes. In an interview with a woman that teaches yoga especially for dancers, Stella Dettoni gives her opinion of the connection. This is her quote below:

"Apart from the fact that it (yoga) prepares your body to dance, and that it puts back in order all of the disparities that tango does to you, letting you leave walking more or less straight again! Apart from this, it teaches you to be subtle with the sensations in your body. And to connect to very subtle things, that in the (tango) class they tell you ... but you never understand what they’re talking about. For example, they say to you the “connection”, the “energy”... But if you go to a yoga class and you begin to feel, and to awaken, then you begin to wake up a much subtler world in your body. I feel that this is it, to listen to your body, the connection to your body. For dancers, this is very important. Yoga gives you a lot for this."

I have not been to tango for a long time. I am sure it has evolved from those days in the ballroom. I may return sometime, but I know I will always have my memories of those precious evenings when I was learning tango. Absorbing the atmosphere, satiating my need for the beauty of Spain, for its fragility, and for the lessons that it gave to me. I encourage anyone looking for something that is missing in this fast-paced and harried world, seek out tango and you will not be disappointed. Namaste,



Yoga in the Ninth Month

September is here and with it comes just a hint of autumn. Trees are starting to drop a leaf or two, and although it's been a sauna in K.C. lately, the temperature will soon take a refreshing dip. Students are back to school, adjusting to early mornings and new topics of learning. August has held a slightly less yoga -connected series of weeks for me, but now we are revving back up as the crisp days lay out before us. Starting this week, I will be teaching two yoga classes a week. Wednesday nights we will have class 6:30 to 7:30 at Barefoot Fitness Studio. This will be a smaller class where I hope to tailor the class to the students.

Wednesday afternoons, I will be teaching a class at the school where I teach. I have contacted the district and will be working with them to offer a class right after school, for one hour. I am very excited for this chance to bring yoga to teachers and other staff each week. Over 20 people have expressed interest, and it will be so nice to see the beneficial effects of yoga ripple through our educational center. Schools are amazing. So many things happen in them each day, it feels like a giant cell sometimes. Energy enters, thoughts and knowledge are exchanged, it seems to have a vivid pulse as the daily schedule unfolds. I know the yoga class will add to the harmony of the school.

Starting September 16th, I will be teaching a 5:30 pm to 6:30 class at Jiva Studio. Teaching yoga in three different locations each week offers the chance to be creative, and not fall into a routine. My yoga goal for the month is to continue to create fresh and new classes that challenge and energize those that attend.

Finally, I will be attending level 2 training through Yoga Fit. I have heard there will be a very advanced teacher so I am excited to experience another view of yoga as I develop my own. I am ready to consider new poses and contemplate the philosophy of yoga, perhaps bringing more of this to the classes I teach.


Green Yoga

It seems like green has reached a tipping point. I hear this word so often lately. What is "green"? Well, grass is green, and so are trees. So it has something to do with nature, hmmm. I like nature, really I love it. Since I was a little kid living by a lake outside of town, it has been delightful. Tadpoles, crawdads, skeletons and petri dishes peppered my childhood. Most people do love it, don't they? Unfortunately some children today are losing touch with backyards rapidly, some even fear the great outdoors. Richard Louv writes about this distressing trend in his book, Last Child in the Woods.
As I contemplate my garden outside, I think of those pesky mosquitos and how I wish they weren't biting me. But that is the point, isn't it, that every part of nature has a niche, and therefore has value. We can't decide what stays and goes. These elfin arthropods feed a lot of birds and spiders, which help control other insect populations. So, what can we really do to preserve and protect our green lady? Reuse, reinvent, recycle, recreate, reap the benefits of mother nature without harming her. Are you wondering what this has to do with yoga yet?
Well, quite a bit actually, according to Georg and Brenda Feuerstein. They wrote the book, Green Yoga. In fact, there is an entire Green Yoga Association. Their description in the link is a fascinating analogy between yoga and the earth itself. This reminds me of the biology-based theory that treats the world as a living being, most commonly known as The Gaia Hypothesis. It was first introduced by James Lovelock (an independent research scientist who had done work at NASA) in the 60s. This is a thought provoking idea that has support world-wide.
Honestly, what I can say in my experience is that yoga is a method that builds respect and trust, in and out. We must listen to our body, as we honor and accept what it can handle. Someone that has done a headstand (or several other poses as well) knows this delicate line that exists in yoga, between exertion and simplicity. Much like this, we can realize the world exists in such a fragile balance. It seems to follow that trust and respect will serve to strengthen earth, and a lack of listening will do the opposite.
If you're interested in Kansas City's local movement, you should definitely check out the newly renovated Sandstone Amphitheatre. They have torn out the seats so every concert-goer is on the same page. The folks out there are recycling, rewarding carpooling, and have a slew of other ideas to make it eco-friendly. I plan to enjoy this green glow as we watch a concert there coming up in August. I hope you'll check it out too!


gone til September

Hello everyone, I hope this message finds you well. September is just around the corner and with it comes the beginning of the academic year. You may not know that September is National Honey Month. You can check our information about honey here. In addition, it would be a lovely time to make a visit to your favorite local farmer's market, or perhaps an herb shop. Missouri has a wonderful place to try if you're considering a weekend trip - Jim Long's Herb Shop. I will be teaching yoga in September, probably in a couple of places and locations. If you're interested in joining, just send me an email at klmarchin@hotmail.com. We will be meeting either Mondays or Wednesdays at Barefoot Fitness Studio, and Tuesdays at Jiva Studio.


September Yoga Class

I am writing to see if you are interested in participating in a weekly yoga class, starting the second week in September. I am Level 1 Certified through YogaFit as an instructor (www.yogafit.com). I will be taking Level 2 and Prenatal classes coming up in September so I will have some new and exciting poses for you!

The class would meet either Monday or Wednesday evenings, from 6:30 to 7:30 pm and the location is the Barefoot Fitness Studio, located in Prairie Village, KS. It is near 75th and Mission. Emily Morris is the owner of this house/studio, where she has created a wonderful yoga space. You can check out her blog at: http://emily-morris.blogspot.com and see pictures of the studio there. The cost would be 40 dollars. Please let me know if you are interested, and if so, which night would be best, Monday or Wednesday. Please share if you have any suggestions, questions or comments. No previous yoga experience necessary! This class would continue on a monthly basis, depending on interest.


What is Yoga?

Most people have heard of yoga, and have formed an idea of what they think it is. One yoga expert (Judith Hanson Lasater) shares her views about yoga and potential benefits here:

For Beginners:
The Benefits of Yoga Practice

There is an old story in the ancient literature of India about a student attempting in vain to describe the taste of a mango. Listening to the futile words, the teacher shakes his head, smiles, and picking up a ripe luscious mango, bites into it. Writing about the benefits of hatha yoga is a little like this. If you practice poses, breathing and relaxation, no words are necessary because you "have tasted the mango." If you haven't tried a yoga class, words are probably not powerful enough by themselves to convince you. Experience, as the wise tell us, is the only true teacher.

While there has been some scientific documentation of the benefits of yoga, what is more important to consider about yoga are the responses of those who have practiced. Virtually without variation, yoga students will tell you that they feel better after a class, more relaxed, more centered. Students often report that headaches, back pain, anxiety, menstrual cramps and stress have changed or vanished. In more rare cases, students who have been trying to have a baby find they get good news at the doctor's office, others claim that the hip pain of decades' duration has vanished. Some people say they sleep through the night regularly for the first time in their lives. In more than one case, students have banished carpal tunnel syndrome, avoided surgery and generally found new balance and harmony in their lives. Whether these beneficial changes are related to an overall improvement in health and well-being or are due to a specific yoga pose, these healthy changes are deeply appreciated by yoga students.

What can you expect when you start to practice yoga? First, you will probably notice an increase in overall flexibility; your muscles will gradually begin to release tension and tightness. Where else does "tension" live in our bodies but in our muscles? When your muscles relax, as they do during a massage or after taking a yoga class, this muscular relaxation will be interpreted as a generalized reduction in tension and mental stress. Additionally, you may even find that you can bend over and touch the floor with your knees straight, which the average 30-year-old cannot do!

I'm curious about what you all feel are the benefits you have received from yoga. Feel free to post your comments here!


Summer Sparkler!

Wow! It's been a while since I've visited Blog-Landia. Are you still out there my friends?? Now I'm a mom times two!! Can you be...