12.24.2009

A White Christmas - Count your Blessings

Here's a lovely song for a white Christmas, from the 1954 movie, "White Christmas" by Irving Berlin!


When I'm worried and I can't sleep
I count my blessings instead of sheep and I fall asleep counting my blessings
when my bankroll is getting small I think of when I had none at all
and I fall asleep counting my blessings.

I think about a nursery,
and I picture curly heads,
and one by one I count them
as they slumber in their beds.

If you're worried and you can't sleep,
just count your blessings instead of sheep
and you'll fall asleep counting your blessings.


Merry Christmas everyone, may you be warm and sleep well!

12.21.2009

Tempus Fugit



The title of this post is Latin, thank you Romans, thank you Virgil perhaps. It literally means "time flees". I think to another saying, "time flies". I noticed this Latin phrase mentioned on a yoga blog I like to read. It makes me think of my dad, he liked to quote things here and there, in Latin and other languages too.

In some ways this pithy summation is true of 2009, and all years before really. My second niece was born this year, my father passed away. Makes me think of another saying, "time stops for no one". That draws me to a book I read today, The Music of Dolphins by Karen Hesse. It is the story of a young girl raised by dolphins when she is lost at sea. She is taken from this oceanic family to civilization and named Mila, miracle. There are well-intentioned people around her, but her own wisdom is so very strong. She loves music and they share Mozart with her, which she adores. She wants to meet him. As her doctor explains that he is dead but his music lives on, the doctor shares that their research on her and of her life will also last beyond the present, "It will not wash away like the waves on the sand." Mila reflects on this deeply and replies:

"Each sunset, each wave is something to see once and never again. Is that not special too?"

Namaste,
Kat

12.17.2009

5 Firefly Thoughts for These Moments

December is moving along and here we are approaching the week of get togethers, family gatherings, gift-giving and Christmas. Lately I've been reflecting on the message of the moment. Charlie Brown's Christmas comes to mind (I gotta watch it soon), today at school a poem was shared about not losing sight of what honestly matters. How easy it is to get sidetracked though. What are a few wonderful things we can do to make these days with family very special? Considering the yoga philosophy I have a few, I'm sure you guessed I would tie this to yoga ;).

1. Stay in the present moment. It might be delightful or difficult to relive the past, but in both cases, it is over and done. Let's enjoy THIS present moment by turning off the cell phone, and turning on our listening ears. What's new with people, good or bad?

2. Practice ahimsa. Sure Christmas dinner and cookies are beckoning, but will two heaping piles of mashed potatoes make us feel better than one? Enjoy the food, luxuriate in the tastes and smells, but honor your body by knowing what you need and not harming the body by overwhelming it. Also, don't overbook yourself. Allow time for laundry, a cup of tea, a walk.

3. Namaste. Honor others by helping them. If we are hosting, give someone a small job that will make them feel essential. If we are visiting others, offer to help until you are taken up on it. When no one feels totally overwhelmed, the energy of the space is balanced and peace will emerge. This might even mean picking something up on the way over, or baking your own favorite treat to share generously.

4. Shanti. Find peace with the past. Let negative thoughts or words drop away and bring your powerfully positive energy with you. Pull out a photo book, picture or game to get the group on the same page and playing together happily.

5. Be thankful. Appreciate your parents, siblings, extended family, significant others and friends. "Life is as the flash of the firefly in the night, the breath of the buffalo in winter time." ~~Blackfoot proverb

Wishing you peace, happiness, love, and a very happy New Year! May 2010 bring us all that we need.

Kat

12.13.2009

Algonquian poem

As we gaze upward at the cold, clear and scintillating sky this December, we may see meteors abound, and shimmering stars winking down on us. We might reflect on this Native American poem.

We are the stars which sing,
We sing with our light;
We are the birds of fire,
We fly over the sky.
We look down on the mountains
This is the song of the stars.

Om Shanti, (Om means the sound of the universe, Shanti means peace)

Kat

12.05.2009

yoga day usa!

JANUARY 23, 2010 Yoga Day USA

http://www.yogadayusa.org/

What should we do? I'm still thinking about it, but I'm guessing something fun and something to do with free yoga!! Let me know your thoughts!

Om Shanti,

Kat

11.29.2009

Concerts

Going to a concert allows you to explore the world through music. You may hear it or feel it or dance it out, but you are absorbing the atmosphere in a group, hopefully with friends and kindred spirits near. Tonight I saw the Cranberries downton at the Midland and was taken back to a long time ago, when I first bought a tape (wow) by them, probably about 1993. I loved their sound and equally importantly the lyrics that discuss family, war, pain, and peace. Dolores O'Riordan has recently released a new solo album, The music continues to move me, I hope you can find that which moves you in life, it makes mine feel so much more worthwhile. She told us the song below is about those that carry us through the tough times in life. She's recently had 4 children, so perhaps a few difficult moments. What a blessing friends are! I consider her my friend :)

Namaste,
Kat

The Journey (lyrics) by Dolores O'Riordan on No Baggage (2009)

When I was lost
I saw you pointing towards the sun
I know I am not the only one standing here
And in the darkness I was walking through the night
I could see your guiding light, very clear

This is your life
This is your moment
This is your life
This is your moment

When I was weak we both went walking on the sand
We were walking hand in hand it appeared
One set our footprints when you carried me along
It was then that I abandoned my fears

This is your life
This is your moment
This is your life
This is your moment

This is your life
This is your moment
This is your life
This is your moment

This is your moment
This is your life
Your life
This is your time

11.25.2009

Thankful Yoga Class for a Family

Thankful Yoga will meet Sunday at 3pm @ BFF in Prairie Village at our regular location. This is FREE class, however, if you would like to donate towards our family in need, any amount or item is welcome and all of it will go towards the family listed below. There are six children and they live in Kansas City, KS. I was able to "adopt" them through my school district.

2 months old boy.... size 6-9 months. Needs a baby bouncer, diapers size 2, gift card to Walmart

4 yr. old boy - wears 4T shirt, 5T pants - likes drawing/coloring materials

7 yr old girl - wears 12/14 girls top and bottom - likes Hanna Montana, Twin comforter, playing cards

10 yr old girl - wears size 7 girls - likes high school musical, twin comforter, playing cards

16 yr boy - Lg. mens shirt, 32/22 - pants - MP3 player or IPod, headphones

11 yr. old boy - med. boys shirt, 8 boys pant size .,...Bakagon balls, remote control car


Hope to see you Sunday, let me know if you can make it! Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!
Kat

11.22.2009

Let us Give Thanks!

This weekend I attended the memorial service of a dear friend from college that passed away recently. He beat cancer as a teen, and it returned at 30. If I could sum his amazing life-loving attitude up in one phrase, it would be one that the priest shared on Saturday, "Live it out!". Sunday I went to the UU church service with my mom and the Minister shared the story below, an excerpt from a New York Times article by Susan Schnur. To read the full article, click the title above.


"Once, many years ago, sleeping on the sofa bed in the living room of my boyfriend's parents' house in Teaneck, N.J., I witnessed a performance of gratitude the likes of which I have never seen elsewhere.

It was the middle of the night - I was up with my own back pain - when the light flashed on in the upstairs hall and Jon's father came padding down into the room. Oblivious of me, he went into the kitchen, cut himself a slab of rye bread with a butcher knife, then stood with it in the dining room under the street shadows.

''Chleb,'' he said finally, thrusting the bread into the air. ''Broit'' - he held the bread against his pajama pocket. ''Pane'' - he shook it. ''Lechem'' - kissed it. ''Bread'' - took a bite.

This he did over and over, saying the word in more languages than I could imagine existed -thrusting, hugging, shaking, kissing, biting, exclaiming - until he stood in the room empty-fisted. Then he burped roomily and went back up the stairs to bed.

I think of that night a lot, especially when I am up myself at 3 A.M. It seems almost premonitory. I think: What did I know about this man? That he loved his wife, yes. His children. That he checked on his kids too often in their rooms; changed the oil in his car every thousand miles; kept unnecessary dry goods in his basement. His family used to laugh at him.

He seemed sometimes, on an ordinary morning, almost stunned by the fierceness of his happiness. He was, it now seems clear to me, exhausted by his blessings; in a sense, afraid of them.

He was a Holocaust survivor, Jonny's dad."


As we gather with friends and family this week, let's allow ourselves to release the past and pain and embrace the true richness of the present moment.

With thanks,
Kat

11.17.2009

i *heart* yoga

Click the title above to read how recent research shows meditation may be wonderful complement to medication! See how heart health increases with meditation practice, blood pressure down, other benefits too! Cheers to savasana, healthy mind, healthy body.

One heart,

Kat

11.14.2009

Artists Helping the Homeless - Click here to see more!

In case you have not heard, KC is moving up in the yoga world! Check out this link to an annual event that helps homeless people and involves yoga! I have been reading a lot about yoga recently, and want to continue to get involved in more that just the physical practice of yoga, I hope to teach a part of the class at this event next year, we'll see if I can obtain my RYT by then! In The Heart of Yoga by T.K.V. Desikachar he writes some words of wisdom for us.

"However beautifully we carry out an asana, however flexible our body may be, if we do not achieve the integration of body, breath, and mind, we can hardly claim that what we are doing is yoga...In yoga we are not creating something for others to look at. As we perform the various asanas we observe what we are doing and how we are doing it. We do it only for ourselves. We are both the observer and what is observed at the same time."

He is a beautiful writer and person. I enjoyed this description of how we must focus on our own perspective, both on the mat, and in the world!

Warmth to you,
Kat

11.11.2009

Fruits of my Labor

Isn't it so easy to come up with an excuse as we end our day and head home from work? I'm tired, I'm hungry, so we skip the gym and grab some unhealthy food choice. What brings us to this victim state? At the end of the day, can we admit it? Ourselves. We might not know how to take that moment to sit and clear the mind before we turn reactive instead of proactive. It is immensely difficult but if we open the channel that contains love of self, it gets easier. Open this energy within yourself. Breath in health and let it wash over. If you can't get out to run or to pump those weights, or even to a yoga class, throw your mat down in your house, flick on your favorite beats, and your own body becomes not only the method to still any brain chatter, but indeed the weight to strengthen muscles, and the force to ground us.

If you want, test out chair flow with forward folds alternating for 3 minutes with deep satiating breaths, cow/cat for 2 minutes, and 5 minutes of gentle sun salutations. Consider trying it on once and see if it fits.

Here we can sweep up and expel tension, sweat out the woes of the day and whoever pushed our buttons, and find a nice clean cut between the day, and your very own evening, possibly full of gratitude for this fascinating life. Enjoy! You have earned it, you are amazing!

Light be with you...

Kat

11.05.2009

November Yoga Audio Class Link - Click here to listen!

Hello everyone!

I'm continuing to progress with the process of creating audio yoga classes! You can access the November 3rd class by clicking on the title above. Sounds quality is okay, I'm still exploring some options and positioning of music and microphone. In the future, I will make these classes available for a 5 dollar contribution for time and effort. For now, here is another free class for you to enjoy. I welcome feedback, I think it's a little hard to hear at first but gets more clear pretty quickly. Also, the end is left open for whatever length of time you wish to enjoy savasana!

Peace and love,
Kat

11.01.2009

November Poem

As we once more connect ourselves to the present moment, let us consider the beautiful Sunday that lies before us. Here is a poem to capture it's magic.


"How silently they tumble down
And come to rest upon the ground
To lay a carpet, rich and rare,
Beneath the trees without a care,
Content to sleep, their work well done,
Colors gleaming in the sun.

At other times, they wildly fly
Until they nearly reach the sky.
Twisting, turning through the air
Till all the trees stand stark and bare.
Exhausted, drop to earth below
To wait, like children, for the snow."
- Elsie N. Brady, Leaves

In case you might be curious the flowers pictured at the top of the blog are from a lovely amaryllis that my mom gave me a few years ago. It is now sitting in the garage, letting go for a while until the cherry red flowers shoot up like stars once more!

Namaste,
Kat

10.23.2009

Leaf Lessons

It feels like the annual tree dance took quite a while to get going this year, but suddenly the leaves are turning gorgeous shades of warmth, and some branches are already appearing to bare slightly. A few of these organic masterpieces are now glowing at the height of brilliance, with such a delicate shading of green to yellow to orange to red, it almost seems to me as though the tree is a shimmering three dimensional portal to another place far away and divine.

Perhaps we are seeking to make a change in our own lives too? Much as the trees, it may feel like no change is visible for days or weeks, but if we focus our energy and will, day by day we can enact subtle shifts and before we know it, a new season is revealed in our life's journey. For example, I recently decided to give up caffeine. I wasn't drinking too much, about 1/2 a small cup of strong coffee before 7am, but I felt like I was relying on it too much to go from a coma-like state to false energy each dawn. Also I wanted to add a daily practice of yoga in the morning so I figured that could be my new cafe, replace a bad habit with good to wake me up more naturally.

I really had to think it out, because I do not instantly wake up in the morning like some people, in fact I think my brain stays in alpha waves for a while. I set my ipod alarm clock on a peaceful but peppy playlist, and programmed my autolight to come on. It seemed cold in the mornings but I made it through the week, adding small shifts along the way. I use a metal container to hold my mat right by the wall to remind me to lay it out and find my practice. I didn't do down dog or anything more energetic the first few days, I was too sleepy. I tried to use the 1/2 series some, and then decided to focus on a standing warm up because child's or supine was just too much like bed and brought those soporific alpha waves back. Today I finally reprogrammed the thermostat to automatically warm up a little more around 5am, so it's not as chilly by 5:30 when I get up.

As for the coffee that was tough as well. The first day I had some weak tea with a little caffeine, but still suffered the typical headache I get when not drinking coffee so I had some tylenol ready to help. My whole head felt like it was too big for my skull, and in general I felt a little more slow and clumsy, especially before I got out the door in the morning. However, it's been a full five days and I feel pretty good. I think my sleep has been more restful, and I feel more calm, less easily excited or stressed. I have had enjoyed a little dark chocolate here and there, so I'm not 100% caffeine free, but much closer than before. This is probably the longest I have gone without coffee for a few years. I'm not sure if I'll stay off it, spring can be difficult with soccer, my energy levels usually get absorbed more then, but maybe this year will be a little easier since last spring was the first official season. Also, I just feel that a change exists now, one that is interesting and worthwhile. When I knew I would eat out, I imagined asking for water in advance so I would not accidently order a diet coke in a weak moment. At a work lunch, they had a cooler of coke but I saw a water peeking out and grabbed it gladly.

What yoga philosophy is required to enact change? One yama and two niyamas come to mind. Tapas is our discipline, Shaucha is our purity, and Brahmacharya our moderation. Change is not easy, but it is often powerful, and always possible. May you find the change you seek, one leaf at a time. Feel free to comment and share here any new experiences that you are exploring!

Namaste,
Kat

10.10.2009

Water Pure and Natural

Over dinner at the Well in Waldo recently, I sat with 3 close friends after a long hiatus in our girly group getting together. How often does time get away from us? We vowed to meet more regularly as we enjoyed the atmosphere and catching up. One friend is preparing for her upcoming wedding, another is on the verge of a great promotion. The third is dealing with issues at work, we can all relate to that!

The topic of water, or to be more exact, how much water intake is ideal came up and we had a bit of a debate going. One friend said you might not need much at all, and we discussed 64 oz as the magic number (about 8 large glasses), so I decided to turn to some research to see if I could find a better answer. Masaru Emoto comes to my mind immediately. He conducted some interesting experiments about the nature of water, after all, our bodies are at least 62% water by weight! Check him out for details on how water might be affected by the vibes it receives! The fact alone that we are way more than 1/2 water has me thinking less is not more when it comes to hydrating.

What are some effects of chronic dehydration? There are MANY. According to http://nutritioninfo.tripod.com/id19.html: "The body is composed of nearly 75% water, and water is required for many of its essential functions. Water is utilized as a solvent. It also provides a means to transport nutrients, hormones and other elements. It is used to produce hydroelectric energy, especially in the brain. It is essential for maintaining cell structure. Water is also necessary to maintain a lower serum viscosity that enables proteins and enzymes to function more efficiently. Chronic dehydration can lead to a loss or decease in these functions and may ultimately result in disease or can exacerbate an existing condition. Contrary to popular belief, dry mouth or thirst is not the first sign of dehydration."

The same web page goes on to list a host of other issues like allergies, asthma, joint pain, constipation, suboptimal enzyme function, headaches, heartburn, reflux, and others. An really excellent way to gauge your water intake is to notice your urine, if it's a light color or clear, you're where you need to be, dark urine means the ratio of waste to water is higher and you need more H20. This is a better indicator of dehydration than thirst, according to the Mayo clinic. To read a list of mild to moderate symptoms when we don't get enough water, according to the Mayo clinic, click HERE.

So back to the question, how much do we need? It varies. According to Mayo Clinic, here's what we LOSE each day. "The average urine output for adults is about 1.5 liters (6.3 cups) a day. You lose close to an additional liter of water a day through breathing, sweating and bowel movements. (WOW!) Food usually accounts for 20 percent of your total fluid intake, so if you consume 2 liters of water or other beverages a day (a little more than 8 cups) along with your normal diet, you will typically replace the lost fluids."

Anyone getting up for a nice refreshing glass yet? I just did. I can't tell you what and how much to drink since it varies due to age, weight and other individual needs, but keep in mind that coffee, tea, and any other caffeinated beverages can actually rob you of liquid due to their diuretic properties. If you would like to read more on this subject, consider reading: YOUR BODY'S MANY CRIES FOR WATER By F. Batmanghelidj, M.D.

Personally, to mix my water up I enjoy drinking a nice cold can of La Croix flavored water, or Canada Dry. These are pure water and sugar free, but give a little twist to the tap!

Cheers to hydration for all. Ching Ching!

Kat

10.04.2009

Fall Finds Us

We find ourselves in October, trickling and swirling into Autumn. This is a cooling time of year, we are falling to and toward stillness, with inward reflection. Who can say it better than John Keats, 1819. Here is his poem that lights up the ideas of the present.

On Autumn

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eaves run;
To bend with apples the moss'd cottage-trees,
And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;
To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells
With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,
And still more, later flowers for the bees,
Until they think warm days will never cease,
For Summer has o'er-brimm'd their clammy cells.

Who hath not seen thee oft amid thy store?
Sometimes whoever seeks abroad may find
Thee sitting careless on a granary floor,
Thy hair soft-lifted by the winnowing wind;
Or on a half-reap'd furrow sound asleep,
Drows'd with the fume of poppies, while thy hook
Spares the next swath and all its twined flowers:
And sometimes like a gleaner thou dost keep
Steady thy laden head across a brook;
Or by a cyder-press, with patient look,
Thou watchest the last oozings hours by hours.

Where are the songs of Spring? Ay, where are they?
Think not of them, thou hast thy music too,—
While barred clouds bloom the soft-dying day,
And touch the stubble-plains with rosy hue;
Then in a wailful choir the small gnats mourn
Among the river shallows, borne aloft
Or sinking as the light wind lives or dies;
And full-grown lambs loud bleat from hilly bourn;
Hedge-crickets sing; and now with treble soft
The red-breast whistles from a garden-croft;
And gathering swallows twitter in the skies.

Namaste,
Kat

9.27.2009

Training Thoughts

This weekend I was fortunate to attend a training for yoga. It was approximately 8 to 6 each day and involved varied topics. My thoughts from training are numerous and take some processing but they will definitely show up here and there in classes very soon! We discussed more poses, chakras, verbal adjusting/enhancing, cueing, warming breath, types of learning, aruvedic thoughts and subsequently a book I want to read by Robert Svoboda. My goals include getting off the mat more as I teach, and direct personal verbal adjusting. I enjoyed absorbing a variety of perspectives and comments, both internally and through others. It's refreshing to encounter positive spirits that are striving to be kind and better teachers, working through the 8 limbs of yoga and working to be a more delightful presence on this planet, within this enthralling universe.

Namaste,
Kat

9.20.2009

Time

This planet is about 4.6 billion years old. It was a molten ball, later an oceanic sterile sphere, and now it teems with life from thermal vents to icy waters to lush jungles. Humans have roughly been around 3 million years, depending on what you consider human, some would say more like 30 thousand. Absolute max, each of us will move through this planet for 130 years.

Makes you think right? How do we get caught up in the small stuff? Life is so precious on this vivacious blue planet, and definitely rare in this universe. Take each day as a beautiful, precious, and divine blink in the grand scheme of things. Balance your life with short-term and long term joy. Try to keep this big picture in mind if you have to deal with a crazy driver, or some chore around the house. Take some moments every day to enjoy the beauty of this world, and the joy of life and it's fragility.

Namaste,
Katherine

9.12.2009

Mrtasana - The Pose of the Corpse

Each time we end yoga, we arrive at our final relaxation. Known as Savasana (also spelled Shavasana or Sarvasana) the meaning of the sanskrit word above in the title (stated mrta-asana) literally means corpse. It can be found at any time but is most often noticed gently giving closure to each yoga practice. The amount of time we can explore here varies from a few minutes, up to a half hour, some suggestions state approximately 5 minutes for every 30 minutes of practice. I want to take a little more time this week to experience and develop what we are feeling and what we are doing here.

Arms are typically near the sides of the body, but might be as far out as 45 degrees, with palms facing skyward. The hips are relaxed, allowing the ankles and feet to fall limp. The torso and core are loose, moving only with the rise and fall of breath. Is is especially important to align the neck as best we can, allowing each ear to be equidistant from the tops of the shoulders, a parter or teacher may help see what we can't ourselves.

In this pose, we can being by focusing on relaxing all muscles of the physical body as we find a full deep breath, and especially explore letting go with the supports around our sense organs. We relax the tongue and mouth, nose and eyes, and the ears as well, feeling each of them unengage and sink gently. In this resting pose, our mind calms, stress is reduced, and our blood pressure is likely to lower. We can free the mind to nothingness, a sweet interlude.

See you in Savasana!

Kat

9.03.2009

Yog-blah?

Ever feel like you are in a yoga pause? Maybe you feel like you aren't gaining ground in terms of flexibility, breath, or other things. But consider that neither are you losing ground! Society has allowed us to lose some of the innate strength and posture our predecessors experienced consistently. Instead of working on the farm, we're slouchin' on the couch. Rather than sitting up straight in a wood chair, we're hunching towards that computer screen and forgetting our spines!

What does it take to maintain? I would say from my own experience that a weekly practice does wonders, both mentally and physically. If you are looking to make noticeable flexibility gains, or strength changes, 2 or more times a week might be something to try and test out. I have definitely noticed more flexibility after about 1 year of steady weekly practice, but when I practice more than once a week, I definitely feel that I'm getting stronger as well. You might consider some introductory weight training to complement your practice. This can build stamina and allow you to rediscover postures from a more steady and confident space. The actual asana might feel like an entirely new experience as our core lifts us, and our shoulders lengthen. A daily practice might just mean 3 sun sals in the morning, or standing in tree while brushing your teeth, even this small series of moments can lead to more awareness throughout our week and get us back into a healthy posture and body nurturing.

Here's to our yoga growth!
Namaste,
Kat

8.23.2009

The Voice of Yoga

Yoga can be linked to song in many ways, in some classes the teacher or the whole group may sing, chant or even yell. Today I enjoyed listening to the Summer Singers share Mozart in C Minor. It was a lovely series of Latin verses superimposed over joyful music, for in fact Mozart composed this series for his own treasured wedding. As I listened to the 12 parts, my mind focused on the music at first, but at times my psyche wandered to life, future tasks and goals, and to my dear family, both alive and those that have passed from this world, both recently and long ago. When listening to this classical music, my mind felt occupied on a different level, and I believe to hear this music live and through human voice added a component that I plan to make a part of my life from now on.

Actually, I have been trying to include song in my life more lately because I have been studying the throat chakra, also known as Vishuddha. I happened upon this chakra because I have been going through the loss of a loved one and have experienced a feeling of tightness around my throat and neck, which I think is due to the stress and grief, and somewhat to the inability to release my emotions about the experience as constantly as I need to in order to find balance. I think I am making progress and experiencing growth, but there is definitely more to consider and feel. When or if you sense an imbalance in your body, it is always wise to seek the support of a doctor, but in addition, it might be helpful to consider the chakras, and how we might find gentle and sensible ways to aid in the healing of the mind and body, ourselves.

Namaste,
Kat

8.03.2009

Living Yoga


August has arrived quickly, the summer flowing by as it is likely to do. I have done yoga all summer for which I am grateful. Some fun places I have experienced yoga include my hotel workout room at the Westin in Baltimore, on the sunny shores of San Diego pre-surf lesson (see photo, Vanessa and I in dancer), in a small yoga apartment in Manhattan, KS, with a gifted teacher of great peace, and of course at the Barefoot Fitness Studio. I have felt joy experiencing yoga in a variety of places, both with good friends, and by myself also. May your yoga journey also allow you to find the warm embrace of life wherever you are.

In addition, I have read an interesting book this summer, one which has greatly opened my eyes both to the fragility yet resiliency of life, and to the wonder of this planet. If you enjoy science, history, geology, evolution, or just a good story consider checking out A Short History of Nearly Everything, by Bill Bryson. You will not be disappointed.

Namaste,
Kat

7.21.2009

Yoga Sola (Yoga Alone)

Sometimes during yoga we feel the energy of the group. A teacher is guiding us, we almost don't have to think, allowing our ears to send signals to the brain which then sends magestic instructions down many nerves in our body. Does yoga at class and yoga at home or by oneself feel different? Of course. Because we must be the guide, making the decision to take the next step. It's really quite a different concept. If you would like to do a yoga class on your own, I recommend the following format as a really rough guide. Let your decisions and desires truly make the practice your own.

Warm up. Find something that is gentle, but brings energy to the back and limbs:
cow/cat
extended spinal balance (where your raise opposite arm and leg)
flowing bridge (on back, raising and lowering hips with knees bent)
sunflowers/moonflowers

Action time. Do some sun salutations, with high or low energy, always taking childs if you want it, not feeling any need to keep pace, or maybe blowing your old pace out of the water, YOU decide.

Strengthen. Try some powerful warriors, I, II, III, maybe throw in triangle, reverse warrior, pyramid. Try to listen to your body and see what it craves, maybe your arms need to power and you seek planks, downdog, or do you feel like inverting? Legs up the wall, handstand, and shoulderstand are all great options.

Balance. Seek tree, eagle, dancer, half moon, maybe try a few linked together on a side, if you feel like one at a time is no longer as challenging.

Release. Pursue some gentle stretching, wide angle, twists, pigeon, slowing down.

Relax. Do you usually relax 2 minutes? Try 10. Normally 15, maybe try 5 and see if it's different.

Bottom line: Yoga is unlimited in its expression, and you have the power to make it your own, and make it what you need right then and there.

Namaste,
Kat

7.12.2009

Yoga and Robots

What do you think of when you hear the word robot? Roomba, R2D2, Hal? Something that can't think for itself comes to my mind, maybe no ethics. Something not alive, yet maybe it has some sort of intelligence. I recently attended a teacher training where we put together a robot, and programmed it as well. I was intrigued but not enraptured by the complex connection of small pieces over and over as a structure emerged that could carry out a variety of functions. It could roll around, sense distance through IR and ultrasound sensors, even avoid obstacles and certain surfaces. In fact, we could use a computer program to deliver a list of complex commands that it could carry out for while, til the battery ran down. Even with all this ability, I was struck by how much more complex the human mind and body are, and how we are very far from ever creating a machine that can closely mimic our dynamic organic state. Thank goodness.

Why do we create robots? To explore, work, carry out tasks impossible or distasteful to humans. Maybe wander around the moon, repetitive tasks in a factory, or other jobs that are relatively simple and dangerous. I'm not sure we as a society are asking all the important questions though, just because we can, should we? Replacing human jobs with machines might save some money, but it also puts someone out of work. Traveling to the moon and mars are fine and maybe an interesting challenge, but it costs millions of dollars and we have a huge number of problems to deal with on this planet before we start exporting humans and our civilization around the universe. Why does war drive so much research? That's a question for another day.

I noticed at the conference how people are sometimes nice to each other but often they can also be pretty confrontational, bossy, or just downright mean. Perhaps each of us has some inner work as well, before we strive to make further progress as a civilization forging out of the atmosphere. When people in Africa are being ripped out of their houses and raped, burned and tortured (as I discussed with one fellow attendee about his home country of Kenya), and other atrocities are being played out by the second, is it good for our focus to be outside this little blue planet and all our terrible problems of violence? I'm not sure. I know that yoga has helped me to be a better person and I know I still have far to go. I work hard each day to be kind, to share what I can with others, to give what I can to those that have less than I do, to teach students that weren't born with the security and love and support that I have had my whole life. I will continue to practice yoga, and give what I can, and work to be kind and considerate, without blowing small stuff out of proportion. Because honestly, most of us are so fortunate to have what we do, I believe it is our universal duty to give back.

Namaste,
Kat

7.03.2009

A Poem of Remembrance

During yoga, our emotions often surface, sometimes they can even surprise us. This could occur during a very happy time, with feelings of great bliss washing over us. It might also bring feelings of sadness if we have experienced a loss of some sort and have it on our mind, maybe because of a specific date on the calendar, or because the loss was recent. The poem below was sent to me by my sister, who received it from a friend who lost his dad when he was only 19, he's now 47 and carries it with him always. May it bring you comfort to you for any sort of loss of a loved one that you have experienced.

DEATH is nothing at all. I have only slipped away into the next room.
I am I, and you are you. Whatever we were to
each other, that we still are. Call me by my old familiar name, speak
to me in the easy way which you always used. Put no
difference in your tone, wear no forced air of solemnity or sorrow.
Laugh as we always laughed at the little jokes we
enjoyed together. Let my name be ever the household word that it always
was, let it be spoken without effects, without the
trace of a shadow on it. Life means all that it ever meant. It is the
same as it ever was; there is unbroken continuity. Why
should I be out of mind because I am out of sight ? I am waiting for
you, for an interval, somewhere very near, just
around the corner.

All is well

Henry Scott Holland
1847-1918
Canon of St. Paul Cathedral

Namaste,
Kat

6.29.2009

Gentle Yoga

How many times do we focus so intently on something that we absorb tension into the body? We might be typing, painting, knitting, carrying bags, or maybe just having a tough conversation. I think this happens all the time and often without us even realizing it.

What is gentle yoga? Well our usual weekly class is a practice of Hatha Yoga, with a vinyasa (and flowing) component as well. In gentle yoga, the pace of class can slow down, leading to a very thoughtful approach to the postures, and perhaps a chance to work on our alignment, both mentally and physically. We may flow less, and hold each asana for more breaths.

Especially during the hot summer season, you may wish to work on stilling your energy, and cooling ourselves down through more respect given to the yin aspect of yoga is possible. The calmness, steady breathing, and peace of holding still in space and time should not be underestimated. This practice can energize us without overheating, and sooth us into letting go of any tension as our warm muscles feel loose and relaxed. It might also be tough at first.

One concept to really embrace when stretching gently is total relaxation of the body. As we approach a point of gentle tension in the muscles, we can pause here and focus on the breath. For example, if folding forward in staff pose (seated, with both legs together straight out in front of us), we can begin to pause and imagine the feet letting go, the calves, knees and backs of the thighs all simply unengaging, and feeling heavy. We do not want to push further at this point, in fact we might even ease back slightly or adjust the hips and back as needed. If this is practiced, I have had the experience of feeling a release in my legs. At this point it may be possible to gently stretch just a little further, moving very slowly and always easing back if any sort of pain is encountered. This has given me a feeling of relaxation, and I look forward to continuing to explore this aspect of yoga and stretching.

Namaste,
Kat

6.21.2009

Ahimsa and DAD

In yoga, most of us start with exposure to the asanas, the actual physical poses and postures that we move through during class. Interestingly, if you continue to explore yoga, you arrive at a place where you discover some of the philosophy behind it, and this can be so fascinating as we move through life and try to understand the complex and at times difficult experiences we are having.

Some of the yamas have particularly been bubbling to the surface of my mind in the last few days, as I go through the extremely difficult experience of losing my dad. One of these is ahimsa and thinking of all the yamas, I think my dad reminds me of this concept most. This word means the absense of cruelty and the strong force of compassion. It can mean "pure love" and selfless service. He was very compassionate, and I always felt that while he was very strong, his spirit had such a gentle component. He could barely bear to hear any of us talk about a scratch or scrape without wincing, our pain was his. Funny though, if you asked him about a cut on his hand, he'd just mutter, "it's nothing", "don't know how I got that".

He had such a friendliness, and would make friends wherever he went, with jokes and stories, and honesty. He loved life very much, and often found a gem of humour to share. In addition, he was so polite to others, being considerate and trying his best to do what was right. In his career, he was improving water quality through science, protecting people from the dangers of water-bourne diseases, seeking to prevent harm.

This concept also relates to duty, and he was very committed to his various jobs in life, with unwaivering focus and without complaint. He loved to run, doing 3 miles daily for most of his life, practicing non-violence towards his body by caring for it. He was there for many many events for each of us five children and his wife, from soccer games, weddings, graduations, car trouble, working in the yard, and taking trips together. He was such a rock for our family, uniting us, so humbly. I will always think of him and his spirit, when I think of ahimsa.

Namaste,
Katherine

6.15.2009

Super Superfoods

Steven G. Pratt, MD and Kathy Matthews have coauthored a wonderful book, Superfoods, Rx. Click on the title to visit their wonderful web page, which lists 25 different Superfoods, the list is growing! The unique and unifying factor to these foods is that they can help to prevent or reverse aging and related diseases (according to research), and are simultaneously nutrient rich and mostly low calorie. Each has its own special properties and niche in our health. We probably can't eat them all every day and that's okay! Just pick your favorites and add them in as a healthy snack or meal as often as you can. Your body and mind will thank you! (Especially for that dark chocolate ;) )

The superfoods include:

6.11.2009

Recent Reflections

Just a few random thoughts from me recently about life and yoga. Honestly life is so unexpected. A good person I know from college is very sick. One friend of mine is getting married, moving across the country and starting grad school - so many lovely things all at once! Another friend recently took the time off work to lunch with her dear grandmother who is now going through some really serious health issues. A woman I work with helped her mom through surgery, though it was fine, and now some complications are arising. It really just underlines something I really have learned well in my life, but forget from time to time. If there's something you really wanna do, plan it now. Buy and wear that swimsuit, make that call, whatever it is, don't wait too long. Tomorrow is farther away that we expect sometimes, in fact, things change and then it's out of our grasp for good.

Today I listened to a lecture by an engineer. Yoga has really increased my awareness of not only my own breath, but that of others. I noticed his spine is somewhat rolling forward, and each time he spoke, he could barely catch his breath. It was almost painful to me to hear it. I wanted to teach him yoga breathing and help him. But I know people have to be open to things first, and maybe this will never happen for him. I will simply wish him breath and maybe that will help. The day was really cool too. It was a science lab and we hooked up an electrode that measures muscle activity. It was on my bicep and tricep of my right arm. I did a few pushups and also the half series ---> down dog, plank, chatarunga, up dog, down dog with the electrode on my arm. Turns out I mostly used my triceps the whole time. This sort of makes sense anatomically, but got me thinking I will look for some poses that work the biceps too! Many inversions might, I'll have to keep thinkin' on it.

Tonight I was practicing yoga outside with my delightful Thursday night class taught by Emily. She's a yoga poet! The weather was lush from recent rains, the sun peeked out for salutations, a breeze blew cheerily to dry our sweat. I noticed bumblebees zooming busily over the clover, felt slight fear of sting but they were ignoring us oh so well! I saw a nest in a tree, and how my toes look during chatarunga, the two sets of toes bend a little different, interesting, I never saw that before. I feel cozy doing yoga outside, like I'm bathed in the essense of yoga and they are soaking into me all at once. Drenching me in childhood feelings of safeness, peace, the yoga family moving and resting together.

Recently I was getting my eyebrows waxed. I do this every once in a while. It's slightly painful, not too bad but I focused on breathing calmly and imagined ocean waves rolling in. I was somewhat uncontrolled with this mental focusing, but it took hold lightly here and there and I could actually find myself swaying to this other place hazily. I want to work on this and develop it. It would be very useful if I ever have a child and go through that whole birth process thingy. ;)

Namaste,
Kat

6.04.2009

Yoga Mamas say: "Stand UP!"

Turns out, moms know best when it comes to our spines! Here are some thoughts about posture, and how to work on improving ours ours. In particular many of us tend to round our shoulders forward, and our head moves forward as well, putting extra pressure on the upper back and the muscles there. Thanks to YogaJournal and Julie Gudmestad for the following information! For the entire article, click here!

Better Posture 101

Your mom was right: You'll look better and feel great if you stop slouching and stand up straight. Yoga can help you do just that—in a way that honors your spine's natural curves. Here's a guide to assessing and improving your posture.

By Julie Gudmestad

POSTURE PRINCIPLES

To create great alignment for your body, I recommend a three-part strategy. First, build awareness by assessing your posture and your lifestyle. Next, create a yoga prescription for your specific postural problem by incorporating a few simple poses into your regular practice. Finally, take your newly developed awareness of your alignment issues and apply it throughout your daily life.

Before tackling the how-tos, however, it's important to understand the anatomy of proper posture. Whether you're sitting or standing, your spine has natural curves that should be maintained. They are a mild forward curve (like a gentle backbend) in the neck and lower back, and a mild backward curve in the upper back and midback. As you practice yoga, you learn to maintain these optimal curves in many standing poses, in most sitting poses, and in inversions like Sirsasana (Headstand) and Adho Mukha Vrksasana (Handstand).

If any of these curves are habitually flattened or overly curved, abnormal posture can get locked into the body. A wide variety of abnormal curves can occur, including a flat neck and a flat lower back, but we'll focus on the two most common problems: a hunched upper back (known as excessive kyphosis), which is usually linked with a jutting forward of the head (known as forward head) and, at the other end of the spectrum, an extreme sway in the lower back (known as excessive lordosis). These extreme curves contribute to many of the painful problems—muscle strain, joint pain, and disk problems, to name a few—that physical therapists and other health care practitioners treat every day.

Maintaining just the right curves is only part of the equation, however; to function efficiently, your skeletal structure also needs to be aligned vertically. That means when you're standing, your ears should be over your shoulders, your shoulders over your hips, and your hips over your knees and ankles. When any body part falls out of that vertical line, the adjacent support muscles will feel the strain. For example, years of having a forward head will cause the muscles of the upper back and neck to become tired and achy from holding up the weight of the head against the pull of gravity.

So, while you needn't nag yourself about slouching, you may discover that the simple act of straightening up can change your life. If you train your body to maintain the normal spinal curves and keep your posture vertical and spacious when you're standing or sitting upright, you're likely to feel better all over. And that's something to write home about.


Namaste,

Kat

6.01.2009

The sixth month is here!

June. One of the most promising months of the year, in more ways than one! In the northern hemisphere, June contains the most longest days of sunlight. So slather on that sunscreen and let's go outside! The birth stone is a pearl, and the flower is a rose. Does any other month smell so sweet?

The name June (Juno) comes from Hera, the Goddess of Marriage and Households, so this is a lovely time to notice many wedding occurring. From gardens to churches to Vegas, the numbers of unions are high this month! There are many fun celebration days in June, so read below to find a few that you might enjoy this week! This is courtesy of author Susan Wittig Albert via her monthly newsletter, All About Thyme!

June is National Iced Tea Month (Drink up!!)
June 2: Today is the feast day of St. Elmo, the patron saint of sailors.
June 3: St. Morand's Day, patron saint of vintners, wine growers, wine makers.
June 4: Hug Your Cat Day. Somewhere, a cat is waiting for a hug. Don't disappoint her. (A bouquet of catnip might be nice, too.)
June 5: National Gingerbread Day. (Why this doesn't take place in December is a great mystery.)

And what is so rare as a day in June? Then, if ever, come perfect days. —James Russell Lowell


We will see you in June for Yoga. Stay tuned for outdoor experiences, Sunny Salutations, and lovely moments!

Namaste,
Kat

5.17.2009

Eat, Drink, and be Merry!



One of the major processes of the human body is digestion. Why is this important? According to the National Institute of Health (NIH):

"When you eat foods—such as bread, meat, and vegetables—they are not in a form that the body can use as nourishment. Food and drink must be changed into smaller molecules of nutrients before they can be absorbed into the blood and carried to cells throughout the body. Digestion is the process by which food and drink are broken down into their smallest parts so the body can use them to build and nourish cells and to provide energy."

This NIH web page contains a wealth of knowledge about the digestive system and how it works, click here to read more. Take a look at the picture as well and for a moment try to visualize how what we eat and drink travels through us.

How does digestion relate to our practice of yoga? Well there are many considerations. Click here to read about a variety of topics like the nutrient cycle, balance of the diet, heartburn and IBS and which yoga asanas (poses) may help with each issue. Yoga Journal also shares an article (click here) of which foods are appropriate to eat together for ideal digestion.

As always, we can remember that digestion takes energy, so it is best not to have a large meal before our practice. If we are hungry, a small piece of easy to digest fruit would probably be the best option. In addition, sufficient water and reducing excessive salt will help our digestion work optimally. The best indicator is thirst. Bring a canteen of water everywhere with you, find a water fountain or head to the water cooler and your body will thank you!

Namaste,
Kat

5.13.2009

I Love Lucy! ;)

Sometimes it's tough to find good yoga clothes and accessories. There are several companies that are geared towards the yoga community, but one that I have found stands out. It's called Lucy (www.lucy.com). They carry a variety of clothing with neat designs and good quality, and some awesome sales! Check them out next time you are doing some home shopping and I think you will be pleasantly surprised.

Namaste,
Kat

5.03.2009

Yoga Under the Sky


So you may have been practicing yoga for a while. Your down dogs are feeling more comfortable and your tree branches are shaking less. You are feeling greater flexibility, better breath awareness, and stronger stabilizing muscles throughout your body. What better way to give your practice a lovely mix up than to take your mat outside!

Practicing yoga outside has many potential benefits. These include:

  • The sounds we encounter connect us with nature and humanity.
  • It brings us directly to the energy of the world.
  • Little differences in a living surface of the earth and grass can make balancing a bigger challenge.
  • Being in nature can help us feel outside our concerns as well, giving perspective.
  • The sunshine can foster vitamin D production, and feelings of bliss.
  • Deep breathing can take on a new facet as our sense of smell carries the ecosystem around us into our practice.
We hope you can join us at Loose Park, May 9th at 10am, for a little Yoga Under the Sky!

Namaste,
Kat

4.28.2009

Yang Yoga

A few posts back, I mentioned Yin. As spring floats on and we drift towards longer days, now is a wonderful time to consider the complementary force to yin, known as yang in the western world.

Yang is white, male, active, dominating, positive, and initiating/creating. Yang is associated with day, mountains, hills, fire, wood, and air.

According to Wikipedia, yin and yang are opposing, and can transform eachother, and yet they are rooted together, and thus are balancing.

How can we relate these concepts to our lives? Maybe by keeping the idea of balance present. Are we leaning too far one direction in our lives, or on the mat? Maybe we have too much motion, and need a moment of stillness. Perhaps we require the balance of a day off lounging, or a vacation where we do nothing active, but rather find ourselves in a valley resting. On the other hand, are we letting go of a dream because it seems like a high mountain to climb? Perhaps we can be very positive towards our goal and begin to take baby steps up this hill.

Whatever our experience, one side does not contain the answer. Rather, the interaction of both forces is what allows us to move forward with both depth and reflection.

Namaste,
Katherine

4.19.2009

Weather or Not

Here is a beautiful song to read through or listen to on a rainy day! Enya - A Day Without Rain

Ever close your eyes?
Ever stop and listen?
Ever feel alive
And you’ve nothing missing?
You don’t need a reason,
Let the day go on and on.
Let the rain fall down
Everywhere around you.
Give into it now,
Let the day surround you.
You don’t need a reason,
Let the rain go on and on.

What a day, what a day to take to.
What a way, what a way to make it through.
What a day, what a day to take to a wild child.

Only take the time
From the helter skelter.
Every day you find,
Everything’s in kilter,
You don’t need a reason,
Let the day go on and on.
Every summer sun,
Every winter evening,
Every spring to come,
Every autumn leaving.
You don’t need a reason,
Let it all go on and on.

What a day, what a day to take to.
What a way, what a way to make it through.
What a day, what a day to take to a wild child.

4.11.2009

Know Yourself to Grow Yourself


In this spring season, all is in renewal. Old leaves are breaking down, fortifying new growth. Shoots, buds, and seeds prepare for the surge. This may be a time to reinvent ourselves as well, breaking away old husks, with velvety new ideas and plans steadily rising forth. What better way to address and maybe even confront our self, than to reflect upon our name. To recall the meaning, the culture, and source of our own personal identity and concept, can help us move forward. Whether we accept this version or seek to weave a deeper tapestry is up to us! Click the link below to find your name and it's wonderful history:

FIND YOUR NAME MEANING HERE!


Thanks to Jellaluna on Flickr for this lovely spring photo!
Namaste,
Kat

4.05.2009

A Yoga Poem

In this time of tumultuous weather, changing landscapes, and restlessness, we can always find a comfortable and beautiful place on the mat. Here is a poem about Sun Salutes to keep in mind, found on this Web Page, it is written by Lenore Horowitz, thanks to her for allowing us to read it here. Perhaps as the weather warms, we can find a moment to experience a Sun Salutation outdoors, facing the glowing sol.

Sun Salute

Stand firm on the axis
of your two arches.
Head down,
breathe deep of the damp earth
where roots have spread under old leaves.
Raise your arms slowly,
face turning like a daffodil
still wet from night's dew
until sun's beams
warm your coat of many colors,
and eyes open, astonished
at the golden glow
pulsing to arms
which lift weightless,
drawn by heart's gravity
to salute the sun.


Namaste,
Kat

3.29.2009

The Alpha and the Omega,on OIL!

As practioners of yoga, many of us try to eat healthy. This is a daily effort that requires thought, planning, focus, and in the end a strong will, given all the American infrastructure that creates unhealthy eating opportunities around many corners, not to mention the lack of exercise! Hey, in Spain I walked 5 miles every day just to get to work, that is a great longevity builder! Unhealthy food at social functions and work, "fast" food looming on every street, busy schedules that don't allow a great deal of time for cooking all contribute to making healthy choices a little tough. Not to mention all the conflicting data about what actually is healthy!

Well, one major thing we can consciously do for ourselves is consider trying to add some omega 3- fatty acids to our diet. What is it? Fat? Yikes! Yes it's fat, but it's the good kind, and we need some so lets go for the good stuff! It is found in various fish as well as a few different nut and plant oils. According to Mayo Clinic, "Fish oil contains both docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), while some nuts (e.g., English walnuts) and vegetable oils (e.g., canola, soybean, flaxseed/linseed, and olive oil) contain alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). Basically, various types of Omega 3 fats are there for us to take in if we should choose. What are the benefits? Based on numerous studies, it can lower trigylcerides, slow plaque buildup on arteries, and reduce risk of death, heart attack, dangerous abnormal heart rhythms and strokes in people with known heart disease. There is no time like the present! We are what we eat, this I truly believe. Try olive oil in those cookies instead of butter, I do and it is delicious! Consider salmon on Sundays, it's easy to bake with a little lemon juice and a few herbs and tastes wonderful. Pack a few walnuts as a snack, or sprinkle them on a salad for added flavor (oh, and throw a few in the brownies with that olive oil ;) ). And above all, we can continue to practice ahimsa towards our own selves, by seeking foods that help our system strengthen, we avoid harm.

Namaste,
Kat

3.17.2009

Vernal Equinox

Ahhhh. March is progressing, and we have passed the Ides unscathed. Hyacinths are budding up so quickly now, and the first daffodils are blooming tentatively in my front yard. The dear lily of the valley pips are poking through the mulch, and irises are raising their pointed blades with valor, as if daring winter to return! Lilacs are waving hello with new green fingertips, and tulips are unfurling satin leaves like jubilant flags. On March 20th, at 11:44am, we will find ourselves once more at the vernal equinox. Without any external calendar, my enduring jade friends all over the yard already know this, spring is arriving!

The vernal equinox will mark the point at which the very center of the sun will lie directly above the equator, rising, climbing, poised, and then our blue planet will begin to tip this lovely northern hemisphere oh so gently yet powerfully towards warmth, summer, light, and growth. The word Equinox stems from latin ( meaning equal and night) and informs us that on this particular 24 hour cycle, day and night will be of the same length, light and dark totally balanced in the present moment. The word Vernal also stems from latin and refers to Spring, bringing to mind many fitting words for me right now, verve, verse, verdad (truth), and versatile. If you want, savor this precious minute on Friday morning and enjoy it by taking a few deep breaths of spring air!

I hope your trek into spring will be one of gentle breezes, kissing sun, peaceful breaths, and mindful joys. I will end with a quote today (from a dove chocolate no less) "Happiness is in the heart, not in the circumstances." May we allow the bliss of spring to enter our hearts, and envelope any troubles that exist for us this season.

Namaste,
Kat

3.08.2009

The Yoga of Yoda, mmmm.

Ever since I was a little girl, I have loved Star Wars. I'm sure many people feel the same way, but as a kiddo with only 4 t.v. channels living in the country and rare exposure to that glowing screen, I really fell in love with it. I distinctly recall Jabba (although he was much much bigger in my mind than he looks now), scaring me but thrilling me, and all the fun stuff and creatures that kept unraveling before my wide eyes.

The past few weeks we've been watching the three original episodes and last night many of the phrases that Yoda pontificated really caught my "yoga" ear. The first related to staying in the present moment. He's upset with young Luke for having such little patience.

He says, “Ready are you? What know you of ready? For eight hundred years have I trained Jedi. My own counsel will I keep on who is to be trained. A Jedi must have the deepest commitment, the most serious mind. This one a long time have I watched. All his life has he looked away... to the future, to the horizon. Never his mind on where he was. Hmm? What he was doing. Hmph. Adventure. Heh. Excitement. Heh. A Jedi craves not these things. You are reckless.”

Here Yoda is pointing out that tendency in many of us, our eyes on some potential horizon, one which might or might not come to fruition. Sometimes not paying attention to what we are doing for moments, or months, or even longer. It also reminds me of a scene in a recent movie (A Lot Like Love) where Ashton Kutcher's character is hurting emotionally. He is sitting on a beach watching his nephew. His brother tells him something like, your life is right now! And he finally begins to accept this truth. It can be so difficult to do, but it essential to our growth as humans, and basically to our happiness.

Anoth
er more famous Yoda line caused me to reflect on my practice as well. “Do or do not... there is no try.” In a way this could be seen as opposite to some yoga philosophy, but at the same time it has such value. When we wrap our minds around a true intention, we can make it come true. There is not a specific time limit we must impose, but if we are serious with our goal, we can achieve it. Perhaps this is an inversion in yoga class, or a career change, or taking up a new hobby. If we invest our time and energy, and take the building steps, we will DO!

May the Force be with YOU.
Namaste,
Kat

2.16.2009

Don't worry, get dirty.

Feeling down? It's February and a few lovely days sprinkle in here and there, but we've reached the time of year that many people get the winter blahs, looking forward to the spring days ahead. In keeping with yoga's philosophy of staying in the present moment, how can we enjoy this time of year? One truly excellent way would be to get outside and start digging around! Maybe trimming some of the dead plants from last year, or raking a few errant leaves that have swirled back into the yard. Possibly turning the compost pile, or gathering any fallen bark or twigs. If you don't have a yard of your own, ask any family or friends if they need a hand, yard work is tough to get to for many people these days, they'll be so grateful to you for your energy!

It turns out this won't just make your friends and neighbors happy, it will make you happy!! According to a recent study at the University of Bristol, the bacteria in dirt have the ability to boost seretonin levels in the brain! A girl I knew in high school once shared with me a phrase that for some reason has stuck in my head: "God make dirt, dirt don't hurt", funny what science often matches to old sayings and phrases. Many farmers and other planters will also tell you they feel good after a solid day working with the earth. In one study lung cancer patients anecdotally reported quality of life improvements after being treated with these soil bacteria. In another study, mice exposed to these bacteria were very interesting, choosing to swim instead of sink when placed in water. Yet another set of researchers have found seretonin to play a role in the immune system response but further research is of course needed to better understand this role. Read more detail about these thoughts here on the BBC's article about dirt boosting happiness.

I came across a very interesting few stories from a seasoned teacher, related to the power of positive thinking as well. This stemmed from my examining the research on how thought directed at water molecules could possibly affect the beauty of the crystals that they form, a bit of controversial research conducted by Masaru Emoto, a Japanese author. Teacher Xiua Shu shares these amazing stories about the power of optimistic thought on the web page PureInsight.org. Included are how trees grew strong, a fish tank stayed clean, and the story of two young girls fighting cancer.

Let us all pledge to remain as positive as we can. Sending this happiness to others (plant, animal, or person) may help them as well. Funny how the earth could make us happy, and maybe we can return the favor!

Namaste,
Kat

2.08.2009

Without violence

The world is full of violence, unfortunately. Some say it may just be a part of human nature but this is definitely not the only way we can respond. The "news" reaches us daily, from drug lord atrocities, to military casualties, to crimes right in our own city or neighborhood. It assaults us but even as we are forced to absorb it we must continue with our day and so in order to cope, we develop a shield. We find justification for the violence, or think that it will not extend to us, or accept it as a requirement of living. Some maybe even turn the news off, trying to block it out. Some philosophies find additional ways to deal with this toxic presence and one concept in yoga may help us not only simply cope, but rather return a different way of being back to the world.

Ahimsa is the sanskrit word that literally means "without violence". In other words, the goal that we do no harm, that we do not kill or harm others. In some versions, this can extend even to a bug on the sidewalk, or plants in the garden. Entwined in this overall idea is that violence of every kind can entail negative karmic consequences, but I honestly feel that even if we do not follow the ideas of karma, violence or acceptance of it in any form can be damaging to us.

What can we do to practice ahimsa? We might first try to expose ourselves to less violence, in order to increase our sensitivity to it. Seeking out comedies over horrors, or dramas over weapon flicks could be one step. We might chose to read the news online rather that hear conflict after murder on the nightly news. Next we can work on this in our interactions with others. Violence can exist in tone or thought even when subtle, so trying to find kindness towards everyone that we interact with can reduce any even mildly violent tendencies. Thinking of someone each person helps or loves, or thinking of their best traits may help, if it someone that is not necessarily our best friend. This might allow them to find ahimsa as well, and become more peaceful and positive.

In yoga, we can be careful with our own limits, not pushing ourselves to pain or if we experience any, finding a very safe place to recover and rest. Conversely as we find a peaceful place, enjoying and reveling in the delight! This can even include internal comments to ourselves. Do we speak lovingly to ourselves or even about ourselves to others?

The bottom line here is, love yourself, do not be violent to yourself in any way. Take the time to care for yourself, listen to your needs, and work to meet them as best you can. This will begin to emanate kindness and peace to all aspects of your life. Perhaps someday this will be the world.

Namaste,
Kat

1.24.2009

Guided Imagery: What can it do for you?

As we practice yoga, each person moves through a series of asanas (postures) that engage the body and breath. However, we always contrast this activity at the end of each yoga class by finding ourselves in corpse pose, allowing the mind and body to clear and relax. Finding this calm and relaxing place allows us to encounter stillness and return to our life refreshed.

In the upcoming weeks and months of class, I plan to incorporate occasional guided imagery into the final moments of class. What is guided imagery? According to web md, this thought process is based on the fact that your mind and body are connected. Guided imagery is a program of directed thoughts and suggestions that guide your imagination toward a relaxed, focused state.

In some cases it may allow the subconscious mind to present discoveries and itself to the conscious mind. At other times, it is simply a way to see where we are and where we would like to be, carving out time and space for our imagination to flourish. In the hectic velocity of modern life, these moments of reflection and creativity may not be able to surface so easily. Through this process, I hope to help nourish the dreams and realizations of each yoga participant.

By the way, be sure to check out the new Barefoot Fitness Web Page to see our schedule, videos of some major yoga poses (featuring Emily Morris), and more!

Namaste,
Kat

1.14.2009

Bringing Yoga to Work.

Today was a day off, sort of, I didn't teach 100+ rambunctious students so anything is pretty relaxing compared to that. From 8 to 11 am we had teacher meetings and a water quality presentation, then from 11 on, entering grades and getting ready for the new semester. I kinda overdid it. I could have left at 1pm because I had special permission, but I just kept doing more. I moved a large tree that weighs about 100 pounds. Really I did, I had to slide the pot onto a big flattened cardboard box and haul it across the room. Then I wanted a table up front and hauled/slide that, probably weighs 50 pounds and went about 40 feet, I have a lengthy science room. Whew. Exhaustion. My left arm was already a little sore from falling at my soccer game, I won't go into why a yoga lady fell kicking a free kick with no one anywhere near ;) I'm trying to figure that one out right now, definitely a lack of mind body connection at that moment!

Many of us can get into a zone at work. We soldier on, trying to get things done or squeeze to much into a short time frame. If we bring breathing to work, we bring yoga. Any time you find yourself rushing or stressing or just overdoing it, try this.

If you're sitting a lot at work, stand up in mountain, and if you're moving around a lot, take a load off, maybe even sit on the floor if you have a comfy spot. Close your eyes, and breath slowly. Think of a calm friendly place in your head and imagine yourself there. Maybe a sunny boardwalk, or a garden filled with beauty. Imagine this for at least 10 breaths, your self is going to resist your self and try to let your mind wander, but stick with it and you will let go at least a little. Let me know how it goes if you try this and if it works for you!

Namaste,
Kat

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...