Tonic of Longevity and Enlightenment

The first time I met my Teacher I was at Dragonfly Yoga Studies in Fort Walton Beach, where she visits to teach once a year. The room was full of folks, from professional yogis to curious visitors and everyone in between. I was in yoga teacher training and felt nervous and excited just to be there.

During meditation class she drinks from a large mug filled with some steaming substance. There is also a tall cup with water in it. Among the many things I’m intrigued by, I’m really curious about whatever is in that mug.

I imagine the concoction of herbs and exotica cooked for days over a blazing fire so seers can peer between the veils. I imagine blue flames licking the sides of a copper cauldron while this tonic is transformed into its magical brew. I wonder what color the rose petals floating on the drink’s surface might be. I want to know what special drink that is, made for Swamis only. Where in the world do these teas come from and how are they measured and prepared, no doubt in secret, prior to meditation class?

After a couple of years studying with Swami I still wonder what delicious brew is in the cup every time she teaches meditation class. By this time I’ve made friends with other students from the ashram. There are a few with whom I feel comfortable enough to ask my silly questions.

I’m at breakfast after class on a Sunday morning in Greyton Beach. It’s interesting for me to be anywhere having breakfast since this is not my optimal time of day. But here we are, friends with a Teacher in common dining at the crack of dawn (eleven thirty or so).

While asking about the seasonal detox that was coming up, I lean forward with a little conspiratorial whisper and I ask, “What’s Swami drinking from that mug?”

“Hot water.” My friend’s pretty eyes sparkle when she says it, because she knows… She knows as well as I do that I’d cooked up something outrageous and secret because maybe at one time she did too.

“Hot water?” I ask, sitting back in my chair. No secrets of the universe flying across this table at Another Broken Egg.

“Yeah. Hot water.”

She goes on the explain it’s called Ushnodaka, pronounced not unlike it’s spelled, and is often used in Aryuveda as a therapy for dehydration, vata derangement and the various imbalances a human can experience. Aryuveda is a sister science in the yoga tradition that deals with balancing the human condition on all levels using food and lifestyle as affirmative therapies.

Since this conversation over eggs and toast I have participated in 5 detoxes with Swami and every time I am amazed at how wonderful the simple act of hydration makes me feel. Ushnodaka is a primary component in the 10 Yoga Detox and today is the 10 day of the Winter 2016 detox. I’ve been drinking hot water like crazy all week. I look and feel like an 80’s supermodel – ready to trounce around on the beach in my Body Glove one piece at a moment’s notice. Hydration can do that.

Recently I read an article where a woman decided to drink a gallon of water a day for 30 days to see what would happen. Curiosity is such a powerful tool on the road to self-healing and well-being! She takes a picture on day one and then one per week for four weeks. The side by side photos between day one and day thirty speak for themselves.

She looks like she’s been to the plastic surgeon, like she got a chemical peel without the rashy red skin that can sometimes follow. There seems to be some sort of filler in her wrinkles and like the crepey skin under her eyes got scraped off and replaced. The surface of her face has a more even skin tone and her eyes, which showed the greatest transformation, are sparkling and bright.

I saw this article just before the Winter detox began, at a time when I’d neglected my efforts at daily hydration. I redoubled my efforts knowing that during the cleanse water (both room temperature and hot) is emphasized.

That initial curiosity about Swami’s tonic she drinks while she teaches returns to my mind. I remember how caught up I was in its contents, so intrigued by what exotic and top secret tonic of longevity and enlightenment she is drinking.

Water, available to everyone and so simply vital to our existence. As this ten day detox concludes I’m going to try to maintain this wonderful level of hydration I am enjoying right now, where my joints move smoothly and my skin looks fine. If you’d care to join me in my efforts, I’d love to know how it works for you.

To visit the article to which I refer, please visit http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-2480491/How-drinking-litres-water-day-took-years-face.html

 

 

 

 

List Maker

Sometimes I’ll make a to-do list to cut mental tension. I’ll use the list like a slippery wet rope handle I can wrap ’round my wrist for a short time before climbing the rest of the way up the water slide steps. Because my spine felt shortened by some imagined weight, I decide to make a list of simple silly words written one above the other…

buy cat food

practice yoga

make lentils

dust meditation table.

Everything on this list will probably get done sooner rather than later whether they are on the list or not. I think this is sort of the point; they take attention away from what ought to be on the list, or worse, what I don’t know should be on the list.

Working smarter, not harder should be on the list. I’ve been meaning to put my two weeks in at the restaurant where I work on the weekend for the last five years. Also, become a better business woman. Buy new socks. The unlisted items are a nebulous gathering of unspoken ideas playing peek-a-boo between sheets on my mind’s clothesline.

I had a particularly harrowing work weekend. I didn’t even work very hard, which bothers me in spite of that whole work smarter not harder item that ought to be on the list, but ain’t. This particular night at work creates a crossroads where some decisions need to be made and I don’t even know where to start.

So I made a list….

write a poem

brush the cat

read the poem to the cat

make coffee

practice yoga.

The list made me tired, because of what was behind it. The unspoken list that’s born from wild longing is spooky and real. This weariness made my spine feel shorter from the imagined weight of it all. The spine, my spine! The home of scintillating light and presence felt compressed. Yoga practice should help. Good thing it’s on the list.

Without putting down a mat or clipping up my hair, I just sorta lower to the floor like I’m bowing to a queen and don’t know really when to stop. At the bottom of the bow I crumple and envision myself the old woman who lived in a shoe. I hope, listlessly, that it is a very nice shoe.

Not sure where this new crumpling style of yoga is taking me, it doesn’t take long to realize my body is making its way very naturally to corpse pose. I’m not being funny, that’s a real thing and usually at the end of a yoga practice. Seems that’s where I’m starting.

Savasana, the posture of the corpse. I feel myself stretching out on my back with the sensation of the jute rug bristling comfortably against my skin. I tuck my shoulder blades beneath me like tired wings folding against aching muscles. My feet roll away from each other and my jaw becomes slack, just as I often cue students to at the end of each yoga class; there’s nothing left to be done but to lay there and play dead.

Sometimes I cue people to let the idea of their bodies completely drop away. Instead of seeing themselves on the mat, imagine all they can see of themselves with their mind’s eye is a horizontal streak of light on the mat. Just see that aquamarine white shot of lightening stretched out and pulsating in the space of the physical spine. When I remember this I see it in myself; light reclining against light.

high frequency 1

Stretched out as I am, one of the cats comes over to check on me. She settles near my head as I watch the ceiling. I feel restful and my skeleton starts to elongate some. The pressure is off. I see that streak of light in the middle of my body. I think of Shiva, wild sweet Lord of Yoga, who when nothing else could be done lay down at the feet of Mother Kali.

My to-do list dissolves. My spine feels taller, like a Yogi’s ought to.

Holiday

Is It Hot In Here?

20140402-104958I think we all know by now that hot yoga is a thing. People like it, they want to practice it and it’s here to stay. Hot yogis walk into the studio with a beach towel, gallon jug of water and a sweat band across their forehead; there is no need to inquire as to which class they are there for.

You wouldn’t expect me to be teaching a hot yoga class on the schedule at Uru, mostly because I haven’t been able to warm up to the practice – yuk yuk. I mean come on, it’s hot in there! Then there’s all that planning. You’ve got to take a change of clothes or drive home naked so you don’t soak your driver’s seat with sweat and all those toxins you’ve excreted.

Also, please hydrate. If you don’t, you’re looking at a headache later in the day or evening. Also, without enough water you’ll experience tiredness that requires a ten to twenty minute nap with the cats to cure. Admittedly, the napping part is pretty nice.

So let’s talk about what happened that lead me to this….moments before teaching my first hot yoga class ever.

hot yoga

That room I’m sitting in, looking at ten people on beach towel covered yoga mats with gallon jugs of water near ’em, is about 98 degrees. If you look closely there’s a bit of sweat already on my brow.

It started when I took a hot class at Uru on a Wednesday. Normally, I am at home on Wednesdays because my Teacher has class in Atlanta and they stream it so long distance students can participate. The end of August, first of September, she is on retreat, so I decided to take a friend’s hot class at Uru2.

They have those infrared heaters at this studio. I didn’t think there’d be a difference between one hot room and another, but I knew there was something going on when I sat on my mat directly beneath one of these ceiling panels and felt a descent of warmth something like a late afternoon stream of sunbeams alighting on my skin.

I am not kidding.

My friend teaching, Dave, really is a great teacher. He says such nice things and makes everyone feel like he’s just so glad they came to class. So when the next Wednesday comes around and my sweet Swami is still on retreat I go back to Dave’s hot yoga class.

I even have my own hot yoga towel now. I don’t know who I am. It’s like I’ve discovered some type of drug that I have to spend all day preparing to take – hydrate hydrate hydrate people!

In class I stretch in two directions balanced on one foot in Warrior 3 and feel the radiant heat evenly distributing warmth across the entire length of my right leg from the sole of my foot to the small of my back. I feel rather like a goddess illuminated by the flames of a distant star.

I email the studio owner when I get home. The email begins…”I hope you’re sitting down, there’s something I need to tell you.” No doubt she thinks I’m about to put in my resignation or to admit to wrenching a student’s arm out of socket in a mis-guided adjustment, neither of which occurred, fortunately.

The email goes on to tell her that I don’t know what I’m doing exactly but I may want to teach one of these hot classes in which the room is heated with infrared plates in the ceiling; a totally different way of heating a room. My previous experiences with hot yoga have been with air heaters in the corners of the room, which effectively heat the room, but with a different quality of heat.

What I have learned is that the infrared heaters warm surfaces in the room as opposed to heating the air. I am better able to breathe in this heated environment, as the space doesn’t become muggy. I have been looking at studies on infrared heat and its effects on pain management, clinical use for treating inflammation and depression as well as its effects on  cell regeneration (as in wound healing) and relaxation. I am deeply intrigued.

I have also been thinking quite a bit about yoga teachers who I spent time with who were greatly opposed to hot yoga and everything it involved, including hot yogis themselves. There were yogis in my life who were very outspoken against hot yoga and I realize, in retrospect, I took in their opinions as my own. I have been known to be outspoken against hot yoga, too. I don’t like the heat, the risk, the puddles of sweat on the floor.

It wan’ts until I was wandering aimlessly on a Wednesday in need of someone to say nice things to me that I ended up in Dave’s hot yoga class, not because it was hot but because it was Dave, and I gave myself an opportunity to really give the experience a chance. The warmth – of both the ceiling panels and the instructor – were catalysts for the change of heart that would put me on the schedule at Uru3 teaching hot yoga there.

I’m excited and a little nervous because it’s all so new. Learning to teach yoga in a completely new environment enhances my ability to instruct in all environments. It’s interesting to be humbled by admitting to a change of heart and mind and it’s wild to see this whole new group of people in my class. People who simply will not take class in a room temperature room. It’s very nice to meet them.

I have learned there is no distinction between hot yogis and temperate yogis. We are all Yogis, just some of us need to have a change of clothes on hand and an extra towel to mop up that puddle on the floor.

Yoga, the umbrella term under which these physical practices lie, gives us limitless opportunities to grow. I have to say this hot yoga experiment has been a really cool opportunity to grow. I hope you join me on the mat, either basking beneath hot panels like a long tailed Komodo dragon or in a nice, cool room with a steaming cup of ginger tea near your mat. Either way is good.

Kali Natha Yoga at URU Yoga and Beyond

I received some most exciting news last week! I’m adding another class to the schedule at Uru Yoga and Beyond. This isn’t just any ‘ole class either, folks. I got permission to teach Kali Natha Yoga at Uru.

Why would I need permission? You might ask. And from whom?

I’m studying with the Teacher of my heart, Swami Jaya Devi, in Atlanta in her 500 hour teacher training program. In that I am learning Kali Natha Yoga as taught by Ma Jaya Sati Bhagavati. I want to teach this yoga because teaching is another form of practice. But also, when I practice or teach Kali Natha Yoga I am in the flow of that lineage and in such sweet harmony with the teachings. I feel that I’m in the presence of my Teacher no matter where in the world we are.

I inquired as to whether I may teach at the yoga studio in Pensacola because I’m still in training. Like novice hairdressers who need to practice on a warm body once they graduate from those infernal mannequin heads, teaching yoga is not very different.

I assure you, future Kali Natha Yoga practitioners, that I am an infinitely better yoga instructor than I am a hairdresser. No one needs to worry about losing an ear or their hair smoking and burning under a dome dryer! Having said that, it’s better to check in with one’s Teacher before teaching the things one studies.

My poetic heart doesn’t answer the question of what, exactly, this kind of yoga is. So I went to the website to help find the right language to describe it.

Kali Natha Yoga takes its name from Mother Kali, the all-embracing Mother who takes the pain and suffering of her children, and the Nathas who are ancient yogis from the lineage of Lord Shiva. It is this balancing of masculine and feminine that makes Kali Natha Yoga transformative. This yoga awakens the Divine feminine principle of Shakti and moves the practitioner to a deeper self-awareness.

Kali Natha Yoga is a root yoga, complete in itself, and can be used as the basis for all other yoga practices. It utilizes many of the yogic tools including mantra, mudra and pranayam and can change the breath and the quality of blood. It changes air to prana and prana to pure shakti. Every chakra is opened and stretched. The essence of Kali Natha Yoga interweaves together the mind, body and soul. 

I couldn’t have said it any better myself.

Kali Natha Yoga is on the schedule at Uru Yoga and Beyond  beginning the weekend after Labor Day. Class will be Saturdays at 2 pm. There will be a monthly series, so we have a chance to dive into it and devote heart and mind to some of the variations that show up while visiting the same set of postures. This will provide Time and Space to investigate the challenges and growth born from repeated efforts.

Kali Natha Yoga is a moving meditation, a prayer in motion and the unspoken poetry of the soul. I cannot wait to practice with you.

nataraja

This Just In

I am very excited to let ya’ll know that the “It’s Good To Be New” Seven Week Intro to Yoga Series has been added to the schedule on Nine Mile Road as a weekly class. The initial seven weeks were inspired by the chakra system. Moving forward we’ll focus on the importance of breath in practice and proper alignment for yoga postures while balancing strength and flexibility. See you Sundays at 2 pm! (new Nine Mile location)

I’ve been watching classes grow at Uru Yoga and Beyond and it’s incredible to watch such a beautiful process. One of the things I’ve noticed about my Monday class in particular is that folks new to the studio are transitioning out of some of the strictly introductory classes and are dipping their toes in the waters of open level and slow flow classes.

It’s all very exciting. I’ve changed the structure of the Monday class, which is an hour and fifteen minutes, to address the growing population of feisty Yogis! I’m changing the 4:30 pm class to an open level class appropriate for all levels of experience. Here’s the class description from the website:

New and seasoned yogis are welcome in this invigorating hour and fifteen minute yoga session. The class is structured to introduce new students to a faster pace of practice while gently and playfully challenging practitioners of all levels of experience. Students can also expect breath practices and concepts of yoga philosophy to inspire the class.

The 6 pm class on Monday is still Divine Balance and Flow, which I lovingly call my Grab Bag class. You never know what you’re going to get when you arrive; restorative, invigorating arm balances and back bends or maybe a sampling of Kali Natha Yoga when I return from a weekend intensive with Swami Jaya Devi.

I am currently very inspired by Tuesdays and Thursdays at 5:30 pm. In these two classes I want to get back to the true essence of Slow Flow, in which practitioners gain strength and flexibility by concentrating on steady and slow guided yoga postures. The roots of your practice will grow deep with this concentration and balance of effort and ease. The practice takes on a rhythm reflective of the natural and constant flow of breath, reminding us that the most sacred part of the practice is our own presence.

Thursdays at 4 pm I plan on spending the hot summer months slowing the pace way down in the Intro to Flow class. We’re going to invest our energy in letting the breath cue the movements. This slowing allows us to move more gracefully from the inside out into the world, rather than being influenced by outer influences and internalizing them.

At Chip’s Gym in Gulf Breeze, starting in July, you have a chance to win a Jade Yoga Mat (my favorite and the official yoga mat of my personal practice). On July 3rd I’m installing a super fancy coffee can with accompanying slips of paper. When you come to yoga at Chip’s you get to put your name in the coffee can. If you bring a friend, you get to put  your name in twice. That’s right, I said it. Your friend also gets to add their slip of paper to the can. In August we’ll have a drawing. Chip’s yoga is Tuesday at 3 pm and Friday at 3:30 and is free for members.

Be on the look out for a monthly class staring in the fall called Workshop Your Home Practice. It’s a chance to bring your home practice to the studio and ask questions. I’ll guide the opening and warm-up to help everyone settle into their practice, but for about forty-five minutes it’s all about discovery and playfulness on the mat. I’ll just be there serving in an advisory capacity. It’s going to be so much fun!

Please remember that the Light for Nepal fundraiser is this Friday at Uru at 6 pm. All proceeds benefit those effected by the recent earthquake. The silent auction is on right now, please stop by the yoga studio and have a look. And thank you. Really.

~ Namaste.

Light for Nepal

On Friday June 26th from 6 – 9 pm Uru Yoga and Beyond is hosting a candlelight meditation, silent auction and raffle to raise money for victims of the Earthquake in Nepal.

The woman putting all of this together sent out an all points bulletin for local artists to donate something to the silent auction. I think, I sure wish I had something to donate. Then, slowly I look up, as though to watch a majestic bird in flight and see about a dozen malas in various states of completion hanging from thumb tacks. It’s an artful exhibition.

I don’t know if you do this, but when I have a fantastic idea right from the heart my mind steps in with an immediacy that would make Bat Man look like a slow poke. But I’d already thought it and there was about thirty seconds between that idea and my mind insinuating itself in my fun (this is one of the advantages of yoga practice – the mind has a slower reaction time to ruin good ideas).

I chose to donate a white quartz on white hemp. It has a blue tassel. It reminds me of Cinderella, an icy cave in which Lord Shiva meditates and my great-grandmother. It’s one of the first malas I made and it’s one of my favorites.

Strange how even though I made something specifically to sell, I have a hard time turning it out into the world. I wonder who’ll want it, who might buy it and where in the world this little string of quartz will go.

I took it to the yoga studio today. I filled out the artist form and I left that pretty mala in a cardboard box. I wrapped it lovingly in a blue tissue, slightly darker than its icy tassel.

Before I took the mala to the yoga studio I let it “rest” on a chunk on selenite. Selenite is named after its association with the moon, Selene, and is a powerful stone for cleansing energy and neutralizing spaces. I figured since I become a little attached to my projects it’s best to clear them on this beautiful salt based stone.

While this mala was resting I took a picture of it, mostly because my sister suggested I make a file of malas I made and sold, but also because I’m sentimental.

White Quartz mala

$10 door entrance fee – you receive a candle for the meditation and one raffle ticket. The raffle is for a gorgeous mala made of pearls, sandalwood, & Nepalese beads.