when the coffee has gone cold

when the coffee has gone cold

for a moment, there is quiet and stillness. for a moment, serenity lays her fingers on your tight shoulders.

all WILL be okay.

the sunlight cascades through large panes of glass promising warmth and promising future.

rest comes natural, when your soul is in tune

faitd88b908701885c501e9fc85ff7251d09h restores, hope lifts it’s wings and takes you onto new heights

you stand, knowing what is next

knowing that your effort is not in vain and that you have given your best

arise

warm the coffee or go grab another fresh pot

today IS your day

 

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Mindfulness.

Tonight I taught a community yoga class. Before and during this class, I felt completely unworthy and inadequate to teach yoga tonight. Negative energy flowed through my work place today and although I had kept the negativity at bay in days prior, today, I could not. I was weak, tired and my patience had left somewhere.

I wanted to run away. I should have taken the day off.

My game has been pretty high lately, I have felt a renewed sense of positivity and happiness. I have been teaching with patience, energy and wisdom and reaping the rewards. So today felt like a huge blow. When I had a student say, “This is my first time to yoga, ever” it threw me for a complete loop. I had not taught beginners in a long time. The poses that had become my plan started to slip from my grasp and my teaching of the class felt disjointed.

This evening, I taught a definition of mindfulness to the class as a friendly, non-reactive attention focused on experiencing the here and now without judgement. I taught this in relationship to how our bodies are and what they can/cannot do for us. Yet, as I repeated this mantra during class, I realized it was applicable to me. I needed to not-judge, be friendly and pay attention to the here and now, on my mat, in the space. I needed to not-judge and be friendly toward myself, practicing self-compassion. As this shift took place, I  recod88b908701885c501e9fc85ff7251d09gnized another facet of yoga that I love.

It meets you where you are.

My class was diverse-ranging from a yoga instructor to a brand new student of yoga. It was a beautiful opportunity to break through my preconceived ideas of how a class should go, and to play attention to the room and the students in front of me.

I learned mindfulness in the midst of teaching tonight.

A friendly, non-reactive attention focused on experiencing the here and now without judgement.

And I shall take this mindfulness into my evening and day tomorrow.

 

 

Japan, A Cultural Story With Karma.

I am in love with this country.

As I write this, I sit up early on day 2 of our exploration of the Niseko resort area, it is 5:48 a.m. I just showered and love my morning quiet time to just be. I keep conking out around 9 p.m. and thus the early wake up.

We are staying at Moiwa Lodge at the base of the Moiwa ski/board resort.Yesterday we spent a day riding here as snow gently fell and there were zero lift lines. I took a photo of weaving in and out of the bamboo shoots and trees. 

The snow was good, not perfect powder for the pow chasers on the trip, but for a beginner freshie like me, I was happy. I put my phone in my pocket and mindlessly did not zip it back up. On the lift ride back up, I realized that I had lost it. Jess and I combed over the area but to no avail, Chad and I tried to set up finding the phone remontely, but to no avail. All the while, I just knew it would turn up.

The reason I knew my phone would turn up is that everything I have encountered in Japan is on time, has specific guidelines and runs smoothly. The people are filled with kindness and gentleness. I am a complete outsider and therefore may be off as to how an inner society is ran. However, it is quiet in restaurants, train stations, in people-filled subway stations and on crowded bus rides. They even ask you to not talk on your phone while on public transportation! I think, too, that if you did loudly someone would probably come and remind you to not. You take your shoes off at the door of many establishments and all homes and you bow and smile a lot. (I keep putting my hands up in namaste when I bow, which is not custom, but it feels natural to me as a yogi.)

After two trips down the mountain to see if I could find my phone, I realized that the lost phone ‘just is’ lost.

The concept of ‘just is’ came to me back in the spring, I even wrote about it earlier. Then, on the trip from Sapporo to Niseko, this concept was reintroduced to me through another yogi and writer, Baron Baptiste. In his book, “Perfectly Imperfect,” he talks about two views of a yoga class being full, so full that the mats are touching. He talks are out one view of the room, “it is too cramped” and another view, “spacious enough to hold many yogis.” He mentions that the room ‘just is.’ I thought about my lost phone as thus: ‘just is’ lost. As a result, I went on to enjoy my day, still believing it would show up, but knowing worrying about how much it would cost to replace it, how I was going to travel back to the states with it, and many other things would not increase my chances of finding it. Not to say, that I didn’t keep an eye out for it!wp-image-966439951jpg.jpg

This concept of ‘just is’ is something I have wrestled with throughout growing up. I have desperately wanted to feel in control. I have had tragedies happen in life that I almost could not accept because they were out of my control. Serious control issue there. I remember sharing a classroom with another teacher and he would always say “It is what it is” and I used to get so frustrated with that concept. Turns out, he was right.

As I continued to snowboard that second day at Moiwa, a sense of okay-ness, a sense of “Just is” set in to my soul. I went into Moiwa Lodge and talked with them about the situation and one of the workers said, your phone has been found! I went running over to the Ski Resort counter, and there it was, warming up and still charged. I could not believe my fortune. I talked about karma a lot that night, when I met up with friends for drinks at the Lodge 834. Chad and I kept saying that I do a lot of work to make sure that my personal karma is balanced out. As we left the lodge, I walked to the restroom. As I was leaving, I saw someone else’s phone on the back of the toilet seat.

FOR REAL.

I picked up the phone, told everyone and we were in complete awe of the day that the integrity of Japanese culture and apparently, my karma, were in perfect display.

7 Ways To Maintain the Elixir of Travel at Home

attraction-castle-tokyo-tokyo-imperial-palace-0001-0001-0001-flickrI just returned this week from Japan. The Japanese culture is cascaded with a respectful quiet, peace-filled ambiance and an awareness into daily life. I remain impressed and hope to translate some of this peacefulness and respect into my personal days. I do think it is very possible to do things such as say”thank you very much” to everyone that you meet, regardless of their state of being. I also know that by slowing down, I can learn to  be peaceful with my days. Quiet with my days. Whenever I travel, I return home and  experience reverse culture shock. I LOVE traveling, it is a huge part of my soul. I especially love to travel internationally. To date, I have been to eleven countries and all but five of the United States. Travel is my elixir, a concoction that brings me centered and home to my self.

After returning from Japan, it became evident to me that it would be fun to somehow maintain this sense of luxury, adventure and wonder in my daily life, and to treat myself as if I was on vacation. So, I am making a list of things that I do on while traveling that I do not do while I am at home in hopes that I can maintain somewhat of a sense of the dreaminess of travel while in my lovely home.

  1. A fluffy comforter. I have one, I need to use it.
  2. I drink coffee slowly and read every day (sometimes several times a day) while I am traveling. It sets up my day slowly and peacefully as I enjoy one of my favorite things-good coffee.
  3. I look around my world I am in and I participate enthusiastically. I wonder where in my own city have I never been? What could I look at from the eyes of newness around me?
  4. I walk outdoors a lot. To and from places, or hiking. Walking clears the mind, the fresh air whisks any thing that was troublesome out of my soul.
  5. Self-care. I slow down and treat myself very well on vacation. I do not hurry through meals. I enjoy the conversation. I look around at what I am eating and doing. This is something that I can easily apply to my daily life.
  6. I meet strangers easily. I treat everyone on travels as if they were magical beings with so much to offer.
  7. I am spontaneous. I travel a lot with big groups and so having a set schedule does not usually happen. Usually, we stand around trying to figure out dinner until we are all starving and tired.

I picked 7 things because 7 is my favorite number.

As I am sitting in my beautiful home and grateful to be here, I recognize that I can not travel all the time. I love what I do, where I live and the life I have built around me. However, each day can have a sense of travel regardless of where you are.

So, tomorrow, I plan on grabbing that latte and reading my book before heading off to work with those magical people who have so much to offer!

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What are some habits or things that you do traveling and which you could cultivate into your day-to-day? 

mindfulness.

Mindfulness is awareness that arises through paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgementally,” says Kabat-Zinn. “It’s about knowing what is on your mind.

The founder of the Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), Jon Kabat-Zinn, reminds us that we are not defined by the thoughts that go on in our head, which he adds are mostly centered on “Me, myself and I.” I came upon mindfulness last year in my yoga teacher training in the form of the book, The Miracle of Mindfulness, by Thich Naht Hanh. This book came at me as does the Japanese language: I recognize what is being spoken, but cannot translate it.

2016 became some of my busiest times. I continually think to myself how much I need to “just say no” to social and other engagements. If I do, I find myself feeling guilty for not participating-guilty because my friends might not like me if I don’t show up (and other silly things). I would like to say it is because I am doing so much good in the world-and that may be true-but as a result, I do suffer. I teach yoga 3-4 times a week on top of my full time visual art teaching job and work a promotion that I received in my job. I also attempt to maintain friendships and a relationship with my husband and family, all while working out and trying to plan healthy meals.

I am tired.

In the midst of the busyness, my yoga practice lessens and my meditation, although daily became an opportunity to think creatively and plan a to-do list. 

I am missing the point.

Yoga should guide one, meditatively by bringing awareness to the now. Each asana/pose should be guided by breath, thus mindfulness should be inherent in yoga. Often in our hurried world, I see myself and students rushing through a vinyasa to get to the next pose. This rush is even present in yoga! The rush to be stronger, fitter and onto the next thing-which we think might be better.

Lately, I have noticed in my teaching a desire to slow my students down. To notice the sensations they feel as they lower into chaturanga, where the shoulders go, and maybe where they should go. After doing multiple vinyasas in a class, I know I personally get sloppy. This is where mindfulness needs to be present to protect one’s self from injury. (In yoga, we call it  ahimsa-non harming.)

A dear friend gave me this mindfulness book for Christmas this year:

It is an amazing way to slowly process the gift that mindfulness can be. It is a reminder to me this busy season to 

slow 

                      down.

I read recently that it takes 40 days for a habit to stick. I find that pretty profund, as it rained for 40 days and nights on Noah and Jesus went into the desert for 40 days. Researching on the number 40, I see that it often signifies a transition or change. The number 40 in numerology is said to elevate a spiritual state.

Maybe by starting right now.

Bringing mindfulness into your days is not that difficult. It requires slowing down and paying attenion. It requires stillness of mind, body and soul. With this stillness comes pure clarity. I firmly believe the age old saying that if you look inside yourself, you will find all the answers you need.

Lower Back Yoga.

Ahhh, the sacrum and lumbar spine20121230-173252. This may be the number one area that I hear students talk about when referring to physical discomfort. Mostly, I hear the complaints from mountain bikers that I ride with, but lately, I have been hearing people in almost every area of life talk about this region of their backs. I do suggest yoga for this area of course, but I am highly cautious with students. I do not want students to overstretch their lower back and create even more trouble.

Maryjaryasana/Cat Pose is a most excellent warm up, especially when attached to the famous Bitilasana/Cow pose. My two favorite, which relieve pressure on the lumbar are Downdog and Puppy Pose. An entire list of these poses with examples can be found at here at yoga journal.

Some of the poses that work for me when my lower back is tight and even in pain, which occurs only while I am mountain biking are the twists: Bharadvaja’s Twist, Half Lord of the Fishes and Marichi’s Pose. I highly recommend Supta Padangusthasana/Reclining Hand to Big Toe for lower back and IT Band issues (I also recommend a strap with this series of poses, as outlined here).

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An entire sequence for lower back can be found here. The poses are highly recommended to loosen your fascia (Fascia, which means “band” or “bundle” in Latin, surrounds, connects and supports our muscles, organs, bones, tendons, ligaments and other structures of the body. Similar to the membrane around each section of an orange, fascia both separates and connects body parts at the same time. Containing nerves, these tissues also serve as a layer of protection and body awareness.)

 

A yoga sequence I created for a student to work with the lower back:

Lower Back Sequence.

Recommended hold time is one minute-one minute and 12 seconds. This holding/slower pace is conducive to opening the tight spots. I recommend once a day or every other day for noticeable improvement.

Great reference for specifics on poses in this sequence: http://www.yogajournal.com/category/poses/anatomy/lower-back/

Easy Pose/Sukhasana

Cat Pose

Cow Pose (these two poses in sequence are a warm up for the back)

Uttkatasana/Chair Pose (for strengthening lower back)

Utthita Trikonasana/Extended Triangle Pose.

Virabhadrasana 2/Warrior 2.

 Padangusthasana/Extended Hand to Big Toe Pose.

Malasana/Garland Pose.

Bakasana/Crane Pose. (pillow on floor in front of face )

Uttana Shishosana/Extended Puppy Pose.

I find the twists help me most when I am IN pain to alleviate pain in the lower back area, especially due to mountain biking.

Marichi’s Pose/Marichiasana 3.

Bharadvaja’s Twist/Bharadvajasana.

Ardha Matseyandrasana/Half Lord of the Fishes.

To finish, bring both knees into the chest, squeeze and gently rock from side to side. Finally, come into Savasana/Corpse Pose.

((**I also highly recommend doing abdominal strengthening poses as well to increase strength in back:  Navasana/Boat Pose)) 

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Inner Thigh Yoga.

Right before Thanksgiving, a student asked me about poses to open the inner thighs. This student commented that this area was very tight. I did some research and am posting my notes here.

This video helped me to find these poses, which the instructor recommends staying in each pose in for one minute. During yoga teacher training, a guest lecturer recommended holding the pose for 72 seconds.The first pose is the yogi squat pictured here:

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The second pose is an extended leg squat, which I have been incorporating into my daily yoga classes:

extended-leg-squat3

This entire visual contains poses that are useful for opening the inner thighs and the remaining information can be found on this page:

The three poses that I personally recommend are Upavista Konasana/Wide-Angle Forward Fold, Bhekasana/Frog Pose Agnistambhasana/Firelog Pose. With these poses any additional modifications can ease you into and out of the poses. Over time, you will notice an opening of your inner thighs. I personally recommend practicing at least two of these poses on a regular (daily or every other day) basis.

A sequence to loosen the inner thighs and increase mobility:

Inner Thigh Sequence.

Recommended hold time is one minute-one minute and 12 seconds. This holding/slower pace is conducive to opening the tight spots. Do these poses and your inner thighs will begin to loosen. I recommend once a day or every other day for noticeable improvement. 

Baddha Konasana/Bound Angle Pose.

Yogi Squat.

Extended Leg Squat (right and left sides)

Upavistha Konasana/Wide Angle Forward Bend.

Bhekasana/Frog Pose.

Instruction: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WBb65G6NuYo

Supta Baddha Konasana/Supine Bound Angle Pose.

Bound Angle with a support (bolster or folded towel/blanket)

Bound Angle Pose without a bolster

legs up the wall Bound Angle Pose

Upavistha Konasana/Wide Angle Pose at wall

Finish in Legs up the Wall, or in Savasana/Corpse Pose.

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Seven. (on the human expereince)

This small series of artworks were created from a single stencil. The stencil was used with different media or using different techniques of manipulating the media.

The result of these works is a reminder humans are universally similar vessels and yet our approach to the world due to our unique experiences make our reactions and intake is radically differing.

Pieces one-six are the individual, and the last piece, seven, is an intermixing of three souls together. A unit or a family.

20161103_183111
one
20161103_183125
two
20161103_183212
three

 

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four
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five
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six
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seven

15 Days Without Sugar.

There are 61 different names for sugar hiding in your food. Sixty-freaking-one. It is no wonder that we are a sugar-addicted society. Here they are. (Website Source.)

  • Agave nectar
  • Barbados sugar
  • Barley malt
  • Barley malt syrup
  • Beet sugar
  • Brown sugar
  • Buttered syrup
  • Cane juice
  • Cane juice crystals
  • Cane sugar
  • Caramel
  • Carob syrup
  • Castor sugar
  • Coconut palm sugar
  • Coconut sugar
  • Confectioner’s sugar
  • Corn sweetener
  • Corn syrup
  • Corn syrup solids
  • Date sugar
  • Dehydrated cane juice
  • Demerara sugar
  • Dextrin
  • Dextrose
  • Evaporated cane juice
  • Free-flowing brown sugars
  • Fructose
  • Fruit juice
  • Fruit juice concentrate
  • Glucose
  • Glucose solids
  • Golden sugar
  • Golden syrup
  • Grape sugar
  • HFCS (High-Fructose Corn Syrup)
  • Honey
  • Icing sugar
  • Invert sugar
  • Malt syrup
  • Maltodextrin
  • Maltol
  • Maltose
  • Mannose
  • Maple syrup
  • Molasses
  • Muscovado
  • Palm sugar
  • Panocha
  • Powdered sugar
  • Raw sugar
  • Refiner’s syrup
  • Rice syrup
  • Saccharose
  • Sorghum Syrup
  • Sucrose
  • Sugar (granulated)
  • Sweet Sorghum
  • Syrup
  • Treacle
  • Turbinado sugar
  • Yellow sugar

Two weeks ago and one day, I stopped eating sugar in as many forms as I could find, (I JUST found this list of the 61 names of sugar…great). I worked hard to read EVERY label of EVERY food I put into my body. EVEN if I thought it would not contain sugar (i.e. cashews, corn tortilla chips, hummus), I read the label. I cut out as much sugar as possible. I did drink a coconut water containing 14g of sugar (the daily recommended dose by the American Heart Association is 20-25g for females and 38g for men) when I worked out hard this week to replace lost electrolytes.

A week ago, my body hated me and rejected me like I was a cocaine addict trying to quit cocaine. I found this fascinating and keep referring to it as my personal test, as I have not gone through withdraw before. However, what I am experiencing is JUST that. It is withdraw similar to that of a druggie.

Above is a photograph of an MRI comparing how sugar lights up your brain with how cocaine lights up your brain. IT IS THE SAME AREAS of the brain that are affected, and if you notice, the sugar light up area is brighter. This neuroscience stuff is fascinating, but it scared the fuck out of me. Cocaine and sugar?? I truly had no idea.

I had shakes. I had muscle fatigue (on a mountain bike ride, my muscles just quit). I was cranky. I was angry for no reason, full of rage. I had a piercing headache. See similar withdrawal symptoms here. The withdrawal IS the same as cocaine.

And then one day, I was meditating in the morning, and boom-my cells literally felt as if they were doing a dump of the last remaining residue from sugar and my body felt light and airy and free. My cells were truly happy. My body is feeling amazing now, I am actually getting used to feeling this lightness. It is an amazing feeling and one that I should have found sooner.cells

I will not, however, beat myself up, as I did fall trap to a very easily accessible drug. One that is so subtle and so sneaky that I did not even realize it was a part of my system until it was almost too late. I am grateful that the sugar addiction is removed from my body, and here is what I learned:

  1. Sugar is hiding. Be careful.
  2. It sneaks in slowly (your ‘healthy’ granola or ‘healthy’ bread.
  3. Withdrawal symptoms are scary.
  4. Even healthy sugars contribute and can lead to addiction of sugar.
  5. Sugar substitutes may be linked to similar patterns of sugar addiction.
  6. The more you eat, the more you need.
  7. Quitting cold turkey is not easy and requires a lot of help. (I read books, blogs and talked about it until my co-workers and family were tired of hearing about it. But, it worked!)
  8. IT IS TOTALLY WORTH IT.

My health is valuable and every single thing that I put into my body can either promote my well-being, or destroy it. Mindful eating is a thing.

The Centers for Disease Control project a double- or triple-fold increase in the proportions of Americans with diabetes by 2050. On the low end, a study published in Population Health Metrics projects 21% of Americans will have diabetes. On the high end … 33%.