So many reasons to smile: Notes on Gratitude

When you eat, consider what your food was before it became your food – the sun, water & soil that became the plants that became your salad.  When you take a shower, consider the actually finite source that water came from.  When you walk outside, consider the earth that holds you.  When you get a cup of coffee at a cafe, be grateful to the barista, the store owner, the coffee roasters & growers, & the coffee plants themselves.  When you read a book or a blog (hi there!), consider the author.  Feel the awe of all that went into these various supports that enrich your life.  Give thanks, & consider whether you are giving back in any way.

My dear friend Rae, who is gifted in many things, has a lovely astrology blog that she publishes twice a month. It doesn’t matter if you are an astrology fan or not, you can take away good insight from Rae’s writings, art and questions that you are asked to ponder. When reading her most recent post, where the above quote is from, I am really reminded of how much there is to be thankful for and to appreciate the abundance that surrounds me right now.

Sometimes we all get caught up in the complaining game and constantly verbalize our desire for more of this and more of that.  Gratitude offers us the space to shift out of what we want and into appreciation of what we have. I am thankful to be here, in Seattle, this beautiful and vibrant city. I am thankful to be doing the work that I am doing. I am very thankful to the people in my life, my family, partner and friends who support me. I am so thankful to the soil around my home that nourishes plants, which in turn nourish me. I am thankful for the rain that waters my garden. I am thankful for bike advocates who create safer streets.

Listing gratitude is not corny, it is an important step in feeling whole, complete and nourished. Gratitude can wake us up to the privileges and the joys of our life. Gratitude also inspires sharing, because when we see how abundant our garden, how over flowing our cup we are more willing to pass it along. We are more inspired to give back what we have and are not ashamed to share our gifts.

Support Yoga Behind Bars with Yoga at Green Lake

Sunday July 15th @ 10 am
Do some yoga…
Do some good…

Green Lake: We will set up our mats next to the basketball court by the Community Center

Enjoy yoga outdoors and know your $10 donation will support Yoga Behind Bars, a wonderful organization that brings yoga to incarcerated adults and youth in the Puget Sound area. After my class this Sunday, I invite you to join me on a casual bike ride to Golden Gardens for a picnic.

Classes will be held every Sunday from now until September, so even if you can’t make it to this Sunday, consider going on another one. Donate to Yoga Behind Bars who aims to bring a light into every cell.

For information check out the facebook event here.

Letting go of the mat

About five years ago I bought a really lovely yoga biodegradable yoga mat. I was so excited to upgrade to a less toxic mat.  After about one and a half years of consistent use, both indoors and out, my biodegradable mat started to biodegrade. I guess I should have seen that coming. I loved practicing yoga at Red Rocks in Colorado or in a grassy field at a park on this mat. First it was just a little stretch here, or a little chunk missing over there. Then one day, actually on a road trip/move to Seattle with my sweetie,  I was doing yoga in the desert and my little mat bit the dust. Ever since then I have been mat free…

Just kidding, I actually do use a mat at studios and gyms. But I am not really attached to “my yoga mat.” I also love practicing in peculiar spots, like on bicycles. Indoors the yoga mat provides a safe space to explore and stay put in standing poses. Outdoors though, I love the feeling grass below my feet and hands, even if it makes me sneeze!

My relationship with yoga mats has shifted as  a teacher, too. When I first started teaching I really loved my my mat. It allowed me a space to feel into my body and then articulate what I felt into cues for my yoga students. While this was a good first step in establishing a vocabulary of cues and sequences, I knew I needed to do more for my students than demonstrate nearly every pose. Slowly I started to step out into the class, spending more time adjusting people and looking at my students. Ever since I have been in awe about how much I can learn from my class from really paying attention to other bodies. Getting off the mat enabled me to be really present and aware of who showed up and how each person was feeling.

When we step just outside of our comfort zone our awareness and presence increases. We feel the newness of each moment and sensation in each fingertip and toe. This Sunday practice letting go of your mat at my free yoga + bike ride!

***Also, I do still love biodegradable mats.  But now I have a mat from a yard sale and I don’t think it will be breaking down any time soon.

 

 

 

Free Yoga + Bike ride 7/8

Hey friends, and soon to be friends. It is time for Summer to really get sizzling here in Seattle! I am delighted to offer a yoga warm-up and then bike over to Lake Washington Blvd for Bicycle Sundays. We will gather between 11 – 11:30 in Cal Anderson by the water fountain this Sunday. At 11:30 I will teach yoga for about 20 minutes that we will do without yoga mats. Then we will ride at a casual pace on neighborhood routes to Bicycle Sundays. Once we arrive at Seward Park you are free to explore or have a picnic and fun (hopefully in the sun).

Sharing the Stretch: Building community one class at a time

I am excited to announce I am teaching several upcoming community classes that support great local non-profits. Offering yoga classes that benefit mindful local organizations offers healing to everyone involved. I want to offer my yoga practice not only to personal growth but community building and I am very thankful to do so in these classes.

Tomorrow night, Wednesday June 27th from 7:30-8:30 pm  I will be teaching the My Happy Place class at The Grinning Yogi. The funds raised at the class will be donated to Daryel, Somali Women’s Wellness Project, a grass-roots organization that provides massage, yoga, and health education to Somali women in the Seattle/King County area. You can learn more about Daryel on their Facebook Page and here. I will be teaching another My Happy Place class on July 18th. Another great aspect to the My Happy Place Class is that it is a pay what you can class, so it is accessible to folks of all income levels. Looking forward to see you on the mat!

July 5th marks the unofficial beginning of Seattle’s Summer and also the beginning of outdoor yoga. I am leading a Free yoga + bike ride Sunday July 8th. We will gather in Cal Anderson Park by the fountain at 11am and then start a yoga warm up at 11:30am and ride to Lake Washington Blvd for Bicycle Sundays. It will be a casual paced ride where we take time to notice the beauty of all the pretty plants and learn a little more about each other.

Then on July 15th at 10am I will be teaching a class at Green Lake to support Yoga Behind Bars, one of my favorite non-profits in Seattle, I am totally biased though because I volunteered for them on the development committee. They offer yoga to incarcerated people in the Puget Sound area. The class is donation only and giving even $10 pays for someone bars to attend class.

As a teacher many new opportunities are opening up in all directions and I am bursting with gratitude and joy. Right now Elly and I are putting the finishing touches on Pedal, Stretch, Breathe. You can order a copy of the zine here and it will be in your mailbox soon. Thanks for reading and hope to see you on the mat or the bike path soon!

 

 

Building Wheels in Bikes & Bodies, Part 2

I finished my front wheel!

In Building Wheels in Bikes & Bodies, part 1  I focus on preparation, getting the spokes laced and your body warmed up. In part 2 we will explore the final steps of building wheels in bodies and bikes.

Truing wheels at times feels like you are not really making any changes. I was constantly wondering if things were really improving. It is kind of like sphinx pose, a really easy back bend where you are not sure if anything is happening.  But yoga teaches me that subtle adjustments have a rippling effect that transforms whole postures. When preparing for full wheel, if you create that extra length in your spine, you find deeper back bends because there is more space between the vertebra. When truing wheels, a quarter turn in the wrong direction affirms that each little twist of nipple has its consequences. It took me a while to really get a grasp on what I was doing, but once I gained a little bit of muscle memory and focus, I found my truing groove. For more info on actually building wheels I would suggest taking a class, like this one at Bike Works or grabbing a skilled bike mechanic to show you the ropes.

Patience proved to be the biggest challenge for me in truing a wheel and for many yoga practitioners, patience may be a challenge for moving into advanced postures. Whenever I started to get really irritated or stuck while working on my wheel, I returned my focus to my breath. I advocate of practicing Ujayii breath off the mat during challenging tasks. Breathe in and out of your nose, there is a gentle constriction in the back your throat and you hear a wave-like sound. This breath slows down and deepens breathing to increase oxygen intake and focus. Ujayii translates to be victorious or to conquer, which this type of breathing supports.

Below is a little video demonstrating moving from bridge pose to wheel. Remember to take your time and listen to your body about what feels good. Attending regular yoga classes supports the strength and flexibility of your spine. If this pose is very challenging, head to a class near you.

Move your body every day

Happy Bike to Work day everyone! It is great to see public health and community action working together. I asked my friend who studies Public Health at UW about what she felt was the most important thing to cultivate better overall public health. Without hesitation she responded that 30 minutes of exercise per day helps maintain health and emotional well being and we need to get more people moving. It’s true that moving our bodies not only helps our muscles but also our brain. It is also true that reducing pollution has positive impact on our cardiovascular health.  So what seems like a great way to reduce pollution and get people moving?…You guessed it! Ride your bike! So use your brain, your body and your breath and ride all around today.

I will save my full write up on breath for you to read in Pedal, Stretch, Breathe. Donate today to our kickstarter campaign here and score your copy of the zine.

Building Wheels for Bikes & Bodies, Part 1

Wheel building : bike maintenance :: Urdhva Dhanurasana : Asana 

This week I rebuilt the wheel. Not just any wheel, my front wheel! When my really adorable old hub hit the dust I knew it was time to enhance my fixin’ skills and do it myself. While I was twisting all those nipples, it dawned on me that the process of building a bike wheel is very similar to building full wheel on the mat. Urdhva Dhanurasana requires a delicate balance between effort and ease to find that perfect tension.

Taking apart my old wheel quickly became rhythmic activity to do while chatting with friends. Turn by turn the nipples got looser and looser and I saw my old hub fall out of center. Funny to think such a simple little machine helped me ride so far. My handy dandy bike mechanic friend, Danny, led me through the process of threading the spokes. Danny clearly explained how to do each step while highlighting the elegance of wheel design. I am enchanted by the beautiful mandala pattern of the spokes. Mandala, a Sanskrit word, loosely translates to “circle.” Mandala images are used in visual meditation. The bicycle wheel is a beautiful example of this form. Next week I will true my wheel and balance the tension. Part 2 of this post will let you know how it goes!

Wheel Warm-Up

When I am planning a yoga class that features wheel or bridge I warm up students by opening and strengthening shoulders, and lengthening the spine. In the spirit of wheels, I will show you a Mandala flow where I circle all the way around on the mat. This kind of practice encourages exploring all directions in and around your body. Below is a mandala yoga flow that helps prepare your body for deeper back bends like full wheel. Remember to repeat the flow on the second side.

Stay tuned for Part 2, which will demonstrate full wheel pose and discuss truing wheels!

 

 

Kick-off Bicycle Sundays Right: Yoga at Cal Anderson then Ride to Seward Park

Bicycle Sundays start this Sunday. This Sunday I am leading a Yoga + Bike ride and realized the obvious destination is to Lake Washington Blvd. to join in on Bicycle Sundays.

Start at Cal Anderson park by the fountain

11am meet in Cal Anderson Park
11:30 Pedal, Stretch & Breathe

No yoga mat needed, but if you want, bring it along. We will warm-up at the park then practice stoplight yoga on our way to Bicycle Sundays. Ride will be casual and welcoming to yogis and bike riders of all levels!

Also, a big thanks goes out to everyone who contributed to the Pedal, Stretch, Breathe Kickstarter Campaign! You can still contribute here and score your copy of my zine and more.

Update: Yoga Bike Ride Sunday + Yoga pondering and mind wanderings

Yoga bike ride this Sunday!

Start at Cal Anderson park by the fountain

11am meet in Cal Anderson Park
11:30 Pedal, Stretch & Breathe

No yoga mat needed, but if you want, bring it along. Our destination is to Bicycle Sundays at Seward Park. See post here. We will pick a destination. Before pedaling around the Emerald City, lets warm-up at the park. Then we will try stoplight yoga. Ride will be casual and welcoming to yogis and bike riders of all levels!

Quick reminder: Still time to donate to Kickstarter. Only $82 to go before Pedal, Stretch, Breathe is fully funded!

Support the project here!

I spend a lot of time doing yoga, or at least practicing Asana, the physical limb of yoga. It is easy to see by the number of people practicing yoga that it is very popular. Yoga is a good antidote to the stress people encounter from working, or unemployment. It offers a way to find strength and flexibility to people who live sedentary lives. And as I have explored on this blog, yoga is a great addition to self-care for cyclists and other athletes. But this is all just about the great physical benefits of yoga, what about the mental and emotional elements of the practice? How do we create space for those elements in hour long classes at the gym? Or even before a bike ride, like the one this Sunday?

While moving into a new house this past week, I spent time looking through my yoga teacher training and workshop materials. I stumbled on this excerpt from an essay by Shri Brahmananda Sarasvati titled, “What is Yoga?” and inspired this pondering post:

Yoga means union, the union of an individual existence with cosmic existence, union of the individual “i am” with the cosmic “I Am.” This union is eternal. You do not have to create it. You cannot create it, because it always exists. You have to feel it. How? Not by an emotional feeling of the thinking mind, but by feeling the original mind, the silent mind with which you are born.

No individual is independent from the rest of existence. We depend on food for eating, on water for drinking, on space for dwelling, on air for breathing. We depend on Nature every moment. As a matter of fact, the individual is in every way the manifestation of Nature. And there is no distinction between outer and inner nature. The universe is like an organic living tree, and the sun, moon, stars, zodiac signs, humankind and all creatures are its leaves, flowers and fruits.

The mind is the world, and the world is the mind. All problems, all wars- whether individual, domestic, social, national, international, political, religious or economic – are the result of a disturbed mind. Thus, the mind is the cause of our happiness and unhappiness.

What is the cause of the crisis and lawlessness present throughout the world? It is a lack of union between body, mind, and soul.

The essay continues on a bit, but I want to stress this point of a cultural disunity between body, mind and soul. I feel this big trend of yoga in the west happened because we as a culture are off balance. We have created a society that is not forgiving to the needs of the body or the soul or even the mind. Working full time can cause an accumulation of stress which is toxic for your body. Things like car culture which perpetuates a sedentary life and increases stress levels due to traffic are symptoms a of an off balance culture.  Using the idea of homeostasis, that our body is striving to find a sense of balance or equilibrium between its many functions, requires that we balance work and leisure, effort and ease. Yoga is one of the few things people invite into their week that allows them time to connect with their bodies, take time to simultaneously find invigoration and restoration.