Ahimsa: Finding Kindness in a (sometimes) unkind world

You ever listen to the news? Sometimes sadness and grief can fill up my heart. I hear about local stories of violence and hear about the wars worldwide, or smaller, more personal pains. When I head to my yoga mat I am asked to listen to that grief and mourning for sadness. Instead of pretending that this violence does not exist and deny that it is there, I have to process it and sometimes that means shedding a tear or two. (For me that happens in deep held hip openers like Pigeon)

The very first Yama, the guiding principles for a yoga practice is Ahimsa, which translates to non-violence. We often hear about see violent interactions, we know what they look like. Non-violence, what does that look like? Maybe it is peaceful protestors, a la Gandhi or the more recent One Billion Rising, but we have to see non-violence more often than that. I have been keeping my eyes open for peaceful interactions and it turns out that non-violent action is hidden in small acts of kindness. A simple smile or genuine hug. A moment of consideration for someone else, a self-loving thought and kind words.

I’ve also been thinking about violence and vulnerability (read another great post on the topic here). For me some of the most violent encounters I have ever personally experienced have been on the road. Once I was turning left onto my street and a person in the car honked at me, which I found rather irritating and rude. So I flipped the person off. This infuriated the driver who decided to turn left and follow me and then cut me off by turning into a driveway to yell at me. A lot of very, very angry words were shared. And I eventually just walked away. I was totally shaken up. My neighbors and friends near by helped calm me down. It could have gone worse. Thankfully it didn’t.

The really weird thing about biking is you never know what you are going to get. You may be riding down the street and get a friendly honk from a friend in a car or see another bike riding buddy and stop and chat. Or you might all of a sudden be dealing with some really serious road rage.

We traverse these emotional encounters like we traverse the hills. It is part of the journey. If yoga has really taught me one thing: it is that to best deal with a situation you to be present, not reliving the past or planning the future. And if you want to access the present you need to focus on your breath.

One of things I am working on the road is deescalating situations, take it down a notch. Sometimes yelling back, which to be honest can sometimes be a visceral and gut reaction, does not always serve the situation best. Perhaps there is an element of forgiveness we all need to work on. We are human and we make mistakes on the road. I believe we will make fewer mistakes if we are present. We might even make more connections if we smile.

I’ll leave you with a little bell hooks to ponder.

For me, forgiveness and compassion are always linked: how do we hold people accountable for wrongdoing and yet at the same time remain in touch with their humanity enough to believe in their capacity to be transformed?


Winter Solstice Ritual

Tomorrow is the Winter Solstice (if you want to get really technical 3:12 AM PST), a wonderful and powerful time of year. It may be a bit challenging to keep all of your bike light batteries charged and gloves dry, but there is still much to be thankful for. I wanted to share with you all a simple ritual that can help celebrate the return of light.

Gather with close family or friends around a fireplace or pit (a candle will do in a pinch). Enjoy the warmth and light provided by the fire. Take a moment to reflect on the past year and write whatever it is you are ready to let go of on a small piece of paper and offer it into the fire. Take a moment of silence.
Another way to celebrate is by making collages- as a visual reminder of goals and desires you would like to

see manifest in the coming year. It is a lovely way to use old cards, calendars, and magazines.

Close the ritual with a round of Gratitude, where each person has a moment to speak to what they are thankful.

Class Notes

  • There will be class Saturday 12/29 10:30 am @ Denali Fitness
  • New community Hatha class @ Home Yoga Tuesday 9:45 am $5 Drop-In (great for beginners)
  • Still Groovin’ over at The Grinning Yogi, plus the studio has a blog! Check it out here.






Testing out Pedal, Stretch, Breathe…rider reviews!

I have been so grateful lately for all the feedback that has come about from Pedal, Stretch, Breathe. It has been a great vehicle for getting simple stretches off the mat and into bike lanes (or at least before people hit the bike lanes). I wanted to share with you posts that other bloggers, bikers and yogis have posted. If there is anything I have missed, please feel free to add it in the comments.

Any other reviews are always welcome!

Just a reminder that I will be hosting this very fun Healthy Hamstrings with the Help of Hanuman workshop at Home Yoga on Oct. 6th




Healthy Hamstrings With The Help of Hanuman Workshop 10/7

Oct, 7th 2012
3 – 4:30 pm

at Home Yoga

315 1st Ave. W, Seattle, WA 98119


Workshop includes:

Handout on the myth and  anatomy of hamstrings
Warming flow followed by time to sink into deep hamstring openers and eventually working towards a supported splits, or Hanumanasana

To Register for the class please call (206) 270-9642

Inspired by legends Hanuman, the Hindu monkey god who jumped across the sea, we will open up hamstrings finding greater flexibility. In this hour and a half workshop we will practice the patience it takes to open even the deepest layers of muscle. Releasing tight hamstrings lessens the chance for injury and can even ease low back pain. After a warming flow we will explore deep hamstring openers. And maybe, just maybe, you too will find the opening needed to jump across the sea in Hanumanasana, also known as the splits. This workshop is open to all levels of yoga practitioners.

As an everyday bike rider I notice that the backs of my legs really need a little extra attention. Sometimes holding deep hamstring stretches and hips can hurt, that is where the fun of a little mythology can help us out! Hanuman can offer us both guidance and inspiration as we dive into the story and the pose of this delightful monkey god.

Weekend Recap in Pictures- camping + cylce the WAVE

I spent this past weekend taking a much needed bike camping trip with Tom of Seattle Bike Blog and my friend Danny. On Friday we biked out to Tolt McDonald State Park, about a 45 mile ride. We settled down by the river. In the morning the fog was heavy and the trees looked very Autumnal.

On Sunday morning we made the trek to Issaquah for the Cycle the Wave ride. It  was a great bike ride about 14 miles and we took some lovely, windy, hilly back roads. We finally landed at the high school where the event was in full swing.

Above I am standing with my brand new banner (homemade by the way)! As riders finished up I offered a mat-less yoga flow. Below we are practicing cat-cow breath in chair pose. This not only feels good for the spine, but also helps you stay in fierce pose a little longer than you might usually. Fierce pose is one of my favorite poses because it strengthens your quads, so you can keep on pedaling strong.

Other highlights involved connecting with people who I know through the virtual world into meeting them in person. I also had the chance to reconnect with an old student from when I was teaching back at the Fremont Abbey.

Our bike ride home from the event was pretty nice. The 1-90 trail is not nearly as scenic as those back country roads that ride by farms and forest, but ya know I am so thankful that I can just hop on my bike and go far.

New Fall Classes at The Grinning Yogi

This weekend I will be out of town going on a bike camping adventure that will end in Issaquah for the Cycle the WAVE event. But no need to worry, my classes are covered by wonderful teachers. Apparently when I get back it is time to start up the fall schedule. So, I am not quite sure how I feel about this whole “Fall” thing right now, but I am very excited for the the new schedule to start over at The Grinning Yogi. You can catch classes at 15th and Harrison

Mondays 6:45-7:45 am
Groovin’ Flow

Early birds will appreciate this new morning class!

Thursdays 9:30-10:45 am
Groovin’ Flow

A Groovin’ flow class for all levels

Friday 12:15-12:50 pm
Yoga Jolt

This 35 minute class offers a yoga break in the middle of your day
Drop in class is $5


Cycle the WAVE Sunday (Women Against Violence Everywhere)

The Cycle the WAVE ride is Sunday. Today is the last day for online registration ($75) or you can register the day of ($85) You can also support this awesome organization without doing the ride:  donate here!

In 2011, through Cycle the WAVE $100,000 of critical funding was donated to agencies serving Washington’s King County communities: Eastside Domestic Violence Program (now Lifewire), DAWN (Domestic Abuse Women’s Network) and New Beginnings.

Raising awareness about Domestic violence has been a very important cause for me ever since college where I volunteered at a safe house for women and children. It was my first encounter with a Take Back the Night rally, the theme for the evening was survivor. One of the tasks for set up was to tape little palm trees and coconuts onto the wall. Each cut out had an age written on it, the coconuts represented children and the palm trees represented women who had been served by the safe house in the past year. The youngest child was an infant only a few days old and the oldest an 87 year old woman. In total there were well over 600 people who were aided by this one small organization in rural Illinois in one year. That moment broke my heart. It was that same event that set me on a path towards feminism.

Ahimsa, or compassion for all living things, is the the very first precept of the Yamas which are guidelines for yogis to follow on a spiritual path. It is this quest to actively bring peace and compassion to ourselves, our families and our communities. There is a very real need to support people as they leave violent and abusive situations. It is challenging work, but we can all do our part. Raising awareness, taking personal accountability and donating to organizations in money or time is part of that process of healing.  I am honored to be joining this event and offering some post-ride yoga to all of the amazing cyclists participating in this fundraiser.

Here is the video for the event: