Category Archives: Yoga

Goodbye Peru

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We leave Peru today. Hazel can’t wait to be home and asks the details of our itinerary every few hours so she has an accurate hour count till she’s back in her room. I think it might have something to do with how often I lean in to “sing” the sounds of the beautiful Andean pan flute in her ear. We won’t have to worry about pockets full of change because Nora stops to get her photo taken with every baby lamb, alpaca, and llama she sees, an opportunity gladly offered in exchange for a little propina, or tip. We could write our own guide book on the locations of all servicios higenicos, bathrooms, in historic Cusco. Nora has had some tummy trouble for the last 25 hours, though she isn’t bothered. We learned that she considers her digestive distress a rite of passage, referring to it as her “butt period”– a term that sent all of us into uncontrollable hysterics at the one fancy restaurant we’ve visited in Cusco.

The children have heard me curse more in the last week than in their whole lives. Dave says that’s what happens when I’m south of the equator. I have to laugh at myself because before I came my yoga practice was so consistent and I felt so good that I actually had a vision that I’d bring peace, love, and appreciation of all things to the South American continent. It hasn’t happened exactly like that. Last night, Hazel congratulated me on my first day of no cursing. This was premature because moments later this street dog ran out in traffic and narrowly escaped death by taxi. It was literally under the front of the car when traffic came to a halt. The s-word left my mouth and of course Hazel heard. We have some great memories and photos to take back with us.

Family Vacation

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I’m in Peru with my family, and I’m so happy to be here. I’m also grouchy. My digestion doesn’t know what to make of the ceviche, the weird fried park food, or the massive amount of fruit I’m eating. My body is complaining about the combination of airplanes and miles of walking. My sleep has been good, but it’s hot at night so my dreams are craaaazy. As a result of the state my system is in, the charms and delights of discovering another culture and country are annoying me. Dave says I’ve officially reached middle age.

In the yoga classes I teach, we’ll do something hard and then rest. It’s an opportunity to notice how easily we are able to adjust and shift between the variety of situations we find ourselves in. If we were just attempting 20 repetitions of utkatasana (they look a lot like squats), but now find it’s time to lie down and rest, can the heart rate, the muscles, and the mind let go of that effort and exertion and be with what is happening now? Can we move gracefully from situation to situation and be present with what is?

The longer I’m here, the better I am at remembering my perspective is influenced both by the state I’m in, the ways I care for myself, and what I choose to focus on.  When I notice what’s happening and take appropriate action, I can more easily enjoy what is in front of me. Today, I woke up and could peek in on my girls sleeping together in the same bed, cheeks pink from the warmth of sleep and yesterday’s sun. I appreciate the glimpse of my sister’s life in Lima—her office, her apartment, her grocery store. I get to hear the way she expresses herself in another language and spend time with some of the people in her life that are so special to her. There’s so much more, and the true gift of yoga practice is the expanding ability to choose what to focus on and to be with these special moments when they come.

How to Take a Nap

MY husband, Dave, follows this comedian guy, David Rees, who hosts a series of how to videos about regular stuff. It’s called “Going Deep with David Rees.” Hot topics include: How to shake a hand, How to dig a hole, and How to open a door. With charm, seeming candor, clever graphics and a few expert special guests, he provides really good insight into the given topic in 22 minutes. Last night, we watched the episode: How to take a nap.

I’ve known that sleep has a function and the different cycles of sleep are important so the body can recover and recuperate from the work of the day. Ayurveda offers several guidelines to follow for good sleep. One suggestion is that you don’t eat right before sleep so that the body can do its best R&R without also having to divert energy toward digestive functioning. But there’s more happening during our sleep than letting the body recover and repair on a physical level. The different cycles of sleep are important for memory, processing experiences, and creativity. It helps us on a mental level, too!

According to our video’s sleep expert, there are 4 sleep cycles and they each serve a function.

  1. Hypnogogic or hypnic jerk can happen in this very light sleep stage. You might have the feeling of falling and then jerk awake.
  2. We visit a transitional stage at the beginning of sleep and again toward the end of sleep. This stage is believed to be important for motor skill learning.
  3. During Slow wave sleep we replay memories of the day
  4. In REM sleep, the recent memories that were reactivated during slow wave sleep are integrated creatively with other experiences. This is where the bizarre scenarios and random people may appear. .

It takes time to get all the way through a session REM sleep. A nap can serve a different function depending on it’s length

20 minutes can refresh your attention when energy slumps during the day.

60 minutes can take you through slow wave sleep allowing you to process your memories—good if you are studying for an exam or learning something new.

90 minutes is typically long enough to go through a cylce of REM sleep, which can be useful if you are an artist in need of a creative boost or a scientist awaiting the next breakthrough.

Of course these cycles also apply during our night-time sleep, too.

The more I learn about the wonderful and endlessly complex human system, the more humbled I am. There’s a wisdom to the way that we function and every aspect of that functioning can support us in balance and wellness. More and more, the effort I put toward healthy living is about setting up my activities and the pace of my days so that my system can do what it does with the fewest obstacles from me. If I want good sleep, I have to stay off of the computer after dinner. I need to have a daily schedule that isn’t super stressful, so I can feel at ease and relaxed most of the time. I need to practice yoga and go for a walk. I need days that aren’t so scheduled that I can lie down for that 20 minute nap when I feel the need. The way I see it, good sleep and general health isn’t going to come from tips and tricks. It comes out of a lifestyle that is balanced, and attitudes and behaviors that respect the inherent wisdom of the body.

ojai valley

REGISTRATION OPENS SOON!

OJAI WOMEN’S RETREAT

Practical Transformation: Healing your life from the inside out

with Amanda Green and Carol Prentice

AUGUST 31ST TO SEPT 5TH, 2016

Join me for 5 days in beautiful Ojai, CA, where you can replenish and reset with master teachers as your guides.  Steep in the wisdom of yoga, ayurveda, and the Alexander technique and well-being while enjoying delicious food,  beautiful accommodations and the surrounding Ojai valley.

 

Full of Light

 

I love this photo of my cousin and Honey, probably because I love these two men so much.

I love this photo of my cousin and Honey, probably because I love these two men so much.

Honey, my grandpa, had a fall about a week ago. He does some exercises and some walking every day and it was during one of his walks that he lost his balance. Initially, he had some pretty bad bruising, swelling, and a few scrapes so he’s been laying low.

One day last week, I packed a lunch basket so we could eat together at his apartment. We had a wonderful visit. When I asked how he was, he said he was fine, and he said it with such sincerity and brightness that I didn’t have any difficulty believing him despite the bandages. I like these visits when I have Honey all to myself. He asks about my family and my work and wants to know how I’m doing. I seem to come up with a question about his life that I had never thought to ask before. And we find some things to laugh about. Before we are through, our conversations always come around to Grandma Mary and during this visit, when we were having our ice cream with chocolate sauce, Honey brought her to us by saying, “Grandma and I liked to have ice cream after almost every meal.” This was my opening to remember her with him, to ask about her favorite flavors and to say how much I miss her. I love thinking about what they looked like when I sat across from them at their kitchen table when I was a child. He misses her so much. Spending time talking about her and remembering her together feels really important.

After we talked and cried a little about Grandma Mary, I asked again how he was feeling, and commented that his swelling had much improved from earlier in the week. He said, “Well, I feel fine, but I hurt all over.” And he meant it. Both parts. Because part of him really is fine, untouched by his soreness and his injuries, and then there’s this other aspect, the physical parts, that need to heal. It’s so interesting how clear he is that how he is doing isn’t inextricably tied to how his body feels. This idea is in the Yoga sūtras, too. One of the root causes of suffering is asmitā or misidentification (YS II.3 and II.6). When I confuse my body, my sickness, my job, my role in the family, or any material aspect of my life, with who I really am, it causes suffering. Honey gets it. He lives it. And it’s really wonderful to be around.

The yoga sūtras teach that when we connect and identify with this special place, it’s said to be full of light (YS I.36). Even though I’ve had an intellectual grasp of this concept is something amazing to see in someone. It’s how Honey lives. He is full of light and I’m so grateful for his example. To see this in him and in how he lives is so meaningful. He brings this teaching to life and his special way of understanding himself (most everything, really) makes him such a pleasure to be around. I aspire to be able to say, “I’m just fine” no matter what else is going on in my life because I can stay connected to this light within me and remember who I really am.

Married, part II

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People Places Things — it’s a  movie

Dave and I have been back together for Married, Part II for a couple of years now. The hurt and the tumult of our separation isn’t so close to the surface anymore, though occasionally, a memory from that time will come up and I can feel it’s presence even if I’m not actively thinking about it. Like when you have gas… you can go about your day, but you aren’t as relaxed as you could be.

One evening last week, with the girls in bed and Dave out of town, I snuggled up on the couch to watch a movie. I picked one from the ‘quirky comedy’ list and, turns out, this story is about a couple navigating separation and co-parenting after divorce. With this story playing out on the screen, those gassy feelings I mentioned moved into the realm of fully conscious reflection. I could relate to the confusion, the excitement, and the parenting negotiations that went on with our hero and heroine. I appreciated the story telling that gave time for the uncomfortable stuff that’s a part of divorce. I was happy, in the end, when the two of them were able to move on.

Memory is such a funny thing. We might forget something that has happened to us, the details may fade, we may remember something correctly or incorrectly, or imagine something. However they come about, and in one form or another, these experiences stay with us. In the first chapter of the Yoga sūtras, Patañjali presents us with 5 functions of the mind, one of which is smṛti or memory*. In YS 1.11 he defines smṛti as the “unthievable record of your experience”**. Untheivable… can’t be stolen. I love that because it is totally true.

Memories don’t leave us, but as we create more memories, the old ones do change and can be refined. After the movie, I went to bed but didn’t fall asleep right away. I was having a lot of old break-up feelings.  They are so different now than when I was in the midst of it. Back then, I could feel my heart race and my body respond over the littlest reminder. This time, they didn’t overwhelm me.

Time heals. Yeah, okay. But the thing about time passing is that in that time, we have other experiences. Time spent laughing together, really listening to each other, offering care and feeling loved – all of these things leave their own memories and record behind.   These experiences have more power than the break-up ones once did.  The new experiences are the ones I want to connect to, and am trying my hardest to create. As a result, these new experiences are reshaping the old memories and giving rise to who we are together now.

 

 

*The 5 vṛtti, functions of the mind.

The mind can…

prāmaṇa — perceive correctly

viparyaya – perceive incorrectly

Vikalpa – create something that isn’t there (imagine or invent).

Nidra – be in a deep, dreamless sleep

Smṛti – create memories

 

*This translation comes from yoga sūtras classes I took with Chase Bossart.

A story for the new year.

 

Bundled sage for energy clearing

One evening this week, my friend Katherine was visiting and she found this bundle of dried sage on my kitchen counter. This dried sage is for energy clearing. You set the thing on fire then blow it out and the bundle smolders making all of this wonderful smoke. You can then poke the smoky bundle into open doors, drawers and cupboards and wave it around doorways and windows clearing out any stagnant energy. This kind of thing is right up my alley. And I’m here to tell you, it makes a huge difference in how my house feels.

Katherine already knew all of this because I had given her her own sage when she moved into her new house. She hasn’t yet used it so I told her about the most recent sage-ing ceremony I had, thinking it might inspire her.

One afternoon, Dave and I were home alone together and I decided it was time. We opened all the doors, windows and drawers and then lit the sage. I held the bundle as we went through the girls’ rooms, but then I got a little obsessed with wiping down the dirty door frames so Dave willingly took over and continued down the hall and into the back of the house, whisps of smoke trailing behind him. When I came out of my cleaning trance, I walked into the living room to find Dave dancing around lifting his knees and elbows like a kokopelli. He was wielding sage in one hand and playing a renaissance festival bamboo flute with his other. It was awesome and hilarious. He was really into this sage-ing business, I could tell.

kokopelli

Katherine and I laughed about the story then went on to have a really fun night together.

I got a call from Katherine the next day and she said she was really touched by the story of the sage ceremony. She had shared it with a couple of people during the day and she wanted to tell me why.  She said that it was an example of so many things going really right in my relationship. I didn’t have too many expectations that the sage-thing go a particular way and Dave was open to this kooky plan and he was willing to participate in it with me. In the end we had this really fun and sweet time together. A time that might not have been possible if we weren’t both willing to turn towards each other and stay open to the variety of experience that each of us brought.

I was so touched that she had given this so much thought and that she took the time to share this with me. I felt appreciated and seen and loved by Katherine, and there’s not much better than receiving that gift from a dear friend. Her story also gave me an opportunity to reflect on and to appreciate where Dave and I are in our relationship. Katherine has known us for years. She’s seen us through the early days, our traumatic break up and subsequent separation. She’s been a part of our lives as we cautiously dated, repaired what seemed too broken, and eventually got back together. Dave and I have always had funny, happy moments, but there was a time when they weren’t so easy and pure. An adversarial undercurrent was always there.  Now, I’m freed of that feeling and these happy, funny moments happen all of the time– Easy. Loving. Pure.

On the phone with Katherine, listening to her retell my story, I had an opportunity and the time to swim around in this realization of how things have changed in my relationship and to appreciate it. She acknowledged it with me in a way that showed me that she was seeing me and that by seeing me she was able to see something in herself. And it all feels so wonderfully human and connecting –to know someone really well and to still love them, a friend, a partner, your friend’s partner. It’s something really special to appreciate all that we are and all that we’ve been through, to witness each other changing and to believe in it. It’s so hopeful. My friend helped bring all of this to the surface in a way it usually isn’t there for me. And it tasted so sweet.

 

Here’s to more of this sweetness in each of our lives in the upcoming year. Welcome 2016.