If you want to get better at healing others and/or self, read this blog post

My wonderful craniosacral therapy teacher of the past few years, Ryan Hallford, wrote a blog post entitled Soft Mantras for Hard Lesions. Although specific to biodynamic craniosacral work, in my opinion it applies to so much more – all types of healing work with others and all healing work on self.

ryanSubstitute “stuck places” for lesions and consider his statement that this post is about our mindset when encountering them, and you can understand how applicable this is to all realms of life.

Toward the end of the post, he lists three mantras (internal prayers) that a person intending to heal (self or other) might find helpful to ask.

I’ve read this blog post three times now and decided to write down the questions to carry with me at all times. This is a practice I use when I want to integrate something new into my being. The writing of it helps me commit it to memory as my pen moves across the paper letter by letter, word by word, and carrying the written paper with me signals my commitment to integrate it.  Continue reading

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Yoga in the sculpture garden: I did two arm balances! Woo hoo!

Today I attended a yoga class at the Umlauf Sculpture Garden near Zilker Park. Wow! I have not been able to do very well with arm balances in yoga, but today my teacher Brigitte Edery worked us up to doing two arm balances!

I love working with Brigitte because when she teaches, I often do poses I believe I cannot do.

First we worked up to doing bakasana (crane pose). I actually balanced on my hands with both feet off the ground, holding it for maybe 8 seconds. (Knees-on-triceps is a lot of pressure. Like this.)

bakasana (crane pose)

Then we did eka hasta bhujasana (one leg over arm pose). I could only hold it for 3-4 seconds, but I did get up. Lifting the straight leg off the floor takes a lot of quadriceps strength. I looked, well, kinda like this.

eka hasta bhujasana

I’m still so excited, I can hardly believe it! I was not able to hold these poses for very long, but just to get up and hold them for any length of time and balance was a pretty amazing accomplishment for me.

And by the way, this class is great. It’s $10 for a 90-minute yoga class (a deal in itself) with an amazing teacher, outside in beautiful nature surrounded by art. Where else can you find a deal like that? And if you are a member of the Umlauf, the class is only $8.

Yoga in the Garden meets on Wednesdays from 10-11:30 all year-round. It is held indoors when the weather is bad; otherwise it meets under the covered patio or out in the open on really gorgeous days.

New toy: Yoga Teacher Barbie

She Exists: ‘I can be…’ A Yoga Teacher Barbie Doll.

Still with the feet. Bet she can’t do tree pose, and her triangle probably looks really weird.

Plus a chihuahua. Huh?

Get yours today, at Target.

Courtesy of Yogadork.

Practicing wellness of body, mind, heart, and spirit: James Altucher’s Daily Practice

One of my favorite discoveries in the blogging world is James Altucher. He’s a good prolific writer, inventive, irreverent, smart, down-to-earth, no-nonsense, and he comes across as a regular person who has learned from his mistakes.

I get the impression that he’s done really, really well in business, lost it all, started over, more than once. HBO, hedge funds, start-ups, investments, Wall Street, whatever. I don’t really know that world, but I imagine his blog reaches a lot of people in the financial world.

He’s also experienced some relationship ups and downs and a marriage that didn’t work out, and now he is married to Claudia Altucher, a yoga teacher. He practices yoga.

What impresses me most in his writing is that he combines his financial background with amazingly sensible wisdom about how to live life well. I follow him on Twitter and Facebook and look forward to reading his blog posts.

You can check out his blog here: The Altucher Confidential: Ideas for a World Out of Balance.

The reason I’m writing about him here on my blog is because he advocates doing something he calls The Daily Practice, which he calls

a simple tool to improve, inspire, and unlock greatness.

It’s pure genius and truly simple. He has three big goals in life:

  • He wants to be happy.
  • He wants to eradicate unhappiness in his life.
  • He wants every day to be as smooth as possible. No hassles.

If you’d like to achieve those goals in your life, read on.

James discovered that every time he hit a low point in life, after a major failure, feeling unhappy and hassled, he did something every day for himself in four areas that helped move him closer to the three big goals. You can do this too:

  1. Do something physical for yourself to get and keep yourself in good shape. He mentions doing yoga every day and exercising vigorously enough to break a sweat for 10 minutes. Being healthy is a prerequisite for being happy, and exercise also helps calm your mind. You get to choose how you want to do this.
  2. Do something emotionally good for yourself. He mentions that if someone is a drag on you, cut them out or minimize your time with them, and if they lift you up, spend more time with them. He mentions being honest without being hurtful and never doing anything you don’t want to do—he doesn’t go to weddings.
  3. Do something to stimulate yourself mentally. He suggests thinking of 10 businesses you can start from home or listing every productive thing you did yesterday. You could learn a foreign language in daily sessions, memorize a song, or do a crossword puzzle, whatever works for you. Altucher carries around waiter pads to write down his ideas.
  4. Practice something spiritual, which can include praying, meditating, being grateful, forgiving, or studying a spiritually uplifting text. I like this suggestion: You can also meditate for 15 seconds by really visualizing what it would be like meditate for 60 minutes. 

Altucher says every time he has hit a low point and then started doing things in these four areas every day, his life would improve. He’d begin to feel lucky. Ideas would flow, he’d start executing them, and people would help him. People would smile at him.

He calls this improving the internal fire. I think that concept is from yoga, but you get the picture. Living fully, in joy, lit from within.

I get that this is a great practice! And I want to think that I already do this, but you know what? I don’t keep track of what I do every day, and I haven’t tied my behavioral choices to three big goals. I have not made a commitment to work on myself daily in specific ways in these four areas.

Well, James has thought of that, and he has set up a website called The Daily Practice where you can set up your own activities in the four categories (plus a new fifth one, Fun) as well as how often you want to do them, and track your actual behavior.

It’s in beta right now, but I’m trying it out, and so far everything seems to work.

Also, your big three goals might be a little different. Who doesn’t want happiness? But I actually don’t mind a few occasional not-too-major hassles because they challenge me to grow, and that gives me something to write about. So my third goal is to spread the wellness and joy to others.

If you’d like to set up physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, and fun challenges for yourself and track your activity using The Daily Practice, go to tdp.me and set yourself up! It’s also a Facebook app, but you don’t have to share your postings. In fact, if you’re my friend, please don’t. TMI. Tell me your results, instead.

Today I have done a tarot reading and watched a fun movie (fun), meditated for 15 minutes and forgave someone I had problems with (spiritual), connected with two people who lift me up (emotional), read something stimulating (mental), and did sun salutations and slept well (physical).

Thanks, James!

Tao Porchon-Lynch: teaching yoga, ballroom dancing videos

I found more videos of Tao Porchon-Lynch, the world’s oldest living yoga teacher. I just can’t get enough of her! She’s my inspiration, my role model for wellness, because what she can do now is based on what she did when she was much younger: a lifetime of good habits.

She looks, sounds, and feels so healthy! She seems to be wonderfully sweet and so full of vitality! Seeing her living so well is very motivating.

In the first video, she talks about yoga, and you see her teaching a class:

In the second video, she displays amazing ballroom dancing skills. That was filmed in 2009, when she was “only” 91. Her partner looks to be about one-third her age, yet they are well matched on the dance floor.

If you didn’t know, would you ever have guessed she was even over 70?

She has her own website here: http://taoporchon-lynch.com/.

Also, if you missed them, see my earlier posts, The world’s oldest living yoga teacher and More from the world’s oldest living yoga teacher: she tangos!

The world’s oldest living yoga teacher

A Meeting In Central Park With The Oldest Living Yoga Teacher In The World. ~ Photographed by Robert Sturman | elephant journal.

Well, I’m not sure about that — BKS Iyengar is at least a comparable age — but these photos are gorgeous, and it is inspiring to see how yoga can keep a person fit and flexible into their nineties.

And would you look at that smile? Such grace and radiance!

Here’s my favorite photo:

What if awareness is a quality you are inside of?

Indeed, the ineffability of the air seems akin to the ineffability of awareness itself, and we should not be surprised that many indigenous peoples construe awareness, or “mind,” not as a power that resides inside their heads, but rather as a quality that they themselves are inside of, along with the other animals and the plants, the mountains and the clouds. – David Abram, The Spell of the Sensuous

Thank you, Gioconda, for sharing that quote at the beginning of your yoga class a few weeks ago, and thanks for sending me the actual text and source. The profundity of this quote has been playing with me.

I invite you in this transitional week leading to the new year to play with this concept, to try it on. Ask yourself these questions.

Better yet, pull some questions out of thin air!

What if mind, or awareness, is something we walk around in and live our entire lives inside of, like the air?

What if our entire bodies — torsos, limbs, skin, bone, muscle, organ, connective tissue — are as immersed in this mind as our heads are? Can you experience yourself that way? Can you know with your toes? Discern with your liver? Learn with your heart? Understand with your hand?

What if mind is an element like air? Among the elements, air does represents mind — what if it is mind? We breathe it in for nourishment and exhale into it for release? Does that give new significance to your breathing? And because everyone is doing this all the time, what if the quality of Mind changes by what you and others put into it and take out of it?

Is this the illusion or is it real? Is this consensual reality?

What if expanding your mind, or if you prefer, expanding your awareness, is nothing more than more sensitively experiencing yourself and your surroundings?

And, what if there is no limit to how sensitively you can do this?

What if the boundary between self and environment is just a convenient construct for communication purposes but actually doesn’t exist?

For more on David Abram, here’s a chapter from The Spell of the Sensuous. Excerpt:

For none of the several island sorcerers whom I came to know in Indonesia, nor any of the djankris with whom I lived in Nepal, considered their work as ritual healers to be their major role or function within their communities. Most of them, to be sure, were the primary healers or “doctors” for the villages in their vicinity, and they were often spoken of as such by the inhabitants of those villages. But the villagers also sometimes spoke of them, in low voices and in very private conversations, as witches (lejaks in Bali)–dark magicians who at night might well be practicing their healing spells backward in order to afflict people with the very diseases that they would later cure by day. I myself never consciously saw any of the magicians or shamans with whom I became acquainted engage in magic for harmful purposes, nor any convincing evidence that they had ever done so. Yet I was struck by the fact that none of them ever did or said anything to counter such disturbing rumors and speculations, which circulated quietly through the regions where they lived. Slowly I came to recognize that it was through the agency of such rumors, and the ambiguous fears that such rumors engendered, that the sorcerers were able to maintain a basic level of privacy. By allowing the inevitable suspicions and fears to circulate unhindered in the region, the sorcerers ensured that only those who were in real and profound need of their [healing] skills would dare to approach them for help. This privacy, in turn, left the magicians free to their primary craft and function.

A clue to this function may be found in the circumstance that such magicians rarely dwell at the heart of their village; rather, their dwellings are commonly at the spatial periphery of the community amid the surrounding rice fields, at the edge of the forest, or among a cluster of boulders. For the magician’s intelligence is not circumscribed within the society–its place is at the edge, mediating between the human community and the larger community of beings upon which the village depends for its nourishment and sustenance. 

For more on Gioconda Yoga, click here. She’s got some cool workshops coming up!

(By the way, this is my 500th blog post. When I started this blog two years ago, I had no idea I’d post 500 times or post about this topic. Yay life for creating itself anew every day!)

7 things to remember when teaching yoga to kids

Last fall I had an opportunity to teach yoga once a week to 20+ fifth graders for a few months. We didn’t have mats or much space to work in, so after they removed their shoes and gathered on the carpet, I focused on mostly seated and standing poses for 15 minutes.

Very few of them had much experience with yoga. I wanted the students to love yoga as much as I do, and to create a program that might result in them later continuing to practice yoga.

Here are my take-aways from the experience:

1. Keep it simple. Om means “everything that is”. Namaste means “I honor you.” Don’t overwhelm them with Sanskrit and anatomy.

2. Teach them belly breathing. It will serve their lives well to learn it now. Ask about it now and then. After a couple of months, it may become a habit.

3. Leave them wanting more. Keep sessions short and make it fun. Let them experience the joys of yoga. So their downward-facing dog isn’t perfect. They’re 10! Let it be, and let them howl or bark like dogs! There’s plenty of time later for them to perfect their poses if they choose.

4. Pay attention and ask for feedback. Can everyone see? Did everyone hear that? Where do you feel that pose the most? What is hard about that pose? Yoga is about awareness. Foster it.

5. Be inclusive. As with adults, some kids take to yoga more than others. Praise all effort lavishly, and tell them it’s not a contest — yoga is good for every body. After a couple of months, ask them to remember what it was like the first time they did tree or eagle pose. They’ll get it.

6. Ask for volunteers to demonstrate poses after you’ve taught them a few times, and over time, give everyone a chance to demo a pose. They will learn the poses better, knowing they may be in front of the class, and be eager to get in front of their peers!

7. Let them experience sitting in silence for a minute at the end of the class. That may be a revelation — it was for the kids I taught, who begged to sit longer. (We worked up from one minute to five.) They may not get any silent stillness in their lives other than this — and they may really begin to value it at a young age.

If it feels weird and wrong, don’t do it

That’s a quote from Alison Hinks, yoga blogger and graphic artist, in this blog post that starts out being about how college is not for everyone, and ends up with yoga.

That is such a good guideline for yoga students, I’m stealing it and sharing it. I, the yoga teacher, am in my own body, not yours. I do not know what you are feeling, or exactly where your “edge” is. I can sometimes “see” what’s happening, but I can’t experience it the way you do.

Therefore, you are the authority figure for your body.

Alison writes:

In yoga class, in educational decisions, in relationships. Don’t do anything because that is what you’re “supposed to do.” Ever. Evereverevereverever. Live your life from love, excitement, and kindness, but never that fuzzy, unsatisfying place called “supposed to.”

This is the best rule of thumb ever, and especially applicable to yoga students.

When a yoga student does something different because she has listened to her own body, she deserves recognition. It’s not even about how adept you are at a pose. It’s about listening and honoring your body.

Read The case against college here.   

Interview with yoga crone Cora Wen

I only got connected with Cora Wen through Facebook. I forget exactly how. I’ve come to love her posts and her take on yoga.

Now The Magazine of Yoga has published a two-part interview with Cora. This link is to Part 1, where Cora discusses being a yoga crone (along with Angela Farmer, Indra Devi, and other older female yoga teachers), and how they’ve served as role models for how to age well.

As well as race/ethnicity and gender and body differences.

In Part 2 of the interview, Cora talks about being a yoga teacher, chi, and living a life touched by yoga.

Love this quote:

That seems to be the thing my students always say: “You’re just so you.” Well, I want you to be you. I want you to disagree with me. I don’t want you to do what I say. I want you to think for yourself. I want you to be curious. I want you to be playful. I don’t want you just to listen to me. I don’t want you to repeat what I say. I want you to be you. Maybe I can help you see that. Being you is okay.

Read on for Cora’s take on the most important of the Yoga Sutras, and why.