photo by ryan lemahieu

photo by ryan lemahieu

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

on nourishing.

i am about to go on a women's seaweed and herbal retreat in the san juan islands off washington's coast. i will be camping, hiking, kayaking, gathering seaweed and wild edibles with a small group of women (more info here: i wanted to share an excerpt from the required reading for this retreat. the book is called "Healing Wise" by Susun S. Weed. this blurb talks about the spiral of life in the Wise Woman tradition.

" When I hurt (when my heart hurts, when my head hurts, when my shoulders hurt) I nourish myself: i nourish my heart, my head, and my shoulders. I nourish myself and am strengthened, transformed and deepened ... I ask myself, "how can I make this problem my ally? What is the gift of health/wholeness/holiness here?" I gain energy with each sickness or problem. My range of resonance and my capacity to receive and to share increases every time i encounter pain and loss and make it my ally. i ally myself with all that i resist and thus become whole. Every time i nourish myself in pain, honor my distress, and love my uniqueness, my vibration is vitalized and the spiral gets bigger and more open, more forceful. "

these beautiful notions may be easier said than done, but the words she writes are a balm for my spirit. this evening i cancelled my yoga class, my one and only per week, due to feeling under the grey seattle weather. this week has been a flurry of chaos and vulnerability (exhausting work and hard, scary dental work) and i felt that i needed a night to nourish myself and feel better.

there is a line that is hard to draw between giving OF yourself and giving TO yourself. i am still trying to learn this line. practicing a bit of yoga for yourself is nourishing - is it also nourishing to teach and give of it? these teachings are meant to be shared and passed on for the benefit of all and so, i would have to say, yes, it is also nourishing to teach. in any case, today's lesson for me is to thank myself for taking a mary day, and to thank my students (and potential students) for understanding this need to rest and i suggest they give to themselves in other ways this evening (after they thank themselves for planning on showing up to my class, that is!).

Be well and much love!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010


bring no judgement. focus on the breath. the mind may wander. gently bring it back. you are perfectly imperfect. your legs are crossed; your spine is straight. inhale and let the oxygen lift you up. exhale and release, grounding into the earth. you are supported. you are steady. an interplay between work and relaxation. you are fully alert and also fully relaxed. let the mind wander! the thoughts are only that - thoughts! let them float past like clouds. just return to your body. this moment. this tiny moment in time.

Friday, February 12, 2010

dynamic stretching

my father, who I ran my first half marathon with (the gary bjørkland half marathon, part of the grandma's marathon celebration in duluth minnesota, 2001) gets me a subscription to runner's world magazine every christmas. the march issue, i am happy to report, had a few little blurbs about dynamic stretching, which is a large part of what viniyoga is about. moving in and out of postures brings circulation and warmth to cold muscles and also increases your awareness to your body's asymmetry (is your pelvis torked? is one shoulder higher than the other? "notice how one side of your body feels next to the other side" is something commonly said in a viniyoga class after working one side in warrior or pyramid, etc).

whether or not it's good to go into a deep stretch before your body is warmed up is debatable. as a beginning runner, i used to dive right in to a hamstring stretch before i'd start running. i'd throw my leg up onto the railing of my front porch and lean in, feeling that awesome stretchy feeling. i'd even wake right up and sit in half lotus and journal before my run ... which i think ultimately could have contributed to some serious hip issues i experienced last winter (half lotus stretches the hips in major ways ... and it is very asymmetrical so unless you are switching legs to balance out, parts of each of the hips are gonna be worked a lot differently and stronger than the other parts).

i've found that doing a simple routine before i run has been quite effective (see my "morning routine" post ... ). i like to do a prone (on the belly) posture such as cobra (with gradually widening legs - 4 or so reps at 4 -5 different widths) to stabilize my sacrum and warm up all the muscles that weave through that crazy bone - i think this is especially good to do before running trails or other unpredictable paths that call for stability.

this is a great warm up posture, too! also featured in runner's world:,7124,s6-238-263-266-7463-0,00.html

Quadruped: Position yourself on all fours. Raise your left arm and right leg until they are in line with your trunk and hold for 2 seconds. Return to the starting position, then raise your right arm and left leg. Repeat 8 to 10 times on each side.

[in viniyoga this would be done inhaling and raising/extending the arm and leg and then exhaling either into child's pose or table, then inhaling and extending the opposite arm and leg, all the while keeping a strong core and making sure that the hip of the extended leg doesn't raise higher than the other - level pelvis! ... called "sunbird" or "two legged cat," although i've never seen a cat do this! meow!]

I'm running my 7th half marathon on sunday, 2/14 in Austin with my brother. This one will be a pleasure run - gonna take it easy and be really really thankful that my hips are "happy" and allowing me to run 13.1 miles!

Monday, February 1, 2010


biodegradable yoga mats are pretty cool ... that is, until they biodegrade ... and little blue pieces get mashed up in beige carpeting ... and dye the souls of your feet blue, too. maybe it's time to compost this lovely mat of 4 years.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Add Yoga to Your Day | Crazy Sexy Life

This is a fabulous article by Suzanne Stephens who is a Viniyoga teacher here in Seattle. And i just discovered this blog - some amazing bloggers on it! This blogging thing is pretty crazy. Enjoy!

Add Yoga to Your Day | Crazy Sexy Life

Monday, January 25, 2010

morning routine

i do 10 minutes of yoga in the morning. it's not much -- and i hope to come back and practice more than that later in the day -- but it's a solid little practice. if i don't do it i feel wacky, or more wacky than i would if i HAD done it. it's the simplest 3-4 posture sequence -- enough to warm up the low back, do a bit of sacral stabilization (the sacrum is this amazing heart shaped bone at the base of the spine that has a maze of muscles, ligaments and a milliong other things weaving through it that link the pelvis, legs & spine ...) and warm up shoulders and neck. try it yourself!

i start doing cakravakasana = on all fours like a cat (hands below shoulders, knees below hip joints), spine is straight like a table and gets really long on the inhale, then exhale and bring hips to heels, chest to thighs, forehead to the mat (child's pose). inhale back to table, exhale into child's pose. repeat 4-6 x's.

next make way onto belly, legs zipped together, forehead on the mat, arms along sides. on inhale, using the strength of the low back muscles, lift the head (gaze ALWAYS at the mat when lifting, don't crane the neck up), shoulders, chest off the mat. Lift the arms as well, palms come together behind your back as though you were squeezing a big beach ball behind you. exhale and lower down. 4 x's with legs zipped together. then next time you're down, widen the legs about 12 or so inches, and continue lifting. feel free to turn the head and alternate bringing your cheeks to the mat when you lower, but head is always neutral and gazing at the mat when you lift. 4 x's at this width, then widen legs to mat width for 4 lifts, then to wider than the mat (4 x's) and FINALLY bring the legs back to about hip distance for 4 more lifts. it seems like a lot when you first start using these back muscles - and the squeezing of the "beach ball" behind your back can feel like a lot to your triceps, but these back muscles will THANK you for the strengthening. i rest here for a moment, cradling my head in my arms.

the next posture is called vajrasana. sitting back in child's pose (hips to heels, chest to thighs, forehead to the mat) with palms facing up in the small of the back, stand up on shins on inhale, simultaneously sweeping arms to the side and up above (relaxing shoulders at the top) and then exhale - pull the belly in firmly and bring cheek to the mat and hands to small of back. repeat - inhaling and standing on shins and sweeping, warming the shoulders, opening the front of the body, exhaling bringing opposite cheek to mat. 6-12 x's.

then come back to hands and knees, inhale feel the spine getting long and then exhale -- tuck the toes and push hips high to the ceiling or back wall, knees really really bent because the hamstrings aren't warmed up yet. inhale back to table/hands and knees, exhale toe tuck hips to sky, head hangs softly, spine looong and head and arms and vertabrate all in a long extending line. inhale back to table. exhale to this posture (which is called 'downward facing dog) and continue moving in and out 4-6 x's and then stay in downdog for 3-4 breath cycles.

eventually, walk hands to feet or feet to hands and hang out in a forward bend. knees SUPER bent because the stretch you want to feel is in your low back NOT your hamstrings, then walk your hands up your legs and come to standing, hands at heart, let the blood drain, feel how it is to be standing.

after all this, i grab my french press, sit down again and journal. the ideal way to start my day. and if you know me in the morning, you know this is how i keep my sanity.

Monday, January 11, 2010

meditation cymbals

i left my workplace tonight with head in the clouds, thinking about what i need to prepare for my first viniyoga class that i'm legitimately teaching as a certified instructor (11 am tomorrow!!!). as i stepped into the street, the evening already dark at 5:30, i heard a sound that resembled the meditation chimes or cymbals that many teachers begin and end class with. OH MY OH MY I DON'T HAVE ANY MEDITATION CYMBALS, i thought to myself. where did that sound even COME FROM??? thankfully there is a beautiful asian imports store across from my place of employment, and they had one very light and high pitch sounding pair of tibetan cymbals in store. i bought them, complete.

not that i needed to buy an object in order to teach and feel like i could offer a fulfilling class ... but i am baffled by the sound that i either heard or imagined that makes me feel like this is perhaps a step in the right direction.