Wednesday, December 31, 2014

AWAKENING (New Year's Eve 2014/2015)

It is New Year's Eve, 2014.

Or is it?

I sit in my self-proclaimed "Buddha Room" writing this blog.

Or do I?

No, I am not on a peyote binge. I am not awakening from a New Age comma either. I guess the only way to explain it is to say that today I "got it."

15 years ago the "I" that "I" associate as being "myself" began to awaken. I was further than I could ever think of being from understanding the concept of "Oneness." It was New Year's Eve 1999/2000. Remember that year? The year that all the computers were supposed to crash and we were to begin an era of chaos and miscommunication. Well, the computers never crashed as anticipated, and most would agree that our era of chaos and miscommunication began long before that time anyway. My point is, this was a pivotal marker in our world and for "myself" too. From that night on, things began to change in my realm because of one thing: I knew deep inside that something was not "right" - that something was off and needed to change. And from that night on things began to change for me quite quickly, in the grand scheme of my understanding of time, that is.

Since then I have read, studied, immersed and taught many holistic, yogic, and quantum physics spiritualities and ideologies (or "my" limited understanding of them, anyway). I truly believe them and know that they are right. But they were then still just ideas or thoughts. Just like that night 15 years ago when I knew that something was "wrong," all these years of thoughts and ideas continued to be just that - ideas of what was "right."

Have you ever had an "A-HA" moment that transcended everything? If so then you understand the challenge in explaining it to anyone else. How do we communicate something so vast that our human form has limited capability of truly understanding it? Well, I guess you have to try and put it into a context or form that beings like us would understand. So here goes…

"What if this…what if all of this, isn't real?" That was a quote from the TV series LOST that the character John Locke had said. I wrote it down because it struck a chord with me when I heard it. But let's turn it on it's side: "What if this…what if ALL, IS REAL?"

I've read and been told that the Universe wants us to be happy. I've heard the famous words of God from Exodus, when Moses asked for his name: "I am," and I've recently been drawn to listening to Seal's haunting song of the same name, "I Am" off of the CD Yoga Revolution (lyrics: "I am who I am that is that. I am who you are looking back. You are who I am, can you imagine that? There is ONE God and that's a fact"). But I also do believe that there is a counter-force in the Universe, a darkness, one that exists to teach us lessons about ourselves. I have always believed that we cannot ignore the darkness, because without it, there is no understanding of the Light.

And this brings me to today's "A-HA" moment. When we are moving in harmony with Oneness or Universal Consciousness, which is us - connected - there is flow. The absences of flow is stagnation. When our lives are in alignment, there is flow. When are lives are out of alignment, there is stagnation - or opposition. But what if it is us, the harmonious One-Consciousness that is navigating this and creating the opposition as well as the flow? What if this stagnation and/or opposition is nothing more than our Illuminated Consciousness or our own "self" trying to give us a sign - pushing us - to STOP and LISTEN and then Understand how to redirect our course?

We (humans) tend to look at things as being outside of us:
   "He did that to me."
   "She said this about me."
   "You hurt me."
I call bullshit. I say, it is I who did this to me, it is I who put out the red flag, it is I who decided that my life needed a course correction, and it is I that needs to wake up and take the responsibility for changing my own course. And when I do - "awaken" - to this Understanding, that I am directing my own ship, then I can decide where it should go.

Yes, the Universe wants us to be happy. Because we ARE that Universe and we ARE happiness. We ARE flow and Universal Light. But in this form, we are also human, and because of that we will make mistakes - over and over again.

Our job - our assignment - is to wake up and look for the signs to course correct our own life, and therefore elevate ALL other life. As more beings awaken, we elevate the individual and collective consciousness closer to the Universal. Why? Because we are beings of Light, in the end. When we die in this body, our energy will continue. And when all the bodies die, the Light will continue. So our own little woes and troubles are really insignificant, in the end, aren't they? But since they are a part of who we are in this life, we should acknowledge and learn from them too.

Stop blaming others - because they are merely us pushing back.

See opposition as our own consciousness speaking to us.

Live in the Light and allow your soul to awaken to the unlimited possibilities of this remarkable life that we have been given. See past the barriers of time and space, this or that, me or mine. Basically, stop thinking, and just BE. (And if all of this is just too much, then at least go see Interstellar. Maybe Christopher Nolan can explain it to you better than I can, in visual brilliance and three dimensional form).

What we do tomorrow - January 1, 2015 - and from that day forward, is of our own design -

   ALL OF IT.

Let's Awaken and become the architect of our life and flow together, as ONE, with grace. And at the very least, when we find stagnation and/or opposition, STOP, LISTEN & BE. And by the Divine Light that IS, then course correct!

Blessings to Awakening in 2015!


Wednesday, October 1, 2014

The Yogi Corner: The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali: Samadhi

Yogi Corner: The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali

The most famous part of the Yoga Sutras is called the "eight limbs." Sometimes referred to as branches, these limbs are to be worked on until the impurities are dwindled away in order to achieve yoga. For October we will discuss the final limb, that of "Samadhi."

"Tad Evarthamatra Nirbhasam Svarupa Sunyam Iva Samadhih
B.3, V.3
Translation: Samadhi is the same as meditation when there is the shining of the object alone, as if devoid of form. 

Ah, Samadhi: the elusive "goal" of all yoga. This is it - the final limb - the thing that your consistent work with all of the others has led you to. But what IS it? Well, it has many ways of being described, although most yogis will tell you that you cannot define samadhi in our language. Some possible interpretations have been: Liberation. Freedom. Bliss. Nirvana. Ecstasy.

Some people equate this things with being other-worldy, but the sutras define this state as entirely possible to those on the path of yoga. Somewhere along the line we were told that we could not live a divine life, that we would not ever truly be happy, or free or truly liberated. Yoga says this thinking is erroneous. Yoga tells us that we are all whole, divine, light and free. What we are bound by is our ego and egoic nature that keeps us feeling deprived. When we truly surrender ego, we are no longer bound. We become "Selfless" instead of "Selfish." And that is when we begin to understand.

In the words of Sri Swami Satchidananada about Samadhi, "One who has achieved this may look similar to anyone else. But the burnt nature of his or her mental seeds is the difference between ordinary people and the jivanmuktas (liberated beings). They also eat, sleep and do everything like everybody else. They may be doing anything, but they are not affected by what they do. There is no moisture of attachment to cause sprouting. They are living liberated people. Liberation is not something you experience when you die. While living, you should be liberated. Jivan-muktamukta means liberated, jivan, while living. 

That is the final state of samadhi. It is not sitting stiffly with eyes closed, as some people think. If sitting like a statue is what you call samadhi, all the rocks in the garden must be in deep samadhi. No. You will be useful: you will be active - more active than other people. Your actions are more perfect than other people's. You are dynamic, but you are static."

The Yoga Sutras goes on to say "Tajjayat Prajnalokah." B.3 V.5. Translation: By the mastery of samyamacomes the light of knowledge. This means that when we practice the last three limbs (dharana, dhyana and samadhi) together, that this is called samyama. In samyama the truth behind an object becomes known to us. We finally understand what was previously obscured. 

And so, all of our steps, or limbs, have brought us to this point of understanding. We have discovered new territory and it was right there, all along, right under our own nose.

"Whenever we relinquish our craving, clinging, and grasping, whenever we stop the war with reality, whenever we are totally present and undivided, we are immediately in union with our true nature." Stephen Cope,Yoga and the Quest for the True Self.
Namaste.
Tracey

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Always Honor Your Teacher(s)

We all start out our journey somewhere, right? Some folks decide to go no further and stay where they are - in happiness or misery - because it is the known. Others head out on a quest to know themselves better or understand the world more or find a deeper connection to Spirit. Like Morpheus offering us the red or blue pill, we make our choice. Those who continue to follow the windy road of self-development will come in touch with some dark places within themselves and be either forced to accept them and move through and beyond them, or creep back into the darkness. But whatever that choice is, the reality is that a light was already shone to you that you can never again turn off.

Teachers help us uncover these insights in one way or another. We have all had teachers - some we label as good or bad, but the truth is that everyone and everything is your teacher for the good. Your limited understanding and falter to ego makes them "bad."

There is an interesting trend in the yoga community. With last year's departure of B.K.S. Iyengar, it sheds the light on this even more. We are a growing yoga community with growing number of teachers from vastly different styles and understandings. Students now often jump from studio to studio - seeking a more physically demanding practice to "take them to the next level." And I have to wonder if loyalty to one's teacher is a fading ember?

My very first yoga teacher changed my life. She opened me up to a world that I had no idea existed and I am the person that I am today because of the journey that I began with her. Some time after I started my own yoga studio she moved out of the area without a way in which to contact her and dropped any affiliation from Yoga Alliance and the yoga community at large. She chose a different path. And I had to progress from there on my own for a long time, without my own teacher.  It was scary, but I still think about her very often and am continually grateful to have had the privilege to start my journey with her.

Someone asked me a year or so past if I ever felt lonely watching my students take yoga teacher trainings with me and then leave the nest, sometimes to never be heard from again. Honestly prior to her inquiry I had not been. Afterwards, however, I suddenly was. I think about the many students that have gone through their journey with me to be a yoga teacher and where they are now. So many brilliant teachers out there making a difference in the lives of so many people. When one of them pops into one of my classes, it makes my entire day just to see them again. But I am so grateful for the many students that I continue to see every day and then truly keep my teachings meaningful.

Over the years there are some fallouts - every relationship has it's ups and downs, including that of the teacher and student. But should it be? The yoga tradition is steeped with the deepest amount of respect for one's teacher (guru). And whether or not life takes you on a different journey, you should always hold the deepest respect for your teacher. The moment that you think that you are better than or outgrew your teacher, is actually the moment that you have moved the furthest from your yoga practice and completely forfeited to ego.

The school year has just started. I can already hear the thousands of children coming home complaining about this teacher or that one. And truthfully kids are maybe a little too young to understand this, but if you are reading this then you are not. Learn from every teacher that comes across your path. Always be grateful and respectful, even if you THINK they do not deserve it. I am not advocating blindly following anyone, for that is something else entirely. But I am saying that we need to keep the sacredness of the student/teacher dynamic in tact. It starts with gratitude and respect.

So in light of the new school year, reach out to an old teacher of yours and offer a few words of kindness. Or if you are a student of mine, pop into a class of mine soon. I'm always thinking of you, fondly…yes, even those of you that made my job a little more difficult. Because I learned from you too.

Namaste.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Yogi Corner: The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali: Dhyana

Yogi Corner: The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali

The most famous part of the Yoga Sutras is called the "eight limbs." Sometimes referred to as branches, these limbs are to be worked on until the impurities are dwindled away in order to achieve yoga. For September we will discuss the next limb, that of "Dhyana."

"Tatra Pratyayaikatanata Dhyanam
B.3, V.2
Translation: Dhyana is the continuous flow of cognition toward that object. 

 

Quite simply, Dhyana is Meditation. Many students will often comment to me that they have not "tried" meditation. Well, first of all, there is no trying in meditation. Meditation is an effortless state of being that one simply achieves. Could this state take time? Yes. Could one achieve this state immediately? Yes. And is it possible that one has already achieved Dhyana and simply is unaware that they have? Most likely.

You see, mediation occurs when you have lost sense of time and space. You are not asleep, but you are not conscious to what is happening around you either. It is the in-between space where you are locked in an unbroken flow of consciousness with the object in which you are meditating on. 

Those who knit, garden, ski, paint, or enjoy activities such as these, will probably be able to easily say that they have "lost" themselves in that activity and what felt like a minute or so turned out to be an hour or so. Guess what? That is Dhyana! I have achieved this state many times during my home yoga practice. Moving to the breath and flow of the Universe, I am lost into the practice. 

Many people still think of meditation as sitting in a traditional seated posture, with the back straight, eyes closed, and trying to concentrate on one thought, image or idea. Guess what? You are trying again. You will probably never achieve mediation this way. Many teachers will guide you to meditation by reminding you to allow any thoughts, at first, become aware of the breath and slowly release the other thoughts. When they flow back in, acknowledge them, then let them go again. This is the "practice" part. But after some time, you may get better at just letting it go. For other people, I usually recommend an activity oriented style of meditation. If you like to do any artistic endeavor, let that be your meditation. Any physical activity can be a source of meditation. Be creative and enjoy the process - that is the key. Not everyone has to sit up quietly in a traditional type way.

We offer Meditation classes on Monday evenings with Robin O'Hagan, a spirit medium & psychic. She has developed her skills of meditation through her own gifts and can show you how to tune into yours. Drop in any Monday evening 7:30 pm in the Meditation Room to explore this avenue with Robin. Or come to any yoga class on our schedule for a more active method of meditation. It's all part of the journey - sometimes we all need to a little guidance in finding our way.
Namaste.
Tracey

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Light on B.K.S. Iyengar

Tuesday when I read the news that yoga master B.K.S. Iyengar had been hospitalized and was in critical condition from renal failure, my heart sank and I began to weep. Yesterday when the news of his passing was confirmed, I cried throughout the day, a heaviness in my heart that this great man was no longer in his body.
For those that do not know, Iyengar was instrumental in bringing the teachings of Hatha yoga to America. If you ever took a yoga class, rolled out a yoga mat and practiced yoga postures (asanas), then you, mostly unknowingly, have been touched by his teachings. His style of Hatha yoga (known simply as Iyengar Yoga), has had a long history. While I myself had not taken a teacher training with B.K.S. or any of his teachers in his specific style, many of his teachings find their way into my classes - through his books and other lessons. I could never say that I could teach an Iyengar style class, but I can easily say that his influence is present in each of the classes that I teach. His story and legacy are important for all aspiring yogis to know about. I feel compelled to share a little...

Born in Bellur, India in December, 1918, Iyengar was a very sick child. His mother, while pregnant with him, had contracted influenza. In his own words:

"My  arms were thin, my legs were spindly, and my stomach protruded in an ungainly manner. So frail was I, in fact, that I was not expected to survive. My head used to hang down, and I had to lift it with great effort. My head was disproportionately large to the rest of my body, and my brothers and sisters often teased me. I was the eleventh child of thirteen, although only ten survived.

The frailty and sickliness remained with me throughout my early years. As a boy, I suffered from numerous ailments, including frequent bouts of malaria, typhoid, and tuberculosis. My poor health was matched, as it often is when one is sick, by my poor mood. A deep melancholy often overtook me, and at times I asked myself whether life was worth the trouble of living." (From Light on Life).

As luck would have it, one of Iyengar's sisters married the famous Shriman T. Krishnamacharya, a scholar of philosophy and Sanskrit who had spent many years in the Himalayan Mountains near the border of Nepal/ Tibet, pursuing the study of yoga. It was Krishnamacharya that invited B.K.S. to live with him and learn the methods of yoga, in an effort to heal his sickly body and mind. This was a moment that Iyengar refers to as "a major turning point" in his life. Many yogis already know the rest, but for those who are still learning of these great yoga masters, Krishnamacharya's other student was the late Sri K. Pattobhi Jois, founder of the Asthanga school of yoga, the origins of which any Vinyasa style class is based on. It has always amazed me that from one teacher (Krishnamacharya), two of this generation's most important yoga teachers came...and they couldn't have been more different in techniques and styles.

While Asthanga yoga is a based on a specific series of postures to be done as a meditation with breath and body syntonization, Iyengar yoga is a very precise method of working on postures individually, while using various props and creating dynamic extension in the body. Both methods of yoga have equal weight and value. In my opinion, one cannot say that one method is any better. They've both shaped the way that we practice yoga today.

Each time I taught a class since his passing, I have dedicated it to Guruji, as he was known. As I read passages from Light on Life, I choked up each time. The rich teachings and long lineage of yoga continues through teachers like myself and those that even I train in my yoga teacher trainings. Yoga will go on. Maybe I found some comfort that such a master teacher was still alive and kicking to share his knowledge of the practice with us. I believe that we are ALL ongoing beginners in the practice of yoga. I don't believe there is a right or wrong style of yoga or necessarily even a "bad" teacher, because I truly feel that we learn something each time we unroll he mat and take to practicing. I suppose that I am saddened for the end of this era of authentic, Indian yoga teachers. While we have so many knowledgable and important teachers today: Shiva Rea, Baron Baptiste, and the likes, these men were the real deal - they literally wrote the books on yoga that all other teachers today are inspired to instruct by.

I have to be honest, I've walked out of more Iyengar classes and workshops than I've sat through in entirety. It was not a style, in the way that the local Iyengar teachers that I'd taken practice with taught, that resonated with me. However, reading B.K.S. Iyengar's books, listening to and watching him speak in videos, and learning some important aspects of his teachings has made me a better teacher - one with the ability to assist others in healing, the way that B.K.S. Iyengar was able to heal himself too through the practice of yoga.

"You do not need to seek freedom in some distant land, for it exists within your own body, heart, mind, and soul. Illuminated emancipation, freedom, unalloyed and untainted bliss await you, but you must choose to embark on the Inward Journey to discover it." (From Light on Life).

We will continue to learn yoga from B.K.S. Iyengar. His legacy lives on in each of us.
Namaste, Guruji.

Iyengar Website

CNN Interview on B.K.S. Iyengar, 2012

B.K.S. Iyengar in 1977 Demonstrating Yoga Asana

Interview with Iyengar from the 2008 movie "Enlighten Up"

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Lighting Up Our Humanity

Last night we heard the tragic news that comedian and actor Robin Williams died of an apparent suicide attempt. Social media blew up about the story with everyone commenting on what was their favorite movie of his and how brilliant and smart he was. A ripple of sadness enveloped us as we all shared in this loss.

Apparently he suffered from depression - something I do not think was spotlighted for many people prior to his death. We knew he battled his demons (drugs and the like) over the years as he went through a couple of stints at rehab. But we didn't know - couldn't know - what was behind these troubled feelings of his.

The unfortunate thing is that many, many people suffer from depression and, at least once have considered suicide to a life that they feel in some way is just not worth living any longer. Because they are not public figures, most of them go unnoticed, except for the family & friends that sit in wonder, trying to piece together the signs that may or may not have been there for them to see, and possibly help avoid the impending death of their loved one. I believe that until it happens to someone very close to you, most people do not put enough weight on issues of depression. This is not merely being "sad. This is a mental illness.

To me this highlights the ever present need to learn how to calm the mind. Whether you enjoyed his comedy or not, I think that everyone can agree that Williams' mind was insanely fast & brilliant. The way he pulled from vastly different historical & socially relevant ideas in the blink of an eye on endless and tireless rants clearly showed that he was a man ruled by his brain. In some circles this quality would be widely admired, right? Yet the yoga practice supports the idea of quieting the mind and finding peace in the calm stillness - something that anyone with mental illness has a very difficult time doing.

My intention is not to use this time of loss as a time to advertise for yoga. My intention is to continue to bring mindfulness to us all. The deal is that you can never know what someone else is going through, thinking about, battling, etc. - not even if you ask them outright. You just can never know a person's whole story and struggles. Not the "nasty" clerk at the store. Not the "jerk" that cut you off in traffic. Not the "elitist" teacher that has it in for your kid. Not the "mean" aunt that is never happy. NOBODY. You just do not know what they're going through at any moment.

The judgments that we place on people - continually - come from our ego needing to define something or potentially making it to feel better about itself. But there is a better way: compassion and understanding.

Maybe the store clerk didn't make you laugh and the person who cut you off is not a member of your immediate family, but that does not make that person any less important in the world. Everyone is a human being deserving of non-jugemental compassion. EVERYONE.

So before you jump to conclusions about someone, take a moment to consider that they may be moving through some very dark energy. And instead of sending judgements and hateful words, spread some loving kindness. If someone is depressed and on the brink of committing suicide, a kind word or a smile from you could make all the difference in the world to that person.

We need to start living outside of our own limited beliefs. We need to start caring for other people like we care about our cell phones. We need to start tuning back in to humanity. When we can be that kind of people together, then maybe nobody will feel so alone. And just maybe we will all be able to find peace in being still and quieting our mind, knowing that our collective consciousness is building us up as a whole - instead of one person here or there.

I hear a lot of people talk about this new age/aquarian age of enlightenment and how some people will be left behind in the waking of consciousness. I do not subscribe to that egoist way of thinking. I believe that the only way for us to become enlightened is to rise up together. It has to start with our thoughts. And it has to start now.

Turn off the Cell Phone and Listen to Someone With Your Ears, Eyes and Soul…Peace Out.

* * * * * * *

Interestingly, after I posted this blog, a few hours later Russell Brand posted this on his channel. We speak about the same things - he perhaps more eloquently. Check it out.

Russell Brand Trews on Robin Williams

Friday, August 1, 2014

Yogi Corner - The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali: Dharana

The most famous part of the Yoga Sutras is called the "eight limbs." Sometimes referred to as branches, these limbs are to be worked on until the impurities are dwindled away in order to achieve yoga. For August we will discuss the next limb, that of "Dharana."

"Desabandhas Cittasya Dharana." 
B.3, V.1
Translation: Dharana is the binding of the mind to one place, object or idea.

In yoga we talk about the "monkey mind." Its that constant wondering from one thought, object or event to another, like the proverbial monkey jumping from branch to branch endlessly. Most folks understand this well. For the step of Dharana yoga, the yogi aspirant now is able to focus the mind completely on one item. 
Dharana is the beginning of Meditation. "Concentration is the beginning of meditation; meditation is the culmination of concentration," - Sri Swami Satchidananda.
Perhaps one of the biggest realizations that I acquired from practicing yoga is that I can control my thoughts. Previous to any formal study, I assumed that they ruled me. However, through yoga practice I found the ability to redirect it from thoughts that create anxiety, compulsions, and constant negative assumptions to other more positive pursuits. 
Through recent studies in quantum physics we know that our thoughts create our realities, quite literally. The early yogis already knew that and they gave us a system for creating peace in our body, mind and spirit. Dharana is the beginning of finding that place. But since the ego is at constant work, so must the practice of dharana be. 
Got it? Then get to it!
Namaste.

Friday, July 18, 2014

A Day with VAYU (Air or Wind)

The element of "Air" represents those things that we cannot physically see, but whose presence is clearly felt upon in our lives. It is associated with Spirit or Soul. It cannot be captured nor held in the hands. Instead we can see it like the ripples in water, the fallen leaves dancing in circles, dust swirling in our path and the playing in a young girl's hair.

Today I had a unique day "off." And I mean really off. My dogs were not at home nor was my husband or anyone else. I had not classes to teach or take, no phone calls to make. I had no laundry to do nor any chores that fell through. No, it was a pure day open.

I awoke early, looking about for a clue of how to start my day. I noticed that the bird feeders out back were empty, so I looked about and found a half a bag of seed in the kitchen. Filling up the the bird feeders, I immediately began enjoying many colorful visitors: cardinals, bluejays, goldfinches and more. The neighborhood pesky squirrel seemed to have moved on for the day, to which I was thankful.

My kitchen table had been piled with Turkey feathers for some time. I had anticipated making smudging feathers to sell and give away, and had made a few but stopped. Today they seemed to be beckoning me, so I sat down at 8:30 and finished up around 2:30 - some 27 smudging feathers completed. I also ate about 5 snacks in between, but who is counting? I listened to beautiful yoga music and inspiring chants, sang and crafted the day away.

I had left the back door and windows open all day to feel the beautiful breeze and listen to the many chipping birds. It was really a wonderful experience to enjoy. But after the smudging feathers were cleaned up I was not sure just what to do with myself. I walked outside and felt the summer breeze along my body. I walked to the mailbox to retrieve the mail and came around the back of my house, noticing quite a nice shady spot by the trees. There was a bird's feather in the grass for me - I always think of finding feathers as receiving a present.

I stopped to think about all the air elements in my presence today.

Interesting.

I went inside and snatched up my yoga mat, and headed outside to that little spot where I practiced yoga for about an hour and a half. In that time various butterflies and birds came by to say hello, cackle above my head or land on my mat. It was an inspiring practice where I truly felt the presence of, well, something else with me.

I'm not quite sure why I have been given this day with sacred vayu. But I truly appreciate it. There have been many thoughts of friends and family who have passed today. I choose to look at it as their acknowledgement of my thoughts of them. There is a comfort in that today.

Maybe another element will grace me with it's presence tomorrow.
Namaste, Vayu.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Mental Mishaps: Lessons on the Lake

Last weekend I had one of those moments: do or die, fight or give up - make it or be forever lost.

The day started out beautiful. The third day of a holiday weekend, I found myself itching to get out of the house and "do" something. Two days of mulling around was enough. My resting self had peaked and I was ready to tackle something. I called  neighbor, on a whim, and asked her if she knew of any local places that we could go kayaking or canoeing. Sounded like a nice idea. And as luck would have it, a local state park by my house was open and rented such things for $5 an hour. So, my husband, step-daughter and I packed a lunch and headed to the park.

We sat on the bench and ate our lunch overlooking the lake and the many dragonflies that inhabited it. I looked on as people leisurely paddled in singles or doubles around. The lake extended pretty far and some folks had ventured to the far end while others had simply floated near the launching area, paddling a little, looking at frogs, and talking. The later was the condition that I was looking for. I was not out to set any kayaking records - I just wanted to get outside into nature and enjoy myself.

Lunch eaten, we headed over, rented our kayaks and launched into the lake. We opted for our own kayaks rather than buddying up. This seemed like the best idea, especially since the lake had suddenly become busy and double boats were at a high demand.

I did not notice any tailwind as we headed out. My stepdaughter, the athlete, was far ahead, paddling continually and moving towards the far end. My husband was in tow. I guess that meant we were moving out...I should have known better. But as we moved further away from the dock, the murk, lilies and pond-scum became thicker and more dense to paddle through. Waving some off my paddle nearly through me into the water, so I realized quickly that I had to work through it and not fight it...allow some pond scum here and there. All in all, the ride out to the farther end was nice and went smoothly.

I gazed back and realized, "wow, we really are far out here." My step-daughter had just turned and started heading back, husband following. I turned as well. But I didn't want to head straight back. The constantly paddling out there had worked up some sweat and muscle in my arms and I felt a slight twinge in my lower back starting to creep up. No, what I really wanted to do was float there for a while. I guess I could have, but my family was moving ahead of me fast and furiously and I could either stay out on the lake by myself or start paddling back. So I did...paddle back, that is.

And that is when the gust force winds seemed to kick up. Had they been there on the way out? Cause I thought I was paddling pretty hard! Rapidly my kayak started to push backwards, turn, and if I didn't catch myself, probably would have been floating backwards, backwards! My sudden thought was, "crap!" Only it was another more colorful word that I used.

I yelled to my husband, but he was far ahead of me and paddling fast. My arms were tired, the sun was hot and I realized that it was time to just push through - something I am not a fan of doing, to be honest. It seemed like the harder I paddled, the more furious the wind blew into me. If I stopped just for a moment to rest, the boat came to an immediate stop and began to move backwards. "Crap!"

I paddled harder and harder against the wind, arms screaming, back aching, and mind beginning to wonder why I hadn't just stayed on my comfy patio furniture reading a yoga book. I had to stop, I just had to. The wind immediately began to me push backwards. The dock seemed miles away...as did my family. My bottom lip started to tremble and I felt tears welling up in my eyes. My mind kicked in, "You can't do it. You are too tired. You have to go to the side, pull the kayak out of the water and walk all the way back through the woods. You are too tired. This pond-scum seaweed stuff is slowing you down. You do not have enough strength. Your back is hurting. You suck." It went on and on.

I noticed my husband look back and see that I was pretty far away. He stopped, seeming to wait for me. Why didn't he look like he was being pushed backwards by the hurricane winds? My ego, the same one that just told me that I couldn't do it, chimed back in, "Go now. Let him see that you can do it. You can't let him see that you are weak."

I began paddling again, with a smile on my face. I was reminded of the story of the duck: zen-like on top, but paddling like heck underneath. That was me. It was all show. I was really dying out there. My mind was laying into me and I was ready to wave the white flag. I stopped again. I had to. I wanted to cry - bad thoughts poured back in again. This struggle went on and on and on until I caught myself in the midst of it. I realized what was happening. I had that "epiphany."

I sat up straighter in my kayak, and pulled my lower belly in. I began breathing deeply through my nose and paddled smoothly with my breath. By only looking right ahead of me instead of further away, I soon found paths through the pond-scum and into smoother, more clear water and then the kayak opened up. The wind was present, for sure, but suddenly the effort was less. My arms were still sore - as was my back, but slow and steady was winning the race. And before I knew it, I was back close to the dock with my family, awaiting to pull in.

I got out and smiled at my family and to myself. I didn't give up. I really wanted to, but I had made it back. That one hour seemed like 10 minutes - or 20 hours, depending on how I think about it. My mind surely felt like it was 10 minutes, but my body would have sworn I was working for 20 hours.

I was reminded how easy it is to fall prey to the ego and let the mind pull you down, making life more challenging than it needs to be. I recalled a lecture with a visiting yogi who told the crowd at Princeton University some years ago that people make up all their problems. Sure, I do it. I am human. Sometimes I figure this out sooner rather than later and other times I need to learn some other lesson first. I learned many lessons on the lake that day, went home and ate a huge piece of ice cream cake from Carvel that I found sitting in the freezer since Father's Day.

Power Kayaking.
Ice Cream Cake.
Life is good.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Pt 4. My Septoplasty Operation: 1 Month After

Well, it has been one month since my operation and I am doing really well. I am very glad that I took the plunge and had it done. Overall my breathing has changed and increased dramatically through my left nostril (sometimes I feel sorry for the right one, it had it good for so long).

Each day is still a slightly new experience for me. I never know if I am going to wake up with a drippy nose or not. Some days my nose feels like it is dripping all day long, but when I blow it there is nothing there. This new sensation is all a part of the healing process. I should be using more saline nasal spray in my nose, but most days I just forget to do it. For this reason, the left nostril is a little dry at times, but still overall so much better than before so I cannot complain.

When I first had the operation, the new influx of oxygen literally left me with a feeling of being "high." I had so much extra energy and felt amazing. I still have more energy than I did before the operation - for real. I wake up earlier than usual (for me) most days and, funny enough, seem to want to go to bed earlier too. This new shift in energy for me reminded me of the nadi channels and the connection to the nostrils.

There are energy channels in the body. The yogic system calls them the "nadis" and of all the nadi channels (72,000 is the most consistent number listed in any yogic text, although others list many more or even "countless" numbers of nadis), they are two of the three most primary. The other one is "Sushumna nadi," which is the central channel that runs through the middle of the body and where the infamous "Chakras" line up within. Ida & pingula, depending on which text you read, run on either side of the body terminating int he nostrils, or start one each side of the body, criss-cross like a helix at each chakra center, terminating back on the same side of the body. 
oldest picture of the "Nadis"
The theory of the energy of each nadi is that Ida, being on the left side, is that of cooling, lunar, feminine energy that is nurturing and said to control the mental processes. Pingula, therefore, is the right side, masculine, solar and said to control the somatic (body) processes of the body. 

So taking this home, my left nostril was mostly blocked and the right side of my nostril was taking in most of the air - or in yogic terms "Prana," lovingly known as life force energy. Now, let me tell you that prior to my surgery when dealing with the imbalance each day that I found most of my energy at night and always slept in later than most people (teenagers not included). I definitely considered myself more of a lunar-type personality. Now that I've had the surgery, my energy patterns have shifted and balanced with more solar energy. 

Interesting. What does it mean? Well, it means my pranic energy intake was imbalanced and now I am feeling more balanced. That's about it. My husband says I'm 46 and I'm getting old and going to bed earlier, that's what it is. But, as a yogi I know and understand that there is a greater significance to it. Either way, I am glad that I did the surgery and am hoping that this blog is still helping others determine that they may also need a similar one. 

So thank you for listening, caring, and sending all of your healing energy my way.
Namaste.
The End.


Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Yogi Corner: Yoga Sutra of Patanjali: Pratyahara

The most famous part of the Yoga Sutras is called the "eight limbs." Sometimes referred to as branches, these limbs are to be worked on until the impurities are dwindled away in order to achieve yoga. For July we will discuss the 5th limb, that of "Pratyahara."

"Sva Visayasamprayoge Cittasvarupanukara Ivendriyanam Pratyaharah." 
B.2, V.54
Translation: When the senses withdrawal themselves from the objects and imitate, as it were, the nature of the mind-stuff, this is pratyahara.

Ah, the senses. Most of us have a feeling that without them, we could not understand the world. Imagine a world without the sense of smell, sight, hearing, touch and taste. In an instant if all of those senses were lost one might have a feeling of complete loss and confusion - a disorientation to the world around him. And one would be right too. The idea is to lose that connection to the world around you, and delve into the world within you.

"The senses are like a mirror. Turned outward, they reflect the outside; turned inward, they reflect the pure light. By themselves the senses are innocent, but when allowed to turn outside they attract everything and transfer those message sot the mind, making it restless. Turned inward, they find peace by taking the form of the mind itself" - Sri Swami Satchidananda.

This limb and those following begin to create quite a challenge for a yoga aspirant to understand because they ask of us to understand the esoteric nature of the mind when in truth our mind can only understand what it has been programmed to know through our senses. The idea is that this "knowledge" is limited. It is like the saying that a computer is only as smart as the person who programmed it. There are limitations to the full scope of knowledge of our nature. This is why pratyahara is so important.
Let's assume that you are with me so far. How does one achieve pratyahara? Do not look to Patanjali for the answers. He ends Book 2 of the Yoga Sutras with the following:
"Tatah Parama Vasyatendriyanam." 
B.2, V.55
Translation: Then follows the supreme mastery over the senses.
Ok, thank you Patanjali for the detailed information. So we look towards other master yoga teachers such as Satchidananda, who have given us insights over these esoteric concepts. Over the years I have come to understand that the following practices will help us to gain pratyahara:
1. Breathing practices
2. Meditation
3. Asana practice
4. Any activity requiring our full concentration
It has been noted that pratyahara assists in pain management, something that I myself experienced a few years ago when I experienced a situation that resulted in an emergency appendectomy. I wrote about it in my blog back in 2011. Here is a quick link if you are interested in reading or re-reading it: How I Found Bliss in the E.R. This article was also published in "Elephant Journal" on the internet around that same time. 
I have read that pratyahara, dharana and dhyana (the following two limbs) often all come at once. That was certainly my experience. It is interesting that in the month of July, a month that is mostly known for vacationing, socializing and recharging oneself through total sensory experiences, that we are looking at pratyahara. We have almost 5 full weeks in July. Why not experiment with the awareness of each of the senses for one week. Journal about your experience of each sense in different circumstances or try meditating on each. See what you uncover in these experiences, so that we can move into dharana for August.
Namaste.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Let the Sun Shine! Summer Solstice Energies

Happy Summer Solstice!

This is the longest day of the year, when we have the glorious opportunity to enjoy the sun for the longest period of time in a 24 hour period for those of us living north of the equator. This occurs every year around June 21st. In our area the sun will be present for over 16 hours on this day, which lends to a lot of solar energy out there!

Sun energies are aligned to:
     * Fire
     * Heat
     * Expansion
     * Transformation
     * Purification
     * Fertility
     * Abundance

So during this time of year usually folks experience more energy - be it physical or mental. Add in the moon phase (time of the full moon especially when the moon is the most "solar" that it can be) and we can really be feeling it.

So there are two theories with this time of year:
1. Use the added solar energy as an impetus to finish up or start goals.
2. Cultivate more lunar energy to balance out the overwhelming amount of solar.

The key to knowing which one of these energies to work with is to be truthful and listen to your body. Some folks need more cooling, nurturing lunar energy, while others can fire it up. And then there is the idea of cultivating balance by working with both. In the end, use it however you must.

I've started a new tradition at the yoga studio for the Solstices (there are two: Summer & Winter) called "108 Sun Salutations." This is not a new event that I created. Many yoga studios around the world perform this on the Solstices. Solstice literally means "stopping or standing still of the sun." In Hatha Yoga, or the physical practices of postures and breathing, is a cultivating of or balancing of opposites - "Ha" meaning Sun and "tha" meaning Moon. So Hatha Yoga teachers work with these energies to help students create balance in their practice and their lives all the time.

Winter Solstice 2014 108 Sun Salutation Class
This year's Winter Solstice 108's was the first time that I officially taught this class. I had done it one other time at a retreat at my house with 4 students, but this was the first time at these studio open to anyone. There are many variations to do so that any level student can do the salutations, however, you are kicking up a lot of energy and it is a hot, sweaty, fiery, and fierce practice no matter how you look at it. So, I tell everyone to bring a towel!

Lots of people ask why 108. We can start by simply saying that 108 is known as the "auspicious number." You can google it, there are so many interesting insights about the number 108 including the fact that there are exactly 108 beads on a mala meditation necklace and that the distance between the Earth and Sun is 108 times the diameter of the Sun...it goes on and on. It will really blow your mind. Here is a quick link to some of the more important facts:
                                                                Mystic Meaning of 108

For this year's Summer Solstice Celebration class I hooked up a camera and recorded the class. It took us just over an hour to do the entire class, stopping at each group of 12 salutations to turn over a card revealing the next number (12, 24, 26, 48, 60, 72, 84, 96, 108) and discuss the numerological meaning of each number and what energy to hold as your intention for the next round of 12. When I got home I condensed the film into a 5 minute video and posted it on Youtube. The results are fabulous! If you haven't seen it, please check it out:
                                         OYC 108 Sun Salutation Class - Summer Solstice 2014

I hope to make this an annual tradition for both the Winter & Summer Solstices and hope that more folks will join us each time. I know it sounds a little intimidating, but the energy that we create together is tremendous and you can use it to establish new or reconnect with intentions that you set in the earlier part of the year to move you forward.

If you cannot attend our Solstice Celebrations, maybe you can have your own. Light a fire pit, throw in any items from the first half of the year that you need to release (this can be something you write down or actual objects). Dance, sing & celebrate the sun. I've also included a Youtube video that I made last year of a Summer Solstice meditation. You can listen to it first, then do it, or try to follow along. Either way, here it is for you:
                                                             Summer Solstice Meditation

So Happy Summer Solstice everyone! May you enjoy the summer, repeat the rewards of abundance from all of the energy that you have been putting out this first half of the year!
Namaste.
Tracey

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Pt. 3 My Septoplasty Operation: Observations 1 Week Post Op

Yesterday was the one week mark after my septoplasty. It also marked the first day without any tylenol or pain medicine and the first day that I felt I could breathe fairly clear all day and night with minimal issues. This is not a bad thing, this is a good thing. Only one week after the operation, and I am definitely feeling that it was a success.

Several interesting things have come out of this whole awareness about my deviated septum. Years of living with many issues, just became a habit, a normal way of life for me. Even as a yoga teacher, who you would think would be more self aware (insert laughter track here), the observations and connections have been life-changing.

For as long as I can remember of my adult life, I have clenched my jaw tightly at night. At one point, I had TMJ and my jaw would lock shut. That was a little scary. When I started to learn about yoga, I learned to relax more and the TMJ went away. However, the jaw clenching at night never stopped. My dentist advised a bite-guard to wear at night, which I paid for out of pocket as I have no dental insurance. It doesn't fit right and has been modified twice, and just doesn't fit into my mouth so I do not wear it. By the way, the little gem cost me $500. Flash forward nearly 10 years later and to a new dentist, who's chair I sat in the day before my septoplasty operation. He asked if I was wearing my bite guard at night, to which I answered spontaneously, "No, but tomorrow I have surgery to correct my deviated septum and I think that after that I may not need it." I honestly had never thought about it before that. He responded, "Yes, often people clench down at night when they are struggling to breath." Why had this not come up before? How had I come up with it then? Mysteries of the Universe aside, guess what?

It worked! I do not clench my jaw anymore at night. Hallelujah!

For the past week, I have not clenched down on my jaw at night. I can feel the dramatic influx of air through my left nostril that it almost feels like extreme breathing at night when I am lying down relaxed. Now when I awake, my jaw and neck are not tight. I have noticed the difference throughout my body as well, less tension on a whole from a better night sleep now that my body is receiving more oxygen.

I have noticed a greater sense of being awake in the morning as well. It doesn't seem to take me as long to truly "wake up." And I also appear to be needing a little less sleep at night than I used to. Wonderful, as this additional time I've acquired gives me more waking hours. I've decided to use them towards reading (This week I read two books and started a third).

I was wondering if the tension was also related to renewed issues with my vision and a need for progressive lenses. While the lenses still seem to be needed (damn aging process), I find that I do not need the glasses as much for everyday things, and do not feel an overtaxing on my eyes as before. So while my vision seems to be the same, the tension that I may have also attributed to my eyes, may have actually been connected to the breath as well.

The other benefit to this surgery was to be the release of fluid pooling in my right ear, causing painful decants when flying due to the inability to properly pressurize. I will know for sure in July when we go on our family vacation and I fly for the first time. I have felt some fluid popping in my ear this past week, but that is usual for me. In the past few days since I have felt mostly clear, however, I have not heard any popping. A visit to the doctor today for a check-up should confirm any fluid in the ear.

My yoga practice has not yet resumed in full. I feel generally bloated, but not as stiff as I would normally without a week or practice. I am looking forward to the full blessings of the doctor today to resume as well as I am interested to see how the increased volume of airflow changes my yogic breathing and hence overall sensation of the yoga practice.

You know, everything is connected. Connective tissue supports and binds all the different types of tissue and organs together in the body. So if there is a lack of flexibility in one area, it will affect the other. A clenched jaw can create a lot of tension that will obviously affect other areas of the body. Of course I knew this, however, the source of the jaw clenching has just been revealed to me. Who knew it was as simple as trying to breath? I've been pouring over my 5th Chakra for years trying to figure out why it is blocked!

I hope that this blog is helping anyone else who may have similar issues. At least to go to the doctor and inquire further. Perhaps there is a simple procedure that can fix things for you too, but you are just not connecting the dots. The eyes, ears, nose and mouth are pretty close together. Anything that is occurring in any one of them could very well be causing issues in other areas. In yoga, everything starts with the breath. It is where we become still, relax and know our truth. Breath reveals everything, and yet, some things remain hidden to our limited understanding of the mind, masked by the distractions of referred pains and other symptoms.

So, Hi-ho, Hi-ho, it's off to the doctor I go. Let's see what he has to say about my progress.

Me, 1 week Post Op


********************************************************************************

Doctor's Visit:
Doctor said my operation could not have gone any better. He was very pleased with the operation and my progress. He answered the few questions that I had and asked me to just call him in two weeks to let me know how I was doing. He said I didn't need a follow-up visit, but he just wanted to know that everything was okay. I really like this doctor!

*********************************************************************************


To Be Continued...

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Pt. 2 My Septoplasty Operation: Day of Procedure

Yesterday I awoke at 3:33 am. I needed to be up at 5 to shower and head to the hospital. Anxiously I paced, lied in bed thinking, and awaited for the alarm to go off. When it did, I suddenly felt very sleepy. After my shower, the dogs and I sat on the front porch smelling the morning dew and watching the sun rising higher in the sky. The energy was clear and calm. So was I. But it was time to go.

I arrived for my check-in at 6:30 am and was finally taken in at 7. Not a long wait, I guess. The woman at the out-patient desk confirmed my birthday and said, "I'm the 22nd! Happy Birthday." Later on the anesthesiologist would also ask to confirm my birthday and say, "Mine is the 23rd, Happy Belated Birthday!" I took these as good signs that I was in the hands of competent, multi-tasking Gemini folk like myself. In fact, the entire staff at Aria Hospital, Torresdale were very nice people on top of their game. My entire experience with the staff was very good. They seemed to be people who enjoyed their job, each other and cared about their patients. BONUS!

My step-daughter, Alexis, came in with me for the procedure. She doesn't like the sight of blood. When they stuck me for the IV she had to walk away. Later when I spit out blood she nearly fell over. I was grateful to have her there with me. She is another Gemini, of course, so she is also quite trustworthy and caring. I packed her a snack bag to which she ate most of before 7:30 am. She's an athlete, so she eats a lot, thankfully all healthy. In fact, the only thing she didn't eat was the chocolate chip cookie. All the fruit and granola were gone. Good kid.

My doctor, William Henry, is a great guy too. I didn't ask his sign, but he is very approachable and interested in making sure that you understand what is going to happen, and open to any questions. I particularly like when he presses his nose down with his index finger and squishes it around while explaining things. It's goofy and funny and it puts you at ease right away. I asked him if I was having any cuts or sutures, to which he explained that in the process of moving the septum, he would have to put in a stitch that would dissolve on it's own. Other than that, shouldn't be a big deal, 20 minute procedure, and there could be a possibility to have to add a stint if the septum doesn't stay in place, but that I wouldn't feel it if he had to.

I should show you the drawings he made for me:

As you can see, a normal septum goes straight down the middle of the nose. Mine deviated to the left quite a bit causing about 90-95% blockage in that nostril. The effects were that the right side took on more fluid and that drained into my ear, causing constant issues as well. You can also note that the septum in my picture is not sitting in the little troth at the bottom, but completely missing it. So in the procedure he had to move that over too.

My daughter said that I was only gone a total of 30 minutes so the procedure was quick. The only real problem coming out is always the swallowing - or not being able to - because the numbing agent in the nose drains down the throat. I'll spare you the details, but let's just say that first 20 minutes was rough. Once that was over, I felt pretty good. Well, they had me on numbing agents and pain killers, so who wouldn't really?

Like to booties? How about that groovy cap?
(Ignore the little snowy cabin and trees on the bottom right, I didn't realize that was there when I made this last night in my Vicodin induced state of relaxation).
By the way, I did not have to have a stint put in.

As soon as I could eat the ice cubes and swallow some ginger ale, they released me to go home, gave me instructions to rest, take the nasal medicine to reduce swelling and stop the bleeding, and wrap gauze around the bottom of my nose to catch any blood. With my scripts I headed home, stopping right at the CVS to fulfill them.

Now, I am not a fan of having to take proscription pain medicine, so my plan of action was, if at all possible, to go with extra strength tylenol instead. I also didn't want to have to pay a ton of $ for the prescribed Vicodin either. This was my brief conversation about that with the pharmacist:

       Me to Pharmacist: I want to get some extra strength tylenol in case I don't want to take the Vicodin.

       Pharmacist: Oh, you're gonna want to take that Vicodin, cause it's gonna hurt.

For the extra $20, I got the Vicodin.

By the time I got home and ate my first food of the day it was about 1pm. Not too bad, really. My nose was bleeding enough to get caught in the gauze but not needing to be changed very often. That is, until I caught a sneezing fit. This was the one thing the doc warned me about: not to sneeze hard out of my nose. And here it was, a full on uncontrollable sneezing fit. I must have sneezed 20 times, trying my best to direct it out of my mouth instead of my nose. I thought I did ok, but the bleeding started to get worse, going through the gauze. I changed it 3 times in 10 minutes and called the doctor. I was starting to freak out a little...Lexi may say a lot.

He said it was ok. He calmed me right down and said the bleeding was normal. By the time he called it did seem to slow down again, although not entirely. I used the nasal spray and tried to lay back and relax. Once that passed, about 2:30, I think I finally started to rest...well, I watched a few episodes of Ellen, which is rest to me. About then I realized that the pain was starting to come back. I guess things were wearing off. I sat with it for about a half an hour, going over in my head and listening to my body about which drug to take...the over the counter, or the Vicodin. In the end, I chose the prescription meds.

It really doesn't make me feel loopy, but I thought the picture was funny.
By 10pm I was falling asleep watching TV with my husband. When we went to bed, the bleeding seemed to have almost stopped. I propped my head up on the pillows, as instructed, and feel fast asleep...

To Be Continued...

Monday, June 2, 2014

Pt. 1 My Septoplasy Operation: Day Before

Pre-op Day.

The doctor told me NOT to watch Septoplasty operations on YouTube so last night, of course, I did. Today I am wishing I had listened to him.

Doc said the operation would be simple: 20 minutes tops. They go in and grab the septum, plunk it back in the little holder, and it springs back up. Yes, that is how he described it to me. He said they no longer pack it, which is what caused so much bruising and swelling in the past. Now the operation is simple, a little swelling, but an initial 50% more breathing capacity.

I guess the first question would be, "how come a yoga teacher didn't know that she had only 90-95 % breathing in her left nostril?"

This would be a good question, too. Well, the truth is that I always knew there was a problem, I just figured I had to live with it. This is my usual M.O.: having to just live with things. This year, however, I turned over a new leaf and decided to get things checked out and potentially fixed that I have been just "living with" my whole life. So a little visit to my primary doctor indicated that in addition to my crooked nose (which my parents debate whether I always had or somewhere in life it went crooked by accident or otherwise), that the septum appeared to deviate in the opposite direct that my external nose did. Hmm, curious and curiouser!

The ear, nose and throat specialist confirmed this, and another tidbit: when I fly (which is at least twice a year), I usually lose hearing in my right ear after a painful decent. Specialist said, "of course, fluid is filling into the opposite sinus and into your ear canal. You can never pressurize." To which I said, "Good thing I DID NOT go scuba diving in Hawaii!"

So, tomorrow is the day of the surgery. It came up rather quickly because I want to just get it done and see what it is like to breathe like a normal person does. I have no idea what that means. But I have taken much of the past couple of weeks to really be present with my breathing - especially when I am NOT doing yoga. I say that because when I am doing yoga, it seems to be fine. In fact, before I did yoga, I had chronic sinus infections and was sick more often than not. Since I started doing yoga, I get the yearly cold - always in the sinuses. So obviously yoga has been helping push air (or prana, if you want to be all yogic), through the nadis (ok, more yoga talk, invisible energy lines) and thus giving me the feel of more vitality. Well, thank Goddess for yoga, but the true excitement lies ahead.

I expect to be swollen, bleeding and unhappy for a couple of days. But, if the doc is on the up and up and keeping it real, then I should be healed up in no time. Once that happens, I cannot wait to feel my breath.

Every night I get congested in my left nostril. I wake up congested and it takes me a while to work out the fluid. I've never been able to work a neti pot - and guess why? Darn deviated septum! I am anxious to wake up clear. I told the dentist today when he asked me why I wasn't wearing my bite guard (let me name the reasons...) that I think once I am able to breathe normally, I won't be biting down at night either. He concurred. I should have been a doctor!

So here is my pre-op picture for today:

Good thing I had a teeth cleaning today, huh?

So the doc says that the surgery will not significantly change the outward appearance of my nose, but some other intel says that it could change it slightly. Who knows. I suppose that I will be finding out very shortly though.

So, tomorrow morning I will awake at 5 am, to shower, and head to the hospital. Tomorrow night I hope to post about my experience if I am feeling up to it. Maybe I will share a picture too. Why not!

As I sit here breathing, I can feel that left nostril struggling to push air through, and I could kick myself for waiting until I was 46 to have it looked into. When I was about 30 an Indian doctor had told me (without looking into my nose) that I did not have a deviated septum, I had allergies and he gave me Allegra. It never worked and I never believed him, but felt defeated. So at least 15 years later I finally listened to myself and am taking care of it. At this moment I am excited, nervous, and after watching those YouTube videos, quite nauseous.

So here's to good luck, speedy recovery, a lifetime of breathing free, easy descents on vacations, and no jaw clenching at night!

To Be Continued...

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Yogi Corner - The Sutras of Patanjali: Pranayama

Yogi Corner: The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali (Pranayama)

The most famous part of the Yoga Sutras is called the "eight limbs." Sometimes referred to as branches, these limbs are to be worked on until the impurities are dwindled away in order to achieve yoga. For June we will move past the asanas and into the realm of the breath, or what we yogis call "pranayama.".

"Tasmin Sati Svasa Prasvasayor Gati Vicchedah Pranayamah." 
B.2, V.49
Translation: That (firm posture) being acquired, the movements of inhalation and exhalation should be controlled. This is pranayama.


Unlike the sections on the asanaspranayama practices fare a little better in the Sutras. Patanjali first discusses them here in the 49th verse of book two. Interesting, he says that after doing the asanas properly, one may progress to the breathing exercises. Go to any yoga class as a newcomer and you will most definitely be learning pranayama. In fact in my classes and teachings I emphasize it. So does this make me or any other yoga teacher that teaches pranayama to students before they master asana wrong? This is a question that I have often pondered since I read in B.K.S. Iyengar's book Light on Pranayama the importance of not teaching pranayama techniques to students who have not mastered their physical practice first. In my opinion, from further studies with other teachers as well as in my own practice and with students, I have come to the humble conclusion that the benefits of a pranayama practice on people in current-day society far outweighs the idea of withholding the information. In fact, my practice and teachings could not exist without the breath/movement synchronization (vinyasa) style that I teach. 
The breath should be gentle, slow and fully controlled, without any agitation. When performing postures, I find this to be particularly helpful. For without the breath's notification, how else would we really know that we may be stressing the body too much? And after a stressful day at the office, school or home, how else do we settle our mind and become still? No, to me and many other yoga teachers, the breathe is too key to leave out of the teachings now-a-days, and so, we share them.
Of course there are certain breathing techniques that have contra-indications attached to them. Perhaps this is where some of this old logic stemmed from? For instance, the kapalbhati breath, or what we know as the "breath of fire," is a very difficult breath to perform for most healthy people at first. However, if you are pregnant, menstruating, have had recent surgery, inflammation of the thoracic region, suffer from emphysema or hypertension, this breathing completely contraindicated. Maybe you did not know this. It is not a breath that we practice with great frequency in our studio, but many other studios emphasize it a great deal, especially in the kundalini yoga practice. 
Most of the breathing techniques that we instruct at ONE are good to do under most normal conditions or with certain modifications. The "Surrender" breath is good for everyone to do any time! The ujjayi (ocean sounding) breath and the counted breath (we call it the 4,4,8) are both very calming to the nervous system and fairly simple to achieve for most people. The nostril breathing technique called Nadi Shodhana has various benefits, however if you are congested, have a fever or cold, it is contraindicated to perform it. That advise is probably very easily understood as you would have trouble breathing anyway and remember, the breath in the practice should at all times be gentle, slow and controlled. If you cannot control it, then practice a different pranayama until it is mastered and then you can move on to another one.
Prana is the cosmic force that moves everything. When we perform pranayama practices, we are directing and controlling the flow of prana. There are different types of prana, but for now rely on the knowledge of your teacher to guide you. And as always, keep your teacher abreast of any issues that you are experiencing so that we can assist you in making your yoga practice the best suited for you - even in a group setting.
Let's all practice now together: take a big inhale through the nose, open the mouth and sigh out the exhale: "Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh." Come on, yoga class without pranayama? That's like chocolate chip cookies without the chocolate chips!
Inhale = puraka
Retention = Kumbhaka
Exhale = Rechaka
Lather, rinse, repeat.
Namaste.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Reminder to Self: This is Why You Teach Yoga

Like most people, there are many high-lights as well as challenges to the job that I do. Teaching yoga and helping people are the high-lights. Paperwork and staff issues are the low ones. But that is all part of running a business - and as much as I want to think that a yoga and wellness center is not a "business," well, it is. There are weeks when the things that are challenging keep mounting. There have even been moments when I have considered closing the doors because it can sometimes be overwhelming. What keeps me going - every single time - is that a student or students, at the very time when I am considering closing, remind me why I do what I do.

This past weekend was no different...

This past weekend was my birthday. Not a significant one in the numbers category, but, as usual, I was telling people that I was older than I am. I am not good with numbers, so at 46 years young I really was convinced I was 47. No matter.

My birthday was on a Saturday and I had a light teaching load scheduled: only 2 yoga classes - one at 9:30 am and another at 12:30 pm. No real reason to get subs or cancel classes, so I headed in to teach my regular classes, thankful to be getting home early to spend a little time relaxing before the holiday weekend took off. Because it was a holiday weekend (Memorial Day), I had been advertising my classes all week. I wanted to make sure that folks got in their yoga practice, so I was all over social media telling everyone to come take a yoga class with me on my birthday. Really, I was only hoping to get people in the door for class...I was not expecting any more than that.

I arrived at 9 am and to my surprise and delight found balloons and a birthday card from a new student of mine. It was very thoughtful of him to arrive early and have them waiting for me before class. Soon to fallow another student came in with a beautiful bouquet of flowers. I was yet again surprised with home-made Roti from another student and his wife. Roti is a delicious Thai treat that is difficult to replicate from that in which the street vendors in Thailand make. I was about to go in and teach my class, but I had to eat that Roti first while it was hot. Man, it was good!

So, stuffed and feeling happy I waddled into the yoga room to set up the playlist for class, asking everyone to come into child's pose. Normally it's a pretty quiet moment in a yoga class. Not this time. The class broke out in a round of "Happy Birthday," to the surprise of myself and a couple of new students that had just dropped in to take a class while in town. Again, the sentiment was sweet. I had never gotten a round of "Happy Birthday" in class before and was truly touched.

After class another student came up to me to give me a birthday hug. She admitted that she wished she had known because she would have gotten me flowers. I told her that it was not necessary and truly, that her being there for class was enough for me.

I went to lunch with a friend and came back to a bouquet of roses and a card from that student in the door of the yoga studio. She had also left me a phone message to tell me that she had left them there for me. After class I called her back and left a message on her machine. Really, I was truly touched by such affection from everyone, and she most certainly did not have to come back with flowers.

Later that afternoon I received a text message from the student that had left me flowers (I had called her back from my cell phone, which I often do). Her text brought me to tears of joy and happiness, as I was once again reminded why I love teaching yoga. It simply said:

"Hi, it's _______. Was in shower after planting in garden...You deserve the flowers and more. I wonder if you know how important you, my practice & the studio have become to me. You all came at a crucial time in my life when I am desperately searching for a community in which I can be my best me & be comfortable. Thank you! Bless you & Namaste!"

I love all of my birthday gifts: the vegetarian muffins, the balloons, card, flowers, lunch and Roti. But, come on!

This is not the fist time that I have received such a message form a student. I keep the hand-written ones in a box and the emails in a folder. There have been days when I really just needed to pull them out and read them again. Not that this day was one of those times, but that message will certainly be added to the box.

I have always said that the reason I teach yoga is to help others heal themselves. When a student is touched by my classes or the community that I've created, well, that is just the best present that I could ever receive. And I guess I'll keep teaching for a while more.

The Light in Me Honors the Light in You.
Namaste.
Tracey