Sunday, July 27, 2014

Playfulness! Celebrate Your Body!

Summer reminds me of the playfulness of childhood. Swimming pools that I swim in until my fingers turn to prunes; watermelon sticking to my hands and running down my chin; riding my bicycle throughout the neighborhood with my best friend until after dark; packing a lunch and going for a three mile hike on foot for fun.

 Then there was my endless multi tasking, making paper dolls, listing my favorite fruits, holding my breath under water. By the end of the day, I would feel so exhausted in the best way : each cell in my body vibrating with life force. It was healthy, but I didn't even realize it because  I was just playing and having fun. In my adult years, I etch my to-do lists into my daily journal and  my iphone that is (sort of) synched up with my e-mail. Each free moment is spent on another angle of accomplishment. In celebration of my childhood Summers,I remind myself daily to do things only because I really want to, and in the spirit of fun. I encourage you, this month to join me in taking time out for fun and to challenge yourself just because you love to.

  • Try a hand stand for the fun of it.

  • Gather some friends to play a team sport.

  • Try something new, like stand up paddle board or acro yoga.

  • Eat nature's candy. The summer fruit season is my favorite. I have been living on berries, cherries, peaches, nectarines and watermelon. Yum.

  • Set yourself up for an alfresco dinner.

  • Be excited when you rise for the day. Life is a celebration!

When the sun moves into the astrological sign of Leo, I encourage creativity, play, childlike wonder, and discovering what your true passion is. The planet Jupiter just moved into Leo as well this week, so it expands the qualities of this sign. Leo rules the heart, so living from your heart, opening your heart and expressing your heart's desire are in the spotlight now. Take center stage, and play your role. There is nobody quite like you, and if you don't fully play your part, it won't get played. The essence of you is all you need to bring forward and let it shine. Since Leo rules the heart, cardio vascular exercise and anything that gets the heart pumping is great. I also like playful things like games (soccer anyone), swimming or jumping rope. Yoga poses like Camel, Wheel, and Upward Facing Dog literally open the chest and heart. When you have a moment in your day, close your eyes and see if you can allow yourself to energetically connect to your heart. Watch yourself unfold. Be the love. Celebrate your life and your body and play! 

Monday, July 21, 2014

Anger: the Taboo Emotion

As I write this, I am laid up in my bed, flat on my back, on an ice pack. It is no surprise that I have recently experienced the break down that often comes, post break up. I am experiencing this "unyoking" in a new way: I am not blaming him or myself. Sometimes even when there is love, things simply do not work out. This experience has left me sad, of course. I also feel a little joy, because there is hope for future love and life is a beautiful adventure. I feel and express sadness easily. Sadness is safe and acceptable in our culture and joy is desirable. Anger is another story for me. It is the taboo emotion. It's the one I don't want to admit that I have or express openly, but most of all, it's the one I don't like to feel.

The yoga with it's promise of Ahimsa (non-violence) was a contradiction in my household. Since  my father was a devout yogi and meditator and student of spiritual philosophies one would imagine that he would be calm. It was quite the opposite. . The truth is, there was rage in my family of origin. My father would have outbursts of rage seemingly out of nowhere, and I had a sensitive nature in my constitution. This was hard on me. Of course I know that without the yoga, it could have been a lot worse, but this feeling of growing in up in a war zone permeated my childhood. Survival meant protection. It meant defense. The best defense is a good offense, they say. I have said before that I grew up in an emotional war zone and was trained to be a suicide bomber.

The home became an every-man-for-himself type of existence. I felt such discomfort with the rage that was contagious and passed to me that I would feel the need to somehow exaggerate it and get it out of me. I would even take myself down if it meant taking my father down in order to feel safe. My alternative outlet was self-deprivation that fueled my an eating disorder as a youth. Much rage lay beneath the surface, and I was trying to starve it out of me. It was a blessing to find performing when I was a teenager. The perfect platform for self expression, and pent up emotion.In acting they say that in order to access the full range of human emotions, you must be able to access anger. The anger is the gateway to even the elation and joy. In class I studied the classics, but in the working world, I was usually hired for comedy. Joking and even sarcasm distorts the anger. They say "sarcasm" at it's root means to tear flesh. There is still violence in sarcasm, so it doesn't really resolve the issue. 

To this day, my anger lays dormant. (perhaps in my lower back?) I often wish that I was able to feel and channel my anger fully. It's "in my chart" as my ex says. Meaning: my astrological chart gives me a certain make up, and there is an aspect of me that gets triggered, but my warrior is fighting with water guns and whipped cream pies. When channeled productively, it helps me to turn energy into rhythm, find spiritual power, help others to help themselves, start my projects and motivates my work outs. Anger can be a positive. In fact I just read an article in Psychology Today that celebrates anger. People with easily expressed anger have less stress hormones. They are more positive about outcomes and have more confidence! Food for thought, my fierce friends.

Reconciling myself with the yogic ideal of non-violence while living in a world with war in the background feels like a conflict/resolution purgatory. The contradiction that lives within me is mirrored in the world I see "out there".  So I lay myself on an icepack. Pull inward, feel into the discomfort and breathe. Finding strength in forgiveness, seeking spiritual solutions...and, (why not?) the occasional joke.

"Anger , he smiles towering in shiny metallic purple armor....My red is so confident he flashes trophies of war and ribbons of euphoria..."
~ Jimi Hendrix
 Bold As Love

Monday, July 14, 2014

Homeward Bound

Yoga Basics started in my home and in my personal home base: my physical body. I was homeward bound, as I was too young to drive myself to a class. Back in the 70's there were very few classes anyway. Most yoga practices were at home. A common goal: learn the body with it's structural limitations and work to deepen the practice. One way to deepen your posture is to bind.

Bound Side Angle Pose
The yoga bound poses, involve clasping the hands so as to rotate and open the shoulders and torso. Patience is a quality that must be developed, for binds require flexibility, strength of body and mind as well as balance. Resisting the temptation to react by either giving up or forcing it, are qualities that translate and assimilate into the emotional body as well. In order to deepen your practice, there must be a willingness to meet your edge, while disengaging from the end result and above all: listening to your body.

The yoga pose pictured above: side angle pose, is a good posture to play with.

Tips for Binding:

  • Warm up with sun salutes. This will loosen and open the chest and shoulders. 
  • Stretch the legs with Warriors and Lunges to open the hips and hamstrings
  • If you feel tight, listen to your body. Err on the side of doing less. You don't win when you injure yourself! 
  • Make sure you are opening your chest. Try spiraling your chest open. Draw shoulders back and down
  • Breathe! A slow mindful breathing pattern will keep you in tune with sensation.
  • Play. Remember this is just an exploration. Enjoy the process with beginner's mind.

For next steps: You may try walking your back leg in and stand, adding balance to the bind. For added flexibility, extend leg...and act like it's a piece of cake. 

bird of paradise prep: step 2
Bird of Paradise: full bloom! 

Monday, July 7, 2014

Let It Flow

Inhale. Exhale. Continue...
The breath is the bridge from the mind to the body, and as that pathway gets accessed it can lead to many feelings and emotions that have been in lock down. One of my personal challenges...or "opportunities" is to move from my head down towards my heart.

Growing up in a yoga-practicing, vegan household with open minded parents and a supportive schooling environment did not make my family "functional". Yes, I had more opportunities to learn a skill set and develop tools to process the volatility in my home, but the war zone was still there. In short: the climate was hot in my family and I had to be quick. I sometimes held my breath.
Survival instincts lead to control and even served me well in many areas of my life. There were very few hits I could not take. Inhale. Exhale. Continue.

Feeling my feelings has been an awkward journey for me. In my former career, as an actress, I felt safe in classes or within my process to express the feelings and emotions that I had kept bottled up in my home life. With the structure of a scene or behind the persona of a role, I could actually allow my feelings to flow. In my real life, I had a tendency to be "over dramatic" and play my feelings out loud, simply so that I could rid myself of the burden.

After a lot of progress, lessons and transformations that I made, life continues to unfold, taking twists and turns that I did not expect. My habitual response to shrink back, attack, assume the worst, or plan my future in an attempt to side step my feelings has left me very tense. I have many opportunities to take a pause and make a new choice, but first I need to be willing to feel. Let is flow. I am exploring something new. When I feel a feeling, I allow it and I literally imagine breathing God into my pain. I lay my emotions down and give them away to the universe. "Please take this and do something positive with it."

In the past, I could take that emotional energy and literally change my body with it. Use the feelings that flow through me for fuel and burn. Today, it isn't my body that needs toning. Today what requires a little heavy lifting is my spirit. My faith. So today, I let it flow. Trusting that the universe is delivering to me exactly what I need for my spiritual growth.

I choose to drop into my heart. I finally choose to exhale and let it flow. So be it.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Gregarious Green Foundational Support

I hope you are all having a great start to your Summer. July is the month to get your foundational support in line. The kids are home more, and for those of us who are without kiddies, we too get some more home time in the daylight. Instead of zipping off to a destination, perhaps you can even regroup at home with a stay cation. Find more ways to give yourself the foundational support that is needed to replenish us at this time. I had the opportunity to travel all last month, which was amazingly fulfilling, but now it is time for me to fill my own tank. I plan on making this the month to try a new recipe and share it with you on my blog all month. Last week, we went back in time to a childhood favorite: Strawberry Kanten. This week, I prepared this delicious all green soup from Clean in 14 .This awesome vegan detox handbook is written by Melissa Costello, Tony Horton's personal chef and creator of @KarmaChow , who was foundational in the meal plan for Yogalosophy: 28 Days to the Ultimate Mind Body Makeover. Enjoy the recipe below.

Ideas for a strong foundation: 
  Try a new recipe once a week
  Hike or Swim once a week
  Breathe mindfully for 10 Minutes daily
   Look at family photos and share

1 large zucchini, chopped
1 1/2 c green beans, cut into 1 inch pieces
1 c broccoli florets
1/4 c chopped onion
2 small red potatoes, cut 1/4 inch cubes
2 garlic cloves
1 handful spinach
1 handful parsley
1 handful dill
Dash of cayenne pepper
1/3 c cashews
1 T lime juice
Sea salt
Bragg's liquid aminos
Fresh cracked pepper

1) Steam zucchini, green beans, broccoli, onion, potatoes, garlic, celery, and spinach until slightly soft and bright green.

2) Place veggies in blender with the steam water, parsley, dill, cayenne, cashews, and lime juice. Season with sea salt or Bragg's to taste. Blend on high until creamy smooth. Add more water if needed. Top with fresh cracked pepper.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Mom's Apple Pie.

 I was taking a moment to remember being my mom's kid today (since her birthday is coming up on June 27th!), and I couldn't help but thing about all the ways she fed me. Mentally and emotionally for sure, but most importantly: physically. Mom had a way of making everything taste delicious. If she prepared it, there was a magical caste to it, that could not be duplicated. I even remember my brother asking her to "make him a pickle", which really meant, taking it out of the jar, and delivering it half-wrapped in a paper towel, folded just the way he liked it. I know that not everyone out there had a mother like this, but we all have this fantasy, if not our version of " mom's apple pie", or the equivalent. My mother spent hours in the kitchen. Yes, she was one of those dream moms who catered to each family member's needs. She made that her job and responsibility. Even early on, my mother's favorite memory of me was the bonding she felt from breast feeding me. This is an unusual thing for a mother to share with a child, I am sure...but it says a lot about her. Mom loved to feed me. And I loved to get fed by her. As I grew up, our family meals changed from lamb chops  to brown rice, hijiki, dandelion greens and pressed salad. We became macrobiotic days due to my dad's influence. As his health needs and dietary education changed, so did the menu. We eliminated dairy, sugar and meats from the diet. One thing that never stopped, was my mom's loving hand and creativity. My mother would fill my sack lunch with care, which would always include a fun note, and foods that were delicious and my favorites. As our restricted diets took over, I began to restrict, and reject the nurture. I see this now, looking back. That food is like the mothering for my body, as exercise is the fathering. For so long, I turned away from the mothering for fear of being too dependent.  As I have grown up, and grown down into my family roots, I turn towards more my mother and to the locally grown organic foods and to the simplicity of the diet we adopted when I was about age nine. As I recall my favorite foods, I can feel myself sinking into the foundational love which I was fed all along. I would like to share with you one of my favorite macrobiotic desserts: strawberry kanten.  Kanten is a gelatin, but made from sea vegetables instead of animal hooves. Agar agar is a gelatinous seaweed that replaces jello. You can add any type of fruit juice and fruit to create the cool Summer dessert you desire. Here's a basic recipe to follow.

Strawberry Kanten

3 cups filtered apple juice
2 T. agar agar flakes
2 cups sliced strawberries (or blueberries)

In a medium saucepan, combine juice and agar agar flakes over medium heat and stir often until it boils. After is comes to a boil, reduce heat. Keep stirring as the dish simmers until agar agar is dissolved. Approximately 5 minutes.

Remove from heat and let cool for 20 minutes. Stir occasionally while cooling. Add fruit.

Arrange fruit in dessert cups or place in 9 inch pyrex glass dish or glass bowl. Pour gel over fruit and let it set in refrigerator for 2 hours.


Monday, June 16, 2014

The Words We Choose

 Let me be pure in thought word and deed. To begin my day with a simple statement declaring my intentions, is to speak a truth that is larger than me. Of course, my imperfections may shine through the way the sun is shining through the leaves of this tree at the Omega Institute where I lead my weekend workshop: Love Your Body Into Shape with Intentional Action.
my words are like the leaves of my tree.
I had heard of the Omega Institute throughout my childhood. I grew up going to a mobile school for experiential learning. We would travel throughout the city of Los Angeles, learning from our community members. Each human adding value to our collective community. From the sewage system workers to the architects...every being has something to say and is worth listening to. We are each others teacher. The Omega Institute highlights the higher mind: the spiritual, philosophical, psychological and creative community. I was very blessed to be asked to teach where "high-minded" humans like Ram Dass, Deepak Chopra, Alex Grey, and Eckhart Tolle lead retreats. I'm glad I trusted when Omega asked and said "YES!"
she continued on her path, wildly trusting the future.

there she is. she has a happy face that has accepted and integrated her lessons well.

let's put all of that together now. this is a grateful tree. write it down and reach for the sky with your branches!
As I walked the grounds where I would be teaching, I spontaneously and continually erupted with the words, "Thank You". I could feel the order around the natural environment. The Eco Community is rich with wellness programs, treatments for support, lush grounds, wide open and green spaces, a meditation sanctuary, healthy and plentiful meals provided in part by the sustainable gardens on the property, a bountiful book store and a library that that was a Disneyland to me! At the same time, all who work here are volunteers and the quarters are very spartan. Simplicity removes all cares.

They make it easy to do the right thing.  I drink from the well.
Since my workshop was based around creating the life we want, it was a nice reminder to see this:

self explanatory.
When I began the workshop with a grounding yin yoga practice on Friday evening, there was a heaviness in the room. Many were tired from travel. Since we began at night, it surrounded us in the unknown of the dark. I am glad that the angel card I selected for myself was; PATIENCE. It helped to remind me that all would unfold in it's due time. As I explored further, I found some tools to raise my vibration.

These crystal gems remind me of my childhood. Treasures of the earth.
 The bookstore is filled with many hidden treasures. As I explored, I was reminded that my own dreams had come true! I am in the bookstore at the Omega Institute. I am blessed with the ability to declare my dreams, move through the process, claim them and then share them with others. That requires a lot of PATIENCE.

There I am. See me on the lower left hand corner? Yogalosophy Book & DVD! 
On Day 2, we did the Yogalosophy Routine together as a group, and then it was time for arts and crafts. Did you know that everything I envisioned for myself, I put on a Vision Board and it has come true? Even Oprah does it. Most people say they would like to make one, but most people don't set aside the time. So I decided to include this in the weekend. No sooner had we begun, then we were all busily cutting and pasting. It felt like we were back in the best part of school. The creative part!
You can use any magazines or markers or pictures of yourself, but make it something you love! 

It was this woman's birthday! 
It's so wonderful to create a bounty of sayings that word for you. Words like "Yes", "Release", and "Be" give us simple bite sized reminders of larger concepts. Life is really quite simple. If you choose your words carefully, a little goes a long way. The word PATIENCE allowed me to move through my own process of leading the class and my own feelings and stray thoughts that cycle through my body energetically. I could always return to the word I chose. Other words that were chosen: Creativity, Celebration, Responsibility, Delight, Humor, Grace, Depth, Gratitude, Authenticity....Forgiveness & Flexibility. What words will you choose today?

Your words are treasures. Choose them with mindfulness.