Monday, September 15, 2014

Eight Limbs: Simplified

Many of us know the physical practice of yoga, commonly referred to as "asana". Traditional yoga engages more than just our physical body, but is an eightfold path. These guidelines are aspirational and something to keep in mind as you bring the physical practice of yoga off of the mat. I observe myself through the lens of these guidelines and find myself falling off balance, practicing imperfectly all the time. I know where to go to reset myself. Just as my pose may not perfect in one session, neither is my mind or spirit, but with my gaze is set in the right direction, over time I find my spiritual alignment and my energy moving fluidly with practice. 

Here is a simple breakdown of the eight limbs:

  1. Yamas: This is like the Golden Rule. "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Practice nonviolence, being truthful, not stealing, restraint, and noncovetousness.
  2. Niyama: This is spiritual hygiene. Embody: cleanliness, contentment, austerity, self study and surrender to spirit. 
  3. Asana: This is the physical practice: "Your body is your temple". We learn concentration and discipline. This is the one I am really good at!
  4. Pranayama: Breathing exercises. The mastery of breath control is so important. The breath is the bridge from the mind to the body, and is the pathway of the emotions. When we gain mastery of the breath, we strengthen the mind and learn to detach from the emotions in a healthy way. 
  5. Pratyahara: Detachment means that we observe, but pull our focus inward so that outward circumstances are not the basis for our contentment. "It's an inside job".
  6. Dharma: This is our spiritual purpose. We learn to detach from our thinking nature, by learning one pointed focus. This may mean stopping the mind for a moment.
  7. Dhyana: A sustained period of concentration when the mind stops.This is very advanced and comes with practice. It comes from regularly sitting.This is the one that  I must remind myself to practice imperfectly. Like any muscle, it strengthens with consistency. 
  8. Samadhi: Awakening! This can be translated in so many ways. Enlightenment is beyond time and space. If you could pull far away out of time/space, body/ are already awakened. The ultimate moment of bliss is available to all. 
While these guidelines may seem lofty, when we look at life through this lens, we can always return to good, clean living. When we fall off, we always have a place to which we can return. This is the yoga.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Yoga Month!

Yoga practitioners have chosen to celebrate yoga in September. Since yoga is best used as a daily practice, I promote its importance to your health and well-being all year long. If you haven't incorporated yoga into your routine yet, this is a great month to give it a try. Since there are a variety of  styles, I encourage you to try several different types until you find the one that works for you. Yoga balances your body and can support you in the ways you need.

Yin Yoga: This style of yoga is slower. The poses are held longer and is passive. The focus is on allowing the tendons and ligaments to stretch. This is a good style for those who are very tight or for those who have a very active exercise regime, for it will balance the muscle conditioning.

Kundalini Yoga: This style is based on moving the life force energy through the body with active breathing and movement exercises. Many of these yogis adopt a yogic lifestyle and your teacher may wear all white and a turban. Great exercises for energizing and moving energy and is for the open minded and open hearted.

Vinyasa Flow Yoga: This Hatha Yoga style connects the breath and movement in the dance of Sun Salutations, and sequences of poses strung together with the Sun Salute or Vinyasa. It's great for people who like movement. It's terrific for overall conditioning and toning and is the cardio version of yoga.

Hot Yoga: This is an offshoot of the Bikram series which is a series of set poses done in a heated room. Bikram style can be great for people who like doing the same set routine daily. This series does not require much upper body strength, so may be a good option for those with upper body injuries. Hot Yoga has taken the heated room aspect of Bikram Yoga, but varies the poses. This can be great for those who love to sauna or sweat. It creates a feeling of difficulty without too much complexity.

Restorative Yoga: Uses props and allows the body to be completely supported and relaxed, which enables the nervous system to restore itself. This is like nap time. You will never feel more relaxed than post-restorative class. I highly recommend.

Iyengar Yoga: This style of yoga focuses on proper alignment and uses props to allow this alignment. This will open the flow of energy in the body to be free. Iyengar was considered the father of Western yoga. I would like to pay my respects to B.K.S. Iyengar, who passed away in August at age 96. When I was a child, my father found the book Light On Yoga and passed it along to myself and my brother. Certainly Iyengar was a model example of yoga as a way of life.

"Yoga teaches us to cure what need not be endured and endure that which cannot be cured."
~ B.K.S. Iyengar
Please chat with me live on twitter, Friday at 1p.m. eastern!

Monday, September 1, 2014

The Healing Benefits of Herbs

We know that herbs and spices give our meals flavor, but these home grown plants have natural healing powers. For instance, did you know that cinnamon is an anti-oxidant that fights inflammation, heart disease and can help with Diabetes as it increases insulin levels? Or that mint stimulates bile acid in the liver as well as provides the body with Vitamin C, shown to prevent cancer growth?

Even these simple, everyday ingredients that many of us have on our shelves have healing properties:

  • Black Pepper counteracts stress from a high fat meal.
  • Red Pepper stimulates bile acid and boosts metabolism.
  • Turmeric has anti-aging effects on the brain, and may help prevent strokes.
  • Garlic reduces cholesterol levels, blood pressure and cancer growth.
  • Basil decreases platelet aggregation and blood clotting.
  • Rosemary may improve memory and lowers risk of strokes.
  • Oregano is packed with antioxidants and is an herbal antiseptic

Back in the '70's, my parents turned to diet and exercise as a means towards better health. Initially my father introduced us to a book called Food Is Your Best Medicine by Dr. Henry Bieler. Later we became macrobiotic. My mother's job was to read each of the family member's faces. This is called: physiognomy. You can tell much about someone's health by the face. Bags under the eyes can be related to the kidneys. Swollen mouth or extra wet lips correspond to the intestines and digestion. The responsibility of the cook is that of the family doctor, modifying the cooking both seasonally, and for the individual needs of the family. Although it was an odd remedy, when I had a headache my mother brewed some bancha tea with a teaspoon of Tamari. My father's lower back pain was remedied with hot ginger compresses. It may have looked odd, but the results were remarkable. 

Today, it is the norm to look for the quick fix. Most of us have lives that require us to perform at the highest level at all times. There is very little time in our culture for the natural rhythms of life. The cycles rise and fall like the belly with the inhale and exhale of the breath. More sleep and rest, slowing down long enough to notice what the body really needs, regular regenerative exercise are all ways that we can prevent burn out and the need for a quick "cure" of the symptom. 

Perhaps your healing needs are much less daunting than you imagine. Your pharmacy may be growing in your own back yard Farmacy. To your health! 

Monday, August 25, 2014

Recipe: Food Is Medicine

After the expansive playful days of Summer, it is natural to feel a pull toward prioritizing new healthy routines.  Much of what we put in our bodies is the source of how we feel. The earth itself is our richest resource for healing foods. That is why I have created several unique recipes for Silk Soymilk. This Southwest Quinoa Bowl provides fiber from whole grains, plant-based protein, anti-oxidants from cilantro, and the healthy fats of my friend, the avocado. Remember that food is medicine and what you consume is vital to your well being. Whole foods, which are plucked from the earth in their natural state, are abundant in nutrition and flavor (look for "organic"), and can truly help you heal. When you are the chef, you become the healer in your own home. Most importantly, prepare your medicine with a positive attitude and love. Be well this week and enjoy!


4 Servings

This filling dish has a little kick. Serve alone or with sliced avocado.

1 cup uncooked quinoa
2 cups Silk Unsweetened Soymilk or Silk Organic Unsweetened Soymilk
1 (15-ounce) can of black beans, drained and rinsed
5 scallions, chopped
1 large tomato, chopped
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
2 teaspoons cumin
Juice of 1 fresh lime
Salt and pepper to taste

1. In a saucepan add quinoa, and Soymilk. Bring to a boil.
2. Reduce to simmer, cover and cook for 15 minutes until Soymilk is absorbed. Remove from heat.
3. Add black beans, green onions & tomato to the quinoa.
4. Mix in olive oil, cilantro, cumin, and lime juice. Stir thoroughly.
5. Add salt and pepper to taste.
6. Serve warm or store in fridge and serve cold. 

1.Close eyes and take several deep grounding breaths.
2.Find a connection to your heart and the feeling of gratitude.
3.Remind yourself that what you are about to consume is healing and healthy.
4.Open your eyes.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Create Your Reality

It is your birthright to be creative. Nature shows us that it's inevitable in one way or another. When part of a plant is cut and replanted, it then creates a whole new plant! By the looks of all the double baby strollers in my neighborhood, and the expanding gatherings of my friends, two have become three and four... Everyone is doing it. Life is creating, duplicating and expressing itself from an endless stream of ideas and intentions.

We are creators building our reality from one moment to the next. As I have said for myself, the same energy I have used to build myself up, I have used to tear myself down. Or give me a task, point me in a direction, and watch me go. Consider this: when you are heading in a direction, you may very well get there. So you may want to take a moment to step back and set your course. Here's a little tip: you are already creating your next moment. Look around you: this is the reality you have created. That is awesome! Now what?! If you want to re-create your reality you cannot simply wave a magic wand or declare your way into it. As the saying by Albert Einstein goes "You cannot solve a problem with the same mind that created it."So how to access your creativity?

Personally, I am in a transitional moment in my life. I have outgrown and fulfilled the last chapter.  Lately I have been feeling that there is more of me that wants to be seen and heard, yet I don't know what that "new self" looks like yet. The creative process begins with that emptiness. The emptiness and the unknown can be daunting, yet this is where the well of creativity exists. I have been trying to get someone to join me here. Take my hand and jump into the abyss with me! (How romantic!) Waiting. Waiting for someone to join me. Looking for a friend to go paint along side me....I finally decided to jump in myself.  So what shall I do with this blank canvas? I decided to get an actual blank canvas and to go paint. Yet, what to paint?

Here's how I started: I had an intention–the impulse to paint was a call to awakening more of my creativity.  I reflected on what it felt like to "not know" what I wanted to express, and defined it with words. It feels like I'm withholding. As if I'm hiding from spirit. Like I am holding my breath. I decided to call the painting "Exhale."

I picked out a canvas shape, which was inspired by my prior nights dream. I chose acrylics, for ease. I then sketched what I thought represented my exhale. My call to my creativity. I highly recommend playing music in the background that inspires your creative intuition! Then let it flow. I do not stick to the plan when I paint. If I do, frustration quickly reveals itself. Paint doesn't respond to control. It responds to layering, and patience and loving what you do. When I was a girl, my mom was a great artist and taught me how to color inside the lines, as well as shading and perspective. By the time I was 14, I was able to do exact renderings...but that is not the nature of my spirit. I am more whimsical and free. So I encourage being as much like a child as possible. As Henry Miller used to point out (although he was known for his writing, painting was a huge part of his creative process), a child always paints a perfect picture. Picasso says : "It takes a long time to become young again".

I felt so loved once I was done painting. The act of painting, itself,  felt like an exhale. I felt seen and heard in the moment. I felt expressed. I wanted to paint and I painted! Perhaps it's that simple. If you want to sing, SING! If you want to dance, DANCE! Perhaps instead of plotting out what you think needs to happen, from the same mind that got you right here, you can instead tap into the source of creativity that is inspiring you to take broad new leaps in this very moment.

As with everything, people will perceive the final expression from their own perspective. One of the women at the paint lab said my painting looked like a fairy princess. Someone thought I was painting something to go in a yoga studio. The highest compliment came from my niece who said she wished that she had painted it. I don't suppose it matters much in the end what someone thinks, except for in a sharing way. Just like the piece of the plant that is replanted and becomes it's own, so does the new creation. When you are creating, go for the feeling. It is the feeling that brings the new reality.
Your moment is a blank canvas and you are an artist

This happened.

It looks like a happy battle!

This woman worked at the lab and she recognized my voice when I asked for more white. She does the Yogalosophy DVD with her daughter all the time! She is an art teacher .


Monday, August 11, 2014

She's Extraordinarily Childlike

A couple of decades ago I dreamt I had a store. It was called: She's Extraordinarily Childlike. When I awoke from my dream, all I wanted to do was go back to that store. Something about it felt so right. It wasn't child "ish" it was child "like." In a way, my sense of play has been the ingredient that has enlivened my classes, has made my one-on-one clients my playmates, and my virtual audience an exercise in having fun with people near and far. I want you to have fun with me!

When I look at the world through my child-like eyes of play, everything comes alive. I am filled with a sense of joy and wonder. I discover and co-create instead of fall in line with the same old behaviors that once worked, but are now just habits. As I grow in years, the act of stripping down my conditioning and becoming more like a child feels like the place of re-creation. Not only do I recreate my body, but my life becomes a playground. When I re-create my life daily and live from my heart instead of my head, I have boundless energy and seem to dance effortlessly with my environment. I see everything that falls into my path as a total gift. Even the tears I feel in my heart today are a gift. I feel my vulnerability as a precious commodity in this moment.

Summertime evokes memories of childhood for me. I love to find the nostalgia of a day at the beach, wet sandy hair and the salty taste in my mouth. The Summer fruits, a perfect balance to the dry heat. I take advantage of the late sunsets with a walk by the coast, or frequent the outdoor concerts at the pier near my neighborhood. I fall in line physically by engaging in more outdoor activities, recreation, and hobbies. This Summer, I have gone sailing, stand-up paddle boarding, rollerskating and dancing.

Consider looking at your day with a beginner's mind, a child's eyes. Some ways to do this may be:

  •  Eat with your hands. Corn on the cob, watermelon...anything that you can get your hands on will help to remind you of the early years. (Please, no food fights....) 

  • Have dessert for lunch and breakfast for dinner. Yep. Sometimes you just have to let loose and break all the rules. It helps if the "ice cream" is coconut milk based and sugar free. Plenty of options out there these days! 

  • Roll down a grassy hill. Do somersaults, or simply lay down on top of someone. We get so used to being in our bodies in one way. Try using the body without the help of your arms or legs. Rolling around has you moving in a circular motion. Change energy into motion.

  • Get a group together and play a game in the park. Soccer, capture the flag or tag.

Of course, one of the best ways to tune into the energy of a child is to be around children. Although I do not have children myself, I get a real kick out of watching my niece ham it up with the microphone, dance and twirl around...and even enjoy watching the occasional temper tantrum. (The joys of being an "extra adult".) In all circumstances, feel into your heart and heartily enjoy how you feel, no matter what state. Being alive is an extraordinary gift. ENJOY! 
child's pose with my niece and grandma


my guru

kind-a havin' fun

Monday, August 4, 2014

You Are the Light Shining In My Eyes

Friday marks the 10 year anniversary of my father's passing. So much has happened in these years, since that incredibly sunny August morning: 8/8.
I am reminded of a phrase that came to me, just prior to my dad's passing:

"He is the light shining in my eyes" and "I am the light shining in his eyes."

This phrase translates the over arching theme of my relationship with dad. He was a bright light, but sometimes his shine was harsh to my sensitive gaze. He, ironically felt that I cast a judge mental look upon him, and so we triggered one another in this way. Each of us "too much" for the "other'.

Dad was brash, made "adult" jokes, sometimes made fun of me, had little patience for my sensitivity, and was a bit of a bully. Dad was a meditator, on the cutting edge of scientific and spiritual discovery, was an avid reader, and a yogic practitioner to the core. He was arrogant and humorous, a bit of a show off and he was a lover. It was a lot for a child to hold. It shaped and formed me. I was like a tiny sprout of a flower growing under the light of my father's presence.

My experience of myself in relationship to others has been that I can feel that I am "too much" emotionally. This may be true, or I may have been branded by my 23 year old father from the time I was an infant. Still, I have his genes. He had the intensity as well.  In part, this intensity serves me very well in my work or in my myriad accomplishments. Point me in a direction and obsession can be extremely productive. When seeking is directed to the heavens or the universal force that connects us, one to the other, this drive is pure potential. The experience of being driven is transcendent and this is all passed down from my father to me. I believe that this was passed from my grandfather to my father....and now, here I sit holding this powerful light.

How many times have you questioned who you really are? Your authentic self and all of it's gifts. Some may say "flaws", but nature makes no mistakes.

Shame is involved. Yes, shame. I am unclear as why, but it certainly a feeling that vibrates my cells and has me nervously urgent to somehow shout it out, or give it away.

Stillness. Finding center stage, finding my place in the "light" is the answer. There it is again: the light shining in my eyes.  I look out into the dark. All I can see is the light shining on me. There is no more Lloyd Ingber. It is me, standing alone, looking out into the dark and the audience awaiting the performance. What do I want to say?

My art today wants to say: You are not too much. You being fully you and standing in your power takes nothing away from anybody else. I celebrate you, exactly as you are by expressing and being exactly who I am. I want to say, come here and let me feel your beating heart even though I can't see you. I want to say "yes!" I want to say "you were in here all along".

"There is nothing to be afraid of."

I want to say: " I am not too much. I am the light shining in your eyes, and you are the light shining in my eyes. "

It's been quite a decade, Lloyd Ingber. Thank you. Each time I look up at the sun, I think of you.