Monday, October 27, 2014

Yoga Tricks and Other (Re)Treats

Happy Halloween! October has been a month of intensity. With the piercing darkness of last week's eclipse–our initiation into the dark side of the moon–we have been thrust into a time of transformation. Yoga can push you past the comfort zone of your form, but so can pulling inward and being still, or retreating. I have the tendency to keep myself light and spin my tale in the direction of the positive. However, this a the time where there is more value for me to go toward the unknown, the mystical, the depth and what is taboo and dark. Where there is darkness, there is the most opportunity for illumination. Even the flicker of a candle can light an entire room. You may find there is no boogey man at all. The fear was just a trick!
I still cannot figure out if Teen Witch is the ultimate trick or treat. The funny thing is, when I made this movie, back in 1988 there was no internet and I was positive that nobody would ever see it. Boy was I wrong. This movie became a cult classic, and thank goodness that my willingness to transcend my beliefs allows me to happily share this treat with you, rather then retreat! The trick is, to never take yourself too seriously. Or, as Ram Dass says: remember that everyone you encounter is just God in drag. And with that I leave you! My top three yoga tricks:
               To approach CROW pose, try perching upon a yoga brick to get your knees high upon the triceps.
               Challenge your FOREARM PLANK pose by maintaining the forearms in a parallel position, but flip your palms upward to engage the core deeply.
               HALF HANDSTAND starts in downward dog, with your heels facing the baseboard where it meets the wall. Walk your legs up the wall in an L shape.
My top three healthy treats:
               Kevita Probiotic drink is what I go for instead of a soda.
               Raw Chocolate is tasty and guilt free. Made without dairy or sugar, there are no apologies!
               Freeze dried Mango is tart and tasty. 

Lastly: Retreat. This is how I do. In honor of Day of the Dead.


Lay flat on your back, push your shoulders down away from your ears, and flip your palms skyward. Allow your feet to flop open to the side. Take a deep breath in and on the exhale release your breath, and let gravity sink you down into the mat, as if your body could make an imprint in the floor. Die to the world for 5 or 10 minutes before you return, refreshed.

The day of the dead is a celebration and an honoring of the spirits that came before us, as well as a release of what is no longer alive within us. Release and let go. Transform the depths of your sorrow into a revelation. Use your excess energy to try high intensity cardio vascular workouts like spinning, or push your limits to finally master crow pose, king pigeon, or handstand.

Whatever you do, do not fear the candy. Top That! 

Monday, October 20, 2014

The Buddy System

I consider myself a "yoga buddy". After all, there is nothing particularly earth shattering or groundbreaking that I am doing with Kate Beckinsale, other than showing up, being a listening ear, and lending a helping hand. You can be that for someone too, as well as ask a buddy to be that for you. Life is all about relationships. Relationships with humans, with our bodies, with ideas, and so forth. In a way, the word "yoga" means "relationship". Yoga is the union and relatedness of  two opposing forces. Light and dark, masculine and feminine, strength and vulnerability. It is a constant dance of opposites emoted in the physical form.What better way to explore this dance than finding your body in relationship to another being's experience of the body?

I employed the help of my friend, and sometimes assistant, Lauren. In reality, we needed a third entity to capture the following photos. Let's call the third entity: neutral. Positive, negative, and neutral. (Luckily, good old Apple Mac Air was there to capture our posturing. Big brother lending a helping hand and a watchful eye – one of technology's most useful aspects.) Big Brother and I have an interesting relationship in my own mind...but that's another blog post for another time... Bottom line: getting into these postures within a 5 second timer was by far, the most challenging aspect of these shots. If you are trying this at home, all you need is a buddy, the willingness to explore, and a sense of humor. 

1. Seated Twist
  • Begin in a seated cross legged position, facing one another. Smile at your partner  for a moment. 
  • Take a deep breath and extend your breast bone away from the sacrum, as each buddy twists to the right while reaching the right arm behind your back to hold your partners left hand. 
  • Just as you would in a regular twist, take an inhale to lengthen your spine, and exhale twist and wring out your spine. After 3-5 breaths, unwind and repeat on side 2. Twists are intense and detoxify the body, so this should be done after a warm up. Rest in savasana beside each other afterwards. 

 2. Two Chairs

  •  Stand back to back and link elbows.
  • Press against your partner's back and walk your feet forward, while keeping the sacrum and spine touching each other until you are in a 90 degree seated position.
  • Hold for 5 breaths and feel the dynamic energy when you are pressing against the other and breathing. 

3. Assisted Butterfly or Cobbler Pose

  • One person sits with a straight spine and soles of the feet together, while the knees fan open.
  • Inhale, and while gripping the feet, lengthen the spine and fold forward.
  • After several breaths, the assistant may gently press on the inner thighs.
  • Maintain communication to make sure the assisted feels in control of the pressure. 
  • Release and switch partners. Give and receive.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Living In the "I Don't Know"....

When I was a girl, I had to be savvy. My parents were young (mom was 20, dad 23), and I was the first born. Sometimes I'd call myself "the experiment". Since mom and dad were children themselves,  I felt that I needed to have it together and know all the answers. Soon, my precocious maturity was praised by, and even entertained the adults. I was now expected to "know". At least that's how I felt.

I will never forget this one bus ride I took with my friend Melinda Morgan. We may have been in the first or second grade. The cut off shorts, which were long enough to be a skirt...were, I thought, called culottes. That's what my mother told me. On the day I wore this apparel, I heard Melinda use an alternate word: gauchos. After hearing this word several times, and finally from a pretty close friend, whom I thought I could trust, I had to find out the answer. I remember working up the courage to blurt out, under my breath, "what are gauchos?" Only Melinda didn't hear me. That was as far as it went, but even speaking it aloud was progress for me. I do not like to not know.

Imagine my frustration when confronted with open ended questions, or something called: process. The idea that I don't know the answer to the question of my own future can cause me to feel anxious. How will I approach writing my next book? Will I ever fall in love with someone I can settle into? How does my story end? Being in a state of staying open and teachable requires presence in the moment, and delight in the discovery. How do I get curious about and live my own process, without the anxiety?

Yoga provides me with an analogous space. I make progress on my mat when I approach my process with an open mind. This is why I love to take class from a variety of teachers. Each person has a slightly different take or experience, and when shared, it might strike a new revelation in my perception. Recently, I had the opportunity to take class with one of my old teachers from the mid-eighties. Baron Baptiste was a teacher I found in my teens. Although yoga had been a household activity, I found Baron when I was a gym rat, on my own terms. His approach resonated with me, and he was not much older than I. I was taken with his lazy LA accent, and his investigative approach. Little did I know that one day, he and I would be peers. His success as an instructor was foundational for many, and I had no designs on becoming a household name myself. Had I "known" the end to the story, perhaps I would have been far less teachable. Last year when I attended his class, I was tempted to explore something I have not tried in a long while: inversions. Due to several herniations in my spine, I choose not to go upside down because I know that it creates compression in the spine. This class, which I took in Hawaii, felt safe to me. Why not start from scratch and play like a child? I hadn't had any back issues for years! So I did. I played with going upside down, and finding my balance as I had in my youth. I did not know that my body would be able to deeply explore in the positions. It was not planned, or an aspiration, but became possible solely by curiosity. I felt such joy playing in the arena of the unknown, that this joy outweighed any wisdom I thought I'd have from the experience. I am so glad I did. Perhaps the key to living in the "I don't know," is to stay curious like a child. To live with a sense of wonderment.

Each day is new. We cannot say what will arrive in the next hour, moment, or breath. The only truth for me is " I don't know". In an effort to control or plan for the future, I may pretend that I have it all figured out, or that I am the one making the plans. One thing is for sure, no matter which decisions I make, God or the unifying force that connects us all, is running the show. The best I can do is breathe, play, be open, and teachable. This is living!

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Relationship with the Body

Imagine your most intimate partnership. What does it take to cultivate that relationship? Attention, listening, spending time, giving encouragement, working with special circumstances, commitment and of course love. Perhaps you are able to provide some, but not all of these qualities with varying degrees of finesse. Perhaps you have other requirements or special gifts that you add to the mix. Regardless, healthy relationships require a variety of actions in order to work and acquire trust in the other.

Now consider your relationship to your body, after all, this is the only "one" that you have for this entire lifetime. That is a guarantee. Your body has been with you, ever evolving throughout the years, and will be with you until the very end. This relationship should be a priority and may require an upgrade, if you are not already treating it with the same sacred energy you wold treat the love of your life.

I, myself, have been on a lifelong journey with regards to my own relationship to my body. In my childhood, I became prone to perfectionism, comparison and worry, which translated into a sense of being a slave driver or even a non-participant in the pleasures of being an earthly human. In my early twenties, I decided to "let myself go", and allow perceived imperfection and even absence of care to take the drivers' seat. What if I became the very thing I feared? Soon I decided to become "the thing" and love myself as is. I spent some time simply being imperfect and loving it. In my thirties, I started to speak lovingly about my body aloud, and lead others to do the same. Without effort, and much to my surprise, my body fell into place organically. In my forties, I became known for a level of aspirational health and that emanated from a balanced relationship with my body. I embodied freedom and discipline, two sides of the same coin... Give and receive, open and close... As I head towards my fifties (okay, I have a few years to adjust), there is a sense of surrender and letting go of all that I know. This body will not last forever, as no relationship really does. Everything is ebb and flow, and all that lives and grows must pass. So what will be the next lesson in my journey?

For now, I allow it to unfold. This year has been so humbling: my eyesight not quite the same. I had to buy those 1.5 magnifying glasses at the drug store! A few spots of skin that alarmed my dermatologist enough to get them tested. Perhaps less sun worshipping? Who knows where my choices will take me.
Yet, the pattern is indicative of change. Ever-evolving and dynamic as all relationships are. Today is not yesterday, said a wise man to me.

Commitment to my body. To caring for and loving my body. Through thick and thin. All in.