Weekly Yoga Teaching Schedule

My Teaching Schedule: No public classes at this time, sorry.

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Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Finding Thankfulness

I didn't grow up celebrating Thanksgiving or eating turkey. I'm not a pilgrim descendant and could live the rest of my life without gobbling turkey again. Yet, I understand the significance behind this traditional American holiday. Being thankful and grateful for what we have doesn't require a special day, just an opening of the heart. Giving thanks and sharing what we have with loved ones (and even strangers) is how we should be every day of the year. Thanksgiving Day reminds us that no matter how challenging our year may seem, there is always something to be grateful for. As long as we have breath, we have life. Prana, in Sanskrit, means breath of life. Without one, you cannot have the other. As the door chime rings tomorrow, take a moment and close your eyes, inhale deeply, remember prana and then open the door to those crazy relatives of yours.
May you enjoy a bountiful day tomorrow, both within and without.
Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

I Survived My First 5K!

Thank you to those who donated to the Susan G. Komen Race For The Cure in Phoenix Oct. 11, 2009 (hope I didn't bug too much)! That's me and my hubby, who was very supportive even as I dragged him into this. My own experience training for this race taught me a couple of things: 1. Running is hard! 2. Training on a treadmill has little resemblance to real running.

We live in brutally hot Phoenix, so running outside to train was not an option. My first foray outside my front door in running shoes was last week. I was pretty demoralized by the time I got back home, and after running a second day with severe side flank pain as if my liver were about to explode (for some reason duck liver pate kept coming to mind) I was positive I'd made a mistake. Looking on the bright side, I'd raised a lot more money than I could've ever given on my own and heightened awareness to breast cancer so all was not lost. I resigned myself to a run/walk on the big day. Race time neared and I started hemming and hawing. My husband, who was walking the 5K walk event, looked me squarely in the eyes and reminded me I'd trained for this and to go run it. As I started jogging, ASU cheerleaders, marching bands and just regular folks along the route cheered us on. That's what was missing from my street running! Marching bands and cheerleaders to keep me motivated! Before I knew it, I was dodging and passing other runners. At one point, my lungs started to constrict and considered walking a few minutes. Until my thoughts drifted to all the breast cancer survivors who COULDN'T run today, just walk, if they were lucky enough to be alive. I kept running and forgot about myself.
Even though the race is not timed, those of you who know me will not be surprised that I brought a stopwatch (there's that type A seeping out). 35 minutes, not record-breaking but not too shabby for my first 5K. And yes, I will be running another one.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Open, Open, Open

A fellow yoga teacher commented that every door she encounters is shut and then utters something about Mercury being in retrograde. I have no idea what that means, but I gather 'tis not good. The closed doors did peak my interest, however. Mulling the idea over, everything does seem harder than usual. When times were good, doors would open before me like magic. Now, I knock on the door and there's nobody home. I produce my master key ring set, and proceed to insert each key to no avail. Maybe I'm at the wrong doorway. Instead of forcing our way through a situation that we believe should be, perhaps we ARE at the wrong house. What if we just followed the natural flow of life and moved on to the next threshold? Or returned to that same portal at another time? Would the results be different? Would a separate point in the continuum of space produce an altered reality? After all, no two moments are the same.

The very root of Taoism is going with the flow of life, not forcing anything. Westernized thinking muddies up clarity of thought with too much action or movement. Possibly, just possibly, the key to open pathways is allowing them to open before us when we are meant to pass through them. And wait for Mercury to stop being in retrograde.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Surrender Dorothy!

There are weeks I feel the Wicked Witch of the West is relentlessly chasing me around with those flying monkeys of hers. I swat them away but they continue to be on my back. Surrendering to the green-faced evil one is no option in my book, but there are times I am tired of running! What if Dorothy hadn't run away? She would have been safely tucked in the storm cellar and had no adventures at all. How boring. Many of us took calculated risks to boost our retirement savings or advance our financial nest eggs and got caught in this economic down spiraling tornado. Hindsight is 20/20 and perhaps we would rethink some of our choices, but the only regrets you have in life are the risks you didn't take. Yes, didn't take. I personally don't believe in regret, so I do wander outside of the farm every once in a while to check out Kansas (the world).
Would I change some of my past choices? Absolutely, but I made the decisions at the time with all the information I had, and not knowing any wizards, could not read the future. So I will keep trekking to Oz and dreaming of multi-color changing horses. Just watch out for the flying monkeys!

Sunday, August 30, 2009

In the Event of a Water Landing...

you mean if we crash into the ocean?? Love that joke from George Carlin. If you aren't familiar with it, he has a whole bit on airlines (uncut & unedited) that was way before Southwest hired comedic attendants.
Everything we say or don't say, how our speech delivery is, our choice of vocabulary, can drastically change what the intention of our words is. There is subtlety (as in water landing) and bluntness (crashing) that beg for balance when we are attempting to convey something verbally. Too vague and polite and most people miss the point entirely. Too brusque and those of a delicate nature become easily offended. So how to keep from upending someones apple cart and yet get their attention? Fact is there is no fast rule here. Most people today are riding an emotional roller coaster 24/7, so depending on where you catch them on their ride will decide how they take your words. I like to think I am somewhere in the middle of subtle and rude. Politely direct usually conveys my intentions, especially if I throw humor in the mix. Doesn't always work either. Then, I have to drive home the point like a hammer or I've already insulted someone. We cannot control the actions or reactions of others, but we can control our own. Become an observer and watch the riders on the roller coaster screaming with delight and fear, as you remain calm and detached. Don't take things too personally in this amusement park called life, it's usually not about you.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Please Hold The Pickles

My husband really dislikes pickles. Yet lately, he orders his cancer-causing hamburger and it keeps showing up with pickles. OK, don't get worked up about the cancer bit, a hamburger every few weeks probably won't kill you (unless it's tainted meat), but he eats them several times a week. Speaking with a girlfriend today we both remarked on how hard everything is today. Things that should be simple are now difficult, complicated and full of add-ons or as I like to call them, unwanted options.

What's up?? Impossible to ignore the white elephant hanging out in the middle of the room, it must be the economy. As my friend pointed out, it brings out the true colors in someone, not just their best or worst, but who they really, truly are. How do you know the androids from the real humans? PH test? Truth serum? Do we really need to keep our guards up all the time, like a human shield?
In these strange days, I stick to people I know. Carefully, as if tip-toeing through land mine infested fields, I allow new humans (hopefully, not androids) into my little world. But it's a gamble, just like life. Treat others as you would want to be treated and hope for the best. And hold the pickles.

Friday, August 7, 2009

How Does Your Garden Grow?

An old dear friend of mine found me through Google this morning. It was a joyful, unexpected email. Now I'm not on Facebook, MySpace or Twitter, but I am easy to find online. Six months ago, my long lost childhood best friend from Spain found me through Google as well. Seeing her all grown up with her teenage children warmed my heart and welled up my eyes. As our wallets and spirits continue to be battered by this economic global meltdown, more and more of us are reaching out to loved ones, near and far, for moral support and a friendly face. Friendships are far more healing and lasting than financial gain. Friendship, for me, needs to be tended, watered and loved as a garden is. A garden will only give back and grow if attended to.
We all lead busy lives and sometimes our gardens are a bit unkempt, but as long as we remember to at least water them, they will be there for when we finally find time for them. Call, email, text or tweet someone you haven't heard from in a while, even if it's a short message. They will know you are thinking of them and bring a heartening smile. And while we are on the subject, how easy are you to find? Adding a simple Google profile will still preserve your privacy yet allow an old friend to find you.

Monday, July 27, 2009

What Did You Learn?

As any substitute teacher knows, we are not always welcomed with open arms. Students of all ages get comfortable with the teaching style and personality of their instructor, and don't always enjoy change. It is summer in Phoenix, which means we are all looking to run away from the heat. Vacation time equals more substitute yoga teachers (after all, we deserve a break too). In the fitness world, yoga students are viewed by many to be the least flexible when it comes to change. Odd, since yoga itself is about flexibility of body and mind! Maybe it is the nature of yoga, a body-mind exercise, that endears yoga students to their teachers. Yoga is also a philosophy, not just physical exercise. I remember every one of my past yoga instructors, as they each opened my spiritual path in some way. I don't, on the other hand, recall many of my past cardio instructors.
As a yoga student myself, even I am disappointed when my favorite teacher is not in the studio. Immediately my defenses come up and inwardly feel the resistance to change bubbling to the surface. My negative self-talk tries to bully its way to my consciousness and convince me to turn around and go home. Aware of this, I push this negativity aside and purposely choose to find one new positive learning experience from that substitute teacher. I usually walk out with at least two great new tidbits, whether it's different ways of teaching a specific pose, learning a new pose, better verbiage or feeling a new breathing technique. It may not be the class I was expecting, but I still came away with something learned.
We always learn something from a new experience, it is what we choose to learn that makes up our character.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Shaken, But Not Stirred

It's 6AM in Pelham, NY and I am shaken awake. As I unfog my mind, the guest bed I lie in continues to quake beneath me. I hop out and dart into the darkened hallway, bewildered. My hosts are already there, staring strangely out the second story window. They seem frightened, and now, so am I. A bomb has hit NYC, they blurt out. My eyes, still adjusting to the dimness of the hour, strain out the window expecting an afterglow or anything to validate their wildly insane statement. Nothing. I slowly reply that I think an earthquake just jolted us out of bed. By their looks, they seem to think that's crazier than a bomb! It turns out my first earthquake occurred in NY of all places. I was in Manhattan for four days back in 1985 and experienced an earthquake. Go figure!
When your foundation is being rocked, how do you keep from losing your footing? What do you hang on to when the ground beneath you is shifting, as it did that memorable dawn in Pelham? Finding a safe center and solid ground is not always possible out there, yet always available within each and every one of us. We just may have to reach deep down into that well of inner strength and grab a big handful. What is in your well? Prayer? Meditation? Deep spirituality? If you are not sure, these unsteady times may be when you discover what your core is made of.
Best of all, earthquakes don't last forever.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Gong Your Way to Meditation

For those who don't know me, my husband and I own a real estate company in Phoenix, AZ. Yes, the battleground for foreclosures, seemingly bottomless falling home values and 110+ degree heat. If you wonder how I keep my sanity, it's meditation all the way baby! What flavor of meditation? All of them!! I listen to Tibetan bowls and Indian gongs, move my stagnant chi (energy) with qigong and practice my own brand of wicked yoga till I drop. Meditation comes in many forms, from auditory to kinetic (moving). Review my older posts on meditation and breathing to pick up a few tricks.

When I am in need of a supercharged meditation session, I reach for gong meditation music or Tibetan bowls. It is powerful and effective. Attending a live session is a great way to experience this music, also. To begin, lay down on the ground so the vibrations of the sounds reverberate through you. Crank the music as loud as you can (without the neighbors freaking out) and focus on the furthest away sound. Let the music permeate through you like water filtering through sand and slow down your breathing pattern. If the music is distracting, as it may be for beginners, center your attention on your breath. View this as an exercise in both self-restraint and growth. Start with 20 minutes and work your way up to the entire CD, usually an hour. You may notice your muscles twitching, this is normal. These sounds act like a tuning fork on the body, and the twitching is your body's method of realigning your energy. To learn more about sound healing, go to http://www.healingsounds.com/. I feel peace and joy seeping out of every cell in my body after these intense sessions, a much needed respite from the world.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Stop Dealing Drugs

to your family, friends, acquaintances and strangers. NOT those kinds of drugs, we are talking about emotional addicts and how we enable them. My definition of addiction is simple: something you can't stop. Every time someones becomes angry, the hypothalamus in the brain produces chemicals to be released into the bloodstream. The problem with an addict, is he always wants more. So, a person addicted to anger will conjure up situations (whether real or imagined) to trigger the emotional "hit" they need. We, as enablers, allow the person to trigger a reaction out of us that will give them the hit they seek. Ever wonder why some people pick fights out of nowhere? Why some people always have drama in their life? View a short video on emotional addiction.
I have a couple of questions I ask myself whenever someone seems to be needing a reaction out of me. What emotional "hit" am I fulfilling for them (anger, frustration, victimization)? Do I want to give them this? If my answer is no, I simply withhold what they need. I don't give them the emotional reaction they are expecting from me. On the contrary, my response is either changing the subject or responding in an objective way that I know won't create that "hit" for them. This usually works, unless it's someone who's been faithfully counting on you as their "drug dealer" for years, like a relative or good friend. Then, it's a little more complicated and will require you to stand strong in your position. At first, the addict will be slightly confused at your new behavior. Then he will try different tactics to cajol that needed reaction out of you. Don't be surprised if he becomes rude, combative or desperate (just like a drug addict). Over time, he will seek someone else to provide the emotional high he needs. Be aware you may lose this relationship if you choose to change your behavior towards them, but you may also be the first step they need to overcome their addiction.
Emotions aren't wrong, they make life more colorful. The important thing to remember is not to allow our emotional states to control us, otherwise we must be addicted to them.

Monday, June 22, 2009

The Dark Side of the Moon

I experienced two of the five acts of Shiva last week. A path opened before me, all the pieces fell into place, and feeling pretty good (read ego) about following my intuitive self, headed off skipping happily down the path. Unexpectedly, an obstacle got thrown right in my way. I was confused and blindsided, as I was sure the signs of karma had led me here and could not understand the derailing. Instead of reacting with anger or frustration though, I chose to wait. Wait for the purpose of the obstacle to be revealed. The challenge, apart from corking my ego like an unhappy genie in a bottle, was to be patient and have trust while the reason was concealed from me. As the obstacle lifted, an unexpected gift came with it. Smiling inwardly, I understood the reason for the concealment and the lesson learned when the time for revealment came. I learned that life's bumps, potholes, detours and delays are there to teach us patience and trust. The patience to not overreact and trust in the unknown (the unrevealed). The unknown will reveal itself when it is ready.

Our lives are in a constant flow of concealment and revealment. Awareness helps us become more in touch with the natural pulsation of life (prana). As the dark side of the moon reveals itself unhurried, we can wait in the darkness armed with trust and patience knowing the light will reveal our path in due time.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Stick to Your Roots

During these unsettling times, people around us are making life-affirming choices. It may even be you. When you make the decision to fundamentally change your life, know that not everyone will be cheering you on. Some may try to change your mind through any means necessary, as your change will affect them in some way. We humans, as a rule, do not like change. It alters our routine and shakes up our perception of the world. So when we make the decision to take a different path, we need to ask ourselves a few questions. Is my new choice grounded in wisdom, intuition and the survival/growth of my spiritual self? Am I making this decision based on emotion (anger, hate, passion, greed, revenge...)? If your answer is yes and no, respectively, prepare to stick to your decision and not allow outside forces to waver it. Know that your wisdom mind is at the root of your change and remain steadfast. As your logical and emotional minds start to barrage and attempt to sabotage your root decision with over thinking and second, even triple guessing, remain rooted like an oak tree in the eye of a storm. As outsiders batter you with opinions, unsolicited advice and attempted persuasion, stay true to your roots and your authentic self.

If your mind becomes clouded and foggy, allow your wisdom, like a wind of change, to bring clarity of thought. We must have strong roots to ground us in order to grow stronger and healthier, both spiritually and physically. Shallow roots topple us over in stormy weather. Root to rise is a term we use in hatha yoga to affirm our postures. It applies to life as well. May you root to rise.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

So Many Hats, So Little Time

Lately, I've been adding hats to my already diverse collection. These are great hats, some are simple by design and others are more intricate. My sombreros have names and include the following: real estate agent, marketing specialist, bookkeeper, office manager, yoga teacher, qigong instructor, stress management coach, blogger, friend, sister, wife, auntie, daughter, mom to 4-legged child, home CEO (domestic goddess), etc... Whew, I'm exhausted just reading the list.
During this economic turmoil, we are all wearing more hats. I find they all need to be worn at least once in a while or they get dusty and start to feel neglected. The important thing to remember while wearing that specific hat is to BE THE HAT. While wearing the yoga teacher hat, I stay focused on being the teacher, not get distracted by all the other hats waiting to be worn. Focusing on the present task at hand allows us to live in the moment and be our best. It also keeps me from burning dinner - where's my chef's hat?
Knowing when to turn down another hat is also paramount. After all, we only have one head, and you look silly wearing several hats at the same time!! You may need to juggle a few hats at a time, just know you might drop one or two inadvertently.
How many hats do you wear? Are there some you could give to someone else or retire completely? Taking inventory, every now and then, of our duties in life helps us prioritize and discard what no longer serves us. As you look at that hat, ask yourself the question: Does this serve me any longer?
Off comes the blogger chapeau as I snug on my hiker cap.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Take a Chill Pill...

and pass the bottle on. People just need to slow down, stop overreacting, being judgmental and selfish. Wow, I think I just solved the world's problems in one sentence. Now why is something so seemingly simple so difficult to do? Mind-body practices rewire our brain to do just that! Hatha (physical) yoga teaches us to slow down, both within and without. Qigong and tai chi quiet the mind by focusing on the present moment. All brands of meditation not only train the brain and body to chill, but habituate us into "unplugging" our mind and disassociate the memories that trigger overreaction, judgement, anger and all negative thought patterns.
When we become aware of our thoughts, we can change them. Self-awareness eventually stamps out self-involvement.
We only need to convince all the politicians and leaders of this blue planet that the answer to a better world is meditation. I think the Dalai Lama's been at this for a while and will be (unless we give these people partial lobotomies). Now there's an idea!

Saturday, May 9, 2009

The Art of Effort and Surrender

I over effort. No surprise to those who know me or any of my yoga teachers. In yoga, we try to find that delicate balance between efforting in a pose and finding that point of relaxation. At times, it feels as if I'm balancing on the head of a pin, it's such a small window to discover. And yet, while furiously trying to balance in Pincha Mayurasana (my Achilles heel pose), if I take a deep breath and open my heart, I feel my body start to melt and release some muscular energy. Effortless effort, is what one of my teachers calls it. It enables us to enjoy and go deeper, allowing for that opening and release we yogis look for in each asana (pose).

What we learn on the mat, we take off the mat and into our everyday lives. This is a well-known mantra in yoga. Sometimes, we work too hard at something, afraid to soften the grip, fearing we will lose whatever it is we think we have a hold of. But the truth is, through surrender and stepping back is where we gain freedom and power. Difficult concept to process, but a good analogy would be skydiving. One has to trust the shoot will open to jump out of a perfectly good airplane. (Brian swears he's doing this on his 50th birthday. As long as his life insurance is paid up.)
Knowing when to surrender and not over effort is surely an art form that enfolds and unfolds infinitely throughout our lifetime. It's part of the yin yang, the constant flow of life.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

It's Dark, Damp, with Screaming Bats!

Well, there are bats in my tunnel. It adds to the drama. Although this is a serious subject, humor and laughter are great destressors!

We all have moments or events in our lives we don't want to experience. We have no control or choice but to plow through the crisis. A job loss, unexpected health issue, death in the family... These acute stress events usually blindside us and throw us off our axis. One way to relieve the anxiety is to process the life changing circumstance through visual imagery. It is one of the methods I use to help me accept a difficult situation. It is my true desire that it benefits you as well.

I visualize myself standing, facing a one-way tunnel on the side of a high mountain range, like the Alps. I can't turn around, it's impossible for me to bypass the tunnel and realize I have to go through it. I know there is an end to the tunnel and there is light on the other side. I just don't know what will happen in the tunnel (here is where my bats come in) or how long it is. I take a deep breath, muster all my courage, shed my fears (as I know bats smell fear), and step into the darkness. The only motivation that keeps me walking down the tunnel is knowing there is another side. I don't know what's there waiting for me, but I do know there will be light, in the form of revealment, resolution, acceptance and knowledge.
Now, if I could just find that bat repellent spray...

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Nothing Restorative about Restorative Yoga

I teach power yoga, yoga for athletes, intermediate yoga, PiYo, all active, rigorous forms of yoga. Didn't see restorative yoga in there? No? And from my first class last week, you won't see it anytime soon either. OK, that may have been a bit harsh. I looked up the word restorative in the dictionary and it states "to bring back to health, strength, etc...". I walked out of this class thinking "that was it?". After holding 4 poses for an hour, I wondered why anybody would spend good money on this versus a meditation class. My legs fell asleep (according to the instructor that's normal), I was uncomfortable and therefore could not relax into the pose, and it was cold in there. I looked forward to savasana (corpse pose), a rare moment in the middle of my day where I could sneak some meditation time. But, alas, that was the ONE pose that was only 5 minutes long!
The spiritual side of me gently points out that maybe I need restorative yoga, as I disliked it so much. That my restlesness is exactly what restorative yoga will eventually dissolve. I wittingly respond that I meditate for long periods of time without a problem, so that's not it. By now, I realize I am arguing with myself and quickly end the discussion.
There is a solid foundation to needing exactly what we dislike. To live in harmony and balance is to live by the rule of Yin Yang. To be well-rounded, we need to nurture both sides. The Yang side, fast, revealing and expanding, needs its opposite. The slow pace of restorative yoga, its emphasis on concealment and contraction (going within) by the nature of its poses is the perfect antidote. So, just as a bitter pill may heal us, maybe I will give restorative yoga another try...someday.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Don't Wake Me Up Before You Go Go

My girfriend Cindy is finding out I am NOT an early riser. She tries to entice me with teaching morning classes to no avail. I am not a morning person, never have been and unless I wake up with amnesia one day, never will be. I am really OK with it. I know what I'm missing... breathtaking sunrises, cool morning walks in the infernal summer of Phoenix, a mystical, serene universal quietness. Don't care. Unless I am catching a jetplane to some exotic vacation spot, I see no reason to wake up at 6AM.

Knowing our limitations enables us to find the freedom within them. Dr. Stephen Hawking is an outstanding example of someone with almost complete physical limitations, yet this limitation may be the reason his mind is so brilliant. We all have physical, emotional or personal limitations, some are by choice, some not. Unless it is harming to us or others, maybe we just need to learn to embrace these imperfections and find the joy within that. It is these "blemishes" that mold our personality and character, giving us uniqueness in spirit.
As a yoga teacher I see this in my students of all levels. I ask that they enjoy and find the freedom within a pose, whether it is modified or not "perfect" in their eyes, instead of finding fault or frustration.
Tantra philosophy encourages celebrating life where we are, in the present moment, with all those blemishes, imperfections and limitations.
So, don't call me before 9AM. Now you know.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Soulfood is What We Need Right Now

Feeding the mind through books is a delightful way to relax, escape reality and recharge our batteries. Head to your local library and expand your mind by reading books on self-help, religion and all flavors of philosophy. It is also an opportunity to improve our knowledge of ourselves and divinity by delving into subjects we aren't familiar with. On my night table, I have a translation of the Dhammapada (considered by many to be the cornerstone of Buddhism), "The Creation of Health" by Carolyn Myss, PhD (a book on energy (chi) and how we affect our health through it) and "Light on the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali" translated by B.K.S. Iyengar (the bible of yoga philosophy).
One of the three yogas through which to achieve enlightenment is Jnana Yoga, the yoga of knowledge. Bhakti Yoga, the yoga of devotion, is encompassed in jnana yoga. Followers of organized religion would generally fall into bhakti yoga. The other two are Karma Yoga (discussed in older posts) and Raja Yoga, the yoga of meditation.
Enlightening our soul by exposing it to the light of other religions and philosophy can only widen our understanding of others and encourage unity. There are threads and traces of the Dhammapada and the Yoga Sutras in the Bible. We are more alike than we are different.
Where we banish the darkness of ignorance, the light of knowledge will lead the way.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Run Silent, Run Deep

within your soul. Our spirit requires moments of silence. It is in those quiet spaces that it speaks to us. That inner voice we call intuition, that part deep within us that "knows", just can't compete with cellphones, television, music, traffic,barking dogs and screaming children.
To allow that voice to bubble to the surface, we must be attentive to it, nurture it and give it room to expand. Quiet time is good food for the soul. Take some time to sit outside and close your eyes. Listen to the wind whispering through the trees, the birds chirping and feel the sun warm your face. This quiet time may come in the form of contemplation, a moment where one just enjoys being, not doing. There is a well-known saying in Taoism that is my mantra, Wei Wu Wei, do without doing. So find a quiet place, even if it's your closet, and spend some time listening to your soul.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

What the Heck is Qigong?

"Qi what?? Never heard of it." That's a typical response when I mention I teach and practice qigong. Not as well known as its cousin, tai chi, qigong is starting to make inroads in the Western Hemisphere. Over 2,500 years old and practiced by millions of people each day, qigong is centered on opening one's meridians, or channels, and keeping our internal chi (energy) flowing. This is the cornerstone of Chinese medicine. In East Indian medicine, Ayurveda, it revolves around the 7 chakras and prana (energy).
Qigong is best described as training our internal energy. We keep it moving freely and strengthen it to keep us healthy. If you've never "felt" your chi before, it is a life-changing moment. You can never go back after that experience. One begins to understand the undercurrent of life that exists in everything, from plants to places to the universe. The concept that we are all one becomes clear and obvious. Our relationship with ourselves becomes deeper and collaborative.
I am NOT a touchy feely kind of person, everyone who knows me will attest to that. I started qigong with an open mind, but not expecting anything. I came out with a deeper self-awareness and a changed view of the world and how I affect it and fit into it. Your experience may be different. What you receive from qigong will be exactly what you need.
My qigong teaching schedule is as follows: YMCA Scottsdale/PV-Starting April 6th, once a week for 5 wks Mondays 8PM. * Fountain Hills Trufit Studios, check flyer posted on this blog.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Sugar and Spice, and Everything Nice

Well, maybe not the sugar part. A student lent me a book titled "The Raw Food Life Force Energy Diet" by Natalia Rose . No, I am not going raw. I like filet mignon too much. The book did get my wheels turning on nutrition and how I could improve mine. I started cutting out sugar, and although the first couple of days were tough, by the third day I noticed my cravings for the white powdery substance had subsided AND my food cravings evaporated. I made the connection that ingesting sugar was actually increasing my hunger in general! I've lost weight as a side benefit and have more energy to boot.

By sugar I mean corn syrup and artificial sweeteners as well. Cookies, cakes, candy, chocolate (except for 70%+ cacao dark kind), jellies and jams, ice cream...Well, you get the drift. All the tasty sweet stuff. When I do have a craving for something sweet, I reach for naturally dried fruits, 70% min. dark chocolate, nuts and green tea. Sometimes, all of them at once!

Returning our bodies to a more homeostatic level keeps us healthier both physically and emotionally. Try cutting something out of your diet over the next week that is not healthy for you. Be it sugar, alcohol, sodas, designer lattes... pick your poison. Notice the changes in your body as you go through the week. Become an observer of the signals your body sends you, filtering out the negative ones (ex.- craving sugar) and focusing on the positive ones (ex.- more energy). Living a healthier life starts with small changes.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Take the Hit as a Gift

even if you feel like a punching bag these days. Research studies show that people with a positive attitude in life are happier and weather hard times better. When large "hits" strike, find the gift amid the turmoil. Ask yourself these questions: Where is the life lesson in this experience? What spiritual growth may I attain? What opportunity does this open for me? Answer these questions with positive verbiage. Avoid using no, can't, won't, never, etc... Your responses can serve as positive affirmations you repeat to yourself as you go through this difficult time. If you are lucky enough not to be going through a hard time right now, practice these questions on small "hits" (small unexpected and unwelcome events).
My small hit came last year when I went against my better judgement and got a really, really bad haircut at a beauty school. Granted, not the end of the world, but unwelcome and definitely unexpected. I learned I was way too attached to my hair, I was vain and my ego needed a good ass-kicking. It presented me the opportunity to look within and clean house, so to speak. And yes, my hair grew back. It only took 7 months. I told you it was a bad haircut.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Go Ahead, Infect Others

with your smile.
An old sales tactic says to smile into a mirror and then pick up the phone to make that cold call. Studies showed that even the eliciting of a fake smile released positive vibes onto the caller. After a few calls, I didn't have to fake it anymore.
Giving to others needn't always involve volunteering, donating money or gifts. It can be as simple as smiling at a stranger or holding the door open for someone. Genuinely asking them how their day is, and listening to their response.
When economic times are tough, we all need more understanding and kindness. Kindness begets kindness, cruelty begets cruelty. Try this over the next week, at least once a day with someone you encounter out in your world. Notice their response, but don't attach judgement to it. Give, even if you don't receive back. But trust me, you will be surprised at the positive effect you have. If you make someone's day better, do you think that maybe they will make someone else's day better, and so on?
We affect people every day, whether we are aware of it or not. Our interactions with the world matter, at all levels. Our actions count as much as our inactions. As human beings, we need to connect. Why not make that connection a positive charge instead of a negative one? So, go ahead, pass on that infectious smile and hope it spreads!

Friday, February 13, 2009

Go Fly a Kite!

As I tug on the string determined to conquer the crosswinds whipping our rainbow striped kite, my 7-year old nephew J. screams out "this is so much fun, Aunt Marie!!". Now I admit I am no master kite flyer, but J. thinks I rule. We stood out there one brisk afternoon last week (rare in Phoenix) happily flying a kite. Laughing when it torpedoed down, seemingly straight for us, and smiling from ear to ear as we watched our kite play in the wind. It seemed more like a dance with nature, a game of cosmic tug-of-war.

I had a blast flying this long-tailed kite, feeling like a kid without a care in the world, reveling in the simplicity of pure contentment (santosha). I wondered what thoughts this evoked in others who saw our high-flying kite. What immediately comes to your mind when catching sight of a kite jostling in the wind? Finding contentment or joy needn't be expensive, complicated or full of attachments. We found it in a $5 kite and a good breeze!

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Turn Off the Bad News Channel

I am on a lifelong search. Sometimes I find this elusive elixir I search for, only to lose it once more. We all need it, yearn for it, curse at it when it goes away, but many of us can't seem to hold on it. Last week, once again, this lifesaving drug eluded me. Determined to re-capture it, I tried a new tactic. I turned off the 10PM news. And that night, I slept like a baby. Sleep, oh wonderful sleep! Overstimulating my brain with shootings, drug arrests, economic meltdowns & layoffs was just not conducive to getting my zzzzz's. Go figure. I don't consider myself a news junkie, but I like staying connected. Apparently, my brain needs to disconnect to recharge. A side benefit, apart from looking more rested, being less irritable and packing more energy, is I am finally catching up on some reading. It means I am dusting off that Yoga Journal from 2006 and reading it cover to cover. Not to mention the eternal stacks of half read books on my night table (I do rotate them, it makes them feel special).

Not getting enough sleep ages our biological clock, depletes our immune system and causes more stress-related symptoms. Try turning off the TV one hour before going to bed this week, or in my case, retreating to the bedroom and closing the door. My husband can watch the Suns game as long as he wants, I'm learning about that perfect backbend!

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Do Not Disturb the Water

We see the mirror of ourselves in still water, not rushing water.
I view my mind as the surface of a lake. Sometimes, it is as busy as prime boating season, with ski boats racing everywhere, and jet skis buzzing around. At other times, it is rippling endlessly, courtesy of a perfectly cast skipping stone. And still, there are those precious, wondrous times when the surface of that sapphire lake is a looking-glass mirroring the endless sky above. It is in those moments that I catch a glimpse of my soul...and smile at its beauty.
May your meditation lead your mind to this unstirred water.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Meditation is hard!

I smile patiently and understandingly when I get that response from non-meditators. Ahh, patience. There's a simple, non-threatening word that most of us need more of. After all, everything we learned required some amount of patience. We didn't learn to tie our shoes in one day, although most of us don't remember that far back. Of course, kids today just Velcro their shoes. Meditation is no different than learning any other skill. It requires perseverance, patience and focus. We are re-training our minds to not think or judge. Notice I didn't say "stilling" the mind. I believe that is too lofty a goal when beginning to meditate. Let's just aim for not thinking or judging for now. That should be enough to keep your mind doing something. Because your mind wants to keep busy, have no doubt about it. As a test, try to stop thinking right now and aim to still your mind. The Buddhists call this "monkey mind". As soon as you've made the decision to stop the mind's fluctuations, it starts jumping around like a monkey from tree to tree. The most bizarre thoughts may come into your head, things you haven't thought about in years! I'm pretty amused with my mind when that happens.
Just tell yourself "Oh, just judging again" or "There's that monkey mind" and see where the mind takes you. It's called noting and is quite useful at consciously becoming mindfully aware. Try this for 5 minutes, aiming for once a day or at least 3X over the next week.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Just Breathe!

One of the first stress management techniques I teach my students is breathing. It's easy to learn, can be done anywhere, anytime and is extremely effective. Diaphragmatic breathing involves the upper & middle chest and abdominals. Separate the breath in thirds on the inhale and the exhale. One third for abdominals, one third for middle chest and one third for upper chest. Keeping the mouth closed at all times (unless you have sinus issues), inhale through the nose and into your belly. Place one hand on your belly and feel it rise with the inhalation. You will notice your middle chest expand as it fills and last, your upper chest. Hold the breath for a count of three. Exhaling through the nose, exhale from upper chest one third of the breath out, then move to your middle chest and feel that collapsing, and finally squeeze all the breath from your belly. Hold the breath for a count of three at this point and then inhale again and repeat the process. If possible, shut your eyes and focus on body awareness and where the breath is moving. A good rule is to inhale to a count of six, hold for a count of three, exhale to a count of six or eight, hold for a count of three and repeat. Continue this breathing pattern for five to ten rounds.
When we slow down the breath, we send a message to our brain that we are not stressed. This stops or slows down the stress response.
The more you practice this technique, the more immediate your relaxation response will be.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Keeping those pesky New Years' resolutions

One of the best tips I heard recently about keeping a resolution was to commit to it until Valentine's Day. Seems like a reasonable time frame, and gives me a goal to reach for. The other tip was to be very specific and realistic about that resolution. It's not enough to say, " I'm going to exercise more" or " I will lose 20 lbs. by spring". Set a smaller goal for weight loss and be specific about how many days per week to exercise. As a lifelong exerciser, my way of keeping myself on track is to keep an exercise calendar. After every workout, I write it down. Towards the end of the week, I can see if I need to throw in an extra cardio or yoga day in. I keep the calendar somewhere visible so I can't ignore it :). Life happens, so cut yourself a break if you falter once in a while on that resolution.
Happy New Year!