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Archive for the ‘Exercise’ Category

Freyer Girls at the dance studio...from left: Heidi, Megan, myself, my mother, Aunt Linda, Petra

Freyer Girls at the dance studio...from left: Heidi, Megan, myself, my mother, Aunt Linda, Petra

So I didn’t get a chance to post yesterday. I was a little distracted while visiting my Aunt Linda and my cousins Heidi, Petra and Christian in Wilton and Fairfield Connecticut.

Heidi and Linda just opened up a new pilates, ballet and yoga studio in Fairfield called “Pirouette, Pilates and More“.

Moving our bodies has always been a huge part of my family. My Aunt’s and cousins’, Heidi and Petra, dancing inspired me to keep dancing when I was young up through college. It also inspired my mother to get back into dancing when I was about 5  years old. Since then, my mother has also become a seasoned dance teacher, choreographer, yoga and pilates instructor.

My Aunt Linda...Ballet teacher extraordinaire

My Aunt Linda...Ballet teacher extraordinaire

My cousin, Heidi, dance and pilates instructor...

My cousin, Heidi, dance and pilates instructor...

My aunt Linda, an accomplished Ballerina, has been one of the top ballet teachers in Connecticut for years, while Heidi is an incredible teacher, especially in her private lessons. Heidi has danced all over Connecticut and New York City. Their students have gone on to dance all over the country and even in the New York City Ballet. She has now become a seasoned pilates instructor as well.  have had the privilege of dancing a piece choreographed by Ted Thomas (formerly of Paul Taylor Dance Company) with Heidi and take many of her classes.

I have since strayed from dance, largely due to injury and burn out from the psychological pressure of the dance world environment, and I have found my real passion in movement through yoga.

My mother, Susan, has always been my inspiration to keep my body moving

My mother, Susan, has always been my inspiration to keep my body moving

My mother was actually the one that first got me into yoga. She thought it would be fantastic for my anxiety, and after getting injured from dance, I needed a physical release that would help rehab my body. At first I was resistant, to put it lightly.  My mom persisted, giving some restorative classes to me and my friends the night before SAT’s and dragging me to an afternoon workshop or two.

It wasn’t until I really needed a mental and spiritual fix at a time when when my body had contracted pneumonia, that I finally embraced yoga on my own. It finally just clicked for me.

Now that I’m planning on returning to India to train as a teacher, I have been thinking about teaching in Connecticut with my family. Lo and behold, my cousin – in-law (my cousin Scott’s wife) Megan, has been teaching at the studio and some surrounding studios and has developed quite a following.

Megan, trained in Om Yoga, is a wonderful addition to our family and the studio. An artist and roller derby veteran, yes roller derby, she exudes a harmony, humility and kindness about her that is priceless.

The newest Freyer-girl to the family, Megan, is not only an amazing yoga teacher, but an artist and roller derby veteran! Shes pretty badass...

The newest Freyer-girl to the family, Megan, is not only an amazing yoga teacher, but an artist and roller derby veteran! She's pretty bad ass...

So yesterday, all of us Freyer girls had the wonderful experience of taking her class. It was incredible. Maybe it was the fact that all of us women were coming together, doing something wonderful for our bodies and souls, or maybe it was Megan’s gentle yet inspiring and motivating teaching techniques, but I have never felt so spiritually restored after a class.

Megan definitely pushed my physical limits in this class, stretching and adjusting us in Monkey pose, Hanumasana. We did a special modification by putting our front foot up against the wall and sliding back, while she would come around and adjust our hips to be more square…YOWZA!  My Aunt Linda had no problem sliding right into her splits on both sides, however, after a sunrise run, my hips were a wee bit tight.

We also experimented with Bird of Paradise pose and some different ways to get into side plank and headstand. So many new ideas!

The best thing about the class was the laughter and joy. The great thing about the women in my family is they never take themselves too seriously, and always try to find the joy in our experiences. Turning every day, every dance class, into an adventure. The next task is to get the boys involved!  I can’t wait to go back down to see them again!

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Pirates and yoga...interesting...(photo: tropicyoga.com)

Pirates and yoga...interesting...(photo: tropicyoga.com)

Being a New Englander…one of my favorite midsummer activities is sailing….well, that’s a stretch. I like watching other people sail who know what they are actually doing, while I just wait to be given a simple task, like skirting the mainsail in a lazy Saturday race, or making sure everyone’s beers are full.

my friend, Brian's boat, Blitzen, before a race...i think I may ave more than a liability than help in this one

before a race...I think I may be more of a liability than help in this one

the high side

the high side

I have some friends that are fantastic sailors, and who’s lives consist of  living aboard ships, small and large, and are therefore at the whim of mother nature and their own instincts.

Sailing 'Nirvana' to Nantucket last Summer overnight my friend dave up there)...dawn...perfect time for some yoga

Sailing 'Nirvana' to Nantucket last Summer overnight (my friend Dave up there)...dawn...perfect time for some yoga

When racing, core strength, leg strength, balance, and arm strength are essentials. You must be quick on your feet, perceptive, completely aware of what’s around you at all times, calm in times of utter stress, and you must be able to think extremely quickly in dire situations. Sailing well depends on your understanding the environment, your relationship with the elements of wind and water, and letting go of the idea that you can control the outcomes of your endeavors.

As an activity, it is environmentally friendly, if you don’t use the motor at all, and can humble your entire being.

although it doesn't look liek it here, my brother, Andre, is a much better sailor than I would ever be

although it doesn't look like it here, my brother, Andre, is a much better sailor than I would ever be

love those cold mornings on the water...my friend James (left) surveying the sea...

love those cold mornings on the water...my friend James (left) surveying the sea...

Yoga can help calm a sailor’s mind, get him/her in tune with elements that determine his/her course, and prepare his/her body for a race, or a casual sail.

My main fear when sailing, especially racing, is going overboard because I am so awkwardly tall and clumsy. Also, I know many of you get nauseous just at the thought of boats in the water, but I may have a few curing poses.

Even for the casual sailor, or guest on a boat, I have a few poses in mind that may be great for before, during and/or after your sail!

Wheel is great on a boat!

Wheel is great on a boat!

1. Chakrasana (wheel)strengthens legs, arms, core and increases balance and clarity of mind. Learn more from my previous post on wheel, here…

probably one of my favorite spinnakers I've seen, well at least the one that related to my life the most...saw it at a race outof boston two summers ago

probably one of my favorite spinnakers I've seen, well at least the one that related to my life the most...saw it at a race outof boston two summers ago...

2. Adho Mukha Savasana (Downward Dog)…great for the core and arm strength. Also reduces nausea and increases clarity of mind. Learn more here.

3. Balasana (Child’s pose)…calms the nerves, rejuvenates and reduces nausea. Learn more here.

4. Bakasana (crane pose)…fantastic pose for arm and core strength! Make’s you feel like you can conquer the world after conquering this pose.  Learn more here.

Tree by land or by sea!

Tree by land or by sea!

5. Vrksasana (Tree pose)…my balancing favorite…great on board! Learn more here.

Warrior III is great for balance and core strength

Warrior III is great for balance and core strength

6. Virabhandrasana (Warrior III)…also great for balance, leg, and core strength. Learn more here.

7. Ardha Chandrasana (half moon pose)…increases balance, hip strength, core strength and leg strength. Learn more here.

Walk the Plank!

Walk the Plank!

8. Plank…one of the best for core and all over body strength. Helps energize the entire body and get you centered for a long sail! Also try side plank. Learn more here.

9. Matsyasana (fish pose)…just because of the name….learn more here.

Boat pose

Boat pose

10. Boat…see Monday’s post here!

11. Malasana: Yogic squat

I also like the idea of using some recycled products while sailing and reusing ripped and old sails that typically would go straight to the landfill after use.

Go local to find recycled sail products in Gloucester, MA with Second Wind Sails…

Love this recycled sail wine bag from Secon Wind Sails...who doesnt love a great glass of organic pinot on the deck at dusk...

Love this recycled sail wine bag from Second Wind Sails...who doesn't love a great glass of organic pinot on the deck at dusk...

thats a baby in a sail bag...who does their marketing? they should get a raise...

that's a baby in a sail bag...who does their marketing? they should get a raise...

The Gloucester company, Second Wind Sails,  makes everything from Christmas stockings, to dog collars, to shower curtains, to wine bags, to pillows, to duffel bags using recycled sails.

Recycled sail yoga bad from seafevergear.com for only $19.95!

Recycled sail yoga bag from seafevergear.com for only $19.95!

Seafevergear.com also has great recycled sail products including a yoga bag for only $19.95 and is located both in San Diego and Cape Cod…

ReSail doesnt just make the typical tote-they make everything from duffels, to garment backs, to change purses and can customize any bag with your company or boat logo

ReSail (predecessor to the popular Sea Bags) doesn't just make the typical tote...they make everything from duffels, to garment backs, to change purses and can customize any bag with your company or boat logo

Although I posted earlier about “Sea Bags” recycled sails into bags…ReSail, of Newport,RI, claims to be its predecessor in style and purpose, has much more variety and is actually cheaper!…The line began with using recycled sails, and now includes any recycled material from a working sail loft (Dacron, Kevlar, etc.) using sail stitching techniques. They even make recycled Kevlar dog collars, recycled sail bean bag chairs, and recycled sail sailing jackets/vests! Check the website out here.

Yoga Onboard

Yoga Onboard

In the, why didn’t I think of this? category:

Kim Hess of Miami has created a book called “Yoga Onboard”. Kim, an avid sailor and yoga teacher, created a system of poses she believes would work well for sailors and live aboard’s. She also charters sailing yoga retreats and vacations for small groups! Find out more here.

Kim Hess, of Yoga Onboard doing some downward dog action

Kim Hess, of Yoga Onboard doing some downward dog action

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Paripurna Navasana: “Full Boat Pose”

Boat pose...

Boat pose...Paripurna Navasana

Take advantage of this human boat;
Free yourself from sorrow’s mighty stream…

– Shantideva: “The Way of the Bodhisattva” –

Skill level: Beginner

Because it’s summer, and we all love the idea of spending our weekends out on the ocean, especially now that the weather is nice, I decided “Boat pose” would be a great way to help us create our own vessel to physical strength and inner calmness.

Boat pose is all about endurance and vitality. It teaches us to breathe through challenges in our lives while remaining strong in our core…in our inner being.

Whenever I need an energetic boost in the morning, or a little confidence if I am feeling shaken, I use Boat pose as an instant adrenaline shot. It increases my brightness and warmth of body and spirit.

Boat pose teaches those who try it to become self-sufficient, creating one’s own vessel, one’s own inner rescue ship, in times of need.

Boat Pose is one of those old tried and true poses that has descendant poses and exercises in everything from Ballet, to core training, to Pilates. The pose cuts right to the core and helps build strength in your arms, lower and upper back, shoulders, hip flexors and quads.

The pose helps with intestinal problems, bloating, thyroid  and kidney problems.

Weaknesses in your body and mental state become very apparent, very quickly  in this pose… so don’t become discouraged if you notice you may that have as strong of abs, or legs as you thought, or if you are unable to hold the pose as long as you wanted to. This pose will quickly become a favorite in your practice to help build strength in some of these hidden muscles, and train your brain and spirit to stay the course.

(photo courtesy of yorkmeditation.co.uk)

(photo courtesy of yorkmeditation.co.uk)

To get into the pose follow these simple steps:

1. Sit on the center of your yoga mat Pull in your legs and grab your upper legs on the back side below the knees. Tilt your upper body backwards so that your lower back carries your weight and the entire upper back is aligned in a straight perpendicular line.

2. With the help of your arms, hands on the back your thighs, pull your knees in close to your chest while remaining upright, balancing slightly tilted back on your tailbone. In this position, be careful t not get lazy, keep your upper back from arching forward and remain engaged in your core, lifting up towards the sky.

3. Extend your arms so they are parallel to the floor.

4. Stretch your legs and feet together, legs extended out at a 60 degree angle.Stretch tops of the feet so they are almost pointed but spread the toes t a flexed position, really pushing the energy out through the legs and out through the tips of the toes.

5. Keeping the back as straight as possible, pulling the shoulder blades together back and down. Bring your arms along the body parallel to the floor and focus on a particular spot for your balance. I like to focus at the space between my ankles.

5. Cultivate Ujayii breathe…”ocean breathe”

6. The aim in this pose is to remain open in the upper chest, letting your heart feel like it is moving forward, while you remain steady and strong in your core, constantly pulling those abs in. Don’t stick your chin out, but keep your spine aligned, moving shoulder blades down from the ears, down the back.

After getting into the pose, try to remain with an open-heart and strength, and ask yourself to remain in this state for as many breathes as possible before coming down and relaxing for a few breathes on your back. Try to do about two rounds of this.

Notice which parts of your body are having the hardest time enduring, or which get sore quickly. That will help you tailor your practice to build strength in those specific areas.

7. You can make the pose more advanced by lower the legs even further until the shins are parallel to the ground. Also you can twist slowly from side to side while up in Boat pose to maximize the abdominal strength training.

8. Afterward, lie on you back in savasana (corpse pose) and meditate on the challenge that your just endured.

Do not strain yourself too much if you feel you need to come out of the pose. But keep strong, lifted and endure as long as possible. This pose helps brighten your spirit and increase your ability to be bold in the face of obstacles.

Enjoy!

Note: if you have lower/upper back problems, consult a yoga practitioner before beginning this pose.

couples Boat pose is also a great way to overcome obstacles in your relationship and stay the course with your partner....photo courtesy of quacquac.org

"couples' Boat pose' is also a great way to overcome obstacles in your relationship and "stay the course" with your partner....photo courtesy of quacquac.org

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Kayaking in my used kayak called "Perception"...how appropriate

Kayaking in my used kayak called "Perception"...how appropriate

Now that the weather is finally cooperating, knock on wood, I’ve been able to do a lot more of one of my favorite summer activities…kayaking.

Heading down to kayak in the Putnamville Reservoir...my dog Magic loves to kayak too and follows me out to the water everytime I go

Heading down to kayak in the Putnamville Reservoir...my dog Magic loves to kayak too and follows me out to the water every time I go

Kayaking can be an intensely athletic and competitive endeavor for some, which is wonderful,  but for me, I kayak simply for the pleasure of getting my blood flowing and putting my mind at ease while  escaping from land for an hour or two (or an entire day when allotted the time).

The original Kayakers

The original Kayakers

Kayaking, which was originally developed by the arctic Inuit people, and brought to mainstream recreational trends in the 1850’s, is a wonderful avenue to utilize mindfulness, pranayama, meditation and yoga to maximize one’s kayaking experience and performance.

Connecting with water physically, mentally and spiritually has been emphasized in every culture and religion. It is widely known that water has an extreme calming effect on the mind and humbles the spirit. Religions such as Islam use water in rituals to purify the soul, while water is regarded as holy areas of the natural world in Shinto. The fact that our bodies are also made mostly of water means that being close to the water would have wonderful therapeutic effects on us.

A Shinto shrine marks the gateway to a holy place...water... (photo courtesy of touchnote.com)

A Shinto shrine marks the gateway to a holy place...water... (photo courtesy of touchnote.com)

Here are some tips on how to incorporate yoga and your kayaking experience, physically and mentally.

I. Yoga, the physical body, and kayaking:

“Nothing is softer or more flexible than water…yet nothing can resist it” -Lao Tzu

Even if you are not “into yoga”…taking ten minutes to stretch certain muscle groups will increase your maneuverability of the paddle, kayak and yourself, while decreasing the likelihood of injury and post-kayaking soreness.

A. Lower back pain and tension in the shoulders and neck are common problems associated with kayaking. Some poses to help included…

Cobra pose before a morning kayak out back

Cobra pose before a morning kayak out back

1. Cobra, Bhujangasana (click here for details or view the photo above)

An early Monday morning Chakrasana (or Urdhva Dhurasana) Wheel pose out in the backyard...mid-modification with the heels off of the ground

An early Monday morning Chakrasana (or Urdhva Dhurasana) Wheel pose out in the backyard...mid-modification with the heels off of the ground

2. Wheel, Chakrasana, is a great shoulder opener and supine pose (above)…click here for my previous post on this pose, and here for the post on a more advanced version… Dwi Pada Viparita Dandasana

Twists and binds, especially in the Warrior II sequence, are great shoulder openers, which is necessary when getting ready to paddle for a few hours...

Twists and binds, especially in the Warrior II sequence, are great shoulder openers, which is necessary when getting ready to paddle for a few hours...

3. Warrior II modification with a bind, Virabhadrasana.

3. Cat/Cow pose: Marjaryasana (click here)
B. Your hip flexors and groin also have a tendency to get tight while kayaking, as well as your glutes. Some of my favorite stretches for these areas are

1. Adho Mukha Svanasana, Downward-facing Dog, with the hip open to the sky (click here for some instructions)

2. Warrior IIVirabhadrasana (click here)

3. Pigeon, Eka Pada Rajakapotasana (click here).

C. And the most important part to tie these all together is strengthening your core.

Plank is great for your core...Dolphin pose is a similar pose where the elbows are lowered to the ground

Plank is great for your core...Dolphin pose is a similar pose where the elbows are lowered to the ground

1. Plank pose (click here)

2. Full Boat pose, Paripurna Navasana (click here)

Sirsasana on the back porch- great for core work and calming the mind before heading down to the water

Sirsasana on the back porch- great for core work and calming the mind before heading down to the water

3. Headstand pose, sirsasana…click here for my previous post on this

Eagle pose....a favorite of mine for shoulders, lower back, core, leg strength and balance (great before sailing too)

Eagle pose....a favorite of mine for shoulders, lower back, core, leg strength and balance (great before sailing too)

—> Eagle Pose, Garudasana,  is one of my favorite poses that addresses all three of these areas (the upper body, core and hips) plus increases concentration and balance, which is much needed when kayaking (especially in the ocean). (Stay tuned for a more thorough Yoga Pose of the Week feature on this pose!)

—->  Upward-facing Dog, Urdhva Mukha Svanasana, is fantastic for the lower back, core and hip flexors....click here for my previous post on this.

Cultivate mindfulness in a meditation practice before heading out to kayak, even if only for a few minutes, i promise you'll notice a difference!

Cultivate mindfulness in a meditation practice before heading out to kayak, even if only for a few minutes, i promise you'll notice a difference!

II. Meditation, breathing and kayaking:

“Give up your selfishness and you shall find peace, like water mingling with water, you shall merge in absorption…”– Sri Guru Granth Sahib

One of the wonderful things about Kayaking is that it allows you to escape from the noise of land for a little while to calm your mind. We can all find answers to our questions and concerns in nature, we just need to open our hearts and free our minds to find the answers.

Before, and even during a kayaking trip, I suggest trying a little meditation to calm the mind and open the heart to receive all the benefits of being alone, on the water, with just you and a small vessel.

A good meditation I like to try is as follows:

1. Take a comfortable seated position on a mat/pillow overlooking the natura destination you about to kayak across/down. Align your shoulders, neck, back and hips over one another, close your eyes, inhale and exhale deeply…

2. While breathing deeply, scan through the body, relaxing hips first, than consciously relaxing body part by body part up through the abdomen, spine, chest, shoulders, jaw, space between the eyebrows, top of the head, the head as a whole, the body as a whole…

3. Chant the mantra “Om” three times. The first “Om” will connect you and your physical body, the second, to connect you and the outside world, and the third will connect you and your inner spirit and mind. Notice and perceive the vibrations of mantra “Om” filling up our whole body, harmonizing it.

4. Focus on a light in your third eye, let this become a ball of light, becoming bigger and bigger in you sight until it encompasses you and you are a part of it. Let the light soak through your entire body, rinsing your body of negative thoughts, feelings and emotions.

5. Next, set an intention for your day, repeat a personal mantra (always a positive one) for your journey…such as “I will be aware of the natural world around me”, or something even more specific…repeat this as a command to yourself three times.

6. Take a few more deep breathes and let the mind settle. Thoughts will come and go, but do not judge yourself for having random thoughts because “you aren’t supposed to in meditation”. Let the thoughts come in and pas through as they came, not dwelling, just noticing them being there. Let them pass over like clouds in a windy sky.

7. Take a few more deep inhales and exhales, slowly open your eyes, and begin your yoga practice and/or kayak adventure!

–> It is also important, after Kayaking to do a few spinal twist poses, some stretches like the one’s above and then finish with a savasana pose and more meditation to fully receive the benefits of your adventure!

Meditative thinking before and during Kayaking can increase your ability to flow your paddle strokes more freely, consistently, and with more ease than normal. You become less focused on your destination, time limit, or external worries and focus simply at the task at hand and the vista surrounding you.

Becoming conscious of each stroke and the present moment… the feel pressure of the water against your paddle, the sound of the droplets of water falling of the paddle as you raise it out of the water, the smell of the ocean salt beginning to speckle your skin, and the panorama of the natural world around you…all of these sensory gifts can be utilized to enhance your mood and your kayaking flow.

“Kayoga” or “Yogak” has been catching on along with other yoga-sport cross-training methods because the benefits are undeniable.

If you simply google the terms “yoga” and “kayaking” together, a slew of programs will show up and one is bound to match your skill level, desired amount of either yoga or kayaking involved, and ideal location.

Even my dog loves to kayak!

Even my dog loves to kayak!

Kripalu does a “Yoga for Kayakers” workshop, as well as any other yoga retreats, while adventure and outdoors expeditions are now incorporating yoga into their kayaking trips. There is actually one coming up on July 17th at Kripalu I believe…and more are available through the summer and early fall led by Greg DiLisio and Johnny Snyder…click here for details.

You can also customize a ocean kayaking-yoga trip in Mexico with a company called “Sea to Sky Yoga” (based in Canada)…click here.

To go it alone, and locally…check out this Kayak Route website (here) which lists kayak routes in your area and beyond!

My kayak is also not the most innovative and fancy kayak in the world, but it does the job and was bought used from a friend…no need to buy new. So I feel satisfied that this big hunk of plastic at least wasn’t a brand new purchase. However, there are actually ways to “green” your kayaking trips…

The Walden Vista Expedition Kayak at earthfriendlykayaks.com is made with recycled plastic

The Walden Vista Expedition Kayak at earthfriendlykayaks.com is made with recycled plastic

Aside from buying used kayaks instead of new ones like I did, it is pretty difficult to find eco-friendly kayaks. However, I did find some and there are also eco-friendly kayaks for sale through companies like Walden Kayaks.

The Walden Kayaks are made from recycled HDPE (plasctic code no. 2) and sold via Earth Friendly Kayaks…click here

Now, go get your paddle on!

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When the weather is nice, classes move outoors...overlooking Stockbridge Bowl

Kriaplu center, Lenox MA....When the weather is nice, classes move outdoors...overlooking Stockbridge Bowl

Now that the weekend is approaching, I would like to offer a weekend activity for all you Bostonians out there. Take a drive out to Western Massachusetts, to Lenox, and spend a day…or two…or a week, at Kripalu Yoga center.

This place is a sustainable yogi’s utopia!

the gardens around Kripalu are little sanctuaries waiting to be discovered. There are multiple meditation gardens all of the property and in the woods...

the gardens around Kripalu are little sanctuaries waiting to be discovered. There are multiple meditation gardens all over the property and in the woods...

I have spent numerous days at Kripalu,  and a week out there for a workshop with Raphael Cushnir. Although the center is famous in yoga circles, especially for its phenomenal yoga teachers, Ayurveda, and massage practitioner, trainings, I had not heard much of it before a few years ago. I almost literally stumbled upon it while out visiting my grandmother in Pittsfield, MA. I had experienced dreams of going there, and finally, after she passed away, I decided it was time.

The KRiaplu center from the back, it used to be a church, so its architecture is a little odd on the outside...but it is stunning on the inside!

The Kriaplu center from the back, it used to be a church, so its architecture is a little odd on the outside...but it is stunning on the inside!

At first I spent only a day. You can get a guest pass which allows you into all the facilities, includes free general yoga classes and includes a meal. I was hooked! The center focuses mainly on “Kripalu” style yoga, started by Swami Kripalu, however, the best teachers from all types of yoga in the world come and teach workshops there, such as Shiva Rea.

Birds eye view of Kripalu yoga center

Birds eye view of Kripalu yoga center

I spent a week last year, kind of a birthday present to myself, doing a “Transformation” workshop for 5 days with Raphael Cushnir. He is an amazing resource on incorporating Buddhist philosophy and mindfulness in every day life.

The program was a bit pricey, but it was completely worth it. I lived in the “dorms” which are just big, pristine rooms for about 6 people. They have options for doubles and singles but it was cheaper to live in dorms and I am really glad I did. I met a wonderful friend there and numerous other women from all walks of life who I will continue to stay in touch with.

The atmosphere at Kripalu is light, mindful, gracious, calm, compassionate and yet everyone almost acts as if they are in summer camp, because that is what it feels like!

There are evening activities, like chanting, yogadance and book readings, while you can take kayaks out on Stockbridge Bowl (the lake it looks over), go hiking in the trails behind the center, or even take in a Boston Symphony Orchestra Concert right next door at Tanglewood.

Class at Kripalu

Class at Kripalu

My schedule, while there, basically consisted of waking up extremely early, going for a swim in the lake at dawn, heading to a 6:30 am yoga class, having an amazing organic microbiotic breakfast (one of the best parts of Kirpalu is the food) attending my workshop, lunch (amazing again), more workshop, maybe another yoga class or a hike, then relaxing in the sauna or giant whirlpool, having a wonderful dinner with new friends at the dining hall, writing for a bit, then attending an evening event, or just relaxing and reading.

If I had my way, I would go every weekend! Lenox, MA also has so many artisan shops, cafes and galleries to entertain you when you want to leave the space. Definitely a must try!

Workshops at Kripalu are usually themed and can be anything form “Kayaking and Yoga”, to “Yoga for Women”, to “Yoga for Relationships”, and even “Yoga and Horses”.

If you do not want to commit to a workshop, try a day pass for $50…you’ll be hooked!

Because the place also runs on volunteers, you can also arrange to do a volunteer stint at the center in exchange for room, board, and unlimited classes!

For more informaton on Kripalu Yoga Center click here.

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Chakrasana…wash away the weekend’s toxins in Wheel pose

An early Monday morning Chakrasana (or Urdhva Dhurasana) Wheel pose out in the backyard...mid-modification with the heels off of the ground

An early Monday morning Chakrasana (or Urdhva Dhanurasana) Wheel pose out in the backyard...mid-modification with the heels off of the ground

After a wonderfully sunny and eventful weekend filled with July fourth barbeques and fireworks, I am sure most of us are in the need of one word…DETOX.
Well, you are all in luck, because I have the perfect detox pose for you today…
 

Chakrasana

The name of this pose comes from the Sanskrit term chakra, meaning ‘wheel’, and asana, meaning ‘pose’.
An alternative name for this pose is Urdhva Dhanurasana, stemming from the words ‘elevated’ or ‘upward’, Urdhva’, and ‘Bow’, Dhanur.

The picture above is actually a deepened variation on the pose in which the heels lift off of the gound, while the tailbone presses towards the sky and the feet walk closer to the hands and then the heel release back to the ground after.

Wheel pose acts as a cleansing tonic for the body.
This exhilirating pose has actually become a part of my daily morning practice, after surya namaskar, because it increases confidence, clears my head and soothes my mind, leaving me filled with vitality for the rest of the day.
The pose is very popular in Kundalini and Hatha yoga, in which the pose may be held for upwards of 3 minutes. When held this long, the full respiratory and meditative benefits may be received.

When just starting out, I recommend practicing the pose about 3 times, consecutively, per practice. Push up into the pose and hold for a few breathes, increasing the time you stay up each time. Breathe deeply when up in the pose through the nose using ujjayi breathe, or “the ocean breathe”.

Use Ujjayi Breathe, the ocean breathe, in this pose to cleanse and revitalize....each new breathe is a new wave (photo taken by my dad while visiting me in Cape Town, South Africa last Spring...thanks dad!)

Use Ujjayi Breathe, the ocean breathe, in this pose to cleanse and revitalize....each new breathe is a new wave (photo taken by my dad while visiting me in Cape Town, South Africa last Spring...thanks dad!)

When coming down, release to the ground slowly, close your eyes, and lie down for a few breathes with knees remaining bent and hands on your stomach.

Notice and perceive the sensations through your body and if you see anything mentally. Sometimes, coming down from bow can be a clarifying experience for certain thoughts, visualizations and emotions.

Release the old toxins in your body and create something new and beautiful in wheel pose... (photo courtesy of worldofstock.com)

Release the old toxins in your body and create something new and beautiful in wheel pose... (photo courtesy of worldofstock.com)

The pose tones your digestive and respiratory systems, helping to release toxins out of your body. Doing chakrasana frequently can help your reproductive system and increases flexibility in your spine, hip flexors, wrists, elbows, biceps, triceps, legs, glutes, and shoulders. The pose improves physical and mental stamina, especially if you hold it for longer periods of time, and can help prevent osteoporosis.

The pose  is a mood enhancer and can help treat symptoms of depression, while it aides in the function of the thyroid and pituitary gland.

An advanced variation on this pose is Eka Pada Urdhva Dhanurasana from the Sanskrit words for ‘one’, Eka, and ‘foot’, Pada. It is performed by shifting the weight onto one foot and lifting one leg to a 45 degree angle, or higher, and holding for a few breathes.

For a visualization of how the more basic  pose should be done at abc-of-yoga.com… click here.

You can also find variations of this pose in B.K. Iyengar’s “Light on Yoga” in the section on the Viparita Dandasana Series. To order the book from Amazon, click here.

The philosophy behing Chakrasana:

The pose invokes the “Wheel of Life”  from Hindi and Buddhist culture. The Wheel of Life is present in everything from Hindi texts, to the theory of the energy chakras, to visual art in Tibetan mandalas. The Wheel of Life, or Devanagari, in Ayurveda represents the balance we must find within ourselves and all the elements in our external and internal world. 

The Devenagari  Wheel of Life

The Devenagari "Wheel of Life"

However, in Tibetan  Buddhism, the Wheel of Becoming, or  Bhavacakra, can be understood as the cycle of samsara that we repeatedly experience until enlightenment and nirvana is reached, and we can escape it.

The Tibetan Buddhist Wheel of Becoming or Cycle of Samsara

The Tibetan Buddhist "Wheel of Becoming" or "Cycle of Samsara"

In both interpretations, the visualization of the wheel is represented through spokes. In Ayurveda, the spokes are filled with different elements to be balanced, while in the Tibetan understanding, the spokes represent the six forms of unenlightened existence.

Former Tibetan Buddhist monk, Losang Samten, working on a sand mandala of the Wheel of Life

Former Tibetan Buddhist monk, Losang Samten, working on a sand mandala of the "Wheel of Life"

A practice some Tibetan Buddhist monks partake in is the creation of beautifully intricate mandalas of the “Wheel of Life” made with sand, and then the destruction of them. It is a practice of no-attachment to one’s achievements. I was fortunate enough to witness a creation and destruction of a “Wheel of Life” sand Mandala by former monk, Losang Samten.

Visit Losang Samten’s official site here.

A close up of Losangs work from www.tusconcitizen.com

A close up of Losang's work from http://www.tusconcitizen.com

The Self is the hub of the wheel of life,

And the sixteen forms are only the spokes.

The Self is the paramount goal of life.

Attain this goal and go beyond death!

Prashna Upanishad

Note: To [prepare for the pose, warm up with other spinal flexibility related poses (such as Bow and Bridge). You will not want to do this pose if you have had injuries to you back, shoulders, elbows, or wrists, or if you have carpel tunnel, a headache, high blood pressure or heart problems. Always attempt a new pose in the presence of a seasoned yoga instructor!

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philosophy in unexpected places....

philosophy in unexpected places....

So again, this weather is still getting me down, and I was reminded today on the Orange Line in Boston of how that posh voice on the London Tube politely requests that everyone “MIND THE GAP” before stepping off to their destination.

I love when Buddhist philosophy comes from unlikely sources, and this little reminder definitely qualifies.

Many of you out there, including myself, have found ourselves in a ‘Gap’ in our lives, whether it be because we are unemployed, have moved back home, recently graduated school and don’t have a trajectory, ended relationships, or simply had to give up a few activities or pleasures because of the economic crisis. Fact of the matter is, we live in a culture that demands we be ‘productive’ and working all the time.This pressure can leave us feeling overwhelmed and stressed.

this will not happen..do not worry

this will not happen..do not worry

But why does this “Gap” in time that we recently have found ourselves in, have to be completely filled with “productive work” leading in a direction towards the next 9-5 job we think we must attain.

Instead, take a day our two, maybe even just an hour, sit and meditate on the ways in which this time can be a blessing. Maybe your past 9-5 job really wasn’t your passion and this is an opportunity to head into an ‘alternative endeavor’ as I like to call it. Living back home with the parents/family or moving into a smaller apartment with more roommates can let you mend some previously strained relationships before you fully cut the umbilical cord.

take some time, breathe and appreciate the open spaces you have just received...photo courtesy of healthylivinglounge.com

take some time, breathe and appreciate the open spaces you have just received...photo courtesy of healthylivinglounge.com

For me, all these gaps are moments of opportunity that I’m attempting to appreciate.

In a monetary sense, I have decided not to invest in a gym membership for the summer after graduating from a  school where the membership was included in the tuition. I’ve allocated my allotted funds for yoga towards yoga class cards at my favorite yoga studio. From this, I have realized a few things…

a. I really don’t like gyms and don’t really have a desire to work out in one.

b. I found so many new and interesting exercise classes through “try a free first class” promotions including Krav Maga (my friend Ryan is an instructor at a local studio), Boxing, and numerous yoga classes. Krav Maga is a form of close combat fighting developed by the Israeli military and used all of the world and even as a workout for celebrities such as Hilary Swank! Its empowering and addicting and stands on the philosophy of using what you have and never giving up…never!

For more info on Krav Maga…or to find out about some local classes (in North and South Shore of Boston) contact Ryan Reilly at reilly44@gmail.com.

kick some butt and learn how to defend yourself! photo courtesy of socialmartialarts.com

kick some butt and learn how to defend yourself! photo courtesy of socialmartialarts.com

c. I have reignited my passion for trail running (which I lost over the winter months) and because I get bored and scared doing it alone, have rekindled friendships by running with friends. Running can be both physically healthy and therapeutic.

Russell Orchards, Ipswich MA...click for their website

Russell Orchards...click for their website...photo courtesy of bostonzest.com

Crane Beach, Ipswich MA

Crane Beach, Ipswich MA

d. While running with my friend, James, we try to find new, free, places to run and have made some great local discoveries and rediscoveries….Our favorite run is a run from Russell Orchards in Ipswich (parking free) then running up to Castle Hill or Crane’s Beach and back. It is a beautiful run and usually parking at Crane’s beach is $15 , but we just run in and out for free because we park at the Orchards.

Also, you can pay only $5 and walk/hike around the Crane Estate at Castle Hill, a beautiful Estate and picnic venue not to be missed. Support it and the local flora and fauna through the $5 donation by going there and treating yourself to some apple cider doughnuts or freshly picked strawberries at Russell Orchards afterward.

overview of the Crane Estate

overview of the Crane Estate reservation in Ipswich...great place to meditate...do yoga...(photo courtesy of thetrustees.org)

e. I also have enjoyed finding activities physically that help others. My mom recently participated in her first ever road race, with a friend, at the age of 59. We ran the Louis Rossetti race in Beverly last Wednesday and I was so proud of her. The proceeds went to support the Louis Rossetti foundation and it was a women-only race on a fabulous evening. I even won a trophy for coming in 4th in my age group- my first ever trophy for running! Check out your local 5k run/walks in your area…its a great way to bond with others in your community and donate to a good cause while getting some fresh air and physical exercise!

For more info on the Crane Estate and surrounding areas click here and for running routes in your area…just try googling!

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