Monday, May 16, 2016

Mother's Day

Mother’s day class on Sunday May 7th

My daughters Grace and Lauren used to hang out under Karin’s grand piano while I taught or took class.  They would make nests using yoga blankets, bolsters and blocks.  Karin often brought them pillows from her own bedroom. On Mother’s Day the girls and Dan have brought me trays with brown rice and Kukicha tea, almond butter on rice cakes, black tea with 5 drops of stevia, brown rice with ghee and roasted nuts, flowers, toast...., whatever fit with my current dietary fetish. 

One year for Mother's Day I asked if we could all ride our bikes to Karin’s 9 am class and then ride to the High Rise Bakery for breakfast/lunch/brunch.  The girls were so sweet about it. They hung in there even though the ride was a bit harrowing and the class was full of grown-ups.  This year the girls, now teenagers, both had a zillion things planned for Friday evening, all day Saturday and Saturday night late, so what I really wanted was for them to sleep in, really sleep in. That that would be a real present for me, to know that they were getting the sleep they so needed rather than dragging themselves exhausted from bed to take a yoga class full of old people (their parents) and then to High Rise to OD on some sinfully sugary thing(s) and feel terrible the rest of the day.   

Instead, Dan and I got up in a peaceful house, had some tea and went to class (by car). When we pulled up there was a “Suburbunny” munching on grass, utterly unperturbed by our arrival two feet away.  The flowers were glowing with sunlight we’d been pining for for weeks and the walkway to the Loft was lush with new green shoots and dense with Dogwood and other unidentified pink trees. 

Dan and I chose our spot by the back wall and spread out our matching green mats.  The class was so peaceful.  I closed my eyes a lot, in fact, I tend to practice with my eyes closed as much as I possibly can, when I have the luxury of being a student in a class as well as in my home practice.  I loved being tucked away in the back corner with Dan beside me.  Karin was focused and funny and elegant.  Her sequence led you along in a “Oh, of course we’re doing this pose now, perfect!” way. By the end of class I felt as if my limbs had been ironed into silky strands and my nervous system was humming and warm like the fridge.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Audio Yoga Sequences

I once had a dearly beloved student who asked me to record a yoga practice for her.  She had tried to practice from books, from Yoga Journal, the magazine on the mat.... She tried having her husband read the instructions to her, but then she'd get mad at him and that wasn't conducive.... So, I got a computer, a microphone, even a stand for the microphone,... I tried a few times to record podcasts, but got bogged down at the step where I was supposed to figure out a way to make the recordings readily available...and I put the microphone away neatly in the closet.  She and I worked together in person twice a week in her home for years and somehow I never got to making the audio version for her.  She passed away three years ago and I miss her every single day.

So it is in honor of Joan Parker that I inaugurate the first of an ongoing series of downloadable recorded yoga practices. Joan I wish you were still here with us.

The following short yoga sequence is meant to be doable in 15-25 minutes or so.  You can pause the recording to slow it down and hold a pose or stretch longer, or keep it going and get through it faster.  If there are any poses or stretches that cause joint pain, sharp pain or otherwise NOT GOOD pain, leave them out!  If you are inspired to add a few poses, go for it!  My hope is that you can use these audio sequences to enhance/jump start your home practice. So start by "Throwing your mat on the floor," as Karin Stephan suggests for Step One to a home practice.  Then turn on your recording.... et Voilà!

Visit my website to listen; where a link will take you to Soundcloud. For now, until we redesign the website, the only way to access my podcasts is via this link. Once you've visited, you can bookmark my podcast or the Soundcloud page for repeat listening.

Warmest Wishes,

Monday, March 7, 2016

This being human is a guest house...

The Guest House
This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice.
meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.

Be grateful for whatever comes.
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

   Jellaludin Rumi,
translation by Coleman Barks

I often wish that the (very) short meditation at the close of class could go on and on, or at least for about 20 minutes!  I relish so much that short pause when the class is done but we haven’t yet begun what’s next. After we have worked the body, maybe rebalanced, enervated, stretched and otherwise gotten the bodily fluids moving as well as the breath.  Sitting in meditation in this state is such a completely different experience to sitting down “Cold.” I find that I am able to observe what ever is happening with a quieter detachment. This poem popped into my mind during this pause at the end of class this morning and if I could recite it from memory I would have.  Barring that, here it is!  Enjoy!

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Looking for a simple, short Iyengar practice with video instructions?  I just did the practice demonstrated by David McLaughlin on YouTube and found it to be short (but you can hold the poses a lot longer to extend the practice) but well-demonstrated and with instructions that are super-clear and pertinent.  You may need to take further precautions than what David suggests (e.g. if you have tender knees, you might use a strap behind the knee in Triryang Mukha Eka Pada Paschimottanasana in addition to sitting up on sufficient height), but he gives excellent cues!
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Friday, October 4, 2013

Learning to use Blogger at Bourbon Cafe...

If you have ideas for things you'd like to see me post, please get in touch!
We were considering adding a Gadget to the blog and one that looked appealing was the "Cute Puppy of The Day" picture...but we decided against it.... But if you have to get your Cute Puppy fix, go to:

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Workshop Has a Sweet Ending -- Cookie Recipe!

Years ago I remember taking a class with my beloved teacher Larry Hatlett in Palo Alto, California and thinking during a standing pose (perhaps trikonasana?): "What about my feet? Where should the weight be, how can I use them most effectively?"  

Fast-forward to Sunday April 7th, 2013: Karin Stephan and I taught a workshop entitled "All About The Feet."  This was a concentrated, thoughtful and intense exploration of some of the ways we can and should work with the feet during the yoga practice.  It was a delightful group and for many of the participants an entree into a completely new way of working their feet!  Thanks to Karin there are hundreds of us now walking around in the greater Boston Area with a profoundly different sensibility with regard to our feet!  

Our tradition in The Art of Teaching is to end each workshop with tea and snacks and have time for Q&A and comments on the workshop.  One of the special snacks we like to serve is homemade vegan peanut butter chocolate chip cookies.  If you'd like to tray making them yourself the recipe is below:

Michael's Peanut Butter Gems
Makes 40 2-inch cookies
Discovered in a great resource for healthy treats: Sweet and Natural Desserts – East West's Best and Most Wholesome, Sugar- and Dairy-Free Treats, from the Editors of East West Journal

1 lb.           (454 grams)     peanut butter
2/3 cup (158 ml)               corn or vegetable oil
1 cup         (237 ml)          maple syrup or brown rice syrup (or a combination of the two)
1 tsp          (5 ml)              vanilla extract
3 cups       (450 grams)     sifted whole wheat pastry flour
                  for gluten-free use brown rice flour or almond flour
                  or a combination of the two)
1/2 tsp       (2.5 ml)           sea salt
6 oz.                                  vegan mini chocolate chips (or grain sweetened chips)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Cream the first four ingredients together until smooth.  Sift together flour and salt.  Gradually add the sifted flour, mixing well.  Form 2-inch balls.  Place them on a lightly oiled cookie sheet and flatten them slightly with a fork.  Bake the cookies for 10 minutes, turn the pan around 180 degrees to allow for even baking.  Bake for ~5 more minutes or just until golden.  Allow the cookies to cool for 5 minutes before removing to a rack to cool thoroughly. If using brown rice and/or almond flour only the cookies will be a little like shortbread and will need to cool on the pan a bit longer before being moved, otherwise they may crumble!

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

The hip flexors: who knew?

In my effort to balance my hips and figure out how to re-balance my pelvis I did not start out with any particular muscle groups in mind, but every time Elaine (Elaine Coolbrith, my body worker at Balanced Wellness in Watertown) began to work on my me, among the tightest muscle groups by far were the hip flexors: the iliopsoas, the tensor fascia lata, Sartorius (as well as the adductors, but that is another story!).  

Finally, after about three or four sessions I began to see and understand the pattern staring me in the face: I needed to do much more regular, focused work on my hip flexors if I wanted to re-balance my pelvis and improve my alignment.

With this in mind I have begun a daily practice of hip opening, focusing in particular on the iliopsoas and quadriceps (which, when tight, can strongly counteract any lengthening of the hip flexors!). I've developed a sequence which includes stretches for hamstrings and quadriceps, lunges, and, of course, downward facing dog.  It all culminates in pigeon pose, one of the best ways to stretch all those hip flexors!

Download a pdf of the sequence to use in your own home practice.