Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Handstand Heaven

I love handstands. In fact, these days, I can't stop doing them.

I kick up whenever I get the chance - against walls, trees, fences, cars, posts, jungle gyms - wherever I happen to spot a sweet space that looks like it needs a little upside-down action.

My new favourite is using a sturdy tree branch or the kiddy goalpost in my neighbourhood, which is low enough to catch my heels and provide a guiding support as I practice rooting through my hands, drawing up and out of my wrists and elbows, and then harnessing what arm power I've got by getting really super-connected: 

I plug my shoulders into their sockets and hug my ribcage girdle into my torso; from there, I draw up through my spine, sweetly curl my tailbone under, and engage my pelvic floor muscles like I've reeeally gotta go, and that's when things start to get interesting!

Adho Mukha Vrksasana or Downward-facing Tree Pose

Engaging Mulha Bandha, a.k.a. the root lock, is like flicking on a switch that sends out two opposite but compatible waves of energy along two divergent lines in the body: 1) pubic bone-naval-sternum-throat-Third Eye; and 2) pelvic floor-inner thigh-to-bottom-of-foot.

Thus begins a spirited and often tenuous dance of equal opposites: effort/ease; work/play; earth/ether; tenacity/discernment; heart/head.

Here, upside-down ... which kinda starts to feel like right-side-up ... I can play with pulling my feet away and balancing without training wheels!

When I come back down, I often feel a rush of energy and alertness, and stronger, more powerful; but also an increased lightness of being, and joy has been shaken from my belly - like the last cookie in the cookie jar - and made its way into my throat.

Even a split second upside down, can do wonders for building confidence, improving your mood, shifting your perspective (literally!) and reminding you that anything's possible when you can stand on your hands, reach for the sun with your tootsies and make the sky your regular stomping ground.

Plus, nothing beats feeling like a kid again - and proving to yourself that 20 or 30 years ain't nothing but a thing, Chicken Wing!

Here's a great Yoga Journal link for a step-by-step to doing handstands.

Monday, 18 June 2012

Tonight's Playlist

Many of you ask about songs in my playlists and so I've decided to start posting them in my blog. 

So here's tonight's playlist for Fun Flow to Music, 7:15 p.m.- 8:30 p.m. at Yoga Within. Some of these songs will be played in my earlier Hatha class, 5:45 p.m. - 7 p.m. at Yoga Within. 

Hope to see you! Jenn ॐ

Yellow ~ Vitamin String Quartet
Calling Ganesha (Invocation) ~ Sean Johnson & The Wild Lotus Band
Take Me Higher  ~ Fertile Ground
Sober ~ Vitamin String Quartet
Hyperballad ~ Bjork
Om Shakti ~ Sean Johnson & The Wild Lotus Band
One Day ~ Matisyahu
Chakra Beatbox ~ MC Yogi
Love Is My Religion ~ Ziggy Marley
Ram Sita Ram (Union) ~ Sean Johnson & The Wild Lotus Band
Disposition ~ Tool
Can't Keep It In ~ Cat Stevens
El Camino ~ Amos Lee
Summertime ~ David Ralicke
Nirvana ~ Soul Food
Om ~ Soul Food

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Breath Music

During a workshop with Yogi Vishvketu this weekend at Prana, a student asked about whether teachers should play music during yoga class. He laughed, and said, "I think, it is a western thing. The breath is your music."

I love that. We all have a built-in soundtrack. And when we "tune in" and listen, or crank up the volume and vibrations, you can bet your internal composer's mixing timeless classic beats!

Without the breath we die and decompose and turn back into our elemental parts. So I'd say, wherever the breath comes from, and wherever it goes, it's a gift of the present that we're pretty blessed to receive. 

So this week's theme in my classes will be Making Music with Mindful Breathing. During my hatha class at Yoga Within Monday night the studio space was a veritable soundscape of symphonic beauty. Who knew a simple breath had the power to serenade your soul?

Without the breath, it's not yoga, we say. That said, I still love getting down dog to my latest playlist of sweet vibes and groovy soul beats.

Here are a few songs that I'm loving right now, that you're sure to hear in my classes these days:

Better People ~ Xavier Rudd
Blessed to be a Witness ~ Ben Harper 
Yellow ~ Vitamin String Quartet. Album: Strung out (Coldplay)
Disposition ~ Tool
Love is My Religion ~ Ziggy Marley

Come join me Wednesday afternoon (4:30-5:30 p.m) for Hatha at Salus Center, 10118 79 St, Friday morning (9-10:30 a.m) at Holy Trinity, 10037 84 Ave. - or next Monday for Hatha (5:45-7) or Fun Flow to Music (7:15-8:30 p.m.) at Yoga Within, 9014 75 St.


Sunday, 10 June 2012

Om for the Weekend

What a wonderful weekend of yoga, R&R, catch-up and solitude! Some times we just need it, and the best thing to do is turn off the phone, log out of Facebook, get freakily quiet and go forth, where no one else can go with you - inward. 

It's so important to carve out a space in your life for whatever it is that helps bring you joy and sanity - whether it's digging up dandelions, working out, learning French, hosting a four-day LAN party (Geeky computer nerd sleepover) or walking, talking and breathing everything yoga!  

I, for one, need my mat time, a book on the go, and new, juicy ideas and points-of-view to feed my mind and nourish my soul - otherwise I get bored and blind in my Third Eye; sometimes though, I simply need a reminder of what's already working in my life, if only I'd practice, practice, practice!

This weekend I took yoga workshops with the gentle, joyful lion Ryan Leier of One Yoga in Saskatoon at Noorish, and Yogi Vishvketu from Toronto and Rishikesh, India at Prana Yoga Studio. 

There was lots of sweat, laughter, Sanskrit and tapas - not the light snacks or appetizers typically eaten with drinks before dinner-hour in Spain (although we definitely built up an appetite!) but the burning zeal, devotion, and free and joyful undertaking of work in order to strengthen, soften, clear, purify and focus mind, body and heart.

Quite surreptitiously, both workshops highlighted the Five Elements: Fire, Water, Earth, Air and Ether. Once again, I was in awe of the power of breath to transform asana practice from a dance of Earthly desire and determination into an all-enveloping serenade to life, itself - divine mystery, wholeness, intuitive process, inner light and broken-open connection.

This weekend's mat work reinforced my understanding that solid, safe alignment is vital, but feeling and being and breathing are just as important as doing; all together they launch you into a space of deeper and deeper dimensions; and that's where the real yoga happens.

I wrote a poem while on break this afternoon. Here it is:

Rain streams steadily down window panes.
Apply effort without strain, 

For the work is never-ending.

Drink as if your life depended on it. It does.

Drink, like a thirty desert seeker arriving, at last, by forest's edge, where a bursting river runs and sings.

Drink to your heart's content, but not so greedily, needily, as to drowned the very song that moves you.

Stand. Soften the Earth-bound assertion (and exertion) of muscles that persists, in earnest, that "I exist."

Surrender the ego, let go, open to sweet ether - space - "the breath inside the breath," where the existential void implodes, communes with its' shadow of a self, then breaks through the walls of its own deluded imaginings, to rejoin with formless flow. 
Let go. 

Inhale light, burn bright, exhale the debris of days and diets, fears and floundering. Feel into a new place. Connect and clarify. Close your two eyes to see with a third. 

Look into your heart and listen to the landscape; the echoes and rumblings, whispers, slumbering unspokens and sweet silences. Pause, ready yourself, wait for the doors to open. You have arrived at Central Park for the seeker's soul. Now.

Awaken to the single staccato drop of water, falling from window's ledge, from amid the flow, where One becomes All. That drop is everything.

An idea becomes creation itself. A tear turns to a river that flows back into the ocean of always-has-been and forevermore. A web of wrinkles around laughing eyes on a time-worn face, merges into the great beyond of an ear-to-ear toothless smile.

Here, you forget the fight. Here, you look out beyond the fields of your brave warrior heart, and suddenly remember. Here, you were, always, Peace.

Shanti. Shanti. Shanti.

Oh, and this is a total side-note, but if you're looking for a great summer read, I just dug into the biography of Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson and I can't put it down! 

Who knew the man behind the personal computer was a barefoot hippie fruitarian, who was as fervent in his spiritual seeking as in his technological feats of genius?! Must read - for computer nerds and Normals alike:)