My dear blog friends and connoisseurs, the blog portion of this website is enjoying a little siesta while I focus my energy on owning & operating Smiling Dog Yoga, consulting and helping wellness businesses grow, and well, trying to keep it all together while I work my ass off doing what I love. I do hope to continue my ramblings one day – on all things yoga, business, and life but for now, I will see you along the yogi trails…and thank you for visiting!
“For a really effective Yoga practice, it is not enough to mechanically follow a series of set prescriptions” says David Frawley in my favorite section from his book, Yoga for Your Type. This is a useful guide for helping your yoga practice be balanced to your ayurvedic dosha (type), current imbalances, seasons and also to your life stage, sex, cycle, pregnancy, and weather. A great yoga resource for anyone interested in yoga and Ayurveda.
Ayurveda is one of the few diet and health systems that I have found to be beneficial in a deep way. I weigh less, have less anger, better manage stress, and have found a way to eat closer to the earth. To find out your dosha, use this quiz from Banyan Botanicals. Some of my favorite books on Ayurveda are by John Douillard and Vasant Lad.
Excess Vata is common right now in fall with drier, cooler weather, and shorter days. To reduce it practice in a quiet, grounded, and systematic way. Think of building core strength in the body while maintaining flexibility. These qualities are found in standing poses, especially hip closed poses like Warrior I and III, and standing forward bends like Padangustasana. Also floor poses and all sitting forward bends are Vata pacifying. On the other hand backbends increase Vata if done excessively or unconsciously. The balance between strength and flexibility is critical for a positive experience of the Vata dosha. Remember that it is best to work the poses with the breath and hold the standing, sitting, all forward bends, and twists longer than you are inclined to do. Remaining still will be the Vata challenge as well as the reward. Vata types also want to flex to their maximum and flex often. In time, this can create too much flexibility.
Excess Pitta is often found in the summer months when it’s warm and we keep ourselves too busy with the long days. Remember the Pitta energy presses forward in an impulsive manner. Excess Pitta is reduced by practicing in an effortless, non-goal oriented way, working at about 75% of our capacity. Rest assured that when a Pitta person practiced effortlessly they will still be working harder than everyone else. Use the breath to monitor the level of work intensity. Forward bends and twists are very effective in both reducing excess Pitta and in bringing up low Pitta. Hold postures for longer periods. Pitta types need to remain flexible and soft throughout their lives because if excess Pitta is not softened, it can become stiff, hot, and too tight. It may help Pittas to realize that they can use their powerful will to maintain a soft and gentle approach. This will be their greatest challenge and also yield their greatest reward. Easy closing postures, gentle backbends with breath awareness, and all forward bends and twists are most effective for reducing excess Pitta. Hip opening (Warrior II) are less pitta provoking than hip closed (Warrior I). Standing forward folds are good but sitting are even better. Pitta types should limit the time in headstand and armstand positions. Shoulderstands are good especially with support. Calming, centering, relaxing, sitting floor poses stimulate a parasympathetic response in the body and mind. Practicing Savasana for 20-30 minutes can help pacify Pitta if practiced in a relaxed way.
The Kapha time of year is winter and is marked by cold, wet, slow qualities. Kapha type individuals are most challenged by getting started, but with perseverance they can establish a disciplined practice that will transform their life experience. During this time of year we should practice in an energetic way. Start small and stay committed. When a Kapha practices energetically they are usually not exceeding their capacity. This is the time of year to benefit from building strength slowly but steadily with standing poses, headstands, all inverted poses, and backbends. Vigorous activity reduces excess Kapha or lethargy. Headstands and handstands are especially good for reducing Kapha and should be practiced carefully when excess weight is involved. When there is excess body weight, first strengthen the shoulders, arms and legs, then master the armstands and shoulderstands. Avoid putting excess weight on the head in the headstands until the upper body has been strengthened. Since forward bends increase Kapha, hold these postures for a shorter time.
I find it useful to think about what practices and poses are most beneficial during a particular season or energetic effect that is happening in the body. Each dosha tends to seek its own energy rather than moving toward balance. So if you’re Kapha by nature, you don’t like to exercise. If your Pitta, you are likely addicted to the ass-kicking workout. If you’re vata, you can’t hold still, in your practice or life.
I didn’t it know when I began, but it turns out that being on a clean diet while you work on your budget and business plan can be very therapeutic. Even if sometimes the numbers are swimming around in my head. I am spending this week hunkered down at my desk making a plan for 2013 and beyond while on a dietary and mental cleanse. It’s a necessary evil and one I haven’t really spent enough time on to date. I have found owning a business to be like being on a roller coaster in winter-time. Sometimes it’s exhilarating like going over that first big hill. Sometimes you get hit in the face with sleet and are freezing your ass off wondering when the ride will end or just slow down at least.
I’m sure that the things I’m learning all business owners before me have learned. I have even learned some of these lessons on a much smaller scale as a manager of my own life. Yet, these lessons are an all consuming part of my life right now. I must share them.
I have probably spent 20 hours working on my business plan so far. When I got approved for my small business loan my loan officer said it was one of the biggest reasons for my approval.
It’s over 40 pages long and it’s such a therapeutic and necessary process. I’m grateful that I’ve been able to find the space for this project. I’ve found ideas popping into my head all over the place. Sure, part of me might prefer to do and teach yoga all day and not worry about the big picture. But that is a small part of me. Everyone wants that. Running a business well and making it successful has become the ultimate problem to solve in my life. I guess I enjoy a challenge.
My budget has been a big part of this and I honestly hadn’t found the time to improve it since it’s original creation. I’ve updated month to month with what’s happened, I just didn’t have very good projections moving forward and it was hard to have them. How could I really know? My projections were based on “I’ve got to get a loan and make this look good” mind not “holy crap this is reality” mind. I’ve been hit over and over again by expenses that I thought I’d budgeted for but hadn’t. I had to learn how to budget for large recurring expenses on a monthly, quarterly, yearly basis like rent, insurance, and taxes and for non-recurring expenses like getting a locksmith and equipment costs.
Anyhow. It’s inspired me to start looking at my life 3-5 years out. And to write down some goals somewhere. And I’ve already learned how easy it is to bury your head in the sand. We do it with our businesses, personal finances, and personal lives. Don’t do it! Have you done your planning for 2013? If not now, when? Learn anything? Not a goal setter?
PS. As you can see, my blog is evolving to be more aligned with my current passions and reality of yoga, health, running a business, inspiration and fun. Stay tuned for the changes and evolution if so inclined -Rox
More like, the last two months in yoga land have been busy, exhausting, and growth inducing, per usual. Anyone else feel ready for some down time? I’m preparing for my semi-annual cleansing phase where I reset, eat well, give up beer and cheese, and get lots of rest. One of my favorite green things to do is shop at the SLO Co-op and bring my own containers to fill with dried goods. Did someone say zero waste? That’s right, you’re welcome mother earth.
I’ve been on the road more than home lately.
I took a trip to Detroit where I practiced Bikram inspired yoga and was grateful that someone is bringing the yoga to Downriver, Detroit! Yoga for Peace was a sweet space with great ladies running the show.
I attended Yoga Journal Estes Park and got to be inspired by the Rockies, Elk, Shiva Rea, Rod Stryker, David Swenson, and Sarah Powers in my little 2 x 6 space. Ah, aren’t we lucky to practice in so much space in SLO?
I visited Yosemite for the first time and fell in love with some trees and fresh air. It changed my life. I can’t believe it took me 8 years to go there and I can’t believe people who live in California aren’t there every weekend.
And lastly, not to fret, my home practice and teaching have been feeling great. Even my cat soda has taken up the yin yoga practice. I hope you find some time to practice laying like soda cat as we transition to fall.
Are you a carnivore, herbivore, or something in between? What do you take into consideration when deciding how to fuel your body? I have been reading nutrition and health books since I was old enough to do the grapevine in the Michigan State Rec Center step aerobics classes. If only I were cool enough back then to wear leg warmers. After reading every popular book under the sun, and even going so far as reading enormous nutrition text books, I thought I’d share my top 5 diet and nutrition books to date. I don’t exactly follow any books to a T, but I do think they have something useful to share. If you have some faves I’d love to hear them too.
The China Study by T Colin Campbell. I doubt the science behind it is bulletproof, but I like that it’s based on a large scale, actual study, of real people. It is labeled “The Most Comprehensive Study of Nutrition Ever Conducted”. It is an interesting, albeit thick read, and has over 1200 positive reviews on Amazon.com.
Healthy to 100 by John Robbins. This book studies four very different cultures that have the distinction of producing some of the world’s healthiest and oldest people. He asks the question, “What are they doing right?”. He references the China Study and summarizes it well. A good read with practical tips everyone can use. My man friends favorite assertion from the book is that you’re better off being loved, eating a crappy diet, not being active, and smoking than you are being unloved, eating well, exercising, and not smoking! Intriguing, I know.
An Ayurveda Book. Ayurveda is yoga’s sister science and it’s mostly focused on healing the body with nutrition and simple personal care practices. Although some of the teachings seem old, out of date, strange or difficult to follow, I like that it’s based on my personal type, it feels easy to follow once you give it a go, and it’s based on whole, simple foods. My top 3 in this category: The Yoga Body Diet by John Doulliard is an easy, simplified version of Ayurveda. I like his other book the 3 Season Diet because eating seasonally just makes sense. I also like Ayurveda: The Science of Self Healing by Vasant Lad.
The Veganomicon. Ok. It’s not a diet book but it’s a damn fine cookbook dedicated to all things veggie. I don’t think veganism is for many people, but we could all benefit from having more veggies in our life. Yes, I mean you. How close are you to 5-10 services a day?
Other interesting reads that I’ve enjoyed and haven’t thrown away, although they aren’t my main squeezes: Food Rules by Michael Pollan for some common sense inspiration; The Paleo Solution & The 4 Hour Body for those who enjoy focusing on performance and aren’t partial to whole grains; The Engine 2 Diet is a simple instructional manual created by a Texan triathlete firefighter; Staying Healthy with the Seasons, Staying Healthy With Nutrition, and The Detox Diet by Elson Haas are all good basic nutrition books.
I’m a junkie. A Prana Flow Vinyasa Yoga Junkie. This article from Rod Stryker proposes that other styles of yoga bring different, deeper benefits. Will I be able to slow it down enough to feel those benefits? Hmmmm….Will you?
There are a dizzying number of styles and approaches to yoga these days. Some involve resting in simple supported postures in quiet, candlelit rooms. Others push students to the edge of their physical capacity or are done to the beat of loud, rhythmic music. Some focus on physical alignment, while others offer a heart-centered approach. There is so much variety that describing them all is impossible.
Different in tone and substance as the various yoga styles might be, they share one quality that inspires people to practice them: They work. Put simply, you feel better when you walk out of class than when you walked in. The question is, why? Better yet, how does yoga work? As you’ve probably heard, one reason asana leaves you feeling so good is that it activates your parasympathetic nervous system, thanks to two elements that almost all asana practices have in common—the lengthening and strengthening of musculature and calm, even breathing. The parasympathetic is the part of your nervous system that slows you down—it’s responsible for telling your muscles to relax, improving your digestion and assimilation, boosting immunity, and helping you sleep better. It also normalizes your blood pressure and lowers your heart rate. The parasympathetic nervous system counteracts many stress-related symptoms and the negative by-products of our modern, fast-paced, high-output lives.
But the truth is that much of the yoga being practiced these days doesn’t do as much for the parasympathetic nervous system as you might think. To build your parasympathetic nervous system, you need to do poses that encourage deep relaxation, such as forward bends and hip openers; do fewer standing poses; and do more sitting, supine, and prone postures as well as inversions. You also need to hold poses longer, as you would in restorative yoga, and dedicate longer periods of time to developing slow and complete breathing. Vigorous vinyasa, backbends, handstands, and arm balances are powerful and beneficial, but they don’t stimulate your parasympathetic nervous system as much as the practices listed previously. So if the positive changes you gain from yoga can’t be entirely credited to its impact on your nervous system, what is helping you feel and live better? The answer is life force. Almost all styles of hatha yoga increase the flow of prana, or life force, in your body.
Yoga, like the science of acupuncture, or tai chi and qi gong, is based on prana (referred to as chi in the Chinese arts and sciences). These disciplines see prana as the essential force that sustains everything. Yogis went a step further, prescribing the intelligent use of prana as the key to facilitating spiritual awakening. “Having known the origin…and the physical existence of prana, one achieves immortality,” says the Prasna Upanishad. In other words, the aim of life (and practice) is realized through the skillful use of prana.
What the heck is that word, bhujapidasana, you might be wondering? It means “shoulder pressing pose”. I taught a class focused on it this week from a sequence I got from Shiva Rea (surprise, surprise) back in 2009. I was taught the sequence back then, ignored it because it scared me, and have recently re-discovered it. Like shopping in your own closet, shopping in your own yoga library can be quite fruitful. I’ve been so inspired by my students willingness to play with it this week. While teaching it I realized just how much I was letting my own perceived limitations of my abilities get in my way of sharing really fun, inspiring, albeit challenging yoga. I must admit too that part of my resistance to teaching this was that it’s just plain HARD to practice on a regular basis when you have a demanding full-time job. I’m the first to recognize that! I’m thankful I have the space to dedicate more time to my practice now and may we all be appreciative for the moments we get to spend on the mat.
So, here is the class sequence. I share it in hopes that my students who’ve practiced it with me might try to play on their own. I would not recommend teaching it without having practiced it quite a bit to get the flow and transitions. As with all yoga practices, omit what doesn’t work for you, or make modifications, be smart, be nice to yourself, listen to your body. I tried to be clear about my modifications. I tried to include English translations of poses but if you don’t know the poses by name, you can look them up at Yoga Journal’s Pose Finder. It’s a great little resource. I found a great article from Shiva on one of the peak poses in this practice, Visvamitrasana and she talks about how it has related to her surfing. There is also a video from Jason Crandell teaching the pose with progressions. Thanks for keeping me inspired my student friends & Shiva!
Surya Namaskar A 3-5x
Surya Namaskar B 3-5x
Ardho Mukha Svanasana (Down Dog) to
Virabhadrasana I (Warrior I) to
Vira II (Warrior II w/shoulder opening) to
Parsva Vira II (reverse warrior)
Utthita Parsvokonasana (extended side angle w/optional bind)
Connecting Vinyasa w/Cobra pulsations as backbend
Repeat other leg w/connecting vinyasa, end at top of mat
Standing Anahatasana (standing backbend)
Forward fold / yogic squat
Bhujapidasana Prep to Bhujapidasana
(first in forward fold with shoulders squeezed by knees, web of hands holding back of heels, to optional twisting with shoulder opening, to optional bird of paradise to full shoulder pressing pose w/both arms bound)
Padahastasana (gorilla pose, forward fold with hands under feet, palms face up)
Prasarita Padottanasana A (wide forward fold with arms at right angles) to
Malasana (yogic squat, standing with side opening) to
Prasarita Padottanasana C (wide forward fold with shoulder opening)
Connecting Vinyasa w/ Dhanurasana as backbend (bow pose)
Parighasana (gate or side opening pose w/arm pulsations) to
Ardha Ustrasana (half camel) to
Visvamitrasana Prep to (low lunge, hands inside foot, shoulder under front leg, to turn back foot in take outer edge of foot with hand, extend half or full visvamitrasana or visvamitra’s pose) to
Eka Pada Koundinyasana
Connecting Vinyasa to other side to
It’s been 9 full months since I took over as owner of Smiling Dog Yoga, the sweetest little yoga space in SLO town. I don’t write much about what it’s really like to run the studio from my perspective of straight-laced cubicle dweller gone yogi-entrepreneur renegade. Today I’m in a squirrel-y mood.
Last week I let the stress get to me. And that’s what it really is isn’t it? It’s a choice that we often forget we have. As I was crumbling under it, losing sleep, unable to relax, I thought about all of my adult jobs and how they all came with their own version of debilitating, relentless stress. In my version of the corporate-america I was stressed because I was bored and didn’t respect anyone around me or what the business was doing. During my waitress stint I was stressed because of my social life and relationships. In grad school I was stressed because I didn’t love what I was studying and I was teaching apathetic kids. I could go on.
It made me think about the other a-ha life lessons owning my own business has taught me. An opportunity for a top 5 list perhaps? I cannot resist. I love John Cusak and High Fidelity! These aren’t in specific order but these are some of my major lessons so far in owning my own business. Something I’m so excited to have the opportunity to do, but I REALLY didn’t see this in my future when I was a 22 year old telling my first job interviewer, “I just want a job that will pay me, that I can work for 40 years, get a pension, and spend my spare time on yoga.” Aw, I was cute back then wasn’t I?
Be ready to face your biggest, darkest fears. The fears surrounding money and rejection can be fierce. Money is supposed to be a tool to help with the exchange of goods, time, services. I’ve noticed in myself and others around me how subtle and powerful fears surrounding money and rejection are. Anything that comes from fear isn’t going to work, right?
Step away from the line of fire. I think it’s super important to step away from our main role in life and just decompress without expectation or being productive. Western culture teaches us how productive we need to be, but what do we really need to put out there to be productive, functioning adults? We need rest as much as we need productivity.
Stop resisting what is. Focus on what you CAN do and what your ultimate mission is. Instead of focusing on what you don’t like, or what’s not happening. So what if your business/project/relationship fails? That just means that it’s had it’s time and what else can you do or offer the world that will serve people that you can enjoy and feel good about?
Your career or business doesn’t define who you are. I know I’ve thought this before but I have to remind myself time and time again. I take a lot of pride in my work and always have. When it doesn’t go how I expect it should, I get negative. Why? I am more than this one job, this one role. Yes, it often feels heavy and important and I care a lot, but the good stuff does!
Find ways to deal with stress. Or it will haunt you. It’ll sneak out in little ways in which you’ll snap at your loved ones, won’t sleep, dream about it, eat poorly, overall you’ll just be “bajigity”.
Owning my own business has been a wild roller coaster so far. It constantly challenges me and helps me face my biggest fears and grow and learn. For that, I’m so grateful. Hopefully the next time I have a mini breakdown I’ll remember this list.
Tomorrow is the summer solstice. When I worked as an office dweller I often let these days drift on by and I noticed how seasons would come and go without much ado. Now that it’s my job to share yoga, I enjoy taking a moment to recognize the transitions of our earth, and connecting my yoga practice with the reality of what’s going on outside my window. Worldwide, interpretation of the summer solstice has varied among cultures, but most have recognized it as a sign of fertility, a time to celebrate the bounty we have sown through spring, typically involving holidays, festivals, gatherings, rituals or other celebrations around that time.
A common more ritualistic, meditative yoga practice for the solstice is to do Surya Namaskar A 108 times. I’ll be doing smaller divisions with my classes this week: 54, 36, 27, 9, or 3 depending on our energy levels. I’ve discussed the significance of the number 108 on this blog before, but I also found an epic article on Elephant Journal on the subject. Below are some of my favorite tidbits on the significance of 108 and a video of Surya Namaskar A to get you moving. Go ahead, do a couple at home, you can do it. Celebrate the sun and the longest day of the year!
A japa mala or mala is an eastern rosary with 108 beads. The mala is used both in Hinduism and Buddhism for counting mantras, chants or prayers. 108 has been a sacred number for a long time, and this number is explained in many different ways.
Traditionally, Buddhist have 108 beads, representing the 108 human passions that Avalokiteshvara assumed when telling the beads. This number ensures a repetition of a sacred mantra at least 100 times, the extra beads allowing for any omissions made through absentmindness in counting or for loss or breakage of beads.
Sometimes smaller divisions can be used: 108 is divided in half, third, quarter, or twelfth, so some malas have 54, 36, 27, or 9 beads.
108 may be the product of a precise mathematical operation (e.g. 1 power 1 x 2 power 2 x 3 power 3 = 108) which was thought to have special numerological significance.
POWERS of 1, 2 & 3 IN MATH: 1 to 1st power=1; 2 to 2nd power=4 (2×2); 3 to 3rd power=27 (3x3x3). 1x4x27=108
SANSKRIT ALPHABET: There are 54 letters in the Sanskrit alphabet. Each has masculine and feminine, shiva and shakti. 54 times 2 is 108.
HARSHAD NUMBER: 108 is a Harshad number, which is an integer divisible by the sum of its digits (Harshad is from Sanskrit, and means “great joy”)
9 x 12: Both of these numbers have been said to have spiritual significance in many traditions. 9 times 12 is 108. Also, 1 plus 8 equals 9. That 9 times 12 equals 108.
ASTROLOGY: There are 12 constellations, and 9 arc segments called namshas or chandrakalas.
9 times 12 equals 108. Chandra is moon, and kalas are the divisions within a whole.
PLANETS AND HOUSES: In astrology, there are 12 houses and 9 planets. 12 times 9 equals 108.
SUN AND EARTH: The diameter of the sun is 108 times the diameter of the Earth.
PYTHAGOREAN: The nine is the limit of all numbers, all others existing and coming from the same. ie: 0 to 9 is all one needs to make up an infinite amount of numbers.
STAGES OF THE SOUL: Atman, the human soul or center goes through 108 stages on the journey.
MARMAS: Marmas or marmastanas are like energy intersections called chakras, except have fewer energy lines converging to form them. There are said to be 108 marmas in the subtle body.
Joseph Campbell says it’s 1+0+8 = 9, the number of the goddess.
Or one can look at 1, 0, and 8 as:
1 = God or higher Truth
0 = emptiness or completeness in spiritual practice,
8 = infinity or eternity