Archive of ‘Blog- All’ category

TSA at LAX needs a little TLC!

Sedona before sunrise

Sedona before sunrise

As the title of this blog; Travels of a Yogi might suggest, I travel. A lot. And I love it! (Why else would I write about it, right?) I love to see the World, meet new people, make global connections, and of course, do yoga anywhere and everywhere I can. After spending a fascinating week in Sedona, AZ with Tiffany Cruikshank/Yoga Medicine studying the anatomy, dysfunction and application of yoga in relation to the hip joint I excitedly extended my trip to visit another yoga friend, mentor and teacher, Leeann Carey, in Los Angeles. I love spending time on the West Coast! Cool breezes, sunshine, walks by the beach, healthy food at your fingertips…and sunsets of course!

Yoga Medicine 500/1000hr Hip Module Sedona, AZ May 2016

Yoga Medicine
500/1000hr Hip Module
Sedona, AZ May 2016

As I embarked on the next leg of my journey from Phoenix to LAX, I must say, the security lanes in Phoenix were probably the quickest, smoothest ones I’ve ever been in! I really couldn’t have asked for anything more! And then, there’s LAX. Oh, LAX! I have such a love/hate relationship with you. I love that you have such amazing access to the world! So many cultures and diverse backgrounds coming together in the same place, at the same time, for such a brief moment before moving on to our next adventure.

IMG_5518

Majestic Sedona Mountains

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s a bit of organized chaos as people hug loved ones good-bye, check their bags and begin the hustle toward their gate…but first, security. I recall the morning of Sept. 11th as I stood in my living room watching the Today show and seeing the second plane hit the Twin Towers. It was surreal. It was as if time stood still. On top of that, we were only about an hour from Shanksville, Pennsylvania where Flight 93 went down. These events have forever changed history and the way we travel. Having been to many foreign and third World countries that have much more lax security measures, I am grateful for the security and TSA that we have here in the U.S. working hard to keep us safe. As a military Mom, I applaud the efforts our country is taking to protect us.

IMG_5559

Redondo Beach, CA

As a seasoned traveler, I do my best to follow the rules at the airport in order to have the smoothest experience possible. I typically approach the agent with boarding pass and ID in one hand, while in the other, I’m usually already holding my shoes, computer and my quart-sized Ziploc bag filled with my toiletry items (all less than 3.4 oz, I might add.) When I finally make my way to the x-ray belt, I am rock ‘n and roll ‘n and ready to go.   I am completely aware that millions of people travel each and every day and the number of passengers entering security gates is enormous and I know you have a big job to do. But can we go about it in a kinder, gentler way? Please? The female TSA agent at LAX was literally screaming at people, in their faces, to get out of line forcing them to measure their carry-on baggage in the metal luggage template before allowing them to proceed. I absolutely appreciate them enforcing the size regulations, especially since the overhead bins are consistently overfull, but no need to scream in someone’s face. No, I’m not talking about projecting one’s voice so people can hear you in a loud environment. I’m talking full-on screaming and pointing as if she were a Drill Sergeant. Maybe in a past life she was, but this is not the time or place for that- especially since everyone there is being well behaved and compliant. Then, as you are herded like cattle through the security lane, the next step is to basically disrobe down to your unmentionables. (On occasion, I have considered just showing up in a bikini or see though body stocking just to see what the reaction would be.) Barefoot and almost naked, I make my way through to the x-ray scanner. Feet wide, arms up overhead I am commanded to stand perfectly still, yet again, I am again made to feel like a criminal- as if traveling was a crime! As I move on, through the security mill, I am then patted down. Really? I’m hardly wearing anything? Go ahead. Cop a feel. I hope it was good for you. And sure, while you’re at it, feel free to wipe down my itty-bitty 11” laptop and test it for who-knows-what. At this point, I feel as though a decontamination room may be next on the agenda! Finally! Free to go. As I gather my belongings, I hurry to throw my flip-flops on my feet, grab my computer and my small carry-on bag and scurry off, head down as if it were an early morning walk of shame except I did not reek of stale booze and was not wearing the clothes from the night before; although, if I had, perhaps I wouldn’t feel quite so tweaked by the encounters of the day thus far.

This moment of frustration was the prime time to practice my yoga breathing…inhaling and exhaling for an even 6 count as I simply observed this experience. I was clearly frustrated, but at the same time I knew that these measures were necessary. I knew that these people were here to ensure safety, but what I also know is that there is no reason for them to be rude, obnoxious, abrupt, commanding, acting resentful and as if we are putting them out. No reason for them to be in people’s faces, making us feel violated or intimidated for simply being there and traveling that day. After all, if we were not traveling, they wouldn’t have jobs. Be thankful. Be grateful. Just plain be nice! It doesn’t take a whole lot of effort…and it’s free.

Namaste, Miss Barista, namaste'.

Namaste, Miss Barista, namaste’.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

While I made my way to get some coffee, which was definitely not free at $6 (way more expensive than my Starbucks caffeinated lusciousness), the barista topped off my morning joe with a heart. She didn’t have to, but she did. It didn’t cost her anything but a few seconds. For her thoughtfulness, the deliciousness she prepared for me, and the smile she brought to my face, I am grateful. Namaste, Miss Barista, namaste.

Shifting Gears: Unplugging and Reconnecting

Welcome to Yoga Medicine Yin Yoga & Meditation Module!

The day after losing my grandmother, I boarded a plane for Thailand to participate in the Yin Yoga & Meditation module of my 1,000 hour yoga training with Tiffany Cruikshank.  The decision to continue with this trip on the heels of this loss was extremely difficult and one that was made after heavy discussion with my family.  Everyone was in agreement that my grandmother would not want me to cancel my training.  We felt that it was beneficial that I saw her before she passed.

While a heavy heart was a major part of my luggage, I went through the motions of boarding my flights and taking a 38 hour trip.  From LAX to Taipei, Taiwan, I noticed an overwhelming fragrance of perfume filling the cabin.  I really didn’t think much of it other than that I was annoyed that someone would not think twice about dousing themselves in a strong fragrance before boarding an extremely long flight.  I let it go for that moment as I popped in my headphones, watched movies that I had been too busy to see in the theater and took advantage of the complimentary wine service paired with the terrible airplane food.

As I boarded the plane from Taipei to Bangkok, I began to get settled in for another long leg.  Earplugs?  Check!  Eye mask?  Check!  No-Jet Lag tablets?  Check!  Then, all of a sudden, I noticed it again.  That smell.  The overwhelming fragrance from the last flight.  It was here again!  I peeled off my eye mask and looked around, but no one in my immediate vicinity looked familiar from the last flight.  I mean, what would be the odds, right???  Again, I really didn’t think about it much other than the fact that I was irritated that I was having to smell this fragrance for yet another flight.  I felt a bit like I had just walked into Abercrombie & Fitch, but what could I do?  2 glasses of wine down, eye mask on, earplugs in, good night!

IMG_4507

Mellow morning flow.

I groggily wandered through the Bangkok airport from 2:30am-6am before finally making my way to Koh Samui for the Yin Yoga & Meditation module with Tiffany.  After everything that I had endured the week leading up to the retreat, plus the extensive traveling, I was so glad to be here.  Not only did I need a shower and some decent food but remember, half of the clothes in my suitcase were dirty!  (read about that in the last blog, if you haven’t already.)  It was lovely meeting new yogis where were like minded and spiritually connected, but it was fantastic to reconnect with fellow yogis who I have had the pleasure of traveling with in the past.

Fellow Yoga Medicine yogi's who I had the pleasure of exploring India with for our Seva project.

Fellow Yoga Medicine yogi’s who I had the pleasure of exploring India with for our Seva project.

One of the things I have loved the most is making friends on just about every continent.  Here, you see Australia, Sweden via Jakarta, Holland by way of Abu Dhabi, London and Norway, just to name a few!  Practicing with this group brings a sense of peace, harmony and cohesiveness.  Knowing that I had been through so much in the recent days, it was like having a family away from my own family.

Wind Chimes outside of the yoga shala.

The first evening of the retreat was taking place at the same time as my grandmother’s funeral back home.  Needless to say, the practice was very emotional for me.  At the end of the practice, I laid in the silence and stillness of savasana.  As my body rested and absorbed the recent events I had encountered and the travel that I had endured, my mind was called back to the present moment by the sounds of large, metal wind chimes. Chimes similar to those that hung on my grandmother’s back porch.  The porch that I spent many summers catching lightning bugs, swirling sparklers and rocking on her wooden rocker while watching the hummingbirds refuel at the feeder that she always had waiting for them.  It was at this moment that it all came together for me.  The wind chimes.  The fragrance on the airplane.  I realized what it was and why it was so familiar to me.  It was Liz Claiborne.  As in the red plastic triangle that we used to wear in high school.  My gram used to wear it.  Call me crazy (you wouldn’t be the first!) but I swear it was  a sign from her.  The perfume.  The wind chimes.  In my mind, it was her being there with me.  Telling me that she was no longer in pain and that she was free and at peace.  It was at this moment that I, too, felt at peace.  In that moment.  In my body.  In my mind.  Peace and tranquility.   Despite the fact that we had beachside winds each and every day, I never heard the chimes again during my stay, yet the sense of peace and calm remained.  Om Shanti, Namaste’

Finding peace and calm in Savasana

Finding peace and calm in Savasana

Holding On & Letting Go

Not all of the travels of this yogi are filled with sun, sand and good times. Recently, I took a trip that was quite the opposite. At a young age, I lost both of my grandfathers. I lost my paternal grandmother when I was 16 and my father at 18. I’m almost 41 now and have been fortunate to have had my maternal grandmother in my life to celebrate milestones and life events. Not many people can say that. In fact, she was a great-great grandmother to my granddaughter. We had 5 generations in our family!

Gram and her legacy of 2 grandchildren, 6 great-grandchildren and great-great granddaughter.

Gram and her legacy of 2 grandchildren, 6 great-grandchildren and great-great granddaughter.

IMG_4252

Three days ago, I received a message from my mother that my 97 year old grandmother (who was under Hospice care), was not expected to be with us much longer. I immediately booked a flight to Pittsburgh, which was the closest airport to her. I had plans to leave for a yoga retreat that Friday and was worried that she would pass while I was away. I rearranged my flights, packed my bag (to be honest, I’m still not sure exactly what is in it as it is sitting next to me right now!) and headed to the Greenville airport to board my flight to be with my family. As I arrived at the airport, I had thought I had my boarding pass downloaded to my phone; however, once I found myself in the security check-in line, I realized that it was not my boarding pass, despite the fact that it said e-ticket on it. My heart immediately sank. I quickly ducked out of the line and ran as fast as I could downstairs to the ticket counter. The gate agent confirmed that indeed, it was not my ticket. I had packed a small bag (for both Pittsburgh and Thailand) so that I could just carry on my luggage and not worry about checking a bag. I begged her to just give me the boarding pass and pleaded that I could make it through security in time. Tears rolled down my face as she informed me that FAA regulations would not allow her to issue my boarding pass due to time constraints. I had tried to keep it together, but at this point I began to “ugly cry” right there…at the ticket counter…in the middle of the airport. The attendant gave me the phone number for American Airlines reservations and told me to call them to see what they could do about getting my on another flight. Once I got an agent on the phone and began to explain what had happened, again, I lost it. No longer could I hold on to the tears that I had been fighting back in an effort to be strong for my family who was already there by my grandmother’s side. The fear that I wouldn’t make it in time had taken over and panic had set in. As the agent on the other end begged me to be calm, she assured me that she would get me to Pittsburgh, and she did. I boarded the next flight without incident. Arrived in Pittsburgh, got my rental car and headed to my Gram’s side.

When I arrived at the nursing home, it was after 11pm, but my mother was there waiting for me. To see my grandmother, laying in her bed, tiny and frail from the wretched effects of the dementia that signaled her body not to eat. The horrific scene that my mother had described for me the day before and earlier that morning was one of agony and pain. A vision that I would not wish on anyone, especially my beloved grandmother. To help relieve the pain and suffering, morphine was administered and she lay unresponsive. She looked peaceful and calm when I arrived. As if she were simply asleep. She appeared to be pain free, as we all had prayed for. We stayed with her a few more hours before heading to a hotel for the evening.

The next morning, we met my aunt and uncle at the nursing home. We shared stories of Gram and spoke of fond memories as we sifted through photos from the past. She was a mainstay of our family. I grew up looking forward to holidays at her home. I remember singing “Over the river and through the woods to Grandmother’s house we go…” each Christmas. Countless Christmas cookies that we just couldn’t get enough of! I even recall my oldest daughter sneaking into one of the boxes of cookies made with Hershey’s kisses and we found her sitting on top of the kitchen table pulling all of the kisses out and eating them. (I knew she was too quiet!).

Holiday traditions like the customary Christmas shot of whisky, the holiday wafer from Poland and the ham and kielbasa after midnight were things that I longed for each Christmas along with the routine trip to Kraynak’s Christmasland the day after Thanksgiving. Daffin’s chocolate eggs in our basket each Easter.

Eating food picked right from her garden.  Sitting on the back porch in her rocking chair and watching the hummingbirds as they fed at the feeder that she religiously kept filled for them.  Going school shopping at Hills and getting the red cherry Icee and popcorn followed by a trip to Reyers…The World’s Largest Shoe Store!  Trips to our family camp that her husband and family had built by hand. (It wasn’t fancy…it even had an outhouse!) Cookouts, s’mores and walks across the street to Bob’s Trading Post for ice cream are some of my fondest memories.

We continued sharing memories as my son, daughter-in-law and granddaughter arrived from Missouri. They had driven all night to be there. Despite fatigue and a flat tire, they had made it. Thankfully, they were able to see her one last time. I truly feel as though she was holding on until they got there. Eventhough she was unresponsive, I feel that she knew we all were there. A few hours later, she was gone. It was inevitable and we knew it was coming, yet it seemed surreal. All of those memories we had shared earlier that day had flashed before my eyes. Thoughts of my own children and the rest of my family that was surrounding me rushed into my mind.

While each of our birthdays was celebrated with a Tootsie Roll full of change (and sometimes bills!), my Gram celebrated her 97th birthday this past January. She was never one to make much of a fuss about herself, but she was definitely celebrated. She was welcoming to anyone and everyone. If you were a guest in her home, you can be sure that she would put out a spread for you. Her kindness and generosity were immeasurable and she will long be remembered for the presence she had in my life and those around her. As I hold on tightly to those memories and the legacy that she left, I honor her strength and tenacity that she had until it was time to let go. Holding on when it’s time to let go is painful. It hurts like no other pain. Yet as I write this, ugly crying again, I feel lightness for her. I feel calm knowing she is no longer in pain. I feel peace knowing that she is at peace. And this letting go has left me holding on to one thing…love. The love that was felt and the love that was shared. The love that will be celebrated during her service. The love that will never be forgotten. That is what I will hold on to and never let go of.

“Lokah somastah sukhino bhavantu” ~May all souls be happy. May all souls be at peace. May all souls be free of suffering.

Calm or Chaos Among the Cattle

We’ve all had that experience of waiting in long lines; whether it be at the post office or in line to ride a rollercoaster at our favorite theme park. Some of those lines are ones filled with anticipation and excitement of what is to come while yet other lines are less enjoyable than a root canal (sorry, dentist friends!). As I set out on close to a month of travel, there were no shortages of lines, that’s for sure. After a delayed flight out of Greenville/Spartanburg to Newark, NJ, I was able to sit for a bit and enjoy a meal before the 14+ hour flight to Mumbai, India.

pic1

Despite what seemed like complete chaos at the check-in gate, the cultural intermix was a melting pot of joyful faces and pleasant conversations. “Where are you from?” and “Where are you going?” were questions I could hear all around me. Everyone was out on their own adventure. Some were beginning their journey and others were ending, but the friendliness and positive vibes were in abundance. As we boarded the overnight flight, we were all in the next 14 hours together.

Upon arrival in Mumbai, one of India’s largest cities, I was herded through baggage claim and on to customs and immigration. Though we were all exhausted, spirits were still of the friendly nature. I enjoyed having the opportunity to meet an Indian couple who were travelling from Asheville, NC to Mumbai for a family wedding (December is wedding season in India- and they are parties NOT to be missed!) It was evening (10:30pm) here in Mumbai and I was spending the evening at a nearby hotel. As we approached the hotel security, I was quickly reminded that the security here varies greatly from what I was used to in the USA. The hotel security guard used a mirror on a rolling cart to look under the carriage of the vehicle as well as under the hood. We were definitely not in Kansas (or South Carolina) anymore.

The next morning, I was heading to Pune to visit my friend, Nital. As the driver and I embarked on the 3 hour drive to Pune, we needed to get out of Mumbai first. This meant more lines, more waiting, as the traffic in Mumbai is about 100x heavier than the streets of Manhattan during rush hour. Oh! Wait! I forgot! Manahttan does not have to contend with goats, chicken and cattle weaving their way through the streets.

pic2

While the addition of these furry friends into the streets of Mumbai added another layer of chaos to the already densely populated thoroughfares, no one seemed to notice. Everyone just kept going about their business as if the goats were people. Rather than get annoyed with this, I took it all in. I loved being able to sit back and observe this culture of inclusion. And while the honking horns of thousands of cars created a symphony of sound, no one was rushing. No one appeared angry or late. They were just being present; in that moment, at that time.

pic3

This rush hour traffic scenario was one that would set the tone for the rest of my time during this trip. I wanted to see and observe as much as I could. I wanted to be open to experiencing every single moment that was placed before me. While I fully intend to visit India again in the future, I knew that these particular moments would be ones that I would never have again and I wanted to be fully present for each and every one of them. Not just here, in India, but in every facet of my life.

Inspiring India

IMG_3073

As a child, hearing my father’s stories of his experiences growing up in India as a planted that seed of curiosity in me. This was long before I had ever experienced yoga and before I had ever been out of the country. I took my first trip to India in 2012 with one of my best friends and inspiration yoga teachers, Leeann Carey (http://www.retreatmaven.com). After that trip, I knew I would be back, I just wasn’t sure when.

I constantly remind my the students in my 200 hr yoga teacher training program that the best teachers are lifelong students. Because I believe in leading by example, I decided that I wanted to further my yoga education and explore new ways of teaching and inspiring my students. I came across Tiffany Cruikshank’s Yoga Medicine (http://www.yogamedicine.com) program. When I saw her 1,000 hr program, I knew I had found my next educational path. Not only is Tiffany’s teaching orthopedic in nature, but it is done retreat style! What more could a yogi who loves travel ask for?!?!? Little did I know that my first retreat with her would forever influence my life. Where else, but India! In December of 2014, I received an email from Yoga Medicine describing a module coming up in Kolkata, India in December 2015. The moment I read it, I knew I had to go. With tears in my eyes, I looked at my (incredibly supportive) husband and said, “I HAVE to do this!” What was the message that provoked such an emotional response in me? Human trafficking, homeless children and children living in slums in red-light districts. It seems surreal and just a Liam Neeson movie, but it’s real. And as a mother of two daughters, this hit way too close to home. These are the words I read that inspired me:

“Each year, millions of women and children are trafficked in India. A child goes missing somewhere in the country every eight minutes. Almost 35,000 children were officially reported missing in 2011, however it is thought only 30 percent of cases are reported.
Almost 80 percent of all worldwide trafficking is for sexual exploitation, with an estimated 1.2 million children being bought and sold into sexual slavery every year, and India is the poisonous hub. These staggering statistics aren’t just statistics, they are very real.

We, as a global community, have a unique opportunity to make a lasting and deeply meaningful impact in the community of Kolkata. This is our chance to give back to a spiritually rich community that has given us so much.

Our chosen project is to support the day-to-day operation of 15 street kids shelters, preventing the trafficking of kids ages 4-15 living in the slums and red light districts of Kolkata. The shelters provide healthcare, education, nutritional meals, tutoring, job coaching, yoga classes and other recreational activities for over 525 children. Our funds will be used towards teacher’s and supervisor’s salaries, accounting, programming, transportation, and educational materials.”-http://www.yogamedicine.com

I signed up immediately to be a part of this movement to make a global impact on the lives of yoga girls and children who were less fortunate that my own. On December 1, 2015, I set out on this adventure to “Be the change”. It was while I was on this journey that the inspiration for “Travels of a Yogi” was born. Pack your bags and join me!

donate4

SevaFinals-7IMG_2765

1 2 3 6