Archive of ‘Wellness’ category
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!
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.
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.
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’.
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.
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!
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.
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
I am no stranger to a good massage, or Ayurveda treatments for that matter. I have been a regular at Canyon Ranch Spa in Arizona for several years. While there, I thoroughly enjoy the Abhyanga-Shirodara package. For this treatment (and all the treatments at CR) you are given a cozy robe and slippers and led down a corridor with soft lighting and relaxing music. The Abhyanga-Shirodara is a treatment that involves two therapists giving you a massage; followed by the Shirodara, which is the warm oil cascading over your forehead taking you into a state of bliss. Of course, Canyon Ranch is cushy and offers the best of the best, which is probably why this discerning yogi feels right at home! Lest, we are in India. No cushy robe. No soft music. Reality check ensues. At the Ayurvedic center at the Somatheeram Health Resort, Ayurveda is their “deal.” They live it, they love it and they want you to as well. Upon checking in at the health center, everything is very clinical. Doctors in white coats have you fill out a lengthy intake form to determine your Dosha. (If you want to find out yours, go to http://doshaquiz.chopra.com ) In the intake, everyone is very matter of fact and bedside manner leaves a lot to be desired. Not to self: you are in India…
I am told that I will be receiving a head massage, a foot massage and Shirodara. I am then introduced to my therapist that would be with me all week. Her name is Usha. She is a voluptuous woman with a soft smile and kind eyes. Her English is very minimal. She knows the basics: “How are you?” “OK” “Pain?” “Sit” and “Problem?” Ok, I can deal with that, I mean, what more words do we need to have when I am expecting her to whisk me away to a room of relaxation and bliss. We head off down the path to the treatment rooms. As we get closer, I ask myself, “What have you gotten yourself into???” Upon entering the treatment room, it reminds me of something out of Christian Grey’s Room of Pain. We enter and she closes the door behind us. Hmmm…Ok, yoga breathing in place. The room is very clinical with white tiled walls and floor. The massage table is to my left. It is a thick, heavy wooden table that looks somewhat like a butcher block. I can still run now, right? From the ceiling in the center of the room hangs a 4’ rope with a knot at the end. The corner of the room hosts an altar-like table with an oil lamp, incense and various powders and oils. In front of the altar is a small wooden stool with a piece of chintzy gauze draped over the top of it. A towel lays on the floor at the foot of the stool. Usha tells me to undress. Ummm…are you going to leave the room??? Apparently, she was not. I ask her, “take everything off?” She nods. Again, I say, “Everything?” I’m not a prude, but I am a bit modest. I’ll be honest, I like my curves, but there are certainly days when I wish they were smaller! I try to remind myself that she doesn’t know me, she does this many times a day and she’s a curvy gal herself. I try to push my insecurities to the back of my mind, swallow my pride and get on with the show. After disrobing, she points to the stool and, in a calmly commanding voice says, “Sit!” I do as I’m told. She comes back over to me, stands in front of me and puts her thumbs on my forehead at my brow center. She chants in Sanskrit, much of which I can actually understand- thank you, yoga!!! The treatment begins with a head massage. Albeit not what we would normally expect, but with scratches, shakes and movements that are similar to what one does when washing their hair in the shower. I have to admit, it felt quite amazing; however, I was still trying to stuff down my insecurity of sitting on a stool, buck naked, with a women giving me a head massage. Next, on to the shoulders… Usha walks to the opposite corner of the room where there is what appears to be a hot plate with a metal bowl on top of it. She turns it on and I hear the oil begin to bubble. I turn away before she sees me watching her. She comes back with the oil and starts drizzling it over me and wiping it down my arms, my chest, back and legs. She commences with the shoulder massage. She has super strong hands and worked out several knots I had from carrying my luggage, that is for sure! The Ayurvedic method of massage is, again, quite clinical and precise. The therapist performs series’ of strokes, grabs, slaps, pats and “chops” to different areas of the body. I can tell you that the slaps to your backside while covered in oil definitely get your attention! Ouch!
For the next phase of treatment, Usha has me stand up and moves the stool to the corner of the room. Again, the politely commands me to “Sit!” She then proceeds to unfold a huge mat that resembles a vinyl gymnastics or wrestling mat. She positions it underneath the hanging rope and ties another scant piece of gauze to the rope. She performs a ritual of cleaning the mat (I’m not sure what with) by sprinkling the cleaning solution on the mat and “skating” across the mat on another piece of gauze with her feet. After cleansing her own feet, she spreads a paper thin sheet onto the mat with a piece of gauze at the top. She points to the mat. Ummmm, what? Are we naked oil wrestling??? I thought I was getting a foot massage? Well, apparently, this type of foot massage was with the therapists feet. Hmmm…ok, I’ve had the Ashiatsu at CR where the therapist massages your back while holding onto bars attached to the ceiling. I follow her command and proceed to lay face down on the sheet. I her the oil boiler again. She then sprinkles yet more oil onto my body. I feel her slightly scratchy, large feet begin to press on my sacral area and my low back begins to release. Again, she performs succinct, calculated movements up and down and across my back. As she approaches my hips and thighs, I can’t help but think to myself, that with all of this oil coating my body, one wrong slip of the foot and she is going to end up in a place where the sun doesn’t shine! Yikes! Whew! Thankfully, it does not! She tells me to turn over and she proceeds to massage the front of my body with here foot. I have had a stomach massage before, but never with a foot! A bit odd, but not terrible. Once this portion of the massage is completed, she cues me back to my stool in the corner. She takes the sheet and places it on top of the hard, heavy massage table. She calls me over and has me hop on to the table face down while she cleans up our massage mat from the floor. The massage begins again. Precise movements, circles, strokes, pats, slaps and chops to my well-greased body. By this time, I have decided to just let it be and tried to quiet my mind. Now for Shirodara…
For the Shirodara, Usha covered me with near-transparent pieces of gauze, hardly covering anything. She positions the oil cask over my head and lets the warm oil begin to flow over my brow center. It feels great! My mind starts to drift off and I begin to forget my insecurities of just moments ago and nearly forget that I am scantily clad on a rock hard table in a room that had ants climbing the walls, in India. I even catch myself dozing off a few times. At one point, my leg even jerked- now that was bizarre!
When the treatment was over, Usha guides me back over to the “submissive” stool where she wrings the oil out of my hair, rubs some type of God-awful stinky powder into my scalp and then wraps it up turban-style in a piece of gauze. She then tells me that I need to keep this on for one hour. Yikes! The oil, I can take as I tell myself it’s like a deep conditioner, but the stench of the powder was almost unbearable. Despite the fact that our cottage only has hot water for a mere 30 seconds, I couldn’t wait to scrub my hair!
Usha then walks me back to the Ayurvedic reception area and tells me to sit. She comes back with the local beverage of “Herbal Water,” which is similar to tea, but not quite. The doctor then calls me back into the makeshift “office” and pulls out bottles of brown liquid, two kinds of tablets and a jar full of a pudding-like substance (which, by the way, tastes NOTHING like pudding!) She directs me to take these concoctions either before food or after food, tells me to eat the foods on the buffet that are marked for my Dosha and tells me to come back the next day at the same time for the same treatment. Ummmm, you mean I gotta get nekked again??? Yep, ‘fraid so! I completed a week of treatments here. I followed the medicinal regimen and the Ayurvedic treatments that were prescribed for me. By the end of the week, I was feeling wonderful and was grateful to Usha for taking such good care of me in what turned out to be no where near Christian Grey’s room of pain. Thank you, Usha 😉
After taking our 2 hour train ride from Delhi to Agra, we arrive at the Taj Mahal, one of the Seven Wonders of the World. Not to sound cliché, but it’s no wonder! To call the Taj breathtakingly beautiful would be an understatement. Honestly, there really aren’t words strong enough to describe it’s magnificence—like everything else I have encountered on this journey through India, it is something that words cannot adequately describe, but rather is something that must be experienced and felt. India is different for everyone depending on what they have experienced in their life and where their mindset it. If you are not ready for India, you cannot appreciate what she has to offer, but the Taj, oh, the Taj! Not only is she a sight to behold, but her story, just like each of our own, is one to be told!
The construction of the Taj Mahal began in 1631 and took 22 years (1631-1653) and 22,000 workers to complete! Fashioned out of marble and onyx inlay, the spectacular structure was designed as a mausoleum for Mumtaz Mahal, the 3rd wife of Emporer Shah Jahan. (He had 4 at the same time, but she was his fave.) During her 14th pregnancy in 19 years, Mumtaz had a dream that she would soon pass away. She then share 3 wishes with the Emporer:
1) Take care of my children.
2) Build me a beautiful mausoleum
3) Do not take any other wives (Don’t worry about him, remember, he has 3 other wives as well as 500 concubines, so he was not lonely!)
Soon after her dream, Mumtaz went into labor and died during the childbirth. In Islamic tradition, a woman who passes on during childbirth is considered a martyr. The Shah began construction of the Taj Mahal as the final resting place for his late wife. Of all of his wives, she was considered the most beautiful. The name “Taj Mahal” translates to “Place of the Crown.” The marble of the Taj is white; however, depending on what time of day you visit, it can catch the sunlight in different ways. In the morning, the Taj appears pinkish, milky white in the evening and golden in the moonlight.
The beauty of Taj Mahal and the story of Emporer Sha’s endearment for his wife is absolutely exquisite beyond words. The message of the Taj to all mankind is that Pure love is the soul of life.” Rabindranth Tagore described the Taj as a “teardrop on the cheek of time” and, believe me, while in her presence, it is hard not to shed a few of your own. Whether it be the Taj’s story appealing to your romantic side or the feeling of the energy there reminding you of the loved ones in your own life. Either way, it doesn’t matter. What matters is that it is impassible to visit the Taj and not be moved. Definitely another of my most amazing life experiences. Until next time…
In Traditional Chinese Medicine the concept of the 5 Elements is one way to understand how the body functions and its many processes. Each element would correspond to a different organ system, color, season, emotion etc. Much like the precious balance of yin and yang in the body, the balance of the 5 elements is equally as important.
This picture shows the interaction between the elements with each other. The first interaction is the generating cycle as seen by following the black arrows. The way to understand the cycle is as follows: Wood feeds Fire, Fire creates Earth (ash), Earth bears Metal, Metal carries Water (as in a metal cup), Water nourishes Wood.
If there is a disruption within the generating cycle one element may become weak. This causes another element to overwhelm it thus making it weaker. For example, when earth (soil) is weak then wood (roots) overwhelm earth and cause it to become weaker (erosion). This explains the overcoming or overwhelming cycle. Note in this cycle you follow the arrows of the inner star starting at the top. Wood (roots) parts Earth, Earth muddies Water, Water quenches Fire, Fire melts Metal, Metal chops Wood.
Now for my favorite cycle. If you look closely at the overwhelming cycle and change your point of view just a bit. Instead of one being weaker or stronger since ideally we would want everything to be as equal as possible, then the overwhelming cycle becomes the containing cycle. In this cycle each element keeps the other in check. Using the example above, earth is strong enough to withstand the roots and they mutually allow for the healthy growth of a tree.
In Chinese culture the 5 elements concept has had a great influence over many phenomena in the universe over the centuries such as Feng Shui, astrology, music, martial arts, and of course Chinese Medicine.
It is no surprise that our blazing summer and its activities are related to the Fire Element. Chinese Medicine looks at summer as the season of warmth and growth. It is also the time to nurture and manifest our ideas that were sowed in the spring. And of course it is the time to play outside and be active with our bodies. That means during this season the Heart and its paired organ the Small Intestines have taken center stage and their energy is at its strongest during the summer. What better time than now to try an ancient exercise that is simple to do and great for your heart.
Stand or sit facing a mirror. Smile at yourself-don’t let judgment kinder you now-really smile at yourself directly from your heart.
That’s it! So simple but yet it can be so difficult. Often we do not let ourselves express our true self because of fear of what others may say. Smiling from the heart has a profound physiological effect. It promotes the flow of qi and blood throughout the body. Your heart houses your shen or spirit. It provides for all the physical, mental, emotional, spiritual activities of your body. True smiling and laughter creates an emotional qi that heals the body and your heart. Now try smiling at others from your heart.