Love for and fascination with movement, alignment, and the body has only deepened since beginning this dance with the Pilates reformer. Alignment based yoga is not (as commonly thought) a static practice. A common thread running through both alignment based yoga and Pilates is the pursuit and practice of finding the most agreeable relationship between parts of the body and infusing those biomechanics with expanded breath or Prana. Alignment is the clear unobstructed flow of Prana through the body. Alignment in asana (yoga poses) becomes more refined and intuitive with study and practice. The same is true in Pilates practice. Alignment based movement practices can literally enhance the intuitive intelligence of the body’s systems as well as clear the inner-body energetic pathways for a heightened sense of comfort in embodiment. Over time an alignment based practice moves from physical to subtle-body awareness. This introduction of feeling and sensibility to technique evolves into art.
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“O profound, silent tree, by restraining valour with patience, you revealed creative power in its peaceful form. Thus we come to your shade to learn the art of peace, to hear the word of silence; weighed down with anxiety, we come to rest in your tranquil blue-green shade, to take into our souls life rich, life ever juvenescent, life true to earth, life omni-victorious.” ~From ‘In Praise of Trees’, by Rabindranath Tagore
Even in the midst of a world weary with heavy and depressing events, I still, everyday, aim to live as fully present and awake as possible. On occasion it comes easily. Most days I rely on practices of meditation and mindful movement to illuminate the path that reawakens me to the realities of joy, love, and bliss.
Today is the 199th birthday of Henry David Thoreau. His timeless wisdom on what it means to be fully awake…
We must learn to reawaken and keep ourselves awake, not by mechanical aids, but by an infinite expectation of the dawn, which does not forsake us in our soundest sleep. I know of no more encouraging fact than the unquestionable ability of man to elevate his life by conscious endeavor.
This weekend while paddle boarding with my mother and her sweetheart on Fish River in Lower Alabama, dolphins appeared and swam beside us. It was an extraordinary blessing and reminder that all sentient beings are essentially bonded to and by
Nature, Spirit, and Love.
In their honor I did a variation of dolphin pose on my board.
“Dolphins have a wise, innocent, purity of being which reaches out to our inner nature. Follow their lead and open yourself to the energy of love, harmony, and balance. Express your inner truth, be true to yourself. Follow your inner joy. Dolphin is asking you to go back to your roots, to the depths of your being and rediscover the love that you truly are.
Dolphins spend most of their day playing. Their life is lived in joyful harmony with each other and their world. Apparently they have learned the lesson that love is the most important factor in life.
Dolphin wisdom includes – knowledge of the sea, change, patron of sailors, harmony, balance, communication skills, freedom, trust, understanding the power of rhythm in your life, water element magic, unselfishness.
Dolphin reminds us to get out, play, breathe and most importantly to love.”
-from shamanicjourney.com, Dolphin Power Animal, by Ina Woolcoat
The Yogi conquers the body by the practice of asanas (postures) and makes it a fit vehicle for the spirit. (S)He knows that it is a necessary vehicle for the spirit. A soul without a body is like a bird deprived of its power to fly.
Most people don’t associate eating at LuLu’s with a yoga retreat. But Friday afternoon that collaboration manifests with the first ever Yoga Birds weekend retreat, catered by my mother’s restaurant LuLu’s at Homeport.
The retreat has been seven months in the making. I am ready and excited for the yogis to arrive. In the beginning planning stages I forecasted 8-10 folks attending. The coordinator at Camp Beckwith advised me to set my capacity higher, really just to be on the safe side to reserve rooms. So I set it at 20. Fifteen sign-ups in the first two weeks. I called the retreat center again and upped it to 30. I really did not anticipate selling out. But it happened.
This is totally great news, right? Yes. And then well… a couple of months into it, my original plan for catering fell through. And my second choice was not available. Teaching yoga…I got that. Feeding 30 people over an entire weekend…panic mode set in.
Obviously a call to my mom was in order. I needed motherly comfort-words and somebody to tell me ‘everything will work out.’ Plus, she is, after all, THE ultimate dinner-party guru of the Gulf Coast. If yoga is clarity, steadiness, and skill in action, then my mother’s yoga is the ability to feed large numbers of people with brilliant ease and a smile. Hence, the phenomenal success of LuLu’s.
Her restaurant is one of the top tourist destinations in Alabama and one of the highest grossing restaurants in the U.S. Her most famous offerings are her stellar Gumbo and (naturally) the Cheeseburger in Paradise. And although the burger is consciously made with local grass fed beef (which is unheard-of in these parts and in the high-volume restaurant industry in general), it is probably understandable that LuLu’s was not my first choice in doing the food for my all-vegetarian yoga retreat weekend.
Like an awesome mom, she totally stepped up for me, offering to help in any way that she or the restaurant could. In our initial conversation we thought there might be a few items on the LuLu’s menu that we could use. And then the plan was for her to personally work in her home kitchen to make the remainder of what the LuLu’s kitchen could not accommodate.
With yogis in mind, we embarked on detailed menu planning. We pulled items from all areas of the LuLu’s menu. And before we knew it, we had crafted nearly the entire vegetarian yoga retreat menu. We altered a few things by placing cheese and dairy products on the side and making soup with vegetable instead of chicken stock. We did add a couple of ‘outside’ items. But the majority of the meals are ‘ALL LuLu’.
A brief synopsis of the weekend fare is: Friday night, a Greek salad, lentil soup, hummus, and pita. Saturday lunch is a big beautiful garden salad, LuLu’s famous Alabama caviar (pea dip salad), and raw veggies. Saturday dinner is black beans, brown rice, Cantina Salad, guacamole, salsa, and tortilla chips. Sunday is a ‘brown bag’ to-go lunch with my recipe for quinoa salad, an apple, and pita chips. Breakfast is granola, fresh fruit, juices, and muffins.
LuLu’s might be most well known for cheeseburgers, crab-melts, key lime pie, and margaritas. But you don’t have to dig too deep in her menu to find excellent choices fit for a bunch of vegetarian yogis.
It’s easy to be healthy at LuLu’s if you want to. And sometimes it’s fun to indulge in good old-fashioned comfort food. It’s all about balancing discipline and joy. Either way, mom’s got you covered and she’d LOVE to have you over for lunch or dinner this summer. PEACE LOVE YOGA & LULU Y’ALL
Often I hear …”When I get more flexible, I will come to see you in yoga”. If you have ever had an inkling of this thought, please read on…
Last week’s Advanced Studies lesson hinged on the idea that flexibility is a function of the nervous system. Meaning, that when you are stretching, and your body tells you (sometimes loudly) that you have reached the edge of the stretch, you have not really come to the end of the muscle’s ability to lengthen, you have come the point where your nervous system can no longer handle the work. You have come to the current end point of comfort-ability, familiarity, and sustainability. Think about a pose like pigeon pose, or a seated forward fold (or some pose where you experience resistance). When you come to the place in the pose where sensation overpowers breath and all of your senses, you (hopefully) back off to where you can breathe with ease and mindfulness. This discernment and mindful breath work at the ‘edge of our ability’ is actually the part of practice that is addressing and soothing the nervous system while simultaneously applying intense stimulus to ‘go further’. It is in this moment that the body, breath, and subtle-body are sitting in ’round-table negotiations’, communicating beyond the realm of intellect and language. The consistent practice of symbiosis of body, mind, breath, Spirit, and intention often allow us to move (possibly microscopically and incrementally) a little deeper into the pose, thereby cultivating more flexibility and a deep sense of calm where we once thought we were at ‘the end of the rope’. This lesson is applicable not only in asana, but in situations where we may need to cultivate a little bit more flexibility, but are facing resistance (whether our own or some other force’s). Breathe in the face of challenge. Same lessons over and over, right? It always comes back to the breath, doesn’t it? Meditation, pranayama, restorative yoga, yoga nidra, yin yoga…these are all practices that activate the parasympathetic nervous system which supports and is supported by quiet, calm, introspection, and the harmonizing of our energies. Interestingly, skillful resting practices are the key element to getting ‘deeper’ into our active adventures. Whether we are working 9-5 (or more), pursuing a triathlon season, engaging in an active asana yoga practice, raising kids in the beautifully hectic world, or simply feel frazzled, over-heated and ‘had it up to here (insert hand gesture at forehead level)’…it’s time to address taking care of your nervous system. Take time for breath practice, meditation, and the inner work of yoga to enhance and enrich the outer work in which we must or choose to endeavor.
Re-Train Your Nervous System. Find Your Inner Peace
Check out these upcoming events I am offering at Yoga Birds.
Yoga Series For Brand New Beginners (go to week of July 10 at online schedule to sign up) Tuesdays 5-6pm, July 10, 17, 24, 31 (due to the progressive learning nature of the series, drop-ins are not permitted)
You CAN retrain your nervous system and reach new depths of peace in whatever you are doing… on and off the mat.