Sunday, July 29, 2012

9 Easy Tips for Staying Flexible While Traveling

Since I've been traveling so much this Summer and felling challenged to find time for my practices, I wrote up this short article about some of the tricks I've developed to help me stay connected to my body on the road.  I hope you find them useful!

Traveling can be very ungrounding and hard on the body because of all of the hurrying, being away from normal routines, lack of access to healthy foods, changing time zones, and moving at great speeds in planes and cars.  Here are some great ways to get grounded into your body and keep up your flexibility on your next trip:

1- Go to yoga classes!  It's one of my favorite things to do while traveling.  Not only will you get grounded into your body, but you just may find a new pose or new instruction you've never experienced before! 

2 - Every morning, no matter where you are, start you day with about 3 minutes minimum of simple somatic movements like: Reclining pelvic tilts with knees bent (inhale to arch low back, exhale to flatten 10 times gently) or Cat/Cow from the table position (all fours) about 10 times.  This will lubricate your spine and free up your neck and low back.  You can even do it seated while traveling on a plane, train, in the car, etc.

3 - Road Trips:  Make a promise to your self or your travel partner that when you stop at a rest stop, you'll do at least 5 minutes of stretching.  Even better, promise to stop once every 3 hours if you're on a longer trip. Try Side Angle Pose, Warrior 2, Triangle Pose, Wall Push, and Wide Legged Forward Fold with interlaced arms overhead and then a squat for starters.  

4 - Airplanes:  If you find yourself on a long plane ride, make a promise to yourself or your travel partner that you will practice some yoga at the back of the plane or in a quiet corner of the airport.  Try the poses mentioned above.  A shoulder opener (hand on wall and turn your body away from the wall) can also be perfect for the back of the plane.  In your seat, try some simple sitting twists, seated figure four and bend forward (cross one ankle over the opposite knee), and some pranayama and meditation.  More on this coming in a new post….

5 - Layovers in Airports or other stations:  try any of the above suggestions, or better yet, bring a travel mat and roll it out in a corner of the room for a more complete practice with Sun Salutations, standing poses, pigeon pose, a few other hip openers and back bends and reclining hamstring stretches.  Patrick and I have often done this in places like Mexico and Japan, and in general, people will just ignore us and give us space.  Or, even better, they'll check us out and get inspired to do some stretching themselves!

6 - Hotel Rooms: bring a travel mat!  These are light weight and easily fold into your luggage.  Otherwise, use a towel on the floor and commit to at least 10 mins before you start or end your day.

7 - staying with friends or relatives:  tell them about your promise to take care of your body and ask them if they'd like to join you. Ask them to go to a yoga class with you.  Or, tell them you need to spend at least 15 minutes in the morning or before bed doing some asana for yourself.  They'll be inspired. 

8- having guests:  Bring them to your favorite yoga class, or one appropriate to their level.  Or, tell them about your promise to stay connected to your body and invite them to practice at home with you.  They'll probably be very inspired to continue when they leave!

9 - All the time:  remember that when you take the space to care for your mind and body and remember to breathe, you are much more centered and happy with yourself and therefore you're more fun to travel with!

For more ideas about getting grounded on a daily basis, look at my last blog post about "Earthing."

And if you're interested in a free audio download on Rest Stop Yoga and my upcoming free video series on yoga alignment, go to the link to sign up for my monthly newsletter and check to join the list on Upcoming Tele-Courses and Webinars.  In a week or so, you'll get an email with a link to the audio program.  While you're at it, if you'd like to get monthly news about Inner Freedom Yoga events, sign up for the All Yoga Announcements list.  And if you'd only like news about international retreats or workshops or retreats with me in your area, please check those lists.

Please let me know if these tips have been helpful to you!

To your safe and ease-full traveling!

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Get Grounding by Earthing Yourself

How often do you take off your shoes and walk barefoot?  How often do you let your bare skin touch the skin of the earth?  If you're like I was until recently, then it's probably very rare.  But now that I've discovered "Earthing," I'm trying to do it every day.  

Earthing is where you actually put any part of your skin on the surface of the Earth (unsealed concrete or stone also works).  Since I've read the book, Earthing, by Clinton Ober, I've started to garden while barefoot, eat my lunch on the stone patio while barefoot, practice yoga directly on the sand at times, walk on the sand barefoot, make sure my calves and heels are off the towel and on the sand when I'm sunbathing, and yesterday, I even enjoyed a few hours of cruising around at the Humboldt Folklife Festival in my bare feet.   It helps me to feel more connected to my body and to the moment, as I'm forced to slow down and pay more attention to where I step.  I also become more sensitive and aware.  And I feel more grounded and calm, like my inner vibrations slow down.  Plus I'm noticing better sleep.

The Earthing book discusses how the earth's surface is full of free electrons which are negatively charged and how contact with it's surface balances our body's imbalanced positive electrical charge.  So when we get our skin on the earth's skin, we get neutralized. "Earthing naturally protects the body's delicate bioelectircal circuitry against static electrical charges and interference….Earthing remedies an electrical instability and electron deficiency you never knew you had."  

Our problem is that we have spent most of our life not actually touching the earth.  We have rubber or wooden soles on our shoes, carpet, plastic or wood flooring, asphalt on the roads, towels on the sand, blankets on the grass, etc., and free electrons cannot conduct through these surfaces.  But if we put our bare skin on the ground or even on stone or concrete (that's not sealed or painted), we can gain the benefits of Earthing.  At least 30 minutes a day is recommended.  

And what are these benefits?  We not only feel more grounded, centered and relaxed, but many people get benefits like reduced pain and inflammation, increased vitality, better sleep and much more. There are now many studies and testimonials which report decrease in causes of inflammation, increase energy, reduction of stress,  improvement of blood pressure, reduction of muscle tension, headaches, hormonal and menstrual symptoms, increase speed of healing, reduction or elimination of jet lag, protection against EMF's, acceleration of recovery from intense athletic activity, and more.  

So I encourage you to take advantage of this warmer weather and take off your sandals and put your naked feet on the ground! 

Let me know what you discover!

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Growing Up a Powerful Woman: more thoughts on the Women's Herbal Symposium

I wrote the other day about how women feel more comfortable in themselves by being supported by others at the Symposium, but I forgot to mention how they also get it by example.  I'll get to this in a roundabout way through a quick personal story.

I just spent a couple of days camping w. my niece and nephew on the Smith River.  It was so perfectly warm and beautiful.   I'm a big fan of spending as much time outside as possible, and I was raised to appreciate nature through lots of camping excursions, so I love having the opportunity to spend time camping and playing in the river w. my niece and nephew.  They're now 10 1/2  and 8 years old and they love making fires, roasting marshmallows, playing in the little rapids and sleeping in a tent.  

This week was special because I was with them alone for 24 hours and in that time they made new friends w. a family from Seattle with 2 kids of similar ages.  The kids hit it off immediately and by the end of the day, the girls decided they wanted to have a sleepover.  I love that easy open-hearted connection that kids make, especially girls!   So we had a slumber party at our place and they had a grand old time romping around in the huge family tent my brother brought.   

I was observing these two 9 - 10 year old girls laughing and becoming great friends with such playful abandon.  There was no concern for the shape of their bodies or what they were wearing, their income level, age or intelligence.  But I know that soon, much of that will change.  They will become self-conscious;  concerned about body shape, clothing styles, hairdo's, which boys they like, who's cutest, etc.  

Here's where the herbal symposium comes in.  Many girls sort of grow up there, coming with their mother, their aunt, grandmother, friends, or all of the above, every year from the time they are very young.  The Symposium offers them many forms of support:  they can take classes just for their age group about herbs or making baskets or natural dyes or about coming into their "moon cycle" and they learn to nurture themselves and to take a part in their healing.  They can perform in the kid's talent show or in the adult one, and everyone will clap for them and celebrate their unique offering.  Or they can go into the "moon hut" and pick a tarot card or a Rune, read about women's wisdom, rituals and celebrations of womanhood. 

And the living examples at the Symposium are pretty amazing too:  we all attend the Maiden Ceremony on Sunday and the girls get to witness young women (or themselves) being honored for their transition into womanhood;  they witness women of all ages introducing themselves on the first night, openly sharing their stories of pain or loss, joy or success;  they see some women relaxing in classes or by the river with their clothes off and they see that women can be relaxed in their bodies, no matter what size, age or color they are.  

This is how I see the Symposium as a great example for young girls in finding a great ease and comfort with themselves.  The Symposium forms a community of women who support and uplift each other.  It reminds me of the Anusara gatherings we used to have, with the Tantric vision of celebrating diversity, seeing the good in everybody and having the shared intention of lifting each other up to our highest potential.  We would all leave feeling brighter and this is what happens at the Symposium.  So I think the more often young girls and women attend, the more they will "get it" in their minds and bodies that being a young woman and a powerful woman is an awesome thing.  

For a few years, I've been wanting to find a way to bring my niece to the Symposium as my friends have been bringing their kids or nieces.  It was sad to me that once again, I wasn't able to make it happen (she lives about 6 hours away).   But writing this today has renewed in me the desire to manifest that for next year. So, if anyone is coming down to the gathering from Ashland (next May) and can give her a ride,  that would be an answer to my prayers!  

In fondness and love,

Monday, July 2, 2012

I have missed writing in this blog.  Honestly, I've been having so many great experiences, I keep thinking of all the things I want to share about them but them but haven't taken the time to sit down and do that.  So here's a quick synopsis of my escapades and contemplations from the last month or so.

Women's Herbal Symposium- Memorial Day weekend.
This was a fabulous event!   I started going in 1992 and used to go almost annually, especially in my 20's. I hadn't been in about 7 years.  It was wonderful to be back on this beautiful land (Hog Farm in Laytonville, CA) with about 400 women of all ages from new borns to infants and toddlers, kids of all ages, teenagers and women from 20's to 70's.  WOW!   I love seeing all the variations on beauty as expressed through a woman's body, especially when she's comfortable in her own skin and not trying to be anyone but herself.  And the symposium helps women to find this place if they're not already there, by example and by support.  They are supported in sharing their stories around the campfire the first night, and we practice listening and offering support.  At the end, we have a ceremony for the maidens who've come into their "first moon," like of rights of passage.  It's so beautiful to honor the beginning of womanhood in this way when so often in our culture it's such a private or shameful secret.  And there's the elders (crones) who form a clan over the weekend and come together to give the blessings to the maidens.  So powerful!   So we are supported at all ages, all levels of our being.  I have never seen anything like it before on this scale.  Women often come here feeling broken or isolated and leave feeling connected, held and empowered.  Many feel more relaxed and comfortable in their bodies, even though they may have come initially to learn about the plants and self-healing and being a healer.  There is something magical that happens when women come together without any men in sight in an environment structured around healing and support.  There is sweet ease and freedom, peace and joy.

So besides all the inner healing that happens, there is the great schedule of classes offered on herbs or food medicine in topics like first aid, herb walks, wild crafting, Ayurveda, Chinese medicine, cancer, diabetes, breast health, making lotions, making medicine, diagnostics, kitchen spices, salves, baskets, kids classes, seaweed harvesting and usage, and much more.  This year, my favorite classes were on breast health and Ayurvedic kitchen spices.  I learned a ton.  I taught yoga there several times over the years and this year they also had some fun classes like Zumba, aerial silks, hand mudras and Indian Orissa dancing!   I appreciated that they'd expanded their offerings of physical classes.

I went with my old friends and now many of them have kids.  It was wild to be there in my 40's and especially to observe the ways I've changed over the years.  I used to be uptight about taking as many educational classes as I could (as I was a trained herbalist), and this time I was more interested in having fun and chilling out, as well as enjoying some fantastic learning.  I used to have some social stuff come up around being included in the group.  It was so poignant for me to recognize that I'm way more relaxed with myself in this kind of environment now and not so concerned about what others think and how popular I am.  I was able to trust in my friendships and in my ability to socialize with strangers and aquaintences without any charge about who I "should" be with at any given time.  What a big difference from my 20's and what a relief!   I'm pleased to report that aging does wonders for maturation!   Of course, I think all my spiritual work has probably also paid off in this arena.  
Well, that's probably a long enough blog for now.  I'll write soon on some of the other recent adventures. 

Happy Full Moon Guru Purnima- the day to honor your guru and make prayers and offerings which will be multiplied by 1,000 times at least!