Tag Archives: yoga

peace in the city

Tonight CC and I attended a member’s reception at The Rubin Museum of Art. The Rubin presents contemporary exhibits that “emphasize cross-cultural connections” with the art and ideas of the Himalayas and surrounding Asian cultures.

I was first introduced to the museum by Lulu when we attended a Mirror Meditation seminar last fall. The session included a silent walking meditation through one of the galleries followed by an immersive meditation using mirrors to reflect the inner self. The whole experience was calming and zen-like, one of the first times I’ve felt completely at peace in the city.

The museum architecture is perfectly attuned for sound. This evening there was sitar music playing at the bottom of the stairway rotunda and a life-size gong signaling time for the keynote presentation by executive director Patrick Sears.

We were invited to participate in the OM Lab, where individuals record an intonation of OM (A-U-M, phonetically) as part of the largest collective chant for The World Is Sound exhibit opening in June.

 

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The OM Lab, Rubin Museum of Art @Prez13

 

Chanting OM is one of the favorite parts of my yoga practice and I love the idea of contributing my voice in collaboration.

If you’re located in the metro New York area or plan to visit the area before May 8, 2017 you can, too. Details here.


Remember to exhale

It’s only been a few weeks since my bout with bronchitis but I can feel my body wasting away. I find the energy for an open flow yoga class.

The studio is around the corner from the treehouse. In recent months, the owners have expanded the footprint to include another studio space. The entrance is on a side street and the neighboring buildings muffle the hustle and bustle of the nearby shopping district.

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Credit: KatjaFiona @pixaby – Buddha Zen

The room itself is fluid, and there is a lightness from the wall of plate glass windows even with the privacy screens. The branches of a cherry blossom tree stretch toward the glass as if engaged in a round of partner yoga. Spring wants to be here, too.

Alia talks about how the practice of yoga extends beyond the experience of the mat into how we approach our daily lives. She leads the class in a light meditation and asks us to set an intention before we begin with the Om mantra.

We breathe in through our nose, then exhale through our mouth with a sigh.


Yoga, Cats, and Meditation

Flashback March 2016

Pickup from Siem Reap by tuk-tuk. I meet Dianne from Malta, an ER doctor in Preston, UK. Upon arrival at the Angkor Zen Retreat Center, she reacts skittishly to the dog, insistent that Cambodian dogs are the worst.

First impressions are tricky, and despite being skeptical about my accommodations I forge ahead. And I am so glad I did: a four-day retreat turned into five. It truly was an arrival into paradise, one greeted by a litter of yogi cats.

Yoga three times a day, meditation daily. A vegetarian meal plan that includes breakfast, lunch, tea time, and dinner. The food is surprisingly amazing for this carnivore and has swayed me to start thinking about vegetarian first. If only I could get my hands on their cookbook (they make everything from memory /scratch).

House rules are strict about connectivity, the idea is to disconnect digitally and reconnect spiritually. With the exception of a woman from Dubai, everyone is down to earth and real. Your free time is at will and can be spent in the pool, in town or in the communal living space. There are hammocks and Papasan chairs, communal tables for long conversations and then the yoga shala where your transformation begins.

The yoga studio is an open air shala. Thatched roof with Tibetan meditation flags hanging from its center. Tufted floor pillows for meditation and communal yoga mats: use, clean, repeat. The shala is open on 3 sides, facing the surrounding landscape. There is a monastery down the road and oftentimes you can hear the prayer calls and chanting. In the far left corner, there is an altar paying homage to Buddha and Ganesha. This is especially peaceful during meditation and practice. Inevitably one of the yogi cats makes an entrance and stakes claim on a mat or a pillow. Practicing yogis learn to adapt and create harmony in its space.

There are two yogis in residence. Katia from Colombia, strength training Vinyasa. Tammy from California, specializing in Hatha, meditation and alternative yoga practices like Laughter, Partner, Sound, among others. The cooking crew is a mix of local Cambodians, including the owner and Joy a Canadian. Angkor Zen has both resident cats and dogs. Cats with their diamond-shaped heads, stub tails, and sleek bodies. Dog. Singular. A labrador puppy who loves bread.

Tammy introduces us to partner yoga on my first day. The practice strengthens your poses by aligning with another yogi, using each other for balance to mirror the asanas. Federica and I are paired. She is an Italian living in London and works for an environmental agency on climate change. She travels frequently throughout Southeast Asia and is about to buy her first home in the UK. It’s hard not to bond while doing partner yoga, you learn to lean in to support one another. The Italian connection doesn’t hurt either. Over dinner, we plan to head into Old Market Siem Reap for lunch the next day. Dianne decides to join as well. We arrive in Old Market, on the hunt for a coffee (they only serve tea at Angkor Zen) and after a stroll through the day market, Federica and Dianne have burgers (shh, don’t tell) on the brain and so we stop for lunch.

Angkor Zen Gardens tranquility is the saltwater pool. Each day begins with vinyasa yoga followed by breakfast then Pranayama meditation. The Center has the added bonus of the best massage therapists ever. The top massage for my entire trip was my first Khmer massage (pure heaven) at Angkor Zen. There is a separate shala for spa treatments, located behind the dorms. Open air on 4-sides and covered in a canopy. Stepping stones lead to a bamboo bridge; lilies and orchids line the path. There are several meditation ponds on the grounds too, all of them filled with blooming lotus flowers.

I follow my massage with restorative yoga and twilight swimming. It’s nearly sunset and there’s a hammock with my name on it.

Over the course of those five days, I meet some remarkable women: Amber, mother to Herschel on a mommy adventure; Margarita, a Spaniard by way of Copenhagen now living in London; Nina, from Cologne on her own personal sojourn through Asia; along with Katia, Dianne, Federica, and Tammy. In that time over the course of dinner conversations, meditation, and yoga practice we connect on a deeper level. (And thanks to social media, we still keep in touch.)

It is on that last day before Amber leaves that we solidify our friendship over the mediation circle, learning how to let go. Tammy leads us in meditation, our first task is to find a natural offering in the nature around us. This is followed by a devotional and hugging meditation practice that involves an exercise on heart centering, followed by a walking meditation. Tammy’s wealth of knowledge for alternative yoga practices has been enriching and I’ve gained a greater appreciation for yogic meditation and its benefits.

Photo credit: (c) Andrea Preziotti


unrequited undertow

swimming the action of propelling oneself in water by natural means using arms and legs, can also be used abstractly as both a negative representation of a sensation, where one is floating or reeling and a positive one where one proves to not go under and surmounts difficulties in their path. a lot of meaning for one word isn’t it?

swimming, i’ve been in and around water since I was a child. the ocean and its surroundings a part of almost every childhood memory. in each memory there is sun, sea, sand. the sun’s appearance dictating a Saturday beach outing where we would pile into the dusty green Datsun and drive east toward Rockaway. On longer weekends we headed west toward the Jersey shore. And during the weeks of summer vacation, my mom and I would travel by subway to Coney Island or by bus to where the end of Oriental Boulevard meets the sea.

Rocky shoreline of Orient Point, LI

It was the draw not only of the sun on the sea but the sun and the sand, and depending on what shoreline we found ourselves, each experience of the sand beneath my feet, defined by its texture, shape and size was like time traveling. From the bay shores of Coney Island to beginnings of the ocean near Riis. The eastern shores of Long Island where the granules near Montauk Point are slightly larger and mixed with ground seashells to the north shores of Orient Point dotted with shiny smooth stones that glimmer like black and silver diamonds on the horizon, to the white shores of the lido in Sicily where the best swimming holes to be found are nowhere near sand.

swimming, if one were to ask me I would undoubtedly claim to have been swimming since the very first moment my feet touched sand all those years ago. And that would be a half-truth.

At a young age, my Mom and Dad dutifully taught me how to swim in a seaside kind of way. They introduced the ebb and flow of the sea gradually, first building sandcastles and moats, then splashing in caches of water near the surf, slowly leading me closer and closer to the frothy water’s edge. With each visit to the beach we ventured a little further, and one day I learned to float, the next time the doggy paddle. I can still see their young faces full of pride, laughing. As I got older they flanked me on either side holding my hands, as we jumped over the crashing waves, eventually finding a spot where we cleared the sea floor enough to sail with the breaking waves body surfing along the surface. In this homegrown adventure I learned to swim.

And then one day years later on the beaches of Cancun, I unlearned how to swim.

It was a gorgeous day, my friend and I were staying at the Krystal Palace and after a day of touring the ruins made our way to the hotel’s private beach just steps away from the infinity pool. The sea was translucent and turquoise, the sky above us clear with rolling puffy clouds way, way off in the distance. The water refreshing and cool in the Mexican heat, there was no incentive to leave the water and so I lingered. Nearby a few other beachgoers were looking out onto the horizon, it seems they had spotted something unfamiliar. Upon looking over I saw it too, a cloud far off in the distance with what seemed to be a tornado like spout touching the ocean.

Example of water spout (c)http://myturksandcaicosblog.com

These funnel, or water spouts, as they are traditionally called, can induce storm like conditions and its advisable to not be in the water when first sighted as they can move swiftly. Completely unaware, I continued to tread water and swim, watching the water spout casually from my location, and was quite taken by surprise when the undertow shifted. Caught in a tumbling wave like a rag doll, I lost all sense of gravity, and emerged disoriented and shaken with sand burns on my skin, a torn bathing suit and a heap of sand in my hair.  I left that beach seemingly unscathed only to find myself weary of any undertow or swirling current. Since that day I rarely venture beyond my comfort zone, preferring my feet to touch the sea floor regardless of what beach I may be on from the frothy surf waters at Ditch Plains to the mild green seas of Antigua, Barbuda, Aruba and Puerto Rico.  This unrequited fear of the undertow has put a damper on any ocean side endeavors.

I finally decided enough was enough, a fear of the ocean is just not feasible for someone who loves the beach. There are so many things l want to do that involve the sea, like surfing and kayaking and even in my wildest fantasies I dream of selling off all my worldly possessions and buying my own private island.  I can’t do any of that if I’m too afraid to swim! And so I’ve enrolled myself in a crash splash course at the Y, a swimming boot camp if you will that  meets (1) hour a day, 4 days a week for a month straight. The instructors test you on your ability and place you in a group of students with similar swimming strengths. Then they teach you the basics starting with the swimmer’s form, or streamline position, and begin introducing you to each individual stroke, i.e., backstroke, freestyle, butterfly, et cetera.

Classes started last week, and I’m happy to say that I survived basic training. It takes some getting used to wearing a swim cap and goggles but it certainly makes for quicker, less invasive swimming. I would say the breath has been the hardest adjustment and a complete 180 after a dedicated yoga practice (in through the nose, out through the mouth); it’s no surprise really that I resorted to holding my nose all these years.  I can already feel the benefit in swimming as a form of exercise, and as one friend mentioned it’s the one sport where you use your entire body. My upper body feels more awake and open, and even though my muscles are sore from under usage, I’ve never felt healthier. I’ve also noticed a change in my diet where I crave protein-rich foods more than sugar/salt/starch.  And last but not least is the added benefit of sleep. After a full day at work, I swim vigorously for an hour, shower than relax in the sauna for a few minutes before heading home for a long uninterrupted slumber. A full night’s sleep is anyone’s dream.


the sixth sense: intuition

Sometimes I feel like I have extrasensory perception (ESP), a mild clairvoyance for finding things, things that are lost. Like keys, notebooks, metrocards, a charm bracelet, a ring. Things hoping to be found amid the camouflage of my belongings. Metrocards in jean pockets, books kicked under couches, car keys frosting in the freezer door.  Just this morning, as I walked out the door I realized my work ID had gone missing. After a 10-second frantic search with no immediate results, I paused trying to remember where I saw it last, like a futile game of hide and seek.

I try not to sweat the small stuff, the hiccups of inconvenience. I count to ten and take deep meditative breaths to clear my mind.  Sometimes this works, sometimes not. Most times I find my mind wandering, redirecting itself toward the mundane. Cleaning up cluttered counters, retrieving wet towels from the bathroom floor, hanging up clothes that find themselves on doorknobs instead of the closet. The big reveal: a bright orange lanyard branded my photo dangling from its loop.

These small moments of knowing without knowing make me wonder about coincidence, luck, fate–and whatever other word you might conjure. I don’t question the wondering, some things are just meant to be intangible. I leave the small stuff to itself and revel in its karmic beauty.

As for the big stuff, I don’t sweat that either…I know St. Jude’s got my back.


Personal energy

a few years ago
kundalini became
part of my yoga

practice. Dages Keats
led us through a series of
meditations and

kriyas. Together
with the kundalini breath, mantras, mudras, bandhs

and asanas, one
strives to unwind their inner
connection toward

Higher consciousness.
Unlike traditional forms
of yoga, this branch

focuses on the
liquid energy
flowing through our veins.

There is no downward,
upward stance just conscious breathing.
In, out; in, out. In.

http://www.kundaliniyoga.com
http://www.kundaliniparkslope.com