Saturday, May 29, 2010

Grateful! Grateful! Grateful!

Image courtesy of Recreating Eden
I am so unbelievably grateful today - I truly feel as though I have dipped my toes in the river of abundance and it's sweeping me faster and faster toward my goals. And, I have felt recently that the universe is benevolent.

Recently I completed a yoga photoshoot, in order to use pictures that I own for my sequence handout sheets at workplaces. Little did I know what I would hold in my hand when I completed the document, design and all. All the work I do on newsletters, forms, and other marketing materials I generate in InDesign by Adobe has paid off - I have a document that looks great. Truly original! If you would like to see it I would be happy to send you a pdf but it belongs to jointly to me and my employer (they agreed to shared intellectual property). You can see some pics here.

On another note, we have been in an ongoing struggle to replace our failed leach field at my house. The project has dragged on and on... so I finally changed designers. Today our new designer showed up and our excavator uncovered beautiful soil for an in ground system on part of our land. This means - a much cheaper job for sure. In uncovering this soil, we cleared part of our land that we thought we would be waiting years to get to. Now it's all open and I have news that I'm going to be able to easily afford the system, and will have a huge new 1acre lawn bulldozed and seeded with grass by the fourth of July. I cannot believe how wonderfully this has turned out!

When the universe closes one door, another opens. In this case, a beautiful set of french doors with stained glass.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Yoga Photoshoot!

Well here they are! Some pics from my photoshoot. Hope you enjoy them. More soon - busy day! Click the photo here to see the Picassa Web Album.
"Anna Van Fleet"

Yoga is not just for the skinny minnies out there - yoga has taught me self-acceptance and given me self-esteem as I practice. I continue to gain appreciation for all my body can do in the yoga room, and I carry that out into my life.

I hope these pictures inspire a new generation of yogis and yoginis who understand that we do not all have to look like those in the pages of Yoga Journal to find the path.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Cleanse Day 2 - energy, love and light!

Image compliments of Appetite of Life
Good day my fine feathered friends. I am just bursting with energy. I cannot believe how amazing I feel - I'm buzzing inside. Yesterday I had herbal tea and water to begin my cleanse and around 2PM I went and shopped for veggies and made juice.

Juice recipe:
2 apple
4 celery
handfull watercress
chunk of ginger (to taste)

This juice is amazing - I loved it yesterday and am having it again today for lunch. For dinner yesterday I did a combo of carrot, celery, tomato, watercress and ginger but that was really nothing to write home about. The juicing thing is quite an art and I do not have the science of the green drinks down yet.

I did one other juice fast in my life and it was all about weight loss and getting ready to get ready for my pending wedding. I reread some things that I wrote about it at that time and realize how backwards my thinking was then. I really wanted to do anything to lose weight then. Now it's all about my health. I didn't even think about weight loss as a motivation to do this cleanse (but I'll take it if it comes.)

I was acting out of fear then, fear of my weight, of looking bad in pictures, etc. I have grown so much since then. I have gone through therapy for my Compulsive Overeating Disorder (COE) and have become a yoga teacher. I have followed my passions and my life has opened up so much.

So this time around, I'm juice feasting for health and wellness. I can feel such a difference.

Because I have a strong Bikram practice, I was also able to practice and teach a class running on nothing but fresh juice. I would not encourage a first time student to do anything like that. However I know myself and my body and I was able to do it. I had a coconut water between and made it through no problem. I feel happy and adjusted and have none of the fears I did in my last juice fast - I have no fear of sitting and drinking juice with people when they are eating, for instance. I'm also not stuffing myself with juice - I'm making good amounts, diluting with water, and trusting my body to tell me when it's ready for more. Result: I feel positively buzzing with light and energy! Amazing.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Cleansing Day 1

Image compliments of Joanne Tucker at beautiful flower paintings, check them out!
Today is day 1 of my cleanse. There are numerous reasons why it's the right time to cleanse. I'm adding in a lot of yoga, fresh juices (time to dust off the breville!), teas and broths for a while and will end as it's time to end.

My body is crying out for a break - some introspection - and some time to reflect as it warms up here in Vermont. My recent trip to New Orleans and the passing of my aunt have put me into a cycle of comfort food that's not doing me any good. It's one of those things that really perpetuates itself - the reaching for comfort.

I'm working with Pema Chodron's Getting Unstuck lectures as well.
The teachings tell us that there is suffering.

There is dissatisfaction and frustration. Often nothing seems to go right. There really is a wound. But it is not necessary to scratch it. Working with addictions is about not just impulsively grabbing for something to stop the itching, not just grabbing for something to fill up the space, not giving in to this impulse to feel okay and just to get comfortable as soon as possible.

When we scratch the wound and give into our addictions we do not allow the wound to heal. But when we instead experience the raw quality of the itch or pain of the wound and do not scratch it, we actually allow the wound to heal. So not giving in to our addictions is about healing at a very basic level.

It is about truly nourishing ourselves.
So... these are the teachings I am working with through the end of this month as I add lots of healing and introspection to my daily life... and leave behind some of the things that are clouding up my vision.

Last night preparing for bed, I did a very nice sequence.  The yoga poses (without meditation and pranayama) are going to be used in a wellness program I work with for the purpose of preparing the body for rest.  I must say they left me feeling clear and relaxed.

1) Restorative Seated Forward Bend
Sit, propped up by a blanket or two under the hips if needed, with legs wide open, and bring a chair or prop onto the mat. Lean forward to place the forehead gently on the chair (use something soft if you need to.) There should be no effort in keeping the legs open and straight so do as much as is right for your body type. (Extremely tight hips? Open the legs as much as is comfortable and put rolled blankets under the knees.) Relax in this position, eyes closed, for a full 3 minutes. Allow the body to twitch and move and settle.

2) Sphinx pose
On belly, place forearms on the floor, shoulder width apart, palms down, fingers facing forward. Lift head and upper body up to assume the pose of the sphinx. Upper arms should be perpendicular to the floor, chest up, neck relaxed. Add depth to this position by pulling the palms gently toward you on the floor. No need to move the hands or arms, just feel what that slight pull on the floor does to open the chest. Remain until physical fatigue sets in then change... should be a minute or so.

3) Child's pose with a block to support the forehead if necessary - hold 1-3 minutes.

4) Dvipida Pitham (Pelvic raises, dynamic with the breath)
On the back, feet planted on the floor, heels close to the hips, palms down. On inhale, raise hips up to maximum, drop chin to chest to stretch the back of the neck. On exhale, lower the hips down as you gently unwind the spine vertebrae by vertebrae. Celebrate the looseness and relaxation in the lower back. Repeat 3-5 times or more if you're loving it.

5) Supine twist
On back, bring knees up into the chest. Arms out to the sides, palms down, keeping knees together, lower knees toward right elbow. Rest keeping or trying keep both shoulders on the floor, space and extension in the lower back (think left hip away from left shoulder.) Look left if your neck is not tweaky. Relax. Perform twist to the left, then repeat both sides. Take your time.

6) Savasana

7) Meditation on the breath 3-5 minutes

8) Alternate Nostril Breathing Alternate Nostril Breathing for 3 minutes or until the feeling of clarity in the sinuses and lungs is achieved (I don't advise going on and on forever here! This is powerful stuff.)



Friday, May 21, 2010

Rebuilding, getting the feet back on the ground, grief

I lost a member of my non-immediate family this week after returning from vacation. Needless to say I'm struggling to get my feet back on the ground - it was very sudden. I'm hoping to be back in blogging and practicing form soon. I teach for the first time in a while tonight, I'm hoping that pulls me back up a bit as it usually does.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Kapotanasana and backbending

I have wanted to write about the practice I had on Friday before I taught. I did 30 minutes of lower back work viniyoga style - lots of hip raises, hip stretches, cakravikasana, vimanasana, supta badokonasana and supta padangustasana.

Then moved into some sun salutations, just trying to get the repetitions in. Sun salutations are a new part of my practice and I'm really working on the jump backs and jump forwards and keeping off my hips when I come up to upward dog.

I then did the practice that I've been waiting to retry - backbending up and down the wall. I was alone in my studio so I went very slowly. I set up my mat perpendicular to the wall. Rested in Wheel prep pose, then pushed up. I walked my feet in a bit, looked at the wall, and placed the first hand there. Then you walk up and kind of drift over the top in this daring moment, then you're on your feet!

I placed a block beside my mat to mark where my feet were. It always feels like a long way to drop back. It's really the scary part. However when I was little I dropped back into backbends no problem so I know that even if I went down, I'd be ok. So... I stood in prayer and rested while the blood shifted all around. YOu can hear this "whooshing" sound and sensation while going up and down that's for sure. Hands in prayer, extended up tall through the upper back.

I moved the eyes back and stood backward leaning, getting tall, breathing, and connecting with calm energy. Then looked back at the wall and brought my hands out to the side and reached back - WALL! Then I walked back down. I went up and down four times! At the end I did get a little tired and ended up not pressing up into wheel and kind of coming down on my head but it wasn't that bad. I should have stopped before that happened though.

Lastly, I tried a backbend I really want to be able to do - Kapotanasana.
Image Courtesy of

I went back and got my hands on the ground. I tried this twice, just getting the sensation of the backbend. I also tried Laghuvadrasana, which is the ashtanga pose that comes with Kapotanasana. THat's a really hard one! There's about a six inch gap between where I want to be (head on floor) and where my strength holds out. If you go further than where your strength is, you collapse down onto the floor. Learned my lesson on that one.

Anyway the deep backbend practice was wonderful - but I'm struggling these days to get my Bikram in. I need that as a base and to add all this stuff on!

However, I'm off to New Orleans for a week and will not be terribly yoga focused. I am going to try to do some bathroom Bikram and even visit a studio down there. Have a great week everyone!

Friday, May 7, 2010

Balinese art, yoga, and most beautiful peaceful scenes

This video contains some of the most amazing images I've seen. Just watching it was like an eight minute vacation while sitting at my desk at work! Bali is an Indonesian nation which has a very interesting population - Bali contains the majority of Indonesia's Hindu population. However it is a Buddhist-inspired and Javanese-influenced version of Hinduism, one of the major tenets being that all gods and goddesses (many in Hinduism) are expressions of a single supreme deity or being. What a perfect place to practice yoga indeed.

Bali is known as an enchanted place, where the native population is peaceful and restful, and the surroundings awe inspiring. I particularly love the rich reds, golds and blues in the ornate finery you see in this video during a mass cremation ceremony, where a dragon effigy is burned as well and the smoke rises through the trees. The flowers - the lotus flowers - some of the most sculpted and delicate flower images I've ever seen are in this video. Makes my daffodils quake in their boots I'll tell you what!

Take a trip with a cup of tea and this video... You'll love it.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Blowin' in the Wind with Vrksasana (Tree Pose)

Image compliments of as well as the idea for this post.

I did a little run through of this pose in my dining room waiting for a friend to come over. The windows are open and a strong storm and accompanying wind are whistling and whipping about outside. It was a great experience. Coming up into the pose I'm reminded of this little quirk I have in this pose - I love having my foot on skin above the knee on the inside of the leg (rather than placing my foot on pants.) It increases my feeling of stability.

I haven't practiced this version of this posture for a while, because I do the Bikram style pose in class most often, with sole of the foot facing the ceiling instead. It's been a while since I settled into tree pose! Picking up to balance first on my right leg, I felt what I feel so often in my balancing postures. A small foot weaving back and forth on the floor, between keeping the big toe down firmly, and being pulled out to the outer edge of the foot due to strong external rotation in my hips. In the Bikram studio, this sensation doesn't seem to correlate to anything besides... well, balancing - but in the dining room with the storm whipping around outside, I actually felt myself as a tree blowing in the wind.

With arms in front of chest in prayer, I got my legs strong, inner thigh firm. Then worked on lifting the rib cage up to avoid collapsing into the hips. I stretched the cervical spine up and relaxed the chin. As I do this frequently in my Bikram practice, it seems like a tiny release of the neck, a slight tuck of the chin, and I can feel the cervical spine extension. It's like gaining an inch. That's huge when it comes to spine lengthening!

Arms go up and the drama begins. As I move calmly into this expression of the pose, my abdomen and core muscles naturally firm to help me balance. Now THIS must really be what a tree feels like swaying in the wind! So much more length, so much more to control. I marvel at the fact that my core muscles were pretty relaxed in the first phase of the pose (arms down).

Resting between legs, I feel the inevitable, "That was fun! Other side! Other side! and the ego enters the conversation wondering if I'll be able to do it "as well" on the other side (read: not fall out). Standing with legs together I'm much more tuned into the natural weight shifts that go on in standing. I connect with the tree in the wind feeling, but feel much more rooted.

I captured most of my sensory experience with the first side. Though my second side was different of course, not much more to report. What I noticed is that my left foot, which I've nursed back from an injury that's lasted years, tends to grip more with the toes for balance. Consciously relaxing that tendency allows me to press the ball of the big toe down into the floor, increasing balance. I really felt the energy increase as the arms went up, then loved that settling-back-in yummy, comfortable feeling of bringing the arms back down to the chest.

Mix and Match Yoga

image courtesy of ant217 on flickr
I have had a fun time in the last 24 hours practicing yoga! Yesterday I taught two classes for a client, and today I get to teach one in the opposite part of the state as well. After I got home yesterday I was going to hit Bikram at the studio but it was so beautiful outside! I thought of writeouschick on twitter who practiced outside recently and thought to myself, hey that sounds like a great idea!

I brought my mat and little dvd player outside to the deck, along with some ice water. First I did the lower back therapeutic sequence from my Gary Kraftsow Viniyoga DVD. I'm trying to treat some pain I have with this sequence, because I think one of the best ways to become a therapist is to practice on oneself. Feeling relaxed and loose after that, I changed gears.

Shiva Rea's Yoga Shakti Solar Flow 2 sequence was next. I'm really trying to work on my upper body strength. Thus, I need to get my sun salutation/vinyasa strength up. Bikram is great, but the returns I'm getting are more in the fine tuning area. However when I do a vinyasa based practice, I feel so much work happening for my upper body, a place where I'm notoriously lacking in strength. It's hard to move a body that's overweight through sun salutations. Well, it is if you want to keep your hips up off the floor as you transition to upward facing dog. Shiva Rea moves so fluidly while breathing so easily. Her breathing pace is way different from mine - I'm breathing about twice as fast as she is to do the same amount of work, which throws off the vinyasa rhythm a bit. However, working through handstand (only did setup and some kicks, I didn't want to kick through one of my windows!) some really nice backbend prep work and full wheel variations, etc.

I was hoping to do some backbending up and down the wall after that but ran out of time. I'm hoping tonight is the night for beginning that practice. Coming soon next week... I'm off to New Orleans for a week! Yay!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

A beautiful evening

Hubby and I went to work together yesterday for the first time in quite a while - thanks to my car being in the shop. It was such a nice way of beginning our evening together. We got home and relaxed in the living room, watching a storm roll in.

I wish I had some images to share with you because it was magical. We have a view from a number of big windows out over a bit of a valley and up a wall of mountains with sky lining the top. We are on one side of the valley about a third of the way up. As the storm threatened, the sky was many shades of black and gray. At war. Huge darker patches made a domineering backdrop to what you might usually consider the darkest colored storm cloud.

A wall of rain came over the mountain ridge. We could see it moving at a blistering pace swallowing everything in its path. From our perspective, the rain wall moved horizontally across our view - we got to see it march down the mountain.

The rain came, dashing first lightly on the sky lights then pounding, deeper, deeper, deeper, until tick! tick! tick! Tiny balls of hail rained down on the skylights and the deck, where they melted immediately. A few minutes of storm and the epicenter moved through, thundering and flashing light once, which I missed because I was petting a cat.

The sky changed again and a fuzz of orange light just over the ridgeline reminded us that indeed the sun was still there through the fog and rain. And as a few seconds passed, the most glorious sun emerged - shining brilliantly directly in our faces through the raindrops shimmering on the trees. A mist literally danced down the hill across the valley from us, breaking into three small mists being batted around by the mountain's fading foothills.

We sat in wonderment - will we ever see a light again like this? Maybe never. We looked out a side window for the rainbow that had formed, found it, and went back to sharing the play by play of the mist dancing around.

I thought I would share a moment that reminded me of Bikram's first lecture at my teacher training: Yoga is everything.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Feelin' the burn

Last night I had a great class. I decided at the beginning of class to really work my abdomen and endocrine system in class (some hormonal imbalances are plaguing me right now.) Boy did I work hard, you know the kind of class when you go for padahastasana and you're like dripping sweat. Every muscle contracted... etc. I found last night that my backbends I was doing to prepare for the photo shoot changed my postures slightly. I'm going to try to pick up a practice that more serious yogis do... the backbending up and down the wall before class. I've tried it a few times. It can be scary to drop back that's for sure. However, I felt change in my body and I know from a posture clinic wtih Esak Garcia that the best way to change your postures is to backbend - open up the spine. Anyway I'm feeling wonderful from that class last night. Like the body is afire.

It's strange how you have a rockin' awesome full of effort class and you wonder... have I been slacking off recently? No, not really. But when you blast one out like that you know there is always more to give. That's why Bikram rocks. There is always progress to be made!

Morning linkies anyone?

Some fit sugar stretches for tight hips - eagle reclining twist, ardha matsyandrasana, and double pidgeon. I like these - they're pretty advanced for tight hips though. I'd start myself with pelvic raises, regular pidgeon, and this one which doesn't have an official name that I know of - (anyone know if it has a name?)

pondering yogini asks, what female superhero are you?
To be honest, I am not exactly up on my comic books, though I have recently had a renaissance of sorts with some old cartoons I used to watch - specifically Thundercats, GI Joe, and Transformers. In honor of that... I'm going with two of the ladies from these shows.

Cheetara from Thundercats and Scarlet from GI Joe.

And, back to yoga for this beautiful post for teachers.
Learning to accept a student who shows consistent effort but little "improvement" in the art of postures. This is especially applicable in Bikram as everyone in the room wants to improve their postures. A counter to this in my own experience is a great guy who's a regular in my class who just took his tenth class last night. The change in his postures has been incredible. From beginning to end of his first ten class card - the difference is amazing. Last night in locust he busted out this beautiful lifted leg with toes pointed. It looked like a ballerina's point. He's doing so well.

I think the heat allows things to open up at an accelerated rate in the hot room, which is why people's bodies really do change a lot practicing Bikram regularly.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Yoga Notes... and Congrats LZ!

Firstly - LZ CONGRATULATIONS! You won in an exciting drawing performed by my hubby last night, on the couch, with a laptop and an internet random number generator. See yesterday's comments from "hubby" on the giveaway post. How cute is he??

I'm hoping to start a regular feature - a sort of morning round up if you will of some blogs that I follow. Hope everyone had a restful and nourishing weekend. I saw a friend I haven't seen for about fifteen years and it was like no time had passed at all. I believe the lesson I continue to learn with friendships is that I have many wonderful friends from my past who will make my life fuller as I find and reconnect with them.

An interesting twist on food journaling - writing down not just what you do eat, but what you crave and pass up. I'm intrigued!

A meditation mantra and photos for gaining spiritual, emotional, and yes, even material wealth - in order to help others.

J's awesome TT blog... no need to say more.

via this amazing story about compassion in the real world. Not always pretty.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Photo shoot complete

Photo shoot, teaching and practicing yesterday... I'm a sore puppy. I'll have the pictures in a few weeks.