Saturday, October 31, 2009
Hope you have a fun, spooky day. Here's Morgane the Ladybug trick-or-treating in downtown Bozeman yesterday (such a great idea - all the stores participate, it's safe, there are tons of kids, and she got more loot than I ever saw from the door-to-door we did as kids) and our kitty cat pumpkin.
Monday, October 26, 2009
Morgane my 4 year old is really getting into yoga. Lately she's been looking through my yoga books and pointing out poses she wants me to teach her. It's interesting how simple cues require so much of her concentration to perform (like, turn your toes in), and require me to try and make them 4-year-old-friendly. It's fun, and I can see that mind-body connection blossoming.
Morgane also really likes to chant. It's surprised me to hear her belting out lokah samastah sukhino bhavantu, correctly I might add, almost as much as hearing her sing lines from a Pink song ("This used to be a fun house - but now it's full of evil clowns"). Yesterday, when I was taking a picture of her new haircut (damage control, after she cut off almost one entire side of her hair), she brought her hands to Namaste, closed her eyes and started chanting OM. Music to my ears.
Sunday, October 25, 2009
As you might imagine, I have shelves filled with yoga books. I've noticed that with many of them, I've dipped in and out over the years depending on what topics are calling me, vs. reading cover to cover. I've also noticed that I'm much more interested in asana technique and the holistic health care component vs. philosophy. But it's all good, and I feel that I've got a lifetime to explore all sides of yoga. Different things speak to us at different times. For some reason I find it comforting that you're never "finished" with your study of yoga, like you might be with a degree. I like the concept of a lifetime of learning being available. Like yoga's always there for me.
So all that said, I've narrowed it down to my top 3 fave yoga books:
If I could only choose one yoga book, I would have to go with Jivamukti Yoga: Practices for Liberating Body and Soul. Jivamukti was my first yoga love; it’s the style I practiced when I first discovered yoga in NYC. The best thing about this style is that it incorporates everything: history and philosophy, asana, chanting, pranayama, cool music. Every class is a well-rounded experience. The book is a thorough overview of the many aspects of yoga without being overwhelming or hard to understand. Unlike with many of the more esoteric yoga volumes on bookstore shelves, you won’t be sitting there saying ‘huh?’. I’ve read it more than once and refer to it all the time if I have a burning yoga question.
Number 2 is another Jivamukti book. It is a picture book called The Art of Yoga, filled with stunning photographs of Jiva founders Sharon Gannon and David Life demonstrating (mostly) advanced asanas. The photographs are accompanied by wonderful quotes. The combination is super inspiring, and I peruse this book often to breathe new life into my own practice, and refresh my dedication to the process of unfolding both body and mind. And yeah, on a less serious level it's also fun to ooooo and ahhhh and say, I wish I could do that.
The other side of my yoga roots can be found in the Ashtanga practice, and one of my very first yoga books ever was David Swenson's Ashtanga Yoga: The Practice Manual. Even if you are fortunate to have a good Ashtanga teacher, this book is indispensable for learning the Primary Series (Second Series too), the modifications, and breaking it all down in a practical way. I was lucky enough to take David's teacher training; that experience plus having this book be there for me from the beginning of my yoga practice makes it one of my all-time favorites.
If you have a fave yoga book you would like to share, please post a comment. I would especially like to hear suggestions for non-dense, accessible yoga philosophy books that don't lose me after the first few pages. Namaste.
Saturday, October 24, 2009
Triangle time! Sorry I've not kept up with the 1-pose wonders. To make it up to you, I am doing a weekend of yoga posts, starting with - ta da - triangle. I really love this pose. It's not super fancy, everyone can do it, and it feels like a rest when you're in the middle of a heated standing sequence + lots of vinyasas. So I like to linger here in triangle, and restore a bit before moving on. If I come into it out of the context of flow, I find that it wakes things up physically and grounds me mentally. (Note: it's also interesting to compare how different a pose feels on its own, vs. when muscles are loose and limber following sun salutations and flow sequencing.) Try Triangle this weekend and see where you're at.
- Stand tall with your feet together. Step your right foot back about 4 feet, turning the back heel down and angling your toes inward about 45 degrees. If you drew a line from your front heel, it would intersect the arch of your back foot (if that feels unbalanced, then you can try heel-to-heel alignment).
- Take your arms out to the sides at shoulder height; reach your fingertips away from one another.
- Take a full inhale, and on your exhale shift forward from your hips (important: do not bend your front leg!) and reach forward with your front hand, letting it drop to your shin. Eventually you'll be able to take your ankle. Or perhaps your big toe. Don't sacrifice form for reach though - imagine yourself between 2 planes of glass. (Tip: if your butt is sticking way out, you would not fit between 2 planes of glass.)
- Align your top thumb over your nose, and take your gaze towards it. Hold for 5-10 deep breaths and come back up to your starting position on an inhale.
- Rotate your feet and repeat on the other side.
Friday, October 23, 2009
I had big plans for juicy posts this week that were obviously derailed. So I now feel obligated to bring you some Friday fun, and promise to delve back into other topics as soon as I regroup a bit. Here is my Lucchese Lotus, from a photo shoot earlier this week that involved some crazy yoga poses in the most amazing cowgirl boots ever. Happy weekend.
Monday, October 19, 2009
It's a cold, rainy Monday. But I have more horse happiness to share before I head off to snuggle up with yoga books and a cup of tea (must plan for a yoga photo shoot tomorrow on how to break down advanced postures, fun!). Janice caught some of the Cowgirl Yoga herd dozing in the sun, including my sleeping Dude Boy with his nose planted in the dirt.
Hope these make you smile.
Sunday, October 18, 2009
Last week was one of those times when I was sweating the small stuff, and just felt off. I was struggling through my routine and didn't possess my usual enthusiasm. I had to make a tough decision (to find our puppy a new home), and like all tough decisions it tugged at my heart in uncomfortable ways. Soooo, by yesterday I was ready for a day away. As in, a day when I didn't have to organize myself (and others) to be places at certain times, didn't have obligations or expectations, nothing. And I headed to horsecamp to just be with the horses.
For many people, including myself, heading out to the horses mostly means riding. But I was also craving some unstructured horse time, to watch them, touch them, talk to them. I even shoveled horse poop. It was a beautiful, sunny day in Bozeman, and the perfect temperature. I went into the horse pen and milled around with them, without that pressure to get who I needed and get out; instead of eyeing me warily, many of them came to me of their own accord (horses move away from any kind of pressure, physical or energetic, so if you blast into their space on some kind of mission, you can bet they will be moving to get away from you fast). I watched a brief training session with some friends' new horses. I learned more about tack. I rode whoever I was drawn to, which after the last few months riding my own horse Dude Boy, was refreshing. After a long grooming session, Ollie and I went out in the field and I worked him into quite a sweat (which meant more grooming afterwards, just touching a horse is its own form of therapy!). Janice, and our little horse posse and I ate lunch outside when we got hungry instead of when it was "lunchtime". And I finished the day on Tango, from whose back I watched someone else ride my horse, and learned a lot from seeing that. We opened up and pushed the horses into a gallop, which is still very new for me; when I think about the fear I have left behind and the freedom I now enjoy on horseback, it makes me warm and fuzzy all over.
Every once in awhile I wondered what Morgane was doing, what I should pick up for dinner, what was left on my to-do list for the week...but then someone (equine) would snort or neigh or push me with their soft nose and I was back in the moment again. Right where I belonged. After I got home I could feel the mood-enhancing, grounding effects of my day away, and before I fell asleep I was recalling and savoring all the moments I was so blessed to experience yesterday.
What can you do to change things up and enjoy your own day away...?
I highly recommend it. Here's another picture of Janice and me by Walter Lockwood, on our gorgeous boys Bridger and Dude Boy.
Wednesday, October 14, 2009
I'm thrilled to introduce Amy, our first Cowgirls vs. Cancer scholarship recipient. Amy will be joining us next summer for healing with horses and yoga on a Cowgirl Yoga retreat; but until then, she'll be sharing her journey right here as a guest blogger. So without further ado, I give you Amy.
Growing up my parents modeled many of my current day values, with a strong emphasis on a lifestyle of health and wellness. My father was a marathon runner who practiced yoga every morning to Lilias on PBS before Yoga was mainstream. Mom, a nursing instructor, grew and maintained acres of organic vegetable gardens and fruit trees. I recall fall evenings spent canning and freezing earth's bounty to provide our family with healthy meals.
As an adult, I cultivated these same experiences in my own life. I became a yoga instructor while raising four children, understanding that my practice not only gave me balance in a hectic lifestyle but also spoke to my children about the connection of a healthy mind and body.
On August 17, I anticipated a "normal" day in our household. An early morning practice, a first routine mammogram appointment, and preparation for one last quick summer getaway were on the Amy Annis docket for the day. It was a beautiful day and my only thought was to move through morning quickly and enjoy those last few summer moments before it was back to school and life got crazy busy. I was curtailed at the appointment, asked to return for a few more tests, and by 5 pm I found myself meeting with a surgeon discussing strategy for my breast cancer diagnosis.
I will always remember that evening, sitting at a computer researching risk factors in an attempt to understand how this could have happened to me. Never smoked, exercised all my life, no family history of cancer. The only risk factor that applied was that I am a woman.
Wait, whoa, what...cancer? Are you kidding? The shock and awe of that word knocked me off my feet for at least three days. The following week wasn't much better as I unconsciously walked through a barrage of tests, able to pick up only a word here and there. First, I heard "cancer", the next phrase being invasive lobular cancer, then finally someone in the medical community mentioned the "size"...this wasn’t the tumor of a green-juicing, organic-eating, forty year-old yoga mama. This was the kind of tumor typically seen in the breast of an eighty year-old woman. Internally, I began bracing myself for the worst, planning in my head for the potential of hearing the word terminal.
Fortunately, the next word wasn't terminal, it was "treatable." I'm still clinging to that word and the hope it gives me.
Today chemo has begun, and as the strength of my body slows, I draw on the values yoga has taught me. The philosophy of acceptance now outweighs the memory of a strong yoga instructor who once had the ability to lead a roomful of students through a challenging sequence. As I laid recently in my MRI, holding hands with my husband, I could visualize the beautiful faces of my children while releasing tension with each exhale.
Cancer, without a doubt, shakes your foundation. And yet, I am still invigorated by the support of my cancer posse, a circle of friends and family who have rallied around me at each bend in the road. As I journey through, something disguised as a loss has slowly emerged as an opportunity. My focus isn’t completely clear yet but I do have a newly found creative edge, a desire to make a difference, and a better appreciation for my amazing life.
My children gave me meaning, yoga fed my soul, and cancer is my new springboard for limitless opportunities. If you would have asked me on August 17, how has cancer affected you, I could not have imagined it would have made me so fearless. And how, despite many tears at each turn, I am empowered.
For years I have lived in the world of a busy mom, prioritizing math homework and navigating the complex world of carpooling. I decided at one point to justify my love of yoga; I could teach it, and contribute to the family in some small way. Late nights, when the kids would finally sleep, I would pour through yoga books and publications dreaming of the day when a yoga retreat could be a reality. Now that I have cancer, I approach things with gusto. That fearlessness I mentioned before allows me to envision not "what if" but "when". An email with Margaret from Big Sky Yoga Retreats was the first step. Now, as the reality of it unfolds, I envision yoga, breathing in a Big Sky breath, and just "being" in a Montana moment. It's healing.
Thank you Amy, for sharing your story and for being an inspiration to us all. Yeehaw & Namaste.
Monday, October 12, 2009
Who would have ever guessed that I'd begin a modeling career in Montana? OK, maybe not exactly a career, but rather random odd jobs...and I'm certainly no Anna Jagodzinska, the lovely supermodel who joined us for Cowgirl Yoga in August. But I've found myself in front of a camera more than ever before, and I have to say it's been a lot of fun. It started with the Athleta photo shoot for the spring '08 catalog we were featured in, progressed to hiring pro Larry Stanley for Cowgirl Yoga promo pix, became good friends with Larry and have been his go-to girl for shoots that included kitchen model (I got to chop a lot of peppers!) and skincare model, the JADE yoga mat ad shoot, and last week got to work with artsy LA photog Walter Lockwood and help him develop his "western family" theme. Our shoot included myself and Morgane, Janice and Ron from Cowgirl Yoga, all the girls that ride at Horsecamp with Janice, and of course my horse Dude Boy and the CY herd.
Here's Morgane planting a tree, Monica and Deeanne striking a cowgirl pose, and Dude Boy and I looking for cows. Not really, but that was the look we were trying for. What do you think, did we get it...? More images to come when Walter gets through the hundreds he took.
Sunday, October 11, 2009
I shouldn't have said anything about pumpkins and snow being a bad mix. We've had more snow in the last week than DC, my former home, typically sees in an entire winter. And the high temps since Thursday have barely broken the 30s. Despite it not seeming much like October outside (Morgane wanted to read Christmas books instead of Halloween ones the other day - "but Mom, it looks like Christmas outside!"), I've pushed on with the pumpkins. This weekend, my greatest accomplishment may in fact be finally producing some baked goods that are coffee-shop worthy, vs. the typical messy, but usually edible, items whose appearance I always blame on the altitude. Yes indeed, my pumpkin muffins turned out so well that I even took a picture.
Try 'em for yourself:
- 2 1/4 cups all-purpose whole wheat flour
- 2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
- 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
- 1 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup packed brown sugar
- 1 cup canned pumpkin
- 1/3 cup buttermilk
- 1/3 cup canola oil
- 1/4 cup molasses
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 large eggs
- Granulated sugar
Preheat oven to 400. Combine flour and next 4 ingredients in a medium bowl (add a cup of golden raisins if you're into those); stir well with a whisk. Combine brown sugar and everything else (thru eggs) in another bowl. Mix everything together in one bowl and stir until just moist. Spoon batter into 12 muffin cups coated with cooking spray; sprinkle with sugar. Bake at 400 for 15-20 minutes. Remove muffins from pan right away and cool on a wire rack.
If you've got any good pumpkin recipes, now is the time to share...
Friday, October 9, 2009
October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. I really like it when things are timed right, so I'm thrilled to announce the launch of Big Sky Yoga Retreat's new program, Cowgirls vs. Cancer.
Through Cowgirls vs. Cancer, Big Sky Yoga Retreats aims to support fundraising efforts across the US to help provide scholarships to yoginis who have experienced the physical, emotional and financial hardships of breast cancer. In 2010, our goal is to bring Amy, a yoga instructor and mother of four in the beginning stages of chemo, to Montana on a Cowgirl Yoga retreat. This healing and rejuvenating retreat will give her something positive to look forward to, and help her regain an internal sense of peace and balance. Our hope is that through fundraising efforts, we can raise enough money to make several breast cancer survivors Cowgirl Yoginis every year. Please help us make a difference in the fight against cancer. Or as a cowgirl might say, help us kick cancer's ass. Yeehaw & Namaste!
So much more to come on this...including how you can get involved, the Cowgirl t-shirt debut, and guest blogging by Amy on the topic of yoga and cancer. Or yoga vs. cancer. Meanwhile, you can read more about this fab new program, and about Amy, here. Namaste.
Tuesday, October 6, 2009
Monday, October 5, 2009
Well, shut my mouth. I'd just been blathering on last week about how summery our September was - after 8o degrees last Tuesday, we promptly went straight to winter on October 1 with the arrival of the first snowstorm. Yes, that's right, and guess what? We're in the middle of another right now. It's been snowing since yesterday afternoon. I love it, and yes I am serious. But I am still hoping that we return to fall for a bit, because I'm really in the mood for pumpkins. And pumpkins and snow together doesn't seem quite right.
Regardless of the winter weather, I'm forging ahead with the pumpkins. Morgane is too, and has started the annual tradition of watching It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown over and over. Every year around this time I am struck with the urge to bake something pumpkin; however, I'm not a good baker (the altitude thing doesn't help either) nor do I really care for pumpkin pie. I love making pumpkin pie, because even I can do it right and it makes the house smell soooo good...but I'm not into eating it. Pumpkin cookies haven't worked out for me either. So I decided to try a cake - nothing fancy or with layers (Lord no); I figured a safe bet would be a Bundt cake. All you have to do is pour it into that Bundt pan and it comes out looking good. As can happen on the internet, one thing led to another and not only did I find the easiest, yummiest pumpkin cake recipe, but also a new blog crush - Whipped: Food, Drink & Conversation from around the Table. Even if it doesn't make me a better baker, it will entice me to try.
In other pumpkin news, I was on a quest for the perfect pumpkin candle. So many of them can be over the top and icky sweet, like they were trying too hard to replicate that pumpkin-pie-in-the-oven smell. I found it today - it's the gorgeous Illume Heirloom Pumpkin Soy Candle. (I didn't even allow myself to smell the Holiday Basalm & Cedar flavor, as I just might have bought it with the snow falling outside.) For now, guess I have to go with the pumpkin-snow mix on this Monday afternoon: I'm going to light my candle, inhale some pumpkin aroma, eat some pumpkin cake and watch the snow.