greeting the light within

Namaste.  I say it at the end of each of my yoga classes, and my students repeat it back to me.  I assume, as yogis, we all know what it means, and I rarely take the time to define it.

I am no Sanskrit scholar, but as I have learned it, namaste means: the light of the divine within me, honors the light of the divine within you.

It’s a lot for a little word, no?  Sanskrit is that way, with layers of meaning in one or two words.

Nama means I bow.  Te means to you.  I bow to you.  But it is not simply me, this body, bowing to you, your body.  It is my essence bowing to your essence–the highest in me recognizing and bowing to the highest in you.  This body holds that light, is the container that gives it hands to type and eyes to see and feet to tickle and throat to laugh, but this body does not define that light.

This week, after the terrible shootings in Connecticut, our newspaper printed photos of most of the victims.  The front page was full of smiling little faces of boys and girls, and their teachers.  My first thought was to hide this paper from my children, to read it when they were asleep, grieve privately over the faces of children not much older than my own.

But my second thought, seeing these beautiful faces, was to show them to my children.  They are–at two–far too young to hear or understand the story of these children.  So I opened the paper, and put it on the floor, and we admired the faces of the kids.  “That,” my son said, pointing to one boy’s notably carrot-red hair.  “Red hair,” I told him.  “That’s a boy with very red hair.”

“Eyeglasses,” my daughter said, noting one girl with glasses slid halfway down her nose.  “Yes,” I replied, “she is wearing eyeglasses.”

And so it went, throughout the day, we would pull out the paper, and look at the kids.  Hi kids, they said, over and over.  Hi kids.

Namaste.

December 23, 2012 at 12:36 pm 4 comments

Time to Rest

Often, as I am gathering my children and their favorite stuffed bears together for nap time, I wish that someone would gather me and my favorite bear (actually, he was a stuffed dog named Henry and I still have him, though I no longer sleep with him), kiss me on my cheek, and tuck me in for a little rest.

At the end of our yoga practice, this is exactly what we give ourselves, when we take savasana.  Usually translated as corpse pose, described (by David Swenson, in his wonderful Ashtanga Yoga Practice Manual) as the “death of a practice,” it’s a chance to rest, to be.

I think of it as a time for the body to integrate all of the learning it has done during the practice.  Especially if you’re taking class, and following instruction for an hour or an hour and a half, your body and mind are probably ready for the break from listening, and doing.

And unlike rests that I give myself at other points during the day–like now, when my kids are napping, so I am checking email and writing a blog post–this is a moment of doing nothing.  A moment to simply be.

And unlike actually falling asleep, the resting in savasana is in that space between sleep and wakefulness, when the brain is alert and aware but still, quiet.  This stillness is not only an essential part of savasana, it’s an essential part of the practice of yoga.  As my first teacher said–if you don’t have this quality, you’re just standing around on one foot in a really hot room.

So, savasana is a chance to notice this quality of stillness, to be with it, to allow it to be within ourselves; a chance to rest.

Enjoy.

 

December 5, 2012 at 12:56 pm 1 comment

Up with Pups

Uppup: Comfortable clothing that expresses your love for dogs and yoga.  And hockey.  And silliness.  And movies.  And occasionally wasting time to see very funny things on youtube.

Don’t mistake the silence of this blog for silence in the world of Uppup.  Carol has been hard at work on many wonderful ideas, including YoHo, a very funny video featuring pups, hockey, yoga, and friends wearing Uppup gear.  If you have about six minutes, check it out here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ew8kHPzeMrM&feature=em-share_video_user

Also check the website for new products, and a great sale on some older styles.
While you’re on youtube, check out some yoga podcasts, too.  Kathryn Budig has some wonderful free podcasts, all around twenty minutes long.  Her arm balance sequences are particularly fun and challenging.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fZBmjhFhhmM&feature=relmfu

If you need to wring out that second helping of stuffing (or turkey, or pie, if you’re like me), twists are a wonderful way to rid the body of toxins.  Here’s one of Kathryn’s revolved practices: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9FsSNgDJ97g&feature=relmfu

Happy Thanksgiving, all.  I am grateful for yoga, and dogs, and hockey, and silliness, and youtube videos that make me laugh out loud.  Hope you have a long list, too.

November 22, 2012 at 9:53 pm 1 comment

book

I can sum up the themes for the Intro to Yoga series into the shortest self-help book ever.

Chapter One: Keep it Simple

Chapter Two: Create Space

Chapter Three: Dedication

Chapter Four: Delight

Chapter Five: Visit Your Family

Chapter Six: Evenness

The last chapter is what we worked on last Sunday.  Evenness (sattvic or sattva in sanskrit), is the idea that when life moves through extremes, we don’t follow the swing of the pendulum.  Of course, we feel joy and sorrow, rage and awe, but we don’t act on them, we don’t hold them in the body or the mind for any length of time.  We see the pendulum swinging, and we see that each time it swings, it swings through center, through evenness.  And, we hope that with time, with practice, the swings of the pendulum grow less extreme, our experience of life is life with ease, with evenness: a life that is sattvic.

You’ll note that there were six classes in the series, but class five I was off in RI visiting my family (yes, my grandmother had a wonderful time at her party, as we all did!).  A balance like this is probably about right: five parts in practice on my mat, one part putting it into practice in the world.

February 23, 2012 at 9:34 pm 4 comments

dedication

I’ll miss my intro to yoga class this coming Sunday, as I’ll be helping my grandmother celebrate her 100th birthday.

My grandmother has gotten to 100 with amazing good health and good cheer.  A year and a half ago, when she was in the hospital for surgery, it was her first overnight stay in a hospital in more than forty years.

When we visited her over the summer, she told me how much god has blessed her life.  She has lived through many hardships, including coming to this country alone as a teenager.  She has watched many people die, including her husband, her son-in-law (my father), and her dear niece.  Still, she says, I have had a lot of good luck.

I can’t explain her longevity, but I can explain her luck: she has dedicated herself to the good.  Surely, my grandmother could speak of her sorrows.  But much of the time, she chooses to speak of the good of her life, both the past and the present.  She dedicates herself to the highest–the highest in herself and in others, and in so doing, she presents an amazing example to me.

my grandmother, my daughter, and I

If I make it to 100, like my grandmother, will I spend my days talking about the luck god has given me, or will I spend them lamenting the friends I have lost, the relatives I have buried, the chances I have missed? It depends in part on what I dedicate myself to.

As I think of it, there are at least two kinds of dedication.  There’s dedication to the yoga practice (or our careers, or our hobbies, or whatever it is that we do).  This is what brings us to the mat when we don’t really feel like practicing, it is what snaps our mind back to attention when we waver.  It is a tool that we can use, so that we spend our time doing what matters.

Then there’s the dedication we have in our hearts.  This kind of dedication isn’t about what we do, but how we approach what we do.

In the intro class this past Sunday, I invited students to think of someone who inspires them.  Someone who dedicates themselves to the highest.  Someone who sees and experiences the good and the bad in life, and chooses to focus on the good.  Someone whose dedication can be an inspiration, so that we too can see our luck, see what life gives and brings us, and be grateful.

February 2, 2012 at 4:24 pm 6 comments

creating space

While sometimes the language of yoga makes me uncomfortable–it can be a bit squirrelly for my taste–at times, it resets my mind in just the right way.  Witness: creating space. This week’s theme for my intro to yoga students.

In everyday language and thoughts, I “make time” for things.  I’ve been trying to make time for years, but especially in this past year, welcoming two babies into our lives while continuing to work, teach and practice yoga, keep our house in some semblance of order, keep contact with friends, not to mention showering and hair washing and changing my underwear daily.

I have never come across a formula to “make time.”  There are still 24 hours in my day, after all these years.

This is where the language of yoga comes in.  Instead of trying to fabricate time, can I create space?

Perhaps the language is not as squirrelly as I thought at first.  I have created space in my home: what was once a closet under the attic stairs is now my office, where I write this blog and sew some crafts.  I have created space in my body: taller now than ten years ago when I started my regular yoga practice.  I can create space in my heart: accepting what is, even when that’s uncomfortable, when I am not getting my way.

So, can I create space on the clock or the calendar, in my day?  How?  Thich Nhat Hanh elegantly explains it this way: if, when you are washing the dishes, you are thinking ahead to your cup of tea, when you sit down to enjoy your cup of tea, your mind won’t know to be present.  It will be wandering ahead to the next thing.  And the next thing, and the next, if you are my mind.

So instead of a few minutes’ time to sit and enjoy a cup of tea, I am jumping to my feet, tea mug in one hand, phone in the other, to look up the phone number of the oil company (or the vet, or whatever it is that has suddenly become so urgent).  By the end of the day, I have a half-finished mug of cold tea I’m pouring into the sink, a tired mind, a weary heart, and a long list in my head of yet-unfinished tasks.

One night last week my husband and I were giving our children baths.  My husband was playing a bathtime  game with our foster son, which involved an unusual grouping of toys, running commentary from Papa, and water on the floor.

“Hey, mama,” my husband called, interrupting his explanation of what the whale, the lion and the captain were up to, “check this out.”

“Some of us,” I called from the changing table, where I was getting our now-clean daughter into her pj’s, “are trying to get babies to bed.”

“Some of us,” he called back to me, “are creating memories that last a lifetime.”

That is creating space.

January 23, 2012 at 10:05 pm 3 comments

beginning, again

It is such fun to teach the Intro to Yoga class at Upper Valley Yoga.

Each session I try to have a new framework for myself to teach around, a new way to organize myself.  I’ve used all kinds of structure to help me: the koshas, the eight limbs of yoga, a breakdown of the yamas and niyamas.  This time, I decided to use a few concepts behind the yoga, picking simplicity as the theme for our first day.

Simple doesn’t come easy to me.  I have a tendency to talk a lot, and get excited about the details, which can be fun and helpful, and overwhelming.  But if my intro students are doing something that’s new to them, and probably hard for them (coming to yoga class for the first time), then I can push myself into unfamiliar territory, too.

So, I headed into class with my teaching notebook open to the intro week one page, with only a few reminders about simplicity, the simplest of cues for a few postures, and a lot of blank space.  A visual reminder to myself: keep it simple; leave lots of space.

We started seated, practicing sitting up tall, reaching the hands out in front and overhead while leaving a lot of space for the neck and the shoulders.  Then we kept both sides of the body long as we arced to one side and the other.  Then we twisted, keeping the seat on the floor as we revolved the belly, chest and head in one direction, and the other.  Finally, we folded forward, staying long and open and keeping ourselves from folding in half at the ribcage or shoulders.

We moved to standing and did all the same things, this time with our feet underneath us.  We moved into a couple of standing poses: Warrior two (take your feet wide, bend your right knee as deeply as you can); Tree (stand and balance on two feet, then pick up your left put, place it on your right leg wherever you can).

We moved slowly.  I left big spaces without words.  I looked at my blank page.  Held my tongue.  Breathed.

It was hard work for everyone.  Yoga is not easy.  Simple is not easy.

I’ll keep you posted on the themes we use each week and how it goes.

Meanwhile, perhaps try simplicity in some aspect of your own day, whether in your practice, your work, or wherever you think it may be helpful, and if you have a chance, post here to let me know how it goes.

January 16, 2012 at 8:12 pm 3 comments

saying yes

We spent a happy and hectic weekend recently at my brother’s house, whose grown daughters no longer require baby gates and outlet covers.  One person was assigned at all times to our foster son, to keep his roving little feet and hands out of trouble.

Cheerful by nature, the poor boy cried with frustration more than once, irritated by the sharp tone of “no!” he heard again and again as he approached the stairs, the garbage can, the dog food dishes.

It’s wonderful to be back at home with our baby gates and cabinet latches and relatively baby-proof spaces.  Our son can once again roam his bedroom, playroom and our kitchen; the alluring dog and cat food dishes are safely on the other side of the gate; he is only occasionally accosted with a firm no.  Within the boundaries we set for him, it’s safe enough to let him explore and experiment.  We are of course always nearby, but we don’t have to be a half step behind him with a vigilant eye at all times.  I have more opportunities to say yes.

I like making resolutions, whether it’s at the new year, or around my birthday, or other times when I need to reassess and revitalize myself.  This new year, I am trying to shift my thinking about my resolutions, so that I can use them the way we do baby gates for our son–an opportunity to say “yes” to myself.

January 4, 2012 at 10:11 pm Leave a comment

merry, happy

Earlier in the week we received a package from a friend in Alaska.  Something for the cats, and the dog, my husband, and I.

“The children,” she said in her card, “can play with the boxes.”

Which is when I stopped and looked at the boxes, which were lovely, and gifts in and of themselves.

Merry, happy, and safe, whatever you are celebrating.

December 27, 2011 at 10:31 am 3 comments

breathe

No matter your religious beliefs or family traditions, this is a busy time of year, when more is being asked of us.  I was reminded of this on Saturday, when I arrived in our little town of White River Junction to teach class, and could not find a parking spot.  As I made my second lap around town, I waved to a couple of my students, engaged in the same activity, and passed the two churches who were holding their holiday bazaars that morning.

Fortunately, the busy downtown gave me a perfect opening into the theme I wanted to work with that morning in class: finding–and holding–both the energy and the relaxation of the practice.  Some poses lend themselves more easily to generating energy–the standing poses, for example, or backbending poses.  Some poses lend themselves more easily to finding the relaxation–child’s pose, supported poses, savasana.

Practicing and teaching this week, I’ve tried to find both the energy and the relaxation in every pose.  So a vigorous Warrior I can also be calming.  And a sleepy legs up the wall can be energizing.  And an extra lap around downtown can be…not so bad.

December 5, 2011 at 9:11 pm Leave a comment

Time

The time change has always been hard on me, but it’s harder this year with babies, who don’t wear watches and couldn’t tell the time if they did.  I hope they’ll be on standard time, like our clocks, by week’s end, but so far we’ve had early mornings and unsettled evenings–babies wondering why they are being kept up so late at night.  And me wondering–not for the first time–why we trust the devices we wear on our wrists and put on our walls to mark for us the passage of time, rather than relying on our own selves, our own experience of each moment.

We’ve all had those moments that seem to take forever–hearing the long inhale as you wait on the other end of the phone for some big piece of news.  And we’ve all had those hours that seem to take a moment–involved in a good book, engaged in a good conversation, or closing your eyes for a moment and having it turn into a long nap!

Why do we trust the devices outside of ourselves to tell us the time, rather than the sense of time we have within ourselves?  Perhaps the hours we are deeply engrossed in something–even if it is a nice nap!–really do pass differently than the long moments when we wait to exhale.  I am certain the minutes my babies spend crying are longer than the ones they spend laughing–no matter if the clock tells me they are exactly the same.

I know there is the practical matter of all arriving on time for a scheduled meeting or the start of school or work or a yoga class, but I also know that I wear my watch all the time, and refer to it during my days–and nights–far more often than I need to.  Especially since, on most days right now, no one expects me at any meetings, or at school, or at work.

My babies do expect me to meet their needs, though.  Food when they are hungry, diaper changes when they are dirty, books when they’re ready to read, bed when they are ready to sleep.  So if they aren’t wearing watches to schedule the events of their day, why is it that I need to?

November 7, 2011 at 8:53 pm 2 comments

Taking steps

Our foster son is nearly eleven months old, and today he walked for the first time.  He has taken a few steps now and again in the past couple of weeks, but today I saw him walk to get somewhere he wanted to go.

He’s a very solid little person, both in his body and his heart, and his first steps reflected that–not the stuttery, tripping, baby steps I might expect, but five solid steps.  One foot after another.

The rest of the day, I watched as he practiced his new skill.  At the end of the day–already wearing his pj’s and waiting for my husband to get home to read books and tuck him into bed–he took a couple of steps towards me, then stopped to get his balance.  I backed away.  He walked a few more steps, paused, and I backed up again.  He walked across the room towards me in this way, only touching my legs when I was backed up against the far wall.

Parenting is of course a bucket of work, but it’s also an amazing privilege to watch another person learn how to do things.  He had such a look of awe and joy on his face as he walked towards me, exploring the outer limit of his abilities on his sturdy little legs.

At some point, we settle into walking, every step no longer cause for awe, and celebration.  But watching him inspires me to think about what I am taking steps towards right now in my life–in what ways am I exploring the outer limit of my abilities?  What brings joy to my face, and awe to my heart?

I don’t have an answer to this right now–it’s late, I’m tired, and I still need to pick up the playroom–but I know that asking the question is taking steps in the right direction.

October 23, 2011 at 9:32 pm 2 comments

simply s t r e t c h

One of my favorite moments of every day is watching my daughter Nora wake up.  Sometimes she is lying in bed with her eyes open when I go in to check on her.  She’s quietly looking around the room, wrapped up in her swaddling blanket.  Sometimes she’s fussing a bit, making the squeaks and squawks which mean she is about to cry.  Sometimes she’s already crying, mouth wide open and eyes tightly shut.

When I peel open her swaddling blanket, no matter what Nora was doing the moment before, she stretches.  Immediately when her first arm is released, it goes over her head.  Second arm released, goes overhead.  Then a long stretch with her short little arms, and a big arch in her back as she rolls slightly to her side.  Then she stretches her little legs as long as they go.

What an inspiration!  Although Nora has been in many yoga classes since she was conceived–most of them in utero!–nobody had to teach her to stretch first thing in the morning.  It’s something every baby knows to do–after a long sleep, some time in the carseat, or a satisfying meal, pause and take a long stretch, head to toe.

I have so little time to practice these days, but I watch Nora and realize–much as I would enjoy it, I don’t need 90 minutes–or even 9 minutes–to practice yoga.  I just need to pause for one moment, take a deep breath, and stretch myself head to toe.

It’s as simple as that.

September 28, 2011 at 8:44 pm 2 comments

on the mat

While I love all of the emotional and spiritual growth I receive from my yoga practice, I’ve had a good reminder lately of what a physical practice it is, and how much benefit my body receives from the practice.

The cesarean delivery of my daughter meant a break from my yoga practice, which I had already greatly modified as a result of my great (as in wonderful and large!) belly.  Now, after a break to recover from the labor and delivery, I’m back at it.  And realizing how much strength yoga requires, and how much strength we can build through practice.

I’ve never appreciated more than I do now how much I use my belly in yoga, moving from plank to downward dog and back, moving from downward dog to step forward into a lunge, revolving in any pose.  (And I’ve never appreciated all those women who come back so quickly from their own labor and deliveries–rock on, you mamas!)

Though I am much recovered from labor and delivery, I’m not close to doing all that I could do before Nora’s birth.  It’s astonishing–and frustrating–to realize how much more strength I need to gain.  I try to be in the moment with this body, exploring–and accepting–what I can do right now.  While my intention in coming to my mat right now is to strengthen my body, yoga offers me the chance for my body, heart and spirit to become stronger and more supple as well.

So good to be on the mat again.

July 26, 2011 at 3:34 pm 1 comment

Words

Words have the power to shape the way we think about a thing.  I am grateful to my midwife, not only for helping me birth our lovely daughter (five weeks old and asleep propped against my left thigh as I type), but for teaching me the phrase “cesarean delivery.”

I am grateful to my neighbor, who says her son “sings” in the car, when most moms would call it “crying at the top of his voice.”  (My daughter has a lovely “singing” voice herself.)

I am grateful to my yoga students, who give me an opportunity to consider my own words, to be precise, to speak from the heart, to the heart.

The heart speaks in gentle tones, converses under the din of our everyday language, in which babies cry and women have c-sections.  I try, with my daughter, to chose my words carefully, to consider her tiny, precious heart with every word I speak to her.  Perhaps I can give such consideration to every heart I come across, to bring the language of the heart into my everyday.

July 8, 2011 at 9:04 pm Leave a comment

Finding North

The recent celebration of Valentine’s Day put me in mind of some of the sweeties of my past.

In high school, I had a friend who became my boyfriend for a few months in our junior year.  He broke it off after a brief but wonderfully sweet time dating.

His reason he thought we should no longer date was that he felt “like a compass going by another compass” when we were around each other.   At the time, as a sixteen-year old girl, my reaction was–and this is a problem?  I thought it was true love.

He however, even at sixteen or so, had the wisdom to know that you always have to know where north is.  Whatever is happening around us, whatever life brings our way, we have to know where north is, stay with our own center, not be blown off course by the winds of life.

Now, I understand that when you throw a mortgage payment and a child or two and having a career and continuing to learn and grow in life into the mix, two compasses next to each other doesn’t make for a good match.  A spinning compass has a hard time getting the credit card bill paid and putting dinner on the table, much less living life with grace.  Though I love my husband deeply, our lives are complicated enough without that spinning compass feeling that I thought was so great as a teenager.

That I remember Andrew’s words indicates not the depths of my broken heart, as I liked to think at the time, but that some part of me recognized the wisdom they contained.  It took me years–and a few more heartbreaks–to understand them, however.

So, I remembered them again on Valentine’s Day, as I cleaned our bathroom floor, grateful for the all the kinds of love in my life that I give and receive that help to keep me on course, steady, aware–in most moments, if not every one–of where North is.

February 21, 2011 at 6:54 am Leave a comment

Return of the Blog Posts

(Reminder that it is Sharon who writes the blog.)

Apologies to those of you (if there are any of you!) who look for new posts here for the long delay.  We–my husband Kevin and I–had the joy of welcoming a new baby into our lives on December 1st.  This baby has come to us via foster care, so his arrival was totally unplanned and unexpected, and most welcome.

So, I have been caught up in mothering an infant son without the usual gestation and preparation time.  It’s been lovely and (over)whelming (see previous post on whelmed).

Our foster son starts daycare tomorrow, so I am hopeful that this week marks the return of a more regular routine for our household, and my more regular routine to blogging.

During our intake with the daycare people, the daycare provider asked the questions I expected of her, about his daily routine now, how we know he is hungry, tired, and so forth.  Then, she asked me a question that caused me to pause–what are the qualities that you admire in him?

Now, here is he, a little ten-week old baby who I loved the moment I saw him in his hospital bassinet.  At the moment she asked the question, I was holding him in my arms, literally close to my heart.

“Of course I love him,” was my first thought.  “He’s an adorable baby!”  But then I paused, and stepped back, and thought about her question.

To name the qualities of those we love, those who are closest to us, is something different than simply loving them.  When we are so close to another–whether it is our spouse, our children, our brother or sister, our best friend–we can get so close that we stop seeing the specific qualities that we first fell in love with, that we admire, that keep us close.

Her question forced me to stop, to pause, to feel the weight of him in my arms, the love of him in my heart, and to name those qualities that I most admire.  In naming those qualities, I experienced my love of him that much more fully.  Understood it a bit more.

I’m working with that question in my own heart and my own life this week.  What are the qualities I admire in those around me, those who are closest to me?  When I name the qualities I admire–in my foster son, it is his steadfastness and his sweetness–I can feel my own heart grow just a bit more.

Thanks to everyone for your loving support on our journey.

Namaste.

February 7, 2011 at 10:22 am 1 comment

Return of the Light

One of my first winters in Vermont, I attended a solstice party, in which we all went from the warm and cozy house out into the very dark and deeply cold night, where we each took a candle, and lit it from the fire that burned outside (it had been set the hour before we arrived by our lovely hosts).

We brought our candles in to the hearth, lighting the fire in the fireplace (the house made cozy by the woodstove in the other corner), welcoming the return of the light.

Today, just after the solstice and just before Christmas and the New Year, I imagine the return of the light within myself.  As long as I have breath in my body, the light of the divine is always within me.  On my darkest days, I may not be able to feel the warmth of that light, or experience its brightness, but when I close my eyes, I can find it somewhere within me.

I imagine I bring that light–perhaps burning as bright as a bonfire, perhaps as tiny as the flame of a tealight–into my heart, reigniting myself in this winter darkness.

Solstice, the return of the light, as we journey, here in Vermont, towards the coldest part of winter.

Stay warm with your yoga practice, with the love of friends and family, and with the light of your own self, and your own heart.

Namaste.

December 23, 2010 at 6:24 pm 1 comment

I am whelmed.

My husband and I love to listen to Car Talk on the radio.  I know this is a divisive issue–I’ve yet to meet someone who is neutral about the snorting laughter and general silliness.  However, I have learned a lot about cars listening to them, and I love the snorts.

Whatever you may think of them aside, I do recall one show in which they read a story (probably submitted by a reader and certainly not an original), that took words like “disheveled” and “overwhelmed” and used their roots (as if they had them): sheveled, whelmed, and many others I’ve forgotten.

In this season, with so much movement, travel, and bustle, it is easy for me, and I think many others, to become overwhelmed.  Days that are busiest or that I feel most frenzied for whatever reason, I try to imagine myself being “whelmed.”

What would this day feel like if I were taking in every moment fully, as I take in deep breaths of cold, wintery air?  What would this moment feel like if I stayed fully present to my breath, to myself, and fully present to the experience around me?

What would it feel like to experience the wonder, the excitement that comes with overwhelmed, but stay whelmed–fully present to the moment, overcome by nothing, ever aware of my breath, of myself?

Good luck and good cheer as you move through December and into the new year.  If you are shopping for gifts for anyone, please remember to check the uppup yoga store for wonderful, wearable gifts for women, men, children and babies, including new sizes and a new color for children.

December 8, 2010 at 7:41 am 2 comments

Ahimsa

Someone in Vermont has a license plate that reads AHIMSA.  I see it from time to time as I drive around.  I’m always jealous that I was not clever enough to have thought of this idea–what better place to remind people to be nonviolent than in our cars (surely I am not the only one who has cursed at the car in front of me for driving too slowly when I am running late on my way to yoga class!)?

Ahimsa, which is often translated as nonviolence, is one of the yamas, or ethical guidelines, of yoga.  Although they each have a strange-sounding Sanskrit name, they are all principles we’ve heard along the way: to practice gentleness, and truth; to not covet the things or talents of others; to remember that each breath is a blessing.

The yamas are meant to govern our conduct with the world–the rules of the sandbox so that we can all get along with each other–but I’ve found it helpful to also think about how they apply as I interact with myself.

Am I gentle and nonviolent with my body when I come to my yoga practice, when I choose what and how much to eat, and to drink (ahmisa)?  Do I see my reflection in the mirror of truth, or do I allow it to be distorted by my own judgements, and expectations of what I “should” be (satya)?  Do I give myself credit where credit is due, stepping into the bright light of my own goodness (asteya)?  Do I pause to feel the satisfaction with who I am and what I have in life, instead of looking for what’s to come (aparigraha)?  Do I see the spark of the divine within myself, the light that shines out from my own heart–that piece of God within me (brahmacharya)?

In my classes, as in most yoga classes, we “Namaste” each other at the end of the practice.  This simple and beautiful word holds so much meaning–the light of the divine within me, recognizes and honors the light of the divine within you.

When we practice the yamas not only out in the world but also within our own selves, it is as if we are giving ourselves that greeting, Namaste.  I see myself as a spark of the divine.  I honor myself, in all of my grace, in all of my potential, in all of my perfection.

Namaste.

November 12, 2010 at 3:40 pm 2 comments

What we do matters.

We wrapped up the season last week at the CSA where I work, Sunrise Farm.  To celebrate a successful season, the farm took the farmers to the Farmer’s Diner for breakfast, where we enjoyed good food and even better conversation.

At one point, someone brought up the futility of compact florescent lightbulbs.  Her point was, not only does it not matter what we do as individuals when it comes to light bulbs, light switches, or where we set the thermostat in our homes, but that it actually gives us a feeling that we are doing our part, when all of these measures are ineffective.  So we lose focus on what needs to change, by spending time changing lightbulbs.

This happens to run exactly counter to my own belief, that we as individuals can create change in the world, and that we do.  Each one of us, with each choice we make.

It led to a lively and lovely discussion, with all of us providing facts and ideas for all sides of the question.

One of us made the point that finally quieted everyone down.  It went something like this–if an object (or problem) is large enough, fifty or fifty thousand or even fifty million people pushing on that object is not going to budge it an inch. But if we bring intelligence to the question, if we look at where can we push, where can we focus our energy to get this thing to move–then it takes only one of us, or five of us, to create movement.

We bring our dedication to a problem, to our practice, to a seemingly unmovable mass.  We may push and shove, recruit our friends, cross over into stubbornness and then wear ourselves out, and nothing changes.

Then we bring our dedication and our wisdom to a problem, to our practice.  We push intelligently.  We use all the tools we can find.  We know when to take breaks.  And, pushing on just the right spot, we cause this mass to move, we begin to unravel this huge problem, we begin to see progress in our practice.

So, yes, what we do matters.  How we do it matters, as well.

The only thing better than good food is good food for thought served right along with it.

Uppup now offers a line of organic t-shirts for adults and kids, and an adorable onesie for the babes!  And we remain 100% solar powered.

Thanks for reading.

October 20, 2010 at 11:34 am 2 comments

Community

Thanks to everyone who participated in the community class at Upper Valley Yoga last Sunday.  The occasion was my fortieth birthday, but that was just an excuse to gather and celebrate!

Michele George led a class that embodied so beautifully the themes she was teaching.  Part of the practice was a standard solo practice, with sun salutations, standing poses, balancing poses.  In this part of the practice, we embodied the qualities of steadfastness, directness, the firey passion required to remain dedicated to our practice, and in our everyday lives, true to our own heart.

Part of the practice was partner, trio work, and even whole group work on simple stretches, backbends, balances and handstands.  These embodied the quality of lila, the Sanskrit word for play.  We were reminded that part of what life requires of us is that sense of play, that sense of anything-can-happen kind of fun.

And of course, we saw that sometimes the help of our friends gets us further than we ever thought possible.

Thirty-five of us wedged ourselves into the studio at Upper Valley Yoga, and though the class was offered free of charge, we did collect over $200 for the UVY Karma Fund, a scholarship fund set up to help pay for classes for those who cannot afford them.

Though I think I’ll stick to having just one birthday a year, I hope we’ll gather again before next year to celebrate the community we all help to create.

Happy birthday to you, whichever day of this year it is (or was).  May all the desires of your heart come true, and may you hold the qualities of fire and fun fast within your heart!

September 23, 2010 at 7:00 am 2 comments

Hope

Not long ago, I noticed that our dog, Wiley (pictured above at bath time) was begging much more than usual.  In general she’s a lingerer, but not an actual beggar.  It turns out that she had found the stash of chocolate cream cheese brownies my husband had secreted away for himself.  Thankfully, it was not enough chocolate to do her any physical harm.  Just give her bad habits.

It’s made me think about the habit of hope, which most dogs seems to have.  Since her experience with the brownies, the dog is hoping that anything in a plastic bag might be a chocolate cream cheese brownie.

Of course our lives are more complicated than dogs.  We don’t default to hope, like dogs do.  We have to choose it.

And it’s not as if we choose it once, and then we are always hopeful–we must choose it again, and again, and again.

It’s another kind of practice–do I choose hope, or do I choose resignation.

The dog hopes.  Out of this bath, something good will happen, I just know it.  She looks at me out of the corner of her eyes.  She’s hoping if she stands still long enough, this bath will be over, and the treat in my pocket will be hers.

And, of course, she’s right.

September 6, 2010 at 6:45 pm Leave a comment

Making waves

Was lucky enough to be at the ocean a few days last week.

Took a class at Grace Yoga in North Kingstown, RI.  The space is beautiful–an old schoolhouse carefully remade into a yoga studio, with 12 over 12 windows, rich wood floors, the slates from the old chalkboards hung to create new spaces.

Nikki, my dear friend and fellow teacher, reminded us of many of the past uses of the building in her introduction to the class–not just a schoolhouse, but also a weaving studio, and a doctor’s office.  The imprint of learning, caring and creativity left in that space is part of what makes it so lovely.

As I teach this week, I carry that theme with me.  What is the imprint–the vibe, the resonance, the residue–we leave behind in our interactions with others, in our space, and in our own hearts?  I know in my own practice, I can sometimes work my body so hard that the resonance I feel the next day is not so pleasant–sore hamstrings, back, or just a general tiredness in the body.

We can choose the residue that we leave behind, the impression we make on another’s heart.  We can chose to tend our spaces carefully, to leave behind a vibe that is welcoming, rich and rings with creativity.  We can carry this same intention into our yoga practice on the mat–to work the body hard enough that we learn, and to do it mindfully enough that we leave behind in our own bodies, and our own hearts, a residue of sweetness.

As Nikki and I walked along the shore in Jamestown after class, we came upon a small area of wetlands that the unusually high tides of recent days had flooded.  We were first captivated by the color–several shades of green, at least one of which I am sure I’ve never seen before.  Then we noticed that the grasses were pushed up into a pattern that showed us the paths the waves had taken into and out of this little salt marsh.  The water had left its imprint in the grasses.

What are the waves I make as I move through my life?  What is the imprint I leave behind in the spaces I use, in the hearts of others, and in my own heart?  May I leave a wake of sweetness behind me.

photo by Nikki

August 17, 2010 at 9:10 am Leave a comment

Who are we?

I mean that not in any cosmic way—at least not this week—but I thought you might be curious to know who the people are behind the pup.

Carol is Up Pup’s creator.  It’s her art and her energy that created the lovely dog and this wonderful company.  Carol not only holds the vision of the company and creates the art, she also does the leg work–updating the website, taking orders, shipping orders, answering questions, making decisions.  She does all of this from her home off the grid in central Vermont, where she lives with her husband and two children, and of course Luna, their pup.

Although Luna, a chocolate lab mix adopted from the local humane society, looks just like the pup on the Up Pup wear, the pup that inspired Carol’s creation was their dog Molly, who passed two years ago.  Molly was a black lab mix who, even as an old dog with a bad back, knew the importance of the daily stretch!

Lucia in up dog.

Lucia is Carol’s daughter, and also her right hand gal.  She helps out at shows to set up and sell, she graciously poses in Up Pup wear for promotional photos, and is a general helper and support.  She is particularly good at talking with customers and potential customers, getting and giving feedback.

Sharon is typing the keys, that is, I actually write this blog.  Carol and I became friends in part because she gathered a group of neighbors together who let me practice on them when I was first learning how to teach yoga.  Typing this blog is one way of giving back to her, plus, it always helps a writer (at least this writer) to have a deadline and an audience.  I teach yoga, and also work at Sunrise Farm, a CSA in my community.

My husband Kevin is a massage therapist, and has taken many of the photos that are on this blog, in the store, and the Upper Valley Yoga website. We live in town with our two cats and our dog, Wiley, who is part Australian Shepherd (and possibly Tazmanian devil!).

You will also find, on the Up Pup website, photos of our friends Meg modeling our tank top, and Sadie modeling the children’s wear.  Please check the store soon for the organic cotton line for babies, adults (including men’s sizes) and children.  The colors are fantastic!

Thanks for reading.  Have a great week.

Carol, Lucia, Sharon and our pups!

Luna, exhausted after a long day of providing inspiration!

July 30, 2010 at 5:20 pm Leave a comment

Keeping it simple

One day earlier this week, for no obvious reason, our power was out when we woke up.  No water for a shower, no way to heat the water for tea.  No checking email, no flicking on the radio.

It was lovely, I must say.

I straightened up the house, unloaded the dishwasher, and then wondered where my husband was.

“What are you doing back here?”  I found him in the back yard, with the dog.

“Just looking at things.”

We sat outside, the three of us, watching the men in the basket at the end of the long arm of the power company truck, fixing whatever was keeping our appliances from humming.  We watched the birds at the feeder, and we watched the dog, watching the red squirrels.

Half an hour later, the power back on, I was checking my email and drinking my tea.

The dog, who is onto something, stayed in the backyard, squirrel watching.

On Saturday, I took a lovely class (offered by Leslie at Upper Valley Yoga) and noticed the simple language she used to get us into some complex poses (or near them, at least).  Without the clutter of a lot of description (but plenty of clear direction), I was able to follow her instructions and still have my own experience of the yoga practice.

I realized that the space she left allowed me to connect to myself.  And that connection to myself allows me to connect to another.

These connections may happen in the most simple ways–the simple kindness of meeting another’s eye when we say hello in the grocery store.  The simple act of listening to our loved ones at the end of a long day.

This is a good reminder for me.  Simple isn’t my first nature, and everyday life doesn’t generally encourage me in that direction.

Thank goodness for the occasional power outage, and red squirrel watching with the dog.

July 19, 2010 at 10:19 pm Leave a comment

Let’s do the twist

Or rather, let’s do the revolve.

This week as I was planning a class, I realized that I had been using the word “twist” for the Sanskrit “parivrtta.”   So “parivrtta trikonasana” had become, in my translation, twisted triangle.

The translation of parivrtta is actually “revolved” (or even, in one online dictionary, reborn!).

Ah, words.

When we revolve something, including our bodies, we may be looking at a different face of something than we are used to, but we can still recognize the figure.  I imagine if I could tilt my house, or this table I’m sitting at right now, at a strange angle–I would still recognize it as my home, and my dining room.   The form is what it is, simply revolved.

When we twist something, we’ve by definition changed its form.  We twist something and make that form hard to recognize, or even unrecognizable.  If I twist the table, I may only recognize four legs, not know if it’s a table, or a desk, or a chair.  My husband says–when you say twist, I think of twist tie, and I don’t want to look like a twist tie.

If you join me in my classes this week at Upper Valley Yoga more than likely you will be invited to revolve.  Wherever you practice–at home with the dog or cat, in class with your friends or teacher–give revolving a try.

Here’s the trick I use to help me remember–imagine you want someone to be able to read words or an image you have on your torso–maybe you want to show off your favorite new uppup tank.  By keeping the side body long, and moving from your belly, you can keep your torso revolving, instead of twisting.  So the message on your torso, if looked at from the right face, is recognizable.

So, side body long, let your breath lead, and let’s do the…revolve!

July 12, 2010 at 9:12 pm 2 comments

Grace.

The dog and I are resting on the porch.  She has her nose in the sun and the rest of herself in shade.  I’ve got my legs in the sun.  The rest of me—and this computer screen—are in the shade.

We’ve had four days of my ideal weather.  Hot sun, cool breeze, and nights chilly enough to need a thin wool blanket.  It’s easy for me, on days like this, to feel that life is a blessing, that life is full of grace.  That I am full of grace.  And certainly, of course, the dog is full of grace.

I imagine grace is a quality within our hearts.  It describes the times in life when we feel afraid and do the thing we’re afraid of.  It describes the times in life when we say the perfect thing in a difficult situation, or when we say the wrong thing and forgive ourselves for it.  It describes those days when we feel the sadness in our hearts, and the beauty of the day, and the two can rest there, side by side.

Grace may look like the face of a baby, a well-tended garden, a beautiful loaf of bread.

I taught to the theme of Grace in my yoga classes this week.  One class is a group of friends who meet once a week in the summer to practice.  Some of them are new to yoga, some of them have a steady practice year-round, some come to their mats only when we meet for this class.  They watch, learn from, and help each other with a sense of fun, and kindness, and ease that is a joy to watch.  This is Grace.

Now, can I bring Grace along for the ride when it gets up into the 90’s again, as the weather tells us it will by the end of this weekend?  Blech.  We’ll see.

At least weather in the 90’s is perfect for wearing an uppup tank.  Check them out at http://shop.uppupyoga.com/.  They make a great gift if you know any yogis with a summertime birthday!

Have a grace-filled week.  Thanks for visiting.

Sometimes Grace looks like Luna, resting on the porch.

July 2, 2010 at 5:32 pm 4 comments

Welcome

A hot air balloon just landed down the street from us.  In the little neighborhood where we live, hot air balloon sightings are not uncommon–to the chagrin of Olive, a black standard poodle from these parts, who has great anxiety about only two things: bugs and hot air balloons.

Olive, on the watch for hot air balloons

There is a distinctive sound that a hot air balloon makes, when they flare the gas to keep it floating.  If you’ve heard a blowtorch, it’s a bit like that, many times over. Olive hears that sound and she tucks her tail and heads under the table.  The rest of us run outside, faces tilted to the sky.

Last month this same hot air balloon floated past the window of the yoga studio where I teach www.uppervalleyyoga.com.  It was a special workshop on the elements: we connected to earth through the foundation of our feet, water through opening the hips.  We were working on fire with hand balances when the balloon floated past.  The ferocity of fire and the ease of air–how inspiring!  We all paused to watch it land in a teeny pocket park about a block away.  As it landed, it disappeared behind the buildings and trees, until we could just see the top of it, spinning.  By the time we finished practice, there was no sign of it left.

We’ll be at SolarFest in Tinmouth, selling our yoga and kidswear, and enjoying the festivities, July 16–18th.  There will be a lot of information on solar energy and other ways to live sustainably (worm composting, veggie fuels, backyard chicken raising), workshops for kids and adults, yoga, dancing–and it’s all powered by a huge solar array!  Please come to the festival and stop in to see us.

And check back in for more thoughts on life, yoga, dogs.

With thanks, from your friends at uppup.

June 25, 2010 at 8:41 pm Leave a comment

yoga babe

A kind of yoga babe, anyway.

June 18, 2010 at 1:46 am 2 comments


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