SHOCK TREATMENT for the SOUL!

Its been a short while since I blogged. Many weird things have happened since then. Let’s call it a career ‘change of direction’, for lack of better words! And what does one do when one doesn’t know what to do? One goes to India!

It is not your standard hang out at an Ashram and cleanse from the karma that bites you in the ass trip. It is more of an Indian Buffet of all things wild, weird and wonderful about India. As I’ve never been, everything and anything about it will be wickedly gob-smacking! Two weeks in the North, the Taj – OMG factor; Jaipur – Pink City Retail Therapy; Pushkar– Get to know your camel toe (on a real camel) and Varanasi – the cultural slap of the Ganges Ghats ; and then two weeks in the South, backwater cruising in the Kerala District; Ayurvedic de-tox sensations; and the final Hippie fest in Goa.

The great thing about travelling in places so foreign is that its like a cold splash in the face on a humid, hot day. It’s a shock to the system and ideally sets you on a new refreshing course. Travelling has always been my way of ‘system shock’! And, it works!

So, friends, this will be an opportunity for me to share with you some of the wilds of the tastes, smells, sights, and intuitions – both the gross and the glorious! It will be INDIA in all its glory, on my terms and from my perspective! I hope you enjoy!

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Yoga in the outdoors! Bring it on!

I live in the cold, wintery, rainy, climate of Vancouver, BC, Canada. And, like many of us, the weather ‘gets to me’.   Sometimes, I think I am an 80 year old with a trick knee that gives me trouble with the weather chills.  The reality is I don’t have a trick knee.  But, I do have a driving desire for yoga when it is cold outside.  The best thing ever is to head indoors in a heated to perfection room and feel that burst of warming energy from a Vinyasa Flow.  My problem isn’t my commitment when the weather is ‘sh*&%tty’.  It is when it is warm, gorgeous and sunny!   The last thing I want to do to go into an indoor room and do yoga! My commitment to yoga goes out the door and into the Vitamin D sun soaked days of warmth and sangria!  But wait! Thankfully, I’ve found ‘the cure’!

Outdoor Yoga! On the beach. In a Park.  In the Forest. Under the Stars! There are loads of yoga classes now happening outside that take the experience to a new level! Of course, its not a controlled environment, so anything goes, but, in a way that is part of the charm!  When a puppy came trouncing through my class in the park, we all chuckled. (Mind you, it wasn’t my mat that he peed on.)  And when we hear the blaring sirens of city life we pensively smile, thinking that those sirens could be saving a life, (or saving a cat from a tree). And when one of the friend’s babies decides to make a fuss cause a tree leaf fell on her hitting her face, we all just embraced it as a life lesson.  There is something about the ‘out of control’ environment that really betters the yoga experience.

Putting yoga and sunshine together is like putting homemade rhubarb-strawberry compote on your vanilla ice cream.  It just makes it better! Check it out in your area and let me know how it goes for you.  Bring on the sun! And may the renewal of Summer Solstice brighten your season!  Happy Summer Solstice!

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Doga – Dog Yoga – not with my Jack!

Here we are with yet another ‘yoga fad’ taking hold across our beautiful universe.  It never seems like we are ever satisfied with where we are.  Our human nature is to create, explore and discover new ways.  And DOGA is a great example!  Come on.  Are you serious? Yoga with your DOG? As a dog lover, I can see the appeal of merging the canine with the practice as a way of calming the spirit of the you and your best friend all at the same time.  But really, does it make sense?   Put it this way, I am a Jack Russell Terrier owner.  The last thing in the World I want is my hyper Jack to hang with me in yoga.  I do yoga to get away from all that energy!

While yoga is for every human body and every warped and wonderful psyche, its certainly not for every dog.  And what if you own a ‘barker’?  Every time I om at home, my wee one howls!  Could you imagine a class full of howling Oms?  My dog – just plain too neurotic.  Like her owner!  I know what all of you are thinking.  And yes, I should probably go to a Doga Class to really ‘appreciate’ the experience.  But, I’ll have to rent-a-dog.  Any suggestions? Have you done ‘Doga’? Does it work for you.. and your pooch?  Or is it a nightmare on bark street? Do tell!

 

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Inhalo, Exhalo A visit to Ser Om Shanti Yoga Studio in Tamarindo, Costa Rica

I had the pleasure of visiting Tamarindo, Costa Rica over the past couple of weeks. This was my first time to Costa Rica, and definitely not the last! Tamarindo is on the pacific side of this small country along the Nicola Peninsula. Sun, Surf, Sand and Smiles were everywhere. Pura Vida is alive and well!

On all of my travels, I always try to keep up my yoga practice. And here in lies the story of Ser Om Shanti Yoga Studio, run by Mariel Marmorato. I travelled with my sisters on this trip, all of us yogis, and we got the chance to share the essence of Pura Vida through yoga. Not only did she challenge us to keep our practice going while on holidays, but she also helped us continue our Spanish by teaching her classes in both Spanish and English. I took the opportunity to meet with Mariel to talk about life, the studio and yoga here in Costa Rica. Here is my conversation with the lovely, centered and talented Mariel, a former mathematics teacher now full time yoga instructor and studio owner of Ser Om Shanti Yoga Studio.

Me: What brought you to Tamarindo?

Mariel: I am from Buenos Aires, Argentina, a big city, and was teaching mathematics. I wanted to go to a place where people like to smile more intensely, and are connected with nature. We put a map in front of us and where the map was more ‘shiny’ we would go to the shiniest spot. It was either Tamarindo or Playa De Coco. The first bus stopped at Tamarindo and we stopped. I’ve been here 12 years.

Me: How do you make the jump from teaching mathematics for to teaching yoga?

Mariel: I taught mathematics for 18 years. For some, Mathematics and Yoga might not go together. But, for me, it is about teaching. I had been teaching math to those with emotional problems. Many teenagers with low self-esteem have difficulty with math. And once I was able to teach these people a concept and they ‘got it’, I felt an intense feeling of satisfaction. I learned how much I loved teaching. And, so seeing the results from my students in yoga gives me the same feeling. It is of great internal value to me. As teachers, we need to go beyond the ego. The teacher is not the center of the class. Its about the students. I have new students every class and I learn each student’s name and use their name throughout the class for personalized teaching. A personal connection is important.

Jill: What is the meaning of the name of your studio? Ser Om Shanti Yoga

Mariel: ‘SER’ in Spanish means TO BE . Of course, OM is the universal mantra and SHANTI means peace. For me, the essence of happiness is Inner Peace. Yoga helps to re-find the person that you truly are. When you go deeply into your silence, you can find that sense. Ser Om Shanti is a space that invites you to the search for your own self and to learn to be. It’s a personal evolution to be free from duties, blocks, ties, and fears. Students are motivated towards the journey within, free and healing, to discover their true essence.

Jill: Spanish and English combination was lovely and flowing. It made the class very unique, I felt like I was learning Spanish while in yoga class.

Mariel: I teach in both languages because I can express myself better in Spanish and yet provide proper direction to English speakers in their language. It is not enough to just show the pose, I want to have people listen in their own mother language as they can get out of their mind and into their body.

Jill: Inhalo – Exhalo – Why is the breathe so important?

Mariel: Breathing is the bridge between your mind and your body. Getting in touch with your inhalations and exhalations is important. It allows you to focus on your body and your breath and the quality of your breathing to confirm how you are feeling in that moment. Flowing with your breathing lets you go deeper. Inhaling is not just about inhaling air, but about inhaling Prana – life energy. And exhaling can help to release the tension and relaxation.

Jill: Would you recommend that people on holidays stick with their yoga practice?

Mariel: Definitely. I love working with people at all levels. No matter what level you are at, it is important to keep up your practice. Tourists can come for one or two classes or more. We accommodate everyone. Vacation time is a great opportunity to start something different. And for those wanting some individualized attention, I also do private sessions, for families, for couples, for injuries, and even for weddings! When you start yoga, you practice yoga everywhere.

Jill: The studio offers a great variety of classes.

Mariel: Yes. Pilates, Restorative, Vinyasa Flow, Hatha, Therapeutic Yoga. We offer a variety of classes to meet a variety of interests and needs.

Jill: In closing, do you have any final words to offer to someone considering coming to Tamarindo who want to experience your class?

Mariel: Yoga is a path to find who you truly are. …We work to develop our maximum potential, to find inner peace and to spread peace to others. By living with peace, love, compassion and contentment you can create inner peace around you and this spreads to all.

If you are travelling to Tamarindo, please don’t hesitate to check out Mariel’s fabulous studio. For more information on Mariel and the Ser Om Shanti Yoga in Tamarindo, Costa Rica, find them at www.seryogastudio.com

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Harlem Shake or Kundalini ?

Here we go again! Yet another viral video that reminds us that we love to share/steal/share an original idea and then make it our own ‘original’ idea, which then becomes ‘not so original’. Gangum Style, Flash Mobs, The Macarena, and even the old school Rocky Horror Time Warp were all part of the same societal need to shake our bootie en masse. The latest of these group mosh-pit love-fests is the ‘Harlem Shake’.

The Harlem Shake came from a song called Harlem Shake by a Brooklyn rapper Baaur! The main meme peeps have picked up on is Con los terroristas! When literally translated it means, ‘with terrorists’. Interesting fascination we have with terrorists these days!

So, why would a song like that end up with a massive dance culture following? A group of five Aussie teens named The Sunny Coast Skate seemed to kick it off in February 2013. 20 Million hits and counting. Check it out:

And it was inevitable that a yoga infusion would occur. Well, I guess it goes to show you that people need to ‘express’ no matter what! They need to get it out!
Here’s a few yoga infused Harlem Shakes for your viewing pleasure:


HARLEM SHAKE YOGA – Exhale Venice Edition

Harlem Shake – Orlando Power Yoga

Harlem Shake at Bear Yoga

If you ask me, any Kundalini class looks a lot like the Harlem Shake. Movement is movement. Shake it out and feel good about it. These viral videos are a good reminder that we’re all part of something so much bigger than ourselves. Embrace your inner shake and enjoy. Happiness is never overrated!

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Bare Ass Yoga Helping To Take The Winter Blues Away

I’m all for being ‘au naturale’ when the mood strikes. Imagine skipping down a sandy, isolated beach on a hot, sunny day with the waves crashing onto the shoreline, and a Bahaman breeze in your hair. Envision all your tanned parts dangling in freedom and the World embracing this vision of nakedness that houses your soul. Fast Forward to reality. The beach is Edmonton, Alberta in February. It is 25 below outside. Your skin is as white and pasty as a cream puff. And, there are twenty other sweaty, male bodies co-habitating the same small, germicidal petri dish of a yoga space. Ewwwww These courageous guys are forgetting the dog, and learning to moon. Don’t get me wrong. I love the fact that these brave men are doing it for themselves. The celebration of the human body is a wonderful thing.

http://edmonton.ctvnews.ca/growing-number-of-edmonton-men-practicing-naked-yoga-1.1123782

However, in a sweaty, hot, yoga class, some things should be ‘contained’, including the nutsack. If you’re going to embrace the practice – please manscape. It is really the least you can do for the neighbour stuck behind you.

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Up In Arms about Yoga in Schools?

I have recently learned about an Encinitas, California parent group who are upset over yoga being taught in their public schools, saying it is promoting Hinduism. Check out this  NPR audio link for the full story:

http://www.npr.org/2013/01/09/168613461/promoting-hinduism-parents-demand-removal-of-school-yoga-class

I can’t imagine why people would think that the physical movement of Yoga would corrupt our children.   Is Yoga truly a Vishnu friendly evil menace in our society?  To Hell with self-regulation, calm, peace and kindness! These kids need something to resolve those playground battles! Why don’t we just let ‘em all duke it out? I mean, come on. Being calm, relaxed, and focused, is the last thing your kid should be for his math test! Jolt him up with a morning coke, a nutritious pop tart, a cigarette and a few violent video games, and then let ‘em take the test!

I work at a high school where we have a specialty PE class exclusively focused on Yoga.  The School Board approved yoga program is taught by a passionate PE teacher, who is also a yoga instructor.  She promotes yoga as an excellent alternative to regular PE.  Traditionally, you never get 100% participation in a regular PE class, particularly with girls. This program is fully subscribed with every single student participating.  No one is excluded. No one is judged.  They work at their own pace with the movements as guided by our teacher.  It’s a movement class. The class follows the PE curriculum and gives the students over 60 minutes of activity that they wouldn’t normally get.

Is Yoga really a ‘religious experience’? Well, yoga did start as a moving meditation based on the general teachings of Hinduism thousands of years ago, but that is not what it is today.  One could argue that any activity, movement, sport or game where a person rises to a heightened state of self-consciousness and greater awareness could be considered a religious experience.  In today’s North American world, Yoga is a fitness discipline designed to strengthen the body, and calm the mind.

Many schools are incorporating Yoga into their physical education curriculum because it helps kids learn coping and self-regulation skills.  After doing yoga, kids are more focused and centered which enhances their learning experience.  In a world filled with stress, anxiety and uncertainty, kids need to learn the balance of calming movements to keep their little heads from exploding with constant stimulation and societal pressures.  Yoga in schools is not about any religious teaching.  It is about helping our kids learn to de-stress, unplug and relax to movement.  And what is so wrong with that?

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Betty, your dancer pose isn’t cutting the mustard. Yoga Comps? Have we gone crazy?

After years of many high end athletic competitions, I like the fact that a yoga practice is a humble practice.  In yoga, I don’t feel I have to compete with anyone else. I move at my pace, doing what I want, and what feels right with gentle guidance.   I don’t have to compete with ‘flexible Fiona’ and her binds or ‘headstand Hank’ and his inversion obsession.  I can just let go of that competitive nature that naturally sits inside.  This is the very reason why I can’t wrap my head around Yoga Competitions.    A competition, by nature, is an event that pits one against others in battle, for an opportunity to crown one a supreme being.  Why anyone would want to be ‘judged’ on their yoga poses? Check this video out of the 2012 World Champion.

2012 World Champion of Yoga: http://youtu.be/lcpcqdzGcKQ

Yes, he’s isn’t hard on the eyes, and has the body of a God, and does incredible yoga poses, but why, is he in a yoga competition against others? Surely he knows he’s ‘HOT’ and is a YOGA MAGNET.  Did he really need to stroke his ego by going into a competition?  Is he now an endorsement laden poster boy?  I wonder if they do blood tests to ensure he isn’t doping! (The travesty of it all! )

What about the other ‘slackers’ in the competition?  How did they feel when they didn’t ‘win’?  Isn’t yoga about all coming together in harmony in a non-competitive, non-judgmental environment that is as much about the ‘inner self ‘  as it is the ‘physical’ practice?   How can one ‘judge’ that? Instantly, I am drawn to think of the ‘behind the scenes’ with catty karma barbs being shared and can’t wait to write the next season of Yoga Town.  Yes, season two is in the works.  Yoga Competitions will be at the heart of the matter!

What’s you view of yoga competitions?  Write a comment and let me know!

 

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From Darkness into Light… Santa is that you?

Let’s face it. Christmas is for Kids.  They are the ones that breathe magic into the mystical beauty of a little white lie.  My nieces have decided that they will sleep on the kitchen floor this Christmas Eve, just to make sure that Santa does what he’s supposed to do.  Parking a pony under the Christmas tree might be a tall task for any adult, but they know Santa can do it.  These kids not only have strong desires, but also strong intentions! I know they’re wish will come true.  They didn’t say the pony had to be breathing.
I’ve always found it amusing to think that Santa is oddly linked to Solstice.  Winter Solstice represents change from darkness into light. According to the Mayans, this Solstice 2012 was to be the ‘End of the World’.  As one of my high school kids said,  “…Worst End of the World ever”! Maybe on the time continuum, the World did come to an end, and we just don’t know it. Maybe that’s what the Mayan’s meant. It’s about us, as individuals, going inside and bringing out the inner light to change our perspective. It’s the creation of a paradigm shift.  By taking the risk and facing the fear to expose oneself, we can learn to see the light again… from the inside.  And you never know! Maybe with all that goodness and intention, you’ll get a pony under your tree!  And if you don’t, there’s always next year.  May the ‘Santa light’ be with you.

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My Un-Moment

It starts with a simply request. ‘Be here, now.” I hear the instructor kindly inform me to let go of the past and let the future unfold, as I join her in the ‘moment’. Apparently, the immediate ‘moment’ is the essence of our existence. She goes on to suggest, “We are here, now. So, stay awhile and enjoy.” What is it about us that makes it so f***ing hard to be in the ‘moment’?

My ‘moment’ isn’t staying. It’s going. To Thailand. To taking a shower. Washing the dog. Finding a new career. Making dinner. Maybe all the social conditioning to ‘Be more, Do more, Have more’, has brainwashed me into obsessing on my future and my past, having whitewashed the ‘moment’. The rationale goes, if I am in the ‘moment’, I am not plotting to create some fantastic tomorrow. When you think about it, were not living tomorrow, til tomorrow. So why worry? Be happy!

While dreaming of a fruity rum drink on a white, sandy Costa Rican Beach, I shall continue my quest for the elusive ‘moment’, with good intentions.

Our winner of the STRIKE A POSE contest captures the essence of being in the moment. Thanks to all of you that participated! Congrats to Lunagals capturing the moment, and and honorable mention to Jamina Tribbett for her beautiful sunset submission!

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