Rushing to Relax

Every sane person recognizes the ridiculous contradiction involved with rushing to relax, and yet the contradiction can ensnare us all. We know the hazards of stress, and we have experienced great relief through practicing yoga, and so we often spend some portion of our day blitzing toward our hour and a half of tranquility on the safe haven of our yoga mat. We know stress is unhealthy and we know that yoga helps, but in today’s rat race how can we attune ourselves at work, or in the car, or when communicating with our family, so that we don’t end up rushing tired and anxious to the mat for relief? Continue reading “Rushing to Relax” »

Yoga Groove: Spanda Flow!

July 23rd is coming up fast- have you been practicing your dance moves in anticipation of Yoga Union’s first ever Yoga Groove?

Chris Calarco will be leading a class set to the powerful sounds of improvised music by DJ HyFi (check him out here: http//www.yogadjhyfi.com)

-Ian traves all around the U.S. bringing with him a fusion of sound and music). These jams will match and inspire the energetic aligned flow of the class, allowing us all to “go deep into our hearts” and rock it out while we stretch it out.

After the 2 hour spanda flow (spanda is a Sanskrit term for the divine vibration, or, the creative pulse of the universe as it manifests into the dynamism of living form), the fun really begins with a hoppin’ dance party and adult beverages including organic Sokol Blosser wines (http://www.sokolblosser.com) and local favorite beers.

It’s also a great opportunity to get to know your fellow yogis you see practicing next to you everyday! And for just 20 bucks, can you really ask for anything else?

Check out http://yogaunion.com for or additional information, or Chris’s own website at http://chriscalarcoyoga.com/

We hope to see you there!

Additional information from:                                              Http://www.spandaflow.com and Http://www.yogajournal.com

Pose of the Month: Setu Bandha Sarvangasana

July brings us a new pose of the month- Setu Bandha Sarvangasana, or, Bridge Pose (setu = dam, dike or bridge, bandha = lock). This is a great pose for yogis in all stages of practice, and the benefits are extensive. Anatomically, Bridge focuses on the neck and shoulders and in women, the uterus. The chest, neck and spine are stretched, while the abdominal organs, lungs and thyroid are stimulated. The pose can also alleviate stress, improve digestion and rejuvenate tired legs. Here are some tips to help you get into Bridge:

  • Lie on your back, and if necessary, use a blanket under your shoulders to support the neck. Bend your knees with your feet on the floor, keeping the heels close to the sitting bones
  • As you exhale, actively press your inner feet and arms into the floor, pull the tailbone up toward the pubic bone, and lift the buttocks until the thighs are about parallel to the floor. Engage your thighs and inner feet to keep them parallel
  • Keep the knees over the heels and press them forward away from the head, lengthening the tailbone
  • Keep your arms on the floor or clasp the hands below your pelvis and extend, allowing you to rest on the top of the shoulders
  • Lift your chin slightly away from the sternum and firm and broaden the shoulder blades against your back. You should feel the space between them lift up into the torso
  • Stay in the pose anywhere from 30 seconds to 1 minute. Release with an exhalation, rolling the spine slowly down onto the floor.

For an added challenge, try lifting a leg until perpendicular to the torso and repeat on the opposite side. Sliding a block under the sacrum can provided added support and increase the restorative properties of the pose. Use caution if you have a neck injury and if you have any questions, be sure to ask an instructor.

Photo Source:?http://yogajournal.com/

Happy Independence Day

 

Happy 4th of July weekend fellow Yogis! Do you have plans to BBQ, enjoy the sunshine or watch the fireworks? In case you’re still wondering what to do with all this nice weather, here are some holiday happenings in the Portland area:

• Waterfront Blues Festival: Take a blanket, pack a picnic and groove to some live tunes at this year’s Waterfront Blues Festival! Shows will be happening on the grass all weekend, so check out http://www.waterfrontbluesfest.com/
for details on who’s playing and when. Channel your yoga spirit and show the City of Roses your moves! This is also a great spot to watch fireworks- starting at 10:00 pm, this display at Tom McCall 
Waterfront Park is the largest fireworks show in Oregon

• Independence Day at Fort Vancouver: An all-day extravaganza, this festival has something for everyone. Bring the whole family and enjoy food, drinks, games and entertainment. Finish the night off watching an amazing fireworks show synchronized to music. Check out http://www.fortvan.org/pages/fourth-home
 for the full scoop

• Oaks Park Fireworks Spectacular: Music, fireworks and everyone’s favorite- carnival rides! Let the kids play while you enjoy the sunshine and friends. Check http://oakspark.com/upcoming3.html for prices and details

If the crowds are to much for you, why not have your favorite people over and grill in your yard? Here’s a great link with 4th of July themed snacks and drinks http://allrecipes.com/Info/holidays-events-and-occasions/july-4th/main.asp

Can’t see any fireworks from your yard? Try theses spots to chill out and watch the shows:

  • Hawthorne Bridge
  • Mount Tabor
  • Rose Test Gardens
  • Pittock Mansion
  • Top of PSU parking garage on 6th and Harrison
  • Portland City Grill
  • Sellwood Park (you can see both Oaks Park and downtown from here!)
  • West Hills: Terwilliger near OHSU has many spots.

Be safe, be happy, have fun!

Picture from: http://www.pdxpipeline.com/2011/06/30/where-to-watch-fireworks-on-july-fourth/

Inner Spiral – with Chris Calarco

Sunday  was Father’s Day and even though some of us were not able to spend it with our dads, we were lucky enough to set our intentions for them in the Anusara class led by Chris Calarco. The practice felt particularly special that morning- maybe it was because we were getting to share our gratitude for life with a room full of yogis who also have fathers that helped them get to where they are today. Or maybe it was because Chris’s parents were visiting from the East Coast and were in class with us, beaming with obvious pride and love for their son. Or perhaps it was the deeply personal and insightful guidance given by Chris himself. Using the principle of Inner Spiral as a theme, he led us through an inspiring physical practice while sharing his struggles and triumphs with his own Inner Spiral. This principle has had such an effect on Chris he wrote a piece about it and graciously shared some of his writing in class.

His message has become widely popular (!Go Chris!), and can be read on the Wanderlust Blog page  among others.

So for those who were in Chris’s class yesterday and want to be inspired by the whole article, or those curious about Anusaras 3rd principle of alignment,  please enjoy Chris’s story below :)

And take a minute to check out his website (http://chriscalarcoyoga.com/) which has details about the upcoming July 23rd Yoga Groove- a class that unites yoga and music, with a dance party to follow. Mark your calendars, you won’t want to miss this party!

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I had been practicing yoga regularly for about 5 years…

I was certified to teach Vinyasa and loved the feeling in body and mind yoga produced. I thought of this feeling as a combination of exhaustion and exhilaration. I sought it out whenever I could fit my practice into life as a child psychotherapist. However, without warning, my motivation to practice fell off the face of the earth as I lost my way. For almost 9 months my whole being shifted and I lost touch with my body, my friends and my practice. Even before yoga came to an abrupt halt I had gradually, and unconsciously, migrated away my first teachers and their studio. I hadn’t found a new studio per se but lived as more of a yoga vagabond, wandering from studio to studio with my head down, practicing hard and then quickly getting out the door. I wasn’t a very social yogi. Around the time I became a nomad, my teacher’s, Annie Adamson and Todd Vogt of Yoga Union in Portland, Oregon, were beginning to integrate Anusara Yoga’s 5 Universal Principles of Alignment into their classes during their process of training.

Upon deep self-reflection, a hefty dose of depression, and a lot of help I finally returned to the mat, making a massively liberating decision to commit myself fully to the practice and teaching of yoga. As I became reacquainted with my body I soon found myself bound and stuck in common poses like Trikonasana (Triangle) and Utthitha Parsvokonasa (Extended Side Angle). I was disappointed that after 5 years, even given the layoff, I remained shallow in my Triangle with bottom hand just below my knee. Athletic but never super flexible I felt a sense of resignation, as if I had reached my edge in asana practice and I would not grow. I knew I could always access the good feeling after a class but deep inside this was not enough, I longed for much more. I wanted access to advanced poses, I wanted to increase my strength and flexibility but most of all I yearned to change my habits of mind and magnify my life from within. I left yoga because of depression and was determined to make a resonant and permanent change.

I scheduled a private lesson with Annie and expressed my frustration with Triangle and Extended Side Angle. Quickly, I found Anusara’s third principle of alignment was going to be my new intimate dance partner. Inner Spiral is an “energy spiral” thought of as a refinement of the body’s alignment in all yoga postures. The spiral begins on the inner edges of the feet and widens as it moves upward toward the pelvis and outer edges of the waistline. Inner Spiral turns the front of the legs and pelvis inward, towards the midline. It moves the inner edges of the feet, legs, and pelvis backward as the inner heels, inner knees, and inner thighs flow back. These actions also broaden the legs and pelvis apart. Inner Spiral’s key words are “In”, “Back”, and “Wide”. Physically, this manifests an increased healthy curve in the lower lumbar spine and the sitting bones press out. Renowned teacher Sianna Sherman often half-jokes that one of Anusara’s secret principals is “when in doubt, stick it out”.

Importantly, Inner Spiral requires the engagement of its partner principle, Muscle Energy (Anusara’s second principle), to be radically transformative. When the muscles of the legs are engaged and we actively make them flow “In”, “Back”, and “Wide” there is integration throughout the entire lower body that creates vibrantly new ripples of freedom in the groins, hamstrings, and lower back. Within the first ten minutes of my private with Annie I looked into the mirror and was astounded. I did not recognize the person in Triangle pose. My stance was wider and more stable, my bottom hand was on the floor (Hallelujah!), and I felt a lusciously deep stretch in my groins and lower back. Now I had to begin working with Inner Spiral and all five principles in every pose! The work had beautifully just begun.

In Anusara’s methodology, each Universal Principle of Alignment is associated with one of earth’s natural elements. Inner Spiral is like water. Just as rivers flow naturally, nurturing the surrounding land, Inner Spiral watered the seed of each asana inside my body. With active engagement, Inner Spiral created a new sense of liquid depth in me and in turn granted access to the freedom and revelation l longed for. I no longer am a yoga vagabond as I have found a home inside my body and with Annie and Todd at Yoga Union. I am expanding my limits, working at my edge, and nailing postures I never imagined. Inner Spiral has literally blasted me open to the new possibilities that are always available if we align heart, body, and mind. For me, the body came first, and the others soon followed suit. Feeling extraordinarily liberated and full of deep gratitude for my fellow yogis, teachers and this system of yoga, the journey continues. Inner Spiral changed my life and it can change yours.

 

Nataraj, the Cosmic Dancer

Have you had a chance to check out the statue, or “Murti”, in the front of the bamboo room at Yoga Union?  Perhaps you’re like me and you’ve used it as your focal point during a difficult balance sequence but don’t know much about it. In order to appreciate more than just the beauty of the murti itself, I asked Todd to answer a few questions about the dancing deity he chose for his studio.
Q: Who and what is being depicted?
A: The statue or “Murti” depicts Shiva in his form as Nataraj, the cosmic dancer. Shiva is divine consciousness and his dance, called the Ananda Tandava or “blissful dance”, creates the entire universe. The symbolism reveals to us that the universe is a divinely blissful dance of consciousness in which no individual is separate. We are both engaged in the dance, as Shiva is, and we are also the dance itself.
Q: What made you choose this particular statue?
A: The sheer beauty of it is honestly what first drew me to the Nataraja.
Q: What significance does it hold for you and the studio as a whole?
A: This particular depiction of Shiva is probably the most relative to yogis who practice “asana” or physical yoga poses. The statue has movement and life in it. In fact, it is actually placed in a yoga pose, so it’s a good fit for the yoga studio. The symbolism it presents also has a lot to teach us about being graceful in our practice. Shiva’s standing on one foot atop a dwarf who symbolizes our ego. It is this ego that keeps us small by insisting we aren’t worthy, don’t have enough, aren’t ready yet, or haven’t earned the right to be all that we can be. Here we learn here what’s required is to squash that limiting voice in our head and to transform the ego from a problem, as Shiva did the dwarf, into the actual stage we dance all over. The other foot is the graceful upturned foot which symbolizes revelation- that through yoga we embody the power of grace and our true nature is revealed; joy, goodness, delight, fun. We are never more ourselves than in that enrapturing moment of blissful dance; when we’re in the zone so to speak.
Q: What do you want your students to gain from it?
A: Primarily that life is a dance and that like all dance, it’s primary purpose is to delight in life.
Q: Any other fun facts in regards to Nataraj?
A: One of our teachers, John Friend (Anusara Yoga founder), has called his tour this year “Dancing with the divine.”

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If you’re interested in learning more about Shiva, the link below has some great information:

http://www.religionfacts.com/hinduism/deities/shiva.htm

Sun Salute!

Summer in Portland is… unbeatable. When the sun comes out, the streets fill with smiles, exposed flesh and the smell of backyard BBQs. An open patio seat is hard to find and bodies lay strewn about in parks- victims of the Vitamin D assault. We even seem to forget the 8 months of incessant rain that only just stopped yesterday. It’s on these glorious days that it can sometimes be a challenge to take our bodies out of the sun and into the studio. So instead of compromising one for the other, why not take your practice outside? Yoga is, after all, about unity. When it’s practiced in nature, your connection to the universe may feel more readily available and your sense of awareness will have room to grow and evolve. Continue reading “Sun Salute!” »

Flying Fish Co.!

 

If you frequent the Yoga Union studio, then there’s a fair chance you’ve passed by a large van bearing the name “Flying Fish Co.” on the corner of 50th and Hawthorne. But have you stopped to peek inside and see what that van is all about, and who’s actually driving that thing around Portland?

Lyf Gildersleeve, the owner and second generation fish monger from Idaho with his degree in Aqua Culture, is as welcoming as the fresh foods he’s providing. He greets each patron with a smile and recognizes more than a few of the returning customers, calling many by first name. He seems to know what they have come for and enthusiastically volunteers which fish is the most fresh, which has gone down in price, and any specials he currently has in.  A chalk board lists the week’s fresh catches (boasting names like Copper River Sockeye and King Salmon) as well as the frozen (but never defrosted) selection, which is lengthy and drool-inducing. My eyes bounce from Dover Sole to Halibut Cheeks to the Smoked Ahi and back to the Ekone Oysters, all this before I even see the lists of local, organic, grass fed meets. Lyf tells me the beef, lamb, buffalo, pork and even elk are delivered to him direct from the ranches. All the meats, including the fish and the local eggs (chicken, duck and quail, oh my!), are chemical and hormone free. There’s even something for the herbivores- fresh seaweed salad! A large refrigerator, also covered in chalk board with prices listed on all sides, holds most of his bounty. Customers happily browse through the selection, while Lyf gives cooking tips for each. The environment feels more like a friend’s house than a fish market, and it makes me want to become one of his regulars.

As awesome and substantial the choices of seafood are here,  a huge focus of the Flying Fish Co. is to provide proteins that are not only good choices for our bodies, but also good choices from an environmental prospective. Populations of certain species vary over time and are dependent upon multiple factors, including how heavily they are fished. If a specie’s population isn’t stable, then it won’t be available from Flying Fish Co. Meats like beef and pork are purchased form local farmers, helping to stimulate and support our community economy. We as consumers should also do our part by making smart choices, and Lyf’s truck is a great place to start. Even the trays the fish are packaged in are biodegradable.


As I browsed through the choices, I was surprised to find that prices were well below what I had expected. A dozen eggs are $5, and I picked up a pound of the fresh Copper River Sockeye Salmon for only about $10. Lyf said that although his prices were higher than at a store like Fred Meyer (whose products are not even comparable, in my humble opinion), they’re actually a few dollars cheaper than at a place like New Seasons. He accepts cash and cards, making buying a breeze, and soon will be accepting EBT (food stamp) cards. If you sign up to be on his mailing list, you can find out what specials he will have in that week (it always varies) and even make special requests.

Later that night I grilled my fresh salmon on the patio with the Portland sun shining (finally!) down on me. I took Lyf’s advice and didn’t overcook the fish, making sure the insides were still a lush coral pink. The result was one of the best dinner’s I’ve had all spring, and the friends I was willing to share a bite with agreed. The flavor was delicious and fresh, and the meat flaked off in perfect, moist bites.

Tomorrow I plan on walking down the block and popping back in to see Lyf, who opens his doors from noon to 7, Wednesday through Friday at the corner of 50th and Hawthorne (he’s also open on weekends at 3221 SE Division, in the cart pod). This time I want to try some of the farm fresh eggs, and maybe some of the Pacific Snapper. I’ll probably also mention how open my lower back feels from his Hot Flow class I attended this morning- when Lfy isn’t slinging fish, he also happens to be a wonderful instructor at the Yoga Union :)
I highly recommend taking a minute to stop by and check out Flying Fish Co. and say hi to a fellow yogi in the process.

Here’s a link the the Flying Fish website, where you can find out more about product availability and even details on other locations (most of which are owned by Lyf’s family) around the West. Be sure to sign up for his mailing list while there!

http://web.flyingfishcompany.com/home.html

Namaste!

Be Human, Stay Human

Are you tired of schlepping your yoga clothes all over town in your purse? Does your mat fall out of your backback while you’re cruising down Burnside on your bike? Do you wear the same t-shirt to class, regardless of if it made it in the wash or not? Have you neglected to treat yourself to something nice, even though you definitely deserve it? And do you dig using products that are organic, sustainable and recycled?
If you answered yes! to any or all of the above questions, we recommend checking out the awesome bags, clothing and accessories created by Stay Human, a company by Michael Franti and Carla Swanson.

According to the founders, the product line was inspired by yoga and a desire to cultivate a “stay human lifestyle”. They guarantee that throughout each stage of construction, ethical, humanitarian and environmental practices are utilized and 10% of all proceeds are donated to the Bumi Sehat Natural Birthing Clinic in Indonesia and the Hunter’s Point Family in San Francisco. Check out these sites for more information on the causes:
http://www.stayhumanstore.com/
http://bumisehatbali.org 
http://hunterspointfamily.com 

Yoga Union is happy to offer several of the Stay Human products in our own studio, ranging from tanks with built in bras, to bags made for the yogi-on-the-go.

 Our favorite bag, made from organic hemp, doubles as both a carry-all for your daily life (including a change of clothes!), and as a stylish yet functional way to carry your mat.

If you want something smaller, traditional tube-style yoga bags are available in eye-catching prints, assuring you’ll never forget your bag in the locker room again (or at least not as often ).

There are several pant and top styles for both men and women, and if you can’t find your size or favorite color in the studio, the website makes online ordering a breeze.
For women, we are loving the simple, comfortable feel of the Womens Eco Heather Cropped Pant, which can just as easily be worn to the grocery store as to the studio.

For the men, check out the Downward Dog t-shirt, made from 100% organic cotton. The illustration is beautiful and may even help you mindfully get into the pose.

Or maybe you’re searching for the perfect gift for someone you love? This beautiful bracelet would look great on anyone, and since the eco-silver is reclaimed from
film, cellphones and computers, you can feel good knowing you’ve done your part to support a company focused on reducing their environmental impact.

Everyone Yoga!

How old were you when you began your yoga practice? Do you ever wish you had found yoga at an earlier age? Many parents in cities across the country are encouraging their children to explore yoga and its teachings earlier, and classes taught for kids are becoming increasingly more popular. Yoga can be a wonderful way for children to learn how to calm the mind, exercise the body and appreciate the inner strengths and resources of every individual.

While some research has been done on the effects of yoga on children, definitive results are limited. However, there are several speculated benefits and many of them include the same advantages adults receive from a regular practice. Here’s just a few of the ways getting your child involved in yoga could help them later in life-

*Improved attention, concentration and promotion of emotional and self-control. Mindfulness is one of the greatest teachings of yoga. Exploring and developing mindfulness within yoga can be especially helpful for children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) with one study reporting a reduction in mood swings, temper outbursts and crying fits.
*Improved ability to plan and carry-out complex brain functions. Research suggests that yoga increases blood flow to the frontal lobe of the brain, which results in a faster realization and correction of errors. This can be especially helpful during standardized tests given in schools.
*Improved strength and flexibility of muscles. Besides the obvious benefits of being strong and flexible, strengthening the muscles allows for an increase in circulation which results in an uptake of oxygen and hormones. This allows the parasympathetic nervous system (the “Rest and Digest” component of our brain) to take over. What does that mean? Reduced stress! And also an increased resistance to its effects later on.
*Decreased depression and anxiety. Research shows that people who practice yoga regularly have increased levels (sometimes as much as 27%!) of neurotransmitter y-aminobutyric acid (GABA) which is known to elevate mood. Starting yoga early can help young children develop and maintain positive outlooks on life.

If you’re considering yoga for your child,  it’s important to find the right learning environment for the development of foundations that will be used throughout a lifetime. The focus should be more on the cultivation of compassion and acceptance, as well as the connection between breath and postures, than on competition or perfection of poses (this is true for adults as well! But sometimes easy to forget ). Do your research before enrolling your child, and develop a relationship with the instructor.  Communicate with your child and make sure yoga classes are fun and that they are enjoying the experience. Some studios offer joint parent/child classes where you can practice together. This can be a great way to introduce them to yoga with you there to guide, support and offer encouragement.

Information received from:

http://74.125.155.132/scholar?q=cache:saHeUCq-eKoJ:scholar.google.com/+yoga+for+children&hl=en&as_sdt=0,38

Below are some resources for additional information on yoga for children.
Namaste!

http://www.yogajournal.com/lifestyle/210

http://moveyogastudio.com/