Monthly Archives: October 2012

Transitioning Home

As I approached my 30s it dawned on me that “From here on, I’m only going to get older.” That thought had never crossed my mind before. I started paying attention to what I eat. A Raw Foods Weekend led to a Juice Fast Retreat, which led to my first ‘real’ yoga class. It was Ashtanga. The experience was humbling, inspiring, and empowering. After the first class, I remember clearly thinking “I want more.” And, almost simultaneously I realized I wanted to share yoga.

I went back home after the retreat and started seeking out books and workshops to attend. There was not much yoga in Sacramento at that time. So, I drove to San Francisco for classes and eventually traveled to Massachusetts for Yoga Teacher Training. One day I posted a flyer in our break room at work offering free yoga at noon. They say you know you love something if you are willing to do it for free. Teaching these free lunch time classes was my favorite part of working for the State for 10 years as a Programmer Analyst/Information Systems Specialist.

Teaching and practicing yoga has empowered me to make some radical decisions in my life. By “radical”, I mean out of my comfort zone, which borders on safety and certainty. Yoga has taught me to explore my edge, color outside the lines, and every so often, Be Unreasonable, and I love the challenge.

At some point I let go of the safety of a steady job for the chance to live my dream and that’s how I came about opening Pura Vida Yoga, in Downtown San Diego. The journey has just begun.

Pura Vida is a common saying in Costa Rica, where I was born and raised. Pura Vida means Pure Living or Full of Life, but we also use it to say Hello or Good-Bye, like Namaste. Pura Vida has also become a synonym to Life is Good. My intention in naming the studio Pura Vida is to inspire people to live from their heart, enjoy life, and live yoga. 

Yoga and Grounding

“Everyone needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal, and cheer, and give strength to the body and soul”

- John Muir

I recently moved from the traffic-ridden, smoggy, chaotic, big bad city of Los Angeles to a small rural town in Northeast Oregon. For those of you who have lived in or visited LA, it isn’t hard to notice the lack of nature. In fact, I had to consciously remind myself on a regular basis to look up at the sky. With tall buildings and so much stimulation on ground level, it is easy to forget the natural world that is always around us. In the three years I lived there, I found myself becoming more and more detached from the Earth and I know many city-dwellers feel the same.

Our bodies ache and become dis-eased, our hormones and chakras are out of balance, and we are riddled with anxiety and depression. Stasis is a delicate equilibrium, and when you introduce electronics, pollution, pesticides, sleep deprivation and demanding work, it’s no wonder we are so out of whack.
It hasn’t even been a month since my fiancé and I arrived in this beautiful place surrounded by pine forests and natural springs and we already feel better in nearly every aspect of our life. There was an instant change once we made it to Oregon, but something was missing, a certain disconnect that I couldn’t quite grasp or push through, until I found a way to use my practice to get me back in touch with Mother Nature and my non-crazy-stressed-out-from-moving-and-city-life self.

How We Can Use Yoga To Connect With The Earth

 Here are some simple poses and practices we can implement into our lives to re-connect with our center and natural surroundings.

1. Malasana/Garland Pose

Squatting has always has been a natural posture for people to assume while cooking, socializing, giving birth, and doing just about everything else; but since we now spend most of our time sitting in cars, chairs and on couches, our posture is seriously compromised. Even if you only practice once a week, try spending a few minutes a day in a squat position to loosen and strengthen your hamstrings, glutes, and core. I think this is one of the most grounding postures you can do. It’s not often we allow our whole being is allowed to get to close to Earth.

Related practice: Gardening. Evidence shows that gardeners live, on average, 14 years longer than the average person and part of this is due to the fact that soil is an abundant source of good bacteria and minerals which can boost our immune system. If you have a yard, spend a little time each week with your feet buried in the dirt, churning up the soil with your bare hands, smelling those beautiful herbs and flowers that you have spent your time nurturing. Even better, if you stay out for at least 2 hours, you get your daily dose of Vitamin D which can boost your overall feeling of well-being!

2. Prasarita Padottanasana/Wide Angle Forward Fold

I love this pose for getting down and smelling the Earth. There is nothing like getting your bare feet and fingers rooted into the Earth while feeling the sun warm your skin and fill you with light and energy. I like to think that humans are really just beautiful intricate solar panels :)

Related practice: Practice yoga outdoors. Feel the tickle of the grass in between your toes. Mirror the flow of the gentle breeze with your vinyasa and use the bird’s chirping as your music. Find every opportunity to use nature as a prop (e.g., using a tree as your “wall” in Viparita Karani is just heavenly).

3. Vrksasana/Tree Pose

I love Tree pose for balance and presence. You can’t be anywhere but the moment to avoid toppling over.

Related Practice: Make a commitment to be sharply present in your relationships. I often find my mind thinking about a million different things during a conversation, but when I remind myself to give someone my full attention and truly listen and respond after taking my time and really feeling out what it is I want to say, my relationships are so much more fulfilling. Start tomorrow. There’s nothing holding you back from that. Give yourself the goal of being entirely in the moment in every encounter with your partner, children, friends, acquaintances and co-workers.

4. Padmasana/Lotus Pose

The erectness of your spine allows your energy to flow freely, calming all parts of the physical body and creating space to quiet the mind.

Related Practice: Meditation! What else?! I believe everyone should develop a meditation practice, but this is especially beneficial for parents. You know those little 10-20 minute pockets of time where you try to squeeze in everything you need to do while the kids are distracted or taking a nap? Set aside just one of those a day to sit down and just breathe. Thoughts will come into your head but your job is to let those thoughts come and go, forget about laundry and schoolwork, and recognize that these 10 minutes are for YOU to nourish yourself. It’s the least you can do, right?

5. Virabhadrasana II/Warrior II

I think it is important to feel our own power and fierceness, especially when we feel weighed down with our worldly responsibilities and I don’t think there is any pose that makes us feel stronger and more empowered than Warrior. Remember, warriors are not recognized for their aggression, but for their strength: to face what comes their way with integrity, authenticity, and to use their mind and wit to overcome obstacles

6. Any pose that you struggle with, whether it is getting into a handstand or maintaining Bridge.

Related Practice: Tapas, or the practice of non-judgment, is key when working on yourself. Tapas is all about ‘Right Effort’ and cultivating a willingness to learn and an enthusiasm to hold poses even when you start to feel the burn. Don’t beat yourself up if you don’t instantly succeed. Like yoga, commitment to self and Earth, is a practice.