Monthly Archives: July 2014

Stand Up Paddleboard (SUP) Yoga- an innovation approach to an ancient practice.

Rita Marie Murphy
Stand Up Paddleboard (SUP) Yoga is one of the latest trends in yoga. SUP Yoga is a great way to reinvigorate your yoga practice and connect with nature. With the paddleboard as the mat, yogis are able to refine their technique and become more in tune with their poses, while matching their breath to the rhythmic flow of the water. Since the paddleboard is unstable, yogis must engage their core for better balance, translating into a better workout. The best part of SUP Yoga is it teaches you how to get back up. If you do fall, you learn how to overcome the setback, climb back up on your board and try again. SUP Yoga provides the opportunity to learn a meaningful life lesson and provides great motivation to stay balanced and focused on the present.

This June, I earned my certification as a Stand Up Paddleboard Instructor with the Academy of Surfing Instructors and as a SUP Yoga Teacher with Paddle Diva of East Hampton, NY. Teaching yoga on a paddleboard, and my own personal training, has transformed both my practice and my body. The paddling itself has been a great substitute for running; it has been better for my knees and has shredded my core. I have lost a few pounds and inches, which I am grateful for because it did not even feel like I was working out! I was paddling along the beautiful Connetquout River on Long Island’s South Shore or in Three Mile Harbor in East Hampton. I was in a playful and adventurous state of mind. The most blissful aspect of paddleboarding is that it forces you to stay in the moment. You must be acutely aware of your natural surroundings, be it marine life or boaters. You are practicing on a platform that glides along the water, and is vulnerable to waves and wind. You must be present. All of the while, you are taking in the overwhelmingly beautiful and majestic views of nature.

I have been fortunate enough to be teaching a few SUP Yoga classes a week at Adventure Paddleboards in Hampton Bays, and I offer my own class on the Connetquot River in Great River, NY with Keenan Boyle and Bunger Surf Shop of Sayville. SUP Yoga forces you to rethink even the simplest pose, yet the surrounding water gives you the courage to try even the most daring inversion or arm balance. In my experience, I have found Tree Pose (Vrksasana) and Dancer’s Pose (Natarajasana) to be the most challenging, while Headstand (Sirsasana) and Side Crow (Parsva Bakasana) came with ease! One windy Sunday morning in the Hampton Bays, Warrior I seemed almost impossible. Your entire body works to maintain your balance, thus totally engaging your core and building strength, endurance and confidence. There is a sweet surrender to nature that is made when you practice yoga on a paddleboard; you have no choice but to go with the flow.

One afternoon I paddled south on the Connetquot River, a fresh water river that empties into the Great South Bay. I followed a rivulet into a hidden cove and blessed the area with my practice. As I lay in Pigeon Pose (Eka Pada Rajakapotasana), I reflected on an analogy in the Translation and Commentary of the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali by Sri Swami Satchidananda.

Sutra 3. “Then the Seer (Self) abides in His own nature.”

“…You think you are your reflection in the mind. If the mind has a lot of waves like the surface of a lake, you will be seeing a distorted reflection. If the water of that mental lake is muddy or colored you see your Self as muddy or colored. To see the true reflection, see that the water is clean and calm and without any ripples. When the mind ceases to create thought forms or when the chittam is completely free from vrittis, it becomes clear and still as a lake and you see your true Self.”

Is not seeing our true selves ultimately the quest we are all on along this path called yoga? Floating there on my board, I let go of my thoughts. I envisioned my mind as a lake, and each thought as a wave or ripple in that lake. With every exhale, I released a thought or a concern. I exhaled out all those things that were no longer serving me until the lake in my mind was as flat and calm as a plate of glass.

I am grateful for the serene practice of Stand Up Paddleboard Yoga. It is a great way to transform your physical practice and a wonderful way to connect nature. I encourage all adventurous yogis to get on a board and enjoy the glide!

“Pre-trip Jitters” –My Journey Begins

My Journey Begins
Well, here we are: the eve of my year-long departure. I feel nervous, anxious, excited…but most strangely, I feel quite calm. Considering the rush of preparations and whirlwind of activity, everything has gone smoothly, with only a couple minor hiccups. I am blessed! Credit card is good to go; possessions are stowed away; car is sold; bank account is ready. If only I’d had time to stop by that awesome vegan beauty bar in Golden Hill to get my nails done….but vanity comes second to logic.
I am sure I’m bringing WAY too much stuff (clothes, books, shoes, wigs, jackets…). But I’d rather be prepared for anything and save my first paycheck, than spend it all right away.
For those who do not know, I am about to embark on the journey of a lifetime! By the grace of the Universe, I have landed my first touring gig as a singer. Performing on stage every night, singing the world’s most beloved tunes with great musicians, is definitely a dream come true. What makes it even sweeter is getting to share it with all of you. My band mates have already learned the most important thing about me – yogic values! They have asked me to lead them in group yoga on the beach in Abu Dhabi, U.A.E. (that’s where our tour commences). Stoked!
Since I broke a sweat and almost broke my back (exaggeration) trying to close my ridiculously over-stuffed suitcases, I decided to snap one last photo of my “carry on” filled with my Cozy Orange goodies. I can’t wait to rock them all over the world!
And now, time for some shuteye before my 16-hour flight from LAX.
Till Next Time….Namaste!

Gratitude: What You Can’t See Does Affect You

What You Can’t See Does Affect You
April Laliberte Yoga Inclusive

For me, the world is science. Cells and bacteria and bones and roots. I want to see it and I want to disassemble it so I can see how it works. However, a large aspect of life is missing when you remove the emotional piece of living. I can’t see emotions, yet I know they exist and sometimes, they rule my actions and override my intellect.
So what is this unseen world of emotions? It’s energy in a form that we cannot see. It’s a vibration that is indeed real because if it weren’t, it wouldn’t be able to affect us in such a tangible ways. Sometimes emotions come out of nowhere and change my mood in an instant. Does this happen to you? If something so real and tangible like a vibrational energy can change me from the outside-in, I began to wonder if I can affect change from the inside-out. It turns out that yes, we can.

If we can affect change, and we are held responsible for our emotions and indeed the very direction of our lives, we begin to ask ourselves “What’s next? Where do I start?” I suggest starting with gratitude.
Gratitude has a very gentle vibrational quality that even if you say it loud and put an exclamation point at the end, it still comes across as soft. “Thank You!” It’s hard to say this word with any negativity, hostility or spite. It is a heart and soul quality that is natural and resonates with every living being on the planet. Even if you can’t feel love for someone or something, even if you can’t see gratitude, you can still feel gratitude. In fact, it’s safe to say if you don’t feel gracious you’re out of alignment.

Not feeling gracious? No problem! It’s easy to get back into alignment with gratitude by practicing simple exercises. Check in with your heart center and attune yourself with the positive aspects of your target of discontent. You may need to do this for a few minutes. Reiterate to yourself why the object of your discontent is so important, what qualities do they or it have that you admire? What originally brought you together? By doing this you are aligning with the energy of your association with it or them. Then, focus on your heart center and give gratitude to them energetically. Start small. I like their shoes, I’m grateful they told me where to get a pair.

You can find gratitude in almost anything. And, as you start to work with these subtle energy vibrations and frequencies you begin to realize the more you are gracious, the more others will recognize and start acting gracious to you. This happens because like attracts more of the same. The vibration of one thing will attract simply because of the sameness of vibrational quality.

Enjoy your experiment with gratitude. It’s much more than words on a computer screen, it’s a powerful transformative emotion and vibrational quality that has to be felt to be understood.

Living Yoga in Everyday Life

Christie Piko
I teach yoga and offer massage therapy in both Oakland and San Francisco, so I often commute by BART (San Franciscoʼs “subway train”). While aboard, I witnessed a young man purposely taking up two seats, his backpack resting on the seat next to him. At the next stop, a middle-aged man got on the train and kindly asked if he could sit in the seat where the backpack was. The young man just blankly looked at him. The older man asked again, and the young man shook his head. The older man, frustrated, muttered under his breath, and stormed away to stand in the center of the train car.

Not a minute later, a girl in her 30s nicely asks with a smile if she could sit down. He gives the same sort of answer. The girl smiles genuinely and asks again. And then again. The young man looks right at her, shakes his head no, and continues to move to the music in his headphones. She walks away and moves into a different train car.

Whoa, this kid was not going to give his seat up for anything!

His actions, though impolite in nature, got me thinking on a deeper level. Why is he hanging on to this extra seat? Does he not want anyone that close to him? Or, maybe he has had to fight for everything in life, and now he has something and he wonʼt let it go, because once itʼs gone, itʼs gone. Perhaps something as common as giving up a seat on the train could mean a real loss to him?

I wasnʼt sure. But, I chose to take this opportunity to metaphorically “gaze into a mirror at myself.” The reflection looking back reminded me of times when I held on too tightly to something for fear of losing it. Or, times when I wanted more and more, when I didnʼt necessarily need it. Even times when I was rigid and judgmental in my thinking. I thought more and more about how I could change.

Yoga has always been an inspiration for shifts in my life. In witnessing the train situation, I was drawn towards santosha. Santosha is one of the niyamas, one of the five self observances or ethics within the Eight Limbs of Yoga. When you experience santosha, you are content and counting your blessings in gratitude. You are able to accept what happens, because you do not need more than you already have. With this kind of satisfaction, supreme joy can be gained.

I believe there are valuable lessons to be learned in our every day interactions with other people. In watching the young man not give up his seat, I was inspired to focus on being satisfied and grateful for what I already have, rather than wanting more. Within days of truly applying this to all aspects of my life, I booked more private reiki and massage clients. My group yoga classes had greater attendance, and were even more meaningful for my students and I (and still continue to be). A reiki and yoga workshop that I was hosting sold out. I may have attracted a bit of the supreme joy and tranquility that comes from santosha.

Is this easy to do? Not always. I encourage anyone reading this to see day to day occurrences in a new light. I challenge you to always be grateful, because you are never lacking. These lessons only make us stronger. You are always where you need to be.

Fearlessly Flying

Kirsten Van Mourick
The first time I held a forearm stand it was for .5 seconds. I then proceeded to face plant on my mat and immediately burst into joyful giggles. After all, for half a second I felt my body fall in alignment–my heart opening, my core holding strong, and my ankles over my hips over my shoulders. I felt myself holding the pose, if only for half a second, and in that moment I felt as if I was flying.
But since that particular practice a few months ago, life has gotten busy and my forearm stand practice has been non-existent. In the midst of not practising it, I have become fearful that I will never “get” into the pose, essentially thinking to myself that I will never hold a forearm stand long enough to capture and share it on Instagram.
Too often I peruse Instagram for yoga inspiration, only to find myself desperately yearning to move into and hold this dream pose. In doing so, my own journey never moves forward because I am too busy staring straight ahead instead of looking at the world upside down. My fear of never ” getting” there halters me from even trying.
Recently though, summer has granted me some time to devote to my Holy Yoga practice. For the last five weeks, I have been on my mat almost daily, and though I am beginning to think I am only working on perfecting the art of the face plant, I know I am actually cultivating much more. In purposefully setting aside time for Holy Yoga, even if it’s in a practice space right inside my home, where I sequence my poses to help me move into forearm stand, I have become intentional. I have begun turning my world upside down.
As my Holy Yoga community began a #fearlessinversions challenge this summer, I knew I had to make this my #summerofbrave . Thus, I am intentionally turning my own world upside down to overcome my fear of never “getting” to forearm stand by practising the poses that help move me in that direction.
I don’t have many Instagram pictures yet because I really am still face planting. But just this week I contemplated a short video of my practice because, honestly, isn’t the reality of much of our yoga practice–of much of our lives–a face plant?
Within me, there is a fearless soul who desires to live wildly free. For most of my life though, the act of living wildly free and overcoming my fears has been hard. After all, when I worry about my yesterdays or fear tomorrows, I simply forget to live in today. Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “What lies behind and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.” I know that my soul is fearlessly, wildly, free. And when I forget about yesterday’s bad practice or tomorrow’s power class, then my movements today on my mat are much more open to bravery. I become fearless.
The joy of overcoming my fear is the realization that my journey is not really about “getting” into forearm stand. Instead, it is that I get to go on this journey. If I wanted, I could choose to sit on my mat and stare straight ahead for the rest of my life. No one is forcing me to turn upside down and include inversions in my practice. Nor is anyone forcing me to challenge myself. Instead, I get to do this. I get to journey on my #summerofbrave and let my soul fly.
And maybe, just maybe, one day I’ll stop face planting along the way.

Three Reasons to Eat Chocolate

Kirsten Van Mourick
Dark, milk, creamy or nutty. There are so many kinds of chocolate out there and often times we are told “not to eat” it. What if I told you that I can give you three good reasons to eat chocolate and still stay on track with your diet? Well, I can. Read on to discover what chocolate to eat and why it’s a good idea.
First of all, it’s the cocoa that is found in chocolate that packs the health benefits. Cocoa comes from plants, is natural, and offers the health benefits that are found in chocolate. Cocoa in its own form is quite bitter which is why the chocolate bars add in lots of sugar and chemicals to enhance the sweetness. Opting for options that have a high percentage of cocoa (70% or higher) and low amounts of sugar are your best bet.

1. Be happy- Cocoa stimulates the release of the “feel good” hormone serotonin which is why most of us are happier after eating it. Also responsible for the brain experiencing a euphoric or excited state, which is associated to the consumption of chocolate, with cocoa being the responsible party.

2. Brain booster- Flavonoids dilate the blood vessels up to 3 hours after consuming it. This allows for enhanced blood flow throughout the body. When increased blood is able to flow to the brain it results in enhanced clarity and mood, improved memory and stimulates learning. It also helps other areas that need increased blood flow….

3. Antioxidants- Flavonols found in cocoa may help to reduce the risk of heart disease by up to 50%. It has also been show to reduce cell deterioration and reduce the risk of cancer (low sugar option of course! Cancer cells LOVE sugar).

So what’s the best way to get your cocoa intake and stay on track? Try out this quick and easy recipe:
1/2 cup spinach
1 small banana, frozen or fresh
1/2 cup raw, organic cocoa nibs
1 cup unsweetened almond milk
1/4 cup oats
Blend all ingredients until smooth. Add ice for thicker consistency. Enjoy!