The Art and Science of an Open Heart: Unlock your Deepest Backbend

The Art and Science of an Open Heart: Unlock your Deepest Backbend

Most of us take backbeding poses in the place it’s the easiest- exactly where we shouldn’t! When we practice unskillful backbends we reinforce old patterns of instability and imbalance both physically and emotionally. Unlock the healing potential of your deepest backbend by understanding the simple yet ingenious design of your spinal curves. Embody the metaphor of an open heart by honoring not only the art of deep poses but the science.

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Downtown Oakland Becomes a Redwood Forest Just in Time for the Woman's March

Downtown Oakland Becomes a Redwood Forest Just in Time for the Woman's March

As I sat alongside other unsuspecting hipsters at Arbor Cafe this morning, violence erupts, illustrating both the roots of iniquity and well as the power of embodying compassion amidst chaos. These are deep lessons for our march this weekend.

Arm in arm on Saturday, embodying peace, courage and justice with our hearts held high, breathing deeply, may we wrap our roots around each other for greater strength and resilience. May we return downtown Oakland to it’s pre-industrial roots: a forest of redwoods.

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Each Moment Lived Fully Awake Cannot Help but be Both Prayer and Lovemaking

Each Moment Lived Fully Awake Cannot Help but be Both Prayer and Lovemaking

Since 11/9, poetry has been saving my life.

It's been pulling me out of bed and dragging me to my altar for morning practice. It's been lulling me to sleep, gently stroking my hair, reassuring me that everything is going to be okay, that I have a purpose here. Now. That it's okay if I don't yet know exactly what that purpose looks like in action.

It's been reminding me that turmoil and challenging emotion are the mothers of vision and hope. That the peace and the wisdom of the body is available in every moment by simply drawing awareness to my senses. That the earth is holding me and I can embrace her back by simply touching my own heart with my hand or by touching the backs of those I love. That the fiery passion of creativity is a byproduct of confusion. That making love to the moment saves us. That "each moment lived fully awake cannot help but be both prayer and lovemaking" and that "our lovers are everywhere," even in the midst of the chaos, death, disappointment and the impending rebirth of this historical moment.

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Alchemize Worry into Vision: Prayer For Standing Rock

Alchemize Worry into Vision: Prayer For Standing Rock

Every thought is either a worry or a prayer. In addition to donations, don't forget to offer your greatest resource to Standing Rock: intention.

Every time I feel stress, overwhelm, fear or powerlessness that I can't physically be supporting our brothers and sisters and the healing waters at Standing Rock, I've been offering this simple prayer:

Great Spirit, that which doesn't change with the seasons, the tides, with age or circumstance,
Please protect our brothers and sisters at Standing Rock
Please protect the Healing Waters from the Black Snake
Please help me to understand and experience myself as an embodiment of earth
Please protect the rivers of my blood, the fire of my power, the winds of my breath, and the clay of my my body from the stress, tension, worry and fear that sap my life force
May my life be a beautiful offering of love to the Earth and all of her beings
Aho

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Embodiment Conquers Hate

Embodiment Conquers Hate

Physical tension limits our ability to embody peace and therefore, to create social change. When we live from the neck up, our body creates tension. Tension is a lead wall blocking the experience of our interconnection with people who who are different from us. Instead of embodying acceptance, we unconsciously embody fear. Hatred is the product of unchecked fear.

To be present inside of our bodies in a culture that threatens those bodies is a radical act that sharpens our swords for action. To be present in this moment, with all of it’s tenderness and horror, is a radical act. To deepen our breath and to relax in the midst of collective anger and hatred is a radical act.

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We Are All Leaders Now: How We Treat Our Bodies Is Deeply Political

We Are All Leaders Now: How We Treat Our Bodies Is Deeply Political

As we begin to organize to cultivate clear-seeing and big picture vision, how we treat our bodies serves as the framework for how we treat each other and our country. Our presence is our greatest resource. We must redouble our effort towards equality by starting with ourselves. A quiet nervous system is the only way we can begin the hero's journey of creatively imagining the yet unimaginable, the world of our great grandchildren where walls are torn down not built up, where diversity is strength, where the earth is the sovereign and our leaders take their authority from her.

A new world is coming. We must strengthen our vessels.

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Don’t Confuse Yoga with a Workout, Yogify Your Workout: My Experiments in Embodied Integration

Don’t Confuse Yoga with a Workout, Yogify Your Workout: My Experiments in Embodied Integration

The more I've embraced yoga as a physically, mentally, emotionally, and energetically transformative lifestyle, the more I've stopped demeaning it by confusing it with a workout (despite the increased strength, muscular balance, the sweat, the sensation of empowerment and the delicious booty that are often lovely side effects).

Since I've stopped confusing yoga with a workout, I've been yogifying my workouts, meaning I've been wedding my playful, self-imposed booty kicking with conscious breathwork (pranayama), meditation, intention, big picture goal-setting, positive affirmation and dedication to the benefit of others.

And, guess what- this marriage feels good. I mean, REALLY, REALLY good. 

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Strength on Purpose: Tools for Awakening through Mindful Fitness

Strength on Purpose: Tools for Awakening through Mindful Fitness

 Can we bring meditation and fitness together?

The body is an alchemical vessel. Everything we do with our physical body affects our energetic body. Therefore, taking an hour to workout is a huge dose of potential transformation that is often underutilized! In our culture right now exercise one of the main ways that people disembody and move away from the experience of the moment. A workout that makes your world a better place is a practice of intentional, focused awareness of mind, the merging of breath with movement, and dynamic alignment of the body.

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Partner Massage Video to Ease Shoulder and Back Tension

Partner Massage Video to Ease Shoulder and Back Tension

Learn a quick and easy technique to ease the stiffness, tension, pain and discomfort caused by computer sitting, driving and SAP (Standard American Posture). This is a sweet way to connect with your partner, kids, roommates, lover or family. Intentional touch is a powerful medicine in and of itself. Make sure to stay connected with your breath while giving or receiving and keep checking in with your partner about pressure!

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Ritual, Initiation, Nature and the Body: Lessons From the West Coast of Scotland for the West Coast of the United States

Each challenge of our lives is an initiation. Can we keep breathing deeply, our jaw soft, in the face of stress, challenge and crisis?

Me in a cow field in Kilmartin Glen. You can't tell but my the inside of my shoes are buckets of water. Whawha.

Me in a cow field in Kilmartin Glen. You can't tell but my the inside of my shoes are buckets of water. Whawha.

I’m fresh from the shamrock-mint green, mist-soaked landscape of west coast Scotland to the drought-ridden, west coast desert of my homeland. California, once laden with an infinitude of indigenous spiritual sites on a coastline worshiped by the Native Americans as the home of the spirit world, has long since been bulldozed over by colonialism. While the traces of ancient spiritual practices of our indigenous ancestors are now present only to those who are sensitive to the energy of place, on the west coast of Scotland, in Kilmartin Glen, you can’t throw a stone without hitting a site of ancient spiritual significance. The Celts were, as all Earth based cultures, a nature revering people. The creative use of stone was not only how they marked community gathering spaces and spiritual ritual sites, but how they tracked the movement of the planets, the seasons, ancestral lineage and wealth and expressed themselves through artwork. In fact, you might want to reconsider even throwing that stone- considering it could quite possibly be marking the spot of a mass burial cairn.

Kilmartin’s optimal placement as a major ancient trading port makes this one of the richest concentrations of surviving spiritual sites in the world, officially containing over 350 monuments within a 6 mile radius. While in California, you can be pretty sure any remaining structure created prior to 1800 will be celebrated as a state monument and commemorated with, at the very least, a plaque, in Scotland, the stone henges where Druids met 2,000 years ago to ensure the future of their people unobtrusively dot the kelly green cow fields on the side of the road. If we count the profuse amount of gargantuan, one-off standing stones and mysterious stone etchings sprinkled (seemingly) helter-skelter across the misted landscape, the number of historically significant structures jumps closer to 3,000- in a six mile radius!

The ancient Celts were no stranger to ritual. In fact, all earth based cultures live by ritual, marking the movement of the moon and the planets and Earth’s shifting seasons, praying for abundance, celebrating death, new life and all the shifting seasons in the lives of human beings and communities. Ritual is about consciously creating a space and a time in order to find yourself, ironically, outside of space and time, in order to connect with the whole- the universally mysterious flux of which we are part.

Ritual has largely disappeared in our culture.

Rituals of stepping outside of time and into the presence of nature

Rituals of stepping outside of time and into the presence of nature

Among this Scottish wonderland of rain-kissed natural stone monuments I found myself in, these testaments to humankind’s will to find the deeper meaning of their soul reflected in nature, I’ll never forget one particular pile of giant stones I encountered in the middle of a breathtaking pasture between an icy loch and age-old mountain speckled with sheep. Guided by a local kilt-clad Scotsman, my fellow pilgrims and I were instructed to climb through a tiny crawls space into the womb of the earth, underneath the stones. Mystified and confounded, we found ourselves in a 4 x 10 foot underground cave, covered over by rocks and earth. This was a 5,000 year old initiation chamber, made sturdy enough and continually commanding the reverence of the locals in order to survive, fully intact, up until the present. Initiates included newly chosen leaders, spiritual and political, undertaking the responsibility of guiding their people, girls stepping into the responsibility of womanhood after their first blood, seekers entering the sacred path of mystical exploration and every day people-turned-pilgrims seeking guidance from the source of all wisdom and creation, the Earth-womb herself.

The underground sauna at the retreat center I stayed at in EcoYoga in Kilmartin, my own personal ritual pleasure space.

The underground sauna at the retreat center I stayed at in EcoYoga in Kilmartin, my own personal ritual pleasure space.

One of the few places that contemporary ritual still spills into modern life on California’s west coast: yoga class. For a few moments, through the portal of our bodies and the ancient tool of our breath, we transcend space-time, connecting with the depth of our essence even while grounded in the pleasure of our own form.

Underground initiation chambers also once existed on the coast of California. While we mourn the loss of the spiritual lineage of our own land, today, without needing a physical space to seek inner truth, we can still reconnect with this innate impulse of our forebears. Wherever we are on our home planet Earth, wherever we are in the calendar of eons, we are just like those who suffered willingly on vision quest on top of or underneath the Earth. We share this same exact urge to understand our own significance in the seeming chaos of existence.

Can we think of the body itself as an initiation chamber?

The contemporary initiation: can we keep breathing deeply, our jaw soft, in the face of stress, challenge and crisis? Hell, can we sit at our computer during our workday without our shoulders climbing towards our ears? Each challenge of our lives is an initiation. The purpose of initiation is not to impart or impose wisdom and knowledge from the outside but to inspire us to tap into our own internal source of power and wisdom, our internal compass, nature within our own bodies. In fact, I believe this is the true purpose of all teachers and all institutions of learning.

Practicing yoga daily in the forest glen

Practicing yoga daily in the forest glen

The simplest way to connect to contemporary ritual is to go into nature. When we tune into the shifting cycles of our home planet, we are transported out of time, to the eternal present, the same space where we meet all of those who walked this path before us, alternatingly confused and lonely, heartbroken and disillusioned by death and darkness, and filled with joy and inner strength, passionately in love with themselves, the world and their lovers.

When we find ourselves in nature, if we calm our minds enough to pay attention, we automatically feel a sense of grounding that allows us to naturally inhabit our bodies more fully. An enhanced sense of embodiment translates to improved postural alignment, a heightened sense of meaning and confidence and an amplified sense of ease and lightness that comes from the organic release of fear and anxiety.

Scotland pilgrimage crew. Thanks for bringing us together, Yogascapes.

Scotland pilgrimage crew. Thanks for bringing us together, Yogascapes.

In the wise words of Celtic mystic, John O’Donohue, “the body is your only home in the universe. It is your house of belonging here in the world. It is a very sacred temple. To spend time in silence before the mystery of your body brings you towards wisdom and holiness. “

Rituals of self-care are rituals of connecting to the Earth and her cycles. Planning a consistent weekly hike, going to yoga class, receiving or offering massage, eating or cooking food from the ground- all of these are ways to experience nature in the form of your body, to connect with the space of ritual, which is beyond time, constantly nestled in the nowness of the present. These are also ways to fortify our bodies as the sites of our deepest initiations, the space from which we ask and sometimes answer the hardest questions, the space from which we offer back to something grater than ourselves, the space from which we will, one day, hopefully, walk bravely into the ultimate unknown.

 

Me and my dear teacher and priestess, Abby Tucker. We are going back to Scotland in August 2016. Join us!

Me and my dear teacher and priestess, Abby Tucker. We are going back to Scotland in August 2016. Join us!

Culture of Posture Blog Series #2: Heal Your Spine with Head Carrying

Culture of Posture Blog Series #2: Heal Your Spine with Head Carrying

Putting a small weight on the head is the best way to re-train the spine to rest in a friendly relationship with gravity. If you have to carry on your head it keeps the rest of your spine honest. You get immediate feedback if you are slumping, crunching, flattening or exaggerating your spinal curves. This technique has had a tremendous healing effect on my back (and my life) and the backs of my friends, students and clients over the last few months. Try it while you're working and walking to reduce neck and back pain over time. When we are talking about creating healthier habits in the human body, little things make a big difference and have a domino effect on all areas of our lives. The more intimate we become with our body, the more we offer our awareness and intention towards living more comfortably in our vehicle, the more energy we have to offer our fullest selves into the world in service of others.

 

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Ergonomics in Action: How are my Friends and I Sitting at our Desks?

Ergonomics in Action: How are my Friends and I Sitting at our Desks?

I'm a little bit of an odd duck at Oaklan'd Impact Hub shared workspace considering I use a laptop tray and separate keyboard, try to stand up, stretch and reset my spine every 15-20 minutes and periodically hold books on my heads as I type to align my spines and lengthen my vertebrae. Sometimes, I attract quite a lot of attention doing these "strange" things, which is really the least I can do to mediate the damaging effects of sitting long hours in chairs and staring at screens. Check out my friends and I putting our yoga in action at the computer screen.

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