Spring Planting

Spring has officially sprung. The bulbs are peaking up through the cold ground, buds are visible on the apple trees, and the birds have started chirping. From the moment we spring forward into daylight savings time, my mind turns to thoughts of planting our vegetable garden.  There is nothing quite like walking out into the garden and eating something freshly picked.  I could not LIVE without it. At this time of year cold hardy seeds can start to be planted. Cold hardy seeds would be any kind of pea or lettuce, leafy greens like kale or spinach.  It is a great way to get out of winter hibernation and start thinking warm weather.  Bartlett’s Farm has a wonderful selection of all kinds of organic seeds to choose from.  With the garden center now officially open, browsing though the seed packets and chatting with some of the super knowledgeable garden staff is sure to inspire.  If you haven’t done so already think about designating a small corner of your garden to edible plants.   It is easy to build a raised bed from scrap wood or a pre made kit, then start planting your favorites.   Maybe you don’t have room for a raised bed and can’t bear to give up your flower bed?   A dear friend of mine plants his flower garden by intermingling his favorite herbs and vegetables throughout the patch.  It is a truly beautiful and unique way to plant.  It is easy to be overwhelmed at first when thinking of planting a vegetable garden, start small and branch out from there.  If seeds aren’t your thing, think about edible landscaping.  Why not plant a fruit tree, or a blueberry bush?  The time and effort spent digging will be well worth it when you can pick a fresh apple and taste the difference.  I was asked once to name my favorite vegetable.  I started by saying asparagus.   Of course anyone who knows me knows that it is impossible for me to choose just one.  My favorite is ususally the one that I have just finished planting or eating.  I probably picked that initially because when I think of asparagus I remember digging the trenches with my husband ( it took hours), I remember being covered in mud (it was cold and wet),  I remember seeing the first stalk emerge in the spring and I remember waiting 3 years to eat any (I forgot about that part).  The first stalk I ate was the most delicious stalk of asparagus I had ever tasted.  We planted it together, we waited, we were patient.  There is a real joy in growing your own food.  Great stories emerge, laughter ensues, and a delicious meal is sure to be had by all.   Happy Spring. Happy planting! A great resource for pre-made raised beds: http://www.gardeners.com/on/demandware.store/Sites-Gardeners-Site/default/Link-Product?sku=34-381RS

The Importance of Enzymes

enzymesThe food we choose to EAT is one of the most important decisions that we can make when it comes to maintaining our health.  The more fresh fruits and vegetables that we can incorporate into our diet the healthier we will be.  In fruits and vegetables there is a life giving element that exists: enzymes.

There are 2 groups of enzymes: exogenous; those found in raw food and endogenous; those produced within our bodies.

Enzymes are one of the most essential elements in our body.   Life itself depends on them.  We need enzymes for every bodily function.  Every breath you take, every move you make, every thought you think and every action you take requires enzymes. Enzymes are an absolute necessity to life.  They are your body’s workers. They assist in keeping our body in top form by lowering cholesterol, cleaning the colon, breaking down fats, strengthening the immune system, detoxifying the body, cleaning our lungs, and building muscle.

When we feed our bodies with enzyme-deficient food, our body systems start to slow down and deteriorate.  Cooking food destroys 100 percent of the enzymes in that food. When you eat cooked or processed foods your body must produce ALL the enzymes required to digest that food.  When we are born we are given a limited amount of enzymes.  This is like an enzyme bank account.  If you don’t make regular deposits into your account by eating foods rich in natural enzymes, you start to deplete your account and use up your enzyme supply.

After a prolonged period of depleting the enzymes in our body it starts to work overtime to produce more enzymes, causing extra stress which affects our immune system. This lowers our ability to protect from and fight diseases. Our digestive system eventually slows down causing food to be undigested. This undigested food stays in our system creating a toxic environment that saps your energy, clouds your thinking and is a breeding ground for illness.

The good news is that with the simple addition of fresh fruits and vegetables to our diet we can prevent the depletion of these enzymes.  All fresh and raw foods have naturally-occurring enzymes. Start by adding a fresh fruit or vegetable juice into your daily routine.  Carry bananas, apples, or avocados with you for a snack.  Start dinner with a salad instead of bread.

Start slowly, changing old habits with new fruit and vegetable inspired choices, and welcome the feeling of newfound energy with the addition of these life giving enzymes.

Practicing the king of all poses. Salamba Sirsana or Headstand.

salambraSalamba Sirsasana or Headstand is known as the King of all Yoga Poses.  The reasons are many.   It affects every system of the body: the cardiovascular, lymph, endocrine, and digestive systems. It reverses aging, increases blood flow to the brain, regulates pituitary and pineal glands, enhances circulation and creates mental clarity and calm.  It allows you to literally turn your world upside down to gain new insight by changing your perspective.

Even with all of these benefits there are times not to practice headstand: You should not practice headstand if you have high or low blood pressure, any serious eye diseases, compressed cervical disks or neck injury.

When practicing headstand take as much time as you need.   The rewards of sirsasana are so great that even if you are not ready to do the full pose, you can benefit by preparing for it.  Whether you are just starting out in hare pose or working on a full headstand, patience is the key with this posture.   Just because you floated up with ease yesterday does not mean you will today.  Honestly assess where you are physically and mentally. The strength and concentration that is required may not always be there at first.  Breathe.   Pay particular attention to the neck, there should never be any pain; pain is very different from feeling challenged.

Becoming aware of the body and knowing when you are ready to move on to the next step is very important.   Headstand requires strength in the core, neck, and upper back, open shoulders and a flexible spine. To safely and properly prepare for headstand always make sure that you are warmed up.  It is not a posture to jump right into.  A recommended length of time for staying in headstand is 10 seconds for a beginner while gradually adding 5-10 seconds and working up to 3 minutes.  Always rest in child’s pose after coming down from headstand to give your body and the nervous system time to adjust to sitting right side up again.

It took me a long time to learn to do a headstand.   We all have “our thing” as I like to call it; our challenge.  Headstand was mine.  I suffered a head injury when I was 6 years old, when a lawn dart landed squarely inside the top of my head.  I had real fear of injuring myself while practicing headstand, a fear of placing any weight at all on the top of my head.   Slowly and consistently I worked.  It was a struggle initially; I found it difficult to breathe and I could only stay put for a few seconds.  All the talk of core strength seemed to go out the window.  When I made the move to try to lift my feet off the ground for the first time it seemed that I had none at all.  Every day I found time in my practice to devote to letting go of the fear.  And then one day it happened, I just floated up.  It wasn’t magic by any means, but a combination of consistent practice and determination.  Now, it is a joy to see the same thing happen with students who thought that standing on their head would never be possible.

If you are working on headstand go easy on yourself.  It may take months or even years to accomplish. It is the journey not the destination that is important here.  Be consistent with your practice and patient with your self and soon you will be embracing The King of all poses.

Yama of Yoga: Satya.

When I was in high school my mother gave me two wonderful little books of philosophy called Notes to Myself and How to Live in the World and Still Be Happy by Hugh Prather.  I read them over and over again throughout my life, his simple words always seemed to make sense, to calm and reassure me.  I carried the books with me until they were so dog eared and highlighted that they literally fell apart.  Even now, so many years later, his words are ingrained in my memory.   One of my favorite Hugh Prather quotes is:  “LIVE your life as if everything you do will eventually be known.”  Now that is a tall order.

Living a life based in truth is one of the Yamas of Yoga: Satya.  Literally translated it means truthfulness.  Practicing satya means being truthful in our feelings, thoughts, and words. It means being honest with ourselves and with others.

When we are honest we can be fearless, living life as an open book.  Honesty is at the heart of all healthy relationships. Practicing Satya in your words is a good place to start.  You might need to deliver the truth to a friend who desperately needs your input.  It may not be what she wants to hear at the moment but you can deliver those words in a supportive, honest and loving way.   Gossip and hearsay are a large part of this lack of truth in our daily lives.  If we were to think for a moment before recounting events in our day, being sure that the words we were sharing were absolutely truthful, we would probably have a lot less to say.  Sometimes, the truth hurts, so it is just as important to know when not to speak if it will cause someone else damage. This idea is stated simply and eloquently in the Mahabharata:  “Speak the truth which is pleasant.  Do not speak unpleasant truths.  Do not lie, even if the lies are pleasing to the ear.  This is the eternal law, the dharma.”  Being truthful means that we must choose our words wisely.

Being truthful with ourselves is another aspect of Satya.  Becoming clear with who we are and what makes us happy.  This means we can let go of trying to achieve perfection and stop being so hard on ourselves.  We can let go of the desire to always please.  When you do things that are not a reflection of the real you, you cannot be happy with yourself.  You will become confused because you won’t know who to please or how.  Find the courage to say this is who I am and be okay with it.  Embrace your truth.  Don’t compromise yourself.  Many friends and relatives with the best of intentions might offer us advice.  Listen to them and then listen to your own heart, it will never steer you wrong.

Once you begin to act in accordance with your fundamental nature; the true you, you will find your intuition growing stronger, decision making becoming easier, and a sense of peace in your daily life. Making a commitment to truth is not always easy, but living without lies is ultimately very freeing.

Live in your truth and live a life of respect, honor and integrity.

A Holiday Gift Guide for the Yogi To Practice By.

giftguide2

Part 2 : Gifts to give  for  PRACTICE.

Books:

1. Asanas: 608 Yoga Poses  by Dharma Mittra

Asanas book image

2.  Yoga: The Iyengar Way by Silva Mehta, Mira Mehta, and Shyam Mehta
Yoga_the iyenger way image

3. Yoga as Medicine: The Yogic Prescription for Health and Healing by Yoga Journal and Timothy McCall

Yoga as medicine
all books available at: amazon.com

More:

1.  No Yogi should be without their own personal mat.  It is the one thing  you need to practice. If you want to spluge, the Jade Yoga Harmony Professional mat is the way to go.  It is durable, super non slip and environmentally conscious.  It has a bit of a rubbery smell at first but that will disappear after a few classes.  I have had mine for over two years and am still loving it.

Dharma jade

available at: http://www.jadeyoga.com/store/home.php or amazon.com

2. I am a huge fan of the Unitard.  No fussing with your clothes when it is time to go upside down.  It stays put so you can keep your mind on the practice and off of whether or not your belly is showing.  This unitard is my favorite.  It is affordable and made of cotton with 10% lycra to keep everyting nicely in place.
Unitard

available at: http://www.5stardiscountdancewear.com/prod_Women-s-Camisole-Unitard_253_76.htm

3.  If you prefer Yoga Pants to a unitard, these are a great option:

Danskin Women’s Supplex Capri

Danskin capri
available at: amazon.com

4. Zobha makes yoga clothes that are pretty and functional.  I love everything on their site.  I am especially fond of their tops.  They have a shelf bra and inserts to keep everything covered and supported.  This is one of the splurges on the list, but well worth it.

Zobha Scarlett Tank
Zobha top
Zobha Marilyn Tank
Zobha top 2
available at: http://www.zobha.com/

5.  A great stocking stuffer is a pair of  ToeSox.  When the studio is  a little chilly grab a pair of these for non slip warmth.  They come  in fun colors and either with or without toes.

Toe sox
6.  This  cotton cashmere wrap is so soft and cozy that you will want one in several colors.  It is perfect for keeping the body warm before and after class and can be worn half a dozen different ways.

Cotton cashmere wrap
available at: http://www.victoriassecret.com/

6. The best gift is a gift certificate for a series of classes at your local studio.  YogaFarm gift certificates are available by emailing:  joburnham@live.com with your request.  A 5 class card is $6o.

HAPPY SHOPPING!  MORE HOLIDAY PICKS NEXT WEEK.

Developing a Consistent Yoga Practice.

consistent

prac·tice

(pr k t s).

1. To do or perform habitually or usually; make a habit of:.

2. To do or perform (something) repeatedly in order to acquire or polish a skill:

3. To give lessons or repeated instructions to; drill:

4. To work at, especially as a profession:.

5. To carry out in action; observe:

What is this thing that we call a Yoga PRACTICE?

The first sutra in the Yoga Sutras of Pantanjali is ATHA YOGANUSASANAM which means now begins the instruction of Yoga.  This is where we all start.  The great thing about developing a practice, is that it doesn’t matter what you were doing before, there is always the opportunity to begin.  Yoga has that wonderful ability; it can meet us right where we are.  All we have to do is start the journey.  Once the decision has been made to begin, then we can develop our practice.  Like most things, it is not easy in the beginning.  Our bodies may seem tight and inflexible, it might seem challenging or uncomfortable.   We are carrying years of stress in these bodies of ours and it isn’t about to fall away easily.

Think about the moments in your life where you really didn’t want to do something because it seemed too overwhelming or because  it was challenging to just get started.  I remember looking out into the blank canvas of an unruly corner of our garden one day and dreaming of an asparagus patch.  The problem was that this little corner was riddled with poison ivy.  The other problem was in order to grow asparagus you have to dig deep 10 foot long trenches. Then you have to wait a few years before you can even eat one stalk.  Thinking about all the time and work involved quickly got me thinking that maybe an asparagus patch wasn’t such a great idea after all.

And then one day we just started digging.  It was hard work, just as I had anticipated, but soon after the first shovel hit the ground, I got lost in the task at hand.  I wasn’t worried about the poison ivy.  We were planting asparagus!  I was able to get lost in the joy of the moment. And so, every morning I would wake up and dig a little, rip out another root of that dreaded ivy.  Eventually all the hard work paid off.  Every spring is now filled with an abundant harvest.

Make a time commitment to your practice.  It might start out to be once a week, or twice a week, or every morning for 15 minutes.  Determine the time frame that will work for you and then, be consistent.  Being consistent in your practice is where real change can occur.

Once in class, we have to remind ourselves that we are not in a competition.  There is no race to be won here.  And if there were it would certainly be the tortoise winning it.  It is not about how fast we move or how fast we learn.  Let go of comparing yourself with other students.  You are exactly where you should be for you. As my husband would say: “Do your best and forget the rest.”  Find the joy in your own progress.  There will be days when you are sore and that is okay.  The best way to alleviate soreness is to keep practicing.  It is like waking up on a chilly morning and feeling a little creaky.  Once you start moving about, the creakiness dissipates.  It is important to keep moving.  However, soreness and pain are two very different things.  There should never be pain and you should never push through pain. That is where serious injury occurs.  By developing a practice you will develop a greater awareness of the body and be able to tell the difference.

Begin.  Make a commitment.  Be consistent. Find the joy in the moment.   This is your yoga practice.

Practicing Tapas: Fierce Determination.

tapas

Tapas

As the chilly days of autumn and winter fall upon us, take the opportunity to PRACTICE one of the Niyamas of Yoga; Tapas.   The definition of Tapas is ‘heat’ or ‘ fiery discipline’ or ‘a constant and intense commitment’  I call it fierce determination.

Tapas is a phenomenon of the body as well as the mind. This fire is what can keep you going even if you don’t feel like it.  Getting to class sometimes can be the hardest part. Our mind will always come up with an excuse not to do something.  I am too tired, I don’t have time, it’s too cold outside. If we can summon our tapas we almost always feel better and wonder why it was so challenging to get there in the first place.

When you are holding a pose and give up, feeling that you couldn’t possibly hold it one second longer, think about what might happen if you were offered one hundred dollars to hold the pose for one more breath.  It is amazing how you can summon the strength when you really have to.  We have all heard the stories of men and women exhibiting super human strength.  Lifting automobiles, heavy machinery, even buses to rescue their trapped and injured loved ones.   That is tapas.

Just as it is when you are starting a fire, it takes time.  Collecting the wood, stacking the logs, fanning the flames, it is a process. Yet once the embers are lit, they generate more and more heat. When a new log is set on the existing fire, it takes very little effort to ignite.  Tapas will grow over time and will be extended to other aspects of your life.   That is the good news, we have the ability to redirect our energy.  We can listen to all of our minds objections and then decide to do what’s good for us anyway.  That tapas, that fierce determination exists within us at all times, we just have to tap into it.