Friday, May 23, 2008

I'm stuck...

I feel like this is a letter I should be writing to a yoga magazine but I might get more immediate (and better) results posting here. In the past I have been vocal about lower back pain and my heart issues. The lower back issues didn't start until a couple of years ago but it is not chronic so I don't talk about it THAT much but as you might know when your back hurts it pretty much disrupts your whole being of existence.

I've written about my wrist problems doing a Wheel. Backbends in general have been freaking me out more and more. Back bending involves chest opening correct? Chest openings can draw a lot of energy. I don't want to crunch my lower back in a back bend but if I focus more on my chest and open up, my heart starts to beat FAST and sometimes even get light-headed. When you have Thoracic Aortic Aneurysm, I guess I can't take this lightly. So I don't want to hurt my back but I don't want to cause my heart stress either.

So what do I do? Where should I focus my attention? I worry that I am becoming more and more limited in my physical practice.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Enlightenment For Idiots

Did you know that I am a Chick-Lit Expert Blackbelt to the 3rd degree? I am. I love my fluff reads when I'm not reading a yoga/Buddhist book. So when I read a recent review in yoga Journal for Enlightenment For Idiots by Anne Cushman, I was super excited! Another review said this book was Sex In The City meets Eat, Pray, Love. I don't know about you but I have never seen an episode of Sex In The City but Eat, Pray, Love is one of my FAVORITE books. Immediately I added it to my Amazon Wishlist.

Long story short, I scored a copy and loved it. The story involves Amanda, a 29 year old would-be yoga teacher and writer travelling through India for her publisher to write a guidebook for enlightenment - because it's the latest craze and all. In the midst of that, she deals with heartache, homesickness, cultureshock, and a travel companion who refers to himself in the plural sense. She struggles to find enlightment when life keeps throwing CRAZY curveballs at her. How will she handle it? I wholeheartedly recommend you read it and find out!

Anne co-directs the Mindfulness Yoga and Meditation Training Program at Spirit Rock Meditation Center in California. She has also been published in Yoga Journal, Tricycle: The Buddhist Review, New York Times, the San Francisco Chronicle, O: The Oprah Magazine and more. She was kind enough to stop by C&Y and answer a couple of questions I had for her...

How did you end up at Spirit Rock?

Almost 20 years ago I began attending a weekly sitting group and talk led by Buddhist teacher Jack Kornfield in Fairfax, California. Jack then became one of the founders of Spirit Rock in nearby Woodacre, and his class moved there in the early 90s. I’ve been practicing there ever since—I think of it as my primary spiritual community. About eight years ago I began teaching yoga there, and about four years ago I taught on their first “yoga and meditation” retreat.

How does your yoga practice come to play when you are tapping into your creativity?
I couldn’t write if I didn’t do yoga. Yoga gets my creative juices flowing, and acts as a potent counterpose to the writer’s tendency to live in the head. And both yoga and writing are powerful practices that focus the lens of my awareness on the details of my embodied life, revealing its magic and mystery.

What in your life do you consider bliss?
Meditating and doing yoga outside on my deck under the oak branches, looking out at Mt. Tamalpais. Snuggling up in a hammock with my son and reading “The Borrowers” aloud. Dancing with friends in my living room. Curling up on my soft golden sofa with someone I love. Hiking through the spring wildflowers along the bluffs at Pt. Reyes.

Do you feel there is a lack of education in the West on the true meaning of Yoga?
I think the teachings are always available for those who are looking for them. If you’re not ready, it doesn’t matter how many times you’re instructed in the true dharma. If you are ready, you can hear it in the rustling of the wind in the trees.

I know the book is all fictional characters but who in the book can you relate to the most?
One of the things I discovered about writing fiction is that I really fall in love with all of my characters, even the difficult ones. For instance, in order to write the scenes with the impossible boyfriend, Matt, I had to really get inside his head and understand who he was, where he was coming from, and why he was acting the way he was. If I didn’t do that, the scenes were flat and didn’t ring true—and once I understood him on a deeper level, I couldn’t dismiss him as the jerk I initially wanted him to be.

That said, of course Devi Das and Amanda are the dearest to my heart, with all their quirks and vulnerabilities. Amanda touches me with her courage to plunge forward with her adventure, despite her tremendous insecurities and fears—I was rooting for her all the way!

What is your favorite dessert?
My most blissful dessert memory is of a crème brulee I ate in France, years ago, shortly after leaving a three-week meditation retreat at Plum Village, the monastery of Vietnamese Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh. The hot, crunchy burnt-sugar top...the cool sweetness of the took me straight to samadhi!

These days, I’m not so into decadent dessert of choice is more along the lines of a soft, stinky cheese (like Stilton or Brie) paired with a juicy pear from the farmer’s market. But I often accompany my seven-year-old son to the Scoop, the icecream store in downtown Fairfax, which offers the world’s best icecream made on the premises from local, organic ingredients (and served up in homemade sugar cones)--and every now and then I’ll enjoy a cone of one of their most exotic flavors myself (cardamom is my current favorite).

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

The Zen Art of Baking

I'm sure there is a trademark infringement on this entry title but I don't care! I wanted to pop-in and direct you over to Bake & Destroy. Natalie had a yoga final for school and she wanted to tie in something she loves (baking) with yoga. She came to me for some advise which she shares so make sure you check it out.

Oh yeah, the final result turned out to be "Vegan Carrot Raisin Muffins"! not quite cupcakes but close enough

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Neat finds

It is not often I can tie in a cupcake AND yoga entry together but today I can! Sometimes shows us the neatest things, for starters...

Courtesy of Bakerella

Up next, how to make a Yoga Mat Bag

From Bored & Crafty

And what did I do? I messed up my lower back....AGAIN! When will I ever learn. Can I go the rest of my life not doing backbends? I mean seriously, we don't need to do those do we?

Tuesday, May 6, 2008


Here is something I've been wanting to share since last week when I started up my practice again. I went to my regular advanced class and it was like I didn't miss a beat so I was feeling good. But that's not what I want to write about. There was a woman in the class who was visiting the studio for the first time. I noticed her right away because she was heavy set. Since I usually feel like I'm the biggest gal in the room, I always notice these things, I hate it but it's a hard habit to break. Not that I prejudge, I've seen big women with beautiful yoga practices so I didn't think too much about it until class started. She was having a hard time with some of the things we were doing and in my mind, I was feeling self-conscious for her!

I see this a lot, especially in this particular class. New people come in not realizing the level of the class is more than the website description leads on. I have been vocal about this a few times already but no change. Anyway, back to class, here comes Headstand time and she couldn't do it. The teacher just told her to rest her legs up against the wall and told her "When you take this class you're suppose to know how to do headstand already." It wasn't harsh in tone but not very gentle either. I felt worse for her. I don't know why I was feeling for this woman so much!

Afterward as we were all packing up, she spills her water on one of the bench cushions and she frantically tries to clean it up. I tell her not to worry, they'll just flip the cushion upsidedown, no one will notice. She looked at me and said "Thank you so much!" like I just helped her carry her bags up 5 flights of stairs. I just gave her a smile and left. I had a train to catch, but I wanted to stay and talk to her some more. Maybe she didn't care that she was out of her league, maybe she still enjoyed class and I'm making it a bigger deal than it was. Whatever the case, I doubt I will see her again when I take class tonight but I'll be sure to dedicate my practice to her.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Vegan Iced Tea Cupcakes

Vegan Iced Tea Cupcakes
Originally uploaded by Bake & Destroy!

Pay Natalie a visit over at Bake & Destroy where she shares a recipe for Vegan Iced Tea Cupcakes. Lemon buttercream? You're killing me!!

Friday, May 2, 2008

Meet "The Love Guru"

This summer blockbusters are going to be full of geekery and oozing testosterone. Don't get me wrong, I will get my geek on (Iron Man, Batman, Indiana Jones-man) but movies like that may not cater to everyone. Maybe something for the soul? How about spending some time with The Guru Pitka. It's the latest Mike Myers film where he is a spiritual teacher and enlighten yogi (see the trailer below). I'm definitely gonna check this out!

And who DOESN'T have a Myspace? with a very amusing blog to boot. I wonder what kind of cupcake the Guru would enjoy?