Welcome to “My Better Day” August newsletter!
Each month, “My Better Day” newsletter contains tips for your yoga practice, yoga quotes to bring yoga off the mat and into your life, affirmations to brighten your day and motivate, and more! It is my deep wish for your well-being that I send this newsletter to help make your day a Better Day!
In This Issue: Yoga Quote, Practice Yoga Pose, Meditation on the Go, Chakrascope,
Hand Mudra, Featured Card Deck and Quote, Healthy News, Featured Recipe,
Favorite Yoga Music/DVD, Happenings at Better Day Yoga LLC.
Founder, Better Day Yoga LLC
We moved to the Minneapolis area from Madison, WI over 15 years ago. Our house in Madison was our first house, and was in a well-established neighborhood on the older, north side of Madison. You know the neighborhood. Each city has them – older homes surrounded by beautiful, mature trees, bushes, and flowers.
Our move to Minneapolis was quite abrupt, driven by a change in jobs after a pretty stressful time in our lives. So there was more than a little apprehension with all of the changes about to take place. We’d spent some time looking for a new place to live, while still living in Madison. After much soul-searching and with the help of a very wonderful realtor, we figured out we could actually afford to build our next house! We found a piece of land in an area that used to be a potato field in Brooklyn Park, MN and we were on our way.
A few days later, we were sitting on our big, beautiful deck in Madison surrounded by all of those mature trees – something I know I took for granted at the time. My husband looked at me with those sad, brown eyes of his, and simply stated: I’m going to miss that sound. Sound? What sound? What is he talking about? He was talking about the rustling leaves. It hadn’t even been on my radar, city girl that I am.
My husband was raised on a glorious, 80-acre farm in Northern Indiana. The farm has been in their family for over 100 years. His Dad was born on that farm, lived his life on that farm, and passed away on that wonderful, healing farmland. Mature trees are everywhere there. As a matter of fact, his Dad planted several pine trees the day Franklin Delano Roosevelt died in office in 1945 – those pines were a marker in time for them. His Mom still lives on the farm, and every autumn rakes the buckeyes that fall outside her kitchen window.
Buckeyes are like talismans to my husband. (He’s not the only one: In folklore, the buckeye tree also has several uses. The nut is considered a good luck charm, and is carried or worn to increase both the wisdom and luck of the bearer. It is also believed to relieve the pain of rheumatism and arthritis when carried on the person, or near the site of pain. Although these claims have not been scientifically proven, they have been present in American folklore for centuries. http://www.wisegeek.com/what-is-a-buckeye-tree.htm.) When we went to Poland – our first and only trip to Europe – to commemorate our 25th wedding anniversary, finding the equivalent of a buckeye tree there (the horse chestnut) was a huge high point for him. My husband had grown up with the sound of leaves in the wind and an abundance of Nature surrounding him daily.
The sound of rustling leaves – I’d heard them before, but had been taking the sound for granted, as I’m sure many of us do. We planted some small saplings in our new lawn and I secretly thanked them whenever they flapped their small leaves. I always told my husband they were trying!
It was that simple, longing comment from the love of my life, during a time that was hard enough already with all of the changes, that I came to really notice and love the sound of rustling leaves. Had I loved them before? Of course I had, but in a detached, ambivalent way. Now I noticed them with a deeper appreciation, and since I knew my husband loved that sound, I felt like all the trees were conspiring with me to make him happy.
Conspiring with the trees became a sort of ritual for me. They took on a life of their own, as though they were ancient friends put here to help us learn how to ground and center ourselves. I often use the analogy of sending our roots down into the ground as I open my yoga classes.
When my father was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, he lived in Florida with my wonderful step-Mom, a long way away from Minnesota. When we’d visit him, you’d usually find him sitting outside on their patio playing his harmonica. The patio was surrounded by big, beautiful mature trees. It may sound silly, but I began to conspire with those trees upon my visits to see my Dad.
I’d mentally ask the trees surrounding my Dad on the patio to please watch over my Dad and soothe him with the sound of their rustling leaves when I couldn’t. It gave me some peace knowing they were there where he was when I wasn’t. Like my husband, my Dad grew up on a farm as well and had always loved and cared for trees, so I figured the trees somehow knew that and would be especially soothing for him. I’d mentally connect with those trees in Florida as I listened to the rustling leaves in Minnesota, and I felt a sense of comfort. To this day, I still feel like I can “talk to” my Dad through the trees even though he passed away in 2003. I’m sure he’s talking back.
Perhaps it was my earlier practice of conspiring with the trees for my husband that made it seem less out of the ordinary for me when I began to do the same for my Dad. If that’s the case, I am eternally grateful to have had the earlier experiences under my belt. For me this is yet another confirmation that unless you practice something regularly, it won’t be as easily accessible when you really need it – like deep breathing or meditation when you are stressed. It is in the practice of things that they become like old friends you naturally rely on as needed.
I’m obviously not the first person to look upon trees as having meaning and a life of their own – yes I probably searched the following quotes out to justify my desire to talk to trees!
“The tree is an ancient life and a powerful symbol. It has a great spirit and it represents all things that grow. It symbolizes fertility and life. To some, it is the world axis, and to others it is the world itself. Its roots are within the earth, and yet it reaches to the sky. It is a bridge between the heavens and the earth, the mediator between both worlds. The ancient mystical Qabala uses the symbol of the Tree of Life as a guide to our entire unfoldment process. Through climbing the Qabalistic Tree of Life, we bridge one level of our consciousness with the next, just as the tree bridges the heavens and the earth.
The tree, as the Tree of Knowledge, has been associated with both Paradise and Hell. In Greek Mythology, the Golden Fleece hung upon a tree. The Christian cross was originally a tree, and Buddha found enlightenment while sitting beneath one. Druids recognized the energies and spirits of trees, while the Norse honored Yggdrasil, the one great, tree of life. Every civilization and traditions has its stories, myths and mystical legends of trees.
The tree has its roots within the earth and its branches extend to the heavens. Because of this, it serves as both a wonderful symbol and a powerful tool for opening the energies of heaven and Earth for us. Trees serve as a home and shelter for a wide variety of animals and thus they are a natural tool of the shaman. Ultimately, work with trees will strengthen your focus, increase your abundance and develop your awareness of all signs in Nature. They mirror so much about us that they will speak to us clearly about our life and what is unfolding within it.
Every tree has its own energy and its own spirit. We don’t have to believe that everything in Nature has a creative intelligence, but we should be able to realize that everything in Nature has some spirit or archetypal force associated with it.” – Nature-Speak, Ted Andrews.
“Have you ever walked through a forest, or even a local park or your backyard, and talked to trees? The wisdom of trees defies explanation. When you are sad, hug a tree, and it will somehow share your sadness with you and then leave you feeling better.
Many indigenous peoples regarded conversations with the Earth, either as a whole or through its many life forms and elements, as a basic aspect of their spiritual and social lives. They experienced being ‘talked to’ by the rivers, mountains, animals, trees, and birds, and they developed individual and group rituals that facilitated two-way communication. In dances, chants, songs, and ceremonies, they transmitted their replies.” The Healing Earth, Philip Sutton Chard. This book offers a couple of ways to use trees to help you with healing or with emotional clearing. It was such a wonderful confirmation of my own version of “conspiring with trees” when I found this book.
We all feel better when we’re surrounded by trees, don’t we? Did you know there’s some science behind that feeling? The wind blowing through the trees emits negative ions. “There are positive and negative ions. Positively charged ions have an adverse effect on the body. Negatively charged ions have a positive, health-enhancing effect on the body. Running water such as a stream, waterfalls or the crashing waves of an ocean, emit large amounts of life-enhancing negative ions. The wind blowing through trees also emits these wonderful negative ions. This is why most people feel so much better when they are in these areas.” http://www.belkraft.com/positive_vs_negative_ions.html. I don’t know about you, but I don’t necessarily need scientific evidence to prove why I’m feeling better. Yet, doesn’t it just feel good to have that “aha” moment? For more on the science behind positive and negative ions you can check this site out: http://www.negativeionsinformation.org/ions_vitamins.html .
The Tibetan monk, Thich Nhat Hanh, has written many books on meditation and being present. A recurring theme he uses to be in the present moment is recognizing the presence of Nature, of being conscious of it and thankful for it. “People usually consider walking on water or in thin air a miracle. But I think the real miracle is not to walk either on water or in thin air, but to walk on earth. Every day we are engaged in a miracle which we don’t even recognize: a blue sky, white clouds, green leaves, the black, curious eyes of a child – our own two eyes. All is a miracle.” – Thich Nhat Hanh. I have to admit I was one of those that “didn’t even recognize” the miracle of the wind rustling through the leaves.
Perhaps my conspiring with trees helped me to develop my awareness of Nature in a more meaningful way, as Ted Andrews so aptly put it. Yet, I had more lessons to learn about appreciating Nature deeply.
Several years after we moved to Minnesota, I became aware of a symposium happening at St. John’s University in Collegeville, MN. It was put on by the International Institute of Integral Human Sciences, IIIHS (at least I believe this is the full name of the “IIIHS” meeting I attended.) I found out about it the same week it was happening while taking a class at the Open U. There was to be a gathering of shaman from the four corners of the world. This sparked an interest, but I didn’t react immediately. I had not yet learned to listen to my intuition/gut as quickly as I do now. So it wasn’t until the evening before the shaman gathering, after the thought had festered for a few days, that I knew I had to be there. Literally the evening before the event, I left a message for my boss that I would be taking the next day off for something I had to be at.
If you haven’t been to this university, it makes a great local day’s trip. My husband and I have gone there to walk around campus and enjoy the abundant, beautiful scenery and old buildings. We found what remains of an old chapel on our walk, http://www.csbsju.edu/SJU-Archives/SJUHistory/SJUBuildings/StellaMarisChapel.htm, and there’s a bakery on the neighboring campus, St. Benedict, called “Good-2-Go”. (This was before my husband and I were diagnosed as gluten-sensitive…excuse me while I have a moment.)
Memory of the details of where exactly the four shamans were from, and what language they spoke, are sketchy. It’s what I do remember that I will always treasure. I remember that there was one shaman of the four that spoke in a language requiring two translators. I believe he was from South America. So those of us in the audience waited while what the shaman had said was translated twice for us to understand it in English. I think it was the “waiting for it” that seemed to add the infamous “pregnant pause” underlining the message’s importance. It was this shaman’s words that have stayed with me, blessing me with his message.
What he shared with us was, at first glance, quite simple. It might even have gone by un-noted to the casual observer as something we already knew and didn’t need to really remember – kind of like appreciating the rustling sound of leaves in the wind. But since I had felt drawn to this meeting for unknown reasons, I was soaking it all in like a sponge and taking frantic notes – which I have since lost. This gem remains: Every night God gives us a gift in the sunset. That’s it.
Did it hit you like it did me? Hadn’t I noticed sunsets before? Of course I did, but I hadn’t thought of each viewing as a gift from God sent for my personal pleasure; and it has been this “naming” of the experience that has made all the difference. My husband and I often say “God was having a good day” as we watch the colors created in the sky.
Quite literally, since hearing that shaman’s message, there has not been one night in which I take the time to notice the sunset that I have not thought of that shaman’s words. His words have also reverberated with me at each and every sunrise that I’ve experienced since then. Sunrise and sunset—I referenced times such as these in a previous newsletter. Many cultures have considered the “between times”—the time between sleep and awake, dawn and dusk, or any time that is neither one nor the other—“times of greatest inspiration and power” when “You will find yourself more effective in all of your activities.” Animal Speak, Ted Andrews.
When was the last time you experienced a sunset or a sunrise? It is my wish that you, too, will have the same sense of having received a personal gift—created and sent just for you—the next time you are able to look up at the sky and appreciate the uniqueness of that moment’s colors as they envelope the world for a moment.
Are you looking to connect with Nature in a more meaningful, mystical way? In my passion to connect more deeply with Nature, I have found some wonderful tools. Some of them are referenced in this newsletter.
Ted Andrews, referenced a couple of times above, has what I’ll call a trifecta of books on the “must-have” list:
Please keep an open-mind when reading his works. As I like to say when introducing new ideas, find what resonates with you, and let the rest sift through. Remember, it wasn’t the books I found first that led me to “conspire with trees”; it was Nature reaching out to me that led me to the books and other tools. It’s all good.
“We don’t have to be environmental activists, geologists, Greenpeace warriors, shamans, or plant biologists to perceive the Earth’s speaking. Her sensory languages are so diverse that there are sufficient ‘dialects’ to reach everyone, but one must be a good listener. As in human relationships, the absence of interest and listening skills will impede the ability to truly hear.
People who want to converse with the Earth can begin with the easiest and most obvious avenue, by listening to her sounds. Wind in the trees, water over rocks, birds, rain, crickets, and countless other resonances are her speech.
Conversations with Nature are honest, expressive, and alive, which is more than one can say about many human discussions. So, if you want someone to talk with, and all those human ears and mouths seem not quite right for what you have to say and need to hear, consider having a heart-to-heart with the Earth. She speaks your spirit’s language.” The Healing Earth, Philip Sutton Chard.
Some of you reading this might think this connection to Nature is “much ado about nothing”. “To each his own”. Perhaps this has piqued your interest enough to consider this: “Often people forget that we can starve as much from a lack of wonder as we can a lack of food. Nature keeps our wonder alive. We rediscover our sense of wonder and we begin to believe once more.” “Recent surveys indicate the average person in the U.S. spends less than an hour outdoors per week. Spending time outdoors is necessary for our physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual health.” Nature-Speak, Ted Andrews.
I can’t help but wonder if it was the “naming” of the experience or “calling it out” that made the sound of rustling leaves and the view of each sunset so much more vivid for me. The concept of appreciating Nature was already in my psyche, but hearing another express it with such passion— made me sit up and take notice. There was no ambivalence in their relationship with Nature. My husband, my Dad, and the shaman had an undeniably deep connection with Nature built into the very fabric of their day.
Have you ever noticed someone having a really great time, and think, “I want what they’re having.” It was like that. They became the expert view that caused me to reassess my own view on Nature in my life. It was in that reassessment, that Nature became more than just my ambiguous surroundings. Nature became for me like an old friend I could rely on as needed. “We cannot tell the precise moment when a friendship is formed. As in filling a vessel drop by drop, there is at last one drop that makes it run over. So in a series of kindness there is at last one drop that makes the heart run over.” James Boswell
Source for Ted Andrews’ books: FYI, Sadly, Ted Andrews passed away last year. He founded DragonHawk Publishing, http://www.dragonhawkpublishing.com/New_Web_Studio/Online_Catalog/2009%20Catalog.pdf, where you can find his works. The Web-site doesn’t appear to have been updated since his death so please keep that in mind if you are looking at the Web-site. Another source for his books is: http://www.amazon.com/s/?ie=UTF8&keywords=ted+andrews+books&tag=googhydr-20&index=stripbooks&hvadid=3188568809&ref=pd_sl_81ag9jabx3_e
Side Plank / The one-armed balance pose (Sanskrit terms: Vasisthasana)
Last month we broke down Gate Pose. I often teach a flow with gate pose and the kneeling side plank version of side plank pose since they both use the one knee on the floor and the other leg straight out to the side. This connection inspired me to break down Side Plank this month.
There are a few ways to come into Side Plank pose. My favorite way is to start with the kneeling side plank option. Then I offer the option from there to go into full side plank, and then progress to the advanced version. I like progression options that you can either choose to do or not do.
Kneeling Side Plank: My favorite way to enter kneeling side plank pose is to start this pose from all fours. From all fours, bring your right arm over to the right in line with your right bent knee, fingers pointing away from the body, wrist stacked under your shoulder. Keep a slight bend in the elbow. Then as you lift the left arm up to the sky, stacking the raised wrist over the shoulder and palm facing out, you straighten the left leg out to the left and place the big toe side of the foot on the floor in line with the bent right knee. The sole of the left foot will be facing the wall to your left with the ankle flexed. Let the sole of the left foot come to the floor.
Your toes and your knee are facing in the same direction. Your right wrist, right knee, and left foot are all in a straight line. Your back, bent leg provides stability. In all the versions of side plank mentioned here, you have the option to keep your head looking forward in neutral, or looking up at the raised hand (Photo #1). Also, for all versions of side plank discussed here, keep lifting through the waist and hips so they don’t sag toward the floor. Your hips press forward.
Optional way to come into the pose: You could also come into this pose from plank pose, bringing the right knee in to just below the hip, and before dropping the knee to the ground, kickstand the foot out to the right. THEN place the right knee to the ground so you aren’t grinding the knee into the floor as you kickstand out. As you reach your left arm to the sky, shift your weight to the right wrist and arm, and roll onto the sole of the back left foot with the toes facing away from you (Back leg stays straight). Your right shoulder is directly over your right wrist and you keep that slight bend in the supporting elbow.
Full Side Plank transition: From here we have the option to go into full plank pose by straightening the bent right knee and bringing the pinky side of the right foot in front of and in line with the left foot. Lift the left foot to the big toe side of the foot (Photo #2). I’ve seen some versions that say to place the bottom leg’s foot in back of the top leg’s foot so the top foot is in the back. “Yogi’s choice.” Option: Stack both feet for more challenge. (Photo #3)
You could also come into this pose from full plank by reaching your left arm to the sky and shifting your weight over to the right wrist as you roll to the pinky side of the right foot and the big toe side of the left foot. (Again, with the option to place the top foot on the floor behind your bottom foot, or stacking both feet for more challenge.) Keep your right wrist directly under the right shoulder. Keep a slight bend in the supporting elbow.
Forearm Side Plank: Start lying down on the right side of your body with your right forearm resting on the ground, elbow stacked under the shoulder, and fingers pointing away from you. Your top left leg rests on top of the right leg, and your feet are stacked one on top of the other, big toe joints and the inner side of the heels touching. Lift your hips to the sky, lifting through the waist and hips so they don’t sag to the ground, and push the hips forward as in the previous versions. Your top arm can be raised to the sky (Photo #4) or resting on the hips.
Beginner’s tip: Still unsure on your form or new to yoga? You can try a practice pose.
The kneeling side plank, already discussed, is a great place to start, as is the following version. From kneeling side plank with the right knee to the floor, bring the left leg forward to the center of your body in line with, and in front of, the bent, left knee and rest the sole of the foot to the floor with the toes facing away from you—i.e. turn the toes out. Then take the right leg and straighten it, bringing the pinky side of the toe of the right foot to rest on the floor while flexing the ankle so the toes on both feet face away from you.
You could also come into this pose from Down Dog or full plank pose by stepping the left foot half way up toward the hands and placing the sole of the left foot on the ground with the toes pointing away from you (turn the toes out). Then shift to the pinky side of the right foot as you open your chest to the sky while reaching your left arm up to the sky. Support the weight of your body on your right wrist and pinky side of the right foot. The right wrist is stacked under the right shoulder, your left arm is raised to the sky—palm facing out, and your left wrist stacked directly over the left shoulder. (Photo #5) In both the kneeling side plank and this version, the bent leg provides extra support.
Remember, for all versions of side plank discussed here, keep lifting through the waist and hips so they don’t sag toward the floor. Your hips press forward.
Remember to repeat the pose on both sides perhaps resting in down dog in between if you like.
From full side plank, bend the top knee in toward the chest. Reaching into the inside of the bent knee, grab the big toe of the foot with the index and middle fingers of the top arm and cap the big toe off with the thumb. Then, while holding the big toe, inhale the top leg up to the sky aiming for the leg to stretch perpendicularly to the ceiling. (Photo #6) To come out of the pose, release the toe hold and return the top leg to the previous position. Repeat on the other side. Option to add top leg pumps up and down as an outer thigh workout of the top leg.
Abdominal work-out options while in Side Plank:
I have two meditation exercises this month! The second one, done as written, takes a bit longer to do than most of the ones I highlight here. I included it because it offers a deeper connection with Nature, and that is my focus this month. Enjoy!
Ceremony of Re-bonding
A simple way to “go home” and renew the bond with our Earth Mother is through sensory immersion in the wind. This ceremony can be done anywhere outdoors and in virtually any setting – your back yard, in front of your office building, a park, in a convertible, or walking down the street.
Source: The Healing Earth, Philip Sutton Chard.
The Silent Walk
“The silent walk is a powerful exercise for attuning to Nature and the myriad of wonders within
it. It is potentially the most powerful exercise we can perform. It is an act of sacred sharing,
honor and openness.
The skill lies in walking in silence, abandoning all words, vocalizations, and any trappings of
civilization that are likely to make unnatural noises. The silence and harmony of this activity,
especially when performed at dawn or dusk, creates an acute awareness that we share the
world with all living things. And ultimately, it will gift us with Nature encounters that fill our
hearts with blessed wonder.
This exercise should be performed at dawn or dusk because these are sacred times, times in
which the spiritual and physical intersect. They are also times in which animals are often more
active and visible and the spirits of plants, flowers and trees are more discernible.
Prepare for this by giving yourself at least a half-hour of meditation time prior to the walk. The focus should be on quiet attunement to Nature. Choose a location that is somewhat secluded – where there will be no traffic. Old country roads that are seldom traveled and overgrown are good. Plan on walking a half-hour to forty-five minutes out and then turn around and come back.
Open to the spirit of Nature as you walk. Imagine stepping into Nature as stepping into a new dimension where sights, sounds, smells, etc. have a sacred meaning. Imagine this natural world as a sacred place, an open-air temple, inhabited by spirits. Imagine the spirits of plants and trees. Think of them as greeting you with their colors, textures and fragrances and sounds.
Nature (plants and animals) will sense the energy of a single person or a group, thus the preparatory and solitary meditation. It recognizes disharmony and even unconscious and unintentional disrespect. If animals feel a peace, a harmony that is soft and unthreatening, they do not run away. They do not hide. The animals experienced may move away at your approach, but they do so without the frantic fear that they demonstrate most often when humans approach. They will retreat a few steps at a time, stopping to look over their shoulders, just to satisfy their curiosity. The colors and fragrances of plants will be soft but very strong at these times, standing out more clearly.
If you walk under trees or by bushes, gently touch them. Sense their energy and response to
you. Enjoy the beauty and wonder. Try to experience with all of the senses, noting sounds,
colors, fragrances and more. Walk slowly and calmly. And remember that you are entering a
sacred realm—not as an outsider or possessor of the land but as a distant relative, a
This exercise requires control, sensitivity and a subtle appreciation. It will enhance attunement to the presence of animals not readily encountered or readily visible. Through experiencing Nature in silence, we discover everything is an expression of the Divine Life – including ourselves.
One of Nature’s greatest gifts is her endless willingness to teach us about our possibilities and ourselves. Through sacred silence, we experience the wonders and beauty of the environment more intimately, and we begin to realize that every creature and element of Nature mirrors the magnificence of our own soul.
Source: This exercise excerpted from Nature-Speak, Ted Andrews.
If you found the above interesting, please consider taking my meditation “how to” classes. Visit my Web-site, www.betterdayyoga.com, for details.
If you are familiar with chakras, then you can tell from my logo that I love chakras. The rainbow-colored spheres within my logo are representative of the chakra system within the body.
If you are unfamiliar, here’s a quick lesson: There are seven energy centers called chakras (literally “wheels”) that store energy/life force/prana. They are along the spinal column and correlate to major nerve ganglia branching forth from the spinal column. Each has a different relationship to a gland in the body’s endocrine system. Each stimulates different organs and systems in the body. Hatha Yoga activates these energy centers releasing the energy that flows through the spine. Yoga helps these energy centers/nerve bundles to function correctly clearing blocks that may be there. Each chakra also is associated with a mental/emotional focus. In each newsletter I’ll highlight how you can work with a particular chakra to correspond with the season.
Ah, summer! This month we are focusing on deepening our connection to Nature—Mother Earth. What better way to enjoy summer to the max then to focus on ways to connect more deeply with Mother Nature—with the physical environment of our Mother Earth.
The root chakra, as discussed in previous newsletters, http://betterdayyoga.com/archives.htm, is our grounding chakra and resonates to the color red. It is the first chakra and is located at what is called the “Root Center” – the base of the spine or tail bone/coccyx. It is “associated with the Earth, with the qualities of resistance and solidity. It opens downward in the direction of the Earth, and this in itself would indicate its importance in connecting a person to their physical environment. Through the first chakra, energy from the Earth enters the subtle energy system and it is through the first chakra that a person feels their connection to the Earth.” Chakra Therapy, Keith Sherwood.
The second/sacral chakra, also discussed in previous newsletters, is our center of creativity, sensuality, and passion. It vibrates to the color orange. “It is the seat of creativity through which a person experiences the childlike wonder and excitement of the manifest universe. It is from the second chakra that a person experiences the world as a magical place.” Chakra Therapy, Keith Sherwood.
Ah! What better two chakras to focus on for deepening our connection to Nature and the absolute wonder of it all? Even the sunrises and sunsets echo the reds and yellows of these two chakras, activating them in us when we take the time to connect, ground, and look on with childlike wonder at the magic of it all. Let’s connect to the Earth and experience the world as a magical place! Are you with me?!
The second chakra, when functioning correctly, uses your sensual nature to see the world full of wonder and excitement. It allows you to see life in everything else and enables you to be a participant in the “ongoing ecstasy of creation.”
The ongoing ecstasy of creation—each sunrise and sunset are a reminder that life is ongoing. Wasn’t it Annie that said: “The Sun Will Come Out Tomorrow”?
. Why does that always make me cry?
As I write this, it occurs to me that I have treasured the shaman’s message quoted earlier—Every night God gives us a gift in the sunset—at face-value. It has been the visual display of the sunsets in all their glory that I have considered my personal gift and oh what a gift! However, it occurs to me that I could have missed part of the message, and unknowingly missed part of the gift. Could the shaman have also been referring to the gift of life ongoing—of the ongoing ecstasy of creation? And just as the sunrises and the sunsets remind us of this; it also reminds us that we are part of the ongoing ecstasy of creation, that we are part of Nature, and that we have the power to create our own world. Our root chakra embodies our connection to Nature, and our sacral chakra embodies our creativity.
To add perhaps one more layer of the shaman’s gift, perhaps by “naming” the gift, he was also inviting our childlike wonder out to play by noticing the gifts in the sky. And not just to notice, but to believe once again in the magic of it all—to believe in the “excitement of the manifest universe”.
Believing in magic? I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking that’s for kids. Yes, it is for kids, but it is also the domain of the second chakra, a chakra that doesn’t go away just because we are no longer young. If you don’t use it, like many aspects of our bodies, you lose it. So wake it up again! Why wouldn’t you want to feel the magic? What’s stopping you from enjoying something that will make you believe in the goodness of life? Go outside every chance you can get and make contact with the Earth. Whenever I’ve read that suggestion, I always think the writer didn’t live in Minnesota; but even in the dead of winter in Minnesota, you can look up to the sky and appreciate Orion for making his appearance in the night sky.
What’s your favorite constellation in the summer? http://astronomyonline.org/Observation/ConstellationsNorthernHemi_Summer.asp. Have you caught a shooting star lately? Have you made the infamous wish on one? Go ahead, try it. Reawaken the magical hope of tomorrow. The next meteor shower is the Perseids on the night of August 12. http://stardate.org/nightsky/meteors/ . What bird makes your favorite sound? Do they seem to chirp with a personal message just for you? http://www.enature.com/birding/audio.asp. When was the last time you didn’t care if you were caught in the rain? Why not take a lesson from Gene Kelly and go “Singin’ in the Rain”:
. I dare anyone to watch and listen to that song and not feel better! (Another song to add to my “upspiral” CD of music that I first referred to in my May newsletter: http://betterdayyoga.com/archives.htm.)
Make friends with Nature! You are part of it! Act like it!
Taking the time to be present to Nature, well that’s something we all could use more of. Taking the time to meditate on and in Nature, well that’s priceless. Study after study confirms the benefits of yoga, meditation, and breathwork. (I’ve referenced many of them on my Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Better-Day-Yoga-LLC/495055625435?ref=ts. Likewise, ”There is a strong body of research confirming that direct contact with nature increases mental health and psychological and spiritual development. Benefits include stress reduction, a sense of coherence and belonging, improved self-confidence and self-discipline, and a broader sense of community.” http://www.wilderness-programs-info.com/nature-is-therapeutic.html
Thich Nhat Hanh has written several books about meditation. One of my absolute favorite is called Walking Meditation. He suggests that while walking outdoors, “in order to connect more deeply with all of the healing elements within and around you, you may want to stop walking from time to time and simply breathe. The more you make yourself available to these elements, the more you are refreshed and healed.” That’s being present. That’s root chakra at work.
Then he adds in the second chakra aspect of wonder and believing in the magic: “Breathing in, good morning, birds; Breathing out, thank you for your songs,” or “Breathing in, hello blue sky”; “Breathing out, thank you dear blue sky, for being there for me.” “When you can make yourself more present in this way, the birds and the blue sky are yours to enjoy and hold. If you continue to breathe consciously and smile to the sky, its space and beauty begin to penetrate your whole being, nourishing you and waking within you the seeds of joy, love, and freedom. And during this time, you will refrain from watering the seeds of sorrow, anger, and despair.”
I think sometimes we forget that there are ebbs and flows with life, and that just as a change you may have not wanted to take place has occurred, it will also change again in the future. Change is the only constant, as they say, and that’s good! We want to keep everything status quo. We want to keep everything still in time. But just as the second chakra is about creativity and passion, it’s also about going with the flow—the flow of life.
It’s good to remember to look for comfort in the fact that life is ongoing, and that yes, the sun will come up tomorrow. Nature and YOU will rise again tomorrow. Believe it. And when you can’t bring yourself to believe it, send your energetic roots down into the earth and ground yourself in the present moment. Because THAT is the only moment we have to participate in life. That’s the first and second chakras working together. ”The past is history. The future is a mystery. Today is a gift, that’s why they call it the present.” Babatunde Olatunji. “Study nature, love nature, stay close to nature. It will never fail you.” – Frank Lloyd Wright (1867-1959), acclaimed architect and philosopher.
Breathwork and Visualization:
The breathwork part of this month’s chakra section is in the mudra section below and to be used upon awakening at sunrise. This month’s mudra “concentrates the energy of the second chakra and directs it into the energy centers above it.” What follows is the visualization exercise that also goes along with this month’s mudra and focuses on the sunrise—perfect for this month’s focus on Nature’s sunsets and sunrises:
In your imagination, see yourself sitting in a good place where you can enjoy the sunrise. The sun slowly rises, and you let the colors red, orange, and yellow have their effect on you for a long time. These colors awaken and improve your mood. Now imagine yourself as a person who is full of youthful strength and new impulses, as someone who enjoys life, a person who goes out into the world with love, and richly blesses it with a sincere smile, good deeds, and beautiful things.
Affirmation: I am filled with pleasure and enthusiasm, which allow me to achieve great things. I enjoy life to the fullest.
Source: Mudras. Yoga in your hands, Gertrud Hirschi.
Sources: Mudras. Yoga in your hands, Gertrud Hirschi.
Daily Guidance from your Angels, Doreen Virtue, PhD
The Book of Chakras, Ambika Wauters
Diet and the root and sacral Chakras:
Past newsletters (http://betterdayyoga.com/archives.htm) remind us root chakra foods are grounding foods: Eating root vegetables like beets, carrots, potatoes, sweet potatoes, turnips, yams, etc. Beans, legumes, nuts, tofu and soy products are also grounding, comfort foods as are seeds like pine nuts, pumpkin and sunflower seeds.
As mentioned earlier, the second/sacral chakra is about going with the flow. So to stimulate this chakra, it’s important to remember the healing benefits of water – drink plenty of water! Other ways to get water into your diet would be herbal teas and both fruit and vegetable juices such as oranges, apricots, pomegranates, blueberries, cherries, spinach, tomatoes, etc. Using a blender, you can create your own concoctions. With all the fruits in season right now, what a great way to create a healthy body and a strong second chakra! Be sure and check out this month’s Featured Recipe for a great berry recipe!
Here’s some repeat links from my February newsletter on juicing: http://www.healingdaily.com/juicing-for-health/juicing-recipes.htm, or http://dkmommyspot.com/nutrient-rich-vegetable-soup-or-how-to-make-soup-without-a-recipe/, or www.foodnetwork.com/topics/soup.
Aromatherapy and the root and sacral Chakras:
Previous newsletters highlighted the aromas best for the root chakra: Scents can be very grounding. I’m sure you all have your favorite scent from childhood. So that may be a good place to start. Some possible grounding scents to try: Sandalwood, patchouli, pine, cedar, balsam fir or frankincense.
Scents associated with the sacral chakra are jasmine, ylang ylang, cinnamon, tangerine, rose, rose geranium, geranium (my personal favorite!), clary sage, and patchouli.
Why not try a blend taking a favorite scent from both categories?
If aromatherapy interests you, I use Young Living Essential Oils™ which are therapeutic, food-grade oils. Please inquire if you are interested in purchasing a favorite scent and I can add your request to my personal monthly order.
Gem therapy and the root and sacral Chakras: Gemstones amplify the energy when placed in contact with your chakras. For those of you unsure on this subject, consider that it’s scientifically proven that everything is energy. Nothing is really solid. Why wouldn’t the energy of a stone work effectively with the energy in our bodies just as some research speculates that the energy of computers, cell phones, and microwaves may affect our bodies? At the very least, I find that holding a favorite stone is like a talisman for me, or a “worry stone”. As my favorite author, Wayne Dyer, likes to say, “If it’s a placebo effect, I’ll take two”.
Grounding stones for root chakra: Hematite, smokey quartz, garnet, and black tourmaline, among others.
Sacral chakra stones to consider include: Coral, citrine, moonstone, pearl, aquamarine, and clear quartz, among others.
If gem therapy interests you, you can find a great selection at www.crystallinelight.com or you can also link to her Web site from my links page at www.betterdayyoga.com. I’ve known Jennifer, the owner, for many years and love her products!
Yoga poses for stimulating the root and sacral Chakras: As mentioned earlier, all yoga poses work each of the seven major chakras with specific ones addressing specific chakras.
A review of past newsletters reminds us that poses that activate the root chakra are: Chair pose, knees to chest pose, easy-seated pose, seated cat/cow pose, child’s pose, and final relaxation pose, among others.
Yoga poses for stimulating the sacral chakra: The triangle pose is a representation of creativity. Other poses noted as good for activating the sacral chakra: pelvic tilt, cat/cow pose, butterfly pose, wide stance pelvic rolls, seated pelvic rotation (which I do at the end of each of my sessions) among others.
Please refer to the archives of November and December/January newsletters for more on these two chakras: http://betterdayyoga.com/archives.htm.
Mudra means “seal” in Sanskrit.
It’s a symbolic or ritual gesture using primarily the hands. Each position is believed to have a specific effect. Specific positions can lead to specific states of consciousness symbolized by the hand positions. For example, if a person frequently and with feeling does a position of fearlessness, they will also be freed from fearfulness in time. Mudras are said to engage areas of the brain and/or soul influencing them, sometimes physically, by their use not unlike an affirmation, or reflexology for that matter.
This mudra is called the “Break of Day—origin of all good things”. Nature, and the magic of sunsets and sunrises, is one of my focuses this month, so this mudra is another tool to connect with the sunrise.
“For Men: Clasp your fingers so your right thumb lies above the left. The right thumb presses slightly on the left thumb. For Women: Place the right thumb between the left thumb and index finger, pressing on it with the left thumb.
Do this every day for 5 to 15 minutes. Hold this mudra until the desired effect occurs.
“This mudra concentrates the energy of our second chakra and directs it into the energy centers above it. It gives us mental alertness, pleasure, and new impulses. In addition, it harmonizes our hormonal system.
The Ushas Mudra helps us wake up in the morning. When you are still sleepy and lying in bed, place your clasped hands at the back of your head. Now inhale vigorously and deeply several times; open your eyes and mouth widely, press your elbows back into the pillow. While exhaling, let go of every tension. Repeat 6 times. If this still doesn’t make you feel alert and fresh, then rub your ankle bones together, as well as the palms of your hands, as if you were trying to ignite flintstone. Finally, you can also extend your arms overhead and stretch vigorously from head to foot.” The visualization in the chakra section above is taken from the visualization associated with this mudra in the book. Enjoy!
Source: Mudras. Yoga in your hands, Gertrud Hirschi.
I love affirmations and use “oracle” decks to provide a positive boost in the morning or whenever I need a lift. It’s my way of telling the Universe I’m open to listening to their message: “Have at it!” “I’m listening!” “Tell me more!” I hope you enjoy as I introduce some of my favorite cards and quotes in my newsletters! These make great gifts for any occasion as well as can be used as inspirational hand-outs in class if you are a yoga instructor.
As I pulled out my many, many books on Nature and connecting with Nature via plants, animal totems, and the environment, I knew that this month’s featured deck should be my Native American cards. Which one to highlight? Yes – I have more than one. Literally just as I was pondering this question, I ran across the suggestion by Jamie Sams that you can combine the following two decks he was part of creating. Ok, I’m listening. So this month we have two decks.
Sacred Path Cards, The Discovery of Self Through Native Teachings:
This extraordinary tool for self-discovery draws on the strength and beauty of Native American spiritual tradition. Developed by Native American medicine teacher Jamie Sams, this unique system distills the essential wisdom of the sacred teachings of many tribal traditions and shows users the way to transform their lives.
The 44 beautifully illustrated cards, each endowed with a particular meaning and message, may be drawn individually for a daily lesson or laid out in a series of spreads that open up different paths to inner knowledge. Used with the accompanying text, which explains the various forms and methods of interpretation and divination, the cards are a powerful tool for enhanced self-awareness and positive change.
The back of both of these decks aren’t something I’m going to show this month. The Sacred Path Cards show the image of a Zuni Sun, and the Medicine Card deck shows a lightning bolt strike image on the back of each card.
5, Standing People, Roots/Giving: I chose this card for emphasis on trees and their giving nature—something I’ve experiences first-hand, as discussed in my opening. There are six pages on the meaning of this card in the accompanying book. I’ve chosen to highlight only a few brief points, and then the application.
The Standing People, the trees, are our Sisters and Brothers. They are the Chiefs of the planet kingdom. The Cherokee teach that the Standing People and all of the plant kingdom are the givers who constantly provide for the needs of others. Some trees bear fruit and some provide healing on the emotional or physical level. Walking in Balance can be achieved through remembering our roots, the only physical tree-part we are lacking as humans. The Standing People teach us how to run our roots deep into the Earth to receive spiritual nurturing as well as the reconnective energy that keeps our bodies healthy. Without the roots we lose Earth-Connection and can no longer Walk in Balance.
The Application: The Standing People card speaks to us of roots and giving. We must nurture ourselves through connection to the Earth in order to give freely without exhaustion. The root of the Self is where strength is gathered. Without this connection, dreams cannot manifest and our giving cannot be compensated by the Earth Mother. If you are spaced out, stop and reconnect.
Be still and become the trees in order to observe what is growing in your forest. The root of every answer for physical life is found in the Earth. Look to your family tree for the strength offered by your Ancestors. Lift your branches high, seeking the light of Grandfather Sun and you will see how your roots make you of the Earth and yet a bridge to the Sky World.
The Standing People are asking you to give of yourself. Ask yourself if you are willing to give and receive. Count the root of every blessing with gratitude. Find any blockage that limits your root system or ability to go deeper. Then remove that feeling and go deeper once again for the answers you seek. Remember that we are also the root of the future and through our lives, future generations are nurtured. Weed out anything that will inhibit future growth and you can stand proud among your Tree Relations.
Medicine Cards, The Discovery of Power Through the Ways of Animals:
The wildly popular Medicine Cards has been a bestseller since its release in 1988. The new, expanded edition was released in late July of 1999 by St. Martin’s press. The Medicine Cards package contains an expanded text in a hardback book and a set of beautifully illustrated cards with the messages of 52 animals rather than the former 44 animals. The Medicines of the new animals teach us the evolving life-lessons that we need to embrace as human beings facing the new millennium and our continued healing processes. Nature is reaching out to us to lend a hand and the creatures are offering us a way to grow beyond our former identities. The additional animals include: Prairie Dog, Wild Boar, Blue Heron, Salmon, Alligator, Black Panther, Jaguar, and Raccoon. The authors are happy to add to the joy felt by millions across the globe who have reaped benefits from the guidance of these animals and their wisdom.
30, Rabbit: I chose this card because it represents an animal seen fairly frequently, and sincerely loved, by my husband and I around our neighborhood—okay so perhaps they could have left our Tiger Lily flowers alone. I suspect the same is true for many of you. I’ve chosen to highlight only the lesson out of the three and one-half pages in the companion book.
One note on animal totems as I understand it: Every time you see an animal, it doesn’t necessarily mean they are your totem or have a message. You’ll know it when they are meant to bring a message. One year at the Renaissance Festival a dragonfly was flying around my head. I bent around and down toward the ground to get it out of my way. When I rose back up to standing, the dragonfly was literally staring at me nose-to-nose! THAT was a definite message to me! You’ll know, be it subtle or not. Now for the Rabbit:
If you pulled Rabbit, stop talking about horrible things happening and get rid of “what if” in your vocabulary. This card may signal a time of worry about the future or of trying to exercise your control over that which is not yet in form—the future. Stop now! Write your fears down and be willing to feel them. Breathe into them, and feel them running through your body into Mother Earth as a give-away.
If you pulled this card in the “contrary” position, i.e., upside down, the paralyzed feeling which Rabbit experiences when being stalked is the lesson. If you have tried to resolve a situation in your life and are unable to, you may be feeling frozen in motion. This could indicate a time to wait for the forces of the universe to start moving again. It could also indicate the need to stop and take a rest. It will always indicate a time when you need to re-evaluate the process you are undergoing, and to rid yourself of any negative feelings, barriers, or duress. Simply put, you cannot have your influence felt until you rearrange your way of seeing the present set of circumstances.
There is always a way out of any situation, because the Universal Force does move on. It is the way in which you handle the problem that allows you to succeed.
Take a hint from Rabbit. Burrow into a safe space to nurture yourself and release your fears until it is time again to move into the pasture, clear of prowlers who want a piece of your juicy energy.
You can buy your very own of either of the above two decks at:
Back in November, I highlighted one of my favorite decks—a wonderfully whimsical, inspiring, thought-provoking Enrichuals© deck, created by local author, artist and creativity coach, Suzanne Vadnais Monson. Refer to the November newsletter archive for a sample card. Suzanne has graciously agreed to let me make them available on Better Day Yoga’s product page online! http://betterdayyoga.com/products.htm
We knew Yoga zaps stress, but did you know studies are showing Yoga Therapy can cure asthma?
Tests carried out at Yoga Therapy Centers, across the world, have shown remarkable results in curing asthma. In some cases it has also been found that attacks can actually be averted, without the aid of drugs, just through yogic practices. There is ample research evidence to substantiate the fact that Yoga Therapy makes the treatment so much more successful. Nowadays, even allopathic and homeopathic doctors have arrived at the consensus that Yoga is an excellent alternative therapy for Asthma.
To read more: http://www.yogawiz.com/articles/60/yoga-and-disease/yoga-for-asthma.html and for some breathing exercises for asthma:
One of my dearest friends cooks, bakes, and grills like a professional chef. She loves to chop vegetables, says things like “ramekins” and has her own tablecloth named after her—The Christine—for purchase at The Palate in Stockholm, WI : http://www.thepalate.net/. Preparing food has been her passion since before my husband and I met Christine and her husband, Mark, over 15 years ago. It has been our good fortune to be the lucky recipients of many delicious meals and absolutely wonderful times in their home. Since I am all about following our passion, this is my way of letting her have an outlet for hers. Enjoy!
Berries and Cream or Cheesecake without the crust
This is a nice summer dessert and a great way to get your anti-oxidants in.
8 oz. cream cheese (room temperature)
1/2 cup plain yogurt (preferably Greek style)
1/4 confectioners’ sugar
1-2 tsp vanilla extract (depending upon taste)
1 tsp grated lemon peel
2 pints of your favorite berry
Mix all ingredients with a mixer. Add small amount of milk to thin out if necessary. It should be the consistency of a thick mile shake. Refrigerate at least 2 hours for flavors to meld.
To serve spoon some cream into bowl and add berries. Enjoy.
Continuing with this month’s theme of accessing Native American wisdom, I’ve chosen one of my absolute favorite musicians. I can unequivocally say that any music you buy that has R. Carlos Nakai as one of the musicians, you will enjoy. This is one of those things in life I’ve learned that I know for sure. This is one of my favorite CDs and creates a great atmosphere for yoga.
R. Carlos Nakai
Arrangements by Billy Williams
Inner Voices presents the haunting flute melodies of R. Carlos Nakai with the richness of a string ensemble in new arrangements of Nakai’s melodies. The evocative power of the traditional flute is enhanced by the lush harmonies of violin, viola, cello and double bass in arrangement by two-time Grammy Award winner, Billy Williams. Williams’ arrangements create a tranquil soundscape for the mellow tone of Nakai’s flute that takes the listener on a meditative and peaceful journey into the inner world of memory and dreams. The ten songs include eight melodies drawn from earlier albums plus a luminescent rendition of the eternally popular Amazing Grace. A haunting solo for bass traditional flute rounds out the album.
[CR-7021] Total Time: 57:56
You can hear the full CD during one of my yoga classes, or listen to clips and purchase it for your own listening pleasure at: http://www.rcarlosnakai.com/discography.php#
At Vita Bella we offer a holistic approach to revitalize your whole being by addressing the mind, body, emotional and spiritual self. Services include: aromatherapy; brain gym; emotional release; healing touch; massage; yoga; meditation classes; facial exercise classes; skin care; individual, family, couples and group therapy; and poetry therapy.
Restorative yoga, as well as other forms of yoga, helps to trigger the Parasympathetic nervous system which is responsible for balancing the body and bringing its response system back into equilibrium. Stimulating the PNS helps to lower heart rate, blood pressure; it helps to healthily stimulate the immune system and keep the endocrine system operating healthily.
Everything old is new again: The new owner of the retail location on 2013 2nd Avenue in Anoka, MN (the old Spirit River Gallery & Exchange location) is Krista of Krista Artista, www.kristaartistagallery.com. She is one of my students, and has graciously asked me to continue teaching at this location for a Thursday night class after her retail hours. For those interested in a PM class on Thursdays, please contact me for details. Space is limited.
Please contact me if you have an interest: call (612) 708 6900 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Please refer to my class schedule link http://betterdayyoga.com/class.htm for class times.
Yoga Party / Yoga to go?
Yes, a yoga party! Yoga birthday parties, yoga cocktail parties, yoga bridal parties, yoga book-club parties—you fill in the blank! If you have space in your home or group meeting place, all you need to do is show up in comfortable clothes, and I bring everything else — the music, candles, incense (if you like that sort of thing), and mats. Now that it’s warm outside, we can even do class outside enjoying Nature in all its glory! After a yoga party, people have so much energy, and they communicate with each other at a totally different level. Please call to discuss your perfect stress-relief package!
Other possible services to add to your yoga party—pending availability and provided by my favorite colleagues—include:
or I can also add my two other class offerings: