Monthly Archives: July 2012

Purloined Practices

Having been raised by two intellectual, politically liberal, socially conscious parents in a general, Christian way, I was short on meaningful rituals in my life, and I’ve always participated in other people’s whole-heartedly. While I understand that purloining a practice may diminish it, taking it out of its context, the ones I’ve modified to suit my purposes enrich my life and are an easy way for me to pray.

For example, I have a mezuzah on my door although I’m not Jewish. The words on the scroll, an important Jewish prayer, are not words I speak, but the idea of remembering the sanctity of my shelter and of all those who come within helps me express gratitude in multiple, mini-moments throughout my day. I touch my fingertips to the case of the mezuzah upon leaving home or returning. The mezuzah was given to me by my best friends, the kind who become family after a number of years, and the mezuzah reminds me of them too, and by extension my whole tribe—at its most expansive, every sentient being.

I’m thinking about purloined practices because I’m going away for a few days and in searching for a notepad to take with me, I came across the one I took on my trip to Bali. In Bali, there were offerings everywhere—the entrance way to every shop, at every cross roads, at various places within the living compound where I was staying. They were made fresh daily from leaves, flowers, a little rice, and a stick of incense and were gorgeous looking at first and bedraggled as the day went on, especially the ones on the hot stone sidewalks. Here is an example of a Balinese offering.

A young Balinese woman I talked to while my traveling companion checked email told me jokingly that she worked much harder after she married a man whose family traditionally used 25 separate pieces in their daily offerings while her family used only 12. I asked her if, given the opportunity, she would ever want to visit my country as I was visiting hers, and she said, “Who would make the offerings?”

One of the offerings at the compound sat on the kitchen counter, and I thought that, short of making multiple little offerings, I could at least make one daily offering in gratitude for food and water. In Ohio, I can’t shake frangipani blossoms out of a tree all year long, but I put incense in a ceramic holder next to a flower from my garden in the summer and one from a houseplant in winter. As the scent of sandalwood fills every crevice I give thanks.

Yoga, too, is a purloined practice, modified to suit the cultural and social life in the West, as is evidenced by the many disputes regarding whether some expression of it is legitimate or bogus, whether it has become too materialistic and competitive, too divorced from its spiritual roots, too focused on the asanas as a physical fitness regime, too stylishly encased in spandex. I don’t care. I’ll never be able to practice yoga as though I was raised in India in a culture that supported its teachings from my infancy. I’ve purloined the practices. Sometimes, at a random moment during my day I’ll be filled with joy, for no reason whatsoever. The joy is not so much a consequence of practicing yoga as the background of life if you drop the foreground concerns long enough to feel it. And dropping into the background, foregoing the intense focus on the self is one of the gifts of yoga. I’m grateful!

When I told Jasmine about the little offerings on the threshold of every shop in Bali, she wanted to litter the entrance to YOHI with them. If you see a little mound of flowers on a leaf along with incense and a pinch of rice next time you come to practice, spend a moment giving thanks.

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Ripe Blueberries Wait for No One

By Marcia Miller

This morning I spent my morning meditation picking berries. The blueberries are ripe—well, at least some of them—and I wanted to eat them for breakfast. Growing and harvesting food is a slow process; much different from reaching out for a pint in the grocery store. First you dream your desires of what you want to be eating in a few years, and then find a place to buy the plants or a friend to give you some. Then the soil preparation begins and with blueberries extra work is required to keep them happy in the alkaline soils of Ohio. Lots of peat moss is one answer, but not just once. The plants like it every year or two to keep the soil tasting just right for them. Then rain and sun and probably moonlight are needed. We planted about 15 plants the first year, lovingly caring for them. The following June we had one blueberry! One. And believe me when I say it was delicious. Doubly delicious because when I offered to cut it in half to share with my new husband he gave me the whole thing to savor by myself. You can imagine the sweetness of that berry!

The next year we got a few more berries though some plants died and we had to replant. The deer chomped a few more and we made a fence. The birds got most of the rest and we covered the bushes with netting. This year we have a bumper crop and we will be harvesting for several weeks as we have varieties that mature at different times. This morning I heard their call—early. Or was it the call of my belly? I’m not sure. But never mind, I was out there at 6:15 knowing that the heat of the day and the insects would be rapidly upon me. I picked the way my friend Sonia picks berries--as a meditation on ripeness. The ripest berries fall off into my fingers at the slightest touch. And because they are fully ripe they have the best texture and flavor. The slightly less ripe berries require a bit more of a tug and I leave those behind for another day. This is a full body meditation including my heart and soul. The excitement I feel as each berry pops into my hand is experienced as tingling throughout my whole body. My breath is free and easy in the cool, early morning air and the mantra that keeps repeating in my heart is, “thank you, thank you, thank you.” I feel such amazement that these plants know how to grow such succulent blueness and that I am able to share in this bounty. I am filled with a holy gratitude that feels as freeing as any spiritual practice I have ever done. Thank you thank you thank you

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Vegetarians and Vegans Eat Beans!

By Martha Marcom

Tofu, when combined with whole grains, supplies some vegetarian protein, but think of tofu as a fast convenience food. Whole beans are the ideal protein component of vegetarian and vegan diets. Whole beans and whole grains, eaten together, have sustained humanity over time. Almost every culture has its classic grain and bean combo. Beans also provide fiber. Properly cooked, they are not difficult to digest, and they are an economical protein. As a whole food, which can be purchased in bulk, they have less impact on the earth than highly processed, commercially packaged foods.

Whole, dried beans need to soak prior to cooking.
Rinse them off and pick through them, discarding an discolored or broken beans.
Soak them overnight, or all day; this is the “slow soak” method.
Here’s the “fast soak” shortcut for dried beans: in a pan, cover the beans with water and bring them to a boil; turn off the heat, and let them soak for 2 hours.

These two soaking methods work with all sorts of shelled, dried beans. You needn’t soak lentils or split peas, however, as they cook relatively quickly.

Here is a gem of a bean recipe from a very discerning cook/yoga teacher:

Maty Ezraty’s Black Beans

Black beans (organic if possible), rinsed
Water
Strip of kombu or kelp
Head of garlic
Chipotle pepper (this is a jalapeno that has been smoked and dried)

After the beans have soaked, cover them with water and add a head of garlic, unpeeled and a chipotle pepper and the kombu or kelp

Cook until tender. This could take up to 2 or 3 hours, depending on the type of bean you are cooking and their age.

Add salt after beans have cooked, or at the earliest, near the end of the cooking time.
(Salting beans prematurely can cause them to remain tough.)

These black beans are easy and richly savory and satisfying. The only thing you need is a bit of advance planning to soak the beans. There is very little actual preparation—the soaked beans just require time to cook.

Beans are made better by seaweed. By adding a strip of kelp and you will be adding minerals as well as helping the beans to cook through more effectively, rendering them more digestible. A properly cooked bean should mash against the roof of your mouth with a press of the tongue.

So, once you have a pot of beans, you could serve them over rice or polenta. Accompany them with a green and an orange vegetable—for summer, grilled carrots and yellow squash and a simple green salad. In the fall and winter, your veggies could be sautéed kale and roasted acorn squash or sweet potatoes.

Then you can recycle the leftover black beans into subsequent meals:

• Add water or broth to the cooked beans and puree a portion or all of them if you like and you have black bean soup.
• Serve them whole with cornbread this time and roasted or grilled mixed vegetables.
• Roll your black beans up in whole wheat chapatis, along with salsa, cheese, and chopped veggies.
• You can also throw the whole beans into soups, salads or on top of a pizza.
• You could puree them into black bean humus and serve them with corn chips and raw vegetables.

When Maty comes to Yoga on High we love to shop and cook fresh seasonal vegetables. In May two years ago, Jerry and I laughed to see Maty going from farmer to farmer at the Market, carefully choosing armfuls of the fattest possible asparagus. Last July when she returned to YOHI, we savored the local corn, slathered with butter and made these beans. Thank you, Maty Ezraty for sharing a killer black bean recipe! (And yes, her name rhymes, the “a’s” are like the a’s in asana)

Maty will be in our neck of the woods in September—at Hilltop Yoga in Michigan.

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Moroccan Nights Summer Soiree, Saturday July 14th

I have always loved the word soiree. According to the online dictionary the word soiree is an evening party or social gathering, especially one held for a particular purpose. In our case the Moroccan Night Summer Soiree is for the purpose of raising money and awareness of the benefits of yoga that the Yoga on High Foundation brings to our local community.

Join us as we transform this beautiful setting into an evening of Moroccan delights including, belly dancing, fine wine and foods from afar. Mingle with friends, network and enjoy

Yoga On High Foundation, a Fund of the Columbus Foundation (YHF), was established in 2008 to underwrite the creation and implementation of programs for people who cannot pay for the life-changing support that yoga can bring to its practitioners. Since its creation, YHF has worked to support, inspire and fund a wide variety of programs for persons with chronic conditions and illnesses, as well as for persons in a variety of at-risk populations. With a mission statement that includes words like sanctuary, self-awareness, integrity and inclusivity, the Yoga On High Foundation is making a difference in communities throughout Central Ohio.

Communities in Schools (CIS) brings yoga to children in at-risk schools.

So what exactly is the Yoga on High Foundation accomplishing? Explore the links below to understand how we are helping and plan to help the community.
Communities in Schools
Yoga for Veterans
Autumn Cancer Retreat
Moving on From Cancer
Mindfulness Projects
Yoga for Diabetes

Marcia Miller providing restorative yoga for local veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder PTSD.

 

Anahata Food Project donates food weekly to local food pantries. Follow them on Facebook!

We hope you will join us for this event. Purchase your tickets online or call the studio 614.291.4444. Tickets will be emailed to you shortly after your donation is made.

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Practicing Empathy: On Teaching Yoga to Children in the Public Schools

Colleen Leonardi, dancer, choreographer, writer and yoga teacher, has been working with the Yoga on High Foundation for the past two years, bringing yoga to students in under-resourced schools.  Colleen not only inspires those she teaches, but also those who know her, with her sensitive, thoughtful nature and creative spirit.

As I drive to the school where I’ll teach another yoga class to children, I’m witness to what has now become a familiar scene. Homes boarded up with eviction notices on the door. Yards littered with well-used, rusty objects and trash. What looks to be young, young children wandering alone along the busy street, dangling one foot out into the road as if to tempt fate. I drive slowly, carefully. The scene is markedly different from where I live in the Short North, a neighborhood of bright flowers and clean windows—a place that feels like a place of privilege, now.

This is hard for me. I am sensitive and extremely thoughtful by nature. I think about how one of these homes might be the home of the one of the children I teach. I think about how one of these children might be a friend or sibling of one of my students. I see the interdependency of things in this neighborhood. My yoga practice and teaching does not start and stop at the door of the school. I am acutely aware, before even entering the classroom, of what I’m truly stepping into. My heart is full of what I think I know and all that I don’t.

It is a humbling experience to teach, always. But it is even more humbling when teaching children in need in the public schools. The need is great. The children have such big hearts. And all I want to do each week is stay and play with them for more than an hour. I want to love them more because I see the need. But I know I must trust that my hour with them is enough. It has to be.

That is the reality of my relationship with them. The other reality, the one I speak of above, is much greater for them and for me. I can help them breathe and create space in their body for movement and play. I can help them relax in savasana. I can help them stand tall and strong in tree pose. We can do a lot together.

But I cannot move them to a nicer home. I cannot make sure they’re getting enough food to eat to help them stand tall and strong. I cannot make sure they have someone in their life who will take the time to learn, laugh and fail with them, as we learn and laugh when practicing the poses and falling out of them, saying together, “Oh, that was hard, wasn’t it?”

So my yoga teachings and classes becomes an offering I dole out to them and the teachers who take the class with me. But when I’m preparing to teach I also know that I’m going to be met with another hardship, another dose of reality that is always hard to swallow. My empathic response is going to be triggered yet again and I am going to be left feeling powerless yet again. So I build the courage and resiliency to face these challenges and teach a good class.

And what is a good yoga class? I continue to ask myself this question all the time. Meditation leader Susan Piver says,
“If you’re not practicing what you’re teaching, than you shouldn’t be teaching it.” I practice yoga daily. But I’m not just teaching the physical aspects of yoga when I go into these schools. I’m teaching kindness, respect, patience, equanimity, balance, self-care and self-love. If I’m doing my job, the job I want to do with these kids, that’s what I am teaching, and also practicing with myself!

So I suppose my openness when I drive through the neighborhood on the way to the school and my ability to see the hardship and breathe it in and cry for the children and their families before walking into the school is a sign of my practice in action. I suppose my empathetic response is a good thing. I call on my training, my knowledge of the human body and my years of experience teaching children and adults, to be sure. But at the end of it all I have to be willing to surrender all that I know. I have to be willing to not think my way through the neighborhood and think my way through the class. I have learned that in order to really reach these children I have to walk to meet them with an open, full heart. I have to be willing to feel.

It takes practice, a personal practice that cannot be cultivated with the use of books and language alone. It is a path—one all of us teachers must walk at some point our lives. I’m grateful to have the opportunity to walk it now, and to write about it here. Namaste.

To support the Yoga on High Foundation consider making a donation or attending our Summer Soiree and Fundraiser Saturday, July 14.

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Waking Up for Morning Mysore

by Jasmine Grace

There has been lots of buzz about the Yoga on High Morning Mysore Club. We have over 20 members already and the number is growing. This is crazy to me as I know the commitment it takes to show up at this hour. When people ask me about the club, instead of giving all the reasons why they should sign-up, I actually let them know all the reasons why they shouldn’t. The club requires a commitment of no less than three mornings a week – so my hat goes off to all those that are accomplishing this challenge.

Here is what I share with Ashtanga students who are thinking of joining our community --
Get honest with yourself -- you can’t burn the candle at both ends! To wake at 4am and successfully get out the door and arrive to class, you must be in bed early; for me that means no later than 9:30pm.

To have a comfortable practice you don’t just need sleep, you need an empty stomach. That’s right, no food past 7:00pm and this early evening meal needs to be healthy and light. Overeating or consuming heavy foods leaves you with food hangovers that make you sluggish and your practice suffers.

This brings up alcohol. I dare you to go out drinking the night before and see if you have the focus and motivation to show up. Even if you do hit the heated room at 5am, you can tell me how that sixth backbend feels. I guarantee the word nauseous comes up.

Even though the Ashtanga sequence is the same everyday your body and mind make the practice a little different each time. Your eyes might be open but your body is often tight in the early hours. On some days, my mind is quiet, my breath is even and deep, I bind in every pose and I feel as light a feather. Other days I can relate to football players doing training in the off season when they are pulling a truck tire behind them to develop strength and speed. 5am Mysore can be like conditioning training for yogis. Of course, this is not what it is about. With your yoga practice you should take the good with the bad, without judgment, and continue to show-up to wake up.

While all these little sacrifices may seem bearable they may alter your relationships, family activities, and social life. There is no staying up until midnight to watch your favorite television show on DVR. The fact of the matter is that the things that used to be important to you will not seem so relevant, especially the things that don’t serve your highest good. Your sleep, diet, thoughts and, ultimately, your life shifts. Psychologically this shift can be a little scary which can cause us to run from the yoga practice itself. Yoga is cultivated with consistency in practice over a long period of time and this takes commitment.

Although yoga is for everyone; Ashtanga is not always for everyone. Personally, I have found that when I make a commitment to something in life, sacrifices are always involved. What are you willing to sacrifice to commit? Quite often what we have to sacrifice are limiting beliefs. Linda Oshins, mentioned resolve in her Pranayama class during a Yoga Nidra session, “Can you find comfort in the uncomfortable?” I am not telling you to hurt yourself, but to observe discomfort by staying and listening to your mind and body for a moment. Question why the resistance is there and look at your edge in both the mental and physical plane. What is your resistance to getting out of bed early, or to doing headstand in the middle of the room? Is it a mental or physical game? A quote that has come up in several conversations this week with my teacher Taylor Hunt has been, “Don’t believe everything you think”. Creating a new habit in your life shifts your life powerfully, especially when that habit is morning Mysore at 5:00am.

Despite the obvious challenges I (and I think I can speak for others) almost always feel better for showing-up and practicing. There is something truly beautiful about the Morning Mysore Club; you have the practice itself, the heat, the grace of the morning hour, the teacher, the community, and the psychological edge of staying true to your “resolve” or commitment.

 

 

 

Tips on Waking Early for the Morning Mysore Club

Be Organized: Lay out your clothes the night before and prepare your bag. Set your keys, coffee/tea mug out so you know where they are and take what you can out to your car.
Sleep: You k now your body better than anyone else. You know how much sleep you need, what time you need to wake up and can calculate what time you need to go to bed.
Diet: Make lunch your biggest meal of the day and dinner a light vegetarian meal. Be mindful that it takes up to 30 hours to digest meat. Don’t eat past 7:00pm.
Self-Care: Shower the night before (and again in the morning if you can). In the evening after your shower apply sesame or coconut oil to your body. On Saturday (a non-practice day) you could follow the following castor oil treatment in the blog Ashtanga Yoga Mother Earth. * Be careful not to stain clothing or sheets. I recommend having an old set of clothes especially for this purpose.
Oral Health: Brush your teeth, floss and scrape your tongue at least once a day.
Alarms: Set two alarms just in case. Never hit snooze and let the second alarm be your final warning. Set the alarm to a sound or music that inspires you. Shower as soon as you get up and out of bed. Good morning!
Visualization: Before you fall asleep visualize yourself waking up and going to practice. Be very specific in your visualization and create neuro-pathways for your new habit. Say to your self, “I choose to wake-up at 4:15am” and see what happens.
Routine: A ritual is very important and powerful for your body and mind. Practice, eat and sleep at the same time everyday and see how your life unfolds. Develop a routine that serves your highest good.
Do What You Can: Don’t beat yourself up for what you did not do yesterday and make each day a new day. Life is busy and we have many commitments. I recommend starting small and layering on. For example, if you are new to waking up early then start by arriving at the studio by 6:30a and every week come 15 minutes earlier. We are trying to sustain a lifelong practice. It is a marathon not a sprint. Balance your practice, be realistic but most importantly show-up.

If I haven’t talked you out of it and you would like to make a commitment to show-up and practice at the Morning Mysore Club please contact me at jasmine@yogaonhigh.com or visit our website for more details.

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