Monthly Archives: January 2013

Made with Love – Feel Good Food!

By Jasmine Astra-elle Grace

Have you heard of the term “made with love”?

I am sitting at the JFK airport at a little café. With few food choices at an airport I found what I thought was my best option -- a rice bowl that needed to be prepared by the deli chef. I stood at the counter for 5 minutes waiting patiently to be acknowledged while the staff member was busy doing this and that. Finally I asked if they were open for lunch. In an annoyed voice he grumbled yes. By this time more people had lined up behind me. I asked for my rice bowl and felt his increasing negativity. I thought to myself, wow, he must be having a bad day. Intent to lift the vibration and be joyful, I asked him a couple of friendly questions to make contact with him. I think he cracked a smile, but by this point I no longer wanted food the he prepared. I told him that I changed my mind and decided on the self-serve vegetarian soup. One person behind me decided to leave too.

This reminds me of something. When I was a little girl I used to make tea for my mother. She had tea in the English tradition, with milk and one sugar. It is a little bit of a science to add just the right amount of milk and sugar for the perfect taste. Sometimes, I made this for her rather reluctantly and with a bad attitude – like when your parents asked you clean your room – it was a chore. Other times I made it with love and gratitude. My mother could always tell and would smile and comment, “Oh, this is made with love”. On occasion, when I was being stroppy, she would make me go back and make it again and “with the right intention”. I was in my early teens when she would do this, but the lesson stuck. There is an energetic vibration in our emotions and actions. Our food carries this vibration too, and this vibration goes into the body. Food has prana (energy, life-force, chi) or it should! Much of the food we consume does not, but that is another topic in itself.

Have you ever noticed that when you are tired and cook the food tastes different then when you are enjoying the art of cooking? I believe being joyful and loving as you prepare and cook, your feelings go into the food and create a healthy and wholesome meal. I have gotten to a point where I know longer want to consume “dead or negative food”. I would much rather be a little hungry than eat food that does not “feel” good. More and more I am bringing my own food with me, and I have emergency snacks on hand. As we are become aware of the environmental impact of how we grow and handle food and of its nutritional value, we also need to be aware of how we prepare our food. This is catching on. Have you seen the labels that include “love” in the ingredients? I think they may be charging a dollar extra for this ingredient but I think it is a dollar I am willing to pay to continue to raise the consciousness on the planet.

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Featured Teacher: Nicole Salvo

Why do you practice? Because I am a better person when I do. The whole day is different when I start my day with my practice: I make better choices, I have more space for other people, and I am usually just plain NICER (my sister will vouch for this one;). It is the catalyst for constantly evolving who I am and what I am here to do on this earth.

Why do you teach? Because it seemed like it would the best job in the world…and I was right, it is! I love observing and being a part of people’s journeys. Yoga is a never ending lifelong undertaking that is constantly peeling back layers, so to be able to help people along their path is not only an honor but it inspires me to keep going on mine.

Inspirations? I am inspired by mom…The woman is a go-getter. Also, my friend Val introduced me to Tara Brach’s podcasts on different subjects dealing with Buddhist meditation. These usually light me up when I need a little fire.

Who have you trained with? Kathryn Budig, Max Strom, Darren Main, Noah Maze, Taylor Hunt

What style do you teach? Vinyasa Flow

What’s your favorite food? Coconuts.

What’s your nickname? As many of them as you care to share. Schmicole, NikkiCoCo, Auntie Coco (reserved for my nephew and my friend Debbie’s twin girls), Coco, Cole, Salvo, Nic…. Just about every portion of my name you can break apart.

Do you own any animals? I adore animals--I basically grew up in a miniature zoo. At the moment, I am currently only the surrogate mother of my roommate’s cat, Adagio. I will someday have a miniature pig and call it Prosciutto.

What’s on your playlist right now? At the moment Father John Misty, Garth Stevenson, M83, my best friend Gia Margaret (always!), Band of Horses, Sigur Ros, Lauryn Hill, Fleet Foxes, Brandi Carlile, Third Eye Blind, some good old Elton John…the list goes on! Constantly falling in love with music.

What’s your favorite yoga accessory? Sweat.

What style influences your teaching? Vinyasa, Ashtanga, Anusara, Kundalini,

Favorite yoga pose? Handstands & Drop backs…they taught me what it means to be present and to trust myself, and they are just plain fun. Also, I am currently in a love/hate affair with Supta Kurmasana in my Mysore practice. It’s the most challenging pose for me in the Primary Series, and although it feels near impossible for me still, I can’t wait for the day when my head just rests snugly underneath my feet.

Favorite quote?

 “Follow your bliss and the universe will open doors for you where there were only walls.” –Joseph Campbell


“Leap and the net will appear”

What is your favorite TV show of all time? I’ve somehow lived without a television for the past 6 years. However, in times of crisis I do resort to Hulu for my “New Girl” fix. I wouldn’t say it’s the best show of all time…but it gives me a good laugh!

Your favorite item of clothing? Wunder unders… my closet is a scary world of unhealthy amounts of stretchy pants.

What did you want to be when you were little? A cowgirl

In the animal kingdom, which animal would you be? Why? Definitely a bird. Not sure what species, but I would love to know what it feels like to fly.

Best trip you’ve taken, or dream trip you’d like to take? My trip last year to Thailand and India. I was away for about 6 months, and the experience changed my life. I’ve been fortunate enough to travel a lot in my 25 years, so I always encourage people, if they have the urge, GO. There is always a way to make it happen.

What word describes you best? I needed a lifeline on this one, so I asked two friends and got the same word: Free.

What drives you every day? My practice.

Whom do you admire? My friend, Debbie. She’s a single mom, works so hard, constantly excited about life and never fails to light up a room with her energy and love.

What is your mission? To know myself completely, and to have compassion for all.
“A human being is a part of the whole, called by us “Universe”, a part limited in time and space…Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.” –Albert Einstein

What is the kindest thing anyone has done for you? My sister letting me live in her house for 4 months when I returned home from traveling. She is a mom, and very particular about her space and I know she swallowed her pride many times to give me the time I needed to get back on my feet. She was also there for me in some pretty low times…I don’t know where I’d be without her!

Fun fact about you? I have really long toes.

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In Memoriam—Katherine Dufrane and her gifts to Yoga on High

Katherine Dufrane, a founder of and friend to Yoga on High, died this past week, which prompted me to think about the many profound gifts she offered to us.

Contemplation: Katherine taught us a specific contemplation practice long before Yoga on High ever existed. A small group of people including me, Linda, and Martha began working with Katherine to learn about subtle energy through reiki in 1998. Almost the first thing she taught us was a practice in which we listen to the mind, heart and intuition to see what we know about any particular question. The practice reveals very deep and complete answers, especially when practiced in a group where each person gets a bit of an answer like the light reflecting off a many sided prism, and the group’s combined insight is greater than any individual’s.

For years we did group contemplations each week as we met to practice our energy work together. Eventually, longings illuminated through our deep listening led us to start Yoga on High.

Questions: Katherine was the queen of interesting open-ended questions that could be asked and answered many times. There was no fun in finding just one answer, when there were so many ways to explore an issue. “What is the nature of healing?” “How do I receive intuitive information?” We never studied by reading someone else’s ideas, rather we asked questions and learned from our own direct experiences.

Non-Doer-ship: Katherine may have coined the term non-doer-ship as a description of our approach to energy work. She had previously trained in a system of energy healing that “did” a lot with the energy, moving it this way and that, undoing blocks and such. She found that she preferred a way that was more gentle and trusting. She believed, and taught us, that being able to sit with whatever was present in a person (maybe ourselves!) was enough. She knew that whatever wanted to heal in us often showed up with painful physical and emotional symptoms and that by staying with those symptoms and asking questions that supported a healing process, the symptoms would often transform on their own.

Clean Language: As we worked “in the energy,” meaning an altered state of consciousness brought on by practicing and receiving reiki, we learned to ask simple yet specific questions. “What is happening now?” “Where do I feel it?” “What is it like?” “Are there edges to the sensations?” I can still hear her soft, sweet, slow voice as she spoke with total interest, “And when it is JUST LIKE THIS, what is there for you to know about this?” There was never any attempt to get rid of anything or even to change any experience we had. (see non-doer-ship) Our language was free of evaluation or judgments and free of advice (the absolute hardest part for me). The total focus was on the person receiving the energy and what they were experiencing—not our ideas of what was happening, what was needed or what we thought. The absolute trust was that every person has inside them all that they need if they are present to themselves with enough acceptance and patience. And under her tutelage, we experienced the truth of that teaching over and over again until it became a part of us as well.

The Yoga on High Reiki Program: Katherine was the first director of our reiki program which started at the same time we opened the center. I credit her wisdom at the beginning for making our program as effective and rich as it has always been. All of the early partners worked closely with her as did our current Director of Reiki, Jodi Patton. We have trained many people over the years using her gentle approach.

Keith Dufrane: Can I mention her husband, Keith, here for a moment? Because of her involvement in the birth of Yoga on High, Keith did all kinds of special projects for us. He is a very handy guy and put in the mini-kitchen in the office, took backs off of folding chairs so we could do backbends through them, fixed the benches on the patio, and put rubber moldings on the bottoms of studio doors so sounds from one class would be less likely to effect another class. And much more. Thanks Keith

Presence: Katherine’s ability to stay present in the face of challenge and distress was legendary. It was safe to be crazy with her and know you would eventually return to something more like “normal.”. In her presence it was safe to feel deep wells of pain that would have been terrifying to experience alone. When she was sitting with you, you found containment, safety and often deep relief. She also loved holding space for people experiencing wild, ecstatic states and knew how to be with a person in a way that amplified those feelings and helped them to internalize and remember them. She often modeled the experience of awe and deep love of the Divine so that those around her knew it was available and knowable.

Community: Katherine was not a hierarchical teacher. Just as she was teaching us in every moment (sometimes officially as the teacher), she was also our student from time to time. She learned from everyone around her, treasuring our insights and experiences as much as her own. This made it easy to foster a community of people who all learned from each other. This has been all the more precious as we have supported her and each other during these last months of her life. We each carry treasures of wisdom from her and will now share these with each other—and with you.

Enlightenment: Katherine’s sincere wish for most or all of her adult life was to be enlightened in this lifetime. For her that meant that she wanted to be guided by and living in the Light of the Divine always. She wanted to give and receive love fully in every moment. She oriented her whole life toward fulfilling this desire and it bore fruit for her. Toward the end of her life she shone more and more like the sun, even as her body weakened. Every time I saw her I felt her inner radiance shine through in a way that made her totally beautiful. She expressed her love for each of us in clear and very personal terms. Even with people she didn’t know well, she was a vast, loving presence. In one of our last conversations I reminded her of an intention I had heard her speak about--living fully in love—and how powerful it had been for me to witness her saying it with such conviction. She gazed at me with an almost quizzical, surprised kind of look and said that yes, the fulfillment of that intention has been living in her these last weeks and months in a way that truly delighted her. It has been a gift to me and all of us who practice yoga to see such Realization modeled.

I want to be careful not to exaggerate in a way that makes you think that you could never wake up like she did. I believe Katherine’s message and her life showed us that we CAN. If she could do it, so can we. The underlying message was that we are already enlightened right now, just as we are. Please for the fun of it and the community of it, let’s awaken together.

How to Die: Her final teaching to us was how to die without resistance having lived a fulfilled life. As a friend said after her death, she had done the inner and outer work to go quickly and easily once she was done here. She left instructions for Keith and other friends and care-givers about how many things should be handled after she was gone. On a more subtle plane she had explored subtle energy states in reiki and meditation for years and had a “map” of the terrain she believed she would travel as she left her body. She took care of any details, inner and outer which might hold her back. She welcomed hidden and wounded parts of herself and wove them back into the fabric of her being with loving acceptance. She brought healing to painful relationships. Keith said she never once asked, “Why me?” but quickly relaxed into what the reality of her physical condition as her health deteriorated. As she began to truly let go, her death was faster than any of us imagined it could be. When she was done, she slipped away and was FREE.

I write this blog as a love letter of gratitude to my dear friend and teacher Katherine Dufrane. I have many other personal gifts from her, including the love of the mystic poet Hafiz and conversations and practices that were just for me. What I have listed here are a few of her gifts to all of us who practice and teach at Yoga on High. Thanks Katherine—Love and Blessings to you for all time.

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Slow Down and Eat!

by Jasmine Astra-elle Grace

Happy New Year! Linda Oshins captured Yoga on High’s year so well in her last blog. I am so happy to be part such an amazing organization, surrounded by such amazing Yogis. Life is sweet and 2012 was a great year.

As we go into 2013, I feel a strong pull towards releasing things of the past that do not serve my highest good anymore. Mindfulness and awareness are being shone directly (I am talking a commercial grade spotlight) on old habits and patterns that are no longer needed. Change is required and this is always a process. There is often some death in change. Something has to be given-up, tweaked, closed or opened in order to make way for the new. Oh, what to let go of first in 2013?

The lesson I share here is around mindfulness and slowing down while eating. Have you ever eaten something only to go back for another piece and it was all gone? You had actually eaten it and didn’t even notice. Well in my multitasking world (yes, I multi-task during eating) I have done this. In my last blog I wrote about my time in Kripalu. I mentioned I had many lessons on this transformative trip. In the early mornings at Kripalu we all eat breakfast in silence. On the first day, this was odd for me, but it forced me to bring my attention to eating. On the table they have a little informative flip chart that explains the silent breakfast something like this:

1. Think about where the food came from – farmers, truck drivers, chefs, waiters etc… and send blessings and gratitude to all those who helped serve you.

2. Eat one bite at a time. Put your knife and fork down in between each bite. Really taste the food. Eat slowly. Concentrate on the act of eating itself.

3. Notice your internal dialogue and make a choice to be present.

A simple lesson, yes. Something I already know, yes. But something I am terrible at doing. I get so engrossed in work or family activities sometimes I wish I could just take a pill and not have to eat. Other times I am so hungry because I have not eaten all day that I gobble the food up without my taste buds even having a chance to react. Such is the fast paced world we live in – often no time for digestion, integration and, often, connection. In truth, one of my worst habits is eating too fast and with no mindfulness. Yuck. How can I be a yogi and eat fast? Isn’t yoga about mindfulness and awareness in all we do on and off the mat?

Well, I have not made any new year’s resolutions but I have set an intention to be more mindful and slow down when eating. At my family dinner table I am always the first one finished. Although my husband and I set the example of saying prayers and blessings I set a terrible example for my daughter by wolfing down my food, only to get up and start doing my projects and duties. Now my personal prayer is to eat slowly and mindfully. Eating fast is a lifetime habit—a deeply grooved path. Have you ever had to change a bad habit in asana practice? The old habit is familiar and the new behavior has a weird foreign feel. You have to find comfort in the correction, do it enough times that you find a new place of ease while maintaining awareness.

It helps me to release non-serving habits by knowing the benefits of choosing a new direction:

1. Lose weight: eating more slowly allows your brain to register that you are full so you eat fewer calories.

2. Taste and enjoy your food: actually tasting your food helps digestion and releases endorphins. Eating small amounts of treats (dark chocolate, gourmet pizza, Jenni’s ice cream) can be easily handled by our body if we “savor the flavor”.

3. Better digestion: digestion starts in the mouth with your taste buds and chewing. Eating slowly supports digestion right from the beginning.

4. Develop mindfulness and lessen stress: make eating a mindfulness practice and see how this reduces stress in your body and lifestyle.

5. Support local food growers: what we eat and where we buy our food fuels the market. We need to be conscious consumers. If we don’t buy something, eventually it will no longer be sold.

Is anyone up for trying this with me this year? Oh, and if you see me eating fast, please nudge me – it is like breaking a bad habit in asana class. You need lots of reminders.

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