In mid-March of 2017, I was trekking through Sagarmatha National Park on my way to Everest Base Camp in Nepal. We stayed at a teahouse in Dingboche and my room was seperated from the dining room. After eating dinner and playing some card games with the rest of the group, I decided it was time to rest up for the next day. Without a flashlight or any other lamps, I stepped outside and was surprised at how bright it was. I stopped and looked up.
Gasping in awe, I noticed layers and layers of white dots in this clear mountain sky. As a city gal, there are usually not many visible stars on an average night. My eyes scanned the heavens, I tried to search for something to make sense of it all, determining that some stars were shining brighter than others. I was looking for shapes that I could relate to. Orion and his belt was the first shape that stood out. Three bright stars in a row, floating in the middle of a trapezoid featuring the bright stars of Betelgeuse and Bigel. Then I realized that I don't know that much about the constellations or the names of stars...
How often do you pause and look up at the night sky?
Do you notice that the sky is endless with billions of swirling balls of fire?
Many ancient cultures would spend time mapping out the relationships of these stars according to our human eye, placing them on a single plane and connecting the dots. We call this map, constellations, a system for us humans here on earth to try to make sense of the vast space that extends out from earth in every direction.
Ancient yoga philosophers also pondered our relationship with the stars. In Pantajali’s Yoga Sutras, he points out that gaining knowledge of the movement of the stars and solar systems can be included in meditation practice. Further, in Yoga sutra 3.41, he states, “Master the breath and your body will shine with the radiance of a star.”
To become more in touch with your own star-like qualities and radiance, I recommend the pranayama, breathing technique, called the Breath of Fire. To perform Breath of Fire, you can sit comfortably in sukhasana, or a more challenging position like Navasana (boat). With a strong and quick inhale through your nose, expand your entire core, and on a quick exhale through your nose, pull all of your muscles and organs inward, pushing the air out quickly. This high-energy exercise builds heat in your solar plexus chakra and activates a higher state of consciousness. Continue this breathing for a minimum of one minute, then build up to 3 minutes, 5 minutes, or even 10 minutes in the future. Set a timer or count each breath.
This technique not only strengthens and balances your nervous system, but as I learned from Tommy Rosen at the International Yoga Festival in Rishikesh, it also can help overcome addiction (when you practice this every time you are getting a craving), and helps to fight cancer and disease by allowing more healing oxygen into your system. Yes, this can be challenging, but it is through overcoming obstacles that we also overcome the ego, little by little. This part of ourselves wants to keep us from living a peaceful and happy life. I’ve recently incorporated this technique into part of my new morning meditation routine and I hope you will to.
To learn more life-enhancing breathing techniques, I highly recommend this beautiful and intricate book called, The Power of Breath: Yoga Breathing for Inner Balance, Health and Harmony by Swami Saradananda. She gives more detailed instructions on activating you inner fire and motivation as she calls this technique, Bellows Breath, Bhastrika, as well as techniques for boosting energy, reducing stress, and much more!
In the San Diego region of Southern California, a group of nomadic tribes have mapped out the stars into characters and shapes that they understand from this perspective on earth. They call this My Uuyow, meaning "sky knowledge". Kumeyaay sand paintings and rock art often modeled the passage of the sun, moon, and constellations.
In celebration of Earth Day, we can also note how the traditional Kumeyaay way of life made such remarkable use of the natural resources in their local area in present day San Diego County. They wove complicated baskets out of pine and willow to use for food preparation, storage, and even gifts. They used wooden sticks for hunting and shovels. Further, coiled pots were rolled from clay of the local streams and rivers for water storage and cooking.
The Kumeyaay also believe that the Kwellyap Ketull (North Star) at the center of the night sky keeps watch over all human activities. Often recognized as the Pole Star, or Polaris in much of the western world, many cultures look to this point as the guiding star of the night for navigation.
In Hatha Yoga Philosophy, we strive to find a balance in right and left, forward and back, as well as up and down. Likewise, the Kumeyaay constellation of Llykuushirra (known as Cassiopeia in the western world) meaning Racer Snake, with its red and black patterns, represents the masculine and feminine sides of things like the day and night, sun and the moon, and yang and yin.
Similarly, the Rattlesnake symbolizes the conveyer of punishment, for improper conduct. In yoga philosophy, we sometimes refer to this concept as karma. Positive thoughts and actions lead to positive results, and negative thoughts and actions lead to negative results.
Many of us are familiar with Orion and his belt, one of the most recognizable constellations in the night sky. The Kumeyaay people divided these dots into shapes of a Hunter (Kwechnyay) and the belt area into a Mountain sheep (Emuu), which represents following the right path in life, even though it may be more difficult. Emmu (Mountain Sheep) combined with the Shuluk (Lightening) mark the solstices.
To learn more about yoga poses that relate to the Kumeyaay Constellations, join us on Saturday, April 22nd from 8:30-9:30am as I teach a yoga flow class inside the San Diego Museum of Man in accordance with Yoga One. Tickets are only $10. Save your spot here!
Also, stay tuned for a local San Diego spiritual retreat to Kumeyaay Campground in June 2017 for hiking, meditation, yoga, discussions and more!
As we promenade from the villages of Tholaria to Lagada, on the bay of Aegiali, our path is lined with a spectacular array of color. Yellow, red, purple, pink, and white patterns sprinkle throughout the green hillsides. I stop and kneel down to admire the variety of shapes, shades, textures, and scents of these wildflowers that chose to shine for us in this very moment.
In spring, the Greek island of Amorgos is covered with wild flowers like daisies, poppies, chrysanthemums, traveller's joys (Clematis viticella), chamomiles, hollyhocks, and Persian cyclamens as this island is known for its wide variations of herbs and plants. It is believed that Amorgos received its name from the flower “Amorgos”. This flower was used during antiquity to produce gossamer tunic which was colored deeply red.
The landscape of Amorgos is unspoiled and so dominated by mountains that in the old days, there was no road connecting east and west and each village had its own currency. This place is kept very natural (secluded with no airport and limited accommodations). There are six hundred species of flora that grow here. Many of these herbs, like sage and rosemary, are used to produce essential oils, through distilling processes, for beverages, medicine, and cosmetics.
In fact, the term, Wild Flower, can refer to the flowering plant as a whole, even when not in bloom, and not just the flower. For this reason, we can be reminded of the whole circle of life, growth, and involvement of the Elements- starting as a seed that has landed in soil (Earth), then being rained on (Water), sprouts above the soil (Air), and gains energy from the sun (Fire), after opening wide in the form of a flower (Space), flows back into the soil and starts the process, slowly throughout the seasons.
When we take the time to notice and appreciate the wonders of the natural world, we are also celebrating the spiritual energy that connects us with all living things. We can become connected and nourished with a sense of awe that there is a greater power that governs the Universe.
Fun Variation of "Flower" Pose at Fun Yoga in the Park!
The fifth Niyama, the 2nd Limb of Yoga Philosophy, is Isvarapranidhana, which is about celebration of the spiritual and surrendering to the higher power. Throughout yoga philosophy ancient texts and contemporary thought, there is an underlying idea that something bigger, more profound and pure exists other than ourselves, our egos. This higher power has many different interpretations, or names, depending on your cultural background or preference: God, The Universe, The Divine Light Within, The Self, Unchanging Reality, The Teacher.
We can make a conscious decision to look for the spiritual in everything and everyone that we encounter. We can see the energy vibrating from the tree, flower, or creature and appreciate the miracle that is our environment, nurturing it through awareness.
Celebrating the natural world and spiritual awe through painting at my Balance Retreat in Julian!
Further, spring is a time for new beginnings. Many cultures mark the spring equinox by celebrating the resurrection of life after the gloom of winter. Read more in my blog post, Easter Island and Celebration of the Spiritual. We can also look at the Spring season as a chance to find balance as we notice the balance between the sun and the moon, darkness and light, activity and reflection.
We should pause and take time to blossom by allowing creativity to flow through our second chakra, an energy source in our sacral region that is related to creating new life and expressions. We all have the ability to create. If you think you are not a creative person, try these twisting yoga poses to cleanse out those blocked negative thoughts and discover an outlet that meets your unique experience. To learn more about our creative potential, I highly recommend the latest book by Elizabeth Gilbert, Big Magic.
Twisting Yoga Poses to release creativity in your Second Chakra!
As I was packing for this epic adventure, 8 countries, 8 weeks, 100 degrees of temperature variation, my friend, Victor, suggested that I write a blog about what's in my pack. I was pretty proud of all the just-in-case gadgets that I was able to squeeze into a backpack and a duffel so that I would find myself "without" something that I "needed."
I packed all of the chargers that I could need (iphone/ipad, kindle, keyboard, headlamp) along with extras, plenty of mini-toiletries, a yoga mat towel, fleece lined wind and waterproof jacket, Croc flip flips and mary-janes, and much more.
But what do I really need?
On a normal afternoon in San Diego, I love to go for a peaceful walk through the neighborhood and picturesque central Balboa Park.
Photo Credit- https://www.doorsteps.com/articles/the-best-neighborhoods-in-san-diego-for-a-walkable-lifestyle
On the streets of Rishikesh, India, I also desire an afternoon stroll, but instead of the spaciousness of sidewalks and streets lined with palm trees, I'm thrown into complete chaos. With a width of about 10 feet on this cobblestone trash lined street, I'm bombarded with barking wild dogs, families of holy cows eliminating waste, weeping beggars, shouting store keepers, and honking motorbikes that won't stop for anyone.
This is an overwhelming experience for the senses. Everyone and everything seems to have a hand stretched out, desperate for me to bless them with some form of wealth. The dogs and cows not only wish for affection, but also clean water and food while the shop keepers are willing to embarrassingly drop their prices just to get a single sale. Those riding a motorbike would be thrilled to take me to my next destination for a small fee. My heart breaks at the sight of beggars with missing limbs or holding a box labeled "ear cleaning kit" I'm obviously a foreigner whose clean clothes and trendy haircut suggest a life full of blessings. I starkly realize that even what I consider to be a humble load that I carry with me on this journey is worth far more than some of these people will ever have in their lifetime.
As each day passed at the 29th International Yoga Festival of Parmarth Niketan in Rishikesh, India, we settled into a routine and the days started to blend together. Is it the 3rd, 4th, 5th, or 6th day of the festival? Is it Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday?
My roommate, Crystal, and I rose every morning just before 6am, attended a meditation class, ate breakfast, attended a 2-hour physical yoga class, took notes at a following lecture, ate a hearty lunch, participated in a restful yin or nidra yoga class, and in the late afternoon went for a walk, attended another lecture, or meditation. In the evening, the Ashram would hold a gathering on the banks of the Ganges River, followed by dinner and a cultural show. We would be in bed with the lights out before 10pm.
"You're going to 8 countries in 7 weeks, alone?! You're crazy Hannah!" People say.
"I know," I reply with an archaic smile.
I know that many other people in this world could do this trip, but would they want to?
I believe that I was meant to go on this trip. One of my favorite, most inspiring mantras is a quote by Swami Rama. He imparts, "You are the architect of your spiritual life. Be brave. The brave alone enjoy the world. Enjoy the world by living in the here and now."
What would your special and unique trip around the world look like?
How do you live in the now?
Ancient Greek sculptures, composed mostly of marble or bronze, developed in phases from Archaic, Classical, and Hellenistic as the concept of the human figure evolved from abstract to realistic. The Ancient Greeks believed in sculpting the human figure for its own sake and of finding the body to be a worthy subject for art.
Further, in Classical Greek philosophy, they believed that human bodies are the “measure of all things,” as our bodies symbolize our divine soul. Likewise, moving our bodies through strengthening, stretching, and balancing became increasing important to the Greeks through the development of Olympic games and other physical activities.
The physical postures (poses) of yoga, called asanas, are the third limb out of 8, of Pantajali’s Path to Enlightenment. It is while practicing yoga asanas that we learn the art of adjustment, and constantly redirecting our focus.
BKS Iyengar teaches, “Working on our alignment is like sculpting in which a piece of stone is constantly shaped and refined; but here the sculpture, the sculptor, and the act of sculpting is one and the same – our own selves. Moreover, the sculpture is not a static entity, but a dynamic one that changes over time; it tends to deteriorate if we don’t take a good care of it.”
Similarily, Philosopher Heraclitus instructs, "There is nothing permanent except change."
A peaceful seahorse glides slowly in the sea, moving from space to space, using only its tail as an anchor in the stormy seas. This patient and unique creature is historically connected with various divine beings.
India is commonly known as the motherland of yoga, but what if I told you that yoga originally began in Egypt and then traveled to India hundreds of years later?
Paintings, engravings, and murals from ancient Egyptian tombs and temples show images of figures in positions that represent some commonly known yoga poses.
According to the book, Egyptian Yoga: Postures of the Gods and Goddesses by Dr. Muata Ashby and Dr. Karen Ashby….
Wishing you New Year Goodness!
Every year the Chinese culture, all around the world, celebrates this time of year with good luck rites, house cleaning, family feasts, and fireworks. The next few weeks are set aside as a time to honor household and heavenly deities as well as ancestors. Unlike our western Gregorian calendar, the Chinese calendar runs in accordance with lunar-solar observations; therefore, the date for the new year changes from year to year. This year, it starts on January 28th. Celebrations will occur the day before and continue until the Lantern Festival, the 15th day of the new year.
According to tradition, people must stay up late on New Year’s Eve to welcome the New Year, and then to let off fireworks to scare off ominous spirits and Nian, the New Year dragon monster. Chinese are careful of their actions on these two days as they will prophecy their upcoming year. In the first five days of the New Year, people eat long noodles to symbolize long life. On the 15th and final day of the New Year, round dumplings shaped like the full moon are shared as a sign of the family unit and of perfection (History.com). One legend states that hanging your hopes for the coming year on a Wishing Tree (synonymous with good luck and fortune) will encourage your dreams to come true. Further, some Chinese people refrain from regular routines such as hair and laundry washing in honor of the water god, celebrated on these days.
Chinese New Year Mini-Parade 2013 Chinatown San Francisco California
Photo Credit: You Tube
“If money were an object, what would it be for you?”
My sister and life coach, Rebekah Anderson, asked me this question one day while hiking last summer.
Immediately, an image of a bedazzled elephant came to mind. I hesitated and tried to think of something that would make more sense before I said it aloud, but the elephant was all that I could see.
Over the holiday season, many of my friends and family told me that they would love to buy some of my new yoga leggings, but they want to lose weight first. After hearing this repeatedly so many times, I had to stop and think about it.
It’s quite ironic actually… Yoga leggings are meant to be worn in during the PROCESS of CARING for our bodies, WHILE we DO yoga, hike, jog, go to the gym, etc.
I mean, yes, my designs are really fun to show off, but they are also great for motivation to take care of your body. It’s exciting to slip on a pair of these and feel comfortable with yourself. You can always buy a smaller pair later and donate your first pair!
For those who like a low waist and a thick band, you can choose this option for your body now. However, if you prefer a high waist pant, I have an option for you as well. Just choose from the pull-down menu.
These fabulous leggings were featured on Studio40 Live in Sacramento, on January 4, 2017.
As we approach the end of 2016, this is a great time for reflection.
What are the highlights of your year in 2016?
Did you meet your goals?
What surprises were you greeted with?
What struggles did you overcome?
“O Christmas Tree! O Christmas Tree!
Thy leaves are so unchanging!
O Christmas Tree! O Christmas Tree!
Such pleasure do you bring me…
Each shining light each silver bell
No other light spreads cheer so well…
A symbol of good will and love
You'll ever be unchanging… “
Photo credit: House Beautiful
Until you die in the next few weeks...
"Only those who know how to breathe will survive."
What if I told you that you have the power to heat your body to withstand temperatures of negative degrees Fahrenheit by simply using breathing techniques?
Within the last decade, one individual has broken numerous world records involving:
Through these breathing exercises, he is able to turn his own thermostat up as well as produce ample benefits including reduced stress levels, more energy and improved immune response to swiftly deal with pathogens.
Now he is training groups of people all over the world through heightening oxygen levels. Oxygen is, by far, the most vital component humans need to live. We can go weeks without food, days without water, but only a few minutes without air.
Do you ever think about how yoga and art are related?
Thousands of years ago, a yoga philosopher named Pantajali created a framework called the 8 Limbs of Yoga. These limbs are guidelines for us to understand the yoga lifestyle of union.
The 6th limb is called, Dharana, meaning to focus on one object, concept, or sound. We can practice this concept on or off our yoga mat. This concentration method is often used in sitting meditation practices as we focus on a sound of a singing bowl, repeat a mantra, gaze at the flicker of a candle, or color a mandala.
Last week, I discussed the importance of gratitude, the yoga concept of santosha, and acknowledging that we have enough, especially involving excess to food. However, Thanksgiving is about more than just a feast.
There are two parts to this phrase: “thanks” and “giving”. In the previous blog, I emphasized the importance of being thankful for our excess and even our challenges. Although a day of Thanksgiving is celebrated differently in many different cultures around the world, in the United States, we commonly trace our story of gratitude to a 1621 celebration at Plymouth in present-day Massachusetts.
But there’s another big part to the phrase of Thanksgiving and that’s “giving.” As the story goes, Squanto was a Native American who learned the English language during his enslavement in England. After he was released, he resided with the Wampanoag tribe and acted as a translator between the Pilgrims and the tribe. On this cold winter of 1621, the supplies from England were insufficient for the Pilgrims to survive, so Squanto convinced the Wampanog leader to give food to the colonists. Further, he helped them to self-sustain by teaching the Pilgrims how to catch eel and grow corn.
I plunge my spoon into the glistening vanilla chocolate swirl, being careful to catch a drop of whipped cream as I lift it up to my lips.
Oh, the bliss! My taste buds dance throughout my mouth. I go in for another, then another. Suddenly its gone. My 18 euro elegant ice cream sundae disappeared in minutes. I want more… but do I need more?
With the time change last week, the nights have grown longer and the moon energy has risen stronger.
How does this change affect you?
My students were asking me about my Sunset Yoga on the Bay class. I’ve spent the last eight months building this lovely community and outdoor class from 6-7pm on Thursdays. They were wondering if I was going to cancel the class when it got dark. The question sparked a tinge of anxiety within me. Many of my students can’t come any earlier because of their work schedule and the commute. I certainly didn’t want to lose this group and this experience, but I knew that as a yogi, I needed to be open to change and the flow of time.
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(I was featured as a guest blogger on BeYogi.com).
After all of this reflection, I decided to keep the time of my weekly yoga class the same, but change the style of the class to a Moonlight Meditative Flow, adding some flickering orange-colored solar-charged tiki torches and tealights for extra effect. The reflections of the water of the bay remind us to focus on our cooling flowing breaths. The orange color of the second chakra is the color of new beginnings and balance!
Slip on these Moon Salutation Yoga Leggings to remind you to do yoga afterwork!
Also, check out my Moon Salutations 10-Minute Video for FREE!
To welcome the time change, I've created this
Very Special FREE Gift just for you!
Flow through 10 Minutes of Moon Salutations after work to relieve your stress and achiness!
With beautiful music and a gentle voice, I guide you through alignment, breath-work, and flow to help you feel rejuvenated and balanced.
Sign up with your email to receive this FREE gift and much more!!
This is a brief preview
Fangs, scales, or tentacles?
Have you fashioned a monster?
From snake-like, dragon-like, bird-like, or octopus-like, humankind has been creating monsters across cultures and time. Ironically, a fear of certain creatures and the unknown is shared on all continents. On the other hand, one of the important characteristics of historical heroes across cultures is being fearless in the face of big and often lethal enemies. This story and message has been told time after time throughout the human experience.
Many cultures around the world take a day or few to acknowledge the reality of death. Many people believe that you will always live on as long as someone in the living world remembers you.
Dia de los Muertos, Day of the Dead, is a happy day about celebrating a deceased loved one or ones and remembering them by making bread of the dead, their favorite foods and playing their favorite music. People build altars, ofrendas, in their homes or at the graves and fill them with their deceased loved ones’ favorite things, tissue paper decorations, and sugar skulls.
What are you going to be for Halloween?
This week, I challenge you to consider the following concepts as they relate to yoga and costumes.
1. You Always Have Choices
In a yoga class, we have options. We can stay in Downward Facing Dog, or come down to Child’s Pose if we need to rest. We can lower through Charturanga with our knees up or down. Further, we can reach our arms all the way up to the sky or bring our arms into Cactus if we have tight shoulders in tree or High Lunge. These choices help us to stay present and aware of our bodies. We want to find a place of tension and ease in each pose. We want to challenge ourselves to build a little sweat and see what we are capable of, yet also listen carefully to our body and not lead ourselves to sharp pain or injury.
Swami Rama teaches, “You are the architect of your spiritual life. Be brave. The brave alone enjoy the world.”
I think she’s down for her afternoon nap. She’s not in any of her usual places, the bed, table, dining chairs, bathroom rug, kitchen tiles. She must be deep in the dark depths of the closet where it is cool and quiet.
Yes!!! I’ll get to practice alone this time!
I pull out my yoga mat and press play on my Spotify Playlist.
As I adjust myself into Virasana and close my eyes, I bring attention to my breath.
Then I flicker my eyes open and Boom! There she is sprawling out on my notes in front of me.
She just couldn’t resist an opportunity to do yoga with me.
Okay, I compromise, let’s do a seated forward fold together.
Preparing to visit Rome in January of 2010, I was flipping through the Italy Guidebook. Suddenly, my gaze was halted as I noticed an image of a foot statue in a sandal, resting on a pedestal. This looks strangely familiar, I thought. I remembered an episode of LOST, that I had recently watched, in which the characters came across a similar statue on the mysterious island with an enormous foot, in a sandal, resting on a pedestal. The creators of LOST must have been inspired by this mysterious piece of art history.
Hannah seeks to find relationships between nature, cultures, yoga, and art through her writing.
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My Paintings are now on Yoga Pants!
Fun Yoga in the Park
Travel the world with me through yoga!
These themed lessons are fun for all ages and levels at Mission Bay Park.
See the page, Park Yoga, for more information!
Lessons from Abroad