Are you feeling the heat this summer?
Maybe you feel more relaxed, or maybe you feel uncomfortable with your sweat.
The good news is that heating up your body can not only help to increase your flexibility in yoga poses, but it also typically leads to sweating, which helps your body to get rid of toxins faster. Experts agree that we mainly release excess salt, cholesterol and alcohol, which means that sweaty exercises will de-bloat us and clean our clogged arteries.
Further, our sweat also works as an antibiotic. If our skin is wounded by a small cut, a scratch, or the sting of a mosquito, antibiotic agents secreted in sweat glands, such as dermcidin, rapidly and efficiently kill invaders. The heat also encourages an increase in cardiovascular activity and helps you burn more calories.
Hot Yoga is designed to replicate the heat and humidity of India where yoga originated. A room is warmed to 95-100 degrees Fahrenheit while you are maintaining your asanas, poses. There are four official types of hot yoga: Bikram (a sequence produced by Bikram Choudhury from traditional hatha yoga techniques with 40% humidity and 104 degrees Farenheit), Forrest (yoga poses with Native American spirituality to create a "yoga sweat lodge" in a heated room), Power Yoga (quickly paced Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga in combination with a modern style of gymnastic exercises) and TriBalance (integrates aspects of several styles, including Ashtanga Yoga, Iyengar Yoga, Yin yoga, and therapeutic yoga -slightly warmer but less humid conditions than Bikram Yoga).
Although I personally prefer natural temperatures when I practice yoga in the park or un-air-conditioned studio, sometimes in the summer, we can build heat a lot easier.
We can create more heat in our bodies through the concept of tapas, one of the Niyamas (personal guidelines) in Pantajali’s 8 Limbed Path to Enlightenment. Tapas means to burn away ‘impurities’ physically, mentally and emotionally, paving the way to our true greatness. We can achieve tapas through disciplined use of our energy, In this case, sweaty exercise. Tapas helps us to enthusiastically engage life with our bodies by clearing out the distracting desires that stand in our way of creating union with the Divine.
Tapas means to burn away ‘impurities’ physically, mentally and emotionally, paving the way to our true greatness.
Sometimes, when we sweat a lot during our yoga practice, we might find it hard to grip, or we may even slip. So, to prevent injuries during hot or sweaty yoga of any kind, I recommend using Aurorae’s super lightweight and absorbent microfiber mat towel. You can easily place the towel on top of your yoga mat. It is designed to absorb any extra perspiration that may accumulate on your body, as well as your yoga mat while practicing, creating a slip-free surface and safe practice.
It can be easily cared for: Machine wash separately, cold water with detergent, and tumble dry low. It will outperform any ordinary cotton towel that you use to dry yourself off after a shower. It currently is available in two sizes: 72″x 24″ and 30″x 24.” Choose from 9 vibrant colors to match your yoga mat: Crown, Infinity, Midnight, Royal Plum, Ocean, Violet, Camarone Green, Seamist, Earth, Honey Dew, Ice Blue, Lemon, Cantaloupe, Purple Passion, Stone Grey, and Tie Dye.
This Week Only, Aurorae is offering one of their Yoga Mat Towels as a Giveaway for new email subscribers. If you enter your email below by next Sunday, August 7th, you have a chance to win!
When I think of detoxing in the heat, I’m reminded of my afternoons in Palm Springs. Palm Springs is a sun drenched desert oasis vacation destination with over 350 days of sunshine. The pace is relaxed, the colors are saturated by the warm desert light, and the living is easy.
The streets and pools are lined with palm trees which are perfect for staring up at, while soaking up the warm sunshine. When I was a flight attendant from 2006-2010, I would love to get an overnight in Palm Springs. Throughout the four years we stayed at several different hotels, but one thing was always the same- I loved to lay out in the sunny heat by the pool. In October, the average high is 91 degrees while the average low is 62, making for a pleasantly warm escape.
This October, I’d love to share this escape with you and your yoga practice. We will engage with tapas, heat of self discipline, through meditation, yoga, painting, book discussion and relaxing by the pool, with all meals prepares by Chef Carlos Lopez.
Further, the book discussions and painting workshop allow you to explore the concept of the Tree of Yoga, by B.K.S. Iyengar as we explore the visual and symbolic aspect of palm trees through balance, shape, line, color, value, form, unity, and texture.
We will also have the opportunity to practice some yoga poses in the pool as we cool off. Wiith the release of gravity the body is able to find the optimum stretch.
This Desert Ranch is a private oasis made of 3 beautiful houses in a majestic location. It is a perfect retreat for everyone and minutes from downtown Palm Springs. Feel instantly at home on the multi-acre grounds shared with horses and goats in the relaxed desert atmosphere! There are a variety of options for prices, depending on your level of privacy and comfort.
Why is a retreat important?
Another one of Pantajali’s Limbs is called Pratyahara. It means to draw back or retreat. The word ahara means nourishment; pratyahara translates as to withdraw oneself from that which nourishes the senses. Pratyahara occurs almost automatically when we meditate because we are so absorbed in the object of meditation. Especially because the mind is so focused, the senses follow it. So that you can concentrate without grasping or being distracted by externals.
Under normal circumstances the senses become our masters rather than being our servants. The senses entice us to develop cravings for all sorts of things. In pratyahara the opposite occurs: when we have to eat we eat, but not because we have a craving for food. In pratyahara we try to put the senses in their proper place, but not cut them out of our actions entirely.
This upcoming Palm Springs retreat is for women who need to step away from their routine, deepen their yoga and meditation practice, learn to reduce their cravings, and form a community, connecting with like-minded women. We will practice through movement, stillness, meditation, painting, walking, reading, and discussion. This retreat is appropriate for both beginning and experienced yoga and meditation students. There are many opportunities for practice, but this is your retreat. Take this time to be with yourself and practice getting in touch with noticing your thoughts and aligning your dreams with your actions.
Another way to take a mini vacation from your mind is through the new meditation app called Simple Habit. It is perfect for clearing the mind and letting go of the desires of the senses, as in Pratyahara. I Love to listen On The Go- on my walk through the city or park, taking a moment away from the computer screen, having a bad day, and even while I’m commuting.
The voice has a lovely soothing accent. The 5-minute meditations give a prompt and allow just enough time for you to direct your thoughtswithout getting distracted again. For example, during the walk through the city, she will prompt you to listen to all of the sounds that come and go (swish of cars moving, construction noises, airplanes taking off), without judgment. Then notice the details in the buildings, windows, or rooftops. Further, I notice the people coming and going as I feel a sense of oneness and connectivity. It's so nice to have the reminder to step away from our personal problems and see the bigger picture.
Try the App for 2 Weeks FREE using this code: JTRIO
Please email me at Hannah@halfmoonyoganandart.com with any questions about the Palm Springs Retreat or the GiveAway Aurorae Yoga Mat Towel! Also, grab a pair of Palm Tree Yoga Leggings from one of my paintings!
Some reviews from my last retreat in Julian-
“This retreat was more fulfilling than expected. Activities were full of themes of self-love, unburdening addictions, maintaining a peaceful mindset that radiates positivity, and awareness of strengths and areas of self-growth. I especially appreciated the mantra shared and the morning meditation and yoga, as that was a new practice for me. The gentle yoga in the evening was original and creatively themed to match topics of discussion and Hannah has a beautiful calming presentation. The meals were also a highlight- healthy, hearty, and nutritious meals prepared by a private chef. I am thankful to have been a part of this weekend, as I have walked away in a better version of myself. I look forward to the opportunity to do this again.” -Monica Lane
“I felt very well received and calm with this group of women. Any anxiety that I had quickly disappeared. Hannah is calm and a natural at guiding in yoga and meditation. The music was perfect, calming and well thought out. Sounds that evoked positive experiences and memories. The food was excellent, nourishing and tasty. I generally feel blessed and glad I decided on attending the retreat. I am able to go forth in life with healing and being more confident in decision making.”-Kelly Trifilo
“I thoroughly enjoyed the quality time with compassionate and intelligent women. This is just what I needed. I live with 3 boys and really benefited from this balance. The location was beautiful and serene. I loved the frequency of yoga and meditation. I discovered a new hobby as I stretched out of my element with drawing succulents and painting them in watercolor. It really tested my self-esteem and patience, but I got great results. The food was definitely a highlight: colorful, tasty, healthy, and best of all- made with love <3.” -Maggie Calderon
“I spent the weekend drawing and painting in a meditative way, doing yoga combined with travel and adventure themes drawn from Hannah's own travels. We meditated and followed guided visualizations that supported our dreams and potential with themes of inner peace and joy. The weekend was seamless and so well organized. It was a weekend full of treasures and blessings that filled my heart; I made some wonderful connections and friends on this short retreat, and I also feel healthier and fitter!” -Irene Jones
“The retreat with Hannah from Half Moon Yoga and Art was such a nice time. Hannah's yoga was fun and the themes provided an interesting and entertaining time. The structured schedule was appropriate and worked well. The food was amazing- delicious and perfectly time! I felt taken care of and peaceful. I enjoyed the continuity of the balance theme throughout, using the book with the yoga, meditations, and circle discussion time all with the theme tied together.”- Rebekah Anderson
Hannah is amazing with what she has put together: creative yoga sequences, mindful meditations, unbelievable food and great fellowship with like-minded people. The art and hiking were great too! She packed so much into this weekend, i feel like I've been gone a week! Thank you <3 -Cindy Castle
Don’t let this opportunity pass you by! Sign up now to save your special spot! Early Bird Discount Ends August 21st!
Check out the Full Details Here:
Interior of Sagrada Familia
Have you ever felt inspired with a great idea?
The practice of meditation, as a part of yoga, is a tool to help us quiet our mind and tap into to the deep places of our consciousness that inspire creative ideas to emerge.
As described in the ancient Vedas and Upanishads of yoga philosophy, the universe expresses itself as spontaneous creative energy in the form of what we call Prana, the intelligent life force. When we practice awareness in asana (the physical postures), and pranayama (breathing techniques), we fuel the creative process by increasing and directing the flow of prana, through the energy channels in our body. Therefore, yoga allows us to open up to that passage, that connection with the divine.
We are reminded of our conscious movement connections each time we flow through Sun Salutations: Inhale, reach your arms up to the sky. Exhale, swan dive and forward fold. Inhale, halfway lift and exhale fold with your chin to your chest.
Inhale, step back into plank pose- one straight line with your body. Exhale, lower through Chaturanga.
Inhale to cobra, and exhale to Downward Facing Dog. Repeat and add on.
As we move our bodies, breathe, and focus, we allow divine energy to pass through us.
Sometimes this energy takes place in the form of ideas or inspiration. Some of us may be really open to receiving these great ideas. However, inspiration is only the starting point.
Have you ever received an idea for a creative work and found that you lacked the courage to complete it?
The creative journey is one in which we expose our souls to the world. Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat Pray Love, shares her relationship with creativity and fear in her latest book, Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear, “The essential ingredients for creativity remain exactly the same for everybody: courage, enchantment, permission, persistence, trust—and those elements are universally accessible. Which does not mean that creative living is always easy; it merely means that creative living is always possible.”
I agree with Gilbert as she believes that we all have a creative side, even though our mediums and outlets vary from writing, painting, designing, engineering, cooking, dancing, singing, speaking, coding, baking, acting, or even bedazzling your ox. She remarks, “To even call somebody ‘a creative person’ is almost laughably redundant; creativity is the hallmark of our species. We have the senses for it; we have the curiosity for it; we have the opposable thumbs for it; we have the rhythm for it; we have the language and the excitement and the innate connection to divinity for it.”
“A creative life is driven more strongly by curiosity than by fear."
Liz Gilbert explains that fear is an essential part of our survival. If we were completely fearless, we would have no caution when jumping into a fire or off of buildings. However, we must realize the difference between when fear is working to protect us, or keeping us from living a fulfilling life. She emphasizes that it's less about fighting fear and more about working with it and around it. “Fear is always triggered by creativity, because creativity asks you to enter into realms of uncertain outcome. This is nothing to be ashamed of. It is, however, something to be dealt with.” As Liz states, “A creative life is driven more strongly by curiosity than by fear…Fear is a desolate boneyard where our dreams go to desiccate in the hot sun.”
In order for the creative energy to manifest as a work of sculpture, poetry, or musical composition, artists need to be able to focus intensely on their work for hours at a time. The deeper practices of yoga, including dharana (deep concentration) and dhyana (sense of oneness), are particularly powerful for training us to access, and remain in, a focused state of creative flow. Our art-making helps us become more present in our daily lives and offers us an opportunity to connect more deeply with the universal creative force that resides in us all.
“The brave alone enjoy the world.” - Swami Rama
This book has been monumentally inspiring for me in my writing of this blog and upcoming yoga philosophy/travel memoir books. Liz Gilbert encourages me to keep writing, painting, exploring, and creating in many other forms, like my yoga sequences and playlists, because it brings fulfillment and purpose to my life. Swami Rama speaks this truth in one of my favorite quotes, “The brave alone enjoy the world.” We shouldn’t put the pressure of “making a living” off of our art, but if the Universe wants that to happen for us, then it certainly can. Just as I am still plugging away as a writer, teacher, and food server, Liz Gilbert didn’t quit her bartending and food serving jobs until she produced her fifth book, and reached the best seller list with Eat Pray Love, selling over 10 million copies. Since then, she has been named amongst Time 100 most influential people in the world by TIME magazine.
Check out my colorful big magic inspired yoga leggings!
Do you believe in the power of your thoughts and attitude?
Last week I held a book discussion, for Big Magic, with some of my dearest friends who also explore their depths of creativity. We discussed the power of our thoughts.
“Every time you express a complaint about how difficult and tiresome it is to be creative, inspiration takes another step away from you.” When we experience judgment or perfectionism or self-criticism, it’s just another thing to notice. If we notice it, it starts to lose its power.
Former dolphin trainer and now nanny and world traveler, Sara Martinez felt influenced by the concept that if you don't "give your mind a job to do then it will invent a job itself that you may not like. Sara shared, “when my mind is not actively creating I find it telling me all the things I should have done, should be doing or focusing on mistakes that I have made. In Gilbert's words I am actively destroying instead of actively creating.”
"We need more creation, not more destruction.”
In our culture, we sometimes run into a tortured artist stereotype: someone who experienced pain and starting creating artwork reflecting that pain; however, the more and more we feed our dark side, the larger it grows. Devoted writer, jewelry designer, fashionista, and interior designer, Alexis Burns empathisizes. “I have witnessed many a tortured artist. I believe that their torment has fed their art… Sadly, some artists thrive on pain. It is all they know.”
Gilbert states, “A lot of what I'm doing in this book is really questioning whether we need to continue the myth of the tortured artist. A lot of artists are distrustful of pleasure, and really trust only the darkest parts of being authentic. That leads to a lot of misery and self-destruction… Insanity is a very tempting path for artists, but we don’t need any more of that in the world at the moment, so please resist your call to insanity. We need more creation, not more destruction.”
Spanish teacher, JoAnna George explores international cultures and artifacts as she recreates visual and audible artworks with her K-8th grade students. She expanded further on this topic when she said, “Sometimes we will suffer when a tragedy, death, or other alienation occurs in our lifetime. We may feel the need to express this feeling of humanity and may go on to create wonderful masterpieces of art.” For example, following Picasso's Blue Period, depicting themes of poverty, loneliness, and despair in somber tones of daunting blues, Picasso's Rose Period represents more playful themes of clowns, tricksters, carnival performers, depicted in cheerful vivid hues of red, orange, pink and earth tones. Based largely on intuition rather than direct observation, Picasso's Rose Period marks the beginning of tPicasso's experiments with what is simple and unsophisticated. However, JoAnna also agrees with Gilbert when she states, “But, I don't believe they should rely on that torment to continue creating art.”
Liz Gilbert also expresses the idea that nothing is nor should be perfect. We should explore creativity like a trickster or magician, with a playful and experimental approach. Sara Martinez furthered on this topic when she realized, “In the past couple of years I have tried my best to omit the word ‘perfect’ in my dialogue. Omitting that word to me does not come from an idea of perfection but more reminds me that it's ok for things/people/myself to have faults...that to me is a more realistic idea of how to live life.” When we are afraid that we need to be perfect, then we lose the courage to “go for it” when we have an idea.
Let’s start saying, Yeah, I'll do that. I'm ready. If not me, who? Likewise, if you are serious about a life of creative expression, then you should take on this work like a holy calling. Cleaning ourselves up, practicing yoga postures, breathing deeply and concentration are effective ways to continue to let inspiration flow through you. Liz talks about dressing up for creativity as well.
When Elizabeth thought that she was out of inspiration, she started gardening, creating life in a new way. This inspired her curiosity about where all of these different seeds come from and she began research on life as a botanist in the 1800s, which led to her amazing novel, The Signature of All Things.
Why is this book about creativity called Big Magic?
There’s a very unique scene in the book, that gives me goosebumps, about Elizabeth’s philosophy of ideas as they float around in space looking for someone to accept them and try to implement them. I don’t want to give away the spoiler details of this intense awakening, but I will say that magic is fascinating, captivating, charming, glamorous, enchanting, entrancing, and magnetic.
It relates to the art of producing illusions. Visual art is surrounded with producing illusions when it comes to shading, linear perspective, spacious architectural design, artificial color, etc. Magic also refers to the power of apparently influencing the course of events by using mysterious or supernatural means. In this sense, when we speak of energies or the life force energy of Prana, this could be considered a supernatural means that inspires us to produce and create.
The universal language of inspiration speaks of being struck by lightning, an idea coming to you while waking up in the middle of the night, with chills on your arms. Tammy Spencer Towner had this precise type of inspiration when she began devoting her energy to TS Jewelry Designs. She literally felt struck by intense ideas about new designs, during a transitional part of her life, while she was sleeping. This period of her life allowed her to step away from her routine and see in a new way.
Now her jewelry is featured at Café Chloe, Mingei International Museum store, Lux Institute and other boutiques around California. She draws inspiration design from Ancient Egypt, Turkey, and the Caribbean. She is currently exploring opportunities to expand her sales in Italy as well. Tammy Towner added, “I love the power of positive thinking, which I feel in this book, and it allows my mind to go deep with possibilities.”
When I think of Big Magic on my travels, I’m reminded of the city of Barcelona.
Is it a coincidence that located near the center of the city lies the Magic Fountain of Montjuïc? Built in 1929 for the International Exhibition, this fountain offers a spectacular display of music, water acrobatics and lights which generate over 50 kinds of shades and hues. In 2012, I felt the entrancing affect of these dancing fountains as I also felt a magnetic draw to these interesting people in my hostel. We explored parts of this city together with a new sense of fascination.
Barcelona is bursting with color, shapes, movement, balance, inspiring forms, and variety, thanks to the world renowned Art Nouveau architect, Antoni Gaudi. The work of Antoni Gaudí represents an exceptional creative contribution to the development of architecture and building technology in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. In Barcelona, six out of eight World Heritage UNESCO Sites were designed by Antoni Gaudi.
Gaudí's work was uniquely influenced by his passions for nature and devotion to the Divine. In yoga philosophy, the time spent studying nature through concentration and meditation is known as Dharana and this devotion to the divine is known as Dhyana. He is a marvelous example of someone who excelled beyond fear. He kept his channels open to inspiration and never stopped producing art of intense exceptionality.
During his time as a student, Gaudí was able to study a collection of photographs of Egyptian, Indian, Persian, Mayan, Chinese and Japanese art owned by the School of Architecture. His work transcended mainstream Art Nouveau, with in a curvilinear organic style inspired by natural forms. In some buildings, it looks like he didn’t even use any straight lines. Everything that he created looked like it was coming to life.
Casa Batlló’s rooftop is arched and similar to the back of a dragon or dinosaur. The local name for the building is Casa dels ossos (House of Bones) because it has a skeletal organic quality. Featuring irregular oval windows and flowing sculpted stone work, much of the façade is decorated with a mosaic made of broken ceramic tiles, trencadís, that starts in shades of golden orange moving into greenish blues.
His best-known work is the immense but still unfinished church of the Sagrada Família, which has been under construction since 1882, and is still financed by private donations. The Sagrada Familia is the world-wide symbol of Barcelona. The monumental church El Temple Expiatori de la Sagrada Família (Expiatory Temple of the Sacred Family) is Gaudi's most famous work and the finest example of his visionary genius.
It takes visitors into a spiritual atmosphere thanks to the arrangement of the light sources and the colors of the windows. Inspiration from nature is taken from a tree, as the pillar and branches symbolize trees rising up to the roof. Gaudi dedicated his life to carrying out this ambitious undertaking which due to his sudden death was left unfinished. The project was resumed in 1952 using drawings and scale models. As of 2007, completion is planned for 2026.
Further, Gaudi’s Park Guell is one of the most impressive public parks in the world. This public park system is composed of gardens and architectonic elements that incorporates a network of twisting roads, which follow the contours of the land. Although considered to be a serious person, Gaudi is also a trickster as he created a playground for the mind with visual jokes, like columns that simulate palm-tree trunks and quilts of ceramic tiles.
His dragon salamander fountain in the center represents the element of fire and transformative qualities of materials. Throughout this park, he introduced new techniques in the treatment of materials, such as trencadís which used broken waste ceramic pieces, teaching us to recycle and repurpose objects. The focal point of the park is the main terrace, surrounded by a long bench in the form of a sea serpent. The curves of the serpent bench form a number of enclaves, creating a more social atmosphere.
“Architecture is the arrangement of light; sculpture is the play on light.”
Casa Milà is an example of Gaudi’s use of light and quality of positivity over darkness. Every room of the house has skylights of varying size that allows them all to have natural light, so that almost every part of the house gets its share of sunlight. Gaudi states, “Architecture is the arrangement of light; sculpture is the play on light.” This creation has an interesting rooftop with a large ensemble of twenty-eight different surrealistic chimneys in several groupings, twisted so that the smoke comes out more effectively. One of the chimneys was topped with glass pieces; it was said that Gaudí used this mosaic technique the day after the inauguration of the building, taking advantage of the empty bottles from the party.
Elizabeth Gilbert profoundly declares,
“The universe buries strange jewels deep within us all, and then stands back to see if we can find them…Do you have the courage to bring forth the treasures that are hidden within you?”
What are your current creative goals?
What are you curious about? Where are you currently turning to for inspiration?
Please share your thoughts in the comments section below.
I had the wonderful opportunity to write an original blog post for BeYogi.com.
Check it out by clicking on the photo and or watch on YouTube.
Does your mind often wander between memories, dreams, plans, and concerns?
Do you feel like your mind is constantly jumping from one thought to another, sometimes even skipping mid-thought through two other thoughts and then back again?
Although this is typical behavior for our minds, we can learn to control it to find peace.
In Pantajali’s Path to Enlightenment, Dharana, the 6th Petal, is the practice of concentration.
In Light on Life, B.K.S. Iyengar teaches that our objective in Dharana is to achieve the mental state where the mind, intellect, and ego are all restrained and therefore offered to the Divine power. When we reach this state of immovable concentration of the mind, healing, grace, and peace can take place within us.
Through the practice of Dharana, we can focus our attention on an actual object, or a concept. When we are practicing balancing poses in my Fun Yoga in the Park classes, I encourage my students to focus on one rock, tree, or even blade of grass in front of you. When we encourage our mind to focus only on this point, the more intense it becomes and the more the other activities of the mind fall away.
The mind has to be stilled in order to achieve this state of complete absorption. This one point of focus during balancing poses is also called a drishti, a point of focus where the gaze rests during a posture and meditation, gazing outward while bringing awareness inward.
It is in these moments of stillness, when we hold steady, we can listen to our bodies and make any necessary adjustments to fully engage the whole body and breath.
We all struggle with this concept as our minds like to jump around and wander so much, but the beauty of concentration lies in bringing the mind back to the idea or object as many times as it takes. That's what dharana is all about.
We can even appreciate this intense focus when we’re off the mat. Getting lost in a book, playing music, or gazing onto the horizon of the ocean are excellent ways to concentrate and calm your mind as well.
One of my favorite past-times is wandering through a park, whether it be in Paris, San Diego, or wherever I may be, and taking minutes to pause and study objects like a particular flower, cactus, tree, squirrel, or sculpture.
Concentration on One Object in Paris and San Diego Parks
Contemporary afternoon in the park, Paris, FR
When I think of the power of concentration, I think of the famous Neo-Impressionist, Georges Seurat. He was extremely serious and disciplined and was acknowledged as the leader of a new and rebellious form of Impressionism for his invention of the style, Pointillism, in the seven by ten foot painting, A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte, 1884 (in French: Un dimanche après-midi à l'Île de la Grande Jatte). The Island of la Grande Jatte is located at the very gates of Paris, lying in the Seine between Neuilly and Levallois-Perret, near La Defense.
Seurat focused meticulously on the landscape of the park for 2 years. He sat in the park, creating numerous sketches of the various figures in order to perfect their form through color and light.
A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte, 1884
Seurat contrasted miniature dots or small brushstrokes of colors that were perceived as a single shade or hue when unified optically in the human eye. He believed that this technique made the colors more brilliant and more powerful than standard brushstrokes.
And at first glance, we see many different people relaxing in a park by the river. Many of the characters are dressed in their finest Sunday attire. At this time in Paris, being up-to-date on fashion and trends distinguished your role and importance in society.
This painting was the basis for the 1984 Broadway musical Sunday in the Park with George by Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine. This musical is currently playing for the first time in San Diego, for a brief two weeks. I had the opportunity to witness it on the opening premier. The painting truly comes to life with staccato piano emphasizing all of the dots of paint.
In the play, instead of enjoying the warmth of the sunshine, many of the characters complain of how hot it is inside these layered costumes. They also judge each other’s choices in colors and accessories, letting their minds jump from one whim to another. Some critics declare that Seurat’s static nature of the figures represent French society at the time. I'm sure we've been caught doing the same thing in contemporary culture. We judge and complain, but we would benefit much more from looking inward instead.
Many of the characters also complain of the difficultly of staying focused to pose for the painter. By contrast, the children and animals are engaged with the park as one girl twirls, another smells the flowers, and the one in the center is looking directly at Seurat. There is also one rebel adult in the foreground, reclining on his elbows in a comfortable and relaxed position. He appears to be truly enjoying the moment, without his fancy costume, social attire. Could he be the most peaceful of them all?
The main characters finally begin to realize the beauty in the calm stillness. They begin to notice the strength of Seurat’s character and peel off their own layers of distraction until they enjoy the moment, the beauty, the concentration of one object, tree, boat, or sunshine. These characters end up teaching us to cultivate an attitude of gratitude instead of discontent. Ultimately Seurat teaches us to have the courage to be different, even when everyone else doesn’t understand your focus.
I highly recommend experiencing this musical at San Diego’s Museum of Art until July 15th.
Although I have not seen this painting in person at the Chicago Institute of Art, I did have the chance to view Bathers at Asnières which mirrors the right bank of the La Grande Jatte. The bathers in this earlier painting are doused in light, while most of the characters in La Grande Jatte appear to be cast in shadow, either under trees or an umbrella, or from another person. These bathers seem to have removed their layers of insecurities and judgement (darkness). They are focused on the natural beauty and light.
I challenge you to spend some time of concentration in the park. See the world around you in a new way. In my favorite quote, Leonardo da Vinci reminds us, “Learn how to see. Realize that everything connects with everything else.”
In the park, sit comfortably or hold a yoga pose. After adjusting your posture, focus your gaze only on one object. Then fine tune your breathing and just be still, quiet, and at peace.
Yoga Poses for Concentration
What does freedom mean to you?
The literal meaning is the quality or state of being independent or freedom from control of another.
Does this mean that we can behave in any way that we please?
Some people believe that they have the "freedom to pollute" or "freedom to deforest." Because these activities create negative effects on everyone else through taking advantage of the environment, I agree with environmentalists who often argue that political freedoms should include some constraint on use of ecosystems. The popularity of SUVs, golf, and urban sprawl has been used as evidence that some ideas of freedom and ecological conservation can clash.
Liberty, however, concerns the rights of all involved. This concept of political freedom is closely connected with the concepts of civil liberties and human rights. We should all have the freedom to pursue a healthy balanced life. The statue of liberty is our reminder to embrace freedom as a light, a source of goodness and wisdom to share with others. This goodness is shown through laws of human rights and equality. This statue is a welcoming sight to immigrants arriving from abroad.
Officially titled, "The Statue of Liberty Enlightening the World" it is recognized as a universal symbol of freedom and democracy. Artist Bartholdi wished to give the statue a peaceful appearance and chose a torch, representing progress instead of revolution. The statue is of a robed female figure representing Libertas, the Roman goddess of freedom widely worshipped in ancient Rome, who bears a torch and a tabula ansata (a tablet evoking the law) upon which is inscribed the date of the American Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1776. A broken chain lies at her feet, representing our release from the rule of Britain.
Another important symbol of this liberty, or freedom through rights of each individual, is through the colors of the flag, red, white, and blue. Charles Thompson, Secretary of the Continental Congress, stated: "White signifies purity and innocence, Red, hardiness & valor, and Blue… signifies vigilance, perseverance & justice."
These admirable qualities are similar to the personal observances of yoga philosophy that Pantajali outlined in his Path to Enlightenment. One of the petals or limbs is called the Niyamas. Niyamas means "rules." They refer to the attitude we adopt toward ourselves as we create a code for living with integrity.
Just as white from the flag signifies purity, in the Niyamas, Sauca is the word that represents outer and inner cleanliness, referring to the healthy, free functioning of our bodily organs. Practicing yoga poses (asanas) or breathing exercises (pranayamas) are essential means for attending to sauca. Further, cleansing of the mind is also a form of purity, from its disturbing emotions like hatred, passion, anger, lust, greed, delusion and pride of the ego.
Just as red from the flag signifies resilience and courage, in the Niyamas, Tapas is the word that refers to disciplined use of our energy. We can direct our energy to enthusiastically engage life by paying attention to our posture, exercise habits, eating habits, and breathing patterns.
Finally, just as blue from the flag symbolizes perseverance and justice, in the Niyamas, Satya is the word that refers to Commitment to Truthfulness. This guideline is based on the understanding that honest communication and action form the foundation of any healthy relationship, community, or government. Therefore, deliberate deception, exaggerations, and mistruths harm others.
The shapes of the flag also have meaning that relates to yoga philosophy. In this quote a book about the flag published in 1977 by the House of Representatives, we are reminded to let our light shine of love and goodness, "The star is a symbol of the heavens and the divine goal to which man has aspired from [ancient times]; the stripe is symbolic of the rays of light emanating from the sun."
The U.S. flag is also a source of inspiration for artists.
No other city celebrates the Fourth of July with as much passion and spectacle as Washington, D.C. The National Mall is the nation’s most important civic space and home to some of the most iconic monuments and memorials in our country. It refers to the entire area between the Lincoln Memorial, Capital lawn, the United States Capitol, and the Washington Monument.
This space provides a monumental, dignified, and symbolic setting for the governmental structures, national memorials, and museums like the National Museum of American History, Natural History, National Gallery of Art, National Air and Space Museum, and castle-like Smithsonian Institution Building. It is a designed historic landscape providing extraordinary vistas to symbols of the nation as well as a public park for recreation and enjoyment of the people. It is filled with commemorative works (memorials, monuments, statues, sites, gardens) that honor presidential legacies, distinguished public figures, ideas, events, and military and civilian sacrifices and contributions. It is here that the constitutional rights of speech and peaceful assembly find their fullest expression.
National Mall, Washington D.C.
John Adams, one of the founding fathers of the USA stated regarding Independence Day to his wife, Abigail in a letter, “It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forever more.”
Since then, every year Americans celebrate the history, government, and traditions of the United States Independence through fireworks, parades, barbecues, carnivals, fairs, picnics, concerts, baseball games, family reunions, and political speeches and ceremonies.
On the Capitol lawn in Washington, D.C., A Capitol Fourth, a free concert broadcast live by PBS, NPR and the American Forces Network, precedes the fireworks and attracts over half a million people annually. This party also features a live symphony performance of Tchaikovsky’s “1812 Overture,” complete with real cannon fire in the background.
Fireworks at National Mall, Washington D.C.
Photo Credit: Capital Concerts
Fireworks were invented in ancient China in the 7th century to scare away evil spirits and bring about luck and happiness, as a natural extension of the Four Great Inventions of ancient China (gunpowder).
With the development of Chinoiserie (a movement of Chinese cultural influences) in Europe, Chinese fireworks began to gain popularity around the mid-17th century. The very first celebration of Independence Day in the USA was in 1777 and fireworks were a part of all festivities.
Fireworks are a class of low explosive pyrotechnic devices used for aesthetic and entertainment purposes. They are an art form made with light. There are four primary effects in fireworks: noise, light, smoke, and floating materials. Considerable expertise and professionalism is involved with creating the shape, form, color, balance, composition, and proportions of each shell composed of chemicals and elements.
As a growing scientific art form, today, there are 18 types of effects that fireworks can make. I’ve listed just a few here:
Chrysanthemum is a spherical break of colored stars with stars that leave a visible trail of sparks.
Willow is a spherical break of colored stars, with long-burning silver or gold stars that produce a soft, dome-shaped weeping willow-like effect.
Palm is a shell containing a relatively few large comet stars arranged in such a way as to burst with large arms, producing a palm tree-like effect. Proper palm shells feature a thick rising tail that displays as the shell ascends, thereby simulating the tree trunk to further enhance the "palm tree" effect. One might also see a burst of color inside the palm burst (given by a small insert shell) to simulate coconuts.
Ring is a shell with stars specially arranged so as to create a ring. Variations include smiley faces, hearts, and clovers.
What is your favorite style?
On the other hand, through these aesthetic devices we are ultimately playing with fire, and as we all know, that can be a risky business. Fireworks pose risks of injury to people, animals and the environment.
Fireworks not only create some wild fires, but they also produce smoke and dust that may contain residues of heavy metals, sulfur-coal compounds and some low concentration toxic chemicals. Pollutants from fireworks raise concerns because of potential health risks associated with hazardous by-products.
Concerns over pollution, consumer safety, and debris have restricted the sale and use of consumer fireworks in many countries. In the US, some states and local governments restrict the use of fireworks in accordance with the Clean Air Act, which allows laws relating to the prevention and control of outdoor air pollution to be enacted.
Environmental pollution is also a concern because heavy metals and other chemicals from fireworks may contaminate water supplies and because fireworks combustion gases might contribute to such things as acid rain which can cause vegetation and even property damage.
Fireworks are also a problem for animals, both domestic and wild, who can be terrified by their noise, leading to them running away, often into danger, or hurting themselves on fences or in other ways in an attempt to escape.
The possible toxicity of any fallout from the fireworks may also be affected by the amount of black powder used, type of oxidizer, colors produced and launch method.
In 2004, Walt Disney Inc., the largest consumer of fireworks in the world, pioneered the commercial use of aerial fireworks launched with compressed air rather than gunpowder. The display shell explodes in the air using an electronic timer. The advantages of compressed air launch are a reduction in fumes, and much greater accuracy in height and timing.
Some companies within the U.S. fireworks industry claim they are working with Chinese manufacturers to reduce and ultimately hope to eliminate the pollutant perchlorate. Hopefully, scientists can reduce even more harmful chemicals from this disappearing-light-show phenomenon.
In 2012, over the San Diego Mission Bay, a show presented by Garden State Fireworks was a disaster. 7,000 fireworks intended for a 17-minute display, discharged prematurely and simultaneously from all four barges and the pier. The entire cache exploded in less than a minute. The coordinated fireworks are triggered by computer, and the premature discharge was blamed on a corrupted computer file. The accident went viral on the internet. This not only a huge disappointment to the onlookers, but a huge waste of energy and resources.
By raising awareness of these dangers of fireworks, I hope to influence city officials and people involved with making these decisions to use more moderation and awareness in all the affects of the materials used. Do we really need 5 different 17-minute shows on San Diego’s Mission Bay? It seems a bit excessive to me. The first few fireworks have the greatest affect on us, then the law-of-diminishing-returns kicks in and they become a bit repetitive. What about a five minute show?
If we look at the bigger picture, we can set some “limitations” or guidelines so that everyone can have the freedom to enjoy a healthy life with a thriving and inspiring environment, which creates happier people.
Yoga Poses for Independence Day:
Mantra for Red, White, and Blue, through the Niyamas:
I am white with purity as I practice cleanliness of my space, body, and mind from disturbing emotions like hatred, passion, anger, lust, greed, delusion and pride of the ego.
I am red with tapas as I have the courage and directed energy to pay attention to my food, exercise, posture and breathing techniques.
I am blue with commitment to truthfulness as I strive to have healthy relationships in my community.
Hannah seeks to find relationships between nature, cultures, yoga, and art through her writing.
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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