All posts by Mike

MoJo on meth…

…Do you subscribe to Mother Jones?  It’s a bit left, but if you are reading this, so are you.

I love that magazine.  They sponsor some good journalism.  This article is the best I’ve read yet.  It describes how meth is tearing up America and how big Pharma is basically lobbying to keep it going.

I normally fall asleep reading something, but this article – not short – kept me up for a good while.  I could not put it down.  I have been waiting for them to put it out online… and guess what it is your lucky day!

But wha?  That is crazy, Mike!  You can’t say that stuff.

Read the article.  Check the laws in your state.  It makes no sense that a lobby can prevent common sense law with soundbites.

Go MoJo.

Book of the month: The Art of Forgiveness, Lovingkindness, and Peace by Jack Kornfield

I recently spent a sunny Sunday sitting in a meditation retreat.  As I walked into the darkened room, I asked myself “shouldn’t I spend today in nature?”  But, as is always the case with time spent in a meditation setting, it was a good idea.

At one point we did a sharing and then got to ask questions, as I reflected on the conversation I had with someone I realized that the question was about forgivness and we had spent all our time talking about how she felt compassion for this or that person but was still angry… We had mixed our metaphors.

So, I asked the question: are their steps that we need to go through before we talk/think about forgiveness?  It was a big question that didn’t fit neatly into the 5 minutes we had left, so the teacher gave me a golden answer… “here is a book I always have with me he said, this is a great resource.”  When teachers unprompted, take out books they haven’t written and endorse them to a room, there is only one appropriate response.  Amazon.

flpSo I ordered The Art of Forgiveness, Lovingkindness, and Peace by Jack Kornfield.  And read it the day it arrived.  I recognized quotes and stories in it from a number of DC teachers.  This makes sense since the author is a mentor to many of them.

What makes this book so special is that it isn’t a long sermon on why we should do all these things.  Instead it is a collection of brief stories and quotes that leave you thinking.  A few have left me in reflection for a long while.  Then there are some great “how-tos” showing you how to do a meditation on one of the three items.  I am so grateful to Hugh for suggesting it.

Do yourself a favor, get a copy of this book.

Thai Yoga Massage – Class – 2 April ’13

Notes for the past 2 weeks might still make it online, or not.  But here is what we did last night:

1. Start with the Dancing Cossack, which is beautifully taught here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DGnQ99bkHqA

I don’t know this teacher, but to give credit, I learned this for Gwyn of ZenThai who you all need to meet!

2. From Cossack, go into side position with the inseam of your downleg on their back belt line.  Lean forward, hold their thigh with your thigh/rib and pull UP and back.  This is tricky.

3. Wrap hands around hip and swivel back and forth, use your hip in the same way to allow the leg to move with the hip.

3. Apply trigger points on outside of hip bone.  Use weight into thumbs, go straight down.  You will know when you are on it.  For more on TP go here or to triggerpoints.net, especially this link: http://triggerpoints.net/triggerpoints/glut-min.htm

5. Put hands on either side of body and go in circles in the direction of digestion, channel some heat to tummy.

6. Sink into QL with thumbs.  Again, no pressing.  All leaning in, slightly more each time with exhale.  Option, hook hand together under body and lift up (with legs) to stretch the QL the other way.

7. Extend QL with on hand on ribs, holding, and the other on hip tugging, gently, down.

8. Reach up to shoulders and lean back, if you want hook hand into triangle at neck.  Lean back.

Here is a video of the first part of that, I will work on getting better video clips to share here!

http://youtu.be/0ZmM9w_huWw

Remember, you can never start to slow or too gently, and it is always your weight, not force that works.

And, of course, we ended with the chant.  Which is getting better!

In Metta.

Make this smoothie recipe better!

I was recently asked by a student what my morning green smoothie was, I promptly shared all the below and their eyes glazed over… so here you have it for reference.

Since I’m sharing, what do you put in yours?  How can this be better?

  • Essential – One of these – 1 TBL
    • Green Vibrance
    • Another Green Powder
  • Core ingredients – 2 TBL each
    • Hemp Protein
      • http://www.amazon.com/Nutiva-Organic-Protein-Fiber-Pound/dp/B0012C2GFM/
    • Nutritional Yeast
      • http://www.amazon.com/Twinlab-Super-Rich-Yeast-Ounces/dp/B001G7QFEQ/
  • Liquid – One of these 300-500 ml
    • Coconut Juice (w/o added sugar)
    • Almond milk (unsweetened)
    • Water?

You can stop here… or…

  • Secret magic ingredient
    • AVOCADO! (will require more water)
  • Oil – Not needed if you have an Avocado
    • Coconut?
    • Flax Seed?
    • Peanut butter?
  • Fruit
    • Banana is key for yummy factor
    • Other fruit is fun
    • Frozen fruit is a cheap way to add fruit and not run out!
  • Superfood
    • Kale (need a strong blender, eg. Vitamix)

Thai Yoga Massage – Class – 12 March ’13

Here are notes from last week’s class!  These are being provided as a reference for those who took the class and should not be used by those who were not there.

Remember: You can never be too slow and rarely too gentle.  Too fast and they don’t like it.  Too strong, and no benefit.

Hip spinning

  • Standard warm up
  • Use one hand to guide, another to support
  • Mentally interrogating the joint, what’s going on
  • Intuitively feeling for resistance

Out / Up / In – Hip compression

  • Illustrations 35, 36, 37 of Askokananda’s TAofTTM, 1990
  • Gradually going deeper on each of the 3 repetitions of each move
  • 37 – Taking the hip across the body
    • Pull opposite hand across the body and use second hand to support via IT/Hamstring
    • Don’t shy away for 37, you can get some good compression here

Paddle boat

  • Illustration 38
  • Positioning: sit in line with body
    • Place outside foot in knee, and take leg to the side, having thigh at a 90 degree angle to the body
    • Hold heel of same leg with same side hand
    • Hold under calf of other leg with other hand
  • Action: Use foot to move up and down the hamstring
    • Use entire area from ball of foot to tip of toes
    • If you want more, can switch to knife edge of foot
    • If you really want more, can use heel

Thigh sandwich

  • Illustration 41
  • Position: Scoot in
    • Place both toes on hamstring
    • Rest their calf over the ankles
    • Knock your knees out to the side and lean forward with straight arm place firm finger on thigh
  • Action: Lean back
    • Work up and down
  • Exit
    • Both hands back
    • Scoot butt back
    • Pull your feet back and let them pull receiver’s leg long

Femur bender

  • Illustration 39
  • Position: Scoot to place where you’re sitting parallel to ankle of leg that you are not working on
    • Hold their foot/ankle so their leg is at 90 degrees with femur perpendicular to floor
    • Use leg on the side you are working
    • Let other leg point out, their other leg will rest on yours
  • Action: In both options below hold foot still and let the foot work into hamstirngs
    • Option 1: Point toes out and use foot at 45 degree angle to their femur (which is pointing to sky) and GENTLY extend
    • Option 2: Place foot pointing up with big toe directly behind knee,
    • Option 2B: Let big toe go into soft spot behind knee

Ham-Attach.  Detach?

  • Illustration 40
  • Position: As for Femur bender, maybe a bit closer
    • Place foot with heel on floor and toes flat against hamstring
  • Action: This will repeat 3x
    • Push leg toward body and then pull towards your body
    • When you push it back, push it enough that the toes slide down the leg a few centimeters, closer to hamstring attachment, eventually toes will be just above sits bone and be in the attachment point
  • Finale!  – Don’t do this if you have inflexible toes!
    • When toes are in the attachment point, pull the leg straigh towards you
    • Your foot will point straight up and toes will point back
    • Jiggle the leg
  • Exit – Gently push the leg back
    • Shift the leg right and left

Highly suggest you buy a copy of Ashokananda’s book, it is out of print but you should be able to get a copy on Amazon for ~$40.  This blog about history of Thai helps you appreciate how important this book was.

Om Namo Amitabaya

I recently added a Thai Massage class at the studio I teach at… I decided that each class will end with a chanting of on of my favorite Pali chants… Om Namo Amitabaya.  Much as every yoga class I have ever taught ends with Sri Dharma Mittra’s blessing “Be receptive to the Grace of God.”  (Except for those corporate privates where the “religions stuff” is not allowed, then I just sneak in energetically, but don’t tell them that.)

First time through was a bit rough.  They will get it.  But I looked online for a video to share that people could listen to and get the hang of it.  The great thing about this Yoga gig is that you keep running into old friends in odd places.  For example, a wonderful teacher I trained with once, David Lurey, has a YouTube video with a nice version of the Om Namo Amitabaya.  I’m sharing it now so students can come and listen.

I think David and  both learned this mantra at Acro teacher training, which I think they learned at the Thai Massage Circus, which I’m pretty sure came from learned at the Lahu Village made famous by Ashokananda.  I’ve chanted these words in all 3 places and I’m love this mantra.

Me practicing Thai at the TMC

As I was listening to some ONA videos on YouTube I heard some people saying “Buddhaya, DhaRmaya, Sanghaya…”  which sounded odd to me since I always sang “Buddhaya, DhaMmaya, Sanghaya…”  You see Dharma is Sanskrit, the “language of Yoga” and associated with Hinduism by Westerners.  But Dhamma, Dhamma is Pali, the language spoken by the Buddha.  (Yes, the same Dhamma that is the dhamma.org of the Goenka Vipassana school) So to my mind this chant makes more sense with Dhamma, not Dharma, as it is clearly a Buddhist chant.

Then I read this great post about other similar words, Sutta/Sutra, Kamma/Karma, Nibbana/Nirvana.  Where it pointed out that Pali is more associated with one major branch of Buddhism than another… “Traditionally Theravada as practiced in Thailand has been using Pali with Sanskrit being used in Sri Lanka and some Asian Mahayana countries with local languages while Mahayana uses both plus local languages.”

Call me Theravadan.

Anyway, if you are coming to the Thai class, listen to that video and learn this chant!

Thank you Maharaji

I came home last night a bit drained from a long day, but luckily my beautiful wife was already home and she’s a bigger KD fan than I am… the house was full of rich sound of Krishna Das’s voice.  Magic.

I walked up to bed and there was a pile of books, Be Here Now, by Ram Das on top of KD’s bio, Chant’s of a Lifetime.  How I enjoyed reading those…  Almost as much as I LOVED watching the documentary about Ram Das, Fierce Grace (free, on YouTube).

Today, FB told me that Jai Uttal was having a concert in DC in October.  (I’ve bought my ticket, are you coming?)

And now, I’m at my desk being productive with the lovely chanting of Bhagavan Das in my ears.

What on earth do all these things have in common?  Shri Neem Karoli Baba (नीम करोली बाबा) or Maharaji, was their Guru.  They all spent time with him in India.  Lama Surya Das and humanitarian Larry Brilliant also were with him, but they are not all over my life… yet.

They all spent time at the feet of this man (or was he really Hanuman?) and they have all had incredible lives that are continue to shape the face of American Veda (to borrow a term from Phillip Goldberg’s recent book, which I can’t stop reading…)

So for the past few hours, where your students have filled my time with beautiful mantra, fond memories of movies and books, and warm expectation for a concert in my town… thank you Maharaji.  And for all the less obvious blessings, that I’m sure are flowing too!

राम राम राम राम राम राम राम राम राम राम राम राम राम राम राम

 

AMAZING photos of the MJH event…

As I mentioned after the event, it was such a rich full lovely day, even when the rains came.  And I said that photos were coming… well due to the incredible talent of Jan Hanus, our official event photographer, Jan Hanus, those photos are up and you have to see them.  Please, if you use these photos, credit Jan.

Thanks also to Bobby, Rodney and Chad who also took photos and shared them as well.

 

Best cue I heard all week: Take your Xiphoid process in… ???

I heard something in a yoga class, with Kim Weeks yesterday that I hadn’t heard before… As I was in class tonight, with Marie Belle, it was hard because MB has lots of great cues, but I found myself thinking… “can I tuck the xp here?, what happens when I tuck it there?, how have I never done this before?”

Let me interupt myself to say something about those two teachers I just mentioned, one is famous, one is going to be.  Kim has been voted best teacher in DC for two years.  Why I only took a class from her this weekend is beyond me, but at least I’ve started.  She taught me quite a bit in 2 hours, especially this XP thing we’re going to talk about.

Dr. Marie Belle… I could fill a blog explaining how when I call her incredibly gifted, in terms of practice, intellect, communication ability, presence in the class room… it is an understatement.  She’s off all the charts.  But I’m not sure you’d really get it.  If you are in DC, take a class from her.  If you aren’t, don’t worry, she’ll be famous soon, I’m calling it.  Since I’m not going to explain how good she is, I’ll leave you with her FB profile shot… this picture is incredible. (Someone send this to YJ!)

Back to the XP… How many times have you heard it?  “Tuck the tail bone.”  It is generally heard in the vicinity of “pull the tummy up and in” or “draw the pubic bone up” (which often results in confused newbies!)  But these are all after the same thing, shortening the front body; containing the energy, expanding through the back body.  All good things which improve the integrity of a variety of poses from Mountain to Wheel.

It matters because many Yogis walk around with hyperflexible lumbar joints… In English: Yogis can crank their lower back way open, some of them seem like they have a hinge joint where the rest of us have a spine.  And while this is good for photoshoots and contortionists, it may not mean they are using their front body which means less integrity, less solidity, less connection.

If you are willing to believe that shortening the front body is useful, keep reading.  If you need convincing, this isn’t the blog for you, I’m just trying to share a good cue.

Tailbonetucking, pubicbonepulling, tummyinsucking, is all well and good, but it only addresses the bottom of the core.  Especially for those of us who have cultivated open lower backs.  What about the top?  Again the anatomy-inspired teachers come up with something like “Broaden your back, pulling your ribs up and in, lengthening your back body…”  And I’m confused.  After years of A-inspried classes, I’m still not sure I know how to move a rib. 

I need one point, on my body that I can touch, that will help me move all those other things I’m not sure I know how to move.  I need the Xiphoid Process.

Try it.  Pick a pose.  Heck, sit at your desk reading this.  Tuck, pull, etc. Pretty good.  Now, take your Xiphoid Process and, on the exhale for good measure, pull it into the body.  Put a finger on it, to be sure, it is the little bit sticking out at the bottom of sternum, between the ribs.  When I do that with the TuckPullEtc.  My whole back opens up.

Even better, when I do it backbends, yes, backbends, I feel all sorts of wonderful stretches.  Let me know if this was helpful.  What are your favorite cues?

What a good day…

Today was a good day…  elephantjournal.com ran a blog about teaching yoga which I submitted to them last week, and it has been great getting feedback on it.  Better than that, though, today we did the 108 suns in the park for Michael Joel Hall.

If you haven’t read all the press–the links are here–a DC teacher was mugged 2 weeks ago and we started raising funds to help him with medical costs.  The response was incredible and we declared victory on our fundraising earlier this week.  Today we had planned to have over 500 yogis in a large DC park to do a big fundraiser for MJH.  But instead we turned it into a party to celebrate our yoga community, since we had raised enough funds.

A dozen teachers today offered 8 or 9 suns to the hundreds of yogis who braved the rain and joined for 108, slightly muddy, salutations.  The teachers were some of DC’s finest (listed below) and for those reading from afar, DC has one hell of a yoga community.

The weekend was lovely, but the scattered thunderstorms rolled in half way through our practice.  By salutation #15 it was drizziling a bit.  By #90, it was full on rain.  And do you know how many left?  Almost none.  Because the magnetism of practicing in community is so much greater than the annoyance of a bit of rain.

How could you leave when a dozen teachers and 200-300 yogis were practicing to celebrate something bigger than us?  A big thank you to MJH for finishing strong and to everyone who came, especially the teachers.  Today we raised the vibration.  Everyone I have spoken to since the event is calmly elevated.  There were a few photographers running around, I can’t wait to see their shots, for now I’ll share this one, but when you see those shots you will understand, this was special.

I don’t think teachers get together enough.  We’re all running around teaching!  But today was magical, I feel like DC could handle a few more Maha classes.  But that will wait for another post, today, I’m just writing to say… Great Success, thank you for coming and practicing with us in the park or wherever you were.

 

Teachers:

Tova Steiner
Pleasance Lowengard Silicki
Marshall Sanders
Mimi Rieger
Gail Harris
Kevin Waldorf-Cruz
Luke Lukens
Keith Moore
Derek Waddy
Augusta Zoe Hemann
Betsey Poos
Mike Graglia