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Monday, July 30, 2012

Ceres, Get Out Of That Tree!

I've had pets for most of my life and I've loved them all, even the fish, but Ceres was different. She was more than a pet. She was a friend, a spirit guide, a soul mate. She saved my life. Twice.

She was already 14 when my son was born, old for a large breed mix of Rottweiler, Lab and Chow. She was gone before he was 2. Xander has heard many stories about Ceres including how she had slept by my side every day of her life until he was born. Then she started sleeping by his crib. When we moved his bedroom closet became her spot.

He has heard what a great dog she was, how much I loved her and he's seen the videos of himself as a baby giggling his first hysterical giggles at her. He has never heard about her climbing. I'm sure of this.

When she was younger and more spry, I lived in a house with a big tree in the back yard. There was a squirrel in the tree that loved to tease her until, one day she dug in her claws and ran up the tree like a cat. She stopped at large branches to gain her footing and snapped the smaller ones off with her teeth. Our landlord, who had an office on the second story of the house next door, looked out his office window and was eye to eye with her.

Once she realized she could do this she started looking for opportunities everywhere we went. If there was a climbable tree on any hiking trail she was up it. We often gathered a crowd. I often think of her when I see a good tree and imagine her exploring its branches.

Today, X and I went hiking. Suddenly he stopped. He put his little hands on his little hips and said sternly, "Ceres, get out of that tree!"

I stopped. "What?"

"Mom, Ceres is right there, in that tree! Really!"

I looked.
It was a perfect tree.

"I believe you, Buddy. I see her."

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

"It's Mom"

I just heard a great story from one of my amazing students and she gave me permission to share it. Sarah (not her real name) is a beautiful yogini with a wide open heart. Over the last few months her practice and the sangha of our small yoga community has served to help her deal with the loss of her mother.

On the 4th of July Sarah was riding her bike on a country road in Door Country, WI with her husband. She had been going to Door County often to settle her late mother's estate and prepare her house for sale. As she rode she was crying, missing her mom. She was remembering how her mom loved dressing up on holidays. She was imagining how her mom had dressed for past 4th of Julys, fully decked out in red, white and blue right down to the manicure. As she was remembering this and noting her own lack of patriotic colors she saw, lying in the middle of the road a red, white and blue lei. She stopped to pick it up. Her husband stopped with her.

While she was standing there crying on the side of the road with the lei in her hands, a monarch butterfly landed on her. Her father had a special fascination with monarchs so, since his death years before, they have been a symbol and reminder for her of her father. "Look!" she said. "My dad sent someone to give me a hug."

Here, she paused for a moment and told me, "I wouldn't even tell you this if my husband hadn't been there. I wouldn't have believed it if he hadn't seen it too."

Just at that moment, on that quiet country road, a car drove by. It had a personal license plate. It said...

It's Mom

True story.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Yoga Sequence: Back to Basics

Here is a sequence for students of all abilities. Beginners will learn the foundation poses on which their future practices will be built. Intermediate and Advanced students can find a place of comfort and ease where they can go deeper into familiar poses.

For beginners who are using this as a guide to home practice I have used common english translations for poses. There are many online resources if you are unfamiliar with a particular pose. I suggest typing the words "yoga pose" and the name of the pose into Google or another search engine if you need visual aid.

Teachers Notes: I used a standard outline to structure the class. This particular sequence does not have a specific energetic goal as most of my other classes do but the overall Prana movement in up from the base to higher chakras, then back down which should be overall balancing and appropriate for most students. Standing poses begin with open hips which gradually move to a closed hip position, then into twist. Using Kakasana (crow) as your inversion will concentrate movement into the 3rd chakra area which was initiated with twists. From there we move into back bending to stimulate up the 4th, 5th & 6th chakras, before moving back down through more 3rd chakra twists to grounding 1st & 2nd chakra poses. As always, I highly recommend that you do the sequence yourself and become comfortable with it before attempting to teach it.  
Read the following legal stuff before you go further:  
Not all exercise is suitable for everyone. This or any exercise program may result in injury. Consult with your doctor before use. Yoga instructors teaching this sequence to students should have comprehensive yoga training and liability insurance. To reduce the risk of injury, never force or strain yourself or your students during exercise. If you feel pain, stop and seek medical attention if necessary.
This sequence may not be appropriate during pregnancy. Any instructor teaching yoga to pregnant women should have specialized training in Prenatal Yoga and should provide appropriate modifications for contraindicated poses. Those with special health considerations should consult their medical practitioner before performing any exercise.
Yoga in the Valley/Tracy Johnson cannot guarantee that this yoga program is suitable and safe for every individual. Any liability, loss or damage in connection with the use of the following yoga sequence, including but not limited to any liability, loss or damage arising from the performance of the exercises demonstrated here is expressly disclaimed.

Back to Basics

Warm Up: (hold each pose 5-10 breaths)
Child’s Pose
Down Dog
Forward Fold
Sun Salutation:
Reach Up
Forward Fold
Flat Back
High Plank to Low Plank
Upward Dog
Downward Dog (hold)
Forward Fold
Flat Back
Forward Fold
Standing 1:
Warrior 2
Side Angle
Illuminated Warrior
Standing 2:
Warrior 1 
Standing 3:
Crescent Warrior
Crescent Warrior Twist
Standing 4:
Chair Twist
Pyramid with Flat Back
Revolved Triangle

Opt: Headstand
Child’s Pose

Locust Variations
Arms at sides reaching back
Bend elbows, palms down
Arms extended, lace fingers
Bow Pose
Bridge or Wheel
Lying on back knee to chest
Reclining Twist
Child’s Pose
Half Pigeon
Forward Folds:
Seated Twist
Head to knee/one leg forward fold
Bound Angle
Wide Angle Forward Fold (seated)
Forward Fold (seated)

*Please share your comments and feedback below...