Immobile Body, Mobile Spirit.

After being immobile on my back in excruciating pain from a spasm for two days, I’m finally able to sit up on my own.  My cat just coughed up a hairball on my couch – which ocean ebb on beach
would require me prying myself out of my recliner in order to clean it up..but I’m picking my battles right now.  The hairball will wait. As will, unfortunately, the kid’s and adult yoga classes that I love teaching, the physical training I am doing with my husband and son for a spartan race, and the laundry.

Yesterday I couldn’t sit up to read or focus on anything, so today I am especially grateful that I can extend my arms, t-rex style, enough to type out this blog post.  I’m grateful that I could hold my prayer book on my lap and recite the daily blessings of my tradition.  I’m grateful I can sing again. (did I mention I was also super sick right before the back went  out?)

One of the daily blessings (nisim b’chol yom) is gratitude to Adonai, our God, who lifts up the fallen.  (Zokeif k’fufim)  Another way to interpret this is gratitude for rising to a new day.  And I am certainly thankful for that.  To rise up, to breathe without pain,  (unlike yesterday) and to have the gift of life.  A deeper appreciation for the other morning prayers arose for me…modah ani, thank you God for restoring my soul to me upon awakening, for giving me another opportunity to live as fully as a can, with what I have available.  Asher yatzar,  praised be God who created this body, and all the pathways and openings that allow for harmony within…this heart beating, these sacred breaths…the ability to use the bathroom – seriously, I take that one for granted.  Instead of saying, “Oh man, I have to pee again?” I can say , “Yes! I get to pee again!”  I can fine tune my perception, and see my life through the lens of gratitude and awe, central themes in the Jewish tradition.

As much as I detest being sick, feeling weak, and slowing down, I also know that there is a natural ebb and flow to  our lives.  It cannot be all flow, all the time.  A non- stop beautiful ocean wave is called a tsunami.  Not so fun.

So I will embrace the ebb in my life this week. I will use it as an opportunity to listen more deeply to the still small voice within.  I will  be vulnerable in offering up my voice, and sharing myself in this way. And I will embrace the sacred insights of my soul as they rise up, written in the sand, before the next wave comes in.

Namaste and Shalom,

Kendra

Stretching into the Jewish New Year

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Baruch atah, Adonai                                                         בָרוּךְ אַתָה יְיָ

Eloheinu Melech haolam,                                             אֱלֹהֵינן מֶלֶךְ הָעןֹלָם

matir asurim.                                                                   מַתִיר אֲסוּרִים

Praise to you, Adonai our God, Sovereign of the universe, who frees the captive. (For the ability to stretchspiritual interpretation)

As we enter the sacred time between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, let us embody the gift of freedom.  The gift of free choice, to practice t’shuvah, turning once again toward our own goodness as we enter the new year.

Let us celebrate the ability to stretch, both physically and spiritually, as we challenge ourselves to live in ways we may never have thought possible – reaching new heights of awareness and  unity with our fellow human beings.

L’shana Tova, G’mar Chatimah Tova! Happy New Year and may you be sealed in the Book of Life.

Namaste, Shalom, and Love,

Kendra

A Vessel for Hidden Light

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Yes, this is you.  A beautiful work of art, always in the making. A vessel through which Creation gets to keep being reborn, re-discovered, and reinvented.  You are a container and a channel for good in the world. A vessel of hidden light. How can you expand this vessel, make it bigger, stronger, more available, to all the good that is ready to dwell within you, ready to pour forth from you? How can you begin to reveal your own inner, hidden light to the world?

In the book Torah Yoga, written by one of my teachers Diane Bloomfield, she states “In the Jewish High Holiday liturgy, God is described as a potter who fashions his creations.  Pottery is a very old craft for vessel making.  Yoga is also a craft for vessel making.  With  yoga, you become a pottery partner with God and participate in making the vessel of yourself.”

I hold this to be true, in my own yoga and movement practice, and I invite you to explore this idea in your own body and soul.

Here is a basic outline of some ideas I have been bringing to the yoga classes I have taught recently:

  • Start with seated mindful breathing. (or on back, knees supported)
  • Notice the vessel of your lungs – how much air moves in and out? How much can  you contain before the ribs, chest, belly, offer resistance?  Just notice. Exhale every breath completely.
  • Notice the vessel of the body, areas of constriction, areas of relaxation – without trying to change anything, just notice.
  • Tap into the vessel of your mind, both the sense of your physical brain, and the concept of “mind.”  How flexible or rigid does it feel in this very moment?
  • If you are a visual person, you may explore creatively what your vessel currently looks like- a vase, a bowl, colors, size, texture, etc.
  • After this awareness exercise, bring hands to heart and belly and offer a prayer or sacred intention.  You might say something like, ” I dedicate my practice today to co-creating a vessel of ______________ (peace, healing, generosity, etc) and allowing my hidden light to reveal itself to the world.”

Diane Bloomfield goes on to say “as you work with the clay of your whole self (body, mind, spirit) you become both a soft and a strong vessel – capable of both receiving and revealing to the world the mysterious hidden light of the first day of creation.”

I’d like to offer the idea that you let the focus of your practice today be strength AND softness.  (this could be likened to what is called sthira and sukha in the yoga sutras; a balance of steadiness and ease).

As you move through a yoga, dance, or other mindful movement session, pay very close attention to the following:

  • What is strong and working right now? (revealing)
  • What is soft and relaxed? (receiving)
  • How do my strength and softness work together to mold me into a balanced and beautiful vessel?

Feel yourself coming into a sacred dance of revealing and receiving light…

When you do more active, effort filled movements, imagine light emanating from your body, radiating outward.
As you embrace slower, less active poses and movements, (like child’s pose, or stillness, for example), let this be a time to receive light into your self. With every breath, feel yourself being molded, shaped, and fashioned into a vessel for sacred life. You are a partner with creation, expanding awareness and well-being, revealing the hidden light within.

May your practice reveal your radiance.

Namaste and L’Shalom.

Steep in the tea of gratitude for Thanksgiving – A 5 minute meditation

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“Hakarat Hatov” means  “recognizing the good” in Hebrew.

In Sanskrit, the practice of “Santosha” or “contentment” has similar meaning.

We often call it gratitude, or thanksgiving.  It is fairly easy to list a few things or people for whom you are grateful, but I invite you to take 3-4 minutes to actually fully embody gratitude…To notice the profound effect it has on your body, your heart, your breath, your spirit.

Find a comfortable place to sit and gently close your eyes.
Imagine you are a hot, steamy cup of water, preparing to make of yourself a tea of gratitude.
Take a few breaths for each of the ingredients you add to your tea.

Your infusion includes “hakarat hatov” of the following:

1) ONE  part of your body that is working well
2) ONE person in your life
3) ONE basic need that is met for you (example, clean water, heat, etc)
4) ONE  luxury you enjoy (for this, bring to mind all the people and activities that have come together to make this luxury available to you.  Feel your interconnectedness with them, and the ways you support each other)
5) Steep in this tea. Notice the changes in your body and mind, as you take in the good of your life.

Happy Thanksgiving!
Namaste and L’Shalom,
Kendra

Hand Mudra for New Year and More!

pushan mudra right handpushan mudra left hand

So I’m pretty excited about this new book I’ve just discovered – It’s called Yoga in Your Hands.  I won’t try to explain the process by which mudra works, for the author does that succinctly and eloquently.  I will however, share with you one of the mudras I have been using for a recent health challenge.   I also think it is perfect for the New Year – a way to let go  and bless the old, and invite in the new.  It would be perfect to use with a cleanse.

I believe mudras are effective because there is a combination of powerful forces at work.  One, you are bringing mindfulness to your body/mind while breathing.  Two, these hand positions stimulate specific meridians based on Chinese medicine that are scientifically known to create results.  And three, if you use an affirmation with the mudra, you are training your very malleable brain (its called plasticity), to create new pathways for positive thought and a chemical release that aids  healing of the whole organism.  So without further ado, let us begin.

Its called the Pushan Mudra, dedicated to nourishment.  Here is an overview of how to do this:

Place your hands as you see them in the photos above, resting on your lap. You can sit in meditation or lie down to do this, or perhaps make good use of time while you are in a waiting room…

During the inhalation, take in energy in the form of light.  Pause, and give time and space to imagine the light spreading within you.  During exhalation, let the expended light flow back out of you.  Pause after the exhale. With every breath, there is more light and clarity in your physical and mental/emotional realms.  (In the beginning, you may envision the exhale to contain darkness or smoke, something that encompasses what you are releasing, and then you may sense it becoming clearer).

You can also say the following affirmation, either as written here or in words that resonate with you.

” I thankfully accept everything that is good for me, let it have its effect within me, and release everything that is spent.”

As the author states, “This mudra symbolizes accepting and receiving with the gesture of one hand, and letting things flow, giving, and letting go with the other.  It influences the energy currents that are responsible for absorbing and utilizing food, as well as helping with elimination.  It intensifies breathing and therefore the absorption of oxygen and the release of carbon dioxide in the lungs.  It has a relaxing effect on the solar plexus (area of the stomach, liver, spleen, and gallbladder) and regulates energies in the autonomic nervous system.  It mobilizes energies of elimination, and detoxifies.  It has an excellent effect on general or acute nausea, motion sickness, flatulence, and the sensation of being overly full.”

It works on the physical level, but I believe it works on the psycho-spiritual level as well, when you practice  it with intention. I think its also a wonderful way to incorporate the healing of yogic practices for those who are bed bound or unable to do much physically because it’s accessible and simple.

I hope you will try it for yourself and notice the benefits.  I highly recommend this book for those who want to dive deeper into background and continue exploring the other mudras.  Yoga in Your Hands, by Gertrude Hirschi

Namaste!
Kendra