31 August 2007

who are the Namaste Knitters?

("Knitting is the New Yoga",

OK, I'm calling y'all out...who are ya?

One thing I love about blogging is having a site meter where you can tell where everyone is from. I check every day (OK, that's one of my attachments) and I know that some of my regular readers reside in California, Minnesota, Colorado, and Croatia! I'm wondering how Croatia found me, and how much yoga there is in Croatia!

So I have found more than a few readers lately who enter from the url of These readers are hitting my blog from places such as Victoria, British Columbia; someone from the US Fish and Wildlife Service in Anchorage, Alaska; and Albany, New York from a computer at the Rockefeller Institute of Government, entering from a website called, to name only a few. And for you last two, get back to work!...:)

Don't get me wrong, I don't mind at all, the more who read this blog the merrier. But I'm curious about how this blog ended up in the Namaste Knitters discussion forum. I'm assuming the hits are coming from a discussion forum given the url that shows up on my site meter.

So how 'bout it, y'all? Step up and introduce yourselves, don't be shy, leave some comments. I've heard that knitting is the new yoga, so give a holler.

and someone knit me a way cool yoga mat bag!


29 August 2007

out of the mouths of babes

This talk was given at the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development in 1992, aka Rio Earth.

In 1992 Severen was an amazing girl. Now she is an amazing woman. It's good to know that she is still fighting the good fight.

Ask yourself: how far have we come in 15 years regarding the things she is talking about? What are you doing for a greener earth and a sustainable environment?

Green Yoga Association

Earth Day is Every Day, not just a one day event in April.

feed the hungry, save the rainforest, buy books

If you look at the right sidebar you will see that I added four charity sites that make it extremely easy for you to donate on a daily basis, without spending a dime of your own money. How much easier could it be to think globally and act locally?

When you click the links, the charities work with their sponsors to buy books, donate cups of food, donate bowls of food for shelter animals, or donate money to preserve square footage of the rain forest.

In 2006 visitor clicks:

* funded over 29,000,000 bowls of food for shelter animals
* funded the preservation of 316,304,335 square feet of rainforest
* funded over 5,000,000 pounds of food for people
* funded over 300,000 books

Over 60% of the world's illiterate are women. For over 800,000,000 people in the world, hunger is a daily reality. There are millions of unwanted animals in US shelters. Millions of acres of the rainforest, the lungs of Mother Earth, are endangered on a daily basis.

To all of you who regularly visit this blog, and even those of you who visit once and never come back, please take four seconds to click each link. Those of you who visit every day, please click each link every time you visit. And those of you with your own blogs, please go to the sites and get the code to add a widget. You'll be accumulating positive merit for yourselves!

Think globally, act locally, we are One.

The Animal Rescue Site

The Hunger Site

The Literacy Site

The Rainforest Site

inappropriate yoga guy

Here's the video that has gotten over 1,000,000 hits already on YouTube, the "Inappropriate Yoga Guy". Today's Chicago Tribune ran the New York Times' story about "yoga dating" that used the Inappropriate Yoga Guy as an example.

I don't know about yoga classes anywhere else, but out here in White Bread (Mostly Republican) Suburbia in the far western suburbs of Chicago, I don't see guys like this. In fact, I see very few men in the yoga classes at the studio where I teach, and the ones that do come are certainly not SNAGs -- Sensitive New Age Guys. The men who come to classes are usually older (mid-40s to 60s) and move like blocks of concrete. They can barely move so I really don't think they come to yoga looking to pick up hot yoga babes. These guys are more concerned about making it through a 90 minute flow class without throwing their back out, forget about a hot date.

Even the few guys (average age 19-22) who enroll in my yoga class at the community college aren't looking to pick up yoga chicks. At least that's what they tell me when I ask on the first day, "who's in this class because you think it's an easy A or you think it's a good place to meet girls?". Yes, I really do ask that question on the first day, quasi-facetiously. I have more students looking for an easy A. And let me tell you, sometimes these young dudes aren't in any better shape than 60 year old men. Uttanasana with palms on the floor? That's about as realistic as a date with Lindsey Lohan for these boys.

Maybe it's different in places like California or New York. I only go to one studio in Chicago and the class I go to rarely has men in it. So the whole idea of "yoga dating" is a foreign concept to me. Frankly, even though I don't look my age, I'd fall over in shock if a guy looked twice at me anymore, whether in a yoga class or on the street.

As for men in general being into yoga, I can count the number I know on one hand. Again, I can only relate this to the area where I live, but I don't know of any women yoga teachers (or students) whose husbands/boyfriends do yoga. OK, I know one teacher whose husband takes my yin class, but that's about it.

So how 'bout it, readers? "Inappropriate Yoga Guy" -- fact or fiction?

27 August 2007

yoga dream

For Sale in Kerala, South India




I was told that 1 crore and 30 lakh is about $300,000 in US dollars. click on the above link and you'll see why it is my dream yoga shala.

mmmmmm...I can just imagine having a yoga and meditation center there, bringing in teachers I know like Gehlek Rimpoche, Paul Grilley, Sarah Powers, and Max Strom for retreats....

people have told me that since I love India so much, I should open a yoga shala in South India, along the same lines as shalas in Goa that are run by westerners. however, foreigners can not own property in India, especially property like this which is agricultural.

but one can always dream....

going with the flow

Do you ever have days where all your yoga and meditation training kicks in and you inhale peace and exhale gratitude? The last few days have been like that for me.

I have three cats and the two pictured are Jack and Sox. Sox is 16 and Jack is the grey tabby, 15 years old. They were both strays when they came into our lives. Jack has been diabetic for about nine years and I give him a shot of insulin every day.

Just like a human diabetic, he has his ups and downs. He has hypoglycemic crashes, which can very scary and heartrending. He goes through long periods where his diabetes is regulated and then his body goes wacky and I have to rush him to the last night.

When Jack begins to crash I try to help by giving him corn syrup to raise his glucose but last night it didn't work. His head starts shaking, he starts staggering around, his back legs go out on him, and he literally becomes blind. He is helpless. When we got him to the vet, his blood sugar was so low it did not even register on the glucose meter and his temperature was 95 degrees (cats are usually around 102.) The emergency vet started a glucose IV and put him on a heating pad. He is still at the vet's office as I type this. The bill for last night was $410.

On top of all this, starting today I am getting a hardwood floor refinished. After the carpet was pulled up the refinisher told me that some of the spots were so badly damaged by cat urine that the wood has to be replaced, adding $400-$600 to the original cost and an extra day. The reason there's cat urine is that (1) Jack is diabetic, and (2) he's an old cat, and old cats sometimes forget to use the cat box.

Yes, Jack is problematic and over the years he has cost us a lot of money in vet bills, but in good conscience I can not put him to sleep to make things easier for us. I know that many people would put a cat like Jack to sleep and have no second thoughts about it. I know that people put their pets to sleep when the cost of vet care becomes too much and they can no longer afford to care for them. I know that some people would take a cat like Jack and dump him on an expressway or out in the country. There are many throw-away animals in this world.

But I can not put Jack to sleep, he is not suffering on a daily basis. He still eats well, he still gets around, and sometimes he still runs around like a kitten. A friend once described him as a "lover."

As for the floor, the refinisher was more upset than I was about the added cost and extra day. But I looked him in the eye and I said "I'm a yoga teacher, and if there's one thing I've learned, that's to go with the flow." I told him that things can always be worse and I am not going to get upset about things that I have no control over. I told him that I am not going to create my own suffering by becoming upset. He said that I was right and that maybe he should remember that for himself in the future.

Yeah, I wish I did not have a diabetic cat, I wish he did not cost beaucoup bucks to keep well, I wish the floor job wasn't going to cost an extra $500 because of him. But wishing for reality to be something other than it is creates suffering. I am not going to dwell on those negatives because things can always be worse. I am just grateful that we are in a position to be able to afford these emergencies, many people can not. There was a time back in the day when I could not. There was a time back in the day when I could not afford medical care for myself.

I try to live my life from a state of abundance, and not with the attitude of lack. I know people who have much more than I have materially, yet they live their lives as if they are lacking something.

I am grateful for all that I have...even for an old sick cat.

26 August 2007

are you peaceful today?

You Are 85% Peaceful

You are the epitome of inner peace and total calm.
You are grounded, emotionally mature, and very wise.
While no one's life is perfect, you have a great amount of perspective on the world - and your place in it.

I don't know about being the "epitome", but I've been told I don't swear half as much as I used to...:)

peace, love, dove, y'all....

25 August 2007

stop me before I quiz again!

You Should Be A Poet

You craft words well, in creative and unexpected ways.
And you have a great talent for evoking beautiful imagery...
Or describing the most intense heartbreak ever.
You're already naturally a poet, even if you've never written a poem.

wow! how weird...because I used to write poetry, and in fact, was chosen as one of Illinois' best high school poets (about 100 years ago!) and won awards for my poetry in college.

my creative writing teacher in college inscribed his book to me..."to Linda...who oughtta write and if she doesn't, oughtta get kicked, hard and swift..."

Your Hidden Talent

You have the natural talent of rocking the boat, thwarting the system.

And while this may not seem big, it can be.

It's people like you who serve as the catalysts to major cultural changes.

You're just a bit behind the scenes, so no one really notices.

"It's people like you who serve as the catalysts to major cultural changes" astrologer and two spiritual adepts have told me that my path is to be part of a "major global shift in consciousness" that my natal chart shows happening after 2010... "destroyer of cultural myths", that's me!

I just go with the flow.

23 August 2007

obama's response about China

Some time ago after I watched a debate between the Democratic presidential candidates where they discussed the situation in Darfur, I wrote letters to my US Senators, Dick Durbin and Barack Obama. The debate angered me because all the candidates were sanctimoniously decrying China's human rights abuses, how China was somehow linked to the conflict in Sudan, and because of that, the US should boycott the Olympics. Of course, none of the candidates came out too strongly about the last point, just gave it passing lipservice, and moved on to the next talking point.

It made me angry because while what is happening in Sudan is a tragedy, no politician that I know of EVER mentions the cultural and human genocide that has been going on in Tibet since the 1950s.

So I wrote to Durbin and Obama via their websites, reminding them of the situation in Tibet and that I believe the US should boycott the 2008 Olympics. Below is the email response I received from Obama.

Dear Linda:

Thank you for contacting me with your concerns about human rights in the People's Republic of China. I appreciate your perspective on this issue.

As the world's most populous nation, China's influence and power has been growing steadily over the past several decades. This is likely to continue for the foreseeable future, and presents America with challenges and opportunities to seek change.

In particular, China's treatment of ethnic and religious minorities and political dissidents, as well as its relationships with Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Tibet are very troubling. Despite progress over the last few decades, China must do much more to comply with modern human rights norms. I look forward to working with my colleagues on these difficult issues and am deeply committed to promoting human rights in China and other countries.

As a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and the East Asian Subcommittee, I will keep your thoughts in mind as the discussion on this subject continues.

Thank you again for contacting me. I hope you will continue to keep in touch on this or any other subject of importance to you.


Barack Obama
United States Senator

hmmmmmm...why don't I believe him?

I am not naive enough to believe that this came from Obama directly. I know this came from a staffer who merely filled in the blanks. But at least this is a better response than the one I got from Durbin's office. Durbin's "personal" email response was a fill-in-the-blank, stock response to a constituent's concern about Darfur, I kid you not. Whoever responds to the emails sent through Durbin's website did not even bother to read my letter but sent me a canned response about Darfur. There was not one mention of Tibet, it was all about Sudan. My tax dollars at work. Needless to say I swiftly sent a scathing response -- which I doubt anyone read.

Sorry if I sound jaded and cynical, but Obama's (staffer's) response to me doesn't mean very much. Frankly, I think it's a joke. He's too busy running for president to give 2 rupees about Tibet. Do any of these candidates even know where Tibet is?

Don't get me wrong, I think Obama is a great guy and he's been a good senator for my state. But the actions of this government never fail to disappoint and disgust me. You can read one example here in Vanessa's blog. I know a few die-hard conservatives who truly believe that this government has slipped dangerously close to Fascism -- and these are died-in-the-wool-life-long-registered-Republicans talking.

In India people feel free to talk to me about US politics and this country's actions around the world. I love this country, but sometimes all I can do is shake my head.

22 August 2007

boycotting Chinese products

As if we needed another reason to boycott Chinese products -- tainted toothpaste, pet food, and toys with lead paint just weren't enough...

From the Tibetan news website:

Latest threat from China: Toxic Clothes?

Here's a good reason to wash new clothes before putting them on infants and children: A New Zealand television station is reporting that "scientists found formaldehyde in woolen and cotton clothes at 500 times higher than is safe."

UK trading standards are on alert after Chinese-made clothes in New Zealand were discovered to have up to 900 times the safe level of formaldehyde in them. Formaldehyde is used to protect clothes that have to be shipped great distances against mildew. However, long-term exposure to high levels can be harmful, causing problems ranging from minor skin rashes to some types of cancer.

The latest safety alert over cheap Chinese goods was sounded in New Zealand. It has been passed on to trading standards officials in Britain.

"Any consumer worried about harm caused by clothes they have bought should contact the retailer or report their concerns to trading standards," a spokesman for the Government's new department for business, enterprise and regulatory reform said.

For more information you can visit the No More Made in China website

Find more photos like this on No More Made in China


Not China has a list of China-free shopping:

* American Apparel
* American Plastics Toys
* Blessed Nest
* Born Free Baby Products
* Buy
* Corelle (Kitchen-ware)
* Crayola Crayons
* Holgatetoy
* ImagiPlay
* Justice Clothing
* Made In USA Products
* Maple and Mark
* Shop for America
* Still Made In USA .com
* Story Board Toys
* Toys Made In America
* Uncle Goose Toys
* US Made Toys
* Whittle Shortline Railroad
* Zebulon USA
* Zebulon USA- Toys

My reason for boycotting Chinese products is purely political -- I support a free Tibet. Mommy Zabs, who started Not China, says, "Not everyone may feel led to ban or boycott China. But I am asking you to be aware, read labels, pay attention to just how much we as parents buy from China. It’s alarming." I don't have children, but do it for yours.

I have always said, BE AWARE, READ LABELS, LIVE MINDFULLY. If you think one person can not affect change, you are wrong, and I will write about that at a later date.

So, yes, it IS possible not to buy products made in China if one shops mindfully and not automatically. Don't mindlessly hop over to Wal-Mart -- #3 on the Top Ten Corporate Villians of the Planet list -- just because it's "easy" or "cheap."

20 August 2007

please support our sponsors

Commercial time for Mindful Shopping...

I've gathered the ads of a few companies that I have purchased from and have become their affiliate. Some sell organic products and/or donate a portion of their proceeds to global causes -- if I was not familiar with their products I would not recommend them.

For the yoga teachers out there, I've bought bolsters from for my private students and they love them, plus you can download music for your classes from Find Bliss. I've bought turmeric/ginger capsules from Organic India for my arthritis and use it regularly. The Y Catalog's website states that 10% of everything you spend "will go towards changing the world." If you need yoga books, click on the Amazon link, although I recommend supporting your local independent book store first!

BUT! If anyone buys anything from any of these sites and the product is made in China, please let me know and I will cancel my affiliation with them. Immediately.

Mucho thanks...and shanti!

yoga = recycling

Yoginis, do you recycle?

You might want to read more about "recycling" in this article.

"These women care about their looks and are keen on keeping up with the latest trends....They've finished raising their kids and want to enjoy being fashionable again," Ando says. "They're the types who use eco bags while shopping and drive hybrid cars. They have a strong awareness of protecting the environment. And they have no worries about going back to old boyfriends. That's why I call what they're doing 'recycling sex.'... "

And a wife doing yoga should also get alarm bells ringing, according to another "recycling sex" wife.
[emphasis added.]

"I don't know whether yoga increases your female hormones, or what, but since I've been doing yoga it's made sex feel so much better for me," [emphasis added].... "Yoga improves your shape and I always have an excuse for getting out of the house by telling my husband I've got a yoga session on."

earth day every day, I say...

19 August 2007

i'm not the only one

Those of you who have been reading this blog for a while know that I try not to buy things made in China as a one-person protest of China's occupation of Tibet. I've also written about Mindful Shopping (what a concept!) here and about how difficult it is to find things that are not made in China.

So it did my heart good today to read this story in the Chicago Tribune about another woman who tried to stop buying things made in China -- for a different reason, but it is her protest just the same. I thought I was the only one who diligently read labels!

A family tries 12 months without 'Made in China'

Strike China from the shopping list? Good luck. One experiment highlights how much U.S. consumers rely on those imports.

By Mary Ellen Podmolik | Special to the Tribune
August 19, 2007

Is it possible to live without Chinese-made goods?

That's what Sara Bongiorni wanted to know, and after a year of a self-imposed embargo, she said she's thankful her telephone didn't break because she fears she might have broken down herself and bought a replacement made in China.

The Baton Rouge, La., mom and her family did make do, however, without a coffeepot, a blender, birthday candles and a lot of toys.

"We knew it would be difficult but until we did this, we really didn't know how much we rely on imports for everyday things," Bongiorni said....

The story gives tips on boycotting Chinese goods:

- Don't expect friends and family to join in.

- Be prepared to go without convenience items, like an inexpensive coffeemaker.

- Get out your magnifying glass to look at tiny print on boxes and labels.

- When ordering from catalogs and Web sites, be prepared to make phone calls asking for the item's country of origin.

- Dig deeper. Some toys from Danish firm Lego, for example, are made in China.

- Brush up on geography. You'll have to decide whether Hong Kong and Macau are part of the boycott.

On the Students for a Free Tibet website it says that "in December 2002, a worldwide coalition of Tibetan and Chinese organizations and human rights and labor advocates launched an international Boycott Made in China campaign designed to level economic pressure on the Chinese government to end its occupation of Tibet. In a coordinated effort to urge people to stop buying goods made in China, activists throughout Canada, the United States, New Zealand, Europe and India, are educating consumers about what their money is supporting when they buy 'Made in China.'

The Boycott Made in China campaign, representing a worldwide coalition of Tibetan and Chinese organizations and human rights and labour advocates, plans to put the brakes on China's crimes through the power of the individual consumer. Campaign organizers believe that, more than any other force that could be bought to bear against China, the latent power of the free, informed and responsible consumer can pressure the world's last surviving giant Communist dictatorship to allow the Tibetan nation and the Chinese people the freedom they have been long denied."

Tucked away comfortably in our small towns or suburban subdivisions, ALL of us are a part of the bigger global picture. Our choices DO affect change, one person at a time.

Sorry if this sounds judgmental, but THINK, PEOPLE! Mindfulness is a life practice. Mindfulness is a choice. THINK about where your food comes from. THINK about where your clothes come from -- are they made by companies in foreign sweatshops that employ child labor? The three biggest corporate villains for clothing are Wal-Mart, Sam's Club, and Dilliards. THINK about whether the cosmetics you buy are tested on animals. The biggest corporate villains for cosmetics insofar as animal testing and using known carcinogens are Maybelline, L'Oreal, Almay, and Revlon.

Think outside the box. Think mindfulness. Be mindfulness. Be aware.


18 August 2007

what city are you, and other things

You Are Austin

A little bit country, a little bit rock and roll.

You're totally weird and very proud of it.

Artistic and freaky, you still seem to fit in... in your own strange way.

I knew that. but I hated living in Texas.

Your Inner Retro Girl Is

1960s Hippie Chick

Tommy Lee Shares Your Taste in Music

See his whole playlist here (iTunes required)

...and tattoos.

The Movie Of Your Life Is A Cult Classic

Quirky, offbeat, and even a little campy - your life appeals to a select few.
But if someone's obsessed with you, look out! Your fans are downright freaky.

Your best movie matches: Office Space, The Big Lebowski

actually two of my fave movies.

You Are a Flashy Red Bra!

Outgoing, friendly, and fascinating.
You're a charmer, with your pick of the men.
But you want a man who's as magnetic as you are.
You need someone who can keep up with your all night gab fests!

yeah, I do have one or two.

Your Gemstone is Ruby

Daring, enthusiastic, and spontaneous.
You are energetic and passionate, with an appetite for life.

red seems to be the operative word. red = root chakra = groundedness or lack of it.....hmmmmmm......

now what other blog can you read that has pictures of red bras, Tommy Lee, the Dalai Lama, and political news about Tibet? Not many. I'm nothing if not eclectic.

17 August 2007

feel good Friday

I borrowed the idea for this post from Vanessa -- I love her blog, so check it out. It's not about yoga, but it's all about spirit. Thanks, girlfriend!

Many of you are too young to remember Sly and the Family Stone, but I loved Sly. The band was old school funk, and being brought up on the south side of Chicago, I loved that the band was "mixed." I also loved the blond wig on Sly's sister, so out there and in your face. Plus I had a thing for the sax player, but I had a thing for all sax players back in the day.

When I was in high school in the '70s, I had the "honor" of being at a Sly Stone concert in Grant Park, Chicago, when a riot broke out. My friends and I ditched school to go to this free concert -- peace, love, dove, baby. You might remember their album "There's a Riot Goin' On" -- uh, yeah, I was there.

Sly had the reputation of not showing up for concerts and when people started to figure out that he was a no-show, they got a little hot under the collar. Unfortunately, so did the infamous Chicago Police when they saw people ripping the stage apart and stealing instruments. Tear gas really doesn't smell good, y'all.

So enjoy the funk and be yourself.


16 August 2007

will the real reincarnated Buddha please stand up?

Starting September 1, all reincarnated living Buddhas will first have to be approved by the Chinese government.

Excerpts from a recent news story on the website

"...The measures, which are deliberately targeted at one of the core belief systems of Tibetan Buddhism, reveal the Party's agenda to undermine and supplant the Tibetan religious hierarchy and weaken the authority of legitimate Tibetan religious leaders including the Dalai Lama....

The new "management measures for the reincarnation of living Buddhas in Tibetan Buddhism", which are described by the official press as "an important move to institutionalize the management of reincarnation" [emphasis added] were passed by the State Administration of Religious Affairs (SARA) for implementation from September 1. The Chinese authorities use the term 'Living Buddhas' to describe reincarnate lamas or tulkus, individuals who have consciously decided to be reborn, often many times, for the benefit of all others...

In the measures, the State Administration for Religious Affairs states that reincarnations of 'living Buddhas' who do not have government approval are "illegal or invalid" [emphasis added], which is intended to convey that the Tibetan system of recognizing and educating reincarnate lamas is no longer relevant, because it is the government that decides whether a reincarnation is a legitimate religious figure or not. The government intends this to apply even to tulkus who have been recognized some years ago by Tibetan religious authorities, as part of their systematic attempts to undermine the traditional religious hierarchy in Tibet....

These measures on reincarnation, and the fact that China continues to hold in custody the boy recognized by the Dalai Lama as the 11th Panchen Lama, Gendun Choekyi Nyima, are also part of the government's efforts to ensure they are in a position of control over the next incarnation of the Dalai Lama [emphasis added]. But the Dalai Lama has clearly placed on record on numerous occasions that if the present situation regarding Tibet remains the same, he will be reincarnated outside Tibet away from the control of the Chinese authorities. Tibetans believe that individuals such as the Dalai Lama who have gained a high enough degree of meditative stabilization can choose their next rebirth..."

The notion that the Chinese government will now "govern" reincarnation strikes me as not only ridiculous but also Kafka-esque. The idea that "living Buddhas" need to be "approved" by the Chinese government would be hilarious if it weren't so sad. It sounds like a good Seinfeld episode where instead of the Soup Nazi there would be the Buddha Nazi: "WHAT?!? YOU DON'T HAVE OFFICIAL GOVERNMENT APPROVAL TO BE A BUDDHA! GO AWAY! NO ENLIGHTENMENT FOR YOU TODAY!"

(Sigh)...don't they know that everyone has buddha-nature?

I am curious to know what Chinese Buddhists think of this ruling. But since the number of readers from China stopped at 30 a long time ago which leads me to believe that this blog has been blocked in China, I guess we won't be getting any comments posted from that country. That's OK - I've been banned from more than a few places in my life (insert winking smiley.)

"I vow to awaken for the benefit of all beings, and to realize its immense value, and to know that it is possible in this life regardless of conditions."




15 August 2007

happy independence day, Ma India

Today is India's Independence Day. Sixty years ago today the world's largest democracy was born. This video is a performance of India's national song.

I have only been to India twice and will return to south India in January 2008 for my third trip. It's been said that if one is tired of India, one is tired of life.

Good, bad, or indifferent, I love India. When my foot first hit Indian soil, I felt like I had come home. I stepped out of the Chennai airport at about 2 AM, stopping for a few moments to take everything in, just as an animal does when you open the door for its escape -- it stops and sniffs the air and you can see its nostrils flare, and the eyes trying to take everything in at once, and you can see the hair rise almost imperceptibly on its neck, before it bounds away, never to look back. I felt free and powerful and alive. That night was my independence day.

There is not a day that goes by since I returned from my first trip that I do not think about India, the people I met there, the experiences I've had. My fourth and fifth trips are seeds in my mind's garden, waiting to sprout -- Rajasthan, then the Kumbh Mela. I travel to India alone, a solo female traveler of a certain age, which is just the way I like it.

Home is where the heart is, and my heart is in India.

13 August 2007

"yoga unveiled"

I highly recommend this movie to all yogis and to non-yogis who want to understand what traditional yoga is all about. This documentary came out last year and contains interviews and clips of many of the Indian and western yoga biggies, as well as old shots of Krishnamacharya and Indra Devi. However, I was disappointed that the filmmakers did not mention my teacher, Srivatsa Ramaswami, who studied with Krishnamacharya for over 30 years. There is also some good analysis on the state of yoga in the west.

Of course I loved all the scenes in India...FYI, the yogi in padmasana in the opening scene of this video sample is Lara, who was the asana demonstrator in my month-long 2005 intensive at the Krishnamacharya Yoga Mandiram. The ancient yogi carving in my photograph above can be seen at Mahabalipuram, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, a bus ride outside of Chennai.

11 August 2007

no attachment, no aversion

What would happen to pain if we did not label it as such? What would happen if we turned to face our obstacles instead of pushing them away?

I teach vinyasa flow and yin yoga. Yin yoga is a style that is still unfamiliar to many yoga students. It doesn't make you sweat and you don't feel like you've gotten a "workout" -- "you mean you're not moving? you're just on the floor? no way can I do pigeon for 10 minutes, are you kidding?!?"

I believe that if you have strictly a "yang" practice like astanga or vinyasa, you are only giving yourself half the gift of yoga.

Because of my training with Paul Grilley and Sarah Powers and my own personal yoga and meditation practices, I feel that a yin/yang yoga practice offers a complete practice not only on the physical level, but more importantly on the psychic level. Working on these deeper levels is what leads to our personal transformation, and the changes we make in our soft tissue have a profound influence on the emotional, mental, and energetic levels. My own yoga practice deepened when I moved away from an alignment-based, precision-obsessed practice.

A quiet yin practice reveals our subtle body. We move from the gross muscular level into our bones, into the connective tissue deep within us. Many yoga students don't practice in a way that invites stillness because many times the contemplative aspects of yoga are ignored in western yoga classes. How many of you sit in stillness for 10-15 minutes DURING a vinyasa class, i.e., at the end of class, not AFTER the class, only as an option? My study at the Krishnamacharya Yoga Mandiram in India showed me how different yoga is there compared to the fitness classes labeled as yoga here.

In my training with Sarah earlier this year she said that "yoga is a process of fully inhabiting ourselves -- body, heart, and mind." Sarah believes that as a society we are so fixated on our bodies looking and performing a certain way that we neglect the spirit body. She said that Ken Wilber calls this "bodyism", and I see it all the time in vinyasa classes.

There is nothing wrong in trying to perfect an arm balance or headstand, nothing at all. But if the only thing behind it is Ego, then it is only a performance. Non-attachment, non-Ego, is accepting yourself just the way you are in that present moment when your legs smash the wall and you crash down from a very shaky headstand -- and smiling about it instead of swearing. I ask my students, "what is going to ultimately transform you? holding an arm balance for five minutes or sitting in stillness for five minutes?"

The stillness of yin yoga allows us to observe the rising and passing away of physical and emotional sensations. All of our life experiences reside in our body, and the emotional afflictions we all carry affects the body and hardens us, physically, mentally, and emotionally. Yin yoga is not just about cultivating physical flexibility, but our inner flexibility as well. Sarah believes that we can never truly soften if we do not investigate these sensations and turn toward our pain and discomfort, instead of running from them. This process is similar to vipassana meditation -- watching, arising, abiding, passing away.

Sarah's teacher training included a workshop called "Working with Emotional Obstacles Along the Path." She suggests that we explore our personal responses to our sensations, and instead of pushing them away, confront them, because if we do not, our obstacles continue to live in our bodies. Sarah recommends a five step process:

* Recognition -- Identify what is disturbing you the most. Emotional pain, illness, addiction, self-hate?

* Acceptance -- Acknowledge the issue and explore how and where it lives inside you. Does it have a shape, color, size, temperature, texture?

* Impartiality -- Let go of defining the issue as right or wrong. Let go of assumptions and just observe.

* Personification -- Imagine this issue as a living being in front of you. Notice its gender, color, size, etc. Ask It what It needs of You, and if this need is met, how does that make You feel?

* Compassion -- Give yourself permission to have this need as you begin to open to the expansiveness and clarity of your newfound Awareness.

Yoga, done with mindfulness, allows us to come home to ourselves.

(Yoga Sutra-s 1.3)
"Then, the ability to understand the object fully and correctly is apparent."

"In the state of Yoga, the different preconceptions and products of the imagination that can prevent or distort understanding are controlled, reduced, or eliminated. The tendency to be closed to fresh comprehension or the inability to comprehend are overcome." (Reflections on Yoga Sutra-s of Patanjali, TKV Desikachar)

09 August 2007

good blogs and good laughs

Taking a break from writing about serious things, I want to highlight some good stuff I've read lately:

Flower Girl's Rural India
Flower Girl's blog is "all about Indian culture and customs, religion and rituals". Her latest post is about the boat races in Kerala. Kerala is a state in India that's on the Arabian Sea completely on the opposite side of south India from where I always go, and where I will spend 5 days in January doing yoga, getting ayurvedic massages, and hopefully ride an elephant!

Flower Girl also has her other blogs linked to this one, one of which is a blog with all types of Indian food recipes, some of which are to die for!

India Outside My Window is all about "the colors, sights, and sounds of South India." What is nice about this blog is that there are sound clips where you can listen to the sounds of India. The one clip I listened to was the train -- I closed my eyes and listened and it took me back to my train ride from Rameswaram to Chennai, when we stopped in the stations and I heard the chai and food vendors calling out what they had for sale.

Shirley Two Feathers' blog Mandala Madness is "an eclectic mixture of mandala art, poetry, and inspirational quotes to expand, enrich, and enliven your experience in the now moment."

Images like this one can be downloaded to use as your computer's wallpaper and you can also buy mandala prints.

I've written before about Scott Carney's blog "Trailing Technology" (see blog links in the sidebar) and his latest post is about singing. In that post you'll find this link to his story on NPR radio: A culture of song in India's Tamil Nadu.

Scott says, "I love the radio in Chennai. When I'm driving around the city I always tune into FM rainbow and listen to a daily game show called Aantakshri. The game is really simple. One caller starts singing a few bars of a song. They stop and then repeat the last sound from the last line of the song. The second caller starts singing some other song that starts with that last sound. It's sort of like musical chairs, but with singing."

It's very true that if you stop and listen hard enough, you'll hear someone's voice singing somewhere amongst the cacophony of the dogs barking, the car horns blaring, and the temple music on the Chennai streets.

Home is where the heart is and my heart is in India.

If you like MadTV watch this episode . Michael McDonald's character, the rotund and always hilarious, Marvin Tikva, takes a yoga class. I laughed so hard I almost fell out of my chair.

For those of you who know The Jamie Kennedy Experiment, this video needs no explanation. Jamie plays a substitute yoga teacher and most of the students in the class get "X-ed" -- watch the expressions on the students' faces!

Finally, scroll all the way to the bottom of this blog and you'll see my Meez 3D ID. It's not animated here, but if you want your own little animated version of you -- and who wouldn't? -- click on the link and get your own. It's free and enter my code "lindias" so we both can get some "coinz".


08 August 2007

the countdown begins

China Tightens Control of Tibetans

"BEIJING (Reuters) - Reincarnations of "living Buddhas" in Tibet which fail to get Chinese government approval are illegal and invalid, China has announced as it tightens control of a region still deemed loyal to the Dalai Lama.

The regulations coincide with reports from an ethnically Tibetan region of the southwestern province of Sichuan that dozens of people had been arrested for using a traditional festival to call for the return of their exiled spiritual leader.

Critics say China continues to repress Tibetans' religious aspirations, especially their veneration for the Dalai Lama, the Nobel Peace Prize winner whom China denounces as a "separatist".

But the Dalai Lama is already 72 and some have accused China of delaying holding talks with him, waiting for him to die when they would name a new Dalai Lama of their own, loyal to Beijing...."

Tibetans hold massive rally to shame Olympics host China

"NEW DELHI, Aug 8: Thousands of Tibetans marched through New Delhi on Wednesday, shouting slogans and waving flags in protest against China's actions in Tibet at the start of the one-year countdown to the Beijing Olympics.

In one of the biggest rallies by Tibetans in India, about 10,000 Tibetans, including maroon-robed Buddhist monks and women in traditional costumes, bellowed their demands, asking China to prove it was upholding the rights of people living in Tibet.

"The essence of the Olympics is equality, but we do not have equality in Tibet," said Kalsang Godrukpa, president of the Tibetan Youth Congress, the main organiser of the rally.

"China doesn't deserve the Olympics until Tibet is free," he told reporters, as protesters marched by wearing yellow baseball caps and waving Tibetan flags and giant posters of the Dalai Lama, Tibet's exiled spiritual leader..."

The Dalai Lama calls on Tibetans to end hunger strike: Day 31

"New Delhi, August 7: In a letter (Original in Tibetan) addressed to “the Fourteen patriotic and courageous Tibetans on hunger strike and the organizers” Tibetan leader His Holiness the Dalai Lama has today called on them to discontinue with the Indefinite Hunger Strike going on in New Delhi.

Mr Tempa Tsering, Kalon for Information and International Relations, Central Tibetan Administration today visited the indefinite hunger strikers to convey His Holiness the Dalai Lama's appeal to immediately end their strike.

14 Tibetans have been on Tibetan Youth Congress led Indefinite Hunger Strike in Jantar Mantar, New Delhi since July 8. Today is their 31st day and are demanding direct response from China for violating the rights of Tibetan people in Tibet..."

The Chinese government does not allow its citizens to access websites that have any references to freedom for Tibet. The number of my readers from China stopped at 30 a long time ago.

Either billions of Chinese think my rants and musings are totally worthless, or it looks like I've been banned in China.




06 August 2007

the color of yoga

I'm throwing the question out there: why is western yoga so overwhelmingly white?

In my six years of teaching (and longer as a student) I've been to numerous yoga workshops, trainings, and conferences, and I can't help but notice the dearth of people of color at these events.

This topic is one of my yoga rants, together with ageism in yoga marketing in this country, but you don't see these topics discussed in Yoga Journal -- and that also bugs me.

As for black yogis, I know of Rolf Gates, Alice Walker, Becky Love, a Chicago yoga teacher, and Ty Powers. There is also the International Association of Black Yoga Teachers whose mission is "to serve the African Diaspora by spreading the teachings of the ancient art and science of yoga." As for black yoga students, I can count on one hand how many I've had. One of the places I teach is a community college with many African-American and Hispanic students, but in my four years there, the majority of my students are white.

Even when I go into Chicago to my teacher's studio to take his classes, a studio that is in a hip, diverse area, the majority of students are white.

I teach karma yoga at a domestic violence shelter to the Hispanic Women's Support Group. These women love the time they have for themselves. They love having the opportunity to meditate in a quiet place, an opportunity they usually don't have at home with kids and with men who don't support them emotionally.

Once a newspaper reporter interviewed me and some of the shelter's students about yoga for battered women, and one woman said she would love to see more yoga offered in their community, but she felt that many Hispanics might not be receptive to it, mainly because of their religions (Baptist, Catholic, and Jehovah's Witness in my area.) One woman stopped coming to my class because her minister - a Jehovah's Witness -- told her that yoga was evil and she would go to hell if she kept doing yoga. The group leader told me this and she said that the woman felt badly about it because she loved the way yoga made her feel, but she felt she had to listen to her minister over and above what she felt inside her.

I know that the cost of attending yoga classes can be prohibitive for people in lower-income areas. When one has to pay the rent, buy food, pay the utility bills, and buy clothes for the kids, yoga classes are a luxury even when offered at less expensive venues such as park districts or community centers. Are people of color in higher income brackets doing yoga or going on meditation retreats? It seems to me that people in lower-income areas -- black, brown, or white -- should have the same access to alternative healing modalities such as yoga, acupuncture, massage, reiki, and meditation that my white upper middle class students have. Local area yoga teachers and other healers could offer these modalities through seva service.

But as for the yoga business itself in the west, and the population of yoga teachers in the United States, how culturally diverse is it...really? Again, what about the way yoga is marketed in the west, how "colorful" are the ads in yoga magazines? Is yoga marketed predominately to the white community? If that's the game plan of advertisers, why? Is it solely about economics and demographics?

Or is yoga just a white thang?

It all makes me go...hmmmmmmm.......

05 August 2007

may all beings be free from suffering

Many of you already know about Michael Vick, the Atlanta Falcons quarterback who's been accused of running a dog-fighting operation out of his Bad Newz Kennels (I guess he can throw a football but he can't spell.) Here's a dude making a gazillion dollars playing football and the knucklehead thinks he's a big bad thug in the 'hood. And if the dog-fighting isn't bad enough, he's charged with other counts of animal abuse because he killed the dogs that did not perform to his standards by hanging, beating, or electrocuting them. These are the sports role models that kids have to look up to today. Athletes like Walter Payton are probably rolling in their graves. By the way, the above picture is NOT Michael Vick -- Russell Simmons is a hip-hop record producer AND a yogi.

Yeah, yeah, I know that everyone is "innocent" until proven guilty, but as Vanessa writes about Michael Vick here and here, Vick's co-defendant is singing like a canary and unless the ghost of Johnny Cochran appears, Vick is history just like his dogs.

As a Buddhist I believe in karma, cause and effect, what goes around comes around. And I'm thinking that when Vick goes to that football stadium in the sky, he's coming back as a pit bull or one of the small animals like a cat or rabbit -- sometimes stolen, but also procured from those "free to a good home" ads -- that those oh so macho guys throw in the ring to give their dogs a taste of blood. There is a special place in the hell realms for Vick and others like him.

As much as Michael Vick's actions sicken me, I also feel sorry for him, believe it or not. I am an animal lover to the core, and Gandhi said that "the greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated." When I hear about animal abuse or child abuse or abuse of any kind, I wonder what was so lacking in someone's life that they have no hesitation whatsoever to inflict such suffering on another living thing. I wonder how someone can be so completely shut down that they don't even realize what they are doing, especially ultimately to themselves.

I want Vick prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law, but man, what is it that makes him think that there is nothing wrong in what he did? What is in the deepest recess of his soul that takes pleasure in watching dogs tear each other apart and then think nothing of hanging the loser? I read that Vick was the "big money man" at the dog fights and would bet thousands of dollars on his was it greed? Buddha said that all the misery in the world is caused by three things: attachment, aversion, and ignorance.

Many people suffer at the hands of their abusers but do not become abusers themselves. Many people grow up amidst violence but somehow rise above it to have peaceful hearts. Why is it one way for some and not for others? Karma...and choices.

During a dharma reading to my yoga class this morning, I thought about Michael Vick. The Buddhist writer wrote that if we look beneath the surface deeply enough, we begin to realize that everyone wants the same thing: that everyone, no matter who they are, wishes for happiness and freedom from suffering. I've heard the Dalai Lama say that true compassion is seeing everyone as ourselves and seeing ourselves in other people.

I believe that every human heart is capable of the Four Immeasurables -- love, compassion, joy, and equanimity -- sigh...even people like Michael Vick. If I did not believe it, I would not be a Buddhist.

Maybe Michael Vick should be sentenced to do some community service with Little Lotus Hearts. Little Lotus Hearts provides services to people who have a deep love and respect for animals. As Tibetan Buddhist practitioners, the founders believe in the Buddhist teaching that all sentient beings are equal, in that they all wish for happiness and the avoidance of suffering.

Might be a good place for him to start practicing compassion and ahimsa. Once he gets out of jail.

03 August 2007

free your mind for change

Change is good.

Every few years or so I get into a frenzy about changing things inside my house -- new furniture or changing the old furniture around, painting a light colored room something dark and rich. Of course, "change" is much more involved than just changing your furniture. Personal change, personal transformation, is much more important.

I found this while surfing around and fell in love with these words:

"Join forces with the dynamic flow of life. The African-American theologian Howard Thurman said: "Don't ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs are people who have come alive.'"

mmmmmm....that really resonates with me...."what the world needs are people who have come alive."

But to initiate change, you must free your mind, you must be open to change, whether it's a bold new color for your bathroom or a bold new color for your soul. Maybe you've longed for years to take that initial step outside the life you've been living; maybe you're tired of living someone else's life and not your own. Maybe you know deep in your spirit that it's finally time to speak your truth, to finally open that throat chakra. What are you waiting for?

I've written before that I get my own personal messages from The Universe (insert wink-wink emoticon here.) Some are fun, some make me go hmmmmmmm..... One from this week reads:

"Live your dreams now to any degree that you can. With every purchase. Every decision. Every hello and goodbye. Every assignment. Every conversation. Every meal. Every morning, afternoon, and evening. And never, ever, ever look back.

Reframe every thought, word, and deed from the perspective of the person you've always dreamed you'd be, as if your life was already as you've always dreamed it would be. Die to yesterday's illusions and be reborn to the truth of your vision...."

As En Vogue sang, "free your mind and the rest will follow, be color blind, don't be so shallow..." They were singing about race and prejudice, but the "free your mind" mantra applies to life in general.

But I'll let the original Funky Divas kickstart your change...give a listen and give it your heart and free your mind...

Kick it, ladies...