Tag Archives: Yoga Union Community Wellness Center

Rushing to Relax

Every sane person recognizes the ridiculous contradiction involved with rushing to relax, and yet the contradiction can ensnare us all. We know the hazards of stress, and we have experienced great relief through practicing yoga, and so we often spend some portion of our day blitzing toward our hour and a half of tranquility on the safe haven of our yoga mat. We know stress is unhealthy and we know that yoga helps, but in today’s rat race how can we attune ourselves at work, or in the car, or when communicating with our family, so that we don’t end up rushing tired and anxious to the mat for relief?

I recently found myself caught in this contradiction while driving to the Wanderllust Festival for ten days of yoga bliss in Squaw Valley, Northern California. We left a day early in an attempt to reduce potential stressors­– two tweens and an eighteen-month-old baby were sure to provide enough of that. In spite of our efforts, however, a drive that map-quested at 11.5 hours and started out as a conscious act of tranquility ended 38 blood-boiling hours later.

Somewhere between fixing a flat tire in 100 degrees on the I5 shoulder and breaking the bad news to the family that I’d driven us 2.5 hours in the wrong direction, I became acutely aware of my biggest folly yet. I had been rushing to relax! I started wondering: How did this happen? Why is it happening to me? When did I loose mindfulness? Although I had become aware of my contradiction, how could I pull myself out now? My body ached for the harmonious mat moments, which felt like they would never come.

Stress is a dense fog that clouds your head. It stuffs your brain with life’s dirty laundry; it fires your eyes with mirages like heat evaporating on a desert road; you contract and suffocate as if encoiled by a python. Your breath shortens, your blood pressure rises, your palms sweat, your vision fogs, your thoughts dull–the tension engulfs you, chokes you in its deadly grip. How can you ever escape? I credit my all my teachers of both yoga and life for honing my consciousness to a degree that lets me sometimes find my way to a pinhole of clarity in the haze of stress.

The asana practice is essential for attuning to a sense of self free from the drama of circumstances that life throws at us. Each of us is composed of layer upon layer of identity. On the surface, we are sensitive, vulnerable, and reactive to all that occurs around and inside us. This is good, as it allows us to engage fully in relationships. And although it’s often intense, it is always good to be alive.

Deeper into the core of our being there is an observer, a self that can even witness our own reactions. Times of stress offer a blessing in disguise–a potent moment of opportunity to experience a deep sense of self and a radical opening to the world. Imagine coming home to see your house empty of all your belongings–your T.V., stereo, couch, everything! Right before you freak out, there will be a sacred moment of tranquility. You will look around in absolute disbelief, in awe! This is the blessing. Hold to it, stay with it. Steady yourself for the rush. Observe your blood pressure and body temperature rising, listen to your ears ring, and watch your vision narrow. The emotion of stress floods your experience, and you can watch it all happen. What a wild ride!

Here’s another exercise: In meditation, you will have thoughts. If you want to acquaint yourself with these deeper layers of identity, try observing yourself having your thought. If you really want to venture deep into the nature of your consciousness, try observing the observer of your thought. This exercise of consciousness will expand your mind and help you become more aware amidst the whirlwind of life. The object is not to create an inner shelter for worldly withdrawal, but to learn to open fully into any given experience while holding steady to a deeper sense of identity; one that is actually free of the haze and pain that it brings. We don’t want to thicken our skin and we don’t want to lose our consciousness. We want to be sensitive and aware.

In a challenging yoga pose, the intensity will swell just as it does in life. We actually do this to ourselves on purpose! We create these moments of inflated stress on the yoga mat because they are pregnant with opportunity to rehearse our reactions. Each pose is a question: freak out and withdraw, or open fully into the experience? Say yes to life, or say no? We are so free that we even get this choice.

Usually, with stress, we feel we have good cause to give up and lose control. Look on the bright side. The essence of Tantra says ,”It’s good to be alive.” It’s literally out of goodness that we’re having this human experience even when it appears bad. To remember that we’re lucky to be alive, even when we’re going through a tough time, puts things in the proper context. The ego loves drama, and it will take something very small and turn it into an edge-of-your-seat emotional thrill ride if we allow it. Think of your death, and seriously weigh the gravity of this situation against the weight of that inevitable drama. Thus, you will give your ego a reality-check and help prepare yourself for a beautiful surrender in the end.

The mystery of life unfolding is too complex to understand from our limited individual perspective. Who knows what events the delay may have saved from. Had we arrived earlier, maybe an earthquake, a tsunami, a bomb… We may never know, and our fates are too interconnected ever to tease apart into us individual cause and effect. I will say this, however: with time comes a larger perspective on events unfolding. Our final breakdown occurred thirty minutes south of Truckee. Thankfully we had a couple of good friends there who came to our rescue. They gladly picked us up and, after some good conversation, delivered us to our destination one hour before our first class. Now, as I write this, it gives me chills to say that this meeting was the last time I will ever see one of these good friends. He drowned in a kayaking accident two days ago. My memories of his vibrant face smiling in the sun on the day he came to our rescue are vivid. I am grateful to the universe for the delay and for delivering us to this final moment and memory. I am grateful for the practice of yoga for delivering me from the fog of stress so that I could be present for it.

SourceURL:file://localhost/Users/toddvogt/Desktop/STRETCH%20YOUR%20BODY/Blogs/Rushing%20to%20Relax%20revised%20ending.doc

To open ourselves to whatever the universe is throwing at us in the way of circumstance, emotion, and even difficulty; this is the practice. Doing yoga is surrendering to spirit as it manifests itself in any given moment and skillfully merging our individual intentions with the larger intention of the universe. When we are in the flow of the larger energy of spirit, it pulls into places more magical and joyful than we could ever have imagined. It is frightening and requires an effort that is not commonly considered effort – an effort of surrender, an effort of opening. This is what is meant by Open to Grace.

-Todd Vogt

Yoga Groove: Spanda Flow!

July 23rd is coming up fast- have you been practicing your dance moves in anticipation of Yoga Union’s first ever Yoga Groove?

Chris Calarco will be leading a class set to the powerful sounds of improvised music by DJ HyFi (check him out here: http//www.yogadjhyfi.com)

-Ian traves all around the U.S. bringing with him a fusion of sound and music). These jams will match and inspire the energetic aligned flow of the class, allowing us all to “go deep into our hearts” and rock it out while we stretch it out.

After the 2 hour spanda flow (spanda is a Sanskrit term for the divine vibration, or, the creative pulse of the universe as it manifests into the dynamism of living form), the fun really begins with a hoppin’ dance party and adult beverages including organic Sokol Blosser wines (http://www.sokolblosser.com) and local favorite beers.

It’s also a great opportunity to get to know your fellow yogis you see practicing next to you everyday! And for just 20 bucks, can you really ask for anything else?

Check out http://yogaunion.com for or additional information, or Chris’s own website at http://chriscalarcoyoga.com/

We hope to see you there!

Yoga Groove Spanda Flow with Chris Calarco and DJ Hyfi:

Additional information from:                                              Http://www.spandaflow.com and Http://www.yogajournal.com

Happy Independence Day

Happy 4th of July weekend fellow Yogis! Do you have plans to BBQ, enjoy the sunshine or watch the fireworks? In case you’re still wondering what to do with all this nice weather, here are some holiday happenings in the Portland area:

• Waterfront Blues Festival: Take a blanket, pack a picnic and groove to some live tunes at this year’s Waterfront Blues Festival! Shows will be happening on the grass all weekend, so check out http://www.waterfrontbluesfest.com/
for details on who’s playing and when. Channel your yoga spirit and show the City of Roses your moves! This is also a great spot to watch fireworks- starting at 10:00 pm, this display at Tom McCall 
Waterfront Park is the largest fireworks show in Oregon

• Independence Day at Fort Vancouver: An all-day extravaganza, this festival has something for everyone. Bring the whole family and enjoy food, drinks, games and entertainment. Finish the night off watching an amazing fireworks show synchronized to music. Check out http://www.fortvan.org/pages/fourth-home
 for the full scoop

• Oaks Park Fireworks Spectacular: Music, fireworks and everyone’s favorite- carnival rides! Let the kids play while you enjoy the sunshine and friends. Check http://oakspark.com/upcoming3.html for prices and details

If the crowds are to much for you, why not have your favorite people over and grill in your yard? Here’s a great link with 4th of July themed snacks and drinks http://allrecipes.com/Info/holidays-events-and-occasions/july-4th/main.asp

Can’t see any fireworks from your yard? Try theses spots to chill out and watch the shows:

  • Hawthorne Bridge
  • Mount Tabor
  • Rose Test Gardens
  • Pittock Mansion
  • Top of PSU parking garage on 6th and Harrison
  • Portland City Grill
  • Sellwood Park (you can see both Oaks Park and downtown from here!)
  • West Hills: Terwilliger near OHSU has many spots.

Be safe, be happy, have fun!

Picture from: http://www.pdxpipeline.com/2011/06/30/where-to-watch-fireworks-on-july-fourth/

Inner Spiral -with Chris Calarco

Sunday  was Father’s Day and even though some of us were not able to spend it with our dads, we were lucky enough to set our intentions for them in the Anusara class led by Chris Calarco. The practice felt particularly special that morning- maybe it was because we were getting to share our gratitude for life with a room full of yogis who also have fathers that helped them get to where they are today. Or maybe it was because Chris’s parents were visiting from the East Coast and were in class with us, beaming with obvious pride and love for their son. Or perhaps it was the deeply personal and insightful guidance given by Chris himself. Using the principle of Inner Spiral as a theme, he led us through an inspiring physical practice while sharing his struggles and triumphs with his own Inner Spiral. This principle has had such an effect on Chris he wrote a piece about it and graciously shared some of his writing in class.

(Picture from http://chriscalarcoyoga.com/)

His message has become widely popular (!Go Chris!), and can be read on the Wanderlust Blog page  among others.

So for those who were in Chris’s class yesterday and want to be inspired by the whole article, or those curious about Anusaras 3rd principle of alignment,  please enjoy Chris’s story below 🙂

And take a minute to check out his website (http://chriscalarcoyoga.com/) which has details about the upcoming July 23rd Yoga Groove- a class that unites yoga and music, with a dance party to follow. Mark your calendars, you won’t want to miss this party!

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I had been practicing yoga regularly for about 5 years…

I was certified to teach Vinyasa and loved the feeling in body and mind yoga produced. I thought of this feeling as a combination of exhaustion and exhilaration. I sought it out whenever I could fit my practice into life as a child psychotherapist. However, without warning, my motivation to practice fell off the face of the earth as I lost my way. For almost 9 months my whole being shifted and I lost touch with my body, my friends and my practice. Even before yoga came to an abrupt halt I had gradually, and unconsciously, migrated away my first teachers and their studio. I hadn’t found a new studio per se but lived as more of a yoga vagabond, wandering from studio to studio with my head down, practicing hard and then quickly getting out the door. I wasn’t a very social yogi. Around the time I became a nomad, my teacher’s, Annie Adamson and Todd Vogt of Yoga Union in Portland, Oregon, were beginning to integrate Anusara Yoga’s 5 Universal Principles of Alignment into their classes during their process of training.

Upon deep self-reflection, a hefty dose of depression, and a lot of help I finally returned to the mat, making a massively liberating decision to commit myself fully to the practice and teaching of yoga. As I became reacquainted with my body I soon found myself bound and stuck in common poses like Trikonasana (Triangle) and Utthitha Parsvokonasa (Extended Side Angle). I was disappointed that after 5 years, even given the layoff, I remained shallow in my Triangle with bottom hand just below my knee. Athletic but never super flexible I felt a sense of resignation, as if I had reached my edge in asana practice and I would not grow. I knew I could always access the good feeling after a class but deep inside this was not enough, I longed for much more. I wanted access to advanced poses, I wanted to increase my strength and flexibility but most of all I yearned to change my habits of mind and magnify my life from within. I left yoga because of depression and was determined to make a resonant and permanent change.

I scheduled a private lesson with Annie and expressed my frustration with Triangle and Extended Side Angle. Quickly, I found Anusara’s third principle of alignment was going to be my new intimate dance partner. Inner Spiral is an “energy spiral” thought of as a refinement of the body’s alignment in all yoga postures. The spiral begins on the inner edges of the feet and widens as it moves upward toward the pelvis and outer edges of the waistline. Inner Spiral turns the front of the legs and pelvis inward, towards the midline. It moves the inner edges of the feet, legs, and pelvis backward as the inner heels, inner knees, and inner thighs flow back. These actions also broaden the legs and pelvis apart. Inner Spiral’s key words are “In”, “Back”, and “Wide”. Physically, this manifests an increased healthy curve in the lower lumbar spine and the sitting bones press out. Renowned teacher Sianna Sherman often half-jokes that one of Anusara’s secret principals is “when in doubt, stick it out”.

Importantly, Inner Spiral requires the engagement of its partner principle, Muscle Energy (Anusara’s second principle), to be radically transformative. When the muscles of the legs are engaged and we actively make them flow “In”, “Back”, and “Wide” there is integration throughout the entire lower body that creates vibrantly new ripples of freedom in the groins, hamstrings, and lower back. Within the first ten minutes of my private with Annie I looked into the mirror and was astounded. I did not recognize the person in Triangle pose. My stance was wider and more stable, my bottom hand was on the floor (Hallelujah!), and I felt a lusciously deep stretch in my groins and lower back. Now I had to begin working with Inner Spiral and all five principles in every pose! The work had beautifully just begun.

In Anusara’s methodology, each Universal Principle of Alignment is associated with one of earth’s natural elements. Inner Spiral is like water. Just as rivers flow naturally, nurturing the surrounding land, Inner Spiral watered the seed of each asana inside my body. With active engagement, Inner Spiral created a new sense of liquid depth in me and in turn granted access to the freedom and revelation l longed for. I no longer am a yoga vagabond as I have found a home inside my body and with Annie and Todd at Yoga Union. I am expanding my limits, working at my edge, and nailing postures I never imagined. Inner Spiral has literally blasted me open to the new possibilities that are always available if we align heart, body, and mind. For me, the body came first, and the others soon followed suit. Feeling extraordinarily liberated and full of deep gratitude for my fellow yogis, teachers and this system of yoga, the journey continues. Inner Spiral changed my life and it can change yours.

———-

A little about the author….

Chris has been practicing yoga for the past six years and has recently begun teaching in Portland, Oregon. He has been listening to music since Poison overtook his heart at age 12. Yoga and music, yoga and music, yoga and music! Jai!

Nataraj, the Cosmic Dancer

Have you had a chance to check out the statue, or “Murti”, in the front of the bamboo room at Yoga Union?  Perhaps you’re like me and you’ve used it as your focal point during a difficult balance sequence but don’t know much about it. In order to appreciate more than just the beauty of the murti itself, I asked Todd to answer a few questions about the dancing deity he chose for his studio.
Q: Who and what is being depicted?
A: The statue or “Murti” depicts Shiva in his form as Nataraj, the cosmic dancer. Shiva is divine consciousness and his dance, called the Ananda Tandava or “blissful dance”, creates the entire universe. The symbolism reveals to us that the universe is a divinely blissful dance of consciousness in which no individual is separate. We are both engaged in the dance, as Shiva is, and we are also the dance itself.
Q: What made you choose this particular statue?
A: The sheer beauty of it is honestly what first drew me to the Nataraja.
Q: What significance does it hold for you and the studio as a whole?
A: This particular depiction of Shiva is probably the most relative to yogis who practice “asana” or physical yoga poses. The statue has movement and life in it. In fact, it is actually placed in a yoga pose, so it’s a good fit for the yoga studio. The symbolism it presents also has a lot to teach us about being graceful in our practice. Shiva’s standing on one foot atop a dwarf who symbolizes our ego. It is this ego that keeps us small by insisting we aren’t worthy, don’t have enough, aren’t ready yet, or haven’t earned the right to be all that we can be. Here we learn here what’s required is to squash that limiting voice in our head and to transform the ego from a problem, as Shiva did the dwarf, into the actual stage we dance all over. The other foot is the graceful upturned foot which symbolizes revelation- that through yoga we embody the power of grace and our true nature is revealed; joy, goodness, delight, fun. We are never more ourselves than in that enrapturing moment of blissful dance; when we’re in the zone so to speak.
Q: What do you want your students to gain from it?
A: Primarily that life is a dance and that like all dance, it’s primary purpose is to delight in life.
Q: Any other fun facts in regards to Nataraj?
A: One of our teachers, John Friend (Anusara Yoga founder), has called his tour this year “Dancing with the divine.”

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If you’re interested in learning more about Shiva, the link below has some great information:

http://www.religionfacts.com/hinduism/deities/shiva.htm

Sun Salute!

 

Summer in Portland is… unbeatable. When the sun comes out, the streets fill with smiles, exposed flesh and the smell of backyard BBQs. An open patio seat is hard to find and bodies lay strewn about in parks- victims of the Vitamin D assault. We even seem to forget the 8 months of incessant rain that only just stopped yesterday. It’s on these glorious days that it can sometimes be a challenge to take our bodies out of the sun and into the studio. So instead of compromising one for the other, why not take your practice outside? Yoga is, after all, about unity. When it’s practiced in nature, your connection to the universe may feel more readily available and your sense of awareness will have room to grow and evolve.

Outdoor yoga exposes the senses to external stimuli that otherwise may be missed while indoors. Rather then letting the elements become a distraction, try using them to enhance your experience- a light wind can bring you back to your breath, the feel of the sun on your face may inspire you to open the heart just that much more, and a newly opened flower can provide the perfect focal spot while you invite stillness in.

One especially difficult aspect of practicing outside is uneven terrain. But instead of getting frustrated or disengaging, is it possible to use the challenge to cultivate patience and acceptance? Experiment with grass, sand and soil, mat or no mat, and feel the different muscles engage with each. Enjoy the elements between your toes.

Being outside can also help you connect with your poses on a deeper level. “By putting your body into the shape of a tree or a stretching cat, by exploring the graceful wingspan of a bird or the fluidity of the Sun Salute, by breathing with the same cyclical sense as the tides or with an ocean sound, you evoke a sense of harmony, timelessness, and connection to the universe,” says Jane Jarecki, a Kripalu Yoga teacher at Evolution Physical Therapy and Yoga in Vermont.

There are several options for taking your practice outside. Perhaps you start alone, doing a few simple poses in Laurelhurst park while taking your dog for a walk. Maybe that evolves into a group of you and your friends meeting at Mt. Tabor for a sunrise session and picnic breakfast.  Or maybe you go for the ultimate outdoor yoga experience and sign up to join Yoga Union on their epic adventure to Wanderlust this July (http://squaw.wanderlustfestival.com/home)!

Speaking of Mt. Tabor, we plan to meet on the top of the hill for a rejuvenating hour of yoga in the park. Bike, drive, walk or roller skate yourself and your mat to the top of of Mt Tabor at 3:00pm on Sunday, June 26th. We will be up on the hill with light refreshments (with $5-$10 donation) and open hearts, as we bring yoga out into the community for the first time this summer.

Whatever way you choose, enjoy the experience and revel in the beauty nature provides us. And don’t forget your sunscreen!

Happy yoga-ing!

Information from:
http://www.yogajournal.com

Flying Fish Co.!

 

If you frequent the Yoga Union studio, then there’s a fair chance you’ve passed by a large van bearing the name “Flying Fish Co.” on the corner of 50th and Hawthorne. But have you stopped to peek inside and see what that van is all about, and who’s actually driving that thing around Portland?

Lyf Gildersleeve, the owner and second generation fish monger from Idaho with his degree in Aqua Culture, is as welcoming as the fresh foods he’s providing. He greets each patron with a smile and recognizes more than a few of the returning customers, calling many by first name. He seems to know what they have come for and enthusiastically volunteers which fish is the most fresh, which has gone down in price, and any specials he currently has in.  A chalk board lists the week’s fresh catches (boasting names like Copper River Sockeye and King Salmon) as well as the frozen (but never defrosted) selection, which is lengthy and drool-inducing. My eyes bounce from Dover Sole to Halibut Cheeks to the Smoked Ahi and back to the Ekone Oysters, all this before I even see the lists of local, organic, grass fed meets. Lyf tells me the beef, lamb, buffalo, pork and even elk are delivered to him direct from the ranches. All the meats, including the fish and the local eggs (chicken, duck and quail, oh my!), are chemical and hormone free. There’s even something for the herbivores- fresh seaweed salad! A large refrigerator, also covered in chalk board with prices listed on all sides, holds most of his bounty. Customers happily browse through the selection, while Lyf gives cooking tips for each. The environment feels more like a friend’s house than a fish market, and it makes me want to become one of his regulars.

As awesome and substantial the choices of seafood are here,  a huge focus of the Flying Fish Co. is to provide proteins that are not only good choices for our bodies, but also good choices from an environmental prospective. Populations of certain species vary over time and are dependent upon multiple factors, including how heavily they are fished. If a specie’s population isn’t stable, then it won’t be available from Flying Fish Co. Meats like beef and pork are purchased form local farmers, helping to stimulate and support our community economy. We as consumers should also do our part by making smart choices, and Lyf’s truck is a great place to start. Even the trays the fish are packaged in are biodegradable.


As I browsed through the choices, I was surprised to find that prices were well below what I had expected. A dozen eggs are $5, and I picked up a pound of the fresh Copper River Sockeye Salmon for only about $10. Lyf said that although his prices were higher than at a store like Fred Meyer (whose products are not even comparable, in my humble opinion), they’re actually a few dollars cheaper than at a place like New Seasons. He accepts cash and cards, making buying a breeze, and soon will be accepting EBT (food stamp) cards. If you sign up to be on his mailing list, you can find out what specials he will have in that week (it always varies) and even make special requests.

Later that night I grilled my fresh salmon on the patio with the Portland sun shining (finally!) down on me. I took Lyf’s advice and didn’t overcook the fish, making sure the insides were still a lush coral pink. The result was one of the best dinner’s I’ve had all spring, and the friends I was willing to share a bite with agreed. The flavor was delicious and fresh, and the meat flaked off in perfect, moist bites.

Tomorrow I plan on walking down the block and popping back in to see Lyf, who opens his doors from noon to 7, Wednesday through Friday at the corner of 50th and Hawthorne (he’s also open on weekends at 3221 SE Division, in the cart pod). This time I want to try some of the farm fresh eggs, and maybe some of the Pacific Snapper. I’ll probably also mention how open my lower back feels from his Hot Flow class I attended this morning- when Lfy isn’t slinging fish, he also happens to be a wonderful instructor at the Yoga Union 🙂
I highly recommend taking a minute to stop by and check out Flying Fish Co. and say hi to a fellow yogi in the process.

Here’s a link the the Flying Fish website, where you can find out more about product availability and even details on other locations (most of which are owned by Lyf’s family) around the West. Be sure to sign up for his mailing list while there!

http://web.flyingfishcompany.com/home.html

Namaste!