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Namaste, gentle readers.  Unless you are new to Under a Red Roof, you know quite well of my fondness for yoga.  It truly has changed my life.  I know for many of you this might sound a bit precious, but it’s no exaggeration.  Everything is better with yoga, everything.  Even with a cat on my back.  How cute is my guruji, Paris?  Normally, she prefers to give her sage advice during savasana, but who am I to argue?

Anyhoo, I’ve got some more recommendations for videos and the like, even expanding my repertoire to include, holy crapper-doodle, works by people other than Shiva Rea!  I know, even I didn’t think it was possible.  This dog can learn new tricks, go with the flow, rhyme and steal…

However, since I do have such a longstanding relationship with Shiva and remain ever loyal, I’ll start with her.  A.M. Energy is a really dynamic and invigorating video, and a departure from what I consider typical Shiva style.  It contains four separate practices (about 20 minutes each) that can be linked via the matrix or done individually.  Each ranges in difficulty and in style, from lots of not super yoga feeling floor work that builds strength through repetition, flowing movement, and some extremely challenging standing postures.  I have much to learn and do here and continue to be dazzled by Shiva’s ability and grace.

Shiva’s Yoga Wave (thanks for this one, Mom!) is an audio only collection, though there is a booklet with photos, so I would definitely only recommend it to those practicing for a while.  It contains a Solar and Lunar CD, and with the help of an i-pod or similar device can be mixed up in a myriad of fashions.  Each CD has progressively more difficult waves of similar postures, building upon each other and kicking your behind.  The solar wave CD is like doing seventy-five minutes of sun salutations, which is great for heating you up and developing your legs.  The first time is a killer!  The lunar wave is mostly spent on the floor opening hips, back bending, and twisting.  This one is in a pretty regular rotation for the hubster, as it’s really great to counter the repetitive movements of bike riding.


Now for something completely different.  Completely!  My massage therapist, who has a beautiful and strong body, is as big of a devotee to Kundalini, Ravi Singh and Ana Brett as I am to Shiva Rea.  After hearing her raves, I decided to give it a try.  It is a real departure from the yoga I am used to practicing.  I think, and this is by no means a slight, because I really like it, it is like yoga that was created by a child.  Let’s grind our hips around while sitting on the floor, and then we’ll flap our arms, sit like frogs, dance, lie on our bellies and bounce, walk like we’re marching in a parade, and pant like dogs.  Oh, and one more thing, it’s gonna be fun!  And it is.  I can’t help but smile during and well after.  It must be all that good Kundalini energy!  For those who already find yoga a bit out there, this will probably be too woo-woo for you.  That being said, both of the videos are fun and challenging, especially all the arm flapping Gurmukh does.  Seriously, I could not do it all, and I’m in pretty good shape.  Sat nam!

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Last Thursday, I ventured north to Bellingham, Washington for my long anticipated class with Shiva Rea. I had never driven that far on my own before (about five hours), and the writer in me created all kinds of awful scenarios in which I did not return in one piece (the price for creativity!).  I prepared for many eventualities, every last duck in a row, and left very dark (seriously Spring, no need to be so shy) and early.  Thankfully, the drive went off without a hitch, a succession of NPR news stories, jazz, and rock and roll.

When I exited the highway hours later, my stiff legs itching for a stretch (yoga!), I had the first of many indications that none of my visions of doom would come to fruition.  The sun started to peek through the clouds and a Bald Eagle swooped over my car.  Talk about a warm welcome!

I arrived at the class after a picture perfect afternoon (more on that tomorrow), a warm, light-filled room, with equally warm and friendly strangers of all stripes.  Then Shiva arrived and the magic began.  With the beat of a drum, the raven spirit invocation (even more auspicious, considering my deep love of crows and ravens), curious, mischievous, dancing and spreading his wings, inviting us all to fly.  This was followed by a truly amazing, heart liberating kirtan with Dave Stringer (like this).  I sang at the top of my voice, every cell pulsing, full of joy, and ready for practice.  The sadhana was kick-my-ass challenging with moments of silliness too (Shiva is funny!), everything I hoped for, infused with grooves from Dave and his cohort, and a final round of chanting to bring the magical practice to a close.

It’s pretty amazing when someone you’ve admired for a long time lives up to your expectations, live and in person, and a bit of a relief, too.  I’ve been practicing with Shiva for the past six years, her work, and ours together, inspiring me more than I ever could have imagined.  So when it came came time to thank her, for everything, that in the flesh, no going back, she’s standing right in front of me moment, rather than take my hand extended in gratitude, she embraced me, a hug between “old” friends.  A perfect day, a perfect sadhana, made all the more sweet.  Namaste.

p.s. I hope to get a picture with Shiva next time!

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Write it Down.

Howdy pardners –

I hope the day is treating you well.  I am bust-a-gut full of lunch from Dick’s Kitchen on Belmont – dang, do I ever love this place.  I enjoyed (in the company of a very good friend) an Elvis Burger (topped with pimento cheese – genius!) and Yam “Not Fries.” Seriously good.  I filled it to the brim (my belly, that is) with a Stumptown Americano and really couldn’t be happier, despite having to change into sweats upon my return home.  It’s better than walking around with my pants unbuttoned.  I may not be a rocket scientist, but I do have my head screwed on straight.

Anyhoo, I’ve got some unrelated exciting news.  I powered through my yoga challenge and am still going strong!  Today marks day 23 of a daily yoga practice, with no end in sight.  I didn’t even bail with the ugly funk that occupied my sinus cavities and gave me the fevers, though I had to scale back.  You know you are sick when downward facing dog feels like climbing a mountain.  Oy vay!  A recommendation, however, if you are in the throes of this bit of nastiness: Vashistasana is an excellent posture for relieving sinus pressure.  I have no scientific proof, but if my ears could speak, they’d surely rave about the positive after effects.  Indeed.

In other yoga news, and straight off the Colleen Sohn life list, I will be meeting my yoga inspiration, Shiva Rea!  How about them apples?  I am nervous and excited and jazzed, jazzed, jazzed.  The finest reason I’ve seen for writing a dream down.  It comes true!  It’s almost spooky.  What wish do you have that’s itching to be put on paper (literal or digital)?  Get thee to a pad and pen, my friends!

Thanks for reading the ramble.  I’m off like a light – time to make dinner, a decidedly vegetarian, and coincidentally, very yoga friendly meal, chana masala and a curried coleslaw.  Yum!

*Zoiks – sometimes I let the details slip.  I’ll be taking a workshop with Shiva this April, up Seattle way, all the more reason to practice every day.  A road trip, too!

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Hello friends –

Thanks so much for the kind words these past days.  They warm my heart, buoy my spirits, and are truly appreciated.

Something else that keeps me aloft, and that I mentioned in that last post, is yoga.  I began practicing eleven years ago, answering the call to a $5 class at a tiny hot yoga studio on Ankeny Street here in Portland.  That first time was a singular experience.  The room was crowded with people, and I worked earnestly and completely alone for ninety minutes, sweat dripping from every pore.   It felt wonderful, and I enjoyed this new and sometimes baffling way of moving my body: the clarity and stillness of mind, and the particular sense that I found something right for me.

This sense of right came from the fact that I was not yearning to be elsewhere or wondering how much longer it would take.  I was immersed in being the postures.  I was (and remain) gratified, intrigued, interested, and excited by my body and its capabilities (more with each day, though sometimes less – it’s funny like that).  With every other form of exercise, save walking, it is a means to an end with a hyper awareness of time.  One dozen bicep curls, a hundred sit-ups, a thirty minute run, spin on the elliptical, or row.  Everything is measured.

With yoga, I choose a sequence, and go.  I honestly have no sense of time, only the flow of the postures, the challenge and sheer pleasure of each asana.  It is never a nuisance or a chore to practice, and a day with yoga is always better than a day without, no matter how troubled my mind.  I am nourished, relaxed, and rejuvenated, if only during the space of my practice.  It tickles me pink as a summer peony.

There is an expression (Buddhist, I think), “When the student is ready, the teacher appears.” Yoga is my teacher.  It opens my heart, teaches me patience and perseverance, and gives me a flexibility and strength I never imagined possible. With yoga, I am better able to see with clarity, live in the moment, and love what IS.  So much for just twisting like a pretzel!

p.s. Yesterday was number seven of twenty-one of the challenge.  I am in love and held a back bend, with a smile on my face, for one long minute.  It doesn’t get much better, at least for now…

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So, I’ve been in a bit of a funk these past few months, mostly depressed with a chance of mild gloom and occasional laughter and smiles.  There have been ample examples of feeling the sadness switch come on a hair’s breadth after a moment of sincere joy, bursting into tears in public for no good reason, and spending long spans with my eyes squeezed shut against the world.

Some of it is a sincere longing for accomplishment in my life.  I want my novel published!  I want to contribute financially to our household without doing crap work I don’t like.  Is this ever going to happen?  Anyone?  The rest, I blame on genetics, as the melancholia, like the Force in Luke Skywalker, is strong in me.  Thankfully, it is at its menacing worst only every few years, but dang, when it is here, it’s H-E-R-E, no matter what I do.  Just in case you’re wondering about medication to get me through, no thanks.  I’ve been down that road, and it was pretty awful.  The side effects distracted me from my sorry mental state, to be sure, but certainly were not worth it.  I lost hair, felt sick to my stomach much of the time, saw spots in my eyes, felt like I was on a merry-go-round every time I sat down, not to mention the literal and rather unpleasant taste in my mouth.  It took my liver years to recover, and that, mind you, was before my fondness for whiskey!

Now, for a bit of cage rattling (like not posting a spotlight today – they’ll come when they come) and my friend Camus.  I got to thinking about myself as Sisyphus and my gloom the rock.  It should be punishment, right?  The rock is heavy and burdensome and only comes rolling back down.  But what if, like Camus, I didn’t see it as a burden but a struggle worthy of filling my heart?  That’s life, isn’t it?  It is my job to keep the rock going.  I can do it with appreciation and joy at being given another day to do it, or I can focus on poor little me pushing a fucking rock.  My choice.  I choose happiness, whatever version that may be.  A glimmer seen at a distance, a whole day of sunshine, or a fully belly laugh, I’ll take it.

I also choose to nourish myself with good habits.  Instead of beating myself up for being depressed (so helpful!), I’m really trying to just acknowledge its presence and keep moving forward.  Though the photo shows me about to indulge in a Beef Wellington (our delicious Christmas meal), I am eating healthier than ever – less sugar, less junk, more goodness.  As well, I am shaking it up physically.  The hubster and I are off to a big-band dance tonight (gotta love the Norse Hall), and, as of Monday, I started the Yoga Journal 21-Day Challenge – practicing every single day.  I am eager to propel my body and mind to a new level of fitness, grace, and ease.  Who knows, maybe I’ll push that rock right over the top!

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