Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Death of a Hummingbird

My son and I found a deceased hummingbird in our yard yesterday. I almost didn't see it, at first. Without my glasses, the bright green feathers and grayish wings fooled me into thinking it was a dead fig beetle in the leaf litter. When I bent down and saw this tiny bird, I was at first overjoyed! I picked it up delicately, cradling it in my hands hoping to see or feel a little bit of breath or movement.

When I realized the bird was not going revive I started to examine it like tiny treasure. The opportunity to just hold a hummingbird was a rarity, but to be able to actually do a bit of manipulation, knowing I'd be causing no harm excited the nerdy nature kid and adult in me.

I passed my fingertips over the smooth head feathers and into the "ruff" that were both that glistening ruby color when in direct sunlight. This identified this specimen as a male Anna's hummingbird, common in our area. We hear them whizzing past our porch every day, on the way to our neighbor's feeder, sometimes landing on the power/telephone lines, usually unseen chirping from the bushes and trees in our yards.

I touched the tip of the amazingly sharp beak, sealed shut in death sleep, unable to view the amazing tongue that makes hummingbird feeding such a unique process. The little eyes were closed into slits. When I flipped his little body over, I saw that his belly was completely bare. The gray/pink skin was still soft, and yielded to slight pressure; perhaps he had not been dead quite that long despite his legs and claws resembling dried noodles. I could trace his breastbone with my finger, and stroke his wing feathers that were so soft that felt like air brushing. He felt like nothing in our hands.

A quick internet check revealed that some hummingbirds, even males, will lose abdominal feathers to form brood patches - featherless spots with increased vascularity to facilitate snuggling up against eggs or chicks. Perhaps a nest high up in our tree was now missing its paternal figure, or, free from a paternal rival? Hummingbirds, the internet said, are also notoriously territorial, using those beaks as weapons. I saw no puncture wounds indicating predation or intra-species battle, no missing body parts or feathers (save for the belly), so as to the cause of death I can only speculate.

We showed his little body to our dog, who was curious as to what we were doing cooing and fawning over something that was not him. I held on to the bird snugly, partly expecting the dog to try to grab the corpse and run off with it like a toy. To my surprise, the dog gave it a thorough sniff-over, then just looked up at me, without the slightest aggressive action. Was this because the animal was already dead? Was this because he knew to not grab something from me? Was this because he is a kind and gentle soul? Logic dictates the two former answers, and my heart wants to believe the latter third.

I didn't feel the urge to do any sort of messy dissection, or taxidermic preservation (nor did I know how), and knowing there are better pictures of live birds on the internet dissuaded me from photographing our specimen. In fact the only documentation I really felt would be valuable was about the experience itself. Eli had lost interest after getting a chance to hold it once, surprised at how lightweight it was, and the amazing colors. He suggested we bury rather than the "trashcan" option, so I chose a spot underneath one of our vintage (and rather in need of some nutrients) rose bushes. Now the bird's body has a second chance to add to the beauty of nature.

I know there's a yoga lesson or a hundred in here, but I'll leave it for each person to contemplate. I will just savor the experience for what it was: teachable moment, a learning moment, a living moment, a dying one as well.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Giving Thanks, Our Way

For Eli and Craig and me, our extended families live at least 90 minutes by plane (and at this time of year, $1000 minimum) and further. Due to school and work schedules, and familial obligations, seldom do we get time for just the three of us to enjoy time together, guilt-free, without feeling like we have to either, a) run to one relatives house for a large holiday (Jewish, Christian, Secular); or b) do chores/fix up the house/do laundry/run errands that don’t get done on normal days.

Eli’s first Thanksgiving was one of sleepless drama (the child was anti-slumber until he was four and even now can do zombie-inspired four-hour anti-sleep binges worthy of the worst of college drunken study habits and expect one of us to joyfully participate with him. Years two and three we hazily remember as having my mom come out and some friends visit but we aren’t really sure and can’t find any documented proof.

So in 2012, we decided that Turkey Day weekend was just for US, for short trips just the three of us, someone that we could really regroup, decompress, hike, read, eat turkey sandwiches (or turkey camping food if that was what the cards dealt), and if so available get into a Jacuzzi naked.

Twenty Twelve

With high hopes we set sights on the Grand Canyon. A friend offered her house in Prescott, AZ as she was going to be away, so we set off with toddler Eli (who chose the car ride to sleep, but not so much any other time that whole trip). We dined on home-broiled salmon on Thanksgiving, and due to the lack of sleep (reminder: three hours was Eli’s max at this point) we never made it to the GC.

We did get up to Sedona, where we not only walked through the lovely Church of the Rock (sidebar: My now gone Aunt whom I idolized was the proprietor of the shop in the church when I was a child so this place had special nostalgia for me.) but also hiked the other-worldly rock formations (see photo) with Eli having the crow’s next view in the Kelty backpack.

We took the back roads home and saw the Pre-Columbian Indian Trail outside Glamis, the desert dunes, the expanse of farms along the Colorado River, the river itself, which made the normally uninteresting highway drive one of the best parts of the trip.

Twenty Thirteen

When Eli was four, we ferried out to Catalina Island (sidebar: I made sure we all took anti-motion sickness meds for this trip. My former experience with ferries across channels, yes even something as tame as this, and even kayaking in Hawaii, were enough for Craig and I to become aqua around the ears and ruin at least the next six hours). We stayed at La Paloma la Flores, in a 100 year old cottage whose adjoining units were built into the steep island hill. The town was quite empty in the days leading up to and including the holiday, and without chain restaurants we relied on the locals’ advice on where to eat, get coffee and explore. After a few small sacrifices to various deities Eli agreed sit in the kid tow/carriage as we toured around town on electric bikes.

We also hiked the Garden-to-Cloud trail with Eli in a cheap umbrella stroller and he slept the whole way up (see photo). In fact, was the first trip he slept for any length of time in his own "bed" so this trip goes down in history as a confirmed success no matter what. Thanksgiving dinner? Turkey sandwiches in the cottage. Day after? Chinese food!.

Twenty Fourteen

We decided to explore something a little closer to home, with access to Julian (which not surprisingly doesn’t have “bed and breakfasts” that welcome small children. The town of Descanso has a number of historic rock houses, and we were able to rent one of them for our trip. The upside? Totally adorable, rustic, huge rock face fireplace, antique stove, large extra bedroom addition. The downside? Rock does NOT make a good insulator from the cold and it was a chilly fall that year.

We used the fireplace every night, the hot tub multiple times a day, and as for sleeping, well… the King size bed was not big enough for three. Not surprisingly one of the adults ended up on the twin in the (chilly) den but at least there was rest.

We spent Thanksgiving Day in Julian, eating (you guessed it) turkey sandwiches, and hiking part of Volcan mountain (photo shows us at a gate marker; notice how we are not wearing sufficiently warm clothing). We traversed the highway Descanso and Julian daily and visited every historic marker we could find - the old mining spots, the smallest library site, and true to form, we made the drive home an adventure as well.

We drove the twisty turny old Viejas Grade Road to experience the beautiful backcountry views of San Diego; the homes are incredible out there, and it’s strange how remote they are due to topography, despite their actual proximity to San Diego.

Twenty Fifteen

This was the year we gave in Eli's desire to see snow. An internet search for reasonable priced cabins with fireplaces and Wi-Fe in Big Bear led us to a “quaint” 1 room setup near the center of town (walkable even) that turned out to be a converted garage. The fireplace was nothing more than a space heater in fireplace clothing, and it took us until the second night to figure out how to work  the wall heater, so the first night’s snowfall temperature drop made it a bit sleepless (traditional for our first night at this point).

The trip included a four-wheel drive guided tour in the mountains, a tour of the historic town sites, a hike to the lake, and up into the snowy trails (sidebar: this was the last time we were able to the use the Tula Carrier with now six-year old Eli), and introducing Eli to snow tubing. Thanksgiving dinner? Spaghetti after tubing!

Twenty Sixteen

Last year we went up to the San Jacinto Mountains, staying in another old (read: cold) cabin this time in Idyllwild, which Eli still pronounces as “Eye-Dee-Wild.” We hiked the nature center trail three times (the photo is somewhere on that trail near a Scout Camp marker). (Sidebar: On one hike I tentatively fished what I thought was a human hand on a chain out of tree. It turned out to be an old Halloween prop.)

We met the town mayor, Max (a golden retriever, yes you read that right) and in general were charmed by the beauty of the area, to the point where we actually went to two open houses. We did our own four-wheel exploration as far as we could towards Tahquitz Peak (at night), and Craig added it to the hiking bucket list).

Eli slept like a champ on the overstuffed living room couch, which reminded us he likes to be cradled with as much padding and blankets as humanly possible for best sleep (which took us 6 years to learn). I also learned that yes, you can drink too much extra spicy Bloody Mary mix on an empty stomach, and that frozen pizza is an excellent Thanksgiving dinner when you are worn out from hiking, have a fireplace, cable TV and your family around you.

Twenty Seventeen

This year, we are headed to Running Springs, near Big Bear. We all agreed that brisk mountainous air makes it a bit more "Thanksgiving-y" and gives us a chance to break out the fleece gear. The altitude challenges our lungs a bit, and the alpine air with its tinges of spruce and pine lift the spirit. There may not be snow, but we'll be near a lake, and two small town that beg exploration. The house owners says there will be deer visiting the yard in the morning, with views into the valley and possibly all the way to Catalina if it’s clear. We'll eat our pizza, or turkey sandwiches, or spaghetti, or who knows what, we'll sit in the hot tub (now a requirement along with Wi-Fi), and listen Eli talk about how tired he is from the hike, or ask questions about the trees, maybe just listen to quiet.

Then we'll call our families in Sacramento, in Portland, in Chicago, in Fort Lauderdale, we'll send well wishes all our friends on Facebook, Eli will invariable Skype/Facetime with his Minecraft playing friends, and we'll be happy. I hope you all will be too. 

Friday, November 17, 2017

Want to relax. heal and REMEMBER? Try deep breaths (in AND out)

"'Vagusstoff' [the substance released from your vagus nerve] (acetylcholine) is like a tranquilizer that you can self-administer simply by taking a few deep breaths with long exhales. Consciously tapping into the power of your vagus nerve can create a state of inner-calm while taming your inflammation reflex."

Simply put, taking some slow inhales and even slower exhales will at the very least calm you down, and at best, help reduce the body's biological markers for inflammation response. Which means, less pain, less stress, less illness.

"Healthy vagal tone is indicated by a slight increase of heart rate when you inhale, and a decrease of heart rate when you exhale. Deep diaphragmatic breathing—with a long, slow exhale—is key to stimulating the vagus nerve and slowing heart rate and blood pressure, especially in times of performance anxiety."

Breathing with focused aware (mindful) inhales and consciously slowed exhales will help realign your mind body connection, bringing you into the "yogic" place. By paying attention to the breath, you are giving your body, via vagus nerve stimulation AND being present, the opportunity to calm. With calm comes relaxation, with relaxation comes restoration.

"Recently, an international team of researchers from Amsterdam and the United States conducted a clinical trial which demonstrates that stimulating the vagus nerve with a small implanted device significantly reduced inflammation and improved outcomes for patients with rheumatoid arthritis by inhibiting cytokine production."

You read that right. Increasing vagal tone was found to create improved QOL for patients with an autoimmune condition. Cytokenes are the nasty particles that start the inflammatory response. Vagus nerve stimulation reduced the level of these chemicals in the body.

But I don't do the article justice by cutting and pasting. I know how great deep rhythmic pranayama (breathing exercises) feel. But to read that there is scientific proof to WHY the body feels better after a breathwork session, well that satisfies both sides of my brain, and my entire being as well. Thanks for reading, and much healing to all.

Read the complete article here:

UPDATE: another article this time from neuroscience news (thank you Amy Wheeler for the references) says
Northwestern Medicine scientists have discovered for the first time that the rhythm of breathing creates electrical activity in the human brain that enhances emotional judgments and memory recall.
Read that whole article here:

Monday, October 30, 2017

Positive Mental Attitude

Every Cell in my body
vibrates with energy
and health. Loving myself
heals my life.
I nourish my mind,
body and soul.
My body heals quickly
and easily.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Wear PINK on 10/30 in SD to support the fight against Breast Cancer

The Family and Community Engagement team in collaboration with San Diego Unified Police Services are wearing pink on to show support for those affected by Breast Cancer.  Join us in showing community support and posting your photos to social media.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

State of California retirees can be eligible for Silver Sneakers

Many retired State of California employees with PERScare and over 65 may now be eligible to opt in to the Tivity Silver Sneakers program on their Medicare insurance. That means free admission to 24 Hour Fitness, LA Fitness, Crunch and more gyms that have Silver Sneakers classes and low or no cost community Flex exercise classes. You should have received a new brochure in the mail about opting-in to this program. Check your insurance website for info, and sign up if you can!

Friday, October 6, 2017

Two Events Especially for the Golden Years - Del Mar 10/7 and La Mesa 10/13

This year's Successful Aging Expo in Del Mar is Saturday, October 7 from 9 AM to 4 PM, and is FREE (parking is $13 per car). Present by Sharp Healthcare!

Presented by Rides for Neighbors in the City of La Mesa, it's the Transportation and Fitness Expo on Friday, October 13 from 8:30 to 11:30 AM at the La Mesa Community Center at 4975 Memorial Drive.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Gratitude, perspective shifts, and afterschool programs

On a previous life track (before kids, and with full time professional employment) I would shop. a lot. For baubles and clothing and life embellishments... and more food than I needed. Wasteful to be certain.

With the current austerity program initiated with the birth of our son and my work taken to part time, and most recently the recent gentle belt tightening of hubby being between jobs, my cravings for "more" have greatly dissipated. Perhaps the yoga practice helped hone the skill and tune in to non-grasping, but admittedly the reality of avoiding debt and waste played a big part. Truthfully don't want an overstocked refrigerator (to clean or to organize). I don't want more clothes to put away or things to dust on shelves, or collectibles about which Ill just forget.

Having mindfully "not-shopped" for a bit, we found ourselves positioned to utilize funds (that would otherwise be squandered on a few dinners out and theater movies and maybe some more pricey meats at the market) to sending our son to the most amazing after school programs. He'll be participating in Spanish lessons, art lessons, Kung Fu classes and learning to write computer code. With these programs he'll make more friends get exercise and expand his learning day by the exact increment of time I needed between the end of my work day and picking him up. The drop in after-school program was $35 a day or required prepayment for 3 or 5 days a week of which we would have used an hour per day. These programs cost between $9 and $16 per class and are worth every penny. Thank you universe for manifesting this. I am deriving so much more pleasure (than a pair of earrings or bag of candy or random catalog item i didn't really need) this way. #lessismore #gratitude #afterschoolenrichments #asteya

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Silver Sneakers Time Changes

Please check the Senior Yoga page on this website for new changes to the times for the Monday, Wednesday and Friday afternoon free yoga classes and for all upcoming class cancellations due to holidays, etc.

Mondays at the El Cajon Library and Fridays at Lemon Grove Library will start at 12:45 PM (instead of 1:00 PM) effective immediately.

Wednesdays at the Casa de Oro Library will start at 12:45 PM for the rest of September. Starting October 4 (the first Wednesday in October) classes will move to 12:00 PM to 1:00 PM.

Please do not hesitate to call with any questions; always check the live schedule for the most up-to-date class information.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

International Day of Peace in La Mesa - Yoga at 9:30 AM

The Main Event

Sunday 9/17/17 is the fourth annual Day of Peace gathering organized by The Interfaith Council of La Mesa. The event takes place in Aztec Park at 7945 Morocco Drive in La Mesa.

The Interfaith Council represents all religious denominations and those who don’t have faith traditions. The event’s aim is to bring awareness to “the need to promote peace, unity and good will in both local and global communities.”

The Council event itself runs from 3:00 PM to 5:00 PM. Different faith/spiritual/philosophical groups are gathering earlier to lead universally uplifting activities, and I am honored to be part of the "Raise the Energy in the Park" prelude to the main event.

Yoga in the Morning 

Starting at 8:00 AM there will be a half hour "Prayers for Peace for All Mankind," and I will follow with TWO yoga sessions, one from 9:15-10:10, and one from 10:15-11:00. 

Please bring your own blanket/yoga mat, wear sunscreen/a hat, and bring plenty of hydration. This will be gentle but eclectic hatha yoga so if you need support for your back or knees bring a cushion or a folding chair so that you feel most comfortable.

Read more about the origin of this amazing event and get more details in this article in the Union Tribune by Karen Pearlman.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

A Brief History of My Struggles & The 5 Second Rule

I won't repeat what Mel Robbins said, but I will give an example of how the distilled down version of it saved me from a meltdown the other day. But first, my whole life story (leaving out childhood trauma, etc. and sticking with things relevant to one story line).

Meltdown? You? A yogi? Oh yes. With a lifelong struggle with depression (starting before I even hit puberty but went undiagnosed) to 35 years with an eating disorder (now in a state of "constant recovery) my mental meltdowns might not include slamming doors (but they have), or hitting my child (they have NOT), street fighting (also, NO) or public hate speeches (*ahem*) but they have included self-harm and fits of self-directed anger and crying.

When I was 13 I was so frustrated by some argument with my mom that I grabbed the Bic razor in the shower and drew it across the top of my head. My Mom was horrified when I showed her, not as an independent "HAHA" maneuver but a "ohmigard what have a done I have scared/scarred myself" admission.

When I was 15 I started what was a seemingly harmless habit of vomiting up my food in an attempt to lose weight. Which turned into a "eat everything in sight like boxes of cereal loaves of bread sticks of butter and all the leftovers in the fridge" and then vomit to "cheat" the system (digestive and otherwise). I also used that technique to binge drink but more frequently than not the vomiting was from over-indulgence in alcohol and hardly intended.

At 19 I was busted by a friend  who told my mom and that put me into therapy. Where I talked a good game but had little interest in stopping that behavior because it a) was a huge release; and b) it was my only way to even remotely try to control gaining weight. Which didn't work because I went from 115 to 144 pounds in college and my face was swollen all the time.

I wanted to be normal, pretty, thin, smart, accomplished, and easy going, but instead I was a mess. And some part of me wanted pity for being that mess, because in some twisted way I thought that was the only way I would be deserving of attention. Which is how I "earned" my first sadistic and manic boyfriend that took advantage of this pathetic-ness and used it to fuel his own egomaniacal need for adoration. To which I complied with protest and then whimper, and then, nothing. When he cheated on me, after begging for reconciliation (including posted a BILLBOARD - the shame of it all), I was angry enough to realize that it wasn't ME that failed, but I still didn't have a grip on who I was and how to stop the self-deprecating behavior.

At 21 I had a nervous breakdown and was taken home from my repeated last year of college. I graduated remotely, thankfully, somehow but I still have nightmares of not finished.

I confessed my mental issues to my next boyfriend (but in error not even to my closest friends which would have been a far greater support system), and after 4 years he convinced me to try medication. The effect was profound. I finally HAD A GRIP on my mental state, and I could enjoy food without terror. I put healthy things in and everything started working properly. I started progressing at my job, being less distracted. But I was too dependent on the relationship, and when we hit the "I will never marry you" point, I was devastated. At first. Because, now,  something shifted - I had that "I don't need this shit" moment. And I had an inner strength that I had never experienced before.

A few months later, I stopped drinking (after a particularly embarrassing experience). And that combined with the medication, perhaps, was helping me find my own way in the world finally as a 27 year old. By the time I turned 28 and saw the New Year, though, my lack of true impulse control had me married, moving out of state, and headed into 10 years of bad behavior including rampant alcohol and marijuana use, and battling with the eating disorder in less desperate but nonetheless still troubling way. Result? I developed a horrible auto-immune disorder that swept my feet out from under me and made my bones and muscles ache to the point where I had to fight for people to believe that it was real. Luckily I had a great job and great friends (that I felt like I was lying to but now I have for the most part leveled with and improved our relationships greatly) to help me draw a rough path on the hardscrabble road down which I had chosen to stumble.

One of these good friends suggested YOGA. Ok, it's not the panacea I just made it out to be, but it WAS A START. AGAIN I stopped drinking alcohol. That marriage ended, and because I was starting to figure out what made ME tick and find room to let go of anger, it ended much more amicable and with far less resentment that what might have happened under other circumstances.

AGAIN I was seeing a therapist and talking about what I was doing rather than hiding it. I was in a healthy relationship with someone that liked me for my wit, my sassiness, my smarts, my partnership, and not just for how I fed his ego. I had space to work on myself. I could breathe.

And we had a child. My pregnancy was the most amazing experience where suddenly being completely beholden to another person was a GOOD AND FULFILLING thing. Being out of control was ok because I could ride through it and witness it from a different state of mind. I had many friends with which I could share the experience and I learned to talk about what was troubling to me instead of just hiding.

Post-partum was another story but the depression brought with it exhaustion and feelings of failure that didn't incite me to binge and purge, but just cry, and sleep. But I had yoga - I had my tribe, I had a partner that GOT that it was hard.

Fast forward to today. My son is almost 8. My relationship is in it's 9th year of legality (and 13th in partnership). I take my yoga learnings and try to translate them to other people so they can try to find their own way through their own minds and bodies. I love what I do; I don't even call people that I teach yoga clients - I call them friends. And honestly, I believe that they are. So much that yesterday I put it all out on the table for them, telling THEM about my battle with depression and food, and how I try to help myself work through the struggles.

Addiction, depression - they don't come in one form. But what I have found that speaks to me out of the yoga principles is the idea of putting some space between some stimulus and your reaction to it. So if the impulse to (drink, gamble, smoke, self-harm, unleash unproductive anger) starts to tickle at your lizard brain, taking a breath AT THE VERY SECOND THAT YOU NOTICE IT can stimulate something for which Mel Robbins uses the term METACOGNITION. In essence, you bring your pre-frontal cortex (the thinking human brain) into play to distract/sideswipe the brain stem response mechanism and break that cycle of the bad habit/behavior.

I know I'm oversimplifying but here's what happened yesterday. I love carbohydrates, and sugar. It's part of our biology to crave them and have no "off" button for them so maybe that's one reason I have so much trouble to this day controlling my impulse to gorge on them.

(you can read about that here and here and in this woman's books

We had leftover homemade chocolate cake with (drool) Italian buttercream icing from a friend's birthday. I have been having struggles with body image (as usual) but lately moreso with sugar cravings ever since I did a candida cleanse, got my system cleaned out, lost a few inches of bloat and a few lbs., and went off the meal plan - I just don't have the capacity to do "on the go" proper nutrition planning and I need to get back to following someone's plan to help me balance the boat so to speak.

Anyway, my son wanted a piece of cake, which I happily gave to him. And my lizard brain screamed CAKE CAKE CAKE CAKE and I started to cut a huge chunk to shove into my mouth, full knowing the sugar would make my stomach hurt and my head spin (hypoglycemia anyone) and mess up how I physically and psychologically felt all day.

And in that microsecond of hesitation I said to myself "FIVE!" and exhaled deeply. Slow exhales relax the nervous system (in short, they get parasympathetic on-line and keep a good CO2 ratio in the blood and do a positive massage of the vagus nerve).

Then I put down the knife and said "Four.........three....."
I stood up straight and inhales then exhaled slowly again.

And the impulse was gone. GONE. No joke, the lightening fast craving and urge to satisfy it had passed and I felt like you do when you have almost drop a glass but you catch it and then when your heart rate slows down you kinda smile and get proud of yourself? That kind of feeling, of satisfaction, of calm, of accomplishment.

I know all the while there are terrors going on in our world far more important than my struggle with food, but in that moment I felt like a MUCH better mother, better partner, more authentic yoga instructor because I was practicing when I preach, I was living my yoga OFF THE MAT.

One really really interesting part of this whole story is that I didn't come by the 5 Second Rule by myself. My husband, who does not practice traditional yoga (Asana, Pranayama, etc.) read Mel Robbins' book and was talking about it when I was particularly sad the day prior - the battle in my head of critique and submissive was just horrible and I was angry and miserable and feeling bloated and achy and disappointed and frustrated and he just asked me to sit down with him and told me about what he just read.

He imparted to me HIS "yoga off the mat." And Om Nama Shivaya Praise to the god you worships holy guacamole it worked. It really, in the moment, it just worked. No shaming voice in my head, no crying, just a little bit of "ahhhhhh I can do this."

I'll take it. Five seconds at a time.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Festival of Yoga 2017 - International Day of Yoga

Saturday June 18, 2017 was a celebration in San Diego for the International Day of Yoga. Sponsored/organized by local studio Pilgrimage of the Heart in conjunction with a number of other yoga studios and local/regional sponsors, 500 practitioners of yoga of the body/mind/spirit gathered to celebrate peace, unity, breath, sunshine, life and love!

Accessible Yoga Ambassador/RYT/Jin Shin Jyutsu practitioner Jo-San Arnold and I partnered together for the second year to teach Adaptive Yoga for special needs, and this year we added Chair Yoga for Every Body. The festival asked us to offer four half-hour breakout sessions to coincide with their other workshops and we were happy to oblige.

Jo-San had friends from Great Paces come down to enjoy the morning sessions. We emphasize that our style of yoga is NOT just for those with the special needs but also for the caregivers as well, giving everyone and opportunity to stretch and strengthen, to take a break, to reconnect with their bodies, and to just BE.

I was tickled that some of my Silver Sneakers mates came out to celebrate the afternoon sessions and we also had a few other people stop by - "regular" yoga practitioners, a yoga therapist and a woman that specializes in yoga for recovery. What an honor to be able to share with them the joy and the authenticity of yoga "even" in chairs. We received compliments about how much more attention they were able to pay to individual subtle movements of the body!

What I found to be one of the most wonderful aspect of teaching at this event was that we were actually able to get our feet in the grass, to hear the sounds of environment both urban AND natural; rush of the wind in the trees, the birds in the sky, the ambient noise of traffic on the street beyond the park, and even the airplanes cruising overhead (yes, we were directly in the airport landing flight path). The contrast of the warm sun, the shade and scent of eucalyptus trees and the feel of the damp cool grass and earth were wonderful grounding sensations. In fact, when I went on later that afternoon to the group class practice, I found that my balance was actually better outside, on the uneven ground, with no mirror and no flat walls or floor, then it ever is in a studio.

Below are some pictures of Jo-San and me teaching the Adaptive Yoga and the Chair Yoga classes. We even received some coverage in the Union Tribune (thank you Karen Pearlman):

Adaptive Yoga

Representing :)
First, Breathing with the Hoberman Sphere
Gentle Twists in Our Chairs
Arms Overhead
Side Stretch
Me, Randy from Great Paces and the amazing Jo-San Arnold
The Great Paces/Great Expectations Group

Chair Yoga

Lunge Pose in a Chair
Navasana (Boat) Pose Prep
Navasana (Boat) with a Block for Pelvic Activation
Low Boat with a Block
Twisting (Pavritta) Lunge on the Chair
Warrior 2 Stance Using Chair Support
Side Angle with Chair Support - W2 Stance
Easeful Pyramid Pose with Chair as a Guide
Child's Pose to Close Class

Saturday, May 27, 2017


I tend to play a weird (wide) variety of music in my classes and get queries all the time about the artists. So, here are some of the ones that have inspired the most questions.

Song Title Artist Album
"1234" Feist
Animal Party Karen K And The Jitterbugs Big Ol' Truck
Bumblebee (Buzz Buzz) The Laurie Berkner Band Buzz Buzz
Catch The Moon Elizabeth Mitchell and Lisa Loeb For The Kids Too
Celebrate Love in Your Family Beebo Bunch of Songs
Doodlebugs The Laurie Berkner Band Whaddaya Think of That?
Fast and Slow (The Rabbit and the Turtle) The Laurie Berkner Band Rocketship Run
Fly Me to the Moon The Laurie Berkner Band Rocketship Run
Here Comes the Sun The Beatles
Joy to the World (Edit) Three Dog Night The Best of Three Dog Night
Jump and Fly The Laurie Berkner Band Rocketship Run
My Family The Laurie Berkner Band My Family - Single
Peace Like A River Elizabeth Mitchell You Are My Little Bird
Put Your Pj's On Neshama Carlebach Every Little Soul Must Shine
Say Hey (I Love You) [feat. Cherine Anderson] Michael Franti and Spearhead All Rebel Rockers
The Goldfish The Laurie Berkner Band Victor Vito
The Rainbow Connection Jason Mraz For The Kids Too
The Sun Shines On Everyone Snatam Kaur Feeling Good Today!
Victor Vito The Laurie Berkner Band Victor Vito
We Are the Dinosaurs The Laurie Berkner Band Whaddaya Think of That?
Wimoweh (The Lion Sleeps Tonight) The Laurie Berkner Band Whaddaya Think of That?
Yoga Makes Me Happy Karma Kids Yoga Come Play Yoga!
The Rainbow Connection Sarah McLachlan Gather Round:Songs For Kids And Other Folks
With a Little Help from My Friend Sgt. Pepper's Little Kids Club Band Kids Sing the Beatles
The Sun Shines On Everyone Snatam Kaur Feeling Good Today!
Big Ol' Truck Karen K And The Jitterbugs Big Ol' Truck
(I Woke Up in A) Fire Truck Karen K And The Jitterbugs Big Ol' Truck
Bigger Than the World Karen K And The Jitterbugs Big Ol' Truck
Joy to the World (Edit) Three Dog Night The Best of Three Dog Night

Adult Classes

The "Yoga Church" instrumental music with the ocean sounds between songs are all from the recording group  "Dollar Tree - Body & Soul II" and the albums are "Inner Peace" and "Spiritual Relaxation."

The nature sounds with piano music (has those wolves and crickets every mentions) is New Age music from Tony Braasch, the album is "Moonlit Night."

The instrumental Broadway music is from The O'Neill Brothers Group, album "Instrumental Songs from Wicked, Les Miserables & Other Broadway Hits."

Another instrumental favorite is the artist Vargo, album "Beauty."

I'm also big on DJ Drez, Donna Delory, Wah!, Snatum Kaur and Jai Uttal.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Yoga Mat Reviews by

Received a nice communique via the interwebs the other day asking if I'd be so kind as to link to their comprehensive (well, 50-odd mat sampling) review of yoga mats. How could I not oblige? So please, click through and check out the top 10 of the 50 most popular mats, that include links for purchase (how convenient).

You can buy cheap yoga mats at just about any place these days, even your local pharmacy or Target, but if you want lasting quality, minimal VOC (off-gassing), good grip, durability, and if weight (or color or texture or material) is a concern, it helps to have a really good guide. Especially when prices go from the sublime ($12) to the ridiculous ($150 for custom paint jobs).

They saw my comments about the Manduka yoga back in 2012, and thought I might want to share a broader based reviews.
"I work for a small research team (, and we recently conducted an unbiased review of yoga mats, and Manduka came out as one of our top picks too! Anyways, I figured because you mentioned that specific yoga mat, you might be interested in seeing our full guide. We put in over 50 hours of research, surveyed over 100 yoga professionals, and consulted with "Boston's 2014 Best Yoga Instructor" to bring you the best!" NOTE: Their pages has been updated as of August 22, 2019!

For more on yoga mats, search this blog for "yoga mat reviews."

Monday, April 3, 2017

Tennis Balls for Tight Muscles - self massage techniques from Yoga International

(copied from THIS link )

Imagine you have a friend small enough to fit in your purse or briefcase who will give you nightly massages, easing stress, fatigue, and muscle tension all for a onetime cost of about $3. Think yellow. Think tennis balls.

The procedure is simple: place a tennis ball on a part of the body that is sore or tight and rest your weight on it. The pressure softens tight muscles and increases circulation. Dancers have long used tennis ball self-massage to work out their kinked-up muscles, and body workers frequently prescribe the practice for clients healing from chronic injuries. Asana practitioners searching for ways to increase flexibility and comfort in their bodies are beginning to get on the ball, too.

Self-massage with tennis balls is greatly enhanced by stretching, which further increases circulation and reeducates the muscles to rest at a longer length. Combining asana with self-massage is particularly useful for those of us who have muscles that for various reasons—injury, overuse, or years of inactivity—resist stretching. Here are some tips for using tennis ball therapy to unlock the gluteals, lengthen the hamstrings and adductors, and restore balance to the muscles along the spine.

We’ll start with a simple technique so you can get a feel for how this works before going on to more complex applications. Lie in savasana and place the tennis ball in the center of the fleshiest part of the left buttock. The pressure may be painful, but if it feels like good pain and you can relax in it, stay there for a few breaths. (If you find you are contracting muscles in defense against the pain, move the tennis ball around to find a spot that is less painful, or practice on a padded surface, which will reduce the pressure.) Relax and breathe. Imagine the breath circulating around the pressure and visualize the muscle softening over the ball. After a minute or so, remove the ball. Before repeating the process on the right side, notice how the left buttock feels flatter than the right and softens more easily into the floor.

(click HERE to read the rest of the article!)

Monday, March 6, 2017

Belt Yourself - Working the Psoas (SEW-az) - Your Knee in Triangle Pose

1) A few tips on how to best use a yoga strap (aka, belt).

2) A little bit here on how to release that deep hip flexor (that one that lets you lift your leg in front of you when walking, climbing stairs, or even helping to hold you upright) that can give you back pain if it's too tight:

3) And how to get your legs and upper body and arms active in Triangle Pose so you never lean toward the ground, but always lift up (and avoid knee problems as well).

Saturday, February 25, 2017

#PPOTD Two-week Recap (from b'yomyoga on Twitter)

b'yom yoga‏@byomyoga Feb 14
#ppotd first day teach yoga #stmadeleinesophiescenter and i'm awash in goodwill. #lifeisgood #inmydharma

b'yom yoga‏@byomyoga Feb 17
#ppotd thank your body for all it does, forgive it for all it doesn't, support it growing strong with a positive mind and deep full breaths

b'yom yoga‏@byomyoga Feb 18
#ppotd if a friend offers a shared activity - accept! companionship does the heart good (thank you Claire Young)

b'yom yoga‏@byomyoga Feb 20
#ppotd @YMCASanDiego open to the public all day today - get your family activities on!!

b'yom yoga‏@byomyoga Feb 21
#ppotd never underestimate the power of alone time.

b'yom yoga‏@byomyoga Feb 23
#ppotd #worldbeatcenter our school's 1st & 2nd graders were enthralled learning west African drumming and dance - a joy and privilege 2 see!

b'yom yoga‏@byomyoga 19h19 hours ago
#ppotd never miss a chance to tell someone you care about them

Friday, February 10, 2017

Pratipaksha Bhavana - Cultivate the Opposite - and PPOTD

At a workshop/conference/seminar I attended at Univ. of CA, SD the other weekend one of the recurring themes (for healing) was Partipaksha Bhavana, or "cultivate the opposite."

In the Sutra 2.33, Patanjali stated:
Vitarka badhane pratipaksha bhavanam.

“When disturbed by negative thoughts, opposite [positive] ones should be thought of. This is pratipaksha bhavana.”

In other words, if you are feeling blue/down, you might be best served by getting up and being a bit social, having some warm comforting foods and interactions. If you are overstimulated and overheated, then a cool dip either physically (think - a pool!) or emotionally (deep breaths, a nap) might serve you well.

You can check into one of many articles are this in detail here:

But I want to comment on something topical and personal when it comes to this concept of cultivating the opposite. Our political climate is rife with distress. It's equal parts distracting, depressing, and irritating and very difficult from which to disengage. In fact, if you completely disengage you lose track of what's happening and you may feel even more lost. So, how do you stay cool headed, but informed. How do you follow your instinct about taking action with your local government but also not let negativity seep into every aspect of your life? How do you save energy for your family, your yoga practice, when you've been "fighting the good fight" all day, on phones, on line, or in other ways, especially if you job requires it.

I suggest, just briefly, take a time out and cultivate the opposite with a positive thought. Not a snarky positive one, but a truly decent, calm, pleasant, uplifting reflection on something GOOD in your life.

I am going to start posting Positive Posts of the Day (PPOTD) on which will automatically post them on my byom_jackie Twitter feed. I welcome everyone to join in to the trend, not for "hits" and fame, but to spread a bit of good will and gratitude as quickly as we can spread frustration, outrage and bad news.

Use #PPOTD or #PositivePostoftheDay and feel free to tag me on Facebook as @byomyoga or @jackiegadd or @byom_jackie on twitter - I want to see the good things happening in your life. Because that will help ME cultivate the opposite when I"m feeling like the world is a bit out of control.

Extremely humble thanks to Amy Wheeler, PhD at for the inspiration.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Solidarity and Kaivalya

I just read my son a book called The Yellow Star - recommended to me by a friend at his school, who read it to their children. I think for me this sums up everything my parents ever taught me about "good" and "right" and being strong, and being a community member. It's how I always felt in my heart and how I want to teach my son to be. It's not just about "standing up for the little guy;" it's about being willing to put yourself out there to make a statement about justice. It's about knowing in your heart that you are part of a bigger community and you must act to support it even if you are not personally needing the direct support.

The story was the legend of King Christian X of Denmark. The book acknowledges that the story in it's oral and written history, nor the version in this book, were fully true, but adapted version of an allegory for solidarity and support for ones brethren. 

The author writes in the end notes:
And what if we could follow that example today against violations of human rights? What if the good and strong people of the world stood shoulder to shoulder, crowding the streets and filling the squares, saying ,"You cannot do this injustice to our systems and brothers or you must do it to us as well." - Carmen Agra Deedy, The Yellow Star
You've read about the family that hid Anne Frank, and you've heard of Schindler's list and the woman from Poland who rescued children from the Holocaust. Many people are offended by any reference to this horrid event with respect to current political issues in the US. But I think the larger point here is that some people are willing stand up for what they believe in not with violence and guns (which happens too) or a military coup, but by thinking clearly, following their hearts, and taking a risk...and this is important.. for someone else. 

For supporting others and ourselves we have terms like have ahimsa (non harming), seva (selfless service), bhakti (devotion), sattva (purity), satya (truth), and all the yamas (ethics) and niyamas (observances) at deal with self conduct/care and ethics.... and a new one for me - KAIVALYA.

In the yoga sutras, the fourth chapter talks about moving from "I" based consciousness to self realization - a release of ego to find enlightenment. The Sanskrit term for this liberation is kaivalya. The yoga path is designed to help us find our way to our truest self, so that we may free ourselves from the idea that we are individual, and rather we are all interconnected, part of one big universe - one divine thing.

In order for us all to be free, we must not only acknowledge that we are "in this together" (in the immediate but also metaphysical sense) but also that someone that affects one affects us all - and we are obliged by the deepest consciousness to support whatever needs supporting. To stand shoulder to shoulder (or mat to mat, or heart to heart) and say "we are one."

Love and light, Om Shanti, Shalom.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Support for people with Cerebral Palsy - info from a blog reader

Good Afternoon, 

I just finished browsing through, and I noticed that you provide some great informative resources for those dealing with developmental disabilities and their families. 

A couple of years ago, one of my best friends gave birth to a child who has this condition, and supporting her through the process of learning about CP and creating the best possible life for him has shown me firsthand what families dealing with CP go through on a daily basis. 

Because of this, I appreciate you offering so many helpful resources to the public on this topic. I would love to recommend another resource for your site, The blog helps people whose children have been born with Cerebral Palsy understand their legal options. It also offers some great health and wellness information. 

I hope you are having a great week. Thank you again for offering so many helpful resources for those with CP and their families. 

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Accessible Yoga - reprinted from the California Health Report

"The Accessible Yoga movement is introducing yoga to older adults and others not normally included in this largely young, white, middle-class movement: people with disabilities, ethnic minorities, those with different body types, and underserved communities.

"Aging With Dignity travels to the Accessible Yoga Conference in Santa Barbara for its first video report.
"Video reported and edited by Matt Perry"