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from Kurt Vonnegut Drawings by The Monacelli Press

"I've been drawing all my life, just as a hobby,
without really having shows or anything.
It's just an agreeable thing to do,
and I recommend it to everybody.
I always say to people, practice an art,
no matter how well or badly, because
then you have the experience of becoming
and it makes your soul grow."
-Kurt Vonnegut

I still have a nice collection of Vonnegut,
whom I read eagerly in my twenties.
Dark, self aware political satire
made me feel oh, so grownup.

The words above appeal to me now.
Practicing an art this late in the game?
Well, mastery is not an option.
Which is kind of awesome and freeing.
Just dipping my toe, or fingertips,
into something with the aim
of simply making my soul grow?
My hidden evil perfectionist shrinks.
The space around me grows.
This, I like.

Your yoga practice
can feel this way too
if you let it.



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Ah, the ubiquitous down dog.
Love it. Hate it. It looms
ever present in a yoga practice.

The tightness you may greet
in your hamstrings can easily
be ameliorated by bent knees.
But what about the tightness
you encounter in your shoulders?

Here's a tip for opening up
your upper back and keeping
your neck free, so happy
benefits will radiate down
the entire length of your spine.

Once your open and ground
your palms and begin to press
up into the shape, ask your
biceps to spin outwards and
your triceps to draw back.

Do this right now from where
you sit. Just throw your arms
in front of you in the air and try it.
Pinky fingers spinning out.
Feel your back muscles drawing
your shoulder blades down?
See? That's external rotation.
It can be hard to keep in downdog.
Many of us collapse. But if you can,
you will be rewarded with a more
comfortable and safe shape so
you can downdog your life long.

Down dog smartly
with me this week!



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a Canadian forest that I can still conjure in my spirit years later

Jack pines … are not lumber trees
[and they] won’t win many beauty
contests either. But to me this
valiant old tree, solitary on its own
rocky point, is as beautiful as a
living thing can be…. In its silence
it speaks of … wholeness …
an integrity that comes from
being what you are.
—Douglas Wood, Fawn Island

You don't have to be
in an enchanted forest
to fall under the spell
of a wise, old tree.
Its deep strength and wisdom
offers its own kind of beauty.
The kind of beauty I aspire to.
That of being exactly
what or who you are.
Maybe not particularly
useful or industrious
nor extraordinarily impressive.
But true.

Let's try on that intention
on the yoga mat this week.



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Nearly 40 researchers signed "The New York Declaration on Animal Consciousness," which was first presented at a conference at New York University on Friday morning. It marks a pivotal moment, as a flood of research on animal cognition collides with debates over how various species ought to be treated.

The declaration says there is "strong scientific support" that birds and mammals have conscious experience, and a "realistic possibility" of consciousness for all vertebrates — including reptiles, amphibians and fish. That possibility extends to many creatures without backbones, it adds, such as insects, decapod crustaceans (including crabs and lobsters) and cephalopod mollusks, like squid, octopus and cuttlefish.

-Evan Bush for NBC News

_______________________

When zoologists, neurologists, and
biologists begin to understand the
heretofore unimagined cognition
of animals along with the possibility
of consciousness and awareness
akin to our own, things start to look
a little different as to how we should
behave in the world of which we are
a small part.

Step outside on this sunny Earth Day
with new eyes to the community
around you, possibly with an aim
towards kindness and curiosity.

Happy Earth Day, yogi.
You're a part of
something wonderful.



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"We must walk according to the highest light we have, encountering lovingly those who are out of harmony, and trying to inspire them toward a better way. Whenever you bring harmony into any unpeaceful situation, you contribute to the cause of peace. When you do something for world peace, peace among groups, peace among individuals, or your own inner peace, you improve the total peace picture."
-Peace Pilgrim

As my mind has been troubled
by all the senseless violence
that is escalating in the world,
I went to look for my old paperback
of transcribed thoughts and actions
of Peace Pilgrim. A woman who
dropped all her possessions and
simply walked for peace all over
North America during the Korean
War, Vietnam, and beyond.

I believe her claim that I can
help affect peace in the world.
Starting with inner peace
(no small project) and then
fostering peace around me
can make a difference.

Don't feel powerless.
Don't feel overwhelmed.
Move in your world with
the brightest light you have.
Radiate a peaceful countenance
that can spread far.
Trailing harmony behind you.

Yoga is a brilliant start.



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"I turned back to the sun. It was going. The sun was going, and the world was wrong. The grasses were wrong; they were now platinum. Their every detail of stem, head, and blade shone lightless and artificially distinct as an art photographer’s platinum print. This color has never been seen on earth. The hues were metallic; their finish was matte. The hillside was a nineteenth-century tinted photograph from which the tints had faded. All the people you see in the photograph, distinct and detailed as their faces look, are now dead. The sky was navy blue. My hands were silver. All the distant hills’ grasses were fine-spun metal which the wind laid down. I was watching a faded color print of a movie filmed in the Middle Ages; I was standing in it, by some mistake. I was standing in a movie of hillside grasses filmed in the Middle Ages. I missed my own century, the people I knew, and the real light of day."
-Annie Dillard's memory of the 1979 eclipse

There's something magical about
natural events such as this.
Moments where we feel taken
out of time and rather small
in light of the universe.
The wondrously ordered, chaotic
system of which we are a part.
Our very bodies made up of
the same stuff, in ways we are
only beginning to understand.

Stay awake to the wonder
and mystery of your very
being - your physical form
and your inner depths.
Yoga is interested in both.

Come to practice this week,
you who are made of starstuff.



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"I used to like kneeling in the garden;
it feels like bowing to the world
that made me.

My body can't do that kind of work
anymore, but my mind is all garden;
constant bloom and seed and bloom.
I'm looking at the dried-out poppy seed
heads and seeing me. So you get that
whole memento mori, really, don't you?
And that's a very important aspect,
I think, of a meditative or contemplative
lifestyle. I am still gardening,
but I am gardening me."

- Mark Hamer ,66,
gardener & writer from Wales

I finally got all my seeds
in the ground yesterday.
My body remembered all that work
upon rising for my first yoga class
this morning. Oy....
I have friends whose knees
no longer appreciate hours
in the dirt, so they wisely
choose how to modify their
movements, the amount of time
and effort they spend planting
versus simply enjoying what grows
....or doesn't.

The hopefulness of seeds.
The mystery of growth.
The remnants of dissolution.
An endless cycle I get to
witness on the same patch
of dirt year after year.

I'm drawn to memento mori
{Latin for "remember you must die")
in various forms of art and practice.
You are too
if you've ever done savasana
at the end of a yoga class.
Corpse pose is a chance to be
a dried out poppy seed head.
Spent. Finished. Empty.
Yoga has something to offer
in teaching us how to die,
how to live, how to embrace
the cycle of which we're a part.

See what grows this spring.
Inside and out.



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Our bodies are capable of pretty fantastic
ranges of movement. Forward folding!
Backwards bending! Just to name two.

In a forward fold, our back body
stretches to allow contraction of the
front body to move forward and
down. Likewise, when our back
muscles contract to arch, our front
get to enjoy some new length.
This sort of yoga play keeps a
balanced situation in our tissues.

Why do we do these sorts of actions
so repetitively in yoga? Muscles are
designed to contract and relax in
succession. As we pendulate,
we're safely and slowly increasing
circulation to connective tissues,
organs, muscles, and fascia. Yum.

When you cease nurturing these full
ranges of movement, you begin to
lose them. Your tissues contract,
habitual postures solidify, imbalances
arise and often with them, chronic pain.

Keep moving, yogi!
Up, down, side to side,
inside and out.

______________
photo: Anna Shve



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This, from Dr. Michael Greger's Anti-Aging Eight,
was the most surprising finding from the food
studies seeking increased longevity.
Something I already love is good for me? Yes!

What could be better (and easier) than
whipping up some lentils? Dal is divine.
Red lentils, really orange, are my go to.
Yellow, green, brown.... they're all delish.
But when I want to get fancy, I use this
NYT Cooking recipe for French lentils.
[also pasted below]
Oooh la la!
Okay, maybe not so fancy as it only
requires a few ingredients, but I feel
oh so continental and satisfied
when I eat it. Perhaps you will too.
It's serving as my breakfast
this very (slightly chilly) morning.

Here's to a healthy biome
and a supple body.
See you on the yoga mat.


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Oh, the wonders of the knee.
Flexion! (bending)
Extension! (straightening)
And honestly, lots of squirrely
actions in between as the knees
are caught smack in the middle of
the hips and the feet. The multiplicity
of crossing tendons and ligaments
allows us all that mobility, but with
mobility comes vulnerability.

We are mindful in yoga of how
we stack up bones for safety
in weight bearing and movement.
Still, variability of stance changes
the way the knee bones interact.
The way they slide together is
beautifully designed and morphs,
putting pressure on different parts
off the knee depending upon the
position of those bones.
All this action is supported by
cartilage (menisci), which for some
of us might be impaired.
Paying attention to your
peculiarities is smart.

Yoga does all sorts of good for
your knees - building strength
and mobility to support them
in their tireless work.
Still, if anything you do in yoga
hurts your knee, stop! Give a
deep bow of respect and see
how you might alter your stance,
lessen your flexion, or choose
another posture instead.

Your brave knees have served
you well all these years, pay them
the honor they deserve by
listening to what they like and
what they don't.

Yoga is more about
what your body
can teach you
than what you can
teach your body.

Read that last sentence again.
Then, come to yoga this week!