Tag Archives: travel

The NYC Return

It’s getting to be that time, New York.  I have exactly one more week to go before moving back home to Hawaii, and since returning from Paris, I’ve had oodles to be grateful for.  Here’s the breakdown:

Friday, July 12th

The convenient – though sometimes hideous – MTA.  Alright, the paint is peeling off the walls and cat-sized rats scurry not far from the platforms.  But all in all, New York’s public transport gets you where you need to go.  After landing at JFK I took trains all the way back to Park Slope in time to shower and repack for my next trip that day.  I’m especially grateful for the public transport here in NY since I’m remember how tough it is to get around Oahu without a car.  I’m soaking up this train/bus action while I can!

Saturday, July 13th

The first official day of the Third Root collective owners’ retreat in the Poconos.  Today I’m grateful for catharsis.  Not the kind of anger-fuelled punching bag catharsis that’s now been proven to make matters much worse.  Rather, the kind of mindful catharsis that can cleanse the soul, paint a clearer picture of the past, dark shades and all, a catharsis that brings us to understanding.

DSC07018Sunday, July 14th

Lake fun!  It was a long morning and afternoon, sitting inside and sorting through heavy important to-dos . . . uber grateful to have had a jaunt to the lake for swimming, tanning and a whole lotta craic.

Monday, July 15th

One of my dear friends from the Abu Dhabi days came to visit and there are so many moments of gratitude here, it’s mighty hard to choose.  The fountain at Washington Square park, so calming in 100 degree weather?  The joy of having a good friend in town?  The decliciousness at Thewala?  I’ll go ahead and highlight Greenwich Village Comedy Club, where just about all the performers were on point, making us giggle and guffaw the whole evening through.  And as a few bonus cherries on top, we scored a bunch of free tickets for future fun and made a few friends from out of town.  The impromptu sesh went on at the Bowery Hotel – equal parts hunting lodge and bad trip.  I highly recommend a visit if you’re in town!

DSC07030Tuesday, July 16th

Despite the 106 degree weather, like the pros we are, Nat and set out on a full day of explorations: cwoffee from a no-nonsense Brooklyn dinah – black, to go!  Onward bound to the New York Aquarium and Coney Island boardwalk, complete with beachy rendezvous with a few yoga sisters on a picnic day.  Hungry and determined to try some of the best pizza in Brooklyn we hit up Totonno’s – only to find it closed on Mondays and Tuesdays.  Boo!  But you know what, it was worth the walk, because one of owners popped her lovely head out the door and chatted with us, apologizing for not being open, and blowing us “sweethearts” a kiss before asking God for our blessing.  Now *that’s* some Brooklyn hospitality I hadn’t been before!

DSC07039After a shower and a costume change, we nibbled on sushi (delicious and affordable, at some spot on 2nd ave and 8th street – such a good find if you can find it!) before checking out some rare peace and greenery in Manhattan at the Highline.  On the flip side of NY kindness, when we rocked up to the Standard Hotel for a rooftop tipple, we were rudely turned away (despite our reservations) and told to sit in the snazzy bar a floor below.  Thankfully there was a four piece swingtime jazz band bopping away to welcome us!  We met up with another mate and checked out the Jane Hotel, a slightly more disco version of The Bowery, before finding our way to a hooka joint.  Today’s source of gratitude: STAMINA, BABY!

Wednesday, July 17th

biggayiceNat’s last day in the citay 😦  We decided to make it a food tour day and set straight out for the best bagels in Brooklyn at The Bagel Hole.  An everything bagel and veggie cream cheese, does it every time!  Two blocks up the road and we took a stroll through Prospect Park on our way up to catch a Q train to Chinatown (for a taro puff, of course!) and Little Italy – home of hardcore espresso and delectable tiramisu.  Apparently, the Italian American Museum is open by appointment only on weekdays, but we made the most of our steamy – and very brief – stroll through the ‘hood.  Next up: the East Village for some BIG GAY ICE CREAM!  Honestly, I was more impressed with the unicorns and She-ra decorations, but the Salty Pimp (a dulce de lece vanilla ice cream cone, dipped in chocolate and rolled in pretzels) was no doubt delightful.  Overpriced.  But delightful.

No trip to NYC would be complete without a romp through hipsterville, the infamous Williamsburg.  It’s home to the Mast Brother’s Chocolate shop, a gaggle of places to eat drink and be merry, and a center dedicated to “learning through making,” 3rd Ward.  We dined on the best dumplings ever to cross my palate, the spicy won tons (in heavenly peanut sauce) at Shanghai Bistro and Garden.  Seriously, they’re on another level.

What was I thankful for that day?  The company of a dear friend.  I might have blogged about that one before.  But I changed the wording around a little bit this time.  Friends deserve multiple blogs 🙂

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In Seine in the Membrane

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Notre Dame on a steamer of a day!

Tuesday, my first real day back in Paris.  My yoga bro spent most of the day at work, and I took the opportunity to lay back and do absolutely nothing.  Oh, sweet nothing.  There’s nothing better than doing nothing when you’ve been traveling for two weeks, it’s hotter than the devil’s armpit outside and your prana levels are looking just about as flush as the euros in your wallet.  On occasion, I’ll feel a twinge of guilt for doing nothing, as though my entire existence should be dictated by productivity assessments.  But that’s just the Puritan work ethic creeping up on me!  No, doing nothing is quite alright.  Even on holiday, in one of the most fabulous cities in the world – sometimes you just gotta do what you gotta do.  And in this case, it was nothing.  🙂

By the time Wednesday rolled around, I’d found the time to come back to my asana/pranayam/meditation groove, so I felt rejuvenated enough to do a little more exploring.  I didn’t have to wander far until I ran into an adorable Thai Massage joint recommended to me by my local friend.  30 minutes of Thai Massage and all that travel was nothing but a feint memory . . . it took me back to my days in massage training in Chiang Mai.  It might be time to finish up my level two training soon!

(A random video of Thai Massage techniques, in case you’ve not experienced it before.  It’s such a perfect compliment to an asana practice – your flexibility will definitely be enhanced with regular Thai Massage!)

Wednesday rolled on through the Pompidou, crepe tastings, Notre Dame, a jazz band, and to top it all off, Ethiopian food at Abyssinia Restaurant!  The portions could have been more generous, but the flavors were out of this world.

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Thursday we set off for New York via the Charles de Gaulle airport.  I may have been through quite a few airports in my life, sure.  The Honolulu airport is adorable and mostly outdoors, palm trees lining the walkways, the smell of flowers in the air.  I love the Tokyo airport for all the spas and restaurants and pod hotels.  But the airport in Paris is so mindfully designed, it has to take the cake.  All the inside walls are lined in wood, giving the ambiance a grounded yet spacious feel.  Sunlight pours in at every design opportunity, the perfect natural mood enhancer.  From the outside, the airport looks like some kind of 60’s vision of a futuristic spacecraft.  Fo’ realzies, one of the best flying facilities I’ve seen so far.

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Supafly flying facility

Three-Part Pranayam: Keepin’ Travel Sane

With the inevitable incompetence, rudeness, and inordinate amount of variables on hand during long-distance travel, pranayam is without a doubt the most valuable tool in my traveler’s belt.  Water, stretches, and a juicy read are are tied for a very close second!

I often practice this pranayam (breathing exercise) seated, preferably somewhere the air is clean.  But if you’re in a stressful pinch – like your flight lands 10 minutes after your connecting flight back home leaves – it doesn’t really matter if you can lie down to practice.  We do what we can do, when we can do it.

approachingPhoenix

Today, doing my best to be the center of this travel storm, I’m grateful for Dirga Pranayam, Three-Part Breath, Complete Breath, sometimes called Mahat Yoga Pranayam.

 

Here’s a full rundown of the practice from About.com (Of course, if I were home with my collection of books, I’d reference a more established text!)

Three-Part Breath – Dirga Pranayama

By Ann Pizer, About.com Guide

Updated August 25, 2012

About.com Health’s Disease and Condition content is reviewed by our Medical Review Board

Benefits: Focuses the attention on the present moment, calms and grounds the mind.

This pranayama exercise is often done while seated in a comfortable, cross-legged position, but it is also nice to do while lying on the back, particularly at the beginning of your practice. When you are lying down, you can really feel the breath moving through your body as it makes contact with the floor.

1. Come to lie down on the back with the eyes closed, relaxing the face and the body.

2. Begin by observing the natural inhalation and exhalation of your breath without changing anything. If you find yourself distracted by the activity in your mind, try not to engage in the thoughts. Just notice them and then let them go, bringing your attention back to the inhales and the exhales.

3. Then begin to inhale deeply through the nose.

4. On each inhale, fill the belly up with your breath. Expand the belly with air like a balloon.

5. On each exhale, expel all the air out from the belly through your nose. Draw the navel back towards your spine to make sure that the belly is empty of air.

6. Repeat this deep belly breathing for about five breaths.

7. On the next inhale, fill the belly up with air as described above. Then when the belly is full, draw in a little more breath and let that air expand into the rib cage causing the ribs to widen apart.

8. On the exhale, let the air go first from the rib cage, letting the ribs slide closer together, and them from the belly, drawing the navel back towards the spine.

9. Repeat this deep breathing into the belly and rib cage for about five breaths.

10. On the next inhale, fill the belly and rib cage up with air as described above. Then draw in just a little more air and let it fill the upper chest, all the way up to the collarbone, causing the area around the heart (which is called the heart center in yoga), expand and rise.

11. On the exhale, let the breath go first from the upper chest, allowing the heart center sink back down, then from the rib cage, letting the ribs slide closer together. Finally, let the air go from the belly, drawing the navel back towards the spine.

12. You are practicing three-part breath! Continue at your own pace, eventually coming to let the three parts of the breath happen smoothly without pausing.

13. Continue for about 10 breaths.

 

Free Trip to Hawaii!

…is what I’m grateful for today!  You can’t really beat a free trip to papaya-land for family, friends and a whole lotta beach lounging.

Home sweet home, here I come!

Over the course of the next 11 days I’ll be posting loads about all the awesomeness of my homelands.  In the meantime, read a bit more about the most isolated landmass in the entire world here …

50 Random Facts About . . .

Hawaii

  1. Hawaii’s nickname is the “Aloha State.” The word aloha is derived from the Proto-Polynesian, alofa, and its meanings include “love,” “compassion,” and “mercy.” Aloha is used both as “hello” and “goodbye.”e
  2. The word Hawaii is from the Proto-Polynesian hawaiki, meaning “place of the gods” or “homeland.”d
  3. Hawaii is the only state that is not geographically located in North America, is completely surrounded by water, and does not have a straight line in its state boundary.a
  4. Born in Hawaii, Barack Obama is the only president from outside the continental United States.c
  5. Because of its continuous volcanic eruptions, Hawaii is the only state in the nation to have an increasing land area.a
  6. Hawaii has two official languages, Hawaiian and English, though Pidgin, Samoan, and Tongan are also spoken.f

Hawaii is the only state that has tropical rain forests

  1. Hawaii is the only state in the nation that grows coffee, has tropical rainforests, and is made completely of islands.a
  2. In the 1960s, astronauts trained for moon voyages by walking on Mauna Loa’s hardened lava fields, which resemble the surface of the moon.f
  3. One of the earliest cases of AIDS ever recorded in the United States was in Hawaii. In May 1978, a 50-year-old Asian woman was diagnosed with the disease and died in August of that year.i
  4. The only land snake to be found in the wild in Hawaii is the tiny Hawaiian blind snake, which is thought to have arrived in plant soil brought from the Philippines in 1929 to landscape the Kamehameha School grounds.f
  5. Hawaii became the first state in the union to legalize abortion on demand in 1970, three years before Roe v. Wade. (Colorado legalized abortion in 1967, but only in cases of rape or incest or to save the life of the mother.)i
  6. Hawaii 5-0 was the longest-running police drama until Law and Order. While the stars worked for the state police department in the series, in reality, Hawaii doesn’t have a statewide police department or DMV. They are managed by each county government.i
  7. Hawaii is the only state to honor a monarch, celebrating King Kamehameha Day on June 11th since 1872. Kamehameha is known for uniting the Hawaiian Islands in 1810.a

Surfing was invented thousands of years ago by Polynesians who first settled Hawaii

  1. Surfing, or heenalu, was invented thousands of years ago by the Polynesians who first settled Hawaii. Their boards weighed more than 150 pounds and measured up to 20 feet.d
  2. Hawaii is home to the unique “Happy Face Spider” (Theridion grallator), which bears an uncanny resemblance to a smiling face on the back of its abdomen.f
  3. Only two types of mammals are native to Hawaii: the hoary bat and the monk seal.f
  4. When written with the English alphabet, Hawaiian uses only 12 letters and a symbol (‘).f
  5. Day biting mosquitoes first arrived in Hawaii in 1872 as stowaways aboard a merchant ship, bringing with them new diseases such as malaria and the plague.i
  6. Hawaii is America’s youngest state, entering the nation on August 21, 1959.a
  7. The eight horizontal stripes on Hawaii’s flag represent each of the state’s main islands. In the upper-left corner of the flag is a small version of Britain’s flag which honors British captain George Vancouver, who gave Hawaii its first flag in 1794.i
  8. Historically, Hawaiians gave leis to their local alii, or chief, as a sign of affection. Warring chiefs who wanted to make peace sat down to weave leis together.d
  9. The hula was originally a form of worship performed by highly trained men who were supposedly taught the dance by the Hawaiian god Luka.g

Ancient Hawaiians believed that heavier women were beautiful

  1. Ancient Hawaiians believed that the heavier a woman, especially a chieftess, the more beautiful she was.g
  2. There are just over 7,000 inhabitants on the island of Molokai, probably most famous for its past as a leper colony.d
  3. Everyone is a minority in Hawaii—there are no racial majorities. Haoles or Caucasians, constitute about 33% of the population, Japanese about 33%, Filipino-Americans about 16%, and Chinese-Americans about 5%. Most of the population has mixed ethnicities.a
  4. The southernmost state in the United States is Hawaii.a
  5. The average projected lifespan of those born in Hawaii in the year 2000 is 79.8 years (77.1 years if male; 82.5 if female), longer than the residents of any other state.a
  6. The island of Maui was named after the demigod who taught Hawaiians to make fire, invented spears, and created a giant fishhook from his dead grandmother’s jawbone. According to the legend, when he fished with the hook, he brought the Hawaiian Islands up from the sea.g
  7. The rainiest place on Earth is Mt. Waialeale on the island of Kauai, where the average rainfall is 476 inches per year.a
  8. The first Caucasian foreigner known to have died on the islands was William Watman, a member of Captain James Cook’s gunnery crew who was killed by a paralytic stroke in January 1779 at Honaunau.d
  9. When Captain Cook arrived in Hawaii in 1778, he was greeted as the god Lono because he had arrived during a sacred festival. Initially, the Hawaiians thought Cook’s ships were floating islands.d
  10. Captain Cook initially called Hawaii the “Sandwich Islands” after his English patron, the Earl of Sandwich. In 1819, King Kamehameha renamed the islands the Kingdom of Hawaii.d
  11. Hawaiians considered the shark (mano) a god and treated it with great respect.g
  12. Ancient Hawaiian society was divided into social classes. The lowest social group was the kauwa, who may have been prisoners of war or early settlers conquered by later arrivals. They were often the unlucky ones picked for human sacrifices to the gods.d
  13. Because the chiefs were thought to be related to the gods, they claimed to possess powerful mana with which they ruled the common people (maka’ainana) and the lower class (kauwa). To prevent mana from being diluted, members of the elite class often intermarried; in fact, it was not unusual for a high chief to marry his own sister.d
  14. Rules called kappa guided daily life. For example, the maka’ainana (common people) could not let their shadows touch the shadow of the alii (upper class), and women could not eat certain food (such as bananas, coconut, or certain fishes) or share meals with men. The punishment for breaking a kappa was often death.d

The Ohe Hano Ihu (bamboo flute of the nose) was a nose flute typically played between lovers

  1. While most people play flutes with their mouths, ancient Hawaiians often played flutes (Ohe hano ihn) with the nose. Perhaps the preference for a nose flute stems from the Hawaiian belief that the nose was more innocent or pure than the mouth, which could say many things.g
  2. Early Christian missionaries to Hawaii (circa 1820) were shocked to find that Hawaiian mothers practiced infanticide if the babies were deformed or diseased or if there were already too many children. They were also shocked by the extreme displays of grief (such as knocking out their own teeth or tattooing their own tongues) after the death of a loved one.i
  3. The highest sea cliffs in the world are on Moloka’i.h
  4. Hawaii has lost more species and has more endangered species than any other state in the United States. Nearly all of the state’s native birds are in danger of becoming extinct.h
  5. Hawaii has its own time zone and does not observe Daylight Saving Time.a
  6. The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor was directly responsible for the United States’ entry into WWII. More than 2,400 of Hawaii’s soldiers and residents died in the attack.a

Honolulu, Hawaii’s state capital, is located on Oahu, which is also known as the “Gathering Place”

  1. Oahu draws more visitors than any other island of Hawaii.f
  2. In 1790, the volcano Kilauea erupted on the Big Island of Hawaii, killing over 5,000 people and making it the most deadly volcanic eruption in the United States. Kilauea is one of the most active volcanoes in the world.f
  3. Park rangers at Hawaii National Park receive packages every year from tourists who have taken volcanic rocks from Kilauea. The tourists claim that the rocks were bad luck from Pele, the goddess of fire, lightening, dance, volcanoes, and violence.f
  4. In 1778, the native Hawaiian population was estimated to be nearly 1 million. By 1919, the population declined to an astounding 22,600, due in large part to war and disease. The current population of Hawaii is over 1.3 million.b
  5. Hawaii is 2,390 miles away from the nearest continent (North America) and is considered the most isolated population center on earth. Early in its history, seeds and plants were brought to the barren island by wind, water, and birds.f
  6. Because their society was largely an oral rather than a written culture, ancient Hawaiians would learn values and history through trained storytellers. Because the stories were considered sacred, listeners were not allowed to move once a story began.d
  7. The popular T.V. series Lost is shot in Hawaii. At the end of the credits is a note thanking the “people of Hawaii and their Aloha Spirit.”j
  8. The oldest Catholic Cathedral in the United States is the Cathedral of Our Lady of Peace in Honolulu, built in 1843.i

— Posted April 3, 2009

References

a Bahmueller, Charles, ed. 2007. The Fifty States. “Hawaii.” 2nd ed. Pasadena, CA: Salem Press, Inc.

b Cornell University Law School. U.S. Code Collection. January 3, 2007. Accessed: March 19, 2009.

c Dougherty, Steve. 2007. Hopes and Dreams: The Story of Barack Obama. New York, NY: Black Dog and Leventhal Publishers.

d Dunford, Betty. 1980. The Hawaiians of Old. Revised Edition. Honolulu, HI: The Bess Press.

e Etymology Online. “Online Etymological Dictionary.” Accessed: March 19, 2009.

f Johnston, Joyce. 1995. Hawaii. Minneapolis, MN: Lerner Publications Company.

g Kane, Herb Kawainui. 1997. Ancient Hawai’i. South Kona, HI: Kawainui Press.

h MSNBC.com. “Study: Nearly All Native Birds in Hawaii in Peril.” March 20, 2009. Accessed: March 20, 2009.

i Schmitt, Robert C. 1995. Firsts and Almost Firsts in Hawai’i. Honolulu, HI: University of Hawai’i Press.

j http://www.imdb.com. “Lost.” Accessed: March 19, 2009.

 

Teacher Series: Pandit Raj Kumar Vajpayee, Yogacharya

Today I’m full of gratitude for my teacher in Varanasi, Raju-ji!

He’s a friend, an adviser, and a wonderful yoga teacher who’s been pivotal in my evolution as a yogi.  If you want to read about some of my experiences in Varanasi with Raju-ji (I wrote several entries!), or the community seva project we launched last year, please click through.

(And if you’re a yogi headed to Banares, here are a few humble tips!)

Guruji with a pleased group of students – they all did their first headstands ever that day!

Raju-ji guided me through many firsts, in asana, pranayam, understanding the wisdom of many scriptures, and so much more.    Meeting him was no chance happening!

Guru-ji’s bio from his website:

Pandit Raj Kumar Vajpayee Yogacharya shines with the joy  and openness that yoga brings to life.  A family man and householder himself, Rajuji is able to translate the deep teachings of yoga in a way that is both understandable and applicable for a range of students.  His awesome intuition and in-depth knowledge of the human mind and body make Rajuji one of the most effective teachers out there.

Although yoga as a way of life is not competitive in nature, Rajuji also lays claim to a gold medal in asana competition.  He is the only gold medalist from the state of Uttar Pradesh in 36 years!  (To study asana and other yogic techniques with Rajuji in depth, check out his one-on-one program here.)

Whether your goals are spiritual, psychological, or physiological, Rajuji is a trustworthy teacher to help you open those doors.

Rajuji’s yoga experience began as a young boy.  He was ‘discovered’ in a Varanasi gym by a local yogi and trained for many years to became a gold medalist in Indian national yoga competitions.  As a recipient of the cherished Yoga Bushan title from the All India Yoga Society, Rajuji is among some of the best yoga asana practitioners in the country.

When Rajuji made the transition to teaching, he studied yoga therapy, hoping his gifts in yoga could help cure ailments and give peace to people in pain.  This capacity for giving and healing has drawn thousands of students from around the world to Rajuji’s doorstep in Varanasi.

Most recently, he has been leading Yoga Health Camps in Varanasi, bringing hundreds of people the healthful techniques of yoga.

One of his students, a 52 year-old American named Albert, had hurt his knee in a skiing accident some thirty years prior.  Albert had been to every specialist available to him in the States, but nothing stopped the chronic pain.  When he came to practice yoga with Rajuji, and his knee pain flared up, Rajuji told Albert, “Just give me ten minutes.”

Albert was given a ten minute program to follow and was shocked to be relieved so easily of his knee pain.  Since then, he’s been practicing Rajuji’s prescription, and is now living without any of the knee pain he’d been experiencing for thirty years!

Although Rajuji admits, not all ailments can be cured so simply, many common pains and diseases can be alleviated, and sometimes cured, through yogic technologies.  Asana, pranayama, proper diet, and meditation can make a world of difference in a practitioner’s life.

Om Shanti Yoga Niketan is where Rajuji instructs tourists from around the world, as well as provides yoga therapy for residents and visiting patients.  He has also trained professional models, helping them achieve fitness goals for their careers, and is a teacher of young children as well, at private and public schools throughout the state.

Rajuji and his apprentice Alok welcome students of all ages, levels, sizes and frames of mind, to visit the studio and experience yoga for yourselves.  Namaste, and may all beings be happy.

Manhattan Setu Bandhasana (Bridge!)

(still very behind on this series, but always fun to take a look back at where I was four months ago …)

Oh, New York.  America’s bridge to her slightly more sophisticated sister (if only due to age), Europa.   Where the weak and weary masses were once so welcome, they came by the boatful to build themselves a shiny new American life.  Boasting over 800 spoken languages, it’s the most linguistically diverse city in the world.  The selection of gustatory delights is pretty impressive as well . . .

Herself on the eve of New York's worst hurricane in who knows how long, 2011

Where you can catch a subway 24 hours a day, where countless authors and musicians have sojourned for inspiration, and you can bet money you won’t be disappointed with your bagel or pizza order.  8 million people living in 305 square miles of sea-side urban sprawl  If you can make it there, you can make it anywhere.

My favorite personal New York story (so far) was the time my best friend and I went to see a free showing at Showtime at the ApolloI’ll preface the whole thing by noting we were 17 years old at the time!

We arrived in Queens when it was already dark and the line to get in went for blocks and blocks and blocks.  Blocks of chicken joints and pawn shops.  And we were the only non-African-Americans in sight.  We felt pretty cool.

As we stood in line, taking it all in, this little Puerto Rican chic comes up to us and asks if we wanna get into to see the show early.  At first we thought she was trying to steal our spot, but then her camera crew caught up with her and we decided it was worth a shot.  So she takes us back to the venue, snaking in and out of massive crowds, leads us over to the entrance in the back and straight into the building.  We were in!

Shot from inside the Apollo, back in the day...

Alright ladies, we’re gonna sit you down, and after the amateur show we’re gonna bring the cameras round and ask ya’ll what you thought.  Sound good?

Totally in awe, we were taken to our ninth row seats and enjoyed an hour of the worst dancing, singing and standup we’d ever seen.  Oh, the hilarious things we wanted to say!

That ventriloquist guy should see if he could maybe switch positions with his dummy, cuz it could hardly get any worse!

Was that a song she was singing or an imitation of a woe-struck chicken?

But when the big cameras and lights caught up with us after the evenings (rather embarrassing) performances, we could hardly muster, “Yeah man, that was cool.”

Ah, to be 17in the Big Apple.  So much sass and so little sophistication!

Thankfully, after the embarassing encounter with the bright lights of entertainment, we were treated to Montel Jordan’s dancer being taken away in an ambulance from an asthma attack . . .

. . . and Lord Tariq and Peter Guns getting one better than a standing ovation: the in-house impromptu partay.  Everyone in the joint got up, rushed the stage and got down to their anthem . . .

This leg of the Friends and Family Tour takes me back to the world’s culture capital to visit the very same friend – as well as a former colleague and soul sister from Japan.  I actually ended up re-connecting with a surprising number of old friends and acquaintances, part of the reason why I chose to explore bridge pose (setu bandhasana) just under the Manhattan Bridge.

Ze Pose

In its basic form, bridge, Setu Bandhasana (or Setu Bandha Sarvangasana), can be done by any beginner who isn’t suffering from a major neck concern or back issue.  Start with the feet hip distance apart, knees bent, hands just a few inches from the heels of the feet, arms parallel to the torso.  Tuck the tailbone and press the lowerback into the earth to start feeling your core muscles.  This also helps to protect your lower back further into the pose.

Two bridges on a sunny NYC day

On an inhale, lift the hips and press the feet into the earth, as if you’re trying to straighten the knees.  To bind in the pose (the ‘bandha’ part of the Sanskrit name) shimmy the shoulders down until you can grab onto the ankles.  Hold here for as long as it’s comfortable.

For intermediate practitioners, the pose can be explored more deeply with all sorts of variations and props.

  • Try lifting one leg perpendicular to the earth.  Press the foundation foot evenly through the ball and heel.  The raised leg is straight, hips square – and you can play around with pointing the toes, balls, and heel of the feet to see which position feels best.
  • Shift the direction of the toes and heels clockwise and counter clockwise to experience how that affects the physical sensations in the pose.
  • If your balance is feeling solid, bring the lifted leg out to the side of the body until it’s parallel to the earth.  This should work the inner thigh and core, as well as your overall sense of balance.

This pose is great for the thighs and core, but you can also engage the arms and shoulders by actively pressing the palms into the earth as you lift the hips.  You may even opt to interlace the fingers and press both hands firmly down, walking the shoulders closer together.

For a more dynamic vinyasa version, inhale as you raise the hips up and arms up and behind the head.  On the exhale, bring the hips and hands back to their original positions. Continue with your own rhythm to your heart’s content!

It sounds kinda cheesy, but sometimes a yoga practice can really act as a bridge over troubled waters, so I couldn’t resist adding this song to the post.  Enjoy . . .

A few shots from around what could possibly be the next place I call ‘home’ . . .

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From a Cafe in Mumbai

Just a personal quickie before heading off to the next course …

The Present

Sitting in the Basilico café in Mumbai’s tourist haven (and rather pleasantly tree-line colonial enclave), Colaba.  This moment epitomizes the pros of urban life.  I’m writing an email to a friend and catching up on my blog in a comfortable booth, eating a gorgeous salad, listening to some dubbed out Arabian tunes, and just out of the corner of my eye, as people stroll down the sidewalk outside, I can see taxi cab lights whizzing by to all kind of potentially-amazing destinations.  It’s pure comfort, health, sophistication –though some yogis may call it sensory-infused hell-on-earth ;o)

The "Make Your Own Salad" option allowed for 10 choices of ingredients. And the ashram feels a million miles away ...

As delicious as this (mushroom, endive, mescalun, sprout, broccoli, sundried tomato, asparagus, carrot, zucchini, hazelnut dressing) salad is, the best thing about this moment is feeling like I’m sitting in the eye of the storm.  In transition, moving from beach to meditation center.  No one is trying to charge me five times the price of a taxi ride down the street.  There’s no seemingly endless searching for the tourist office in the Victoria Station terminal.  I’m not checking bags, taking out a laptop, finding a gate, or filling out my passport number in a rather archaic-looking hotel recordbook.

Aaaah, I’m here, in a chilled-out, uber-modern Mumbai café.  Gushing with gratitude.

Synagogue and a designer Indian fashion boutique not far from my hotel ... making my way back from "buying train ticket hell" (with a smile on my face, of course!)

The Past

Which isn’t to say I’m not grateful for where I just came from!  I mean, sweet baby jesus, just take a look at some of these photos!

Tres romantique!

I’m from Hawaii and the big mama ocean at Varakala (where I just spend a week of New Year welcoming) was surprisingly impressive – then again, it wasn’t just the ocean giving off all that bliss.  2012 entered my vision in a tropical paradise (oh home sweet home, I miss you!), with amazing new yogi friends as well.

Burying Uncle Marvin!

Varkala’s stunning cliffside views are set to the backdrop of funky restaurants serving fresh seafood and home baked cakes at reasonable prices (compared to other holiday destinations, but not pretty pricey compared to Indian cities).   It’s just enough beachy vacation vibe, having just spent a month in an ashram … any more than a smidgin’ would have been too much stimulation.  Aaaah, contentment.

A good handful of us made it out to the beach together, where we all got our own rooms and danced in and out of lunches, beach bombing, yoga sessions.  We were like a mini-Sivananda village in the middle of the Varkala strip.  Meditation and pranayam in the mornings, rooftop asana – it wasn’t as hardcore as it would have been if we’d emerged from the ashram back to our lives in Europe and the States, but it was perfect integration for the holiday!

The Future

Well, it’s 2012, ya’ll … end of the world?  Beginning of something new?  These calendar markings are really no different from any other, but it’s a great opportunity to take stock and focus perspective for the next few chapters.  I’ve got my to-do list here in my journal, and you know it’s packed full of spiritual, academic, professional and personal intentions.  One of them also made it to top ten on my India intentions list as I took off from Dublin: fine tune discernment and increase focus.

Image I found online of the center ... here I coooome ...

Tomorrow I’m off to Igatpuri, home to the largest Vipassana center in the world.  I’ll be experimenting with a ten day silent meditation course I’ve heard amazing things about – “it totally healed me from a trauma I experienced five years ago,” “it really helped set up my meditation practice in a more disciplined way,” “I love it.”  I’ll be doing a before and after video so I can see the difference on screen as well – maybe I’ll put it on the site!

Here’s to a magic 2012, full of dreams realized, vibrant health and lotsa love . . . .

Alrighty, it’s getting late and I’m still a bit fuzzy from all the travel today (and I just realized, the last seven months of being on the road!).  I’ll be out of touch for at least 10 days now, silent, contemplative, and who knows what else.  Watch this space for a review!

In light . . .