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_MG_3241 I love yoga.  I love to practice yoga, I really love to teach yoga, and I love how yoga has changed my life.  There is no shortage of articles written all over the internet singing the praises of yoga, or, as I lately read in the online publication Elephant Journal, dissing yoga.  The most recent controversial article that I read was titled something like “Why I Left Yoga”, and it was written by a native of India living in the US.  In this dismissive essay the writer takes issue with the Americanization of the ancient practices of Yoga.  She makes some valid points (the $100 LuLu Lemon yoga pants…which I have honestly never worn or owned),  but most of her reasons focused on what she refers to as the trend of white upper-middle-class women practicing yoga as a trendy entitlement rather than a true holistically beneficial practice.   I immediately questioned this classification – what is wrong with people of financial means to feel a deep connection to the ancient and time-tested truths of yoga?  Who really cares if a person is so moved by their practice or experience that they choose to have a sanskrit tattoo imprinted on parts of their body?  It’s not my thing, but I hardly feel the need to judge others’ choices.  What difference does it make if someone has felt such a resonating truth from the lessons of self-realization that they choose to spend their money on a trip to an ashram in India?  We live in a free country, thankfully, and it is one’s own prerogative how they choose to live, believe or spend their money.

I do think that yoga in America can feel hip or trendy, and that many studios have become “a scene” like a new club in Brooklyn might be “a scene”.  But that is what makes America so diverse and interesting.  Just as the sub-continent of India is home to an incredible variety of beliefs, religions, and languages, so too is this country.  Just because people with financial means are flocking to their local studio, or planning their next vacation to a yoga retreat, doesn’t mean that their practice, or their journey, is any less meaningful or justified as the single mom on a limited income wage.  In actuality, many communities have studios, gyms, churches and outreach programs that offer yoga for free, or for donation, to those who want to learn the art of stress-relief and mind-mastery through the practice of yoga.  Do all studios follow the principle of seva, or service?  Of course not.  This isn’t a perfect world and not everyone is in the business for altruistic purposes.  However, from my experience, most yoga instructors (myself included) teach because they want to help people find a better way to manage their stress, improve their health and live their lives more fully.  I don’t know many teachers who teach yoga only for financial gain.

So why do I love yoga?  I love yoga because it is a practice that anybody can experience anywhere.  There are no necessary tools or equipment (a mat and loose fitting clothes are helpful).  You only need your intention and your will-power to enter the world of yoga.  Of course, there is a learning curve that starts with letting go of a piece of your ego so that you can walk into that first class. Wearing designer clothes, having an understanding of Sanskrit, or bowing down to the archetypes of Krishna, Shiva or the energy of Kundalini are absolutely not required.  You just need an open mind, a willing body (ok, maybe only partially willing), and a beginner’s attitude.  Although I have been practicing for over 16 years and teaching for eight, it still require a willingness, desire, and discipline to stay with it.  That doesn’t mean that every single day I practice for hours – I don’t.  It doesn’t mean that I expect others to practice specific dietary restrictions or suddenly take a vow of austerity.  I don’t.  I love yoga because ultimately YOU are your best teacher.  Only YOU have your life experiences that formed your psyche and your body.  Only YOU truly decide what you need and want out of this life.

Practicing yoga requires a letting go of pre-conceived ideas about what poses should look like and how they should feel.  It changes day to day, and even from pose to pose, within one session.  It’s tuning into your inner knowing, that felt-sense of how your body and mind, and most interestingly your breath, responds to challenges.  Do you become restrictive and inflexible when things are difficult or out of reach?  Or can you allow the tightness, the discomfort, or the heaviness to move through you without clinging to reaction and discomfort?  Yoga teaches us to pay attention and to be the witness to how we respond in all situations of life.  It is the ultimate metaphor of learning how to navigate life with grace and ease.

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Ayurveda teaches that our bodies are a representation of the environment around us.  What we ingest through our five senses, and how we filter that information,  creates our thoughts, perceptions and realities that become the substance of our inner and outer lives.  We choose to either energize or deplete ourselves through our interpretations of the world around us.  Our personal and collective reality is based on the choices we make based on those perceptions.   So I ask you this, what would your ideal scenario of the world look like?  What can you do to help co-create that outer world so that you experience limitless peace, balance and vitality in your life?

 I am in love with nature.  I am in awe of the giant trees, majestic snow-capped mountains, crisp glacial rivers, wide-winged birds, fields of flowers, and most importantly, rich nutrient-dense soil.  Our lives depend on the healthy existence of nature and its symbiotic relationship with our life-giving sun, which not only keeps our earth at just the right temperature for life, but gives our food the actual energy it needs to nourish and sustain all living creatures.  Treating the earth and ourselves with respect and adoration is essential.

Catherine Creek knoll

(note: the following is a recent letter I wrote to the editor in our local newspapers)

As I was sitting in my yard in White Salmon this past weekend enjoying the warm sun and the crisp fall air, my attention was diverted to the sound of the train as it blasted it’s horn through Bingen. Although this is a common occurrence for residents of the gorge, the future effects of the increased train traffic are impossible to ignore.

We live in paradise here in the Columbia River Gorge. Our precious natural resources of clean air, water and soil are incredible gifts only dreamed of by millions of people throughout the world. The citizens of this area, along with those along the Columbia River east to Wyoming will receive no benefit from increased train traffic filled with open cars of coal traversing our lands day after day after day.

I spent a majority of my life living in Kentucky and the Blue Ridge mountains of Virginia and Georgia. I have seen the ashy, drab grey that covers bridges, buildings and homes.

I have heard the “romantic” horn of the train all day and night to the point in which silence becomes a distant memory. And I have smelled the acrid dust-filled air that fills our lungs with every breath.

My husband and I used to dream of living in a place with clean air and water. Years ago when our children were born in Louisville, Ky., our pediatrician encouraged us to move west for clean air due to our young son’s severe asthma and environmental allergies.

Every day we would read news stories about the negative impact of coal dust on the communities throughout Kentucky: asthma and serious allergies at all-time high levels due to the the air-borne dust from the coal trains, the waste from the burning of the coal, and finally the acid rain filled with minutecarcinogenic particles that fall from the clouds.

Now more than ever our community needs to join together and speak up, act out and stop the impending environmental disaster that will occur if we allow coal to be dug from our precious land in Wyoming and transported to China through this beautiful paradise we call home.

Once this project gets under way, it will be next to impossible to stop the constant noise, air and water pollution that will forever stain our land a bleak, drab grey.

Namaste….

Summer is definitely upon us here in the Pacific NW.  Temperatures have hovered in the high 90’s for the past week; quite a shift from the cooler days we experienced through most of June.  Just as quickly as the weather can change around us, so can the aggravating factors within our body change to imitate the external factors that surround us.

Ayurveda, a 5,000 year-old science that honors the symbiotic relationships between our body, mind and soul to that of the elements of nature, teaches us that summer is a season of excess fire (pitta).  Just as the heat outside can cause our tomato and basil plants to wilt if not watered and cared for properly, so too can we find ourselves spent from the excess heat of the long, hot days of summer.

The summer heat can cause subtle shifts in our internal systems:  our liver produces and excess of bile, whose heat and acidity can cause both internal (digestive) and external (skin) irritation.  As the heat intensifies internally, we may find ourselves feeling ill-tempered, cranky, or as they say in Kentucky, down-right ornery!  Even some of the words that can be used to describe these emotions emote a feeling of heat and acidity:  acrid, acrimonious, sour.

In Ayurveda and Yoga, we try and find ways to incorporate opposite qualities to our life so that we may balance out the excess in our body and mind.  If we are experiencing an excess of heat from the outside temperatures, for example, it makes sense to introduce as many cooling activities, foods and drinks as possible so that the heat doesn’t cause excessive damage or discomfort.

Mother Nature, in all her glory, has this figured out quite well!  The abundance of cooling fruits, herbs and vegetables this time of year are perfectly matched to balance the heat of our life giving Sun.  Melons. strawberries, cherries, peaches, limes…mint, tarragon, dill, parsley….cucumbers, asparagus, crisp lettuce, snap peas… Oh my!  Just thinking of these delicious naturally cooling and fortifying foods sends cooling vibrations through my body!

Salads are a wonderful way to eat healthy without using the oven or stove.  Adding some raw (or I prefer lightly toasted in a small skillet) pumpkin seeds, hemp seeds (take a minute and learn about hemp and why we need to legalize it in this country http://www.hemphistoryweek.com/takeaction.php), sesame seeds, almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts, and/or pecans adds vegan protein and healthy omega oils along with a nice crunch to your salad.  Dressings can be as easy as fresh herbs, a little lemon or lime, a nice fruity olive, hemp, almond (or blend of all three) oil, and a dash of honey or maple syrup and sea salt.  Shake in a glass mason jar for ease of storage and drizzle over your fresh bounty of greens, veggies, and fruits.

If you are looking for a healthy and cooling summer refresher, here is one of my favorites.  Please keep in mind that these recipes can be used as a guide; use what you have on hand and don’t worry so much about exact measurements.  Be creative!!!

Hibiscus and Lavender Tea

32 ounces of freshly boiled water

2 TB or more dried Hibiscus flowers or powder*

6 – 8 stems of dried or fresh Lavender flowers

4 – 6 sprigs of fresh Mint

1/2 a lime

(optional – 2 TB loose leaf black or green tea)

Raw sugar/sucanat/maple syrup to taste (about 1 1/2 TB)

Add the Hibiscus, Lavender, Mint (and tea if using) to boiling water in a medium saucepan. Keep at a slow boil (just above simmer) for about 10 minutes.  Add sweetener and let cool with the flowers and mint still in the pan.  Once cool strain into large mason jar or pitcher and add juice of 1/2 lime.  Cool in fridge (or add some ice for quick cool).  If you have any leftover Mint, add to the jar for some extra cooing color and interest.  ENJOY!!!

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_MG_1108There once was a time long, long ago, before there were telephones, tv’s, radio, and billboards, when people interacted with one another in person, or through the art of writing.  Certain truths and anecdotal wisdom was learned from one other’s personal trials and tribulations; this lore was shared through the telling of stories from past experiences and memories.  Children gained valuable lessons from their elders on how to observe both nature and one’s own self to see the subtle, yet at times quite obvious, qualities which form the synergetic relationship of all things in the universe.  Our ancestors knew that they were one with the Earth, and that because of this, the Earth should be treated with respect and awe.  They knew the energy of foods, herbs and spices; they understood what cured them;  and they respected what ailed them.

As different forms of communication began spreading throughout communities, entrepreneurs found that they could sell their goods through this new “art” form called advertising.  Once televisions and radios were common in every home, large corporations had a ready and willing audience in which to sell their goods.  Suddenly, people everywhere felt the need to go out and purchase things that they never even knew they needed, all because some behind-the-scenes ad agency shrewdly convinced them that their lives would be better with these products.   Slowly, without conscious awareness, entire generations of people went from being artisans, gardeners, cooks and self-healers to becoming entirely dependent on a corporate-driven system of food, medicine, and consumer goods.

People got lazy and complacent.   So lazy that people couldn’t even find the time to wash and cut their own vegetables.  Why spend valuable time preparing the main source of energy that sustains our life?  Dole, Del Monte, Kraft and so many other large “food” corporations brain-washed people into believing that their products are quicker, easier and just as healthy as fresh, whole foods bought locally.  Food conglomerates, pharmaceutical companies and chemical corporations have only one reason for existence…. GREED.  The cheapest ingredients, combined with chemical preservatives and packaged in petroleum based plastics, fill our grocery and drug stores from coast to coast.  In addition to this obvious health destructive practice, agri-businesses launched all-out global attacks on our seed supplies with the help of our elected officials.  Monsanto Corporation, the same company responsible for DDT, Agent Orange, and Round-Up has been in the business of developing and selling chemicals used to kill people, insects and plants….now they create Genetically Modified seeds with private patents and a covetous desire to control all the seeds around the globe.

If you aren’t familiar with Monsanto, educate yourself now.  This company is spending millions of dollars buying self-serving votes, infiltrating our government agencies (FDA for one), and crippling small farmers by their takeover of America’s farm land.  On Saturday, May 25  people who care about the future of our food supply will stand up and protest Monsanto in cities across WORLD!  Join in your local march and make a difference.  Tell Obama and this administration that our food is our future.  Be active in the fight…. our destiny and our food freedoms truly depend on it!

For more information, check out these non-profit organizations who fight tirelessly to stop the corporate takeover of our food and water:

http://www.edf.org  – – Environmental Defense Fund

http://www.organicconsumers.org/monsanto/

http://www.foodandwaterwatch.org

TAKE ACTION NOW!!!!  Namaste….

Ayurveda, Yoga, Healing, Nutrition, Columbia Gorge, Health, Crohn’s Disease, Food,

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