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    The Cosmic Breath

    The Cosmic Breath

    I remember quite vividly my first experience with my breath, or should I say the breath of another.  I had enrolled in the first of many yoga teacher trainings. When you study the art of yoga you quite often work with partners. This particular exercise concerned the breath. We were to watch our fellow yogin breathing. They would be laying on their back and all we had to do is watch them breathe. My initial thoughts were “this is going to be easy”. It wasn’t. I became unglued. Now up until this time I had been breathing, everyday for 49 years, without a thought, curiosity or wonder about my breath. I guess you could say I took it for granted. My body was just doing it and I didn’t have to worry about it. I could check it off my list of things to do. But as I sat alongside my new friend and observed her breathing I became aware of the immensity, the enormity and intense beauty of the breath.

    The air I am breathing was exhaled in ecstasy by an ancient sun.

    At the time I had this deep feeling that I standing on the edge of something. But before I could dive into this unimaginable abyss there were some tensions that had been lurking in my body, mind and spirit. And I needed to attend to them. Now this isn’t a story I tell very often and the energy of vulnerability is rising to the surface even as I sit in my favorite space on a snowy May Montana morning. I am cuddled up in my favorite snugly blanket. I need these comforts around me as I delve into the story of the breath.

    This earth I am standing on was born of cosmic fire.

    It was December 1985 and a snowy, cold Michigan morning, one week before Christmas. The excitement of the holidays was apparent among the decorations, the smell of baking and the love I carried in my heart for my family. On this particular morning my 21 month old daughter was asleep in her crib and across the hall our baby was also asleep in her little bed. I awoke with a start, looked at the clock next to my bed and it was 7:30 am. My husband and I hadn’t slept that late for close to 2 years. Very quickly the feeling of dread came over me and as it did I jumped out of bed, ran down the hallway and into my daughter’s room. She was dead at 3 months of age.

    The blood flowing through my veins was as salty as the primordial ocean.

    Back to yoga training. As I sat next to my friend and watched her breathing, eyes closed, the image of my beautiful daughter flooded my memory. You could say that this was the first of many openings into the trauma of losing a child. I am forever grateful for the opportunities for growth this experience brought me and for the care and loving attention of my yoga teacher.

    The space permeating my body is infinite as the space all around.

    There is something magical about the breath and I have spent the last year with mine. I have studied the rhythms, the flow, and the jerkiness of breath permeating my body. I have come to know that it was way more powerful than I ever could have imagined. It is the doorway into infinity. It is the doorway into beauty, into life, into a deep inner knowing that you are an energetic mystical being.

    Above, below, to all sides, within, the elements of the universe are engaged in their ceremony of delight.

    At the age of 56 I am now inviting my students into this discovery of who they are. I am inviting them to bask in their infinite beauty through their connection with the breath.

     My daughter’s breath and the breath of so many loved ones has joined with the cosmic breath and often I am touched by a light breeze that feels so familiar.

    This is my religion. The attraction between suns is the same as the love pulsating in my heart.

                                                                                                    Yukti verse 34 of the Radiance Sutras

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    Martha is a student of Nancy Ruby, Erich Schiffmann, Dr Deepak Chopra and Lorin Roche, PhD who translated the Radiance Sutras, among the many other radiant beings who continue to touch her so deeply.

    Confessions of a Yogi & The Power of Mantra

    I’ve been curious about something in my life lately.  I’ve spent the last couple of years studying myself and my habits, supportive ones and self-destructive habits.  As a yoga instructor/educator  a very common theme in my classes is to guide my students into getting rid of those things that are no longer serving them.   If I’m telling my students to try something I think it’s only fair that I am practicing the same thing.

    I’ve started paying attention to my first thoughts when I wake up in the morning. And to my  surprise I woke up worrying. I am aware that worrying is a classic symptom of not being present. During my waking hours I am always able to return to present moment awareness if I noticed I have strayed. I also understand that worrying is based on the future. I have studied with Erich Schiffmann many times and he helped me realize that the future never really gets here. It is present moment after present moment.  Why would I wake up in the morning projecting into the future? What has my yoga practice taught me in my daily life so far?  For as long as I have been studying the art of yoga I have never run across any  teacher talking about first thoughts upon waking. Time to heal myself.

    Let’s explore the Sanskrit word mantra.  The first syllable, man, means “to think.” The second syllable , tra, is related to the verb root meaning “to protect, guide, or lead.” If we put this together a mantra is a thought that protects or guides. A mantra can be chanted out loud or recited silently. According to some scholars a mantra is more effective when silently repeated, internalizing the reverberation of the word.

    So I thought I would give this mantra idea a try. I have used mantra for meditation, with my personal favorite at the time of writing the Soham mantra. I’ve been chanting this mantra for several months during my meditations and it helps to calm my mind. If my mind is immediately busy when I open my eyes in the morning it makes sense to give my mind something to focus on, rather than worrying. To intensify the effect of the mantra I started chanting it when I was falling asleep. That made it readily available for me when I awoke in the morning.

    After a week of this experiment I am sold on the use of a mantra! It feels wonderful to begin my day feeling centered and grounded. And every night before I fall asleep I allow a mantra to come into my consciousness. It changes almost nightly and I have found that I don’t have to force a mantra, one is readily available to me. It can be a short sentence or a single word. Reciting it inwardly and then letting go of recitation and allowing the mantra to ride the waves is a calming experience. Try it. You may just find it works for you too.

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    Jazzing up my morning oatmeal

    I am a firm believer in the healing benefits of food. The choices we make when we plant our gardens in the spring, the aisles we frequent in the grocery and the decision to eat in a certain restaurant is one of the ways to healing our physical bodies. My daughter and I did a cleanse in October 2016 and since that time I have been eating as clean as I ever have. The cleanse we participated in was The Colorado Cleanse. It keeps your dominant dosha in mind throughout the whole 2 week process. Since mid-October I have been eating oatmeal for breakfast. It feels good in my body, grounding me and nourishing me in many ways. I have become very creative with the ingredients I add to my breakfast cereal. Some days I put dried fruit in it, other days I add some nuts and I also experiment with seeds. On this particular morning I made a “syrup” to pour over the top and I had to share with you this easy recipe. If you have a few too many bananas laying around this is a great way to use them. The recipe comes from the The Chopra Center Cookbook. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

    Blueberry Banana Syrup

    1 tsp ghee

    1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries  (I used huckleberries that I picked last season)

    1 cup sliced bananas

    1/2 tsp nutmeg

    1/4 tsp ground cloves

    1 Tbsp apple, orange or lemon juice

    1 tsp arrowroot powder

    2 Tbsp maple syrup

    Heat the ghee in a small saucepan. Add the blueberries, bananas, nutmeg, cloves and juice. Simmer for 3-5 minutes is you are using fresh berries, 5-8 minutes for frozen berries. To thicken the sauce, dissolve the arrowroot powder in 1 tablespoon of water, add to the berries and stir until a smooth consistency is achieved. Add the maple syrup just before serving. Pour over breakfast cereal and Enjoy!

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    Lone Rock

    Lone Rock 

    I have been a “fixture” at the Lone Rock School for 6+  years now. It began with a phone call from a woman I didn’t even know. She was looking for a yoga instructor to lead their 7 am class. The previous instructor had a conflict that wasn’t going to allow her to teach anymore. I was a brand new yoga teacher at the time and was thrilled to be invited to “audition” for this position. I arrived at the school, taught a one hour class and the rest is history. I’m still teaching there two mornings a week at 7 am. Some of my students are teachers at the school and some are community members.

    In the 6 years I have become familiar with their practices, their bodies, their strengths and their limitations. They have endured surgeries and broken bones. These students have lost parents, children, siblings and pets. Spouses of the group have gone through cancer treatments. I have witnessed marriages ending and relationships blossoming.

    Forget the warrior poses – these women are REAL LIFE WARRIORS!

    They live their lives with grace, dignity and a sense of humor which has enriched my life tremendously.

    The divine in me honors the divine in each and every one of you!

     

     

     

     

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    Sacred Sunday

    Often times a group yoga class consists of a 60-75 minute practice with the focus being primarily the physical practice of yoga. The physical practice is wonderful but there comes a time when a student craves something a bit more in depth. There also comes a time when a teacher is ready to offer a more in depth experience.

    While I was teaching in Alaska I quite often stepped in as a sub for my daughter Megan’s Sunday morning class. The name of the class was Sacred Sunday and it was a 2 hour experience. That may seem like a good chunk of time and for most of us we aren’t used to a 2 hour practice. Keep in mind that it is not all physical postures. When you combine pranayama, meditation, asana and a bit of talking it becomes more of a complete experience. Sacred Sunday turned out to be my favorite class to teach. I enjoyed sharing the deeper aspects of the ancient practice of yoga. It was an opportunity for me the teacher and the students to have more of a dialogue, rather than me just guiding the practice.

     Now I’m going to be offering Sacred Sunday here, in Stevensville. I have found the perfect space – right on Main Street – where we will gather at Starrett Artists. It’s a beautiful space, with big windows facing east. The morning sun streams in and it feels magical. I hope you can join me every Sunday morning beginning January 22 from 9-11 am. There will be movement, exploration of breath, study of yoga philosophy and of course meditation and dharma talks.  It will be a group experience which I have found provides something extra special. It feels good to be part of a group, a group of people moving and breathing and meditating together.

    Sacred Sunday – union with the divine, connecting to Self. The perfect way to begin your week.

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    Full Moon

    One of the workshops I will be offering will be a Full Moon Yoga workshop. My idea for this workshop came to me while living and teaching in Anchorage. Anchorage is located right on the Cook Inlet, which stretches 180 miles from the Gulf of Alaska to Anchorage. I spent a good deal of time hiking in Kincaid Park and my favorite trail ran right along the beach on a bluff overlooking the ocean. I began to notice the changes of the tides and was curious about the gravitational pull of the moon. According to National Geographic  “the moon’s gravitational pull on the Earth is the main cause of the rise and fall of ocean tides. The moon’s gravitational pull causes two bulges of water on the Earth’s oceans—one where ocean waters face the moon and the pull is strongest and one where ocean waters face away from the moon and the pull is weakest. Both bulges cause high tides. These are high tides. As the Earth rotates, the bulges move around it, one always facing the moon, the other directly opposite. The combined forces of gravity, the Earth’s rotation, and other factors usually cause two high tides and two low tides each day.”

    There are also many theories about the effect a full moon has on humans and animals. Some theories suggest that dogs bite more people on the full moon and there are more crimes committed during this time of the month. I’m not sure I believe all of that but I do believe in using the time of the full moon as a reference point to check in with myself. This is a wonderful time to set intentions, to slow down and practice some yin yoga and restorative poses.

    In my Full Moon workshops you can expect guided meditations and pranayama practices as well. As I have often alluded to, we mimic nature. When it is winter and the trees are bare it is a time of hibernation, a time of looking inward. When there is a full moon there is a swell, a bulging in the oceans and just maybe this is a perfect time to tune in to your life and see what direction you are heading in. I believe in the power of intentions and what a wonderful time to gather in circle and meditate and set intentions.

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    Distance to Empty

    I was driving into town yesterday morning and I noticed that my vehicle gives me a message regarding my fuel levels. Distance to Empty – 34 miles.  It dawned on me that our bodies send us similar messages. They alert us when we are getting low on energy through subtle messages such as a little ache here or a twinge there.  Our vital life force energy is similar to the fuel we put in our cars and our yoga practices are similar to pulling up to the gas tank. If you are in the habit of doing a bit of yoga everyday and then miss a few days you know what I mean. Our backs become stiff, our hips feel tight and there is a sense of being unconnected to our physical bodies. I also believe that when we begin to get low on fuel the doubts creep in.  The little worries and concerns that we carry around get bigger. Before you know it you are spinning out of control and getting slammed by life. I believe that our bodies don’t lie to us and the messages are always there. If you continually drive your car without heeding stop signs or red lights what happens? Eventually you are going to hit something! So pull up to the gas station, turn your car off and refuel, either by getting on the ground and stretching or sitting quietly noticing your breath.