Tag Archives: Yoga

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I’ve shared this one before: Lotus Pose on Two.

Six months later and the Seattle Seahawks win their first Super Bowl in franchise history! The same season the coach implements a mandatory yoga and meditation practice as part of their training program…

Russell Wilson July 29, 2013Photographed by Peter yang

Over the last six months, (as part of my home practice), I included Vrksasana. The benefits of this posture mainly focus energy to strengthen the lower body, but I started meditating on the asana as a representation of growth. This offered a powerful doorway inward. I’d imagine the roots of my hair getting stronger as I found my balance and strength in the grounding of the posture. I’d close my eyes and visualize beautiful redwoods, or a bodhi, banyan, magnolias or a specific oak tree I used to drive by everyday on my way to work. I’d focus on the vitality of those root structures and imagine my own roots strengthen with each breath. Six months ago, my autoimmune disease felt out of control, but with small changes, I’ve seen major growth in a short period of time. I truly believe in the power of moving meditation – yoga!

My journey of yoga teacher training ended today with a lovely graduation ceremony. I signed up for the program in the midst of my hair loss; seeking a little adventure and a way to take my mind off of it. My life has become so much richer in ways I could not have imagined. I am beyond grateful for my Yoga Tree teachers, new friendships, and sacred space created by this new community. I can’t express how much I’ve loved this experience… and I have alopecia to thank for it! Thank you all so very much for your love and support… from the bottom of my heart. XO

A few progress photos over the last few months and our Yoga Tree Graduation!

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sesame.

First off…

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H A P P Y  N E W  Y E A R !

It has been awhile since I’ve written here. I logged in and it warmed my heart to see the views by country. Again, I don’t have any answers for the best way to treat this condition or how to cope with it, but I will continue to be honest and share my journey in living with alopecia. I hope you had a very happy holiday season and I wish you lots of love and light in the new year… and most importantly, I hope you always remember that you are not alone in your struggles with alopecia.

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It has been almost six months since I lost my hair and I admit, alopecia still fucking sucks, (I empathize!). BUT it has been a blessing in disguise. I hope you see a shift in your outlook on alopecia and are able to embrace the life changing experience. Six months ago, I’d cringe when people would say: ‘it’s just hair.’ I understand that comment is meant to be supportive, but personally I then felt guilty, like I was being vain for mourning something superficial. Sound familiar? Or it was also hard to hear: ‘So-and-so (insert famous actress) shaved her head for that movie and looked great.’ Again, I know intentions are well and they’re trying to be supportive, but we did not choose this new ‘do and unlike celebrities, we aren’t getting paid for it! My best advice: Cry as much as you need to, a person has the right to mourn any loss. However, if you are dwelling too much, try really hard to remind yourself that hair is just one small piece of your physical being. It does not define you. Just as much as your fingernails, or skin, or size or any other element of the physical body does not define you!

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I haven’t mentioned this before, but when my daughter arrived six months ago, she had a very full, gorgeous head of dark hair. I would gladly give it all to her again. During this transformative period, anytime I feel sad about my hair, I remember my dad’s words: if someone asked if you’d trade all of your hair for two healthy babies, you’d do so without thinking twice. Without a doubt. My two healthy babies are at the top of my gratitude practice. I feel fortunate. I have alopecia areata. I chose to shave my head. I have hair, it’s just not a full head of hair right now. Besides one insensitive comment from a total stranger, I have not been bullied because I have this condition – just the opposite, I’ve felt an abundance of support and love. I think about children/teenagers that struggle with this disease that have alopecia totalis or alopecia universalis. These conditions alone are so difficult and isolating, then throw the cruelty of their peers on top of that. My heart breaks when I think of their pain and suffering. A great non-profit if you are helping a child cope with alopecia:

childrensalopeciaproject.org

Here are some children’s books on alopecia and celebrating differences: Maddie: Teaching Tolerance With A SmileDestiny’s Purpose: A Young Alpaca Living With AlopeciaPrincess AlopeciaIntroducing Hairietta Hairison – The One, The Only MeThe Girl With No Hair: A Story About AlopeciaBecause of AnyaIt’s Okay To Be DifferentEveryone is Different: Why Being Different Is Great!We’re Different, We’re the Same

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My son was watching Sesame Street the other day and a song caught my attention: I Love My Hair. I looked it up and there’s a great story behind it:  A Sesame Street Writer Pens “I Love My Hair” Song to Empower Daughter.

I searched ‘Sesame Street Hair’ and was surprised how many videos there are on the subject. I love that they’re teaching kids to celebrate their hair and their unique style, but also wish there was at least one video on kids with alopecia.

and one more, but yoga related…

Speaking of sesame…

sesame oil

A ritual that I’ve added to my day: Oil Pulling. It’s an ancient Ayurvedic practice for detoxification. Two of the many benefits include: a natural remedy for skin problems and reduces inflammation. I believe diet/lifestyle changes have been key in my hair regrowth and it’s possible oil pulling has been a big part of it. Worth a try? Take good care. XO

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heart.

yum. yum. yum.

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“I am not my_____.”

A friend posted this on Facebook and it really resonated with me. The What I Be Project is a portrait photography series that is all about honesty. Each person that takes part is extremely courageous. They are putting their insecurities out in the open, and exposing a side of themselves that nobody has seen before. By stating “I am not my_____,” they are claiming that they do in fact struggle with these issues, but it does not define who they are as a person.

Besides one photo, I haven’t shared any more because up until now I just wasn’t ready. Today I have the courage to share because I felt an amazing emotional release. Our yoga teachers have said numerous times that one day during our time together: you’ll find yourself crying on the mat and you may not know why. Yoga stirs up emotion and creates space for healing. This morning I attended a super intense vinyasa class that truly marked a shift for me. While in savasanaour teacher reminded us that we always have a choice. We can allow for the hardships in our lives to take over and define us… and we can let them take a toll on our health, well being, relationships with ourselves and others… OR we can roll with them. Always a choice. (Thank you Mark Morford). So there I was in savasana dripping with sweat and tears. Not a sobbing cry of sadness, but gentle tears of release that flowed lightly out of my eyes… and I felt at peace.

In the spirit of the What I Be Project: I am not my alopecia. I am a partner, mami, daughter, sister, granddaughter, niece, cousin, friend, designer, yogini… all roles that do not require hair! I am not my alopecia. I wrote it on my palm and took a photo this evening. As I look at these photos taken over the last 4 months I no longer attach any emotion. A few months ago, when I looked at the first shot, it was a very difficult thing to see and accept. Now, I look at the progress in such a short period of time and I think it’s really fascinating… cool in a way how it fell out in certain areas and remained in others.

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I’m not quite to the point where I feel completely at ease in public without a headscarf or wig, but I know that day will come. And speaking of wigs… I wasn’t open to wearing one at first, but realized how great they are to change up the hat/headscarves. The downside of alopecia: you lose your hair. The upside: fun with wigs – Halloween is one of my favorite holidays – there’s always a bright side! My perspective has been shaped by the support of my solid family and friends (old + new!), and yoga. I am forever grateful for them.

 

The H E A R T . . .

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In the yoga tradition, the chakras are junction points between the physical body and consciousness. The human body contains seven major chakras that are aligned in a column from the base of the spine to the top of the head. The ancient sages envisioned the chakras as wheels or energy centers, and each one is associated with a specific vibration. The heart chakra, known in Sanskrit as the anahata, is the energy center located in the area of our physical heart. This is the center in the body where love and spirit are joined. It is our heart that aches or fills with love, that feels compassion and trust…that seems empty or overflowing. When the energy in the heart chakra is flowing freely, we feel deeply connected to all beings and we experience an abundance of love, peace, and acceptance. When the heart center is blocked, we tend to feel isolated and fearful, unable to trust and receive the blessings of life.

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We can open and clear the heart chakra with a simple meditation practice using the Sanskrit mantra: yum – the healing sound that resonates with the heart center. Begin by sitting cross-legged, (or if you prefer to rest on your back…whatever is most comfortable!). Close your eyes and take in a few deep breaths. Begin to let go of any thoughts about the past and any expectations for the future. Gently bring your thoughts in on the present moment by putting your attention on the area of your heart and take another deep inhalation. As you exhale, say the mantra yum in one long syllable. Feel the sensations in your body and feel the energy flowing effortlessly from the base of your spine through your heart chakra. Visualize the energy as a beautiful green light that nurtures and bathes your heart in pure love, clearing away the residue of the past. Repeat the mantra yum until you feel infused with a feeling of peace and safety.

In yoga, poses that open up the front body such as backbends allow the heart to open. A friend shared this recently and it’s so beautiful (thank you Jennie!):

Ustrasana (Camel) is a wonderful heart opening pose. Practice this pose to help heal and open the heart center. Our heart is the entryway to our soul and it cannot be fully opened and activated until we integrate the light and dark within us. It is in our heart where we learn to embrace and love our vulnerabilities so we can transcend the smallness of our human ego. When we are fully open, we remember our true nature and allow the energy of creation to flow freely through us. Everyday is an opportunity to share the compassion and love that emanates from your big beautiful heart! XOXO

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Yum Yum Yum Take good care. XO

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pranayama.

Happy Belated…

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Halloween…

adho mukha svanasana

Dia De Los Muertos…

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+ Diwali!!!

Weeks seven and eight of Yoga Tree Teacher Training! The breath. Inhale. Exhale. The vitality of the breath; the peculiarity distinguishing the living from the nonliving. Yoga without awareness of the breath is simply stretching.

Prāṇāyāma – the Sanskrit word meaning extension of the prāṇa or breath or extension of the life force. There are three lobes in a human lung and they have the capacity to hold approximately five cups of air, but the average person only breathes in one cup into one lobe. There are over fifty pranayama techniques to deepen the breath and gain access to the life force of prana. Several studies show that pranayama techniques are beneficial in relieving a range of stress-related disorders, improving autonomic functions and reducing signs of oxidative stress. One simple method is to add one second to each exhalation, so your exhalations grow increasingly longer than your inhalations. This is a quieting, calming breath pattern that combats stress. The practice of pranayama breathing is a catalyst for deepening meditation and yoga. Here is a helpful article that profiles pranayama within six of the major yoga traditions: Prescriptions for Pranayama.

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It seems so simple, but we constantly have to remind ourselves to just breathe. I came across this the other day and I’m finding it helpful when I find my thoughts obsessing about alopecia… B.R.A.K.E., don’t break down. Alopecia and anxiety go hand in hand – Why did this happen? When will it grow back? What if it doesn’t? Will it happen again? Why did it fall out in those areas? Why is it growing in those areas? Could I have prevented this? Will I pass this on to my children? Is it really linked to diet? Gluten? Dairy? Trauma? Stress? Pregnancy? Labor? Which treatments? Side effects? Why isn’t there a cure? Hat? Scarf? Wig? Nothing? Why now and not when I really felt stressed? Why?

I know how difficult it can be and please know that you are not alone in the challenges of living with alopecia. Nietzsche said: ‘what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.’ It may be a part of your life, but alopecia doesn’t have to define you. Like the spirit of Dia De Los Muertos, the loss can be celebrated… no doubt this is making you stronger and more resilient.

Brake.Inhale.Exhale.Repeat. Take good care! XO

breathe

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yoga.

Week six of Yoga Tree Teacher Training. I missed Friday night’s lecture because I was feeling sick along with my two sick babies;( Or in yogi speak, one isn’t ‘sick’ they’re ‘cleansing’ their bodies.

I’d heard of this before and finally tried it: Oil Pulling. Highly recommend. My sore throat was gone by the next morning! Coconut oil seems to be the miracle product of nature for healthy hair and skin. Ingesting it, pulling it and applying it are all recommended. There may not be a cure for alopecia, but there are a ton of remedies.  Topical treatments and injections. Acupuncture and hypnosis. Vitamins and Minerals: folic acid, biotin, vitamin A, vitamin B6, vitamin B12, vitamin C, vitamin D, vitamin E, iron, copper and zinc. Plant extracts: tea tree oil, he shou wu, nettle extract, saw palmetto and gotu kola. Essential Oils: Rosemary, Lavender, Cedarwood and Sandalwood – mixed in a base of either vitamin E, jojoba, or olive oil. Apple Cider Vinegar, Coconut Oil, Onion Juice? Finding the right combination is the hard part since each case is so unique; what works for some does not work for others. Trying it all and staying positive… fortunately, I’ve had about 90% regrowth.

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These questions have been on my mind about yoga – who, what, where, when, why yogis practice? Especially – what does yoga look like? I was thinking about this a lot last night while studying for my alignment test this weekend. There’s the general form of an asana and the ideal form of an asana. I procrastinated and spent time looking at photos of beautiful yoga poses on Pinterest. Yoga models doing crazy arm balances on rocks with breaking waves beyond, beautiful warriors and wheels against mountains or picture perfect sunset backdrops, strong trees and handstands in a forrest and peaceful lotuses by a waterfall or another sunset…

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For the most part, they were all in the ideal form of the poses, but they are of a split second captured by film. The general form is 99.9% of the time; it is the presence of working toward the proper alignment of a posture. It is a practice of aligning the mind, body and spirit that doesn’t need to take place on a 2’x7′ overpriced rubber mat, or in a yoga studio. Or in lululemon. I believe yoga can be practiced throughout the day because it is any moment that is experienced with mindfulness. I was drawn to photos of elderly yogis and moms with their babies, (or model moms with their model babies), in general yoga poses because this is what I find truly inspiring.

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After pinning some inspirational images late last night of what yoga means to me, I serendipitously came across this great article today: The Coolest Yoga Pose Ever ❤

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grace.

labyrinth

. . .Your body is the temple of the spirit.  1 Corinthians 6:19 

Earlier this week I had the opportunity to attend the weekly Yoga on the Labyrinth practice at Grace Cathedral, (taught by one of my Yoga Tree teachers), for the first time. It starts at 6:15 pm and I entered right at 6:14 pm. The hour prior was filled with a bit of chaos – two crying babies as my fiance arrived home and we passed the torch so to speak. Crazy traffic at the Golden Gate Bridge and all along what I thought would be a less traveled route to the cathedral; then a few circles around the block until I finally found a parking spot. I raced to the front steps of the cathedral only to find a construction fence and the grand entry torn up for renovations. I spotted the street level door, ran up the stairs and emerged at the back of the altar. Stepping into the space took my breath away and the stress of the chaotic travel immediately melted away. I moved to the Bay Area in 2007 and can’t believe this was the first time I visited Grace Cathedral. Beautiful. And packed. I’ve heard it draws a crowd, but I didn’t realize there would be hundreds of people! I found a spot several bays back from the labyrinth, unrolled my mat, the live music began and I enjoyed one of the most sacred experiences I’ve ever had. The last bit of sun illuminated the gorgeous stained glass windows and filled the vast space with a warm glow for a relaxing and meditative evening. Plus, I was able to catch up with a friend after and have a glass of wine together… which I believe is also yoga!

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What I find so incredible about yoga is that it transcends. It has the ability to cultivate a deep spirituality, but it is not a religion. Yoga has its roots in Hinduism, but there are no limitations on who or where one practices yoga. Race, sexual orientation, religious beliefs and political affiliation means nothing in yoga, which makes it such a uniting force for all humanity.

People of all faiths and cultures can find the body-centered meditation of yoga as a great way to improve health, quiet the mind, open the heart and deepen one’s spirituality. To learn more: Yoga on the Labyrinth + Darren Main

Beautiful time lapse:

P.S. Alopecia isn’t life-threatening, but it’s life changing. I feel I’ve made peace with it, but there are times when it isn’t so easy to see that peace. However, yoga and meditation helps to create space for inner peace during those times when it isn’t so clear. I’ve said this before, but just as a reminder… you are not alone! Take good care. XO

Passing on some inspiration…

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.
—Marianne Williamson

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8 limbs.

8

Week four of Yoga Tree Teacher Training: The Yoga Sutras and Alignment. In Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra, the eightfold path is called ashtanga, which means “eight limbs” (ashta=eight, anga=limb). These eight limbs act as guidelines on how to live a meaningful and purposeful life. They serve as a prescription for ethical conduct and self-discipline. They direct attention toward one’s health, and they help us to bring awareness to the spiritual aspects of our nature.

The Eight Limbs:

  • Yama – (the five restraints)
    • Ahimsa – Non-violence
    • Satya – Truthfulness
    • Brahmacharya – Continence
    • Asteya – Nonstealing
    • Aparigraha – Non-covetousness
  • Niyama – (the five observances)
    • Saucha – Purity, cleanliness
    • Santosha – Contentment
    • Tapas – Heat, spiritual austerity
    • Swadhyaya – Self-study, study of scriptures
    • Ishwara Pranidhana – Surrender to God
  • Asana – Steady posture
  • Pranayama – Control of prana or life force
  • Pratyahara – Withdrawal of the senses
  • Dharana – Concentration
  • Dhyana – Meditation
  • Samadhi – Super-conscious state

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We worked on Salamba Sarvangasana – Shoulderstand during one of our alignment days. It is an inversion pose, which is an extremely important group of asanas. They reverse the action of gravity on the body; instead of everything being pulled towards the feet, the orientation shifts towards the head. Similarly, on the emotional levels, inverted asanas turn everything upside down, throwing a new light on old patterns of behavior and being. Inversions improve health, reduce anxiety, stress and increase self-confidence by stimulating mental power through concentration. It is believed that inversions also increase the blood supply to the scalp and nourishes the root of the hair, preventing the loss and graying of hair. I’ve always thought inversions were a little scary, but yoga is a way to face and eventually conquer our fears, so I’m going to incorporate this asana into my daily practice.

Ten benefits of inversions.

Here’s to hoping a daily inversion will flood your roots with healthy blood and stimulate hair growth! Take good care. XO

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Mick backstage in Salamba Sarvangasana.

One of my favorite Rolling Stones songs:

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