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Yoga Philosophy

Inaugural International Day of Yoga – What’s It All About?

June 21, 2015 marks the first ever International Day of Yoga, formally recognized by the United Nations. The day has been devoted to this ancient discipline, to highlight the benefits of yoga “for the health of the world population”.

International-Yoga-Day

Today, Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, did yoga with a crowd of over 35,000 in Delhi, and yoga events are being held in 251 cities on 6 continents.

I’ve read thatinternational_day_of_yoga 30,000 yogis and yoginis are set to do yoga asanas today in Times Square, NYC. That’s a lot of OMing, breathing and Downward Dogging!

Yoga may be an ancient tradition (over 5,000 years old), but it’s Continue reading “Inaugural International Day of Yoga – What’s It All About?”

Asana

Solstice Sun Salutations With Mantras

Have your sun salutations become so routine, that you’re repeating them like an automaton? The winter or summer solstice is the perfect time to remove the robot from your Surya Namaskar and revisit this ancient ritual of greeting the sun.

On the solstice, celebrate the dawn of a new day, and choose to do a sun salutation sequence where the sun is symbolic of the light within you. In essence, this sequence of yoga poses is a humble adoration of our higher wisdom. When we do each pose with this devotional approach, we are reminded of just how precious each day is.

Below is some inspiration for practising one of the traditional 12-step sun salutation sequences, choosing a devotional mantra to the sun for each pose.

Enjoy! (And see here for an interesting summer solstice article I found, on celebrating the light of consciousness within).

  1.  Tadasana (Mountain Pose).  Mantra: Om Mitraya Namaha (Salutations to the friend of all).Solstice-Sunrise

  2.  Urdhva Hastasana (Upward Salute).  Mantra: Om Ravaya Namaha (Salutations to the shining one).Solstice-Sunrise

  3.  Uttanasana (Standing Forward Bend). Mantra: Om Suryaya Namaha (Salutations to the dispeller of darkness, the beautiful Light).Greet-the-Sun

  4.  Anjaneyasana (Low Lunge). Mantra: Om Bhanave Namaha (Salutations to the one who illumines, the bright one).Solstice Sunrise

  5.  Phalankasana (Plank Pose). Mantra: Om Khagaya Namah (Salutations to the one who is all-pervading, who moves through the sky).Solstice-Sunrise

  6.  Ashtanga Namaskara (Knees-Chest-Chin Pose). Mantra: Om Pushne Namah (Salutations to the giver of strength).solstice-sunrise

  7.  Bhujangasana (Cobra Pose). Mantra: Om Hiranya Garbhaya Namaha (Salutations to the golden, cosmic Self).Beach-Sunrise

  8.  Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward-Facing Dog). Mantra: Om Marichaye Namaha (Salutations to the Lord of the dawn).Solstice-Sunrise

  9.  Anjaneyasana (Low Lunge). Mantra: Om Adityaya Namaha (Salutations to the son of Aditi, the cosmic Mother).solstice-sunrise-beach

  10.  Uttanasana (Standing Forward Bend). Mantra: Om Savitre Namaha (Salutations to the one who is responsible for life).Sunrise-paddle-board

  11.  Urdhva Hastasana (Upward Salute).  Mantra: Om Arkaya Namaha (Salutations to the one who is worthy of praise and glory).Sunrise-beach-walk

  12.  Pranamasana (Prayer Pose). Mantra: Om Bhaskaraya Namaha (Salutations to the Source that leads to enlightenment).Sunrise heart cloud

All photos were taken at sunrise in Delray Beach, Florida, where every day is a beautiful celebration on the beach 🙂

The yoga poses I used are a fairly traditional Surya Namaskar sun salutation sequence, but there are many variations. How do you practice sun salutations and what is your favorite sequence?

Travel, Yoga Retreats

10 Reasons To Go On A Yoga Retreat (on Lake Atitlán, Guatemala)

1.   Your Destination Is Dramatically Beautiful

Lake-Atitlan-Yoga-RetreatSet in the highlands of Guatemala, Lake Atitlán is celebrated as “the most beautiful lake in the world” — as famously described by German explorer, Alexander von Humboldt. It’s the deepest lake in Central America, a crater lake (caldera) formed by the very volcanoes that surround it today. The three giants rising up over the lake provide a majestic backdrop for the ever-changing colors of the day. Idyllic, unparalleled, magnificent views surround you, justifying the use of all superlatives in trying to describe its beauty.

When you pull yourself away from staring agog at the volcanic vista, you’ll notice you’re immersed in nature. The gorgeous gardens of our eco-resort are filled with exotic birds, butterflies and tropical flowers, with the added temptation of exploring the verdant green hills and traditional Mayan villages in the area.

2.   Unplug And Relax 

Yes! A reward for working hard and a much-needed break from daily stresses, a yoga retreat at Lake Atitlán allows you to invest in your wellness and top up your energy levels.

Lake-Atitlan-hikeA yoga retreat also has a smorgasbord of “additional activities”. Plenty on offer, depending on what your definition of relax is. Do you want a yoga retreat which is active and energizing, calming and contemplative, or a little of both? Notice what you naturally choose and consider doing something a little different, perhaps unplugging more than you typically would — or, at the opposite end of the frantic/lazy spectrum, perhaps getting off your bum and enjoying the natural beauty of a hike or kayak excursion. You get to decide what level of RELAX you need.

Lake-Atitlan-sunriseRelax also means UNPLUG. Less technology, more nature. Repeat that mantra. Less technology, more nature. Give yourself a technology detox, as you connect with magnificent sunrises, sunsets, star-filled night skies. And if you can’t go cold turkey on unplugging completely, at least minimize your connection with the outside world, so that it doesn’t drag you back into the busy-ness from which you’ve just traveled many miles to escape!

Disconnect from all those little white umbilical cords attached to phones, iPods, tablets, laptops, and anything else that remotely resembles something that knows how to ROFL and LMK. Yes, fellow yoga retreaters, ICW. It. Can. Wait.

3.   More Yoga!

A yoga retreat is the ideal opportunity to do more yoga than you typically would, with an already-crammed schedule at home. We offer yoga twice a day on our retreat; typically a vigorous morning practice and a quieter, more relaxing practice in the evening, with meditation.

Yoga-Retreat-Guatemala-AtitlanDon’t be intimidated by “YIKES! 3+ hours of yoga a day?” — you’ll be encouraged to abandon any grim determination more suitable to a gym workout, as you deepen the poses without aggression, but with a sense of curiosity. You’ll see progress in your yoga and open up to new experiences on your mat … which you can pack up in your suitcase and continue exploring at home.

4.   More Time To Meditate 

Meditation-yoga-retreatThe combination of having guided and/or group meditation as part of your yoga retreat program, and the simple fact of being in a place with reduced distractions, will allow you to truly explore meditation.  This could be an extension of your existing regular meditation practice, or the catalyst for establishing one.

Outside of a group setting, take a few minutes (hey! take an HOUR — why not!) in the morning and evening to be completely still and contemplative. Take this mindfulness with you on an energetic hike, or even a lively trip to the chaotic markets of Chichicastenango, and you can turn activity into a moving meditation.  Talk less. See more. Think less. Experience more.

5.   Step Out Of Your Comfort Zone

Life-begins-at-the-end-of-your-comfort-zoneGoing somewhere new – new country, new language, new food — all of these elements stretch us beyond the stretching of our muscles in physical yoga. Unfamiliar experiences open the door to yoga of the mind, yoga of emotion, yoga of psychology.

When we’re no longer behaving like automatons, or stuck in the rut of routine, this is an ideal time for self discovery, making space for personal growth. By stepping forward and doing unfamiliar, sometimes scary, things, we create the path towards discovery and new-found confidence.

In this new and liberating frame of mind, you might surprise yourself and find you’ve signed up for zip lining in the morning. Try new things. You’ll head home with a new perspective on life, whatever your personal yoga adventure.

6.   Healthy Eating

Scrumptious-veggiesMost yoga retreat focus on nutritious eating and the destinations we choose on Lake Atitlán, are no exception. The food is healthy, tasty, often vegetarian (with optional meat choices), and includes some local touches. You’ll enjoy delicious soups, guacamole, tamales, omelette, fresh local cheese, quesadillas and more.

At the end of your retreat, you can make a commitment to continued healthy eating and incorporate some of these elements into your diet.

7.   Coffee

Guatemala-CoffeeOkay, I know I just wrote about kickstarting a new eating routine and healthy diet and now here I am, advocating a good dose of diterpines, caffeine and kahweol.

But my grandfather used to say, “moderation in everything”, and I’m following his lead on this one. Plus … “The majority of recent research suggests that moderate coffee consumption is benign or mildly beneficial in healthy adults.” There we go. If Wikipedia said it, it must be true.

So, get used to saying the phrase, “Café con leche caliente, por favor” and prepare yourself for Coffee Nirvana, as you get to savor the world-famous, fragrant coffee of Guatemala.

8.   Cacao

How can you not love a country where chocolate is sacred? Arguably the first chocoholics, the Mayans saw cacao as the food of the gods (me, too!) and held annual festivals to honor the cacao god, Ek Chuah.

Guatemala-chocolate-ixcacaoCacao was the drink of choice for the Maya elites and it was used in royal and religious ceremonies. It’s even cherished enough to be written about in the sacred Mayan book, the Popol Vuh.

And here’s a fun discovery – it looks like the Maya invented the first chocolate bar snack! – “So that they could eat cacao at all times, the Mayans also created an on-the-go form by packing it tightly with cornmeal into small round slabs. Warriors carried these snacks, which their enemies envied and stole.”

I bypassed ancient Maya warriors and indulged in little snacks of cacao decadence of the modern type; rich and flavorful, heavenly bites of handmade chocolate bliss.

9.   The People of Guatemala 

The local people are welcoming, friendly, and proud of their country. You’ll see some beautiful Guatemalan faces against the vibrant colors and designs of traditional dress, especially in this region, which is renowned for the Maya people who still practice sacred and ancient traditions.
Guatemala-faces
Regional dress is worn daily, not saved for special occasions, especially in the smaller villages. Cheerful and intricate weavings; women with bold designs on skirts and headdresses, men in jaunty cowboy hats and embroidered pants. In Guatemala City, you’ll see some traditional dress juxtaposed against the mostly modern and westernized sneakers and jeans, but the villages appear to be holding on to their traditions, which is a delight to see.

Guatemala-facesIf you’re so delighted and tempted to capture some of this on camera, don’t assume you can just click away at the people you see in the villages and markets. They will cover their faces or turn away in annoyance — and wouldn’t you, if the roles were reversed? Sometimes it’s appropriate to ask permission to take photographs in exchange for a few quetzales. Assess each situation, be friendly, and graciously move on if the answer is no.

10.   New Friendships

A yoga retreat in magnificent surroundings is likely to attract people with similar intentions and attitudes to life as yours. Your group may have a diversity of backgrounds, but you all have at least two things in common: you chose to go on a yoga retreat and you picked Guatemala. You’ll meet new and interesting people and have the chance to turn them into lifelong friends.

We’ve designed our next retreat on Lake Atitlán on October 21-25 with all the above benefits in mind, so that you can return home, restored and refreshed, and motivated to take that sense of peace back with you and into your daily life.

Join us at the eco-chic Villa Sumaya!

Click here for more info and to register

Asana, Yoga in India, YTT Yoga Teacher Training

Poop, Pray, Move [Part 3] – with apologies to Elizabeth Gilbert

MOVE …

Parivrtta-Trikonasana-Revolved-Triangle
Easing into Revolved Triangle Pose (Parivrtta Trikonasana) at Kailash Tribal School of Yoga

I’ve been condensing two months of extensive yoga studies in India into 5 key areas, to simplify maintaining this healthy lifestyle, back home. Part 1 and Part 2 covered the Poop and Pray part, and now we add Move.

Surprise, surprise … in India, yoga is not typically an exercise you come to perform on your mat three times a week – it’s a way of life; more than just a workout.

Asanas (the physical yoga postures) are not yoga. They are a part of yoga. Here’s a perfect analogy, from our teacher, Yogi Sivadas: “It’s like touching a thorn on a rosebud and thinking that is all that a rose is – you’ll say ‘rose is prickly’ and you’ll miss out on smelling the perfume, because the flower hasn’t blossomed yet. If you only do asana, you won’t find the hidden beauty of yoga, which is inner peace.”  The true beauty of  yoga is hidden beyond the asanas.  The asanas are a way of purifying the body and when the flower unfolds, we experience the hidden beauty within. A sort of yoga perspective on “Stop and smell the roses”.

Rose-beauty-yogaOf course, we were on a yoga teacher training program, so we were smelling the roses AND we were touching the thorns; we were doing asanas.

Every day.

Twice a day.

Four hours a day.

Here’s the difference. We didn’t approach our asanas with the kind of fervid and fanatical drive that we so often see in yoga. Yogi Sivadas’ constant message was, “slow down, take your time, feel your breath, always be mindful about what your body needs, rest when you need to”. We listened, and ironically, our bodies became stronger and more flexible through a path of ease and mindfulness, as opposed to a grim determination to muscle our way through countless vinyasas and pretzel poses.

“Yoga pose is a steady and comfortable position. Yoga pose is mastered by relaxation of effort, lessening the tendency for restless breathing, and promoting an identification of oneself as living within the infinite breath of life.” – The Yoga Sutra of Patanjali

Patanjali reminds us that calm and measured breathing is a critical part of healthy yoga movement, even when we are doing challenging poses. In fact, especially when we are doing challenging poses. That’s the barometer for whether we are overdoing it. Throughout our yoga asanas, we keep connecting again and again to the breath; breathing fully and allowing a smooth and even breath to feed the body and calm the mind.

We also learnt it’s not necessary to hold a pose at its maximum, for as long as possible. I’m not a physiotherapist nor a physiology nerd, but if the muscles fatigue to the point where they’re no longer doing a good job of holding the pose, we can end up stressing the joints (NOT good!) And if we then lock the joints to maintain a pose on behalf of fatigued muscles, we’re not engaging and strengthening the muscles – instead we can end up compressing the joints (NOT good!) Finally, when we’re straining and forcing the pose, the muscles become tighter, instead of stretched. The tighter they become, and the more we push into the stretch? Perfect combination for injuries to happen (yes, here it comes again … NOT good!)

Yogafunnies-flexibilityI’ve been practicing a less zealous form of yoga for years (often being encouraged to do more, hold it longer, “work to your edge”) and yet I’ve still suffered injury in the hamstring attachments and I’ve overstretched ligaments at the back of my knees. Even when I felt I wasn’t overdoing it. Are you a knee hyperextender? Don’t know? See this excellent article from Julie Gudmestad and find out.

I love my asana practice. It makes me feel alive, it calms my mind, it connects me to my breath. After my  time in India, my asana practice is both strong AND therapeutic, a place of even more ease. I’m being kinder to my joints, I’m aware of my heartbeat and breathing, and any time I feel the need to do MORE, I pause and ask myself if what I am already doing is enough, and can I still feel the relaxation in the effort?

And when the answer is yes, I know am in that perfect place to experience the unfolding of the rose flower and inhale the heady scent of yoga.

Next up: Part 4 of Poop, Pray, Move … what else do you think is fundamental to a healthy yoga lifestyle?

Meditation, Yoga in India, YTT Yoga Teacher Training

Poop, Pray, Move [Part 2] – with apologies to Elizabeth Gilbert

PRAY …

Meditation-OmSummarizing two months of extensive yoga studies into five key areas may seem like oversimplifying things, but this simplicity helps me to maintain healthy habits back home. Part 1 covered the Poop part of Poop, Pray, Move.

Now, let’s add Pray. Our minds are engaged in an almost continuous internal dialogue, moving from one thought to the next – some 60,000 thoughts a day, apparently! Meditation allows us to focus inwardly, experience silence, and calm the turbulence of the mind. It requires an inner state that is still and single-focused, so that the mind becomes calm, no longer distracted; ultimately developing mindfulness and insight.

When we meditate, or pray, or take a moment every day to release from the relentless hamster wheel of the busy mind, we can move beyond stress-inducing thoughts and emotional upsets, and find inner peace and calm.

“Meditation is a precise technique for resting the mind and attaining a state of consciousness that is totally different from the normal waking state. It is the means for fathoming all the levels of ourselves and finally experiencing the center of consciousness within.” – Swami Rama

Jon Kabat-Zinn’s definition of meditation is “The awareness that arises through paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment and non-judgmentally”. I would add “without expectations” to that description, Meditationsince we often find ourselves anticipating what’s meant to happen, and what makes “A Good Meditation”. Did you see swirling colors and vivid imagery of eagles and panthers? Did a powerful voice boom out at you, sharing the secrets of the Universe, echoing in the cavern of your mind?

Any meditation is a “good” meditation when you’ve taken the time to just pause for a few minutes and bring the mind to a quieter place. Let go of any expectations and allow your meditation to be exactly as it is.

(More on that later, when I’ll post some musings on meditation. It’s a hugely personal experience and I would love to hear what meditation means to you, so please do post comments below to share with others).

Meditation was part of our daily routine at Kailash Tribal School of Yoga and Holistic Healing; most of it private, some of it in a group setting, listening to the soothing tones of Yogi Sivadas’ guided meditation. Our yoga teacher training schedule kept us busy; ten hours a day, six days a week, yet all of it was calmer against a backdrop of consciously creating harmony and ease at the beginning of every day.

Back home now and in a routine that is different to the yoga school, I continue to rely on  meditation to positively influence my life.  A regular (daily) meditation practice trains the mind to be in a state of relaxed awareness, not just during the meditation, but throughout the thoughts and actions of the day. And a relaxed mind makes for a healthier body. Provided you pooped, of course.

Next up, Part 3 of this recipe for a happy, yogic life … now, if you’ll excuse me, my meditation mat is calling and I have Oms to Om and thoughts to still.

[A wee note here … if you’re seeing strange adverts (nose and ear hair trimmers) in the space below, it’s because WordPress randomly displays these ads in return for my free blog space. I don’t make money from the ads and neither do I have a choice on what appears. Perhaps over time, the hair trimmers will be replaced by yoga mats and yoga books :-). ]

Ayurveda, Yoga in India, YTT Yoga Teacher Training

Poop, Pray, Move [Part 1] – with apologies to Elizabeth Gilbert

This is my secret recipe for inner peace and outward calm, the kind I felt during my yoga stay in India last year. I’ve summarized the most important things I learnt at Kailash Tribal School of Yoga into five essentials. Yes, we studied yoga philosophy and yoga psychology and Vedic wisdom and ancient Sanskrit and sequencing of yoga asanas – all of it fascinating and interesting and rewarding. And all of it enhanced when it was layered on top of this yoga blueprint for a healthy body, mind and spirit.

The recipe isn’t complicated. It’s simple, but not necessarily easy (isn’t that often the case?) : Poop, Pray, Move, and two other vital ingredients. 

(With an I-am-not-a-guru disclaimer inserted here. These suggestions are what work for me, and I invite you to explore and adopt those that make most sense to you.)

POOP

Please excuse the toilet language, but the reality is that poor digestion and sluggish elimination means our bodies are filled with toxins, and our minds and emotions become toxic, too. Elimination at least once, maybe twice, a day is healthy, so if that’s not happening for you, check your diet. When we eat well, we eliminate well.

Scrumptious veggies from the garden
Scrumptious veggies from our garden at home

Already eliminating happily, every day? Good for you, you pooper trouper! Nevertheless, the broader subject of diet is still crucial, as it affects not only digestion and elimination, but also our emotions and state of mind.

“We dig our graves more through our mouths than anything else.” – Swami Satyananda about our approach to food.

Our teacher, Yogi Sivadas, had an Ayurvedic and therapeutic approach to yoga and kept emphasizing how a healthy diet is the basis for a yoga lifestyle. He described eating as the most sacred part of the day, when we create an awareness and reverence for the food we’re eating, rather than shoveling it mindlessly down our gullets (my words, not his). He encouraged us to see the colors of the food, smell the aromas, imagine the taste, prepare the digestive juices for what’s coming and then eat slowly, savoring every mouthful.

Perfect pineapple
We’re lucky enough to be able to grow delicious pineapples in our own garden – be inspired to grow whatever’s possible in yours.

The Ayurvedic belief is that most emotional, hormonal and physical imbalances and agitations of the mind are caused by bad diet, poor digestion and a sedentary and/or stressful lifestyle. Doing simple things like eating dinner no later than 7 p.m. helps the digestive process. Other common sense advice was to follow as much as possible a vegetarian diet of fresh food, in modest quantities, avoiding or reducing refined foods, caffeine and alcohol.

I love a cappuccino with a chocolate croissant, and I enjoy a glass of wine, so does that make me a bad yogini? No, it doesn’t; but if I am anxious, impatient or irritable, chances are it’s because of the amount of caffeine/alcohol/refined sugar I’ve consumed. When I pay attention to my diet and reduce or remove those elements, I notice I am a mix of calm, vitality and a joy for life.

And if this sounds like advice from a health food magazine instead of a yoga teacher, Yogi Sivadas’s point was if we practice yoga, then by association we also practice Ahimsa (non-violence), which includes non-violence to the body, through a healthy diet. To “do yoga” is to start with the fundamentals of a healthy diet. As he said,

“Yoga only BEGINS when you regulate your diet and lifestyle”.

It doesn’t begin by rocking a kick-butt Astavakrasana.

Your thoughts? Your tips on following a healthy diet and yet not feel like you’re missing out? I’d love to hear what you have to say!

Next up, Part 2 of this recipe for a happy, yogic life … in the meantime, here’s to your healthy diet, digestion and elimination. I’m just off to grab me a handful of sunflower seeds and bran.

[A wee note here … if you’re seeing strange adverts (nose and ear hair trimmers) in the space below, it’s because WordPress randomly displays these ads in return for my free blog space. I don’t make money from the ads and neither do I have a choice on what appears. Perhaps over time, the hair trimmers will be replaced by yoga mats and yoga books :-). ]

Inspirational

Make Your Home An Ashram

Desperate for a weekend break, a getaway, an escape from it all? Here’s how to go on a yoga retreat while you’re at home. When we asked Yogi Sivadas how to package up the peace of our yoga school and take it with us, one of his suggestions was, “Make your home an ashram.” Excellent idea! Create peace in your home and make it the sort of sanctuary that whispers words like blissful and escape – just like those tempting ads that pop up on your screen and have you salivating. Start by blocking out two to three days on your calendar, as if you were unavailable. Tell your friends and family you’ll be incommunicado.

Then, follow the guidelines below – and I know I’m at risk of falling into the category of a click-baiting yoga blogger who shouts out, “Five Tips On How to Go on a Yoga Retreat at Home!”, but c’est la vie, here they are:

Peaceful garden buddha1.  Make Your Home An Ashram. Whether you live in a tiny apartment or a luxurious mansion, you can transform your home into a peaceful refuge. Without doing a massive clear out (now’s not the time), tidy your home as if guests you love were imminent and you’d like the place to look welcoming. Hide the clutter and make a promise to do the decluttering thing later. Think of the places that make you feel most tranquil and replicate some of that, in your own home. Music, chimes, candles, flowers, incense, if that’s your thing.  Ornaments, photos, snuggly blankets – choose to be surrounded by objects of beauty and comfort, which doesn’t necessarily mean spending money.

Salad2.  Eat Well. Plan your meals ahead of time; choosing simple, fresh, organic-where-possible, preferably-vegetarian (easily digested) ingredients and menus. Go for flavor and not complexity. My yoga friend, Karen, throws together scrumptious meals quicker than you can say Namaste and it’s always about simple, fresh flavors, usually involving a handful of herbs and/or an interesting twist, like edamame beans scattered on top of a salad. If you’re no domestic goddess in the cooking department, then stock up on ready-made, healthy options – including frozen, if the food is good quality. Also eat at times that make it easier on your digestive system (here’s why), i.e. breakfast between 9am-10am, lunch 1-2pm, dinner no later than 7pm.

snore 3.  Sleep Well. Set a schedule for sleeping, and your body will thank you for it. The recommendation for a healthy sleeping pattern which has worked for me, is to be asleep by latest 10pm and wake up by 6am. If the thought of pre-birdsong-alarm-call freaks you out on your three-day home retreat, then go to bed even earlier and you’ll find it’s easier to get up and join the dawn chorus. If you need extra sleep during the day, take a little nap/s to recharge the batteries.

4.  Treats. This is a yoga retreat, remember? So scatter little pamperations (no such word, but there should be) and decadent spoil-me-please activities during your break; like an at-home massage, a DIY home facial, spending a solid two hours reading that book that’s been calling you – anything that makes you feel indulged, relaxed and fabulous. Daisies

5.  Unplug. Less technology, more nature. Repeat the mantra. Less Tech, More Trees. Sit under one, hug one, gaze at one from your apartment window, or do whatever connects you with nature – sunsets, sunrises, stargazing, butterflies, beach walks, flowers. Immerse in nature in your own back yard or local park and breathe it in, drink in the colors, enjoy the sounds. “Unplug” means disconnect from all those little white umbilical cords attached to phones, iPods, tablets, PCs, television, radio and anything else that remotely resembles something that knows how to ROFL and LMK. Yes, folks, ICW. It. Can. Wait.

The physical yoga is the obvious part of a yoga retreat, so we’ll take that as a given, assuming you’re going to slot in an hour or so of easy and gentle yoga stretches and calming breathing (perhaps one kick-butt vinyasa to begin with, if that helps you burn off some stress). See if you can use this break to be good to yourself, indulging in nourishing things, which may include a gentler yoga practice than you’re used to. Guatemala Yoga Retreat When your home is an ashram, every day of the year can be an escape from the daily grind, even if only for a few minutes at a time. Your home can become the kind of place that invites you to be reflective, to relax, to meditate.

Living in a peaceful environment makes it easy to schedule these little mini-retreats regularly and they’ll keep you going until you’re able to go on that uber-yummy yoga retreat in an exquisite location. Like the retreats I’ve been happily hosting with my yoga friend, Karen, in fabulous places like Lake Atitlán in Guatemala and Lake Arenal in Costa Rica  😉

Relax. Replenish. Rejuvenate.  =  Retreat.

[A wee note here … if you’re seeing strange adverts (nose and ear hair trimmers) in the space below, it’s because WordPress randomly displays these ads in return for my free blog space. I don’t make money from the ads and neither do I have a choice on what appears. Perhaps over time, the hair trimmers will be replaced by yoga mats and yoga books!]

Life

Yoga to the Rescue on New Year’s Day

New Year’s Eve started off perfectly, with a pre-midnight prosecco toast at home, giving us time to then join a group of yogis and yoginis and chant a continuous Om again and again, as a beautiful way to herald in 2015. (Thank you, Simply Yoga, Andi and Karen). The next treat was a walk on the beach with my husband, watching the fireworks dance in celebration of the New Year, talking of our hopes and wishes.

Party PiggySounds idyllic, right? Then the movie script changed. We got home to a mighty thumping, pumping, throbbing and pounding … words which could be easily misconstrued, so I’ll quickly add that they were all related to the raucous party noise of our next door neighbours, with their 70s music belting out into the new year and straight into our living room.

The instant disco reverberating throughout our house eclipsed the vibrations of our harmonious Oms two hours earlier. I’m the first one to whoop at the funky sound of Barry White, or boogie in the kitchen to Disco Inferno, but by 2am my tolerance for YMCA and Ring My Bell had vanished, as had my New Year Cheer. Finally, we got to sleep by 2:30.

When I woke up a few hours later to teach a yoga class, I felt like sh*t. Grumpy and bad-tempered at how shattered I felt (I am NOT good on not enough sleep), I grumbled and complained to my husband, seething and directing I-hope-they-have-monumental-hangovers curses through the hedge and into next door.  Instead of waking up with unbridled joy for the potential of the New Year ahead, I could only see it through manure-smeared spectacles as I stomped off to teach yoga.

Breathe. Om.Within a few minutes of greeting the students, the routine of yoga kicked in and came to my rescue. There’s something about the ritual of rolling out the mat, settling into a comfortable, cross-legged position, and taking those first few yoga breaths. It’s as if the body, mind and breath remember these actions and receive the signal, “Yeah! Yoga Time!”, recognizing it as the chance to relax, let go, and see the world differently.

As we began with a few calming breaths and brought the mind to a quieter place, my words about welcoming in the New Year actually felt true, not just something to say to create a nice vibe in the yoga room. We prepared to chant the sound of Om and send out good thoughts for the year ahead, for ourselves, our loved ones, and for all humanity.

With surprise, as the A-U-M resonated through my body and out through the crown of my head, I found myself including my partying neighbours in that wish, as they appeared, unbidden, in my Oms.  They had transformed from inconsiderate party animals to just another little slice of humanity, celebrating life – and my anger had disappeared in the sacred sound of Om and the calm of the breath.

These are the moments when I am eternally grateful for the practice of yoga. Sometimes I can use these tools at the exact time they’re needed to diffuse emotions, and other times they come to the rescue afterwards, sprinkling stardust on the world and making it right. Sometimes, all it takes is just a moment to sit quietly, release the mind from its busy activity, and BREATHE – and our perspective on the world can change.

This is my 2015 yoga wish for you – for today, for any day, for every day. We can change the way we feel, by taking the time to pause, sit comfortably and …

  • close the eyes
  • relax the shoulders
  • breathe slowly, in and out of the nostrils
  • release the tension in the jaw
  • take another few breaths, perhaps allowing the exhale to lengthen, without forcing it
  • bring awareness only to the breath, as the inhale and exhale rise and fall in the chest
  • invite the mind to focus only on the breath for a few minutes – and if it becomes distracted by external noises or internal thoughts, gently draw the mind away from the distraction and come back to feeling the breath come in and out of the body.

After just a few minutes of stepping away from the busy activity of the mind and choosing to breathe calmly, when we open our eyes, the world may seem a calmer place and the mind may have more clarity, in a state of relaxed alertness.

At a minimum, we will have mostly likely lowered the heart rate, lowered the blood pressure and released some tension in the body. And perhaps the yoga of pausing and breathing will become a daily habit, not just on those days where we feel blasted by the pulsating remnants of Everybody Was Kung Fu Fighting. Happy New Year, everybody.

[A wee note here … if you’re seeing strange adverts (nose and ear hair trimmers) in the space below, it’s because WordPress randomly displays these ads in return for my free blog space. I don’t make money from the ads and neither do I have a choice on what appears. Perhaps over time, the hair trimmers will be replaced by yoga mats and yoga books :-). ]

Life

Winter Solstice and Yoga

The spectacular solstice sunrise I watched this week, jumped the queue and interrupted my intended “crucial ingredients for a more balanced life” blog post. (Perhaps that’s better suited to the New Year anyway, when we’re all determined and motivated, making resolutions for the year ahead…)

I tend to think of the winter solstice and the end of the calendar year as a time for us to reflect on lessons learned, accept the year’s experiences as more threads to the tapestry of life, and leave behind what no longer serves us. It’s also a time to make room for the possibility of bright new beginnings, welcoming the sun back into our lives.

The solstice was a few days ago, but it’s not too late to feel the energy of the year coming to a close and take time to contemplate the year ahead – perhaps bringing these intentions and wishes into your meditation and physical yoga practice. I enjoyed this mindful yoga sequence on linking your yoga practice to the energy and intention of a winter solstice.

Celebrate the wonder of a beautiful new dawn!

Winter-solstice-sunrise

 

[A wee note here … if you’re seeing strange adverts (nose and ear hair trimmers) in the space below, it’s because WordPress randomly displays these ads in return for my free blog space. I don’t make money from the ads and neither do I have a choice on what appears. Perhaps over time, the hair trimmers will be replaced by yoga mats and yoga books :-). ]

Life

Where Are The Goats?

Yes, I’ll admit it. It’s been difficult to adjust to “normal life” after months of yoga bliss in the Himalayas. I’ve been back home now for over two months and apart from the happiness at seeing my husband, family and friends again, the re-entry into Western life has been challenging.

During the last few days of our yoga program, Yogi Sivadas had smiled and said, “People come to India and get a culture shock. Then they stay for a while. And then, when they go back to the West, they get a different culture shock!” How true. Of course there was an adjustment to life in McLeod Ganj, India, starting with the taxi ride from the airport, but it was really only a matter of days before different became normal, and unusual became part of regular life, including the mischievous monkeys as surprise visitors in our cottages.

Acclimation on coming home – some observations:

  • Where are the cows in the street, and the goats eating the adverts off the walls?
  • Gosh, it’s odd to sit on a chair, instead of cross-legged on the floor
  • Everyone is in a rush
  • Everyone seems to be complaining about something, and it’s almost always about something trivial
  • The local charity shop is the happy recipient of the pile of Clutter I Don’t Need Anymore. What made me think I NEEDED so much? (and don’t even get me started on Black Friday greed and hysteria)
  • Oh. I’m noticing it’s actually quite a challenge to be a constant “flame of consciousness”, when not everyone around me is even aware there is a candle in the room
  • How did a Starbucks chai tea latte creep into my diet again, on a regular basis?
  • Wow, it’s not as easy as I thought it would be, to stick to the healthy routine that kept me so happy in body, mind and spirit
  • The word F@*k seems to be making a more regular appearance in my vocabulary lately
  • I’m so happy to have a busy yoga teaching schedule and share some of the things I’ve learnt … now, how can I squeeze in more yoga and meditation time for me?

It soon became apparent that the shifts in lifestyle were actually less about the obvious things, like goats in the street and Tibetan monks in the shops. It’s been more about how to hold on to the simpler lifestyle I had in India, where I made do with less and yet didn’t feel I lacked anything. How I felt alive and energized every morning, even with the pressure and pace of our nine-hours-a-day-six-days-a-week schedule. How I saw life through a veil of calm and perspective, focusing only on things that mattered. Every day brought simplicity and ease into the way I thought, spoke and behaved.

The goats LOVEd eating the adverts on the walls!
The goats LOVED shredding the adverts off the walls!

And that’s the magic that I’m determined to hold on to. The goats were adorable and I miss them. But it’s the other, less tangible, pieces of the peace puzzle that I promise myself I will not lose. I’ve been preparing for the “Yoga in India” playshop I’m holding this month, and I’ve been reading through my notes of many hours spent with Yogi Sivadas, highlighting the crucial ingredients for a more balanced life.

The good news is, it’s not actually that complicated. I’ll share a summary in my next post.

[A wee note here … if you’re seeing strange adverts (nose and ear hair trimmers) in the space below, it’s because WordPress randomly displays these ads in return for my free blog space. I don’t make money from the ads and neither do I have a choice on what appears. Perhaps over time, the hair trimmers will be replaced by yoga mats and yoga books :-). ]

Travel, Yoga in India, YTT Yoga Teacher Training

Book Packing In McLeod Ganj

Book-packing-McLeod-Ganj
How can FedEx compete against this charming setup?

Yes, that’s Book Packing in McLeod Ganj, not Backpacking. The latter being a travel adventure for those exploring the Himalayas in (most likely) scruffy-baggy-unisex trousers and cotton rasta-colored friendship bracelets; seeking budget accommodation, ethnic meals and meaningful inter-cultural connections with locals and likeminded international explorers. The former being an adventure of a different sort – involving 27 books and a cheerful chappy armed with calico, a big sewing needle and red candle wax.

I had somehow amassed 27 books during my yoga teacher training: some of them part of the Kailash Tribal School of Yoga curriculum and some of them literary treats I just couldn’t resist.

  • Happy circumstance: Snapping up inexpensive and interesting yoga books
  • Problem: Lugging them home in an already-bulging suitcase
  • Solution: Aforesaid cheerful chappy with his tailoring skills
Book-packing-McLeod-Ganj
Sewing the calico cover

 

 

Shipping things home will never be the same again.

No boring FedEx or UPS box required. Instead, you take your books to a tailor, who takes a break from sewing his colorful Tibetan wall hangings to create a custom-sewn, cloth-covered, neatly packaged bundle, ready for its voyage home. All of this done while laughing and smiling as he works speedily on his little Sagar sewing machine, weaving his tailor mastery around your precious yoga books.

Book-packing-McLeod-Ganj
Red wax seal to add a special touch

 

 

He finishes off the final seam by hand, with a big needle and thick thread. When he holds a red stick over a flame and drips hot wax along the seam, evoking the nostalgia of a bygone era, it makes you want to press a Downton Abbey signet ring into it, to seal the deal. Seriously.

 

Book-packing-McLeod-Ganj
Signed, sealed and ready for mailing
Book-packing-McLeod-Ganj
You’ve Got Mail.

Two weeks later at home, when my parcel of books arrive, the cream calico material now dirty and scuffed but books intact, I’m immediately transported back to Jogiwara Road, McLeod Ganj, to visions of nimble sewing fingers making an art form out of mailing things home.

 

For McLeod Ganj Travelers – How to send parcels from McLeod Ganj, with minimum fuss:

McLeod-Ganj-post-office
Left to right, on Jogiwara Rd : tailor with parcel packing, Tibet Quality Bakery, post office.

It’s an art form in itself, but it can also be a bit frustrating if you don’t know the ropes. In the event that other travelers hit the search button on how to send their books or other items home from McLeod Ganj, here’s the scoop:

  1. Pick up a customs form (one form per parcel) from the internet services place, up the stairs just past the post office on Jogiwara Road. Also ask them to make two copies of your passport per parcel.
  2. Fill out the forms ahead of time and make sure you state the books are personal and used.
  3. Take your books (or clothing, or souvenirs) to the happy guy at the store that makes Tibetan wall hangings a few doors down from the post office, just past the Tibet Quality Bakery (see photo). You can’t miss him, as the storefront is filled with hanging pieces of colorful Tibetan material. Look for “Parcel Packing Here” sign.
  4. Watch, in awe, as he speedily sews a cloth parcel around your books, and seals it with red candle wax. The price for the parcel wrapping service was nominal – I think I paid less than 200 rupees.
  5. Write your address and the sender’s address (your hotel or someone you know in McLeod Ganj) in big letters on the parcel. Friendly tailor loaned me his permanent marker pen.
  6. Take your parcel, customs form and passport copies to the post office BEFORE NOON – when I was there, I was told they only do international parcels in the morning, even though they are open in the afternoon. This part was fairly expensive – I paid $60 to ship 27 books home, but excess luggage on a domestic flight would have cost a lot more.
  7. IMPORTANT! Take CASH with you to the post office. I didn’t have enough money and hot-tailed it down the road to the ATM, to find it was offline, then to the bank to cash money, and ran back to the post office, huffing and panting, with just minutes to spare. (And then I left my raincoat poncho behind and had to go back later to fetch it. Much deep yoga breathing required to remain calm!)
  8. The books arrived safely, and took just over 2 weeks to reach me in the US.

Happy Book Packing and Safe Travels!

[A wee note here … if you’re seeing strange adverts (nose and ear hair trimmers) in the space below, it’s because WordPress randomly displays these ads in return for my free blog space. I don’t make money from the ads and neither do I have a choice on what appears. Perhaps over time, the hair trimmers will be replaced by yoga mats and yoga books :-). ]

Inspirational, Travel, Yoga in India, YTT Yoga Teacher Training

Meeting The Dalai Lama at 36,000 Feet

Dalai-Lama-yogaressa
His Holiness the Dalai Lama beckons me to come closer

Prepare yourself for every superlative and cliché in the book, as I try to describe the experience of meeting His Holiness the Dalai Lama this week; an extraordinary and outrageously special experience (you see? I’ve already started with the hyperbole).

My journal entry says, “I’m not sure if ‘holy crap!’ are appropriate words to use in the same sentence as the Dalai Lama … but holy moly (holy guacamole? Holy Gautama?), I met His Holiness the Dalai Lama on my flight to Delhi today”. Since the experience was much more profound than that, I will now try to give it due reverence.

During my advanced yoga teacher training in McLeod Ganj, India, I was optimistic that I would get a chance to see His Holiness, since his residence was on our doorstep. Over two months, like a DalaiGroupie. I checked his official itinerary online, applied through the web site for a “private audience” (although I would have been happy to be one in a cast of thousands), visited the security office in the town, asked local Buddhists, monks and nuns (who had now become my friends) if they knew of any unscheduled appearances, and when I had a chance to visit the Buddhist temple adjacent to his home, I’d stay alert, just in case he felt a spontaneous urge to venture out and have some time with his peeps.

It was not meant to be. The harder I searched, the more elusive he was.

Finally, it was the end of my stay and time for me to accept I was not going to see HHDL. There’s some irony in that acceptance, since the Buddhist and Yoga philosophy of non-attachment suggests that to avoid suffering, we should detach from our desires to the point that if they remain unfulfilled, we can still be content. Best we accept, with grace, the things we can’t change – no Dalai Lama as part of my yoga teacher training? Okay, then, I could live with that … it had still been an unforgettable seven weeks at Kailash Tribal School of Yoga.

Dalai-Lama-yogaressa
Taking it all in.

And so, on the Dharamsala to Delhi flight, I was staring out the window, saying goodbye and thank you for my special Himalayan yoga experience, when I noticed the American couple sitting behind me were now taking selfies with two Tibetan monks in the front row. I thought, “Oh, isn’t that sweet; they’ve obviously not seen many monks yet and this is still a novelty for them”.

Half an hour later, without really knowing where the question came from, I found myself casually asking them if there was any specific reason they were taking photos of “the two monks”, and they stared at me and said, “Uh, YES. That’s the Dalai Lama”. My jaw dropped. I hadn’t even noticed them boarding the aircraft, I’d been so lost in my Goodbye-McLeod-Ganj thoughts. To Art and Amy from DC … THANK YOU!

Dalai-Lama-yogaressa
Note how strongly I was gripping his hands 🙂

All these weeks of wishing and hoping to see him, and now here he was, two rows in front of me, within an easy yoga stretch. The next slice of time (2 minutes? 2 years? 2 seconds?) passed in a daze (cliché, but true). I found myself crouching down in the aisle, waiting shyly and not wanting to disturb him, while simultaneously also wanting to sit in his lap and ask him for All The Answers to All The Questions.

He looked up and reached out towards me, beckoning me to come forward. I knelt down, simply holding his hands and staring at him. His grip was firm and strong and when I looked at the photos afterwards, I realized I was crushing his hands in my white-knuckled grasp, not wanting to let go.

Dalai-Lama-yogaressa
Smiles

Friends have asked me what I said to him and he to me, but there was no need for words. There was nothing I wanted to say. I simply held his hands and gazed at him; his deep, brown eyes alert and filled with light and wisdom, and a mischievous smile on his face.

I drank it all in. I felt his presence as pure; his spirit kind, humble and compassionate. It felt like I was bathing in his energy, on the receiving end of unconditional love and I wanted nothing more than to return this love to him, from my heart. (Yes, I warned you about the superlatives).

At some point, I placed my palms together in “Namaste”, and stumbled back to my seat. I sat for a while, not even looking at the photos my fellow American passenger had taken of me. I sat and absorbed what had just happened, and my eyes filled with tears as I realized how blessed I was to have experienced this. As many people pointed out, it was the perfect end to an already-perfect yoga adventure in India.

Once we had landed in Delhi, I looked down to notice I hadn’t been wearing my seatbelt after I had floated back to my seat. But somehow, I think our flight was in safe hands.

Om_Mani_Padme_Hum_mantra


My Favorite Music and Books

Some of my favorite recommendations for good meditation music and yoga reads. Click to explore

Bliss Om Namah Shivaya Robert Gass

Yoga-Music-Blissfull-Mantras-Jane-Winther

Sa-Ta-Na-Ma-Richard-Brookens

 

 

 

Dalai-Lama-Archbishop-Tutu-Book-of-Joy Bhagavad-Gita-Stephen-Mitchell  Bhava-Ram-Warrior-Pose-Book

Travel, Yoga in India, YTT Yoga Teacher Training

Goodbye, McLeod Ganj

Mcleod-Ganj-clouds
Morning light hits the clouds of Mcleod Ganj

It’s our last day in McLeod Ganj and my sunrise walk took me through the peaceful woods on the way to the Buddhist temple – a kaleidoscope of Tibetan prayer flags flapping in the breeze, prayer wheels spinning to the hum of Om Mani Padme Hum, stray dogs lazing in the early sunlight. I realize how little quiet time we’ve had during our stay and how this has not been a yoga retreat, but a dedicated commitment to yoga studies. Although I would have loved more time for reflection, ironically it’s good how the discipline of keeping to a schedule meant we haven’t been living in a complete yoga bubble of seclusion and tranquility, totally removed from “the real world” and finding it hard to adjust back to it.

Eagle-McLeod-Ganj
Typical view while upside down in Sirsasana

We’ve had to prioritize our time and juggle multiple demands during a physically and mentally demanding, busy day. Sounds like “normal life”, doesn’t it? Our full schedule was good training for how to find balance, how to be an essentialist – only spending precious time on what was truly necessary – and how to make it a priority to carve out slivers of time for contemplation. Staying calm and peaceful within the often frantic flow of life. There’ll be another time when I can indulge in a yoga retreat.

Simba-Tibetan-Dog
The irresistible Simba, resident dog at Lhamo’s Croissant

Ten Things I’ll Miss:

    • Sunrise unfolding over the Himalayas
    • Sharing the road with the goats and dogs as they take their morning stroll
    • Greeting the street vendors and restaurant owners I’ve come to know as familiar faces
    • Paneer with peas. Paneer in curry. Paneer with scorched green peppers. Did I mention paneer?
    • The view of eagles soaring in the sky, sunlight catching their wings, while I’m in Sirsasana (Headstand)
    • Cows mooing OM during Savasana
    • Sammi’s magical massages for aching muscles
    • Sivadas’ snippets of wisdom, which appear spontaneously, unscripted and perfectly timed in our discussions … “If you want to achieve Samadhi, you have to drop your desire for Samadhi.”
Re-use, recycle, repurpose. Cat food bag becomes packing for Tibetan bowl.
Re-use, recycle, repurpose. Cat food bag becomes packing for Tibetan bowl.
    • Invitations to drink sweet chai – yes, sometimes this is a technique used to encourage you to buy yet another irresistible shawl, but often it’s nothing more than a genuine desire to socialize with you, and share a few perspectives on life.
    • How nothing is wasted…they re-use and re-purpose things here, in simple and practical ways. The wrapping for my Tibetan singing bowl is an empty bag of kibbles cat food, the veggie guys use packets made of newspaper for your groceries, and takeaway food is often poured into coffee bean foil bags.
Lhamo and her delicious pastries and cakes
Lhamo and her delicious pastries and cakes
  • Lhamo’s delectable and delicious freshly-baked carrot cake OMG OMG OMG – a constant temptation in my otherwise almost sugar-free diet.

Things I’m looking forward to as I head home:

  • Happy reunion with my husband, without a fuzzy Skype screen
  • Beach walks with friends and warm ocean swims
  • Seeing my old life with new eyes – thank you, Yogi Sivadas, and Namaste.
Yoga in India, YTT Yoga Teacher Training

Yes, I Have a Yoga Name

Blessings-for-my-yogini-nameI’ve always thought it was faintly ridiculous when I’d hear someone in the US use their “yoga name”, especially when clad from head to toe in Lululemon lycra. I had cynically joked about how my chosen yoga name would be Yogaressa Sri Shakti Jai Murphananda.

Yogi Sivadas playing sitar
Yogi Sivadas on Sitar

But here in India, after several weeks of advanced yoga teacher training with Yogi Sivadas; absorbing his yoga knowledge, querying some of his statements, enjoying discoveries about body, mind and spirit because of his teachings – suddenly now I am thrilled to have been given a yoga name of Yogi Vimala, which means “pure” or “clean”. At our ceremony, Yogi Sivadas had laid out symbolic statues, crystals, musical instruments, plants and a burning flame. It was a special celebration of our progress as yoga teachers and he spent a few minutes talking about how he wanted us to continue studying, learning and developing our personal perspective of yoga. The burning flame was a butter lamp; symbolizing how we could bring light to others through teaching yoga, and he wished for us to be “little lamps of Conscious wisdom”, as we continue on our yoga teacher path.

Yogi Sivadas on the tabla drums
Yogi Sivadas on the tabla drums

How can you not be delighted with your yoga name, after those wishes? Add to that, the special touch of Yogi Sivadas playing classical Indian music on sitar and tabla drums, and I was ready to go and change my name on my passport 🙂

I’m not sure yet how and when I will use Yogi Vimala, but it’s special to me and it will be a meaningful reminder of a happy and fulfilling time with Yogi Sivadas and my fellow teacher students at the Kailash Tribal School of Yoga.

Yogi Sivadas and Yogini Vimala
Yogi Sivadas and Yogini Vimala
Graduation with Yogi Sivadas and my fellow yoginis
Graduation with Yogi Sivadas and my fellow yoginis
Travel, Yoga in India, YTT Yoga Teacher Training

Mcleod Ganj Moonrise

I was going to write a post about Half Moon Pose (Ardha Chandrasana) and the Moon Salutations (Chandra Namaskar), to accompany photos of the magnificent moonrise last night and then I thought all that really mattered was to share the moon’s magic with you.

Every morning and evening, the view from my balcony here in McLeod Ganj is different, as the mountains appear and disappear through clouds, mist and sunlight and the birds or monkeys add their presence to the vista.

The yoga of movement – the physical poses like Ardha Chandrasana – is not quite as fulfilling as the yoga of beauty; when we are aware of the splendour of our surroundings and appreciate it within our hearts.

So, here was last night’s performance; moonrise over sunset-tinged clouds and the beauty of our world.

 

McLeod-Ganj-MoonriseMoonrise Mcleod Ganj

McLeod Ganj moonrise

Oh, and I was so enthralled by the exquisite moonrise that I almost forgot the vertical rainbow that preceded it! Enjoy. Have a beautiful day, and notice something extraordinary and beautiful about the world around you.

Moonrise

Vertical rainbow at sunset
Vertical rainbow at sunset
Rainbow
Eagle silhouetted in the rainbow 🙂