“Give Pease a Chance”

It was a rainy day in England, and my husband and I were driving on the freeway when we passed under a bridge with giant white letters announcing: “Give Pease a Chance.” We laughed as the windshield wipers swiped the letters from a filmy blur into clear focus—so typical of rural England to get the spelling wrong. Yet as I shell the peas delivered in my CSA box, I think long and hard that maybe, just maybe it wasn’t a typo after all.

When I was a little girl, I would spend at least two weeks of the summer vacation at my aunt’s house. She lived in the English countryside in a rambling stone home that was full of light, fresh country air and sumptuous smells wafting from the kitchen.

My uncle had a bountiful vegetable garden that provided more produce than they could consume. Much was shared among the small community they lived in, often traded for eggs or milk. There was no freezer, so vegetables were picked just before we ate them and peas were picked in the morning because it took quite some time to shell enough to eat.

At home in my California kitchen, I pick a pod from the CSA bag. My thumbnail finds the little green crease that acts as a zipper, springing open the pod to reveal the perfect globes of sweetness inside. The peas need just a little encouragement to leave the security of their pod and bounce musically into a bowl. Each pea is different—some smaller, some larger; some lighter, some darker. Nothing like two peas in a pod.

As a child, I would sit next to my aunt on the garden step and we would shell peas into her voluminous apron that spread like a hammock across her lap. From there to a colander, then to the pot. While we shelled, we talked; or she told stories, or we recited rhymes. There was a sweet sadness at chore’s end when we had collected enough to eat.

I’m amazed at the clarity of the flashbacks while I shell my own peas. There is something about the tactile quality of the task—the feel, the smell, the color are all part of the experience. I’m seduced into a reverie, recalling tall summer grasses and meadow flowers, dry stone walls and the sound of cows lowing in the late afternoon air. For a moment, I’m a child again, sitting next to my aunt and laughing with her as the peas jump from the pods into the safety net of her lap.

And I think to myself: Maybe “Give Pease a Chance” wasn’t really a typo after all. In this moment, it makes total sense.

 

Image credit: Dayna McIsaac on Flickr (CC)

Words That Matter

I was first introduced to the idea that thoughts and words could change the physical structure of water in the 2004 film, What the Bleep Do We Know!? At the time, Dr. Masaru Emoto, a Japanese scientist and New York Times best-selling author, was lauded as a pioneer for his research on how human consciousness can affect Earth’s most precious resource.

In a nutshell, Dr. Emoto suggested that music and words can change the molecular structure of water in a positive or negative way. He used photographs of frozen water samples viewed through a microscope to illustrate his research.

According to Dr. Emoto, the samples that were exposed to positive words (for example, a written note that read “Thank you” or a priest praying over the water) blossomed into beautiful frozen crystals — each droplet a unique and stunning snowflake. On the other hand, the frozen water samples that were subjected to negative words (“You fool,” for example) formed shriveled, stunted crystalline patterns.

Unfortunately, in the last few years Dr. Emoto’s work has been called into question and exposed as pseudoscience. However, the idea that our thoughts, words and intentions can have a real impact in the material world intrigued me nevertheless.

Fast forward several years to the renovation of the current Yoga Nook. With most of the material work complete, I began to install the wooden flooring. As I toiled, unbidden thoughts surfaced from the deep reaches of my unconscious.

What if positive or negative words really could affect the quality of water? The human body is comprised of 75% water, so wouldn’t words also affect us? What if I wrote positive words on the cement before I covered it with flooring? Would the intent and the meaning of the words permeate the bodies that laid on the floor?

I paused, found a Sharpie and started writing all over the floor. Peace, love, community, laughter, joy, contentment, success, friendship. I wrote in English and I wrote in Sanskrit, the ancient Indian language. Ahimsa (no harm), Om (the universal sound), Yoga (to join or unite), Vidya (knowledge), Tapas (the heat of change), Ananda (bliss).

More, I needed more words. Surrender, harmony, tranquility, calm, quiet, ease. On and on I scribbled, until the floor looked like a crazy art project. Vocabulary and Sharpie exhausted, I returned to my labors; and over the next few days, completed the mission — forever obscuring the manic script.

Two years later, Yoga Nook students lie on a sea of hand-scraped, engineered hazelnut hardwood every day. Each class enjoys Savasana oblivious to the ocean of positive words that swirl around them. Sometimes I imagine the words reaching up from the floor and wrapping the students in gossamer, soothing their minds and maybe even improving their lives.

Dr. Emoto’s work may have been less-than-scientific, but I truly believe that words written with the mighty pen and the power of intention may indeed change the quality of the water within us.

Will I be doing the same at Yoga Nook @ Fifth? Absolutely!

 

Image credit: Alexey Kljatov on Flickr (CC)

Ayurveda 101: The Science of Life

Many great philosophical systems emerged from the Indus Valley in India around 5,000 years ago. It was a time of great spiritual movement, when man was seeking a deeper knowledge of both body and mind. The ancient systems of Yoga and Ayurveda grew up hand-in-hand against this backdrop, their foundations deeply rooted in the Upanishads, a collection of mankind’s most ancient historical texts.

upanishads eknath easwaran

Thought to be written around 800-500 BCE, the Upanishads are a distillation of hundreds of years of Indian spiritual teachings that were passed down through oral tradition before they were ever recorded. They describe the universal laws of nature and principles for living in harmonious balance within yourself and the world around you.

These teachings form the foundation of Ayurveda, a holistic health system and ancient form of medicine that offers wisdom for achieving balance in the mind, body, spirit and environment. Ayu comes from the Sanskrit word for “life,” and veda means “knowledge”; thus, Ayurveda can be roughly translated as the knowledge or science of life.

How Does Ayurveda Differ From Western Medicine? 

Western medicine, also known as allopathy, tends to focus on curing the symptoms of disease. Here in the West, our emphasis is on fixing what has gone wrong with the body — cutting it out, replacing it or taking medication that has been prescribed by a physician.

In Ayurveda, prevention of disease is the main focus. People who practice Ayurvedic medicine believe that everything is connected with your state of health. Diet, exercise, breath and meditation all have a part to play. This principle is simple enough, but it does require a little effort at first — certainly more effort that popping a pill. However, the rewards of incorporating Ayurvedic wisdom in your life can transform your health and sense of well-being in a profound and permanent way.

While we sleep, the body repairs damaged cells, processes toxins and recharges the mind. Junk food, alcohol, drugs and too much stress overload the body and affect its ability to repair itself. Ayurveda says that, in this unbalanced state, we are vulnerable to illness, depression and disease.

Like Yoga, Ayurveda is enjoying a revival as the West awakens to the need for a more balanced lifestyle. Widely promoted by popular speakers such as Deepak Chopra, Ayurveda, with its simple yet potent philosophy on life, is reconnecting us to the rhythms of nature and our own physiology.

Ayurveda Doshas infographic
Infographic by Sattva Ayurveda

What Are the Doshas? 

According to Ayurvedic philosophy, everything in the tangible world (known as prakriti, or nature) consists of three vital energies called doshas: Vata, Pitta and Kapha. We are each born with an individual doshic makeup, or constitution — not equal parts of the three doshas, but our own unique blend of these energies. Each dosha is associated with certain physiological processes, qualities and physical characteristics.

1.  Vata Dosha 

Vata energy regulates all bodily functions and is the quality of motion and change. People who are predominantly Vata are likely to be thin, enthusiastic, quick-thinking, restless and creative. They may find it difficult to put on weight, and often have thick, wiry hair that is curly or wavy.

Because Vata is an active energy, Vatas benefit from calming (Kapha) activities like meditation, massage and yoga, which help ground their restlessness and anxiety.

2.  Pitta Dosha

Pitta energy regulates the absorption of food; it can be thought of as the fire of digestion. Pittas tend to be ambitious and confident perfectionists who love a challenge. They are lucid thinkers and often inspiring public speakers.

Since Pitta quality is hot, they can have a quick temper. Calm, cool surroundings can be used to balance this dosha. Pittas tend to have a medium build and fine hair that may turn gray or thin prematurely.

3.  Kapha Dosha 

Kapha energy holds together the cells of the body and the connective matrix that contains them. The most stable of the doshas, Kaphas generally avoid change and feel secure when things stay the same. They are patient, supportive and caring.

Physically, Kaphas tend to be short and strongly built; they may put on weight easily and find it hard to lose again. Their hair is likely to be thick, dark and wavy. Kaphas benefit from regular exercise and shaking things up a bit from time to time to avoid dullness and boredom.

doshas
Image via A Charmed Yogi

In the Ayurvedic view, if one of the doshas in our makeup is out of balance, health problems may arise. The aim of Ayurveda is to treat each patient with a recommendation for diet, exercise and daily routines that are most beneficial for their individual doshic constitution and its ongoing balance.

There are many self-tests that can help you identify which dosha or combination of doshas make up your individual constitution (for example, this one from The Chopra Center). For a truly accurate reading, however, it’s best to seek out an experienced Ayurvedic practitioner, who can help you discover which foods, environments and exercise will help balance your mind and body.

This article only scratches the surface of the vast and fascinating subject of Ayurveda. If you’re interested in learning more about Ayurveda and the doshas, I recommend checking out Perfect Health by Deepak Chopra and Ayurveda by Anna Selby and Ian Hayward — two great books on the topic.

 

Image credit: Miran Rijavec on Flickr (CC)

The Business of Yoga: The Exquisite Risk

When I opened Yoga Nook 12 years ago, people assumed it had been a lifelong wish of mine to be a studio owner. Actually, it wasn’t. It just felt like the right thing to do at the time. One of the local gyms where I taught had closed its doors, making five yoga classes homeless. I wanted to grow my business and teach more classes in a facility that provided the right atmosphere. I was so tired of dirty floors, no props and frigid air conditioning.

But opening a yoga studio in Simi Valley was quite a risk. It had never been done successfully before. I opened the first Yoga Nook on Stearns Street in November 2003. I remember being late on the very first morning, as I had been up until 1 a.m. staining the yoga studio doors. I had forgotten to get rubber gloves for the project, and I couldn’t get the stain off my hands.

I arrived half an hour late, convinced there would be no one waiting to sign up. A small crowd of students cheered as I arrived, and I shed tears of gratitude as I opened the doors for the first time. Some of those students are still members today.

About a year later, I began thinking about having two studios. I entered negotiations in 2007, but then pulled out as the recession reared its ugly head and kept us battened down until late 2009. I revisited the idea in 2009 and began a search for the location of the new Nook. But family illness and the need to visit England frequently stopped me from taking the last step.

In 2012, I felt the itch to move Yoga Nook. Knowing that I was nearing the end of my lease on Stearns, I looked for a facility that could afford space for private AIM therapeutic sessions as well as yoga classes. I began renovations for the current location in May 2012, and we moved Yoga Nook lock, stock and barrel in September 2013.

Yoga Nook 4449 Cochran
Yoga Nook’s current location at 4449 Cochran St.

Phew! I needed a rest. I wanted to continue to establish the new location, building the garden and putting the finishing touches in place. It took over a year to recover from the many hours of work invested in such a huge project. I was convinced that this was it—I had laid my last yoga floor!

As January 2015 rolled around, I once again began to consider my original plan for two studios. I asked my staff, and their eyes lit up with excitement. I asked my business advisers; they said go for it. I asked my husband, and he rolled his eyes (which is as good as a yes). The search was on.

I was looking for a certain type of space; and of course, location was very important. I wanted to make our yoga classes more accessible for residents of the west side of Simi Valley, Moorpark and Thousand Oaks. I searched for all of March and most of April, trolling up and down Los Angeles Avenue, First Street and Madera.

Finally I came across a unit on Fifth Street—east-facing, on a quiet road, 1600 square feet of space, with enough parking to serve a football stadium. Giant sycamore trees provide shade, and a wide greenbelt separates it from the road. A quiet spot with easy access from Los Angeles Avenue and the convenience of a supermarket close by, it proved to be the ideal home for the new Yoga Nook @ Fifth.

Yoga Nook @ Fifth students
Students eagerly awaiting the opening of Yoga Nook @ Fifth!

We are all eager to embark on this new chapter. The studio will have a purple-and-grey color scheme; the vibe will be just a touch industrial. We’ll maximize natural light with the studio entry design and careful use of overhead lighting. We will be using the same studio doors that we had at the original Yoga Nook, and yes, I will be putting down another floor!

Watch this space and subscribe below for updates on Yoga Nook @ Fifth as the remodel gets underway. We plan to have our grand opening in early September. Thank you for coming along with us on this exciting journey!