Tag Archives: Hawaii

Letting your plants go seed

When I was a teenager, I can remember waiting in the doctors office and perusing a hunting magazine. I had no interesting in hunting, but it was the only thing to read in the days well before iPhones. Between the articles of using store bought fox urine versus to the real deal for God only knows what, I came across an article that has apparently stayed with me for years. It was a first hand account of a man who successfully tracked down a prized deer, but couldn’t bring himself to shoot it because he was in awe of the beauty and strength of this animal.

As my plants in my garden are maturing, I haven’t been able to pick some of them for very much the same reasons as the hunter above. Watching something grow from seed since nascency, then becoming ripe and the flowering, then seeding, then dying is a beautiful process to watch. It is hauntingly a fast forward preview of our own cycle of existence in this embodiment, and in mankind itself.

I knew I was too late picking my freckled lettuce when I snapped off a leaf and chewed it, only to have an extremely bitter taste in my mouth. I have developed great respect for lettuce plants a they are some of the most disease resistant, insect resistant, drought resistant, and delicious plants that can be grown. When they are mature, they go right into seed making mode and grow a crown on top reminiscent of something truly Royal.

It is odd growing plants in Hawai’i, a place where you can plant any time of year and produce. As this past week was the first day of Spring, many of my plants are behaving like its Fall and either harvesting or going to seed. Rather than greedily picking them all, I am letting some continue their short life cycle on this earth with hope that they will produce more offspring with their withering.

On a bright note, I did harvest my first pumpkin. It was small and beautiful and made my mother in law very happy. I plan to take it on “tour” to show all my students, coworkers, friends, and clients with whom I was showing weekly pictures of progress like some deranged parent. Who knows, I might just eat it one day 🙂

Advertisements

How Madame Pele defeated Hurricanes Iselle and Julio

Screen Shot 2014-08-09 at 3.52.14 PM

In Hawaiian legend, Madame Pele is the deity who created the volcanos. She is said to have tremendous power which is manifested in the live volcanoes on Hawai’i’s Big Island.

As many of you have heard, Hawai’i has been under the threat of two hurricanes: Iselle and Julio. This is what we have been anticipating in Hawaii for the past few days.

Tropical Weather

Yesterday, a near miracle happened. Iselle made landfall on The Big Island’s southeast corner and this was the result:

The video shows the storm being ripped apart by The Big Island’s tall mountains and thrown aside saving the rest of the island chain from it’s peril.

Unfortunately, residents of this part of The Big Island suffered damages to their home and are expected to be out of power for the next week. They took one for the team! Crews are still assessing damages, but as of this posting there does not appear to be any loss of life from the storm.

As for Hurricane Julio, this is the projected course over the next day.

Screen Shot 2014-08-09 at 4.07.04 PM

It will completely miss the island chain.

Having back to back hurricanes get deflected is nothing short of a divine intervention. My yoga practice has given me much faith, and it is a blessing to see a miracle play out before one’s eyes.

 

Aeroplane Yoga!

aero 1

Flying is taxing on the whole being. Between jet lag, bad airplane food, getting your immune system assaulted by travelers from all over the world who are sick, and bad posture from narrow airplane seats, you run many risks of getting ill.

During a weekend trip to San Francisco, I had my wife take a few pictures of me doing some asanas that are possible on a long plane ride. These postures combat some of the ills of sitting for five hours.

aero 6

This is Gulphasana (a variation of Uttanasana where you put your hands around your Gulpha, or the Marma point around your ankles). I like this variation because it gives the spine more traction and the ankles give you leverage to pull against. If you are stiffer, you can simply hold the elbows in Uttanasana. You can do this pose by in the area for the loo queue.

aero 4

Lolasana (Earing Pose). This pose does many things whilst traveling. If you think about your internal organs of digestion, they are sitting heavy for many hours on the plane. This arm balance, which is easy with the chair configuration extends the internal organs and gives them a “rest” from being sedentary. It also stretches the arms and gets the heart rate going. You cannot see, but the calves are crossed at the shins to form an”X”. Also note this is not the final stage of the pose where you bring your knees to the chest. Again, this stage is presented just to give the internal organs a nice stretch.

Screen Shot 2014-02-26 at 7.51.09 AM

Simhasana I variation (Lion pose). From Lolasana, bring all the weight on to your calves that are still in the shape of an “X.” One of the great dangers of flying is deep vein thrombosis, where you can get a blood clot in your legs from a combination of sedentariness and change in pressure from altitude. By sitting on your calves, you squeeze the lymph nodes and promote circulation. The spine also gets a nice reprieve by naturally stacking up straight when sitting on the calves. One warning is that this pose can be very painful if you have stiff calf muscles. My mentoring teacher would often tell me that  the stiff calf muscles go hand and hand with poor digestion. As flying can make one constipated, this pose may give you aid in moving things along. Don’t do this if you have knee problems. The classic posture is with the tongue sticking and the eyes looking up toward the tip of the nose. Because of stricter air policies, I would use caution as it may be draw unwanted attention from the air marshall.

Screen Shot 2014-02-26 at 8.23.30 AM

Supta Vajrasana (reclined lightning bolt pose). This is a variation of Supta Virasana where I sit on my heels and recline the chair back. This provides tremendous relief for the spine and digestive system. It provides an assertive stretch on the front thigh muscles (quadriceps). I would try to build time up to five minutes in this pose. Be careful on getting out of the posture and use the lolasana technique of lifting yourself with your arms and extend one leg out at a time to avoid injuring the knees. If you have knee problems omit this pose.

viparita karani

When you get to your destination, I would recommend that you do inversions to offset the invitation of deep vein thrombosis. Viparita Karani as seen above is always nice to restore yourself.

legs up wall

Simple legs up the wall (Urdvha Prasarita Padasana) would work too if you don’t have props handy. If are menstruating or cannot do inversions, Supta Baddha Bonasana will also provide some benefits for digestion and restoration.

supta baddha konasana

Some airports now feature yoga rooms where you can do these poses during your layover. If your airport does not provide them you can just find an empty gate area and find a wall. Bon Voyage!

The ecology of Vrksasana

Image

This is a  Koa tree my wife and I came across during a walk we took in Maunawili on the Windward side of O’ahu. Due to overcutting, you don’t find many Koa trees this size anymore on this island. Koa wood is a magnificent tropical hard wood that has a beautifully deep pattern as seen in this picture of a Koa wood door we took at the Hawai’i State Legislature. It also is made for Koa bowls which are worth their weight in gold.

Image.koa bowl

This Koa tree reminds me of Vrksasana, or Tree Pose. It is a rare tree that is getting rarer with demand. It is like how yoga is becoming in the West. In today’s practice, there is too much emphasis on yoga as a workout, or yoga as a fashion enterprise instead of its original purpose: to stop the mind so the practitioner can see his or her own splendor. Because of this, all the old teaching is dying out in favor of trendy yogas which incorporate style over substance. Soon the old teachings will be dead if we don’t preserve them.

Here is a presentation of Vrksasana the way my teachers have taught me.

Image

As many have difficulty balancing in the middle of the room while maintaining the proper actions of the pose, I will teach with a wall.

Start in Tadasana with the wall by your right side.

Image

Extend your right arm up and lean into the wall with your hip.

Image

Rotate your left leg and place the left foot high to the root of the thigh. Rotate your ankle so the toes are pointed straight down.

Screen Shot 2014-02-11 at 4.12.00 PM

As the thigh is shaped like a cylinder, placing the foot to close to the edge will make your foot roll off.

Screen Shot 2014-02-11 at 4.13.58 PM

Correct foot in the middle of the thigh

Screen Shot 2014-02-11 at 4.14.19 PM

Incorrect, foot too close to edge

From here, squeeze your hips together intensely until the hip comes off the wall. Keep the right arm up to maintain balance.

Screen Shot 2014-02-11 at 4.33.33 PM

Then extend the left arm up to match.

Screen Shot 2014-02-11 at 4.13.11 PM

Now work the hands together but not by bending the elbows.

Screen Shot 2014-02-11 at 4.18.05 PM

Incorrect

Because abdomen and the chest sink.

Screen Shot 2014-02-11 at 4.18.45 PM

Instead work your hand together by lifting them higher and higher until the meet at a point like railroad tracks in the distance. This is Urdvha Namaskarasana.

Screen Shot 2014-02-11 at 4.41.30 PM

Then the abdomen and chest lift.

Screen Shot 2014-02-11 at 4.19.00 PM

Hold the pose for 30 seconds to a minute. And repeat on the other side. Eventually Work towards balancing in the middle of the room.

Screen Shot 2014-02-11 at 4.06.47 PM

Preserve old growth trees. Preserve old growth teaching!chris_hug_koa

Chasing rainbows…the never ending quest to attain perfection in asana

Image

Winter is Hawai’i’s rainy season, and there are rainbows to be seen daily during one’s commute. While my wife was driving over the Pali Highway, I was lucky enough to see this low flying rainbow and snap a photo. This rainbow would disappear and reappear around every bend. It was a delicate play of light and speed to be able to capture this rainbow on film, ultimately for a fleeting moment before we hit the tunnels leading to the Windward side.

This dance with the rainbow reminds me much of my daily yoga practice. I have certain postures that elude me. I have glimpses of the posture, but the reality of how my body is today and the vast chasm in between. Patanjali says in Sutra 11.47:  Prayanta saithilya ananta samapattibhyam or “Perfection in asana is achieved when the effort to perform it becomes effortless and the infinite being within is reached.”

I reflect on this sutra often.  If I am struggling too much to attain an asana, perhaps it is not my time to go there yet and I need to work on more fundamental actions “lower” in the clan until I can perform them without effort. Although this may not be in the time that I want, this assures that I will not get injured, that I can continue practicing yoga into my old age, and it keeps my ego in check. Practicing yoga is not about the physical postures, it is about the full conquest of one’s ego. The asanas just happen to provide a valuable tool in doing so.

Perhaps one of my most frustrating times as a teacher was when I was preparing for the Intro I assessment. The syllabus of poses appeared “too easy” for my “advanced practice.” The poses included Utthita Trikonasana (Extended Triangle Pose), Utthita Parsvakonasana (Extended Side Angle Pose), and 30 other “basic” asanas with the target being Salamba Sarvangasana (Supported All Body Pose or Shoulder Stand). I had to work on these poses for two years. I would see others in different yoga teacher trainings do arm balances, drop backs, and other “advanced” asanas. Meanwhile I was “stuck” with these asanas I had learned 10 years prior when I started yoga.

Then a magical thing happened. I came to the realization that these were not “basic” asanas at all, but were very complex once I peeled the thin veneer of the “shape” of the pose back. When you apply the correct actions to any pose, it becomes more difficult by an order of ten. I often refer to one of Kofi Busia’s two hour class where he taught 2 postures: Tadasana and Dandasana.

T and D

He held each pose of one hour. That experience takes one beyond what the asana is and introduces one to the other other aspects of yoga: namely Dharana (concentration), and Dhyana (meditation). Asana means “meditative seat” and as the name implies, it is a vehicle for meditation.

I am reading about people who are injuring themselves preparing for yoga competitions. I have much compassion for these people as they feel a need to show off their asanas in front of others to gain approval and “win” something. What exactly does one “win” when achieving Vrischikasana at the expense of dislocating a rib?

Vrschik

We all want to have “perfect postures” to instragram to the universe. We all want to attain the most difficult poses in the shortest amount of time. Does it do us any good? There will undoubtably be someone who does it better and with less effort.

alice

This is Alice. This is what I aspire to be as a yoga practitioner. Alice is well into her 80’s. She has difficulty seeing with her glaucoma and cannot do inversions because of that condition. She needs a wall to support herself in Utthita Trikonasana. Alice has a daily yoga practice, and has had one for many years. This woman is unstoppable. She does not give a rip about what she looks like in her postures. The only thing she cares about is doing the proper actions so she does not injure herself. To me, she embodies what true yoga is all about.

Like the Rainbow on the Pali Highway, our asanas will shine and disappear just as quickly. Injury, old age, life events, will all get in the way of our yoga practice. But what we don’t realize is that these life events “are” the yoga practice. Sometimes asanas just get in the way.