Chuck Miller – Ashtanga Yoga

Chuck Miller explains his view on the beauty and subtly of Ashtanga Yoga, beginnings, study, vinyasa…. A beautiful 4 minute dissertation on peace of the body and communion with ourselves.

Sama (truth) – Dhi (abiding in) – abiding in your own truth.

 

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Papaya Breakfast Bowl

papaya bowlYou know that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, right?:)
What you consume in the few hours after you wake up regulates a bunch of your bodily functions so you can help boost your metabolism, increase your stamina, promote a good hormonal balance, strengthen your immune system, etc, etc by making the right choices… or complicate stuff by making the not-so-right ones.

Today I’m having a papaya bowl, it reminds me of having breakfast with Tina in Mysore, India, after an intense yoga class. We all end up so tired that passing the jaggery across the table feels like such an effort! All happy to be there, making friends, deepening our practice, but Oh-My-God!! you end up tired!! Much more the reason for breakfast being so important=] in circumstances like that, after a hard workout your body is really depending on some good fuel for replenishing and rebuilding.

2 cups fresh ripe papaya in cubes
1 heaping teaspoon Vitamineral Green
2 teaspoons bee pollen
2 teaspoons hemp seeds
1 handfull Goji berries

It’s that simple!! Fresh fruit is always good. Some people worry about the sugar content in fruits and limit their intake for this reason. If you have any medical condition like diabetes, some hormonal unbalances, etc, you might need to regulate your diet and learn about some fruits being better than others for you to eat and which quantities, but if everything is good, you’re healthy and stuff, then go for it!! Fruits are HEALTHY, filled with tons of nutrients. And for the sugar, just try to eat them whole or in a smoothie so you keep their fiber giving time for your body to digest them and absorb the sugar little by little. Avoid drinking fruit juices, without the fiber the sugar goes straight to your blood stream and that’s when you could be submitting your body to an unnecessary and not so healthy effort.

Plus, if you add some more fiber and some protein like seeds and green powders like on this papaya bowl to your plate you transform healthy fruit into a SUPER healthy food=] Today I used Vitamineral Green from Health Force Nutritionals.. we have written about them in the past, they are THE PEOPLE when it comes to raw, vegan, super nutrition. I love their stuff and as far as I know there’s nothing better out there, but you can use any other green powder in hand or sprinkle some spirulina.

Getting back into motion…

I started teaching yoga again this week. After several months of silence I’m slowly getting back in motion, little by little connecting again with the flow… and everything starts to blossom.

It’s silly and simple when you think about it, how we often avoid what we need the most. On the other hand, sometimes we need to pause and change perspective. We need to fall asleep for waking up refreshed.

It’s different for everyone I guess, what we experience on the mat. It is different for sure than other sports, that’s why yoga is a practice, something beyond exercise. I get a lot from running: the power, the freedom, the intensity and meditation… yet, there is a lot I can find only on my mat. There is a special intensity, different from any other, in the rhythm of the breath. A very special intimacy with myself. I get to feel my breath and ride it through my body, my sensations. I get to make love to myself and that way find healing, learning, growth.

It helps me as an immediate reflection of what I’m doing. Am I helping myself or not in my choices. What I had for dinner last night is making my body feel light and strong or heavy and dull? What I choose to tell my body is a message of gratitude and love or disapproval and rejection? What am I creating: healing or disease? For it takes the exact same amount of effort. There is no time for over analyzing, every exhale and every inhale come with so much information I have to stop thinking, controlling and start experiencing, observing, feeling. And eventually, make smarter choices.

I get to experience my magic, my perfection. I am awe of myself.
Spiritual practice? I think so.
And many times, that’s what makes it so hard. It is a tool for exploring yourself and I can’t think of anything scarier than diving into my own universe. It is work. It’s up to you to decide if it’s worth it.

Connecting to my ancestral self through my body… or something like it!

Because of that little thing about riding around the world, people think I’m a passionate biker and have been for a while. Today I can say I am, actually, a passionate although begginer biker, but if you ask any friend of mine that has known me for over a year ago most probably will tell you I am a runner by heart and probably say right the next second “did’nt know Diana liked biking”. As a matter of fact I didn’t know how to ride and pretty much have been learning on the way. Let me state since now that I am not a great runner, I’m pretty much average in runners levels, I like to think of it better as just doing what makes you happy for long enough time that you get good at it.

Why I started running was more a decision of my practical mind figuring out a way of literally have my cake and not pay the price in kilos or health, running is probably the highest calorie burn exercise and long distance runners have some of the leanest athletic bodies, so it only made sense to start running myself considering also that my DNA is programmed to gain weight fast and easy. Luckily I fell in love with it, would have sucked otherwise!!

About one and a half decades later I’ve fallen in love with yoga, nutrition, natural medicine, massge and biking, all of his complementing my first passion, running and enableing me to take it to a way deeper level. I still run because of wanting to look good, avoid being overweight while I enjoy my cooking -and eating! But I run also because I understand what my body needs to be healthy, strong, how important it is to do things that make you happy and help you enjoy your life to the max. I run because it has became my moving meditation, my psycotherapy and part of my spiritual learning.

We are living via the human body, it’s evolution over thousands of years, is part of our nature, part of every level of our being. And we were, since the beginnings of humanity, runners. For millions of years we ran to survive, and through running we evolved. Running connects us with our ancestors in that way, just like many other things, but I find this one particulary beautiful. I go beyond my limits when I run, I remember what I am made of when I run.

I say again: we are living via the human body. This is your vehicle, your ONLY mean to experience this life. Looking at it that way it makes sense to me going deep into my body in search of understanding. I don’t know what is my purpose, my mission, I don’t know what makes everything worth anything, and I see how sometimes approaching this with the mind can be confusing, it’s easy to go too far into the rabbit hat loosing track and meaning. Working with the body is easier, safer. At least for me. I can touch and feel my body and it responds, it feels and expresses itself – if I only learn to listen to it. It is my easiest fastest deepest connection with myself. So when I don’t know what to do and I feel overwhelmed “what am I doing with my life?”, “what is important to me?”, “what is the right thing to do?”, bla bla bla bla… I put on my running shoes and somehow the answers come… if not then I roll my yoga mat and somehow everything looks better… if not then cookies and a movie will do the trick.

To drink or not to drink…

Long day today. Sometimes I wonder how we are able to fit so much in little time, but hey, time is relative and who’s keeping track anyways.
This years’ Vinomio is coming out very nice. We started screwing things up big time. Newbies. But now it feels as if we were finally catching up to it. Wine has a life of it’s own, and if you’re good, you’ll only be helping it manifest.
I am still to label the eight remaining cases from last year. I am still to sell it too so I can pay for this years’.
Both our babies: the wine and the beer come with a kick. Promise to knock you off your feet when you least expect it. If you don’t believe me you can ask Chris that is still recovering from yesterday. Alcohol is a big subject for us. We try to be as healthy as possible, we work out, eat really healthy for the most part, enjoy spending time in nature, avoid alopathic medicine, etc, etc… but put some good wine on the table and all bets are off. And we DO know what alcohol does in the body.
I believe it’s all about quality AND quantity. Specially quality. And in that we are picky. Still, we definitely are hedonists also and it’s hard to find balance sometimes. On my defense I’ll say a lot of what we have been drinking is part of the process of making, you need to taste and sample and evaluate… again and again. Yesterday for example Chris helped me out by transfering 120 liters of Vinomio into glass bottles. Using the “suck on the hose” method, at 10 am, after having only a soy latte for breakfast. Maybe I need to review my definition of healthy lifestyle you might say, thinking also that in the evening we took my parents to taste the newly born Horchata Oscura. Maybe I’m a proud mama but it’s the most delicious beer I have ever tasted in my life.

It’s all about finding a balance. Waking up this morning feeling tired, heavy and dull lets me know I leaned too far in one side; the alcohol side.
When I first starting practicing yoga I not only became 100% vegan almost overnight, but I also stayed away from alcohol, refined sugar and stimulants such as caffeine for over seven years. During that time I became more selective about my foods, no processed stuff, avoiding acidic foods, prefering local veggies, etc. I also kept a pranayama and a meditation practice.
Also during that time I found myself thinking more and more often, that I was missing out in what other people my age were doing. You know, going to college, partying, dating, what not. After all I started all this when I was 18 or 19 and all of the sudden I was in my late 20’s all healthy and yogi. But felt incomplete.

I can only let you imagine the party revolution the came after. Ok, it wasn’t that bad, my sister can party harder I tell you, BUT it was A LOT for me. And after a few months I felt the same, incomplete… and overweight, out of shape, broke and kind of lost. It took me quite a bit getting back in some sort of order, back into health.

Now I let myself be what ever day by day. I don’t even like to be called ‘vegan’ because even if I don’t eat animal products and disagree completely with how animals are treated when raised for consumption, still I don’t like to be defined as vegan or anything else for that matter. I want to allow myself to do and be what ever I want day by day.

Today I was many things: winemaker, runner, graphic designer, chef, dancing monkey, daughter, advertiser, stressed, happy, full.

5 Yoga Poses for Cyclists

Complementing your training with other exercises is a great way to ensure you’re keeping every part of your body strong, flexible and fit. Cycling and other repetitive sports like running, swimming and such, focus the effort in certain muscles while leaving other unattended, the result is an unbalanced development of the body. Soon, the stronger muscles start to put strain on the joints and on the weaker muscles allowing all manner of injuries to start taking place.

Here are five yoga poses that can be of great help, practice them AFTER your cycling and no matter what you do, don’t forget to breathe!

1 Adho Mukha Svanasana: Downward-Facing Dog.
Energizes the body and relaxes the lower back.
Stretches the shoulders, hamstrings, calves, arches and hands.
Relieves back pain and fatigue.

Work on straightening your legs and bringing your heels to the floor. This might take some time if you have tightness in your calves and hamstrings, so take it easy, stretch gently as much as possible BUT if there is ANY pain, take a few steps back for you’re probably going too far. Check that your toes are facing forwards and your feet are separated hip width and your hands shoulder width, keeping the neck completely relax and all the area between the neck and shoulders extended, you can achieve this by trying to keep your shoulders as far away from your ears as possible.

2 Parivrtta Trikonasana: Revolved Triangle Pose.
Stretches the legs, hips and spine.
Relieves mild back pain and strengthens the abdominal muscles.
Improves sense of balance and opens the chest.

This is one of my favorites and I can literally feel my body asking for it after a long ride. It takes a great ammount of flexibility in some of the areas most cyclists are tighter so be carefull and patient… emphasis on the patient part since you will most likely be thrown out of balance constantly the first few times you try it. The idea here also is keeping the legs sraight with your heels on the floor. If it’s too much you can slightly bend the front knee, but keep in mind you are working towards stretching it, use your breath for working on stretching deeper and deeper, little by little. Another adaptation that is very usefull is starting with your lower hand placed on top of your calve and slowly progress in sliding it down until you reach the floor. Alignment is far more important than where your hand is, so don’t compromise the extension of the spine, the possition of your feet or the openess of the chest. I find that it helps a lot if on every inhale I lenghten my spine as much as possible using my lower abdomen for pushing my hips back and the upper abdomen for pushing the chest forwards while reaching far away with my both arms and both legs lenghtening them; then on the exhale work on twisting my spine a little deeper, specially the upper back, pressing my heels a little harder on the floor and focus on keeping my hips leveled. Sciatica? THIS is the pose for you, you’ll feel the stretch from your lower back all the way down to your heel… it also do wonders for the lateral lower abdomen, if you do it right, you’ll feel the burn!

3 Utthita Parsvakonasana: Extended Side Angle Pose.
Strengthen and stretches knees, ankles, hips and legs.
Relaxes and extends the groins, spine, waist and shoulders.
Increases stamina.

Another powerfull one that brings immediate relief after a hard ride, if bringing your hand down to the floor is too much, try placing your elbow on top of your thigh. Then again, alignment is key. Place the whole soul of your feet on the floor checking that the front toes point straight forwards and same with the front knee. Depending on how tight are your hips (a problem in most cyclists), the knee will tend to point to the side away from your arm and your navel down towards the floor. Work on using the hip muscles for opening wide and push the knee towards the armpit while simoultaneously working on rotating the hip as if you wanted yout navel pointing to the ceiling, you will feel the stretch on the hip… goooood, you want to feel that. The opposite side of the body is also busy, press your back heel strong into the floor, push the floor and that will help lenghtening the ankle, leg, waist, chest, shoulder and arm. On that other end, stretch your upper hand far away as if you were trying to reach far for something and try to rotate your shoulder out, keeping it away from your ear.

4 Parsvottanasana: Intense Side Stretch Pose.
Stretches the spine, hips, hamstrings, shoulders and wrists.
Prevents sciatic nerve problems.
Strengthens the abdominal muscles.

Another one with tricky alignment, the stretch is intense so progress slowly focusing on keeping the spine long, imagine that you are reaching far with your chest, use the upper abdomen for extending your chest forwards and the lower abdomen for pushing your hips back, paying attention in keeping them leveled.  The front toes AND knee should point forwards, as your chest, navel and head, and the back foot slightly open , about 45 degrees to the side. Ideally the palm of your hands are together with the fingers pointing toward the head. This is a really intense stretch for the wrists, which helps prevent carpal tunnel syndrome and tightness on hands, wrists and shoulders; but please be carefull and if you feel pain in the wrist, even if it’s a little bit, release your hands. An adaptation can be making a fist with both hands and press them together or holding on to your elbows. Choose the appropriate adaptation for your level, in all of them push your shoulders back keeping the chest open and the neck long.

5 Marichyasana III: Marichi’s Pose III.
Stimulates and massages the internal organs, especially liver and kidneys.
Relieves mild back pain, stretches and strengthens the spine.
Prevents hip pain by stretching and strengthening the surrounding muscles.

Twists are always goooooood, but keep in mind half of their goodness depends on keeping the spine long and chest open. If reaching your hands is too much, you can always place the back hand on the floor and bend the front arm, placing the elbow next to your knee. On the inhale lenghten the spine, open the chest, push the shoulders back and during the exhale twist a little deeper working on twisting each and every vertebrae of the spine.

Yoga takes time and doing it on your own can be confusing “wait, which arm goes where and then I stretch how?!”, I always recommend at least at the beginning taking a few classes with a good teacher that can correct you and help you develop a better notion of the propper alignment. But more than anything, DO it, FEEL it and little by little your own body will tell you how. Most times if it feels bad, awkward, then there’s something is out of place, check every part of your body, where your toes are pointing, how is your spine… if it feels good, then most likely you’re doing it right, go deeper, dive slowly into that good feeling. Be patient and keep in mind it’s not so important ‘reaching’ the whole pose, that might be a long term process. Focus more on what your body is feeling. Use your breath for opening those tight places in the body and advance gradually. If there is pain, step back!… Like my teacher used to say “practice and all is comming!”.

Bike Clinic – Traditional Chinese Medicine

tools of the trade

Ashtanga Yoga ensenada prepared for clinicOne of the things I am most excited about is sharing what little kowledge I have in the field of Traditional Chinese Mediicne and acupuncture.  I do not say this to depreciate myself, its just that any sane man would consider his knowledge small when standing in the face of 4 thousand years of continuous learning.

By combining Tui Na or Chinese medicinal massage, moxa, acupuncture with needles, cupping and cranio sacral therapy, I seek t relieve whatever is happening to the person on the physical level, and the spiritual/mental level which in many cases, if not all, is the birthplace for the pains and symptoms of the physical.

To your left is Ashtanga Ensenada, Diana’s [partner on the ride] Yoga Studio, currently run by her student Oscar Olivares.  As you can see, setting is an important aspect in healing for the practitioner.  I use the Tibetan Singing bowl, incense, aromatic sprays concocted by Diana to bring about certain changes in the brain chemistry via the nostrils, anything to bring peace.  Many people today suffer from a simple lack of peace.

My tools:

Cupping set – Cupping is useful for a variety of conditions and especially in conjunction with increasing the flow of stagnat qi.

Moxa – Used to introduce energy to tired organs, help move qi and used during needling to blast energy right through the needle into the person in your care.  As an aside, it used to be smoked by sailors.

Needles – Direct stimulation of points to increase energy flow, direct energy flow, drain energy, simply move lethargic or stagnant energies.

Tui Na – Chinese medicinal massage which blends accupressure and meridian work to achieve health.

Cranio Sacral Therapy – A relatively new modality in that it was started around the turn of the century.  By passive application of pressure on the various points of the skull and with further practice, through various points of the back and sacrum, the practitioner can bring about huge relief to the nervous system and in a sense, re sets it.  Like rebooting a computer when it has had an unexpected failure.  This is an energetic and a physical practice removing blockages from the dural tube all the way to your higher self.

Bagua Zhang – This is the form of Kung Fu I studied and the first third of the practice is dedicated to exercises to help re shape and strengthen the joints, bones and muscles and how they all work together.  There will always be exercises given to patients in order to begin the stride towards preventative medicine and to really try and take their health into their hands, which is where it should always be.

tools of the trade

Qi Gong – Depending on the patient and the illness or injury, qi gong will be used as it is an extremely low impact exercise that is truly balancing to the system.  Comprised of individual exercises, it is much easier to learn than tai chi and thats why I use it here.

All of these things, minus the yoga studio, are carried by me wherever I go.  The clinic is by donation and no one is turned away.  Even if I was a billionaire, I would do it this same way [donation based] as there is something that I have yet to define when it comes to healing a person, them giving something in return and the results they get over the long term.

If we are in your area, we look forward to seeing you!