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Cherry Blossoms

When I ventured out into the streets yesterday morning to get some air, greet some neighbors, and get some fresh vegetables if possible, I saw that a very large branch had come off of a cherry tree a block from my house.  I have lived in my house long enough to have watched the tree grow from a three-foot sapling to a tree that has swollen past the confines of its row house corner yard.  The branch that broke off in the snow was four or five times the size of the sapling when it was first planted.  I spent an hour walking and then made sure I went back to the tree.  It was starting to bud.  It was warm last month, and it’s getting lighter every day. I don’t have high confidence that the buds were far enough along to force blossoms.  I thought I’d give it a try.  Whether I see blossoms early or not, I can use the branches to stake young herbs in another 7-10 weeks.

Abundance of Caution (Wm Penn House Class Cancelled Tonight, Tuesday, Feb 9th) (Web Copy of E-Mailing)

Dear ,

I went for a walk earlier when it was still reasonably warm and the sidewalks were pretty impassable in some places.  The snow has begun and the slush is freezing into icy patches, and I expect it will only get worse after dark.  For the safety of all, with much reluctance, I am cancelling the William Penn House Class tonight.

On your own, please do a few sun salutes, some integrating and hip-opening standing poses, and then a few forward bends and twists (including legs up the wall).  Enjoy and don’t forget to thank your feet with a massage!

Hope to see you soon.

Peace and light,


Winter Weather Advisory (Web Copy of News Mailing)

Dear Friends,

As I sit inside writing, listening to music, and preparing for a long afternoon yoga practice, I am filled both with gratitude for protection for the elements and an unflagging ability to amuse myself and complete awe at the power of nature.

I don’t usually feel the need to post anything about the possibility of weather cancellations.  If I can walk to class, there is class.  Depending on when the snow gets here tomorrow, the amount, how long it continues, and just how high the winds will be, could make winter cancellation possible.

I will decide late afternoon tomorrow.  Keep an eye out on Facebook, the website, and your email box for updates.  In the meantime, enjoy your home, the company of yourself and others living with or around you, and the beauty.

Peace and light,


A Moment of Insight (and suddha vidya)

A rather conservative co-worker, who was one of the people who would have to go grocery shopping last night lest the family be without perishable food for a few days, was talking to me about the impending snowstorm (including me advising him of the one forecast for next Tuesday/Wednesday).  “It shows,” he said, “how easily our infrastructure and food supply can be disrupted.”  I gave it a little pause, and then replied, “this is why I talk about gardening in our own yards and switching away from agribusiness to a more sustainable and self-sustaining way of living and seek to shift myself, though it is difficult.”  He said, “hmmm,” letting the idea stick in his mind, but not wanting to carry the discussion further.  I know him well enough to have dropped it for the time, but also know he will think about it and perhaps over the years, for his beloved daughters or out of perceived necessity, start making small shifts.

In yoga practice, the concept of suddha vidya — illuminative wisdom — is both revealed and practiced.  When we start practicing or even before, we may have occasional and early insights into fundamental truths of being, but without steady practice and contemplation they will be fleeting and not shift our way of living.  If we practice and study continuously, though, our insight will become steadier, more consistent, and will start to illuminate all states of our being on and off the mat.  The more I practice, the more it is illuminated for me the connection of all beings and my need to live in a way that is more open, tolerant, loving, and aligned with the complex web of our interconnection.  My co-worker’s insight might not have been “yoga,” but it was indeed a moment of illuminative wisdom in its recognition of a misalignment of society that tears at the fabric of our being.

It Takes a Snowflake

It is almost inconceivable to my limited mind how many snowflakes it took to whiten our world yesterday morning.  This weekend, there will be far more snow (alas, it will be too cold to stick to the trees and create such a beautiful canopy; instead we will have howling winds and heavy going).  I might catch the first of the snowflakes tomorrow morning on my walk to work before the storm really comes in with all its wild fury.  When there are only a few, it is easy to see the individual flakes.  Once there is a storm, though, we tend only to see the storm.

Just as it is hard to remember that the snow is about both each individual flake and the whole snow fall together, we forget about the simultaneous place of ourselves as individuals as part of the whole, or we get caught up witnessing ourselves as individuals and forget that we are all a part of a much vaster energy.  The reality is that we are all both all of the time — we are completely individual and part of a vast, interconnected web.  When we can remember and witness both aspects of ourselves, then we can most deeply witness, participate in, and appreciate the extraordinariness of being.

The Other Side of the Building

This is the view from the corridor just outside my office door.  On the left is the Tax Court.  On the right, is the homeless shelter where Mitch Snyder, advocate for the homeless, committed suicide.  In between, the highway emerges out from under our building.  At rush hour, especially on a rainy day, it is completely congested.  Even on a cloudy day, not much light comes in the window.  It is a north-facing view, and the windows are tinted.

If I were to be standing at a window on the other side of the building, it would be bright with sun.  On the left would be the Capitol and the west lawn.  In the center, the National Botanical Garden’s graceful contours would gleam on the far side of the reflecting pool.  To the right, the National Mall, flanked by museums, would stretch in the distance to the Washington Monument.

What is important to remember is that both sides are always present.  When we are facing harshness, demands, suffering, and challenges, we need to remember that beauty and light are still present.  When we are filled with abundance, beauty, and light, then we must remember that there are others who are challenged and suffering and make efforts to extend to them our own abundance and light.

Curvature Before Length

A key therapeutic alignment principle is “curvature before length.”  This in essence means that we want to get our skeleton into the basic form of its “optimal blueprint” before trying to create length or extension.  Making sure the spine has the four curves it is meant to have — the sacral curve is convex, the lumbar curve concave, thoracic curve convex, cervical curve concave — does not only alleviate issues stemming from the spine, but helps the thigh bones fit better into the hip socket and the arm bones into the shoulder sockets.

How do we get curvature before length?  It is just doing the Anusara principles in the sequence we are taught them:  inner or expanding spiral, as it takes the thighs back, out, and apart, enhances the curve in the lumbar spine.  We do inner spiral before outer spiral, which in addition to toning the low back and gluteal muscles, lengthens the low back.  We do shoulder loop, which in addition to integrative the shoulders and hugging the shoulder blades onto the back of the heart, provides curve for the cervical spine.  We only do skull loop, which lengthens the cervical spine, after we have done the integrating and curve-enhancing action of shoulder loop.

If you think about the shape of the body from that perspective, it makes perfect sense that you would want to shape and integrate before pulling, stretching, or extending.  It is very hard to create a curve or integrate something if it is already pulled or stretched to or beyond its limit.  In its broadest sense, “curvature before length” serves us the way “start with the foundation” serves us.  We get into the right space and shape before going full out.  With the open attitude fostered by “first principle” (remember, first principle is always first no matter what is the focus of your class, your practice, or whatever you are doing on or off the mat), the basic alignment must come ahead of striving to expand further into a pose.  With curvature before length, we heal and grow.  If we try length before curvature, we might feel stretched for a moment, but may feel worse afterwards or will only have temporary relief.