The boat is rocking back and forth in the ever-present Florida sunshine. It is December 6, 2014 and I am out in the Caribbean sea off Key West, Florida; leading my first ever Blissology Eco-Karma retreat. We’re here to help a passionate team led by sea-hand Ken Nedimeyer on a coral restoration project. Our goal: to transplant coral from nurseries where it is being grown to the coral reefs where so many corals have died.
A strong breeze coming from the North has meant that more than a few bellies are churning from the motion of the ocean. The first lot of divers is emerging. First come the telltale bubbles from the scuba tanks, then up come the heads of the divers. They remove their masks and gulp in their first breath of non-compressed air in the past hour. They have been 32 feet down in the coral nurseries and have emerged with a few crates of Staghorn Coral ready to be transplanted on the neighboring “Pickle Reef.”
Not many know about the state of the ocean even though we all know we are intimately dependent on it. Even fewer know about the demise of coral and the implications this has for the delicate ecosystems of the ocean and on the land.
Around the world coral are disappearing at alarming rates.
The founder of the Coral Restoration Foundation, Ken, grew up around the ocean in Florida and has a deep passion for it. He showed us slides of the same reef from 1970, the 80’s and 90’s and now. It’s shocking to see the changes. Coral is a fascinating organism that is part animal, part algae, part fungi. It is living and delicate.
What the recent photos show is the skeletal remains of once living coral. They just look like rocks. Around the world estimates are that 1/5th of the coral have died in the Florida Keys the number is a staggering 90% that have disappeared.
Ken has targeted the Elkhorn and Staghorn coral and pioneered fascinating techniques for growing them in nurseries about thirty feet below the ocean surface. He grows the coral on what can be best described as a large PVC Christmas tree stand. He and his teams transplant the coral from the nurseries into the reefs where they can colonize and renew themselves. Today that team is us, the Bliss Army, a crew of about 20 yogis, divers and snorkelers who have come to Key Largo to do yoga in the morning, roll our sleeves up and plant coral all afternoon. There is a name for such efforts, it’s called “voluntourism.” On my birthday, I just wanted to do something to take care of the ocean I love so much and the Coral Restoration Foundation’s work like a perfect fit for us.
I never knew exactly how I would feel when this project came to fruition but when I saw the coral come up from the nurseries I picked up on Ken’s ability to see opportunity. How many cafes had I sat in and talked with my friends about environmental destruction that “they” were doing. My heart felt lighter, life didn’t feel so hopeless anymore, humans weren’t a horrible heartless species but hugely resourceful and cooperative when given a chance.
I never realized the weight of what we all live with until it is lifted. Sometimes the massiveness of our current environmental problems seems so overwhelming. We think to ourselves: “Where do I even start?”
At lunch Ken tells me, “Most people only know what it is like to make a living but very few know the joy of really making a difference. “
The next day we sat on the dock at the tropical eco-tourist dream resort called Casa Morada. The beauty of the ocean surrounded us. We did what I try and do every day, stare out quietly into the open ocean horizon. It reminds us that we are not full of problems and endless mental chatter but at our essence we are this infinite horizon; spacious and free. Like coral itself, we could feel the power of being working as a team. That when we work together as a community for a cause not much can give your life more purpose. We are one: fueled by the mystery and beauty ignited from the deep blue.
Posted On: December 9, 2014 | 1 Comment »
In Bali, at one of our favorite YES Retreat centers in the world, Desa Seni, they make a delicious breakfast porridge, black rice slow cooked with coconut milk, sweetened with coconut syrup or maple syrup if you don’t. Inspired by our soon to come Bali days (next YES Bali retreat is in March 2013) I made a batch this morning for some visiting yogi friends with forbidden black rice, coconut + cashew cream, bananas and a special coconut syrup that we bought earlier this year from our favorite health food store in Bali, Bali Buddha.
With warm rice (precooked last night in our rice cooker), fresh coconut cream blended with cashews and vanilla and bananas, this hit the right notes, sweet yet not too sweet, chewy yet soft and creamy. A delicious and filling treat that also happens to be gluten free, dairy free, yet simply high in prana-filled tastiness. Here’s my version of Balinese Rice porridge. Enjoy!
1 cup of black rice, soaked for at least an hour, then cooked in a pot or rice cooker with 1 1/2 cups of water and an additional 1/2 cup of coconut milk (I used forbidden rice, lundberg farms also makes a nice blend)
1 cup coconut and cashew milk (for speed i blended canned coconut milk this morning with presoaked cashews in our vitamix, but i love using fresh coconut meat when it is available)
1 generous tsp raw vanilla powder
pinch of sea salt
bananas and blueberries or other fresh seasonal fruit
maple syrup or coconut syrup to sweeten
toasted coconut flakes for a garnish
Slow cook the presoaked rice with the coconut milk. You can do this the previous night or soak the rice overnight and cook it early in the morning.
Make your cashew, coconut, vanilla milk. (You can do this step earlier or on the previous day as well). To make this delicious nutmilk add 1/2 cup cashews soaked in 1 cup water to 1 cup of coconut milk and blend together. Add in the vanilla powder and sea salt. The consistency will be like whipping cream.
Slice bananas and set aside.
Layer the rice, followed by banana slices (and or other fruit), followed by the coco-cashew cream in a bowl or glass. Repeat once more.
Drizzle with some syrup if needed and toasted coconut flakes.
Posted On: October 2, 2014 | No Comments »
Alignment as the Earth Element:
I just spent 3 weeks in our Blissology Yoga Teacher Training course meticulously breaking down the intricacies of each yoga pose; reveling in the immense joy from how small adjustments to the pelvis affects the stability and stretch in a pose or how adjusting the tone of the muscles of the shoulder joint ‘just so’ enables the proper connection of arm bone to shoulder socket to makes the pose therapeutic and more relaxing.
Notebooks and journals out, our neurons are firing excitedly as we see all kinds of new patterns of yoga alignment. The primary purpose of alignment I stress over and over again is “to protect the joints of the body by using the soft tissues to create an upward lift against the compressive force of gravity in the most relaxed and efficient way possible.”
It is so therapeutic to do the yoga poses in this way and the heeling benefits are massive. We all remark over and over again that even though most people think about yoga as merely increasing flexibility, intelligent yoga alignment is about how to train the body to maintain a posture in gravity so that the joints can function better now and when as we age. It teaches us not just a better triangle pose but related to any activity we do activity we do: how have better posture while jogging or how to minimize stress while performing “sitting-on-our-rumps-at our-office-desk asana.”
That said, as wonderful as yoga alignment is, I personally feel it is only the 101 level. There are two more major frontiers to master. In my own journey, I felt like understanding alignment so well was helping my body in so many ways. Now in my 46th year, I can honestly say from what I have learned from my teachers and my time on the yoga mat that if I had my 21 year old, so called “athletic prime” body back, I would truly be bummed because I can move so much better now. I am not just talking flexibility. This is one component, for sure. I am talking about straight up agility. I feel like my “spidey-powers” of quickness and fluidity of movement have increased as well.
Long ago, I knew being a contortionist was not my physical goal in yoga. I wanted to be able to perform my sports, especially surfing better. Because my “alignment-based vinyasa” yoga practice was on a grid where we face the front of our mats (sagittal plane) or to the side of our mats (coronal plane) I was always on a grid. This helped me heal back and knee injuries that nagged me in my twenties.
Yoga was making me more flexible, which helped so much on my surfboard but I still felt rigid. My shoulders remained stiff in my turns. Surfing demands a combination of fluidity and “snappiness.” I was loosing my fast twitch muscle fibers in from only practicing yoga.
Enter the Water Element:
In my work with alignment I started to view this as the earth element. Improving my relationship with gravity so joints can function better and for longer. I was becoming more flexible but not more fluid. How did I know? Just turn on the music and my hips could move through a wide range of forward and back but I was stuck on a grid and couldn’t move well in spite of my flexibility. When I surfed my shoulders still remained on a grid and didn’t get loose. I needed to find the grace of a ballet dancer, the ease movement of a tai chi master, the explosiveness of a karate master, I needed to explore the movement of animals and fuse traditional yoga with surf, snowboard and skateboard moves.
Oddly, I gave myself permission to return to my roots of yoga. When I didn’t know a fraction of what I know now but I had the pure intention of loosing up my body for a day on the water after camping out on various beaches. In 1988 I learned surfing, yoga, meditation and tai chi for the first time. I was just dabbling in all of them but as I watched the beauty of the sunrise and the incoming swell, I would move in a way that seemed to best prepare my body and mind for day ahead and get the kinks out.
I talked to a surfer who had amazing form in Mexico one year. “How do you surf so well, I asked him. He told me that he thinks “como los pelicanos” on the water. It hit me, I was strong and flexible but I needed to develop wings that could sore. I needed to find softness in my arms and shoulders. I went back to exploring techniques that master energy like tai chi and developed hand patterns there. I explored the softness of Feldenkrais, Somaticas, Body Mind Centering and Body Mind Psychotherapy.
I became obsessed with fusing my yoga with not just stability and flexibility but fluidity… that brings us to the next exciting subject of our next Bliss Blog: The Fluid Body…
Posted On: September 8, 2014 | 2 Comments »
The two main excuses for why we miss yoga is that 1) Yoga takes too much time and 2) Yoga is expensive. Throw those excuses out the window because this routine is free and takes only 18 minutes. Think about that. 18 minutes is nothing. Everyone has this time. Just eliminate a little bit of time on social media and on email and voila: You will have time for yoga! Get off of the internet and on to the “innernet!”
This is a short and sweet yoga practice meant to provide opening, centering and core strength. It includes a short savasana (relaxation) and meditation because that is what makes the physical yoga practice so powerful.
You will feel loose and free all day. Aside from this you will feel more productive and free and in touch with the most joyous side of our consciousness. You have arrived at the right place. No more excuses, press start now and “At Least do This” Yoga!
The Routine: Centering> Sun Salutations > Triangle > Revolved Triangle > Crow Pose > Boat Pose > Seated Forward Fold > Double Pigeon > Savasana (Relaxation / the real yoga) > Closing Meditation
Posted On: June 27, 2014 | No Comments »
Surfer’s Triangle is an incredible pose. There are some similar poses out there which have popped up in the last few years but this one I love because it is a mack daddy stretch for the psoas, oblique muscles, and chest muscles. That is, when it is done right. When it’s done wrong, it can be a back cruncher especially at the Sacroilliac Joint.
But after reading this, you will have the knowledge to make this not just therapeutic but outright ecstatic!
It is important to understand that this pose is really a combo of a side bend (opening the side waist), a back bend (opening the hip flexors + abdominals) and a triangle pose (opening the hamstrings and adductors.) Because it is not a linear pose where we are facing either straight forward towards the front of our mat or to the side of our mat, it will find muscles that you are probably not used to stretching but feel amazing to loosen up.
A Hybrid of Surf and Yoga and so practical for all Sports: One other note, take a look at Kelly Slater’s bottom turn (I flipped the image to match our photos, he’s not surfing goofy foot) to see where the name and the feeling comes from. If you are interested in yoga that fully increases your range of movement like I am, you will love getting off the frontal and sagittal plane that we normally face in yoga.
1) start with the right foot forward as per triangle pose and the left foot back, facing the long side of your yoga mat.
2) turn the right foot to the right a little and bring the weight to the outer right foot.
3) keep the right hand on the right thigh as for the preparation pose in the lowest photo (photo 2, figure 1) below.
4) sweep the left hand over the head and backwards
5) press the sternum away from the back left heel
5) Only if it feels comfortable, bring the right hand down to the floor.
HERE IS THE KEY TO NOT INJURE YOURSELF! Remember, you need to never at anytime think that getting the hand on the floor is the goal.
The goal is to keep the pelvis and chest leaning away from the imaginary vertical pole you are holding (figure 2) and to not collapse towards the floor (figure 1)
Take a look at the picture below. I shot this on a NY Subway because I wanted to demo that the idea is not to collapse your body weight into the floor which overly compresses the spine (Photo 1, figure 1) – Instead emulate what I am doing in Photo 1, figure 2 – that is, imagine the top left hand holding a bar and lean the chest and pelvis AWAY from the bar the left hand is holding.
Take a look at the pink vertical line I’ve placed in the photos. Notice in Photo 1, figure 1 on the left, the pelvis is behind that line. In Photo 2, figure 2 on the right, it is in front of it. As a very general rule, always have the pelvis in front of the line of the heels. When it falls behind it is much higher risk.
What you want to do it stay in the preparation for the pose in Photo 2, figure 1 below rather than collapsing towards the floor as in Photo 1, figure 1 on the left above. Notice even in the more moderate version of the pose my pelvis is in line with the heels.
Keep it therapeutic and juicy! Make the adjustments to keep the stretch in the key places outlined above (hip flexors and obliques.)
To see this pose in a yummy flow check out page 4 of this routine or download our new Earth Body Yoga video. Let’s rock it soon together and find some deep joy with this sweet pose!