Monday, May 25, 2015

Yin Yang Yoga - Wood Element - Exploring the Archetypal Tree


"Before Enlightenment, chop wood, carry water.  After enlightenment, chop wood, carry water."

" The Wood element is associated with the Liver (and Gallbladder) and connected to the Spring season. In ancient China (and many other places on the planet) people observed that the environment changed during the seasons and took note of how animals, plants and the earth adapted themselves accordingly to live more in balance with the cycles of nature. The human body was seen as a miniature reflection of the cosmos. An entire universe working inside of us. We too have seasons that cycle through. Sometimes we have an exuberant amount of energy like the summer and sometimes we need to rest and recharge like the winter.

Wood is associated with Spring because it is a time of growth, expansion and buoyancy. Like the seed that has been lying dormant in the earth during winter conserving its reserves, in springtime it bounds forward with new intent to bring life to our planet. The wood element is about renewal, awakening and rebirth. The spirit of the Liver helps us organize and coordinate our ideas and visions into actions and change. The Liver is in charge of the smooth flow of Qi (vital energy) (emotional/physical) and the emotion associated is anger. When we allow our anger/frustration to go unexpressed we stagnate and are unable to move forward. This inability to properly express oneself can manifest as either being under assertive or overly aggressive, headaches/migraines, menstrual and/or gynaecological issues, PMS, inability to adapt to change, depression....

The virtue of Wood is forgiveness and benevolence which is the opposite of anger unexpressed. Wood allows us to be well rooted in the past, to stand tall in the present and have the vision and foresight to move ahead in the future.

Tapping into the energy of spring (even if it's the middle of winter) encourages us to stay in touch with our creativity. imagination and dreams. We can look to the trees for a lesson in standing tall by staying rooted, yielding to the winds of life by being flexible and agile and keeping our gaze upward and forward so we don't lose sight of our life true purpose. The winds of Life can change unexpectedly and our flexibility can be a strength when needed."


3 part hamstring in wood element  (sometimes called flamenco pose)

Banana Pose

A delicious way to stretch the whole side of the body
Works the spine in a lateral flexion (side bend) from the iliotibial (IT) band to the tops of the side rib cage
Stretches the oblique stomach muscles and the side intercostal muscles between the ribs
We can even get into the arm pit and get a nice stretch there

If prone to tingling in the hands when extending your arms overhead, you may need to place a bolster under the arm or simply bring the hands down.
If you have lower back issues, you may wish to not go too deep in this pose.

Getting Into the Pose
Lying on your back with your legs together and straight on the floor, reach the arms overhead and clasp your hands or elbows. With your buttocks firmly glued to the earth, move your feet and upper body to the right. Arch like a nice, ripe banana. [1] Be careful not to twist or roll your hips off the floor. Find your first edge. When your body opens more, move both feet further to the right and pull your upper body further to the right, as well. Keep playing this edge. Don't forget to do both sides!

Alternatives & Options:
Bananasana with bolster under arms
When your feet are as far to the side as you can get them, try crossing the ankles. Most students feel the greatest stretch by crossing the outside ankle over the inner ankle, but some feel more benefit crossing the other way.
If you feel any tingling in the hands, trying supporting the arms with a bolster, or rest the arms across the chest.

Reclining Root

Roots are anchors the grip tightly into the Mother Earth.

Roots form a symbiotic union with the earth, drawing from her various nutrients and water.

"Tree roots can span for miraculous lengths - like branches - ever reaching out for more. This is metaphoric of our own inner root systems of beliefs and spirituality. We must dig deep, and be firmly rooted in a structured system of beneficent beliefs. It's the only way we are insured upward mobility."

"A vital observation about roots is they are unseen. They remain (mostly) underground. In much the same way, our spiritual progress will be hidden from view to the common eye. Our growth and power occurs beneath superficial layers. Moreover, our belief systems are much like root systems."




Twisted Roots Arms


Forearm Plank

Side Plank



Cat pulling its tail


Twisted Roots Seated

Seated Stump

To see a tree stump in your dream indicates that something or someone is preventing your growth or forward progress. Alternatively, the dream may be a pun on "being stumped" on some problem or issue. The dream may be offering a solution to your problem.

Twisted Stump

"Symbolic rabbit meanings deal primarily with abundance, comfort, and vulnerability. Traditionally, rabbits are associated with fertility, sentiment, desire, and procreation. Rabbit meanings are also closely linked to the seasons, the changes of Mother Earth, and specifically Springtime. Have you ever heard the term "madder than a March hare?" I have (my mom says it). It has to do with rabbits going bonkers around this time of year. They feel the call of spring just as strongly as everyone and everything else - perhaps moreso. Creatures of all kinds feel the tremors of springtime's return and respond to it in wild courtship. It's a celebration of life, and bunnies bounce right back into the swing of spring".

Deer pose

"When we encounter the deer in the wild, our breath catches - we are transfixed by their graceful features and delicate movements. The tender beauty of these beasts has not gone unnoticed by our ancestors.

The deer is linked to the arts, specifically poetry and music in ancient Celtic animal lore due to its graceful form. The Celts also believed that deer were associated with the fairie realm, and would lead troops of fairies - hundreds of them trailing behind them as the stag cut a path through the forest.

Both Celts and Native Americans observed the deer to be savvy when it came to finding the best herbs. These earth-bound peoples would follow the deer to prime herb patches - many of which proved to be highly beneficial in their medicinal purposes."
A nice counter pose to hip openers or any external rotation of the hips
A balanced way to rotate hips, both externally (front leg) and internally (back leg)
Improves digestion and relieves gas
Helps to relieve the symptoms of menopause
Reduces swelling of the legs during pregnancy (until the end of the second trimester)
Therapeutic for high blood pressure and asthma

If any knee issues exist, be careful of externally rotating the hip (front knee); keep that foot in closer to the groin. You could support the front knee with a bolster or folded blanket.

Getting Into the Pose:
Start by sitting in Butterfly on the floor, then swing your right leg back behind you, bringing the foot behind your hip. Position the front leg by moving the foot away from you. Try to make a right angle with the front knee. Move the back foot away from your hip until you start to feel like you are tipping away from that foot. Keep both sitting bones firmly rooted to the ground.

Alternatives & Options:

The tendency here is to tilt away from the internally rotating hip of the back leg; make sure both sitting bones are firmly on the floor; you may need to move the feet more inwards, toward the core of the body.
If you're very flexible, you can begin to move your feet away from the hips.
To get a nice stretch to the side body and the back thigh, twist around toward the back foot by rotating to the opposite side. You may rest on your elbow here and try to bring your head to the floor.

Coming Out of the Pose:
Lean away from the back foot and bring that leg forward, coming back to Butterfly and ready to do the second side.
wood chopping pose


Standing bow pulling pose (aka Dancer)


"Tree lore is a suspected ancient school of knowledge with roots stretching back into our earliest symbolic imaginations. The Tree is a common universal, archetypal symbol that can be found in many different traditions around the ancient world. Trees are symbols of physical and spiritual nourishment, transformation and liberation, sustenance, spiritual growth, union and fertility. The tree is a spiritual motif and framework, a map of conception and consciousness that brings together the temporal worlds of time, space and consciousness.  Trees are the places of birth and death; they are used as sacred shrines and places of spiritual pilgrimage, ritual, ceremony and celebration. Sacred trees are found in the Shamanic, Hindu, Egyptian, Sumerian, Toltec, Mayan, Norse, Celtic and Christian traditions. The World-tree is described in The Upanishads as “a tree eternally existing, its roots aloft, its branches spreading below.”

Paulie’s Tree

This pose concentrates on the trunk. The tree trunk is an incredible design. Outer tree bark protects the whole from potentially harsh cruelties of the world - while on the inside there is an intricate system of circulation and energetic flow. Trees are renewed from the inside out. This is sacred wisdom passed on from tree to humankind: Our prime source for renewal must first be activated from within.

Regular Tree

Be Like a Tree
- Stay Grounded
- Connect with your roots
- Turn over a new leaf
- bend before you break
- enjoy your unique natural beauty
- keep growing

When unfurled in their luscious glory, leaves express themselves in a myriad of colors. Most predominantly however, they reveal themselves in viridian greens - a color notorious for healing, abundance, and vitality in life.

When I think of green, my mind moves into Anahata energy - the realm of the heart chakra, which deals with inclusion, love, empathy, wealth, health and a whole slew of other marvelous attributes. I don't think it's by chance leaves are (mostly) green, nor is it coincidence that I draw correlations between green leaves waving 'hi' to my inner vision and the Anahata. Draw green into your own awareness and see if you settle into a sense of opulence, health and luxury.

Small Tree

TThe Herder Symbol Dictionary says, “Psychoanalysis sees in the tree a symbolic reference to the mother, to spiritual and intellectual development, or to death and rebirth.” It also notes that the fruit, shade, and protective nature of trees have caused them to be seen as feminine or maternal symbols; yet, at the same time, the erect trunk is a phallic symbol. Perhaps this is why, for Carl Jung, the tree symbolized the Self, androgyny (integration and equality between the masculine and feminine principles), and individuation.
'...A tree is one of the best examples of a motif that often appears in dreams (and elsewhere) and that can have an incredible variety of meanings. It might symbolise evolution, physical growth, or psychological maturation; death (Christ’s crucifixion on the tree); it might be a phallic symbol; it might be a great deal more. And such other common dream motifs as the cross or the lingam can also have a vast array of symbolic meanings...' – Man and his Symbols by Carl Jung

½ Lotus Tree

Balancing Stick

Toppling Tree


Wood Element (Warrior 2)

Part VI - Shavasana

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Creativity Coaching - Lesson 14

I want to explore all the different aspects mentioned by Eric Maisel in this week’s lesson.

Private Clients

- This is something that I want to develop but I haven’t so far.  People have approached me but I haven’t done much with the opportunities.


I taught a number of workshops this year. Some were very successful and some not as successful.

Art/Yoga Fusion – Gratitude Yantra for Thanksgiving

New Years Day Intention Yoga  (this was highly successful)

Be Your Own Valentine Restorative Chakra Yoga (this was highly successful)

Art/Yoga Fusion – Heart Mandala for Self Esteem

4 Quadrant Goal Setting Mandala

8 week Discovering Your Life Purpose Program

40 Days to Transformation Program

Monthly New Moon Goddess Women’s Circle (the attendance on this monthly workshop has gone up and down)

Art/Yoga Fusion – Dream Exploration

1 month Artist’s Way

Starting August 1 – 8 week Chakra Series


I have been writing on my blog but haven’t published anything.  I want to work on that.

Support Group:

I like the idea of a continuing support group for creativity.  I have been hosting a bi-monthly People of Color Yoga and Meditation Group.


I have only talked in my workshops.

A Self Created Product

I would like to do that.  I am especially interested in making oracle cards.

A Book Published or Self Published

- I would like to write a book on the symbolism and archetypes of animals in Yin Yoga

Will I maintain an office

- I have the yoga studio with a small room for privates so having a space is not a problem. I would like to have some skype sessions.

How will you advertise

- I have a lot of meet-up groups that’s the main way I have advertised so far.  I need to have a website. I bought an domain name but haven’t done anything with it.  I know I need to tweet more and do more on facebook.  I tried a newspaper ad but it seemed worthless.  I did do some postcards when I started.  I would like to do a monthly newsletter.


- I have problems charging for private sessions.  I feel more comfortable charging at the yoga studio.

Who are my clients so far 

My ideal client is: #2 and #7.  I have to find them by having more of a presence on social media and by word of mouth.

1) Self-identified creative and performing artists have taken my workshops
2) People who sometimes create and but who are not careerists also have come to my workshops
3)  I haven’t tapped into the people like “creativity for lawyers” or other professional market for my art/yoga fusion workshops.  I have had some of the people in New Moon Goddess Women’s Circle and Life Purpose
4) People with a large dream were in the Exploring Life Purpose series
5) Active professionals – I haven’t attracted many of these
6) People interested in creativity as a concept – I haven’t tapped into these
7) People who can be helped through the use of the creative arts – These are the people I am most interested in but I don’t think I really have found them.

What in a creativity coach’s pitch would attract you and cause you to think about becoming a client

- Referral from someone I trust
- Aligned with my world view and interests in art, yoga and meditation
- Proven results
- Caring attitude
- Feels like someone I can trust
- Seems legitimate because of written articles, professional worksplace, website


- Become certified as a Yoga  Therapist and Creativity Coach.  Become an ERYT 500 Yoga Teacher so I can offer continuing education credits and lead Yoga Teacher Trainings.
- Develop a presence online – online courses on Udemy or another platform, website, twitter, Instagram. - Trademark Nyasa Yoga Nidra and develop an online training
- Continue giving workshops at the Yogi Tree moving toward some teacher trainings.
- Publish some articles and continue writing on my blog
- Develop some products like oracle cards
- Write Yin Yoga Book and the symbolize and animal energy

Creativity Coaching - Lesson 13 -

If you feel that you want a career in your art discipline, describe what an acceptable career would look like:

1) Finishing the first chapter of my graphic novel, Hymn of the Pearl, and publishing it as a comic
2) Having 6 to 12 students in most classes at the Yogi Tree
3) Teaching Art/Yoga Fusion workshops at the Yogi Tree every other month
4) Consistently making my sacred art (Mandala, Yantras, etc.)
5) Producing online courses in Yin Yoga and Yoga Nidra
6) Having teacher trainings at The Yogi Tree
7) Becoming a creativity coach and a yoga therapist that has clients
8) Having a consistent following in my yoga classes
9) Continuing to develop as an artist and yogini with a consistent practice
10) Healing myself and others

If you feel that you want a career in your art discipline, describe what an excellent career would look like:

An excellent career in my art/yoga fusion career would look like:
1) Having my studio, The Yogi Tree, thrive (meaning 6 to 12 people in every class) with sold out workshops, teacher trainings and great teachers.
2) Teaching Art/Yoga Fusion nationally and internationally
3) Showing my sacred art in galleries and museums
4) Publishing my graphic novel – “The Hymn of the Pearl” which is a journey toward enlightenment with critical acclaim.
5) Having a couple on line courses that give me passive income: Taoist Yin Yoga, Nyasa Yoga Nidra to start with
6) Writing a Book on the Symbolism of Animals and the Elements in Yin Yoga
7) Making oracle cards having to do with Yin Yoga and other Goddess materials
8) Drawing, painting and doing yoga at least 5 days a week
9) Teaching private sessions in Creativity, Yoga and Meditation
10) Continuing to develop my yoga practice
11) Continuing to develop my meditation practice
12) Continuing to develop as an artist
13) Having the ability to live anywhere in the world I want
14) Healing others and myself

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Butterfly Pose - Yin Yoga

"The butterfly counts not months but moments, and has time enough." - Rabindranath Tagore

In Yin Yoga one of my favorite poses in Butterfly pose.  I come to it over and over again.  It can be done sitting, laying on the back or against the wall.  They butterfly is an incredible hip opener an the pose is filled with symbolism which makes it a very powerful and transformation poses,

This is one of my favorite quotes about the butterfly:

Once upon a time, I, Chuang Chou, dreamt I was a butterfly, fluttering hither and thither, to all intents and purposes a butterfly. I was conscious only of my happiness as a butterfly, unaware that I was Chou. Soon I awaked, and there I was, veritably myself again. Now I do not know whether I was then a man dreaming I was a butterfly, or whether I am now a butterfly, dreaming I am a man. Between a man and a butterfly there is necessarily a distinction. The transition is called the transformation of material things.

Benefits of Butterfly Pose

"The caterpillar does all the work but the butterfly gets the publicity." - George Carlin

Butterfly pose is great way to stretch the lower back without requiring loose hamstrings.  When
the legs are straighter and the feet are farther away from the groin (making a wide diamond), the hamstrings will get more of a stretch. If the feet are in closer to the groin, the adductor muscles get stretched more.

Butterfly pose is good for the kidneys and prostate gland; and is highly recommended for people suffering from urinary problems.  It also removes heaviness in the testicles and regulates periods, helps ovaries function properly, and makes childbirth easier

Getting Into the Pose:

"There is nothing in a caterpillar that tells you it's going to be a butterfly." Richad Buckminister Fuller

From a seated position, bring the soles of your feet together and then slide them away from you. I cue a wide diamond shape with the feet away from the groin as more restorative and a tight diamond shape with the feet close to the groin as more aggressive way to practice the pose.

I usually start the butterfly series with hands and prayer and twist side to side in what Paulie Zink calls metal triangle.  I think Paulie calls it the arms make a coat hanger shape.

I then move to more fluid water motions by doing a sufi ground with the legs in butterfly.  (I call this movement sexy and serious circles or Butterfly Variations in Water Element).

I also enjoy arching and doming the spine in seated butterfly as a variation in Water Element. Similar to the movement made in Cat/Cow

I also like to flutter the lips (I call this silly sounds).

I also enjoy placing the arms behind the back to form a wing shape with the tops of the hands to the back.  This is similar to the wing shape Paulie Zink uses for dragonfly.  When flapping the wings or using the hands to move the legs quickly I suggest that now we are moving into the Butterfly Variations in  Fire Element.

Sometimes I cue moving the legs up and down in a springy as a Butterfly Variation in Wood Element.

In Chaos theory the Butterfly Effect is the sensitive dependence on initial conditions in which small change in one state of a deterministic nonlinear system can result in large differences in a later state. For example, details of a hurricane can be influenced by minor peturbations such as the flapping of the wings of a distant butterfly several weeks earlier.

A butterfly's wings might create tiny changes in the atmosphere that may ultimately alter the path of a tornado or delay, accelerate or even preclude the occurrence of a tornado in another location  This reminds us that what we do does make a difference.  We are not invisible but what we do, our actions matter.  We can remember this while we are holding butterfly pose.

Contra-indications of Butterfly Pose:

"Happiness is a butterfly, which when pursued, is always just beyond your grasp, but which, if you will sit down quietly, may alight upon you." - Nathaniel Hawthorne.

Butterfly pose can aggravate sciatica. If you have sciatica, elevate the hips by sitting on a bolster/block/blanket and/or placing several folded blankets/pillows until the knees are below the hips. If you cannot get comfortable may need to or avoid this pose entirely or try it on the back.

Beware of hips rotating backward while seated; we want them to rotate forward

If you have any lower back problems which do not allow flexion of the spine, then do not allow the spine to round: keep the back as straight as you can or do the reclining version

Avoid dropping the head down if the neck has suffered whiplash or has reverse curvature

Variations and Other Options:

"We delight in the beauty of the butterfly, but rarely admit the changes it has gone through to achieve that beauty."

Elevate the hips with a bolster or cushion.

If the neck is too stressed, support the head in the hands, resting elbows on thighs or a block

You can also secure the pose with a strap

You could rest your chest on a bolster positioned across the thighs

Various hand/arm positions are possible: hold feet, hands on floor in fron, or arms relaxed behind the body

One leg can stay in butterfly and the other leg outstretched straight for half butterfly

Various Side Stretches can be performed in butterfly pose

You can also interlace the toes.

If the back doesn’t like this pose, you can do the reclining variation; lie down, keeping legs in butterfly.

You can also bring your legs in butterfly and do handstand.

Butterfly and also be performed on chairs

or with the legs against the wall.

The pose can become very difficult and aggressive with the toes on the floor in a toe stand variation

At the Iyengar Studio on La Cienega I have often practiced an inversion form of butterfly

Butterfly pose can be performed with lots of props to make it a heart/ throat and abdomen opening pose.

Coming Out of the Pose:

"The fluttering of a butterfly's wings can effect climate changes on the other side of the planet." Paul Erlich

I always cue to engage the abs, close the knees like a book, roll over on your side in a fetal position (irregardless of the props) and when you are ready roll up one vertebrae at a time.


"In nature a repulsive caterpillar turns into a lovely butterfly. But with humans it is the other way around: a lovely butterfly turns into a repulsive caterpillar." Anton Chekhov

Sitting up, or a gentle sitting back bend
Lying on stomach, which is also a gentle back bend
Could do a spinal lift flow on the back or flow into Tabletop (aka Hammock)
A seated twist.

Meridians and Organs Affected:

The Gall Bladder lines on the outside of the legs as well as the Urinary Bladder lines[2] running along the spine in the lower back

If the feet are in close to the groin and a stretch is felt in the inner thighs, the Kidney and Liver lines are being stimulated.

Joints Affected:

"Just like the butterfly, I too will awaken in my own time.: - Deborah Chaskin

Hips and lower spine

Recommended Hold Times:

"We are like butterflies who flutter for a day and think it is forever/"  - Carl Sagan

Three to five minutes
Can hold much longer, if desired … or you may do this while reading, or talking on phone ...

Similar Yang Asanas:

"Love is like a butterfly: It goes where it pleases and it pleases wherever it goes." - Unknown

Baddha Konasana, but without the emphasis on a straight spine or the feet in tight to groin.

Symbolism of the Butterfly

What the caterpillar calls the end of the world, the master calls a butterfly." - Richard Bach

The butterfly animal totem is primarily associated with symbolism of change and transformation. This can be exhibited by

a) Powerful transformation, metamorphosis in your life, personality
b) Moving through different life cycles
c) Renewal, rebirth
d) Lightness of being, playfulness
e) Elevation from earthly matters, tuning into emotional or spiritual
f) The world of the soul, the psyche

Another meaning of the butterfly is finding joy in life and lightness of being.

In many traditions around the world, the butterfly is a symbol of the soul or soul world. For example, in Chinese symbolism, it can represent immortality. For the Japanese, a white butterfly symbolizes the soul the departed ones.

In Ancient Greece, butterflies represent the psyche or soul, and its attribute of immortality

Other Notes:

"Just living is not enough," said the butterfly, "one must have sunshine, freedom and a little flower/" Hand Christian Andersen

Butterfly pose can be done after meals, as long as head does not touch the floor (which would place too much pressure in the abdomen)

If the feet are closer in, tight adductors or lower back tightness may prevent student from folding forward. Move the feet farther away

Many yogis will automatically go into a tight butterfly, because of their vinyasa training, but, in yin class, they should be encouraged to move the feet away from the pelivs, forming a diamond shape with the legs

This pose is nice for pregnant women because the legs are abducted, providing space for the belly

Other Quotes:

"And what's a butterfly? At best, he's but a caterpillar, at rest." - John Grey

"I only ask to be free. the butterflies are free." - Charles Dickens