JUNETEENTH June 19, 2017

There are many ways to describe “FREEDOM”. On a personal level, an individual’s ability to perform the basic functions of life- breathe, drink, eat, eliminate, sleep, procreate- helps to define the quality of life that one is living.

On the subject of an healthy, efficiently operating body, the ancient Vedics developed a breathing practice called Pranayama that literally used one’s breath to feed and nourish the body.

I am a relatively new comer to Yoga and the classical 8-limb practice (Ashtanga) which includes physical movement in postures (asana) and breath work (Pranayama).

What initially brought me to Yoga were the therapeutic elements that helped to relieve my pain from a lifetime of sports injuries (broken collarbone from mountain biking, two knee surgeries from dance and distance running, extremely tight shoulders and neck from a nearly 40-year career as a violin/viola player, etc.).

I have developed a fascination over the past five years with the changing shape of my body as I have made yoga a daily part of my physical/mental/spiritual practice. At the ripe young age of 51, I currently have a range of motion and strength that I never imagined possible and that bests my weight-lifting/karate-boxing/marathon running years in my 20’s and 30’s!

To actively age backwards is my definition of ‘Living Well’ and affording the freedom to live as I desire. My guides to this effect include the exquisite Iyengar Master Teacher Lisa Walford. Lisa’s Pranayama classes are made doubly powerful because they are presented on the full and new moons. This exercise regimen, mindfully connected with the energies of the planets, has the effect of supercharging my body. I am at a place where no caffeine is needed as I make this focus on the breath part of my daily practice.

Jacques Henri Taylor has nurtured my aching limbs with his brilliant practice of Muscle Activation Therapy (MAT), training me to be more mindful of subtle muscular movements, allplanet’s, to absorb the more detailed elements of body alignment cues that my vigorous Ashtanga instructor Sean Gray challenges me with.

To be able to actually see and appreciate the positive change in my life is my mentor the Feng Shui Master Ken Lauher. Clearing the mind and coming into balance with one’s true, authentic, higher self is a theme that I am aware of but my tendency to freeze in the face of a project that will clear the way for even greater achievements in my life has prompted Ken to say on a few occasions “Karen, just get the fucking job done!” My recent project completion success is all thanks to that man!

Giving a voice and structure to my gifts that I have to offer is the brilliant Bob Choat whose “School of Transformation” is a source of inspiration to the participants and listeners. I think of Bob as one who allows for freedom in speech through his gift of the gab. One must listen to his podcasts.

To imagine having the wealth of good fortune that I am enjoying now in the physical/mental/spiritual realms is all thanks to the work I started three years ago with Natalie Ledwell in her USM (Ultimate Success Masterclass), an interpretation of the concepts behind the Law of Attraction and “A Course in Miracles” that truly accelerates the manifestation of one’s goals.

When considering a clearing of the mind or the body, one has to be mindful of the fact that physical dirt equals psychic dirt- a dirty/cluttered living space will interfere with that person’s ability to succeed because the mind and body are an interwoven unit. In “The Yoga Sutras” by Patanjali, he encourages a yoga practice as it restrains the distracted mind- “Yogaś citta vritti nirodhah.”

With all elements cleared, one now has the freedom to move at will. Clarity allows for a global perspective, allowing for more interesting travels in the mind and afoot.

Check out my contribution in “The Little Black Book Of Fitness, as I touch on more of these concepts of #freedom.

Here’s to celebrating FREEDOM in all things physical/mental/spiritual.

HAPPY JUNETEENTH!

http://www.YogaMusic.me featuring Karen Elaine

http://www.seangrayyoga.com

http://www.bobchoat.com

http://www.natalieledwell.com

http://www.myotopia.com with Jaques Henri Taylor

http://www.lisa.walford.com

http://www.kenlauher.com

 

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Global Village

As I sat down in my chair after tonight’s dress rehearsal, I noticed my favorite dried flower peering at me from the center of the chair. I was a bit disoriented, as I usually give myself a vigorous shake and brush off to get as much of the dog hair and plant parts from my wildly overgrown edible forest before walking into any building. I chuckled at the wonderful coincidence of this flower that wanted to be a part of tonight’s Rosh Hoshana/Kol Nidrei music infused ceremony at the Harmony Gold Theatre on Sunset Boulevard… 

The reason why I have a magnificent wall of Morning Glory ivy plants on the southwest side of my house is in celebration of a most memorable walk I had one morning in the Negev- the sun was brilliant and already warm at 7:00am. One side of a dividing fence functioned as a trellis for the most magnificent burst of color as the Morning Glory ivy seemed to not only cascade over both sides of the fence (which happened to be on the southwest side of the property), but it seemed that the curly cue tendrils were actively reaching for me, the unwitting passer-by. When I look outside of my bedroom window, I see the vibrant lush green foliage and breathtaking purplish-blue color of the petals. I also see/remember that awesome walk in Israel and am instantly transported there again.  

 

And so with this time/location travel, the delicately shriveled flower instantly transported me to my house in Venice as well as to the village in the Negev. It seemed to start making sense, these seemingly unrelated pieces of music combining a traditional Jewish melody with the words and music of a popular R&B/Pop music song. The excellent Music Directors James Laff and Jeremy Gimbel are very hip music writers/arrangers, but that one piece just seemed VERY out of place- the mashup of a traditional High Holy Day song with the anthem “Freedom” by Common and John Legend. Well, the Rebbe explained her recent trip to walk with some 200 other Rabbi in Selma to recognize the need to support voting rights there for the Black and Latino communities. From there, the Rebbe turned it around and had me and most everyone crying. I can’t remember the last time I lost a tear during any sermon- this was a brief but wonderfully cathartic experience for me. Her entire presentation was intended to encourage each individual to stand up on behalf of others in this life experience. The Rebbe defines a “Global Village”~ To intentionally visualize life without distinctions between the diverse groups of human beings.

Happy New Year
Happy Rosh Hoshanna
Shalom

Teacher

I consider myself a teacher for a couple of reasons. I have always embraced the concept that “if you want to truly learn a particular skill or craft, you must find and work individually with a good teacher. If you want to be a Master of that subject, you must teach it to others.” The real blessing of being a teacher is getting feedback from your former students of their successes in life, especially if YOU were the teacher who inspired the life changing shift for your student.

I have to admit that I catch myself absolutely gloating at the tremendous accomplishments my students have achieved; with my recreational scuba diving cap on, I have produced other scuba instructors, boat captains, and one young man who has gone in to the world as a lawyer for environmental protection. As a music instructor, I have enjoyed seeing my protégées win international solo competitions, play with music ensembles around the world, and share the stage with ME (their OLD  music instructor). My acrobatic yoga students are producing jaw droppingly beautiful images as print models.

The most profound example of this that I have been witness to was of my Mother. I acted as caretaker for my Mom during her last year of life. A third round of cancer devastated her body, and we knew that the hospital visits were more a way of making her impending death somewhat more comfortable. My Mom was my original teacher- she taught me to read before attending kindergarten, sew my own clothes… Of the many things she taught me, I realized during her last month alive that the most important lesson was in celebrating the light and potential in others.

On one of our hospital visits, a big, athletic, handsome young Black man who was the medical technician on duty that day, gleefully recognized my Mom as one of his “old high school teachers.” Glancing at her chart, his dimeanor switched to stoic seriousness. The young medical tech then put everything down and held her hands. Fighting back the tears that had  just welled-up, he looked into my Mom’s eyes as he told her that the reason he went on to college and wanted a career in the health field was because of her. He wanted her to know that she was the overall favorite teacher of all the students in the Special Education Department because she would frequently express her belief to those Special Ed students that they were able to do well in life. This young man explained that the student body she worked with felt that my Mom was the only adult who treated them with respect. Watching my Mother lose her hair during her first battle with cancer and never missing a day of work in spite of her chemo and radiation treatments was a true example of love and commitment to others, and for this young medical technician, her tenacious example of providing care for others was the impetus to inspire him to do better in life.

My Mom was a Warrior Princess who led her charges by living what she taught. What a blessing to have feedback in this lifetime from your students. And like my Mother the quintessential teacher, I am blessed.

 Photo of yours truly in May of 1999 alongside my very proud Mommie Alice. Graduation day, receiving my MA from the ‘Critical Studies and Experimental Performance Practices of Music’ department on the campus of Mandeville College at UCSD in La Jolla, California, my Mother’s Alma Mater.

THREE WAYS TO FIND YOUR LIFE’S PASSION

Going through the motions. Boring routine. Living life on automatic. While we learn how to be ‘useful contributors to society’ by putting in the hours at work to earn our keep and not be a burden on society, many people find that the dullness and lack of emotional and/or intellectual connection with our method of earning money interferes with our love for life. How does one find that joy in everything they do?

Our programming as children sets in our adult subconscious mind the associations with comfort, wealth, happiness, responsibility, pleasure, discomfort, etc. While we learn to process our experiences as adults without the emotional outbursts and turmoil of the tantrum meltdowns of our prepubescent selves, we actually are for the most part driven by those childhood memories of a simplified world of good and bad sensations. A simple example of this is a child with two absent working parents who grew up with many siblings- having to compete for attention, eventually learning that it was their lot in life to be the neglected middle child, this individual grows to be an adult who has no problem functioning on their own on solitary work projects and probably even dislikes being amongst groups of people.

What does passion mean to an individual who learned to amuse and protect themselves without human interaction? To be ignored or attention starved as a child means that the manipulative use of crocodile tears does not work. It also means that if one grows up in a household that values reading, the young person will find companionship and a way to dream of other places through their readings. This explanation in Simon and Garfunkle’s song of emulating objects in nature, finding stimulation from a purely intellectual source, and the ‘reward’ given to ‘good’ children who follow the rules of being seen but not heard, shows the poetic shutting down of the human want and need for touch~ “…I am a rock, I am an island… I’ve got my books and poetry to protect me… An island never cries.” And so begins a life lived as an oxymoron- solitary confinement surrounded by throngs of people, committing hundreds of hours to doing purposeful work that earns money for the coiffers to afford spending a limited amount of quality time doing what one REALLY wants to do.

I am really fortunate as a worker bee in the work force- I am blessed with work that is play and I get to play at work. Starting at a very young age with the determination to make my adult career a professional musician in the world of Classical music, the hours of honing my skills in the practice room, in private lessons, in orchestra and chamber music rehearsals paid off with playing and well paying opportunities for me around the world. The music field is competitive, but I simply put my head to the grindstone and set to work, proving to myself that with focused study and work ANYTHING is possible. My mentors along the way also impressed on me that it was my obligation to give back to society by teaching others. The concept  “If you want to learn something you are passionate about, find a a good teacher. If you want to become a Master at that passion, you must teach.” is very important to finding the joy in one’s life, your life’s passion. But that is just the beginning. I have learned that probably the most important element in this equation of finding and honing in on the passion that brings absolute joy to one’s life is seeing through the successful attainment of that craft in your students. To introduce people to a particular hobby or interest at the novice level is easy enough because anything new is always shiny and fun. But to practice diligently, crafting one’s skills through a structured practice with focus/patience/discipline takes the level of participation and understanding to an entirely new level.

The Three Steps of Passion Work

Engaging people in today’s overstimulated world is a challenge. And yet there can always be a unique attraction for that which is of the dream world. The first step on the path of finding one’s passion is in connecting with an activity that brings an emotional/energy charged reaction when thinking about it or participating in that activity. While I have lived most my life and loving it as a musician, my single-digit years were spent participating on a competitive swim team which established for me at a young age the habit of getting up very early to participate in this most exhilarating of team sports. The nature of the music world has a lot of competition and solitary practice, which leads to a rather unhappy musician if they don’t have it in their practice or value system the need for cross-training in a completely different activity that will work other parts of the brain, social dynamic, and body. Pretty much any kind of sport is good for the professional musician to participate in, and it happens that one of my physical joys is in discovering the many layers of the body through yoga. About five years ago, when I first dabbled in the physical (asana) practice of yoga, I found that following the instructor’s directions in the beautiful flowing Sanskrit language and the numerous minutiae details of body alignment to be overwhelming during the yoga class, especially while the music was blasting, and so I decided to take an Instructor Course for the sake of making my class participation as a student more comfortable and fluid. I also stumbled on to the practice of partner yoga, eventually taking private lessons in this movement art as well. The body awareness and strength that I have gained over the past five years immersed in a daily asana practice has dramatically influenced and improved my musical playing abilities, inspiring me to take my solo recital presentations in a different direction- this renewed passion for my craft is a blurring of the lines of dancer and musician, a little bit of which I talk about in my post titled HOW TO CONQUER THE STAGE. Check it out at https://karenelaineyogamusic.wordpress.com

Soon after renewing my passion in music by incorporating partner dance/strength/balancing elements of acrobatic yoga, I was offered a delightful invitation to teach beginners how to do this partner/acro/trust yoga in the beautiful meditation garden of the Mystic Journey Bookstore when they opened their newly expanded space at 1624 Abbot Kinney Boulevard in the chic and spiritually evolved section of Venice Beach. A workshop geared for beginners but of course open to acro yogis of all levels, I now had the opportunity to REALLY learn this physical practice by offering my care and attention as a teacher to others. Teaching a craft profoundly develops one’s understanding and appreciation for that specialty, an important part and element #2 of finding and honing one’s passion work.

Last year, I had a beautiful young couple sign up for my weekly INTRO TO ACRO YOGA WORKSHOP at the Mystic Journey Bookstore http://www.mysticjourneybookstore.com. Dave and Maysa had a plan- they were going to be getting married in six months and wanted to learn a few partner yoga poses. They were both novices to this particular practice of yoga and they were both coming in with mild physical injuries. I always encourage my students during class to be mindful of what’s going on in their bodies- with patience and daily practice, all is coming.


As is my practice, I enjoy taking my students on a tour of the bookstore to encourage them to invest in the yoga anatomy picture books and my favorite book Contact Yoga which has some of the partner stretches and balancing poses we visit during the workshop session. The value in having these books is that while I am the Instructor once a week, they have to be the tutor for six days a week. Two months of weekly workshops, a photo session, a magical wedding ceremony, just now back from their honeymoon on the Hawaiian island of Maui, and this beautiful and inspired pair of students shared THIS with their teacher~


  
  
One’s mission is accomplished when such inspired images of love and light are brought back as a thank you to the teacher. Oh, and I am still striving, pursuing the infinite ways that passion/life/work intersect. I am ever grateful for the blessings in my life, which include the emotional excitement and electrical charge of doing something incredible that happens to inspire others to also raise their vibration to one of pure joy and love for life. Here’s to finding one’s passion, drawing wealth and great value from it and spreading that good stuff around.

How to Conquer the Stage

I AM- the two most powerful words in the English language. Pronounced the same:  AY-M (acro yoga & music).

To find one’s passion in life and to make that passion one’s livelihood and career is a dream come true for anyone. The vast majority of people in the workforce are immersed in hours spent at an unfulfilling job that ‘just pays the bills’ and hopefully affords a little extra for the rare holiday/retirement savings/etc. AY-M is my passion work- my original and wildly exciting performance art piece combining the performance of court dance music by Johann Sebastien Bach with partner dance in the form of acrobatic yoga.

AY-M exists as an artistic expression of the boundless and abundant joy for life- the concert going audience member experiences the blurred lines of performer and dancer. The musician hears and sees what can be achieved when playing in a non-static fluid motion reflective of the sounds created, reconnecting the veteran musician with their original love and passion for music. Dancers are familiar with the challenges of partner movement- incorporating a musical instrument requires the duet to perform with one partner entirely ‘hands free’, requiring a shift in the demands of balance and strength.

My reason for taking to the dance stage with my instrument is inspired by my music colleagues who often experience physical ailments that in the maturity of their playing career often render these artists incapable of playing their instruments- tendonitis, carpal tunnel, TMJ, bursitis, arthritis, scoliosis, the list goes on. Having lived my life with a healthy dose of sports in my daily exercise regimen, I have always approached the necessary hours of practicing the viola and the violin as an athlete who plans rotating exercise routines- like a bodybuilder who has leg day/arm day/abs day/etc. For the most part, all musicians spend time training their small muscle groups with lots of repetitive motion- a recipe for tendonitis and carpal tunnel. Nearly any sport will incorporate the use of large muscle groups to counter the small muscle movements of playing an instrument.

Another concern for nearly all musicians is the asymmetrical nature of getting around their instrument- this is why my choice for a paired movement style lands in the realm of yoga. Yoga makes its focus that of finding balance- strength and ease in every pose- Sthira

Acro Yoga & Music
Acro Yoga & Music

Sukkha Asanam- a way to conquer the stage through grace.