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September 4 - Nurturing Friendships - Ustrasana (Camel Pose) - Kale Chips

Was going to talk about Labor Day weekend and how we have another 20 days or so of summer….but then, as often happens when I think about the week’s blog, something got me inspired to veer off into another direction. As I have spoken of before, I am a person who is blessed with many long-term friendships: friends from growing up, college, and from early jobs in NYC. My parents were professors, so Dad’s sabbaticals took us to Scotland and Ireland when we were young, and I am grateful to have a friend from each of those times who are still in my life (Mary and Helen). There are friends you meet at work and through your children, your interests, your charity work anywhere you live. As you go through life, sometimes friendships are broken or simply fade away. I am a person who mourns the loss deeply and often struggles to maintain friendships perhaps sometimes when they are not healthy or simply have run their course. That phenomenon has caused me angst and sadness over the years even though I am becoming more at peace with it as I get older (nope, not going down the big birthday rabbit hole).

I received a card this week from a college friend, Lisa S. One that I am not fortunate enough to see often because of distance but one that I can call anytime and pick right up where we left off. She sent me a card after we had a phone conversation and it arrived on a day that I was struggling thinking about a work (banking) issue, and it just made me smile. The card was not for a specific event, just a lovely follow up to our recent chat. Later this same week, my friend Barbara invited me to Little Compton for a spontaneous visit with her to her family’s summer cottage in Little Compton. Ready with my usual excuses around yoga, writing the blog and house chores, I changed course, got a sub for my Saturday class, packed my computer to work on the blog there, and went. She knew I was having a tough couple of days on both the family and work front (and my husband was off to a music fest for 3 days) and the random evening just laughing, cooking, and walking on the beach, did my heart so much good.

As I sit here in the early morning starting my blog, I reflect yet again on the power of friendship and what those seemingly small or random gestures of kindness can do for the soul.

Friendships take work and nurturing; their power to support us through what life throws us rewards that work exponentially. There have been times that I have lost sight of this, gotten caught up in life’s day to day or sidetracked by a pandemic, and have not spent the time I should tending my friendships. I am lucky enough to have friends that raise their hands and tell me that they miss me or that I haven’t reached out in a while, and I am grateful for that reminder. Acquaintances and “fair weather friends” will be there for life’s events, your true friends will be there for you when at 3 AM you need a hug (albeit maybe a virtual one) or will hop the plane to be there just because. And while a true friend will be there for you whether you have texted or called them in the last month, I suggest we spend the time nurturing and appreciating our friendships, they are like plants, they need care and tending. Staying with the plant metaphor, with attention and nurturing, they flourish!

Our Practice – Camel Pose - Ustrasana

When we talk about friendship in yoga speak, we think of the heart chakra. We know that physically yoga supports a healthy heart. In life, however, hurts, betrayal and other emotional experiences block our hearts-we allow this to avoid additional hurt or pain. This results in the heart chakra, one of the primary energy centers in the body, becoming closed or unbalanced. We then may find it difficult to experience love, compassion, grace. Physical ailments can also develop. As we work through our physical and mental yoga and meditation practice, we strive to open our heart, balance the heart chakra and be receptive to love and human connections, friendships.

There are many poses to encourage the heart opening, balance the heart chakra, and release tension including back bends like camel, bridge, and fish. We spent quite a bit of last week’s practice noticing back bends (heart openers ) as we made our way to halasana (plow) pose.

Camel Pose (Ustrasana) is a strong heart opener. Camel stretches the front of the body, particularly the chest, abdomen, quadriceps, and hip flexors. It creates space in the chest/lungs and can increase breathing capacity. The pose also stimulates the kidneys, which improves digestion. I modified instructions I found in a YogaInternational article to align with my learning and teaching:

To Practice:

  • Begin in a high kneeling position with your thighs parallel to each other and your hands on your lower back (fingers up or down). Tuck your toes under (later you can try with tops of the feet flat).

  • Lift up out of your belly and waist to lengthen your spine. As you move into the backbend, lead with your chest and let your head follow (think rainbow versus leaning back). Try not to toss your head back but also avoid tucking chin or not moving your head at all. Initiate the backbend with your chest, and move the back of your head back (not the crown) to keep length in the back of your neck. This could be enough, hold for several breaths.

  • If you want to take it a little further, you can reach one hand or both hands back towards your heels. Press pelvis forward thinking about the rainbow image or backbending over a huge exercise ball as you lead with your chest and move the back of your head back to follow. When you're ready to come up out of the pose, lead with your chest, pressing your hands at the lower back to support. Head comes up last.

Meditation – Nurturing Friendship

Staying with the gardening theme…..

A friendship can weather most things and thrive in thin soil; but it needs a little mulch of letters and phone calls and small, silly presents every so often - just to save it from drying out completely. – Pam Brown

Let us be grateful to people who make us happy, they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom – Marcel Proust

Nurturing with Food – Kale Chips

As the garden winds down, what is left, kale and swiss chard! Anyone who tells you that kale chips are like potato chips is lying. They are, however, good and fit the bill when you need a crunchy, salty snack and haven’t already dived into the bag of Lays or need an alternative to popcorn (my favorite). I also happen to have an abundance of kale still growing and the bigger the leaves get, the easier it is to make into kale chips. My son Sam likes these also and between the two of us we can polish off a batch in the time it takes to finish that one very cold beer along with them.

See you on the mat!


Julia Anne

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