The RBY Logo: Not Just a Tree

With the 4th anniversary of our first class approaching on October 7th, I thought I’d explain the RBY logo and font. There is nothing accidental about it, and I’ll never forget the hours and hours of discussion and drawing that resulted in our designs.

The majestic madrona tree on the bluff at Saltwater Park is the RBY tree.  For me it represents a sense of place: a love and reverence for the Northwest, where I was born and raised and where the yoga studio stands.

The madrona is a beautiful tree, and no two are at all alike. If you’ve been to Whidbey Island and driven along Madrona Drive on Penn Cove, you know why I fell in love with madrona trees as a child growing up there.  The madrona has many layers, and is an unusual colorful stand-out in this evergreen place, with its rusty bark and smooth inner skin, often yellow or avocado green. (Look for the colors of the madrona tree in the studio!)

For me the madrona is a great symbol of yoga because it’s the uniqueness of its sinuous, irregular limbs that make it so strangely elegant. It’s a reminder that our own beauty and well-being is not going to look like someone else’s.

And in our artistic rendering of the tree, the foliage is, of all things, a Tibetan cloud. This is homage to my meditation teachers in the Tibetan tradition, and also to the roots of yoga, which are in the East.  The cloud symbolizes our potential to liberate our minds.

The font in which “Richmond Beach Yoga” appears is called “Jupiter”.  This is an elegant, expressive font. I was born under the sign of Jupiter, and my secret “theme song” for the studio is “Jupiter, The Bringer of Jollity” from Gustav Holst’s “The Planets”.  It is exuberant, optimistic music. For me, it stands for the power of yoga to lift us up from depression, to lift our gaze to the treetops and the clouds and the limitless sky beyond, where we realize our potential for happiness of body and mind.

 

 

 

 

RBY Student Practices on Pilgrimage

Tree Pose atop Sri Lanka, anyone?

Sharon Richards is an intrepid traveler, Soul Stroller (read on!), and lover of life.

She was recently on an adventure in India and Sri Lanka with her husband, and sent this photo of her beautiful tree pose on a hilltop in Sri Lanka.

The photo has a long caption: “It is an amazing feeling to practice yoga far from home, far from the studio– knowing all the while that our fellow students are practicing and there will be a welcoming place to return to.”

Indeed, we keep the home yoga fires burning for you while you are away.

Sharon commented that our practice is supported by others’ practice in a very real way. The next time you are in tree pose or any other favorite pose, think of all the thousands and thousands of people who have been there, are there with you now, and will be right there where you are in the future.

No yogi is an island, no matter how far from home, no matter how distant the island on which you practice! Sharon leads pilgrimages, called Soul Strolling, to magical places. Check out her website: http://sharonarichards.com. And to prepare you for your journey, here is a wonderful book about pilgrimage that Sharon recommended: The Art of Pilgrimage,  by Phil Cousineau. Enjoy!

International Day of Yoga

June 21, 2015 will be the first-ever International Day of Yoga, thanks to the United Nations’ swift passing of the popular initiative with a record 175 countries sponsoring.

Apparently yoga was not a hard sell in the U.N. General Assembly; Asoke Mukerji, India’s ambassador to the U.N., spoke of yoga’s “cross cultural and universal appeal” as indicated by the record number of co-sponsors of the bill.

Here is the actual wording of the bill:

Statement on the Launch of International Day of Yoga

New York – December 11, 2014

H.E. Mr. Álvaro Mendonça E Moura on behalf of the President of the GA

Excellencies,
Distinguished Delegates,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

Today’s adoption of a resolution on the International Day of Yoga with overwhelming support, as shown by the more than 170 member States that have co-sponsored it, demonstrates how both the tangible and the unseen benefits of yoga appeal to people around the world.
I congratulate the Honourable Shri Narendra Modi, Prime Minister of India, for this initiative whereby the international community will observe the International Day of Yoga on the 21st of June each year.
For centuries, people from all walks of life have practiced yoga, recognizing its unique embodiment of unity between mind and body. Yoga brings thought and action together in harmony, while demonstrating a holistic approach to health and well-being.
I commend the Indian delegation for its work on this initiative and look forward to celebrating the first International Day of Yoga next June.
I thank you for your attention.

How Yoga Affects Anxiety and Depression

The idea that yoga helps manage depression and anxiety is nothing new, but science is zeroing in on just how this works. One recent study at Boston University’s School of Medicine shows that yoga increases the amount of GABA (gamma-amino butyric acid), which is associated with improved mood and decreased anxiety. Depressed people have less GABA in their brains, but not after practicing yoga postures, the study showed. Higher GABA levels are also related to lowered anxiety.

Thanks to magnetic resonance spectroscopy, researchers can actually see the brain to detect before and after differences. The study, led by Associate Professor of Psychiatry and Neurology Chris Streeter, can be read here: http://online.liebertpub.com/doi/abs/10.1089/acm.2007.6338

A second study, also by Chris Streeter, PhD., shows that yoga improves our mood by increasing “vagal tone”. The vagus nerve is the biggest nerve in the human body, and “vagal tone” refers to how our body adapts to internal and environmental stress. There is no drug or supplement that increases vagal tone, unless you consider yoga to be your drug of choice. I have often said that young people in particular should practice pranayama (breathing exercises) instead of experimenting with drugs and alcohol.

The calm, relaxed state achieved through strengthening the parasympathetic nervous system (in which the vagus nerve is central) is wonderfully satisfying. It is a feeling of deep connection to the self and to the world we are a part of. Heightened parasympathetic activity increases immunity, longevity, and resilience. Plus it’s free and for most of us, has no negative side-effects.

You might also notice that your yoga practice has honed your ability to focus. This is also related to vagal tone. Hatha yoga, which is the yoga we practice at RBY, encompasses postures, meditation, and breathwork— and all three of these activities have been shown to increase vagal tone. So pause, sit up tall, stretch your arms, take a deep breath. Repeat. And reap the many benefits.

World Yoga Day: Can Yoga Save the World?

According to the September 28th Seattle Times, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has proposed a new United Nations observance: World Yoga Day.

Mr. Modi told the General Assembly that yoga has “therapeutic powers” and could help “tackle global problems” in the following way: Yoga, he said, “could bring a change in our lifestyle and create awareness in us, and it can help in fighting against climate change.”

How, one might wonder, could yoga help curb climate change? Yoga is a very green activity. It requires very little in terms of resources— equipment, fuel for travel, and so forth. But more importantly, yoga helps us find what we are looking for inside of us. Perhaps as a result of practicing yoga, we eat better (choosing more sustainably-produced foods), and we feel less dependent on external sources of happiness, such as shopping for things we don’t really need.

Let’s keep an eye out to see if Prime Minister Modi’s proposal passes. Meanwhile, every day is Yoga Day at RBY!