Friday, January 18, 2013

Hey Youthful Yogis!   
I was drinking a glass of milk today and, guess what? I got to thinking about cows!

Cows, as you know, are pretty great. They are peaceful vegetarians who have been providing us with nourishment for centuries. And here's an interesting India, cows are considered to be sacred. That's right! They symbolize the earth and are much appreciated for their gentle nature. Throughout history, cows have provided the Indian people with an important food source (milk, butter and curds) and have also been used to till the fields. Cow dung is a source of fuel and a fertilizer for crops as well...and I did not just make that up!

There are 26 breeds of cow in India, and in many cities cows are allowed to roam happily in the streets:

"Beep, beep!"
"I call this my "happy place"

Youthful Yogis will remember that in Hindu mythology, Lord Krishna is said to have been born into a family of cowherds...that's why we often see pictures of Krishna with cows and a flute:

Lord Krishna

And speaking of of the most powerful gods in Hindu mythology is Shiva, said to be the responsible for death and destruction, which in turn leads to creation and rebirth.

Lord Shiva's style is hard to beat...check it out:

"Honestly, I just threw this little outfit together at the last minute...!"

Here is a list of Lord Shiva's "attributes" (objects associated with or belonging to him.)  Can you find  these attributes in the picture above?
* a Trident
*a crescent moon
* a "third eye"
* a tiger skin
*some serpents
*a drum
*Nandi, the bull


Who doesn't love Nandi?!! He is considered to be the "vehicle" or "mount" of Shiva, meaning that the two are often seen together:

"I'm loving my ride...and don't even get me started on my tiger skin cape!" 

There is a town in South India called Mahabalipuram; it's  known for it's sculptures and temples carved out of rock.

 If you ever make it to Mahabalipuram, here are some amazing things that you might see:

"Krishna's Butterball" (I did not make that name up!)

Shore Temple, carved from stone

Nandi, larger than life!

I really hope to get back to Mahabalipuram someday to say hello to that larger than life Nandi...but in the meantime, it's time for a new yoga pose!  Can you guess what it's called?...."Cow Face Pose", of course!!

Cow Face pose, known as Gomukhasana in Sanskrit, is pretty tricky. If you do what we call the "traditional" version of the pose, your legs will look like this:

"OK, I admit it...I want to scream!"

For some people, sitting in either "easy pose", or "Hero pose" is better:

"easy pose"


Once you have found a comfortable seated position, you can try bringing your arms into place for the full "Cow Face" experience!

Not everyone can get their arms far enough back to hook their fingers, like the guy up above. In fact, most of us are a little tight in the shoulders, and lots of people are actually dealing with past injuries in this part of the body. So please move into this pose carefully, Youthful Yogis; keep your spine "long" (OK, what I really mean is...don't slouch!!) Relax your face and have fun. If your fingers don't touch behind your back, you can use a strap:

...or simply press the hands gently into your body so you get a great opening stretch. Cow Face pose is definitely a super stretch for the shoulders as well as for the upper back and chest. It also creates space for the lungs, so we can breathe more deeply...

This is what I'm talking about, People!

Have fun trying out Cow Face pose, Youthful Yogis. And, if you are like just about everybody else I know, one burning question will come to mind while you are doing the pose....Why Do They Call It Cow Face Pose???

"Why? Why? Why?!"

I'll share with you what I've figured out, Youthful Yogis...and feel free to tell me if you have another idea on the subject.

Here is Cow Face pose again:

"Everyone keeps telling me I need to put some meat on my bones!"

And here is a cow's face:

Now, take a look at this:

"OK, I am upside down...but try to ignore that and look at the shape my legs make." 

Get it? When we sit in Cow Face pose, our knees and thighs look like the face of a cow, and our shins look like the horns. Some people have a different take on this...they think the crossed legs look like a cow's face and the arms look like ears or horns.

...and did I mention you can also do a version of Cow Face pose on your back:

I hope that you will have fun experimenting with Gomukhasana, Youthful Yogis. As you practice the pose, try reflecting upon the gentle nature of cows all around the world: see if you can open to new possibilities as you stretch, release and breath.

And just in case all of this cow-talk hasn't inspired you on the word "MOO!" below to connect with a site that will definitely help you to channel your inner cow!  It's on YouTube, so ask an adult to make sure that's OK.


It's time for me to grab another glass of milk and get on with my day, Youthful Yogis. Have a great week and I'll see you again soon!


Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Happy New Year, Youthful Yogis!
I hope everyone has enjoyed a very wonderful holiday season. As we enter a brand new year, it's time to think of all the inspiring things we can do in 2013. Here are a few possibilities....

1) clean out a closet
2) cut down on chocolate
3) watch fewer episodes of Sponge Bob on Netflix
4) agree to eat brussel sprouts at least once a week

"Brussel sprouts? Never.....!!!

OK, Youthful Yogis, I admit it... my list of inspiring things to do in 2013 was kind of a joke. Mostly I just wanted to get your attention. Now I will tell you what you really might like.....
                                              A New Yoga Pose, of course!!!!

As you know, there are many, many yoga poses to choose from. We have already covered some poses that are energizing (headstand, plank pose, dancer pose) as well as a few that are relaxing (child's pose, legs up the wall, "magic carpet.")  But how about a pose that has a great story behind it?  That sounds like just what we need for 2013!

So here we go...once upon a time, long long ago, a little monkey thought that the sun was a ripe mango:  

When the monkey reached for the sun, which he thought was a mango, he was hit by a thunderbolt, called Vajra. This disfigured his face! Vayu, the deity of air, was very upset and began to go into hiding...taking all the air in the world with him! Of course something had to be done to improve the situation: the devas (a bunch of deities who somehow got mixed up in this whole affair) decided to do the monkey a huge favor, mostly in order to keep Vayu happy which would mean all living beings would have air to breath again.

Vayu, doing the air thing

Here is what the monkey, known as Hanuman, received from the gods: wisdom, courage, a long life, protection from fire, protection from water, happiness and contentment. As if all of this were not enough, the gods also bestowed Hanuman with the ability to change size. Seriously, he became a shape shifter!! I guess this made Vayu pretty happy because, just for good measure, he made it so that Hanuman could run and fly faster than the wind!

You're probably thinking that little Hanuman pranced off into the forest never to be heard from again and that this story of the funny-faced monkey god is complete. But no, Hanuman did not prance off into the forest: he actually became one of the most beloved deities in Hindu mythology, thanks to his physical strength, his power of devotion, and his desire to fight the forces of evil.

Hanuman...the kind of friend we'd all like to have!

Let me tell you, Hanuman really put all of his abilities to good use! One story tells of how the monkey god was sent to the mountains to find a special herb, the only thing that could cure the wounds of Lakshmana, a hero who was wounded in battle. When Hanuman was unsure of which herb to pick, he made himself huge and--what else?--picked up an entire mountain to make sure he brought the correct medicine to the battlefield!

Not certain what plant to pick, Hanuman grabs the whole mountain!

Another famous story tells of how Sita, the wife of Rama, was imprisoned on an island. No one dared to cross the sea to save one that is, except our friend Hanuman! He made himself huge, then leaped across the Indian mainland and over the water to the island where Sita was being held. A bunch of stuff happened but, long story short, Hanuman saved Sita, Rama won a big battle, songs were written about it and a yoga pose got its name. Honestly, Youthful Yogis, you were not expecting all of that, were you??!

Hanuman, getting ready to save Sita!

Now that we know what a brave and faithful character Hanuman was, let's take a look at the yoga pose named after him. It's known as Hanumanasana, and it's a very challenging posture inspired by the great leap that Hanuman made in order to save Sita.  Here is one artist's depiction of Hanuman crossing the ocean:

And here is what the pose, inspired by that ocean crossing, looks like:

Here is another example:

I know what you are thinking, Youthful Yogis...OUCH! But guess what? You can do what's called a "modified version" of the pose like the guy in the top part of the picture below:

Also, and most importantly, it is necessary to do quite a few "warm up" poses before making your way into any version of Hanumanasana. Here are a few poses to warm up with and, of course, you can add others if you like:

Downward Facing Dog

Down dog splits

Warrior Three

Hanumanasana is definitely a challenging pose; it stretches the hamstrings, thighs and groin (the area between the belly and the thigh, on either side of the body). It's also good for the internal organs!


Hanumanasana is a stretch in all senses of the word. It takes focus, courage, and a willingness to overcome obstacles and expand further than we may think possible...just as Hanuman did on his way to rescue Sita!

Are you ready to give Hanumanasana a try, Youthful Yogis? Remember to warm up first, and to listen to your body as you move carefully into the pose. By the way, there is one more part of the story that I meant to tell you...the gods gave Hanuman the gift of speed, agility and immortality, but they also made him unable to recognize his own abilities!  Hanuman had to be reminded by others of all that he was capable of, just as most of need encouragement at times to realize our true potential!

"Thanks for reminding me how great I am!"

It's been so much fun sharing the story of Hanuman with you today, Youthful Yogis. I hope the legend of the monkey god will inspire you as we move into the new year. As a final treat, I'd like to share a recording of "Hanuman Chalisa" with you; it's a heartfelt song (kirtan) based on the legend of Lord Hanuman and it is performed in what's known as a "call and response" style. The main singer is named Krishna Das and the recording is on YouTube, so make sure you get permission from an adult before you check it out. Just click on the words Hanuman Chalisa below and it will link you to the You Tube site...

Hanuman Chalisa

Happy New Year, Youthful Yogis. See you again soon!