• Family yoga event on Saturday

    Tue, April 15, 2014 by Jen Mulson with no comments

    There’s just something about practicing yoga with people you know and love. It’s fun to attend class with a friend, partner, potential partner, mom, dad, brother, sister… the list goes on. Coworkers? Hello, Gazette coworkers? Anybody, anybody?

    In my time teaching, I can think of a handful of families who I’ve seen attend class together. I love seeing the whole clan come in.

    This weekend, Memorial Hospital is hosting a Family Yoga Event at the U.S. Olympic Training Center taught by local yoga instructor Anna Mack. And it’s free! Just bring a towel or yoga mat, and try on a few downward facing dogs next to your favorite family member.

    When: 11 a.m.-noon Saturday, April 19
    Where: U.S. Olympic Training Center, One Olympic Plaza, Sports Center II
    Cost: Free; uchroadtohealth.org/events

  • Local poet releases book

    Mon, April 14, 2014 by Jen Mulson with no comments

    I’ve been hankering for some good poems lately.

    I go through spurts with my poetry affair; we’re on-again, off-again lovers. But sometimes, when one touches me, I’ll type it up and tape it to my bathroom mirror. I like to reread them as I brush my teeth and put on lipstick. Among them are Mary Oliver’s “Wild Geese” and Derek Walcott’s “Love after Love.”

    Some years of my life have been dedicated to crafting my own poems, and then that spurt of energy drifts to the side and I return to fiction or first-person stuff. Poems always hover in my sub-conscious, though. There is definitely a trick to writing a good one, one that doesn’t veer off into treacly territory.

    I greatly admire people who can fill pages with the precise words and phrasing that evokes lush images and ideas.

    Robin Izer is a local poet who has just released a book of poems – “Visions of New Being.” This is her second book of poems and prayers, and her job is working with special education middle school students in District 11. She’s also a practicing Buddhist who belongs to the Rocky Mountain Insight sangha.

    An excerpt from “One Night”:

    One late night
    at Mabel Dodge’s hacienda
    I am so drunk
    on the moon
    hanging out
    the tiny window
    – a breathing portal into the universe
    I fuse
    with that giant
    luminous eye of black night

    Robin Izer reading at Marmalade at Smokebrush.

    Robin Izer reading at Marmalade at Smokebrush.

    She’ll have a poetry reading and book signing later this month. If you purchase a book, 20 percent of the proceeds will go to one of three environmental groups.

    Go support our local poets!

    When: 7-8:30 p.m. Saturday, April 26
    Where: Manitou Bindu, 513 Manitou Ave., in the Manitou Art Center, Manitou Springs
    Cost: Free; 344-5970, manitoubindu.com

  • Mindfulness

    Tue, April 8, 2014 by Jen Mulson with no comments

    Yogic mindfulness activities. Silent eating meditation.

    I can’t help myself – these activities in a press release tend to catch my attention. There’s a half-day event on Saturday at Yogafied that addresses them.

    Dr. Robert Glidewell, a licensed clinical psychologist and certified behavioral sleep medicine specialist, will offer a mindfulness class. Corinne Andrews, owner of Yogafied, will provide the yoga portion of the day.

    I’m unsure of what exactly the afternoon will entail, though the release says, “This is an opportunity to step out of autopilot, simplify your life for a few hours, and become reacquainted with an experience of stillness and reflection.”

    And I think we can all agree that a few hours of being stiller than usual can only be a good thing.

    Space is limited.

    When: 1-5:30 p.m. Saturday, April 12
    Where: Yogafied, 313 N. 24th St.
    Cost: $39; 439-6487, yogafied.com, yogafied@ymail.com

  • In like a lamb, out like a lion

    Fri, April 4, 2014 by Jen Mulson with no comments

    lions breathNo, this isn’t a post about the month of March — it’s a post about simhasana, better known as Lion’s Breath in yoga.

    In Lion’s Breath, you’re usually kneeling, with your hands resting on your thighs. You take a big breath in through the nose, and then expell it out through the mouth, as you stretch your tongue out as far toward your chin as you can. Along with the exhale, you let loose a big “Ahhhhhhh!,” so you sound like a lion.

    This is one of my favorite asanas, for a couple of reasons.

    First, I love the way it kind of makes you look and feel really silly. I think it’s good to allow yourself to feel ridiculous. It’s good practice for all the times in life when we unintentionally do something silly, and worry what other people might think. Practicing Lion’s Breath helps us be okay with letting our guards down, especially when we’re doing it in a yoga class with 20 other people who look just as silly.

    Lion poseSecond, I enjoy the vocalization you can add. It can be as loud as you want — rich with drama. And it can definitely make you laugh when you’re done, and who doesn’t love that?

    Lion’s Breath is great for the fifth chakra (invisible energy centers located up and down the spine), which is located at your throat. Makes sense, right? You’re exhaling out stress and tension and freeing up your voice. It’s also a good practice, I think, when you’re not speaking up for yourself, or holding onto anger or frustration.

    We did more than several sets of Lion’s Breath in my Tuesday night class this week. We started our practice in Toes Pose (everybody’s favorite, except not) and did a few rounds of Ujjayi Breath, and then switched to Lion’s Breath for five rounds. 

    Later on in class we did a handful of crescent lunges on each side, adding a Lion’s Breath as we swept our arms down by our sides and reached our fingers to the back wall.


  • Wait your pose (and your drama) out

    Tue, March 25, 2014 by Jen Mulson with no comments

    I watched a roomful of yogis in a 24 Hour yoga class on Sunday morning. I love to observe other yoga classes. I can often learn something new or remember something old, and this weekend was  no different.

    Warrior One

    Warrior One

    They were in a warrior one pose with their hands and fingers clasped behind their backs, with chins lifted and gazes up toward the sky. It’s a challenging pose, to be sure. And I briefly both imagined myself in it and thought about how when students come into this pose in classes, they often move out of it before I tell them to.

    Warrior one is hard. Legs wobble and shake. The core muscles work hard. You struggle to keep breathing. You want to release and straighten the front leg, or turn into a warrior two. We naturally want to let go and it can be hard to just stay put and let it be hard.

    And isn’t that true about how so many of us move through life? Me included. When it gets hard, we are anxious to move out of the hardness as quickly as we can, and sometimes we use not so healthy ways to do so.

    Bad breakup? The often overwhelming desire is to immediately find relief from the heartache, right? Some ways we do that: lots of drinking or drugging, meaningless flings or diving into another serious relationship immediately. There is no time given to healing. And none of these options really work in the long run. At least, they never have for me. The hard work of staying for awhile in the sadness is necessary. The staying in a challenging yoga pose is good practice.

    Yogis, prepare yourselves for some long holds in class this week. Namaste!


  • Yoga teacher Ana Forrest in Denver next weekend

    Fri, March 21, 2014 by Jen Mulson with no comments

    Ana Forrest

    Ana Forrest

    Lately I’ve been immersed in yoga teacher Ana Forrest’s book, “Fierce Medicine.”

    She’s an internationally-known teacher who’s been traveling and teaching for decades upon decades. I’d heard of her, of course, and a few things about what her teaching style is like, but that was about it.

    Her book jumped off the shelf at me, and I’m glad it did. Her back story is amazing, and by amazing, I mean I’m impressed that she’s still alive and has turned her life into such a success story. From the sounds of it, she suffered some pretty horrendous abuse, of all sorts. She says she became an alcoholic at age 4 and turned to smoking, drinking and bulimia in the decade or so thereafter. Yikes.

    Yoga and a love of horses saved her. And here she is today. Her writing is definitely fierce, and from what I’ve heard, her teaching style is, too. I am in the market for fierceness right now. She seems like a no-nonsense kind of teacher, which I can dig.

    I went to her website, and was pleasantly surprised to learn she’ll hold workshops in Denver next weekend. Talk about serendipity. I’m considering attending at least one of them. Her “Building the Warrior Heart” on the morning of Saturday, March 29, appeals to me, as does “Luminous Core” later that afternoon and “Heal Your Back” on Sunday, March 30.

    More info here: rootyogacenter.com/ana-forrest-denver-workshop

  • Beginner’s mind

    Thu, March 13, 2014 by Jen Mulson with no comments

    “In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, in the expert’s mind there are few.” — Zen master Shunryo Suzuki

    I had a chat with an acquaintance at the gym last night. He, bless his heart, was on his way to yoga class. I asked when he was coming to my class at CorePower Yoga, and it turned out he recently bought a Groupon we offered. So he might be there sooner rather than later.

    He was talking about how he’s been going to yoga classes for a year now, and doesn’t think he’s very good at getting into the postures. He said, “I can see the poses in my mind.” But he just can’t get there yet. I liked his attitude. He’ll get there someday, or not. Either way is okay.

    He also said that he still considered himself a beginning yoga student, even after a year, which made me stop and think. And this morning I thought a little bit more about being a beginner, and how I envied him his beginner’s mindset. I can’t really remember a life without yoga in it anymore, as it’s been almost a decade since I started.

    I do vaguely remember one of the first heated vinyasa classes I took at the studio where I now teach. It was amazing. I was hooked, obviously. And I feel some nostalgia for those beginner days, when every posture or variation or arm balance or breath exercise was brand new, and all such a revelation. I couldn’t help but envy my gym buddy for being at the beginning of his yoga practice.

    However, the whole conversation did remind me of my night at the opera a couple of weeks ago. I admitted to a friend and his wife that it was my first opera, and she said something similar to me, about how I should enjoy the beginnings of my journey into this new world.

    Let’s all appreciate our beginnings a bit more. Granted, they can throw you a bit off balance when you don’t know what to expect or how to even talk about it. But maybe we can learn to relish all of the missteps and bushwhacking until we find our path.

  • Practicing non-violence

    Tue, March 11, 2014 by Jen Mulson with no comments

    Every once in awhile, I feel inspired to theme a class around ahimsa.

    For those who think that sounds like a foreign language, well, guess what? It is. It’s the Sanskrit word for non-violence, and it’s the first of the yamas in yoga.

    The yamas, also known as the moral and ethical observances, are the first limb of Patanjali’s yoga sutras. Patanjali is the man who wrote them at least 1,700 years ago, according to an article on the Yoga Journal website.

    This might surprise those who think yoga is only the postures you typically practice in a class. No, friends, there are eight limbs to the practice. The warriors and trees comprise the third limb of yoga, the asana.

    When I talk about ahimsa and non-violence, I’m not really talking about avoiding going around and beating people up. That, to me, seems like a given. I like to think more about the nature of our thoughts. Are they violent? And who are they violent toward? Yourself? Others?

    I suspect that yoga students might have a tendency to say violent words to themselves during a class, particularly when a pose gets challenging or a limb won’t go in quite the direction he or she hoped for.

    And that’s where we can start the practice of ahimsa. I think awareness of the thoughts is the first step. From there, we can choose to not follow the thought and just let it go.

  • Flow with it

    Wed, March 5, 2014 by Jen Mulson with no comments

    I usually start teaching a yoga class by offering a theme of sorts. These vary widely, and sometimes are just me offering something interesting I’ve heard or read during the last week. Sometimes it has to do with yoga, sometimes it has little to do with yoga. But hopefully they are a bit of food for thought. At least, that’s my intention.

    Birds of Chicago

    Birds of Chicago

    Last night was one of those instances. On Monday afternoon, I got the chance to talk with JT Nero of the Americana folk band Birds of Chicago. They’ll play at Stargazers Theatre and Event Center next Thursday, March 13, which I’m going to try and go to. I’ve been checking them out online, and like what I hear.

    Nero told me how he and Allison Russell, the other lead singer of the group, got together. Literally. They’re married and just had a baby girl nine weeks ago. He said they had both been playing in separate bands when they met, and each liked the other’s sound so much that they’d find excuses to sit in with the other’s band.

    Eventually, a few years ago, they decided to follow the momentum they were creating as a duo, and form a brand new band – Birds of Chicago.

    I liked that bit about following the energy. It was a good reminder to me to look at my own life, and just notice where the energy is strong right now. Where are opportunities presenting themselves? Where are doors and windows opening? And on the other hand, where do I keep butting up against closed doors? Am I focusing on anything that doesn’t seem to be going anywhere, no matter how hard I try?

    These are interesting questions to ask of a life. I think following the energy in your own is a wise way to go, and then considering a different direction or approach to those situations that aren’t producing any results.

    Food for thought. Spicy!

  • Meditate on this

    Fri, February 21, 2014 by Jen Mulson with no comments

    meditationI’m setting yet another intention to make meditation a regular part of my day. My intentions are good, I swear! Though I do feel like I constantly set the same one – for years now. And I’ll sit and practice for a couple of days in a row, and get all smug.

    Like this week. I have a smug mug.

    Do you meditate on a regular basis?

    There was a time, a few years ago, when I had a regular practice – every day for about 15 minutes or so – whatever I could squeeze in before work. Morning seems to be my happy time for sitting. But I’m not opposed to the nighttime. And that actually might be better. It would help calm my monkey mind from a full day of living large in this loud world.

    I think there is huge benefit to be had in a regular meditation practice. And if just the sound of that word puts you off, consider it just sitting quietly for a few minutes to listen to your breath wash the day’s grime off you.

    There are plenty of places in town, online or in books and magazines to help you learn how to meditate, though I don’t think there’s any great trick to it. You just sit down, close your eyes, sit still and breathe. If you can, don’t follow any thoughts off into the ether and start creating storylines. Learn to let each thought go. I always tell myself there’ll be plenty of time after my meditation session to go off and indulge my thoughts, so why not be here, in the moment, right now?

    What’s your take on meditation? Any advice for me or others? Send me a note: jen.mulson@gazette.com