This is a good time of year to practice pausing. As Emerson says cultivate the habit of being grateful.
Most of us struggle and there are a lot of reasons we all struggle, but if we can slow down to practice self-care, being grateful and reflective, is what this time of year is about.
As we continue our quest for inspiration – we’ll look at the art of henna. In ancient traditions henna was regarded as used for creating luck, joy and beauty to those wore the beautiful designs. Brides had the most intricate designs.
Henna is a plant-based dye that has been used throughout history to temporarily dye the skin, hair, nails, and fabric. It is used in the Indian culture to create beautiful and significant designs on the skin in honor of festivals and celebrations. An example is the tradition of decorating a bride in henna on the night before her wedding. You can experience the art of henna too! Whether you want to learn to apply it yourself, or find an artist to do it for you, there are many internet resources that provide step-by-step instructions, and interpretations of the meanings of the designs.
Art Is Fun provides a detailed background on the art of henna, followed by a tutorial on how to create some of the intricate designs. Before beginning the project, you’ll view a variety of sample designs. For this project, you’ll practice on a paper cutout of your hand. If you have kids, this is a fun project to do together!
When you visit Fashion Lady, search for the “How to apply henna mehndi designs”. The site provides a list of materials needed, and instructions on how to apply henna and complete the designs. Have some friends over and practice it on each other!
Finding quality materials is essential when creating henna art on the skin. Check out Henna Caravan for their henna kits and supplies, as well as printed instructional materials. For another resource, look no further than Michaels Arts and Crafts. They offer a basic mehndi henna kit on their website and in some stores.
If you would like a professional artist to apply henna for you, visit Earth Henna. They have compiled a database of professional artists in the US and Canada.
At Catspaw Yoga and Cushions studio, we have hosted and will look forward to hosting henna parties. Our friend Anita is a henna artist in the metro area she can be reached at Hummingbird Henna. Pause to be inspired.
February is a busy month. From Ground Hog’s day – either way there is 6 weeks more of winter 😉 – to Fat Tuesday, then Ash Wednesday, President’s Weekend, and Lunar or Chinese New Year. It’s the year of the Red Monkey and 2016 is a Leap Year. Of course the Super Bowl – go Broncos! is February 7. And let’s not forget Valentines’ Day – you’re in the dog house if you do.
Yoga, Myth and Inspiration are all in February, so let’s celebrate with a Warrior II, because I think you need some fortitude to keep it all straight.
Anyhoo, in celebration of Lunar New Year or Chinese New Year – the year of the Red Monkey 2016 – I would like to explore the story of Hanuman, the Monkey God in the yogic tradition.
Hanuman is the Monkey God. The short story is, he was devoted to his king, Rama. Hanuman volunteered to complete the seemingly impossible task of saving Rama’s brother Laksmana after he was injured in a battle, saving Rama’s wife Sita after being abducted. Hanuman took a giant leap between between two points to gather a healing herb. (in a Yoga this is known as Hanumanasana – the splits). He completed this almost impossible task, and ever since he has been the inspiration for following one’s truth and strength.
Let February begin.
Spring is not just a season, it is a longing. Mark Twain put it beautifully when he said, “It’s spring fever. That is what the name of it is. And when you’ve got it, you want — oh, you don’t quite know what it is you do want, but it just fairly makes your heart ache, you want it so!”
The heart’s yearning for Spring crests on March 20; the Spring Equinox, when day and night are nearly the same length.
Episcopalian, turned pagan, turned Christian again, musician and writer Matt Morris (also known as Teo Bishop)described the equinox like this: “Here, in this moment of balance, I honor and recognize the sacred mystery of existence. I am a part of a cosmic dance. A holy and blessed music fills the world. The light and the darkness shift from this moment onward. As it is on the land, so it is in my being. I follow the movement of the Mother, and She works a transformation in me. Be it new beginnings or resolution, the Equinox is a point of transition; of change. I embrace the change.”
For yogis, the arrival of Spring perhaps best describes what we want to achieve when we come to our mats. Renewal. Balance. Hope. Growth. Expansion. Strength.
The practice of yoga is particularly suited to the change of seasons, for almost every pose represents an aspect of the natural world. The first pose a student is taught is Tadasana, or Mountain pose. Standing with your feet together, you breathe deeply from your belly. Long, deep, steady inhales and exhales. Your feet rooted in the earth. Rising up from the earth through the crown of your head, reaching for the sky; you stand solidly and strong. You are pure power and peace. You just….ARE.
Spring Equinox is your opportunity to create a practice that celebrates what traits you value most or aspire to. It’s time to express yourself and what you stand for. It’s a time for discovery and uncovering the longings of your soul. As the ground softens and prepares for new life, so should you. As the March winds bluster and sweep away the remnants of winter, let the same winds of change urge you toward fresh thoughts and new perspectives.
Come onto to your mat on March 20 and start by grounding yourself in Tadasana. Go through the routine mindfully. Spread your toes and lift your thighs. Tuck your tailbone under and expand upwards. Stand in perfect peace and contemplate how you want this day’s practice to go. If you long to grow, practice forward bends. If you feel the need to become stronger and more grounded, articulate this desire with standing poses like the Warrior series and weight-bearing poses like Plank. If Winter has left you sluggish, break into a vinyasa flow. And if the return of Spring has you longing for inspiration and a new way of being, try Kundalini yoga.
Although every day is a chance to begin again, the ceremonial feel of an occasion like Spring Equinox begs to be celebrated. What can you do today to honor the occasion?
above image Sri Yantra 2015 by Diane Wright acrylic on wood
There are countless articles and books about how we respond to color. There is a lot of money spent on what will be the trendy colors for the seasons, for everything from cars to fashion. When it comes to meditation cushions, yoga props or zafus, the tradition has been austere, dark solid colors.
I started making meditation cushions because I wanted some festive meditation cushions and yoga props for my yoga classes. At my core I’m an artist, so this wasn’t a stretch. 😉 I try to choose colors that inspire, energize and calm.
The article What Color is your Zafu? by Elizabeth Marglin shares a quick list of what colors represent:
Yellow: Stimulates joy and uplifts the mind
Orange: Stirs up energy and boosts confidence