Rose Hips and Rosy Hips

I don’t know where I learned that the hips are where we store all of our emotions. I know it to be true though. When I’ve had a deep hip opening practice I feel like a dam has burst, and a few times this has ended in cleansing tears, much to the consternation of my family. Nevertheless, I resist hip openers in my own practice and haven’t found a really good way to work deep hip openers like pigeon pose into the hour-long early morning practice that I teach at Tranquil Space. My friend Alyson reminded me how much people love them, and so today I settled the class into pigeon and found my own heart opening vicariously.

I’d guess that hips have been on my mind for a while now. My own hips and the struggle against spread now that I’m fully planted in my middle-aged years. My daughter’s hips as I’ve watched as they’ve grown from boyish to beautiful in the past five years. My father’s and brother’s hips now that they are successfully replaced with titanium. When I cue asanas in class I feel as though I keep harping on “squaring the hips,” and have to smile to think of my mentor’s comment about “honest hips” in yoga practice.

I’ve also been working on this painting of rose hips, which are unusual in our severely landscaped neighborhood. Tom and I are notoriously terrible gardeners — we like to say that we grow children, not plants. A rose bush that I planted in the front yard has grown amok — sometimes falling over, other times hastily nailed up to the house, most of the time annoying Tom as he mows the front yard. We love to see it on that one week of the year when it is gloriously in bloom, then don’t pay it a bit of attention until the next year. It is a canopy to the window well where I keep my easel, and so when a sweet little chipmunk showed up to gnaw on acorns in front of the window as I was waiting for inspiration, I paid attention to him and then to the rose bush, which was covered in rose hips.

Rose bushes that aren’t well groomed grow rose hips — a fruit which holds rose seeds. And like all things in nature that are left to a little chaos, the lack of control can lead to wonderful sustenance. You can clip rose hips and make tea with a few of them, and jam if you have buckets of them. They have huge amounts of vitamin C and anti-oxidants. Thinking of eating this fruit reminds me of childhood. I can remember as a child having rose water liberally sprinkled on food. Or the Chartreuse green of Rose’s Lime Juice in a glass of soda and raw sugar. (Perhaps this is where the green-yellow comes from in the background of this painting.)

The pose of the month at the studio is bakasana, crow pose. This powerful pose requires open hips and a fearless heart as you hoist yourself up on the upper arms, balancing on hands, almost kissing the ground. The fruit of this pose is an open heart — tapping into emotions buried deep in the hip. As Alanna Kaivalya explains in Myths of the Asanas:

There’s a striking contrast between the way humans hold on to fear and the way animals freely let go of it…Asanas give us the opportunity to do just the same. We get the chance to move our life experience through our bodies by taking the shapes of the various forms in nature. We stretch and create space in our joints and muscles and do our best to embody the essence of each posture, learning its inherent lessons and experiencing freedom in that form. When this process takes hold and begins to release the fear from our body and our heart, we are able to live our lives joyfully, moment to moment. Fear lives in us as tension, and asana postures are designed to release tension from our bodies. The absence of tension is the absence of fear. And the absence of fear signifies the presence of joy, love and open-heartedness. As we embody these shapes in nature, we learn to fall in love with the world around us.

Parental Creativity

…and protected them when the world outside was cold…

My youngest will leave for college in a month and a half.  Part of why I’ve taken up an intentional and active practice in creating art and teaching yoga is because I’m about to release one of our last human creations out into the world.  My “parenting” (how I really hate that word — but nothing seems to work as well in this context) will now happen on text and in email and during holding-back-tears conversations on the phone on Sunday nights.

This might be why in a moment of peaceful clarity I had an idea about writing a children’s book about a couple who raise pumpkins and raise children.  Where the text flowed out into my sketchbook in an evening, I’m now taking my time with the drawings, which I then plan to take my time translating into colorful oil paintings.  I want this creative process to be like raising my children.  Like raising children (or raising pumpkins) good things come to those who take the time, who are truly present, and who let love and positive energy flow through them to help growth. Because what is the goal of being a parent but the process of learning to love profoundly and deeply?  What is the goal of being an artist?  A yogi? Through parenting, creating art, practicing asana we learn that even when things do go awry and they will, they will…  we can always return to the grace of the practice of time, presence, love and positive energy.

Similarly, teaching yoga takes time too.  I’ve just signed on to teach Tuesdays and Thursdays at 6:15 am at a studio near my home.  (See the Classes page for the exact details.) I’ve only been there two weeks, but already I find myself blessed with the seed of love taking hold of me — thinking about how this asana might be interesting for one or fun for another or good for them all. We don’t get to choose our parents or our children, and in many ways our yoga teachers are luck of the draw too.  I pray I can continue to take the time I need to be truly present to the students who are that dedicated to their practice to show up early in the morning, and to let the love and positive energy flow through me to them.  Especially in the winter, when rising at 5 am will be a bit more difficult!

From Judith Lasater’s Living Your Yoga: Finding the Spiritual in Everyday Life

Sometimes I notice my yoga students practicing their less than favorite poses with a ho-hum attitude.  At these moments, I remind them that although yoga is powerful, it cannot transform us unless we love it.  When we love, we are receptive to the “other.”  When we love, we are vulnerable.  Although being vulnerable can be frightening, it is also the doorway to the ultimate freedom written about in book four, verse twenty-two of the Bhagavad Gita…   ‘Content with what is chance-obtained, transcending the opposites, without envy, the same in success and failure, though performing actions — he is not bound.’ 

Here, Krishna explains what life is like when you are not bound by the attraction of opposites, and that when this state is experiences, there is no reaction to the vicissitudes of life.  When you react, you are not in a state of love.  When you can love without expectation, you are in a state of pure love.  Mostly what is declared to be love is not.  Rather, it is need, or fear, or the desire for power over another person.  Love in its purest sense is not based upon what you get from the relationship, but on what the relationship allows you to give.  The depth of your love is not reflected in what the other makes you feel, but in your willingness to give of yourself.  Love’s job is to lead you to intimacy with what is enduring in yourself and in others. Whether this connection lasts for seconds or decades, love is not wasted.  Through it, you have been transformed.