Santa Cruz shaman Brant Secunda travels the world spreading the ways of the Huichol
There’s nothing like getting "a sign" to write a memoir about your Polish family’s mindbending tale surviving Stalin’s mass deportations of the Poles during the 1940s—and then following that sign—to make your mood swing. Big time. What on Earth was I thinking?
Uncover an untold story? Experience some Growth? Some transformation? You know what they don’t tell you about transformation is that it’s not always comfortable. That’s an understatement. So, after spending more than a year unearthing historic details about what happened to my clan, taking Family Constellation workshops and spending countless hours going through notes and interviews with surviving family members, my mind, my psyche, my emotional weather were all, well, completely shot.
Just because the economy has mood swings, doesn’t mean that you have to follow similar suit. That is where Staycations come in handy. But what about one for the body, heart and mind? About 40 minutes away from our Santa Cruz lair resides the wonderful creative hamlet of Carmel. As most of us already know, that area is the perfect locale for a long weekend getaway, so whether you opt to stay at a Downtown Carmel lodge or hotel—I’d recommend Vagabound Inn or Hofsas House—you might also want to toss something else into the mix: Pampering.
For that, the one portal that registers the biggest mark on our Spa Meter this month is Kush Day Spa. Perhaps one of the most charming and inviting spas in Carmel, it was birthed by massage therapist John Jertberg, and his wife, Monica. Together, they boast more than 15 years of experience and Kush, which has benefited from increased buzz since it came into existence three years ago, offers a variety of treatments to sooth the senses—from Sweedish and warm stone massages to waxing and anti-aging facials.
NAVIGATING YOGA > Thanksgiving: a time we celebrate with turkey and cranberry sauce, national viewing of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and football games, and by spending time with family. With a holiday that has so many traditions "stuffed" into just one Thursday, it can sometimes seem tedious to take time to be, well, thankful. This year, try keeping your gratitude in check through yoga.
Whether you are a newbie to the practice or a seasoned yogi, yoga can be a wonderful way to give thanks, simply through the asana practice alone. When I teach, I have my students set a dedication for their practice, usually dedicating their practice to someone or something in their life that is important to them. By setting that dedication, your practice is no longer just about the physical exercise, or doing it simply for the enjoyment. It transforms into something bigger than yourself.
As you flow through your next yoga class, keep in mind who or what you dedicated your practice to; doing so will also allow your mind the freedom to stay present, to keep from wandering, as well as to continue to send those positive vibes out there, thereby staying along the path of karma yoga.
NAVIGATING YOGA > Heartbreak. It's a feeling we all know—that pain in your chest brought on by the disappointment of another; when the one we love does not reciprocate in one way or another. This could be from the break-up of a long-term love or a short-term love you thought had the potential for more or the loss of a friendship. Even a disappointing first date or brief encounter can bring about forms of heartbreak. I believe that our heartbreak is often deeper when we experience the loss of what could be rather than what is. In this lies one of the better lessons in yoga: the idea that our expectations of what should and could be cloud our present and keep us from enjoying the moment. We’ve talked about how yoga can help bring us back to the present, how it can free us from the expectations that hold us back from being the happiest version of ourselves. We’ve talked about meditation—how meditation can clear the external and internal distractions that keep you being from present. Yoga can aid in mending a broken heart through these same practices.
NAVIGATING YOGA > Vrkasana, a.k.a Tree Pose
This week’s yoga pose, Tree Pose, is one of my favorites to teach—it is always a great way to introduce balancing exercises, as it focuses on engaging your body from the ground up.
To begin, root down through your feet. While standing with your feet apart, press your weight into your heels and relax your toes. Engage your left leg by flexing those muscles, not so tight that you lock your knee, but enough to feel those muscles work. Begin to stand on that leg by lifting your right heel to your left ankle. Balance at that point. Focus your gaze on a particular spot in front of you that is not moving. Engage your core by bringing your belly button to your spine, and drop your tailbone underneath you so that you are balancing from your center rather than from your lower back. When you’re feeling balanced, you can start to inch that heel up a little higher up your left leg. If you’re feeling really balanced, reach down with your right hand to grab a hold of your right ankle, draw the foot up to place the sole of your foot against your inner thigh. Engage your hips by squeezing your inner thighs together and bring your right knee inward slightly so that you’re not hyper extending your hips or your low back.
NAVIGATING YOGA > Fear is a natural part of being alive. It reminds us that we are human, and that we are, in fact, imperfect. And we are afraid of everything, aren’t we? We are afraid of death, deadlines, change, the proverbial monster living under our beds, afraid we fear too much … Incessant worrying about the possibility of things going wrong or completely destructing around one’s self can cloud every experience in life. Mark Twain once famously quipped, “I have been through some terrible things in my life, some of which actually happened.” I love this quotation because it reminds me that fear is instinctual, and that when we let ourselves be consumed by fear, we lose grasp of our ability to distinguish what is real and what isn’t.
NAVIGATING YOGA > When I find myself moving at the speed of light, unable to regroup and slow down, I head straight for my yoga mat. This week’s featured yoga pose—Navasana, or “Boat Pose,”—concentrates on strengthening the core while lifting the torso and ultimately lifting the human spirit.
A strong core in yoga helps to support your spine when trying to balance, move into a backbend, or even while sitting in a meditative position. When your core is strong, tension can slowly release from your spine. Paripurna Navasana is considered one of the great core-strengthening postures in an asana practice. So for flat abs and a healthy back, practice this pose step by step:
1. I like to begin the posture on my back, hugging my knees into my chest, and rocking back and forth from the shoulders to the low back like a rocking chair to roll out the spine. Eventually, you can rock yourself all the way to sitting on your sit bones. With your legs still elevated, draws your hands underneath your knees for support.