Wednesday, April 28, 2010

I'm Climbing For Cancer On My Birthday...Please Join Me In Supporting The HERA Foundation

Me climbing on "Super Slab," 2nd pitch, "Smith Rock," Terrebonne, OR. 2009

This year, for my birthday (6/10), I've decided to do something a little different. I'm going to turn my passion, climbing, into something of benefit to others. I'll be going to Boulder, Colorado to climb for the HERA "Climb For Life" fundraising event. HERA is a non-profit that invests 85% of the money raised to find a cure for ovarian cancer. Please assist me in raising money for this great cause. I'll be climbing the beautiful spires of Boulder thinking of my grandmother, Jo Ellen Barton, who died of cancer. Below is my personal donation page. I invite you to visit it, & make a tax-deductible donation today. *Thank You*


"Super Slab," 2nd pitch, "Smith Rock," Terrebonne, OR., 2009

Monday, April 26, 2010

PASSION: "The Fire of Life"

"Don't ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive, and go do that, because what the world needs is people who have come alive." ~Howard Thurman

Route Name: "Carla The Stripper," Smith Rock, Terrebonne, OR., Apr. 2010
(I'm leading this route on the arete in the picture. I look like a little ant on the rock. My friend, Julie Z., is belaying me below)

It seems that outdoor climbing season has finally descended upon Central OR. Fri.-Sun., unless I'm treating patients up in Portland, I'm now out climbing. This will last until it gets too cold to climb outside again.

It feels good to see all the hardwork and training I put into "CrossFit" and "Bikram Yoga" over the winter pay off with my passion. I feel more confident about my strength, balance and flexibility this year than I did the year before. My endurance feels better, and my mind feels more focused.

What is your passion? Do you have one that draws you back to it, over and over again? Do you have several that overlap and accentuate one another (an example may be: dancing/acting/singing)? Is there a passion that has always nagged you to be expressed, but hasn't been given a voice yet?

When you give expression to the latent talents or tendencies within you, you'll find that a host of wonderful things will come your way. From new friends to new opportunities, you'll find that when you go after what's important to you, new adventures ensue. I have a friend who once said to me, "I just go after what I'm interested in. The Universe handles the details." How I interpreted her statement was in light of the following:

We all have hidden talents, or latent seeds that want to flower. When we "follow our bliss" its like the Universe gets "in step" with us, and does what it can to help us express those talents. We meet the "right people," are put in the "right situations" to help "nudge us along" in that direction. Its a wonderful cycle of expressing your passion, and being "rewarded" for it through a flood of abundant new experiences and people that come into your life.

Perhaps you've always wanted to be a dancer. All of a sudden, as you put thought-energy into wondering what it would be like to pick out your dancing costume, find a dance studio, or purchase your new dancing shoes, the lady on the bus turns around and says to you, "Are you a dancer? I thought I saw you in a performance last week." Or, "Hey, did you watch 'Dancing With The Stars' last night?" These "little things" are clues: clues that are affirming your intent with your new-found passion. Urging you to express it, hone it, love it, cherish it.

Passionate people are what this world needs. "Doers," not "talkers": "doers" make their passions come alive, and thereby inspire others to do the same as well. Passionate people make the world a better place. They inspire change, action and enthusiasm. Ask yourself what your top 5 passions are. Write them down. Ruminate on them, meditate on them, see yourself in your mind as not only doing them, but being successful at them. Pretty soon, you'll find the Universe "conspiring" with you to create all the right circumstances for your passion to find an outlet. Ultimately, that outlet is you...

Route Name: "Carla The Stripper," Smith Rock, Terrebonne, OR., Apr. 2010

"One person with passion is better than forty people merely interested." — E. M. Forste

Monday, April 19, 2010

The Vertical World: "With The Vision Of An Eagle, You May See More"

"But What Really Interests Me Is The Struggle. And I Like To Be Interested." ~ Steph Davis, Climber, Author

"Waime'a Boulders, N. Shore, Oahu, 2010"

A friend of mine once said, "Almine, why would you climb? Its the fastest way to get to nowhere." While there may be some accuracy to this statement, what I'm interested in, as Steph Davis said, is the struggle. There is a place for resistance in life. We've been taught to not resist anything. That to "resist" is a negative thing. Women, in particular, have been taught to yield to all things. To please everyone around them. Saying "Yes" to everything denotes a kind of benign mother image. Yet isn't resistance the very power behind how a caterpillar becomes a butterfly? Isn't that how a baby is born? "Through contraction (resistance) and expansion (non-resistance) we experience the Tao", the great philosopher, Lao Tzu has said.

Climbing, for me, is a way of experiencing a natural cycle of frustration and accomplishment, which internally, makes me strong. Strong enough to encounter obstacles in my life and barely give them a glance. There is a dance of chaos and order in this universe. A delicate balance of yin and yang, as the Chinese say.

To actively dive into one's own process of experiencing the art of letting go, and resisting when appropriate, is the stuff of champions. "The body may be used as a platform for the mind," says centuries old martial arts wisdom. One may liken the body to a stage, where the drama of contraction and expansion plays out on the most minute level. From the opening and closing of the heart, the eyelids, and the lungs to the opening and closing of the mind itself. Notions, ideas and thoughts, become the "stuff" that allows us to be creators. Creators of our own reality.

I use my body as a stage to move through the landscape of the vertical world. In this vast sky matrix I experience the opportunity to master fear, and see with the vision of an eagle. I experience the joy of seeing how tiny we all really look from the heavens. When you see people, the size of ants below you, you marvel at how the birds must see us. Our lives, our conversations, those close to us all walking along the hiking trail next to the river. They cannot see you, but you hear their stories. Stories of sorrow, pain, joy & wonder. You understand how tiny and insignificant we all really are, yet what an impact each one of us can have on the eco-system at large.

Though you may not feel drawn to the sport of climbing, think about taking 5 minutes out of your day to contemplate what "With The Vision Of An Eagle" means. What does it mean to you? What if you were a bird, in its nest, peering hundreds of feet down below? How would you see the earth, its creatures and people on the ground? When life is seen from a bird's-eye view, a deep sense of compassion for the human plight ensues. You see the precious, delicate thread that weaves us all together. The mind switches into a place of tranquility realizing that really, deep down, all creatures just want to experience love. Everything that takes place on the ground, from a higher vantage point, is a result of some deep need to love and be loved. All else is commentary.

"I'm always inspired to work really hard and get better at those things that I'm not naturally good at. That is usually what drives me-if something isn't easy, if I flail a little bit." ~Steph Davis

Almine, & her friends, Julie & Brian, "Smith Rock", Terrebonne, OR. 2010

Friday, April 9, 2010

Heat, Steam, Yogis & Curry: My journey to India & How I Came Upon "Bikram Yoga"

"If you can keep your mind calm and focused while moving the body in intense heat, that is meditation. It will trickle into your daily life and everything else will seem easy. You will be unmoved by the adversities of life." ~Bikram Choudry

Really, I've been playing peek-a-boo with "Bikram Yoga" for years. Unknowingly, its been tapping me on the shoulder since 1994. When I was 12 years old, I found the classic work "Autobiography of a Yogi" in a box in our garage. I was enamored with the man on the cover. I picked it up, took it to my bedroom with the rusty old flashlight I found next to it, and read through the night.

The next morning I asked my mom about the author, Paramahansa Yogananda. We were having a quiet breakfast of scones, tea and rose petal jelly. My mom's eyebrow raised, and said, "How do you know about him?" I told her that I found his book in the garage, and had stayed up all night reading it. I explained to her my fascination with the contents of the book, and asked her what prompted her to buy it. "I didn't buy it," she replied. "It fell on my head, off of a bookshelf, in a bookstore. The owner of the bookstore said, 'Well, I think you were meant to have this.' I took it home and put it in that box you found it in last night."

-Paramahansa Yogananda

I told her that instead of having the family vacation this year in "Disneyland," I wanted to go to India instead. "India???" she gasped. "Do you think you would like it there?" I looked at her simply and said, "I know I would. I've already lived there." She began to laugh and started to clear the table. Nothing more was said after that.

In 1994, I told my parents it was time for me to go to India. "Alone?" my dad asked me. "Yes," I said. I don't want you or mom to go with me. "We're concerned about your safety, honey," my mom said softly. "I want your dad to go with you." "No, I need to do this for myself," I stated.

To fastforward, I had the experience of a lifetime. I primarily stayed in the south, but would meet fellow pilgrimage-travelers along my journey who would drop the names "Bikram," "Bishnu Gosh," and "Paramanhansa Yogananda." Every time I would hear these names I would get what I called "truth bumps," i.e. "the tingles."

In 1996, I began to have dreams of going back to India. I would wake up in the morning, covered in sweat, not understanding why. All I knew is that it was time to go back, and this time it would be to the north, and to the Himalayas. So I did in 1997. I can only describe my several month journey there as wondrous. I did several internships in Ayurvedic hospitals in Varanasi (Benares), Rishikesh, and outside of Delhi. I came to see the workings of an ancient system of medicine that was brought forth from the minds of the highest sages at the time: Ayurveda

-Bishnu Gosh, brother of Parmahansa Yogananda

There are expounding works on Ayurveda that are too numerous to count. Deepak Chopra, M.D. the renowned Indian Ayurvedic "transplant" has made it a household word in the U.S. now. Like in Western medicine, there are many areas of specialty. For the sake of efficiency, I'm going to share a bit about my exposure to "yoga therapy," as prescribed in Ayurvedic hospitals throughout India.

The first Ayurvedic medical ward I had the opportunity to intern in was in Kerala, South India. It was during my first trip. I was astounded at how the simple combination of heat, humidity, and various yoga postures (asanas) were used effectively to treat a variety of ailments: arthritis (of all kinds), paralysis, bow-leggedness, all manners of anxiety-related disorders, poor digestion, musculo-skeletal complaints, and as an adjunct therapy for cancer and hepatitis patients.

I asked one of the Ayurvedic physicians about it, and he said, "Heat and yoga have been the preferred combination for thousands of years to treat all manners of disease. To have one without the other can actually be detrimental to the body. The Yogis of India were sage-physicians. The body was their scientific laboratory. They have meticulously honed, for thousands of years, the science of physical therapy before it was even heard of in the West."

An old therapeutic adage, found in a 6th century Unani (Islamic) medical text reads, "For all manners of joint ailments, bury the patients body in hot sand to promote sweating, leaving face above the ground. Allow the patient to sweat in the heat, and the disease will flee the body."

Upon my second trip to India, I realized that I "just so happened" to live about 2 blocks from Lahiri Mahasaya's old house. Sri (a term of respect) Mahasaya was in the lineage of Paramahansa Yogananda, whom I had read about in the book I found in the box when I was 12 years old. Intrigued, I went down to visit his home, now a shrine, on a lunch hour break in Varanasi. There I met a strange little man who too was walking around the home viewing the photographs on the wall. It was just him and I in the house. He looked at me and sighed under his breath..."Tsk, tsk, he said. You've always been a naughty girl, but in your heart so devoted." I whirled around to look at him, "I'm sorry, are you talking to me?," I asked. Don't you recognize your home?" he said. "Its been waiting for you here all this time. Why did you stay away so long? We've missed you!" his eyes twinkled. My jaw dropped. I stammered, "Sir, I've never been here before. I'm sorry, have we met?" "You sure about that?" he laughed. Then walked out the front door. I never saw him again. I just shrugged, and thought "How odd," as I tried to rub the "truth bumps" off of my arms. I felt warm all of a sudden.

I went back to the hospital that day, and heard about "Bikram Yoga" for the first time. I watched post-stroke and "Parkinsons" patients do yoga in a "hot room." I asked the Dr., Dr. Mahendra, how this would help them. He said, "This is like doing physical therapy everyday for themselves." Their bodies will begin to feel supple, their ligaments will become strong, and the sickness will run from them. In one years time, of doing this 5x per week, chiropractors will come to them to ask how they got their backs so strong. Wait and see."

I said, "It seems like there's a particular order to this. Is that true?" Dr. Mahendra replied, "Everything moves in cycles. All of nature moves in cycles. The ancient sages saw a rhythm, an order, that the body should be properly warmed up, and cooled down. You do not put the car in reverse before you've put the key in the ignition. Nor do you put the car in "park," before you've stopped it." Yes, the body must be kept at a proper temperature during the postural exercises to prevent cold-contraction of the muscles, fascia and ligaments. You warm-up or cool-down the body out of order it gets "confused." Its like asking a rabbit to give birth in the winter. It is out of order with nature. Rabbits give birth in the spring. For every backward bend, the next will be a forward one. For every left-sided bend, there will be a right-sided one. The new fangled yoga of today is out of harmony with the body. It does not take into account natural laws and cycles."

From my perspective as a health care provider, I've been exposed to many yoga practices. The heat is an essential element for the body to stretch properly, without over-stretching. To practice in a cold room is a detriment. Many winter fitness enthusiasts come in to see me for what we term "cold-contracted syndromes." This is particularly noted in the Pacific N.W., where the dampness sets into the bones and creates what we call in Chinese medicine, "Bi Syndrome." The main herbal ingredients in the formulas used to treat "Bi Syndrome" are "venting" herbs (i.e. herbs that make you sweat or diaphoretics: peppermint, cayenne, ginger, garlic, "hot" spices, etc.). Why not do this for yourself by engaging in a yoga practice such as "Bikram?" You do not need to have an ailment to practice this yoga, although I do think of it as a "medical yoga," because of its incredible value on all vital organs and fascia of the body. It should be practiced with the mindset of prevention as well. This goes for acupuncture. My Oriental patients come to see me 1x per month in Portland to "stay well." They know that acupuncture has been proven to boost (and maintain) a healthy immune system. They don't have the western concept of "only fix it when its broken." They don't let it get to that point. We westerners can learn a lot from considering the concept of prevention.

Like any exercise or activity, there is a "hump" you have to move through. They say, statistically, it takes 3 weeks to get into a habit. The body may put up a bit of "a fight" as toxins are released more rapidly through the bloodstream, and excreted through waste (i.e. sweat, feces, saliva, urine). You may feel dizzy, nauseated, get headaches during the initial process. "Why would I want to put myself through that?" you may ask. Let me ask you this, "Would you prefer for those toxins to build up in your system, quietly 'sleep,' and then one day you wake up with a diagnosis of something more severe?" That's how toxins function: they build up over time, like dust in between floorboards. The dust doesn't constantly try to get your attention asking you to sweep it. You must have a cleaning schedule to keep up with it. Like weeding a garden. No one will do it for you. Its about taking responsibility for yourself, tending to your own inner garden. It actually is a very empowering process when you realize that your health is in your own hands. Take care of it. Nourish it. Allow your body to experience the scientific process behind warming it up and cooling it down in a proper way.

The rest of my exercise world is one of change. This is purposeful on my part. I keep things varied, prevent my body from experiencing a "plateau" effect. I enjoy the experience of moving my body in different ways everyday. I enjoy watching it dance, jump, run, cycle, climb, surf, and lift things. But, I also enjoy coming home to an old friend. That's what the 26 yoga asana (postures) provide for me in my life. A nice stable foundation, allowing for the playful way my body likes to move the rest of the week. Its like a comforting pair of slippers. You put your feet in them, and just feel at home....

-Bikram Choudry

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

The Mentor: "A Reflection Of The Moon On Water"...

"A true mentor is like the reflection of the moon on water. When you see the beauty of it, and are awe-stricken, you're actually seeing your truest nature." ~Kundun

This week there has been a lot of snow in Bend. Rain, then sun, then grey skies, then snow...the weather seems to be changing by the minute. The Celts referred to spring as "the season between all seasons." Change is in the air. Mother Nature seems to be trying to make up her mind, with one foot still in winter, and one already in summer. I'm doing my best to be grateful for the beautiful snow, but I must admit, I'm ready for outdoor climbing season to arrive. I'm itching to improve my climbing skills this year, and am looking forward to many wonderful climbing adventures with Stan and my friends. I feel lucky to live in Bend. There is an abundance of beautiful rock here to climb: sport, trad., face, cracks...its all here, within 1/2 hr. of my doorstep. I'm grateful for the spiritual lessons climbing brings into my life: facing my fears, trust, the art of letting go, learning to quiet my mind during a climb, the beauty of friendship, the exquisite experience of the vertical world...the list goes on...I'm grateful for all the wonderful, empowered women, in particular, who have influenced my life as a climber.

I want to honor my dear friend and climbing mentor, Janet Linebarger. Janet is the epitome of strength and power, in my mind. She is an example of a woman, in her 60's, who has the strength of a 20 yr. old, and the grace of a seasoned dancer. To watch her effortlessly move on a rock face, silent...focused...skilled... is a wonder to behold. Janet is moving from Portland, OR. to Bellevue, WA. While I'm excited for Janet, and the new opportunities that are being presented to her, I'm selfishly very sad. I will always consider Janet my first climbing teacher. Its not that I won't ever see Janet, but our visits will be farther and fewer between.

Almine & Janet, "Club Sport," '09

Each month, when I've gone up to Portland to treat patients at my Portland office, I've gotten a lesson from Janet. If the weather is nice we climb outside. If its rainy we've climbed at "Club Sport." Each time I've walked away with more of a deep appreciation for what climbing has become to me: a metaphor for the inner world. It is because of Janet that I've faced some of my darkest fears with climbing. She's influenced me enough to want to do that for myself. Janet seems to have the wisdom to know when to push me when I need to be pushed, and to allow me to figure things out for myself when appropriate. The power of a mentor in our life is a blessing. One whose lessons seem to soak in a little more each day. I'm honored to call Janet my mentor & friend. I hope to be just like her when I grow up someday... ;-} I'll miss you, Janet...

Almine Climbing At "Smith Rock," '09

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Why You Need To Know About This Man...

Very rarely does a pioneer, a true genius, change the way we do things. When one does, however, generally they're at least about 50 years ahead of their time. On occasion, they will interest a few, but this is not always gauranteed as they walk amongst us. In the world of fitness and health, Joseph Pilates was one such genius. Pilates. The very word conjures up rich, yuppie soccer moms who gather together in studios to get their "workout in" between their spray-tan and manicure. Let this image not prevent us from looking a bit deeper. While the word "core" is being thrown around gyms, home videos, and our local "Big 5 Sporting Goods" store, do we REALLY understand who Joseph Pilates was, and what his gifts to humanity were?

First and foremost, I'm a believer in the "proof is in the pudding." Someone who "walks-their-talk" is rare in this world. There's a lot of talkers, not a lot of doers. Let us look at 2 pictures of Joseph Pilates in his 80's. He not only appears to be in excellent shape, age seems to have no hold on him. His anatomical physique speaks to the power of his teachings. His body is the proof: the sparkle in his eyes, the youth of his skin, the definition of his muscles. Examine the pictures and ask yourself if he ever said, "I can't do that, I'm too old." Its doubtful...

Let's gather a brief snapshot of who this man was, and how he came to be a legend in the world of fitness:

"Joseph H. Pilates was born in 1883 in Mönchengladbach, Germany. His father was a prize-winning gymnast of Greek ancestry, and his mother worked as a naturopath.[2] The family originally spelled their surname in the Greek manner as "Pilatu", but changed to using "Pilates." This caused Joseph Pilates much grief as a child, because older boys taunted him calling him "Pontius Pilate, killer of Christ."

Pilates was a sickly child and suffered from asthma, rickets, and rheumatic fever, and he dedicated his entire life to improving his physical strength. Besides skiing frequently, he began studying body-building, yoga, zen, and gymnastics. By the age of 14, he was fit enough to pose for anatomical charts. Pilates came to believe that the "modern" life-style, bad posture, and inefficient breathing lay at the roots of poor health. He ultimately devised a series of exercises and training-techniques and engineered all the equipment, specifications, and tuning required to teach his methods properly.

Pilates was originally a gymnast, diver, and bodybuilder, but when he moved to England in 1912, he earned a living as a professional boxer, circus-performer, and self-defense trainer at police schools and Scotland Yard. Nevertheless, the British authorities interned him during World War I along with other German citizens in a camp on the Isle of Man. During this involuntary break, he began to intensively develop his concept of an integrated, comprehensive system of physical exercise, which he himself called "Contrology." He studied yoga and the movements of animals and trained his fellow inmates in fitness and exercises. It is told that these inmates survived the great pandemic of 1918 due to their good physical shape.

After the war (WWI), he returned to Germany and collaborated with important experts in dance and physical exercise such as Rudolf Laban. In Hamburg, he also trained police officers. When he was pressured to train members of the German army, he left his native country, disappointed with its political and social conditions, and emigrated to New York.

The year 1925 is the approximate time when Pilates migrated to the United States of America. On the ship to America, he met his future wife Clara. The couple founded a studio in New York City and directly taught and supervised their students well into the 1960s. His method, which he and Clara originally called "Contrology," related to encouraging the use of the mind to control muscles. It focuses attention on core postural muscles that help keep the human body balanced and provide support for the spine. In particular, Pilates exercises teach awareness of breath and of alignment of the spine, and strengthen the deep torso and abdominal muscles.

Joseph and Clara Pilates soon established a devout following in the local dance and the performing-arts community of New York. Well-known dancers such as George Balanchine, who arrived in the United States in 1933, and Martha Graham, who had come to New York in 1923, became devotees and regularly sent their students to the Pilates for training and rehabilitation.

Joseph Pilates wrote several books, including Return to Life through Contrology and Your Health, and he was also a prolific inventor, with over 26 patents cited. Joe and Clara had a number of disciples who continued to teach variations of his method or, in some cases, focused exclusively on preserving the method, and the instructor-training techniques, they had learned during their studies with Joe and Clara.

Joseph Pilates died in 1967 at the age of 87 in New York. It is said that his studio caught on fire, & that he walked into the studio to rescue some of his equipment. He died of smoke inhalation. Not decrepitude or declining health."

Still think Pilates "is for girls," "is easy," or "too slow for me"? Then you haven't experienced German-born Gabi Davis at "Bend Pilates Connection." Gabi is a true disciple of the classical teachings of Joseph Pilates. Her regime is intense, and your abs will burn for days after. For Portland, OR. folks, Christine Binnendyk, Pilates instructor at the "Nike World Headquarters" is the best of the best. Her precision and expertise has been made manifest in her groundbreaking new book, "Ageless Pilates." The "Ageless Pilates" system is applicable for anyone at any level. Its never too late to start.

There is no fitness regime that cannot benefit from adding Pilates to it. Its obvious that I'm a fan of "CrossFit." In "CrossFit" we do a lot of powerlifting exercises & bodyweight gymnastic exercises. Any "Crossfitter" would benefit by adding Pilates to his/her physical routine. It can only enhance these exercises and make them more efficient. In Bend, contact Gabi at: http://pilatesconnection.us/ or in Portland, Christine at: http://agelesspilates.wordpress.com/about/ today with any questions. Enjoy the benefits of the wisdom of this great man and flourish...