Your Hands In Handstand: 7 Easy Tips For Better Handstands!

When it comes to handstand there is no better place to start than your hands!

Sure, it seems pretty obvious. However the hands are sometimes an afterthought for students whose minds are preoccupied with trying to get their bottom to float above their head.

For the frequent flyer however (see inspiring photo to your left of my teacher Krista Cahill by the incredible photographer Jasper Johal) the hands and wrists always come first when attempting handstand!

Like anything, it’s best to start at the bottom and work up. In this case the foundation is your hands and like any good foundation it must be laid properly.

The worst possible news for a house is having cracks in its foundation and the worst news for a handstand are poorly positioned hands. (A close second is a poorly positioned attitude, actually a bad attitude is worse…but I digress)

At any rate you are headed for trouble fast if you don’t get your digits and palms properly set up, so listen close future flyers!

Tips For Your Hands in Handstand

  1. Place your hands shoulders width apart with your hands slightly turned out.
  2. Spread your fingers wide apart. Reach the fingers forward and apart to spread the weight evenly. Uneven weight causes problems for the wrist. Your fingers should spread evenly away from the palm like the spokes on a wagon wheel.
  3. Pay special attention to your index finger and thumb rooting down into the mat.
  4. Then with your hands firmly planted on your sticky mat try to squeeze them towards one another like you are trying to wrinkle your mat between your hands. The mat will not actually wrinkle  but this action engages the muscles of the hands, forearms and biceps creating stability.
  5. Push into your hands! Trust that they will hold the weight of your body. (Be mindful however not to push out of your shoulders, keep your collarbones wide and your shoulder blades firmly planted on your upper back! More about that later)
  6. Do not let the wrists lift! As you jump from the back of the mat it’s tough not to let the wrists lift, but do your best. I took a workshop with master ashtangi David Swenson and he kept saying over and over again to “put the weight in your hands”. This is key! Imagine your hands are cemented to the floor, make them super heavy as you practice jumping into handstand!
  7. Grip with your fingertips. Think of them as your emergency brakes. These little guys will help you not to “Go flying over the handlebars” as my teacher Brock Cahill likes to say. (Your primary brakes are your core and serratus anterior muscle. Secondary are your forearms and fingertips.)

Happy Handstanding Yogis!

Angela Kukhahn and Aimee Donahue’s Ojai Yoga Retreat July 20th-22nd 2012

Angela Kukhahn and Aimee Donahue’s Ojai Yoga Retreat July 20th-22nd 2012

Hi Yogis,

Thanks for your interest in joining Aimee Donahue and Angela Kukhahn  (Friday) July 20th-22nd (Sunday) for a memorable 2 nights and 3 days in Ojai at a stunningly beautiful, 52-acre Eco Sanctuary. The main house, an architecturally significant Craftsman Style property, is picturesque, comfortable and relaxing. The land overlooks Ojai and features mango, lemon and orange trees, a big ceremonial fire circle, hiking trails, a large oval pool and a Jacuzzi. The large free-standing yoga studio features huge east-facing picture windows with a breathtaking view and a dark wood floor.

There will be a yoga class on Friday, 2 classes on Saturday and a final class on Sunday morning. Each class will be two hours. Delicious vegetarian food is provided at all meals and there will be plenty of time to hike, swim, read or just plain relax.

Please see below for the inclusive prices based on your room choice. Cost per person includes lodging for 3 days and 2 nights, all meals, all classes and events. All lodging is first come first served. Single spaces are available for an additional fee. There is a variety of accommodations and the retreat fee is based, in part, on the type of accommodation that you pick.

Deposit:
A non-refundable $200 deposit will hold your space and can be paid via PayPal by clicking HERE. All Major credit cards accepted.To reserve your room please email Jamie at  jhaddad31@gmail.com
or call her at (661) 713-2619.

The retreat center can accommodate 20 people in the main house and 22 people in the yurts, tea houses and cottage on the estate. All pricing listed below is per person. here is a description of the accommodations:
Please Note: Early Prices = Before 5/31/2012 Late Prices = After 5/31/2012

Estate Dwellings: 

Yurts – dorm-style accommodation with a shared bath
* Vista Yurt  – sleeps 4
* Yoga/Amrita Yurt  – sleeps 8
Early $595 Late $610
Tea Houses – enclosed outdoor sleeping space built on stilts with use of        bathroom in main house, amazing morning view, privacy and electricity
* Orange Zen Tea House – 2 single beds
* Mango Zen Tea House – 2 single beds
* Stage Tea House – 2 single beds
Early $675 Late $695
* Oak Tea House – Queen and one single bed (suitable for a couple or three  friends – $25 off on the third person)
Early $645 Late $665
Studios
* Apiary Studio – Private Shower
One King bed and One Single (Sleeps 2 or 3)
Early $755 Late $775
* Artist’s Studio – Private Bathroom
One King Bed, sleeps 2 (secluded and private)
Early $755 Late $775
Main House Rooms and Sleeping Porches
* The Kinder Room – upstairs, sleeps 3
Early $705 Late $725
* Sleeping Porch off Kinder Room  – 2 beds
Early $655 Late $670
* State Room – first floor, private bath. 3 single beds
Early $705 Late $725
* Chumash Room – first floor, shared bath. 3 single beds
Early $735 Late $755
* Sleeping Porch off Chumash Room. 2 beds
Early $655 Late $670
* Alaya Room – upstairs, shared bath. 3 beds
Early $735 Late $755
* Alaya Sleeping Porch – shared bath. 2 beds
Early $655 Late $670
* Anahata Room – first floor, private bath. One queen bed.
Early $760 Late $780

We look forward to seeing you there!
Angela & Aimee’

Register Now!

Yoga Inversions Pre-Flight Warmup

“Once you have tasted flight, you will forever walk the earth with your eyes turned skyward, for there you have been, and there you will always long to return.”
― Leonardo da Vinci

The Pre-Inversion Warmup

Before practicing inversions it is essential you warmup and stretch the muscles you will be using.
Your best bet if you are practicing at home is to warm up with a few Surya A’sSurya B’s and then do a few of my favorite pre-flight stretches and strength building postures listed below.
Happy flying yogis!

Keep Calm and Carry On: Equanimity of Interest

“To cultivate equanimity we practice catching ourselves when we feel attraction or aversion, before it hardens into grasping or negativity.”

What is Equanimity of Interest?
Equanimity of interest means we are just as excited about working the nuances of down dog as we are about working something we are really good at or the bigger, “grander” postures. (think handstand scorpion)
The difference between a beginner and an advanced yogi is the ability to stay focused, interested and calm no matter what discomfort arises.
Can you bump up against your limitations without running away? This may be the most important “yoga practice” of all.
Equanimity is the state of beingness where we are unattached and undisturbed. This does not mean we are aloof, on the contrary, we remain fully engaged in the present moment without feeling that we need to control the outcome.
We are not just interested in the postures that stroke our egos or bring us pleasure. At the same time we don’t avoid those either.
It is standing in the middle between avoidance and attraction. It’s neither heads or tails, it’s when the quarter lands on the edge and balances.
Our attention and interest in the “fine tuning” of the basic poses so to speak are the ultimately the building blocks we need build the bigger more “impressive” postures.
Patience, practice and dedication are the keys!
“When one is fully aware, one does not attach to the world, rather sees the world.” – The Bhagavad Gita 

Astrology For Us All; Lunar Beltane, Eclipses and You by Chani Nicholas

Astrology For Us All;
Lunar Beltane, Eclipses and You
by Chani Nicholas

Today’s full moon is one of the largest moons of the year, it’s a full moon at perigee which puts it very close to the earth. She has added influence over our emotions, moods, bodies and daily rituals when full and even more so when she is this close to us. This moon is called Lunar Beltane as May 1st marked one of the four cross quarter days (it falls in between the spring equinox and the summer solstice) of our year. It is celebrated in many pagan festivals originating in Europe as Beltane, Bealtine or Walpurgisnacht. If you are of European decent these can be powerful rituals and days to participate in, especially if you feel disconnected from your religion of origin as these are quite possibly your great-great-great ancestors traditions. Celebrating in ways that reflect our ancestral lines is what Native American healer and educator Eduardo Duran suggests we do to move deeper into our center. This time of year symbolizes the body of the Goddess coming to maturity and is reflected by the bodies of young women starting their menses. The Earth/Goddess is now at the height of her fecundity ready to receive the male (think phallic shape of the May pole and the weaving of the ribbon around it being symbolic of the union of male and female). In earth based cultures sexuality is an extension of the cycles of the earth and therefore sacred, as is the monthly blood of a woman.

This cross-quarter day falls within the sun sign Taurus and the full moon (Lunar Beltane) in Scorpio tonight at 8:35 pm PDT. Both Taurus and Scorpio are signs that promote the investigation of resources, worth, sensuality, sexuality and the power of our bodies. This festival is not about sexual orientation, or valuing one orientation over another, it’s simply the act of opposite energies coming together to create life. This union can happen within the body of a single person or in the union of any coupling no matter what the gender of the people involved. This festival is an affirmation of life and the celebration of the turning of the season. At this time the Goddess/earth is impregnated and will give birth on the summer solstice when gardens and crops are overflowing with abundance.
Functioning mostly as a linear and chronological society we tend to view history on one long continuum. Festivals and seasonal rituals remind us about the mysteries and the power of living life as a cyclical experience. When connected to the rhythms around us we are reminded of our inner process and can then link our personal lives to the great mystery of creation.
May 1st is celebrated as International Workers’ Day and there was a global uprising of protests for the fair treatment of the world’s working class this year as part of the Occupy movement. There were peaceful and non-peaceful protests, poetry readings, educational seminars, riots and marches, everything that this springs astrology is pointing to. This time could be summed up as “Eclipse Season” which is a sort of spiritual spring training. Before heading into eclipse season, Venus, Goddess of Love, Attraction, Passion and Relationships will go retrograde on May 15th. Representing our values, our sense of self-worth, what we own, what we produce, art, culture and that great mystery of partnership, this retrograde period will have us reviewing all of that material on a personal level and on a societal level. Do we value human life or profit? Do we value our own opinions or do we let corporations define that for us? Do we value community and relationship or commodity and greed? Days after Venus goes retrograde we will have the first of 3 eclipses like events starting with the new moon/Solar eclipse on May 20th.
The solar eclipse is followed by a full moon/lunar eclipse on June 4th and on June 5th Venus will conjunct the sun, another eclipse-like event that will not happen again in our life times. Eclipses are wild cards and points of activation for us personally and globally. There is nothing to do in preparation for them besides meditating, doing your spiritual practice and keeping them in mind as we are already feeling their effects. It is interesting to note that in traditional Western astrology there are only two planetary bodies that are related to Goddesses and they are the moon and Venus. This May/June both are eclipsing the sun, the primary light source of our solar system (that is seen as a male) and the integration point for the energies of the rest of the planets. Venus is the focalized creative power of the moon, and she will be infuses and energized by this transit to the sun. This transit is asking us to move deeper into our center, into our passions and into our creativity. Stay true to what you need, what you want to attract and what holds worth to you personally. Keep a watchful eye for habits of putting others first instead of taking care of yourself, co-dependency in relationships and resentments that build in you as a result. Consider how you can cultivate a greater appreciation for your unique contribution to the world and see how that is reflected back to you in your paycheck and in your partnerships. Take time to take care, take a step back to gain perspective, take moments to reflect and take heart; you are not alone!
Lunar Beltane Blessings and Prayers of Freedom and Peace For All!
Chani

Horoscopes

Aries and Aries Rising

What has been of greatest concern for your development as of late is following your impulse and allowing yourself to be consumed in experience that brings you closer to knowing yourself. There has been a great need for you to act on instinct and go with any sort of illuminating idea that you get, carving your path step by step. You are being fortified this month by the arrival of Pallas Athene, Goddess of Wisdom and Justice, in your sign. Her astrological glyph is a diamond on top of a cross symbolizing the Spear of the Protectress. She will be with you until October as a great mobilizing force gifting you the courage to initiate what you know you must. I hope you are keeping a journal of what inspires you and that you are letting your ideas cross pollinate with like-minds. Mid May Mars (your planet) will trine Pluto helping you to focus your desires and direct your energies with great power towards what you want. The Full moon on the 5th of May could bring some business venture or romantic partnership to a head. Remember it’s the Beltane moon, a time when we honor the Goddess and all her sensual spring appetites (use birth control if you don’t want an extra plate and the chanuka/quanza/christmas/holiday table). The new moon/solar eclipse on the 20th of May will be in your third house of siblings, communications and your environment. I suggest not picking a fight with your sister, brother or neighbor and instead changing up the scenery. Go for a drive or short trip, air yourself out and take Pallas Athene with you. Venus is going retrograde in your third house as well mid month which will “help” you (it’s good to use positive words for challenging times) review your communications in relationships especially with aforementioned peoples of the third house. All things considered, take advantage of the first two weeks of May and the brainstorms it will bring.

Taurus and Taurus Rising

This is quite a birthday year for you and I suspect you are feeling some change blowing about. There is a transit that in early June that you are most likely feeling now, Venus conjunct the sun. This transit should enhance your ability to focus your desires and I suggest getting as cozy as you can with what you hold dear, if you were to die this time next year what could you do for the next 365 days that would be valuable? Jupiter will finish up its cycle in your sign as of June 12th so there is still time for you to play the cosmic lottery, roll the dice and keep asking for what you want. The end of May and the beginning of June could cause a lot of upheaval for us all, it’s impossible to predict what exactly will happen but we are all being asked to get really real with our world and ourselves. The important thing for you to remember is that change is uncomfortable and somewhat unnatural for you, but it’s not bad. I have an experiment for you: on a sticky note write, “With every transformation comes the opportunity to build a better foundation.” And then stick it on your laptop screen or mirror and every time you feel yourself digging your heels in and being resistant, read it. The full moon on May fifth is a big one for you as it’s in your opposite sign of Scorpio highlighting your opposite nature and possibly your other half if you are in a relationship(s). The new moon on May 20th is also an eclipse which could cause challenges for you in terms of finances and/or real-estate so get all of that as secure as early in the month as you possibly can. Your planet, Venus is going retrograde on May 15th in the same house and she rules our wealth, values, resources and relationships, another reason to get finances in order ASAP.

Gemini and Gemini Rising

Without being overly dramatic, it would be a wild understatement to say that this is a big month for you. This is one of those months that will bring events that will affect you for years to come; I would say about four years on the outside and at the very least the next six months. More than what ever outside events are to occur, what is important now is your reactions to them. Think of this time as a cosmic black belt test, the events truly are secondary and they are only happening so that you may see how far you have come and in what ways you can better take care of yourself. On the 15th of May Venus goes retrograde in your sign and then on the 20th of May the Sun enters your sign with a new moon and a solar eclipse, how’s that for a party? Most of you have been feeling the push into unfamiliar territory and see yourself at a cross roads, tipping point or crucifix of sorts. Prepare yourself for the journey that this spring will bring, as if you are moving through dragon territory. Dragons are symbols of power, wisdom, longevity and magic but they are not beasts to be taken lightly. Tread this ground with purpose and caution, taking each step as an oath to yourself to move closer to your center.

Cancer and Cancer Rising

One of the most important things you could do this month is write a list of all the things about yourself that you try to hide. Also write a list of all the things about yourself that you feel like you have healed. Write yet another list of things that you felt shame about when you were a child. As you write notice all the feelings that arise, especially difficult ones like fear, remorse and guilt, don’t go into those feelings but just keep your eye on them. Pay close attention to the things that give you the most emotional charge as you write them. This month your astrology is asking you to understand what it is you hide from yourself. Sometimes the things we feel we have overcome are still alive and well in fantastic disguise. Part of your growth is being stunted by the energy it takes to keep a part of yourself or your behavior hidden and this month’s eclipse on May 20th and Venus’s retrograde cycle (May 15th-June 27th) help you shed some light. Lets be clear about this, you are only hiding this trait/habit/pattern from yourself, it’s in plain view to the world at large. There is a connection between doing this work and allowing new people into your life. There is an integration that you are seeking now and as you let your monsters out from under the bed and into the light of day a swift and speedy shift will happen in terms of who appears in your life. The new relationships are a reflection of what you love and what inspires you.

Leo and Leo Rising

There is a lot of activity in your public life/career/social life lately. The full moon will bring an issue at home to light, possibly with a parent, family member or in your actual physical space. There is a review happening for you in terms of what groups you identify yourself as being part of, especially in terms of female friends. The new moon/solar eclipse on the 20th brings this issue to light, eclipses have a way of exposing something to us we haven’t had the capacity to see. It is a great time to start new relationships, friendships and memberships. This is aided by Mercury’s transit through your tenth house of career and public life as of the second week of May. Your emphasis should be on developing your business/work life. Have as many conversations about it as you can, talking to the right person may be the one thing that changes our lives the most. This is a fantastic time for you to be noticed and appreciated for your unique style and contribution to the world. Be your fabulous Leo self and shine on, you crazy diamond.

Virgo and Virgo Rising

There is a tremendous amount of study that you have taken on lately, it may have been formal education or something as informal as studying the unfolding of nature, but it has been deep. It’s fitting if you have been traveling abroad, discovering new places or internally venturing into new terrain. It may not be your inherent nature to throw yourself out into the limelight or toot your own horn but later this month the focus will be on you and your contribution to the world. Whatever you have been studying or developing will become very useful in your career life. With an eclipse right at the top of your chart on May 20th something about your relationship to the world at large will be put to the test or you may be thrust into the spotlight at work. Perhaps there is a decision that needs to be made about which road your will trudge, if so this month will push you one way or another. Mars, still in your sign, will be bolstered once more my a trine to Pluto mid month and this should help you find your confidence and direction to continue on your path with more focus and courage. Venus will go retrograde mid May and it is going to affect you either financially, legally or in real estate issues (if you are looking to buy or sell your home I wouldn’t do so until late August). Venus retrograde may even have you reviewing your career relationships and how you show up in that sector of your life but most likely what you will be reviewing is your deepest desires in terms of your work. This season of eclipses will bring you many opportunities to know what exactly it is that you are after.

Libra and Libra Rising

This is a big month for you as your planet, Venus, goes retrograde on May 15th. Venus can be one of the more challenging retrograde cycles because she asks us to review all of our relationships (she symbolizes women specifically) to everyone and everything. She also asks us to review what we value; resources, money and property included. This retrograde cycle starts off with a trine to Saturn who has been in your sign for the last two plus years testing you, challenging you and ultimately strengthening you. Both Saturn and Venus can be stern taskmasters and their combination is symbolic of having the structure needed to contain the abundance desired. Saturn goes direct on June 25th followed Venus on June 27th, which further links these two in your chart. These retrogrades are going to help you finish up whatever deep karmic lessons you have been experiencing and Venus specifically is helping you review your beliefs and philosophies which the eclipse on May 20th will highlight for you as well. This is a big season for all of us but to me it feels like you are entering the last leg of the race. On June 5th Venus will conjunct the sun something that will not occur again in our lifetimes. Imagine the energy of the morning/evening star, the light that all civilizations have watched since the dawn of time moving in front of our main source of light and center of our universe. What could this Goddess have to tell us? Why is she stepping out now? I believe this transit will help many of us harness our creative potential in new and unforeseen ways. Like a magnifying glass Venus will help us direct the rays of the sun, but we have to be considerate of where we direct the energy.

Scorpio and Scorpio Rising

This month starts of with a full moon in your sign on May 5th. Scorpio full moons are the Beltane moon. Beltane is a cross quarter day (a day that falls in between the equinox and solstice) and is a celebration of the fecundity of the earth. The Goddess receives her lover and is impregnated. Celebrating these times remind us of our inner process as they give us a context within nature and therefore place us inside the great mystery of creation. We can see ourselves inside a larger story when we participate in mythic rituals and that lets us know we are not alone. This is an important connection for you to feel as so much of your chart is still focused on relationships. There is a lot to be learned by hindsight and mid-May will bring a review of the bonds that you have with others. Pay close attention to any shared resources and businesses you have started with others, this month you will be re-evaluating your position. There are clues in your emotional, psychological and financial inheritances as the first eclipse on May 20th is going on in your home territory, the eighth house. Some of you will be experiencing difficulties regarding your taxes and money owing, but what I would suggest is paying attention to who you put your resources into. What relationships drain you and which feed you?

Sagittarius and Sagittarius Rising

We are re-entering eclipse season and the full moon on June 4th will wrap up the last of the eclipses in your sign for the next eight years. What this means is that you are rounding out a time in your life that has been tremendously growth enhancing and important, especially in the areas of self and relationship. How you have faced challenges in that past year has set many patterns and a tone for the coming years of your life. Many of you will have your mind on details at work for the month of May and it’s a great time to get a lot accomplished there. The end of the month will bring a tremendous amount of energy and focus to your intimate relationships and you will get to see through an event with a loved one exactly how it is you are showing up in relationship to others. You have a need for a wide variety of relationships so that you can receive a diverse taste of life through those you love, and you love many. Mid-May when Venus goes retrograde in your 7th house of relationships you will have a chance to review, revise, renew and replenish any part of your intimate affairs that may need it. As well the eclipse on May 20th will be in the same house and bringing up the same material for review. The deeper you look the more rewards you will have in all affairs of the heart.

Capricorn and Capricorn Rising

May’s astrology seems to be conspiring to integrate your recent trips to the healing emporium, you seem to have been shopping in the isle marked “Initiation Into Wholeness”. Keep some of this stock on hand as you will need it to better prepare you for June. Chiron and Pluto have entered a long and much needed affair that spurs you into growth. Both have to do with an impulse toward healing and evolution; Chiron focuses energy on specific issues while Pluto is a slow deep transformation and regeneration. Paying attention to how you are using your mind will be of great benefit to you. What thoughts are on repeat? How is your mind using you? Can you apply your talent for discipline to training your mind to focus on what is, not what could go wrong? The eclipse on May 20th will happen in your sixth house so I would consider preparing for an adjustment of some kind. It may not be that painful but just keep that week open for an “anything is possible” kind of healing opportunity.

Aquarius and Aquarius Rising

Conception, fertilization and creation are my words for you this month. From nothing comes something. You are considering what you are creating and how your values are reflected in what you are bringing forth. Consider your biological/cultural creation myth(s). Many of us come from at least a few different stories, pick one this month and do a little research on it. Dig until you find a piece that resonates with you and see how it’s being reflected in your life and your art. Personal self-expression is an important point of integration for you and you may feel like you are at a cross roads or a crux this month in this area of your life. Valuing our specific ancestry is an important step towards self-alignment, self-respect and self-reliance. Sometimes we must go way, way back tracing our roots like a feline stalking her prey with great focus and intense interest. Search until you find that piece of yourself that will helps you bring forth the next something from nothing. Take what you have learned and use great focus to bring it forth into your life as if it were your own child, because it is.

Pisces and Pisces Rising

This month will bring you important information about your position in your community and how to be an effective agent of change in it. This could be as small as an anonymous act of kindness to deciding to run for office. It doesn’t matter what the act is as long as it’s authentic and from the heart. There is still someone in your midst that is challenging you to move through life in a deeper more authentic way. With this person notice how you are pulled, where you are pulled and how quickly you can come back to yourself. There may even be someone that you consider powerful in your midst, someone who could open up new worlds socially, be careful not to put them on a pedestal. Keep the focus on what is meaningful to you and keep your awareness on yourself. You have a lot brewing in your interior around the time of the new moon on May 20th and I think it’s a good idea to keep it on the inside for the moment. It’s never good to prematurely expose an idea, emotion, thought or piece of art before it is ready. The most private rooms of your psyche are full of ancestors, guardians, spirits, angels and beings that have come to give you information. Venus will go retrograde May 15th for 6 weeks in an area of your chart that suggest it would be a good time to look at issues around lineage specifically with the women in your life. Listen closely to the ghosts if they arrive, they aren’t here to frighten, but they may need your help to evolve themselves.

Astrology For The Revolution – by Chani Nicholas

Thank everything; earth, sun, moon, stars and Mother Nature Herself for spring.  As new life emerges from the soil beneath our feet Mercury is finding it’s forward motion once again (it officially went direct April 4th at 3:11 a.m., I heard many could not sleep that night).  Mars will also change directions on April 13th and plans for our lives will move forward once again.  Mars has been retrograde since January 23rd and Mercury since March 12th.  These have not been the best days to begin new things but they have been great days to review our lives, our desires, our direction and our reasons for doing what we do. Today, March 6th there is a full moon in Libra at 12:19 p.m., with both a full moon and a change in direction of Mercury it’s best to give major decisions at least a couple of days (in my profession opinion, wait until April 23rd if at all possible especially if documents are involved).

Let’s consider the full moon in Libra for and some other interesting astrology surrounding it.  There is quite a bit in the charts these days about relationships, especially old relationship patterns and in some cases old relationships resurfacing.  The formation I am referring to is a grand cross in mutable signs.  A “grand cross” looks exactly how it sounds in a chart, there two points of polarity (two points opposing each other) which lay in a cross formation giving us four points all at 90 degree angles to each other.  The “mutable” signs of the zodiac are Gemini, Virgo, Sagittarius and PiscesMutable signs bend and sway, they disseminate the season prior and give way to the next that is becoming.  This grand cross involves Venus (who just moved into Gemini) and the south node opposing Juno and the north node (in Sagittarius).  That polarity is squaring Neptune and Chiron (in Pisces) on one end and Mars (still in Virgo) on the other.  If all of that sounds like Greek to you, throw it away.  All you need to know is that the astrology of the moment is bringing us into some wishy-washy terrain around relationships.  It may be difficult to separate past patterns from current reality and inherited relationship dynamics especially around gender roles.  The full moon in Libra adds a significant amount of tension to the dynamic.  Libra is the sign of the other, it is a cardinal sign that initiates relationships.  Libra pulls our consciousness into the sphere of the other; it’s the first polarity we experience in the zodiac.  The full moon and the grand cross are an opportunity to sit with the tension and perspective that a full moon always brings.  Generally a full moon will bring some outer event that we can see (person, place, situation) so that we may get a new perspective on how we are relating to our world and ourselves.  The only question here is can you sit with the tension of the truth without reacting?
On April 21st at 12:18 a.m. there is a very sweet new moon that looks to bring with it many opportunities for growth and manifesting our desires into material reality.  If there are new projects that you have put on hold this is the perfect day to take an action towards your goal.  Whatever we do around the new moon creates a pattern in that area of our lives for the next year(s) to come and this new moon is about bringing our dreams into real time and space.  Taurus teaches us about the importance of the physical world.  Do something kind for Mother Earth, for your body or for the creatures around you.  Feel the abundance of the physical world and natures impulse to create life.  Celebrate this.
On the world stage with Mercury and Mars moving forward we can look for more truths coming to light in such cases as the shooting and killing of Trayvon Martin.  George Zimmerman’s claims of self-defense are unraveling as the clock ticks and that fact that he is still walking around a free man is beyond ludicrous. To me, Trayvon Martin is as Alice Walker put it, “ours. And I don’t mean just ours, black people, but all of ours. I mean, these children, they are our future, and they have to be protected.” What I hope Mercury direct brings to light through this devastating loss is the reality of how real and severe racism is in our country.  With Venus in Libra for the next four months we get to view our relationship dynamics with some perspective and as Venus goes retrograde later in the spring we get to review our relationships to our past.  As a country, America has a violent and shame-filled history of how one group of people treats another, or simply put; colonialism.  This country is founded on slavery, torture and genocide.  Our inability and refusal to simply acknowledge this fact, let alone make amends for it holds us back as a nation and a people to unknown extents. The consciousness of white America is desperately lacking in perspective, understanding and education on this topic. It is the job of people who are not oppressed to seek education about oppression so they don’t repeat the patterns of their ancestors.  Oppression can only exist in a world where its inhabitants refuse to look at their own shame, guilt, despair, greed, lust and rage.  Neptune and Chiron’s recent transit into Pisces was and continues to be an intitiation into wholeness.  We cannot heal without addressing the wound.Postcolonial Psychologist Eduardo Duran terms this condition as the soul-wound, the wound that colonialism has left for all of us. Duran makes it a point to teach that there is historical trauma, but there is also historical medicine.  Our greatest wound also contains our greatest potential, if we can be present with it.
Mercury and Mars retrograde have given us an opportunity recently to review our lives, our motives and our back-story and we are greatly benefited to ask ourselves the questions: Am I happy with what I see?  Are there ways in which I am perpetuating violence even and especially in my ignorance?  In the coming months we will see almost instantaneously that one small act of violence is enormous and one small act of kindness tremendous as the astrology speeds our evolutionary process.       This month’s full moon marks the Passover and Easter holidays for Jews and Christians, both holidays symbolic of rebirth and renewal.  Perhaps what we can re-birth is the wisdom of Mother’s Love, perhaps Trayvon’s passing can open us to the amount of pain his family and community (if you are not part of it) are in.  How can we use this horror to renew our humanity and our kindness?  How can we become better, wiser human beings?  Can we walk in another’s shoes and be changed by the power of compassion?
“We can let the circumstances of our lives harden us so that we become increasingly resentful and afraid, or we can let them soften us, and make us kinder. We always have the choice.” ~ HH the Dalai Lama

Many blessings to you and yours,

Chani

Horoscopes
Aries and Aries Rising

“We have no reason to mistrust our world, for it is not against us. Has it terrors, they are our terrors; has it abysses, those abysses belong to us; are dangers at hand, we must try to love them… How should we be able to forget those ancient myths about dragons that at the last moment turn into princesses; perhaps all the dragons of our lives are princesses who are only waiting to see us once beautiful and brave.”

Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet

Since the arrival of Uranus in your sign last year the emphasis in your life has been about invention, or the re-invention of yourself and your place in the life you have constructed.  For some of you this has been about reconstructing your life itself.  Whatever the case I hope you are feeling invigorated by the changes.  This month your planet Mars FINALLY goes direct, which will promote much forward motion in all areas of your life but mostly in your work, service projects and health issues/concerns.  This is a time when you can make many advances in your relationship to your daily rituals, your body and how you deal with crisis.  The benefit of going through a retrograde cycle is that we are given the opportunity to break new ground in that area of life, it’s woth while to make note of any transformations that have occured. The astrology of this spring and summer seems to be drawing us into some very intense reality checks.  As a planet we are living well beyond our means, which most of us know but still we trudge on as if all the scientists are wrong, as if Mother Nature herself isn’t an authority on her own well-being.  Judging from our actions and inactions we are a wildly imbalanced species hell-bent on self-destruction.  Perhaps we will shift when we are forced to, it’s yet to be known.  One thing is for sure, the creativity and inventive qualities that you are being gifted with right now are precisely the thing that we need to turn this ship around.  It’s not that we don’t have enough (food, water, shelter, love) on the planet it’s that we do not use what we have so much of; our intelligence. Right now you are being gifted with the ability to see above the herd, Prometheus is with you and we need you to bring us the fire.  My suggested spiritual practice for you this month is to meditate on the intersection of your greatest passion and the greatest need on the planet and then go boldly in that direction.

Taurus and Taurus Rising

“If you will stay close to nature, to its simplicity, to the small things hardly noticeable, those things can unexpectedly become great and immeasurable.”
― Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet

I urge you to stay very close to your own nature this month, which is usually easy for you.  The new moon in Taurus on April 21st is going to be the start of your astrological year, and it’s filled with many gifts, blessings and beauty.  If the 21st is not your actual birthday I would like you to treat it as if it were your secret birthday.  Take yourself out on a date.  Invite no one else and do something that you always want to do but never get around to.  Many mythologies of the Goddess in antiquity depict her taking time out to go to the river to bathe and renew herself.  In this way she restores her virginity, which has nothing to do with being sexually chaste but it has everything to do with belonging to Herself.  Do something that reaffirms your comittment to you, something wonderful and pleasure filled; spend the day as one of renewal and commitment to Self.  At night ask for a specific dream for your year, sometimes its helpful to ask for something simple so that you can receive the message and work with the information.  At the very least pay attention to your dreams around the new moon; they hold insight for your year ahead.  With Venus now in Gemini you have a new outlook on your resources and what they can create for you.  Pay special attention to what you find yourself wanting and know that what physical things you desire are mere reflections of inner spaces you are creating and growing into.

Gemini and Gemini Rising

“Have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and try to love the question themselves, as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language. Don’t search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, some day far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer.”
― Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet

On April 4th  your ruling planet, Mercury, went direct and Venus entered Gemini where it will stay until early August.  During this last retrograde period (March12-April 4th) you may have been rehashing a work situation and/or your place in your social sphere or your community.  There could be a conversation that you have been having internally about what to do in these areas of life, if so anytime after the 4th life will start to reveal which direction to go in.  However I predict that by the end of the month, say on the 23rd of April you will be given a sudden flash of insight or help from a friend in an out-of-the blue-fashion. If you are feeling a transition coming you are right, the coming months, especially June will bring some big events for you, please remember that your idea of home, what is safe and what brings security is shifting and will continue to for another three months.  You may be starting to realize that what has brought you safety is now confining you and threatening future growth and expansion.  Take care of the internal before you make major external changes, there is still much confusion about your work situation, it’s OK, let it be for now.  Your greatest strength and your greatest weakness weakness is your mind, and it is yours to train and to discipline.  Overactive modern minds busy themselves engaging in constant social network confessions which we often mistake for intimacy, creativity or intelligence.  Curb the impulsive nature of your mind and instead train it to rely on the inherent wisdom of your Self and you will find your way through this spring.

Cancer and Cancer Rising

“Everything is gestation and then birthing.”
― Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet

The Barefoot College in Tilonia, India is the only college in the world that gives no certificates; the community you serve certifies you.  It houses no faculty with masters or doctoral degrees and has no tuition.  It is instead a school of practical knowledge and profound innovation.  The school works with people in surrounding villages giving them trade skills that are applicable to their lives and to their professions, the school teaches what the community desires and needs.  Students teach teachers and teachers learn from students.  Grandmothers become solar power engineers and midwifery is a profession taught by those who have done it all their lives.  Part of your homework this month is to watch this TED talk about it: http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/en/bunker_roy.html  I mention this because there is something in your chart that speaks to this kind of innovative spirit in your career.  What ideas about your career have been percolating over the past month?  How can you use what is in front of you to innovate your place in the tribe?  There is something right in your midst that could both help you and others around you.  This could be a new direction or it could be you understanding how to see yourself as a genius in your own sphere.  There is something that only you can give the world at this time and it’s not about standing out but it is about seeing your part in the whole.  What you consider your own personal common knowledge is precisely what could be revolutionary to the whole.

Leo and Leo Rising

“No great art has ever been made without the artist having known danger.”
Rainer Maria Rilke

A free mind is a dangerous mind and one that is greatly needed at this time in our history.  A free mind is dangerous because it finds it’s own way to think, to observe and to draw conclusions, philosophies and most importantly a free mind questions authority ad the status quo.  Looking at your chart I am reminded of the great poet, feminist thinker, advocate for women, gay and lesbian rights, peace and racial justice, educator and all around rule breaker Adrienne Rich who died this past month.  Ms. Rich lived life on her own terms and made her personal life a declaration of the feminist idiom ‘the personal is political.’ In 1969 she wrote, “The moment when a feeling enters the body/ is political. This touch is political” Refusing to accept the National Endowment for the Arts award in 1997  she wrote to the Clinton administration that she “could not accept such an award from President Clinton or this White House because the very meaning of art, as I understand it, is incompatible with the cynical politics of this administration…[Art] means nothing if it simply decorates the dinner table of the power which holds it hostage”  There is something of this revolutionary spirit being not only sparked in you but also set free, as if what ever has been holding you back be it internal or external, melts away early in the month and you have a chance to realize that you truly are free to live life on your own terms.  I can also see that there is some part of your self-confidence being ironed out, some part of you that is of great value is now being revealed to you.  Use it to bolster your confidence and set your mind free.  Be dangerous.

Virgo and Virgo Rising
“And your doubt can become a good quality if you train it. It must become knowing, it must become criticism. Ask it, whenever it wants to spoil something for you, why something is ugly, demand proofs from it, test it, and you will find it perhaps bewildered and embarrassed, perhaps also protesting. But don’t give in, insist on arguments, and act in this way, attentive and persistent, every single time, and the day will come when, instead of being a destroyer, it will become one of your best workers–perhaps the most intelligent of all the ones that are building your life.”
Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet

Every great thinker, writer, poet, dancer, artist, scientist, composer and architect has had profoundly adept skills of discernment and criticality.  Your sign is of course famous for these very traits.  Discernment allows us to weed out truth from misconception, illuminates deception and helps us to understand our souls greatest desires.  These past few months have given you days upon days of opportunity to understand these topics and others such as shame, guilt, worry, doubt and fear.  Many of you have had to look at those demons square in the face and I hope you have been able to cultivate more compassion for yourselves in doing so.  The truth is never free and looking at your horoscope I am reminded of the Great Ones across time who have had the strength of character and the powers of critical thought by their side when they have chosen their own path over the less turbulent often-tread ones.  By mid month the internal pressure will subside as Mars in Virgo finally goes direct, and by the 23rd your planet Mercury will come out of the shadow period of its recent retrograde transit.  All this is to say that life should start to move forward with a bolstered confidence, and with what I hope has become a greater reliance on your abilities to own your truth.

Libra and Libra Rising

“But this is what … people are so often and disastrously wrong in doing: they (who by their very nature are impatient) fling themselves at each other when love takes hold of them, they scatter themselves, just as they are, in all their messiness, disorder, bewilderment…

And what can happen then? What can life do with this heap of half broken things that they would like to call their happiness, and their futures?

And so each of them loses himself to the other for the sake of the other person, and loses the other. And loses the vast possibilities … in exchange for an unfruitful confusion, out of which nothing more can come, nothing but a bit of disgust, disappointment and poverty.”
― Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet

The full moon in Libra on April 6th at 12:19 p.m. PDT suggest that something in you is at once coming to a head and trying to perfect itself.  Mastery is on your mind and this moon may expose some missing piece to truly becoming your own authority.  Your kind is so fascinated by others that this past couple of years hanging with Saturn as it’s transited your sign has been a wake up call to what you yourself need to be bringing to the table.  This full moon is part of the farewell party to Saturn in Libra, and one thing about Saturn is for sure; he may not be the most fun but when he is through with us we are never the same.  If we have worked under his influenced, taken our lives and self seriously than when he leaves we feel like more competent, more mature more autonomous human beings.  This moon is a reflection of your progress, a report card of sorts.  Take stock of all that you have accomplished and above all else be kind to you.  You deserve it.

Scorpio and Scorpio Rising

“For one human being to love another; that is perhaps the most difficult of all our tasks, the ultimate, the last test and proof, the work for which all other work is but preparation. I hold this to be the highest task for a bond between two people: that each protects the solitude of the other.
This is the miracle that happens every time to those who really love: the more they give, the more they possess.”
― Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet

One thing I have noticed about you lately is that you are the most practical of all the water signs.  There is a steadfastness to you that is stabilizing to those around you and  lends you a wicked sense of humor.  You are the guardian at the gate, you understand the underworld and have the intensity of the entire zodiac in your little finger, but it’s no big deal to you.  You are not impressed by drama; instead what you seek is a sensible perspective to some of the most difficult of life’s journeys.  This month I would use that sense of humor in all your relationships.  There is a beautiful new moon brewing on April 21st in this sector of your chart and I know I have been emphasizing this aspect of your life for sometime but I promise that I am pretty close to being done with it.   What I suggest when forming, dealing or optimizing your relationships this month is to listen to Rilke.  You may be good at being a down to earth, stabilizing force but you can always work on letting go.  Let your other(s) be who they are and make mistakes as they go, finding their own messy way to the finish line.  Therefore for you, and only you I will bookend your horoscope with words from The Master:  “We need, in love, to practice only this: letting each other go. For holding on comes easily; we do not need to learn it.”
― Rainer Maria Rilke, Translations from the Poetry of Rainer Maria Rilke

Sagittarius and Sagittarius Rising

“Were it possible for us to see further than our knowledge reaches, and yet a little way beyond the outworks of our divining, perhaps we would endure our sadnesses with greater confidence than our joys. For they are the moments when something new has entered into us, something unknown; our feelings grow mute in shy perplexity, everything in us withdraws, a stillness comes, and the new, which no one knows, stands in the midst of it and is silent.”
― Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet

There may be no greater pleasure to an astrologer than telling thier client that they are free to do what they do best, and for you it’s to move forward in all the ways you wish.  Though you are venturing into the great unknown once again, the above words of Rilke urge you to bring some of the humility that the last few months has taught with you.  Revel in the silence, perhaps in awe, perhaps in joy, perhaps in the sheer pleasure of moving about the cabin once again in your professional life.  Anything that has tripped you up, held you back or been slower than you have wished in recent months is coming free.  This may have had more to do with a parent or family issue than with your job, or even a mix of both. Now it’s time to forge new pathways in the mind as well as in the world for these are especially available later in the month for you. These inspirations can come through a lover, a creative pursuit or some activity that brings you great child-like joy so make sure you leave some time for play and abandon yourself to the joys of the day.

Capricorn and Capricorn Rising

“That is the principal thing-not to remain with the dream, with the intention, with the being-in-the-mood, but always forcibly to convert it all into things.”
― Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet

There is something happening late in the month during the days surrounding the new moon that is stirring you into what you do best; make manifest your dreams and visions.  This new moon on April 21st harnesses your powers of practicality.  Above all else Capricorn respects the laws of time and space and utilizes the power of both.  Applying your steadfast and grounded nature to the creative energy that is brewing in your charts will help with any instability that you are feeling around living situations, family dynamics, issues you have with your current neighborhood or parent.  There could very well be some news or revelations concerning one or many of these topics this month but I would say stick to your creative endeavors and let the rest work its own self out.  One last thing I want to mention that is shifting in your chart has to do with publishing, laws and broadening your mental horizons.  Move forward in any of these areas boldly but with the lessons of humility that the past few months have brought you in your back pocket.

Aquarius and Aquarius Rising

“…. most people come to know only one corner of their room, one spot near the window, one narrow strip on which they keep walking back and forth.”
― Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet

By the looks of your chart there has been movement into unknown territory inside of yourself reminiscent of James Cameron’s successful underwater expedition to the deepest known part of the ocean, the Marina Trench.  Most of us have heard that as a people we know more about outer space than we do about our oceans, I would add that this is true on a symbolic level as well as a literal one.  In an interview on Democracy Now! about Trayvon Martin’s murder, Alice Walker explains it as a “symptom of our illness . . . We are a very sick country. And our racism is a manifestation of our illness and the ways that we don’t delve into our own wrecks.”   Our personal journeys to our own version of the Marina Trench are only as good as they can serve our communities and our world.  As humans we are all meant to dive deep into the experience at hand, and I believe we are meant to surface again to tell the tale of our journey to those who have yet to venture down to light their way.  All of our societal ailments are due to a refusal to “delve into our own wrecks”.  I would say that you will be doing this into the summer season. The new moon on April 21st invites you to begin a new at home or in your family.  My suggestion is to take what you have learned about your inner seas and erect an altar to it, or refresh your altar with something from your latest expedition.  Honor the deep.

Pisces and Pisces Rising

“I want to be with those who know secret things or else alone.”

― Rainer Maria Rilke

By mid month the doubts and questions you have been facing in your intimate relationships resolve themselves, for now.  Look for signs of clarity and how you may have been adding to the confusion.  Even though there has been and continues to be a lot of activity in the relationship area of your chart there is still so much emphasis on your own personal growth that I urge you to not loose sight of yourself if you are involved with another.  Instead look to see if the people you have drawn in can keep their own boundaries; do they have their own life and self-development practices in tact?  Do they know secret things?  From April 21st to about the 25th (give or take a day) my homework for you is to go out into a part of your city or town that you rarely go to but always think about.  It may be an art gallery, a restaurant or a hike that you have been dreaming about lately.  While on this excursion I would like you to ask yourself what is one simple thing that you could do to better support yourself and then I want you to listen deeply for the answer.

Chani is available for
Astrological Readings (by Skype or in person) and
Workshops
Reiki (Hands-On Healing) sessions or
Private Yoga Sessions

For more information
please email her at
chani@chaninicholas.com
or visitwww.chaninicholas.com

Dolphin Pose Variation – The Dynamic Duo External Rotation and Strong Forearms!

Learn how to externally rotate your arms and strengthen your forearms in this amazing dolphin pose variation by Jill Miller.

Two essentials for yoga inversions are external rotation of the arm bones forearm strength.

External rotation is the thing that allows you to take the training wheels off and start flying. It connects your shoulder girdle to your core via your Serratus anterior muscle.

The Serratus is a badass muscle that lives underneath you underarm  and wraps your front body to your back body. Hiding from plain view like a ninja shrouded by darkness this muscle doesn’t get noticed.

Until now…(cue dramatic music…)

To my delight this variation on dolphin pose addresses both of those issues!

On top of all that it also feels delicious in its ability to solidify the shoulders onto the upper back. It feels sturdy. Always a good thing when you plan to balance upon them.

I owe this genius photo and pose to Jill Miller of Yoga Tune Up. I found this in a wonderful article of hers on wrist health. To read the original article click HERE.

Dolphin Pose with Palms Facing Up

a) Rest forearms on a yoga mat, and place a yoga block in between the wrists along the pinky side of hands.

b) Pike the hips upwards, forming an upside down “V” shape with the body (bend the knees if the hamstrings are very tight).

c) Attempt to press the thumb side of the hand into the floor, and feel the traction and stretch deeply within the muscles of the forearms as the spine extends away from the rooted forearms.

(Item D is my addition to Jill’s amazing instruction)

d) Prepare for world domination now that you have the mighty Serratus holding your shoulders on your upper back like superman’s cape!

New Yoga Video: Big Beautiful Backbends With Briohny Smyth

Love Briohny Smyth?

Good.

Me too!

I thought I’d share yet another beautifully made and meticulously produced video of her by Equinox Fitness.

I think is pretty inspiring, and hope it gives you another reason to unroll your mat today and dive into your yoga practice!

What’s cool about this one is you get to hear her voice as she lays down some yoga wisdom on backbending. I personally love backbending and love to inspire my students to pursue the bigger backbends with enthusiasim snd a healthy dose of caution and patience.

My Love Affair With Yoga: How Yoga is Like a Long Term Relationship

Yoga and  I  are in a long-term relationship. It is one that I am continually finding new reasons to fall in love over, and over and over again! It’s spicy! I love that it isn’t just down dog and warrior two. Even if those may have been the reasons I fell in love with it in the first place.

No, it’s mysterious. Dangerous! Even more than a hint naughty!

Just when things are threatening to get a bit stale, it surprises me. Sometimes it’s a nuance in the way to place my hands on my mat. Other times, it’s floating into scorpion handstand from the back of my mat. It keeps my interest piqued and coming back for more.

Oh sure, there are days I am so frustrated I want to swear it off all together! We have our fights. No relationship is entirely drama free. I don’t always get my way. I pout. I lay blame where it doesn’t belong. It’s the poses fault I can’t do them. Perhaps I’ll just ignore certain poses as a way of “getting back at them”. Of course we make up and I realize it’s not anyones fault. Relationships are just hard work. Gaining deeper understanding requires a lot of work, time and patience. Patience I don’t always have. It also provides a mirror. One I don’t always want to look into.

Yoga often offers me well meaning yet unsolicited advice. I sometimes feel its being bossy. I don’t appreciate being told what to do. I’m not proud to say that I ignored a lot of it on good days. On bad days, I even did things out of spite! (Oh, I should take it easy today you say?! Well, maybe I will practice twice today….take that! I can do whatever I well please!) I usually come around and realize that yoga does really have my back and is just trying to look out for me. I feel lucky to have it in my life. It seems to know what I need before I do. It brings to my attention that which I would otherwise miss.

However, regardless of the hard work, the ups and downs, and disagreements nothing soothes me like those first few ujjayi breaths in down dog. I am suddenly home. This is love.