Saturday, September 26, 2015

Bendy Yoga Skelly Does Surya Namaskara Video

For a free printable poster version of Skelly doing Surya Namaskara plus purchase info to adopt your own Skelly Go the Skelly page at Yoga Life Style....

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Standing Upright Paddleboarding Across the Hudson at Highland Landing

Standing Upright Paddleboard Across the Hudson River at Highland Landing


Beyond Here There Be Dragons


SUP Across the Hudson Near the Scenic Walway
By Jack E. Boucher [Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Paddleboarding across the Hudson: A goal met and a story to tell

A few weeks ago I paddled across the Mighty Hudson River from Highland Landing to Poughkeepsie Train Station Park and lived to tell the tale. This season has been a delight for me as I have experienced all mannner of water and conditions and that day was perfectly lovely for a late afternoon adventure.
       I became a Hudson River boarder because most of the water in this beautiful landscape that I love, the Hudson River Valley is badly polluted and unsafe to swim in. When I learned this it came as a shock to me but a little online research showed that it is true. If you don't believe it (like I didn't) here is a link to a scientific organization, I now volunteer for, that collects the data.
     My plan, when I got my paddleboard, had been to play in the nearby Wallkill River, since I live and work near various put ins. However, the Wallkill in particular is a proven cess pit. A friend had alerted me to this best kept of dirty little secrets about the Hudson River Valley before I ever entered its unsafe waters and I am glad she did. Once I did the research I realized my closest place for public boarding access, in reliably clean water, was the Hudson itself.
     The good news here is that the Hudson River, starting at Highland Landing, is a lovely, interesting place to paddle. The river is about a mile wide, so there is a lot of water. Even when it is busy with motorboats, jet skis and day cruise ships on a Saturday afternoon, it is rarely crowded and the wakes make for interesting challenges. There is also wind, current and tide to deal with. These elements put a lot of people off, but to me they make the paddling interesting. They are strong enough to keep me alert and manageable enough to help me feel competent and relaxed.
      I have also heard numerous stories from random scaremongers about whirlpools, sharks and of course pollution, but none of these things have been present on my voyages. I have seen a blue crab scuttling along the bottom of the river in the shallows. Commuter trains pass regularly on the east shore and the west bank has its freighters. There is something comforting about the rumble of the steel wheels over the tracks carrying across the water. The variety of vegetation, rocky outcrops and various buildings along the shore are perfect for creating reference points for navigation and meditation.
     Early in the season, when I first tried paddling on the Hudson, I knew I wanted to cross to the eastern shore, but it would have meant being a half mile from land and perhaps facing what would be the strongest river currents along the way, so I did not rush across. Rather, I headed North, against the current and the tide so my progress was not fast even with the wind at my back. I knew if I exhausted myself the movement of the water would take me back to where I had started from and this appealed to my cautious nature. After a couple of excursions like that I had a chance to revisit a spot I had paddled in last year. Seaside Park in Bridgeport, Connecticut, the home of the Gathering of the Vibes music festival.
Paddleboarding at the Gathering of the Vibes 2015
Getting in touch with my inner nature at the Gathering of the Vibes!

One thing a lot of festival goers don't spend much time thinking about at Vibes, while they are partying and listening to rock jams, funk and bluegrass, is that the park is right on the Long Island Sound and a big Ferry comes by every hour or so bringing dozens of cars and many more passengers back and forth between Bridgeport and Long Island. There is a seawall right in the middle of our beach separating Bridgeport Harbor from the Sound. On the Northern harbor side the water is calmer with less wind and waves than out on the sound. Last year when I paddled there, a half mile crossing of the harbor was a big adventure, timing my trip to avoid the Ferry traffic and needing to stop halfway across to rest a bit before continuing to Pleasure Beach (I kid you not) on the other side. This year with more stamina and skill I was able to dash across the harbor in 20 minutes or so, even fighting 10 mph winds and some current from the sound and I could have kept going except I like stopping at the beach, talking to the life guards and random bathers and getting a refill on my water. After 10 minutes there, I continued by paddling in a big circle in the harbor, seeing up close, distant ship wrecks, docks and industrial facilities that I never thought I could reach by boarding, but there I was.
      After 2 hours out I made it back to the Vibes beach where I had started feeling remarkably proud of myself for being so much better at this than I was last year. The next day I showed up on the beach early, before the wind had come up and while most of my friends were still asleep. I paddled out into the harbor and through the break in the sea wall, into Long Island Sound, with no destination in mind but more exploration. At some point I noticed a distant lighthouse just beyond the public beach which abuts the park beach. I decided to make for it, though again, it seemed impossibly far. Here is where I met my true nature. Finding the rhythm of my strokes and the undulation of the sea soothing and encouraging. The beauty of the sparkling surface all around me. The safety of being half a mile or more from any other people in every direction. My sureness that if I just continue to make one stroke after another the place that seemed way too far would soon come into reach. There were some moments when I nearly turned back. I suppose I had reached the halfway point and the Lighthouse was not growing in size as I paddled toward it. I had no watch and hadn't eaten breakfast. I did not know how long I had been out and I was getting hungry. It was a good bet I would find no snacks waiting for me near the lighthouse. But as I cataloged my discomfort and my fear of not accomplishing my task, I also kept drawing closer to the far off spot I had set out toward, since I hadn't stopped to ponder all this but rather, kept paddling despite my uncertainty.
      And soon I could tell from the growing size of my far off goal that if I just stuck with it I would get there, most likely with enough energy to stroke my way back to where I had started. And so it was that I got within a short walk of the Lighthouse. The way was a rocky jumble, however and would have taken me half an hour or more to pick my way to the out crop that supported the enticing structure. An extra hour of walking might mean missing breakfast with my mates so I chose not to take that tedious yet glorious stroll. Rather I sat on the rocks watching a distant woman playing with her dog on the beach for a few minutes and after a short rest headed back to the sound to rejoin my group satisfied that I had gone further than I could have imagined just a year prior.
     So, when i got home from the festival, I was ready to cross the Hudson River. I had paddled much further in less than ideal circumstances, I would wear my waterproof watch and leave plenty of time for the unexpected. I would look both ways and avoid getting in front of any ships big or small and I would find out what there was, if anything, to fear out there.
      The climax here is thankfully, anti-climactic, unless a lovely few hours on the water thrills you, like it does me. It was a quick sprint across the river from my put in at Highland Landing to a spot off the shore on the the other side. At one point as I paddled South toward Waryas Park and the public boat Launch near the Ice House Restaurant, I felt disoriented. It was as if the paddleboard was foundering. I paddled and seemingly made no progress. Fortunately, I knew this sensation from canoeing as a teen. When you move at the same rate as the current and don't look ashore, it feels like you are not moving at all. If the River was moving at the speed of light I suppose I would have stopped aging in that moment and perhaps I did. It is an odd feeling to be exerting and knowing something should be happening and yet seeing no sign of it. I took a deep breath and scanned the shoreline where my soutward progression, while not swift, was at least evident. So much for the dangers of the current.
     I met some interesting locals in the park and we had a chat about swimming and sharks and chemical pollution in the Hudson, only one of which was actually present and that would be the bathers. I had a rest and some water and headed back out into my chosen, gently flowing milieu. This time rather than sprint across however, I headed diagonally, maximizing my time in the center of the channel. I felt strong and competent on my little board surrounded by half a mile of water side to side and miles of it north and south. I have camped hard by Lake Tear of the Clouds, which is the northernmost feeder into the Hudson and played in the Sea at Rockaway Beach near where the Hudson joins the ocean. So for me, being here in the middle of this sparkling, mildly churning pathway, warmed by the sun, cooled by the breeze and rhythmically paddling, bobbing as I go, feels like coming home. And that my friends was my big adventure.
Endnote about water safety!
    In talking to folks this Summer about SUPping in the Hudson, one thing has become clear, most people haven't got the first clue about water safety. I would no more head across the Hudson on a board without a life vest than I would go outside for a ten mile hike on a 10 degree night naked and without a flashlight. It would be madness. Funny thing about that though is, I have found, that unless I mention my life jacket, people assume I am out there without one.
     It has been my great good fortune to grow up on waterfronts and have my Senior Life Saving Cerificate (expired) and my Small Craft Certificate (also expired) so water safety is second nature to me even now.
     I know of two people who died this summer in the Hudson. One, evidently at the hands of an angry lover who sabotaged his kayak and one who was perhaps intoxicated or just horsing around too much. In the articles I read there is no mention of them wearing flotations only details of dredging for their bodies to clue one in that they sunk rather than wore a life vest. If you go out on any body of water without protection from drowning you take your life in your hands and sometimes lose. Don't do it and stop anyone you can from doing it as well.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

The Story of Spooky Bendy Yoga Skelly

Flexible Skeleton does Sun Salutation in poster form Surya Namaskar
The Spooky Bendy Yoga Skelly story is really cool.  I bought a few dozen of these flexible 5 inch skeletons to share with my friends who I go to the Gathering of the Vibes with.  Since we are all into the Grateful Dead, I thought it would be a nice toy to play with during the festival.  Fortunately I had bought a dozen since they were cheap and I only needed 7 or 8 for my friends, so I took 4 out to play with.
     My live-in girlfriend's daughter was 8 at the time and we started playing a game where one of us hides the 4 skellys and the other one has to find them.  When all 4 are found we changed roles, so the finder becomes the hider for the next round.  Another rule is some part of he Skelly has to be visible with out opening anything or looking under things.  Some part has to be in plain sight.  Well, this game went on for days and days.  Before school and work, after school and work, many times over the weekend.  We found it endlessly amusing.  Sometimes we would even pose the figures doing comical things like using a soup bowl as a hot tub or doing a difficult yoga pose.  Hey wait did someone say yoga pose!  What a cool idea.  I wonder if Skelly can really do a lot of them?  Well it turns out he can!
       So now he became Skelly with a purpose.  I realized I could cut him a little 6 inch yoga mat and it would be proportional and really cute and cool.  Since I had a line on getting the flexible skeletons inexpensively there was room to make this a product, so I bought a couple of hundred Skellys, cut a few hundred mats and took some photos of them in poses.  Well, it caught the imagination of my customers when I shared the photos and we sold out right away and I had to get more.  Eventually my supplier ran out of Skellys and we had to stop.  During the year since I had been hunting for more Skellys till I finally found a supplier who could help me and well now they are back and there is no risk of running out ;--)
     But wait you say, what happened to my friends getting Skellys and how long did the game with my girlfriends little girl continue.  Well, if there is a sad part to this story, this is it.  I sold hundreds and hundreds of Skellys and when my supplier ran out I was caught off guard.  I needed every available Skelly to fill orders.  I didn't even have any to play with anymore.  I had one or two that I needed to hold onto to help me find the exact ones I needed.  No more playing and no gift Skellys.  Until now of course.   Here's what my girlfriends little girl found at her place at the breakfast table this morning.
Spooky Yoga Bendy Skellys at breakfast

     And my Vibes Tribe will get get thier Skellys this year, but don't tell them.  Let's keep it a surprise!
     The poster at the top was my idea to show off Skelly's incredible flexibility and how cool he looks on the mat.  If you want a printable version or more information about Skellys here's a link to their page on my site.

Monday, October 6, 2014

A Vote for Yoga Life Style is a Vote for Great New Yoga Gear!

Hi Friends,
      I have butterflies as I write this post. It is a similar energy to when I open a gift or go on a sales call. Where my little self feels exposed and scared of rejection or disappointment and my big self is reminding me I have lots of friends and things of value to share and I need to share about them and regardless of what happens it will be OK. Whew. I really go through a lot....
      My latest source of agony is asking you to vote for my organization Yoga Life Style to be eligible for a Mission Main Street grant. If selected I could recieve $150,000.00 to research and develop new products, do more effective marketing and improve my existing websites. I have lots of new products in the pipeline right now that I will be introducing in the next few months. This would supercharge the marketing of them and allow me the freedom to develop followup items right away. Here is the link for your vote. Thanks so very much. Also please share this link.

Vote for Yoga Life Style on Chase Mission Main Street

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Tadpole and Salamander Bolsters Help Bodyworkers Stay Healthy

Tadpoles and Salamanders Support Craniosacral Practitioners Tadpoles and Salamanders Support Craniosacral Practitioners

Tadpoles and Salamanders Support Craniosacral Practitioners

New Yoga Bolster Embraced by Craniosacral Community!

I love creating and sharing items that are helpful in therapuetic yoga settings, restorative yoga classes and regular yoga studios too. Recently I discovered that some of the newer items I've been making for yogis are super useful for therapists of all stripes that lay hands on their patients for extended periods. These therapists include craniosacral, chiropractic, osteopaths, reiki practitioners and others. It is exciting to me to have something that these therapists find aids them in their work.


How I Learned About Cushions and Craniosacral Therapy: A Big Misundertanding

Now it seems so simple, but at the time it sort of boggled my mind. In early 2014 I started getting orders for Tadpole and Salamander yoga bolsters from an unlikely source: Turtleback Craniosacral Therapy near Saratoga NY. One time when Margery the owner/director of Turtleback Craniosacral Education was placing an order I asked her how she was using the cushions and she told me that they were used to support the arms in therapy sessions. For some reason I assumed that they were for the clients arms and imagined that having raised arms made the treatment recipient more comfortable. I even started telling people about this!

I Learned How The Bolsters are Really Used for Craniosacral Therapy Just In Time!

In early June of 2014 I was scheduled to be an exhibitor at the Symposium for Yoga Therapy and Research. I was very excited about meeting a lot of people who care deeply about the proper use of props and who are working at the cutting edge of yoga and healing. I also thought it would be instructive if I could tell them exactly how the Tadpoles and Salamanders were being used in Craniosacral Therapy, so I emailed Margery and asked her if she could make a fuller explanation that I could share with other therapists.

The Real Story: Proper Use of Tadpole and Salamander Bolsters for Craniosacral Therapist Support
Here is what Margery wrote me back:

Hi Ray—

As craniosacral therapists, we make light touch contacts and often stay in one position for several minutes or even more.  Therefore, correct ergonomics are critical.  We use all shapes and sizes of pillows to support our arms so we can sit in as comfortable a position as possible, shoulders relaxed, spine aligned.

My sister, Ellen Mossman, who lives in the Bay Area, CA, but often teaches with me, is a yoga teacher, too.  She discovered the Bheka Tadpoles and found they provide the perfect arm support for craniosacral practice.  She talked about them in class, so I ordered a couple from you to try, and the rest is history. :-)  Now almost all our students are using them, too, or they will be soon.

They’re especially good for working around the face.  We put one tadpole on either side of the client’s head and can rest our raised forearms on the cushions, keeping the touch light without strain. 

I’ve been playing with the salamander at the side of the table in the same way.  It’s been fun figuring out how to use them creatively.

I don’t know how helpful this will be for attendees at a Yoga Therapy Conference, but there are plenty of bodyworkers who teach yoga.  

Have a great time at the conference and thanks for getting the order out so promptly.

Be well,



Margery Chessare, LMT, BCST, RCST, PLLC

Turtle Back Craniosacral Education

Biodynamic Craniosacral Therapy


The Definitive Word on Tadpoles and Salamanders for Craniosacral Support: Thank You Margery

Wow! What a great explanation and a nice story. Since then I have learned from Margery that she likes three things in particular about the Tadpoles and Salamanders: their size, shape and the materials they are made with.
The sizes and shapes make them versatile in fitting where she needs them.

TadpoleVersatileBodyWorkBolsters SalamandercraniosacralPillow  

Excellent Materials for Outstanding Bodywork Support Products

As to the materials, the shells of the Tadpoles and Salamanders are either flocked polyester, which cleans easily but has a deliciously soft hand feel or cotton canvas dyed with AZO free dyes which has a rugged natural feel. The solid colors (eggplant on the Tadpoles shown above) are all polyester and the India Print is cotton (used on the Salamander shown above). They are all stuffed with organic buckwheat hulls which mold to your body. So Tadpoles and Salamanders are comfortable against your skin and really embrace and support you when you sink into them.


Yoga Supply Becomes Bodywork Supply

I am delighted my bolsters are a wonderful aid to therapists as they perform their important healing work. Since learning about this I have been listening for and I have been told about various ways the Tadpoles, Salamanders and other of my props are being used. I will try to document uses here and on the Yoga Life Style web site. If you have anything you would like to share please comment below or write me at ray at

For further usage information on Tadpoles, Salamanders and wholesale and retail purchase information click here.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Neck Free, Pain Free Headstand with Chairs Using the Bheka Turtle

Neck Free, Pain Free Headstand with Chairs Using the Bheka Turtle

Neck Free, Pain Free Headstand with Chairs

Bheka Turtle Makes Neck Free Headstand More Relaxed Than Ever!

Sometimes unlikely combinations create something that is more than the sum of their parts. The Bheka Turtle was originally created as a meditation cushion and a chair cover for restorative and therapuetic poses. While it is wonderful for those things, I discovered it makes a very comfortable nest for your shoulders when doing chair assisted headstands as is often taught in Iyengar studios. Having the neck free makes the practice safe for people with cervical vertebrae issues and using the Turtle really relieves any pressure on the shoulders by spreading it as much as possible Into the deep cushion.

Neck Free, Pain Free Completely Relaxed Headstand Using Chairs and Bheka Turtles

Neck Free, Pain Free Headstand : The Setup
All you need for this set up is two sturdy chairs and two Bheka Turtles. If you do not have any Turtles you can use blankets or folded over layers of yoga mats for cushioning but you will have much more pressure on your shoulders than with the Turtles. Notice the non-slip feet on the chairs. If you don't have that you can put them on yoga mats. I like the stability of these chairs facing forward but with folding chairs you may prefer to have them facing each other. Keep them near the wall so your feet can reach the wall for maximum relaxation.


Neck Free, Pain Free Headstand:
Getting Started

Once you have the chairs set up you just need to insert your head and bend your knees. I call this the Ostrich pose and it is great for hiding from your yoga teacher. You won't be lingering here for long though. Press weight into the hands, tighten the abs and roll up into headstand.

Neck Free, Pain Free Headstand:
Doing it Right

Rolling up into the pose means just that. First bring your knees to your elbows and rest there for a few breaths, getting used to the inversion and feeling whatever comes up for you. When you feel comfortable raise the knees to above your hips but keep your knees bent. Your feet may find the wall here and that is OK. Again relax, breathe and sense into the pose. Finally, straighten the legs for the full posture with the legs away from the wall. You can do split leg variations from here if you like. In the next step you will find the most relaxing way of doing this beneficial inversion.



Neck Free, Pain Free Headstand:
Relax Completely

To find total relaxation let your feet rest against the wall, so balance is less of a concern. Then release your arms and just hang. Ahhh....

The organic buckwheat hull stuffing in your Bheka Turtles provides just the right amount of firm yet gentle support letting you maintain this posture as long as you like.

Neck Free, Pain Free Headstand: Go Down and Come Up Slowly

When you are ready to come down, bring the hands back to the chair so you can engage your abs and slowly lower down the way you went up. First bring the feet away from the wall, then bend the knees, then bring the knees to your elbows and then slowly lower the feet to the floor. Stop. Stay in this position, the Ostrich pose, for a few breathes. The longer you are inverted the more slowly you should come up. Once you sense that the blood has truly stabilized then feel free to stand up. If you cannot tell what's happening with your blood pressure just count 12 breaths before coming fully up. If you have any questions or suggestions please post them below.

For further usage information on Bheka Turtles and wholesale and retail purchase information click here.