Why I Feel So Damn Good After Time On The Trail

Recently, I offered a helping hand to a loved one in need of cleaning out her condo in preparation for leasing. For one person, it would require a week of solid work, so a second human resource would surely help her get the job done sooner. Now, before you start with the “Well that was sweet and noble,” you have to know the condo is on Oahu. Yep, I had never been, so the logic was, with only four full days to get the deed done, we’d work hard and still have time to play. And that we did.One of those playgrounds included the Ka’au Crater trail, about 20 minutes away from Waikiki. We made our way out of the downtown area and up to the trailhead where we parked along a luscious wall of green. We proceeded to enter through a portal leading us from the wide open blue skies to a whole new world of enchantment and amazement beneath the greenest canopy of rainforest – a jungle of sorts, complete with huge trunks, houseplants the size of trucks with leaves twice the size of elephant ears; rays of sunshine struggled to make their way through the branches, leaves and thick vines hanging off the top. The trails were highly technical, meandering up and down, requiring the utmost attention to each and every step along the way while maneuvering rocks, roots, and mud. At times, we would need ropes to make our way up the steepest ascents. Each and every breath of air was loaded with what seemed like pure oxygen, offering up the richest prana and light. At one point, heavy rains managed to break through the canopy, baptizing us with a feeling of purity and cleanse. We played like children, wading through streams and pools just below the most beautiful-sounding waterfalls. We stopped and sat, listening through our ears and hearts all that surrounded us, outside and in. As we drove away from that portal, our cups were full, our bodies, minds, and hearts refreshed and renewed. Pure joy.Ever wonder why you feel so (damn) good after spending time in the forest, out over the open plains, or along the beach? For me, there’s always been this healing connection with nature when running, trekking, or simply sitting in the woods. The Biophilia Effect: A Scientific and Spiritual Exploration of the Healing Bonds Between Humans and Nature by Clemens G. Arvay offers up some science behind why it is a really good practice to be one with nature. Here are three I found most interesting:

  1. Biological Communication: Plants communicate, not only with other plants, but also with humans. One of the primary vehicles is by using chemical substances, some known as terpenes, to send messages of threatening pests with details of the type of pest and results of the damage done. Plant immune systems receive these messages and adapt accordingly to protect themselves, and don’t stop here. As we, humans, enter these hotbeds of communication, our own immune systems receive these signals, boosting the effectiveness, and actually increasing our own defenses through numbers and activity
  2. The Unconscious Mind: Our reptilian brains bring forward experiences of our ancestors from over thousands of years. These generational patterns dictate how we respond to certain situations, resulting in reactions ranging from feeling relaxed to fight-or-flight mode. Birds happily singing above us have never really posed much of a threat and, as such, invite a friendly and happy mood. Bushes filled with berries are a sign of nourishment, which in turn might make us feel happy and pleasant. Flowers elicit similar feelings and, surprisingly, indicate food is nearby. Our ancestors used trees as protection and safety for eating and sleeping; being in similar surroundings today will most likely make us feel secure.
  3. Fascination: Humans have two forms of attention – directed and fascination.The first is the one required day-to-day at work or school while we study, read, or drive from point a to b. We eventually pay the price when using directed attention, expending precious energy that can ultimately be quite exhausting and stressful.The second, fascination, requires no energy, is automatic, and actually offers up a recharge for our minds and hearts. Nature is full of things that fascinate; from giant leaves, to granite walls towering thousands of feet up into the air, to waterfalls that seem to drop forever into the most brilliant rainbow.

Arvay captures many more reasons why we feel the way we do while outdoors, so check out his book. But, before you do, get out and connect with all that lives and thrives along the trail. Breathe their precious gift of air. Feel nature’s vibrations as well as the thoughts and experiences of your family from years past. Finally be in tune with all that brings wonder and fascination.

Conserving Energy On and Off the Mat


Brahmacharya, “walking with the divine.” What better way to describe my recent trekking experience, as we made our way along trails high up into the heavens in the Himalayas of Ladakh? This yama has many interpretations, ranging from celibacy, to moderation of desires, to being aware and appreciative of everything around you, to wisely using vital energy and resources. These last two inspirations seemed to resonate the most at some 14,000 feet of elevation.




Years back, there was a time when the same trail would be an entirely different experience: racing against the clock, plus measuring my heart rate, mileage, and speed to ensure I was maximizing my efforts to beat my personal best. The focus was more about training and performance, targets and metrics, and taking my body to its limit; and less about the joy of presence, of being aware and intimate with all my surroundings.

This time it was different. Let’s start with wise use of energy. In this case, climbing mountains at this level of elevation requires conscious breathing and mindfulness with something as basic as walking. Each step, each sway of arms, is carefully chosen to require minimal amount of effort. This time, everything around me – the bluest of skies, puffy white clouds so close I could touch them, warm breeze, wildflowers and grasses, beautiful Tibetans coming out to greet us, clear running streams, birds, rivers – all were a representation of the divine. This intimate connection with everything around me soothed and warmed my heart. And, as a rainbow appeared just over a nearby mountain, tears of joy rolled down my cheeks, feeling yet another welcoming embrace from God. As the tears dried, I reflected on the ways this happiness and peace could follow me beyond the trails that inspired, where, and how to move in such a way to leave less of a footprint and have more connection.



On the mat, I noticed every detail of my breath: the texture and sound, as well as how it seemed to create paths to find the way; the manner in which the palms of the hands connected with Mother Earth while flowing through cat and cow or hovering in downward dog, at peace with whichever way the foot rested along the standing leg, my tree limbs swayed with the gentle wind. I took note of where the body was wasting energy as I struggled with that gnarley boat pose or side plank. Where can I let go?



Off the mat, I’ll take this practice of using energy wisely to my relationship with the earth, trading my fossil-fueled vehicle for electric, and taking steps to use more solar for the house and other devices. As I transition out of tech to my true love, getting back to pedaling from point A to B will be a joy. Completely eliminating plastic and replacing with glass and other reusable alternatives. Need a “new” shirt? Next time I’ll consider purchasing a preowned top. Composting. The list goes on and on. I close my eyes and visualize the bluest skies and clearest streams of the mountains of Ladakh, and recall something ashtangi and teacher David Swenson once shared at one of his workshops… At the end of the day, we just want to make whatever space we come to a little better than when we first arrived… Living the yoga.

Peace, Love, and the Great Outdoors

Yoga is more than just asanas. It’s a way of life.

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Urdvha Dhanurasana

“Do you have a rod in your lower spine?” someone asked while observing my backbend. Without a pause the samskara surfaced, “It’s those bulged discs”. As I completed the last word of my response my next thought was, “You know they’re not there anymore, in their bulged state. It’s the story, the fear of the excruciating pain and darkness that comes as they pinch nerves along the spine.”

It’s taken me many years to work through those four discs between S1 and L2 with the yoga, and there has most definitely been progress. As always there is more work to do, as evidenced by my return to the impression left by pain and suffering.

Some inspiration I’ve found helpful from Pandit Rajmani Tigunait, spiritual head of the Himalayan Institute: “It is never too late (to think of working with our samskaras and and altering our destiny). We must remember that darkness has no power to swallow light. No matter how small the flame and no matter how dense the darkness around it, it still shines—in fact, due to the contrast, it shines brighter. Similarly, the indomitable will of the soul burns on even during the downward spiral of our destiny. In deep depression we may lose hope, but we never lose faith in life itself. The will to live and the desire to find some meaning in life never dies. And if we follow our undying will we will be able to overcome the influence of our negative samskaras. All we need is patience.”

Warrior Spirit

The forest offers up so much wisdom and direction. Be patient, listen to your warrior spirit and find the way. 

Yoga Is….


Ashtanga Yoga Confluence

The lineage. So much more than the labels, titles and lists. Perhaps Family is a more fitting word.

We looked upon them: these servants to the student, and masters of the practice that so willingly shared their knowledge with all who attended the Ashtanga Yoga Confluence. Throughout this grand weekend, the grace of their love and teachings filled our hearts with joy. 



A few requests for Iyengar’s beautiful quote shared this morning as we began slipping out of our own skin.

From “Light On Life” – “Savasana is about shedding, in the same way that I earlier mentioned the snake sloughing off its skin to emerge glossy and resplendent in its renewed colors. We have many skins, sheaths, thoughts, prejudices, preconceptions, ideas, memories, and projects for the future. Savasana is a shedding of all these skins, to see how glossy and gorgeous, serene and aware is the beautiful rainbow-colored snake who lies within.”

Later, Sci

It’s been almost six months since I jotted this one down in my journal, and I’m happy to say my buddy Sci has finally moved on.  Celebrate each and every day, no matter what if brings!

January 26, 2014  

The mat these days has presented an interesting journey as I continue to make peace with my old friend “Sci” (aka Sciatica).  Unlike previous visits, he’s decided to overstay his welcome more than the usual week or two.  And so we do the dance, each and every day of practice.  Not really quite sure what he’ll bring each time, but its usually a rough, humbling start as I make my way through the first 30 to 50 breaths.  He finally seems to calm, feeling the love and ease of my practice and being.  Yes, there are attempts to disrupt this flow along the way, triggering hundreds of crazy thoughts through the brain ranging from “My days are numbered and I need a new frickin’ spine” to “You know it’s going to be alright”.  Back to the breath.  Back to liberation.  Back to joy.  

Larry Yoga 140119102

Sherpas heavy on my mind

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Spending time with our amazing guides Anil, Sangam and Man, whether it was trekking through the “hills” of Nepal, visiting temples, making new friends or sharing perspective during Gary’s Dharma talks in the evenings, you’d never know they’d lost five of their own brothers just days before during the tragic collapse of the Kumbhu Ice Fall. Each morning they showed up with the biggest smiles, compassion and joy to insure our adventure was fun, safe yet challenging and willing to give their own lives to save ours from any danger. It was our exposure to the warm spirit and amazing strength of the Sherpa, capable of sprinting up and down the mountains with ease to serve, or carry goods and supplies weighing what seems like more than half their body weight up the most treacherous mountains. Nevertheless, it is a job. A very dangerous one at that and at a rate of pay significantly less than foreign guides. The only way out for generations to come is education, education, education. Please consider helping and if interested visit http://www.sherpaedfund.org/support.html