Always Moving Forward

This past December I travelled to Australia for the first time. I spent time in Sydney, Melbourne, and the Blue Mountains. I taught some yoga classes, hit up every beach possible, went to art galleries, and went on bush walks. But the only thing I really wanted was to see kangaroo in their natural habitat.

Much like deer in the United States, there is an over-population of ‘roo in Australia, so I didn’t think it would be that hard to do. A friend who lives in the valley of the Blue Mountains told me she has kangaroo in her backyard pretty much all day everyday, so she offered to pick me up from where I was staying and take me to her home. We drove about 40 minutes to her house and were hanging out for about an hour without a single ‘roo in sight. None on the drive there, none in her backyard. I had pretty much given up hope and while my friends went inside for some tea, I decided to walk around the garden. I had been outside for a while, and started to head back in when I saw a flicker in the corner of my eye. I was sure it had to be a squirrel, but when I looked I found and entire kangaroo family in front of me – mom, dad, and toddler joey! I spent a good 15 minutes hanging out with my ‘roo friends before they headed off into the woods. (See video below).

I compared kangaroo to deer in the U.S., and that is pretty much what they are. Although they are not evolutionary related (kangaroos are marsupials), they are very similar; they look at you the same way, live in the same type of habitat, travel with their family, have similar ears, are both herbivores, and, as I mentioned earlier, are over-populated and sometimes a nuisance. Aside from how they take care of their young, there is one big difference – how they move around. While a deer can move forward, backwards, and side to side (although as Bambi has taught us, sometimes quite clumsily), kangaroo can only move in a forward direction. They are completely unable to move in reverse, but they can pivot quickly to change direction with the use of their tail.

Similarly, in our own human lives, we can only move forward. Physically we can move in all different directions – forward, backward, sideways, turn upside down and bend over backwards. Time-wise we can only move forward. Yet many of us are stuck in the past – we ruminate and agonize over things that have happened – words we regret, actions we wish we could change. We even tell ourselves that things will never change – that we will always be miserable, never have enough money, find the perfect partner, always have tight hamstrings (!). We tell ourselves these things as if they were hard truths. When the truth is that everything changes AND we can always pivot in a new direction.

There are many ways to look at the concept of truth, or satya in Sanskrit:

Within the realm of yogic philosophy we are told that the only thing that is True or Real is that which never changes. That there is something within all of us that is a constant, and this is what the quest is within a yogic practice; our Holy Grail; the journey of finding Ātmabōdha, or Self-knowledge.

In the realm of science there are definitely things that we can take as truth (for now anyway) – the sun rises in the east and sets in the west. The Earth is round; the Earth and the other planets on our solar system revolve around the sun; Einstein’s Theory of Relativity, just to name a few. But even these scientific truths have changed. It was once thought that the Earth was flat, and that the sun revolved around the Earth. As science progresses, what we once thought of as truth is suddenly not. What I am absolutely sure of is that it cannot be proven that you will always be miserable and that your hamstrings will always be tight…

In a relative sense, in our everyday lives, EVERYTHING CHANGES. Our bodies change, our hair changes, clothes, jobs, the people we hang out with, life situations, our āsana practice, EVERYTHING CHANGES. And although we can’t change something that has already happened in the past, the truth is we can make different choices in the present moment. If we are not happy with something in our lives, if we recognize that something needs to change, but we feel like it never will, then that is the first step! Hopefully making choices that are the benefit to ourselves and others.

I’m not saying this is an easy thing to do. Most of us don’t like change – it is hard to let go, even of misery, and is very often painful, but this challenge is what allows us to grow. In every single yoga āsana we are moving in opposing directions. In tāḍāsana (mountain seat), we are grounding down to lift up taller; in utthita parsvakonāsana (extended angle), we are pushing into the back leg while our top arm and the crown of our skull (amongst other things happening) are reaching forward. It is the opposing directions that allow us to feel expansive and grow. Similarly, in life, we are often pulled in opposing directions. We are trying to make changes and move forward, but are being dragged back by those incessant thoughts of the past. It is within this challenge that we can find growth, and maybe discover new truths. Just like a kangaroo, we can pivot, and then keep moving forward.

Categories: focus of the month, jivamukti, Sanskrit, Uncategorized, Yoga | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

When the Noise Stops

The other day I was on the train with a large group of teenage boys who were extremely loud. I aware of how loud it was, but wasn’t disturbed by it; it was just there. And then all of a sudden they all got off the train at the same stop and there was complete silence. It was absolutely glorious. The BEST FEELING EVER.  It was that same feeling we have after we stop chanting and the words stop but you can still feel the vibrations. Or those moments when meditating when you don’t realize you were in it until you are taken out of it. 

I imagine this is what finding yoga/samadhi/enlightenment/Ātma Bodha, whatever you want to call it, is like. (I say imagine because I’m not there yet.) That Ātma, our highest Self, is always there, but there is all this noise – our thoughts, our worries of what already happened and what we think will happen, this crazy world around us – covering it up. We are all already enlightened but it’s being masked by the noise of life. Like how the sun is always present, but some times it’s covered by the clouds, and especially in the winter, we forget it exists. Eventually the sun comes out and we remember the joy of sunshine. Eventually, through long, consistent yoga practice, the noise is drowned out. It’s still there – the boys were still making noise, it was just muffled out by the closed doors – but we aren’t affected by it as much. We are able to move around amongst this noisy world but in a way that we are acting for the benefit of all beings and not just reacting to the noise. We find Ātma Bodha; Self-Knowledge. 

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Teaching in Oz

“No one can love who has not a heart, and so I am resolved to ask Oz to give me one.” – The Tin Man, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, L. Frank Baum

I always find my heart while teaching and it’s bursting to teach in Australia! Teaching dates coming up:

December 12th & 13th, Melbourne, Australia The Yoga Corner

December 14th, Sydney, Australia Dance Flow Yoga

December 15th, Surry Hills, Australia, PSOAS PSATURDAY WORKSHOP, Co-teaching with Caterina Quilla at Hiscoes MUST PRE-REGISTER AT WWW.QUILLAYOGA.COM

December 17th, Waterloo, Australia, Quilla Yoga


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It’s Not Easy Being Green

It’s not easy bein’ green
Having to spend each day the color of the leaves                                   Kermit_the_Frog_Based_On
When I think it could be nicer being red or yellow or gold
Or something much more colorful like that

It’s not easy bein’ green
It seems you blend in with so many other ordinary things
And people tend to pass you over because you’re
Not standing out like flashing sparkles in the water
Or stars in the sky

But green’s the color of Spring
And green can be cool and friendly-like
And green can be big like an ocean or important
Like a mountain, or tall like a tree

When green is all there is to be
It could make you wonder why, but why wonder why
Wonder, I am green and it’ll do fine, it’s beautiful
And I think it’s what I want to be – Joe Raposo/Kermit the Frog

When I was 9 years old my family moved from Rockaway, Queens to Long Island, in the middle of the school year. 

Because it was the middle of the year, all of the kids in my class already had their table assignments and I had to be added to one. My teacher, without ever having met me or spoken to me, assumed, based on the spelling of my last name, that I was from a Spanish speaking country and did not speak English, so she placed me at a table with only Spanish speaking students. She made this assumption because at the beginning of the school year there were a group of siblings who had just moved from Peru and spoke very little English, whose last name was spelled De La Cruz. My last name at the time was spelled De Chagas. So just because my teacher saw a space in the middle of my name with a capital “C” she made this assumption.

I was completely offended by this and upset. My last name is Portuguese, but my great grandparents were German, Austrian and Polish, and my family had been in NYC for 3 generations. I definitely spoke English. But as a 9 year old, and a new student, I also just wanted to fit in.

I was so upset by this experience that I actually changed the spelling of my last name to make it less “weird.” To this day, all of my legal documents: driver’s license, passport, high school, college and grad school diplomas, even here at Jivamukti or on my website, my last name is spelled Dechagas. No space, no capital C. Each time my dad sees my name on something he says “you know your name is spelled wrong, right?”

Of course, now, as an adult, I think my Portuguese last name is really cool. There’s this mystery around it about where is comes from, and it makes me different. But it would take soooo much work to go about changing all my legal documents. And as a 9 year old I just wanted to fit in.

So many of us on a daily basis make assumptions about others based on what they look like, last names, skin color, sexual orientation, religion, socio-economic status, or if they are covered with feathers or scales, etc. We make decisions and take action based on these assumptions without knowing the full situation. In the yoga world we often talk about everyone being essentially the same, and this is true, all human, animal and plant beings are inherently the same; we are all breathing the same (polluted) air and just trying to get by. But we are also all very different and we should own and be proud of our unique differences. In class we are moving together and breathing together, but our practice is also our own practice on our own mat. We are the same and different at the same time.

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Jivamukti in Paradise: Retreat to Colombia

Jivamukti Yoga in Paradise: Retreat to Colombia with April Dechagas
March 31st – April 6th 2019
Relax, kick back and find inner peace while discovering a new paradise on the Caribbean coast of Colombia, South America. Spend days exploring the jungles, rivers, waterfalls and beaches of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta while enjoying daily yoga and meditation with April in our gorgeous ocean front Yoga Shala.
Your retreat package includes:
  • 6 nights accommodations
  • 3 vegetarian meals/day
  • 2 yoga classes/ meditation each day with April
  • Mendihuaca Jungle Hike to natural pool and waterfall
  • Unlimited water, coffee, tea
  • Unlimited use of beaches/pools/retreat grounds

Not included:

  • Flights to Cartagena and airport transfer to Gitana del Mar (airport transfer will be arranged.)
  • Staff tips at end of trip
  • Alcoholic beverages
  • Additional excursions and spa treatments
Pricing: 
Registration after December 1st (A 50% non-refundable deposit required, paid in full by February 28th):
Single Bungalow $2400 (SOLD OUT)
Double Bungalow $1750 (SOLD OUT)
Triple Bungalow $1550 (SOLD OUT)
Triple Glamping Tent $1450 (2 spots left)
Room Description:

Our Eco-Chic Bungalows are the ideal place to relax. Each bungalow is designed with a very distinct architectural feature that the indigenous from the area have been utilizing for hundreds of years…. the palm roof.  Not only are these structures made from sustainably and locally harvested palm fronds, the vaulted ceiling design keeps the rooms cooler and more fresh than any other available, man-made material.

Let the soothing sounds of the ocean lull you to sleep after a full day on the beach and exploring the area. Our simple, clean and comfortable rooms are equipped with full private bathrooms, outdoor showers*, fans*, down pillows and plush sheets and towels.

Glamping Tents – large luxury semi-permanent tents (20m2 / 215 sqft). They have their own wood deck front porch and are set apart and more private than the bungalows. They have shared bathrooms.

Other activities available, but not included in cost of retreat:
  • Kayaking/Stand Up Paddleboarding
  • Hiking
  • Waterfalls & Natural Jungle Pools
  • River Tubing
  • Horseback riding
  • Private Scuba Diving Excursions
  • Bathing in one of the many rivers that flow from the Sierra Nevada to the Sea
  • Spa Services

Parque Nacional Tayrona- Located just 10 minutes away, this park is one of the jewels of Colombia covering 58 square miles of land and 6 different beachfront bays. Kogis and Arhuaco people still live within the park and visitors can visit the ancient village of Pueblito while hiking around. There are over 180 species of mammals and over 300 species of birds living in the park, some of which can only be found in this area.

Postcard Front

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The Woman With the Cracked Bucket

Magic is a shift in perception…

There once was an old woman who, every single day, would walk down to the river with two buckets attached to a long pole over her shoulders. One of the buckets was brand new, without a flaw, and the other one was very old with a large crack in it. Each time the woman returned home from her long walk with heavy buckets, the bucket with the crack in it was only half full of water.

This went on for many years, until finally the old bucket asked the woman why she still used him. “You work so hard every single day to carry water home, and each time I am only half full. I feel so inadequate and useless. Why don’t you just throw me out and get a new bucket?”

The old woman told the bucket to look at the path they walk each day. “You’ll notice one side of the path is bare and empty, and the other side is filled with beautiful flowers. I knew of your flaw, so purposely planted seeds on your side of the path, so that each time we walked home, the seeds would be watered. Without the crack in your side we would not have these beautiful flowers.” (Ancient Buddhist Story)

My teacher, Sharon Gannon, often says that magic happens when there is a shift in perception. That if we could just view the world in a slightly different way, magical things will happen. That if we can view buckets with cracks in them with potential, rather than garbage, flowers will grow.

In Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra chapter 2, verse 33, he says

vitarka bādhane pratipakṣa bhāvanam

When disturbed by disturbing thoughts, think the opposite. Not such an easy thing to do. It takes practice (abhyāsa) and time. This doesn’t mean that if you are sad you should force yourself to be happy,  but when you take the time to pause for a moment before reacting, to view a different side of a situation, you might find that there is always a little bit of magic.

 

Categories: focus of the month, jivamukti, Sanskrit, Yoga, Yoga Sutras | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Europe, I’ll Be There Soon!

So excited to be headed to Europe in a few weeks! Upcoming classes in Switzerland and Germany:

Bern, Switzerland, Daya Yoga

Friday July 20th, 5:30 p.m. Open

Saturday July 21st, 10:30 a.m. Medium

Basel, Switzerland, The Looking Glass Yoga

Sunday July 22nd, 10:30 a.m. Open

Monday July 23rd, 6:15 p.m. Medium

Tuesday July 24th, 10:00 a.m. Open

Berlin, Germany, Peace Yoga – Jivamukti Yoga School

Wednesday July 25th, 4:30 p.m. Open

 

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The Saṃyama of Birds

I just returned from two weeks in Belize, Guatemala and Mexico. My first morning in Belize I was woken up, waaaaay too early, by a cacophony of birds. There are about 590 different species of bird just in Belize, and I’m pretty sure every single one of them was saying, “April, RISE AND SHINE!”

That first morning was pretty irritating; but then I found myself purposely waking up with the birds, listening to them, watching them eat breakfast as the sun rose over the ocean.

What I noticed most during my time in Central America and Mexico was not just the many different kinds of birds, but more how all of them flap their wings in different ways. Some glide, some have a meandering wave, some need to get somewhere fast (they must be a NYC ex-pat), and some are nearly invisible. But they all move around this planet with consciousness and purpose. While hunting for food, they are deeply concentrated (dhāraṇā), and meditative (dhyāna), but have the ability to see the expansiveness around them (samādhi); they interact with the greater world without falling out of step. All the time totally absorbed in their point of focus. All three of these together (dhāraṇā, dhyāna and samādhi) are known as  saṃyama; or an intuitive insight.

It is believed that birds who fly together in flocks have a sort of biological radio, able to communicate those intricate patterns and actions instantly. The flocks have no leaders. Instead, each bird hones into the signals of the seven closest to them, and they act as one, flying up, down, around and to the side. They have an amazing ability to choreograph their movements in less time than it takes to blink an eye. (Joan Morris, Mercury News). I don’t know about you, but I have never seen a bird fly off in the wrong direction. And it’s not just those seven birds in communication – these circles interconnect, so they are all in communication with each other.

5af06749af1238853a10c1678752beba-flock-of-birds-silhouette-set

We as human beings can look to these birds for inspiration on how to move around this planet with consciousness. Hopefully we are also tuning in to those closest to us – not just our friends and family, but also our neighbors, community, country and all Earth-beings. Making decisions based on the benefit to all those surrounding us, and not just flying off in the wrong direction. This doesn’t mean we can’t have our own chirp or flap our wings our own special way, but we act with the highest of intentions for the benefit of all.

Happy Earth Day!

 

 

Categories: focus of the month, jivamukti, Sanskrit, Uncategorized, Workshops, Yoga, Yoga Sutras | Leave a comment

World Traveling Yogi

#itsbeenawhile has been my hashtag of choice a lot recently. Whether in regards to friends I haven’t seen in a while, working on a jigsaw puzzle, or in this case, writing a new blog post!

The past 6 months have been busy, busy, busy! Mostly filled with planning new and exciting things for 2018. Over the next year I will be traveling quite a bit; teaching yoga, checking out potential retreat destinations, and of course some vacation time! Don’t worry New Yorker’s! I’m still based here and teaching my full schedule!

Check out my global happenings below. Open to everyone! See you somewhere across the globe! Reach out for more info, or click the links below.

January 20th: Manahawkin, NJ, Hot or Not Yoga, Yoga Anatomy Course

February 3rd: Manahawkin, NJ, Hot or Not Yoga, Beginner Sanskrit

February 4th: Manahawkin, NJ, Hot or Not Yoga, Yoga Sutras of Patanjali

March 3rd: Manahawkin, NJ, Hot or Not Yoga, Pranayama and Vedic Mantras

March 31 – April 7th: Ambergris Caye, Belize, Yoga Retreat 

April 7th – April 11th: Lake Atitlan, Guatemala – potential future retreat location!

April 12 – 14th: Puebla Mexico, Jivamukti Yoga Puebla, Open Classes and Workshops

July 20 – 21st: Bern, Switzerland, Daya Yoga, In the works!

July 21st – 22nd: Basel, Switzerland, The Looking Glass Yoga, In the works!

July 22 – August 1st (Teaching Dates TBD): Berlin, Germany

August 2018: Rockaway, NY, Beach-asana!

December 2018 (Dates TBD): Sydney, Australia

World Travels

 

Categories: Anatomy, Sanskrit, Travel, Workshops, Yoga, Yoga Class Schedule, Yoga Sutras | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Sunday Samadhi in the Sand

Beach-asana in Rockaway!!! 1 hour donation based yoga class on the beach! Mats are provided by Lola Star Rockaway.

Sundays 7/30, 8/13, 8/20, 8/27

11 am at 116th Street (LOCATION HAS BEEN CHANGED!!!) on the Beach in Rockaway. Mat pick up at the Lola Star store on 116th Street. Take A train or new Rockaway Ferry! Hang out at beach with me after!

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