Be the Change

I had the humbling honor of writing the Focus of the Month for the Jivamukti Yoga School for the month of May. You can read it on the Jivamukti website, or right here! You can also find my newest playlist (and all my playlists) on Spotify 

BE THE CHANGE YOU WANT TO SEE IN THE WORLD

Focus Of The Month – May, 2017

yad-yad ācarati śreṣṭhas / tad-tadevetaro janaḥ / sa yat pramāṇaḿ kurute / lokas-tad-anuvartate
A great person leads by example, setting standards that are followed by others all over the world.

Bhagavad Gita III.21

The streets of Calcutta were dangerous and dirty. Thousands were infected with leprosy, cholera, and other contagious diseases. At overcrowded hospitals, nurses were forced to turn away dying patients onto the cockroach-infested streets. A group of activists, led by Mother Teresa, risked their own health to treat the sick and poor, even though most could not be saved. Why would Mother Teresa dedicate her life to working in the most unsettling conditions for people who did not have anything to give in return? She responded by saying, “I see the divine in every human being. When I wash a leper’s wounds, I feel I am nursing the Lord himself. Is it not a beautiful experience?”

The great leaders of the world – Mother Teresa, Martin Luther King Jr., Mahatma Gandhi, Rosa Parks, the Dalai Lama, Malala Yousafzai – all share certain characteristics. They are clear communicators as well as great listeners. They have a firm and steady grounding that reflects an unwavering commitment to their cause. They inspire and empower. They are also confident, honest, and discerning. There is another quality each great leader has, that perhaps outshines all the others – humility.

Business philosopher Jim Rohn says, “Humility is almost a God-like word. A sense of awe. A sense of wonder. An awareness of the human soul and spirit. Humility is the grasp of the distance between us and the stars, yet having the feeling that we are part of the stars.” In other words, humility is seeing yourself in others; it is seeing all life as holy.

The word humility is derived from the Latin humilis, which is translated as “grounded” or “from the Earth.” The Chandogya Upanishad teaches tat twam asi or “you are that.” This mahavakya, or great saying, relates to the idea that everything is Brahman, that the supreme Self and the individual self are one and the same. If you are Brahman, and the tree is Brahman, then you and the tree are one. The yogi has the humility to understand they are the same as all that exists on Earth. Its natural resources support life, so it is our responsibility to support the Earth just as much.

According to Vedic scripture, we are currently living in the Kali Yuga – an era of conflict and struggle – and great leaders are especially needed. If we want to see peace and happiness in the world, then we must live the kind of life we want to see. There was a point in time when humanity lived in harmony with nature. We only took from the Earth what was necessary to survive. Now, each year, humans kill billions of animals and destroy millions of acres of land. We are fighting wars over natural resources and the Earth can no longer sustain us. The business of taking all the earthly resources we want was once thought of as progress. We have instead regressed, causing billions of humans, animals, and plants unhappiness.

A great yogi offers strength to others so that they too can learn to be steady and joyful. Humility allows the yogi to be the change they want to see in the world. We can consider progressing in a different way, one that would help us rediscover our higher consciousness and realize that we are the same as the stars and shine just as bright. We can also lead by example, setting standards that are followed by others all over the world.

April Dechagas

Teaching Tips:
  • The asana practice is an expression of humility. For example, when practicing Hanumānāsana, we take on the qualities of the great leader Hanuman. In his unwavering devotion to Lord Rama, he is the epitome of virtue, strength, power, humility and courage.
  • Standing asanas – and warrior asanas in particular – convey the qualities of a great leader: having a firm and steady grounding, a steady gaze, and unwavering intention.
  • Teach alignment of tadāsana/samastithi. Explain that the alignment of this āsana exists within all the others. The mountain, or Earth, is also the connection between all the other forms we take on: humans (warriors, sages, saints), animals (dogs, frogs, monkeys, etc), insects (locusts), plants (trees, mountains), and even inanimate objects that come from materials from the earth (plows, boats, compasses).
  • Have students hold asanas for longer than five breaths while maintaining ujjayi pranayama with peace and humility.
Categories: Bagavad Gita, focus of the month, jivamukti, Yoga | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Jivamukti in Paradise: Retreat to Belize

Jivamukti Yoga in Paradise: Retreat to Belize with April Dechagas 

March 31 – April 7 2018

Deepen your yoga practice surrounded by the beautiful tropical paradise that is Belize. Ak’Bol Yoga Retreat Center and Eco Resort is on the tropical island of Ambergris Caye, just outside the peaceful fishing village of San Pedro Town. Yoga classes take place in a studio with a spectacular 360-degree view of the water, filled with the sounds of tropical birds, unspoiled beaches and jungles, and home to the 2nd largest barrier reef in the world.

Your retreat package includes:

  • 7 nights accommodations
  • Special Full Moon welcome dinner
  • 3 vegetarian meals/day (minus one night off to explore San Pedro Town)
  • Unlimited water/juices/teas
  • 2 yoga classes/day with April (mats and props included)
  • Day trip to Lamanai Jungle River and Mayan Ruins
  • 1 Snorkle Trip to Hol Chan National Reserve
  • Evening Drum Circle
  • Unlimited use of beaches/pools/pier/retreat grounds

Not included:

  • Airfare to Belize City and Airport transfer to Ak’Bol
  • $40US Cash Departure Tax
  • $5 US Cash Mayan Ruin Park Fee
  • Staff Tips at end of trip ($50 recommended)
  • Alcoholic Beverages
  • Additional excursions & Spa Treatments

Early-bird Pricing ($400 Deposit made by October 1st, Paid in full by December 1st):

Room Descriptions below. Please note that single occupancy cabana options are extremely limited. If this is what you want, the early bird catches the worm!

Village Room Double: $1250

Village Room Single: $1350

Triple Occupancy Partial Sea/Garden View Cabana: $1500

Double Occupancy Partial Sea/Garden View Cabana: $1600

Single Occupancy Partial Sea/Garden View Cabana: $2100

Triple Occupancy Sea Front Cabana: $1525

Double Occupancy Sea Front Cabana: $1700

Single Occupancy Sea Front Cabana: $2300

Bookings after December 1st (A $400 non-refundable deposit must be made by December 31st, Paid in full by February 28th):

Village Room Double: $1375

Village Room Single: $1475

Triple Occupancy Partial Sea/Garden View Cabana: $1625

Double Occupancy Partial Sea/Garden View Cabana: $1725

Single Occupancy Partial Sea/Garden View Cabana: $2225

Triple Occupancy Sea Front Cabana: $1650

Double Occupancy Sea Front Cabana: $1825

Single Occupancy Sea Front Cabana: $2425 

Room Descriptions:

Thatched Cabanas (Private Bath): All have full or partial sea view, within the gardens, and a killer breeze. Each Cabana will house 1-3 guests max comfortably. The cabanas have amazing outdoor showers, private front porches, hammocks, and a hot and cold water dispenser with a mini fridge.
ak-bol-yoga-retreat-eco

Village Rooms (Shared Bath): Welcome to community living on the lagoon! This building houses several private rooms with beautiful garden views. Guests can choose between 2 twins or 1 queen bed. There are two large island-chic shared bath and shower rooms, and 2 community lounging areas overlooking the lagoon. Great for sunsets and bird watching, you might even spot a croc or two.

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To register email aprildechagas@gmail.com. Payments can be made by check or Venmo (no charge if bank or debit account used). There will be a 3% charge for credit card transactions (Venmo/PayPal).

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Retreat to Zion was EPIC!

If you have not already heard, the retreat to Zion was EPIC! From start to finish. Our days were filled with yoga, meditation, hiking, unbelievable landscapes, pools and hot tubs, star gazing, delicious healthy meals, and FUN! The next retreat is already in the making – March 31 – April 7 2018 we are going to Belize!  More info to be released later this week! Here are some photo highlights of this year’s retreat:

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The Heart of Understanding

Comprehend:

Latin root  com = together in mind; prehendere = to grasp it, or pick it up

“To comprehend something means to pick it up and be one with it. There is no other way to understand something.” Thich Nhat Hanh

Respect:

Latin root respectus; from the verb respicere = look back at, regard; consisting of re = back; specere = look at or look back

“Respect means to look again, to keep looking with increasingly sensitive eyes.” Zoe Slatoff-Ponte

From Thich Nhat Hanh’s The Heart of Understanding:

“When we want to understand something, we cannot just stand outside and observe it. We have to enter deeply into it and be one with it in order to really understand. If we want to understand a person, we have to feel their feelings, suffer their sufferings, and enjoy their joy.

If we are concerned with peace and want to understand another country, we can’t just stand outside and observe. We have to be one with a citizen of that country in order to understand her feelings, perceptions, and mental formations. Any meaningful work for peace must follow the principal of non-duality, the principal of comprehension [and respect]. This is our peace practice: to comprehend, to be one with, in order to really understand.”

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BigToe Yoga

Introducing a new App that connects yoga teachers to students throughout NYC! I am now teaching a weekly class through BigToe Yoga in Bed-Stuy at Aspire2Dance. This weekly class will be a bit different from the other classes I teach – each week will be more of a workshop where we work through a specific pose. There will be some vinyasa involved to warm up, but a majority of the 1 hour & 15 minute class will be focusing on a specific pose.

Thursday nights at 6:30 pm, Aspire2Dance, 1195 Bedford Ave. Pre-Registration is required through the BigToe Yoga App http://www.bigtoe.fit/, and it’s only $12!

The next four weeks we will be working on arm balances. This week we will be focusing on Eka Pada Galavasana, also know as “Flying Crow.”

flying-crow

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Opportunities Abound in 2017!

It has been 8 1/2 months since I broke my arm, 6 1/2 since the cast came off. The doctors told me my arm would never be fully straight again. As a yogi and yoga teacher, my response was, “that is unacceptable!” My physical therapist told me otherwise. She said we will get it straight again.

There are two kinds of people represented above: those who see the impossible, and those who see endless opportunities. I could have taken what the doctors said and just given up my yoga practice, stopped teaching, gone back to a job that made me completely miserable, lived with a crooked arm. I chose to see space where there seemingly wasn’t. I worked every single day on getting my arm back to what it was. It wasn’t easy – there were definitely days when I felt like giving up. But now, 6 1/2 months later, my arm is almost perfectly straight (the last bit is inconsequential), I am back to my full practice, and even holding handstand longer than I was before I broke my arm!

The new calendar year allows for enormous possibility. It is a way to start fresh, see opportunity where maybe we didn’t before. As David Life says in this month’s focus at Jivamukti, “A new way of approaching the future is expanding what is possible rather than limiting it. There are actually a thousand different ways you can get to work instead of taking the same route each day.” We often get stuck in a pattern, doing the same thing over and over again because that is the way it’s always been, even if it means wallowing in misery. As Albert Einstein says, “Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results is the definition of insanity!”

Even though we have a calendar date of January 1st that tells us it’s time for a new start, really every breath that we take is a new moment to start over. Each breath is a brand new moment. With every inhale, our rib cage expands and our diaphragm lowers, creating space, and with each exhale we move deeper into that new expansiveness. With every inhale there is a moment to pause and think about what you are about to put into the world, and with every exhale is its result. If you tell yourself something is impossible, then it will be, but if you allow at least a little bit of space for something new, opportunities abound!

Happy New Year!!!

An opportunity for transformation in 2017:

Join me on what is sure to be a life-changing experience on a yoga/hiking retreat in Utah/Zion National Park! March 13th – 17th, details can be found here: infopacket. Put down a deposit by January 10th to reserve your spot at this pricing!

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Yoga/Hiking Retreat to Utah/Zion National Park

I am so excited to be leading a yoga/hiking retreat to Utah March 13-17! Details are below. For more detailed information, secure your spot or ask questions, email aprildechagas@gmail.com.  Full detailed information here: infopacket

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The End of an Era

It is hard to believe that Yoga People  is closing after 18 years of service to the Brooklyn Heights Community. Yoga People will always hold a very special place in my heart, as this is where I started my own practice 8 years ago, where I met my first Jivamukti teachers, and where I have been teaching for the last three years.

When I first moved to the Brooklyn Heights neighborhood, I would often walk past the Yoga People sign on Montague Street – intrigued, but not enough to actually go in. Believe it or not, I was very resistant to the idea of yoga before I actually tried it! It wasn’t until I was planning to attend the Pura Vida Adventures surf camp in Costa Rica that I even gave yoga a second thought.
I was pretty out of shape at the time, working until 1 am almost every night, eating take-out at my desk, and definitely not working out at all. All of the literature I was sent from the surf camp said that yoga was good for surfing, and not wanting to make a fool of myself on the surf board (more than I already knew I would!) I decide to “train” for this camp. I saw that Yoga People offered an Absolute Beginners workshop – once a week for 4 weeks, and thought I’d give it a try.  Soon after, once a week turned into twice a week, then three times, five times, and after about a year I was up to seven days a week! I always joke and say I fell in-love with yoga and only in-like with surfing.
Yoga People was not only where I started my practice, but also where I met many of my friends in the Brooklyn Heights area. It was such a welcoming community; all of the students would chat with each other before and after class, sometimes joke during class, and if you ran into someone on the street, they always stopped to say hello. I am very grateful for the friendships I have built through this loving satsang.
I know many of you have expressed concern to me about where you will continue to practice. I am happy to announce that I will be transitioning just a few doors down to Area Yoga. This will be a smooth transition, as I will be teaching at the exact same time: Monday and Friday at 9:30 am. Although most of the classes at Area are shorter in length, my class will be the same hour and a half length. These classes will begin right after YP closes, beginning October 3rd.
I hope that many of you will follow me to Area, as I will miss all of your smiling yogi faces if not! You can also find my full teaching schedule at other studios on my website: https://aprildechagas.com/yoga/
Please keep coming to class in the next few weeks at Yoga People. My last few classes at YP will be on 9/16, 9/18, 9/24 & 9/25. Keep practicing and keep smiling!
Love and Om!
April
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Artwork

I’ve recently added a new page to this website featuring my artwork. I am not trained in any way, other than taking classes in middle school and high school (the last time I took an art class was 1998!) I actually stopped drawing in 1998, and did not start again until 2012. In truth, what inspired me to start drawing again was complete boredom, which then led to actual inspiration from living life.

What are mostly drawings using pencil, colored pencil, and sometimes marker (with a few random mixed-media projects) are placed in four categories for right now: Wildlife, Drawings Inspired by Short Sweet Poems, Yogic Artwork, and Miscellaneous.

You can view the page here: Artwork or click on the tab above.

Butterfly

Butterfly

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I just can’t wait to Om

Sometimes there is this moment when I am in class, and the teacher holds a longer pause than usual before the second Om, and I’m waiting, and waiting, and almost want to start the next Om for them, because I just CAN’T wait! It’s like, is it now? Not yet? I want to Om!

But the thing is, that long pause is supposed to be there. There are four parts to the sound of Om: Aaaaah, Uuuuuu, Mmmmm, and the silence that comes after. And although hearing the sound of Om is special, hearing the silence  and feeling the vibration is even more so. This is the sound of yoga.

I have two thoughts about this:

1)Many of us are always looking to the future. We just can’t wait for the next thing. The new spring line of clothing. The newest technology. The new season of Game of Thrones. Predicting what is going to happen on the new Game of Thrones. Rather than being in the present moment, we are always looking for the next best thing. This happens in an asana class also – thinking you know what is coming next in a sequence (because trikoṇāsana HAS to come before vīrabhadrāsana II, right?) Or being one step ahead of the teacher during sūrya namaskāra. I’m ready for the next Om! Where is it??

2) In discussing this with a friend, she also brought up the idea of not being able to handle the silence. Of being afraid of the silence. Of having a moment to actually hear your constant thoughts, or citta vṛttis. We live in an age of constant worry (about the past and future) and sustained din, especially if you live in an urban area (where there is worry and din.) If you don’t live in an urban area, there is still the always available and attention grabbing phones, music, tv, etc. For many, silence is scary. It is an unknown entity. Many are afraid of the unknown, and therefore try to predict the future (see #1. It’s all just a vicious circle.)

It is not a true silence we are seeking though. Well, eventually it is. But first, according to the Hatha Yoga Pradīpikā, we want to hear Nāda. I am not referring to the Spanish word that means nothing, but it’s a nice resemblance. Nāda is the sound of yoga, the sound of the universe, or essentially, Om. The Hatha Yoga Pradīpikā (HYP) is a book that outlines the physical practices that will allow us to achieve yoga. The idea of nāda does not appear until the very end of the book – saving the best for last right? All of the physical yogic practices that we do both in an asana class and outside in the “real” world, are to prepare us to hear nāda. Chanting Om gives us a little taste of what nāda is – especially that 4th part of om, the silence and vibration you feel after making the audible sounds.

In regards to eventually hearing nothing at all (nada in the Spanish sense!), the HYP also states that in Samādhi, not even Nāda is heard. With that, I’ll close with two verses from Patañjali’s Yoga Sūtra:

PYS 1.1: atha yoga-anuśāsanam Now (right now! Not before or after! Now!) this is Yoga as I have observed it in the natural world.

PYS 1.2 yogaś-citta-vṛtti-nirodhaḥ Yoga is when the fluctuations of the mind cease to exist (I am paraphrasing.)

Don’t be afraid to be in the present moment. Don’t be afraid of the silence. Don’t be afraid to sit with the silence. To listen to the sound of silence. To FEEL the sound of yoga. SILENCE SPEAKS VOLUMES. 

theOm

 

Categories: Hatha Yoga Pradipika, jivamukti, om, Yoga, Yoga Sutras | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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