jivamukti

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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Categories: jivamukti, retreat, Uncategorized, Workshops, Yoga | Leave a comment

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

The Silver Fox

In April/May 2009 I went on a journey. This journey started out as just a vacation, a way to escape the corporate world for just a little bit, but soon turned into an adventure of self discovery.

I had never been to the west coast before, so decided to fly to San Diego, rent a car, and over the course of two weeks drive to Vancouver. While I had planned to visit with friends and family here and there, this trip was mostly on my own. I of course visited all of the major cities of interest: San Diego, Los Angeles, San Fransisco, Portland, Seattle; but it was my excursions into the wild that really changed the way I view the world.

Over the course of two weeks I hiked in the desert in 102 degrees (do not recommend), kayaked with tiger sharks, stood next to redwood trees that are thousands of years old (HIGHLY recommend), hiked volcanoes, saw spring in bloom at the bottom of mountains, and snow-covered woods slightly higher. I got lost a few times, thought I would die of thirst in the desert or get bitten by a scorpion, met lots of interesting people, had my car broken into. I came across snakes, lizards, sharks, sea lions, seals, so many different kinds of birds it was hard to keep track, orcas and gray whales, elk, deer, raccoons, rabbits, turtles, and so much more. All in their natural habitats. But what made the biggest impact on this trip was the silver fox.

I was hiking on Mt. Ranier in Washington. As it was just spring, the bottom of the mountain was a lush green, starting to fill with wildflowers, but at just a slightly higher altitude, the mountain was still covered in at least 6 feet of snow. Part of self discovery on this trip – as much research as I had done, the New Yorker in me was not prepared for this much snow in May. I was not exactly prepared for snow hiking, but pushed on as much as possible anyway. I was completely alone. I hadn’t seen another human in quite a while. At this point in my trip I had become very attuned to the nature around me, and was very conscious of any animal I had come across. As I turned a bend, I stopped. Right in front of me, sitting on a snowy hill, was a silver fox. It was beautiful, and so unexpected. To see any fox is rare; to see a silver fox is extremely rare.

I observed the fox for what seemed like quite a while. I knew what was in front of me was special. After we stared at each other for a while, we parted ways. Something had shifted. Of everything that I had seen and had happened to me, over the course of my trip, seeing the fox is what has stuck with me the most throughout the last few years. I have travelled all over the world, and I have seen things you may not even imagine, but it is the silver fox that comes back to me over and over again.

I didn’t know much about spirit guides at the time. It wasn’t until recently (being nudged by the Jivamukti Focus of the Month, ahem, ahem) that I decided to look up the symbology of the fox. Foxes represent integration. According to Animal Teachings, by Dawn Brunke, “Integration helps us to bring together that which has been separated, segregated, forgotten, or lost. It exposes us to contrasting points of view, especially those that differ from our own. In order to reconcile opposites, such as the dark and light within ourselves, we must integrate. Integration helps us to elevate our self-esteem, and value the special gifts and talents that only we can bring to the world. Integration brings confidence, encouraging us to maintain our sense of self. With integration, we feel safe, supported, loved, and know that we belong.”

When I saw the fox, I was at a turning point in my life. I was 29 years old, and working at JP Morgan Chase. A year before I had gone through the downfall of Bear Stearns during the financial crisis. After 7 years working in this world, I truly knew I didn’t belong there, and never really did. (you’d think I would have realized that when I changed my major in undergrad from business to english, but you live and you learn, right? 😉 Just before going on this trip I had received my acceptance to NYU for grad school. Things were shifting, but I still wasn’t sure. After seeing the fox, I knew.

Dawn Brunke also says (from the Fox’s point of view), “Our work with humans opens up your senses, helping you observe life more keenly, and to experience the world more fully. To those who are patient and alert, we reveal passageways to different dimensions. We can also help you to find such openings within yourself. We are guides to a special form of integration. But we can only lead you so far.”

Foxes help you see more clearly, move more deftly, and find the way you fit into the world. In September of 2009 I started my grad work at NYU. Since then, I have worked as a high school guidance counselor, a college advisor, worked at a cafe, owned my own company, and became a yoga teacher. I have shifted and integrated into new worlds many times. And the silver fox is always with me. With eyes opened or closed I see him often. I didn’t know then, but I know now…the fox is my spirit guide.

Silver Fox Silver Fox 1

Animal Teaching by Dawn Brunke http://www.animalvoices.net/

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Be the change you want to see in the world

Bhagavad Gita III.21

yad-yad ācarati śreṣṭhas / tad-tad evetaro 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.”

– Translation by Sharon Gannon

The great leaders of the world – Martin Luther King Jr., Mahatma Gandhi, Mother Teresa, Nelson Mandela, Rosa Parks, the Dalai Lama – all share certain characteristics. They are clear communicators as well as great listeners. Each has 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, a quality that perhaps outshines the others – humility.

According to Vedic scripture we are currently living in the Kali Yuga – an era of conflict and struggle – and great leaders are especially needed. As yogis, it is our responsibility to lead by example, to be spiritual activists.  If we want to see peace and true happiness in the world and live on a thriving Earth where all beings are happy and free, then we need to live the kind of life that we want to see.

In an article from Success magazine, 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.”  Humility is seeing yourself in others; it is being able to see all life as holy.

The word humility is derived from the Latin word humilis, which is translated as “grounded” or “from the Earth,” since the word humilis itself originates from humus (Earth).  We can associate the concept of humility to “sthira-sukham-āsanam” – PYS II.46 (“The connection to the earth should be steady and joyful” – Sharon Gannon). Being firmly connected and balanced with the Earth is also an expression of “tat twam asi” (You are that) – Chandogya Upanishad, the knowing that you are the same as all life on this Earth. A great yogi has the humility to understand that they are the same as all that exist on Earth. The Earth and its natural resources support life, so it is our responsibility to protect and equally support the Earth. A yogi has the responsibility of living life in the most compassionate way possible, following the dictates of the Yamas: ahiṃsā, satya, asteya, brahmacharya, and aparigraha (non-violence, truthfulness, non-stealing, sexual responsibility and greedlessness) – YS II.30. When we embody these five ideals as the way of life, others will see how happy and free we are, and then they will follow suit.

A great yogi is the embodiment of what it means to stand for what is right. A great yogi offers strength to others so that they too can learn how to be steady and joyful, to be humble and to be the change they want to see in the world. It is time for humanity to progress in a different way, to rediscover that we are same as the stars and shine just as bright, and to lead by example, setting standards that are followed by others all over the world.

Categories: Bagavad Gita, jivamukti, Sanskrit, Yoga | Leave a comment

Aerial Arm Balance Workshop in March!

AerialArmBalances

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I passed! Woo hoo!

I am so excited and blessed to announce that I passed the advanced board exam at Jivamukti this weekend!!!!! I have an abundance of gratitude for all of my teachers and could not have done this without you! Special thank you to Gayatri Sandhi Ferreira for all of your love, support and ass kicking . ToYogeswari Azahar, David Life and Sharon Gannon for all of your teachings and support, over the last year especially. And Lauren Krauze for being an extra set of eyes on my writing, and poking my quads every time I’m in headstand . I love you all! Hari Om!

laughing

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