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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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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 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.

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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

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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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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