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#MythMonday : Kurma

I went to to turtle pond in Central Park just to film Kūrma with Kūrma!!!

Vishnu, the sustainer of the earth, appears in various forms to save the planet when necessary. There are 10 avatars of Vishnu, whose appearances seem to coincide with evolution. Kurma, the tortoise, was the 2nd avatar.

  1. Matsya (The Fish)
  2. Kurma (The Tortoise)
  3. Varaha (The Boar)
  4. Narasimha (The Lion Man)
  5. Vamana (The Dwarf)
  6. Parashurama (A Warrior/Saint, bound by codes of honor)
  7. Rama (The Perfect Man)
  8. Krishna
  9. Buddha
  10. Kalki (The Horseman – has not yet appeared)
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#MythMonday : Tittibhasana

I learned recently while doing research for #mythmonday that in the etymology for Ṭiṭṭibhāsana, Ṭiṭṭibha actually means “small insect” and has nothing to do with a firefly other than that it happens to be a small insect, and is the one the yoga world chose (I’m guessing because they are pretty.) In fact this asana could very well be called “gnat pose!”⁣

An alternative etymology is from the story of a pair of Tittibha birds that nested by the sea; the ocean swept away their eggs, and the birds complained to Vishnu, asking for the eggs to be returned. The god gave the order, and the sea gave the eggs back.

According to the Ashtanga Yoga website: “The story is often used as a symbol of yoga. The sea with its might and power represents the power of illusion, ignorance and prejudice or the general Chitta (चित्त, Citta), i.e. all aspects of human existence subject to change. The small Tittibha (टिट्टिभ, Ṭiṭṭibha)-bird stands for the effort of the yogi, an effort which seems ineffectual when compared with the challenge. But just as the little Tittibha (टिट्टिभ, Ṭiṭṭibha)-bird succeeds in spite of seeming superiority, the yogi can calm Chitta (चित्त, Citta) through practice and shatter illusion.”

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Walking Meditation

I often practice walking meditation, and there is always one as part of the retreats I lead!

Here are some simple instructions for a walking meditation. This can be done anywhere – even the crazy streets of NYC- but ideally you are surrounded by the beautiful sounds of nature:⁣

– if possible, leave your phone at home⁣

– if you are somewhere you can walk barefoot, like on sand or grass, leave your shoes at home too!⁣

– if this is a group walking meditation, walk in one straight line, each person a few steps behind. Try as much as possible to follow the pace of the person ahead of you.

– pick a mantra to match with your steps. I like to use lokah samastah sukhino bhavantu. As you walk silently repeat each word with each step – right foot lokah, left foot samastah, right foot sukhino, left foot bhavantu…⁣

– walk deliberately and slowly, heel, ball, toe; silently repeating the mantra. If you are barefoot, feel the different textures of the earth as you walk.⁣

– keep your chin parallel to the earth, gazing forward as you walk, allowing your peripheral vision to take in your surroundings. Notice what you may see, but without labeling or judging. Just take it all in. Continuing to repeat the mantra.⁣

– hear the sounds around you – waves crashing, birds chirping, insects, leaves rustling- but without labeling or judging in anyway – just notice⁣

– if you pass any other humans along the way, just nod and smile 😊 ⁣

– when you come to the end of however far you are walking, stop for a few moments – 3 to 5 minutes – and just gaze outwards at your beautiful surroundings ⁣

– continue to repeat these steps on the way back. Just before you finish pause again for a moment and close your eyes. After a few moments, Om 3x out loud.⁣

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#MythMonday : Ram & the Boatman (Navasana)

Life is filled with stormy waters. Rivers are never still. Even when frozen, things are still moving around underneath. Sometimes it’s helpful to have someone to help steer the way.

In the Indian epic Rāmāyaṇam, Rāma, Sītā and Lakṣmaṇa began their 14 year exile in the forest by sneaking off in the middle of the night so as not to upset all those they would be leaving. Soon into their journey, they came to the Ganges River and called out to his friend Guha, the boatman, to ferry them across.

Rām asked Guha to take them across, but to also wait an entire day before ferrying anyone else, so that no one could follow them. Wanting to spend more time with Rām, Guha tries to convince them to spend the night, but Rām wants to get a move on, and says he wants to leave now.

Trying again to spend more time with Rām, Guha suggests they eat some rice before they go, but Rām again orders the boat “RIGHT NOW!”

As Guha readies the boat, he jokingly says to Rām, “I heard the dust of your feet turned a stone into a woman. I hope you don’t turn my boat into a woman! Can I at least wash your feet before you enter?”

Exasperated with this ordeal in just the first leg of their 14 year journey, Rām agrees to allow Guha to wash his feet. They finally set off in the early morning before everyone wakes up. Guha ferries Rām, Sītā and Lakṣmaṇa across the Ganges river. Now that they have a river separating them from the people of Ayodhyā, Ram takes a moment to hug Guha goodbye, and then Rāma, Sītā and Lakṣmaṇa enter the Daṃḍaka forest to begin their exile.

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#MythMonday : Virabhadra

Shiva’s first wife was named Sati, who was a princess. Her father, King Daksha, did not approve of their marriage AT ALL. He thought Shiva was a bit of a dirtbag – he has long dreadlocks and is covered in ash and tattoos. He hangs out in graveyards with ghouls and ghosts and is covered in snakes. He also smokes something called bhang, which is a marijuana derivative. Daksha did NOT think Shiva was prince material. Shiva and Sati got married anyway, and pretty much kept to themselves. They lived on Mount Kailash, on the outskirts of the kingdom, and let Daksha do his thing.

As part of Daksha’s political responsibilities, he was in charge of making sure that all Vedic rituals were done properly. He was throwing a large party (a yajña, or ritualistic ceremony) where a goat was to be offered to the sacrificial fire. Daksha invited EVERYONE in the kingdom, no matter who they were, EXCEPT for Shiva and Sati. Sati was extremely upset, and told Shiva they should go to the party anyway. Shiva thought she was crazy, and told her she could go by herself if she wanted, but he was going to stay home and meditate.

Sati attended the party on her own, and when she arrived, Daksha started pointed and laughing at her, saying horrible things about her and Shiva, all of the attendees joined in the laughter, and it got worse and worse as the party went on. The yajña was a mockery in and of itself. The Lord of the Universe (Shiva) wasn’t even invited and was being made fun of. All Daksha truly cared about was showing off his wealth. There was no truth or honor behind this Vedic ritual. Sati became more and more upset, and decided to offer herself to the fire, and threw herself into the flames.

Shiva heard about the death of Sati and was completely distraught. He was angry at Daksha and felt guilty about letting Sati attend the party on her own, so out of pure anger, grief and despair, he ripped out one of his dreadlocks, threw it to the earth, and out from the earth rose Vīrabhadra with a sword in his hands (in the form of Warrior I) (vīra = hero/warrior, bhadra = friend).

Vīrabhadra is Shiva’s warrior friend, but also the embodiment of all of Shiva’s emotional distress. He is also just a foot-soldier; he only does what he is told, without any thought behind it, following orders without second-guessing. Shiva sends Vīrabhadra to the yajña to avenge the death of Sati. Vīrabhadra again bursts through the earth with sword in hand. Spots Daksha across the way and points his sword at him (Warrior II) and chops off his head.

Shiva arrives soon after to check out the situation, and immediately regrets what he’s done. Now Shiva does this a lot – he chops people’s heads off out of anger, and only regrets his actions afterwards. He always feels bad, and will bring them back to life with the head of the nearest animal, which happens to be the goat that was never sacrificed. So now Daksha is a part man, part goat. Shiva also chops heads off out of compassion, so that we cut off the head of the ego, learn from our mistakes, and make changes for a hopefully better future. Daksha now has to live with the head of a goat, but hopefully does better this time around…

Shiva asks Vīrabhadra to pick Sati up out of the sacrificial fire and they fly home (in the form of Warrior III) to give her a proper burial. As they are flying home, pieces of Sati’s burnt body fall into the ocean and across the land, and there are Shaivanists, or devotees of Shiva, who have what they believe to be actual relics of Sati. Sati was reincarnated thousands of years later as Parvati, who became Shiva’s second wife and Shakti consort.

There is a lot happening in this story, but mostly the characters are an allegory for the human condition. How many times have you acted out of anger and regretted your actions after? What would happen if you blindly followed orders without questioning why you are doing what you are doing? How does it make you feel when you hear unkind words? Are you practicing yoga just to show off your skills, or is there a deeper meaning behind the practice?

The physical warrior āsanas can be quite challenging when held, and give us an opportunity to explore emotions that come up. Are you clenching your jaw, biting your lips, scrunching your eyebrows (your lips and eyebrows cannot help – they just make your face look pretty! They try really hard though 😉 Is your breathing jagged, or smooth? You cannot remove the mind from the body, and what you do with the body affects the mind. These practices involve the whole being. The warrior poses offer an opportunity to smooth this out – to find a grace an ease that allows us to embody a spiritual warrior rather than chopping through life.

Virabhadrasana 1 Virabhadrasana 2 Virabhadrasana 3

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#MythMonday : Kaundinya

All the money in the world won’t buy us happiness, but neither will ditching life to go meditate in a cave. There must be something in the middle – a way to live this life we have with an embodiment of happiness and joy – even with the annoying people on the streets of NYC, and loud teenagers on the subway 🙂

The arm balance eka pada kaundinyasana also requires a graceful balance – moving forward enough to lift the back leg off the floor, while still keeping the head and chest lifted – all while having the courage to possibly fall out of it!

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Jivamukti in Paradise: Retreat to Roatan, Honduras

The next Jivamukti in Paradise retreat will be in Roatan, Honduras, January 11 -18, 2020. 

A $500 non-refundable deposit is required to secure your spot.

aprildechagas@gmail.com for registration or questions

Pricing:
Single $2400
Double $2100

What this includes (a lot!)

  • 2 yoga classes/day and meditation with April
  • 7 nights lodging 
  • Welcome cocktail party 
  • 3 Vegetarian Meals/Day
  • Non-Alcoholic Beverages 
  • Round-trip airport transfer in Roatan
  • A/C option in all rooms
  • WiFi
  • Daily Maid Service
  • Full Access to all of Retreat Center (see link below)
  • Unlimited Sea Kayaking
  • 1 Snorkle Trip (some of the best snorkeling/diving in the world)
  • Las Sirenas sunset Cruise
  • Hike to Picacho Peak

Not included:

  • Airfare
  • Alcoholic beverages
  • Staff tips
  • Additional excursions/spa treatments

ROOMS AVAILABLE (11 Rooms Total):

• There are 4 single rooms (or Double if you are sharing a bed)
• 4 more rooms that can be single (1 bed) or double (2 beds)
• 3 rooms with two beds each


Additional info:

• Retreat Location- Paya Bay Resort https://www.payabay.com (I recommend looking on a computer rather than phone – easier to navigate)
• Airport – fly to Roatan (RTB)
• Travel time from airport to retreat center – 1 Hour
• Closest Towns – 15 & 30 minutes away

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Technology Spirituality Mash-Up

Some final thoughts this month’s focus at Jivamukti Yoga as we close the month of May…⁣⁣

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We live in a technological world, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing! We have become interconnected with other human beings in ways most of us couldn’t have ever imagined! I wouldn’t be able to connect with most of you if not for this technological world! But there should be a happy medium…we cannot solely rely on technology, and we cannot go off to live in a cave somewhere to meditate all the time and ditch life (Bharati also spoke about this at Ananda Ashram this weekend)⁣⁣

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Here are some thoughts on this by Thich Nhat Hanh, from his book The Sun My Heart:⁣⁣

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“Meditators have always known that they must use their own eyes and the language of their own times to express their insight. Wisdom is a living stream, not an icon to be preserved in a museum. Only when a practitioner finds the spring of wisdom in his or her own life can it flow to future generations. All of us must keep the torch of wisdom glowing in order to light the path ahead.⁣⁣

⁣⁣

Our insight and our language are inseparable from the times in which we live. For many years, the East followed the West down the path of technological and material development, to the point of neglecting its own spiritual values. In our world, technology is the main force behind economics and politics, but scientists in the West have begun to see something similar to what the spiritual disciplines of the East discovered long ago. If we can survive our times, the gap that separates science and spirituality will close, and East and West will meet one another on the path to discover true mind. We can start working towards convergence right now, using our own daily mindful lives.” ⁣

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#MythMonday : Agni

Agni the Fire God

If you do too much too quickly, your fire will burn out. If you take on more then you can handle, your fire will burn out. If you try to shove your knee to your ankle in agnistambhasana before it’s ready, your fire (and your knee!) will burn out! Take things slow, breath deep and take it all in. Practice and all is coming.

Agni-Stambhasana (Fire Log Seat)
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#MythMonday : Bharadvaja

Bharadvāja was a dedicated yoga student and devoted his entire life to studying the vedas. All he did, all day, every day, was study. He studied so much, that he exhausted an entire lifetime doing so.

Upon his rebirth, Bharadvāja did the same thing all over again. He thought the more he studied, the more likely it was that he’d break the cycle of saṃsāra, the continuous circle of birth, death, and rebirth. He again exhausted an entire lifetime just studying.

In his third lifetime, Bharadvāja again did the same thing. At this point people all over the kingdom would whisper to each other about the weird hermit who never left his home and only studied yoga. He was giving yoga a bad name! Who wants to study yoga if your just trapped inside all day reading thousand-paged books and never having any fun? He had no family, no friends, and was always alone. What kind of life is it if you can’t share it with others?

At the end of this third lifetime, Shiva came to Bharadvāja at his deathbed. Bharadvāja thought that this was finally it! That he knew the vedas so well that he would not have to be re-born and could live with the Gods and Goddesses. But oh was he wrong! Shiva scolded him (in a loving gentle way), and asked what on earth Bharadvāja thought he was doing? He spends all this time studying, but what good is all this yogic knowledge if he isn’t sharing it with others? Why keep the joy of yoga to himself when he could help others find joy and happiness as well?

In his fourth lifetime, Bharadvāja finally understood. Rather than living his hermit lifestyle, he became a teacher. And not only was he a teacher, but he also had more friends than he could have ever imagined. Rather than finding yoga in just books, he was living it.

At the end of this lifetime, Shiva again came to visit Bharadvāja. “You did it,” Shiva exclaimed! “You finally get it! You no longer have to be subjected to karmas and re-birth. Come let’s go, you’ll love it in “The Good Place.” But Bharadvāja refused, instead choosing to again be re-born as a teacher, deciding that living this great joyful life was all he needed.

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