Yoga Sutras

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

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 Key to Happiness: Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra

I am super excited to be leading this workshop! Sign up online here: http://clients.mindbodyonline.com/classic/ws?studioid=5599&stype=-8&sTG=20&sVT=22&sView=day&sTrn=100000323&sDate=1/18/2015

April's Yoga Sutra Workshop2 (1)

Categories: Sanskrit, Workshops, Yoga, Yoga Sutras | Leave a comment

In the Land of Oz…

It isn’t often that pop-culture recognizes the schism that has been created between human and non-human animals.  It is rare in fact.  But the book and Broadway show Wicked hits the point right on.  Most people know Wicked as the story of the Wicked Witch of West from the Wizard of Oz. If you haven’t read it, it is a fun and creative twist on a story we are all familiar with, but the book is also quite political, and directly addresses serious and currently relevant issues, like bullying, government lobbying, and animal rights…

In the Land of Oz, previous to Dorothy’s visit, Animals (with a capital A, meaning they were “with spirit”) held jobs, spoke the same language as humans, wore clothes (even with a bit of irony, like the tsebras who wore black and white satin stripes on the bias to their inborn design.) They were equals to their human neighbors. But there was a shift in political climate, humans somehow felt threatened, and the Emerald City passed a “Bann on Animal Mobility,” that they “should be seen and not heard.” Animals were no longer allowed to travel in the same train cars, those coming of age were no longer allowed to hold jobs, and eventually they lost their ability to speak. Similar maybe to how our dogs, by law, must be on a leash, or if they are barking in a building a neighbor might complain. They are cute to look at, but no one wants to hear them. ..

The human animals decided they were “better-than.”  One of the main characters, a professor who also happens to be a Goat, was conducting a research project hoping to isolate “some bit of the biological architecture to prove that there isn’t any difference, deep down in the invisible pockets of human and Animal flesh – there there’s no difference between us,” hoping that if he can prove that there isn’t any inherent difference between humans and Animals, the Banns could not be upheld.  Government officials got wind of his project, and he was unfortunately murdered…

This book is fantasy, but eerily similar to our own real lives. Human animals have decided that we are “better-than” or superior to the other beings we share this planet with. Rather than sharing and communicating with our non-human neighbors, we have chosen to exploit them; using horses to pull carriages around central park, clearing hundreds of acres of trees to make room for a factory farm, or killing 45 million plus turkeys to celebrate Thanksgiving. Even the way we refer to ourselves as our pets “owners” or “masters” rather than caretakers. But the majority of our population would rather not admit this is happening.  My father, for example, LOVES animals. But when I try to get him to watch a movie about animal rights, like Earthlings, he refuses, because he KNOWS that animals have feelings and emotions just like us. But if he sees it, then it makes it true, and then he will have to change. And nobody likes change. ..

People in our society feel just as threatened as the characters in Wicked, because if they really saw what was happening to the billions of other beings on our planet, who are inherently the same as human-animals, they wouldn’t be eating meat and dairy. Our earthling counterparts are trapped in factory farms, literally on top of each other, never see the light of day, have their babies taken away from them almost immediately, and when they are sent to slaughter, very often they are still conscious when their throats are being slit, or they are dipped in boiling water.  And it is in our Government’s “interest” to hide this from us. Rather than admitting what really happens, our food is advertised as pretty pictures of a cow with its calf roaming a grassy field of flowers – something that hasn’t existed in our culture in 50 years.

There was a point in human history when we communicated with nature, but we have somehow lost our way… and rather than progressing towards kindness, we seem to be regressing towards Avidya, ignorance. Like in the case of my dad – ignorance is bliss, right?  (Yes, I just called my dad ignorant  – but he is CHOOSING to be so)

But I have hope that this could change. In Swami Satchidananda’s translation of the Yoga Sutra, he states that “when the vow of ahimsa (non-violence) is established in someone, all enmity ceases in his or her presence because that person emits harmonious vibrations. If two people who have enmity between them come to such a person, they will temporarily forget it.” Can you imagine what would happen if we all practiced ahimsa? How amazing would that be? It’s time to wake up and to no longer be ignorant.

 

 

Categories: Vegan, Yoga, Yoga Sutras | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Your Own Personal Jesus

sarva-bhūtastham ātmānaḿ

sarva-bhūtāni cātmani

īkṣate yoga-yuktātmā

sarvatra sama-darśanaḥ

Through the practice of yoga, the yogi sees the Divine Self in all beings and things.

Bhagavad Gita VI.29

I, like maybe some of you, have an aversion to the word God. But I really couldn’t figure out why.  I have been contemplating it for a while…and then I was riding the subway at 7:30 a.m., had not had coffee yet, and someone in the  subway car started preaching, VERY LOUDLY, about how only Jesus can save me, and I am going to hell if I don’t give my life over to God. This situation alone might cause an aversion to God. If God loved me, I wouldn’t be subjected to this at 7:30 in the morning!

But in all seriousness, one of the reasons it bothered me so much is that I was raised Jewish, and I don’t very much enjoy having someone else’s God being pushed on me.  But I’m not sure I feel comfortable with Judaism’s version of God either…where, like in many other religions, God could be wrathful, punishing you for something done wrong. While growing up, I can remember my mom saying many times “God’s going to punish you.” I also found that I was doing things, like going to temple or fasting on Yom Kippur, because “I am supposed to,” or “I should,” and not because I truly believed in what I was doing.

And then there is yoga.  I wasn’t very comfortable with yoga at first, with chanting the names of different deities, and having altars to those deities in front of me – the complete opposite of Judaism – where God doesn’t even have a name, and any imagery at all is considered idolatry. But the more I dove into my practice, the more I came to love it, because it is all about love.  While the yogic scriptures refer to a higher power, it is an unnamed higher power. Yogic philosophy allows you to view a higher power in whatever way you need to, your own personal God.  Jesus, Allah, Krishna, Mother Nature; whatever you need it to be. Yoga is all-inclusive, non-denominational, without any preferences.  Where it is ok to have feelings and emotions that may seem negative, like anger, jealousy, fear; and there are no “shoulds” – the key is how you react to those feelings.   In fact, throughout your asana practice, a lot of those feelings may come up. Maybe the teacher calls out a 5th wheel when we typically only do 3,  or asks you to think about someone who may have hurt you while you are in that last wheel. Or in my case, asks you to do an asana in a different way than you have been for the last 5 years. How do you react? The practice, as our Sanskrit teacher Manorama said recently, is having the courage to sit with it. Allow yourself to have those feelings, even if they seem negative. There is no judgment.  And if there is judgment, sit with that too. Eventually, through the practices of yoga, you will realize that you are the same as the annoying preacher on the subway, the person who hurt you, the trees, cows, grass, even the subway rats. We all come from the divine – however you choose to view it.

Categories: Bagavad Gita, Yoga, Yoga Sutras | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Cookies, Sutras, and the Magic of Chanting

“Linguistically and vibrationally it expresses our deepest core.  The elegant sounds of Sanskrit gently coax our hearts to soar to their highest potential, the luminous whole that we all are.” 

~ Manorama

As I briefly spoke about in my last post about the power of om, Sanskrit is a vibrational language that you can feel in every ounce of your body. When speaking Sanskrit words out loud, or especially when chanting them, there is a potency that taps into the core essence of the universe. Because of this, it is said that even if you don’t know the meaning of the words you are chanting, you still get all of the benefit of saying them.

Exactly 3 months ago I started memorizing the first chapter of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, Samadhih Padah, and today (the timing is completely unintentional…) I finished my goal…2 1/2 weeks ahead of schedule! (And although I just stated that even if you don’t know what it means, you get the benefit, I do know what some of it means, and I read it in English too!!)

Some say (i.e. Tamar) that my cookies taste so good because I chant sutras while I am making them. Well, here you go – as promised, attached is a video of me chanting the entire first chapter…while baking. If you want to order some of these magic cookies, you can do so here.

I’ve also posted the first chapter here, so you can chant with me 🙂

YS CH 1 Pg 1
YS CH 1 Pg 2

Categories: Cookies, om, Yoga, Yoga Sutras | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

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