If you missed last week’s dharma talk in the 90 min classes, I shared a story that was sent to me by a student (with her permission) about the Greenbelt in Staten Island. Here’s what she had to say in her own words:
“My dad, an environmental journalist, grew up on Staten Island and got his start working at their local paper, the Staten Island Advance. During that time, there were Moses-era plans to put an interstate through the Greenbelt, which sparked local action to preserve the open space. My dad covered it all, and it was probably the first land preservation work he ever did as a writer (now that’s all he does). “Save the Greenbelt” was the slogan, postered all over Staten Island. I even have one of his old t-shirts that says Save the Greenbelt. In the newsroom, it became an adage, “Save the fucking Greenbelt” you might say with an eye roll, as if to say, “just get the job done,” if somebody was complaining or exaggerating (intoned like, “ah, get over it”).”
This story fits in perfectly with the Jivamukti Focus of the Month – Spiritual Activism. If you’d like to read this month’s focus, written by Jivamukti Yoga co-founder Sharon Gannon, you can find it here.
While the first part of the essay focuses on veganism, the concept applies to any cause you are fighting for – whether it’s saving a natural habitat, or fighting for social/civil rights, or protections during an epidemic. (read last 3 paragraphs if you don’t feel like reading the whole thing!) “To think well of another and to want that person’s happiness, even though you do not agree with the person’s current thoughts and actions, is the key to spiritual activism.”
I’ve been trying to use my free time wisely – exploring nature right here in NYC and I’m in awe of what surrounds us.
Did you know there are 2800 acres of natural woodlands and creeks right in Staten Island (with the exception of Moses Mountain – which is man made, but still very cool!)? I have lived in NY my whole life and had no clue this was here! It’s called the Greenbelt, and it’s amazing! I felt like I was upstate yet was only 15 minutes from my apartment in Brooklyn! So crazy, and my new favorite spot! Before now SI was mostly just a way for me to get to the mainland US, and to occasionally attend a Passover Seder or SI Yankee game. Who knew!!
I imagine that this, along with the marshlands I’ve been exploring, is what most of NYC looked like before it was built up. It’s filled with wildlife – just yesterday I met a raccoon, chipmunks, squirrels (of course), turtles, a red bellied woodpecker, bluejays, gray catbirds, great egrets, and canadian geese. Oh, and chickens (!), but I think they belonged to someone. There are deer also, but I did not have the pleasure of seeing one. I can’t wait to get back!
Zoom teaching schedule and some photos from my outdoor (socially distanced and face masked responsibly) adventures.
My dear friend Lauren Krauze is a poet and author and for a while was writing haiku that she called Short Sweet Poems. These poems brought such imagery to my mind with such a small amount of words that I found myself drawing them.
In addition to this week’s Zoom schedule, below you will find some drawings I did a few years ago based on Lauren’s poetry.
As much as I love personal connection with friends/families/students and miss it A LOT, I am extremely grateful for the technology we have today that allows us to still stay close, even though we are apart. Zoom yoga has been a surprising blessing.
Some changes for this week – I will not be holding class on Thursday this week. It is my 40th birthday, and I am taking the day off! By request, I am also adding a 7 am class back on to my teaching schedule. For those of you who need to get practice in before you work from home.
Schedule for the week is below. From now on Zoom log-in information will be sent via email only. If you would like to take class and are not currently on my email list, please contact me with your email address!
Drawing upon Indian identity, heritage, and a deeper meaning of beauty, we reimagine clean skincare. This is beauty infused with bold sophistication, confidence, and wisdom. This is aavrani. At our core, we celebrate female empowerment. In Hindi, “rani” means “queen.” Our mission is to champion and uplift by encouraging all women to embrace their natural beauty.
When I was growing up, and music stores were still in existence (Sam Goody – my go-to, Toward Records, etc.) Tuesday was the day new music came out. It wasn’t always easy to convince my mom to take me, but once I had my license, that is often where you would find me – perusing the newest music releases – examining cover artwork, reading track listings, and making carefully selected purchases. I could spend hours in a music store. This was even more exciting in college where in Albany they had actual small scale record stores rather than the chain stores found in Long Island.
So in keeping with tradition, Tuesday is the day my weekly Zoom schedule will be released. I will also start creating playlists again (it’s been a few weeks since my last compilation) that you can play from Spotify (if you want) during my classes. Below you will find the full schedule, including one-click links as well as meeting ID/passwords.
Three new class times have been added to the schedule – all 60 minute classes, including Spiritual Warrior. If you are unfamiliar with the Spiritual Warrior sequence, it is a 60-min set-sequence Jivamukti class created by Sharon Gannon & David Life.
Suggested donation is $10-20 sliding scale or free if you are currently without income due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Please be honest about this as teaching Zoom classes is currently my only form of income.Payments accepted via Venmo @April-Dechagas or PayPal email@example.com, or Zelle.
THIS RETREAT HAS BEEN CANCELLED DUE TO THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC. STAY WELL!!!
I had the honor of leading last year’s annual Jivamukti Memorial Day Weekend Retreat at Ananda Ashram and I am excited to continue the tradition!
Ananda Ashram in Monroe, New York, is a Yoga retreat and spiritual-educational center just over one hour from New York City, founded in 1964 by Shri Brahmananda Sarasvati. Located in the foothills of the Catskill Mountains, the Ashram provides a serene, natural environment with woods and meadows surrounding a lake.
To register: firstname.lastname@example.org
Payment accepted via Venmo, PayPal, Zelle
Early Bird Pricing (sign up by May 1):
Semi-Private Room $595
Apt w/Roomate & private bathroom $695 (sold out)
Sign-up After May 1:
Semi-Private Room $625
Apt w/Roomate & private bathroom $725 (sold out)
Drop-in Day Rate: $135 (includes all meals & activities for the day)
All meals and accommodation
2 Jivamukti classes/day with April including 1 live music class
Meditation with Bharati/Ananda Ashram staff
Evening programs (concerts/Kirtan-to be announced soon)
Access to all grounds including swimming pool, row boat and Appalachian Trail
Some photos from last year’s retreat:
Last year’s schedule (to be updated for this year):
I had jury duty yesterday…so I had a lot of time to think about ‘time’.
Time is an interesting concept – a set amount of time (in this case the 8 hours I spent at the courthouse) seems to either speed up or slow down depending on our situation/frame of mind. For example – if you are at a movie with a friend and you are not into the movie, you might keep checking your watch to see when it will end, and when you look at your watch, you’re like, “how can it have only been 15 minutes! How am I going to last another hour and a half??!!” You can’t leave because your friend is totally into it… On the other hand, if you LOVE the movie, it may seem like it ended in a flash, and you want to see more! (Hopefully I’m writing this in a way that makes you want to keep reading 😉
One more quick example, because…yoga. 1 minute is a pretty short amount of time. Especially when you only have one minute to catch a train…but when you are holding a one minute handstand in the Magic 10, it feels like FOR-EV-ER.
I was a bit nervous about having jury duty because I REALLY couldn’t be picked to sit on a jury. I wholeheartedly agree with the process, I find it interesting and I actually think I would really enjoy it, but as a yoga teacher, I only get paid for the classes or private sessions I teach, and could not sub out my classes for a week or more. My mantra throughout most of this process was “Don’t pick me, don’t pick me, don’t pick me.” Funny – the last time I was called for jury duty I REALLY wanted to be picked, but the attorneys didn’t want anything to do with me for that case…
This is how jury duty works in Brooklyn: you are required to arrive at the courthouse at 8:30 a.m., stand on a line outdoors (yesterday the temperature in Brooklyn at that time was already 84ºF) for a good 15 minutes while you wait to get through security. You sit in a very large, barely air conditioned room, with hundreds of other people, and go through an orientation process that lasts until about 10 a.m. This process consists of ridiculous instructions on how to fill in bubbles on a form, and a very outdated video that talks about MySpace (!). And then you wait, and wait and wait. At least 10 groups of 16 people were called before I heard my name. This was great! Maybe I’d get through the whole day without being called! It seemed like a loooooong time had passed. I looked at the time on my phone and it was only…10:30 a.m. Seriously??? 10:30? This was going to be a ridiculously long day. Rather than doing anything constructive like reading the book I brought, or doing work, I was playing a mind numbing game that was sucking up my battery life. At about 5 minutes to 11 I decide to plug my phone in, and then of course my name is called…
Once you are called into a panel room – which is SUPER tiny and has one rotating fan that really only hits the front row – the lawyers randomly split the group up. There were 16 of us in the room – they chose 10 people to question, and the other 6 had to just hang out and listen. I was of course NOT part of the first 10 to be questioned, so more waiting and more stress about not knowing if I’d get picked…
(P.S. – I have brought up the temperature multiple times now – studies have been done (check out PubMed) that show that increased body temperature can slow down our perception of time by up to 20%! If NYC were smart they would turn up the AC to cover up the slowness of bureaucracy…)
By the time the lawyers gave us background on this particular case, it was already close to break time, so they didn’t start questioning until after lunch. We were told that if we had anything personal to discuss with them, we could do so privately, so as we were about to go to lunch, I told them it would be a financial burden if I were picked. Believe it or not, one of the lawyer’s wives happens to be a yoga teacher, he totally got it, and they pretty much guaranteed that they would not pick me, but I had to still sit through the day’s process. Totally cool with me!
A weight was lifted off my shoulders. I KNEW I didn’t have to come back. I was able to sit back and relax, and enjoy (yes, enjoy) the afternoon’s proceedings. I find it completely interesting. I was enjoying hearing about the two sides of the case (the limited details they can tell you without a judge in the room) and how people answered the questions; what people’s biases are, or if they are just trying to get out of jury duty (you can tell.) The afternoon sped by. By the time the last 6 of us were questioned it was the end of the day, and they didn’t even bother with me. I just had to hang out. This is where time slowed down again…at this point I just wanted to get out of there! Finally at 4:30 p.m. we were set free, with a lovely piece of paper in hand, good for 8 years, that said JURY DUTY SERVED.
In verse 1.2 of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra, he gives us the definition of yoga: yogaś-citta-vr̥tti-nirodhaḥ – Yoga is when we stop identifying with the fluctuations of the mind. Then in verse 1.12 he gives us two ways to stop that identification: abhyāsa vairāgyābhyām tannirōdhaḥ – Through practice (abhyāsa) and non-attachment to the results of practice (vairāgyā). This is how we find yoga.
I became more engaged in jury duty when I wasn’t so attached to the outcome. I was enjoying the process, and in a way I wish I could have sat on the jury.
This also happens with our yoga practice – if we can let go of the outcome, of what we think the “goal” of yoga is – in that particular moment or if we think there’s some sort of “end-game” – then we can be in the present moment and experience the practice for what it is – a practice – and maybe even enjoy it!
Our practice will be different today from what it was yesterday or what it will be tomorrow. It changes – like our perception of time – based on how we feel that day, stuff that happened that day, injuries. It changes with time, changes with life experiences. But the practice is always there, and offers to us what we need in that particular moment, or allows us to at least recognize it. We notice where we are stuck, or what thoughts keep coming up and when, and then we work through it. And through this practice, and with time, we also change. We become more engaged in our everyday lives – not just on the mat – where hopefully rather than stressing about past or future events or projecting what we think will happen, we can move around this earth in the present moment in a way that is to the benefit of everyone. What’s the point of a “goal” of yoga if you are not living, breathing, enjoying it? (Check out the Myth Video on Bharadvaja)
I’ll leave you with some thought’s from Jivamukti’s co-founder Sharon Gannon. In this month’s focus at Jivamukti , Sharon discusses the concepts of time and alchemy. She describes alchemy as “the ancient practice of transforming the ordinary into the extraordinary.”
Yoga is also an ancient practice of transforming the ordinary into the extraordinary: “Abhyāsa–regular continuous practice, done with detachment, meaning no matter what, will help the settling of your mind and lead to peace of mind. The implication is “with” time a number of obstacles to freedom will fall away. The practices of yoga— as well as alchemy— are magical practices that alter one’s perception of the world, one’s self and of time. Such an altered perception can help you to live in harmony with nature, rather than viewing yourself as separate from nature.”
When it’s cold and rainy in NYC, maybe you want to curl up in a Child’s Pose (bālāsana) and hear stories of Baby Krishna (Gopāla)?
In connection to this month’s focus at Jivamukti Yoga, maybe we start to look at our yoga practice with the playfulness of a child (Bāla) rather than setting goals or striving to achieve something that in this particular moment might be unattainable. Maybe in each āsana we embody the animal form we are coming into rather than worrying so much about getting it perfect (this by all means does not mean we don’t try, or keep safe anatomical alignment, but more along the lines of not becoming angry or disappointed if it’s not “perfect” right now. Practice and all is coming!)
The “goal” of yoga (if you must have one) is to find the joy and happiness of a child in our everyday lives!
Garuda’s mother, Vinata, lost a bet against her sister (due
to trickery and deceit, but that is a whole other story), and was obligated to
serve the Nagas, or snake kingdom, the duration of her life.
While growing up, Garuda was obliged to take orders from the
snakes, waiting on them hand and foot, just like Cinderella, but did not
understand why he, as king of the birds, was required to listen to the snakes.
After some investigating, he found out about his mother’s debt and asked the
Nagas how he could set her free.
They agreed to alleviate Vinata from her debt if Garuda
brought them a pot of immortality nectar (amṛta). The nectar was being
guarded by the devas, who surrounded it with three Indiana Jones type booby
The first was a large ring of fire that Garuda extinguished
by taking the water of the rivers in his mouth and pouring it on the fire. The
second was a mechanical door with sharp rotating blades. Garuda wrapped himself
in his wings, shrunk down in size and was able to slip through the door with
ease. Garuda finally arrived where the nectar was being held, and found it was
being guarded by two huge snakes (Indiana Jones would be in BIG TROUBLE!)
Garuda rapidly flapped his wings, creating a dust storm that blinded the
snakes, and while they couldn’t see, attacked them with his beak.
Garuda took the nectar into his mouth without swallowing it,
and started flying home. Along the way, Indra caught up to him and asked Garuda
to return the nectar, as this was how the Gods and Goddesses maintained their
immortality. Garuda promised that once the nectar was delivered to the Nagas,
he would make it possible for Indra to take it back.
Garuda finally arrived home and the Nagas could hardly wait
to drink the nectar. He placed the nectar in a pot on the grass in front of
them, and asked if his mother could now be set free. Greedy to drink the
nectar, they immediately agreed. Garuda convinced them that before they drink
it, they should perform a cleansing ritual.
As the Nagas went off to clean, Indra swept in and took the pot of nectar. When the Nagas returned, they saw a few drops of the nectar in the grass and started to lap it up with their tongues. The nectar was so powerful that it split their tongues in two, and because it was only a few drops, instead of becoming immortal, they would periodically shed their skin. From then on snakes were born with a split tongue and could shed their skin, and Garuda and his mother were free from their debt.