Posts Tagged With: Jivamukti Yoga

Jigsaw Falling Into Place

First…Thank you Radiohead for your entire catalogue of music, and for the title of this blog post 😀

I have a slight addiction to working on jigsaw puzzles. Really CHALLENGING jigsaw puzzles – usually about 3000 pieces, but they have to be minimum 1500. Working on jigsaw puzzles allows my brain to work in a different, meditative, and creative way.  I often come up with dharma talks or sequencing while puzzling! The one I finished this morning was 2000 pieces, but is of Monet’s Garden (pictured below), so it might as well have been 5000 pieces. Side note – Barnes & Noble carries a 5000 piece Ravensburger, my favorite brand (yes I have a favorite brand of puzzle), but it is like $85. I am obsessed, but not crazy – I refuse to spend this on a puzzle!

When I am working on a puzzle, and have been looking for a specific piece for a long time without success, I’ll start looking for something completely different. And then, all of a sudden I find what I was looking for in the first place, and it is usually, literally, right under my nose. Or, if I have been sitting in front of it for a while without finding any piece at all, I walk away and do something else. Then when I come back, I often find about 20 pieces immediately.

One of my teachers, Ruth, says that one of the results of a yoga practice is that your vision changes, and when you look at anything you are able to see the whole picture – the past, the present, and the future. You are able to see where things have come from and where they are going.

In our āsana practice, over time, you might realize that the poses we come into all link to each other, just like a puzzle, or that they strategically build up to a more challenging pose later on, the bigger picture. Or maybe you one day realize that all of the poses are exactly the same, just take on a different form! (The truly bigger picture!)

When you are faced with a challenging situation in your life, whether it is personal, or with another person, or more national or global, you may start to see how all of the actions, or karmas, you have taken so far have led up to this point, and how whatever you are about to put into the word as a reaction to this situation will lead to other future karmas. So how you act will affect not only you, and the immediate person/situation in front of you, but the greater world as well. Maybe if you start to look at the situation from a different perspective, from the other person’s point of view, or walk away for a bit and come back, you’ll get what you wanted in the first place, and all of the puzzle pieces fall into place…

Maybe your vision expands so much that, as Ruth says,  when you are in the grocery store and you see the non-biodegradable plastic bags that are there for you to put fruit and vegetables in, you can see that they end up buried in the Earth, or in our oceans, and that this causes the Earth and oceans to become sick, and then all of the living begins on the planet become sick. Or when you look at paper plates, cups, napkins, etc., you can picture the trees they came from, and how when we cut down all those trees, it leads to global warming, because there are less trees to take in the carbon dioxide we are emitting, which they then turn back into oxygen, for us to breath, and also to go back into the atmosphere creating rain, which in turn allows everything to grow again. A lovely mandala of life.

The mysteries of the universe often feel like one big jigsaw puzzle, but if we pause for a moment and take it piece by piece, and in the process set an example for others to follow, then slowly, maybe over many lifetimes, the jigsaw will fall into place.

Monets Garden

Categories: focus of the month, jivamukti, Yoga | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Be the Change

I had the humbling honor of writing the Focus of the Month for the Jivamukti Yoga School for the month of May. You can read it on the Jivamukti website, or right here! You can also find my newest playlist (and all my playlists) on Spotify 

BE THE CHANGE YOU WANT TO SEE IN THE WORLD

Focus Of The Month – May, 2017

yad-yad ācarati śreṣṭhas / tad-tadevetaro 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.

Bhagavad Gita III.21

The streets of Calcutta were dangerous and dirty. Thousands were infected with leprosy, cholera, and other contagious diseases. At overcrowded hospitals, nurses were forced to turn away dying patients onto the cockroach-infested streets. A group of activists, led by Mother Teresa, risked their own health to treat the sick and poor, even though most could not be saved. Why would Mother Teresa dedicate her life to working in the most unsettling conditions for people who did not have anything to give in return? She responded by saying, “I see the divine in every human being. When I wash a leper’s wounds, I feel I am nursing the Lord himself. Is it not a beautiful experience?”

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

Business philosopher 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.” In other words, humility is seeing yourself in others; it is seeing all life as holy.

The word humility is derived from the Latin humilis, which is translated as “grounded” or “from the Earth.” The Chandogya Upanishad teaches tat twam asi or “you are that.” This mahavakya, or great saying, relates to the idea that everything is Brahman, that the supreme Self and the individual self are one and the same. If you are Brahman, and the tree is Brahman, then you and the tree are one. The yogi has the humility to understand they are the same as all that exists on Earth. Its natural resources support life, so it is our responsibility to support the Earth just as much.

According to Vedic scripture, we are currently living in the Kali Yuga – an era of conflict and struggle – and great leaders are especially needed. If we want to see peace and happiness in the world, then we must live the kind of life we want to see. There was a point in time when humanity lived in harmony with nature. We only took from the Earth what was necessary to survive. Now, each year, humans kill billions of animals and destroy millions of acres of land. We are fighting wars over natural resources and the Earth can no longer sustain us. The business of taking all the earthly resources we want was once thought of as progress. We have instead regressed, causing billions of humans, animals, and plants unhappiness.

A great yogi offers strength to others so that they too can learn to be steady and joyful. Humility allows the yogi to be the change they want to see in the world. We can consider progressing in a different way, one that would help us rediscover our higher consciousness and realize that we are the same as the stars and shine just as bright. We can also lead by example, setting standards that are followed by others all over the world.

April Dechagas

Teaching Tips:
  • The asana practice is an expression of humility. For example, when practicing Hanumānāsana, we take on the qualities of the great leader Hanuman. In his unwavering devotion to Lord Rama, he is the epitome of virtue, strength, power, humility and courage.
  • Standing asanas – and warrior asanas in particular – convey the qualities of a great leader: having a firm and steady grounding, a steady gaze, and unwavering intention.
  • Teach alignment of tadāsana/samastithi. Explain that the alignment of this āsana exists within all the others. The mountain, or Earth, is also the connection between all the other forms we take on: humans (warriors, sages, saints), animals (dogs, frogs, monkeys, etc), insects (locusts), plants (trees, mountains), and even inanimate objects that come from materials from the earth (plows, boats, compasses).
  • Have students hold asanas for longer than five breaths while maintaining ujjayi pranayama with peace and humility.
Categories: Bagavad Gita, focus of the month, jivamukti, Yoga | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Jivamukti in Paradise: Retreat to Belize

Jivamukti Yoga in Paradise: Retreat to Belize with April Dechagas 

March 31 – April 7 2018

Deepen your yoga practice surrounded by the beautiful tropical paradise that is Belize. Ak’Bol Yoga Retreat Center and Eco Resort is on the tropical island of Ambergris Caye, just outside the peaceful fishing village of San Pedro Town. Yoga classes take place in a studio with a spectacular 360-degree view of the water, filled with the sounds of tropical birds, unspoiled beaches and jungles, and home to the 2nd largest barrier reef in the world.

Your retreat package includes:

  • 7 nights accommodations
  • Special Full Moon welcome dinner
  • 3 vegetarian meals/day (minus one night off to explore San Pedro Town)
  • Unlimited water/juices/teas
  • 2 yoga classes/day with April (mats and props included)
  • Day trip to Lamanai Jungle River and Mayan Ruins
  • 1 Snorkle Trip to Hol Chan National Reserve
  • Evening Drum Circle
  • Unlimited use of beaches/pools/pier/retreat grounds

Not included:

  • Airfare to Belize City and Airport transfer to Ak’Bol
  • $40US Cash Departure Tax
  • $5 US Cash Mayan Ruin Park Fee
  • Staff Tips at end of trip ($50 recommended)
  • Alcoholic Beverages
  • Additional excursions & Spa Treatments

Early-bird Pricing ($400 Deposit made by October 1st, Paid in full by December 1st):

Room Descriptions below. Please note that single occupancy cabana options are extremely limited. If this is what you want, the early bird catches the worm!

Village Room Double: $1250

Village Room Single: $1350

Triple Occupancy Partial Sea/Garden View Cabana: $1500

Double Occupancy Partial Sea/Garden View Cabana: $1600

Single Occupancy Partial Sea/Garden View Cabana: $2100

Triple Occupancy Sea Front Cabana: $1525 SOLD OUT!!!

Double Occupancy Sea Front Cabana: $1700 SOLD OUT!!!

Single Occupancy Sea Front Cabana: $2300 SOLD OUT!!!

Bookings after December 1st (A $400 non-refundable deposit must be made by December 31st, Paid in full by February 28th):

Village Room Double: $1375

Village Room Single: $1475

Triple Occupancy Partial Sea/Garden View Cabana: $1625

Double Occupancy Partial Sea/Garden View Cabana: $1725

Single Occupancy Partial Sea/Garden View Cabana: $2225

Triple Occupancy Sea Front Cabana: $1650

Double Occupancy Sea Front Cabana: $1825

Single Occupancy Sea Front Cabana: $2425 

Room Descriptions:

Thatched Cabanas (Private Bath): All have full or partial sea view, within the gardens, and a killer breeze. Each Cabana will house 1-3 guests max comfortably. The cabanas have amazing outdoor showers, private front porches, hammocks, and a hot and cold water dispenser with a mini fridge.
ak-bol-yoga-retreat-eco

Village Rooms (Shared Bath): Welcome to community living on the lagoon! This building houses several private rooms with beautiful garden views. Guests can choose between 2 twins or 1 queen bed. There are two large island-chic shared bath and shower rooms, and 2 community lounging areas overlooking the lagoon. Great for sunsets and bird watching, you might even spot a croc or two.

HoustonForer_07-300x200 

To register email aprildechagas@gmail.com. Payments can be made by check or Venmo (no charge if bank or debit account used). There will be a 3% charge for credit card transactions (Venmo/PayPal).

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Retreat to Zion was EPIC!

If you have not already heard, the retreat to Zion was EPIC! From start to finish. Our days were filled with yoga, meditation, hiking, unbelievable landscapes, pools and hot tubs, star gazing, delicious healthy meals, and FUN! The next retreat is already in the making – March 31 – April 7 2018 we are going to Belize!  More info to be released later this week! Here are some photo highlights of this year’s retreat:

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The Heart of Understanding

Comprehend:

Latin root  com = together in mind; prehendere = to grasp it, or pick it up

“To comprehend something means to pick it up and be one with it. There is no other way to understand something.” Thich Nhat Hanh

Respect:

Latin root respectus; from the verb respicere = look back at, regard; consisting of re = back; specere = look at or look back

“Respect means to look again, to keep looking with increasingly sensitive eyes.” Zoe Slatoff-Ponte

From Thich Nhat Hanh’s The Heart of Understanding:

“When we want to understand something, we cannot just stand outside and observe it. We have to enter deeply into it and be one with it in order to really understand. If we want to understand a person, we have to feel their feelings, suffer their sufferings, and enjoy their joy.

If we are concerned with peace and want to understand another country, we can’t just stand outside and observe. We have to be one with a citizen of that country in order to understand her feelings, perceptions, and mental formations. Any meaningful work for peace must follow the principal of non-duality, the principal of comprehension [and respect]. This is our peace practice: to comprehend, to be one with, in order to really understand.”

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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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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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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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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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