Posts Tagged With: Jivamukti Yoga

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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Sharon Gannon is on the Cover of Mantra Magazine!

Sharon Gannon is on the cover of Mantra Magazine! And they are hosting a photo contest in honor of her new cookbook Simple Recipes for Joy! Go to this link to vote for this photo I submitted. The photo with the most likes will win a 6-month unlimited class pack to Jivamukti that I will donate to a lucky someone! You can submit your own photo too! Just takea pic with your copy of the cookbook and Mantra Mag (you can download the virtual copy and print the cover!)

Vote here!

Headtsand Mag

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Spreading love in the world through the teachings of yoga!

If you haven’t noticed by now, I have been teaching A LOT of yoga! All of my hard work has paid off! I am now an 800-hour certified Jivamukti Yoga teacher, and also recently completed the Aerialmukti teacher training and am certified to teach aerial yoga!

If you haven’t checked out one of my classes yet, you can view my full schedule here. https://aprildechagas.com/yoga/, including all subbing dates as of now through the end of August.

I am subbing a ton this summer, including aerial yoga classes! See you on the mat!

Current class schedule:

Monday

9:30 a.m. Jivamukti Open, Yoga People, Brooklyn Heights

12:00 p.m. Jivamukti Open, Brooklyn Yoga Collective

3:00 p.m. Open, Jivamukti Jersey City

Wednesday

6:30 p.m. Basics, Brooklyn Yoga Collective

Thursday

5:05 p.m. Spiritual Warrior, Jivamukti Yoga School NYC

Friday

9:30 a.m. Jivamukti Open, Yoga People, Brookyln Heights

2:30 p.m., Jivamukti Open, Brooklyn Yoga Collective

Saturday

8:00 a.m. Spiritual Warrior, Jivamukti Yoga School NYC

3:00 p.m. Basic, Jivamukti Jersey City

5:00 p.m. Open, Jivamukti Jersey City

Upcoming Subbing:

Tuesdays 7/1, 7/8 & 7/15  7:00 & 8:10 am, Spiritual Warrior, Jivamukti Yoga School, NYC

Sunday 6/29 5:00 pm, All-Levels, Yoga People Brooklyn Heights

Wednesday 7/2 9:30 am & 12:00 pm, All-Levels, Yoga People Brooklyn Heights

Wednesday 7/9 4:30 pm, All-Levels, Brooklyn Yoga Collective

Sunday 7/13 3:00 pm, Open, Jivamukti Yoga School, NYC

Sunday 8/3 9:15 am, Open, Jivamukti Yoga School, NYC

Tuesday 8/12 5:00 pm, Open, Jivamukti Yoga School, NYC

Monday 8/18 7:00 pm, Aerial, Jivamukti Jersey City

Tuesday 8/19 5:00 pm, Open, Jivamukti Yoga School, NYC

Sunday 8/24 11:00 am, Beginners, Brooklyn Yoga Collective

Sunday 8/24 3:00 pm, Aerial, Jivamukti Jersey City

Sunday 8/24 5:00 pm, Open, Jivamukti Jersey City

Wednesday 8/27 2:00 pm, Open, Jivamukti Yoga School, NYC

Thursday 8/28 2:00 pm, Open, Jivamukti Yoga School, NYC

Sunday 8/31 9:15 am, Open, Jivamukti Yoga School, NYC

Sunday 8/31 3:00 pm, Aerial, Jivamukti Jersey City

Sunday, 8/31 5:00 pm, Open, Jivamukti Jersey City

 

 

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Turn Your World Upside Down

Yoga has a funny way of turning your life upside down – when and what you eat depends entirely on when you are taking class, your I-pod on shuffle is a weird combination of Green Day, Justin Timberlake and Sanskrit mantras, and people stare at you funny in the airport, and you stare back wondering why they aren’t standing on their head too…

Inversions literally turn everything upside down, and are especially fun to do when you are surrounded by trees, or are in the middle of Times Square (which is only slightly tolerable when you have a yoga practice…)

It took me about a year to kick up to the wall in handstand. I was getting really frustrated with not being able to get up, and was travelling a lot for work at the time, so I would practice hopping in my hotel rooms. I was in Boston the day I finally got up. I had a loooooong day of conducting back-to back interviews, and couldn’t wait to get back to my room. I got up on my second hop and knocked a painting off the wall – some random hotel room art, nothing significant. A piece of the frame broke off – I hung the picture back up and hid the broken piece of frame – but I couldn’t wipe the smile off my face.  I knew my world was changed forever!

In Sharon Gannon’s essay on inversions, she states “Turning upside down improves physical health, slows down the aging process, tones the muscles and the skin, improves circulation and respiration, improves digestion, increases bone density, strengthens the immune system, reduces stress and anxiety, increases self-confidence, improves concentration, stimulates chakras and makes you feel tranquil, happier, optimistic and spiritually oriented.”

Psychologically we begin to perceive the world in a different way, everything we know to be “true” and “real” is turned on its head.  In a spiritual context, when practicing shoulderstand we are activating the Vishuddha chakra, associated with viewing ourself as a holy being, and in headstand, the Sahasrara Chakra, karmically associated with our relationship with God.  And when better to pray to God that you don’t fall then when you are standing on your head!  But finding this divinity in ourselves and all other beings during these poses is just the beginning…inversions and other asanas are just an entry point to bringing this devotion into the rest of our lives, even when we are right-side up…

I recently came back from Bali – where my life was literally turned upside down. There is a 12 hour time difference. It was 90 degrees and humid EVERY DAY. Everything moves in Bali time instead of a New York minute. But most importantly – every ounce of the lives of the people who live there is an offering. 70% of their earnings are spent on the flowers, baskets, and food used for offerings. As you walk around throughout the day you constantly see people giving offerings and saying mantra to the Gods. When I woke up in the morning and walked through the hotel grounds to leave, I would see offerings everywhere, and as I came home, around 11:30 or midnight, I would see them walking around with offerings again! Just before leaving for a long day trip, our car was stopped in front of the hotel to bless it, and then the offering sits in the windshield of the car the rest of the day. They have blessings and holy days for everything – from the food they eat and the sun in the sky, to the metal used for tools – one day while we were there was dedicated to cars and electronics – since this is what metal is now used for. EVERY. OUNCE. OF. THEIR. BEING.

But inversions are a good start…

asato_ma

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Planting Your Seeds of Intention

When you are asked to set an intention in the beginning of a yoga class, it is more than just setting a goal. A goal comes with a sense of achievement, or a sense of failure…

When you set an intention, it is something bigger. Something larger than for your small self. Something for the greater good of the world. Like when we chant Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bhavantu – may all beings (human beings, animal beings, plant beings, even green beings…all beings) be happy and free. And may the thoughts, words and actions of my own life contribute to that happiness and freedom for all. Or setting an intention of the attainment of yoga – enlightenment – for all beings. Every ounce of your being is dedicated to that intention. You take ownership of your thoughts, words and actions when you release them into the world.

Your intention is similar to a seed. If you hold onto that seed, nothing will happen to it. But if you plant that seed, it will turn into a flower, and then a tree, and then that tree will bear fruit, and that fruit will feed other beings, and more seeds will be born. And similar to how nature will just take over and flourish, once you set your intention, the universe will take over. There is no need to worry about it – let nature take its course and trust that if you truly believe, truly believe , in your intention, it will be. When you release your intention out into the world, it will spread. If you treat yourself and others as a holy being, others in turn will do the same. Happiness and freedom will eventually spread like wild flowers. And it starts with your intention.

I leave you with a quote from Osho that I thought fit quite nicely with this sentiment…

“The seed cannot know what is going to happen, the seed has never known the flower. And the seed cannot even believe that he has the potentiality to become a beautiful flower. Long is the journey, and it is always safer not to go on that journey because unknown is the path, nothing is guaranteed.
Nothing can be guaranteed. Thousand and one are the hazards of the journey, many are the pitfalls – and the seed is secure, hidden inside a hard core. But the seed tries, it makes an effort; it drops the hard shell which is its security, it starts moving. Immediately the fight starts: the struggle with the soil, with the stones, with the rocks. And the seed was very hard and the sprout will be very, very soft and dangers will be many.
There was no danger for the seed, the seed could have survived for millennia, but for the sprout many are the dangers. But the sprout starts towards the unknown, towards the sun, towards the source of light, not knowing where, not knowing why. Great is the cross to be carried, but a dream possesses the seed and the seed moves.”

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Tat Twam Asi

When you start practicing yoga, you’ll find that you start seeing little bits and pieces of yoga all around you. You’ll find beauty in your surroundings, like noticing for the first time the architecture of a building you’ve walked past a million times, or how the sun shines through the leaves of a tree in the late afternoon. You will find yourself feeling that everyone around you is an angel, and develop compassion for those who in the past may have made you angry…

I do not know if author John Irving actively practices yoga, but while reading his “A Prayer for Owen Meany,” I could not help but feel that he is in fact a yogi. Everything about that book felt yogic – but I am not sure I would have realized what the book was really about if it were not for my practice. This particular quote appealed to me: “Watahantowet believed that animals had souls, and that even the much-abused Squamscott River had a soul – Watahantowet knew that the land he sold to my ancestors was absolutely full of spirits. The rocks they had to move to plant a field – they were, forever after, restless and displaced spirits. And the trees they cut down to build their homes – they had a different spirit from the spirits that escaped those houses as the smoke from the firewood. Watahantowet may have been the last resident of Gravesend, New Hampshire, who really understood what everything cost. Here, take my land! There go my arms!” It is that last line that really got to me – “Watahantowet may have been the last resident who really understood what everything cost. Here, take my land! There go my arms!” Watahantowet (and possibly John Irving, since he wrote it…) is a realized being. He felt so strongly about his natural surroundings as being part of him, the same as him, that it was as if his own arms were being cut off.

…Through the practices of yoga, you will hopefully one day realize that you are the same as that person who made you angry, or the birds chirping in the morning, the cow in the field, the trees and rocks in the park, even the rats in the subway…one day… We all come from the divine; we are the divine. We are not the body and mind, yet we have a body and mind. Tat Twam Asi – That Thou Art; You Are That. Limitless, eternal, boundless joy.

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