Posts Tagged With: Yoga

#mythmonday : Matsyendra

Thousands of years after Matsya the fish received the teachings of yoga from Shiva, he was reincarnated as Matsyendra (sometimes also referred to as Matsyendranath), which means Lord of the Fishes (matsya = fish, indra = lord, nath = refers to Nath group). 

Matsyendra was a Nath Warrior, who was also a half man, half fish (a mer-man!) The Nath Warriors were a power-hungry group of people during the 10th-14th centuries who would do whatever it took to become more powerful – pillaging villages, tearing down forests, destroying everything around them without giving a second thought to the destruction they caused. 

Matsyendra had heard about this strange group of people who hung out in caves deep in the woods meditating and contorting their bodies in all sorts of ways – and they also had superpowers. These yogis, as they were called, could predict the future, become invisible, levitate, had super-strength, could go a long time without food or drink, had super-sonic hearing, and so much more. The Nath Warriors thought that if they had all of these powers, they would be invincible and could take over the world! So they took a break from destroying the world to study yoga. Eventually they transformed and realized there was much more to life than taking over the world. Through long and consistent practice (abhyāsa) but also non-attachments to the results of yoga (vairāgyā) they found happiness, joy and bliss, and became the Nath Yogis, rather than the Nath Warriors. 

Matsyendra shared these physical yogic practices with Swami Svatmarama, who wrote them down, and they were passed down to us in the form of the Hatha Yoga Pradīpikā. Each chapter of the HYP starts off with an invocation to the Lord Shiva who was the first to pass down the teachings of yoga.

In an āsana class we take the form of Ardha Matsyendrāsana (sometimes referred to as seated spinal twist) as an homage to the lineage of teachers who passed down the teachings of yoga either directly or indirectly to us. The upper body represents the torso of a man, while the folded legs resemble the tail of a fish. This āsana is not only a twist, but also an outer hip opener (on the side you are twisting). It promotes spinal health and flexibility, and also stimulates our digestive function.  We typically twist to the right first to allow food to move up the ascending colon, and then to the left down the descending colon.

Videos Created by Jivamukti NYC

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Memorial Day Weekend Yoga Retreat

I have the great privilege and humbling honor to lead this year’s annual Jivamukti Yoga Memorial Day Retreat at Ananda Ashram, located in Monroe, NY, May 24th – 27th 2019.

We will spend the weekend exploring asana and meditation, while diving deeper into spiritual teachings that can support our health, happiness, and sanity. Best of all, we will be doing it together in a beautiful place. This retreat is not only a gift to yourself, but to everyone you know, and to all beings.

Each day we will rise together for meditation and asana class, then meet again in the afternoons for further exploration through asana, study and song. We will enjoy delicious vegan meals prepared for us with love. There will also be opportunities to study Sanskrit with the amazingly gifted teacher Bharati, and to participate in the ashram’s acclaimed evening programs.

It is often impossible to move forward in a new way without first taking a step back. The retreat is an opportunity to get in touch with our Jivamukti lineage, part of which came through Ananda Ashram founder Shri Brahmananda Sarasvati. By unplugging from daily life, you have the opportunity to steep in your practice, and to suspend unhelpful cyclic thinking.

Semi-private accommodations
$595, pre-register before May 1st
$625 after May 1st

Dorm Room accommodations
$535, pre-register before May 1st
$565 after May 1st

Daily Commuter Rate
$135

Registration: events@jivamuktiyoga.com

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 (then Ramamurti S. Mishra, M.D.) as the country center of the Yoga Society of New York, Inc.

Located in the foothills of the Catskill Mountains, the Ashram provides a serene, natural environment with woods and meadows surrounding a lake. Accommodations are simple and meals are vegetarian.

Categories: jivamukti, retreat, Sanskrit, Travel, Vegan, Workshops, Yoga | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

When the Noise Stops

The other day I was on the train with a large group of teenage boys who were extremely loud. I aware of how loud it was, but wasn’t disturbed by it; it was just there. And then all of a sudden they all got off the train at the same stop and there was complete silence. It was absolutely glorious. The BEST FEELING EVER.  It was that same feeling we have after we stop chanting and the words stop but you can still feel the vibrations. Or those moments when meditating when you don’t realize you were in it until you are taken out of it. 

I imagine this is what finding yoga/samadhi/enlightenment/Ātma Bodha, whatever you want to call it, is like. (I say imagine because I’m not there yet.) That Ātma, our highest Self, is always there, but there is all this noise – our thoughts, our worries of what already happened and what we think will happen, this crazy world around us – covering it up. We are all already enlightened but it’s being masked by the noise of life. Like how the sun is always present, but some times it’s covered by the clouds, and especially in the winter, we forget it exists. Eventually the sun comes out and we remember the joy of sunshine. Eventually, through long, consistent yoga practice, the noise is drowned out. It’s still there – the boys were still making noise, it was just muffled out by the closed doors – but we aren’t affected by it as much. We are able to move around amongst this noisy world but in a way that we are acting for the benefit of all beings and not just reacting to the noise. We find Ātma Bodha; Self-Knowledge. 

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Teaching in Oz

“No one can love who has not a heart, and so I am resolved to ask Oz to give me one.” – The Tin Man, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, L. Frank Baum

I always find my heart while teaching and it’s bursting to teach in Australia! Teaching dates coming up:

December 12th & 13th, Melbourne, Australia The Yoga Corner

December 14th, Sydney, Australia Dance Flow Yoga

December 15th, Surry Hills, Australia, PSOAS PSATURDAY WORKSHOP, Co-teaching with Caterina Quilla at Hiscoes MUST PRE-REGISTER AT WWW.QUILLAYOGA.COM

December 17th, Waterloo, Australia, Quilla Yoga


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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

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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

 

Bookings after December 1st (A 50% non-refundable deposit must be made by December 31st, Paid in full by February 28th):

Village Room Double: $1375 (MUST SIGN UP WITH A ROOMMATE)

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 SOLD OUT

Triple Occupancy Sea Front Cabana: $1650 SOLD OUT

Double Occupancy Sea Front Cabana: $1825 SOLD OUT

Single Occupancy Sea Front Cabana: $2425 SOLD OUT

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 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 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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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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