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:
Posts Tagged With: Yoga
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.
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!
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…
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.
Whether you love Moby or not (I’m on the love side of the equation), he got it right with his song “We are all Made of Stars” – according to quantum physics, 90% of our body is technically stardust, because all of the elements except for hydrogen and helium are created in stars…humans, animals, and almost all other matter on Earth contain the same elements – we are the universe!
This month’s focus at Jivamukti Yoga School is on Gopal – little baby Krishna. There are tons of stories about how little Gopal was always causing trouble; playing tricks on the cowherd gopis, or on his mother, Yashoda. All of the stories are entertaining – who doesn’t love a story about child mischief?!, but they all have some sort of lesson or insight within them as well.
There are various stories told of Gopal yawning while sitting on his mother’s lap, or of him getting yelled at for stealing butter or eating dirt, and opening his mouth up wide to cry – and when he opens his mouth, Yashoda is stunned by the sight, because inside Gopal’s mouth, she sees the entire universe. She sees the world being created, destroyed, being born again, and each and every human and animal and plant in existence. EVERYTHING was inside of Gopala’s mouth…
These stories are a reminder that we are all the same – animal, plant, mineral – THE SAME. If you truly saw yourself in each and every other being on this planet, would you still treat them the way you do now?
This month’s focus also allows us to become a bit more child-like. Maybe be a bit more curious, adventurous. Maybe turn things upside down, practice those handstands, see things from a more child-like point of view. Have you ever done an inversion outside in the park? The trees looks amazing!
In keeping with the child-like theme, I felt like coloring the other day…so here is my child-like version of Yashoda seeing all of creation in Gopala’s mouth…
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.
“Magic is a shift in perception.” – Sharon Gannon
As many of you know, I spent this past month at Jivamukti Yoga’s teacher training at the Omega Institute in Rhinebeck, NY. The experience was almost indescribable; other than to say it was absolutely beautiful, perfect in every way, and definitely magical (in every sense of the word.)
I kept a journal of some thoughts/experiences I had while at Omega – some to do with the training, some about the enchanting surroundings of Omega, but really just one or two lines of something that happened on that day. Some entries more exciting than others, but all meaningful in some way.
♥Love and blessings to Sharon-ji, David-ji, Lady Ruth, Emma-ji, Gayatri, Tina, Tomo and Petros for sharing your knowledge and love, and for making what I already thought was going to be an incredible month even more incredible than I could have ever imagined. Also a special thank you to Tamar-ji – although you weren’t physically there, you were with me every step of the way ♥
So much nervous energy! During intros tonight, Sharon gave my cookies a shout-out! I wasn’t even going to mention them! I was touched by everyone’s intro, and sometimes surprised. So very excited to start this journey 🙂
My assist from Lady Ruth today was a pat on the head 🙂
Emma asked me to lead om-ing in our mentor group meeting today ॐ
Ruth demo-ed a shavasana assist on Sharon. It was beautiful to watch. Sharon looked like an angel ♥
Everyone keeps telling me how great I look in bright colors – Jiva should rethink the black uniforms…Sharon gave me an amazing assist in crow pose; I really need to get this “ribs in” thing down – so difficult when you are upside down! I was dreading the kriya lecture, but neti-ing really wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. I kind of liked it…
During our lecture today, Sharon said that if I were a dog, I would be a Pekingese
Partnered with Lady Ruth during our afternoon practical for the Warrior II assist 🙂 Sharon-ji showed me an assist afterwards, and I got to practice it on Petros. Woah.
IT’S SANSKRIT DAY!
Manorama asked me to chant for her, and told me she was touched by my practice ♥
Ruth’s eyes are magical.
So happy I read the Hatha Yoga Pradipika before coming here…
Feeling like I can really do this. Each day I am here I want it more and more.
Actually enjoyed taking the midterm (I know, I am a super-nerd).
I was invited to Sharon-ji and David-ji’s table at lunch, and David turns to me and says, “So, I’ve heard you memorized Samadhi Pada. Why not the rest of it?” Oy…
Radanath Swami appeared on stage as we came out of shavasana in the chakra tuning class. What an amazingly perfect ending to a beautifully powerful class.
May 4th – Day off (kind of)
Ecstatic chant weekend – no words.
Sharon-ji pulls me aside to introduce me to Gaura Vani (!), introduces me as a Sanskrita (!!!), and tells him I paid my tuition in cookies 🙂
May 5th – Day off (kind of)
I helped build the altar for the next day ♥
IT’S SUTRA DAY!
I was using a block during standing spinal twist and Petros came over to give me an assist. He asked if something hurt me if I didn’t use the block. When I answered no, he took the block and literally threw it away. Literally. Threw it. Guess I don’t need a block in standing spinal twist…
The field is covered in fog and the sunlight shining through the trees and fog is breathtaking.
First truly rainy day we have had since being here. I am enjoying it 🙂
During walking meditation in the woods, there were these tiny orange lizards scurrying around. They were beautiful and blended in with the leaves covering the earth. I thought lizards only lived in warm climates, and certainly never thought of them being in NY. So happy I’ve discovered them!
Sandhi came into full fire-fly on my hips while I was in half-wheel, and then Emma decided to lie over me while I was in full-wheel. There must be something about my hips today…
This afternoon I watched a rabbit eating dinner. It would methodically bite dandelions from the bottom of the stalk and slowly pull the rest in it’s mouth. Then I felt like I was being rude by staring, and went back inside.
Any knowledge I had in my brain has oozed out of my ears, and I know nothing.
Bhumikas. Enough said.
I’ve taught two full classes, and took the final. It’s really weird to not have to study tonight, but I get to enjoy the open class tomorrow stress free! I can’t believe this is almost over!
Graduation day! When called up to receive my official certificate, I am introduced by Emma-ji as being “from” the Jivamuktea Cafe 🙂 While I’ve always been a part of the Jiva family, and often even confused for already being a teacher, I can now officially say I am a Jivamukti Yoga Teacher. YAY!
Thank you so much to those of you who have already shown a tremendous support in sending me to Jivamukti Yoga’s teacher training! I am feeling the love from all over the world!
To show my gratitude, reward levels for donations have been added (previously made donations will be honored.)
About 10 months ago, I started learning how to read and write Sanskrit, and really took to it. I am at the point where I can pretty much read and write it fluently, and find it quite addicting. I write about 2-3 of the Yoga Sutras a day, and am currently trying to memorize the first chapter…
For a $50 donation, I will send you a hand drawn postcard with your name or word of your choice written in Sanskrit, with a fun colorful design ( a sample is below, although my Sanskrit handwriting has improved since I drew this 😉 Check out the other reward levels too.
When was the last time you laughed so hard you started to cry? Or colored with crayons, played freeze dance and duck duck goose, and went on an arctic adventure where flying ninjas attacked your igloo…let alone with a bunch of adults? This past weekend I got to do all of those things plus some (but yogafied), and it was the best weekend I’ve had in a really long time.
Where can you find a bunch of adults willing to do all of this with you?
Well…I found them at the Karma Kids Yoga teacher training. And yes, I want to teach yoga to children, but I honestly think that every adult should do this, or at least one of their 1-day workshops, whether they want to teach yoga or not. Why, you ask? Well, most adults, especially in New York City, are constantly stressing over work or paying their obscenely high rent and bills, and when they do actually take a vacation they are most likely attached to their blackberries and i-Phones, and stressing about all the work they are going to have when they get back from vacation. Even yogi New Yorker’s stress about when they can fit in a class, or are super fidgety during śavāsana, and most likely have a running list of what else they need to do that day going through their head throughout class. Even writing this paragraph is causing stress-knots to build up in my shoulders…
One of the things we learned to say to the kids when asking how their day was in the beginning of class, is that however they are feeling, crumple up those feelings into a little ball, and leave it by the door. If they still want it after class they can pick it up on the way out, but for now, they are just playing yoga. More often than not, they are having so much fun that they forget they even had a bad day.
So, why is it so difficult for adults to leave their feelings at the door? Or as every yoga teacher in existence (including myself) has ever said, “let go”? Well one reason might be that even what adults choose to do for fun can be stressful. Hanging out at a bar, or going out to eat with a group of friends comes with responsibility and trying not to embarrass yourself. And if your idea of having fun is drinking so much that you have no cares in the world, the next morning you are most likely feeling like that crumpled up piece of garbage you tried to leave at the door.
What if for just one day, or weekend, you could just play kid games again? Where no one cares what you look or sound like, and you get to be playful, creative and have fun. I can honestly say that not a single one of the 18 people I was with had a bad time. It’s worth it, I promise 🙂
Below are some pictures from my weekend at Karma Kids. And for those of you who are parents, you should check it out. Karma Kids offers yoga for babies through teens, including family yoga, and also offers fun classes like Glo-Ga (glow in the dark yoga) and Circus Yoga – fun for everyone!