“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.’ We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people will not feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It is not just in some of us; it is in everyone and as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give others permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”
— Marianne Williamson
It’s Pride month! The rainbow flags are up and everyone’s ready to party! With all the commercialism and debauchery, it’s easy to forget about how this all came to be. On June 28, 1969, members of the New York City gay community, many of whom were transgender, united over the course of six days in spontaneous demonstrations against routine police intimidation and raids, overpowering them and inspiring activist groups to gather around the city, nation, and all over the world with a common goal of creating safe spaces for queer people to come together and be themselves – a concept unheard of in those days. Gay pride celebrations began to sprout up globally, usually taking place in the last week of June, to commemorate this historic uprising.
Come together and be yourself: quite a revolutionary idea even today. This definition of pride is something we celebrate in yoga as well, regardless of sexual orientation. It all begins with ahimsa, or non-violence towards oneself and others. Creating that safe space is the first and most sacred step. Whether the torment and violence comes from the outside as it did in New York in the late 1960s, or from inside ourselves through negative and limiting beliefs, we all need a sanctuary. This place of peace is our birthright.
Yoga teaches us that we are all divine beings with unique gifts and perfect just as we are, right now. No one is excluded. Rather than repress our bodies, our emotions, or our voices, we are asked to use everything and bear witness to ourselves and the truth of the present moment.
For me, even after coming out of the closet as a gay man, it wasn’t until I started my yoga practice that I really began to travel down the path of self-acceptance. It’s a pretty radical process and not just for queer people. At first, all I could do was manage a shaky acknowledgement of who I was (my race, my gender expression, sexual orientation, physical appearance, achievements, etc). Then I came to tolerate myself. But the more I kept showing up, kept slowing down, kept treating myself kindly, kept contemplating that I was special, even divine, and worthy of love and respect, the more I transcended mere tolerance and began feeling a healthy sense pride. I began to appreciate instead of loathe the fact that there’s no one quite like me on earth. It really is something to celebrate!
I’ll be honest with you, it can be a slow, terrifying process at times, and we don’t have to pretend otherwise, but it’s well worth the effort. The small group of participants in the very first Gay Pride march in New York City in 1970 (one year after the Stonewall uprising) were filled with so much excitement and fear over what they were attempting that they nervously zoomed through the parade route in less than half the scheduled time. Little did they know how many millions of people they would inspire with that one act of bravery. We can be just as freaked out when taking the first courageous step of inhabiting the space of our body temples and shining our lights. We often learn that there’s nothing to be afraid of and that we’re far stronger than we ever realized. With this new awakening, we also help to blaze the trail and empower others who come after us.
Find peace within so you can come out as exactly who you are. Allow others to do the same. Unite. That’s the practice. Namaste. Happy Pride.
Laughing Lotus SF is offering a FREE yoga class on Friday, June 28th at 5:30pm in celebration on Pride Month.
Karma yoga is the yoga of service; being of service to those who are most in need is the highest calling. It benefits the teacher, it benefits the students, and it benefits the community large and small. I might not be able to change the world, but I can make an impact in one person’s life and the ripple effect from there can be significant. I believe that yoga is a universal practice and the benefits of this practice are great. It is important to me to make this practice available to those who cannot afford it at a studio and those who do not have the cultural currency to even know about yoga or have an understanding of it.
I moved to the Bay Area from New York in late 2008 and promptly had the life I had been leading fall apart. I was in a new city with few friends and lacked a support system, but I had my yoga practice. I practiced yoga around town and found one of my teacher’s from New York, Keith Borden at Laughing Lotus San Francisco. That reconnection set me in a new direction. After two decades of a personal yoga practice, I was called to make a deeper commitment. I enrolled in Laughing Lotus Yoga School. It was amazing! It was transformative. And then it was over and I thought, What next?
Within days of graduation I was asked to consider teaching in Juvenile Hall. This was not what I thought I would be doing with my yoga teacher certification, but it was an opportunity to teach and put my new certification to use. It was hard. It was scary. I cried. And it was one of the best experiences of my life.
It is a very different experience to work with kids (and adults) outside of a yoga studio. As a teacher, you travel to them, rather than them coming to you. They often do not know what they are seeking. They may not even want to take yoga. In spite of that, there is power in the practice of yoga. To engage kids & teens and offer them an opportunity to feel safe, to be quiet, to hear themselves, and to know themselves is key in helping them to deal with the stresses of everyday life. These stressors might otherwise turn into acts of violence against themselves and others, drug and alcohol abuse, or dropping out of school.
Hear what students had to say when asked about how yoga has impacted their lives:
I have learned so much from these experiences and have had the opportunity to continue to grow and see myself more fully through my interaction with these kids. I am better because of them and have so much more to offer as a person. Working with these kids has deepened my practice by asking me to look into myself and give of myself authentically in ways that I never understood before. To relate to them means to relate to our own vulnerabilities and fears and face our own traumas. Through these experiences I have been able to heal myself.
Tricia Tangeman is offering a Weekend Intensive (10 hours) in Teaching Yoga to At-Risk Youth, on June 22 & 23 at Laughing Lotus SF. For more info & to sign up, visit: Advanced Studies & Continuing Ed. She is a Laughing Lotus certified yoga teacher and she studied Yoga Therapy at Niroga Institute. Connect with Tricia at www.triciatangeman.com.
by Inbal Meron
Our modern lives can be pretty hectic. I enjoy the intensity and energy of my life, which is why I’m drawn to big cities and buzzing atmospheres. I have many hobbies and am involved with some awesome communities. I prefer to be challenged by work and have an abundance of social interactions. Sound familiar? Many of us lead very busy and full lives, which is why it is so important to create balance through a restorative yoga practice.
I find that my practice of yoga sometimes mirrors the fast pace of life; I like classes that are dynamic and that make me move and sweat. However, nothing feels as good as Savasana: Corpse pose. Savasana is considered to be one of the most, if not the most important pose in our practice. When we have enough time to be in the pose, we have the opportunity to enter the state of Yoga Nidra or Yogic sleep, the conscious awareness in the deep sleep state, or a state of relaxation much deeper and more profound than traditional sleep.
I like to think of Restorative Yoga as a practice of different variations of Savasana. The poses are completely supported with props so that we don’t have to strain to be in or stay in them, allowing us to drop into a deep Yogic sleep. When we take an active asana practice, we intentionally put our bodies into intense situations in order to find release. In the practice of restorative yoga we do the opposite; we fully support the body and try to be as passive as possible in order to release. In other words, two different methods of getting to the same goal – entering into a space in which we can let go of all the layers of who we aren’t in order to drop deep into who we are.
The benefits of an active asana practice are evident, not only do you get to have really profound experiences, but you get a workout as well. So what are the benefits of a passive practice?
These are just a few benefits of a Restorative Yoga practice. Just like any other method of Yoga, when we continually show up and nourish our relationship with our practice and with ourselves, it can be profoundly transformative. Join us at Laughing Lotus for Restorative practice with Inbal on Sundays at 6:30 pm and with Brima on Fridays at 6:45 pm.
Learn more! Laughing Lotus is offering a Weekend Intensive: Restorative Yoga and Healing Touch with Indigo Stray on June 29 & 30. For more info, visit: http://sf.laughinglotus.com/continuinged.html.
Theme of the Month for June: Nada Yoga
by Katharine Otis
now the ears of my ears awake and now the eyes of my eyes are opened.
There is an inherent beauty when the outer world of Nature is brought into harmony with the inner world of the Self. Not only is this harmony the very definition of Yoga, it is also a birthright of every being on the planet and a key to living a happy and healthy life. The traditions of Yoga offer a multitude of ways of bringing about this harmony of sense perception to that which perceives it. One such tradition is the practice of Nada Yoga or the Yoga of Sound. How often at the beach have you picked up a shell and placed it to your ear, only to hear the sound of the ocean contained inside? What if that were the sound of God, or simply the sound of blood pumping, or what if they were the same thing? Nada Yogis of ancient times and today use sound vibrations of the world to awaken the ability to listen, and even more subtly draw the anatomical ear to the innermost ear, listening deeply to the mystery of the universe contained within.
The modern world is dominated by the visual sense. The eyes focus singularly on a computer screen, the road, a book, moving in linear and angular starts and stops. The auditory sense on the other hand, accepts through the ears sound vibration in a smooth spiral of descent, where many sounds are perceived at the same time on a multitude of levels. The Rishis of ancient India heard the sound of the planets and created the language of Sanskrit through deep meditative listening. These great Yogis believed sound was the primordial reality existing even before there were ears to receive it. Science supports this belief in revealing that sound is the first sense to come to a fetus in the womb and the last sense to go in death. How then can sound exist without a world? What is the innermost ear? And how can the sense of sound bring harmony with the Self? The answer lies in the difference between hearing and listening.
The ear may have the function of perceiving sounds perfectly, but until the mind links to the perceived tone with awareness, the sound lies unabsorbed and will not affect one’s consciousness. However, when the mind becomes captivated by a sound, one’s consciousness can become clear and expansive. Listening is therefore the receptive state of hearing. There is no end to how deeply one can listen. Nada Yogis listen not only to the music outer of the world or struck sound (“ahata”), but listen to the inner music of the Self or unstruck sound (“anahata”). This type of listening is as if the outer ear were listening to the inner ear, and what is heard leads the practitioner toward peace, bliss, and harmony. Just keep listening.
Join us for yoga practice at Laughing Lotus, as classes for the month of June offer insight on the theme of Nada Yoga. Katharine studied Sound, Voice & Music Healing at California Institute of Integral Studies. She recommends The Yoga of Sound by Russill Paul for anyone who would like to learn more.