Like many people, my yoga practice began with a physical focus. I had an idea that there were other yogic layers that might come into play because I had been practicing at Laughing Lotus for nearly two years. After regularly hearing students talk about their incredible Yoga School experiences (while putting on their shoes or having tea), I realized that I’d been making excuses as to why I hadn’t enrolled in the Laughing Lotus Teacher Training program. Some of my excuses sounded like this:
I don’t have the time!
I am not ready for it!
I haven’t been practicing yoga long enough!
More importantly, I was scared as to what I might uncover within myself through the process. Because of my experience practicing with the Laughing Lotus Teacher Training instructors and observing their depth of knowledge, I had the hunch that the experience of Yoga School would be enlightening. As it turns out, I was right. Laughing Lotus Yoga School is an expansive experience that goes deep into all aspects of yoga.
It can be scary to embark on new endeavors, especially in the beginning when you feel like you’re all alone. In my experience, one of the greatest benefits of Laughing Lotus Yoga School was the relationships with other students. I had the feeling of being supported and celebrated throughout the program. Having a mentor to talk to and relate to, and possibly even have a meltdown to, proved to be immensely helpful in the process of growing and learning. There were some points when I would email my mentor, wondering how in the world the breakthroughs I was having in my personal life could be connected with what was happening in Yoga School! My mentor’s guidance was priceless to me.
If I were to describe my Yoga School experience in three words, they would be: Valuable, Applicable, and Expansive. There are many threads of experience that weave these words together, such as knowledge of the Yoga Sutras, the Bhagavad Gita, Sanskrit, and Asana sequencing. There are also things that happen internally as a result of the process, that you might not expect, such as increased confidence, finding your voice, and greater self-knowledge.
As Patanjali’s commentary on Yoga Sutra 2:5 says: Yoga does not bother much about changing the outside world. Mana eva manushyanam karanam bandha mokshayoho. “As the mind, so the man; bondage or liberation are in your own mind.” If you feel bound you are bound. If you feel liberated, you are liberated. Things outside neither bind nor liberate you; only your attitude towards them does that.”
Whether you are considering Yoga School because you want to teach yoga or for your own personal growth, you will change, you will be challenged and you will not regret the experience. I went into Laughing Lotus Yoga School with the habit of procrastination and a desire to have a more complete yogic experience, and I came out with a new perspective. I was abundantly satisfied that I now have the tools I need to not only find balance within myself, but to help others find it within themselves.
Valerie has an optimistic, genuine compassion for all people and walks of life. Valerie’s dedication to her personal practice shines through in her heartfelt and soulful classes as she is continually educating herself and nurturing awareness of the body-mind-soul connection.
Valerie teaches Lotus Flow 2 on Monday and Friday from 10:15-11:45AM, and Happy Hour from 5:30-6:30PM on Thursday.
Join Jasmine Tarkeshi this Saturday, January 31st at 1:00PM for our last information session before Love School begins on February 6th!
For details and registration: http://sf.laughinglotus.com
by Minerva Arias
The beloved Song of God, the Bhagavad Gita, a piece of the Hindu epic the Mahabharata, is a story of Arjuna’s great battle between light and darkness with poetic responses from Krishna.
When I first picked up Eknath Easwaran’s translation of this epic battle, it was because I was thirsty for more spiritual words to help me remove some of the darkness I was experiencing, feeling, breathing. Yet, as I got closer and closer towards the end, I found myself feeling so much resistance to reading it; feeling completely turned off by the language of God and surrendering and praising. It stirred up all the issues I had with other organized religions I had explored in the past. As I read it again for the fourth time, I laugh at my initial resistance to the end, and other times when I’ve had moments of resistance in re-reading it.
I laugh because I can see clearly how I was standing in my own way. I laugh because I can clearly identify the moments where certain lines from the book triggered things in which I did not want to have to confront. I laugh because the book put me on the battlefield of my own light and darkness, just like Arjuna.
“Devote yourself to the disciplines of yoga, for yoga is skill in action” chapter2.49
We’ve all heard it I’m sure- the real yoga happens off the mat. And that is exactly what the Gita brings to life. It is not a book of commandments, but rather a book of choices. Krishna is that best friend you have, who no matter how many times you make the same mistake, tries to find news ways to tell you because obviously you did not hear them the last time! The Gita teaches you how to cultivate a basic detachment from pleasure and pain, allowing the individual to rise above the conditioning of life’s dualities, it teaches you how to put your yoga into practice, off the mat.
“To those who have conquered themselves, the will is a friend. But it is the enemy of those who have not found the Self within them.” Chapter 6.16. This beautiful song of God shows you how you can allow yourself the freedom to move out of your own way to step into your own divinity, your own light, your own warrior power. It is no secret that difficult conversations are …difficult… to have! But we all know they are necessary, and some of the most difficult conversations we need to have are with ourselves. Beginning to destroy our misconceptions, assumptions, and comforts/discomforts takes patience, time and skill. We can rest assured that the love of our Krishna God is always there ready to listen and counsel. We just have to be open to hearing.
“Be fearless and pure; never waver in your determination or your dedication to the spiritual life. Give freely. Be self-controlled, sincere, truthful, loving, and full of the desire to serve. Realize the truth of the scriptures; learn to be detached and to take joy in renunciation. Do not get angry or harm any living creature, but be compassionate and gentle; show good will to all. Cultivate vigor, patience, will, purity; avoid malice and pride. Then, Arjuna, you will achieve your divine destiny.” Chapter 16.1
A devoted feminist, yoga mat souljah, Minerva believes a new world is possible but it must be born from a place of love. Join her on Monday & Wednesday mornings at 7am to start the day off right or on Tuesdays at 10:45am for a Level 1 or Wednesdays at noon for all levels. Learn/Read more at namasteitup.com
by Brima Jah
On the morning of New Year’s Eve 2013, I make my regular visit to a local hospital. I arrive and check in at the infusion center, where I receive intravenous drug treatment for Crohn’s disease every eight weeks. At each visit, I’m attached to an IV in one arm, with a blood pressure and heart rate monitor attached to the other arm. I get cozy, wrapped in a generous bundle of machine-warmed blankets, all amidst the sterile yet refreshing scent of rubbing alcohol in the air. I’m surrounded by the sounds of quirky, chatty nurses telling morbid jokes, which include flippant mentions of the death and mortality they witness daily while at work. My fingers peel through the now tethered pages of my copy of Swami Satchidananda’s “The Living Gita,” one of the many transliteration of the “Bhagavad Gita.” I begin reading the second chapter, “Yoga of Wisdom,” where my gaze arrives at sloka (verse) 13 (2:13):
“As the embodied soul continually passes, in this body, from childhood to youth to elder hood, the soul similarly passes into another body at death. The self-realized soul is not bewildered by such a change.”
In our “svadhyaya,” or self-study through verses of the Bhagavad Gita, we learn that sloka 2:13, refers to the ever-changing, impermanent quality of our “annamaya kosha,” otherwise known as our physical body. Despite our daily efforts to brush our teeth, bathe, or consume the endless supply of costly youth-preserving remedies. So long as we live, we will always have tooth decay, body odor, and my least favorite, wrinkles. Our bodies literally decompose each time we inhale oxygen and exhale carbon dioxide. (All of this I mention as I daintily apply eye cream before bed.)
I was an overweight, chubby boy who didn’t outgrow my husky pants until after I began high school varsity sports and slimmed down into adolescence. My “prakriti,” or the form and nature of my body, further slimmed down as I progressed into adulthood. By the time I reached my 23rd birthday, my body was attempting to adapt to the conditions of my then undiagnosed Crohn’s disease. I had become my slimmest at almost 20 pounds lighter than the “healthy” range for my height. Almost 10 years ago at around December-ish 2003, I was officially diagnosed with Crohn’s disease and joined a legion of people living with a diagnosed chronic disease or condition.
Having a chronic disease or condition is, however, temporary as a disease that will be in my body only for this particular lifetime, depending on whether or not one believes in reincarnation. In the two weeks just before I receive routine drug treatment for Crohn’s disease, I experience a range of symptoms including nausea, fatigue, poor digestion, loss of appetite, and painful abdominal cramping. What I think about myself as I notice these symptoms in my body can be as fleeting as the symptoms themselves. Judgements of my Self, range from feeling like a modern day victorious Hanuman (thanks to cross fit) to feeling like the feeble-looking “Apasmara,” the symbolic embodiment of ignorance on whom Shiva does his dance.
I continue peeling through my books pages. Here, another sloka continues the over 700-verse scripture of the Bhagavita Gita, sloka 2:14:
“[…] the nonpermanent appearance of happiness and distress, and their disappearance in due course, are like the appearance and disappearance of winter and summer seasons.”’
With each sloka of the Bhagavad Gita, we learn of Krishna’s imparting wisdom upon Arjuna (who represents us: everyday humans). In sloka 2:14, “Bhagavad,” or the Supreme godhead as embodied by Krishna, mentions our natural attraction to “sukha,” or pleasure, and on the other hand, our natural repulsion from “duhka,” or suffering. The symptoms of Crohn’s disease are as fleeting as how I feel about them—whether in moments when I have a sense of relief from the symptoms after treatment or feel dreadful of not having treatment soon enough.
Speaking of dread, along the banks of the Gange River in Varanasi, India, I’ve witnessed people bathe and wash their clothes in the same water where cremation ceremonies take place. In the West (whether in America or otherwise), we tend to separate the places where we bathe and wash our clothing from where we hold ritual for the death of our friends and family. This separation can contributes, in part, to our general fear of mortality, for which Krishna offers solace in slokas 2:22-23:
“As a person puts on new garments, giving up old ones, similarly, the soul accepts new material bodies, giving up the old and useless ones.”
“The soul can never be cut into pieces by any weapon, nor can he be burned by fire, nor moistened by water, nor withered by the wind.”
This blog, the Mac laptop on which I type it, my fingers, and ultimately, the body attached to the fingers will all perish over time. What remains and was has always been, is the “jiva,” or soul. Chronic disease, sickness, body odor and injuries of the body or mind…all of these impermanent conditions of our impermanent body may all serve the function of bringing us along the symbolic “river banks” of life. Even miles away from the Gange River in India, we can still be reminded that we are not ever as it may seem separate from death. In the meanwhile, we continue brushing our teeth, bathing, weight lifting, hair dyeing, moisturizing, moisturizing, boob lifting, moisturizing, body building…[fill in the blank here with your signature “life-saving” strategy].
by Genevieve McClendon
“There is sunlight that fills all the world; there is moonlight and also firelight. Know that all these lights are of one light, which is my light.” -Bhagavad Gita 15.12
Gods Light is one light; every entity in the universe is a part of this light. This light is also known as purusha, the essence behind the changing forms in nature, Spirit. Purusha is the omnipresent, that which is spirit and has no form. Prakriti is our physical body or anything that is matter. It is the apparatus, or the cavity in which purusha resides. Purusha comes through and lives in us all as light. This light shows up in the small cracks we never suspect, from the blazing sun above us and through all the beautiful beings we interact with day to day. It is the consciousness that appears in all different forms to comfort us and to love us.
One week ago, I found out that I was born with an extra electrical current in my heart. Two months before this, I was hospitalized because my heart was beating at 222 beats per minute, three times the speed of a normal resting heartbeat. Due to this extra shakti current in my heart I was awakened to a deeper fragility and awareness in being physically vulnerable.
While being wheeled down the hallway of the emergency room, I slipped into the state of pratyahara (withdrawal from senses, one of the limbs of yoga). Forced into a state of complete surrender, everything moved slowly around me. All I could feel was the fast drumbeat of my heart. I knew I had no choice but to give it all over. I asked God to send me an Angel.
In that very moment a nurse, whose name I will never know, came to my side saying, “oh baby you are going to be just fine. You have what I have and my heart was going even faster then yours. This doctor is the doctor that helped me and he is going to do the same for you. You just be still and we are going to take good care of you.”
I can still hear her voice and have been extending my deepest gratitude to her everyday since. She will never know she was my light, my angel that saved me in a moment of distress. I am so thankful that out of all beings I received a nurse that had the deepest and most genuine empathy for what I was going through during that surreal moment. Her spirit touch was an answer to my prayer. It allowed me to relax, trust and know that the universe was conspiring to help me through this tough time, guiding me to surrender more deeply. The Light essence of purusha was coming through her to help calm and heal my spirit. She was Sakham, serving as a friend of God.
“I see you embodied in an array of countless forms wherever I turn: arms, bodies, mouths, and eyes, on and on to infinity. You are everywhere; you have no end, no middle, no beginning. O Lord of the universe, your body is the entire cosmos.” -Bhagavad Gita 11.16
Beyond the five senses, beyond this human experience there is magic. We are all a part of how purusha, the spirit that lives with in dances and weaves the interconnectedness of this sacred life. Yoga allows us to witness this when we feel our bodies and our soul that swims within it. It is also the act of seeing God in every one and everything. Seeing the magic in the flower on the tree as you walk down the street or the multi-colored cat in the ally or the nurse that gives calm loving words during a hard time. The lesson I learned is that we are never alone, God is in everything, everywhere. We are one source. You never know when your kindness or hard life experience could be an instrument of healing in answering someone’s prayers. We only have to ask, be willing to receive and witness the blessings of magic in the light. Truly this Light is beyond words.
Once we acknowledge that God comes through boundless vessels and unexpected places, we are always held, there is always peace and we will forever have comforted.
Genevieve is committed to serving and helping others come into their wholeness. She is a compassionate teacher that invites all her students to live their truth and celebrate who they are as they are. Genevieve teaches Restorative Yoga with Reiki on Friday from 6:45-7:45 and Sunday from 6:30-7:45. View Online Schedule