by Roche Janken
I have a confession to make: I work in Tech. Outside the Lotus temple, when I’m not practicing or sharing asana, I sit in front of a computer and manage IT projects–I talk to folks about why their email isn’t working and what kind of server they should invest in. And, I like it! And, I like my co-workers! The engineers who I work with are sweet, smart, hard-working guys. I see a very interesting trend with these guys–it’s INCREDIBLY DIFFICULT for them to slow down to the speed of their bodies when their livelihood comes from working with their minds. In short, you could not pay one of these lovely gentleman to go to a yoga class–most of them even forget to eat!!!
What does this have to do with the chakras? In my experience of the chakras, some may be very strong and healthy while others are in need of some TLC–you may have a sharp intellect (6th chakra) but not feel that creative (2nd chakra). You may be a super ambitious go-getter at work (3rd chakra) but not make time for romance (4th chakra). My goal is to feel somewhat balanced–like I have space in my life for each of these parts of myself to flourish.
To be honest, some part of me is frightened about what it means for our world to be run by a tech-savvy elite–men and women who are incentivized to live in their heads and not in their bodies are in power, and making decisions that affect all of us. Can we possibly have a deep consideration for our impact on the environment if we aren’t actually physically connected to ourselves? I don’t believe we can.
And so we come to the heart of my question: How can the invitation to be embodied possibly compete with the seductive glow of the computer screen? Yoga or any kind of physical play is by it’s nature ineffable, hard to understand, challenging to describe and mysterious. It is an experience to enjoy not a problem to solve. In contrast, computers give us tasks, buttons, solved problems and rewards. So how can we as yogi’s possibly draw our techie brothers and sisters into the delightful world of the body?
If we want our world to thrive and to live in communities that are soaked with creativity, love and communion with the divine, we must find a way to bring folks back into connection with their earthy, rooted lower chakras.
[Disclaimer: sure, I know lots of wonderful yogi-techies and rock-climbing-techies and soulful-techies…but I also know lots of soylent-techies and I believe that this inquiry is valuable for all of us.]
Roche’s mantra is Have Fun, tempered by the knowledge that having fun relies far more on how she guides her mind than the task she’s engaged in. She teaches from a sense of delight in the miracle that muscles and bones work so well together, a belief that devotion easefully enlivens any practice, and gratitude that we humans have the ability to dance. The play between rigorous study, brazen sensuality and deep wonder is the grounding for the work that she does in all the forms she loves.
Catch a class with Roche for Happy Hour from 5:30-6:30PM on Monday and Tuesday, and Alignment lab on Sunday from 11:45-12:45PM.
by Robin Wilner
I have a great friend and yoga teacher who can, with one intense Jedi-like stare of his giant, piercing eyes, bring me immediately to tears. He has a way of looking through me rather than at me…I’m talking about seeing into the depths of my soul with a gaze that speaks a thousand words. It’s equally both creepy and amazing!
He was leading an intensive training on the study of energy and the subtle body. On a break, he caught me asking a series of profound questions about our homework assignment in my passionate, fast-paced speech pattern. How could I bring more life into my blocked chakras? What postures did he suggest I practice to fix the imbalance in my left-side body? Should I even be practicing postures or just doing breathing exercises? Blah blah blah… And then the EYES – that long, deep stare into my being, burning a soft hole through my energetic armor, and he simply said, “Robin…”
I wasn’t breathing, apparently. I was speed talking with an anxious desire to fix myself, like I was a car and he was the mechanic. He said my name slowly, deliberately, and waited. I used to fear silence in conversations, but I knew at that moment what he was trying to tell me. Stop. Breathe. Listen to your Self. You know what to do. Allow the vulnerability to surface, and see what happens. And you know what happened? I burst into tears.
I absolutely despise crying in public. I always thought that crying showed a sign of weakness in me that I would refuse to let others witness. As a woman, I have been conditioned to think that shedding tears makes me less capable of handling pressure, of performing well in the workplace, or of communicating without letting my girlie emotions get in the way. So for years, I had shut off the part of me that desperately needed to express vulnerability…my heart chakra.
A chakra, or “wheel of light” in Sanskrit, can also be described as a vortex of spinning energy that emanates from the spine. Chakras are said to serve as the place where subtle (metaphysical) energy and concrete (biophysical) energy come together and then disperse throughout the body. According to the Hindu Chakra model, there are seven chakras found along the spine, from the base to the crown of the head, all of which are interconnected with 72,000 nadis or meridian-like channels that spread energy in all directions.
Each chakra is affiliated with a color, an element in nature, a vibration or sound, a major bodily organ, and relates to the physical, emotional, mental and spiritual aspects of being human. In the case of the heart chakra, called Anahata, the respective color is green, the element is air, and the seed sound is “Yam” (which reminds me of yum or delicious, appropriate words to describe how it feels when your heart is full); the organs include the lungs and heart, and the Anahata chakra relates to love and compassion and a feeling of great joy for life.
When I burst into tears, it was as if the floodgates of my heart chakra had sprung open. I suddenly had permission to connect to my truest self, to allow emotions (read as vulnerability) to cleanse my innermost being and leak out through my eye sockets. Tears that result from strong feelings like stress, pain, anger, and sadness are even classified by scientists – they are called psychic tears and are known to carry leucine enkephalin, which is a natural painkiller. That would explain why I felt a million times better after I actually released whatever was pent up inside of me!
As peers and fellow yogis rallied to my side during my sobfest, I realized that my wide-eyed friend (the subtle energy yoga-guru-Jedi-master) had been guiding our group so deeply into our subtle bodies that there was bound to be an explosive opening. Through the power of asana (movement), meditation, pranayama (breathing), and mantra (sound healing) the smallest shifts were bringing about profound transformations. And I made some great discoveries in regards to my personal yoga practice:
Breathe into the back of your heart. I’d been missing out on the finer elements of heart opening. For years, I had just been overworking my already flexible spine, pinching my shoulders together to lean further into a backbend, and letting the front of my heart do all the work. In other words, how I project myself into the world (by way of the front of my heart) as a loving and kind being was being reinforced, but how I felt about my Self and my connection to the Divine (via the back of my heart) was disconnected. The real work was in standing still with my arms elevated and breathing into the space between my shoulders…the BACK of my heart…the depth of my soul…and I need to continue to work with that simple action every day.
Touch and be touched. Let your arms and hands be conduits of your beautiful heart, so that that spark of Divinity within you is caressing everything and everyone that you touch. This loving kindness and compassion will come your way too if you let others do the same for you.
Cry in front of others. Yes, there it is. Allow those around you to see your vulnerability and let them in on the big secret…that you’re HUMAN! It will feel incredible to shed some tears (remember that natural painkiller?) and connect to compassionate beings that understand whatever you are experiencing. I promise they will have felt it at some point as well.
The beauty of the yoga practice is that it contains so many layers. You may come to your mat at first excited by nothing more than the physical practice…then you come back hungry for that natural high that accompanies each class…and then you start to tap into the subtle realms of the deeper practice, the realization that the high you seek is simply you discovering the real you…that your subtle energy body is igniting and slowly creating profound shifts in your life. And one day, your heart will burst wide open, too!
Robin Wilner is a former Broadway dancer/singer/actress who took a leap of faith, moved to the west coast, and is devoted to teaching and practicing yoga. Mixing her dance background with a love of chanting, meditative healing, and yoga philosophy, she strives to lead her students to a state of being that reflects their own inner radiance. A true seeker of knowledge, she is also pursuing a Masters Degree in Holistic Nutrition. Come play with Robin on the mat on Mondays at 12pm, Wednesdays at 4pm and 6:45pm, Fridays at 7am, and Saturdays at 6:30pm!
on Behalf of Brima Jah
In his own words, our beloved Brima, describes daily definitions of bhakti yoga as singing in the car or shower, dancing like nobody’s watching, placing less emphasis on god/dess and more on go(o)d, doing something for someone you love without taking any credit, desiring anything less…
Last Friday, February 20th, our beloved Brima was struck by a car and received serious damage to his neck/head and while he is expected to recover, the journey will be a long one. The outpouring of love from Brima’s community is a beautiful testament that speaks to his beaming bhakti heart. Always ready to serve and show up for his various communities, it is no wonder that Brima is so loved and held tightly in the hearts of so many.
The Lotus Community has started this campaign in order to help ease the financial burden of Brima’s recovery process. We set the amount to 108, the auspicious number, as the Vedic culture viewed 108 as a number of the wholeness of existence. This number also connects the Sun, Moon, and Earth: The average distance of the Sun and the Moon to Earth is 108 times their respective diameters. There are 108 pithas, or sacred sites, throughout India. And there are also 108 Upanishads and 108 marma points, or sacred places of the body. We are hoping to raise enough money to help Brima cover his medical expenses that insurance won’t cover, his household expenses he will need covered while recovering and unable to work and other miscellaneous things that come up from having to pause from our routine every day life to nurture our health.
in all things lotus,
paz & namaste.