by Roche Janken
As I write, I am sitting in front of a lovely, glowing Christmas tree. This morning, my roommate landed from her Thanksgiving travels, went to the lot to pick it up and strung it up with lights and homemade origami ornaments. No one asked her to do these things–she’s just a generous person who likes to be festive.
The word guru loosely translates to remover of darkness or bringer of light. When I think about my gurus of the past several years, my roommates are the first to come to mind. I do not live with Osho or Pema Chodrin (can you imagine?!?)–in fact, none of them even practice yoga asana. Yet their steady honesty and kindness inspires me.
Yoga is primarily an awareness practice and it has encouraged me to be more awake to my everyday. Rather than waiting for a guru to descend from on-high, I can listen into my own life to learn. Sometimes an act of service can simply be scrubbing the shower or making enough pancakes for everyone. These beautiful humans have brought light into my life–and not just the decorative holiday kind.
In the past several years, this has inspired a new question in me. Rather than just trying to get by, how can I bring light into my communities? How can I dispel darkness?
As a city dweller, I feel extremely lucky that I don’t have to go out of my way to serve. Every day, I move between communities of people that I care about. I wake up in my communal house, go to work with a group of people I appreciate and teach yoga in the warmth of Laughing Lotus. In the spirit of what I’ve learned at Lotus, a big part of my efforts involve the first two yamas, ahimsa (non-harming) and satya (truthfulness). For me, non-harming looks like going the extra mile to be kind and provide for the people I love. Truthfulness means standing by my word and doing what I say I’m going to do. For example, at Lotus I practice ahimsa by making the effort to know what’s going on in my student’s lives and satya by beginning and ending my classes punctually.
To be honest, staying true to these ideas is not HARD–it just takes attention and an eye for seeing the opportunities to serve.
You won’t see me taking on the title of guru anytime soon, but anyone can aspire to bring in a little more light.
Autumn is my favorite season and time of year. The glorious colors of the leaves changing, the wild movements of the skies and crispness in the air have me so inspired and energized! Unfortunately, it is also a time of getting run down, stressed out and prone to disease. It is a time of movement and change, a time to nourish our ancestors as well as ourselves. In Vedic wisdom, it is said if we want to be healthy and happy we must honor our ancestors to free ourselves from our karmic pasts and nourish our ancestors through daily offerings so they may serve us and support us. As the Great Ayurvedic Sage Maya Tiwari says: “At this significant time of year (Autumn) when ancestors are energetically open to receiving nourishment, we have an incredible chance to remember them, and in so doing, to free ourselves from ancestral karma’s of grief, despair and disease.” Creating an ancestral altar is a beautiful practice to reconnect to our roots and in turn the universe through which we are all connected. To start, place pictures of your ancestors or of the country of their origin, along with your teachers or anyone who has supported your growth and make daily offerings of fruit, candles, incense or anything you know your ancestors loved! Offer their favorite food, drink or music and speak to them and ask for their guidance and strength. Another way to honor the ancestors especially if you don’t know much about them is to do service in homeless shelters, or senior homes or serve in any way you can.
Autumn is also a time of self-nourishment, where if we forget to acknowledge and remember ourselves, we are most prone to dis-ease. In Ayurvedic Medicine, Yoga’s sister science of healing and living in harmony with nature, Fall is vata season, ruled by the elements of air and ether. Vata is translated as “wind” or “that which moves,” and is characterized by the qualities of dryness, lightness, coldness, mobility and erratic energy. As we see these qualities manifesting outside with the drying leaves, cooler and fluctuating temperatures and wind moving everything around we can see these qualities in ourselves such as: dry lips, dry skin, dry nasal passages. Constipation, gas, bloating, weight loss, insomnia, disrupted sleep, cold hands and feet, sensitivity to cold, feeling restless, depleted, weak, forgetfulness, trouble concentrating, hyperactivity and excessive talking, nervousness, anxiety and fearfulness.
Here are a few Ayurvedic suggestions to balance the symptoms of Vata during Fall to enjoy the magic and richness the season has to offer and to prepare for winter! But instead of thinking of them as a list of do’s and don’ts, think of them as making sacred offerings to honor and connect to your self just as you are beginning to connect to your ancestors.
1. Stress Less!
Ayurvedic medicine believes that stress can weaken your immune system, leaving you vulnerable to dis-ease. One of the best ways to balance vata in the fall is to reduce stress through self-care. Create a daily routine, eat regular meals and make them nourishing, warming and grounding foods, don’t take on too many projects at once. Prioritize what is most important, make lists and give your self plenty of time to finish projects. Spend quality time with friends and family instead of quantity.
2. Sleep Deep!
Make sure to get plenty of sleep during Vata season, which strengthens the immune and nervous systems. Rise with the sun but also set with the sun. Maybe not going to sleep at 5 during the shorter days of Fall, but turning in and tuning in as the sun sets as Vata’s positive qualities are heightened during dawn and dusk. Spend time reading, writing, meditating and quiet time while limiting internet and television and try to sleep for eight hours.
3. Balancing Breath!
To reduce excess vata and its symptoms, practice a deep, balancing, gentle breathing practice called Nadi Shodhana, or Alternate Nostril Breath. Place your right thumb loosely on your right nostril, and your right ringer on your left nostril. Inhale and exhale through both nostrils a few times slowly and the gently close off your left nostril and exhale through your right, inhale right switch fingers and exhale left, inhale left switch and exhale right. This is one round, practice 9 -18 rounds in the morning or evening or both!
4. Nasal Nourishment!
The neti wash and nasya are two therapies that are great for the vata dosha. The neti wash flushes out dust, bacteria, viruses, and excess mucus. Mix ¼ teaspoon of non-iodized salt into one cup of filtered, distilled, or pre-boiled warm water into a neti pot. Bend over a sink and insert the tip into your top nostril to form a tight seal. Tilt your head slightly to one side and let the saline pass through your nasal passages and out the lower nostril. Repeat two to three times on each side, gently blowing your nose to release mucus from the nasal passages. Most sinus problems originate with dry and irritated sinuses, Nasya is a therapy aimed at lubricating the sinuses so they are less reactive to dryness and airborne irritants. To try it, lie down on a sofa or bed and tilt your head back as far as you can. Drop two to four drops of oil in each nostril and sniff the oil into the sinuses.
5. Slow Flow!
Make sure that your yoga practice is nourishing instead of fast and depleting to reduce stress and strengthen immunity. Slow down the flow and include more Yin and Restorative Yoga, as well as spending more time Savasana.
An Ayurvedic practice called abhyanga is a full-body hot oil massage, which you can practice yourself to reduces anxiety, stiffness, stress, and excess vata. Use warm organic sesame oil in the fall, as its warming qualities counteract the season’s cold, dry nature and massage into your whole body but especially your feet and everything is nourished through the ROOTS!
Jasmine Tarkeshi is the Co-Founder of Laughing Lotus Yoga Centers in NYC and SF and is a renowned teacher and devoted student of Yogas ancient and transformative teachings and practices. She has been teaching for 18 years worldwide with the deepest faith in every being’s innate ability to awaken to their truest Selves and become true agents for change and healing our world. She teaches open classes weekly and will be teaching a 50-hour Yoga Philosophy and History Intensive at Laughing Lotus Yoga Center in SF. You can also catch her at Yoga Journal Live SF January 2016! #YJEvents #laughinglotussf #ayurveda #yoga #vata #honoringourancestors
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.
by Mireia Yogimani Negre
During this month of celebrating Deities at Laughing Lotus, our beautiful teacher Mireia shares about her experience teaching yoga to bilingual Seniors and the wisdom they have taught her. For Mireia, these senior students are the God’s and Goddesses of her life!
The Gods and Goddesses are alive within all of us, and in my experience, they are more visibly alive within the senior population. In June 2012, I started sharing bilingual yoga with seniors at On Lok 30th St. Senior Center in San Francisco. I follow this path with all of my heart, and I am deeply committed to serve those who came prior to me. Working with the seniors has opened my eyes even more to how yoga allows us to find spiritual unity no matter who we are, and no matter where we come from.
We all share one truth behind our different names and paths, and by doing yoga and synchronizing breath and movement, we are exploring who we are, and we are exploring the Divine. When the seniors practice yoga, they visibly let their divine lights shine. To me, they are the most visible example of Gods and Goddesses because they are spiritually mature, they are closer to the Truth, and they do their duty with joy, and without being attached to results of their actions. They are true Yogis.
I learn so much from the seniors I teach, because of their spiritual maturity through their long life experiences. I believe that those who have searched for the Divine have also had the Divine come to them, and that the Divine comes to us according to the intensity in which we are seeking it. These beautiful Senior yogis seem to be seeking the Divine in each breath, movement and step.
The senior Gods and Goddesses also seem to be more close to the Divine as they age, because they are closer to join the greatest: Death or Rebirth. They use their body and their breath as a vehicle for awakening. They honor this vehicle, and then they let go of it. Becoming detached to the physical body is a key component of the yoga practice, and the seniors let go completely to discover the greatest divinity alive within themselves.
Finally, the seniors do their duty with joy without being attached to results of their actions. They cannot wait to start class, and they enthusiastically work as a team to set up the room and help each other. When I arrive to the senior center they are waiting with a smile from ear to ear and they even bring me breakfast. Once the class has started they all work in unison and follow directions alert and relaxed, which means they are not really attached to the results of their actions. They continue to show up, Saturday after Saturday to take action. Then, when the class is finished, they clap their hands with joy. By taking action and doing yoga, they explore, discover, and gain a healthier and more balanced perspective. They know we are in this journey together and they relate to others with empathy and compassion.
One time, Delia, an 85 senior woman from Latin America fell down walking towards her yoga matt and the whole class came to her rescue. The seniors are Gods and Goddesses. All their gestures are divine.
In life we encounter great mysteries outside our bodies that are worth exploring. These Gods and Goddesses have been passed to us from generation after generation, and are alive within all of us, but again, especially alive within the seniors! Sharing bilingual Spanish-English yoga with them has been the greatest gift of all. This is a path I intend to follow wholeheartedly. Because we all come from different backgrounds and beliefs, yoga allows us to find spiritual unity no matter who we are. Yoga means union with universal consciousness and the seniors not only have this understanding, but they act upon it. First, by being spiritually mature, second, by being closer to the truth, and third, by doing their duty with joy without being attached to results of their action. I love my senior friends because all their gestures are Divine!
If you have senior family members or friends that wish to discover the depths of their divinity, please, share this post and send them to On Lok 30th St. Senior Center on 225 30th St, (at Dolores St.) SF, CA. We meet every Saturday from 10 AM to 11 AM and we work in unison to feel the universal consciousness behind all our different names and paths. Yoga meets us where we are and allows us to discover the Gods and Goddesses within us all. But the seniors come first.
Peace – Mireia Yogimani
Bilingual Spanish-English Yoga and Meditation
5 things you can do in 5 minutes
by Rebecca Hersh
With the birth of your child, there are so many things that exponentially multiply: cuddles, love, wonder, sleep deprivation, deep inner peace and spit-up, as well as some things that decrease: ego, shirts-without-spit-up, reasons to put on real pants and time for your personal yoga practice.
Perhaps in your life pre-baby, you had hours to dedicate to your personal practice, setting up your yoga mat at home or traveling across the city to catch your favorite teacher, but as the parent of a brand new (needy) bundle of joy, you might (definitely) find that finding the time to practice is difficult.
Here are 5 things you can do in five minutes to stay connected to your practice.
1. Meditate. (You can do this one with your little one in your arms) Sit on the edge of a blanket, shoulders over hips, and take a few minutes to find your breath. Inhale through your nose to a count of 6, exhale through your nose to a count of 8.
2. Come into child’s pose. Inhale up onto your knees with your baby right under your line of sight, and do a few rounds of cat and cow. Stretch back into Downward Dog. Inhale forward into plank pose. Exhale and drop your knees for child’s pose. Do a few rounds like this.
3. Take a standing forward fold with your hands clasped behind your back to open up your heart, and stretch your back, hamstrings and shoulders.
4. Lie on your back draw your knees into your chest and roll around on your lower back. Drop your knees to the left and look over your right shoulder. Draw your knees into your chest and drop them to the right, look over your left shoulder. Feel your spine releasing.
5. Put your legs up the wall. You can lay on the ground with your legs up the wall with your baby lying softly on your chest. This is a restorative pose that will help you to relax, de-stress, all while connecting with your little one!
If you find that you have more than 5 minutes, bring your baby to Laughing Lotus, 1:15-2:15 on Tuesday and Thursday for Baby and Me Yoga, for a yoga class created for new parents and their babies. You can expect a class catered to your particular needs as a new parent and an atmosphere that is calming and nurturing for your baby.
by Dana Marie Nielsen
We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience. – Pierre Teilhard de Chardin
I find this quote very refreshing. These words are magical because they give me permission to be human and to know that there is pure divinity in the, at times, seemingly un-divine human experience. These words allow me to fully take on the daily practice of grounding myself in my human body, breath and movement. These words have inspired me to participate in conscious community with other spiritual beings doing the same. I feel incredibly blessed to be a new member of the Laughing Lotus community, as Community Coordinator, teacher, and student.
Journey Home: Sydney to San Francisco
On New Years Eve 2010, I took off with the wind to Sydney, Australia without a real plan for anything. I was seeking adventure. I wanted to escape the “real world” commitments that many of my recent UC Berkeley Alum’s were partaking in. Yet, I quickly found that without the familiar structures of my community, family, friends, job, and American culture, I felt quite vata-ish. Fluttery. Ungrounded. After a series of tornado-like emotional occurrences, I was lost. I eventually realized that I was feeling so flustered because I wasn’t grounded from within my own body, breath and human experience. I was spending so much time in my head, and not connected to the ground.
It was through returning to my yoga practice and becoming a yoga teacher at a gorgeous Laughing Lotus-inspired studio called Sukha Mukha, that I was able to truly land in myself and grow to love this divine human experience. Sukha Mukha, or Happy Face is a studio in Sydney that eats, sleeps, and breathes Lotus Love. We were taught the signature style of Lotus Flow, and engaged in a very similar loving community to the main studios of San Francisco and New York. Everything from the yoga to the colorful space to the spice tea is alike. In this loving Lotus space, I learned how to consciously play in my divinely human body and how to consciously connect with divinely human community. Having recently returned from Sydney to the San Francisco, I feel incredibly blessed to step into this gorgeous Laughing Lotus community, to play in my body in the magical classes, to commune with fellow yogis over tea, and to serve this community in my role doing Community Outreach for the center.
For me, understanding that I’m a spiritual being having a human experience was the Ah-ha! moment. It inspired me to be fully in my life, to participate in this human experience and to create loving, powerful and structures that support my spiritual self. Thank you, Laughing Lotus for being my new home and my new community. I look forward to meeting you all and sharing in our beautiful space together.
When you see me at the center, please say “hello” and introduce yourself. I’d love to hear your ideas for growing our gorgeous community. And be on the lookout for awesome upcoming community events at Laughing Lotus San Francisco!
Earth Day is Monday April 22nd, and while we can choose to be stewards of the environment every day, Earth Day is great opportunity to make small changes that can have a big impact. Here are some ways you can participate in Earth Day 2013:
1.) Upload a photo to: The Face of Climate Change, a world community project by the Earth Day Network.
2.) Plant a garden. Growing some of your food reduces the distance your food travels, and the fuel required to transport it. If you have limited space, try a window box. If you don’t have a green thumb or are new to gardening, get an Earth Box, which makes growing vegetables and herbs super easy.
3.) Make a pledge to quit plastic. Plastic is destroying our oceans, crowding landfills, and creating devastating impact on our health. Look around your home and take a plastics inventory. Are the ways you use plastic truly necessary? Read about the steps you can take in Beth Terry’s book Plastic Free.
4.) Donate your time. Earth Day is a good day to volunteer your time to clean up beaches or parks, support wildlife rescue, or help educate people in your community. Visit Volunteer Match for opportunities to give back.
5.) Connect to nature. John Muir said, “Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul.” Take some time to go for a walk or hike. Sit quietly by the ocean or in a forest and allow nature to heal and restore you.
6.) Support your local farmer. Buy local, in-season produce at the farmer’s market or join a CSA program. This reduces carbon emissions, the distance your food travels, and supports the local economy. Find your nearest farmer’s market or CSA at: www.localharvest.org.
7.) Take up bee-keeping. As pollinators, bees are integral to the food supply and the health of our planet. And it’s a really fun hobby. You can find courses at: www.organicbeekeeping101.com.
8.) Start composting. One third of landfill waste is actually compostable. Divert up to 30% of your household waste (kitchen and yard waste) from landfills and have an excellent soil conditioner for your new garden. Gaiam has a great guide to composting for beginners.
9.) Make your home more energy efficient. Use the Nature Conservancy’s Carbon Calculator to see where you stand, and then take steps like installing efficient lighting, turning down your water heater, using energy efficient appliances, properly sealing windows and doors or installing solar panels.
10.) Host a documentary movie night for your friends. Watch: Vanishing of the Bees, The Island President, Plastic Planet, The Death of the Oceans, Food Inc, Forks Over Knives, or Surviving Progress. The more you know about these issues, the more you can personally do to create change and improve the health of the planet.
Come to Laughing Lotus Yoga Center SF for a FREE Earth Day Celebration Class at 4pm with Tonya Sisco. We will be giving away a seed packet to everyone who visits the center on April 22nd, in honor of Earth Day. Come see us!
Megan Hunt is the Marketing Manager at Laughing Lotus Yoga Center – SF. She kind of sucks at gardening, but she tries really hard.