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Lotus Love Blog

Treating your seasonal Cold and Flu with the art of Ayuverda

Posted on: November 11th, 2015 No Comments
by Minerva Arias100_3089

A couple of weeks ago, within the first few minutes of an Ayuverda intensive I was taking with my beloved teacher, Ali Cramer, she said “Ayuverda is an art and a science.” And I was reminded all over again why I felt a deep sense of love and connection to this ancient wisdom. As I often tell the folks in my classes, Ayuverda takes all the philosophy of Yoga and makes it a bit more real, a bit more concrete and tangible. Yoga tells us that we are enough and we have enough and Ayuverda shows us how, in a concrete way.

The concept of the five elements is one of the most fundamental in Ayuverdic science. These five elements (space, air, fire, water, and earth) exist in all matter. These five great elements then combine into three basic energies, which are present in varying degrees, in everything and everybody. These energies or doshas are Vata, Pitta and Kapha and they govern our psychobiological functioning and correspond with seasons, times of day, etc…

If you’ve been to the center this month, you’ll know we are knee deep – not only in the teachings of Ayuverda but also in Vata season. As Bri Maya Tiwari says “all diseases begin at the junction of the seasons, and so all types are cautioned to be especially aware during the seasonal transitions. The fortnights of mid-September and mid-November are the most crucial periods during Vata season.” Cold, windy, clear and dry weather aggravates Vata dosha and may lead to colds and any number of vata ailments such as insomnia, constipation or joint soreness/pains. If you do feel that cold coming on or already have a flu, here are some tried and tested things I’ve done to either prevent a cold/flu or help treat it (most from Vasant Lad’s “the complete book of ayuverdic home remedies”):

The best remedy for a cold is ginger. Here are several home remedies using ginger:

  • Combine the following herbs together:
    o Ginger 1 part
    o Cinnamon 1 part
    o Lemongrass 2 parts

Steep 1 teaspoon of this for about 10 minutes in 1 cup of hot water, strain it, and add agave for sweetness if desired. Drink this tea several times a day and it will help with the cold, congestion and flu.

  • Combine the following herbs together:
    o Ginger 2 parts
    o Cinnamon 3 parts
    o Cardamom just a pinch

Steep 1 teaspoon in a cup of hot water for 10-15 minutes. When the tea has cooled down somewhat, you can add about ½ to 1 teaspoon of agave for taste.

  • Boil 1 teaspoon ginger, or a few eucalyptus leaves, in a pint of water. Turn off the stove, put a towel over your head and inhale the steam. This will relieve congestion and help you feel better. Even steam with no herbs added will also be beneficial.

CAUTION: don’t combine ginger and aspirin. They are both blood thinners and should not be taken together.

Additional herbal remedies are:

  • For flu, make a tea from 1 teaspoon of tulsi (holy basil) in 1 cup of water. Boil for just 1 minute then drink
  • Echinacea shots mixed with water
  • Vitamin C
  • Hot water: drinking hot water several times a day is an effective way of removing toxins from the system
  • Triphala (either in pill form or powder to make a tonic)
  • Avoid dairy products, if they are in your diet
  • REST, REST, REST

Minerva has a deep love and appreciation for Ayuverda and living a life of balance through sadhanas. Come explore with her how Ayuverda manifests in our asana practice this month, Tuesdays at 10:45am & 5:30pm, Wednesdays 7am & Noon, Thursdays at 5:30pm and Saturdays at 11:45am; or contact her directly at www.namasteitup.com to learn more about living in alignment with your true nature.


What’s Ahimsa Got To Do With It?

Posted on: August 19th, 2014 1 Comment

by Sarah Gurman
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“If your compassion does not include yourself, it is incomplete.” – Jack Kornfield

A few months ago, I realized the critical voice in my head sounds like a snarky bubbe (yiddish for grandmother). If I leave work on time to make a yoga class, she might say, “Why isn’t your tuchus still behind a desk like everyone else’s?” As I revise the ending of a short story, she might announce, “All aboard! The schmaltz train has arrived!” And during a yoga class: “It’s Peaceful Warrior, not Schmutz Warrior.”

I think she’s been blabbing away for years, but I credit yoga for giving me enough distance and awareness to recognize it. I also credit yoga with helping me understand I’ve got to work on this bubbe situation. Though you might imagine her with smudged glasses and smelling of honey cake, all that guilt and nitpicking violates ahimsa.

Ahimsa, which translates to non-killing or non-violence, is one of five ethical principles, or yamas, that comprise the first of yoga’s eight limbs. Initially, ahimsa might seem straightforward: don’t kill or commit other acts of violence. However, T.K.V Desikichar explains, “Ahimsa is more than just lack of violence. It means kindness, friendliness, and thoughtful consideration of other people and things…Ahimsa also means acting in kindness to ourselves.”

While I was going through the 200-hour instructor course at Laughing Lotus last fall, my teacher, Jasmine, asked us how we could practice ahimsa in yoga classes. Until then, I hadn’t considered that ahimsa could be an issue in a yoga class. What’s ahimsa got to do with an instructor guiding a class to balance, calm, and bliss, and the students who came for all that peaceful goodness? Luckily, one of my articulate and insightful yoga compatriots explained that as teachers we must respect our students’ limitations and not force an experience on them, and as students we must respect our own limitations and treat our bodies with compassion.

I went home from yoga school that night and couldn’t sleep. Though I didn’t want to look, the ahimsa discussion put a mirror to my practice, an honest mirror: In a typical yoga class, I jammed myself into poses—joints strained, breath gone, jaw clenched—while a soothing soundtrack of Tibetan chimes or monks chanting played. I’d look around the room and feel frustrated my body couldn’t practice like the people in the first row.

About a year prior to yoga school, I had been in paschimottanasana when my teacher came over and asked if I would like a “gentle” push. My hamstrings already felt taut, but I nodded, giving this well- meaning teacher the go-ahead to blow-out my hamstrings.

This kind of behavior and treatment of myself was not isolated to the yoga mat. During graduate school, I went on medical leave for nine months because I pushed and forced myself into everything I should be doing. I thought taking care of myself was self-indulgent.

Before yoga school, if you had told me sometimes child’s pose and savasana are the most advanced, I would have thought, “Stop with the woo woo ladi da! Lying on my mat like a shmata is not advanced.” However, a few days after the ahimsa discussion, I returned to Laughing Lotus for a class with the intention of not using force, and not comparing myself to others. It was a struggle. Sure my body felt better when I took child’s pose instead of a vinyasa, but my ego was rioting. Not surprising: We all know breaking a habit can be extremely difficult, and up until that point, self-criticism was fundamental to my karmic patterns. The shift toward ahimsa was going to take time. Lots of time.

But there was a bright side to the situation: My ahimsa practice on the mat would inform my practice in the world. As my yoga school mentor Roche Jenken explained, “How you do one thing is how you do everything.” Our asana practice is a moving metaphor for our behavior out in the world, and often it’s much easier to initiate change on the yoga mat than in the fray of life off it. Yoga school also helped me understand that if I could cultivate more compassion for myself, it would lead to more compassion for others. Certainly my graduate school experience taught me that you can’t take care of anyone else if you don’t take care of yourself. The stronger you are, the more support you can offer.

Six months later, and I’m in the thick of it with my ahimsa practice. Every time I practice yoga, I’m trying to shoo away the bubbe voice. More and more, I’m trying to shoo her away in other parts of my life, and, to my surprise, another voice has emerged. The new voice is more objective and less judgmental—no yiddish so far, but who knows. Of course, I’m still struggling (the critical bubbe was 32 years in the making), but that’s why it’s called a practice.

Sarah teaches Yoga and English to middle and high school students at Fusion Academy Marin. This post comes to you while she’s still glowing from Jasmine Tarkeshi and Keith Borden’s 50-Hour Advanced Teacher Training: Courage and Grace. She bows with gratitude to Jasmine, Keith, and the other Lotus teachers who continue to inspire her practice on and off the mat.


A Beginner’s Mind

Posted on: August 11th, 2014 No Comments

by Amy Ruben

“And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom” –Anaïs Nin.

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Two years ago, my adventurous, soul-seeking self took a pilgrimage to India. This was my second time to the the sub-continent of contradiction and sensory overload. The first time twirled me around and spat me back out in America after three weeks, smelling like incense, with a pocket full of rupees, and turmeric stains smeared on all of my belongings. The large bag of turmeric, which I smuggled home for future culinary pursuits, exploded in my bag on the 17-hour plane ride. India quickly taught me the meaning of the “cosmic joke.” Despite my misfortune, I was not deterred by my yellowed belongings, nor was I by my lingering digestive problems that haunted me for months.

As a gemini, who has little tolerance for complacency, I returned to India a year later. This time, I left with what I coined “a no-plan-plan.” A “no-plan-plan” was absolutely nonsensical to my American-Jewish family, as was the thought of me spending up to a year in the exotic land of India (of all places). When I broke the news to my grandmother that there were, indeed, no Jewish delis in Delhi, I was sent on my way with less than a blessing. Like many soul-searching westerners, who had paved the trail before me, I travelled with the intention of “finding myself.” However, I had a very vague idea of what this actually meant.

India has a divine way of guiding you to where you need to be; it teaches you to surrender to the lila, or the cosmic dance of life; to the inexplicable; the horrific; and the divinity that resides in everything and everyone. Soon after I arrived, I danced my way to Dharamsala, India; the home of His Holiness, The Dalai Lama; where I started working as a journalist for a Tibetan refugee publication. During my time there, I had the privilege of attending darshan with the Dalai Lama, at his temple in McLeod Ganj. In one particular dharma talk, he spoke about the importance of maintaining a beginner’s mind, and told the following fable from the time of the Buddha:

Once upon a time, a clever king invited several people blind from birth to visit his palace. He brought out an elephant and asked them to touch it and then describe what the elephant was like. The blind man who rubbed its legs said that the elephant was like the pillars of a house. The man who stroked its tail said they elephant was like a feather duster. The person who touched its ears said it was like a winnowing basket, and the man who touched its stomach said it was like a round barrel. The person who rubbed its head said the elephant was like a large earthenware jar, and the person who touched its tusk said the elephant was like a stick. When they sat down to discuss what the elephant was like, no one could agree with anyone else, and a very heated argument arose.

“Bhikkhus, what you see and hear compromises only a small part of reality. If you take it to be the whole of reality, you will end up having a distorted picture. A person on the path must keep a humble, open heart, acknowledging that his understanding is incomplete. We should devote constant effort to study more deeply in order to make progress on the path. A follower of the Way must remain open-minded, understanding that attachment to present views as if they were absolute truth will only prevent us from realizing the truth. Humility and open-mindedness are the two conditions necessary for making progress on the path.”

I tucked this well-known fable into my back pocket, as I was not fully ready to recognize the true meaning behind it. What does it mean to have a beginner’s mind? I wrote this question on the first page of my journal, and I looked at it every day for months. I thought about this question as I meditated in silence for ten days; I thought about it as I trekked the highest mountain passes of the Himalayas; I thought about it as I met siddhas, or divine beings; I thought about it as I watched deceased bodies float in the holy Ganga river in Varanasi; I thought about it as I completed my first 200-hour yoga teacher training; and I thought about it in every moment I learned something new, which fortunately coincided with every breath. Yet, I still didn’t have the answer.

My ego was still inextricably linked to my accomplishments and what those accomplishments meant to the outside world. I wanted everyone back home to know that I was on a spiritual quest, that I was studying yoga, that I was a strong woman traveling solo, that I was constantly meeting and seeking my edge, and that I was eccentric beyond measure. What I was completely blind to at the time, was that my ego was barricading my personal growth.

As most India travel stories go, I found myself severely ill from a bacterial infection. Only then, when my ego burned in the agni (fire) of my own body temperature—of my own karma–did I realize that I must surrender my attachments to my present views and my image to have a beginner’s mind. Agni doesn’t always form from the involuntary act of a fever or illness and usually takes great will to ignite; however, we need that spark of fire and determination, or tapas, to purify the body and mind to prepare for an act of surrender.

In The Yoga Sutras, Patanjali describes this act of surrender as Ishvara Pranidhana. Ishvara is a Sanskrit word that translates as supreme, or personal, God. Pranidhana means to devote, dedicate, or surrender. In the practice of Ishvara Pranidhana, if we are able to completely surrender our individual ego identities to God (our higher self), we will attain the identity of God, or Atman. The act of surrendering our ego—letting go of all we think we know—is not a one time or easy fix. We must do it again and again as we are presented with new information, teachings and wisdom. The more I learn, the more I realize I don’t know; it’s the imperative of learning.

A beginner’s mind contains the mutual relationship of tapas (purification) and svadhyaya, a means of self-reflection through which we come to a deeper level of self-awareness and self-understanding. By cleansing the mind and body, tapas makes us fit for svadhyaya; by examining ourselves, svadhyaya helps us to understand exactly where we should direct our practices of purification. In our relationship between purification, self-examination and surrender, we create the space and tenacity to learn, grow and evolve.

I am confronted with my own ego every time I learn something new that contradicts what I think I already know. This is extremely prevalent in the world of yoga. There are many lineages of yoga and countless ideas of how something should be, look or feel. Often, I replace new ideas for old ones, and sometimes, I prefer my old concepts over newly learned concepts as my truth—my dharma; the choice is the seeker’s. What’s important, is to view each person we meet as a teacher—as a mirror that reflects our own light—to remain an open heart and mind to the wisdom they share, and to recognize that our capacity to learn is never full.

A year ago, I took my beginner’s mind into Yoga School, or “love school,” at Laughing Lotus. Love school provided me the opportunity to dive deeper into the depths of my practice and find my inner guru, in the company of a radically beautiful sangha, or community. However, as the ebb and flow of life has it, I sprained my ankle a quarter of the way through the training, and was forced to sit to the side and observe the physical aspects of the course. This was definitely not the elaborate Van Gogh painting I had crafted in my mind; however, this time, yoga presented me with the tools to see my pain and misfortune as a great teacher. It allowed me to surrender my ego, again (and again), to the lila of life, and call on my beginner’s mind.

I’m honored and excited to continue my yogic studies in the Advanced 50-hour Courage and Grace Training with my teachers, Jasmine Tarkeshi and Keith Borden, this week!
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As a writer and musician, Amy lives by the motto, “you must first fully embody the rules, and then you can break the rules.” The same goes for yoga: one must study the science, with tapas (discipline), and an open heart and mind, and then, the practice naturally and magically becomes a true artistic statement of the self.

Amy teaches Morning Flow Tuesday and Friday from 7:00-8:00AM, and co-teaches Friday Night Live.

She is starting her Masters in Somatic Counseling Psychology at the California Institute of Integral Studies in September.


The Flying Trapeze

Posted on: July 16th, 2014 1 Comment

Flying Hanuman by Enrique Vallejo

“God doesn’t require us to succeed; he only requires that you try.” –Mother Teresa

I’ve been encouraging my 66-year-old mother to give flying trapeze a go. Just once. That might sound insane to you, but I absolutely think she could do it. Besides, I am fiercely protective of her (do NOT try to mess with a Cancerian’s Mama!!) and would never dream of putting her in harm’s way. She’s an active yogini, has taken adult ballet for years and goes out dancing with her man every weekend. Yeah, she can do it.

Worst case scenario: she freaks out as she walks up the ladder. Maybe the first time she attempts it she can only take a few steps. That’s a few steps more than shes ever take before!! Maybe she tries again but then panics when it’s time to grab the bar and take off. The trapeze teacher reviews what to do over and over; she’d be in a safety harness, and there’s a safety net underneath, so no matter what, she’d be okay.

Often, the dangerous terrain isn’t really physical, it’s mental. As Anais Nin put it: “the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.” Every little milestone along the way is a huuuuuuge victory. Let’s celebrate those victories instead of obsessing over (rather arbitrary) black and white results!

“I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.” — Nelson Mandela

To tell you the truth, I don’t really care if my mother masters a knee hang or does a catch. And if she ends up not wanting to try it, then I would completely respect that and not push it. I mean, don’t get me wrong, it would be dope if she ended up doing some cool trick (and I’d probably document the event within an inch of its life and plaster it all over Facebook), but that would really just be icing on the cake. I’m more interested in the psychological and spiritual expansion that happens when, motivated by love, we approach situations that scare the crap out of us and realize just how limitless we are. Then, we realize how limitless life is, how limitless God is. I believe that we get wings every time that happens (Hanuman, anyone?).

So, enough trapeze talk, let’s bring this back to yoga–another place where we can fly. As a teacher, it always breaks my heart when I offer a slightly wacky or unfamiliar asana, and I see people who won’t even take the first stab at it. Mind you, I’m not talking about someone who sensibly does not want to aggravate an injury or anything like that. Self care and listening to your body are essential. I’m referring to a student who (in my opinion) is unfairly hard on themselves and has taken themselves out of the running before even attempting an asana that they might really enjoy (or hate? Who knows until you try?).

We can be so mean to ourselves on and off the mat by depriving ourselves of novel, potentially fabulous experiences. We just assume we’re incapable. We assume with no evidence that if something hasn’t come together yet that it won’t come together ever. Hogwash, I tell you!

Two of the most fascinating ideals of the eight limbs of yoga for me, as delineated in the Yoga Sutras by Patanjali, are tapas and ishvara pranidhana. Tapas refers to effort; discipline; trying your hardest; and not automatically taking the easiest; most comfortable path. Ishvara pranidhana refers to surrender to the Divine, complete trust in God and the universe. Out of context, these two concepts may seem completely at odds with one another. But, stepping into the unknown and expanding the outer limits of our comfort zone, actually requires both effort and surrender in equal measure. That goes for rather you’re attempting an arm balance or preparing to have a difficult conversation. The yogini has a lazer-like focus so she can put forth her best effort, but she also has to trust herself and the universe enough to be spontaneous and open to life as it mysteriously unfolds. As Sri Alice Tarkeshi says about meditation: “Not too tight, not too slack.

Both asana and life in general can at times be difficult, absurd, magnificent, and absolutely hysterical. Try, and keep trying, even when you’re discouraged. Laughter is key; we must be able to laugh at ourselves as we stumble through our journey (we practice at Laughing Lotus for heaven’s sake, not at serious…um, Sagebrush?). Trust that as long as you do your part, the Divine will do the rest. Let’s explore together in the spirit of childlike wonder and play. Up, up and away!

Join Enrique for a “From Basics to Intermediate” workshop on Sunday, July 20 from 1:00-3:00PM. All levels are welcome! Sign up here.

Enrique teaches Candlelight Flow (Level 1/2) at Laughing Lotus on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 8:30pm. His style is playful, humorous, and expansive. He enjoys watching the impossible become possible.


Thai Yoga Massage: Connecting Earth and Sky

Posted on: August 14th, 2013 No Comments

by Rhiannon Fink
thai yoga massage
It’s a long time coming, but I finally got Sthiram Sukham Asanam tattooed on my inner forearm by yogini artist Nicole Miller. The wisdom of this sutra has proven useful in everything in my life. Often translated as a reminder that our posture should be steady and relaxed, I’ve been contemplating this sutra that honors the yang and yin in everything for some time. Years ago I heard my teacher Saul David Raye express that the deepest meaning of the sutra is that each of us is a conduit between earth and sky, and that has been my meditation ever since.

Thai Yoga Therapy (also called Thai Massage) is a versatile, holistic system of bodywork known to help nearly any condition from acne to schizophrenia. It synergizes yoga, Ayurveda, Buddhism, and Chinese Medicine into a beautiful dance between giver and receiver. In fact in Thai work, it can be difficult to distinguish the two. Upon receiving my first sessions in New York City seven years ago, I experienced such benefit and healing that I soon felt compelled to study and share the work with others.

The first thing I do when I sit at the feet of my client, a divine being who has given me the great gift of allowing me 2.5 hours to learn about what we’re made of, develop myself, and serve, is to connect to earth and sky. I tune into the resonance of my pelvic floor with all the energies that lie below, and the openness of my crown to all that is above. There is boundless energy available to me; it flows in from the two poles and meets in the middle at anahata chakra, the heart. It radiates from my heart out through my hands as I touch the feet of my client. This being who, just like me, is a skeleton with a light inside.

My upbringing in the rural Midwest was very grounded on the physical plane, so whenever I hear myself talking about energy like this, I roll my third eye a little. But at the same time, I have to admit that it is my dharma in this lifetime to be an energy worker and that that’s exactly what I’m doing. I was reflecting recently on whether energy belonged to the realm of earth or sky. And I concluded, both are true. It is the continuum that connects the two. Our bone temples are a vessel for universal life energy. When we give healing work, we are a channel for an energy that has the biointelligence to heal.

If you are feeling called to investigate your own dancing seat between earth and sky, I invite you to join us at Laughing Lotus San Francisco for a Thai Yoga Therapy Intensive August 17th &18th. For more info on this sacred exploration, visit my website. Sign up here.


Being Bold in Your Practice

Posted on: July 24th, 2013 No Comments

by Enrique Vallejo

“And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.” – Anais Nin

basicsIf you’re like me, you can put something off forever. You rationalize that you’re not ready yet, you just need x to be in place and then you’ll get started, if only y were different, you’ll do it next time around, you don’t want to try it unless you can do it right, etc, etc. (This is me whenever I think about taking a trip, for example.)

When we don’t even know where to begin, we’re even more likely to procrastinate. Even if we wanted to start, how would we? Imagine walking into an Advanced Calculus class when you barely know how to do addition and subtraction. Life can often feel that way and we may become despondent at times as a result.

It can be the same way with our asana practice. You’ve been doing yoga for a while, you know the difference between Downward Dog and Warrior 1, but after a certain point, you look around and people are doing pushups, handstands, balancing on their pinkies (well, not really but you get the idea) and the whole thing can begin to feel overwhelming. But here’s the thing: every one of those yogis was in the same place you are now at one point. It’s true. Then they attempted one thing, maybe a caturanga dandasana (four legged staff pose, resembles a pushup), maybe struggled with it for a while, and then one day it came together. And then maybe they tried bakasana (crow pose) next, and it eluded them for a while until one day it didn’t. And on and on.

Many of us become emboldened when the path, however intimidating it may seem, is at least clear. If we know what’s involved in getting from point A to point B, the situation becomes manageable and we can actually see ourselves advancing. And then we do.

The reality is that that few things in life really require perfection in order for an attempt to be made. Good enough is good enough. What are we really waiting for anyway? The time is now.

ATHA YOGANUSASANAM
“Now the exposition of Yoga is being made”

The very first sutra in the first chapter/pada of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras sort of sums up all of these ideas very simply. Essentially it’s (lovingly) saying: “Enough dilly dallying, we’re gonna start now. Nobody feels ready; it’s called being human. Don’t worry, I’ll lay out what needs to be done and give you some pointers.”

So we don’t have to figure out wildly complex things all on our own. There is a game plan that can be followed. And the more we slow down and look at things calmly, we’ll see that they’re not as complex as we’d imagined. And then as we practice them with devotion, we begin to master them. The impossible becomes possible. Talk about empowering!

Yoga philosophy teaches us that we already have everything we need; we just need to awaken to that power, to harness it, to place our efforts in certain ways. If we can keep that in mind when we approach our physical practice, we can really begin to fly. We’re probably already strong enough to do most poses, we just need to a) move through the associated fear, b) become acquainted with the pose, and c) learn where to place our weight so we can balance properly. It’s usually as simple as that. Who knew?

So go for it! Learn as you go. Try one thing you’ve been curious about but a little afraid of everyday – both on and off the mat! 

Join me for my workshop “From Basics to Intermediate” Sunday August 4 from 1-3:30pm at Laughing Lotus SF. All levels are welcome. Sign up here.


Rock a Handstand with this One Fabulous Tip

Posted on: July 9th, 2013 No Comments

by Roche Janken
roche-headstand
Are you ready for this?

Are you sure?
Okay… here it is:

Have fun. Yes, that’s it. How can that be? The truth is that you’re ready. If you have a regular yoga practice and you’re studying with an alignment-aware teacher, all the pieces are already in place. Every time you do downward dog, you’re preparing your body to fly upside down.

So the last piece is to flip your thinking! In the yoga sutras, Patanjali calls it “pratipaksha bhavanam,” loosely translated as “take another view.”

Heavy thoughts keep us down. Think about that moment when a person that you care about says, “We need to talk.” Suddenly, your limbs and heart weigh a ton. Now, think about when that same person sends you a “just thinking of you” text message. Now you’re flying! That’s how this mind-body-spirit thing works, right?

This union that is the keystone of yoga has been studied from many sides. Pick up Bone, Breath and Gesture, edited by Don Hanlon Johnson, and read some incredible essays from folks such as Moshe Feldenkrais, F.M. Alexander and Elsa Gindler. “In sitting we must be upright.  As long as we slouch, we disturb all the internal functions.  When one straightens up, one can feel how one’s life immediately becomes quieter and more satisfying.” Sounds like Iyengar, but in fact it’s Gindler writing from early 20th century Germany. We rediscover this union every time we come to the mat.

Practicing yoga reminds us that we can choose how our minds engage with our world, that we can influence our minds by how we interact with our bodies and visa versa. When life gets tough, we can get stuck feeling miserable OR we can rise to the challenge. (I do believe that clinical depression and deep sadness are real and that not everyone can choose all the time. I also believe that many of the petty frustrations and disappointments that make us suffer can instead pass over our hearts like clouds over the sun, never dimming its bright essence.)

Of course, doing anything for the first time is challenging, whether it’s having fun in a handstand or having fun in a job interview. Reframe it as an exciting journey into the unknown and see where you end up! My guess is that you’ll end up looking at the world upside down.

Join me for an Inversion Workshop Sunday July 14th from 1-3:30pm at Laughing Lotus SF. All levels are welcome. Sign up here: http://sf.laughinglotus.com/events.html.


The Yoga of Service

Posted on: June 19th, 2013 No Comments

by Tricia Tangeman

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.

high school student

•Favorite yoga asana: utkatasana
•Why: I love the feeling I have when I get out of the pose
•Benefits of pose: It really feels good in the thigh area
•How my yoga practice makes me feel: It makes me feel like I am in my safe zone.
•Inspiration quote: “When you’ve seen beyond yourself, you may find peace of mind is waiting there.” -George Harrison

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:

  • “When Tricia sang at the end of class when we were laying down, I went to my happy place. That hasn’t happened in a long time.”  -D. (Alameda County Juvenile Hall)
  • “I was going to run away. I was getting super stressed out and anxious about my Mom starting a fight with me, but then I went into my room and sat quietly and breathed.” -M. (Lincoln Alternative Education Center)
  • “Tricia’s class has helped me relax and feel safe. I trust her.” -J. (Lincoln Alternative Education Center)
  • “Tricia helped me think about myself and controlling my emotions better so I wouldn’t keep getting into trouble.” -Z. (Alameda County Juvenile Hall)

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.


The Benefits of Restorative Yoga

Posted on: June 12th, 2013 1 Comment

by Inbal Meron
restore
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?

  1. Restorative Yoga is healing for the body and mind.
    It engages our Parasympathetic Nervous System (PNS), which takes the body into the “rest and digest” state. This state is incredibly healing. This is why after an injury or surgery it’s so important to rest; we heal when we rest, not when we run around. In this state our tissues renew and rejuvenate themselves, our cells and tissues and organs get to live out their purpose and prosper. Our active Yoga practice helps to discipline our Sympathetic Nervous System, in charge of the “fight or flight” response, which is very important for our health, but we need to engage our PNS in order to heal.
  1. Long supported holds of poses allow us to really engage in the benefits of the poses.
    In an active practice we don’t spend much time in each pose. For example, we can only be in a deep backbend for a few breaths before it becomes fatiguing. But in a restorative practice, the body is supported and we can stay in the poses for long periods of time and really let them do their magic. In that way the poses enhance flexibility, nourish fertility, balance our hormonal activity and lymphatic system and aid our immune and digestive systems as well.
  1. Reduce stress.
    In our fast paced lives it’s crucial for us to find time and space to be still. It’s incredibly beneficial to create space to physically let go of the hold of our muscles, release the muscle tonus, and relieve our body from chronic strain. That’s why we use props, to create a base of support that encourages us to let go.
  1. Create space for emotional healing.
    In a way, we hold our emotional issues in our bodies. By physically toning down, deep seeded issues can come up and wash out of our systems. That’s why we may find ourselves experiencing joy, confusion, frustration, or fear during our practice, or even weeping in Savasana. This means feelings are coming up and cycling through.

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.

Inbal’s recommended reading: Relax & Renew by Judith Lasater, Yoga for Emotional Balance by Bo Forbes & The Relaxation Response by Herbert Benson.


5 Steps to Daily Meditation Practice

Posted on: May 29th, 2013 No Comments

by Mireia Yogimani Negre

meditationEastern philosophy intrigues me now more than ever.  Fourteen years ago, right before moving to San Francisco, I was sitting at a café in Barcelona, Spain, sharing my passion for Buddhism with an old friend.  She mentioned that Buddhism was very strict and that not all those who embark in the journey succeed at finding Liberation (or Samadhi). My friend was right.  However, I continued reading Buddhist texts to realize that all the wisdom from the ancient Buddhist Masters was alive within them.

Today, I teach yoga at Laughing Lotus SF, and have had the honor to study Shambhala Meditation with Alice Tarkeshi.  Alice Tarkeshi has been a student and teacher of the Shambhala Tibetan Buddhist Dharma brought to the West by her teacher Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche.  Alice teaches every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at 8:15 AM at Laughing Lotus SF with the deep faith in everyone’s ability to awaken.

After the readings, the workshops, Alice’s Morning Meditation at Laughing Lotus, and after doing nothing, I now understand that meditation is strict yet gentle.  In meditation, we turn the gaze inward, we hear the breath, and we calm the mind.  Buddhism is the practice of training the mind on how to be happy, and free from suffering.  Meditation is science and common sense: We plant good seeds to produce good food.  If you are interested in the path of meditation it is helpful to be aware of the foundational principles and challenges of meditation.  Below are five steps you can take to embark on a daily meditation practice.

1. Attitude and Intention
Have an optimistic attitude, thirst for truth, and be determined to sit in silence to experience meditation.  In life, everything is motivation, everything has an underlying motive, and everything we do sets something else in motion.  Karmic Law explains that every action has a consequence.  In meditation, our motivation is to be happy, to find fulfillment, or to be content.  We take action by sitting in meditation, and the end result is spiritual growth.

2. Time and Space
Find a quiet space to practice daily meditation.  Set aside a period of time for doing nothing, pausing, and retreating from patterns of thinking, compulsions, and impulses.  Start by sitting 10 to 15 minutes daily in a quiet space at home or in the office.  The mind is well rested during the morning.  Do not get discouraged if plans change, if schedules change, or if you are interrupted.  Continue to show up and remember Step #1: Have an optimistic attitude!  Then, adjust according to what’s happening in your life.  For example, if you miss your morning meditation, be sure to take a break after lunch and do a walking meditation instead.

3. Body and Breath
In any meditation style, we always begin with the body.  Be aware of your dorsal spine.  Sit upright on a stack of blankets, a pillow, or on a chair.  Feel the sit bones rooted, the shoulders aligned with the hips and relaxed, the heart open, the chin slightly tucked in, and the crow of the head uplifted towards the heavens.  Posture awareness will give you a sense of warriorship, courage yet stillness.  Once you find a comfortable sit, start feeling your breath.  If your mind wanders, which it surely will, without judgment, return back to feel the breath.  Meditation is deceptive in its simplicity. Three words: Feel Your Breath.

4. Training Mind and Emotions
The essential nature of our mind is peaceful, vast, wise, and the seed of tremendous potential. Work with your mind to be at ease with the emotional states that you have, and to have the full use of this powerhouse of potential.  The process of training the mind requires that you practice meditation over and over.  In meditation, we develop a program to take care of our mind to exercise the muscle of mindfulness, and place our mind where we want it to be.  Direct your thoughts towards beauty, truth, and goodness.  Regarding emotions (love and hate, happy and sad) the more impure these are, the less we can enter within.  However, in meditation, we experience reality, what is going on versus what should be going on.  See things how they really are.  If emotions are impure, you will gradually find more acceptance of “what is” and will discover new states of existence through continued meditation practice.

5. Continue to show up to meet Buddha
Continue to show up to meditation with an open mind and heart.  Take refuge in Buddha as an example and inspiration.  Buddha means Awake.  Buddha realized his true nature, the essence of who he was.  Each of us has Buddha nature.  Take refuge in your own wakefulness.  Experience reality as it is and do not be afraid of being who you are.  Join a community of people that practices meditation.  We are all working to see through our confusion and reach clarity.  We are not hiding and are engaged in discovering our true selves.  Things don’t happen overnight.  It’s a practice.  Continue showing up and walking this path.

Without achieving anything in the conventional sense you will make progress by having a daily meditation practice.  You will understand Buddhist teachings through your own experience, you will respond differently to challenging situations, and you will deepen your capacity to be present for yourself and others.  Become a genuine and compassionate human being and your goodness will generate goodness in others.  Maybe you will not reach Samadhi, like my friend mentioned fourteen years ago, but you will be planting good seeds for today.