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Lotus Love Blog

Valuable, Applicable, and Expansive: The Journey of Yoga School

Posted on: January 28th, 2015 No Comments

by Valerie Starr


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:

Love School Chakra Rap

Posted on: September 16th, 2014 No Comments

by Josh Ehrenreich

In celebration of the first week of yoga school for the fall 2014 class, we thought we’d bring back Josh Ehrenreich’s chakra rap that he created for his final yoga school project during spring of 2014!

An Ever Unfolding Prayer

Posted on: August 27th, 2014 No Comments

by Yael Kievsky


As I write these lines, the sun and the moon come to togetherness, as a New Moon reveals the stars against a backdrop of darkness. As I’ve written before, the New Moon is an opportunity for prayer, intention, attention, and faith-feeding. We make new (gentle or bold) mini contracts with ourselves and with spirit, about the weeks to come, pertaining to a particular theme. The theme in question is brought up by the sign in which the Sun and the Moon conjunct. This week, the moon will be new in Virgo, and the “window of opportunity” — let’s call it window of invitation — lasts for a few days.

I look forward each year to the Virgo new moon and the empowering teachings and healing it can offer. The Virgo moment brings a longing for accomplishment, growth, efficiency, maturity, and most importantly, the potential for personal healing through service to others (this last bit being the real underlying Virgoan theme). It is no wonder that back to school in our culture happens always on or around the Virgo moon cycle.

An interest in the learning process is what Virgo is all about. Developing discernment, processing information, and honing an offering that can be matured into real service. School, in an ideal world, promotes these qualities in all of us. Virgo is a complex archetype in the zodiac because it also represents a point of crisis: our sense of worth is questioned, the inner self is measured against the demands of creating an outward offering. Crisis, as we know, is a fissure where opportunity is born. Virgo carries the seed for bright blossoming, under the right circumstances. Unfortunately, in this world, and in these times, most schools are hardly the place where a daring and genuine inner journey of inquiry is fostered.

This is how I fell in love with Yoga School at Laughing Lotus, six years ago, after a particularly desperate Virgo moon prayer. I had prayed for inspiration and for an inner uplifting that I could follow through towards an outward offering. I prayed to find my voice, heart, and hands all working together in a loving and unique way. I had been stuck for too long in a cold city on the East Coast that did not have my heart, a career in music that constantly made me feel less than apt, and an underlying feeling that my true worth was dormant, elsewhere. Powerful, magical, life-changing, and very much elsewhere. But where?

I did not know how to change my life around, but I sure knew how to pray. If you can breathe, if your heart beats, if you can dream at night, you can pray. In late August 2008, I prayed to step into true studentship, true empowered leadership, and into my real life. I prayed to learn about my own self.

I prayed for days. After a few days of this ‘last resource’ emotional behavior, I literally heard a voice inside me break and say: “I’m moving to San Francisco.” I had never been to the West coast before, nor did I have any friends or connections. However, I had an instinct as large as the whole state, and I followed the magical inner clues of this little voice until I realized what it was trying to point to. I boldly made a phone call to a personal cell phone number that I don’t remember how I even tracked down. “Hello. Is this Jasmine….?”

And so my prayer, in the right tone at the right time, led me to the right place. San Francisco? Sure. But most importantly, a teacher and a path that led me to myself.

School doesn’t necessarily focus on fostering our inner journey, but when it does, we have come into the realm of real learning. After understanding what the little voice was trying to say, and following it all the way to Laughing Lotus San Francisco Yoga School, I was able to meet, scrutinize, and befriend the very internal inflection point that the Virgo Moon was pointing at. I experienced four months of profound transformation that aimed to groom within me a new powerful sense of self. Throughout the ensuing weeks of Yoga School, and under the compassionate guidance of my teachers and mentors, my language changed, my physical relationship to myself changed, my relationship to the planet, and most dearly, an ability to feel like a useful and precious part of the whole was born inside of me.

All through this process, I was challenged, guided, and celebrated. I had arrived wanting to deepen my understanding of myself, and I graduated four months later with a deeper sense of reverence for life itself, and an unstoppable inspiration to share its treasures, through song, movement, and prayer.

Becoming a yoga teacher was, in my case, an inevitable consequence of this process. Many aspects of my prayer were being answered at once: a journey of self-worth, and most importantly, a concrete way of serving, helping, and healing others. The tools I gathered in those four months were more than I could count at the time and today. I deepened my relationship to yoga, and I developed a trusted personal practice. I found friendships and camaraderie, and I learned theory, philosophy, anatomy, psychology, and sanskrit. Yes, I gained a voice and a purpose. Yes, I became healthy and turned my whole life around. Above all else, Yoga School became proof that my prayers were being heard, were tended to with care, and would always be answered.

Yoga School is in itself a prayer. It is like stepping into a prism of one’s many selves and potentialities and many layers of relationships with the concrete as well as with the divine. It is a maze of inner kingdoms. It is still, to this day, unfolding. I move its rippling magic through me each time I teach a class.

Yoga School starts on Sept 12, and if you were waiting for a sign to sign up…. well, just look up at the sky, and the moon just might be winking down at you.

Yael teaches Level 1 on Tuesday from 10:45-11:45AM, All Levels from 12:00-1:00PM on Wednesday, and Level 2/3 from 8:30-9:45AM on Saturday. Yael works as an Astrologer, enjoys art and prayer, building altars deep in the woods, and baking goodies for everybody all the time. She seeks to inspire a sense of awe and inquiry in her friends and students, and a shared reverence for all Life. Namaste!

Get to know Enrique Vallejo!

Posted on: September 18th, 2013 No Comments

Last week we began the beautiful journey into Teacher Training, and with all the excitement, we thought we’d interview one of our incredible teachers, Enrique Vallejo and hear about his ups and downs along the path of becoming a yoga teacher, along with his playful passions, words of wisdom, and what inspires him to teach. Some of you know Enrique from his gorgeous practice and his soulful and mystical candlelight flow classes. His witty humor and deep insight are greatly appreciated and loved, and we are excited to share a bit more about him below!

Enrique, tell us something we don’t know about you…
“People may not know that I’m a big astrology geek and that ever since age 10, I’ve been fascinated with (world famous yogini) Madonna. Actually, anyone I’ve spoken to for about 5 seconds probably already knows both of those fun facts! Astrology is an incredible tool for fostering self-knowledge and self-acceptance and Madonna is…so many powerful things. But not everyone knows that I auditioned to be a dancer on Madonna’s tour a while ago (and got cut instantly) and I actually touched her in October of last year when her tour came town. (I chalk up this intense connection to our highly similar astrological charts :P) Other non-asana interests include karaoke, dance, biking, hiking, camping, rock climbing, laughing inappropriately and eating Chicago-style pizza.”

What is a quote that you live by?
“A little knowledge that acts is worth infinitely more than much knowledge that is idle.” – Kahlil Gibran I keep reminding myself of this when the perfectionist/procrastinator thoughts start churning so that I don’t talk myself out of pursuing a passion or embarking on an adventure.”

Do you have a favorite yoga pose?
“Vrksasana – Tree pose. My body feels really good in this pose: grounded, balanced, tall, strong. It also sort of reminds me of a passé in ballet.”

What are you goals as a yoga teacher at Laughing Lotus?
In my opinion, yoga’s greatest gift is that it teaches you about the transient nature of thoughts, feelings, and sensations. You can acknowledge something without having to indulge it. The choices are not simply to ignore or be held captive. I find that very empowering and hope to share that sense of liberation with my students. If my yoga class can help someone transcend an unverified/limiting/false belief – whether or not a particular pose is ever achieved – then I’ve fulfilled my goal as a teacher.”

The Best Gift to Give Yourself

Posted on: August 27th, 2013 No Comments

Becoming a Yoga Teacher
by Aimee Dots

Aimee Dots The decision to enroll in a Yoga Teacher Training course was definitely a good one for me to make. However, I’ve realized in hindsight the decision to enroll in the Laughing Lotus Yoga Teacher Training program was probably one of the best decisions of my life.

Just like anything in life, we have options as to how we choose to interpret certain experiences we undergo. An in-depth, hands-on practice of exploring not only the physical practice of yoga but also the mental, emotional, and spiritual practice of yoga (which quite literally means “union”), Laughing Lotus Yoga School is the perfect venue for harnessing some of the skills of introspection I’d already gained through a few years of my personal yoga practice as well as the 27 years of simply experiencing life I have been so blessed to have had so far. But it takes it one step further. Through readings, practice teachings, mentor sessions, workshops, and hands-on practice, I was immersed in various techniques of diving deeper within myself and given the space to create my own approach to both teaching and practicing yoga. Well-guided through a physically and emotionally effective Lotus Flow Vinyasa style, I learned not only how to do actual yoga poses myself, how to teach actual yoga poses to others, but more importantly I was given a deeper understanding of why they are even practiced in the first place. And how to use all these poses as tools for healing. The Lotus Flow style is designed to nurture the student through a natural progression of poses, opening energy centers and stretching muscles along the way. It is effective in both physical practice and in line with ancient yogic tradition. The Yoga School program itself is akin to a warm womb, complete with patient and nurturing teachers like Jasmine Tarkeshi and Keith Borden. Founded on a precedent of assuming openness and vulnerability amongst the trainees, I felt totally comfortable exploring some methods of introspection I had not yet explored in both yoga and “real life” without any fear of being judged, critiqued, or robbed of my own self-expression.

I wholeheartedly feel Laughing Lotus Teacher Training has equipped me to not only be a precise, nurturing, and more than adept yoga teacher, but also a more aware human being. I see myself more honestly and I empathize with others a lot more effectively as a result of the combination of our curriculum plus our study of the chakra systems. I will be forever grateful for the teachings and the relationships forged in this program. I would not hesitate to recommend it to anyone, be their motive to teach yoga after graduation or simply to delve deeper into their own personal practice. The structure allows for many initial motives, but I think there is one tangible common result: developing a deeper understanding of yourself and others that can be carried out and practiced in both yoga classes and real life for years to come. And that, my friends, is a priceless experience not all of us are so blessed to receive. I’m confident that Yoga School will forever be etched in my heart as one of the best gifts I ever gave myself. I totally encourage you to do the same.

Reflections on a Vegetarian Diet + a Cookie Recipe

Posted on: April 9th, 2013 No Comments

Greyby Grey Aurore Marcoux

Sometime during middle school at a family dinner my dad noticed my lack of enthusiasm as he declared another night of “surf & turf.” As the rest of the family dug-in, my dad kindly offered to make me a portobello mushroom sautéed in garlic and olive oil.  It was the beginning of my road towards vegetarianism. I continued to eat meat occasionally for many years after that event; it’s been about a year and half since I became a vegetarian. Now, it feels like the most natural diet in the world for me.

In the fall of 2011, I decided to deepen my long-time yoga practice by enrolling in the Laughing Lotus SF 200 hour Yoga Teacher Training program. During the training we were encouraged to try a vegetarian diet for a week (or for the duration of the training if we preferred). I was so excited to finally have a reason to commit to a vegetarian diet; I immediately said yes, and haven’t looked back. In fact, embracing vegetarianism has opened wonderful new doors for me. Most of my friends and family have been very supportive of the decision. They are surprisingly excited to try vegan & vegetarian fare.

As a yoga teacher, my diet is strongly connected to my yoga practice.  I strive to practice “Ahimsa” – nonviolence – as much as I can. The more we practice yoga or ahimsa, the more sensitive we become to the energies of ourselves and others, and the more the practice begs for you to answer bigger questions about your life. Diet is a natural one – how can I best take care of my body, the health of the Earth, and the health of other beings on our planet?

Meat in this country mostly comes from factory farms, where animals are mistreated and live horrible lives, confined to small spaces. I asked myself, “Do I really want to eat an animal that has lived a short, miserable life, confined to a pen? What if that animal had been routinely mutilated and abused?” I truly believe that if more people were exposed to the truth about factory farming, then they would choose to stop eating meat, or at least reduce their consumption of meat.  If you’re interested, one way to get started is by participating in Meatless Mondays.  Meatless Monday is a national non-profit that offers tools to help you reduce your meat consumption by 15% in order to improve your personal health and the health of the planet.

In yoga, we are trying to develop our awareness and consciousness.  Just as an artist pours their intention into creating a piece of art, so too the yoga practice becomes a conscious dance of moving prana (energy), developing awareness, sitting with oneself in meditation and ending in Savasana to practice dying – the ultimate form of non-attachment. When practicing yoga, we are moving towards a Sattvic (peaceful, tranquil) state; a peaceful approach with our diet is a powerful move to support that shift.  It can be a bit uncomfortable at times, just as the yoga practice can be. Some people might be uncomfortable with your decision to be vegetarian or vegan. There might be moments where you feel unsupported or question your choice. But just as with practicing yoga on the mat, that’s where the real transformative work lies – in being and accepting yourself, and others, just as they are, throughout the process. It’s amazing, revolutionary work and it can all start in the comfort of your kitchen.

Grey’s Monkey Cookies
Vegan Oatmeal Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

vegan cookies

•2/3 cup + 2 tablespoons crunchy peanut butter (or almond butter)
•5 tablespoons coconut (or vegetable) oil
•¼ cup maple syrup
•½ cup brown sugar
•2/3 cup milk-alternative (I like using home-made almond milk)
•2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
•1 cup whole wheat flour
•1 cup all-purpose flour
•1 teaspoon baking soda
•1 teaspoon salt
•¼ teaspoon cinnamon
•2 cups rolled oats
•2 bananas (mashed!!)
•½ cup shredded coconut
•3 tablespoons ground flaxseed
•1/2 cup dark chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a large mixing bowl, stir together all wet ingredients, including the bananas and nut-butter. In a small bowl, combine all dry ingredients. Add dark chocolate chips. Drop batter by the spoonful on a greased baking sheet. Bake for 12 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from oven and let cool on tray for 5 minutes. Makes about 2 dozen.

Enjoy! Tell us what you think in the comments below.

6 Things to Consider when Choosing a Yoga Teacher Training

Posted on: April 3rd, 2013 3 Comments

Brimaby Brima Jah

So you think you’d like to be a yoga teacher?  Well, congratulations!   You’re in for the experience of a lifetime that can continue to give for the rest of your life!

Around the summer of 2004, a friend of mine shoved me into a Bikram yoga class.  She gave me my very first experience with any yoga.  For months thereafter, I practiced what I then knew as the only yoga in a room so hot it seemed even the walls sweat.  The heat of this practice eventually led me away from Bikram yoga, yet ignited what, in retrospect, became the beginning of what will hopefully be a lifelong exploration of yoga.

I explored yoga with classes from different teachers, styles, studios — all within different communities.  Along the way, I was introduced to hatha yoga, laughter yoga, yoga-ish workouts at the gym, blocks, straps and other props, and ashrams where people “lived their yoga.”   In late 2007, I landed at SF Laughing Lotus Yoga Center, which has since become my “yoga home,” having housed me first as a student, and later, as a teacher.  In Fall of 2010, I graduated from SF Laughing Lotus Yoga School with a spectacular family of fellow yogis/yoginis.

There were many factors that informed my decision of which teacher training would best suit my needs.  Here are a few of key factors:

1. HOPES –
Consider your intention for doing a teacher training.  What kind of teacher do you envision yourself becoming?  Is it important that you teach, or are you more interested in deepening your own practice?  There are teacher trainings that focus just on asana (the poses), some that integrate yoga philosophy or Sanskrit; others are just for kids’ yoga.  Notice what part(s) of yoga you feel most drawn to when taking class (ie. chanting, asana, meditation).

Yoga is ALL about relationship.  “Yoga” means “to unite,” whether it’s with yourself or with others.  You will spend LOTS of time with your teacher(s) during teacher training, and in some cases, be able to cultivate a relationship with your teacher that will last beyond teacher training.  Spend time with your teacher(s), take their classes/workshops, and be curious about what they offer that resonates with you.

3. STYLE –
Vinyasa, Hatha, Iyengar, Ashtanga, Restorative… the list of yoga styles is very long.  Get to know your body, pay attention to how you feel after practicing a particular style, and “follow your heart” (in terms of what style you love or most connect with).  Some of the most impactful experiences of yoga come from teachers who LOVE what they’re teaching.

There are eight limbs of yoga, or in other words, many aspects of yoga that may/may not be integrated into a yoga teacher training.  Do your research; find out what will be covered in your teacher training BEFORE signing up for it.  If, for example, you’re interested in Ayurveda, then be sure it’s on the program or else consider another teacher training.

Teacher trainings can happen away from home or in your hometown.  Some people prefer to retreat for their yoga teacher training.  Others may prefer a weekend program to meet work/family needs.  There are advantages to either option including cost, time or access to your teacher(s) after yoga teacher training.

6. COST –  
What you pay for teacher training and its quality doesn’t necessarily match up.  Allow yourself to invest in a yoga teacher training that you believe will best serve you.

Good luck! Please put your questions in the comments below.

A Single Choice Can Change Your Path

Posted on: March 26th, 2013 No Comments

how Summer Yoga School at Laughing Lotus changed my life
by Inbal Meron
photo of InbalDuring my second year in University (studying for a B.S. in Plant Science) I came to the dreadful realization that I did not want to develop a career in the field I was studying. I had recently started practicing yoga at a studio near campus and made a pact with myself that I would finish my studies, get my degree and then travel to India. My logic was: If I don’t know what I want to do with my life career-wise, I might as well focus on things I know I want to do, like travel and study yoga.

During my time in India, I decided that I wanted to become a yoga teacher.  I would look for a teacher training program once I returned home to Israel. It’s funny how sometimes we feel like we’re in control and we have a plan, all while life has other things in store for us. I returned after 6 months of travels and let’s just say, things didn’t go so smoothly.

Two weeks after my return I fell and broke my right shoulder in a mountain biking accident and ended up stranded at my parents home for two months completely helpless, jobless, moneyless and in a lot of pain! After healing and going to physical therapy I was ready to get back on track, but more than anything, I needed a job.

One job led to another. Time went by. I was busy and having a hard time finding a yoga training. I moved to Tel Aviv, where I found a yoga teacher and a training program, but, once again, life had something else in store for me. Out of the blue, I found myself planning a huge and permanent move to San Francisco.

Fate had it that I stepped into Laughing Lotus Yoga Center, about three weeks after arriving in San Francisco. Right away I knew that it was the right place for me! After a couple of weeks of attending classes at the Lotus, I learned that a Summer Intensive Teacher training was being offered. I was a bit overwhelmed at the time (having just moved across the world) and didn’t think to enroll, even though I had always wanted to do a yoga training. Luckily, I off-handedly mentioned the training to my husband, who immediately responded, “Perfect! Do it!” I was hesitant. I really wanted to teach but couldn’t fathom how in such a short time I could become a teacher. But the seed had been planted. I couldn’t stop thinking about it, so I just decided to go for it and see what happened.

What a great decision that was! The experience was transformative. I trained with a great group of yogis; it was intense and the training literally changed my life. We delved deep into the practices of yoga. The Lotus Flow opened my eyes to aspects of yoga I never knew existed. I was enthralled by the beauty and the grace that all the teachers brought to the training. Not only did we deepen our knowledge and practice of yoga, we learned to teach, to share and invite students to experience the depths and beauty of the practice. Our teachers urged us to go deep into ourselves to access our knowledge within.

My classmates and I didn’t want the training to end because it was so fun and inspiring. And, we were a little intimidated to actually start teaching. But, by the end of the training, we had learned so much it felt like we were bursting at the seams to share everything we had learned. I was thrilled because I knew that I finally had all the tools I needed to live my dream and start teaching!

This summer it will be two years since that transformative experience at Laughing Lotus Yoga School and I’m happy to say that today, teaching yoga is what I do. I am thrilled and filled with gratitude for every turn and every decision that brought me here.

Inbal Meron will be assisting & mentoring in the Laughing Lotus Summer Yoga School program – 2013. For more info or to apply, go to