Archive for the ‘Yoga School’ Category

Lotus Love Blog

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

Posted on: January 28th, 2015 No Comments

by Valerie Starr

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Like many people, my yoga practice began with a physical focus. I had an idea that there were other yogic layers that might come into play because I had been practicing at Laughing Lotus for nearly two years. After regularly hearing students talk about their incredible Yoga School experiences (while putting on their shoes or having tea), I realized that I’d been making excuses as to why I hadn’t enrolled in the Laughing Lotus Teacher Training program. Some of my excuses sounded like this:

I don’t have the time!
I am not ready for it!
I haven’t been practicing yoga long enough!

More importantly, I was scared as to what I might uncover within myself through the process. Because of my experience practicing with the Laughing Lotus Teacher Training instructors and observing their depth of knowledge, I had the hunch that the experience of Yoga School would be enlightening. As it turns out, I was right. Laughing Lotus Yoga School is an expansive experience that goes deep into all aspects of yoga.

It can be scary to embark on new endeavors, especially in the beginning when you feel like you’re all alone. In my experience, one of the greatest benefits of Laughing Lotus Yoga School was the relationships with other students. I had the feeling of being supported and celebrated throughout the program. Having a mentor to talk to and relate to, and possibly even have a meltdown to, proved to be immensely helpful in the process of growing and learning. There were some points when I would email my mentor, wondering how in the world the breakthroughs I was having in my personal life could be connected with what was happening in Yoga School! My mentor’s guidance was priceless to me.

If I were to describe my Yoga School experience in three words, they would be: Valuable, Applicable, and Expansive. There are many threads of experience that weave these words together, such as knowledge of the Yoga Sutras, the Bhagavad Gita, Sanskrit, and Asana sequencing. There are also things that happen internally as a result of the process, that you might not expect, such as increased confidence, finding your voice, and greater self-knowledge.

As Patanjali’s commentary on Yoga Sutra 2:5 says: Yoga does not bother much about changing the outside world. Mana eva manushyanam karanam bandha mokshayoho. “As the mind, so the man; bondage or liberation are in your own mind.” If you feel bound you are bound. If you feel liberated, you are liberated. Things outside neither bind nor liberate you; only your attitude towards them does that.”

Whether you are considering Yoga School because you want to teach yoga or for your own personal growth, you will change, you will be challenged and you will not regret the experience. I went into Laughing Lotus Yoga School with the habit of procrastination and a desire to have a more complete yogic experience, and I came out with a new perspective. I was abundantly satisfied that I now have the tools I need to not only find balance within myself, but to help others find it within themselves.

Valerie has an optimistic, genuine compassion for all people and walks of life. Valerie’s dedication to her personal practice shines through in her heartfelt and soulful classes as she is continually educating herself and nurturing awareness of the body-mind-soul connection.

Valerie teaches Lotus Flow 2 on Monday and Friday from 10:15-11:45AM, and Happy Hour from 5:30-6:30PM on Thursday.

Join Jasmine Tarkeshi this Saturday, January 31st at 1:00PM for our last information session before Love School begins on February 6th!

For details and registration: http://sf.laughinglotus.com


An Ever Unfolding Prayer

Posted on: August 27th, 2014 No Comments

by Yael Kievsky

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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!


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.


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.


An Expansive Experience of all aspects of Yoga

Posted on: July 16th, 2013 No Comments

What Yoga Teacher Training Meant to Me
by Valerie Mate

valerie-mate 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 procrastinating habits and a desire to have a more complete yogic experience and came out with a new perspective, abundantly satisfied that I now have the tools I need to not only find balance within myself, but to help others find it within as well.

Valerie Mate is a registered yoga teacher with Yoga Alliance and certified yoga therapist with IAYT and a graduate from Laughing Lotus Yoga School and Purusha Yoga School. She is a Certified Holistic Nutrition Educator and Counselor who is passionate about health, yoga and wellness. Learn more about Valerie at: padmehealth.com or follow her on Facebook.

For more info on Laughing Lotus Teacher Training & Student Immersion programs, visit: www.sf.laughinglotus.com or email: asklotussf@laughinglotus.com.


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.


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 tohttp://sf.laughinglotus.com/twohoursummer.html.


Mudras: Yoga From Your Hands

Posted on: August 15th, 2012 1 Comment

by Carson Becker

CarsonI have a confession. When I first learned of Mudras, I thought them superfluous at best, superficial at worst. Superficial, as in “I have my thumb and finger together, this makes me look totally very spiritual.” Superfluous like a little paper parasol in my Pina Colada. “I need a parasol for me, not for my cocktail.” Similarly, when Mudras were brought up, I would think: “My hands don’t need yoga. My body needs yoga. Can we please skip to the part where we get into pigeon and I can barely breathe?”

That’s what I used to think. Until I discovered a secret. I’ll share it with you. Are you ready? You might want to sit on your hands for this, so they don’t hear. Shhhh… Here we go:

Hands have brains. Really. Little teeny tiny brains. Each hand has at least one. I’d bet there is a tiny brain in every finger, maybe even in every joint or nerve ending. Don’t believe it? I didn’t either. But I have proof!

Just watch your hands. They’re doing mudras all the time, all by themselves.

Start by watching your hands at a party. Do you stand with your arms down by your side, palms open as in, “here I am?” I never do. If you’re like me, your hands are crossed over your chest (Mudra of Don’t Touch My Heart), around your waist (Mudra of Don’t Touch My Belly), or around your hips (Mudra of Don’t Touch Anything). In my past, at parties, my hands have independently curled around a drink (Mudra of I am Seeking Courage), or patted the chair next to me (Mudra of Come Tell Me a Story). Maybe these aren’t the sacred gestures of the Hatha Yoga Pradipika, but they are nonetheless expressions of our lives.

Next, take a mudra tour of the world. Look at all the hands acting independently. There are talking hands in Italy, haggling hands in open markets, angry hands in Parisian roundabouts (I admit I may have used that single fingered Mudra). When you get to the Karen regions of Burma, say hello using the Mudra of Holding Your Belly. In India, use only Right Hand Mudras to eat and greet. At the auction house, be especially careful: the tiniest mudra can raise the stakes by thousands of dollars. Don’t miss the greatest mudra show of all: an argument in sign language, watch hands clapping in anger, flying into explanation, settling into reconciliation and embrace.

Or just stay right here and consider the lexicon of hands: “Give me a hand,” “unhand me,” “hands up this is a hold up,” “if you have to live hand to mouth you’d better be ambidextrous,” “raise your hands in the ai-yar and wave them like you just don’t ca-yar,” “put your hand on your heart and your heart on your sleeve,” “hand in hand”…. You have to hand it to hands. They are hand in glove with all that matters.

There is even music for hands: Ben Harper’s With My Own Two Hands, Bill Withers’ Grandma’s Hands, Arrested Development singing in United Front: “Put your hands up, people put your hands up/ Put your soul up, people put your soul up,” Sarah Kay’s beautiful slam poem, Hands.

Look at the murals of San Francisco’s Mission neighborhood. They are filled with hands: giant orange hands, open hands, seeds-sowing hands. Have you noticed that these hands are often portrayed alone? Hands know what they are doing. They don’t need us. Your hands were doing their own thing before you were even born.

I only recently learned about the secret lives of hands. I was in massage school. It was my first day. I suddenly realized that I was terrified of using my hands on others. What if my hands were cold? Clammy? Creepy? Rough? What if my fingers slipped somewhere they weren’t supposed to? What if I hurt someone? This is why, when it came time to choose a massage partner to practice on, I settled on the biggest and hairiest person I could find, a huge man the size and shape and texture of a bison (a bison standing upright in shorts and teevas). I picked him because I hoped his size and pelt would protect him from my clumsy hands.

When he took his shirt off on the massage table, I found myself gaping at a dense growth of back hair the likes of which I had never seen. Far and wide, there it was, as thick and black as the Schwartzwald of Grimms’ fairy tales. Underneath, here and there, I made out tattoos, overgrown with tendrils like the great jungle temples of Cambodia.

I did not know what to do. Legs shaking, I put my hands together (Mudra of Here Goes Nothing). Then I closed my eyes and let my hands fall down, down, into his hair, touching down through the jungle like the helicopter in Apocalypse Now. I closed my eyes. I waited for my hands to get lost. But they never did. When I opened my eyes, I found my hands going off all by themselves, unknotting muscles, softening joints, dancing, sending a message back to my brain that sounded like “Wheeeee!!! This is what we were meant to do! What took you so long?” This wasn’t because my hands are special – they’re definitely not. It happened because hands know, and have always known, the Mudras of Healing.

All hands have this knowledge. Watch your hands pat a shaking shoulder, reach across the table to a person you love, scratch a cat right in the itchy spot, touch a cheek, hold a peach from the farmer’s market just so – never squeezing, only asking: are you ripe yet? Hands, more than any other part of our bodies, hold the intelligence of caring and healing. It is an intelligence so subtle that it requires five fingers, 26 bones, 40 tendons and twenty muscles on each hand, not counting twenty more muscles in the wrist.

To honor our wise and wayward hands, I have therefore decided to think about Mudras differently. I now approach them not as yoga for my hands, but as yoga originating from my hands. In other words, I see my mudra-ing hands as tiny teachers for the rest of me. I hope that the clever little wits in my digits can teach the plodding sludge in my skull a thing or two. I trust that if I bring my thumb and index together, I can create a meeting of finger-minds in wisdom. I’ll try to follow this – that care, that precision, that potential for healing – with my wrist. Then with my forearms. Then my elbows. We’ll see how far I get before the whole thing falls apart. After that, if only for this month, I will try again. Hands first. Hands on.