Posts Tagged ‘Laughing Lotus SF’

Lotus Love Blog

How Pranayama Cured My Fear of Heights by Robin Wilner

Posted on: April 5th, 2017 No Comments

I’m standing on a platform thirty feet high, trying with every fiber of my being NOT to look down at the 1900 seats filled with people. It’s the climax of the second act of “Wicked” on Broadway, and I’m about to become a flying monkey over the excited audience. My face and chest are flushed hot with fear, the monkey mask hovering over my nose and mouth makes it difficult to breathe. For all I know I could be 100 feet high. What I do know is that the harness engulfing my torso pulls my shoulders to a hunch and pinches my groin, and the single wire suspended at my mid back is the only thing keeping me from plummeting down onto all those theatre goers. In a few seconds, I’ll be released forward in a surge of momentum, soaring like an acrobat over the strangers below. But I still can’t breathe, and an uncontrollable panic sets in.

Then I remember my yoga practice. Inhaling through my nose is virtually impossible, and the short breaths I’ve been gasping through my mouth are only aiding my anxiety. So I begin to constrict the back of my throat and practice deep, rhythmic Ujjayi (pronounced oo-ja-yee) breaths. Inhale. Exhale. Inhale. Exhale. Panic begins to subside, and my heart rate slows to an even pace. The tension in my back, shoulders and hips has released a bit, my fists have unclenched. And as I bend my knees there is a stability and readiness to my stance. Once squeezed shut, my eyes now open to receive my surroundings with clarity. Inhale. Exhale. Inhale. Exhale.

The crew guy behind me yanks down hard on the cables and off I gooooooooo…..exhale! Inhale. Exhale. Inhale. Exhale. I’m actually floating through mid air to the rhythm of my breathing! By the time I land safely back on the platform, I’m filled with exhilaration and the anxiety has completely vanished.

Prana is life force, and yama means to expand. So when we practice forms of pranayama – yogic breathing – we quite literally expand our life force, liberating ourselves from that which may bind us physically, emotionally, mentally and even spiritually. Translated as “victorious” or “oceanic” breath, the Ujjayi pranayama creates a synchronicity between body and breath and offers tremendous benefit to the cardiovascular and nervous systems. Helpful at releasing frustration or irritability, Ujjayi encourages a free flow of prana throughout the subtle body and a sense of calm and ease.

Other benefits of Ujjayi include:

  • Enhanced self-awareness
  • Blood pressure regulation
  • Relief of muscle tension
  • Increased energy and internal heat
  • Helping the yogi keep a steady rhythm during asana (movement) practice

To practice, keep the mouth open and exhale on a “HAAAAH” sound, as if you were fogging up a mirror; then keeping the mouth open, inhale on an “AAAAH” sound like an elongated gasp. Do this a few times, then close the lips and see if you can maintain the same sound while gently constricting the back of the throat. The more comfortable you become with this practice, the more your breath will mimic the sounds of the ocean.

Great times to practice Ujjayi:

  • When you feel irritated or stressed – since Ujjayi breath is especially good for settling and balancing the mind.
  • During your asana practice – as it helps you stay focused and centered while you flow between postures.
  • If you feel nervous or anxious – since the slow, rhythmic nature of this pranayama practice helps to calm the nervous system.
  • While exercising – because Ujjayi can improve respiratory efficiency during aerobic exercise like running and cycling (or aerial flying :))

Fear is merely a state of mind, and we can use pranayama to shift our state. With my newfound skill to breathe deeply, steadily and be present – free from the anxiety of being up high – I actually developed an unhindered, pure joy while performing this feat. You, too, can empower yourself with this ancient yogic practice…happy breathing!

Formerly a Broadway dancer/singer/actress in NYC, Robin mixes her love of movement, chanting, energetic healing and yoga philosophy into all her teachings. She believes that human potential is infinite and that the path to joy starts with mindfulness and self-transformation. She is also a Holistic Nutritionist. www.nutritiousyogini.com
Classes: Mondays 12pm, Fridays 12pm & 5:30pm or Sundays at 10am.


The Rainbow Bridge by Genevieve McClendon

Posted on: March 29th, 2017 No Comments

“May we live like the lotus, forever rooted in the muddy waters.”

-Judith Lasater

In every class that I’ve attended with my teacher, she states, “May we be like the lotus, forever rooted in the muddy waters.”  I appreciate this mantra and reminder because it allows me to honor the importance of being deeply rooted within myself and the divine.  A way we can create this relationship is through the rainbow bridge of the subtle body and chakras. Through alchemizing the chakras we can root into our own true nature and feel fully alive and present in our lives.  In yoga we honor the subtle body and belief that everyone has an energy field and aura.  We acknowledge that each being radiates their own unique vibration of life force. This subtle body is made up of an aura which is made up of layers around the body composed of energy from the chakras.  There are seven major chakras which are spinning orbs of energy that run from the base of the spine to the crown of the head. The chakras  are also connected to 12 meridian channels that move chi up and down the body through the fascia or connective tissues.  Within the fascia there are 72,000 tubular like structures connected to the circulatory system of our body called Nadis.  These seven major chakras are spinning wheels of light or “life batteries” that are our life force. At the base of our body we have feet and legs that root into the earth connecting us to the root chakra and drawing nourishment.  At the crown of our head lives the crown chakra, also known as the 1,000 petal lotus connecting us to the divine.  It’s as if our spine grows out of our pelvic bowl to reach the light of the sun.  From the roots to the crown there is a rainbow bridge or chakra system that draws connection of the earth self to the spiritual self.  The union of the individual and divine.

The Rainbow Bridge:

Root Chakra

On the rainbow bridge the Root Chakra’s color is red.  It is based at the bottom of tail bone.  The Root Chakra’s energy is stability, feeling safe, security, and standing up under pressure.  When Root Chakra is out of alignment one may experience fear, insecurity, no courage, muscle and structural weakness, hip, knee and foot problems.

2nd Chakra – Sacral Plexus

The Sacral Plexus is the color orange.  It is right above the Root Chakra in the pelvic bowl.  The Sacral Chakra energy radiates powerful emotional and creative forces, along with movement, sensuality, and relationship to ourselves and others.  When the Sacral Plexus is out of alignment we may feel controlling, guilty, frigid, dependent, a lack of creativity, close minded, emotionally stuck, difficulty in relationships.

3rd Chakra – Solar Plexus

The Solar Plexus color is yellow.  It radiates in the belly right above the Sacral Plexus. This energy center holds self-confidence, self-empowerment, honesty, digesting life easily, courageousness and authenticity.  When the Solar Plexus is out of alignment one may experience shame, powerlessness, shyness, worry, victimization.

4th Chakra – Heart

The Heart Chakra is green.  It shines at the heart and chest right above the Solar Plexus.  It is the energy center where the earth self and the divine self connect.  The Heart Chakra’s energy when in alignment is of love, compassion, forgiveness, acceptance of others, open heartedness, connected mind and heart, joyfulness, happiness, gratitude and grace.  When out of alignment the Heart Chakra may contribute to experiences of anger, hostility, resentment, jealousy, attachment to others, sadness, grief, sadness, rage and violence.

5th Chakra – Throat

Throat Chakra’s color is blue.  It is located at the throat and neck space above the collar bone.  The Throat Chakra’s energy is of honesty, mercy, compassionate words, positive words, speaking truth, being heard.  When out of alignment the Throat Chakra may cause babbling, verbal diarrhea, empty words, criticism of self and others, or victimized words.  

6th Chakra – Third Eye

The Third Eye’s Chakra color is indigo.  It is located between the eyebrows, on the forehead. The Third Eye’s energy is of wisdom, intuition, clairvoyants, clairaudient, heightened smell, clairsentience, all knowing, seeing beyond illusions.  When the Third Eye is out of alignment we may experience narrow mindedness, arrogant, narcissistic, stuck in structured paradigms, avidya (ignorance).

Crown Chakra

The Crown Chakra’s color is white light.  It is located at the crown of the head. The Crown Chakra’s energy is our connection to source and divine.  This energy center radiates self realization, self love, expanded consciousness, all seeing, all knowing, all feeling, all sensing, walking between the illusions of the world.  When the Crown Chakra is out of alignment we may experience lack of spirituality, underdeveloped higher self, addictions to substances, belongings and emotions.

Each of the seven energy centers are incredibly important as they dictate how we relate to the world, ourselves and the cosmos.  We can empower ourselves by learning about the chakras and which chakras within our own energy field need support and harmony. Through yoga and awareness of the Chakra’s we can root more deeply into our true nature and create inner peace, honoring our subtle body and giving it the support it needs so we can flourish and be fully alive. Living deeply rooted in the muddy waters so we can be the lotus.

“On our journey through life, the chakras are the wheels along the axis that take the vehicle of the Self along our evolutionary quest, across the Rainbow Bridge, to reclaim our divine nature once again.”

-Anodea Judith

Genevieve is committed to serving and helping others come into their wholeness. She is a compassionate teacher that invites all her students to live their truth and celebrate who they are as they are. She is a passionate Reiki Master/Teacher. Genevieve teaches Restorative Yoga with Reiki at Laughing Lotus on Friday from 6:45-8:00pm and Sunday from 6:15-7:30. Her website is http://www.InLightandSoul.com.


Road Map to the Soul by Alex Crow

Posted on: March 8th, 2017 No Comments

There’s no use looking for road signs.

The language of the soul is in waves

Pulsing and flowing, dancing through the body.

Channels of light and sound

Carving and curving 

Like the breath 

Through the lungs. 

To dance is to let the soul speak.

Poetry is where the abstract and the logical meet.

Inside, there are deep oceans, rivers, streaming back and forth from the source.

Spleen & stomach, a mountain range.

Brain, a far away galaxy.

Heart, a fire pit.

Intestines, undertows.

Womb,  a black whole.

Walking the edge of my spine, I rise through layers of Red Earth & Deep Water, until meeting the Sun in my belly.  Her fire gives life to the Green Forest of my heart and lungs. I rise through the blue of sky and sound until finally reaching the level of Eagle, his Vision seeing through all illusion.  Spirit reaches in, and I loose sense. 

All contained and yet uncontainable.

This invisible road map leaves subtle messages, visions, callings, colors, like bread crumbs to follow when the soul gets lost. Follow them home.  

…Waves crashing 

in(hale), and out 

Like the breath. 

Soothing us with that slow rhythm.

Guiding us home. 

Alex Crow teaches regularly at Laughing Lotus Yoga Center in San Francisco. She is also a Reiki Master and a co-founder of vîv, an all female Bay Area dance collective.


Living Our Practice: Love in Action by Tina Spogli

Posted on: February 8th, 2017 No Comments

In yoga class, we often stress leading with the heart in most asana poses. And surely if you’ve been practicing for some length of time, you know that returning to the mat again and again requires a certain amount of both discipline and devotion – devotion meaning to engage with love. There is a strength of will, but also a strength of heart, when we embark on our spiritual journey. In recent days, it has become even more important to truly live our practice, to wake up, to open our eyes and hearts to a world that needs more love in the battle against hate. The quote from MLK Jr. “Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that; hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that” has been my mantra lately. The practice of yoga has always been a reLOVEution, removing the veil of separation between us and other, and seeing all life as interconnected.

The bhakti yogi sees the Divine in all living creatures  – in our friends, in animals, in the plants and trees and mountains. When we talk about love in yoga, it is this type of unconditional love. As we begin to remove the veils of ignorance, we realize the work is less about cultivating love, and more about surrendering to it. Indeed this universal energy, cosmic consciousness, The Great Spirit, God, or whatever you’d like to call the source of all things, LOVES us. Imagine that for a moment. Each of us is already loved by the universe, and not in  a tame kind of way, but in a wild, fierce, unconditional type of way. The work we do as yogis is to open up to this love, to surrender ourselves as we are, which requires seeing both the light and dark sides of ourselves – a bit scary and not simple, I know!

The work of the bhakti yogi is dynamic – it happens simultaneously inside and outside. Bhakti yoga urges us to ask the hard questions before we act and speak: What is the intention? Is the act coming from the heart? Is it kind? Is it true? Is it necessary? Just like different organs in the body play different roles, so do we each play our own unique role in the world. However, the heart remains our center and lifeline, so that we become instruments of love in all that we do. One of the most beautiful bhakti sutras says, “Love is manifest where there is an able vessel” (Verse 53). An able vessel is one free of self-expectation and willing to lay their soul out to the universe.

In the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna tells the warrior Arjuna that the way to him is not through inaction, but through selfless action. Our participation in the world is seva, a sanskrit term that can be translated as “love in action.” We are connected to our brothers and sisters, to this Earth, to the plants and animals, to the rivers and the oceans. We know that our own freedom is bound in the freedom of all beings. Love is an action, and in the process we build the bridge to each other.

Come to sit in a comfortable seat. Bring your right hand to your heart, and your left fingertips to the Earth outside the left thigh, in this Earth witness mudra. Our left fingertips on the Earth represent our connection to the world, and our right palm at our heart is a commitment to act with love. Close your physical eyes, come into your breath, and sit up a little bit taller. Focus on lengthening the inhales and exhales. Think of someone in your life right now that could use some compassion. Hold the image of that being in your heart. With each inhale, imagine yourself receiving love from The Great Spirit. With each exhale, imagine giving that same love to your person.

I leave you with words from Ganga White:

“What if our religion was each other
If our practice was our life
If prayer, our words
What if the temple was the Earth
If forests were our church
If holy water – the rivers, lakes, and ocean
What if meditation was our relationships
If the teacher was life
If wisdom was self-knowledge
If love was the center of our being.”

Namaste.

Tina developed a deep love for quieting the body and mind during her time living in one of the loudest cities. Yoga found Tina in 2007 while she was living in New York, and the practice quickly became her sanctuary amidst all of the hustle.

She believes in the transformative process of yoga, with its ability to bring us back into our bodies and breath, and stretch our mental limitations of what we think is possible – both on and off the mat. Her mantra is to come as you are, and observe what unfolds. Tina’s classes are thoughtful and intentional, sharing inspiration from her personal practice and life.

Tina is a 250 RYT, and a graduate from Laughing Lotus in New York and San Francisco. When she is not on the mat, you can find her in nature, exploring
photography, and hanging with her animal friends! She is very grateful to be a
part of the Laughing Lotus community of the east and west, and is thankful for
this space to share her heart and energy with you.


The Programming Karmi

Posted on: January 18th, 2017 No Comments

picture1

Jen at the Tirta Empul Temple in Bali in 2013

by Jen DeSimone

“47 You have the right to work, but never to the fruit of work. You should never engage in action for the sake of reward, nor should you long for inaction. 48 Perform work in this world, Arjuna, as a man established within himself – without selfish attachments, and alike in success and defeat. For yoga is perfect evenness of mind.”

Excerpt From: Easwaran, Eknath. “The Bhagavad Gita.”

Last year I suffered a career crisis.  I hated what I was doing, and I was frustrated by the people with whom I was working.  It was so bad that my manager noticed and commented on it.  When I realized how evident my unhappiness was, I knew that something had to change.  I seriously contemplated whether it was time to change companies or careers even.  I eventually came to the conclusion that changing jobs was actually running away from the real problem.  The real problem wasn’t the job or other people.  The real problem was me.

My yoga students are often surprised when I tell them that my full-time job is writing software.  To them, as to many people, yoga lives in a completely separate world from technology.  I too am sometimes surprised, but not for the same reasons.  When I was in high school I wanted to become an academic.  While I was in graduate school, however, I became disillusioned with academia.  As a result, I quit school and got a programming job while I figured out what I wanted to do next.  Eighteen years later, and I am still coding.

Technology is, as everyone knows, a male-dominated field in which egos abound.  Last year during my career crisis, I realized that after almost two decades working in this domain, I had developed quite the ego.  To be clear, when I say that I had an overdeveloped ego, I mean to say that my self-worth had become dependent on how my work was regarded.  When I was praised, I felt like a rock star.  When I was criticized, I felt like a fraud.

When I was trying to figure out what and how to change, I realized that my attitude to my programming was in sharp contrast with my yoga teaching.  Since beginning to teach in 2012, I have always regarded my teaching as service (“seva”).  The class is never about me.  I observe and help my students as best I can.  If a class is well received, that’s great.  If someone has a critique or a suggestion, that’s great too.  I always walk away from the class with a clear heart and head knowing that I did my best.  This is in the spirit of karma yoga, the yoga of selfless action.  This form of yoga is described in one of the great Hindu texts, The Bhagavad Gita.  In it, the god Krishna teaches a reluctant warrior named Arjuna the importance of taking action, but all the while not being vested in the fruits of that action.

As a result, I realized that I needed to carry over this notion of service into my full-time job.  Of course putting this into practice didn’t happen overnight, but it helped that I had been doing this in my yoga teaching for a few years.  I volunteered to be in meetings more.  In those meetings, I listened to my coworkers.  I was also willing to toss my own assumptions out the window when they didn’t hold true.  And, when things went wrong, I didn’t beat myself up. Instead, I tried to learn what we could do differently in the future and moved on.

When I decided to make these changes, it wasn’t to impress anyone or to get ahead.  I simply wanted to end my own suffering.  The changes, however, did not go unnoticed.  People remarked on them to my manager, who later related them to me.  Whenever he brings it up, I simply say, “I try my best.”  And then, I silently think, “This is also yoga.”

Jen first discovered yoga in 2001 and has been practicing it ever since. Since completing her 200 hour teacher training with Laughing Lotus four years ago, Jen has been offering classes where students are met where they are. You can follow her on her Facebook page.


A Missed Shot

Posted on: January 4th, 2017 No Comments

by Josh Ehrenreich

josh-yogaKrishna totally missed, Arjuna thought.
 
The first arrow fired, a shot symbolizing the start of war between good and evil, didn’t hit anyone. It didn’t even hit a warhorse. All it did was sever a rope holding a bell, dropping to the ground with a clang.
 
It probably was that little bird’s fault.
One of my favorite stories regarding the Bhagavad Gita isn’t even in it. It’s a story I’ve heard that takes place after. Krishna had just finished explaining to Arjuna why he must rouse himself to action and fight. Arjuna took what Krishna had said to heart and was ready to lead his army.
That’s when the little bird flew up. He flew right up to Krishna and Arjuna and perched on their chariot.
‘I can’t let this war happen,’ he said. ‘In the middle of this battlefield are my five babies, just hatched with their mother. If this war starts my family will never survive the trampling of feet’
Mighty warrior Arjuna was kind. He shared with the little bird that, at times, our life circumstances seem overwhelming, impossible even, and that the lot we have been dealt may seem cruel. But these lots, these circumstances, are temporary. And once they are over, we return back into the unified whole.
The bird looked down. Sad as he was he saw the truth and beauty within. He made ready to fly away and spend the few remaining moments with those he loved.
But right before he flew off he paused, then cried out: ‘Krishna, if this is truly the case—if this is my fate to have, then let me send out my own little battle cry. Be victorious and mighty in this battle that awaits!’
And he flew away.
It can be difficult to accept the hands we are dealt. We can easily feel powerless in the face of mightier forces, helpless to lessen the suffering of others, whether that be a flock far off, or the one in our nest right now.
What we can do is face our circumstances with equanimity and perseverance. To work towards good regardless of scope of impact. Who knows what our future may bring, regardless of today’s predictions?
Upon Krishna’s fired arrow, the battle raged on. It was a terribly bloody battle, many deaths on both sides. Eventually Arjuna led the righteous to victory.
As he walked amongst the former battle field, he came upon the bell that Krishna had shot. He remembered, with slight embarrassment, how Krishna had missed the first shot of war, and kicked the bell over.
How could he have missed? Arjuna thought.
And suddenly, a little bird, the same little bird from before, and his five fledglings and their mother flew up. Protected underneath the heavy bell, they had avoided the ravages of battle and lived to sing of Arjuna’s victory.

Josh is a teacher at Laughing Lotus whose classes emphasize a mindful approach and steadiness of breath. Beyond yoga he is a project manager, hip-hop enthusiast, and coffee connoisseur.


Waking Up

Posted on: December 14th, 2016 No Comments

by Tina Spogli
tina

“People usually consider walking on water or in thin air a miracle. But I think the real miracle is not to walk either on water or in thin air, but to walk on Earth. Every day we are engaged in a miracle which we don’t even recognize: a blue sky, white clouds, green leaves, the black, curious eyes of a child – our own two eyes. All is a miracle.”

-Thich Nhat Hanh

Open your eyes. What do you see? Notice the sounds. Let your vibration mingle with those around. Witness your breath flowing in and out. Feel yourself as part of everything. Wake up into now.

Our presence is a gift. Often it’s something we have to remind ourselves to bring into our everyday lives. As yogis, we feel the overwhelming sense of truth that comes from a practice of tuning awareness – connecting body with breath, breath to the mind, and everything to the moment. I remember in my early yogi days, feeling this great sense of shift and change. At the time I didn’t fully understand what was happening, but I knew I felt closer to the entire world around and within. And so I was hooked, running to the mat any chance I could!

As we continue along this path of mindfulness, our perspective shifts, and we see not only our time on the mat, but our entire lives as a practice of tuning in to receive the teachings right in front of us. It is meditation in each moment, a spiritual waking up that flows into the way we eat, sleep, breathe, walk, work, talk, and think. I like to compare it to John Lennon’s ‘Imagine’ video, the way Yoko Ono opens up curtain by curtain in a dim room to let the light in. The light was there the whole time, but it takes some warrior training to see it.

Yoga is one of the several different kinds of practices that provide us with the tools to dive deeper into the moment and see the lessons life has to offer. Other mindfulness practices include martial arts, tai chi, qigong, walking meditation, seated meditations – such as vipassana, zen, loving-kindness, and mantra. But I like to think any activity that sparks our full presence is an avenue to experience the magic of the world, from photography, to going to the gym, or doing the dishes – whatever vehicle resonates with you!

As these moments of mindfulness grow, we acquire knowledge and information that cannot be found in any text. The realization is that everything is the guru, everything is acting as remover of ignorance and revealer of light and truth. Even in challenging moments, when we fall, wobble, and shake, there is something to learn. Every moment is an opportunity to say ‘thank you’ – thank you for moments of happiness, thank you to the plants and Earth that make it possible for us to be here, thank you for this breath, thank you even for moments of confusion and doubt, thank you for LIFE.

Tina developed a deep love for quieting the body and mind during her time living in one of the loudest cities. Yoga found Tina in 2007 while she was living in New York, and the practice quickly became her sanctuary amidst all of the hustle.

She believes in the transformative process of yoga, with its ability to bring us back into our bodies and breath, and stretch our mental limitations of what we think is possible – both on and off the mat. Her mantra is to come as you are, and observe what unfolds. Tina’s classes are thoughtful and intentional, sharing inspiration from her personal practice and life.

Tina is a 250 RYT, and a graduate from Laughing Lotus in New York and San Francisco. When she is not on the mat, you can find her in nature, exploring
photography, and hanging with her animal friends! She is very grateful to be a
part of the Laughing Lotus community of the east and west, and is thankful for
this space to share her heart and energy with you.


Let’s All Be Dangerous Yogis

Posted on: December 7th, 2016 No Comments

by Laura S
me-in-the-dark

It seems especially dark to me this winter as we move toward the Solstice. Others seem to agree; it comes up in conversation a lot lately. As I try to compose this, news of the fire in Oakland is almost more than I can even bear. I feel helpless and devastated when surrounded by such darkness. Words frustrate me. Even yoga frustrates me. No response seems quite right or like it’s anywhere near enough.

In this vast darkness, we need our gurus more than ever. Our teachers guide us, but they are also people capable of holding space for both the light and the dark. Pragmatically that ability is a lot harder than it sounds in poetic or symbolic terms. In the past, I’ve often interpreted the translation of guru to mean that the light illuminates the darkness. But this winter, I’m thinking about the light and the dark side by side instead.

In a recent NY Times article, “I Am a Dangerous Professor,” George Yancy discusses being put on the Professor Watchlist, a conservative website that targets specific teachers over the content of their courses. Reading Yancy’s words struck a nerve; our teachers are so vital to our survival, and it’s important to remember that the work they do on behalf of their students (us!) is not always easy or safe.

Yancy writes, “In my courses, which the watchlist would like to flag as “un-American” and as “leftist propaganda,” I refuse to entertain my students with mummified ideas and abstract forms of philosophical self-stimulation. What leaves their hands is always philosophically alive, vibrant and filled with urgency. I want them to engage in the process of freeing ideas, freeing their philosophical imaginations. I want them to lose sleep over the pain and suffering of so many lives that many of us deem disposable. I want them to become conceptually unhinged, to leave my classes discontented and maladjusted.”

I’m especially moved by the words “discontented” and “maladjusted.” Previously, these sensations were not necessarily ones that I invoked as a yoga teacher, or that I sought as a yoga student. Yet, I think we should, and I plan to start now. Our yoga practice should not help us sleep more soundly; indeed, it should cause us to lose sleep. We should feel unhinged!

Here is wisdom I’ve encountered in the last few days that has offered me some light AND kept me up at night:

Gandhi reminds me, “Those who say spirituality has nothing to do with politics do not know what spirituality really means.”

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichi reminds me, “Now is the time to refuse the blurring of memory…Now is the time to call things what they actually are, because language can illuminate truth as much as it can obfuscate it. Now is the time to forge new words…Now is the time to talk about what we are actually talking about…Now is the time to discard that carefulness that too closely resembles a lack of conviction.”

(I highly recommend her recent article in The New Yorker “Now is the Time to Talk About What We Are Actually Talking About.”)

Jack Kornfield reminds me, “You are not alone. You have generations of ancestors at your back. You have the blessing of interdependence and community. You have the great trees of the forest as steadfast allies. You have the turning of the seasons and the renewal of life as your music. You have the vast sky of emptiness to hold all things graciously.

You have been training for this for a long time. With practice you have learned to quiet the mind and open the heart. You have learned emptiness and interdependence. Now it is time to step forward, bringing your equanimity and courage, wisdom and compassion to the world.”

Pablo Das reminds me, “While non-reactive presence to what’s happening within you and around you is foundational, for me non-reactivity simply creates the conditions for a wise response. Non-reactivity is not the end game. Action is! Please don’t be another privileged person who thinks sitting with YOUR sadness is enough. It’s not!”

As sad as I’ve felt in recent weeks, thanks to my gurus, I’m reminded again and again that my individual sadness is not enough. The words and inspiration of my teachers calls me to take action, participate, and be vigilant.

There is a lot of noise to sift through out there. But our teachers are everywhere. We must listen to them, and we must use their guidance to harness our own courage and strength. Our yoga practice cannot just be a solitary pursuit. If we come to our mat only to feel better and only to address our individual needs, then we’re missing the profound and much larger impacts our practice can and should have. Each person’s Trikonasana looks different, feels different, and is a specific expression of who they are. So too, we can each step off our mat and take action in our own unique way. Let’s use our practice to be dangerous, discontented and maladjusted!

I’ll end with one last mantra, a reminder from Sri Rainer Maria Rilke: “Let this darkness be a bell tower, and you the bell.”

There are many fundraisers to support the victims and families of the Oakland fire, and here is one through the Gray Area Foundation for the Arts: Fire Relief Fund for Victims of Ghostship Oakland Fire.

Slow down and reconnect with your practice in a Lotus Basics class with Laura on Tuesday/Thursday mornings at 10:45am and Friday morning at 9am.

Look for an Absolute Beginners workshop in the new year on January 22!


Restorative Healing for Vata Season

Posted on: November 23rd, 2016 No Comments

by Genevieve McClendon

genevieve

“Life (Ayu) is the combination (samyoga) of body, senses, mind and reincarnating soul. Ayurveda is the most sacred science of life, beneficial to humans both in this world and the world beyond.”  -Charaka Samhita, Sutrasthana, I.42 -34

I was walking home from the Bart train station at 8:40pm, when I thought to myself: How did I do everything I did today, and I still have a 20 minute walk ahead of me? I started my day with my yoga practice, a morning appointment, taught three classes in the afternoon and evening, commuted on two trains, took two uber car rides and one bus. I also made time for breakfast and some small snacks along the way. I find a lot of us live the life of “checking off lists” and existing in “overdrive” or “overload.” So how can we make the time to be present with ourselves and others? How can we allow ourselves to be so “alive” that we seize the juiciness of every moment and live in wholeness with our mind, body, spirit? Doctors say chronic activation of stress response damages our system, causing high blood pressure and flows of stress hormones that continue throughout the day. Hence, why a lot of us don’t feel good, have a hard time sifting through emotions, or can’t find our zest for life. I believe if we help ourselves come into our own unique harmony, we can heal the world one person at a time. So, how can we learn to remove obstacles present in our daily lives, cultivate inner harmony, and harness healing power? One way is Ayurveda!

Ayurveda is the ancient science of self-healing, also known as “the Science of Life”. Yoga and Ayurveda are sister sciences that came together to bring natural balance to the mind, body and spirit over 5,000+ years ago in India. It is considered one the most remarkable holistic practices in healthcare. Ayurveda allows the knowledge and skill to create a specific dosha balancing yoga practice. It enables us to use food with awareness, and create a basic lifestyle plan.

Through the practice of Ayurveda and yoga we can empower ourselves in self-realization and self-healing by learning how to apply daily care to our own constitution and dosha. In Ayurveda it is believed we are derived from energy, light and matter. These three powers make up the three elements of the dosha’s: Kapha (earth/water), Pitta (fire), Vata (air). We each have unique portions of each dosha within our constitution. It is how we each manifest our prakriti or nature in the living world. Working with our doshas, we help heal and harmonize ourselves. The doshas are also marked as part of our seasons and times of year in Vedic knowledge.

At this time, we are living in the season of Fall which in Ayurveda is also known as Vata season. Vata dosha and season is predominately an energetic, active, creative frame of mind, always on the go energy. When Vata is out of balance we experience anxiety, fear of the future or what’s going to happen and we tend hold our breath. Not letting the Prana (breath/spirit) flow easily we jeopardize our life force. I believe because we all live in such a fast paced culture, we all experience Vata disorder, even year round. Because it is Fall, and most of us are experiencing fast movement and anxious minds with the election and holiday’s arriving, I want to offer you some Vata calming support. Creating grounded spaciousness allows us to breathe and touch our own inner self. With a few easy to do Restorative yoga poses you can rest the anxious Vata and feel lighter, more stable and peaceful. These two simple versions of Savasana definitely help me in my journey to stabilize my Vata dosha.

“Yoga and knowledge are the two methods for dissolving the disturbances of the mind. Yoga is control of the movements of the mind. Knowledge is clear observation of the them.” -Laghu Yoga Vasishta V.9.72

savasana-1

For this basic form of Savasana, all you need is a quite, warm, comfortable space. You will need a pillow to support your head, a pillow or rolled up blanket to support the back of your knees, a small towel or washcloth to place over your eyes and an extra blanket to make sure your hands and feet are warm. Set your timer for 15-20 minutes and lay down. Feel your breath gently move in and out, relaxing your mind into the back of your skull, releasing all your weight into the ground. To come out of pose, bend your knees slowly into your belly, roll onto your side, using your arms to set yourself up to sit gently.

savasana-2

This is an elevated Savasana with the support of a chair or couch. This is great for if you sit a lot at work or on an airplane or if you’re feeling anxious. This pose helps bring energy into your root chakra and feet, supporting and relaxing the lower back. Find a space that is quite, warm and comfortable with a soft chair or couch, a small towel or washcloth to place over your eyes and extra blankets to cover up your feet and hands. Lie on the ground with your back on a soft surface with your legs elevated and resting on the seat of a chair or couch. Make sure your shins are parallel to the ground. Set your timer. Allow your breath to softly move in and out, creating a longer exhale for a few breaths and then come back to your normal breath. To come out of pose, bend your knees slowly into your belly, roll onto your side, using your arms, sit yourself up slowly.

Genevieve is committed to serving and helping others come into their wholeness. She is a compassionate teacher that invites all her students to live their truth and celebrate who they are as they are. She is a passionate Reiki Master/Teacher. Genevieve teaches Restorative Yoga with Reiki at Laughing Lotus on Friday from 6:45-8:00pm and Sunday from 6:15-7:30. Her website is InLightandSoul.com.


The Spiritual IS Political

Posted on: November 16th, 2016 No Comments

by Minerva Arias
minerva

I’m a Vata, which means I’m in my head – a lot. When things don’t make sense, I grab a book and I throw on my spiritual tool belt and I pray, sing, dance or whatever else Spirit calls me to do. This past week, after the elections, as I laid in my hammock soaking up the sun, trying to hold space for the over-saturation of hate, confusion and chaos that was surrounding me, I reached for the Bhagavad Gita.

The Bhagavad Gita is a sacred Hindu text. For some who practice yoga in the west, it is a required text in teacher trainings and used as a guide in how us yoga teachers craft our classes and live our lives. A brief synopsis of this sacred ancient text – Arjuna is a warrior on the battlefield with Krishna as his charioteer. There’s an epic war about to go down and it’s up to Arjuna to go to war against his own cousins and uncles to protect and defend the sacred land. At first Arujna is like – no way Krishna, I can’t go to bat with my own family, I’d rather they kill me. And throughout the story, Krishna is educating Arujuna as to why it’s vital for him to follow his dharma (as a warrior to defeat his evil cousins).

Krishna drops gems like “Devote yourself to the disciplines of yoga, for yoga is skill in action” and “Strive constantly to serve the welfare of the world; by devotion to selfless work one attains the supreme goal of life. Do your work with the welfare of others always in mind.” And “The infinite joy of touching Brahman is easily attained by those who are free from the burden of evil and established within themselves. They see the Self in every creature and all creation in the Self. With consciousness unified through meditation, they see everything with an equal eye.”

As I was re-reading parts of the book, my natural Vata nature began to make infinite connections across philosophies, practices and our current reality. Darshana, the Sanksrit word for philosophy, literally means seeing. Ayurveda is a philosophy which allows physicians to see patients in the same way Nature sees them. Yoga is a philosophy that allows individuals to see themselves in their Divine Nature. The sages who codified these practices were called “Seers” because of their ability to perceive reality clearly.

Yoga gives us a tool belt to be able to sit with our own shadows, our own darkness and allows us to have revelation after revelation for our growth and spiritual r-evolution. It gives us a constant reminder of our Divine Spirit, our interconnectedness, our karma and our dharma. It brings us back into our physical bodies, our breath and our greatest super power – love.

Ayurveda, “the sister science” of Yoga, is the art and science of reminding us that we are the microcosm of the macrocosm and that our natural state of being is one of harmony, of living in unison with the rhythm of Mama Earth. It reminds us that everything we need, we already have inside and if we let our internal clocks mimic Mama Earths clocks, we should be good. “Spiritual health is a dynamic balance between a strongly integrated individual personality and the cosmic personality of Nature, a balance that is possible only so long as a being remembers its debt to Mother Nature.”

Here’s what else Ayurveda teaches us – there are layers to prevent us from getting sick and the body with its infinite wisdom tries to warn us before shit hits the fan. But lucky for us, our immune system and its intricate system is controlled by a single boss – ahamkara. Ahamkara constantly reminds every one of your cells of its identity and allegiance to the glorious entity known as you. Ahamkara is like our own personal Arjuna. Living inside with her own personal army, ready to serve and keep you aligned, safe and healthy.

Healthy in Sanskrit is Svastha. Sva = self and Stha = established in Self. So, Svastha, or to be healthy, means to be established in the Self – mind, body, spirit. And what did the Gita tell us about being established in Self? It said that we “see the Self in every creature and all creation in the Self.”

So this is why I always find it disturbing when one of two things happen – one: the physical yoga practice (‘asana’ – which is a pathway to getting us to be able to sit in meditation to reach these higher levels of our spiritual consciousness) is sold solely as a workout, stripped from the spiritual aspect of it and two: when people fail to see how the spiritual IS political.

If I am to be established in Self, then how do I do this while completely ignoring the ills of the world and all the suffering that surrounds me? If I am to strive to see everything through an equal eye – through a continual practice of mediation – how do I not take what I learn in this individual practice with me with every breath I take? If I am practicing yoga, ayurveda and reading these spiritual texts and yet only applying them to my own individual life, then I am just feeding my ego and not pushing myself into the uncomfortable spaces to have the necessary dialogues needed so that we ALL are established in Self?

It’s not a passive practice. It’s an active one. Being a peaceful warrior, a warrior of light, a Spiritual Warrior does not mean that we pretend that people aren’t suffering. It does not mean that we keep our eyes closed and avoid the uncomfortable conversations, confrontations and spaces. Everything about this practice teaches us the opposite. When we choose to not express what impacts us, when we choose to not listen to how and what deeply impacts others, when that expression is restricted, we lose our resonance and no longer vibrate in the chorus of creation. We become less alive, out of step and dissonant.

Ayurveda teaches us that the longer we stay dissonant and refuse to listen, the further we move from our alignment, and eventually our bodies will force us to listen by shutting down. Remember that the balance is possible only so long as we remember our debt to Mother Nature. So the more we refuse to listen and pay this debt, the louder Mother Nature will scream to wake us up into taking action to get back in formation! I don’t know if she can be any louder than she is right now.

The Spiritual IS Political and mama Earth is waiting for us.

Here are just a few ways to hold space for yourself and to show up for those most impacted by our violent political environment:

  • If the election results have left you utterly shocked and you’re just becoming aware of the many ways in which this country does not deem all of us equal or worthy, that’s ok. Recognize where you are and understand this isn’t a competition of whose grief weighs more. Welcome and now begin to unpack your old way of thinking that no longer serves. You can start with “Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack” by Peggy McIntosh. Begin to listen to the people who knew this was going to happen because it’s our every day reality. There are many of Black & Brown women writers who have been describing our reality for a long time.
    • Audre Lorde
    • bell hooks.
    • This bridge called my back: writings by radical women of color
    • Gloria Anzaldua
    • Assata Shakur
    • Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
    • Michelle Alexander – the New Jim Crow
    • And so many more
  • INTERSECTIONALITY – learn what this means and why it is vital and important in understanding our lived realities.
  • Join local organizations that are already doing the work to help dismantle systems, which literally kill and displace marginalized groups of people.
  • Find ways you can offer any resources you have to ease others every day struggles.
  • Have the difficult conversations with your loved ones – put that yoga practice to work!
  • Connect and learn from people in real life – not just on social media. Log off and tune in, in person, to the realities of not just your city, state and this country – but around the world, and begin to see the larger picture.
  • When it all feels overwhelming – go to yoga and go back to your breath. This being conscious thing is work. But it’s worth it. Remember we are all a Gift of Divinity.
  • Get Solar Panels! Shop local. Begin to think of ways you can live a minimalist lifestyle. Protect Mama Earth.
  • Join our 25-hour Yoga & Activism conference in January with Jasmine & crew.
  • Love harder. Love tenderly. Love fiercely.
  • Come chop it up with me at the studio (let’s chat) because I have way more ideas and words than I can fit on this blog post.

Minerva, a devoted yoga mat souljah, loves to lead folx back into their bodies, with their breath, to remember their Gift Of Divinity. She’s all about getting back to our roots – learn more at RootsHealing.org & join her in March for a beautiful trip to Cuba!

With the magic of music, asana, pranayama and meditation, Minerva’s classes are soulful, playful & makes you sweat – #coconutmagic Join her every Tuesday at noon for Soul Sweat, Tuesdays & Thursdays at 5:30pm for Happy Hour Flow, and Saturdays at 11:45am for a sweet Lotus Basic.
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