Posts Tagged ‘mindfulness’

Lotus Love Blog

Two Trips to the Lake by Josh Ehrenreich

Posted on: May 24th, 2017 No Comments
Recently I went camping in Los Padres National Forest. I had never been and was awestruck by the range of natural beauty it offered. From amazing views gained by mountain hikes to rock hopping along the river bank, it was a great weekend getting back to nature.
And birds. So so many birds. Each morning I would awake to the sounds of birds and those songs would continue past sunset. Everywhere you went you would hear birds eagerly singing out to the world.
One of those places was a small lake. Walking around it, with no trees to impede their chirps, you could hear a clear and resonant call of red-winged blackbirds perched upon a single reeds, bending in to support the gentle weight.
However I was with a large group and hushed bird watching was not the main focus. It was a party, a friend’s birthday. Lots of talking and laughing, moving fast with loud foot steps. Far too many entertaining distractions to choose over the lake and it’s bird songs.
So after we returned to camp, I resolved to head back to the lake. I wanted to experience it distraction free, with no jokes or questions to call my mind away. No footsteps to drown out the call, just sitting and birds.
Free of distraction, I was able to experience the blackbirds’ beautiful song. I could track them swooping into the reeds only to reemerge a minute later and zip over to another spot. I heard songs from unseen birds in trees surrounding and listened to their warble echo across the lake. It was one of my favorite moments of the trip.
Usually when I think of meditation, I think of it as sitting down and being quiet for 10 minutes or so. The transition from preparation to meditation is so quick that I rarely have thought them as separate. But in this case I feel as if the meditation was the walk down to the lake. Meditation was the action to clear my mind of all the distraction and to allow something greater to reveal itself to me.
In the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna instructs his faithful discipline Arjuna “When meditation is mastered, the mind is unwavering like the flame of a lamp in a windless place. In the still mind, in the depths of meditation, the Self reveals itself.”
The ‘reveal’ is not meditation. Meditation is the work to free oneself from the constant distractions of the mind, from the constant wind against the flame. Meditation is a practice to suppress the mind chatter so that we may experience the reveal. It is not a specific thing that we experience in our chosen seat, it is the practice of taking the seat and stilling the mind.
And if what is revealed to you happens to be soundtracked by a choir of birds, so much the better.
Photo credit: rblood

Josh believes in the importance of moving yoga beyond the studio and into everyday life. His strong and even-tempo flow based classes focus on consistency of effort, and attention to breath. Beyond yoga, Josh spends his free time biking, swimming, and listening to hip-hop.


The Art of Meditation by Tina Spogli

Posted on: May 17th, 2017 No Comments

Atha yoganushasanam, Now begins the study of yoga (Patanjali, Sutra 1:1). Please begin in a comfortable seat, crossing the ankles and sitting up nice and tall. Bring your palms face down on your knees, letting there be a soft bend in the elbows so that they drop right below the shoulders. Close the physical eyes. Bring your attention to your breath, with no need to change anything about it, just noticing this breath in, and this breath out. As thoughts or sensations begin to pop up, notice and acknowledge them, then choose to bring the attention back to the breath. Be the observer, watching the thoughts pass with less judgment and attachment to them. Open yourself up fully to everything within and around.  

We are training the mind this month with the magic of meditation. Just as we learn the discipline of body in our asana practice, we learn the discipline of mind in our meditation practice. When we harness and focus the energy of the mind, it can be a powerful tool to help bring us back into the present moment. We can think of meditation as mindfulness, in that we are opening up every part of ourselves to sip in the nectar of NOW. Bringing the energy of mindfulness to wherever we are, and whatever we are doing, is meditation. The Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh says, “Meditation is the practice that consists in bringing the body and the mind back to the present moment, and every time we practice that, we come to life again.” The yoga practice is about waking up, again and again, to the fullness of the moment.

Meditation practices can take many different forms. We can find our focus through the opening of the senses – particularly the eyes with our drishti, meaning ‘soft gaze’ – and other traditional ways including breathing meditation, walking meditation, mantra and chanting, visualization meditation, qi gong, and many others. Any activity that moves your attention into the moment is a meditation. One of my latest favorite ways to meditate is through drawing, a creative outlet from the past resurrected. Letting myself be a clear channel, I sit down with pen and paper and draw what comes, rather than setting an expectation of what the drawing will be beforehand. So much of meditation is an openness to everything around and within us, to be able to observe without judgment and attachment, and to let the divine energy move through us like water flowing in a stream.

Our meditation practice is a discipline, but it’s important to note that we can give our practice permission to change and evolve. I like to cycle through different meditation practices throughout the week, based on what I’m drawn to that day. The moment we tell ourselves we have to meditate in a certain way, creating too many rules and restrictions, we have let the mind take over and leave room for the possibility that we will get stuck or bored. We want to look forward to, and be inspired by, our meditation practice.        
When we give our attention to only one thing, we quiet the thoughts to a whisper and are able to hear the inner voice of truth. Much of our practice becomes being able to look at ourselves completely, the dark and the light, and making peace with all of it. In this way, we accept both sides of ourselves, body and mind working together, the two unite and become one. Those more negative things that have been buried tend to re-surface here. Embarking on any meditation practice takes a warrior strength of heart. We come as we are, and practice embracing our emotions – including the negative ones – with the energy of mindfulness. As Thich Nhat Hanh says, we embrace our emotions with the same love as a mother to a child, or big sister to little sister. Not denying, not judging, but with a level of understanding. This is how we begin to find freedom through our humanity, the freedom that comes from looking deeply, recognizing our wounds, and beginning the process of healing. As we heal ourselves, we heal the world. By living peace within, we manifest peace without. 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.


Awareness Before Control by Josh Ehrenreich

Posted on: April 26th, 2017 No Comments
The practice of Pranayama allows us to become more skilled at controlling our breath, but before control comes awareness.
I had a wonderful opportunity to practice this recently. A couple weeks ago I participated in my first race. The day before I had some early pre-race jitters and thought it would be a great opportunity to observe the variety of breath I experienced throughout race day.
The first breath I observed was upon waking and not wanting to think about what was ahead—if I was prepared for the swim, if I could handle the hills. I just focused on breathing in, breathing out, and not getting worked up. This steadiness became more and more difficult to cultivate as start time got closer and closer, right up until I found myself standing at the edge of Lake Berryessa.
And suddenly the breath changed. I am a fairly new swimmer and it still amazes me how foreign breathing feels when swimming through water. I take for granted I can open my mouth and inhale air unobstructed; swimming in the chill of early morning, trying to avoid being kicked or kicking others, I was reminded of how satisfying a free and easy breath of air is.
On the bike, the breath served a different purpose—warming my hands. Cold from the swim, and chilling further from the air racing past I exhaled upon my near frozen fingers as I feebly tried to warm them up. When I could no longer afford to take hands off the handlebars, I imagined each breath penetrating my fingers, waking them from their numbed slumber.
Looping back down the mountain, the breath became more joyous. The gasp at those morning clouds rising off the lake—only an hour prior I had swam right through them. The sigh of relief as the merciful sun broke through and shone upon my fingers and the sensation of feeling returning. The first inhale upon finishing the run, fully stopped, heart galloping, and the satisfaction held within.
Later on, in the afternoon, observing my lungs expanding and contracting, with a napping loved one in my arms. Later still, now alone in my apartment, in front of my altar meditating—experiencing the lengthening of inhale and exhale, each working to further ground me deeper into my seat.
A race day may offer an extreme example but the lesson is universal—our breath changes with us and our encounters throughout the day. Maturity in practice comes with awareness. It is true for Asana, it is true for Pranayama, it is true for everything we undertake.

Josh believes in the importance of moving yoga beyond the studio and into everyday life. His even-tempo flow based classes focus on consistency of effort, breath, and attention. Beyond yoga, Josh spends his free time biking, swimming, and listening to hip-hop.


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.


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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The Keys to Spiritual Bartending

Posted on: September 21st, 2016 No Comments

by Adriana Shanti

adriana

As it states in the preface, The Yoga Sutras are, “a living scripture to illumine our spiritual path.” They are threads of wisdom to weave throughout your daily life. There is so much valuable information in the Sutras, and I highly recommend taking one Slokah at a time and letting it resonate inside you. My favorite Slokah is Book 1:33 because it applies to everyone everyday. In fact, Patanjali advises that we commit at least this one Sutra to memory.

Book 1 Slokah 33:
By cultivating attitudes of friendliness toward the happy, compassion for the unhappy, delight in the virtuous, and disregard toward the wicked, the mind-stuff retains its undisturbed calmness.

Patanjali says that there are only four kinds of locks in this world. Suka, duhkha, punya and apunya–happy people, unhappy people, the virtuous and the wicked. The keys to these locks are friendliness, compassion, delight and disregard.

This month marks four wonderful years of working as a receptionist for the front desk at Laughing Lotus. I like to think of myself as a “Spiritual Bartender” more than a receptionist. I greet everyone with a cheerful smile and quickly surmise what key will work to “open” them up.

Patanjali says that the key to opening up the happy is to use the “friendliness” key. Unfortunately, even four thousand years ago, there were people who were not happy at seeing others happy. I greet the happy with excitement! I take great joy in looking at all vacation pictures, and I ask leading questions to find out what made their time away so special. I love hearing about anything and everything that makes you happy. Did you finally clean out that hall closet that has been haunting you forever? GREAT! Please do share! Let’s do a big ol’ high five! I want to be that person you look forward to sharing your life with, my happiness is increased when I know that you are happy. Its a wonderful win-win situation.

Compassion is the key to the unhappy. Patanjali says to be merciful always. “By doing that, you will retain the peace and poise of your mind. Remember, our goal is to keep the serenity of our minds.” If you can lend a helping hand, do it. For the unhappy, I offer empathy and compassion. I want to be that sympathetic ear that you can confide in and know that it will go no further than our conversation. I take great pride in holding a safe place to confide your troubles. I hold everyone’s secrets and pain with honor; I don’t take that privilege lightly.

For the virtuous, feel delighted! I bask in the virtuous! Virtuous people are filled with wisdom and advice. Instead of feeling envy over their accomplishments, appreciate the virtuous qualities and try to cultivate them in yourself. I have learned so much about life and yoga just sitting around in the lobby of Laughing Lotus and chatting over tea…virtuous people are everywhere, you just have to take the time to listen.

Sometimes the world just gets to be too much and we find ourselves in a “bad way.” We shut down and no amount of kindheartedness can soften our thoughts. When you find someone in a “wicked” way, it is best to treat them with indifference. Don’t let them penetrate your happiness and dim your inner light. I always greet people who appear to be having a bad day with a smile and space. Tomorrow is another day, hopefully whatever woes there are today will be gone tomorrow.

Pantajali says these four keys…Friendliness, Compassion, Delight and Indifference should always be with us. “If you use the right key with the right person you will retain your peace. Nothing in the world can upset you then. Remember, our goal is to keep a serene mind.”

Adriana teaches Wednesday and Friday Sunrise Flow at 7am and Thursday Soul Sweat at 12pm. Find more information at www.spottedelephantyoga.com!


The Divine Mother and all her forms

Posted on: July 13th, 2016 No Comments
by Astrud Castillo

astrud meditation green heart

My experience with this theme always comes back to the way I relate to the Earth and Mother Nature and how that reflects in my relationships and Yoga.

This topic now has a name, it is called Eco Yoga. This would be the study of the environment in which plants, animals, and humans live, and the application of moral and spiritual principles of Yoga, an ancient practice, while applying it to our modern situation.
We can apply the Yamas (how we relate to others) and the Niyamas (how we relate to ourselves) to how we relate to Mother Nature.

I heard the acronym G.O.D standing for the Great Out Doors.
I believe in the sanctity of the great outdoors and know the power of connecting to spirit through a walk in the woods, a hike on the mountain, or a nap in the park.

So I ask myself: How can I apply the Yama-Ahimsa (nonviolence) to consciousness about what our planet needs? In what ways am I harming the environment? And how can I lighten my carbon footprint?

I picked some examples of how we can apply these principles starting with the Yamas:

AHIMSA translates to Nonviolence or reverence to ALL forms of life. The main practice here would be to adopt a vegetarian or vegan diet. We are invited to be mindful of how we may cause suffering to animals and even plant life. If you choose to consume animal products, be mindful to not support the widespread and cruel practice of factory farming. Get educated! Join P.E.T.A

SATYA means truthfulness. Can we be honest about our situation with the environment? How can we stay informed and not fall into a pit of ignorance around these issues. We must remain awake on all fronts, not just for our own salvation but for the salvation of our surroundings. We might be concerned about the local air quality if we practice pranayama (breath control). And in order to sustain healthy bodies and eating habits we want to make sure our fruits and vegetables have not been laden with pesticides. Here is a site to keep you informed and to inspire you! earth911.com

APARIGRAHA means not hoarding or taking only what we need and relating to life in a balanced, non-grasping manner. Do I respect the rights of others to share limited resources? If you take something, consider how you can replenish it.

Here are a few examples of some Niyamas and how they help us relate to the environment:

SAUCA means cleanliness. I may consider how respectful of the environment I am. Do I pick up after myself or ask how I contribute to pollution? How I can eliminate it from the environment and my own life?

TAPAS means discipline or commitment. Am I personally committed to making an effort and making a difference no matter how small?

ISVARAPRANIDHANA translates to devotion to the Divine or to reality. G.O.D, the Great Out Doors! Do I revere nature and make an effort to commune and connect to my source and have respect for not only my inner environment but my OUTER environment too?

There are numerous efforts we can make. Maybe riding a bike instead of driving a car, or changing light bulbs to compact fluorescent bulbs to avoiding products with a lot of packaging (reducing your garbage by 10% reduces carbon dioxide emissions by 1,200 pounds). Planting a tree (a single tree absorbs one ton of carbon dioxide over it’s lifetime) or turn off electronic devices when not in use. The most powerful effort you could consider would be going vegetarian. 51% or MORE of global green house gas emissions are caused by animal agriculture!!!

These are some basic concepts most of us are familiar with.
We are now starting to look at them through the Yogic lens.
It is said we have two eyes we look out of, but really one we truly see from. Developing a relationship with the natural world and what sustains us as a species helps us to rediscover wisdom and live in the harmony and balance we seek as Yogis.

Jai Ma…
Astrud

Astrud teaches Yoga, leads her Kirtan group https://www.facebook.com/Astrud-and-the-Cosmic-Caravan-126578667531850/ and leads retreats to India. *Upcoming retreat to India October 20-November 17th 2016 – For Info on all the above check out http://yogawithastrud.com/ Or my FB page https://www.facebook.com/AstrudMaitriYoga/


The Source

Posted on: June 22nd, 2016 No Comments

by Genevieve McClendon

HEART-26

The Source
The lovely melody of a flute
is found neither in the instrument
nor in the player’s fingers.
You might say it comes from the composer’s heart,
but if you opened his heart
you would find no melody.
Where, then, is the source?
It is beyond—in the supreme cosmic Energy
which the ego will never know.
Only if you act from your heart
will you know life’s divine power.
-Amma

When we are born our heart is one of the first organs to develop along with the spinal cord, its beat setting the tone of our lives. We are then born into the world and given the constant rhythm of breath, synchronizing all the sounds and tones of life force. Nada yoga is the union through sound, inner transformation through sound and deeper listening. We honor them as the source and vibration of Om (also know as AUM, broken up into three letters) and anahata, the sound that is always in you, the vibration within the sound, the sound within the sound. It is the vibration within each cell of our being. Nada yoga is to feel the sound of God within us.

This past week I went to visit Amma, the “Hugging Saint” at her ashram in San Ramon. Being there was like being bathed in a celebration and party of blessed sounds and an intoxicating vibration of omnipresent love. Whenever first entering Amma’s ashram there is a restoring of harmony within my inner sounds as I receive all vibrations and sounds of the temple. It takes moments to synchronize myself with her loving presence and the sounds of chanting, repeating mantras, and the vibrations of all the people. There is a change in the atmosphere when a true Guru is present. The vibrating sound of the crown chakra and OM is everywhere. Communing with the Guru I am left feeling focused and relaxed. A feeling of hOMe.

As I was sitting in my seat waiting for my turn to receive a divine Amma hug I was mesmerized by her japa, or repetition in hugging one being after another. To me it was as if each hug was a mantra on a mala bead. And these aren’t just hugs, she snuggles you into arms with all her divine love and it’s as if a thunderbolt of love moves through your body. This alters your vibrational field and awareness. I could feel my heart’s capacity expand and my energy cleansed. Being in her energetic vibrational field I could feel all the cells in my body shift by the immense love she was radiating. Helping tune every one of us back into who we really are. Showering everyone in the purest vibrations of love. Restoring our hearts divine rhythm and tone. Shedding pain and suffering.

Patanjali states, “vibration is still there in the mind in an unmanifested condition. Scientifically, we can say that when manifested objects are reduced to their unmanifested condition, they go back to the atomic vibration. Nobody can stop that atomic vibration.” The omnipresent vibration of love is never changing – it’s always constant. Whether it’s through chanting mantras, thinking good thoughts, giving silent empathy, prayer, singing your heart out, dancing, being in nature, visiting a Guru, laughing with friends, we are given the opportunity to vibrate with our truest self, the sounds of divine love. The rhythm of our heart, the tide of our breath, the sound of divinity that vibrates inside and outside of us are reflections to the ever present Om and love in the universe. Nada yoga transforms our inner and outer sounds into love, vibrating our truest self. Sending waves and sounds of love from me to you through this blog. Om Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bhavantu Om Shanti Shanti Shanti

“Your heart is the real temple. It is there you must install god, good thoughts are the flowers, good actions the worship, good words the hymns, love, the divine offering.”
-Amma

Genevieve is committed to serving and helping others come into their best self. 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 also teaches Restorative yoga with Reiki at Laughing Lotus on Friday from 6:45-8:00pm and Sunday from 6:15-7:30. To learn more, please visit her website at www.InLightandSoul.com


The Music of the Soul

Posted on: June 8th, 2016 No Comments

by Robin Wilner

RW-dancer pose

I came into the world with music in my veins. Genetics seemed to predetermine my future profession as a dancer/singer – grandma was a symphony pianist, grandpa was a cantor, mom played guitar, sang and taught music in elementary schools. So it’s no wonder that I was drawn to music as a means of expressing myself – physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Our family sang traditional prayers together during the holidays; pop music always bellowed from the car stereo or at home during dinner; a classical pianist accompanied my daily dance classes. From as far back as I can remember, music and dance were integral part of my life. Movement and singing were a means of connecting to the world from a very young age, making sense of the overwhelming feelings that accompany young adulthood, and articulating myself as a creative being as I matured.

Music is a universal language, it touches people of all different races and creeds and social backgrounds. The piercing beauty of an opera singer’s soprano can bring a room to tears; a rock and roll band can inspire entire generations towards creating change; a drumbeat builds anticipation, church bells signify joyous celebration, the cello may accompany a somber affair. What we hear has the power to affect how we feel, and music itself can break through barriers. And so it is that many spiritual practices seek higher states of consciousness through sound.
The “yoga of sound” or Nada Yoga, is a meditative practice that involves deep internal listening for the sacred sound of the Divine within – known as the anahata nada. Through purification of the mind, one might tap into the central energy channel (sushumna) and begin to hear this unstruck sound in the ear of the heart.

While this intense practice can be challenging, a more accessible practice for the modern yogi is the ahata nada yoga practice, which involves listening to external sounds. All life creates its own music – the whisper of the wind or crashing of waves, the chirping of birds and buzzing of bees, the rustling of leaves or a crackling fire, a giggling child. Whether we listen to nature or the soulful melodies of voices and instruments in harmony, we can strengthen our ability for internal listening and concentration and, in essence, experience more peace and tranquility.

Whether I’m feeling joy, sadness, anxiety, fear, anticipation, or exhilaration, music has always been my greatest companion. There are songs whose poetic lyrics force me to sing along. As soon as I hear a fierce pulsating rhythm, my hips start to sway and I feel the intense desire to move. Sometimes I simply need to be still and listen, and it’s the graceful harmony of bells and strings that bring me to a state of quiet calm. Other times, I come to sit at my harmonium and chant various names of the Divine in the spiritually charged language of Sanskrit. The droning of the chords creates a soothing vibration and the melodies somehow write themselves.

Sound is merely vibration….vibration is energy…and energy is life force, which connects all living things. A series of sounds in harmony can create a portal for our spiritual healing. Whether you croon, chant, play an instrument, clap, tap, boogie or rap, let your heart resonate with the rhythm of your soul. The more we can open our outer and inner ears to the vibrations of Life, the greater our capacity to enjoy it. As the late Robin Williams said, “You know what music is? God’s little reminder that there’s something else besides us in this universe; harmonic connection between all living beings, everywhere, even in the stars.”

Robin Wilner is a former Broadway dancer/singer/actress who took a leap of faith, moved to the west coast, and is devoted to teaching and practicing yoga. Mixing her dance background with a love of chanting, meditative healing, and philosophy, she strives to lead her students to a state of being that reflects their own inner radiance. Flow with Robin on Mondays & Fridays at 12pm, Tuesdays & Thursdays at 9am, Fridays at 5:30pm or Sundays at 10am.


Tree Pose

Posted on: May 25th, 2016 1 Comment
by Ella Ben-Zvi

ella

My eyes were burning with unbearable pain, it felt like they were going to pop out of their holes! They were sore and itchy and my head was pounding to the point I could barely think. After my lasik surgery, the doctor instructed me to stay in a dark room, cover my eyes with patches and every 4 hours put eye drops that made my face twitch. For a full week I didn’t see anything and couldn’t do anything – it was torture!

On the morning of the seventh day I removed the patches, letting my eyes slowly readjust to the light. I walked outside for the first time after a week and couldn’t believe what I found there – a Rosewood tree, standing in front of my house, high and proud, growing into the sky, with its branches and leaves swinging in the wind, creating endless shades of green as they drop shadow and reveal the light interchangeably. It was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen in my life!

I realized that I had walked by this tree every day for the past five years and not once noticed its beauty! On that morning, with my new set of eyes, I could suddenly see it. I stood there, staring at the tree, mesmerized by the play of light stroking the leaves as they throw shadows on one another, and simply unable to take my eyes off it. It was astounding! How come I never noticed it before? Despite the harsh pain, I was so happy I did the surgery that allowed me to see all these details! A cheerful feeling filled my heart, as I woke up from all the suffering into this bliss.

The morning after, as I left my house and looked up at the tree again, I noticed that it was still pretty, but not as stunning as yesterday. I couldn’t really understand why – my eyesight was a perfect 20/20 now, why couldn’t I see the tree like yesterday? Was the sunlight different? Was I different? A wave of disappointment washed over my heart. The days passed, I woke up each morning, left the house, walked by the tree and went to work, no longer paying attention to the leaves and their shapes, but the image of the miraculous tree had remained vivid in my mind.

A few years later, when I heard the term Samadhi for the first time, I knew that was it! Samadhi, simply translated to bliss, is the last step in the path of eight limbs in the Yoga sutras of Patanjali. Samadhi is a meditative state of total absorption, where awareness is completely present in the moment. In his book Freedom, Love, and Action, Jiddu Krishnamurti said that if you never meditated in your life “You are like the blind man in a world of bright colors”. I know I was blind before, but I also didn’t know how to see again…

The last three limbs of the Yoga Sutras are the three stages of meditation.The first one is Dharana – concentration or single-minded focus – the stage in which one trains the mind to be centered on one thing. The second step is Dhyana – the state of meditation – and the third one is Samadhi – the bliss. I started in the end, in Samadhi, but because I didn’t walk the entire path to get there, I didn’t know how to reach it again.

So I started practicing Dharana and discovered that there are thousands of techniques to train your brain, from gazing at one object to gazing at your third eye, from using visualization to gesturing mudras, from repeating mantras to looking at yantras, so I chose one and started practicing daily. And let me tell you, it is so hard! My thoughts keep wandering all over, the minutes feel like hours, my eyes blink, the seat is uncomfortable and my shoulders hurt. I feel restless and agitated and just can’t wait for it to be over! Sometimes it really feels like torture, just like recovering from lasik… Without realizing it, I had been practicing intensive meditation in a dark room for a whole week while my eyes were healing, so I know it is worth it, because sometimes, in rare mornings, it just flows. I get into the zone where time loses its meaning and only the now exists. Everything is quiet in my mind and joy spreads from my heart to every part of my body. And when the gong rings and I open my eyes, everything is bright and beautiful, a smile is lifted up from the corner of my lips, I take a big breath in and start my day with a blissful taste of Samadhi.

The stage that takes us from Dharana to Samadhi is the hardest to explain, like a riddle in the middle, Dhyana is left unsolved. Almost like describing what love is or how it feels to swim in the ocean, it is really difficult to illustrate what meditation is. So many words had been written about meditation, but nothing can really depict it. Like love, meditation is something that needs to be personally experienced, and like love, we tend to see it as serious and complex. But, as Krishnamurti writes: “Meditation is really very simple. We complicate it. We weave a web of ideas around it, what it is and what it is not. But it is none of these things. Because it is so very simple, it escapes us”. Simple, but not easy….

The practice of Dharana is to focus the mind on one point and concentrate on one thought at a time. This practice has an important side effect – it creates a space between one thought and the next, and with time, this gap grows wider and longer. This space which we can’t see is Dhyana. Krishnamurti defines it as the moment “When the heart enters into the mind”. In other words, Meditation is the time when there is enough space between the thoughts for the heart to enter. “When the thought is silent there is emptiness… Empty – and therefore utterly open”.

Meditation is clearing space, emptying out, opening up. This emptiness is the state of Dhyana that allows us to experience Samadhi. I now understand that it wasn’t the eye surgery that sharpened my vision and enabled me to see – it was the time spent in the darkness that emptied my mind. One of my teachers used to say that instead of looking for our place in the world, we should try to make more space for the world inside ourselves. After seven days in a dark room, I had enough space for one tree to manifest in its full glory, and with practice I hope to create enough space for the whole world.

Ella is grateful to share her love to the magical power of yoga. In her classes she encourages to listen to the wisdom of the body, and let the intuition guide the way. Join her to Lotus Basics on Monday and Wednesday at 8:30pm, and Thursday at 10:45am. Ella also teaches Lotus Yin on Wednesday at 4pm, and live music flow aka Friday Night Live!