Posts Tagged ‘spiritual path’

Lotus Love Blog

The Intuitive Ear by Adriana Feliciana

Posted on: June 14th, 2017 No Comments
The practice of Nada Yoga…a time to celebrate the beauty of sound. It makes sense that the first organ developed in the fetus is the ear when you think about sound being the first thing that was made when the Universe was created.
When my children were little, I quickly learned to hone in on the lack of sound – 9 times out of 10 it meant trouble. Once I found my 4 year old son, his little brows knitted together with such silent concentration, as he painted, back and forth in large bold moves, all over my brand new white couch…with my waterproof black mascara.
Now that my children are adults, I am trained to listen to the silent gaps in a conversation that usually mean they have something important to tell me. I can still remember the scary silence I heard when my daughter was trying to tell me she was all grown up and moving out to live on her own. I knew the time was coming, she was over 18, but I still wasn’t ready to hear it. I tried hard to let the silence happen so she could speak,
Staying present and listening to what people are truly saying can be a challenge sometimes. There are so many distractions that can easily lead us astray. Mantras are an excellent way to focus and celebrate the beauty of sound. Easwaran said, “Mantras are handrails for the mind.” So Hum is an excellent mantra for staying present. The meaning of this mantra is simply, “I am.” It helps us enter the ground of our being. Bede Griffiths describes the ground of our being as, “Being present everywhere, in everything, yet always escaping our grasp.”
To practice this mantra, lengthen the spine, roll your shoulders up by your ears, and then press them back to open the heart. Allow your shoulders to melt into your back, and let your heart stay open. As you attune to your breath, use the syllable “So” on the inhalation and “Hum” on the exhalation. Take your time and allow the power of the inner sound to resonate. This mantra can be used in silence with the breath being the only audible sound. Think of it as one of your “pocket mantras” to keep on hand the next time your mind starts to wander during a challenging time or conversation.

Adriana loves yoga because the practice allows her to truly inhabit her body and find a comfortable and livable space deep within. Inspired by Patanjali’s Eight Limbs of Yoga, Adriana blends compassion for all beings with a challenging mindful asana practice that supports where her students are while encouraging them to explore their edge. Come to class with her, and your prana will be stoked through conscious breathing techniques while cultivating inner perceptual awareness and increasing concentration.


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.


The Programming Karmi

Posted on: January 18th, 2017 No Comments

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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!


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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With a Mane Like Medusa

Posted on: October 26th, 2016 No Comments

by Robin Wilner

robin

With my curly dark brown hair askew in the mornings, my big brother once proclaimed, “You look like Medusa!” As avid lovers of Greek mythology and the ‘80s film Clash of the Titans, I knew he wasn’t stroking my ego. Medusa was a cruel and ugly monster, with greenish skin, bloodshot eyes and a ferocious stare that turned all who looked upon her into stone. She also had a den of venomous snakes in place of hair. Thanks, big Bro.

But what most may not know is the story of who she was prior to this curse. The only mortal of three sisters, Medusa was once a beautiful, fair-skinned priestess to the Goddess Athena, with wavy golden locks and kind, loving eyes. She’d taken a vow of lifetime celibacy, but like many young adults, soon found herself infatuated with a lover (Poseidon), and chose to marry him rather than honor her promise. As punishment, Athena transformed Medusa into a repulsive creature, which caused the world to detest and reject her until she was forced to flee from her home to live out her cursed existence in solitude. She was eventually hunted and beheaded by the great warrior, Perseus.

Sure, my brother was making fun in the way that ignorant youngsters often do. My messy, seemingly unattractive hair reminded him of the evil snake monsteress. This myth has an interesting twist, however, when looked upon through a more mature lens. We often forget that a promise is not to be broken, and that there are consequences for being dishonorable. There are also times when we exhibit ugliness (in the non-physical sense) and feel no repercussions; and yet, society tends to perceive physical beauty as acceptable and unattractiveness as dangerous or threatening – symbolic by how Medusa was first shunned by the world and her cursed gaze would turn onlookers to stone if they looked straight into her eyes. We often don’t want others to see us angry, frustrated, sad or hurt; we’d rather they turn away or only engage with the façade of happiness and contentment that we create instead. And Medusa’s struggle was to maintain her authentic sense of identity despite her outward appearance, which she eventually succumbed to in the ultimate form of suffering.

Myths are often stories that reveal our humanity, that help us to see our habitually destructive patterns. We’re encouraged to generate more tapas – the fire we burn throughout the Yoga practice that helps to free us from these damaging behaviors. Each sacred tale bathed in tradition goes even a step further, helping to make sense of the human experience by answering timeless questions that may eventually lead us towards a richer life: Who am I? What is my purpose? How do I want to be in the world? When connected through the common human experience, regardless of ethical or cultural differences, we can even appreciate the humanity in all beings.

While I may not have realized this initially as a youngster, Medusa was as multi-layered as any other mortal. She made poor decisions without weighing the consequences, attached her sense of Self to outward appearance and the external world, and was doomed to suffer for the rest of her shortened life. Truthfully, we all start out just like Medusa, but then the practice of Yoga takes effect in such profound ways. With time, we come to realize that a pure state of Joy is only attainable when we look deeply within ourselves. The internal world must be in harmony in order to find true peace, and no amount of external pleasure or acceptance will satisfy our desire for internal tranquility. It’s completely up to us to seek the truth of our Divine nature in order to lessen the suffering.

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. Known for her inspiring sequences, sense of humor, and juicy hands-on assists, Robin aims to guide students through a rich and heartfelt experience that maximizes their potential. She is also a Holistic Nutritionist. www.nutritiousyogini.com

Classes: Mondays 9am & 12pm, Wednesdays 9am, Fridays 12pm & 5:30pm or Sundays at 10am.


The Cycles of Creativity

Posted on: October 19th, 2016 No Comments
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by Valerie Starr

The story of creation(s) in Hindu Mythology starts as so many other stories of creation do, and because these stories have mostly been carried through word of mouth, there are many interpretations. This story, in particular, starts in the complete dark and mysterious nothingness. No space, no earth, no heaven, no hell, no place in between only darkness….darkness beyond darkness.

 In this darkness, a wave washed up onto the shore of nothingness carrying a large snake. The snake was coiled up with Lord Vishnu sleeping and dreaming so soundly. Out of the depths of darkness a vibration started to take shape and got louder and louder, rumbling into what eventually formed the sound of OM. As Vishnu awoke from dreaming, he noticed a lotus flower springing from his navel. The flower started to blossom open, and Lord Brahma emerged out of the petals of the lotus. Brahma then began to create the world….Only to have Shiva destroy it. These three gods, known as the Trimurti (meaning having three forms), are essential for the process of creation. This cycle happens over and over again. Creation – Balance – Destruction.
 
This cycle is generally how the creative process starts for most of us…in darkness. When we close our eyes, something begins to stir, a wave of inspiration might wash up into our minds, we bring whatever that is inside of us outside (if we are lucky and determined), and then it gets washed away making space for the next idea or inspiration.
 
I find that my most creative time of day is early. Before the sun rises in darkness, before everyone else in my household is awake. There is a soft vibration and fresh mystery to the day and what it will hold. The first thing I do when I wake up is turn on the teakettle and go to my mat, every single day. This is my space and time to create; teaching is my biggest form of creativity right now. There is something so palpable about moving and breathing in darkness; there are no distractions for the mind to get wrapped up in, and so I am moving with absolute clarity of mind. My body is in a state that knows where it needs to move. The tensions that are built up are very present and speaking to me…. this is where I want to go. Sometimes in my dreams I will be teaching or practicing a class. If that happens, I bring my dream onto the mat because somewhere in my deep subconscious this movement needs to be had and experienced from out of the dream world and into the material world. I find many parallels to my process of creation and the Hindu myth of creation.
 
I have been drawing up a lot of inspiration from Elizabeth Gilbert in her newest book Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear. She has a keen way of describing how ideas have the ability to find us if we are willing and open to them. If not, they go back into the ether to land into the minds of someone else that is open. 
 
“I believe that our planet is inhabited not only by animals and plants and bacteria and viruses, but also by ideas. Ideas are a disembodied, energetic life-form. They are completely separate from us, but capable of interacting with us—albeit strangely. Ideas have no material body, but they do have consciousness, and they most certainly have will. Ideas are driven by a single impulse: to be made manifest. And the only way an idea can be made manifest in our world is through collaboration with a human partner. It is only through a human’s efforts that an idea can be escorted out of the ether and into the realm of the actual.” 

So I ask, what do you want to bring forth from inside and out into the world? What is holding you back or what do you need to release in order to move forward? And how can you sustain it? 

The Mythology and Yoga of Harry Potter

Posted on: October 12th, 2016 1 Comment

by Erica Martin

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“We’ve all got both light and dark inside us. What matters is the part we choose to act on. That’s who we really are.”

– Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

I remember the moment when I found the yoga in Harry Potter. As an adult, I decided to reread the series of books that I had read on loop as a child. I thumbed through the familiar, dog-eared and chocolate stained pages, and a great sense of remembering washed over me – a remembering much deeper than the narrative itself.

Ultimately, Harry’s story is the story of all of us, realizing on one hand our latent magical abilities, and on the other the darkness that resides within. In the end, Harry is called upon to recognize this duality and release his attachment to this great struggle in order to move past it. If that’s not yoga, I don’t know what is! In this practice we are constantly dancing between opposites; lightness and darkness, sukha and dukkha, adho mukha and urdhva mukha. Our great teachings hold that we observe these binaries, yet find a seat in between them, neither running away from one nor towards the other. We bow to the light within each of us, but also recognize the darkness, and our ability to chose between the two.

This is not a theme exclusive to Harry Potter and the yogic tradition, but one we see playing out over and over again through mythological stories across cultures and religious traditions. From the great Hindu tradition the beautiful goddess, Lakshmi, when examined closely, turns into the great and fearsome destroyer, Kali. In turn, one who is willing to embrace Kali’s darkness, and look at her in the face lovingly, will have her transform into Lakshmi. In essence, they are two sides of the same coin, and the devotee who recognizes them both receives their full delight and love. (It is important to note that the intersection of myth and religion is a complicated one! All religious traditions have mythological stories that are sacred and communicate profound truths. I share this example here in acknowledgement of the divinity of both Kali and Lakshmi and their importance in a religion and culture that is not my own).

This is the great power of myth – to take a truly universal human experience and try to make sense of it through fantastical yet utterly human stories. The great mythologist, Joseph Campbell, notes that one of the most important functions of mythology is, “to foster the centering and unfolding of the individual in integrity in accord with himself (the microcosm), his culture (the mesocosm), the universe (the macrocosm), and that awesome ultimate mystery which is both beyond and within himself and all things.”

This is the stuff of great storytelling. From Harry Potter to Voldemort, from Lakshmi to Kali, the great dance between lightness and darkness is happening within us all.

Erica teaches at 7:00 AM on Tuesday mornings and 8:15 PM on Thursday and Friday nights. When she is not at the Lotus she can be found cuddling her puppy or sharing yoga practices with Bay Area educators through her non-profit Breathe For Change.