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.
Autumn is my favorite season and time of year. The glorious colors of the leaves changing, the wild movements of the skies, and the crispness in the air all have me so inspired and energized! Unfortunately, it’s also a time of getting run down, stressed out, and prone to disease. It’s a time of movement and change, a time to nourish our ancestors, as well as ourselves.
In Vedic wisdom, it’s said that if we want to be healthy and happy, we must honor our ancestors in order to free ourselves from our karmic pasts. We must nourish our ancestors through daily offerings so they may serve and support us. As the Great Ayurvedic Sage Maya Tiwari says: “At this significant time of year (Autumn) when ancestors are energetically open to receiving nourishment, we have an incredible chance to remember them, and in so doing, to free ourselves from ancestral karmas of grief, despair and disease.”
Creating an ancestral altar is a beautiful practice to reconnect to our roots and the universe, which connects us all. To start, place pictures of your ancestors or the country of their origin, along with your teachers, or anyone who has supported your growth. Make daily offerings of fruit, candles, incense or anything you know your ancestors loved! Offer their favorite food, drink or music and speak to them and ask for their guidance and strength. Another way to honor the ancestors, especially if you don’t know much about them, is to do service in homeless shelters, or senior homes, or serve in any way you can.
Autumn is also a time of self-nourishment, where if we forget to acknowledge and remember ourselves, we are most prone to dis-ease. In Ayurvedic Medicine, Yoga’s sister science of healing and living in harmony with nature, Fall is Vata season, ruled by the elements of air and ether. Vata is translated as “wind” or “that which moves,” and is characterized by the qualities of dryness, lightness, coldness, mobility and erratic energy. As we see these qualities manifesting outside with the drying leaves, cooler and fluctuating temperatures. and wind, we can see these qualities in ourselves too: dry lips, dry skin, dry nasal passages. We might also experience constipation, gas, bloating, weight loss, insomnia, disrupted sleep, cold hands and feet, sensitivity to cold, feeling restless, depleted, weak, forgetfulness, trouble concentrating, hyperactivity and excessive talking, nervousness, anxiety and fearfulness.
Here are a few Ayurvedic suggestions to balance the symptoms of Vata during fall, to enjoy the magic and richness the season has to offer, and to prepare for winter! Instead of thinking of them as a list of do’s and don’ts, think of them as making sacred offerings to honor and connect to yourself, just as you are also connecting to your ancestors.
1. Stress Less!
Ayurvedic medicine believes that stress can weaken your immune system, leaving you vulnerable to dis-ease. One of the best ways to balance Vata in the fall is to reduce stress through self-care. Create a daily routine, eat regular meals and make them nourishing, warming and grounding foods. Don’t take on too many projects at once. Prioritize what is most important, make lists, and give your self plenty of time to finish projects. Spend quality time with friends and family.
2. Sleep Deep!
Make sure to get plenty of sleep during Vata season, which strengthens the immune and nervous systems. Rise with the sun, but also set with the sun. You don’t need to go to sleep at 5 during the shorter days of fall, but try turning in and tuning in as the sun sets. Vata’s positive qualities are heightened during dawn and dusk. Spend time reading, writing, meditating. Find quiet time, while limiting internet and television, and try to sleep for eight hours.
3. Balancing Breath!
To reduce excess Vata and its symptoms, practice a deep, balancing, gentle breathing practice called Nadi Shodhana, or Alternate Nostril Breath. Place your right thumb loosely on your right nostril, and your right ringer on your left nostril. Inhale and exhale through both nostrils a few times slowly and the gently close off your left nostril and exhale through your right, inhale right, switch fingers and exhale left, inhale left switch and exhale right. This is one round, practice 9 -18 rounds in the morning or evening or both!
4. Nasal Nourishment!
The neti wash and nasya are two therapies that are great for the Vata dosha. The neti wash flushes out dust, bacteria, viruses, and excess mucus. Mix ¼ teaspoon of non-iodized salt into one cup of filtered, distilled, or pre-boiled warm water into a neti pot. Bend over a sink and insert the tip into your top nostril to form a tight seal. Tilt your head slightly to one side and let the saline pass through your nasal passages and out the lower nostril. Repeat two to three times on each side, gently blowing your nose to release mucus from the nasal passages. Most sinus problems originate with dry and irritated sinuses, Nasya is a therapy aimed at lubricating the sinuses so they are less reactive to dryness and airborne irritants. To try it, lie down on a sofa or bed and tilt your head back as far as you can. Drop two to four drops of oil in each nostril and sniff the oil into the sinuses.
5. Slow Flow!
Make sure that your yoga practice is nourishing, instead of fast and depleting. This will reduce stress and strengthen immunity. Slow down the flow and include more Yin and Restorative Yoga, and spend more time Savasana.
6. More Massage!
An Ayurvedic practice called abhyanga is a full-body hot oil massage, which you can practice yourself to reduces anxiety, stiffness, stress, and excess Vata. Use warm organic sesame oil in the fall, as its warming qualities counteract the season’s cold, dry nature. Massage into your whole body, but especially your feet, and everything is nourished through the ROOTS!
Jasmine Tarkeshi is the Co-Founder of Laughing Lotus Yoga Centers in NYC and SF and is a renowned teacher and devoted student of Yoga’s ancient and transformative teachings and practices. She has been teaching for 19 years worldwide with the deepest faith in every being’s innate ability to awaken to their truest Selves and become true agents for change and healing our world. She teaches open classes weekly.
by Erica Martin
“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.
by Laura S
Growing up, the basement was filled with both mythological and worldly characters, stored side by side on the shelves. Papier mâché Kali rested beside the Statue of Liberty. A “wild woman” with hair of raffia, a giant golden sun, a bear made from thrift store fur coats, Persephone, Ganesh, Zeus, demons, politicians, skeletons, acrobats, and countless other deities, animals, and archetypes all crowded in. There was never enough room for all the masks my mom made. They were donned by her theatre troupe, 1000 Faces, to perform plays over the past twenty years. Whether Halloween, the spring equinox, a presidential election, or high school graduation, I grew up with the idea that gods and goddesses marked the moments of our life with storytelling, ritual, and meaning.
My mom’s masks always scared my friends who slept on the pull-out couch in the basement. One morning a college friend emerged after a restless night’s sleep. “All those faces,” he said to us, a bit sheepish, but kind of freaked out. We teased him, but I understood. There was something about going to sleep in that room. Your eyes adjusted to the dark, and you’d see someone looking back at you. It was the same unsettled feeling as when an unfamiliar part of yourself stirs and wants to make itself known. Every mythological character, in their own way, is a mirror of some part of us.
In “Close to the Bone” Jean Shinoda Bolen uses myth as a tool to help us face serious illness, trauma, or difficulty in our lives. Through stories of the goddesses Inanna, Ereshkigal, and Psyche (among others), we are guided through the a journey into the underworld, or into the darkness of our own lives. Bolen says, “Myths and symbols are the language of the soul.” She asserts that our negative side will destroy the positive side unless we can admit to having both. Myths will help us do this. In a goddess like Ereshkigal, who lives in the underworld, we can see pain and darkness play themselves out, and thereby understand our own pain with more acceptance and clarity. So often in our contemporary Western society, it is difficult to find a place for the experience of raw emotion, fear, or illness. Ereshkigal is, “angry, and she could strike someone dead–characteristics that [many of us] repress and keep hidden.” The darkness is there; we can move into and through it, the myths remind us.
In “Close to the Bone” Bolen examines Psyche’s descent into the underworld with a particular focus that gives us permission to truly care for ourselves. Psyche is armed with cakes and coins in order to pay Cerberus, the hound and Charon, the ferryman. She has two of each because she needs to get both in and out. At various points in her journey, people ask for things from her, and she must say no. She cannot drop the cakes and the coins or she will never escape.
When I first read this, I thought, “Hmmm, how terrible! What is the moral of this story? That you shouldn’t help other people?” Yet, as I read on, Bolan describes the strength, wisdom, and clarity we need when facing a serious challenge in our life. She writes: “What do you want? What could help heal you? Can you ask for it? Insist upon it? Can you say no to what or who depletes you and bring what you need into your life? Might your actual life, and certainly the quality of it, depend upon choosing to do what nourishes your soul with your time and energy?”
As I read those questions, the image of Psyche with the coins and cake clicked for me into a much different analysis than I’d initially made. It wasn’t an image of selfishness at all, but an image of profound self-awareness, bravery, and resilience. In the context of illness, which Bolen was describing, you must more seriously choose what nourishes you. During a recent illness, I held on to this image of Psyche as a powerful reminder that not only was I allowed to focus on healing, but my well-being depended upon it. I’m fairly certain I was only able to consider this idea anew because I pictured Psyche doing it first, and not myself.
Joy Williams, one of my favorite fiction writers, recently published “99 Stories of God,” a collection of stories that explore our relationship to the sacred, and how it is often hidden from us in contemporary life. With a seriously dark sense of humor, Williams tells a series of 99 very short tales. In some, the sacred makes an overt appearance. In others, people look for, but ultimately miss, the presence of the sacred. In the rest, it seems there is no appearance of the sacred at all (yet I suspect there is). In story 49 Williams writes, “We can never speak about God rationally as we speak about ordinary things, but that does not mean we should stop thinking about God. We must push our minds to the limits of what we could know, descending ever deeper into the darkness of unknowing.” It is all of our myths and stories that allow us to do just that.
Īśvara-Praṇidhāna was my word for sutra day during Love School–aka–my 200-hour yoga teacher training at Laughing Lotus. The last of the Yamas and Niyamas (the ten living principles of yoga), it means an ultimate surrendering to the divine. According to the yoga sutras of Patanjali it is the highest practice.
Key word: Practice. When I began exploring what Īśvara-Praṇidhāna meant, it made total sense that it was the concept I was to explain to the group. I have always had a need for control in my life, blame it on the various societal factors of being raised as a (insert multiple identity labels here). When I thought I had everything in control, it all came falling apart, and I felt at a complete loss and standstill. I could not understand what had happened, and I had no other option but to say “OK universe, you win, you take the wheel because I cannot drive anymore, YOU tell me what I should be doing.” And, with that, the pieces began to fall back into the place, the way they should, which is not how I planned! I welcomed and ushered it all in, my newfound blessings and healing, which lead me to my yoga teacher training and receiving Īśvara-Praṇidhāna as my sutra day word.
Īśvara-Praṇidhāna means understanding that I am you, that you are me, that we are all a piece of the Divine. It means understanding, committing and surrendering to the fact that we are guided by this powerful energy. It means accepting that we may not always get what we want, but we always get what we need. That we are exactly where we are suppose to be and that if we continue to trust in this Divine energy, in this Divine plan, our dharma, that we will continue to be provided for, taken care of and guided.
In rereading the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, I came across this line that has become my favorite line of the moment: “Let us all dedicate our lives for the sake of the entire humanity. With every minute, every breath, every atom of our bodies we should repeat this mantra: “dedication, dedication, giving, giving, loving, loving.” Īśvara-Praṇidhāna also means THIS! It means with every minute, every breath, every atom of our beings we must stay dedicated, giving and loving.
Dedicated to our practice! There are NINE practices that come before Īśvara-Praṇidhāna:Ahimsa (non-harming), Satya (truth), Asteya (non-stealing), Brahmacharya (not squandering energy), Aparigraha (non-grasping), Saucha (cleaniness), Santosha(contentment), Tapas (austerity), Svadhyaya (study). It’s called practice for a reason; we have to show up every day, in some way, in every breath.
Īśvara-Praṇidhāna: it means that we constantly surrender. It means that just because we’ve let go once, or in one situation/moment, does not mean that we go back to trying to be in control of it all again. It means that we constantly come back to being dedicated, giving, loving, connected with the divinity within us that connects us with everyone and everything else.
Minerva, a devoted yoga mat souljah, loves to lead folx back into their bodies, with their breath, to unity with 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, meditation, Minerva’s classes are soulful, playful & makes you sweat. 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. .
by Alex Crow
Have you ever felt as if you were at a loss for words? As if you simply could not place the perfect word for how you felt? It has been said that truth cannot be spoken, it can only be felt. The simplest truths are not so simple to explain, let alone teach. I have come to many truths within the exploration of my own body-mind, and in my attempts to offer them to my students, I often get tripped up, blocked by the limitation of the English language. Perhaps this is why movement speaks to me so purely, it is not restricted by words, syllables, grammar, logic. I can feel the way that life IS by listening to the rhythms of my bones, the speech of my sensations, the pathways of my breath. In a way, I am able to learn the truths of the universe by listening to the intuitive intelligence of my very body. Perhaps it was the recognition of these internal truths that brought the ancient sage, Patanjali, to write the now famous text, and what some call “the bible of Yoga”, The Yoga Sutras.
The Yoga Sutras are an ancient transcript of yogic wisdom written in Sanskrit, a now dead language that stays alive through the practice of Yoga. For westerners to understand this ancient text, we were forced to translate it into English, and in doing so, I believe some of the truth was lost in translation. Much of the translations of the Sutras available to us have left me feeling confused, unclear, and lost in a sea of esoteric jargon. However, if what they say is true, that the truth cannot be found in the words themselves, then it is our responsibility to take these practices into our bodies, and so translate accordingly.
Luckily for me, Nischala Joy Devi’s translation of the Yoga Sutras offered a me new way to engage with the Sutras, which is based in the method of feeling, as opposed to thinking my way to the truth behind these ancient threads of wisdom. She offers a feminine approach, one centered in the heart. This is a fitting translation for our current age as we are beginning to challenge patriarchal systems and re-establish our priorities to include the feminine side of ourselves, the side that honors the wisdom of the body and the truth of our hearts.
Sutra 1.2-1.4 explains the reason for why we practice yoga and what yoga in essence is:
1.2: yogas citta vrtti nirodhah
1.3: tada drastuh svarupe vasthanam
1.4: vrtti sarupyam itaratra
In most translations of these sutras, which understandably (due to the time that they were written in) were written by men, it is explained that:
1.2: yoga is the restraint of the movement or modifications of the mind
1.3: when stillness of mind is accomplished, then the Seer (Self) abides in His own nature
1.4: At other times the Self appears to assume the forms of the mind movements
The idea of trying to control or restrain my thoughts felt not only impossible, but a bit harsh and outdated. I asked myself, what was I to gain from putting more limitations on myself when in truth I was searching for freedom from the many years of mental and physical discipline that led to much of my neurosis? I lovingly recognize the value of discipline, but I struggled with the idea that I had to find a way to stop the movement of my thoughts in order to find my true Self. This is a perfect example of how the truth can get lost in translation! It wasn’t until I read Joy Devi’s translation that I recognized a different way of realizing the same truth. She writes:
1.2: yoga is the uniting of consciousness in the heart
1.3: united in the heart, consciousness is steadied, then we abide in our true nature-joy
1.4: at other times, we identify with the rays of consciousness, which fluctuate and encourage our perceived suffering
This translation brings such relief into my practice of yoga. I feel a natural alignment with the suggestion to join my focus and awareness into the soul’s space in the heart. When I actually do the practice of bringing my mind to the meeting place of the heart, the energetic center of my body-mind-spirit, I am in union (in yoga) with my truth, which is unwavering and still (naturally the mind quiets as it harmonizes with the heart), which fills me with the feeling of JOY! This is freedom! At other times, when I feel the echoes of pain and suffering, I now recognize that I am out of alignment with my true nature, and so I practice yoga (uniting consciousness in the heart) to bring myself back to home, to the truth of who I am, to the truth that abides in the heart.
Once again, it is seen that the truth cannot be understood by intellect alone, it must be felt! The resonance of Joy Devi’s unique translation rang true for me, and perhaps that is the most potent truth of all…no one can bring you to your truth but you. Yoga feels right to me. It is like a homecoming every time. And although the practice of yoga is a path that we must tread alone, we can recognize the spirit within one another, walking hand in hand as we all travel together towards the truth that resides in our own hearts.
Namaste, and so much love.
Alex Crow is a Yoga Therapist and Certified Reiki Master currently spreading her wings in the Bay Area yoga and dance communities. Laughing Lotus Yoga Center has been her yoga home for 4 years, and you can catch her for either Lotus Yin on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and/or Lotus Fly on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays every week!.
by Laura S
It’s hard not to begin with Chapter 1, Sutra 1 when contemplating “The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali.” Depending on the rendition, there are approximately 196 sutras (or threads) that make up this classic work of yogic philosophy, and each time I pick up my copy, there is something new to explore. The sutras build upon one another, so in some ways randomly opening to a sutra (while fun!) means missing out on the profound accumulation and unveiling that happens if you read the sutras in order.
The Sanskrit word “atha” translates to “now begins.” So, the first sutra, “Atha yoga anushasanam,” means, “Now begins the teachings of yoga.” I’ve also heard this sutra translated as practice or sharing instead of teachings. I like each of these word choices for slightly different reasons. In recent weeks I’ve been nerding out a bit over comparing and contrasting three different translations that I have, and I like the nuance of revisiting a familiar sutra with a slightly different translation to examine. Regardless of translation, the key word in this first sutra for me is the word NOW.
Yoga (whether the physical postures, meditative practices, daily sadhanas, or off-mat/real world scenarios) is about our relationship with the present moment. Our practice is about what is happening in our awareness and actions right now in this very second. Everything else (in the Sutras and in life) seemingly comes next, but really we are always in this ever-present now. This is where the practice/teaching/sharing continually exists. Now is always happening, always changing, and always the only thing. It’s overwhelming, but also pretty awesome!
I’m drawn to the idea that each time I step on my mat or open my Yoga Sutras, the practice of yoga starts anew. Now, again and again, I begin. There is something urgent about this sutra. We must begin NOW. But there is also something reassuring. No matter what else has happened, no matter what has come before, we can begin again. Now is always here for us to step into and inhabit.
Of course, after this initial declaration of now comes the work of the remaining 195 sutras. My newest translation is quite fat and at first I was anxious to tear through the pages and get to the end. But, I resisted, and instead have been savoring the first five or so, and especially this first one. The sutras are not merely conceptual; each one can and should be threaded into our practice in real ways. One way to work with the first sutra is to lie down on your mat, or take a walk, or find a comfortable place to sit. Next, simply allow yourself to rest in the now without any concern for what will come next, in your practice or in your day. Feel what the present moment really brings with it and move from moment to moment within the body and the breath. I love this practice because there is so much potential in it: for relaxation, for discovery, for self-reflection, for creativity, for healing, for really noticing.
Stephen Cope’s book “The Wisdom of Yoga” is an interesting exploration of the sutras. He shares personal stories and anecdotes from both himself and his students with the sutras as a pervading wisdom that can be applied to each person’s situation (and I love that these ancient aphorisms really can apply to our modern lives). One line from Cope’s book has become a mantra of sorts for me, and I have written it down and taped it above my desk: The self is a process, not an entity. This idea is what inspires me most in my yoga practice: we are all in the midst of a fluid and dynamic process where who we are and what is happening is never fixed. Each breath is new. Now, the practice of yoga.
Laura believes the transformational power of yoga is accessible to everyone. Catch her Lotus Basics classes on the schedule later this fall!
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.
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.”
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
“When you say something like (“I love you”) with your whole being, not just with your mouth or your intellect, it can transform the world.”
-Thich Nhat Hanh
When was the last time you looked at yourself in the mirror and said I love you? I don’t mean checking to see if your makeup is in place or if you feel you look the part for the day. I mean to truly look into the depths of your own soul and emanate love for your own being and to marvel at the essence of your soul. When I first heard one of my teachers suggest this as a daily practice I felt my ego say, I don’t need to do that , that is so vain and sometimes I don’t feel the love. Then I heard my higher self say, what a different way to see and activate love. This is my Bhakti practice I want to share with you. This is my act of love and compassion towards the Beloved that lives in all of us.
The essence of Bhakti yoga is showing up and loving in every moment in all that one does. Loving the Divine within and the Divine all around, Bhakti yoga is the path of spiritual devotion to love. It is realizing the connection between the self and omnipresent love, also known as God, Goodness, Higher Self, Breath, Spirit, Atman, Beloved, Buddha, Mystery, Universal Life Force, Divinity, Supreme Love or Source. The Sanskrit root of bhakti is bhaj, “to engage with affection”. There are nine different forms in Bhakti that one can use to practice devotion:
1.) Sravanam- hearing stories of gods/goddess and vibrational sounds
2.) Kirtanam- chanting or singing
3.) Visnu smaranam- remembering God
4.) Pada sevana- serves at the feet of God
5.) Arcanam- deity worship
6.) Bandanam- prayer
7.) Dasyam- executing order, doing your duty
8.) Sakham- serving as a friend with God
9.) Atma Nivedanam- complete surrender, releasing the concept that we are separate from anything I believe that one of the greatest acts of love is moving inside and deeply loving all the different aspects of ourselves. We deserve love even when we let down our friend, even when we show up late for work, even when our relationships fails, even on the worst day of our lives. There is true essence of goodness in all of us and we don’t come any closer to finding it if we don’t love ourselves. Love is the most powerful force in the universe. That is Bhakti yoga, connecting to the supreme love within everything.
In Narada’s translation of the Bhakti sutras he states, “Supreme love is love for everything and everyone at all times. It is a love that gives without limit and receives without limit. One sees God everywhere and loves what he sees, and one feels himself a part of God and accepts the love of the Divine. It is activating our ability to be the Lover and Beloved.”
When we tap into our willingness to love ourselves, with active awareness, we are serving as a friend to God (Sakham). I say, I love you three times to myself in the morning. As I look in a mirror, standing before myself in vulnerability to see through my ego’s judgments, I actively engage that day, I allow an act of presence with myself. Saying those three words, I love you, I love you, I love you, causes a ripple effect of gratitude for the wonder of my life. It allows me to open the floodgates of love into my world as the day starts. I feel the sweetness of this gift to myself. At first, this practice of love felt pretty awkward. Some days I may not feel as well as other days, some days feel like nothing is going right, but I still enter into this daily practice giving conscious love. This discipline and commitment to loving oneself, despite the trials of life, have contributed to my stability, perseverance and gratitude. That is my act of devotion to self. Now I can engage with the lover in me, the mother in me, the father in me, the child in me, the beloved in me as I allow myself to be present with devoting conscious love. Next time you look into the mirror, look deep into your own eyes and say I love you three times. See what comes up for you. Then everyday for the rest of your life, give this sweet, fun, deep act of love to your Self.
When you realize that you are the light of the world, you will also realize that you are the love of it; that to know is to love and to love is to know.
-Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj
I love you, I love you, I love you!
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 www.InLightandSoul.com
by Robin Wilner
“There’s nothing you can know that isn’t known / Nothing you can see that isn’t shown / There’s nowhere you can be that isn’t where you’re meant to be. It’s easy / All you need is love, all you need is love / All you need is love, love. Love is all you need.” – The Beatles
I’ve always adored these lyrics, simple in their phrasing yet so profound in their meaning. Imagine if life really was that simple? What if every thought, deed, or action we experienced was fully surrendered to the extraordinary power of Love? How would we interact in our most intimate relationships if we regarded every being with a tender heart? This is the essence of Bhakti Yoga, the yoga of devotion, or the pathway of the heart.
The Sanskrit word bhakti comes from the root bhaj, which means to “engage with affection.” Bhakti yoga has been called “pure love” or “devotional service.” While the word yoga means “union,” Bhakti yoga thus refers to engaging in a union with the Divine through a chosen path of love and devotion. Like the other paths of yoga – Jnana (the path of knowledge and introspection), Karma (the path of action and service to others) Raja (the path of transcending the mind) and Hatha (the path of the physical body) – Bhakti Yoga is a gateway to self-realization and the experience of Oneness with every aspect of the universe.
You can call it the Beloved, the Divine, God, or more simply, the deep connection to all other conscious beings on this earth; no matter the chosen words, the language is universal. With bhakti, we are inviting compassion and empathy into our relationships, using acts of love and service to help others, and in essence practicing our connection to the universal concept of yoga.
I used to be terrified of saying the word God out loud. Somehow, it seemed so inappropriate, as though the reference instantly invited more vulnerability into a conversation than I was willing to let in. And yet, I never had trouble SINGING the word. In Hebrew prayers growing up I hummed Adonai; in choral groups in college, we harmonized to Deus or Dio in Latin and Italian hymns; then I found myself vacationing at an ashram in the Bahamas and chanting to Ganesha, Krishna, Saraswati and numerous other Hindu deities. Somehow the power of song had been guiding my heart all along towards a universal idea – all worship in the form of love (no matter the chosen words) ultimately leads to the same Truth.
My first real exposure to Bhakti as a practice came on my first night at that ashram in Nassau. Each morning and evening, the residents and guests would come together for satsang (a spiritual gathering) under a great dome. After thirty minutes of meditation, someone would begin to play the harmonium and lead this beautiful call-and-response chanting. I remember the hundred or so voices in the room coming together so harmoniously and passionately that it took my breath away. I had absolutely no idea what the words meant, but I followed along in my manual and soon got carried away clapping and swaying and singing at the top of my lungs, as other yogis took to various instruments laying about the room. It was the most joyful experience to have with a community of people I’d never met before; I felt an overwhelming connection as my heart started to burst open towards this unknown pull. These morning and evening satsangs became my favorite aspect of ashram life. Then on my return trip, I had the incredible opportunity to attend several Kirtans with Krishna Das. As we belted out the various names of God together in a series of Sanskrit chants, our group of voices merged together to become One Voice. I was hooked.
Mantras – these short phrases packed with energy and intention – were my way to find the Source with words, as dance had for years been my way to find God without words. My love for chanting grew as I continued to practice at Laughing Lotus, where I knew that each class would begin with a devotional mantra and an opportunity to generate unity with my fellow yogis through sound. I learned to play the harmonium while immersed in an advanced Bhakti training module, and soon discovered an infinite array of Sanskrit mantras designed to promote healing, insight, creativity, and spiritual growth.
Ever since I bought my own harmonium, the floodgates of creativity have been unleashed, and I now write music almost every day! Never did I dream that I would have the ability (or even the desire) to compose music…but when I chant, I feel passionate but peaceful, joyful but meditative, withdrawn from my troubles but powerfully connected to the Source.
There are many layers to this path of devotion – whether through the simple acts of showing kindness to a fellow being, saying a prayer of gratitude before a meal, chanting a mantra for peace on your way to work, reading or writing poetry about Love, or devoting your yoga practice to someone in need of healing energy. All of these acts have the power to enhance your relationship with God / the Beloved / the Divine / your true Self. Choose your language, but know that it all leads down the same path to the same truth. And all you need is love, love…Love is all you need.
Join us all month long at Laughing Lotus as we bathe in this yoga of devotion through movement, mantra, and the joy of being together on the path of Love!
Robin is a passionate dancer/singer and yogi who loves to explore the power of expression through creative movement and mantra. She also happily speaks, writes, and sings the word God with pride. Catch a class with her at Laughing Lotus on Monday/Friday at Noon, Tuesday/Thursday at 9am, or Sunday at 10am.