“I was born with music inside me. Music was one of my parts. Like my ribs, my kidneys, my liver, my heart, like my blood. It was a force already within me when I arrived on the scene.”
We are all made of sacred sound. Each one of us living our own unique vibration in the orchestra of the universe. I love even visualizing this! Nada yoga allows us to celebrate and honor the healing capacity of sound. Nada means inner mystical sound and yoga means, union. The union of sound within, honoring the divine sound within. One way we can empower our vibration is through mantra. Mantra is a group of words that hold a psychological and spiritual power. When we align a mantra to our energy system, aka chakra system, we are able to take responsibility and alchemize our very being. Dr. David Frawley explains, when a mantra is carefully chosen and used silently, mantras are said to have the ability to help alter your subconscious impulses, habits, and afflictions. Mantras, when spoken or chanted, direct the healing power of Prana (life force energy) and, in traditional Vedic practices, can be used to energize and access spiritual states of consciousness. Mantra is a spiritual practice that should be done on a regular basis for several months for its desired effects to take place. We can empower ourselves by learning which chakras within our own energy field need support and align a mantra with that chakra. There are sacred mantras for each chakra to help create inner peace and harmony. This map shows the chakras and the mantras that heal and align each chakra, you will know which of your chakras need support as you read:
Mantra- Om Gum Ganapatayei Namaha
On the rainbow bridge the Root Chakra’s color is red and its sound is LAM. It is based at the bottom of tail bone. The Root Chakra’s energy is stability, feeling safe, security, and standing up under pressure. When Root Chakra is out of alignment one may experience fear, insecurity, lack of courage, muscle and structural weakness, and hip, knee and foot problems. A way to come back into harmany is to honor Ganesha, the remover of obstacles with this mantra.
2nd Chakra- Sacral Plexus
Mantra- Om Shrim Maha Lakshmyai Namaha
The Sacral Plexus is the color orange and its sound is VAM. It is right above the Root Chakra in the pelvic bowl. The Sacral Chakra energy radiates powerful emotional and creative forces, along with movement, sensuality, and relationship to ourselves and others. When the Sacral Plexus is out of alignment we may feel controlling, guilty, frigid, dependent, a lack of creativity, close minded, emotionally stuck, and difficulty in relationships.
3rd Chakra- Solar Plexus
Mantra- Om Hum Hanumate Namaha
The Solar Plexus color is yellow and its sound is RAM. It radiates in the belly right above the Sacral Plexus. This energy center holds self-confidence, self-empowerment, honesty, digesting life easily, courageousness and authenticity. When the Solar Plexus is out of alignment one may experience shame, powerlessness, shyness, worry and victimization.
4th Chakra- Heart
Mantra- Om Shri Krishnaya Namaha
The Heart Chakra is green and its sound is HUM. It shines at the heart and chest right above the Solar Plexus. It is the energy center where the earth self and the divine self connect. The Heart Chakra’s energy when in alignment is of love, compassion, forgiveness, acceptance of others, open heartedness, connected mind and heart, joyfulness, happiness, gratitude and grace. When out of alignment the Heart Chakra may contribute to experiences of anger, hostility, resentment, jealousy, attachment to others, sadness, grief, sadness, rage and violence.
5th Chakra- Throat
Mantra- Om Namah Shivaya
Throat Chakra’s color is blue and its sound is YUM. It is located at the throat and neck space above the collar bone. The Throat Chakra’s energy is of honesty, mercy, compassionate words, positive words, speaking truth, being heard. When out of alignment the Throat Chakra may cause babbling, verbal diarrhea, empty words, criticism of self and others, or victimized words.
6th Chakra- Third Eye
The Third Eye’s Chakra color is indigo and its sound is OM. It is located between the eyebrows, on the forehead. The Third Eye’s energy is of wisdom, intuition, clairvoyants, clairaudient, heightened smell, clairsentience, all knowing, seeing beyond illusions. When the Third Eye is out of alignment we may experience narrow mindedness, arrogant, narcissistic, stuck in structured paradigms and avidya (ignorance).
Mantra- Silent AUM
The Crown Chakra’s color is white light. It is located at the crown of the head. The Crown Chakra’s energy is our connection to source and divine. This energy center radiates self realization, self love, expanded consciousness, all seeing, all knowing, all feeling, all sensing, walking between the illusions of the world. When the Crown Chakra is out of alignment we may experience lack of spirituality, underdeveloped higher self, addictions to substances, belongings and emotions.
Once you have identified which mantra you would like to use to empower and strengthen your chakra system aka life force, try repeating your mantra everyday for 40 days. I know, 40 days can feel like a lot! But allow yourself to witness how the sacred sound of this mantra will uplift and empower your inner sound! You can do this by finding a quite place to sit, relax your body and tune into your breath. Then state your mantra silently as you inhale and exhale. When we align the helpful mantra vibration with our chakra system we allow ourselves to be even more connected to the divine with in. This helps our mind to focus and dissolve the ego’s belief that we are separate from each other and divine source. We are “One Verse”, we are the “Uni-Verse”. Each one of us plays our part, vibrating our own unique sound in the cosmic band of the universe. Let us take responsibility for our own sound and vibration we put into the world.
“The path to enlightenment is not a group trip. It’s between you and God. This means you’ve got to go inside. The fewer external distractions and the more concentration you have, the easier it is to get there.”
Genevieve is committed to serving and helping others come into their wholeness. She is a compassionate teacher that invites all her students to live their truth and celebrate who they are as they are. She is a passionate Reiki Master/Teacher. Genevieve teaches Restorative Yoga with Reiki at Laughing Lotus on Friday from 6:45-8:00pm and Sunday from 6:15-7:30. Her website is http://www.InLightandSoul.com
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.
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.
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.
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.
This week’s blog post is an Excerpt from Lotus SF Founder, Jasmine Tarkeshi’s New Book: Yoga Mind and Body Handbook-Easy Poses, Guided Meditations: Perfect Peace Wherever You Are. Now available at the Lotus! Join Jasmine for a Class, reading, signing and celebration on Friday, April 14th at 5:30!
Our breath plays an integral role in the functioning of our entire body and is also a reflection of our state of mind and emotions. Better breathing patterns make us more present and grounded, ready to take on whatever comes our way. When our breathing goes awry, we may find ourselves stressed, overwhelmed, and out of balance. The same is true in reverse: when we’re happy and healthy, we tend to breathe easier. With conscious breathing, we can impact our inner world.
What Is Good Breathing?
Learning to consciously regulate our breath is one of the most powerful tools we can cultivate. It helps us control our emotions and let go. As we covered earlier in the book, yogic breathing practices are called pranayama, which means “to control or extend the breath.” Prana is our “life force” and ayama means “to extend.” With slow, regulated breathing, the quality of our lives improves dramatically.
When we are stressed, our breath becomes shallow. We breathe quickly and only fill up the top part of our lungs with oxygen. Our chest barely expands with each inhale, which triggers our flight or fight stress response.
In contrast, when we’re fully relaxed and present, our breath becomes slower and deeper. This triggers our rest–and-digest response, which lowers our heart rate. With each inhale, our entire chest and belly expand, flooding us with oxygen. With each exhale, we fully contract all of these parts of the body, releasing carbon dioxide. In this manner, each full inhale nourishes every part of our being, while each complete exhale cleanses and releases toxins from the mind and body.
Why does all of this matter? Well, the average human being takes over 20,000 breaths a day. Each breath brings us the opportunity to positively affect our state of mind and benefit our overall health. When we talk about good breathing, we’re talking about a conscious slow, even, and deep breath that satisfies our need for oxygen, and also helps us maintain a calm and present state of mind. With conscious breathing comes conscious living. This is what we strive for in yoga.
Yoga uses a variety of breathing or pranayama techniques to help facilitate different outcomes. Ujjayi breathing, which we discussed earlier , is one of the most common types of yogic breathing. Most often used during asana, it allows us to create a steady,even rhythmic, breath and link our breath to movement. In this practice, every inhale is a movement that expands the chest, such as inhaling the arms up, and every exhale promotes a contraction, such as exhaling a forward bend. The inhale accompanies a movement (such as reaching the arms up), and the exhale accompanies another movement (such asmoving into a forward bend). There are also slight pauses between breaths to help us experience stillness.
Long, deep breathing is used to calm the mind during meditation or any time you’re in a stressful situation. This breath focuses on expanding and contracting the belly to engage the diaphragm and create a slow, even breath with a slightly longer exhale. This allows for space to calm the nerves, quiet the mind, and let go.
When you’re feeling sluggish, a bellows breath can be just what you need. The exercise pumps the breath from the belly rapidly, stimulating the effects of aerobic exercise, including increased metabolism, increased heart rate, and release of serotonin to the brain.
Alternate nose breathing, where you use your thumb and pointer finger to alternately cover each nostril, is thought to balance the left and right hemispheres of the brain and balance our emotional state.
All of these techniques can help you breathe better to live better.
Complete instruction on all the breathing practices available in the book!
Jasmine Tarkeshi is the Co-Founder of Laughing Lotus Yoga Centers in NYC and SF. She is a devoted student of Yoga for over 25 years and grateful teacher for 20 years. Jasmine has dedicated her life to being of service to Yoga’s transformative teachings and holy teachers through her weekly lasses at Laughing Lotus Yoga Centers SF, Teacher Trainings, International workshops, online videos and now, published book! For more details: http://sf.laughinglotus.com/jasminetarkeshi/
When I was growing up, I remember my mom taking sign language classes and coming home to show us kids the different signs. “Thank you”, “Please”, “What’s wrong with you” (my favorite) and “I love you” (still used to this day whenever I say goodbye to my mom). This was my first introduction to understanding that our hands can speak, our gestures have meanings, and our body language can say something
In asana practice we use different poses to do the same thing, connect and personify movements, gestures, and intentions with our body. Whether traditional poses brought to us by yogi’s past, or newer poses from the west, when we move our body with this kind of awareness we are creating language with our limbs.
Mudras are sign language (seals) of the soul. They are gestures to take our intentions further with the use of our hands. I have even heard them expressed as icing on the asana cake, something to bring us more fully into the present moment. We can use our hands, which can often times be limp or unexpressive or forgotten about in practice, to drive the pose deeper and bring more awareness. To seal the deal, so to speak.
One mudra that always seems to be speaking to me is the Ksepana Muda, the gesture of pouring out and letting go. As human beings we are constantly changing, shape shifting, and transforming who we are. The idea behind the Ksepana mudra is that we let go of the layers that no longer fit us: the identity, the preconceived ideas of ourselves, and the stuff that just doesn’t have any room in our lives anymore.
I often refer to the body as a storage unit. We accumulate past traumas, dramas, memories, habits, addictions, toxins, movements, and thoughts. It takes a constant clearing out process to help eliminate whatever negative energy we are storing and free that space up for what’s good. The entire practice of yoga is geared toward this action and to free of these things that bind us.
The Ksepana Mudra functions curiously like a hose. The fingers are clasped together, while the index fingers point out towards the ground, and the thumbs cross over each other. You can envision a stream of sludge or sewage pouring out of the index fingers unclogging the muck that has been stored for years, decades, or lifetimes. This mudra is to be held for 7–15 breaths with the concentration on the exhale.
It is no wonder that this mudra also stimulates elimination through the skin (sweat), lungs, and large intestines, releasing stored tensions as well for a physical and emotional clearing. It is all part of the letting go process.
With a baby on the way less then five weeks out, I find this mudra quite appropriate for my life. I am in a constant state of clearing and uncluttering my apartment, my body and mind. There has got to be an emptying out of my life to ensure space for this little one when he arrives. I don’t want my baggage to be stored in his closet so to speak.
An interesting occurrence I have recently been witnessing is my absorption of other people’s energy. This month I attended a large, 3-day music and arts festival here in San Francisco, surrounded by many people in a different situation than I was and found myself needing to have as much space as possible. Not only did I feel crowded but also like a sponge absorbing other’s energy that wasn’t always pure or aware. The Ksepana Mudra can help with draining the unconscious energy we pick up from others that we don’t want to hold onto.
Gertrud Hirschi, author of the book MUDRAS – Yoga in Your Hands, offers an affirmation to go along with the Ksepana mudra. “Spent energy in my body, mind and soul flows away from me, and I thankfully accept all things that refresh me.”
As you hold the mudra and think these positive thoughts you can envision the sludge becoming expulsed with each exhale; becoming more clear, all the while, knowing that this process of pouring out and letting go is a constant and gradual practice.
by Ella Ben-Zvi
It was a midsummer’s day, the sun was hanging high in the sky, and the train was late as usual. I was on my way to a meeting, knowing that there’s no way I’ll ever make it on time. My bag was heavy on my shoulders and there was no shade to hide in. But something unusual happened – none of that bothered me at that moment. I was not annoyed, anxious or angry at all. For some reason, for no reason, or perhaps for every reason, I was just happy.
Everyone at the train station was frustrated with the delay, sweating and suffering in the humid heat of August. One guy was shouting at the conductor, blaming him for everything that is wrong with the world. Another guy was pacing back and forth aimlessly, trying to pass the time. A mother was complaining over the phone, while her kids were complaining to her for refusing to buy them ice cream. As I was looking around me at all those people, a sudden wave of joy had washed over me. They were all surrounded by a beautiful glowing aura, and I was in love with each and every one of them. It felt as if my heart had expanded with love that was pure and unexplainable. It was a glorious feeling.
Finally, the train had arrived and we all moved on to our different destinations. The moment had passed and I was left feeling enchanted without truly understanding what just happened. But it was absolutely clear to me that I must find my way back to this place, to this exploding sense of love that had burst my heart wide open.
Have you ever had an experience like that, even just for a second? Feeling in love with everybody, without knowing who they are, without knowing their names, and without knowing if you’ll ever see them again? “Once you have drunk from the water of unconditional love, no other well can satisfy your thirst”, said Ram Dass in his book Be Love Now. This is neither romantic nor caring love, but a spiritual love that comes from the “Spiritual Heart”, as Ram Dass calls it. A kind of love that has no cause and carries no result. A kind of love that doesn’t depend on what you get in return, and doesn’t stem from something you have already received. It is unconditional because it has no because.
So how do we get there? And where is this Spiritual Love? Well, I looked everywhere… From Spain to Nicaragua, back to my home in Israel and all the way to California, and it was nowhere to be found. I had begun to accept the fact that it must have been a one time thing and I will never feel this love again, until I stumbled upon the path of Bhakti Yoga – the yoga of love and devotion.
When my friends first invited me to come with them to Kirtan, one of the main practices of Bhakti Yoga, I must admit I was really skeptical and even cynical. I remember thinking to myself that there is no way I am ever going to sing mantras for the Hindu gods in this ancient Sanskrit language… But they promised me we’ll eat at Gracias Madre before, so I had to say yes.
Kirtan or Kirtanam is one of the nine devotional activities of Bhakti. It translates to “praising through sound”, which simply means to use your voice to chant mantras, but also to use your ears and listen to the sounds. This is why Kirtan has two elements – call and response. “Music has a unique ability to convey emotion”, says Ram Dass, “and when it combines with the vibrational quality of a mantra, there is nothing like it to bypass the mind and open a direct route to the heart”.
Exactly as Ram Dass promised, the mantras, the repetition and the vibrations of the sounds had opened a pathway to my heart. And when the heart is open, love can flow freely. In spite of all the skepticism, I had finally found my way back to the place I discovered during that scorching summer’s day at the train station. A wave of joy had again filled my heart, and I fell in love with everyone around me. It was not only the singing and the songs, but the energy of the people in the room – that is what makes Kirtan so powerful. The coming together, being together, is what took me back to the train station. I was truly amazed. All my doubts were gone and I was completely hooked! Kirtan was my express train to Spiritual Love!
The simplicity of it all
Another wonderful aspect of Kirtan is its simplicity. You don’t need to know Sanskrit, don’t need to memorize the mantras and their meanings, and you don’t even need a good singing voice. All you need to do is just be there! It’s as simple as that. Bhakti is a direct route – there are no complications and it is accessible to anyone at anytime!
I was thrilled to find my non-stop ticket and started going to Kirtan as often as I could. I had not expected any more bumps in my road, but there they were. Walking the streets with a heart wide open is not easy. It exposes you not only to love, but also to the suffering of everyone around you. I found myself drifting away from love back to worry and anger. The clouds of doubt had covered my vision again, and I needed to find some answers.
So I took a turn from the path of Bhakti and hopped on another train – Jnana yoga, the yoga of knowledge and wisdom. There was nothing simple about that! Jnana yoga is complicated and intricate with its main goal finding liberation. I was ready to engage all my time and energy in order to get there! I started spending more time reading and meditating by myself. The warmth of Bhakti was replaced by the cold intellectualization of philosophical ideas. This train was slow and grueling, but I was committed to reach my destination!
My mind and ego were satisfied with this decision to achieve freedom, but my heart was quietly whispering the word love. I could barely hear it, as my mind was set on its resolution. I was focused on freeing myself from suffering, freeing myself from desires, and freeing myself from fears. But then it hit me, the inevitable question – what will I do with all this freedom?
Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj, a world renowned guru from the Jnana yoga tradition, answered this question with the claim “I am free to love!”. Nisargadatta was a liberated man, who realized himself through devotion to his guru and to the mantra given to him. He was a Jnani yogi, but he found it as a Bhakta. His love took him to freedom, and his freedom allowed him to love.
Enjoy the Ride
“The devotional path isn’t necessarily a straight line to enlightenment. There is a lot of back and forth”, explains Ram Dass, “You look around at all aspects of suffering, and you watch your heart close with judgment. Then you practice opening it again and loving this too… Your heart keeps expanding until you see the whole universe as the beloved, even the suffering”.
So how do we get there? Which path should we take? All paths of yoga will take you there, but on the Bhakti train, “there” is not the destination, but the road itself. Instead of closing down, I chose to open up and to take it all in. It might not be a smooth ride, but as Frederick Lenz said, “The path of love is its own reward”.
“Educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all.”
I never wanted to be a teacher. Whenever that profession was floated, more often than not by a well-meaning, yet clueless adult, I would roll my eyes and dismiss it. A noble profession for sure, but not for me. I was intended for something else, I wasn’t sure what, but I was certain it wasn’t teaching. You see, I thought I knew what being a teacher meant, because I had (as we all do) teachers all my life. To me, a teacher was someone who passed along content knowledge. A teacher was an institution; the person in front of the room, who lectured, gave assignments, and wore unfortunate khakis. None of this sat well with me (and still doesn’t).
Years passed, degrees earned, indecision grew, and an opportunity was offered. At the ripe age of 22 I found myself in front of 32 children, underprepared, overextended and all of a sudden being called, “teacher.” Days passed, lessons were taught, tears (mostly mine) cried, academic gains made, and all of a sudden when people asked what I did, I would answer, “I am a teacher.” And I would see that moment of recognition, when the schema of teacher would unlock, the person would nod, and say something generic, benevolent, but more often than not, dismissive.
As my time in the classroom extended, I found myself drawn to matters of the heart and alienated by demands for academic achievement. Students came into my classroom hungry, hurt, abused, neglected, worn down and failed by a system that was actively working against them. Pressure to hit marks of academic growth overshadowed the social and emotional needs I saw in my students. Every day I felt that aspects of this work were so right for me, and others so wrong.
Stressed, overworked, and at a loss I turned to yoga. Suddenly, for the first time in years, I had a teacher again. And this time it was different; this teacher did not care about the grade I got on a paper, or what school I got into. He didn’t care about MLA formatting, or a transcript. He cared about my whole being He cared about the union of body and mind and my ability to love myself. He cared about the open nature of my heart, because everything depends on an open heart. And it was on the mat that my education truly began.
And as it always does, these teachings on the mat started to bleed into all aspects of my life. I now was able to verbalize what being a teacher meant to me, and it transformed how I showed up for my students. Whenever I found myself frustrated by a limited understanding of my profession it became my goal to show, explain, and share what it meant to truly educate, helping myself and others shed fixed and limited understandings of teacher to one that included heart and mind.
The word Yoga means to yoke; to join and bring together. And that is what a true teacher does; they yoke matters of the mind to matters of the heart; they teach students to recognize, understand, label, and express their emotions so that they can communicate their needs effectively and always be in control of their actions. They teach that a healthy body sets the stage for a healthy mind. And they know that everything depends on an open heart. This type of education can be found both on the yoga mat and in classrooms across the country (and happens to be a definition of teaching that I can get down with).
If this is a definition that sits well with you as well, then share it. Talk about the teachers who have done this type of work in your life (in school or on the mat), or in the lives or your children. Support organizations that develop these types of teachers, and always hold high and celebrated space for this work.
by Alex Crow
I didn’t journey to India looking for anything in particular. I wanted to experience the land that I had already learned so much from through my practice of yoga, with an open mind and heart. Of course I came to know that what they say is true, “the guru finds you when you aren’t looking.” I can safely say that the term “guru” is generally misunderstood and misrepresented here in the West, but in India, “guru” is commonplace. In fact, there are hundreds (if not thousands) of men claiming to be gurus, exploiting their own “powers” of extreme flexibility, intense discipline, or ridiculous skill. While these men deserve recognition, it would be unwise for anyone to follow them as you would a true guru.
We all have many teachers, people that help to light our path. But, there are some things that make a guru…a guru. The great mind of Osho, speaks to the qualities of the guru:
1. “A guru is a person who has realized truth. Now he is the original source; he himself has encountered reality, he is face to face with it.” Truth can only be experienced directly. At times, we are slapped in the face with reality, at other times it sets in slowly. Regardless, it is only the truth that is worth repeating. If it doesn’t resonate as truth, it probably isn’t.
2. “A guru is not aware of his guruship; he cannot be. A guru cannot claim that he is a guru-there is no claim like that. A person can only know whether or not he has fulfilled the condition of egolessness; otherwise he cannot encounter truth.” The truth tends to purify all individual opinions, which leaves no room for the phony.
3. “The guru is not necessarily present, he is a presence. His very non-claiming, his non egoistic, non teaching attitude, and his living the truth, are the communion.” Ram Dass speaks about Mahara-ji (his guru in India) as being like a pillar of pure unconditional love. He didn’t have to say anything to express the truth that was in his heart.
It is in this that I recognize the divine beauty of the guru – while there may be authentic individuals with followings (such as Amma “the hugging saint”, and Neem Karoli Baba “Mahara-ji”), the love and honest truth that these gurus emit is a strength and power that all beings posses. So who was the guru that came to me when I wasn’t looking? The guru revealed itself to me in the glimmer of every eye that I met along my path. She was in the gaze of the old woman who blessed me with flowers in Hampi. He was in the smile of the young rickshaw driver who helped me when I was lost and a bit frightened in the streets of Mumbai. She is in the heart of every friend, and inside every word of truth. The guru winks at us in the words of mystics such as Rumi and Hafiz, and sings to us in the ancient mantras of the Vedas. And most of all perhaps, the guru reveals itself when we are at our most vulnerable, most present and exposed state. When we finally surrender the effort of understanding, and unveil the truth and knowing at the deepest layer of our being, we come to find that the guru is also within.
“I am the Self, dwelling in the heart of all beings, and the beginning, the middle, and the end of all that lives as well.”
-The Bhagavad Gita (10:20)
Guru Brahma Guru Vishnu
Guru Devo Maheshwara
Guru Sakshat Para Brahma
Tasmai Shri Gurave Namaha
Alex Crow is a teacher at Laughing Lotus Yoga Center, a space where she can share what she loves. You can catch her teaching Yin and Lotus Flow on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Alex is in unending gratitude toward all of the teachers that have helped to light her path, especially her Laughing Lotus Family, Jasmine Tarkeshi and Keith Borden. You can find out more about what Alex Crow is about at: alexcrowflies.com