Posts Tagged ‘yoga’

Lotus Love Blog

The Yoga of the Breath by Jasmine Tarkeshi

Posted on: April 12th, 2017 No Comments

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!

Breathe. Let go. And remind yourself that this very moment is the only one you know you have for sure.
Oprah Winfrey


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 were 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 were fully relaxed and present, our breath becomes slower and deeper. This triggers our restand-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, were 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. 

Breathing Techniques

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 youre 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 youre 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/


How Pranayama Cured My Fear of Heights by Robin Wilner

Posted on: April 5th, 2017 No Comments

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

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

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

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

Other benefits of Ujjayi include:

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

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

Great times to practice Ujjayi:

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

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

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


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.


Restorative Healing for Vata Season

Posted on: November 23rd, 2016 No Comments

by Genevieve McClendon

genevieve

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

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

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

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

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

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

savasana-1

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

savasana-2

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

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


The Mythology and Yoga of Harry Potter

Posted on: October 12th, 2016 1 Comment

by Erica Martin

erica

“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.


Yoga is the Uniting of Consciousness in the Heart

Posted on: September 14th, 2016 No Comments

by Alex Crow

alex-yoga

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!.


The Divine Mother and all her forms

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

astrud meditation green heart

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jai Ma…
Astrud

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


Mamaste! Bowing to the Divine Mother, Within us and all around us

Posted on: June 29th, 2016 No Comments

by Jasmine Tarkeshi

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As soon as I met my daughter I joined my hands in prayer at my heart and with tears streaming from my eyes I said “Namaste”. Meaning the light in my bows to the light in you. A reflection of myself I had never seen before! I did this ritual all through the first crazy, beautiful, life-changing year of motherhood. Then one day, she said it back! But instead of Namaste she said “Mamaste” with a big goofy toothless grin. I kept correcting her, but nope, it was MAMAste. Although, surrounded by the love of her devoted father, grandma and auntie and community of adoring family, “Mama” was the world she came from. And through her the “ Mama” within me was born! A patience I never knew I had, the most intoxicating Love that cannot be described, protection and fierceness of a tigress, caring and nurturance I never knew myself. This has extended to my relationship with the world.

I recently became active on instagram, vowing to participate in social media with a lot of personal resistance. So many of my Yogic guides kept reminding me of the importance of staying connected to my students and sharing my practice with them even if it was through an iPhone. So I set out to document my yoga practice and share what inspires me, but if you check me out on IG, there are only pictures of my daughter, Indigo! Perhaps it’s because I don’t know how to take pictures of myself, but she IS my Yoga! Through her I feel connected to the universe, Mother Earth and all beings. Through her eyes I see oneness, the miracle in all experience, joy for no reason, complete emotional expression and bravery and courage that inspires. I am tested, challenged, on a daily – moment to moment basis to live my yoga to the fullest, since I am her world from which she learns. And WOW, am I tested! THIS is my Tapas (purifying practice) like I have never known. My Motherhood is messy and imperfect; I lose it, I do things I said I would never do – like have her watch a video while I get work done, order take away a few times a week instead of my vision of making every organic meal in a handstand 🙂 But she has no judgment; she still looks at me and says “ Mamaste” even as I beat myself up. In Bhakti Yoga, the path of devotion, this is known as Pusthi Marg or path of the Divine Mother where we look at the world through the eyes of a devoted mother. Like the Buddha said, “Like a caring mother holding and guarding the life of her only child, so with a boundless heart of loving kindness, hold yourself and all beings as your beloved children.”

In Yoga Philosophy and the great Guru Mantra, our first guru is our mother—Guru Brahma our creation/creator is guru. We all have different relationships with our mother or caretaker. We have fought with, disagreed and misunderstood our parents or guardians from childhood on, some which may not yet be resolved to this day. Teachers come to us in many ways. This first teacher was our mother by birth as the Earth is our mother by creation. To appreciate the power of creation is to see all life as valuable, ALL human life, as well also the life force that flows through all living beings.

The love of a mother is unconditional. She knows that through our existence we cause harm to her—yet she continues to nourish and support us with all her heart. Each year thousands of forests are being cut down, oceans, rivers and lakes are polluted and giant holes are mined into Her. But it is not only the Earth herself who is exploited; it is also her human and nonhuman inhabitants.

The Earth itself is referred to as the Mother, Divine Mother or Ma. She is the sustaining and creative force providing food and water for the survival of all the beings that inhabit her. In the west, we endearingly refer to our beautiful blue/green planet as “Mother Earth” as a way to express our interconnectedness with all beings. Our own relationship with the Divine Mother may be very similar to the relationship with our own mother! Sometimes we fight; sometimes we ignore her and definitely do things that we know will upset her! But through both our birth mother and the Divine Mother we are undeniably linked to the source of all life.

In Hindu mysticism, the earth is always referred to as a very patient mother. She has to bear with all our misdeeds. We are all her children. Perhaps there is no greater sorrow for a mother than to see her children quarreling among themselves. In my village, two brothers quarreling or two sisters quarreling will be taken up as a village issue, since this is considered to be something that should never happen; it’s no longer a domestic issue, but a community one. “The word for sibling in Sanskrit is sahodara. Saha, “together,” udara, “womb”: they come from the same womb. They have lived in the same womb. So they should always help each other. Similarly, we all come from the womb of Mother Earth. We are all brothers and sisters.

Just as a human mother is in agony when she sees her children fighting against one another, so mother earth is in agony when she sees nation fighting against nation, race against race. Through the enthusiastic practice of meditation and the allied disciplines, each of us can become instruments of peace and harmony, drawing upon our deepest resources to prevent nation from rising up against nation, race against race, and brother against brother.

Peace is not created by governments and fighting forces. Peace is made by little people like you and me getting to know other people, other countries, other races.– Eknath Easwaran

Our personal relationship with the Divine Mother Earth lives within us in the Muladhara Chakra. Chakras are energy centers within the body that correspond with the elements as well as the endocrine system and physical, emotional and mental systems. “Mula” means root and “adhara” means to support. Located within the perineum at the base of the spine from the tailbone through the legs and feet, it connects us with Mother Earth as well as our own roots, our maternal mother or support when we were children, as well as our ancestors. It is within this most important Chakra that our early childhood experiences are recorded like magnetic tape and influence all we do including our feelings of survival, belonging, and guardedness and whether or not our basic needs were met. When Muladhara is in balance, we feel strong and confident; we can stand up on your own two feet and take care of ourselves and feel connected to the earth and others, grounded and present. We are trusting in others and feel a part of nature, a family, tribe or community. We feel safe in the home of our bodies and create a safe environment to live. We care for and nurture others and ourselves and stand up for others and ourselves. We take care of the planet and see the Divine in a all beings and the sacred in everything. We care as much about our own survival as the survival of others.

This is the philosophy behind most shamanic and indigenous healing. That our own well-being is interconnected with the whole.

When it is not in balance we feel like victims and blame everyone and everything for our misfortunes or are over materialistic, hoard and disrespect others and the planet. When it is blocked or out of balance, we can become needy, have low self-esteem, or have self-destructive behaviors.

Here are a few ways to become aware and honor the Divine Mother, our own, Mamma Earth and the Divine Mother within! Jai MA!

1)Create an ancestral altar: Place pictures of your parents, family and ancestors, artifacts from their countries of origin to connect to your roots and feel the support of this deep connection as well of the pain that may be associated with it. We cannot change our pasts but we can vow not to be lineage barriers of past traumas by healing the wounds of the past through actions and sadhanas (spiritual practices) we can take today.

2)Practice Yoga and care for your physical body through diet and exercise. Cook your own food as much as possible, eating organic food from local farmers markets. Move toward a vegetarian diet, which lessens the suffering of other beings and damage to our mother planet. This self-care and discipline wakes up the Divine Mother within as a doorway to truly care for all beings. Nourish your self with healthy habits and move away from toxic ones. Surround your self with a “tribe” of like-minded but diverse people to create community and healthy family, work environment and relationships based on mutual respect. Look for ways you can use your privilege to be of service to others less privileged due to the color of their skin, sexual orientation or class.

3) Connect to Mother Earth. This does not have to be only through spending time in nature, although, get out and spend time in nature! Get your feet in the dirt and your body in the water and the sunshine, smell the flowers and taste the fruits, meditate on the moon and stars. At the same time, Our Urban/ Concrete jungle is just as sacred along with beings that inhabit it. Have plants and animals in your home. Walk the city streets to connect with the world around you, yes, the muddy, mucky mud and try to see the beauty and divinity that surrounds you within it. Meet your brothers and sisters from different cultural backgrounds; go to cultural events with music, dance and food celebrating diversity. Do selfless service and volunteer. Oneness does NOT mean we are the same in every way, the true nature of oneness to celebrate the uniqueness in every being by acknowledging equality and non-duality and honoring the sacred within every being.

With my hands at my heart in prayer, “Mamaste”!

This beautiful Mantra honors the Divine Mother in all her forms and sends me into an ecstatic state!

Ya Devi Sarva Bhutesu, Matri Rupena Sansthita
Namastasyai Namastasyai Namastasyai Namo Namah
(repeat after each line)

Ya Devi Sarva Bhutesu, Buddhi Rupena Sansthita
Ya Devi Sarva Bhutesu, Shakti Rupena Sansthita
Ya Devi Sarva Bhutesu, Nidra Rupena Sansthita
Ya Devi Sarva Bhutesu, Chaiya Rupena Sansthita
Ya Devi Sarva Bhutesu, Daya Rupena Sansthita
Ya Devi Sarva Bhutesu, Kanti Rupena Sansthita
Ya Devi Sarva Bhutesu, Bhranti Rupena Sansthita
Ya Devi Sarva Bhutesu, Shantih Rupena Sansthita
Ya Devi Sarva Bhutesu, Tushti Rupena Sansthita
Ya Devi Sarva Bhutesu, Lakshmi Rupena Sansthita
Namastasyai Namastasyai Namastasyai Namo Namah

Translation:
Salutations to the Goddess who resides in all beings in the form of:
{wisdom, light, abundance etc}
To that constant, eternal Presence, I gratefully offer myself again and again.
The feminine energy or nature resides in all beings (RupenaSansthita). As the flow of life, she is expressed in us as wisdom (Buddhi), sleep (Nidra), the shadow (Chaiya), misunderstanding (Bhranti), peace (Shantih), contentment (Tushti), abundance (Lakshmi), Matri (Mother), Daya (Compassion, Kanti (Radiance) and Shakti (primal Source Energy).

resources : Doug Whitiker, Eknath Eashwaran, Amma’s Mantras

#Mamaste #DivineMother #JaiMa #MuladharaChakra #Yoga #GuruBrahma #LoveIsMyReligion #LaughingLotusSF #JasmineTarkeshi

Jasmine Tarkeshi is Co-Founder of Laughing Lotus Yoga Centers in NYC and SF. She is a humble student of the ancient and transformative teachings of Yoga and has been sharing the passion for the practices for 20 years. She comes from and bows to her mystical heritage of Muslim, Jewish, Buddhist, Yogic backgrounds that all merge into her love for the performing arts and healing traditions of the world. She is a dedicated activist through her life and practice and beloved foundation Love Saves the Day and teaches nationally, internationally and daily at her home studio at Laughing Lotus Yoga Center in San Francisco with the belief in everyones ability to awaken and heal to be true agents for change as intstruments of Love.


Nada Yoga

Posted on: June 15th, 2016 No Comments

by Astrud Castillo

astrud meditation green heart

NAMAH SIVAYA GURAVE NADA-BINDU KALATMANE, NIRANJANA-PADAM YATI NITYAM YATRA PARAYANAH

Salutations to the Nadam, which is the inner guide and the inner life the dispenser of happiness to all! It is the inner Guru appearing as Nada, the inner music, obtains the highest bliss.
-Hatha Yoga Pradipika IV.1

Translated by Shri Brahmananda Saravati
The Nadam is the inner current, light
and the dance that occurs, in us as us.
It urges us to listen with the ear of the heart!

I recently returned from Hawaii and Big Sur, where the purest form of sound was to be heard both inside and out—the sound of the ocean, the birds and the wind. I fell asleep each night to what at first was the sound of the tide rolling in and out, and at some point, there was no separation—there was no beginning, no end-just the sonorous sound of the water itself, which evolved into the eternal hum or sound of Om.

I also recognized this powerful sound inside the sound while I was observing large birds flying in unison over me, flapping their extremely large wings.The sound was filled with effort and had a rhythm all of its own. Then they would rest their wings in mid air, and you would only hear the power-FULL silence of the wind, the breath inside the breath. The reason the silence is so powerful and healing is it creates a vibration inside of us that then reverberates through each one of our cells—awakens consciousness and dissolves and breaks down any obstructions in the body and mind.
Nada Yoga reminds us that when “Entertainment” leads to “Innertainment,” music then becomes Yoga. The most powerful moment in Nada Yoga is when the music stops!

There is said to be two sources of sound. The AAHATA NADA (struck sound, that which is played using instruments) and the ANAATHA NADA, which is the uncreated sound—the sound of silence, the cosmos it is the sound of the void.
The sound of the Cosmos dissolves into the seed sound of all sounds, the sound of OM.

AUM is broken down into simple terms for us.
A-manifestation, creation and is symbolized by the SUN and waking consciousness.
U-growth, preservation,and the MOON is represented here as the dream state.
M-completion, destruction, perfection it is the sphere of FIRE as well as deep sleep.

You are encouraged to explore the sounds of nature—take a walk in the forest, by the ocean and listen to the sound inside the sound. Pick up an instrument and play or turn on some good dance music and explore the movement that naturally happens. Then pause and feel the vibrations.

Find some Kirtan in your community and chant the names of gods and goddesses and bathe in the sacred sounds and their power—before during and after the music.

“Enjoy the Silence” -Depeche Mode
“Great is the intoxication of money, of physical power and strength, of the relative world. But far greater still is the infinite bliss of Anahata Nadam which, takes one beyond time and space and makes all temporal intoxications fade away, useless.”
-Kabir

Om……

originally posted June 25,2014


The Music of the Soul

Posted on: June 8th, 2016 No Comments

by Robin Wilner

RW-dancer pose

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

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

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

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

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

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