Holidays are coming up and that means two things- Stress and Food! Remember to be a good yogi and not sweat the small stuff! Don't stress, everything will be ok! Just breathe and practice patience. Try not to eat too much! If you eat too much then you'll feel lazy and tired and wont want to be active on your mat, and with inactivity comes other issues! Don't be a victim to this trap!!! Practice self control (as hard as that is for 99.9% of humans) and control that fork! I believe in you! Some tips for holiday mat practice and lifestyle in general:

*Sun Salutations are your best friend! They work every muscle in the body, and if you do enough of them they will be a great sweaty workout after all that food! For extra good Karma try 108 of them in one sesh!

*Keep up the mindfulness practice. If you're surrounded by family and kids all over the place, try and find a secluded space for even 15 minutes. Meditate or walk in the park. Anything to slow down the mind. You wont regret it!

*Remember to be grateful. For everything. EVERYTHING! The good, the bad, the ugly! Its all there for a reason, so accept it all with open arms. There is always another person in the world who would gladly trade places with you! Enjoy your life and give thanx!

Om Shanti!

Moving as One

There's nothing more challenging than working with a partner. But it's a beautiful way to discover not only your potential but your partners as well. Relationships are for nurturing and trust. Partner yoga is all that magnified! If you truly want to learn to trust someone, let them hold you upside down using only their legs and feet! It becomes an intimate practice where you really have to listen to each other in order to get the full benefits of the practice. Learning to give and surrender fully. It's gorgeous!

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You're a yogi, what's with the attitude?!

As a teacher I absolutely love watching a persons transformation on the mat. A person can go from exhausted to energized in half an hour! From disturbed to peaceful, from stressed to relaxed, ect. I could go on for days with examples! This transformation for myself is what made me want to become a teacher, and as a teacher watching my students do the same, I am time and again so inspired to be the best of myself.

However, I am noticing that many keep this type of transformation solely on their mats. Once out in the world, and many times as soon as they step out of the room, the transformation takes a u-turn and the person is sent back to a blank reality. I have seen attitudes, angry looks, negative language, negative energy, and sometimes down right nastiness. I ask myself whats happening here?! These are not the yogis in training I have so affectionately placed in my heart! Why the drastic change?!

I think to myself, what can I do? As a constant student I am always looking for the answers. Im a scholar of the mind and heart and for this I need knowledge to gain wisdom. This is how I like to lead my students, inviting them to ask questions, to look deeper, to search and learn. But is this the way all teachers are? Lately what I have encountered is that many of them teach on a surface level. Meaning, they only teach about the body and nothing else. When I look deeper into this it is because many of them don't want to loose students on account of teaching too much "spirituality" in class. This to me is a very backwards way of thinking, given yoga in its true origin IS a spiritual practice! Mind you, I am a relatively new teacher, so I am not saying I am a wise and enlightened being myself. However I know that the goal of yoga is not exercise, its Samadhi (enlightenment). Teaching solely on the body means the mind can never transcend to a higher state of being. A person practicing asanas alone will never learn how live wisely and consciously. The studios might as well call them Asana classes rather than yoga classes! But maybe what is needed is a reminder that spirituality and religion are two very seperate things. This is something that brings many people confusion, and if you are one of those people, you are not alone! While religion can be a beautiful thing, it is also misrepresented and can feel quite exclusive. Spirituality is a very inclusive practice, it is of the soul after all. A bit more exploration into this and you will find that spirituality is very much based on selflessness and deep connections with yourself and those around you. While religion can do this as well, spirituality is unique in that you don't have to believe in any one thing, just a deep respect for yourself is quite enough.

But lets go back.

What would the Sages say? 

I think the answer to this is clear. If you are a person looking to get the full benefits of yoga, learn how to be a Yogi, in every sense of the word. Yoga is a lifestyle, not just a philosophy or exercise. Its living beauty, breathing wisdom, moving energy into the daily dance of life. Its being peace, not just talking about it. Its acting out of the heart, not just saying so. And if all of this is what you are trying to attain, then why the attitude?! 

Before you release negativity out into the world, the mind has to create it. It doesn't just come out of nowhere, it stems from a single thought which is fed by the ego. So if you don't want to be negative you must learn how to keep the ego in check. This is where yoga is there to help. It teaches us how to understand the ego, to look at it like a toddler! You must not hate your ego, you must manage it. Give it no attention when it tells you to give someone a piece of your mind simply because you don't like something they told you or they don't do what you want. Desire is ego, expectation is ego, wanting is ego. Putting this into terms of asana practice you can see how the body doesn't relax until the mind tells it to, until you breathe deeply so the heart rate can slow down. But if you only keep this frame of mind on the mat and not when you're stuck in traffic late for work, then you've just missed the whole thing!

So next time you're in class, ask your teacher how to manage life using yoga. She will be so happy to hear this!

And while you're at it, be nice to people, yeah?! Leave the attitude behind!

Destination: Yoga

When I began Yoga several years ago it was to get over a breakup. I looked at Yoga as a spiritual exercise that would lift my spirits and make me look good all at the same time! That wasn't an assumption I came up with all on my own. All the studios and the media, even Madonna, made it out to be this new luxurious system of exercise that would give you a great butt and make you feel nice too. Different styles of Yoga were being introduced and glorified to give you this benefit or that benefit. Supermodels and actors were all doing it, so of course it took off.

But is that truly what Yoga is? 
Doing the research I looked into this question for a long time and found answers everywhere. The most answers I found, not surprisingly at all, are in the Yoga Sutras. Often referred to as the Yogi manual for life, the sutras offer an extensive view into how a Yogi thinks, lives, and acts. And as it turns out the modern view of yoga postures, and what everyone now days thinks of as Yoga, are a very small part of what Yoga actually is. 
So what does that mean, exactly? Looking a little bit deeper you can find that the popular styles of Yoga classes are only a few years old, where as the sutras were written by Patanjali thousands of years ago in 2nd century BCE. The sutras didn't have illustrations of postures or did they have specific detailed descriptions of postures. The sutras instead are more a lifestyle and manual of conduct. So the current styles of Yoga as we see them in the studios are new creations not from the ancient sages. 
Given this is the case then one must assume Yoga in its foundation is not postures but a spiritual way of life where postures (Sanskrit term Asanas) are just a small integration to the entire system. In Anne Cushman's Yoga Journal article New Light On Yoga, she gives a very good depiction of what Yoga is today as opposed to what it was originally. 
 
So what to make of these styles of Yoga we see on studio schedules? The fact is we live in a society that has an obsession with the body. Women especially are always on diets, always at the gym, always shopping for clothes that show off the figure. It's no surprise that the postures which were practiced by the ancient Yogis have been magnified in recent years as solely Yoga and to be practiced in heated rooms with as many people as possible. The styles of Yoga we see are merely different ways of putting the postures together to create a desirable sequence for a desired effect- energy, flexibility, strength, endurance, stress management, weight loss, ect.
 
One question I find myself asking is if this is a bad thing? After all whatever it is that brings people to Yoga at least gets them to a better mental state than they were before, at least they aren't on the couch watching MTV! And that is true, to an extent. Being active is better for a society than inactive people who are depressed and overweight. But when we talk about mental states we cannot stop there. Because what happens is that the person who doesn't move beyond the obsession with their looks and body never actually practices Yoga and misses the point entirely. It then becomes a danger to that persons well being to where the Yoga industry as we know it becomes an unhealthy culture and does an injustice to those who practice it. In the book Lectures on Yoga and Vedanta by Swami Sivananda he states "In the whirlpool of fleeting sensual pleasures you have forgotten the purpose of life and its goal. You live more for the body than for the soul." Teachers and students alike travel down a journey together of fanaticism and egoistic filled tendencies and practices, none of which elevate our society to any higher levels of being. So while getting off the couch is a step, it shouldn't be the last.
To get the entire benefits of Yoga, the yoga of the masters and sages, you must first practice the proper mental exercises which consist of meditation, positive thinking, eating properly, breathing properly, all in conjunction with the postures they teach in studios, books, and DVD's. if these are not practiced together, postures become dangerous and exhausting, they end up doing much more harm than good. People become competitive, angry, frustrated, lethargic, and irritable. They go to work and hate being there, they get mad during traffic jams, yell at their kids and spouse, abuse their pets, drink and curse, and mostly if not most tragic they abuse themselves. 
 
If Yoga teachers do not teach these principles during classes or workshops, then how will the culture transform back to its origins? This is the biggest question of all, which will take the most time and patience. Like any other fad in history, the entire system must come to its boiling point before it can transform itself for the better or be destroyed completely. This billion dollar industry which is a product of very passionate people striving to make some sort of difference in society, if not their own wallets, can become what the sages always knew it to be. There's nothing wrong with going to a class and learning new ways to place your legs over your head. Nothing wrong with going to a heated class and sweating your little yogi toes off on your very slippery mat. However all these classes must be accompanied with meditation, positive thinking, learning to eat properly and at what times of the day, dealing with anger and frustration properly, amongst other things. This is the only way Yoga will move beyond a fad and into True healing for an enlightened society.