Friday, June 28, 2013

Inspiration from TKV Desikahar by Janná Giles, RYT

As a yoga instructor, I see myself as a perpetual yoga student of this complex science. Along with attending teacher trainings, and assisting my teacher, Shiva Rea, I have a collection of yoga, ayurveda, tantra, and meditation books that help me stay inspired. One book that I love recommending to other yoga instructors and students alike is "The Heart of Yoga" by T.K.V. Desikachar. 

In this thoroughly enjoyable book, I was delighted in how Mr. Desikachar, the son of the great Sri T. Krishnamacharya, wrote. The language he uses to explain the not-so-broad-strokes of yoga philosophy and practice could be considered digestible for any person, regardless of yoga level. His down to earth way of writing seems to flow with ease and makes what he shares very accessible, and inspired me to continue reading. 

I appreciate Mr. Desikachar's references to Patanjali's Yoga Sutra, and other great texts, throughout the book. The text is rich with commentary found throughout the entire book, along with Krishnamacharya's outlook. I also found it helpful having the written texts available with transliterations, along with Mr. Desikachar's commentary in the back of the book. 

Following are some points I instantly resonated with when I first read his book:

- I teach Prana Flow®: Energetic Vinyasa, cultivated by Shiva Rea in my private lessons and public group classes. I also teach private group classes in workplace environments where some tend to think that Prana Flow may be too creative, spiritually based, or heart-felt to be appropriate for the workplace. One passage from this book that I've been excited to share with my students is the additional meaning of yoga; "to attain what was previously unattainable." Supporting the idea of expansion in all places, one simple application of this is offering the vinyasa kramas (sequences/stages) in the asana practice to open and strengthen my student's physical bodies more than some ever had thought possible. But even more applicable, I always introduced drawing focus to the breath to help quiet their citta vritti (whiling mind) during the opening movement meditation and throughout the class, chanting the pranava (OM) to help them feel themselves as vibratory beings, creating time for a sankalpa (dedication) at the start of class, circling back to reflect on that sankalpa at the end of class, and leading them through short meditations. As a result, I find most of my student come to show more interest beyond the physical benefits of yoga asana, as they gain an appreciation for nurturing their minds and spirits in expansion through additional spiritual studies. 

- Another point that has been especially helpful in both classes and my own personal life is an additional explanation of yoga. To paraphrase, "yoga is accessible to every human being, as states or qualities of the mind are universal to us all." This helps reinforce my own belief and has helped me relate and communicate with potential students who may have a dissimilar backgrounds to my own. For instance, conservative-Christians that have struggled relating to the concepts within yoga in my workplace classes, have been able to focus on those common "mind qualities" and use that as a basis on which to relate. By finding common ground based on universal truths that we can all agree upon, they have been both educated and relieved with the intention and purpose this wonderful practice can provide to us all. 

- Challenging my students to focus on the quality of their breath, as Mr. Desikachar explains, has also been helpful in teaching both me and my students how to know if we are in the correct vinyasa krama (stage or sequence) for our physical bodies that day. Noticing if we are able to maintain a consistent length of inhalation and exhalation throughout our practices, or if we need to speed up breath cycles in order to be in a higher vinyasa karma, has been invaluable. Sharing that each asana, and the movements between asanas, should be led by the breath and should feel balanced in the qualities of sthira (effort) and sukha (ease) also has me and my students connect with the correct modifications or variations for our bodies that day. 

Above are only a small sampling of what I took away from this wonderful book. This text has left me with a very sweet love and respect for T.K.V. Desikachar and I hope you'll enjoy this book as much as I have.

Janna Giles
300RYT & Certified Prana Flow Instructor | Om Voyage Yoga & Retreats Owner

Thursday, May 30, 2013

When Enough is Enough by Richelle Morgan

Each time I step onto my mat, it's a brand new experience. Some days I feel like a rock star. Strong, fluid, graceful, on top of the world. Other days… meh, not so much. I'm awkward, tired, unfocused and completely out of tune with my body, breath and sprit. We all have those days. Where we want to crawl back under the covers and play hooky from life, but it's on those days that experience has taught me that I need my practice the most. That the mere act of stepping onto my mat would help shift my perspective. And that I didn't have to be a rock star everyday… that I was enough and exactly where I needed to be.

But I didn't always feel this way. I used to step onto my mat as though I were competing… I needed to be stronger, push harder, dig deeper. I didn't listen. I wasn't connected to what was going on with my body, my soul, my heart. Fast forward to injury, frustration and self-depreciation. I now know that the only competition I was in was with myself and my ego. In those early days of my practice, I had heard that what happens on your mat reflects what's going on off your mat. In that time I was overworked, stressed, scattered and dulled by my life and I scoffed at that idea. The physicality of my practice was creating a blanket for me to hide under and my ego was leading the way.
And then one day, every changed. It started out as a simple home practice. A typical morning following an online podcast. Moving, breathing, flowing and then I was asked to pause in warrior ll. To settle in and get cozy, as I like to say. Alignment cues were given. And then a bombshell was dropped. Five minutes. We were going to stay here for five minutes and notice what comes up. My monkey mind started to chatter, loud and clear. The heat in my front thigh began to simmer. And every excuse I could think of was surfacing to tempt me out of the pose. 

But I choose to stay in the pose. I choose to notice, to pay attention to what was happening on a deeper level. To really and truly listen to what my body was telling me. I settled into my breath, relaxed my shoulders and turned the volume down on the conversation happening inside me. And in those brief five minutes, it happened. Yoga happened. A lightbulb went off and as I allowed myself to just be, I became more aware. I realized that I was allowing my habits off my mat to make their way onto my mat. That my excuses, my tendency to push too much, to scatter myself too thin, to judge and criticize myself for not doing, giving, being enough had made it's way into my practice. And it was up to me to flush it out. 

That simple practice of staying present in the pose, of paying attention to what my body is capable of changed my practice. I have always taught self-love, self-appreciation and believing in your inner strength and nourishing it so that it grows, but in those days I was not teaching myself those same beliefs. Once I started to pay attention, to really connect to the details of my asanas, to develop quality over quantity, to give myself credit each and every time I made the choice to step onto my mat, a shift happened. Clarity was born and what I was creating on my mat started to mirror itself in my daily life. I became more grounded, focused, stronger and engaged. I opened my heart to let life and all it's messy splendour find its way in. It wasn't easy and it meant facing the darker sides of me. But I knew that if I dug in and continued on this path, after the storms cleared, I would be able to face life's challenges with a quiet strength and the knowledge that I was enough. 

So the next time you step onto your mat, take notice. Take a moment and just be. And then as you start to move, pay attention to the habits you've created. To the voice that rises when things get uncomfortable. Stay in a pose a little longer and focus on the quality of your movement. And when that little voice comes up that self-judges, criticizes or tempts you out of the pose, turn the volume down with love, a soft smile and quiet strength. And know that you are exactly where you need to be.

Richelle Morgan
Certified Yoga Teacher, Yogi, Wanderluster, Bliss Warrior | Tulum, Mexico 
Click here to learn more about Richelle.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Science of Om by Jackie Elliott

I remember when I first came to yoga I was very skeptical yet intrigued by the practice of Om-ing.

On one hand it immediately reminded me of when my sister and I as kids would try to match pitch by making the sounds ah, ooh or mm. We would be entranced by the sounds wavering off one another and had our intent focus trying to perfectly match the sounds with even breath.

On the other hand it annoyed me going to class and not understand what om-ing was all about. I didn't feel comfortable participating in something I didn't understand.

So for those of you who may be in the same boat of intrigue and wonder here is a scientific description of what Om is/does.

OM is made up of three Sanskrit letters, aa, au and ma which, when combined together, make the sound Aum or Om.

Einstein's famous equation E=mc2 saying (M)matter is a expression of (E)energy, noting every atom and molecule throughout the universe is formed out of energy vibration. States of energy vibration are on a microcosmic and macrocosmic level. So establishing that everything in the universe has a literal frequency or vibration lets talk about what the vibration of om is and does-

A article recently written my Sam Saunders states this " The sound Om, when chanted, vibrates at the frequency of 432 Hz, which is the same vibrational frequency found throughout everything in nature.

As such AUM is the basic sound of the universe; so by chanting it we are symbolically and physically tuning in to that sound and acknowledging our connection to all other living beings, nature and the universe."

Here is a quote from a scientific study of time frequency analysis graphs on the effects of chanting OM-"We have concluded that OM chanting affords steadiness in the mind scientifically. This provides calm and peace too to the stressed mind. The mental stress of a person gets reduced while the mind reaches steadiness. As a final point, we have confirmed scientifically the accomplishments of OM chanting in reducing the stress from the human mind." 

So there you have it- simply put science says OM is a uniting sound or vibration often used in chanting to acknowledge unity in turn calming and bringing balance to the body and mind. 


Jackie Elliott | Certified Yoga Teacher, ERYT-500 

Friday, March 1, 2013

Beautiful Injury What a Concept by Cypresse Emery

I teach a fun and fast paced power flow class every Saturday morning. There isn't anything we won't try, all with the emphasis on the balance between stability and freedom. This morning, student after student came in with numerous injuries: shoulders, knees, necks, hamstrings, low backs. Being a Yoga therapist, I had a mini freak out in my head as all these injuries layered in on top of one another. I questioned just how this practice might pan out with so many diverse concerns. My intention in teaching is that each practitioner walk out feeling better than they did when they came in or they have learned something about themselves, their practice or their patterns. Maybe both. I was in for it and had a fair amount of tension in my own body that brought me to reckon with the opportunity of such a class.

Then, as often the angel of Yoga does, I was reminded that injuries aren't bad. Injuries are inherently imbalances that teach us where and what is imbalanced. Usually, they do this in the form of alarming pain, which we naturally resist and want to avoid. Suddenly, the fear of facilitating a class that addressed numerous injuries transformed into the opportunity to embrace all the injuries as teachers, friends even. I welcomed the students to see where in their bodies, breaths or minds, they were struggling or facing some sort of pain. Like a good friend, sit with the pain for a bit and see what it wants to say. The injury's job isn't to hurt us; it is to alert us to what needs to change. Upon working with many of the conditions present in the practitioners, under the scope of "Injury as Teacher," a beautiful thing happened. The uncertainty and fear of the injuries were softened. People who had come in with pain on their faces had started to smile, shine even. The pain, while still present perhaps, was not a threat. It was a friend who cared so much about our well being that it asked us to pay attention and return to balance. It asked us to be kind to ourselves. It was asking us to embrace everything at our disposal as a way to return to wholeness, including our pains and that which we would push away. Beautiful injury - what a concept.
And, it worked because we worked it. The attitudes of trepidation were shifted to attitudes of friendship. There is, after all, nothing to fear. When we can replace our reactions of dread with choices to connect, we find our lives much better for it. As Rilke said: "Perhaps all the dragons in our lives are princesses who are only waiting to see us act, just once, with beauty and courage. Perhaps everything that frightens us is, in its deepest essence, something helpless that wants our love." Now, I like that, and I hope that that the students who courageously stepped up to sit with their injuries today found they walked out feeling better for having done so. If nothing else, perhaps some of us learned we could all stand to shift the paradigm. 

Cypresse Emery | Certified Yoga Teacher, ERYT-500 

Monday, February 4, 2013

Yoga: what is it good for? by Sofiya Hyder

The wisdom of the hatha yogi is not only in balancing the solar and lunar currents in the body, but also in uniting embodiment and self realization.  The senses and desires of a human being can distort reality by exaggeration and egoic projection or be viewed as circuits of creative energy whose play is perpetual, purposeful, and limitless.  Similarly, our sexuality, spirituality, and personality can become oppressive and one dimensional or be tuned to reflect our unique and radiant connection to our higher self & full potential.  Through the practice, we gradually shed layers of old conditioning and began to open up to different states of consciousness, deeper forms of presence, and an array of physical expressions.  The question that burns for me, however, is whether the difference between real transformation and a fleeting experience or even a fantastic act is not to found in the support of a community that is open, inclusive, and rooted in love….?

The source of this love can be called mystery, imagined as a god or a goddess, or conceived of as the “unborn.”  It is the very flow of life and timeless as a sacred geometry of art and worship.  It is felt as inner peace.  We live in a strange culture, one where our wounded relationship to power makes a taboo of intimacy and a mockery of intuition, and our bodies are the first to register this disharmony through aches and pains and dis-ease.  The love that is needed is a rite of passage, a coming of age, and a trust that binds ritual and initiation to devotion and service.

As we stretch our hamstrings and maximize our lung capacity, I would like to remind us that there is also a way in which our “workout” can be a prayer, an investigation, and an offering.  By understanding our minds, our relationship to movement, and the structure of our drives, we create a ripple effect that has a positive impact on the whole world without the high cost and risk of dogma.  By accepting the call to bring mind body & soul together, whether on or off the mat, we express our greatest strength and vulnerability – the ability to touch and be touched. 

Sofyia Hyder | Yogi & Spiritual Poet | Carrollton, TX |
Click here to learn more about Sofiya Hyder

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Pause by Trisha DeCesare

Have you ever been in Savasana(Corpse Pose)?  If so, you know that blissful state of total relaxation that occurs at the end of our asana practice.  It’s the time we allow our bodies to settle into our mats and enjoy the pure pleasure of peace.

At the end of Savasana, the teacher instructs us to deepen our breath and to begin to wiggle fingers and toes, hug our knees into our chest and roll to the right side.  Then what??  Do we ever truly pause in that moment? 

Too often that important pause is hurried and sometimes even forgotten.  After all, it’s only a pause and we have more important things to do, right?  Wrong!  We know that Yoga is more than just going from one pose to the next.  It’s about breathing and moving through the poses.  It’s about noticing the moments between effort and ease.  And that’s exactly what the pause is all about.

To me, that pause is the essence of yoga.  It’s the perfect time to feel the stillness and peacefulness you’ve cultivated in your practice.  Your body is heavy and supported by the earth beneath you, your breath has slowed down and your mind chatter has quieted.  Ah, the pleasure of that moment, if only we take the moment to recognize it.

Next time, as you roll to your right side, play with the idea of staying in the fetal position for 8-10 full breath cycles before you push yourself up to a seated position.  Feel the pure joy of your practice at that very moment.

As a long time student, I cherish that moment and stay there as long as I need, even if the entire class already moved on to their OM’s.  As a teacher, I emphasize the importance of that moment with my students.  There is nothing like watching thirty people rolled into a fetal position, body heavy, breath soft, completely still.  The peaceful expression on their faces once they come to a seated position is priceless.  It’s the true meaning of “letting go”. It’s a time of transition, from your practice to the “real world”.  My hope is that this pause allows each of us the opportunity to draw upon our sense of well-being so that we can carry it into our daily lives.

What if you don’t practice yoga or didn’t have time to roll out your mat today?   There is still room for the practice of pausing.  Right now, close your eyes and take five deep inhales and exhales.  Feel the pause between the breaths.  When you’re ready, slowly blink your eyes open and notice how you feel. 

We all live such a fast paced life and rarely take the time to stop, even if it is for only 30 seconds.  But the truth is that no matter how busy our schedules, we can all find 30 seconds if we really want to.  It could be when we wake up, standing in line at the grocery store or when we’re picking up our kids from soccer practice.  We all deserve this time to re-connect back to what is really important, our health and well-being.


Trisha DeCesare | Certified Yoga Teacher, RYT-500 |  Valley Village, CA

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

When is Enough Enough?? by Amy Bishop

Recently, I went to a play group with some wonderful Mommy friends of mine. There are probably about a dozen of us with young toddlers who get together from time to time. The babies play, the mommies catch up. I don’t always get to go because of work, but when I do it’s a great time. This morning, as some of the moms, who are primarily stay-at-home moms, were talking about the classes their wee ones take, I felt a little sting. As a single working mom, I don’t get to take my son to classes, nor can I afford for him to be in several types of classes each week. I had a moment of feeling like I just wasn’t doing enough for my son. I wasn’t there enough. I wasn’t able to provide well enough. I wasn’t giving enough.

I then went to a client of mine who was telling me about two upcoming trips she has planned. One is a break by herself, and one is with her family. They sound like incredible trips, filled with activities and pampering, and I am so filled with travel bug envy, I can’t stand it. Once again, I had the feeling that I wasn’t able to provide enough. I felt like I couldn’t even give myself a much-needed break. I would love to go traveling, but work and bills leave me home meeting basic needs for my little one and myself. I felt like I wasn’t doing enough, or I’d be able to go away as well.

After my client, I headed over to the yoga studio where I teach. I overheard some of my colleagues discussing upcoming workshops they will be taking. One was talking about a retreat she was going on. They were all enthusiastic about their continued training and growth. Again, because of the demands of being a single working mom with limited time and funds, I found myself feeling like not enough. I’m not a good enough teacher because I’m not taking these workshops. I’m not a good enough teacher because I haven’t been on nor led any retreats. I’m not enough.

Wow. What a message my sneaky little ego was trying to deliver! After having this consistent feeling of not being enough in any area of my life, I decided I needed to shift my focus. I asked myself a few questions: first of all, “not enough” according to whom? To whom am I answering?! Second, are my son’s and my own needs being met? NEEDS. Not wants. Not would-be-nice’s. Third, WHY am I being so hard on myself, and is it possible to look at my life from someone else’s perspective… someone who might be thinking “Wow, look how together she is! Look at everything she manages! Amazing!”

Yes, we can be much harder on ourselves than we ever would be on anyone else. But who does that serve? Does that make me a better mom, a better friend, and better teacher? Can I find the compassion that I give lovingly to everyone else and turn it inward? What are the ways I can slay this not-enough monster?

The first is by recognition and gratitude. I can look at all of the positives in my life, and I can take the time to say thank you. I can be appreciative of the “little things”, you know, like my excellent health and my healthy and wonderful son! Second, I can stop comparing myself, and I can stop assuming that everyone else has it all. No one knows what is really going on for another person, and more importantly, it has NOTHING to do with me! And finally, I can know that I am doing my best in every single moment and can choose to feel fulfilled.

If you ever experience moments where you feel you’re not enough, try this:
Sit comfortably and take a few deep breaths. Begin to feel grateful for your health exactly as it is. Feel grateful for the health of those who surround and support you each day. Think of at least five things in your life for which you are grateful. Then say this mantra either out loud or to yourself:

I have enough. I do enough. I am enough.
Repeat. And repeat. And repeat.

I have enough.
I do enough.
I am enough.   

Because you are. 

Amy Bishop | Certified Yoga Teacher E-RYT500, Personal Trainer | New York, NY 

Click here to learn more about Amy.