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  • 09/20/2023 8:41 PM | Anonymous

    I am quite delighted to present my workshop, Empowered Embodiment from the Earth to Ether, and travel that long distance together with you on uncharted pathways. I have no thoughts or intentions of teaching any of you, my peers, anything new. We’ve all been practicing for a while and exposed to all forms of yoga through many different formats.

    What I am planning to do is to share the teachings, inspirations, and intuitions that have arisen on my journey, grounded on Earth, and how my yoga practice encourages the physical form with its limitations to reach for the light in the Ether.

    The age old questions “Why am I here? and “Where am I going?” often provoke deep thought when on the path to the higher energies. As a long-term teacher of dance, movement arts, and yoga, my curiosity about these questions is continually arising, leading to awareness on many levels that come from the knowledge contained within the moving body. These are but minute segments of many different aspects in the various depths within that open us to the answers we seek, even as we learn the body’s language, when the technique of communicating is in the form of sensation (pain) or unease (dis-ease).

    I hope to lead the practice to the deepest places within to discover the highest sources of consciousness and the rich wisdom we possess, enabling us to grow and reach for the light with trusted support from our very own being.

    The practice of yoga, during this workshop will remind us to seek balance,
    not only physically, but to explore the techniques of inner balancing to help us through the challenges of our lives, at any time. The asanas (Tadasana, the Warriors, and Vrksasana) and other standing poses help us to ground, restore, and reclaim strength to empower our physical and emotional sense of well-being
    to “stand on our own two feet” and to “stand our ground” with self-trust, dignity, and integrity.
    The seated poses will encourage focus on our upper body and breath as we stretch and expand to reset our body’s connection with the self via the nervous system and the brain.

    I will also attempt to travel back to the earliest of times when the ancient wise ones, attuned to the universal wisdom, began to extrapolate the information that influenced our current practice of yoga, and the understanding of our “instrument and vehicle” and what we can do to keep running smoothly.

    There will be discussions, techniques, and practicalities to connect with the kinetic power we have to deepen the development and process of asana. Bring any props that you like to use for seated and standing postures…and questions you might have.

    It is the long and arduous journey of a seeker, and our practice has proven again and again that it provides the opportunity to explore self-trust, truth, and transformation that leads to the next level that we prepared ourselves for and are ready to reach. It is never ending, but it makes life valuable and I would very much like to share my findings and how they presented themselves in my experience.
    Please join me to walk this path together.

  • 08/06/2023 5:00 AM | Anonymous

    A Stand-Alone System

    Yoga with weights is neither yoga nor weight training, but a synthesis of the two forms of exercise. It’s a higher level of conditioning. Holding the weights in your hands and bearing the weights on your ankles fires and develops your muscles. The weights sculpt and tone your body. Meanwhile, as you strike the yoga postures, you develop flexibility and a conscious awareness of your body.

    Yoga with weights adds another dimension to yoga. Because you’re supporting weights, the challenges that normally accompany yoga exercise—of knowing which muscles to flex and which to relax during an exercise—are made even more demanding. The weights stabilize the body and encourage you to feel the action of the yoga practice itself. The weight helps the muscles understand where they’re supposed to be and what they’re supposed to do in an exercise. The result is a more intense, more exact exercise discipline. 

    Yoga with weights also builds body self-awareness. You can think of yoga with weights as a dialogue between your mind and your body. As you exercise, your brain sends a stimulus to a part of your body telling it to move in a certain direction. Then a signal comes back to the brain saying that the body part either can move or can’t move any further, and the brain sends out another signal asking the part of the body to flex or relax a little more. This ongoing dialogue amounts to a self-exploration of your body. In a very profound way, it makes you more aware of your body and enables you to extend the physical limits that your body is capable of reaching.

    For the past several years, Sherri has worked with an elderly man who had polio in his youth. Her experiences with this man showed very clearly just how beneficial yoga can be to body awareness. Yoga was able to help the man so-to-speak reconnect the muscles and nerves in his body. He can now bend over, sit up, and walk with more ease, confidence, and coordination. His muscle strength, range of motion, and overall sense of well-being have improved physically and mentally. Yoga helped him rebuild the lines of connection in his body. It helped him restore and rewire what we call the nerve highways and pathways that had been damaged by polio.

    Remember: Like traditional yoga, yoga with weight emphasizes correct breathing and an awareness of how you breath. This attention to breathing gives you a sense of calm relief, a feeling of grace, a feeling of steadiness similar to what you get from a traditional yoga workout. The addition of the weights brings the very physical feeling you get from weight training. You feel your individual muscles and you get the solid feeling that weightlifters get. 

    Finally, the addition of the weights makes you feel the effect of the yoga training sooner. The weights train the muscles where to be and where to go. In a beginning yoga practice, it sometimes takes a year for students to “get it.” It doesn’t take students practicing yoga with weights that long.

    Should I have had some weight training?

    You don’t need to have lifted weights before to study yoga with weights. The weights are only three to five pounds and are not difficult to get the hang of.

    If you’re an avid weight trainer, you may have to unlearn one or two things before you attempt yoga with weights. Sherri can’t count the number of times weight trainers and big-time body builders have told her, “I want to come to your yoga class.” But they never show up. They’re intimidated by the yoga room and they never make it over the threshold because they’re not flexible and because they’re used to being the fittest, best athletes in the gym. Stepping out of your element and comfort zone is a challenge for everybody, body builders included. But the beauty of yoga with weights is that it benefits classic body builders in new and balanced ways, allowing them to reclaim full range of motion and flexibility while maintaining their strength. This is just the thing they often need.

    One of the biggest attractions of yoga with weights is being able to lift weights and still maintain your flexibility. You can get the same muscular tone you get from weight training and work on your flexibility as well. You won’t get “bulked up” or muscle-bound, but your muscles will be toned, defined, and strengthened.

    Yoga-with-Weights Breathing

    If you’re new to yoga with weights, you may wonder why you have to pay so much attention to breathing. In every exercise, we tell you when to inhale and exhale and how long to inhale and exhale. In between exercises, we instruct you to pause for three deep and steady breaths. We have you focus on breathing because breathing correctly helps you to feel emotionally centered, physically stronger, and mentally alert. In the full-body workout, you use the complete breath (Chapter 4 explains what that is). Breathing complete breaths is a mindful practice that will harmonize body, mind, and spirit. It’s important to remember never to force a breath into your lungs; simply welcome a full breath to move in and out naturally. Breathing consciously helps you move safely as you exercise and connect to undiscovered areas of your body. The deep rhythmic breathing you do in these exercises also improves your circulation and de-stresses your mind.

    Excerpted from Yoga with Weights for Dummies, by Sherri Baptiste and Megan Scott. Wiley Publishing, Inc., Indianapolis, Indiana, 2006. Available wherever books are sold.

  • 05/14/2023 6:07 PM | Anonymous

    Use the light that is within you to regain your natural clearness of sight. Seeing into the darkness is clarity. Knowing how to yield is strength. Use your own life and return to the source of life. This is called practicing the eternal.                      

    ~ Lao-Tzu

    I began my journey to improve my vision after attending a lecture with Dr. Marc Grossman. He maintained that in many cases, vision can be improved by decreasing the “bad” and improving the “good”:

    • Reduce factors that degrade eyesight (stress and physical and mental tension) 

    • Understand, apply, and integrate healthy habits of using our eyes

    For myself, how to relax and energize the eyes became a practice of combining Bates Method eye exercises with insights from the Chinese meridian system, as well as stress reduction through yoga and qigong. Over the years, I’ve successfully reduced my glasses prescription by 50% and continue to see improvement. 

    Even if you don’t need corrective lenses, the exercises I review in the workshop will help you with tired eyes, computer eye strain, and other bothersome eye conditions. As yoga practitioners, I think we will find much resonance in understanding and applying the principles and practices of yoga to vision improvement.

    Yoga as a Path to Better Vision

    In a nutshell, as we relax and open the body through yoga we simultaneously relax and open the mind, and as we relax the mind, our vision, both inside and outside, is enhanced. 

    What does it mean, “inner” vision? It means our sense of self, our identity, our purpose, our “beingness” in the world. And “outer” vision? Our sight, our appreciation of color and form, the ability to perceive with clarity and vividness the beauty around us.

    Basically, yoga works on three facets of the human being and has specific techniques for each aspect. These are the physical body; the energy body; and the mental body or mind. 

    The yoga practitioner seeks to harmonize these three dimensions of the human being and through doing this, achieve optimal health, happiness, and self-understanding; this would include optimal inner and outer vision.

    Let’s look at these three dimensions individually.

    Physical Body: The Anamayakosa

    The physical poses of yoga, known as asanas, are designed to increase both strength and flexibility of the body, improve balance, and at the same time enhance circulation and energy flow, cleansing organs and other systems. 

    The poses that most benefit the eyes are:

    • Stretches for the head, neck, and shoulders. Releasing tension from the neck and shoulders not only improves posture but boosts vision by allowing more circulation of blood to the brain; the eyes are simply extensions of brain tissue.
    • Asanas that open the liver/gallbladder meridians; in Chinese Medicine these meridians are responsible for vision (again, both inside and out).

    In the workshop, I will be teaching these beneficial poses.

    Energy Body: The Pranayamakosha

    All the breathing exercises in yoga are designed to enhance energy and oxygenate the blood, improving circulation while removing stress. 

    One of the most beneficial pranayamas for vision improvement is Kapalabhati, or skull-shining breath. Easy to master, this breath brings oxygen to the brain, and cleans the blood. It improves the oxygenation of blood in the body, which helps in better nourishment of all the structures of the eyeball, along with the nerves.

    Another piece of the workshop will be including Kapalabhati with yoga eye stretches.

    Mental Body: Vijnanamayakosha

    The goal of yoga is union with the “divine,” which one could also call reality, or the Tao, the creative infinite, nature,“that which is,” or the Universal. In yoga philosophy, the Universal is said to exist in the space between thoughts, which is nonthinking, and in this infinite space, the truth of being is said to reside. This place of “no mind” is meditation. 

    Many advanced practitioners of yoga and meditation who can enter the “space between thoughts” report improved vision afterward. To quote Michael Hutchison from The Book of Floating,  “As I went out into the world (after going into the state of no mind) my senses were extremely – almost unbelievably – sharp and keen. Everything I saw seemed to be beautiful and miraculous, and the colors of everything were extraordinarily rich and beautiful. I saw everything clearly as if objects had sharp edges around….Everything has become much sharper and clearer than it normally was.”

    The takeaway is that external vision can be improved as one raises one's level of consciousness. In other words, deepening one’s meditation practice (ie, inner vision) can be a doorway to improving one's eyesight (outer vision).

    In the workshop, I will be including a breath meditation practice that will benefit vision.

    Vision Improvement and Practices From Other Systems

    In addition to using the modalities of yoga as vehicles for vision improvement, I will be sharing Qigong exercises to benefit the eyes, as well as Chinese Eye Massage.

    As was said by one Chinese sage, “From the base of the mountain, many paths. From the peak, only one moon.” My job as the workshop presenter is to guide you on some of these paths; our collective goal as we navigate the various paths up the “mountain” is the one “moon” of inner and outer clarity. 

  • 04/18/2023 11:22 AM | Anonymous

    Prenatal yoga is one of yoga’s best kept secrets. Beyond the full range of benefits addressing the physical and emotional transformations of pregnancy, many do not know that the prenatal yoga class also includes key elements that are not found in regular yoga classes. Most importantly, these elements are beneficial right away, from the first trimester onward.

    Let’s take a closer look at some of the aspects of prenatal yoga practice that make it so unique.  

    Building a Mom Community

    Going through pregnancy, labor, and parenthood is momentous and the process comes with a plethora of physical, mental, emotional, and social shifts. This life-changing event truly deserves some support and acknowledgement that is not easily found out there. Fortunately, prenatal yoga is a perfect forum to allow moms to connect.

    In prenatal yoga, time is set aside to ask questions, share resources, learn more about pregnancy, celebrate milestones, and make new friends. This is an invaluable benefit because prenatal yoga is one of the few places where moms-to-be can get together, practice together, and simply talk. I’ve found over the years that the connections made in prenatal yoga class are significant and often last for years to come. 

    Reducing Pregnancy Discomforts

    Each trimester of pregnancy presents its own set of joys, as well as discomforts. Prenatal yoga is specifically designed to hone in on the needs of each trimester and to address the common discomforts experienced at various stages of pregnancy. 

    Since everyone in the class is pregnant, it is easier for the teacher to target specific issues and help students understand the physiology of pregnancy, which includes ways to manage discomforts when they arise. Specific tips on managing day-to-day challenges are also provided and can include: how to prop for better sleep at night, ways to sit more comfortably at work, positions for round ligament pain, engagements for improved pelvic stability, pelvic floor toning, and many other common pregnancy concerns.


    More Easeful Labor

    Studies indicate that expecting moms who practice prenatal yoga experience significantly less pain (Research Strategies for Normal Birth by Amy Romano and Henci Goer, Lamaze International, 2008) suggesting that prenatal yoga helps prepare moms for the demands of labor. Anecdotally, my own students often comment that prenatal yoga was fundamental in preparing them for labor and consistently report feeling more relaxed, informed, and confident for the birth process.

    Perhaps this is because moms actually practice a wide range of mind-body strategies in prenatal yoga that are directly applicable to the labor room. These include strategic vocalization practices, propping techniques for better support during pregnancy and labor, pregnancy-friendly movements that increase the chance of optimally positioning babies for birth, and ways to reduce contraction discomfort through breath practices, guided meditations, affirmations, and comprehensive relaxation.


    Breath Awareness and Deep Relaxation

    Yoga is all about breath and relaxation. This is as true in regular yoga classes as it is in prenatal yoga practice; however, in prenatal yoga, moms dive more specifically into the process of breath and relaxation within the context of pregnancy and birthing. Training the body exactly how to achieve a state of deep relaxation (while also being in labor) takes time and consistent practice. This is just one reason why starting prenatal yoga sooner, rather than later, in pregnancy can be so helpful! Too often the practice of natural techniques for coping with contractions are not offered until the very last weeks of pregnancy, or even during labor itself. Fully embodying these techniques often takes more practice than just a handful of classes, and obviously labor is never a good time to learn.


    Celebration of Pregnancy

    Prenatal yoga class is a special time to engage in a beneficial practice for both mom and baby. The class is so much more than just yoga. It provides time for connecting with other moms, bonding with the baby, addressing the rapid changes of pregnancy, gathering resources, asking questions, having a laugh or two, and dedicating a time simply to slow down, breathe, and celebrate pregnancy in the company of other moms-to-be.

    Prenatal students do not need any previous yoga experience to participate. I also encourage grandmothers-to-be to attend, as well as curious yoga teachers who just want to know what happens in this class. I look forward to seeing you on the mat! 

    To learn more about Kelly, visit yogadevi.mom

  • 03/22/2023 5:35 PM | Anonymous

    My beloved child, break your heart no longer. Each time you judge yourself, you break your own heart.

    ~Swami Kripalu/Vidya Carolyn Dell’uomo

    How many hundreds of yoga classes did I teach, quoting my teacher at the end of each class, before my heart’s mind understood those words? Why did saying them to my students still bring tears to my eyes? Why, after years of meditation, therapy, and medication, was I still so mean to me? Before I began a daily yoga practice in the late 80s, no amount of meditation turned the volume down on that monster in my mind. Every one of us has an inner critic. Mark Twain said that if we talked to our children the way we talk to ourselves, we would be arrested for child abuse. I was particularly hard on myself in the 70s, after my marriage failed. Had anyone been listening to my self-abuse, they would have locked me up and thrown away the key.

    My secret name for myself was “Amy Shamey.” Shame wasn’t just a thought or belief. It wasn’t just an emotion. It was a part of my physical being, a daily visceral experience that whooshed through my body, bringing waves of heat and a deep sense of humiliation and with it, grief. No amount of talking about it in therapy, watching it arise on the meditation cushion, or numbing it out with meds, touched the core of my self-hatred. Of course, my body image had a lot to do with it. I saw myself as chubby, unattractive, and clumsy, compared to my beautiful mother, whose expressive face appeared on the covers of pulp fiction magazines like True Confessions and Romance in the late 1940s. My body was not my friend. It had hair in places it shouldn’t. It had ungraceful hands. It had an embarrassing plumpness in the places that should have been lean and an embarrassing flatness in the places that should have been round. From this description, you might think I wasn’t pretty. We’re talking about self-image here, not reality. Pictures attest to my cuteness as a kid and my downright beauty in my teens. I don’t think my creative dance teacher would have tried to convince my mother when I was eleven to enroll me in a proper ballet studio with daily classes, if she hadn’t seen in me a grace and fluidity I couldn’t see in myself. But whatever the source, I hated my body and nearly everything else that went by the name of Amy.

    So what changed? In the late 1980s I made my first visit to Kripalu Center in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, and took my first yoga class. I had been meditating since the early 70s, and had practiced a bit of yoga asana with a library book and some LPs made in the 70s by an American yoga teacher named Richard Hittleman. But it wasn’t until I was on a blanket at Kripalu for the first time, that a teacher invited me to listen to my body and accept it just as it was. It may have been during that first visit to Kripalu, that a teacher spoke the words attributed to Swami Kripalu but that were actually written by long-time Kripalu disciple and yoga teacher, Carolyn Dell’uomo: “My beloved child, break your heart no longer. Each time you judge yourself, you break your own heart.” I’m sure I wept on my mat, when I heard them, although I don’t remember. What I do remember is emerging from the class feeling a sense of spacious abundance, a touching into wholeness that I had never experienced before. In those moments after class, it didn’t matter what I looked like or what mistakes I may have made in my life. I had touched something deep within me that was absolutely perfect, just as it was. In those moments after class, there was nothing I needed to fix, no way I needed to change. I left Kripalu with a bag full of audio tapes to practice at home, as there were no yoga teachers in my town. I came back to my mat, day after day, sometimes struggling to get there with a head full of self-condemnation. And after every morning practice, of stretching and breathing and staying present to the physical sensations the poses evoked, I felt more at home in my body. I rose from my mat feeling at ease with the Amy who looked back at me from the mirror.

    The self-judgment didn’t cease in the hours I spent off the mat, at least not right away. At first the daily whoosh of shame came weekly, then monthly, and then eventually, it disappeared altogether. The simple attention to sensation, the backing off from a pose when I needed to, the true listening and honoring of my body, began to change me in the most profound way. Compassion for my body was the first thing to change. I listened to my body’s needs on and off the mat, and a lifetime of suffering from constipation disappeared. I began to crave healthier foods, and without dieting, I lost weight. Eventually, when my inner critic attacked, I found myself talking back, instead of believing everything she said. When I rolled out my mat to practice, her voice fell silent. When I made a mistake or fell short of my own expectations, she always had something to say, but I didn’t necessarily believe her anymore. By the early 90s, I was teaching a workshop at Kripalu called, “Befriending Your Inner Critic,” leading others in exercises to find that compassion for themselves, including their shame parts and their nasty inner critics.

    These exercises help bring more fresh oxygen and release old carbon dioxide from the lungs, enabling you to fully sense and be present to physical sensations. This sensory awareness is the portal into finding compassion for all your parts to outshine the weakening voice of your inner critic.

  • 03/14/2023 9:38 PM | Anonymous

    Yoga is samadhi, a state of union with the object of contemplation, states Vyasa. Yoga is collectedness, or samadhana, proclaims Shankara. Both of these ancient teachers are offering their commentaries on Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, the composition of classical yoga philosophy built on the dualistic notions of purusha (spirit/eternal/immutable consciousness) and prakriti (matter/primordial manifestation). While Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita espouses the value of being engaged in the world, stating that yoga is skill and equanimity in action, Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras systematically codify how we can achieve liberation from our dukka (suffering) through citta-vritti-nirodha (focusing one’s entire mind-body-attention). The latter represents only one of the ascetic traditions in ancient India. Meanwhile we have the Tantric traditions, where there is a radical embracing of samsara, the world, and the assumption is that transcendence and sensory pleasure are not incompatible. All of the above have roots in Sanatan Dharma from the Indian subcontinent. Buddhism and Jainism, Sikhism, and Sufi lineages have their own interpretations, manifestations and philosophies of Yoga.

    Yoga is thus a splendidly multi dimensional and multi layered collection of practices, encompassing various branches, cultures, and traditions. There are a few broad commonalities and themes that course through these teachings :

    1. That we are all deeply, viscerally, and spiritually interconnected beings infused with atman/spirit/purusha/consciousness.

    2. The practice of yoga is defining, discerning, and centering consciousness as a vehicle of transcendence from the phenomenal world.

    In other words, the paths may vary, but there is a deep yearning within to expand our awareness, to evolve from our identification with the material realm, to release ourselves from physical-emotional-mental and spiritual suffering, to know and be in our truest essence, and to revel in our primordial nature, which is beyond the limitations of individual mind-ego and socio-cultural conditioning. Liberation (mukti or moksha) is thus the aim of yoga.

    Through millennia, yoga practitioners have embodied these esoteric teachings in unique and authentic ways. Some have dedicated their lives in service to the challenges of the times. Some have shared their gifts of discernment, inquiry and logic, while others have radically connected with the divine through joyful creations of music, dance, and art, eliminating tremendous systemic obstacles of caste and gender in their path. While some of these thought leaders and change makers have caused seismic shifts in their spheres of influence and disrupted prevailing systems of oppression such as imperialism and patriarchy, folks who are known to this day, others have been erased or are lesser known due to the cooptation and appropriation of yoga by capitalism and colonization. These are our yoga ancestors.

    Each of them have forged their own paths, leveraged personal agency, re-imagined their circumstances, and shed light on how one can overcome suffering, thus transforming their own life and creating ripples of change around them, indelibly impacting the collective. We can learn much by listening to their stories, their triumphs and tribulations.

    We are living through overwhelmingly challenging times. Systemic and institutional inequities abound along with wars, a global pandemic, racial injustice, trans lives endangered, religious fundamentalism, and a climate crisis that seems insurmountable. Many of us who practice, teach, and study yoga seek to make a difference, and to have an impact on the community in skillful and sustainable ways. Our yoga practice helps cultivate clarity of thought and perception into our own internal lives, invite harmony in the ways in which we commune with the Earth, discern our positionality within systems regarding access or distance from power and privilege, and also learn from the triumphs and travails of the past.

    Yoga unites the perceived polarities of inner psycho-spiritual work with the outer work of being agents of social and political change. The gift of yoga is in the agency it offers each of us in our quest for liberation, the transformation that occurs when we practice yoga on and off the mats. When we look toward the philosophical and spiritual wisdom, we can access insight into the functioning of our mind, our emotions and our spirit. When we practice svadhyaya (self study), we may begin to unravel why we do the things we do. When we practice vichara (inquiry), we may begin to be curious about our conditioning and the samskaras. When we practice viveka (discernment), we may look deeply into our positionality and know where we land in the world around us, our proximity or distance to power and privilege.

    We can heal the rupture in our relationships by leaning into the wisdom of interconnectedness. We can hold each other accountable for perpetuating harm and co-create spaces of equity and inclusion. We can gain clarity in intentions and honesty about the impact of our actions and/or inactions. We belong to each other, each one of us as a part of the human family has a role to play. At its essence, yoga is meant to be lived and experienced, not merely taught or learned intellectually or practiced physically, but embodied in all ways.

    From Accessible Yoga, Defining Yoga: Agency, Liberation & the Wisdom of Interconnectednes*, Writings and Press, Anjali Rao. 

  • 02/13/2023 6:06 AM | Anonymous

    Beyond learning and practicing poses and pranayama, yoga has emerged as a condition of being, rather than a practice. Perhaps for most of us we first discover or experience yoga on a mat and follow a teacher through a sequence of poses and awareness of breath. Indeed that is how I came to experience yoga. And like all lasting relationships yoga has evolved. Not only do I experience yoga on a mat, through pranayama and in meditation, yoga has emerged in my consciousness as a condition of being. While I am not always in a condition of yoga, I’m aware where ease lives, and when I suffer physically, mentally, or emotionally, I know I am not in yoga. What is different for me now is that I know that it is with a few spirited breaths that I rejoin yoga’s energy. No longer does suffering mean I’ve done something wrong or need an intense practice and an egotistical effort to become worthy of the grace of yoga. That’s not to say expressing the many, many tools that cultivate yoga are not of value…indeed we can’t get there without them because they illuminate and distinguish what is our true nature, and what is the ego seeking to overshadow our brilliance.   

    When I refer to yoga, therefore, I am referring to a personal and universal condition of union. The value in this union is a reduction of harm and suffering to self and others. When in yoga, kindness of mind reigns, gentleness in heart leads, and acceptance in body exists. Together the mind, body, and breath generate energy that already knows how it is to express, where it is to lead, and offers trust in living day to day. 

    So how did this all come to be? And does it mean I am always happy, joyous, and free? Yoga has emerged gradually over 15 years of study and practice—and I am not referring to perfect practice or perfect commitment. I am far from the imagined devoted yogi I thought I needed to be, wanted to be, and strived to be. Rather, I am an individual who has made peace with the flaws that come with being human. Those who know me likely hear me say, I am a bundle of blind spots, black holes, and moments of brilliance. It was the distortions of the ego mind that sought to control and bruise my sense of self that made me strive for the illusion of perfection. I can tell you the relief of not having to try so hard is an expression of grace. Yet, that doesn’t imply I have settled for an expression of mediocrity. Indeed, can you recognize it is the ego that poses those questions? The den of the ego again suggests an idea of perfection or mediocrity. 

    The answer to how this came to be is offered in the workshop I am privileged to present. I will introduce the living opportunity each of us has to anchor our body and spirit in a ritual that reflects what we can do and offer it to the potential of nurturing yoga within us—seeking to guide us in a life that radiates the light of our spirit, and shapes the true role of the ego mind—the service to the soul. 

    I hope my expression intrigues you, and I hope you will join me. I’ll be asking you to inquire into the illusions and challenges of living in your body and mind.  I’ll provide a process to create a personalized practice that will address what the yoga in you needs to emerge and guide your life.  Mudras, mantras, asana sequences, and pranayama meditations that will through practice dissolve the Samskaras, and allow the radiance of your true spirit to lead you forward. While this workshop is three hours, what you experience can last a lifetime. 

  • 01/17/2023 6:00 AM | Anonymous

    When I was asked earlier this year to contribute my perspectives about the pursuit of compassion for a veteran and fellow yoga teacher’s blog, I immediately said yes–followed by “OMG! What does compassion mean to me?"  

    Like the nerd I am, I googled compassion and the first definition was “sympathetic pity and concern for the sufferings or misfortunes of others or to suffer together and feel motivated to help.” Next, I looked up pity and found it means “cause for regret or disappointment or as a verb to feel sorry for the misfortunes of.”  Finally, I looked up sympathy, which means “feelings of pity and sorry for someone else’s misfortune or a mutual common feeling between people.”

    Diving a bit deeper into compassion, sympathetic pity means “kind condescension to another’s situation without action.” Wow, that’s barely a surface level connection to another human being’s situation, so there must be more to the meaning of compassion. Expanding my research, I found that the definition of empathy is the vicarious participation in another’s situation.  It seems that compassion can mean feeling bad for someone’s situation and not feeling motivated to help–or it can mean suffering together and feeling motivated to help alleviate the suffering. So confusing! Compassion is either feeling motivated or not feeling motivated.

    Clearly, I was missing something, so I began to think about applying this to real life when suddenly, the Oscars aired and the “slap heard around the world” happened. Like almost everyone reading this, I personally don’t know any of the players, but I think it still applies to this discussion. Broadening my outlook related to the players in this scenario I looked at their roles relating to my favorite ancient philosophical text, the Bhagavad Gita.

    This is an allegorical battle between our internal and external selves resulting in the understanding that if you live your Dharma, there is no Karma. Dharma means "your true nature, purpose in life," and karma is the "fallout of not living your dharma." In other words, when you live your dharma there is no karma.  My hope for those in our Connected Warriors world, veterans and active-duty service members and their families, is for them to truly embrace their dharma with self-compassion so they can reduce karmic outcome.

    Let’s start with Jada Pinkett Smith; she was the insulted party. Watching her face as the joke was made, she politely smirked–but then her expression changed to anger when she felt she was being “dissed” for her disease. When I saw that she was deeply offended, I immediately felt empathy because I too have been made fun of because of the way I look (non-white SoCal gal)I have walked in those shoes. With the lens of dharma, Jada is a bad-ass woman; she is an accomplished heavy-metal rocker, wife, mother, and actress and her response was dharma-appropriate being the source of a joke.

    Now let’s look at Will Smith; he was the one who acted out because his wife was the subject of a joke related to her disease. After being horrified and rewinding the video because I couldn’t believe that what I saw was not a set-up, I felt pity for him–he clearly responded from his gut and not his thinking mind. Will’s dharma response was inappropriate to his role as a man, award-winning actor, husband, and father. His karmic outcome was his resignation from the organization that hosted the event. Self-compassion means that he was able to see that his actions were not his truth, and he is now committed to finding that truth so he can truly “show-up” in a way that supports his dharma.

    Finally, there’s Chris Rock. His joke was the reason why the slap happened and once I realized it was not staged–I sympathized with him and felt compassion for his resultant action. He kept his cool and continued with grace under very trying circumstances. Chris lived his dharma as a comedian, man, father, and husband; he delivered a joke and maintained compassion for Will by continuing to do his job on stage as a presenter–no karmic rebound for him. 

    When I turn the lens back on myself, this scenario reminds me that our words and actions matter. Part of my pursuit of compassion is to get in front of myself and have a sense of how my words or actions will land on another before it happens.  Self-awareness is the key to this ability, so you are not only aware of how you think and feel, but you take it to the next level and apply it to others. 

    So, a final view through the lens at what happened with Jada, Will, and Chris–can you step in each one of their shoes and feel compassion for the others, as well as self-compassion? Jada for being the object of a joke, Chris for being the recipient of the outcome of the joke, and Will for reacting to the joke without conscious thought. Now can you be truly compassionate to yourself and another person’s circumstances and go beyond mere pity?  

    My last question for you to live in in 2023: Does one nonmindful act define you and your future?

  • 12/14/2022 9:12 PM | Anonymous

    When something was important, the Buddha made sure it was repeated over and over again throughout his 45 years of teaching. Upekkha, or equanimity—the practice of a balanced heart and mind—is one of those things.

    Equanimity is a heart practice that cultivates a state of mind that does not allow one to be caught in the worldly winds of praise and blame, success and failure, pleasure and pain, fame and disrepute.

    Equanimity keeps us still in the midst of chaos, and is known to be the balancing factor in our faith, our wisdom, and our energy. It protects the heart from going into envy, the excitement of joy from becoming agitated, compassion from sliding into pity. Equanimity is a practice of a fierce heart. It allows us to go directly into the fire. Equanimity is not afraid; it does not back down. It stays present to whatever is arising without judging or reacting.

    Creating tender boundaries

    Equanimity is meant to be known and practiced while being engaged in “the ten thousand joys and the ten thousand sorrows” of being in relationship with other humans. In applying the concept to our interactions with others, I often think of equanimity as love + clear boundaries + tenderness without attachment.

    Boundaries. A lot of us get caught up when we hear the word. We think of cruelty, of kicking someone out. But when you apply love and tenderness, boundaries can create an environment of social harmony because they let us know we’re all playing by the same rules.

    I once worked in a community center that modeled radical hospitality–our commitment to creating an inclusive space for everyone who came through our doors. We were in lower Manhattan, near the site of the World Trade Center and just two blocks from Zuccotti Park, the encampment of the Occupy Wall Street movement. Our guests included Occupiers, folks who worked on Wall Street, tourists, people who were experiencing homelessness, high-school students and multi-faith leaders who would all converge in this 2000 square foot space at lunchtime. For this collective to co-exist, we had to come to agreements that allowed us to treat the space–and one another—with respect. When people weren’t able to do so, my boss would say: “I’m not kicking you out of my heart, but I’m kicking you out of the space today!”

    Holding what is yours

    The classic phrases of the Equanimity Meditation practice say that “all Beings are the owners of their karma; their happiness and unhappiness depends upon their actions, not on my wishes for them.”  This suggests, “I care about you, but I’m not in control of the unfolding of events. I can’t make it all better for you.” It means that I can walk you to the front door of an AA meeting, for example, but I can’t go in and find recovery for you.

    So many of us who work as health-care providers, educators, social workers, and in other healing and caretaking roles are conditioned and even trained to hold the hearts and suffering of others, when they’re simply not ours to hold.  Equanimity helps us to know what belongs to you and what belongs to me. (And also what belongs to our ancestors, as we often carry their burdens on top of our own.) I can walk alongside you, but I don’t have to carry all of the baggage.

    A commitment to the health of our community

    As our global community navigates this time of transition—this is a place of, “done with that, but not quite ready for this”—we might be exploring how to emerge with grace as we heal from the impact of a period of collective trauma.

    Finding a sense of equipose between our own mental health and our commitment to the health of our extended communities can feel like a balancing act. Equanimity allows us the space to find a sacred pause and to respond instead of react. It’s as if we’re able to slow down the world around us and to see the space in between—a space where we can bring in patience, generosity, and compassion for ourselves and for others.

    Equanimity as a meditation practice

    The first foundation of mindfulness is mindfulness of the body. This includes the physical body, breath and what Buddhists call the “sense doors” of seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, and touching. So in our formal meditation practice, it’s imperative to take time setting the body up for success so as we incline the heart and mind towards the subject of our meditation, the felt sense of the body can guide the way.

    I will often take a standing posture for this particular meditation because of the strength, stillness, and power it provokes. One of the four classic postures (sitting, walking, and lying down are the other three), standing can also bring brightness to a sleepy or restless body. If standing isn’t accessible, holding the energy or quality of standing will offer the same benefit.

    Feel the qualities of a mountain—strong roots, pelvic bone heavy, collarbones wide, crown of your head reaching toward the sky, while holding a softness and a tenderness throughout the rest of your body. Soft knees, soft belly, strong back.

    Place hands over belly. Feel your belly expand into the palms of the hands as you breathe the breath in; feel your belly reach back toward the spine as you breathe the breath out. Keep exploring the breath this way, or allow your hands to release, fingertips reaching toward the earth, and exhale as if through the bottoms of the feet.

    Feel into the stillness, the density, and the softness of the body, as gravity pulls the body toward the earth. Allow the earth to support you, as the breath might bring some movement or swaying to your practice.

    In the silence of your practice, random thoughts, imagery, or planning might arise. Notice where these thoughts pull your attention.

    Take a breath in. Without judging or manipulating the breath in any way, we begin to know our breath in its natural form. As you breathe the breath in, know that this breath is like this. As you breathe the breath out, know that this breath is like this.

    And when the next round of thoughts arise—maybe there’s boredom or agitation—notice where they pull your attention. Know that it’s okay to open your eyes to bring some brightness to your practice and begin again. Soft knees, soft belly, strong back.

    As you continue this dance of noticing where the mind wanders, feel into the body’s response to this thought: Is there a tightening in the shoulders, energy moving through the legs, sweating in the palms of the hands? Is the breath short and rigid?

    Bring yourself to the present moment. What’s happening right now is that my body is remembering something that has already happened, and is in the past. What’s happening right now is that I can feel gravity grounding this body as it stands or rests on the earth. I am breathing this breath in, and I am breathing this breath out.

    Allow this connection to the stillness of the body, or movement of the breath to be the anchor that brings you back to your practice when the mind begins to wander. As you continue to explore this practice, see if you can find the body coming closer to its center so you’re not living on the edges. Find a softness, and the capacity to stay.

    *Reprinted from “How Setting Boundaries Can Help You Find Balance,” by Leslie Booker. Yoga Journal, July 22, 2022.

  • 11/16/2022 11:00 AM | Anonymous

    Gentle Somatic Yoga® (GSY) incorporates therapeutic sequences, called Somatic Movement Flows®, that can help relieve chronic pain, stiffness, and postural imbalances. These flows significantly increase flexibility, support recovery from injury, and also prevent injuries arising from repetitive movements of everyday life. Through a process of brain-to-muscle repatterning most people find beneficial results that are immediate and long-lasting.

    The main intent of Gentle Somatic Yoga is to educate people and empower students with practical tools so they can take charge of their own healing process. Through the process of unwinding from deep stress holding patterns participants return back to their natural state, which is peace and well-being.

    In this three-hour experiential workshop, James Knight, founder of GSY and Somatic Wellness™, will introduce the key principles of Somatic Yoga designed to create a more integrated experience of body, mind, and spirit.

    What makes this method different compared to other popular styles of yoga? Gentle Somatic Yoga does not focus on stretching.

    In traditional Hatha yoga, asanas (postures) are often practiced with the intent to reach a “full expression and preferred alignment” of any given pose. In Gentle Somatic Yoga, however, it is more about having the attitude of discovery and exploration to explore the body (soma) from the inside out, on the level of internal felt sensation. In this experiential method muscles are re-programmed to their optimal length in a resting position.  

    This progressive method of movement incorporates Hanna Somatic Education, hatha yoga, meditation, breathing techniques, Core Energetics (body-oriented psychotherapy), as well as principles ascribed to quantum mechanics. GSY is dedicated to researching, pioneering, and facilitating the most leading-edge neuroscience in movement education.

    Keys to Overcoming Chronic Tension and Pain

    The cause of most muscular pain and stiffness is found in the brain. Oftentimes muscles stay contracted as if they were on “auto pilot,” despite our efforts to stretch, get massages, or have chiropractic adjustments. In Gentle Somatic Yoga, we call thisSensory Motor Amnesia.

    Sensory Motor Amnesia develops over time for several reasons: repetitive body movements, injury, emotional trauma, and other stressful life experiences. When the brain forgets how to relax muscles, the muscles stay contracted and we feel muscular pain even when we think we are “relaxing.”

    In this workshop, learn how to discover areas of Sensory Motor Amnesia to strengthen and integrate the brain-to-muscle connection. The more you can voluntarily control your muscles, the more choices you have in your body, and the freer you are through everyday movement.  

    This workshop is right for you if:

    • You or someone you know experiences chronic pain and other symptoms from an injury, disease, or condition, including but not limited to:
    • Neck, shoulder, back pain
    • Pelvic floor disorder
    • Sciatica
    • Fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue
    • Headaches/Migraines
    • Sports injury
    • Joint pain
    • Muscle tightness, stiffness, or spasms
    • Poor posture
    • Anxiety
    • You want to learn nourishing movements for an everyday home practice to keep your health and well-being thriving. 
    • You are a yoga teacher/therapist, bodyworker, or health care professional and want to learn new skills for your tool kit. These skills can be immediately integrated into group movement classes and/or one-on-one customized sessions.

    What you will learn:

    • Seven-plus therapeutic and restorative sequences, called Somatic Movement Flows®, that significantly improve flexibility, enhance strength, reestablish better posture, and dissolve chronic pain
    • Evidence-based and heart-guided self-care/self-healing techniques to improve your immune system, reduce anxiety, and increase energy levels
    • New appreciation and greater understanding of the difference between the main technique in GSY called pandiculation, versus static stretching. Also distinguish the difference between wellness and fitness.
    • New skills for yoga teachers, yoga therapists, bodyworkers, or healthcare professionals to share with their students/clients in group movement classes and/or private sessions. 
    Please join James on Saturday, December 10, for An Introduction to Gentle Somatic Yoga: Repattern Muscles from Head to Toe.

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