by Lk Bookman
During the holiday season, we begin to consider ways to give back to those in need whether in our communities or around the globe. “Seva” is a Sanskrit word meaning “selfless service” or action/words to help another without any thought of reward or repayment. In India, it is believed to help one's spiritual growth and also contribute to the improvement of a community. Seva is a positive characteristic to cultivate and goes much beyond actual service. It is an attitude. When we interact in a spirit of seva , we think about what we can give in any situation rather than what we can gain from it.
Seva is especially important in this age of self-centeredness. We tend to rush from one place to the other, doing as much as we possibly can, oftentimes without regard for those around us. When we recognize how fortunate we truly are, we realize how important it is to give back. For when we are kind to others, whether at the market, driving on the road, interacting at the workplace or with friends and family, it not only brings us a sense of peace but also extends past our actions into the rest of the world, creating a doorway to pass on kindness.
Ram Dass explains this beautifully: “Helping out is not some special skill. It is not the domain of rare individuals. It is not confined to a single part of our lives. We simply heed the call of that natural impulse within and follow it where it leads us.”
Selfless service is not difficult and doesn't have to be some grand gesture. It is an attitude that can be cultivated when we live more mindfully. Being aware of where you are at any given moment, and how you act and treat others, acknowledge the needs of others and do what you can to be kind without expecting anything in return is essential for inner peace. Whether you volunteer, give monetarily to a person or an organization in need, or simply saying a kind word to a stranger, I encourage you to embrace selfless service not only during the holiday season but all year long. We all need a little more kindness in our lives!
Learn more about Lk Bookman
by Michele Lawrence
Deep within each of us is wellness, wholeness and well-being. As yoga teachers and yoga therapists we have the great honor of giving students that access, that “window in,” simply by letting them feel and experience who they are. As yoga students, we come to understand that we are not separate and alone, but rather we are whole, we are Divine.
This is what makes the Yoga practice so relevant for all life situations – good and bad, happy and sad, healthy and sick. However, when we get sick, when are depressed, when we experience grief and loss, it's easy to forget who we are. When we feel “scattered and shattered,” it's easy to forget that we are whole. It is especially at times like this that we can forget our true nature, our Divine nature. But this is when it's more important than ever.
Every time our lifeforce –or prana – is blocked, it causes a form of dis-ease. And throughout our lives, there are many situations that can cause our prana to be constricted or blocked. In yoga, we re-establish the flow of life force. When we come to our mats and practice, we connect with our bodies. These bodies may be sick, they may have let us down, or they may be holding trauma, stress, grief and tension. We may even hold hatred toward our bodies. When we come to the mat we seek to create space – or as the Yogis call it, “sukha,” or good space. Sukha translates as pleasurable, joyful, comfortable, happy, relaxed. It is the opposite of discomfort, suffering or pain: Duhkha.
We practice asana (postures) to make space and feel what it is like to inhabit our bodies. In the practice we breathe to balance, we breathe to awaken, we breathe to calm. We bring our breath to where we are holding and ask for a release. We feel the flow of energy. In our asana practice, we ask not to judge our bodies or compare them to the others around the room. Instead we place our bodies in a special way, we stimulate the glands, the circulation, the blood flow, we find more breath, and then we sleep better, we feel better, we know we are alive. When we can re-establish the connection with life, we can re-identify ourselves according to our essence. As a result we become conscious of the wholeness we are, which is the aim of Yoga.
While from the outside a yoga class might seem like just a series of pose, it is much more. Yoga is connection, yoga is union. For people who show up at yoga studios, especially those who are grieving, sick or depressed, there is beauty in the ability to make connection and unity, both with the individuals sharing the practice in the room and the connection to the higher Self. Pain disconnects us. Yoga makes us whole.
Michele Lawrence is a yoga teacher, yoga therapist and director of Inner Peace Yoga Therapy, an accredited Yoga Therapy program. Through her own journey of Self-discovery, Michele has come to realize that yoga is a practice for all life situations. She believes in yoga’s ability to heal and transform, and that yoga, regardless of one’s ability, is available to all. Michele has been teaching yoga for over 10 years, is co-owner of Yogadurango, a successful studio in Durango, CO and the founder/director of Inner Peace Yoga Therapy.
To contact Michele, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit innerpeaceyogatherapy.com Michele will be hosting the next Inner Peace Yoga Therapy Training in Austin Sept 17-30, 2017 and Feb 2-18, 2018
by Edith Troen
STEM. The acronym is all over the place. President Obama preaches it whenever he can. In case you’ve been out of the loop, it’s Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. And that’s all that seems to matter to educators today. That, along with test scores.
But we fail to equip students with important life skills to ensure their emotional and physical well being. We forget to teach our children how to be resilient; how to create peace in their lives; how to embrace failure - the very failures that will lead to their greatest successes; how to relate to others and to themselves; and, most importantly, how to live happy and productive lives.
What do you want for your children: The highest math score or the highest happiness score? The highest science score or the highest compassion score?
This is where mindfulness, yoga and neuroscience come into play.
There’s strong evidence that mindfulness and yoga can positively impact the emotional and physical state of teens 1. Recent research suggests that mindful interventions can help reduce teens’ fatigue, stress, anxiety and depression while improving behavior, self-esteem, social and interpersonal relationships 2. Studies also show that multi-modal modalities that include body-mind education can help increase children’s academic performance 3. In recent years, imaging studies such as MRIs have also significantly contributed to the evidence of mindful practices showing that incredible changes take place in the brains of meditators. Some of those changes include increased grey matter, and in areas of the brain that are directly associated to focus, learning, emotions, compassion, and kindness 4.
Given all the research showing that mindfulness and yoga can help improve the overall resilience and wellbeing of teens, it is perplexing that most schools choose not to integrate any of it into their curricula.
It’s heartbreaking that we have this information, yet most of our educational policy makers choose not to take it into account. And there’s a huge stake in this: a happier and safer society, for all of us.
There are some schools who are choosing their own path. And are achieving great results. Recently, a public school in San Francisco broke the news because they introduced “Quiet Time” twice a day. This “Quite Time” allows students to slow down and relax while they listen to gong sounds. In the first year of Quite Time the number of suspensions fell by 45 percent, attendance climbed to 98% (above city average), and GPA’s improved incredibly. Now, the annual California Healthy Kids Survey reported that these kids have the highest happiest score in San Francisco.
While we have yet to infiltrate the Austin and Round Rock school districts, we are dedicated to teach children the tools to live the most successful lives they can. The tools of gratitude, self-compassion, body awareness, resilience. The tools needed to face the stresses of school, and life, with ease. And the tools needed to live happy and successful lives.
If you have a teen girl you want to learn the most important life skills, the ones they don’t teach in school, join us for Teen Life Mastery: Resilience Skills for High School and Beyond. This 10-week class begins Sept. 6th, and could be the biggest gift you ever offer your child. An opportunity to learn beyond STEM. To learn about themselves, and how they can be better, and happier, people.
They say Happiness is a choice. But it’s hard to make the choice if you don’t know it’s an option and you don’t have the tools. You now have an option. We will teach you the tools. Please join us as we begin transforming the world, starting with our children.
1. White et al, 2014.
2. Hook et al, 2015
3. Kauts et al, 2009
4. Hozel et al, 2011
By Lk Bookman
For decades Western media has emphasized the importance of being young, thin and beautiful. We also see it in yoga magazines and social media. Yet this idealized image does not represent the majority of people practicing yoga to enhance their wellness. These images can be inspiring, but also intimidating for someone interested in starting a yoga practice. They do not paint a true representation of what it means to “practice” yoga. The outer image is not the goal; in fact. that is far from the intention of the practice.
Like many women who grew up in America, I've struggled with body image. My size and shape has fluctuated from the time I hit my teens, and I must have tried almost every diet out there. When diets didn't work, I over-exercised. So much so that I eventually injured my knees from years of running and overuse. It wasn't until I discovered yoga asana (postures), that I came to truly understand and accept my body.
I soon learned that I couldn't practice yoga asana without also practicing yoga philosophy. The postures are just the tip of the iceberg. Yoga philosophy teaches us how to become free from the conditioned ideas and beliefs that imprison us. Many of us are not even aware of the damage—both physical and emotional-that we inflict upon ourselves when we feel our bodies do not look good enough. Whether it be a skewed self-image or letting go of addictive behavior, yoga teaches us how to develop compassion and gratitude for the bodies we've been born with. Yoga really is transformational and changed my life in a way I could have never imagined.
That's why I'm excited about the recent buzz about body-positive yoga. Now there are articles, classes and workshops to help individuals overcome the negativity instilled in us by our culture and the media. The “body-positive” message is an important one. It has a slightly different meaning for everyone, yet its core message is one of acceptance and belief in oneself—no matter the size and shape of your body, color of your skin, hair or eyes, or if your body has changed due to illness. Hopefully all yoga teachers are offering students a place to connect with their bodies as the groundwork for a more mindful existence. Whether larger or smaller bodied, we all have restrictions and different levels of openness in our bodies. Plus, our bodies are at different places every day.
Yoga teaches us to realize how fortunate we are to live in the body we inhabit. Our bodies carry us from one place to another. They gives us access to the beauty of nature, the pleasure of music and art, the practice of interpersonal relationships and serving others, the joy of a satisfying asana practice, the passing happiness and sorrow that teach us how to grow and thrive. The beautiful thing is we can enjoy all the wonders our bodies gives us access to no matter what it looks like. Through the moment-to-moment experience of inhabiting your body, you might realize you are a spark of divinity. And that my friend is yoga!
I invite you to Celebrate Your Body during my upcoming workshop on Saturday, August 27th from 2:30-4:30 pm at The Yoga Room. By setting an intention to be present to what is (instead of a goal to change your body), you become an ally with your body instead of an adversary. You'll learn tools to quiet your inner critic and celebrate all the incredible things your body can do! Expect an open discussion about body image and yogic philosophy, meditation, journaling, and an empowering, accessible practice suitable for all levels.
Lk, a yoga teacher and founder of the Austin Yoga Hub, has been a personal student of yoga for more than 18 years. She began the study of Ashtanga yoga and soon found Hatha Flow, Vinyasa and Yin styles of yoga to be extremely beneficial in providing for a well-rounded practice. Yoga has transformed her outlook on life and provided her with a deep sense of calmness and well-being. She teaches public classes at The Yoga Room and corporate classes at Austin area businesses.
by Zelinda Yanez
Recently I've found myself frequently engaged in the same hot topic - how to make yoga work well for people with bigger bodies.
In the span of a couple of weeks it came up in discussion with our teacher training students, on social media, in my classes, and with some of my yoga friends.
At my yoga studio in Round Rock, The Yoga Room, we specialize in teaching inclusive yoga - EveryBody can participate and benefit without anyone feeling left out or singled out.
But depending on where you practice and which class you take, the teacher may or may not have been trained in how to teach yoga in an accessible and inclusive way.
So it can be really helpful to know how to make yoga work for your own specific needs, whatever they make be. And that's why I created this video for you.
If you've ever felt frustrated because your curvy body can't do a pose the way your yoga teacher describes, this video will help. In it, I'll show you how to make 3 common (and commonly challenging) poses poses work for your body.
After you watch the video I'd love to hear your feedback - please try out my suggestions and let me know how they work for you. And also please let me know if you have trouble with a pose not covered here - I'd be happy to make a video to help you out!
Join Zelinda for her upcoming workshop Yoga for Bigger Bodies on Saturday, April 30th from 2:30-4:30 pm at The Yoga Room!
Zelinda Yanez is a yoga teacher and the owner of The Yoga Room in Round Rock, TX. She began her personal practice in 2000, soon after beginning her first job as an engineer at a high tech company. Despite feeling intimidated by the yoga studio environment, she began to experience the benefits of yoga, especially improvements in stress management and mental focus. Several years into her practice, Zelinda studied to become a yoga teacher with the intent of one day opening a yoga studio with a low key and welcoming atmosphere. That intention came to life with the opening of The Yoga Room in 2010. The Yoga Room specializes in teaching accessible, inclusive yoga and offers more than 45 classes per week, as well as beginners series, workshops, private lessons, retreats, and teacher training. programs.
by Lk Bookman
Have you ever had the nagging feeling that something might be missing from your yoga practice? As a long-time asana practitioner, I've felt that way at times … a need to delve deeper and to change Samskaras, those habits that no longer serve me, like perfectionism! With many yoga practitioners, asana is the introduction, but meditation is the life changer. I've been intrigued by meditation and by those who are able to practice it regularly. The benefits have been ingrained in my psyche through my yoga studies, and although I've aspired to start a meditation practice, I seemed to find other ways to spend my time (like checking email and social media)!
It wasn't so much the new year that inspired me to start meditating, but rather an illness that left me unable to teach and practice yoga asana for several weeks. I am not accustomed to being that sick, so it was a big “wake-up” call that I needed to take better care of myself. I am amazed at my body's ability to stop me in my tracks, and I realized this was a prime opportunity to delve deeper into my practice. It wasn't easy though. If I've learned anything from yoga, I've learned that change is a gradual process. Beginning a meditation practice has been no different. It's called a practice because it takes commitment.
Since there are so many styles of meditation, I needed guidance to get started. I talked to fellow yogis and researched the internet. One site I found helpful is 23 Types of Meditation to help determine which type is right for me. I also discovered there are both local public and online resources available (many free). For convenience sake, I started with an app recommended by a friend called Insight Timer. Starting with a six minute morning guided meditation to meditations focusing on grounding, successful endeavors and more, this application has taught me how to progressively lengthen my practice. There is also a chimed timer if you wish to meditate without a guide, as well as beautiful tunes to support your practice.
Following are other resources I discovered during my research. This list isn't extensive, but if you're interested in starting a meditation practice, these are simple and affordable tools to get your started.
Attending public classes and workshops are especially helpful to build a community of fellow meditators, or if you need help with deeper issues such as trauma recovery or PTSD, and chronic or terminal illness.
Austin Shambala Meditation Center
The Austin Shambala Meditation Center is located South of downtown Austin, this center offers weekly classes in English and Spanish on varying topics. From their website: “Shambhala Vision is rooted in the principle that every human being has a fundamental nature of basic goodness. This nature can be developed in daily life so that it radiates out to family, friends, community and society”.
Austin Zen Center
The Austin Zen Center community offers a haven of peace and harmony in which to engage in the task of self-discovery through Zen practice. Welcoming diversity, the practice of zazen is available to people of every race, religion, nationality, class, gender, sexual orientation, age, and physical ability. May all beings realize their true nature. Learn more at http://www.austinzencenter.org/index.html
Yoga Meditation Group
Located in Northwest Austin/Cedar Park area, the Yoga Meditation Group offers meditation practices for people of all ages, as well as yoga asana (exercise) opportunities. Most, if not all meditation sessions are free of charge. From their website: “Yoga Meditation is a simple, enjoyable technique to calm and focus the mind and find fulfillment within. Classes are available for all ages, and they are always free. New students are welcome to our Meditation Instruction and Meditation Practice classes”.
The Meditation Bar
New to Austin, The Meditation Bar is located in North Central/West Austin on Mesa Road. From their website: “The connotations of meeting at a neighborhood bar have been converted to redefine a gathering place that offers something that is considered a commodity in our society…peace and quiet. This bar is serving meditation because the benefits of learning how to clear your mind can change your life. Meditation Bar provides classes that are consistent in quality, independent in belief and serious about helping people exercise their minds.
Many yoga studios offer guided meditation such as Eastside Yoga, Castle Hill Yoga, Dharma Yoga and The Yoga Room. Eastside Yoga, located on East 11th, provides weekly sessions that include asana and meditation, or meditation only guided by owner, Steven Ross. Sunday sessions are always by donation. Castle Hill Yoga located at 12th and Lamar, provides a weekly free meditation class on Friday evening. Dharma Yoga on Manor Roa_d offers a weekly meditation series led by Kelly Lindsay on Wednesday mornings. The Yoga Room in Round Rock provides space for a weekly meditation on Tuesday mornings at 8 am. This practice is for anyone who would like to drop in and start their day with silent meditation. You can arrive and leave at any time, but please be mindful about respecting others' practices.
Online Guided Meditation and Meditation Timers
There are hundreds of topics one can meditate on depending on the intention, so a search online might help you narrow down to topics that are of most interest to you. There are guided meditations to help you find your calling, inspire you to be more creative, and help you develop loving compassion for self and others. You can also find meditations to help with sleep, anger issues, addiction or other habits that no longer serve you in life. Here are few, but for a more extensive list, read "12 of the Best Free Guided Meditation Sites".
As mentioned earlier, Insight Timer is an app available for Android and iphone devices that I found to be very useful. With guided meditations of varying lengths and topics, languages and rated by users, this app is extremely helpful in beginning a practice.
Tara Brach founded the Insight Meditation Community of Washington, DC (IMCW), which is now one of the largest and most dynamic non-residential meditation centers in the United States. This site includes a library of more than a hundred guided meditation tracks to keep you going, various styles, with a new one added each week. The site is really user friendly, and the tracks are all good quality too. No music, just a calming voice guide you through.
The Chopra Center
The Chopra Center provides free guided meditations on various topics, tips on how to get started and much more.
It has been several months since I began a regular meditation practice and the experience has increased my awareness of negative thought patterns, and provided tools to positively improve my life. I have been able to better regulate my mood and decrease anxiety. I have become more focused on the parts of my life I enjoy and less focused on external distractions and negative self-talk. I have found that meditating in the morning has been a great way to prepare me mentally for the rest of the day and to be more mindful in my interactions with others. It hasn't always been easy to make the commitment to meditate, but just like practicing asana, afterwards I feel wonderful, peaceful and ready to embrace whatever life has in store for me!
About Lk Bookman
Lk, a yoga teacher and founder of the Austin Yoga Hub, has been a personal student of yoga for more than 18 years. She began the study of Ashtanga yoga and soon found Hatha Flow, Vinyasa and Yin styles of yoga to be extremely beneficial in providing for a well-rounded practice. Yoga has transformed her outlook on life and provided her with a deep sense of calmness and well-being. She currently teaches public classes at The Yoga Room. Learn more about Lk at www.lkbookmanyoga.com
by Renu Namjoshi republished with permission.
“A Yogi has the senses under control and is able to withdraw or externalize them at will just as a tortoise is able to extend or withdraw its limbs.” ~ Bhagavad Gita (2/58)
Are you a Yogi, Bhogi or Rogi - but definitely not a Drohi?.
These may sound like a nursery rhyme or something out of a Dr. Seuss book, however, they are words every aspiring Yogi should be familiar with. Language is the gateway to understanding the teachings of any culture or philosophy. To assimilate the teachings of Yoga, some grasp of key Sanskrit words is essential otherwise many concepts can get lost in translation, or are only superficially assimilated.
Take the much misunderstood word Yogi, which has over the last few years had a meteoric assimilation in the English lexicon. I even heard it thrown around on Fox News recently. I would like to popularize three new words in the English language Rogi, Bhogi and Drohi.
Most children in India have heard some version of this proverb from their elders:
One who eats once a day is a Yogi (divine man). One who eats twice is a Bhogi (pleasure seeker). One who eats three times is a Rogi (plagued by ill-health). One who eats four times is a Drohi (destructive - menace to society).
On the simplest level this ancient proverb suggests different levels of appetites and points us in the direction of consuming less food and simplifying our diet, which goes a long way in creating purity of mind and body. However, over consumption of food is not the only thing we need to curtail to deepen our connection with the divine and become a Yogi. In our health and body oriented culture we often overlook that while consuming healthy food is important even more important is the quality of our inner consumption.
We all have large appetites fueled by an innate hunger to gratify our senses and validate our unique identity. Just as our taste buds can make us indulge in food, our eyes can feast on appealing visions, our ears become obsessed by certain types of sounds, and our touch craves unique sensations. Our muscles can gorge on exercise and even our minds can overindulge in captivating ideas, thoughts and words. Furthermore, we often devour unhealthy emotions such as resentment, revenge, jealousy, guilt and fear. We regularly overwhelm ourselves with other people's harsh words and attitudes. Finally, all of us are guilty of guzzling down social media and the endless stimulation and distractions of the modern world.
While, our body and mind thrive on a balanced approach to fulfilling our innate yearnings, they are destroyed when we overindulge them, regardless of the object or cause of our enchantment (yes, even yoga and meditation can become addictions). Excess of any type and lack of time to withdraw our senses inwards, such as deep rest, sleep and meditation, produces inordinate amount of stress on the body and mind. Scientific research also shows the result of stress and overconsumption on our hippocampus, which is smaller in the depressed people because stress can suppress the production of new nerve cells needed for its regeneration.
Ironically, even obsession and excessive focus on bodily health can lead to ill health. While a healthy body is very helpful for our spiritual search, as it is one less distraction, it is by no means essential. It might surprise you to know that some of the greatest Yogis of our time were born with difficult health karma. Ramana Maharishi, one of the greatest Hindu saints of the last century died of cancer. It is said that the Buddha was always ill, and had to travel with his doctor. Or look at Physicist Stephen Hawking, one of the greatest scientific minds of our times, who has been paralyzed for the last 50 years.
A Yogi curtails his appetite and practices moderation in sensory gratification, no matter how enchanting or appealing the experience in front of him. He eats just enough to live and does not let his cravings overwhelm him.
We become Rogis when we chase a hunger, goal, person, emotion, experience or desire without restrain and exert ourselves beyond capacity. This overblown focus usually is a result of some deep seated psychological blocks that we are unaware of, which urge us forward and seem to have a life of their own. Our compulsions create self destructive behaviors that obliterate our peace of mind and fuel further cravings. In planetary terms Rahu is usually involved in any relentless pursuit that disregards the cost we are paying. Rogi in Sanskrit is also another word for the ailing, sick, patient and invalid, as these compulsion and impulses raise our stress hormones and destroy our peace of mind and the health of our body. We are Rogi's when we identify solely with the body.
Bhogi's are passionate, goal oriented people with strong opinions and often strong ambitions. They have a great hunger for success, recognition and enjoying life's pleasures. Their happiness is outcome driven and as such they are constantly looking for satisfaction and validation through something outside of themselves. Most of us are bhogis and there is nothing particularly wrong with that. However, yoga teaches us that fulfillment of external/worldly desires is not the ultimate goal. If our happiness is based on waiting for a desire or goal to be fulfilled or getting “what we want” we are in a hopeless situation because that can never be realized. Desires and goals are always changing, growing, shifting. According to Shawn Achor, the author of "Scientific Proof that Happiness is a Choice,” every time we hit a success, our brain moves the goalpost of where success is”. Usually planets like Mercury, Venus, and Moon are involved in our Bhogi urges. Bhogi's identify with the ego/mind.
A Yogi is someone who has come to the realization that the excesses of the Rogi and the outcome driven happiness of the Bhogi are both ultimately fruitless. He is one who is striving for freedom from the unpredictable clutches of outer circumstances, and turns instead towards his inner sanctuary for joy that can always be accessed regardless of circumstances. A Yogi does not have to be someone who does Yoga or renounces life and sits on a mountain top and meditates. Rather he is someone who performs his karma and obligations with the highest state of excellence. In practical terms, a Yogi is someone who meets challenges, not from the narrow perception of the personality (body/mind) but the expansiveness of spirit. He sees life as a learning experience and proceeds with calmness, stability and equanimity. Planets like Jupiter and Sun can awaken our Yogi potential. Yogis identify with their soul nature.
Lastly, a Drohi is someone whose hunger is so deadly and toxic that he not only will destroy his life but end up tormenting others around him as well.
We are all a combination of Rogi, Bhogi and Yogi. Generally speaking the pure (sattvic) planets like Jupiter and the Sun have more Yogi qualities, the ambitious more worldly (Rajasic) planets like the Moon, Venus and Mercury have more Bhogi qualities and the preservation (Tamasic) planets like Saturn, Mars and Rahu tend towards Rogi.
However, the deeper study of astrology teaches us that any planet has the potential to lead us down the path of a Yogi, Bhogi or a Rogi, it just depends on how we use the energy of that planet. If we overuse or underuse use the energy of any planet it will lead us to become a Rogi. If we superficially use the energy of a planet it will make us a Bhogi. Deep integration of the planetary energy, with sincere effort to understand what the planet is trying to teach us will always lead us down the Yogi path. (For deeper teaching of all the planets read this article).
Honoring the higher teaching of a planet requires curtailing our hunger. Often these cravings are so much a part of what we think makes us who we are that letting go of our appetites makes us feel that we will lose our identify and life purpose. Indeed the opposite is true - moderation and equanimity does not mean we live less or experience life as dull and dreary. On the contrary when we put our appetites on a diet we get liberated from negatives emotions and can truly see life for the first time in all its vibrant, pulsating colors and hues. Success, happiness, and contentment naturally follow.
Join Renu and Gioconda Parker January 30-31st for a Vedic Astrology and Yoga Weekend (see below)!
30-31: Vedic Astrology and Yoga Weekend with Renu Namjoshi and Gioconda Parker 10am to 6pm Sat. and Sun. Over the course of the weekend we will cover all the foundational principles of Vedic Astrology. Everyone will get to follow along with their own Vedic horoscope to get a deeper understanding of how your karma is unfolding. Yogic Practices will include gentle asana practices that are accessible to all levels, guided meditations, breathing practices and simple mindfulness practices that can be incorporated into your daily life to support you as you live in harmony with the planets. Location Soma Vida, 2324 Cesar Chavez Street, Austin, Texas 78702.
by Lisa Feder
Can you feel it? The holiday season is looming. Are we excited? Nervous? Overwhelmed in October? I googled "tips for surviving the holidays" and there seemed to be no end to the articles on this topic. There were also numerous "tips for finding gratitude in the holiday season". With a cursory glance, I could see that the subject matter seemed the same in both articles--the "survival" tips often focused on opening to gratitude, and the "gratitude" tips led to a means of surviving the holidays. The only difference was the perspective--kind of the "glass half-full or empty" perspective. Hmm, the difference seems to be a conscious choice about how to frame the situation. So how do we become more conscious and make a choice to adopt an attitude of gratitude in the holiday season ahead of us?
Please join me and my dear friend and fabulous teacher, Janice Samuelson, for a holiday kick-off workshop, "Attitude of Gratitude" on November 21, 2016 from 4:30-6:30 at Studio Mantra. Click here for more information and to register.
With deep gratitude, I wish you a wonderful holiday season!
Being Well Yoga
by Lisa Feder
Do you love the way you feel when you practice Yoga? Does the practice calm you and help you feel more centered?
Do you love the challenge and the balance of gathering your strength and expanding your flexibility?
Would you like to manage your life the way you manage your practice?
Well, you can. Yoga provides us wonderful tools that we can take off the mat and into the day. We can use these tools to clear our minds, manage stress, handle communication challenges, and even manage our time with more comfort.
In this blog series I will cover challenges found in our daily life and how Yoga philosophy and practice can help us meet those challenges. Let’s start by talking about setting intentions. In each class that I teach, I invite students to set an intention at the beginning of class. Intention, in our practice is often spoken of as Sankalpa, which means: conception or idea or notion formed in the heart or mind, solemn vow or determination to perform, desire, definite intention, volition or will.
First I ask them “Why are you here? What got you to your mat today? There are so many other things you could be doing right now, why this?” It is my hope that this question will get them thinking about what they would like to develop, nurture, build, let go of, create, etc, in their lives. It could be as simple as wanting to create flexibility in the body to live with more ease. Or to find some quiet time, out of the hustle and bustle of their daily activities and responsibilities. Then I ask them to say this intention, often spoken of as “Sankalpa” as if it were fact. For example, “I am at ease” or “I am patient”. Then I remind them that the intention helps to make their practice their own, as it tunes them in to what they would like to manifest, just for themselves. It also helps bring them back to focus when they get distracted or interrupted by their thoughts or by others around them, changes in the temperature of the rooms, the smell of Taco Deli next door, and much more. And, most importantly, it reminds them that it’s not what they do in practice that matters, it’s the “why” they do it and “how” they approach it.
As Donna Farhi says: "In truth, it matters less what we do in practice than how we do it and why we do it. The same posture, the same sequence, the same meditation with a different intention takes on an entirely new meaning and will have entirely different outcomes".
Okay, so let’s get real. How can we take our intentions off our mats and into the world? In a world filled with noise, distractions, responsibilities, deadlines, and more, how do we stay true to our Sankalpa? Here are a few considerations to help you head into the real world with intention:
"Yoga is not about touching your toes or standing on your head or folding yourself into a lotus pretzel. It’s about how you do what you do and how you live your daily life on a moment-to-moment basis".
There will be challenges along the way. Distractions are everywhere, and it’s easy to get caught up in the doing. However, in just a few minutes a day, you can set the foundation for living more intentionally, and determining the direction in which you want to move. Anodea Judith, in Creating on Purpose, writes: If you keep you attention on your intention, then you current reality will be pulled toward your intention. Your current situation will change in accordance with the vision you have of the future. Your intention, when held firmly in place, shapes your reality.
Now it’s time to give it a try. Connect with yourself, and set an intention. Let me know how it goes!
Learn more about Lisa at Being Well Yoga.
Thirty-one days ago I embarked upon a 365 day handstand challenge. I should let you know that 31 days ago I didn't know the first thing about how to handstand. All I knew was that I wanted to learn.
I was inspired to such madness by Amber Shumake, a yoga teacher I'd been following on Facebook, but who I've never met in person. Amber wrapped up her 365 day handstand challenge on Mother's Day, and one day a few weeks ago, without giving it any logical thought at all, I posted a comment on one of her posts and told her and the universe that I was picking up the torch. I would start my 365 days the day after she finished hers.
So for the past 31 days, I've been posting a video of my progress on our Instagram and Facebook pages.
Since this is really the only consistent "public" view of my yoga practice, I wanted to take a moment to provide some context around the handstands and what my real yoga practice looks like.
My real yoga practice consists of a lot of laying down :) I have issues with my sacrum and my left SI joint, and they're painful pretty much every day. Like most everyone, I have a lot of tightness in my upper back, shoulders, and neck. I teach and practice a very therapeutic style of yoga, so my yoga practice is intended to address my trouble spots and reduce tightness and pain so my body will be happy.
I pretty much always warm up with a lot of very slow paced laying down postures. Just laying on my back (on the floor) brings relief to my sacrum. I do a variety of poses to stretch out my legs and hips. If I have time and energy, I might also do a few down dogs or standing poses.
My real practice is pretty boring to watch compared to the handstands, but if you want to get an idea of what it looks like you can check it out here. Please note that this is the end part of my practice, after I was completely warmed up.
And the handstands are pretty much the polar opposite of my real practice. They're quick and flashy and mostly just for fun. But I've realized that they do provide an excellent opportunity for increasing strength and also for self-study, both in the moment and later when I review the videos, and to me, self-study is a very important aspect of yoga.
In my handstand practice I pay attention to so many details: the position of my hands, shoulders, hips, legs, and feet; the engagement of different muscles throughout my body; how I'm breathing; my energy level.
By sharing the videos online, I'm not only holding myself accountable, but I'm also creating a visual timeline of my progress. An on-going "Before" and "After".
And maybe more importantly, I'm a real life representation of our Yoga for EveryBody philosophy. If you look up #handstand on Facebook or Instagram, you're pretty much only going to find super-fit, young, thin yogis, and me :) And while, yes, of course, I wish I was in better shape, I'm also proud to show that yoga is indeed for every body.
Alright, I'll get off my soapbox now :) and encourage you to find your own challenge.
Which yoga pose do you wish you could do better or with more ease? It doesn't have to be something flashy like handstand; it could be anything. Maybe a seated forward fold, maybe down dog, or maybe even the basic comfortable sitting position?
Just like with yoga practice, make this challenge your own. Take 30 or 100 or 365 days to consistently work toward your pose. Post a comment wherever you read this (blog, Facebook, etc.) to let us know what pose you're committing to work on and for how long. Let us know if you have any questions or need any guidance.
Then take a photo or video every single day and decide if you want to keep it for yourself or if you want to share it on social media.
If you keep it for yourself, I suggest naming each photo "Day 1", "Day 2", etc., and putting them all into a single folder to keep them organized so that you can go back and review your progress. You might even keep a journal of notes and observations to go along with your photos.
If you decide you want to post your Challenge photos online, use the hashtag #rryogaroom so that we can keep up with your progress, too!
I'm so excited about this! I've learned a lot in my first 31 days of handstanding, and I'm sure you're going to learn a lot about yourself and your body if you decide to join me in this Challenge.
P.S. So getting back to the question about whether yoga selfies just serve to feed the yogi's ego, my opinion is that it depends. Selfies might be used as a learning tool (that's mainly what mine are for me) or they might be used to show everyone in social-media-land just how cool and awesome you are. It depends on the yogi :)
Zelinda Yañez is the founder and director of The Yoga Room in Round Rock, Texas.
She began practicing yoga right after college, when she entered Corporate America, to help her manage stress and improve mental focus. The benefits she realized in her yoga practice inspired her to want to share yoga with busy working people like herself.
She studied to become a yoga teacher, and then after 10 years working in various engineering and marketing roles in the high tech industry, she opened The Yoga Room, a studio where people of all shapes, sizes, and experiences, come together to practice yoga in a friendly and welcoming environment.
Zelinda’s teaching style makes yoga accessible to everyone. She considers her students’ abilities and goals and designs and adjusts the practice in real time so that every student can achieve maximum benefit. She believes regular yoga practice cultivates a healthy and balanced life.
Zelinda is hosting Renewing Your Spirit, a beach yoga retreat in Port Aransas, Texas, July 23 - 27. For details, please visit http://rryogaroom.com/beach-retreat-2014/.