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PATRICIA ARqueTTe single mothers: beauty in struggle
mind. body. healing the heart
saving the Planet Feminism
ORIGIN IS ON STANDS NOW
strong men adam duritz
intimacy + awkwardness
Protecting animals Forgiveness = Healing setting boundaries 6
AdAm LevIne yoga
the new black
By Lara Heimann
The Five S’s of Make yourself a priority During my years of teaching yoga, I have been stunned by the number of women and men who feel guilty for taking care of themselves in the form of exercise or pleasure. A teacher trainee who spent time and money to go through the program asked me how she could keep up with her newly strengthened practice. When I told her to keep coming to classes and start a more consistent home practice, she responded rather sheepishly that she felt guilty practicing so much yoga, that perhaps she should be volunteering at her kids’ school or doing some projects at home. I never got the memo that taking care of myself first can be selfish. Perhaps I learned selfcare early on: my mom was very outnumbered in parenting me, my triplet brothers, and my older brother, and so I was required to be fairly self-reliant. Consequently, I have never apologized for my need to take good care of myself. People understand the reasoning behind “Put your oxygen mask on first,” but are they practicing this airplane mantra in their daily lives? We need to attend to ourselves in significant ways every day. I have a saying in my house, “When Mama is happy, everyone is happy.” Conversely, “When Mama is not happy . . .” (well, you get the drift). But the challenge comes in the link between knowing that we need to nurture ourselves and knowing what to do to nurture ourselves. Keep it simple with these five S’s for self-care:
Break a sweat once a day— through exercise, not anxiety, of course! Moving your body should be priority number one because it feels good, wakes up your nervous system, and improves your mood, productivity, patience, energy level, and food choices. Sweat gives you that spark of aliveness that is uniquely yours. When you exercise for LARAHEIMANN.COM | YOGASTREAM.NET
even a short time, you are taking care of yourself in a big way, lighting the internal fire that fuels ambition, dreams, needs, and desires.
If you sweat every day, you need to stay clean as well. In the early days of motherhood, even though I was drained and sleep-deprived, I was committed to showering and sweating every day. I still never feel quite awake without a shower to cleanse me hygienically and metaphorically. To feel clean in your body and mind is also important for self-care. It will make you more likely to want to do the next S.
3) Smile: Smiling creates a sense of positivity that also makes us feel lighter. Studies have shown that merely half-smiling for two minutes can completely change your outlook! Try it and experience how little it takes to feel brighter mentally. Practice and integrate this idea that we can choose the lens through which we view the world. Smiling will not only make us feel brighter, but it creates a positive energy around us that benefits others as well.
4) S leep:
Sleep is necessary, and we all sense when we have had the right amount to feel optimally rested. Unfortunately, most people are not as rested as they should be, affecting productivity, organization, outlook, and overall well-being. In the quest for selfcare, make sleep a priority, going to bed a little earlier if you tend to not get enough sleep. With the right amount of sleep, an average of seven to eight hours a night for most people, we can be more engaged in life without the half-awake grumpiness that makes everyone a little less satisfied.
5) S implify:
While the first four steps deal primarily with our mental and physical well-being, all will contribute to success in this final S, which enhances our spirit. After
sweating each day from intentional movement, cleaning ourselves both literally and mentally, and resting the right amount, we feel the most clear and awake to see what truly matters in life. We make better choices about how and with whom we spend our time, what to eat, and what brings us happiness. And often, what is most apparent is that we all crave simplicity. While buying material things might bring immediate gratification, what lifts our spirit in the long haul is not material. And establishing that field of simplicity in our life is transformative. Simplifying our lives is one of the most profound game-changing moves we can make for optimal self-care. It frees our mind of clutter, unleashes any bondages we have with material attachments, and brings peace to our daily existence. Big statements, but again, the studies show it and we know it! Intuitively, we feel our happiest with the nonmaterial. We crave space in our homes, lives, closets, calendars, work, and relationships. My life feels rich and rewarding when I focus on the things that truly matter and fuel me the most: family, friends, animals, nature, reading, writing, and yoga. Making sure that I take time for these loves makes my life simpler and happier. Simpler really means clearer, without clutter or blurred vision. When I feel overwhelmed, I try to get back to this place of simplicity by tuning in and noticing three things for which I am most grateful. A cup of coffee as I am typing, the sun on my face as I lift into Up Dog on my mat, and my children’s laughter are the things I took note of today. By acknowledging the simple things, we reset ourselves to appreciate what truly brings us happiness. And this recognition is the fullest expression of self-care.
Photos: ROBERT STURMAN
We need to attend to ourselves in
significant ways every day.
Paulo Coelho Author of the international best seller The Alchemist INTERVIEW: MARANDA PLEASANT
In the episode, Oprah was joined by Paulo Coelho, author of the international best seller The Alchemist. With more than sixty-five million copies sold, his beloved parable has become one of the best-selling books in history, focusing on the importance of following your dreams. Oprah visited with Paulo from his home in the picturesque city of Geneva, Switzerland, discussing how his colorful and rebellious upbringing influenced the man he is today and how following his heart’s desire has positioned him as one of the most successful authors in the world. In his firstever interview on American television, Paulo told Oprah about the process of writing The Alchemist, and how the story of the shepherd boy pursuing his treasure is a universal metaphor for life. His most recent release, Adultery, marks his thirty-first published book. He’s now sold an unprecedented 150 million books worldwide.
say, but because I feel very much uncomfortable, and this leads to vulnerability. Nobody will notice but I—still this is something that I manage to avoid for the past five years.
MP: Tell me about your yoga or mindfulness practice. What influence has it had on your life?
PC: A lot. Helped me to breathe correctly and to relax when I need. As for postures, they are not as important as respiration.
MP: How do you handle emotional pain?
MP: Tell me about your latest projects.
PC: I am not saying that I am different, but I don’t have emotional pain. I may be angry and I may be peaceful, but no emotional pain.
PC: I don’t make plans. I live my life on a daily basis. MP: What is love for you?
MP: How do you keep your center in the middle of chaos? Do you have a daily routine?
PC: The glue that keeps the stars in place.
PC: Walking is almost as important as breathing, for me.
MP: What is the most important thing for us to do as beings?
Maranda Pleasant: What makes you come alive or inspires you?
MP: What’s been one of your biggest lessons so far in life?
PC: Not to be cowards. The first spiritual quality we need to have is not faith; it is courage.
Paulo Coelho: People. Even if I live not in a big city, even if I detest to go to parties, I love street fairs and long conversations with people in the countryside. Walking also helps me a lot to feel alive, and I do this every single day, my wife and I. We have long conversations about nature, and we also walk silently, just contemplating.
PC: Perseverance brings good luck, as the I Ching says.
MP: What makes you feel vulnerable?
MP: What causes or organizations are you passionate about?
PC: Speaking in front of an audience. Not because I am scared or I don’t know what to
PC: Only one, because it demands a lot of ef-
OPRAH.COM | PAULOCOELHO.COM
MP: If you could say something to everyone on the planet, what would it be?
fort: my foundation, Paulo Coelho Foundation, that takes care of 430 children in a slum in Rio.
MP: What truth do you know for sure? PC: I am going to die. But I am going to die in peace because I lived my life as intensely as I could.
Paulo Coelho’s latest novel, Adultery, follows the story of a woman who, faced with the uncertainty of her life, unexpectedly reconnects with her high school boyfriend, a temptation too strong to resist (published in August by Knopf). Paulo Coelho is the author of many international best sellers, including The Alchemist (HarperOne), now available in a 25th anniversary edition featuring a new foreword by the author, and Manuscript Found in Accra.
“The first spiritual quality we need to have is not faith; it is courage.” SUPER SOUL SUNDAY AIRS SUNDAYS AT 11 A.M. ET/PT ON OWN: OPRAH WINFREY NETWORK. THE TWO-PART SEASON PREMIERE RETURNED WITH PAULO COELHO, AUTHOR OF THE WORLDWIDE PHENOMENON THE ALCHEMIST AND, MORE RECENTLY, ADULTERY.
By Hope Cross Dezember
When we work together
A Human Movement for ALS What happens when we all work together? What happens when we forget the differences and focus on something together? A human movement happens. My husband, Steve, has ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. There is hardly a more frightening or devastating prognosis. The vast majority of patients die within two to five years of any symptom of the disease. ALS attacks your body, killing your motor neurons and muscles, leaving you handicapped, vent-dependent, wheelchair-bound, and voiceless. Imagine not being able to brush your teeth, tell a joke, go to the bathroom without someone present, or enjoy your favorite meal. Since Steve’s diagnosis in 2011, we have made it our mission to spread awareness about this disease, which affects roughly thirty thousand Americans. Through social media, our website, and the documentary, Hope for Steve, we have tried our best to show what an ALS patient goes through on a daily basis. In August 2014, our dreams manifested into reality. ALS made national news. Not just one HOPEFORSTEVE.COM | ALS.NET
day but the entire month. An ALS patient named Pete Frates and his family started the Ice Bucket Challenge. I am sure by now you have heard of it, participated in it, blogged about it, or donated—thank you! If so, you took part in a human movement. ALS has been trying to get its voice heard for years with walks, fundraisers, and people speaking out, but it has never received the national attention it deserved. This challenge has spread across the masses and brought this cruel disease into the spotlight. Of course, people had their own opinions about how the challenge should be done and who to donate to, but they still agreed on one thing: this disease is too heartbreaking to ignore. People stood together. Even those who were against the ice-water part got creative and started their own versions of the challenge. Humans started this because we saw other humans suffering and wanted to do something. We came together for a common cause. This proved that people do care, people are good, and most importantly, we can work together. If you are lucky enough to witness a human movement, soak it in and
really express gratitude for having seen it. Even with our beautiful differences, we can all stand together to make this world a more peaceful place.
“Even with our beautiful differences, we can all stand together to make this world a more peaceful place. Hope Cross Dezember is a full-time caregiver for her husband, Steve, who is battling ALS. She worked as a drug and alcohol therapist for five years before leaving her job to care for her husband. She is also a writer, model, artist, and coproducer of the documentary film Hope for Steve. Photo: JENNIFER CHUNG
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By Anna Russ
Five Lessons Nature Is Trying to Teach You Boosting your health and happiness
Wondering what steps to take to improve your well-being? Just step outside for the answers. 1. Hydration is happiness. Recurrent UTIs, late-afternoon headaches, fatigue, weight gain—all are potential signs of dehydration. Consuming sufficient amounts of water is essential for healthy, functioning cells, tissues, and organs. Drought, whether in plants or humans, compromises effectiveness of the entire metabolic and immune system. Warm or room-temperature water is best. 2. No monocropping. We are all witnessing the eco-agricultural devastation that decades of monocropping has caused. Take a cue from the bees: a healthy system requires diversity. Eating seasonally is also key. During the heat of summer, the earth offers us light, crisp butter lettuces and refreshing berries. During fall, the qualities of the plants change to denser squashes, heartier fruits, and root vegetables. Nature is literally offering us the very qualities we need to adjust with the changing seasons. Embrace your local farmers market to harmonize with nature. 3. Rest and digest. From birds to bears to begonias, all have distinct seasons of activity and seasons of rest. We tend to get caught in the go-faster, go-harder mentality. Like the rest of nature, we have seasonal cycles, with fall being the time for reflection and rejuvenation. Allowing your body and mind time to recover does not make you lazy; it makes you more effective and balanced. This fall, switch up a few power-yoga classes for some zen. Permit yourself to take a day to hibernate.
4. Real light rocks. Like plants, we can adapt to indoor life, but it is no substitute for sunshine. Vitamin D is essential to our health. Recent studies have found that activated vitamin D is a potent inhibitor of cancer-cell growth. Commit to just ten minutes a day. Walk around the block, office building, park, whatever, wherever. Do not deny yourself rays. 5. Lose the dead stuff. Detoxification cycles are integral for nature to maintain balance. Anyone with a pooch knows when a change of season is coming, because hair is everywhere! Like dogs shedding hair and trees shedding leaves, we need to shed internal and mental sludge. Fall and spring are ideal times to do this. Ayurveda prescribes a powerful cleanse that utilizes food, spices, and lifestyle regimens to purify the body and mind. Not sure about a full detox? Commit to a week of not allowing negative stuff in. No reading stories or hanging with people that darken your spirit. You will be amazed at the energy you regain!
“Like the rest of nature, we have seasonal cycles.” Anna Russ is the owner/founder of Anna Apotheca in Atlanta, Ga. After decades working in the biotechnology industry focused on oncological diseases, she left to pursue her passion of Ayurveda, providing a more holistic biotech approach to healthy living. She offers an organic Ayurvedic tea and skin-care line, workshops, and certification courses.
By Kelly Campbell
Traversing the globe as a responsible tourist As traveling the world becomes more popular, it is becoming increasingly more important to make sure what we leave behind has a positive impact on the communities and destinations we visit, especially in the developing world. The next time you plan a trip abroad, think about the following guidelines to create an experience both enriching for the traveler and beneficial to the local community. 1. Stay at locally owned and operated hotels with a commitment to the community and the environment. Look for unique places that are run by locals, create jobs, carry fair-trade items in their gift shops, and are open to the idea of connecting more holistically into their communities. Check hotel policies on solar electricity, composting, recycling, and conservation efforts, and look for those with progressive environmental commitments. Consider eco-lodges whenever possible, and avoid the big chain hotels. 2. Embrace the local culture. Don’t simply be a “tourist”; experience the real people and culture of the country you are visiting. This includes meals with local families, spending time in villages, walking through markets, meeting business owners, exploring religion and art, and connecting to people as individuals. Ask around for suggestions of restaurants, bars, and coffee shops that locals frequent, and get yourself off the tourist path a few times throughout your trip. 3. Support fair trade and artisan cooperatives. Everyone who travels wants to bring home souvenirs to remember their wonderful experience. Be sure to educate yourself on the principles of fair trade and the importance of buying from local artisan groups that are paid fair living wages for their work. Seek out artisan workshops in your destination of choice so that you have the opportunity to support and empower these skilled artisans. This is the best way to truly take home unique gifts representative of the local culture and people.
4. Give back to the local community. Do your research ahead of time, and connect to a local charity that piques your interest. Look for donations, wish lists, or current projects on its website, and make an effort to connect with their administrators one-on-one, visit the organization, and make a difference through your time, efforts, and/or monetary donations. Carving a little time out of your itinerary to give back could end up being the most rewarding part of the trip. 5. Contribute to the local economy. The best way to help the country you are visiting is to invest in it: spend your money. Pay your guides well, tip freely, order that beer, buy the local T-shirt, have another dessert, splurge on a suite, or upgrade your vehicle. Tourism is one of the biggest industries in the developing world, and they depend on our dollars. So go ahead and spend!
Kelly Campbell is cofounder of The Village Experience and the executive director of The Village Cooperative. She has led over one hundred socially responsible trips around the world and has been the logistical leader for Off the Mat, Into the World’s Global Seva Challenge for the past four years.
Create an experience both enriching for the traveler and beneficial to the local community. EXPERIENCETHEVILLAGE.COM
By Shiva Rea 16
“‘Ojas’ is the regenerating fluids of life that give vitality, luster, intrinsic happiness, and longevity.
Five Steps to a Water-Conserving, Ojas-Building Lifestyle Staying juicy during a drought California is experiencing its worst drought in 150 years as lake beds dry up, grass turns gold, and crops for the nation’s food supply decline.
These are ways we connect water conservation with ojas generation in our house. This is “yoga energy activism.”
Living here, you can feel the thirst of the land around you. In Ayurvedic wisdom, this outer drying of nature affects our own inner juiciness, or ojas, particularly when we go into the drying time of the fall season. “Ojas” is the regenerating fluids of life that give vitality, luster, intrinsic happiness, and longevity.
1. Showering with a lover. Two lovers showering is always better than one. You can also try the shower dance: you can clean much more effectively if you move with your whole body. Try it and see.
Ojas depletion can be found in overworking, stress, excessive pushing, and competitive, tension-inducing activities. We can usually tell through our senses when we are burning our ojas. Wasting ojas is no different than wasting water. Building one’s ojas is a positive reconnection to the water element and juicing up within. The average person in Africa only uses four to six gallons of water a day. In California, the average person wastes twenty gallons a day just flushing good water down the toilet, not to mention fifty to seventy gallons for a bath, ten to twenty-five gallons for a shower, forty-five to one hundred gallons for a car wash. So how can we make a collective shift, particularly in the yoga community, to help water conservation in the world and within ourselves? How does cultivating ojas in our bodies help us stay more connected to conserving water during a drought? Cultivating ojas is also good for recovering from a spiritual drought when inner space becomes dry from life’s challenges or everyday stress. Within Ayurveda, there are three main ways of cultivating ojas: juicy, natural, unprocessed soul food; restorative herbs; and relaxation, affection, enjoyment, the senses, movement—basic lovemaking of all forms. Like a candle-lit dinner that saves energy but is also muy romantico, honoring water can help us connect more profoundly to the healing waters within.
2. Juicing up la cucina. Eat juicy foods such as fruits, dates, and sesame tahini dips, and play music while you cook—enjoy! Every day you eat vegan saves six hundred gallons of water from your “water footprint,” not to mention saving eight tons of CO2 from going into the atmosphere. 3. Honoring water. Honor your ojas by not burning precious life-energy with stress. Try using saved shower water to flush so you are not using good water for &#*@. 4. Nourishing the roots. Resting, relaxing, enjoying a water- or lunarbased yoga practice, and meditating generates ojas, just as watering plants with water bulbs instead of a hose allows plants to receive what they need while you save lots of water. 5. Swimming in nature. Swim in oceans and rivers instead of pools. Pools take up twenty-two thousand gallons of water. May we wake up to our current water crisis for the collective good.
Shiva Rea is a water lover, surfer, and prana vinyasa pioneer offering “yogadventure” retreats, trainings, and online courses in collaboration with musicians, scholars, activists, and teachers/studios connected to Samudra Online Global School of Living Yoga. Yoga Energy Activism supports Change the Course in caring for our life-energy within and in nature.
SHIVAREA.COM | CHANGETHECOURSE.US
“The next time life seems stressful and overwhelming, remember the tools you learn during yoga.”
By Stacey Rosenberg
Living in the Midline Maintaining Your Center off the Mat Your boss has you working on an impossible deadline. E-mails are rapidly filling your inbox, their incessant pinging demanding an immediate response even though most are not urgent. Then your spouse calls and says you must pick up the kids today. Versions of this scenario are endless. Insert your own here! Suddenly you feel your jaw clench, your shoulders grip, and your neck stiffen. A headache starts to build around your temples. Where, you wonder, is the beauty and stillness you felt yesterday during your yoga practice? You pause and remember one lesson from that class. You seek your midline: the physical divide between the sides of your body, between your front and your back. Slowly, steadily, you draw your energy within and then release it outwards. The entire process takes sixty seconds, but it gets you feeling the even flow of breath again, in and out. The tension begins to release. The deadline is still NAMASTACEY.COM
impossible, but perhaps you find the courage to ask your boss for more time. The kids still need to be picked up, but you find the resources to do so with a smile. And those e-mails, well, they can wait. Often, when we think of yoga, we think of a class or a workshop. Long sessions of twisting yourself into pretzel-like shapes, floating high, balanced on our hands, or bent like a tightly strung bow. But what if you thought of that class as just a rehearsal, a practice session for the performance you really want to ace, such as those moments when life demands more of you than you think you can deliver? What if that class was a way to build muscle memory for the skills it takes to master life’s greater tasks? Which skills would you want to be sure to learn? The form of yoga we do (postures, flow, breath), as deep as they are, are still the outer shape of the practice. The real function of yoga is to provide ways in which, during the
stresses of life, you can find your midline: the balance between action and stillness, speed and precision, wisdom and energy, firmness and flexibility. Striking that midline helps us rise up and become our best self in all the roles we take in our lives—better at our careers, as parents, and in relationships. So the next time life seems stressful and overwhelming, remember the tools you learn during yoga. Use your breath to find a little centering. Use movement to find stillness. Use the power of strength to create flexibility. When you draw your energy inward, towards the midline, and then release it, the practice will have given you its ultimate reward.
Stacey Rosenberg is committed to teaching students about their bodies while providing them with the foundation to live more vibrant lives.
PHOTO: WARI OM
“Mantras . . . are incredibly special AND powerful tools that can help us clear up the traffic jam of thoughts in our minds.”
By Chandresh Bhardwaj
Let’s Talk about Mantras and How to Rock Your Meditation The word “mantra” comprises the roots “man” and “tra,” which translates to “instrument of the mind.” Mantras help to manage the mind and turn it into a useful instrument, bringing it to its potential. When mantras are used with meditation, they can bring powerful transformations into our lives. A disciplined use of mantras will raise our awareness and help us to heal our inner self effortlessly. Mantras are more than just music to our ears; they are incredibly special and powerful tools that can help us clear up the traffic jam of thoughts in our minds. They have always been very sacred: ancient masters used to wait years before giving out a mantra to their students. Get your mantras from the right source. You should get your mantras from a qualified mantric (one who specializes in mantras) or a guru. Most mantrics will give you a mantra based on your aura, energy, and intentions. Some may also give you a mantra based on your date of birth, but personally, I feel that there are millions of people born on the same date and at the same time who all give off different energies, so how can they all use the same mantra to evolve? That’s why I always recommend that you receive a mantra based on your evolution of energy. Mantras may change over time. As your energy evolves, your mantra should evolve too. With a beeja (seed) mantra, you receive different mantras that help you effortlessly achieve your goals as you further advance in your meditation. Chanting a specific mantra isn’t just blind repetition. Anything you repeat will distract you from your current thoughts, so using mantras as repetition is nothing more than a psychological drug.
Saying a mantra should be like knocking on a door: after you knock, you wait to hear an answer. Even if that means you only say your mantra ten times in twenty minutes, that’s OK. Don’t rush through it.
Try out these mantras with your meditation. The Gayatri Mantra is highly recommended for students, writers, researchers, and those who are seeking a dose of creativity and wisdom in their lives.
Gayatri Mantra Aum Bhuh Bhuvah Svah Tat Savitur Varenyam Bhargo Devasya Dheemahi Dhiyo Yo nah Prachodayat —The Rig Veda (10:16:3) “Shiva” refers to the infinite consciousness, so the Shiva Mantra has a therapeutic effect on the mind, body, and soul and is highly recommended for those who are seeking a spiritual path and good health.
Shiva Mantra Om Namah Shivaya
Chandresh Bhardwaj is an international speaker based in Los Angeles and a seventh-generation spiritual guide. Hailing from a family of traditional Indian gurus, he is founder of the global Break the Norms Movement. Chandresh intends to “revolutionize consciousness and celebrate unconditional love” with this initiative.
BREAKTHENORMS.COM | UNCENSOREDSPIRITUALITY.COM
Buddhist Temples of Thailand
By Robert Sturman This summer, I had the honor of traveling through the enchanting, timeless temples of Thailand with four dear friends, who happen to be sincere yogis as well. “Sincere” is my definition of “advanced.” It just so happens that they all are capable of finding stillness in poses that would be considered advanced, but for me, their sincerity is what catches my lens and heart. And that’s the deepest I know how to go with my work.
Ali Owens: The Ancient City of Sukhothai, Thailand
Briohny Kate Smyth: Koh Samui, Thailand
Briohny Kate Smyth and Ashika Gogna: The Ancient City of Sukhothai, Thailand
Dice Iida-Klein: Koh Samui, Thailand
Dice Iida-Klein: Koh Samui, Thailand
Ashika Gogna: Koh Samui, Thailand
Briohny Kate Smyth: Koh Samui, Thailand
Ashika Gogna: The Temple of the Dogs, Koh Samui, Thailand
Ali Owens, Briohny Kate Smyth, Dice Iida-Klein, and Ashika Gogna: The Ancient City of Sukhothai, Thailand
Dice Iida-Klein: The Ancient City of Sukhothai, Thailand
Briohny Kate Smyth: Koh Samui, Thailand
PHOTOs: ROBERT STURMAN
By Noah MazĂŠ
The Passing of a Giant and My Love Affair with Iyengar Yoga
B. K. S. Iyengar was a giant. Perhaps the last true giant of the yoga world. His life’s work lit the “light of yoga” in the hearts and minds of millions of people. I did not have a personal relationship with him worth speaking of, nor am I a certified Iyengar Yoga teacher, but this itself is instructive and speaks to the point. I met Mr. Iyengar only once and very briefly in 1999, when I was living in an ashram in Maharashtra. We took the train to Pune to visit the institute. I met him in the office and was struck by how short he was. His arms were really long. I expected him to be as tall as a giant. I was perplexed. I palpably remember the intelligence in his feet. I don’t think he said anything more to me than “Namaskar.” This man’s example inspires me daily: his dedication to practice, to teaching, to innovation. His teachings have touched my life and deeply influenced my own path. In the wake of his death, I see how great a legacy a person can leave behind, when he or she has dedicated an entire lifetime to cultivating and offering one’s unique gifts to the world. My first experiences of Iyengar Yoga came at age fourteen through my Ashtanga vinyasa teacher, Richard Freeman, who was heavily influenced by B. K. S. When I began studying Anusara yoga, my first teachers were all formerly certified and licensed Iyengar Yoga teachers. At age twenty-one, I started taking workshops and trainings with senior Iyengar teachers, and I can still tell you the distinct lessons that I learned not just about the poses but about living a life of yoga. I loved the focus, intensity, and complete dedication that I experienced in Iyengar Yoga. In those classes, I felt a call to attention—a call to the yoke. Almost twenty years later, I am still an avid Iyengar student. When it comes to postural instruction, a better book than Light on Yoga has not been written. It was published in 1966 and has not been bettered yet for the breadth and scope of its content. It’s not the only book I use by any means, but it is usually my first resource, and from there, I can launch into so many directions. I am a student in an Iyengar Yoga class whenever I can attend. This style of yoga asks wholehearted and very specific effort from me: body, mind, and heart. Because Iyengar Yoga has such clear protocol/ dharma, I understand how to be a student of this yoga. Learn the expectations and boundaries, work within them, follow directions, pay attention, do your best, work at your capacity, and ask relevant ques-
tions when you have them. There is no fluff, no bullshit—just passionate, focused asana practice. I’m not in an Iyengar class to do my own practice. I’m not in an Iyengar class to project my expectations and preferences on the teacher. I would stay home if that were the case. I am in an Iyengar class to be a student of the appointed teacher. I am a student of the class being taught. I am not on auto pilot. There are no automatics. I am acutely listening—to the teacher, to my pose, to every cue stated out loud, and to every internal sensation. I am entirely captivated in class, and for ninety minutes, everything recedes, while I am fully present in my body. For ninety minutes, someone else has the plan, someone else is in charge, and I get to relax into the deferential role of being a student and not needing to drive an agenda. I go to the Iyengar Yoga studio to learn. And I learn every time, every class, every pose. I go to the Iyengar Yoga studio to defer to the expertise and experience of rigorously trained, detail-oriented teachers. I go with a handful of questions about poses. I go with whatever aches and pains I’m experiencing that they can help me with. The skillful means of props, the progressive sequencing, the focus on poses, and the quality of attention I must invest into all of the asanas speak very deeply to my heart. When I attend an Iyengar class, I never know what kind of class I am going to get. I love that. I play a guessing game from the very first instruction about where the class is going. We might spend the entire class in variations of no more than three poses. We might go after an advanced backbend and warm up with many poses to get there. My practice includes writing down the entire sequence, every pose, with points of emphasis that stood out to me. I attempt to remember everything. I attempt to recreate the lessons and to answer the questions that linger through experimentation and inquiry in my own practice. I sincerely hope to be practicing yoga when I’m ninety-five, as Mr. Iyengar was able to do. With this giant’s passing, I don’t feel a greater sense of urgency or call to the path of service. This is because his example has inspired me daily for decades, and I don’t expect that to change. His students and his students’ students inspire me daily too. I plan to continue studying and practicing the legacy of Iyengar Yoga for many years to come. I feel so much gratitude for teachings of Mr. Iyengar, those who taught him, and the students who learned from him. Thank you, guruji.
“Because Iyengar Yoga has such clear protocol/dharma, I understand how to be a student of this yoga. . . . There is no fluff, no bullshit—just passionate, focused asana practice. MANTRAMAG.COM
I attempt to recreate the lessons and to answer the questions that linger through experimentation and inquiry in my own practice. YOGAMAZE.NET
Bright Lights . . . Draw Bugs Interview: Maranda PleasanT
“The bigger your light, the more power you better have to stand in the face of controversy, disagreement, and dissension.” A conversation between Maranda Pleasant and her therapist, Debra Silverman, international author, astrologist, and psychologist. Maranda Pleasant: A lot of people think that when you’re spiritual, aware, and conscious, life will not have any conflict. That you’ll never have conflict in any of your relationships. I find that the bigger and brighter my work gets, sometimes I have more conflict. It gets misunderstood or people I don’t even know say hurtful things or I attract romantic partners who only want to feed on my success or social circles. Is it possible to be a spiritually evolved person doing big transformative work in the world and still have conflict in relationships? Debra Silverman: It’s impossible [not to]. In fact, you’re not really doing your work in the world unless you’re drawing to yourself the Big Stuff—the light and the dark. Our function as humans is to react, to feel, to care, to touch and be touched. It feels good and often it just plain hurts. By being big, by saying yes to life, you’re going to be saying
no to something—for good or for bad. What you might be saying no to is the person that doesn’t know how to play with you, the person who pisses you off. Contrary to public opinion, it is not only OK to be gritty, to say no, but you must to be real. Spiritual people are not yes people; they are real and can just as easily say yes as say no. The bigger your light, the more power you better have to stand in the face of controversy, disagreement, and dissension. You must learn to find the boundary to say, “No, I will not take that on, that’s not mine. I am clear what is mine and that is not.” If you are so committed to doing your life big, it means it is obvious that you have no time to play small. Naturally, those that don’t play at your level will complain about you, judge you, and both want to attach to your life and attack your light. It is predictable. Big lights draw bugs. Big spirits celebrate, singing you songs of appreciation. They’re the ones that shout out, “Good for you. Go for it. You can do it!” If you aren’t standing around those people in your world that celebrate you, then don’t
play with them—or judge them. Wave, smile, make more space to walk on by guilt-free. There will always be vampires who want to feed on energy. And no one has enough blood to feed joy and vampires at the same time. There’s nothing wrong with a boundary. And there is nothing wrong with choosing joy. Do you know how few people on this planet have had the mastery of joy? There are too many miserable people. For those of us that say yes to big, yes to power, and yes to creativity, you’re going to meet the opposite. And that’s the moment when you say no—no is the new yes.
Debra Silverman has a bachelor’s in psychology and dance from York University and a master’s in clinical psychology from Antioch University. Debra has developed a unique psychologicalspiritual model combining her expertise in esoteric (soul-centered) astrology with her background in psychology to help those going through major life changes and crises.
As we chant, we breathe together in the same rhythm. Everyone falls into a groove together without even trying.
Deva Premal & Miten On mantras, chanting, and thankfulness 32
INTERVIEW: Maranda Pleasant
Maranda Pleasant: What makes you come alive? DEVA PREMAL & MITEN: For us, inspiration comes from many different
omnipresent. Once our hearts open, we become available for the blessings to shower.
avenues. We enjoy our mornings together—our shaking meditation, Deva’s delightful green smoothies, greeting the day with the childlike wonder of “What’s going to happen today?”
MP: What are you passionate about? DP&M: Our greatest passion is to take care of this gift we have been
The concerts we offer are also highlights, because we come together with thousands of others to chant mantras, which are sacred sound formulas. As we chant, we breathe together in the same rhythm. Everyone falls into a groove together without even trying. This feeling of oneness inspires us and opens us to the miracles of life.
MP: What makes you feel vulnerable? DP&M: Playing music. Especially with mantras—they are so powerful energetically, you never know what’s going to happen. The whole point of chanting is to be trusting and vulnerable.
MP: If you could say something to everyone on the planet, what would it be?
DP&M: Sing! MP: How do you keep your center in the middle of chaos? DP&M: Consciously breathing, chanting, touching, hugging, shaking,
given: the sharing of mantras. We consider ourselves to be messengers of a five-thousand-year-old tradition. Somehow, cosmically, we have been entrusted with these ancient sound formulas, and we feel a responsibility to share them with anyone who is open to receiving them. They’ve nurtured our lives in ways we could never have imagined. And if it wasn’t for our guruji, Osho, it never would have happened. He brought us together. He gave us the inspiration, the teachings, and the energy to share the mantras with the world.
MP: Tell me about your latest projects. DP&M: We just released a new album, Mantras for Life, which is designed for communal chanting. It consists of twelve chants that families, animal lovers, earth advocates, and anyone who is interested in starting a daily meditation practice can use in their everyday lives. We’re touring through the USA from late August through October, then heading down to South America for more concerts. Then we will begin working on our first book.
MP: What is love for you? DP&M: As the Beatles said, “Love is all you need.” It’s the very essence
Over 280,000 people from 200 countries joined us for our latest 21-day mantra meditation journey, The Spirit of Mantra. We consider ourselves to be part of a huge global family now. There is a ray of light forming through communal mantra practice, and we all have the opportunity to participate. All it takes is commitment!
of our existence. The trick is to tap into it, to be aware that love is always “here now.” It never leaves us. It never goes anywhere. But in order to tune in to it, we need to cultivate a sense of gratitude. And that’s where meditation comes in. Meditation opens us to the thankfulness of simply being alive, no matter how difficult our circumstances may be. The Great Spirit is always with us, always
Deva Premal & Miten began their journey into love and music in 1990 when they met at the ashram of controversial Indian mystic Osho. Their worldwide concerts and best-selling albums have introduced millions of Westerners to spiritually based songs and mantras from the Eastern meditation traditions.
singing, laughing, and watching our thoughts until they disappear.
Photo: YUVAK TULADHAR
Wayne Coyne of
The Flaming Lips D o ing it w ith lov e
Interview: Maranda Pleasant Maranda Pleasant: What are some of the things that are important to you right now? Wayne Coyne: We’re doing this big collaboration that’s really just The Flaming Lips and a bunch of our friends, not unlike some of the records that we’ve done in the past. This one, we got Miley Cyrus involved, we got My Morning Jacket involved, so we’ve got some pretty big people, and all the money is going to this all-volunteer group here in Oklahoma City that’s all about rescuing homeless animals and finding them homes and getting them adopted. I think that Oklahoma City, where I live, is probably the worst city I’ve seen of all the cities I’ve ever been to. Even people have been, like, “Well, have you ever been to South America?” All those cities, it’s the worst one. I don’t know what happened here fifty years ago that has spawned this mindset that animals are disposable and somehow you can say, “I love my dog and yet he freezes to death outside because I didn’t realize he’s an animal.” It’s like there’s something wrong here, and there are so many dogs in the shelters every week that get destroyed. That’s happening in a lot of cities around America, but it’s really horrible here. So we’re doing this record. I don’t know if it will raise very much money, but it will raise some awareness, and it will raise some money as long as we’re selling the album for this group here. Luckily, there are three or four groups that are doing the same thing now, so it’s really an idea that’s going to work. I think, in five or six years, we won’t have this problem here. But that’s the long and short of that, that thing that we’re doing right now that we think is going to come out at the end of October. It’s just The Beatles, redoing the Sgt. Pepper’s record with all of our friends on the record. MP: I go at 150 miles per hour and you go at 250. You always have this enthusiasm and this life and this energy that you bring to everything you do. Everyone I know that knows you, it’s, like, “When Wayne’s in, it’s 150 percent.” So you have this life-force, this energy. Where do you pull that from? WC: It’s like this thing that me and you are doing right now. You’re kind of like that and I’m kind of like that, and when we get together, it just encourages that thing even more. Most of the people that we’ve been doing stuff with are the same way. You say, “Here, let’s do something,” and they’ll do it the next day and be, like, “F—k, this is cool.” Not everybody does that, but most people have that same thing, you know? If you’re around people that are moving that way, you move that way. So I think it’s mostly that.
Photos: GEORGE SALISBURY
With even someone like Miley Cyrus, she’s like that. If you’re around her, she’s the last one standing. Even after her shows and everything, if there’s someone in the dressing room that wants to talk to her, she’ll come and talk to them. It comes from love, that you love this thing that you’re able to do and you love that you get to express the way you are through what you’re doing and you get to be around f——g cool people and stuff. I think all that helps. Little by little, I’ve probably weeded out all the people that don’t have any energy. [Laughs.] So, by now, if you’re with me, you’re adding to it. MP: I really love that. WC: But I don’t think it would work if everybody was like me. I have the energy, but I don’t always have the ability to shut it off, and luckily, I’m around people that can say, “You’ve done enough today. Now let’s stop and have fun.” And I’ll be, like, “OK.” I forget that it can be torture too. MP: What are some of the things that really help you keep your center in the middle of chaos? Do you have a daily routine or things that you do to keep level? WC: Well, I don’t think of it like that. I mean, I do a pretty intense yoga thing when I’m able to. I try to do it every day, but I’m not always able to. That probably does more than you could even know, just by giving that practice its thing. You know, you don’t think you have the energy to do it, but doing something like yoga gives you the energy to do whatever it is you want to do. But if you don’t do the yoga, you don’t have the energy. It’s a funny thing. Doing something like yoga shows you so much about how to do everything else in the world, by telling [you], “Oh, this thing that I couldn’t do two months ago, I’m finally figuring out how to do it.” It’s probably just because I’m older and I’m open to the idea of learning things as opposed to thinking I’m old and I know everything or something. I’m lucky that as more things have happened, my ability to focus is stronger; whatever is happening, I can change and focus on that now. I think people used to think of me as if I’m working on a song: “You can’t interrupt, because we’re doing something!” Now, everything is interrupted a thousand times, and it’s “OK, let’s just go back to doing this.” That’s something I accidentally developed. Now I recognize, because I don’t think everybody has that. I can see when we’re interrupted that sometimes everyone else is going crazy and I’m, like, “Let’s go back and do what we were doing.” So it’s probably that.
“Doing something like yoga shows you so much about how to do everything else in the world.” MP: What is a truth that you know for sure?
MP: What’s the name of this record?
WC: That if you do something with love, it never fails.
WC: It’s a version of The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, but we can’t use that title; it would just confuse people. So our title—one of the songs on the record is called “With a Little Help from My Friends,” so we’re using it and turning it into a Flaming Lips thing. It’s called With a Little Help from My Fwends. We’ve misspelled “friends” just to get a little less serious. We’re having fun, and we want everyone to see that we’re having fun and it’s not a big, serious thing. We put out a record a couple of years ago called The Flaming Lips and Heady Fwends. So whenever we do something that involves a bunch of people that’s not just The Flaming Lips doing the music, we use this term, “fwends.”
MP: Now you’re going to make me cry. WC: I mean, the thing that you’re trying to do, we don’t know if those things really ever work or not, but if you do it with love, the love always works. You’re always able to give your love. You’re always able to show your love. And that is the way. I can tell you for sure, we’ve tried to do things out of revenge—it’s stupid. We’ve tried to do things to prove how cool we are—it’s a waste of time. We’ve tried to do things to make money—it doesn’t work. But all the things that you do, you may not know it at the time, but it always comes back if you’re doing it with love. It doesn’t mean that love is the only answer. We go into these things so uncertain with art and music and ideas, if you do it with love, it’s going to work. MP: What is love to you? WC: There’s some mechanism in our minds that either you get rewarded by it or you don’t. I was lucky that I grew up in a house where I was so loved. We all were. I can’t say what it is, but I think it’s this unknowable, unspeakable, unsmellable thing. If you’ve been given love, you want to give it. It is such a weird thing. Because giving love is what love is. Wanting to be loved is not what love is; giving love is what love is. That’s a great cosmic question. I ask that question all the time because I think someday I’m going to run into somebody that sums it up perfectly without it having to be, like, a ninety-page essay. That’s the urge. I don’t know if you can ever sum it up. There’s something about it always being in the now that makes it love. You don’t just tell someone once “I love you,” and you don’t have to worry about it. It’s always in the now: I’m showing you now, I want it now, I want you to know how this thing affects me.
We really do care about these things, and we really care about this music. When you deal with something like The Beatles, where there’s a whole world of people out there that just want to come to your house and kill you if you dare touch the music, I’m, like, “People, relax. I think this is what John Lennon and Paul McCartney intended for their music, for it to blow people’s minds!” Sgt. Pepper’s, when I was very young around my older brothers and stuff, was a record that completely blew my mind. When you hear this record, some people will probably be completely outraged that the artists we have doing stuff on it are f——g freaks. Those are exactly the people that should be doing Sgt. Pepper’s. Back when it was released in 1966, 1967 f——g changed other musicians’ and other artists’ perceptions about what they could do, and I think the same is true now. You hear this music, and it makes you want to go further and try things. It’s the same thing we were talking about. I love that and I love this idea, so when you go into the idea, the idea enriches you and makes your ideas more true to you.
“I have the energy, but I don't a lways have the ability to shut it off, and luckily, I 'm
around people that can say, You’'ve done
enough today. Now let 's stop and have fun'”
“All the things that you do, it always
comes back if you re doing it with love.”
â€œWanting to be loved is not what love is; giving love is what love is.â€?
“When we’re born, we all come into this earth as a really good person. I don’t see any asshole babies, you know?” On the back of a bus on the Soulshine tour . . . Maranda Pleasant: How do you maintain your center in the middle of chaos? How do you ground yourself? Jacob Hemphill: If you ask anyone I know, they’ll say, “He’s not very good at maintaining his center.” I’ve gone from being a real asshole to being someone who really puts himself in other people’s shoes, thinks of other people’s situations, appreciates silence, appreciates patience, gets rid of competition in his life, and forgets about accumulation being the goal of everything, which is tough in the world that we live in. But yes, the center is tough to find. It’s hard to run your life from a third-person perspective. If this were The Sims or something, it would be easy. Have him show up to work on time, maybe stay late, get a raise. Afterwards, read a book because it will make him smart. If I could do that for myself . . . but that’s the human condition. The center is elusive, and anyone who says they’ve got it a hundred percent perfectly is a liar. And I love for people to think of themselves positively, but that’s what kind of got me off of religion—all these people who say they are perfect or that this way will achieve perfection. I think people figure out what perfection is the second they die. Steve Jobs’ last words in this world were, “Oh, wow.” He said it three times while staring at the ceiling in his house. His eyes opened as wide as they could go, he arched a little bit, and he said, “Oh, wow,” three times. When you’re born, you’re in a little circle, you and your mom, and you kick and scream and kick and scream, because you don’t want to leave. You have everything you need: you have food, water, you got warmth, you got love. What else is there? And you kick and scream while you’re getting pushed into the next circle, which is way bigger than the first one. It looks like an earth. Then you live this whole incubation period one more time. You wake up and you’re on the earth in this circle and you’re screaming and you hate it. And then fifty, sixty, seventy, eighty, ninety, a hundred years go by, and then you kick and scream your way into the next circle. If you zoom out on the earth, the universe is shaped like a circle, and I don’t believe that’s a coincidence. I had a dream that a loved one came to me. I said, “What are you doing here?” He said, “I’m protecting someone.” I said, “Me?” He said, “No, not you, dude. You’re fine.” Then I said, “All right, so what’s the deal? Is there a hell?” I don’t even believe in hell; I don’t know why I asked that. And he said, “You mean like the pitchfork and the pointy red man and stuff.” And I said, “Yeah, I don’t know why I said that of all the things I could have asked you.” He said, “You find peace and all the worries of the world are gone, and you get it. I’ll see you when you get here.” That’s where I’m at. MP: You started writing my editor’s letter for me, and you said, “It’s not a competition. We’re built to compete against each other, but we run on love.” JH: Yeah, when we’re born, we all come into this earth as a really good person. I don’t see any asshole babies, you know? I don’t see any babies who don’t like someone because they’re black. I don’t see any babies who look at a gay guy and call him a name. They like shiny stuff, but they like it because it’s shiny. They don’t like it because they’re rich. They like keys—that’s their favorite thing, every baby. Keys. Because they’re so interesting to this baby. I always try to
figure out a way to get back to that, because we’re programmed to compete, and babies don’t know how to compete. They’re taught how to compete: this is mine, that is yours, I own this, you own that, this is my part of the room. They don’t know any of that shit until we tell them that’s the way it is. So I’m kind of trying to de-program myself, and in de-programming myself, I figure, why don’t I do it on the microphone at the same time? It’s the same thing I always do, you know. Strength to Survive is not about, does the world have the strength to survive? It’s about, do I have the strength to survive? This thing that has chewed up and spit out so many people—am I going to make it? When I think like that, I think about the other people in the world, what they must be going through, and I think, Are they going to make it? Then I hope that everybody makes it. Then I write the song. The new record is called Amid the Noise and Haste, and it’s something that my father always told me before I’d go on tour. It’s at the end of the video called “When We Were Younger” that I dedicated to him. I never bring my personal life or my family into the scope of this band, but I figured a lot of people might want to meet the guy that taught me how to play piano and taught me how to play guitar and taught me how to sing and taught me how to harmonize and had me sing at every family reunion and made all his brothers and sisters learn how to play reggae just so I would sing. And I never show myself, but I showed it that one time. But I’m honoring him now. Because there’s a poem by Max Ehrmann that my dad thought was the most beautiful thing in the world. And it was the thing that he could not do. And I think it was the thing that he always hoped I could do. It basically says, be proud of everything you do. Don’t look at the people who are “better than you,” and don’t look at people as if they’re less than you. Because if you see better, you’re going to be greedy and envious, and if you see less, then you’re going to be vain and mean. Just focus on yourself, and be proud of everything that you’ve accomplished. In doing that, you can help the world and the people that live there. I always thought that was pretty special. I obviously love my dad very much. MP: Where can we find your record? JH: The record is probably going to be on sale everywhere. And we have records and a CD version and stuff. If you Google “soja,” it will take you to our stuff. We’re a pretty big global band. Like, on Facebook, it says 3.4 million, I think. I might be wrong. But it’s a lot. It’s a big number. It’s funny, Amid the Noise and Haste is about, could we achieve our full potential, could we do it? Or are we just going to behave like cancer? There’s a reason why we can’t figure out how to cure cancer. It’s because it’s us. Everything in life is based on something that was already here. A plane is a bird, a car is a horse, glasses are eyes, a computer is your brain—supposedly more advanced things, but there’s nothing more advanced than an eye or a brain. So we’ve never had to figure out the cure for something that eats itself and eats itself until it kills itself, because we’ve never had to figure out the cure for us. I mean, cancer is us. It just moves all around and eats and eats and eats until the host is dead, and then the cancer dies. It’s not even smart about it. It doesn’t even leave enough left to provide the cancer with something to eat. Look at us. Look what we’re doing to the earth. We’ve chopped down all the rainforest. Just like cancer. Amid the Noise and Haste is about that.
Photo: ERIC RYAN ANDERSON
INTERVIEW: MARANDA PLEASANT
Examining life through music
The Final Savasana At the intersection of life, death, and yoga By Cassandra Alls
y beloved aunt had lived a full life, one decorated with accolades and accomplishments. She had traveled the world and made friends far and near. In her final moments, I held her, knowing that she would soon find peace. This was her fourth and final battle with cancer.
I witnessed her great strength and courage as she dealt with all the changes, transitions, and traumas in life, but it was not without a heavy amount of resistance. It seems we are conditioned to hold on to things, ideas, and expectations. Letting go becomes a practice that could save our lives. Most of us have been touched by cancer directly or indirectly. It has become a disease of our culture. With all of our scientific knowledge, there has not been any real progress except more expensive treatments. And yet, more cancer. The Gerson Institute shared a study published by the International Agency for Research on Cancer in which researchers predicted that by the year 2030, the incidence of cancer is expected to increase by more than seventy-five percent in developed countries and over ninety percent in developing nations. We all have the potential for illness and cancer, which means we all have the potential to heal it.
“Letting go becomes a practice that could save our lives.”
One day, we wake up in this life, and one day, we leave, but what happens in between is our life, our practice, our yoga. Our lives seem separate and our yoga practice individual, yet each is a part of a bigger whole. One of my yoga teachers would often say at the end of class, “Take the gifts from your practice off the mat and into your day. Namaste.” That proved to be challenging, but soon I understood that yoga does not end because class does. In the hectic flow of our daily lives, what are we practicing? What do we allow? What do we resist? And how does this contribute to our overall well-being? These are important questions to ask ourselves.
In yoga, we strive to find our balance, our center, our breath, our inner peace. It offers us tools to maintain a healthy mind-body connection. It teaches us in many ways about ourselves. So maybe if we take the gifts off our mat and into our world, we would see a change. Although we had different practices, my aunt and I were very similar. I could relate to many of her struggles and often shared her pain. It was not hard to see and feel the heartache behind her beautiful smile. I supported her the best I could, as she did me, and in the end, she was one of my greatest teachers. As I massaged her legs in her final savasana, she had no choice but to let go. In that moment, I saw life, death, and yoga.
Cassandra Alls is a holistic health practitioner and the creator of Holistic Diva Living and Chakra Wellness Coaching.
Photo: CHAD THOMAS
Experiments in Utter
Connecting the breath with movement, the mind to the body, to ourselves and community, and to Source—all of this is preparation for recognizing relationships and seeing things in a new and original way. Yoga, if we allow it, provides the time, space, and nourishment needed for focus, restoration, and inspiration, some of the key ingredients required for creativity to take place. Yoga also helps move energy through the body and open the heart, contributing yet another dimension for connection and expression. Put it all together, and we have a perfect environment to explore what it means to be creative. For many of us, yoga is a path for creative self-discovery. Yoga is where we find and push our edges to observe what we are capable of when we breathe and move our bodies. Yoga is where we evolve our mindset with the support and instruction of our fellow yogis. But it doesn’t have to stop there. Regular practice of creative selfdiscovery is a training ground for creative discovery beyond the mat. This can take the form of artistic expression, scientific exploration, entrepreneurial ventures, and other activities where we can apply and develop the ways in which we see and make connections and relationships in the world around us. Viewed from this perspective, the potential for creativity as a vehicle for growth and transformation is unlimited. If creativity is about connection, and yoga is where we practice connecting, then the
mat is our creativity lab. The breath, posture, and mindset achieved on the mat are experiments in creativity and, by extension, experiments in transformation. The mat becomes the test bed for exploring the connections between our body and our breath, our outlook and our life. The mat is also where we practice opening our hearts and accessing and experiencing the radiance of our light. In this way, yoga lends purpose to creativity so it’s not just creativity for creativity’s sake but creative development. Led from the heart. On the mat, as in life, we are what we create. Be brilliant. Melissa Koch is the creator of ninetimestwelve, handcrafted yoga jewelry that connects self to practice to life. She also owns and coaches at Essential Mind and Body, where she is passionate about self-discovery and empowerment. Melissa is an attorney/MBA and has been a practitioner of yoga for fifteen years.
The mat becomes the test bed for exploring the connections between our body and our breath, our outlook and our life.
he latest in brain-science research is taking a greatly expanded view of what it means to be creative. More than creating a masterpiece on canvas, an extraordinary aria, or a piece of literary genius, science is showing that creativity is primarily an exercise in connection and relationships. This is very exciting news for yogis in particular, where so much of the work we do is grounded in cultivating connection and relationships.
By Melissa Koch
Cultivating Creativity from the Mat
Jeff Beaudoin, PhD
Forrest Yoga Guardian and teacher Portland, Oreg.
Yoga teacher and owner of Omaha Power Yoga Omaha, Nebr.
Years ago, competitive boxing provided cessation to my noise-filled mind. But this overrode an ability to hear how much pain my body endured. Now when practicing yoga, I have an ability to focus through noise and tend to the needs of my heart and body. This makes me happy and feel complete.
I began practicing power yoga fifteen years ago. Yoga practice has rescued me from twenty years of pointless aesthetic vanities and given me true health and wellness. It has delivered my mind from severe depression and addiction and blessed me with true self-love and acceptance. I don’t “work out to get high” anymore; I live yoga for the benefit of others.
WILLOWRYAN.COM PHOTO: CASSIE GOODLUCK-JOHNSON
By allowing myself access to the magical in the mundane and the sacred in the standard, yoga has helped me, on the good days, to thrill in the delight of being a body here on this earth and, on the bad days, to sail the stormy seas without losing my lunch. SWAMPTOWNSTUDIOS.US PHOTO: AUBREY LONGLEY-COOK
How has yoga changed the way you live? Sabina Grewal
Owner and yoga teacher at Yoga Bliss Studios Gaithersburg, Md.
Yogi, writer, studio owner, and life alchemist Tokyo, Japan, and Santa Fe, N.M.
Founder of Scholé Yoga Salt Lake City, Utah
Yoga inspires the way I live every day. It reminds me to take a deep breath and relax when challenges arise and to take myself lightly. It helps me to be centered and grounded. Yoga is a gift that makes me feel physically strong, mentally clear, and smile bigger every day!
Yoga helped me see that process was integral to evolution. Hitting walls showed me where I held back. Yoga taught me to observe the walls with compassion and dispassion. Could I scale, dismantle, or walk through the walls? Over time, my poetry became more embodied; my yoga became more poetic. Two decades of yoga gave my life beauty and gratitude.
“Scholé” is an ancient Greek word for time spent on internal practices, like meditation and self-study. As an attorney and an academic, I focused my time and energy exclusively on external and intellectual pursuits. Yoga created space in my life for scholé and helped me develop the strength and clarity necessary to support the same growth and progression for others.
By Chris Grosso
“Cultivating a spiritual lifestyle will probably be just about the most challenging undertaking you’ll ever face.
Why Spirituality? Meeting yourself underneath the layers es, why spirituality? A very good question. I mean, it’s not like spirituality is going to magically fix everything. Truth be told, in many cases, spirituality is going to seemingly make things worse and more chaotic before it gets better. If we’re being really real about our practice, spirituality will inevitably shake and crumble our carefully crafted foundation of what we’ve found safe to believe about ourselves, others, and life in general to its core. This is because spirituality dismantles all the conditioning we’ve been subject to since birth from our family, friends, teachers, and society. Spirituality, rather than adding more beliefs and ideas about who and what we think we are, peels away the layers, bringing us deeper within ourselves to where the realest of real truth resides.
so, among the many things that spirituality will do for us in life, finding true happiness and balance is among them, which is no small thing.
So again, why spirituality? Well, why not? Many of us have sought happiness in things like food, drugs, shopping, sex, TV, and so on only to have eventually realized that what they offer is nothing more than a very fleeting satisfaction. I mean, hey, I love to zone out and watch The Walking Dead as much as the next guy, but once that hour of zombie-rific goodness is over, well, it’s over, and then what? That new car, laptop, or guitar which makes us so happy today—the ones that we’re extra careful to not get any scratches or scuff marks on—eventually lose their appeal, and like clockwork, nicks and dings eventually begin to appear as we go on to the next thing. Of course, it’s fine to enjoy the material things in life that make us happy, but it’s important to do so with the understanding that none of them will ever provide us with any true lasting source of peace, happiness, or contentment. And
Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche said, “Spiritual awakening is not a happy-golucky endeavor. The path of truth is profound—and so are the obstacles and possibilities for self-deception.” So if you’re up for a wondrous, strange, beautiful, eye-popping, and mind-melting experience, which at the same time is also really nothing special at all, then I’d say you’re very much ready to step onto the path. Unless you’re already here, in which case, hello, it’s nice to see you.
Now, when I talk about spirituality, I don’t mean your parents’ spirituality unless you had some insanely cool-ass parents. This spirituality is raw and direct; it doesn’t speak of creeds or beliefs but, rather, directly to the heart and the mind in a way that’s undeniable. That said, cultivating a spiritual lifestyle will probably be just about the most challenging undertaking you’ll ever face. Things such as learning to live mindfully with the acceptance of whatever life hands us; seeing and honoring the beauty, wonder, and interconnectedness of all things (and I mean all things); and cultivating a greater sense of loving-kindness for ourselves, as well as others, definitely won’t always be the blissed-out love and light experience that spirituality is often portrayed to be.
Chris Grosso is an independent culturist, speaker, freelance writer, and musician. He created the popular online hub, The Indie Spiritualist, for all things alternative, independent, and spiritual and continues the exploration with his best-selling debut book, Indie Spiritualist: A No Bullshit Exploration of Spirituality. THEINDIESPIRITUALIST.COM
Your Path Engage your free will instead of blaming the universe By HawaH
It is my choice to either leave my destiny up to the universe or choose to shift my awareness and embrace the knowledge that I am the universe.” I remember walking to the bus stop one day. Sweat was dripping down my chin, while I gazed upon the faded metal bus-stop sign a block away. I saw an unorganized huddle of bodies. A few sat on the wooden bench, staring through the hazy Plexiglas of the awning. I checked my watch and noticed that I was running ahead of schedule. The bus wouldn’t be coming for at least five more minutes. In that instant, I heard big tires rolling up behind me, the punched-in sound of a clutch cranking into the floor, the shaking of windows as the tires dipped into a small pothole. I quickly turned my head and saw the bus. There was no traffic to slow it down. I was about a block away and stuck between two fateful options. The first option was to stand there and surrender my fate to the universe. I could repeat to myself, “Oh, well. I guess the universe didn’t want me to catch the bus today,” and regurgitate that famous cliché, “I guess it just wasn’t meant to happen.” The second option before me was to take my bag, hold on to it a bit tighter, and start running up the block. This option didn’t guarantee that I would catch the bus, but it engaged my free will so that it did not have to breathe in the exhaust of resignation. THEPOETRYOFYOGA.COM | ONECOMMONUNITY.ORG
Contemplation on choice is sometimes the toughest part of any day. The universe definitely provided some context that made it a bit harder for me to catch the bus, yet still, I could act to change the situation. Sure, that bus came ahead of schedule, but my reaction was what was in my control and what my yoga practice has taught me. My reaction could have been to blame it on the universe, to fall into the trap of “I guess it wasn’t meant to happen.” Or to pick up my heels and start running. Each moment of life, we set into motion a series of succeeding moments that will ultimately shape our future. It is my choice to either leave my destiny up to the universe or choose to shift my awareness and embrace the knowledge that I am the universe. When this happens, what we previously blame on an outside entity, or “destiny,” is actually something we understand as within us. The choice is mine. The choice is yours. The choice is ours. You can make all the excuses you want, but in the end, destiny is choice.
HawaH has authored four books and produced three documentary films. He is the founding editor of The Poetry of Yoga, a collection of over three hundred yogi poets from nineteen countries.
By M e l issa C arro l l
You are not a
Letting Go of Attachment
e are human. We tend to get attached: to lovers, to iPhones, to our ideas of ourselves. This attachment can seep onto our yoga mats too, of course: Which postures do you find most delicious, soothing, and exhilarating? Likewise, which postures make you feel uncomfortable, even agitated?
This sense of attachment is known in yoga philosophy as “raga.” We’ve felt the nagging pull of desire appear in our lives. That anxious whirlpool in your gut when your new love interest hasn’t called you back? That’s raga at work. That deflated feeling in your chest when things don’t turn out the way you planned? Those are the effects of raga.
When we calcify our attention on “achieving” a particular shape, we become adrift in raga and are operating with the ego. At that point, we lose the immediate connection to the present moment. When we strain to touch our toes, grunt in side plank, or compare ourselves to others, we are offered a perfect chance to practice moving through our raga. And every time we catch ourselves being swayed by ego attachments, we strengthen our resolve to be present. Here’s a trick: when attachment arises, pause, breathe, and ask if this goal is for your highest good. We can then drop into the flow of our breath and allow distracting thoughts to dissolve. We can feel grateful for the opportunity to work through this necessary part of our spiritual journey. Ultimately, you are not your glorious expression of Tree pose. You are not your shaky Crow pose, or your strong Warrior. You are not your legs; you are not your arms; you are not your stomach or your chest; you’re not your lips, your nose, your hair. You are not a sum of your parts. You are something far more integrative, spacious, and dynamic than any of that.
Melissa Carroll is a writer, creative-writing instructor at The University of Tampa, and a yoga instructor who guides the largest weekly yoga class in Florida. Melissa is the editor of Going Om: Real-Life Stories on and off the Yoga Mat. She leads yoga and writing retreats all over the world.
Here’s a trick: when attachment arises, pause, breathe, and
One time, a new student walked into the studio where I was working. When I asked if she’d ever practiced yoga, she responded with, “No, but I want to do this move.” She whipped out her phone and showed me an Instagram photo of a marvelously bendy girl in pincha mayurasana, a forearm balance. I could immediately see raga, attachment to this posture, driving this woman’s intention to try yoga. (It’s always easier to notice these qualities in others before we turn the lens on ourselves, isn’t it?) I also assumed she would not enjoy my class: I emphasize mindfulness, deep breathing, and honoring where you are. This woman was there to, as she put it, “impress all my friends.”
ask if this goal is for your highest good.
Cheaters, Traffic, and Violence Checking your reflection in the world’s mirror By Kelly Morris
“The world is a mirror.” “As above, so below.” When the teachings intone that the outer world is a perfect reflection of your inner world, they don’t mean only when you like what you see or only when things go your way. The maxim holds true always and forever regardless of how foreign, repellent, or unlikely the reflection is. When the reflection gets too heavy, too unbearable, the wise look within. Remember, karma accrues with a single thought. You don’t have to run someone over in traffic; you only have to consider it while yelling “F—k you!” out the window and bearing down hard on the tinny horn. You don’t have to cheat to have infidelity show up on your now darkened doorstep; you only have to consider it while checking out someone else’s honey’s ass. Nor do you have to run to Gaza and get shot trying to grab weapons from someone’s hands. According to the ancient teachings, you only have to have the fortitude and the courage to look within to discover the tiny, careless thought or small, innocent action that had the power to create the current debacle you find yourself in, that I am in, that we are all in. Master Patanjali has a solution. He says, “Vitarkabadhane pratipaksabhavanam,” which translates loosely to “When oppressed, cultivate the opposite.” Your partner cheated? You can complain to the shrink, cut the crotch out of all their expensive outfits, and throw a I’m Single and Thrilled About It party that you document furiously on Instagram— or you can stop explaining the ins and outs of the copy machine that even chimps know how to operate to the cute new coworker. Further, Patanjali wants you to “cultivate the opposite.” What is the opposite of flirting? A full-length burka is not the answer. Assuming you figure that out, what actions will you take to create a new environment of trust, respect, and forgiveness? A yogini worth her salt sees Gaza and the wretched rest and gets to work, trying to eliminate from herself the qualities she sees peacocking about the dust storms and ragged faces. Wrath, fear, vengeance, and a profound loss of perspective are the qualities I see.
KELLYMORRIS.COM | CONQUERINGLIONYOGA.COM
Do I have those qualities? Does the pope wear a funny hat? The yogini knows that debating with friends, arguing with enemies, and staring at the news on TV only feeds the world’s fire and deepens the karmic debt.
“Karma accrues with a single thought.” You want to see the fighting in Gaza end? Find your sworn enemies, the ones you keep insisting you don’t have. (“Spare me,” says Buddha.) Give them exactly what they want and what you don’t want to give. Give generously, kindly, peacefully. Lastly, find a way to love them. Until we do this, Gaza and the wretched rest continue.
Kelly Morris is founder of the renowned Conquering Lion Yoga Teacher Training Program in New York City. The New York Times and Yoga Journal call Kelly one of NYC’s foremost teachers. She has been teaching for over twenty-five years and is loved by celebrities, advanced students, and beginners alike.
“Security found in another person is an illusion.” By Amanda Mills
Fall in Love with Yourself
As a woman in her “middle ages,” I am exhausted by the question, “Why is an amazing girl like you still single?” This question is usually dished out by an older man who has children and is on his third failed marriage or by a miserable married couple. Awkward questions like backhanded compliments always get me thinking. When did being single or alone become a bad thing? When did having a partner equal having a happy, well-adjusted life? Why does my inward happiness require an exterior person? And why do irrelevant questions make me question my own choices? Companies have become wildly successful with dating websites and apps to find your perfect match: a person of a certain religion, a sugar daddy or momma, or even a millionaire. They say they’ve found the technology or algorithm to discover your soul mate. How has my smartphone become better than I am at choosing a mate, and why should I trust technology to arrange my marriage? I don’t want to find someone to complete me when I am firmly grounded and comfortable with the “single” label; I choose to be, shall I say, “consciously uncoupled.” The old single girl was portrayed in film and media as a spinster or a crazy cat lady. “Single” no longer means a woman with limited options but a woman with endless ones. Ladies and gentlemen, use your single time wisely—it’s precious. Get selfish. Knock off a few things on your
bucket list. Take that trip you weren’t able to convince a former partner to join you on. Turn your favorite hobby into a profession. Security found in another person is an illusion. There is so much wisdom in the uncertainty of being alone. There’s something really cool about being free and not knowing what your destiny is, and there’s so much room for personal growth. Attack your time alone with the fearlessness of a child that has never been hurt, back when change and growth were a good thing and growing pains led to amazing opportunities. And if you are a single person with relationship wounds, let your softened heart be led to a beautiful new beginning. Take off your armor and let love rule! Trust the process and toss the rule book. Stop hiding behind your computer and smartphone, and get out there. Enjoy human contact and nature, jump into a yoga class, take a hike, adopt a pet, and fall in love with the unknown. And who knows, you may meet someone amazing along the way: you. Remember, happiness is an inside job.
Amanda Mills is a mother to fur babies General Patton and Chrissy Snow; proprietor of Amanda Mills Los Angeles, a luxury boutique; and private yoga teacher in Santa Monica, Calif.
PHOTO: DAN STEINBERG, STYLIST: MISTY DAWN LAWRENCE, HAIR AND MAKEUP: LIZZIE SCISSORHANDS
What is one of your 1 Gillian St. Clair Yoga studio owner, teacher, mother, and wife
2 Sarah Norris Yoga teacher
“Everything you need
I’m still learning how to let go and do nothing. Letting go of past conversations, altercations, situations that don’t serve me in the present moment. Things I can’t change or simply don’t need to. Learning how to let go is what my yoga is all about. Not how full I can be but how to empty my cup. STEADFASTANDTRUEYOGA.COM | PHOTO: ADAM LIVINGSTON
to be happy is inside you; let go of all the noise and tap into it.” —Megan Kipp
Learning how to focus and surrender. Giving myself over to love and bliss can be the most painful experience initially because of how little I’ve been in that space. Bringing gratitude to the areas of tension in my body and mind helps me to realize where my energy is going so that I can begin to open myself up. PHOTO: DANIEL C. WHITE
Brooke Asbury Owner at Hot Yoga of East Nashville
Corrine Champigny Yoga/meditation teacher and cofounder of The Ivy House
Hilary Lindsay Yoga teacher
I’ve gone country! Actually, I’ve gone yogi. Perhaps both. One way or another, this Seattle girl moved to Nashville for yoga. I fell in love with the city after stepping into that first honky-tonk two years prior. I soon made the difficult/ risky decision to leave my old life behind and plant a studio in East Nashville. Nothing worthwhile is easy.
Through a deep sense of longing as well as health challenges, I found yoga and meditation at the age of twenty-seven. Immediately after embarking on this journey, I spent a month doing long hours of meditation and yoga. It was then that I realized my most important life lesson: all of the answers to life are found in the silence.
Think through the consequences of your actions before you say what you believe. You may discover that your belief is not absolute. Do not intentionally offend when you express yourself, but be brave enough to bear the consequence if you do.
HOTYOGAEASTNASHVILLE.COM PHOTO: MELISSA MADISON FULLER
THEIVYHOUSE.ORG | PHOTO: HUNTER ARMISTEAD
ACTIVEYOGA.COM | PHOTO: ROB LINDSAY PICTURES
biggest life lessons? 6
Megan Kipp Yoga and massage therapist
Nicole Gheorghe Yoga instructor
Understanding that the approval you need in life comes from you and only you. When you invest in yourself, your health, and your passion, then your knowledge and confidence builds. That confidence can bring peace, ease, and happiness. Everything you need to be happy is inside you; let go of all the noise and tap into it.
Impermanence. Without notice, your entire life can change. I’ve learned that we must remain unattached, flexible, accepting. To move harmoniously with the waves and cycles of life requires a connection to contentment of who we are at our core, our true being. You are not your things: you are you, and that is the only constant in this ever-changing life.
WILDANDFREESPIRIT.WORDPRESS.COM NICOLEGHEORGHEYOGA.COM | PHOTO: RAMIAH BRANCH PHOTOGRAPHY
Susannah Herring Director/owner of Hot Yoga Plus
Amanda Wentworth E-RYT 500, CRYT, IAYT yoga therapist in training
Learning to create space between stimulus and reaction has been one of my biggest life lessons. I’m a never-let-anything-get-in-my-way type of girl, which has served me well but which can also cause collateral damage along the way. Through yoga, I have learned the beauty of choosing my reaction. As a result, the subtle, powerful shift in my life has been remarkable.
Realizing I’m not in control of everything. The more I make space to just practice and observe without attachment to outcome, the more pleasurable life experiences are. Think of practicing like gardening: you can influence the environment, but can you will the plant to fruit or flower? No, but you can set up good conditions, then simply enjoy whatever arises.
AMANDASANA.COM | PHOTO: ASHLEY HYLBERT
brings you joy?
Lotus Ta Spiritual life coach, Reiki master, and yoga teacher San Diego, Calif. I find joy through self-expression, relaxing, freeing my heart to give and receive love, nature, listening to my spirit, being lighthearted, living in the moment, staying a life student, embracing my femininity, compassion, humor, community, music, yoga, devotion, self-realization, creativity, rule-breaking, and meditation. It’s a joy to live my dharma and be of service, to cocreate a colorful, awakened life! LOTUSTA.COM
Louise “Lulu” Sharpe
Tiffany Harris Delong
CEO and founder of Lulu’s Chocolate Sedona, Ariz.
Yoga instructor, personal trainer, and nutrition consultant Las Vegas, Nev.
I receive the greatest joy in this life when I begin my day sipping tea while eating a chocolate bar followed by a couple of hours of deep yoga and meditation practice. That sets the tone for an entire day of the miracles that surround me when I stay in the present moment with my heart wide open!
When my son died, I had two options: happiness or misery. Neither would breathe life back into my boy’s body. Joy is available, even amid sorrow. I experience yoga (union) with all my children, regardless of physical form, by accepting them as they are. Joy manifests when I have the courage to live life now . . . as is.
LULUSCHOCOLATELOVE.COM PHOTO: BREANNE JOHNSON / RED POPPY PHOTO
Justin Reilley The Tattooed Yogi South Jersey and Philadelphia Simple everyday things bring me the most joy. Dancing and singing with my daughter and playing Legos with my son. A sweaty, spiritually charged inversional yoga practice with Raghunath, skateboarding with friends on Sunday morning, and coffee! THETATTOOEDYOGI.COM PHOTO: JOE LONGO
Owner of Maui Yoga and Dance Shala Maui, Hawaii
Yoga instructor Waianae, Hawaii
I find joy in all the beautiful nature Maui has to offer. The Hawaiian word for energy is “mana.” That mana can so easily be experienced in serene beach and mountain settings. Our yoga ohana (family) and loving pets are also a source of great joy along with the feeling of aloha, the energy of love, kindness, and divine breath.
Smiling! The power of a single smile has the ability to emanate throughout an entire room. Within that smile, I can sense the overpowering sensation of contentment. Smiling brings me joy in its purest form because it allows me to be absolutely present in the beauty of the moment. When the whole world smiles, joy is infinite.
PHOTO: BEN HARPER
Alexis Mutchler International yoga teacher and licensed massage therapist The first few decades of my life, I spent dancing. Through the harsh times, movement brought me stillness, peace, and joy. When my heart and focus were ready for a shift, I found yoga. Today, I travel around the world (on the National Geographic Sea Bird and Sea Lion) teaching yoga. I found my joy between movement and stillness. PHOTO: KIKE CALVO
NASHVILLE SECOND ANNUAL Music City Yoga Festival Benefiting Africa Yoga Project and Small World Yoga
Saturday, October 4, 2014 | 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 2 to 6 p.m. | 429 Event Space, Nashville, Tenn.
Nashville Yogis Come Together to Celebrate and Build Community Music City Yoga Festival brings together some of Nashville’s best yoga instructors from different studios in an effort to educate, inspire, and introduce the wide-ranging benefits of yoga. This is a day to celebrate the Nashville yoga community while supporting two nonprofit organizations which use yoga to make an impact locally and globally. One hundred percent of proceeds go to Small World Yoga and Africa Yoga Project. Festival attendees participate in hour-long yoga classes from some of Nashville’s expert yoga teachers along with two Kenyan teachers from Africa Yoga Project. Each session will be taught by teachers/owners from different Nashville yoga studios and will allow students to experience many different kinds of yoga, including yin and Thai yoga, Iyengar Yoga, vinyasa yoga, Ashtanga vinyasa yoga, power yoga, Chill Flow Yoga, Awareness Yoga, Naam Yoga, and Conscious Movement.
handmade jewelry to fresh pressed juice. The intention is to celebrate the local yoga community and to raise awareness and funds for Small World’s annual Music City Yoga Festival. This year, a portion of proceeds from the festival will go to Small World Yoga and Africa Yoga Project. Small World Yoga is a new local 501(c)(3) nonprofit dedicated to raising awareness and accessibility to yoga. Small World Yoga’s mission is to inspire growth, connection, and possibility by increasing access to yoga. It connects yoga teachers to areas of the Nashville community that have limited access to yoga. Currently, Small World Yoga is sharing yoga in over twenty locations throughout Nashville and reaching children and adults in low-income neighborhoods, homeless families, cancer patients and caregivers, women in recovery from domestic violence or drug and alcohol abuse, and many more underserved populations. Small World Yoga is aiming to be in thirty locations by the end of 2014. Africa Yoga Project educates, empowers, elevates, and employs youth from Africa, using the transformational practice of yoga. The vision is to create opportunities for youth to step into their greatness, become self-sustaining, and lead their communities.
There will be live music celebrations by Chant Ram and DJ AyDamn, food trucks, and a local marketplace featuring everything from MUSICCITYYOGAFESTIVAL.COM | SMALLWORLDYOGA.ORG | AFRICAYOGAPROJECT.ORG
How do you put seva into action? 1
Yoga instructor, visual artist, and graduate student Nevada City, Calif.
Modern human New Jersey
My primary yoga practice is that of seva. I have served a broad range of populations, including orphaned children in developing countries and the aged and dying in Calcutta. I presently teach yoga to incarcerated girls in juvenile hall. I am working towards a master’s degree in somatic counseling psychology in order to provide mindfulness-based therapy to incarcerated youth.
I’ve always loved helping, teaching, and being there for people. The act of giving service was a natural feeling that made me feel amazing. Being driven mainly by capitalism as a youth, I found that my true happiness had nothing to do with the material. A shift in perspective can make all the difference. For me, seva is wealth. JEFFREYPOSNER.COM PHOTO: ROBERT STURMAN
SIMONESTAR.PORTFOLIOBOX.ME PHOTO: RYAN WEIDERT
Many essential yogic texts teach us to practice selfless activities and that spirituality is expressed through service to others. Seva means helping those who can’t help themselves. I teach and practice yoga with underserved populations. I also serve “in the field” with animal rescue groups. There is nothing more honorable than to ease pain, embrace the lonely, and illuminate darkened hearts. BENICEYOGA.COM PHOTO: MARISSA JEZAK
Marcy Midnight Yoga teacher Boise, Idaho
Owner/director of Bhakti Yoga Shala Santa Monica, Calif.
I show up as I am. I show up for others with compassion for our humanity, ready to listen wholeheartedly, ready to be seen, ready to speak truth. I get down to truth and into my heart. Every action, every choice rooted in love impacts others in a positive way. We all feel it and know it, because we are love.
It is really at the core of how I try to live my life. My dedication is to uplift the collective vibration of this planet—through my prayers, meditations, kirtan, teachings, thoughts, words, and every interaction that I have with others. My life is my yoga practice, and my yoga practice is my life.
PHOTO: ERICA SPARLIN DRYDEN
Melanie Lombard Yoga teacher and artist Anchorage, Alaska
Yoga has taught me how to stay with my breath through intensity and challenge. As my practice deepens, I experience the power of my own presence. I’ve learned that being fully present with another can increase happiness and ease suffering. Caring attention is just as important as grandiose acts of self-sacrifice, and in everyday life, it’s what’s needed. MELANIELOMBARD.COM
Owner of Be Nice Yoga Studio Detroit, Mich.
Owner and instructor at Vayu Yoga Fargo, N.D. My short answer would be to live a conscious life. Make decisions that are thoughtful and kind. If someone is hurting, help them. If you make a mistake, apologize. If you feel joy, let it be known. Appreciate everything every day, the overlooked and unseen. Live a conscious life, and you will start to see what you have preciously overlooked.
A shift in perspective can make all the difference. For me, seva is wealth. —Jeffrey Posner
I get down to truth and into my heart.
1 Simone Weit
4 Melanie Lombard
2 Andrea Coombs
3 Marcy Midnight
6 MONICA BREEN
5 JEFFREY POSNER 7 GOVIND DAS
MP: How do you keep your center in the middle of chaos? AP-L: I do a lot of mindfulness meditation. Reading The Miracle of Mindfulness by Thich Nhat Hanh had a profound effect on me. I also find it strangely comforting to remember how utterly tiny and insignificant I am compared to the size of the universe. Nothing in my life seems overwhelming after I’ve Googled a picture of a supernova. MP: What’s been one of your biggest lessons so far in life? AP-L: Let go of your fear, and anything is possible. Fear of failure, fear of success, fear of dying, fear of living. Things become much simpler when you give yourself a moment just to be and allow whatever is happening to happen. Take stock and reenter the fray with a sense of perspective.
I nte rvi ew: Maran da Pleasant Maranda Pleasant: What makes you come alive or inspires you?
MP: If you could do one thing for the planet to leave your mark, what would that be? AP-L: I would give everyone some solar panels. I was lucky enough to be raised off the grid in a solar-powered, rainwater-plumbed mud-brick house that my parents built, so I’ve always believed saving the planet starts at home.
Arianwen Parkes-Lockwood: I am inspired by the simple miracle of being alive, especially when I remember that one day I won’t be anymore. And I am always inspired by anyone who is kind. Kindness is often underrated, but it can transform your life. MP: What makes you feel vulnerable? AP-L: I feel vulnerable when I’m acting, but that’s a good thing. Vulnerability is openness—such a vital tool when you’re acting. If I’m not open, I’m not living in the moment, I’m not being authentic. When you fully experience your own vulnerability, you awaken your compassion to the vulnerability of others. MP: If you could say something to everyone on the planet, what would it be? AP-L: I would probably borrow a quote from the Dalai Lama: “If you think you are too small to make a difference, try sleeping with a mosquito.” Everyday choices of individuals shape the planet. What we spend our money on or choose not to spend our money on is so important. Choosing ethical products and boycotting destructive, cruel, and inhumane ones—these decisions are powerful beyond measure.
MP: What causes are you passionate about? AP-L: Animal rights. The suffering of sentient beings seems unnecessary when there is so much amazing plant-based food on offer. With over eighty thousand edible plants on the planet, I’ve yet to run out of recipe ideas.
MP: How do you stay healthy and fit? AP-L: Apart from practicing yoga every morning, I like to mix things up to keep it interesting, so I cycle, swim, jog, hike, and dance like a crazy person. My husband says I dance like Elaine in Seinfeld, which I take as a great compliment.
Arianwen Parkes-Lockwood is an actress known for playing Olivia Bligh in the highly acclaimed Australian television series A Place to Call Home. She is married to voice-over artist and filmmaker Marcello Fabrizi, and both she and her husband are passionate vegan foodies.
Photo: TARSHA HOSKING
Working with Rituals and Ceremonies Connecting to Source By Carl Greer, PhD, PsyD
ritual or ceremony can be used for expressing gratitude and respect, achieving closure or balance, shedding unwanted energies, and drawing specific types of energy into your life, such as initiation, death, and so on. You can also perform ceremonies and rituals to bring healing to the injured, unhappy parts of yourself. Your intention might be to become less moody, less critical of others, less dependent on comfort foods, or more focused on the positive aspects of your job. You might also wish to perform a ritual or ceremony to usher in a new chapter of your life, to acknowledge an ending and a beginning. It can take more than one ritual to minimize the impact of a particular energy and draw in another to influence your story. You might start with one ritual and, later, perform others to help you continue to shift out of the old habits and let go of the energies that have been influencing you. All energies derive from Source and are available to you. Ritual and ceremony connect you to the energy of Source. Once you sense or feel this connection, you can use many effective ways to communicate with Source and to ask for help. Just as you do when journeying, you must become still, quiet, and open to be able to hear the voice of Source. Thus, the preparation techniques of opening sacred space, cleansing your energy field, and shifting your consciousness via mindful breathing are vital. Note that when you are working outside and opening sacred space, you should invite the spirits of the land to participate in your ceremony. These spirits are the energies of nature, and some believe they also include the spirits of people who once lived in a particular area. By inviting these spirits to work with you, you honor them and can aid in their healing.
The preparation techniques of opening sacred space, cleansing your energy field, and shifting your consciousness via mindful breathing are vital.
The messages you receive from Source are expressed in a variety of ways. They may come to you as words but also as color, music, scent, visual images, and sensations that serve as metaphors. When you communicate with Source, you can use any of these languages to send your message too. For example, when opening sacred space, as you turn and face each one of the four directions, your movements signal that you acknowledge the force associated with that direction. You can use words in your invocation and imagine colors or visual images that help you to connect with particular energies, such as envisioning a jaguar as you turn to face west and a hummingbird as you turn to face north, or whatever you associate with that particular direction. Then when you acknowledge the forces above and below, you can imagine seeing images that represent or embody those powers and begin your ritual; whether you are creating a sand painting, holding a fire ceremony, or creating a despacho (an offering to Mother Earth).
Carl Greer, PhD, PsyD, is a clinical psychologist, Jungian analyst, and shamanic practitioner. He is the author of Change Your Story, Change Your Life: Using Shamanic and Jungian Tools to Achieve Personal Transformation. CARLGREER.COM
Soulshine Shift By Tonya Turrell
A journey back home to myself
One afternoon at Soulshine opened me up to a great state of remembering.
I’ve always felt like there was something inside holding me back from being the fullest expression of myself. I’ve never been able to put my finger on what it is or to let it go. Tired of playing small, I was ready for my soul to shine. After Andrea Boyd and Jeffrey Cohen took us through Sun Salutations, Jeffrey led us into reaching up with our right arm and then our left. I could feel the music start to build. Following his instruction, I waved my arms back and forth, bouncing in Chair Pose between each move to keep pace with the crescendo. All of a sudden, with a goofy grin on my face, I realized, I’m dancing! I let go of Utkatasana completely, among other things I was holding on to, and started jumping to the beat. Magical souls all around me did the same. Then I felt my heart open. That yoga. That music. Something shifted. Being in that sea of vibrations and fully present in my body changed me. In that clever transition from yoga to dance, before I even realized I was dancing, my ego was quiet for a moment. Perhaps realizing it had been tricked, it stomped off to pout. In the midst of all that jumping and joy, I slipped into that sacred place that mystics talk about, the gap
t the Soulshine tour, what I was expecting was some fun flow yoga in the Florida sun with Michael Franti setting the soundscape with live music. What I got was so much more.
between thoughts. So completely absorbed in it and connected to everyone around me, I felt perfect and whole. Then I became conscious of deeper truth: I am already perfect and whole. It was an all-out celebration that led me back to myself. After Soulshine, still in tune with that sense of personal power, I asked myself what I really wanted to do. Write, my soul whispered. Move back to Hawaii, it added without hesitation. So I made two lifechanging decisions. I would get serious about writing. It started with this article, and I’m continuing on to author my first book. And I’m moving my family to Hawaii. These are two areas I have felt stuck in for years. One afternoon at Soulshine opened me up to a great state of remembering. So many of us look outside of ourselves for the answers, not realizing that all the wisdom and power are within. My afternoon at Soulshine helped shake loose some sort of energetic block so that I could remember and access my authentic power. As I get back into the business of daily life, I can feel something big has shifted. Whenever I feel disconnected or lose touch with that feeling of power within, I just blast some Michael Franti and dance.
Tonya Turrell is a writer, entrepreneur, yogi, spiritual seeker, and mother. She is currently writing her first book. Photo: BRITT PAVELCHAK
By Jessica Durivage-Kerridge
When language becomes a distraction Awareness. Consciousness. Love and light. Bliss. Presence. Mindfulness. Holding space. Journey, Path. Compassion. Intention. These and a plethora of other beautiful nouns managed to find their way into my daily vernacular. They have become as regular a part of my speech as “Hey, how you doing?” However, I’ve noticed that, at times, I’ve fallen into the trap of stringing these words together in wondrous metaphors only while teaching yoga or attempting to get what I want—I mean, to communicate with my husband. However, if there is one person in my life who seems to have an immunity to my semantic superpowers, it’s him.
“If what I am preaching is not transforming my life and my relationships, then what is it all for?” Words, fancy yoga pants, Instagram selfies, colorful mala beads—you name it. They can become a distraction when we get caught up in them. There seems to be more spiritual “noise” out there than ever to keep us from opening up to the real life that is unfolding right in front of us. My husband is seeking the truth as passionately as anyone else I know; he just does it his own way. I’ve found a great deal of opportunity to practice “walking my talk” through our relationship. For the most part, he has no problem calling me out. If what I am preaching is not transforming my life and my relationships, then what is it all for? If I am teaching a group of students about how to cultivate more presence in their lives, but my patience is continually ending up with the short stick in my marriage, then something is not working. My husband is my best friend, my partner. He is my mirror in so many ways. I’ve found that no matter how many pretty words I use, I continue to fall into my habitual cycle of cutting him off and, of course, “not letting it go.” He cannot be seduced by language like “intentions to hold a conscious space together full of presence and awareness.” It did not make any difference at all how many times I declared myself a “conscious communicator.” I couldn’t seem to get out of my own way. He laughed when I told him what I was writing in this essay, but we also know that by putting it out there, it is the first step towards shedding light on a space in our lives where there is potential for both of us to grow, together. I don’t have the answers, but real honesty does not require special language or metaphorical magic. All it asks is that we show up and be real. And maybe let someone else do the talking for a change. I am all ears.
Jessica Durivage-Kerridge is writing her way through her first year of parenting at Where Is My Guru and figuring out this whole communication thing with her husband and her child, who actually does not talk yet. PhotoS: CARL KERRIDGE
How do YOU keep YOUR sanity in the middle of chaos? Rob Beilfus Yoga teacher Washington, D.C.
In the middle of chaos, I find sanity by centering myself, using my breath, and, if I have time, taking a few moments alone to be quiet. No matter how chaotic life gets, if I can just remember to take some deep, calming breaths, everything will be OK.
In the moment, mantra and breath help me settle. I’m really guided by my meditation practice this year, and sitting with my thoughts always grounds me. I’m also in love with walking and listening to music; my heart is drawn to Trevor Hall. Mother Earth is full of positive vibrations, and spending time in nature always helps me feel reconnected.
Ellen M. O’Connor The Yogarazzi Indianapolis, Ind.
My go-to is the Ganesha mantra “Om gum ganapatayei namaha.” Silently, it sounds soothing, like Deva Premal. Aloud, it sounds like a hot mess, but nothing stops the crazy like a deep breath. I also discreetly pinch my hand between the index finger and thumb. It helps me slow down the drama for refocusing, acting, or not acting.
PHOTO: C. FRIESEN IMAGES PHOTO: LARRY GINDHART PHOTOGRAPHY
Danielle Dickinson E-CRYT, owner/operator of Yoga for All Beings Chicago, Ill.
My breath is the key to not losing my marbles when chaos arises. The very act of slowing my breath causes my heart rate to slow, which then causes intense frustration to settle. Even if I’m not over the situation at hand, if I’m breathing slower, I can take a moment to process things and then respond calmly. YOGAFORALLBEINGS.COM PHOTO: KRISTIE KAHNS PHOTOGRAPHY
“My breath is the key to not losing my marbles when chaos arises.” —Danielle Dickinson
Designer, stylist, and creative director
To keep my sanity in the midst of chaos, I turn to plant medicine. I use doTerra’s pure essential oils aromatically, topically, and internally throughout my day. My favorites are clary sage to uplift my mood, ylang ylang to activate my heart chakra, and sandalwood to connect with my divine purpose and awaken the third eye. KATERUTTER.COM PHOTO: MERCY MCNAB
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By Dana Damara
Living life consciously I have this tattoo on my inner arm. It’s there to remind me every day of what I believe to be true. And that is this: when we live in truth—deep, resounding truth—we are liberated from the mind stuff, the illusions that we create based on old patterns and beliefs. And in that process, we are then able to experience deep, authentic love within ourselves, which illuminates love in everything. This has been a hard lesson for me to learn, as it is for many, I am sure. We are easily influenced by our parents’ ideas, riddled with ancestral patterns, persuaded by society, and scared of our inner light. Add a dose of ego and need for recognition, and we can almost guarantee ourselves a life that is mediocre or with regret. I decided to tattoo this on my arm so that every single time I entered Downward-Facing Dog, countless times a week, I would remember to witness myself when I wasn’t fully in my integrity, notice when my ego was running the show, observe when I made a choice that wasn’t serving my highest good, and notice when I wasn’t honoring my light and dark sides. Living life consciously can feel like a dance of two steps forward, one step back. Doing that dance with compassion and humor is key because life is all about practicing. If we’re still here, we have work to do. Moving into deep truth is the work, and it’s not always easy.
Know your truth and live it every day 1. Turn off the news; it is riddled with negativity. If you want to fully step into your truth, you’ve got to turn off the outside noise.
If you are still here, there is work to do.
2. Sit with yourself. Make a list of what you love, what you are good at, what people love about you, and what scares the hell out of you. 3. Recognize your fear in moving forward. This is your deepest work; this is the jewel of your soul. Breathe into it and become enamored by it. It is the bridge you will cross many times to continually propel yourself forward. 4. Pain is an initiation of leveling up your vibration. Notice it, embrace it, and transmute it to courage. 5. Be open to others of like mind and heart walking this path. They are going to arrive in droves, trust me. 6. Develop compassion for yourself as you step out onto this unfamiliar path. 7. Notice any resistance to the shift, and dive deeper into inquiry around that resistance. 8. Be open to detours and challenges because those experiences are your biggest lessons. 9. Stay laser-focused on your journey. It is your unique soul imprint; someone else’s will never fulfill you. Understand that you are forever evolving. Your core values stay the same, but your truth may shift and change. We are consistently being asked to live more authentically. If you are still here, there is work to do.
Entrepreneurship Hoping for More
By René e La mb
he practice of yoga asks us to constantly reevaluate. When I began my yoga practice over fifteen years ago, I already knew that I would eventually start my own company. What I didn’t know is that my yoga practice would completely alter what that company became.
As a young woman, my love for yoga pushed me to India. For months, I lived and worked in the slums of Delhi. Taxi drivers would rip me off for the equivalence of eight cents. Begging kids would throw food back in my face. I’d be cheated, robbed, and harassed to a point where it seemed that all light and hope had gone from the world. My yoga mat became my home, my safe space, my foundation, picking me up and saying, “Keep going. Keep looking. What you seek is out there.”
I can still remember the moment I saw it, that unquestionable glimmer of hope in the eyes of a young girl I was teaching. One who had just witnessed her mother beaten almost to death, who at fourteen could barely read a word of any language and had little more to look forward to than a pending arranged marriage and a litter of children.
Yogis need a way to carry their mats. Couldn’t they be making a difference at the same time?
If she could hold so much hope, how could I ever question my own ability to do the same? And so I went back to my mat and asked for the strength to be changed, the intuition to know where to go, and the perseverance to not leave someone like her behind. When I returned to India almost a decade later, with her hopeful eyes burned into my memory, I vowed to see more than just the dust and chaos. In a world where tradition and crafts are being overlooked for cheaper, machine-made goods, I still found hands that seemed to create masterpieces out of thin air. I found stories, hundreds of years in the making, written into colors, lines, and shapes. I found hardworking people and organizations, driven not by a need for money but by a need to make a mark in their world. As I arrived home and stepped once more onto my yoga mat, it came to me what my company’s mission would be. I rolled up my mat, took some measurements, and sent some e-mails. Yogis need a way to carry their mats. Couldn’t they be making a difference at the same time? A month later, my first box of handmade yoga bags arrived. I looked at the colors spilling out onto the floor and knew I had made the right decision. After all, every yogi goes through the world with two things: a mat and a hope for more.
Renée Lamb is a trained economist, yoga teacher, writer, and entrepreneur. In 2013, she founded Soulié, a social enterprise working with artisans to create one-of-a-kind, breathtakingly beautiful yoga and lifestyle products. RENEE-SOULIE.COM
DALLAS-FT. WORTH Free Day of Yoga Providing a bridge to connect students to studios
By Thom Allen, Brook Cheatham, Christian Kramer, Rodney Steman, and Lisa Ware
Each Labor Day, local yoga studios offer a variety of complimentary classes in a welcoming environment to truly experience community at its best.
As the name suggests, DFW Free Day of Yoga is a unique opportunity for students young and old, from novices to pros, to enjoy free classes at studios throughout the Dallas, Ft. Worth, and surrounding areas. Founder Michelle Mock Pontrelli had a vision in 2007 of a day when studios across the metroplex would open their doors to celebrate the wonderful experience of yoga. Since its inception, response from DFW-area studios has been overwhelming. Each Labor Day, local yoga studios offer a variety of complimentary classes in a welcoming environment to truly experience community at its best. DFW Free Day of Yoga promotes the annual event through a weekend of amazing kickoff festivals at unique locations in both Dallas and Ft. Worth. These kickoff festivals bring together an exciting atmosphere filled with live music and kirtan, vegetarian-food dealers, yoga and wellness-inspired product vendors, a sage-infused healing-services area, and a variety of mini-classes that take place throughout the day. The highlight, a round-robin community class, features a selection of area teachers who bring their exceptional style to this event. The spirit of love, peace, and service truly permeates the festivals, setting the tone for this unique community gathering. DFW Free Day of Yoga depends on the support of studios and teachers, who generously give to both fund and volunteer for this special event. Each year, the organization’s vision continues to expand, bringing the yoga experience to thousands of students, providing a bridge to connect students to studios.
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How do you make the world
Amy Weintraub ERYT-500, MFA I teach calming, clearing practices not often taught in yoga classes, so practitioners know in moments of practice who they really are beneath mood and story. Those moments of clarity accumulate, growing the seeds of self-compassion and self-awareness, empowering people to manage their moods, and fostering the understanding that beneath every dark emotion, yoga provides a pathway to its opposite.
Yoga instructor Los Angeles, Calif.
Creator of Cosmic Kids Yoga Henley-on-Thames, U.K.
By showing people that their bodies have a voice that needs to be listened to. I encourage my community to trust themselves and to push past preconceived limitations. My goal is to never outshine others but to help people channel their own unique light so that they can shine bright. With an open heart, I spread yoga as medicine.
I teach kids yoga on YouTube. Some days, as many as fifty thousand kids come on a Cosmic Kids yoga adventure with me. We use our bodies to tell fun stories. The kids get stronger and more confident without realizing, because they’re having fun. We’re making meditations too. I hope the kids I teach will become kind and peaceful adults.
“There’s nothing more beautiful than sharing what I love with others.” —Essence
Lisa J. Laird
Yoga instructor and DJ New York, N.Y.
Yoga teacher Bozeman, Mont.
Yoga teacher Sal, Cape Verde
There’s nothing more beautiful than sharing what I love with others. I embrace beauty daily, which is why I share music, dance, mantra, the breath, and yoga, whether teaching at Laughing Lotus or DJ-ing. The things I share help remind those I cross paths with how special and divine they are and how much beauty lies within them.
Yoga is a creative and healing power; I share yoga with my students for that reason. I am the coordinator for Big Sky Yoga Retreats’ Cowgirls vs. Cancer program, which offers healing through horses and yoga. Healing takes time, commitment, and support. I am proud to be able to create space for this to happen. Transformation through healing is beautiful.
By talking about things that matter—with my husband, family, friends, students, and my guru. I looked for and found one yoga teacher to whom I entrusted my life and from whom all the light of knowledge and warmth of love I can transmit in classes come. I’ve learned to stay aware of the suffering of each being.
DJSHEROCK.COM PHOTO: TOOKREATIVE STUDIOS
LISALAIRDYOGA.COM PHOTO: JENNIE LYNN PHOTOGRAPHY
SALYOGA.COM PHOTO: HELENA HENRIKSSON / SAPREMA OF SWEDEN
What brought you to yoga and why did you stay? Stefanie Boettle
RYT 200 Atlanta, Ga., and Munich, Germany
Yoga guide Salem, Oreg.
As a professional dancer, I found yoga as I was searching for a way to move that would open a spiritual path for me. My physical body helps me to access the deeper levels of my being and to connect those levels. I find guidance and answers to my questions in life through the continuous study of the yoga path.
I have always been drawn to the ease you can see in a yogi’s physical practice. Originally, I assumed this came from mastering poses, and that’s where my journey began. Today, my commitment to my practice lies deeper than the poses, cherishing the space yoga provides to find harmony within myself. A harmony that radiates the ease I was seeking.
PHOTO: TIF LESTER NIRVANAYOGAATLANTA.COM
MIKKIYOGA.COM PHOTO: I LIVE IN BEAUTY
Maria KaliMa Mendola
RN, MS, E-RYT 1000, Ayurvedic health specialist Tucson, Ariz.
Yoga teacher Portland, Oreg.
This ancient practice has carried me through difficult times in my life—deep trauma on the physical level to my spinal cord and brain. Through yoga, I learned to value each day as a gift, meeting each shortcoming with gratefulness. Teaching/mentoring others along their path for the last twenty years, I have found that true yoga begins off the mat.
Yoga gave me a place to simultaneously find the strong physical activity I needed and the self-love I didn’t even know I was craving. Each day I continue to step onto my mat, I build and rebuild the compassion, the strength, and the awareness to live clearly and breathe easy. PATRICKANDCARLING.COM
We have a choice of how we want
to live: we can either be part of
the violence or we can become
peaceful within ourselves.
Interview: Maranda Pleasant
The importance of meditation and choosing wisely in a world out of balance Maranda Pleasant: How has Transcendental Meditation played a role in your life? Why is it important to you?
a happier place. It’s important because happiness is contagious, and I like to be happy and be around happy people.
Greg Reitman: First, it’s about getting in touch with my inner self. As a filmmaker and also a married man, I’m constantly on the run. Whether it’s organizing an interview for a film shoot, meeting with a financier, going through story notes with my editor, or just trying to find some quiet time to be with my significant other, it’s a constant juggle.
MP: When things get hectic, how do you stay grounded?
I heard about meditation and tried many types. Believe me, there are tons of choices out there, but the one that worked for me the best was TM. This meditation technique only lasts twenty minutes, but its effects are staggering on my mind, body, and wellbeing. I do it when I wake up and before dinner. It’s important to me because it centers me. It allows me to remove my fear and anxieties and knots that are rattling in my mind before I start the day and that accumulate at the end of the day. It allows me to move or transcend those thoughts to GREGREITMAN.COM
GR: The answer is very simple: breathe. Just stopping what you’re doing and allowing the body to get centered. I also believe in having daily or weekly routines. For me, I love hiking with my wife, Britta, in the Santa Monica Mountains or biking with her along the bike path from Marina del Rey to the Pacific Palisades. MP: Why did you make Rooted in Peace? GR: As a fellow Sundance alumnus, I thought it was important to connect the dots between ourselves and Earth. Post9/11, I was walking through JFK terminal, heading back to Los Angeles. I was a bit frazzled about the long lines and the TSA agents confiscating water bottles and other items. I mean, we live in America, the land of the free. As I headed through the secu-
rity gate, I was harassed for not giving up my water bottle. I started to question how we live and the role of government. I also started to notice a lot of my friends and family members getting sick, even myself. I also noticed a pattern of our country constantly going to war. Everything seemed out of balance. Something wasn’t right. I wanted to make a film to connect the dots between humanity and the world we live in today, to make our home a better place. My hope is that people will realize that change begins within. It starts with oneself. We sometimes tend to blame others or situations, but the real cause of suffering in life is to understand that we are the root cause of change. We have a choice of how we want to live: we can either be part of the violence or we can become peaceful within ourselves. Nature is our greatest ally. It’s always in balance. It guides us to a peaceful coexistence. The big idea of the film is, it starts with you, me, and the tree—literally, to get back to our roots.
By Jody Berger
and the Missing
Sitting daily gives more time, at the right time I started meditating when a friend suggested it. “You breathe way up here,” he said, patting me high on my chest, just below my collarbone. I didn’t know there was any other way. My friend sat with me on the floor and taught me to breathe deeply, inhaling and exhaling, focusing on each. “If your mind wanders, just return to your breath,” he said. I meditated that day and many more over the next few months. I wasn’t sure it was doing any good but figured it wasn’t doing any harm. And then I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, a degenerative neurological disease. Later, I learned it was a misdiagnosis, but in the moment, when the doctor predicted doom, I was terrified. In my terror, meditation became a good friend. For ten or twenty minutes a day, I could sit and think only “inhale, exhale, inhale, exhale” and nothing more. I could put my fears aside and redirect my brain to the simple rhythm of my breath. Meditation gave me a brief rest from the short and scary list of calamities that cycled through my brain. The practice steadied me as I sought other medical opinions—and there were many. Some were scarier than the original, and each one came with a different prescription.
Research explains why. Dr. Richard J. Davidson, at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, scanned and studied the brains of Tibetan monks, other longtime meditators, and neophytes. In all brains, he found that meditation changed the structure of the brain. Mindfulness rewires the brain to perform better. The brain, Davidson wrote, “is constantly reshaping itself, is being continuously influenced, wittingly or not, by the forces around us.” And meditation is a force for good. I’m grateful I found it.
Ultimately, I found two doctors who prescribed one thing: meditation. These doctors, both board-certified physicians, said meditation wasn’t just a break from panicking about brain health; meditation was a critical component to brain health. The two doctors came from very different backgrounds. One was a psychiatrist trained in sophisticated brain imaging. The other, a family physician, blended Ayurvedic principles with Western ideas to treat patients. Both said meditation was medicinal, so I committed to sitting every day. And soon, I noticed I had more time, just a slight pause between any event and my response. Faced with scary or disappointing news in my pre-meditation life, I’d react immediately, often with anger or tears, as if it were urgent. Five or six months into meditation, I found I had an extra moment, just enough to consider how I wanted to respond. And often, that extra moment—just a heartbeat, really—let me see that the news was neither scary nor disappointing, just new information.
“Five or six months into meditation, I found I had an extra moment, just enough to consider how I wanted to respond.” Jody Berger is the author of Misdiagnosed: One Woman’s Tour of—and Escape from—Healthcareland. A certified holistic health coach and blogger, she lives and works in Denver.
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EDITOR’S NOTE This is a powerful issue. We talk about things that really matter: body shame, sexual assault, breast cancer, death, and loss. I couldn’t be more proud to stand shoulder to shoulder with the strong women and men healing, transforming, and creating a new story for their lives. This issue is about unsubscribing from false beliefs and reclaiming truth. Women are not ornamental. Our worth should not be gauged by our physical “attractiveness.” Let’s get real. We are so much bigger than our bodies, but we are so affected by our appearance. I write about celebrating every aspect of our selves, and yet I don’t. Let’s talk about the body shame, how it affects every aspect of our relationships. What if we worked as much on our inner beauty as we did on our bodies? Being sick the past two years, I watched my body change with an illness and witnessed how my social value decreased, especially when dating. My self-esteem was pummeled, even though I’ve given my life to uplifting consciousness. Let’s talk about hard things. Let’s heal those wounded places. This issue, we don’t agree with every viewpoint featured, but we honor diversity, we pull in all angles, and we show our respect for our audience—we don’t think you need to be force-fed a particular line of thought. We can all sift through information and think for ourselves. There’s space for all of us. I think it’s seriously refreshing. Maranda Pleasant Mantra Yoga + Health • ORIGIN Magazine • REAL Magazine • THRIVE Magazine Founder/Editor-in-Chief
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My Pilates Journey Going back to the core
By Anita Akhavan I began taking Pilates mat classes at a dance studio in San Francisco where I was training. After years of dancing and all kinds of other activities, I was out of alignment and beginning to suffer from extreme back and knee pain. I chalked it up to getting older and things not working as well as they used to. A friend suggested I take some Pilates classes to work on my core and alignment. Over the course of just a few months, I was discovering my body all over again. I became stronger and much more conscious to the ways I was throwing myself out of alignment by making movements abruptly, without mindfulness. My Pilates practice became a journey, going back to the core and looking deeper at why I was experiencing pain and discomfort. I had to look at the way I stood, the way I walked, the alignment of my neck, hips, knees, ankles, and feet. Recognizing that it’s all connected. If I wanted to maintain a strong body and continue to enjoy all my activities, I’d need to work my way through myself—from the inside out.
“Give yourself the opportunit y
to move through your day with a bit more care.
Pilates was designed to strengthen muscles, increase flexibility, and improve overall health. The exercises are performed with specialized equipment incorporating weight resistance, training the body to slow down and articulate while executing a movement. Performed on the mat and apparatus, every exercise emanates from the core. To successfully initiate a movement, both sides have to participate equally, creating balance.
Pilates Principles 1. Breathing: The essential link between your body and mind, drawing the wandering mind back to the body and the present moment. 2. Concentration: Bringing full attention to the form and execution of an exercise to receive optimum physical value, enhancing body awareness. 3. Control: Understanding and maintaining proper form, alignment, and effort during an entire exercise, leaving no part of the body unattended. 4. Centering: Energetically bringing focus to the center of your body, from the lower ribs to the pubic bone, and physically initiating movement from your center. 5. Precision: Executing an exercise with precision is more important than completing more repetitions with improper form. 6. Rhythm and Flow: Fluidity, grace, and ease are goals applied to all exercises. The energy of an exercise connects all body parts and flows through the body in an even way. We’ve all developed habits that don’t necessarily serve us in the way we carry ourselves. Movement within a Pilates practice allows us to rediscover our body’s fullest potential. By integrating the principles of alignment (breathing, cervical/head placement, rib cage placement, shoulder/scapula placement, and pelvic placement), you’ll give yourself the opportunity to move through your day with a bit more care. Whatever it is that you love to do—swimming, running, golfing, holding your children, or simply standing up tall—having a practice that is going to help you realign your frame and create movement with integrity is only going to benefit you. Where you come from leads to places you will go. This is your life. Be amazing.
Anita Akhavan is a Pilates instructor based in Venice Beach, Calif. Anita teaches at Equinox, Santa Monica, and is taking her Pilates class onto the SUP in Marina del Rey. ANITAAKHAVAN.COM
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Zenacity Using Intention to Stay “in the Zone” By Khnum “Stic” Ibomu
Our vision and focus must be crystal clear and kept energized daily.”
If we define “zen” as “a state of being at peace with reality” and “tenacity” as “the ability to persevere and endure,” then “zenacity” is “the art of keeping our inner peace intact as we persevere through the challenges of real life.” We’ve learned to go hard, tough it out, and suck it up. But this approach eats away our balance, leaving us emotionally and physically depleted. Who doesn’t desire to meet resistance, adversity, and challenge with a relaxed clarity—free of tension, frustration, anxiety, self-doubt, and self-sabotage—that allows us to stay focused with confidence, enthusiasm, and core sense of well-being intact? Enter the Zone Sports psychologists use visualization and meditation techniques to help athletes cultivate the concentration and calm that facilitate experiencing and sustaining the phenomenon called “being in the zone.” Kobe Bryant says it’s “a supreme confidence. Everything slows down into the present. You’re not focusing on any of the surroundings. You take your shot and you know it’s going in.” It’s that feeling where you know it’s beyond you; it’s just happening by itself. How do we stay in our zen zone under pressure and take that winning shot on life’s court, confident that we will make it? Clarity of Vision We can’t force or control the zone, but we can create conditioning that allows its manifestation. Being on our A game starts with clarity within self. Clarity gives focus. If the vision is fuzzy, we are aimless and easily sidetracked. In order to strengthen zenacity, our vision and focus must be crystal clear and kept energized daily. RBGFITCLUB.COM
Invest quality time visualizing how you’d like to start responding to specific life challenges ideally. Choose which traits you’d like to embody more of: relaxed, optimistic, energized, grateful, resilient, kind, and so on. That’s your bull’s-eye. Now the trigger. The Mantra Once set into words, your vision becomes an intention. That’s all a mantra is: an intention reinforced with repetition. Repeat it ceaselessly, especially when you feel challenged. Your subconscious absorbs that mantra and, over time, triggers this intention to arise into your conscious mind instinctively, automatically, and spontaneously, giving you the power of moment-tomoment choice to stay in the zone with your vision. Like any skill, zenacity grows with practice. In time, we are able to get out of our own way more often and let our higher vision guide us. We come out of the zone when we forget our focus and don’t know what to do. Mantras literally present us with presents of presence. Open your gift of zenacity by incorporating affirmative mantras which help keep your attention on your intention. Zenacity is your capacity for mindfulness in motion, for stillness even in movement. The zone is not a place out there somewhere; the zone lives within you.
Khnum “Stic” Ibomu of Dead Prez is the creator of The Workout, the groundbreaking hip-hop album with a holistic health and fitness theme. He is a runner, a meditator, and the founder of RBG Fit Club. Stic’s new running-inspired “fit hop” anthem “We Run These Streets” is available on iTunes.
Yoga on the Bike
By Jennifer Warner
Opportunities to connect and release
“The two wheels of a bicycle are a wonderful place to cultivate the mentality of one’s yoga practice.
t is well known that cyclists improve by practicing yoga, but did you know the opposite is true as well? The two wheels of a bicycle are a wonderful place to cultivate the mentality of one’s yoga practice.
Cycling is a mindful mode of transportation that engages the rider with her surroundings instead of removing her from them. As you pedal, all senses are engaged in moving meditation. Feeling the sun and the breeze flowing by as you propel yourself forward. Smelling the air. Hearing the nature and noise that fill up a place. Seeing the vital movement all around. Cycling is a synchronous action that allows you to connect with your surroundings and experience abhyasa and vairagya in motion. “Abhyasa,” sometimes translated as “persistent effort” to attain a positive mental state, quite accurately summarizes the experience of distance cycling. The cyclist works in tandem with the bicycle to generate a forward motion, engaging head to toe in full-body movement. Regulation of the breath supports the muscles
and mind. Thoughts and external physical distractions come and go as with meditation. With practice, the cyclist returns to the breath, gentle awareness of the surrounding environment, and cadence of pedaling in a harmony of movement that brings peace to the mind and vitality to the body. Just as with yoga, each ride is different. A rider may encounter a flat tire, muscle cramp, or headwind, but persisting strengthens one’s ability to maintain a positive, peaceful state of mind in cycling, yoga, and life. A wonderful place to practice meditative distance cycling is on recreational trails or “doubletrack” mountain biking paths that are removed from traffic and without major technical challenges. These can be found through the free local My City Bikes app. Rocks and roots, vehicular traffic, and mechanical issues are inevitable realities of cycling that present opportunities for vairagya. By releasing the frustrations that easily arise when confronted with these challenges, the rider is able
to connect with the oneness of the experience. Letting go of the emotional reaction, there is only what is. The rough terrain is part of what makes the mountain biking path so raw and beautiful. Following traffic regulations and using hand signals, you actively share the roadways with vehicles and pedestrians and develop a heightened awareness of nonmotor traffic for the next time you’re behind the wheel of a car. Addressing mechanical issues on your bike helps you become a more selfsufficient rider and provides an opportunity to learn and connect with fellow cyclists. “Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving.”
Jennifer Warner is a cyclist, yoga student, and program coordinator for My City Bikes, the nationwide initiative encouraging cycling for individual and community wellness.
By Lee Anne “L. A.” Finfinger
The Culture of Yoga & Mental Illness When self-care = meditation “I have a scrip for Xanax but I don’t fill it, because I don’t want to feel so dulled out, you know?” I make a tight-lipped smile and shake a supportive nod to my anxiety-ridden, yoga-teaching friend as if to convey that I understand. The truth is that I don’t. I’m a successful thirty-five-year-old vinyasa yoga teacher who has a mood disorder and an anxiety disorder; I’ve been taking medication for my mental illnesses since I was nineteen. This is the first time I’m telling anyone about my diagnoses since I’ve started teaching yoga, outside of my immediate circle of family and friends. We all know that there is still a stigma in our society about mental illness. Most of us don’t openly share these pieces of our medical history out of fear. “Meditate instead of medicate” has become a popular catchphrase and oft-touted and tweeted piece of “advice” from spiritual thought leaders and influential yoga teachers. This trivializes mental illness. The culture growing within the shift-your-thoughtsshift-your-world yoga implies that a yoga or meditation practice can serve as a replacement for medical treatment for mental illness. This practice of sharing false pseudoscientific information continues to perpetuate stereotypes that mental illnesses are “all in your head.” Quite frankly, that’s dangerous and unfair and can prevent our students and colleagues from seeking and sticking with the medical help they need. I’ve been teaching yoga locally and nationally for five years. I’ve taught at the Philadelphia Wanderlust Festival. I’m a Lululemon ambassador. I lead large classes in studios and at yoga events. I’m blessed to have had the opportunity to study and learn with some of the most well-known yoga teachers, motivational speakers, and life coaches. But what I am hearing from many of these teachers regarding mental illness is either radio silence or the creation of a culture where mental illnesses are largely ignored or hugely downplayed. I have yoga-teaching friends who have taken themselves off psychiatric medications under the guidance of naturopaths who have them trade their prescribed Western medicine for handfuls of herbs and vitamins. I have yoga-teaching friends who have opted to lower their doses of mood-stabilizing medicine without asking their doctor, while another yoga teacher coached them through “chakra-balancing.” I have sat through life-coaching sessions where we were encouraged to “send light and love to a woman newly diagnosed with depression” so that she could soon find peace within herself and stop taking “that poison.” Listen, I would love to eschew my medications in exchange for an organic mushroom vitamin or a series of Kundalini kriya exercises, but
that just isn’t possible or safe. I am a danger to myself without medication. I was suicidal throughout most of my twenties. It took nearly a decade for my disorders to become safely managed through psychiatric care, medication, family counseling, and daily routine. When I found yoga at the age of thirty, my practice supplemented the care of my disorders. I cannot stress that enough. My yoga practice supplements my mental-health care. It is not a replacement for my psychiatrist, therapists, or daily medication. I believe that as yoga teachers, we have an obligation first to self-care. I cannot safely teach a yoga class if I am not taking care of myself, and that includes a commitment to a daily yoga practice, continuing education, and taking my medication as prescribed. I believe it also includes being vocal and open about who we are as teachers. I want my students and fellow teachers to know that my healing comes from a combination of staying on my prescribed medicines, being open with my naturopath about my mental illnesses, and continuing to practice yoga. It does not come from holding crystals, chanting, or doing any special mood-elevating yoga poses—although all of that is good and fun and safe when done in conjunction with medical care. I want my students to know that the wisdom and optimism that I bring to class comes from a result of living with a mood disorder and knowing that it isn’t defining or limiting. We are not our diagnoses. Mental illness is no more or less the result of negative thinking than any other physical illness. It is a chemical imbalance. It is so very treatable, and so many devastating side effects from these illnesses are preventable. I present to the yoga-teaching and life-coaching communities an opportunity. We can continue to cultivate practices that are both spiritual and inspiring. We can encourage the practices of meditation and yoga while continuing to hold space for those of us who are living with mental illness, just like we presently do for those battling addiction or living with measurable physical limitations or disease. Let’s empower the community to accept one another no matter what our medical histories so that none of us has to hide for fear of shame or ridicule. To all the yoga students who have confided in me their battles with mental illness over the years, please know that it is possible to heal and still be a yogi while taking your meds. We can medicate and meditate.
Lee Anne “L. A.” Finfinger is a traveling vinyasa yoga teacher, speaker, and writer based in Pittsburgh, Pa.
My yoga practice supplements my mental-health care. It is not a replacement for my psychiatrist, therapists, or daily medication.â€? MANTRAMAG.COM
We trust in what we are given and when we are given it because ultimately we know it serves a purpose.
By B et h St ua r t
My Son Has Autism How yoga helped me see this as a blessing
Jack has autism because he was supposed to. He has autism for the same reason why I am right-handed and have hazel eyes. We were born this way. But let’s be honest. When my son was first diagnosed, it was hard. I cried. I felt hopeless. I felt like I had failed as a mother. What was I going to do to help make his life easier? My mind was flooded and my heart broken. I felt it all. “Emotionally devastated” was an understatement. However, I honestly think that that helped me get through it. I drowned in fear and sorrow. But then I woke up. It’s not exactly what a mother wants to hear, not part of our plan—that’s what you initially think. The truth is, everything is part of your plan. This troubling diagnosis would turn into such a huge part of me that no one could ever see. It’s a blessing in disguise. To me, yoga is about knowing that everything happens for a reason. Fate. We trust in what we are given and when we are given
it because ultimately we know it serves a purpose. We often fight to find an answer and to decipher reason behind almost everything. Sometimes, though, it just is. My son and yoga have both taught me the power of acceptance. My son is yoga. He doesn’t have autism because of some vaccination (which I chose to give him after months of deliberation and on a very slow schedule) or because I ate or did something odd during pregnancy. This question is something I’m asked so frequently, though: “What did you do when you were pregnant to make him this way?” Oh, you mean brilliant, sensitive, intuitive, and connected? The answer is that we always end up exactly where we are supposed to be. This is why he is here; this is his teaching.
or I! That is his gift.” I realized that this was a part of my journey. Jack and I are a team—and a team to be reckoned with at that. I talk for a living. Jack feels for a living. It’s the perfect connection and combination. He is my greatest teacher, the reason I am here to share with all of you what I have, and I continue to learn from him. He is a gift, my beautiful, present, smart, strong, and loving baby boy.
Beth Stuart started teaching vinyasa flow yoga after discovering the transformative power of the practice while attending college in New York City. Beth sees yoga as a moving meditation and is known for her playful and creative sequencing, upbeat music, and contagious attitude.
In the past, people would see me in the market and say, “Beth, I’m so sorry about Jack.” I would get mad. “Why are you sorry? He’s alive! In truth, he’s more alive than you
Photo: ASHLEY NICOLE PHOTOGRAPHY
B y H o n za a n d C l a u d i n e L a fo n d
where bliss led us
from finding each other to finding community through Instagram: @YogaBeyond
even years ago, we had made up our minds that we were ready to meet each other. From opposite ends of the world, we didn’t even know it, but we were calling each other into our reality. OK, there may have been one very special fairy godmother involved in introducing us, but once she put us in touch, there was no turning back! From ten thousand miles apart, our love story began, and as they say, the rest is history.
People often tell us how lucky we are. The thing is, we don’t believe in luck. We believe that it’s our beliefs, thoughts, emotions, and actions that shape the kind of reality we get to experience. It seems obvious we all create our own reality; the only difference is whether we do it knowingly. Luck seems to have very little, if anything, to do with it.
We have made it our goal in life to follow our bliss and inspire others to do the same. So what does it mean to follow your bliss? It’s being present, passionate, and curious about life. It’s about involving yourself in activities, thoughts, and emotions that make you happy. It’s the journey of purpose with self-awareness. It’s the realization that happiness is a conscious choice. And what is the key to it all? It is the attitude of gratitude. When we are in a state of appreciation, we are open to receive. What does following bliss look like to us? Over the past few years, we have explored many creative endeavors. Our love for yoga, creativity, YOGABEYOND.COM
and each other has brought us together in a powerful way, and voila, YogaBeyond was born. Our message of inspiration through playful practice has taken us to many corners of the world, and we continue to embrace all of the exciting opportunities that come our way. A year and a half ago, we started our Facebook and Instagram accounts with the intention to document our practice and inspire others to reach for their own greater potential. Little did we know that our online following would grow to hundreds of thousands. As we travel the world, teaching yoga in different communities, we see the need for more trust and connection. It’s through our social-media platforms that we have found a playful way to connect with people from all corners of the world on a daily basis. Taking our yoga practice from earth to air awakens the child within. It’s as if we turn back the clock when we teach students to play like kids again, lifting each other up on their feet. We may not know exactly what lies ahead, but we feel the future is bright as we continue to spread love, trust, and playfulness in communities around the world. We consciously choose to step forward with fearlessness and benevolent curiosity on this magnificent journey called life.
Honza and Claudine Lafond are founders of YogaBeyond. Honza is an accomplished artist and a teacher of all things movement, wellness, and spirituality. Claudine is a yoga and movement teacher from New York. They believe that humor is an essential ingredient in yoga and that laughter is the best medicine.
We all create our own reality; the only difference is whether we do it knowingly.”
By Marci Zaroff
Soul Fashion that sustains the earth
As we connect the dots from food to fiber, we are energetically not just what we eat but also what we wear.
It’s time for renewal, for rebirth. Life is busy, yet the planet is calling for help. Our future is at stake. As the Native Americans lived and wrote: “We do not inherit the land from our ancestors; we borrow it from our children.” With food and fiber as humankind’s two basic necessities, why is an industry as destructive as textiles often overlooked? As organic food penetrated the mainstream, consumer awareness has been shifting. A new kind of lifestyle is being embraced, one which involves a sense of connection and a responsibility to oneself and to the future. With this extension of yoga-mindfulness, the “whole” picture needed to be taken into account for a truly balanced state of being. In organic agriculture, food and fiber crops are interconnected. Sixty percent of a cotton plant actually goes back into the food stream in the form of seed and oil. Cottonseed grown from conventional cotton is rampant with toxic chemicals and pesticides; organic cotton cultivation, on the other hand, provides the feed necessary for organic dairy products and the oil for organic breads. Conventional cotton is one of the most heavily sprayed crops in the world and a leading cause of air and water pollution. There can be up to a third of a pound of toxic pesticides used to produce the cotton in just one T-shirt and over two pounds in one bedsheet. Apparel and home products touch our skin twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. What we put on our body impacts our health, just as what we put in our body. Chemical pesticides cannot be washed off in a washing machine to make a product organic, just as a conventional strawberry cannot be washed and be made organic. MARCIZAROFF.COM
Growing free of pesticides and other harmful chemicals, organic cotton is healthier for farmers to grow. Because farmers get a premium on the cotton and don’t need to buy pesticides, they can actually build a sustainable livelihood. Additionally, when the cotton is also certified as fair trade, farmers get an added premium to invest in their communities for development, education, and improved farming methods. Organic farming methods also offset climate change with a lower carbon footprint: reduced emissions of greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide, and methane as well as reduced consumption of fossil fuels. It is proven that consumers will not buy and support organic cotton and other fibers if the product does not sell on its own merits. Organic clothing and home fashions must, first and foremost, be high-quality, be styled right, fit well, and be affordable and accessible. Industries, businesses, and products cannot take planetary wellness for granted. We all live under the canopy of the planet’s ecosystem. It is time to take yoga off the mat and into every lifestyle decision. As we connect the dots from food to fiber, we are energetically not just what we eat but also what we wear.
Marci Zaroff is an internationally recognized eco-lifestyle entrepreneur, educator, and expert. Founder of Under the Canopy and Metawear and cofounder of the Institute for Integrative Nutrition and I Am Enlightened Creations, Marci has been instrumental in driving authenticity, environmental leadership, and social justice worldwide for over two decades.
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By James Rouse, ND Your self-created chemistry for experiencing vitality, vibrancy, and vigor takes on another level of awesome!
Be a Eudaimoniac
Feed your mind, body, and spirit
have lots of good work to do, how about you? Between morning meditation, wind sprints, and whipping up my raw, organic, gluten-free muesli, I have been working on the humbling yet inspiring art-of-living practice of “being on purpose” versus “being about the outcome.” This practice is paying tremendous dividends as I see that my openness to be present is widening, the experience of mindfulness creating exquisite peace, and the sweet surrender of witnessing my ego getting lost as it goes and looks for food while I focus more on feeding my soul. This daily work has been blessing my spirit abundantly. The empowering “side effect” is that it is also blessing my whole mind and body! You may have been hearing and learning about chronic inflammation as a driver for devastating diseases, from Alzheimer’s to heart disease and many types of cancer. Much of what can keep this type of inflammation under healthy wraps is within our control: a whole-foods plant-based diet, spirited exercise, and other proactive and positive lifestyle rituals. Mindfulness practices and meditation are also powerful anti-inflammatory medicines clinically shown to lower the most potent blood and hormone markers associated with creating and feeding these diseases. The beauty and the blessing of each of these expressions of self-love and self-care is that when coupled with the art of eudaimonia, your self-created chemistry for experiencing vitality, vibrancy, and vigor takes on another level of awesome! DRJAMESROUSE.COM | ORGANICINDIA.COM
“Eudaimonia” is more than an impressive Scrabble word; in fact, we can live in a state of eudaimonia, and with this courageous commitment, we will have an opportunity to align our wellness practices with high purpose. This Greek word’s essence is “human flourishing,” and research published in the journal of the National Academy of Sciences encourages us to embrace this noble way of being to further douse the fires of chronic inflammation. The researchers chose to define “eudaimonia” as a state of living with noble purpose. And they discovered that this way of being is a highly healthy way of living and that those who do will “show the most favorable genetic predisposition to health, wellness, longevity, and disease prevention associated with inflammation.” When they studied people they deemed lived more often in a state of flourishing and noble purpose, they found that their genes did the same. Kale, mindfulness, and push-ups—oh, my! Add a daily dose of eudaimonia, and you have all the ingredients for healthy “fire fighting” and, moreover, the opportunity and honor to channel its power into the perfect recipe for living your life with purpose and passion!
James Rouse is a naturopathic doctor, entrepreneur, certified yoga instructor, wellness-magazine founder, speaker, author, radio talk-show host, QVC wellness doctor, Ironman triathlete, and supporter of Organic India.
People don’t realize that many vegetables and fruits they eat have been genetically modified or
hybridized to produce fewer enzymes in order to extend shelf life.
By Alberto Trujillo
The IMPORTANCE OF DIGESTIVE ENZYMES THE INSIDE TRACK TO MAXIMIZING DIGESTION
t used to be that the primary consumer of digestive enzymes was an aging individual that was experiencing the somewhat expected age-related, less efficient digestive system. Today, it seems that digestive inefficiency has no age discrimination. Younger and younger people are experiencing digestive distress, due to many factors, including stress, allergies, poor diet, and GM foods. People don’t realize that many vegetables and fruits they eat have been genetically modified or hybridized to produce fewer enzymes in order to extend shelf life. Agricultural biotechnology has yielded many foods that are foreign to our body and difficult to digest. Even healthy people can experience digestive distress because they overeat, don’t chew their food enough, or primarily consume processed foods which are devoid of natural food enzymes. Adding plant-based digestive enzymes into the diet will help replace the enzymes removed through biotechnology or killed by processing and cooking. Enzymes digest the food we eat into nutrients we can absorb and utilize as energy to help build a healthy body. In addition, enzymes may help reduce indigestion, burping, heartburn, gas, bloating, constipation, irritable bowel, and other digestive problems. We live in an interesting time when many people are adopting extreme-opposite diets, such as the Paleo diet, which includes high amounts of animal meat protein, while at the same time, the popularity of raw foods and vegan diets continues to grow. The Paleo diet requires higher protein (protease) and fat (lipase) enzymes for
adequate digestion, while vegan/raw-food diets, which contain large amounts of fiber, require additional enzymes (a-galactosidase and cellulase) to reduce gas and bloating. Enzymes can also help people who produce less stomach acid as they age and those who have poor protein digestion as well as those with gallbladder/bile insufficiency or who have had their gallbladders removed and experience poor digestion of fats. Of course, enzymes can be helpful for those who suffer from lactose intolerance but still like to eat their cheese once in a while. A good all-purpose digestive enzyme is designed to maximize digestion and absorption of all types of foods, even in those with adequate digestion. There are adult enzyme blends that are designed with added protein and fiber enzymes for those on specialized diets. Advanced adult enzyme blends with additional enzymes are formulated for anyone with compromised digestion, including the elderly and those that have stomach acid or gallbladder problems. Enzymes play an important role in our digestive health and help ensure that our bodies get the nutrients they need to stay healthy.
Alberto Trujillo, national educator, is part of Flora’s team of health experts. Flora manufactures and distributes premium health products prepared with botanicals from sustainable, organic farmlands. Its award-winning supplements blend traditional wisdom and modern science by incorporating full-spectrum plant constituents and utilizing certified organic, non-GMO, gluten-free, soy-free, and kosher materials whenever possible. FLORAHEALTH.COM
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By Mark Stephens
Practicing and Teaching Yoga To become a teacher is to become a student
Part of the sublime nature of yoga is that there are infinite possibilities for deepening and refining one’s practice, for awakening to clearer awareness, more integrated well-being, and greater happiness. There are also seemingly infinite styles and approaches to yoga, even different ideas about what yoga is, offering a rich array of practices that any one of us might find most in keeping with whatever brings us to explore this ancient ritual. It’s a fascinating, challenging, often mysterious path that ultimately reveals the deepest beauty inherent in each of us as we gradually come to embody the values that give meaning to our lives. If one becomes a yoga teacher—a guide on the yoga path—then the practice itself blossoms even more as practicing and guiding each bring light to the other. The best teacher one will ever have is alive and well inside. In every breath, every posture, and all the moments and transitions in between, the inner teacher offers guidance as the tone, texture, and tempo of the breath blend with myriad sensations arising in the bodymind. It’s a profoundly personal practice in which there are no universally correct techniques, rules, goals, or absolute authority beyond what comes to the student through the experience of being in it, listening inside, and opening to the possibilities of being consciously alive. Yet while the ultimate teacher is inside, we all benefit from the informed insights of a trained and experienced teacher whose guidance on breathing, alignment, sequencing, modifications, attentiveness, and self-acceptance can help make one’s yoga experience altogether more sensible and sustainable. The spirited or charismatic ways a teacher holds the space of a class along with the use of physical demonstration, verbal cues, even metaphor and stories, can add inspiration and insight. With practice, these qualities become integrated into our evolving repertoire of knowledge and skills that enable us to guide students in ways that make sense for the students in our classes—this in contrast to teaching in a cookie-cutter fashion as if everyone were the same and as if the same practice, cues, and narrative made sense for all of humanity. To best serve our students, we must always be students ourselves. True to the maxim posited by Greek philosopher Aristotle, “The more you know, the more you know you don’t know,” the further you go in your training, learning, and experience as a yoga teacher, the more you’ll realize that there’s an infinite universe of knowledge and wisdom to bring to the practice. This becomes abundantly clear as we come to better appreciate and understand our students as our teachers, which is essential if we are to guide them well in their practices.
" The further you go in your training, learning, and experience as a yoga teacher, the more you'll realize that there's an infinite universe of knowledge and wisdom to bring to the practice."
Mark Stephens is a best-selling author and internationally renowned yoga teacher. His trilogy of books for yoga teachers include Teaching Yoga, Yoga Sequencing, and Yoga Adjustments. MARKSTEPHENSYOGA.COM
PHOTO: MARK STEPHENS
NEW STUDIO WORKSHOPS October 17- Yoga + Wine with David Romanelli October 18- Yoga + Chocolate with David Romanelli Nov 8- Apana Vayu and Healthy Hips with Sara Strother Nov 22- Arm Balances & Inversions with Danielle Dickinson 508 N Hoyne Ave, 3B Chicago, Illinois 60612 312-938-9642 (YOGA) yogaforallbeings.com
By Melanie Klein
Questioning the Meet the Yoga and Body Image Coalition
y yoga practice radically transformed my relationship with my body for the better, and I learned how to truly love myself. My practice offered a sacred respite that silenced the cacophony of media voices telling me over and over and over again that I was too (fill in the blank) and not (fill in the blank) enough and, therefore, unworthy and unlovable.
In this way, yoga practice is subversive, running counter to the thousands of images that greet our eyeballs every day and rake in huge profits for corporations looking to sell us the solutions to our low self-esteem. When I shared my transformative journey in my essay “Yoga, Feminism, and Body Image” four years ago, I received an outpouring of support and countless e-mails from people who could relate. This became the catalyst for Anna Guest-Jelley to curate and coedit the anthology Yoga and Body Image: 25 Personal Stories about Beauty, Bravery, and Loving Your Body (October 2014).
But it was difficult to continue to focus on the positive aspects of yoga practice on body image, even my own. As I continued to look around, yoga culture, from advertisements to magazine covers, increasingly cultivated normative expectations of the “yoga body” by consistently presenting the same body type—from its lithe, lean, toned, able-bodied, and hyperbendy form to its white, unblemished, and youthful skin. It’s hard to continue to call yoga “subversive” or “rebellious” when yoga culture replicates the images in the dominant culture and leaves a ton of yogis behind by making them invisible. As members of a “conscious” community, we’ve begun to have much-needed conversations about the images that are being produced along with their effects. These conversations may be uncomfortable and confronting, but it’s not in an effort to blame others, whether they are individuals or businesses profiting from these one-dimensional images. It’s about raising awareness. And isn’t that what a yoga practice is all about? I see these emerging conversations as an opportunity to take part in some good old-fashioned consciousness-raising. This is exactly what feminists did in the ’60s and ’70s; they decolonized their own minds, examined their own internalized oppression, and worked on shifting the current dominating paradigms. And it’s in the spirit of pushing back against the corporate co-optation of yoga culture that the Yoga and Body Image Coalition was born. My cofounder, Brigitte Kouba (aka Gigi Yogini), and I created the alliance—the activist arm of the anthology—to unite individual efforts in promoting inclusivity, active transformation, and physical, spiritual, and mental empowerment in the yoga community.
It's hard to continue to call yoga “subversive” or “rebellious” when yoga culture replicates the images in the dominant culture and leaves a ton of yogis behind by making them invisible.
We are yoga teachers, practitioners, experts, educators, activists, writers, businesses, artists, nonprofit organizations, and advocates committed to body love by developing, promoting, and supporting yoga that is accessible, body-positive, and reflective of the full range of human diversity. Because yoga is not just a fitness trend and every body is a yoga body. We’re committed to creating conscious community and cultivating change because there is nothing rebellious or revolutionary about replicating the same old tired stereotypes. What’s bold and daring is creating something anew, representations that are authentic, inclusive, and equitable.
Melanie Klein, MA, is a writer, speaker, and professor of sociology and women’s studies. She is a contributing author in 21st Century Yoga and is featured in Conversations with Modern Yogis. She is the coeditor of Yoga and Body Image and cofounder of the Yoga and Body Image Coalition. YBICOALITION.COM
PHOTOs: SARIT Z. ROGERS
Readers’ Photos from Across the Globe Featuring the most awesome photos sent in by our Mantra Yoga + Health community of yogis, meditators, and athletes
Camden Hoch: Sausalito, Calif. • Photo: Lucas Hock Visual Art
Aaed Ghanem: Lebanon, Beirut • Photo: Todd Leveck
Gabe and Leeor Azoulay: KoH Samui, Thailand
Chris Comfort and Gabe Hansen • Photo: Johnathan M Photography
Roxanne DePalma: Encinitas, Jennifer Bokma: Coeur Calif. • Photo: Epic Photod’Alene, Idaho • journalism Photo: Lance Ross
Ingrid Yang: Chicago, Ill. • Photo: Todd Leveck
Leslee Schenk Trzcinski: Canandaigua, N.Y. • Photo: Lisa Hughes
Kevin Paris: Milwaukee, Wisc. • Photo: John Arms
Alesha McCully: Coeur d’Alene, Idaho • Photo: Lance Ross
SEND IN YOUR MOST AWESOME HIGH-RES IMAGES TO PHOTOS@MANTRAMAG.COM.
Laura Hand: Bali, Indonesia • Photo: Jon Torbett
Maikara Andrews: Encinitas, Calif. • Photo: Epic Photojournalism
Stephanie Powell: Encinitas, Calif. • Photo: Epic Photojournalism
Christine C. Casady: East Norriton, Pa. • Photo: Joe Longo Photography
Silvia Mordini: Seattle, Wash. • Photo: Jacob Young
Rebekah Johnson: Woodstown, N.J. • Photo: Gary Johnson
Summer Fah: San Diego, Calif. • Photo: Micaela Malmi
Sean Mandell: Encinitas, Calif. • Photo: Epic Photojournalism
Gianna Purcell: Chicago, Ill. • Photo: Lucid Eyes Photography
Tom Donald: Beaver Meadows, Pa. • Photo: Bill Tunnessen
Jessica Sandhu: Washington, D.C. • Photo: Drew Xeron
Pele Chen • Photo: Johnathan M Photography
Elissa Cirignotta and Greg LoRang: Portland, Oreg. • Photo: Debbie Baxter Photography
Maureen Priest • Photo: Joe Longo Photography
Readers’ Photos from Across the Globe (continued)
Alex Hamby: Dallas, Texas • Photo: Lance Philips
Erica Garcia: Yonkers, N.Y. • Photo: Robert Sturman Deven Sisler and Bonnie Argo • Photo: Johnathan M Photography
Aggie Ng and Josh Taylor • Photo: Johnathan M Photography
Ariana Bates: Long Beach, Calif. • Photo: Sara Beckman
Jenny Ze • Photo: Johnathan M Photography
ERICA AND JILLIAN MCLAUGHLIN: JACKSONVILLE, FLA. • PHOTO: MANDY GILLISPIE
Lynn Rescigno, Sydney Shoff, Bridgette Stroup, and Jessica Seibert • Photo: Nathaniel Dirks
Jeni Oh: Encinitas, Calif. • Photo: Epic Photojournalism
Olga Rubio and Leslie Greinstein: Port St. Lucie, Fla. • Photo: Alberto Rubio
Tonja “Sunflower” Bennett: Atlanta, Ga. • Photo: Daniel Bennett-Blake
Jenna Zizzo: Phoenix, Ariz. • Photo: Michael Klemis
Katie Brauer: Encinitas, Calif. • Photo: Micaela Malmi
Amy Ploeckelman-Mosbey: Dublin, Calif. • Photo: Sean Mosbey
Noel Brady: Encinitas, Calif. • Photo: Epic Photojournalism
Mikayla Latta: Boise, Idaho • Photo: Greg Sims
Kenna Crouch: San Diego, Calif. • Photo: Micaela Malmi
Kim Sherwood and Stephen Seiver, Coeur d’Alene, Idaho • Photo: Lance Ross
L. A. Finfinger: Pittsburgh, Pa. • Photo: Kelley Bedoloto
Emily Perry: Santa Cruz, Calif. • Photo: Mario Covic
Jenny Lewis: Boise, Idaho • Photo: Greg Sims
Yogi. Vegan. Chef. Philosopher. Interview: Maranda Pleasant Maranda Pleasant: How long have you been practicing yoga? Sharon Gannon: About thirty years ago, I started to take my yoga practice seriously—meaning realizing that it had become an addiction I couldn’t live without. But it’s a good addiction. Hey, the side effects, they say, lead to enlightenment!
Being a yogi-vegan tends to expand your perception of yourself and others. It helps you become aware of how your actions affect the total happiness and/or suffering of the whole world. We all want happiness. We all want to be free. The secret to happiness and freedom is to do all we can to contribute to the happiness and liberation of others. Enslaving and exploiting other animals and the environment is not going to contribute to our happiness and freedom. Violence only brings more violence.
MP: How has yoga changed or impacted your life? SG: Yoga has given me a reason to live beyond my own self-centered desires for comfort and recognition. Yoga provides grounding in that slippery, ever-changing place we know as the world. Yoga provides entry into the eternal, musical, etheric, blissful realm of infinite possibilities. MP: As the cofounder of Jivamukti Yoga, what is your yoga philosophy? What is Jivamukti Yoga?
MP: Tell me about your passion for food. I love the cafe in your New York City school. SG: The menu is all vegan and all organic and includes hearty entrees like creamy rosemary seitan as well as many quirky snack items, things like spirulina millet, vegan grilled cheese and bacon quesadillas, Japanese rice balls, and rainbow chakra smoothies. The menu, like the ambiance, is whimsical and fun. MP: Why were you inspired to write your new book?
SG: Jivamukti Yoga is a path to enlightenment through compassion for all beings. MP: Why do some people think Jivamukti is controversial? SG: Not sure, but I would guess that because we emphasize spiritual activism—we are passionate about God realization, Sanskrit, animal rights, nurturing the environment, and political activism—not everyone wants to go there. Most like to play it normal and safe, understandably: many people have been thrown into prison or worse for voicing their political and religious views. MP: How is being a vegan part of your practice? SG: What holds us back from full-blown enlightenment—ultimate happiness—is our prejudices against others. Veganism has cured me of my prejudice against other animals and helped me become a kinder, less self-centered person.
SG: I would like for people to know that veganism is not about restriction and certainly not about judging others and being angry. Veganism provides simple recipes to increase joy in your life, the lives of others, and the world. There is so much violence in the world, and most of it seems to be out of our control. But what we choose to eat is within our control. The fork can be a weapon of mass destruction or an implement for peace; the choice is in our own hands. MP: What else are you passionate about? SG: Ahimsa, nonviolence, has been an essential part of all spiritual practices and most religions, but extending nonviolence to include other animals and the environment is a radical new concept. How to live in a way that our individual lives might enhance the lives of others, maybe even enhance the planet—I am passionate about exploring that.
PHOTO: LES GUZMAN
â€œ Veganism has cured me of my prejudice against other animals
and helped me become a kinder, less self-centered person.â€?
“The fork can be a weapon of mass destruction or an implement for peace; the choice is in our own hands. ”
“Choose what you want tomorrow to bring by what you do today. But remember to be patient as there is no such thing as instant karma.” MP: What does your daily schedule look like?
MP: If you could say something to everyone on the planet, what would it be?
SG: Hectic, busy, intense, full on, and amazing!
SG: “Whatever you want in life, you can have—if you make it happen for others first. It all comes back to you, eventually but inevitably. So choose what you want tomorrow to bring by what you do today. But remember to be patient as there is no such thing as instant karma.”
MP: When do you feel vulnerable? SG: Every time I open my mouth to say something, I feel vulnerable. Words can never totally convey what we mean to say, and they can often be taken the wrong way. That’s why l like chanting God’s name; it seems to be the closest thing to telling the truth. But even that feels vulnerable. Perhaps the ultimate vulnerability is surrendering to God, letting go of control, falling into the mystery, but that’s a good kind of vulnerable, because it lifts you out of your mind and into the mystery of the heart.
MP: Was there a big moment that really impacted the direction of your life? SG: Yeah. In 1981, I saw a British documentary film titled The Animals Film. It all unfolded from there.
Sharon Gannon is the cofounder of Jivamukti Yoga and author of Simple Recipes for Joy: More than 200 Delicious Vegan Recipes.
MP: What is love to you? SG: God is love, and that’s a mystery I don’t know much about but am ready to learn.
TOP AND RIGHT PHOTOS: LES GUZMAN, BOTTOM PHOTO: JESSICA SJöö
JIVAMUKTIYOGA.COM | SIMPLERECIPESFORJOY.COM
Use death to enrich your life
e are born. We have children (some of us). We die. Many cultures teach us to fear death. We have no training around it, which makes death terrifying.
When something has ended—a relationship, a dream, a life—take a note from nature and let the detritus and sadness of the situation decompose, then feed it to your “tree of life.” I call this “turning shit into fertilizer.” Let the something that has ended end so the new has growing space. When somebody close to you is facing death, be a truth speaker. If you’re thinking, “I don’t want to upset them,” stop! Tell them how you feel—even if it’s upsetting. Ask, “What do you need to finish your communications or business before you die?” Help them unload their burdens. Speaking truth can be the best gift of their life! Assess whether they need someone to tend to them 24/7. Be honest! Is this job really yours? Instead, hire people trained to tend to their needs. This way, you both can go through this death with dignity and integrity.
What other steps can you take? • Breathe deeply—all day. • Get grounded, get feet active. Spread the balls of feet and lift toes. Press heels and balls of feet down. •
Do something daily that touches your heart in a “beauty way.” Be brave enough to feel that delight. Share these moments with your loved one so that they are soaking in beauty as they are dying—for example, “This amazing thing happened today!” That is a Forrest Yoga Beauty Report.
By Ana T. Forrest
death ally • Ask them to use your love as wings to move through the suffering and let go into the freedom of death.
• If you have an emotional burden, work it out with a therapist. Then speak from your heart to your dying one. The gates of death open when someone is dying; the winds of change begin to blow. It’s an honor to be with a dying person. You get to see their soul off. Use death in a good “medicine way.” Release whatever heaviness is dimming your spirit. Make the rest of your life brilliant. When your heart breaks because someone you love dies, instead of shutting down, transform that breaking into a breaking open and feel fully. Instead of cocooning yourself with the thick soup of loss, sorrow, grief, and rage, connect to what you value about your beloved dead. What do you love about that person? What aspects of your relationship are treasures? Connecting to what you cherish balances your mournful feelings. Chew up those feelings, move them out, and turn them into fertilizer. Make room for what you love with this spirit. Death has changed the relationship. How you hold it is up to you. We’re taught that if we’re not constantly grieving our dead, then we’re bad. If you were dying, would you really want your living loved ones to carry your death as a bloody wound? What if they hold the treasures of your relationship and are nourished by that? When I die, I want my loved ones to gather the rich, gorgeous beauty of our relationship and use that for sustenance. What a tragedy if my death dims their life-force or soaks them in guilt because they lived. This is my passionate prayer to them: “Live brilliantly and love boldly!”
Ana T. Forrest, medicine woman and creatrix of Forrest Yoga, is the author of Fierce Medicine, a book with many tools for learning to use death as an ally.
“ When I die, I want my loved ones to gather the rich, gorgeous beauty of our relationship and use that for sustenance.” MANTRAMAG.COM
Dr. Kat! America’s leading sexologist talks about her biggest struggles and joys Interview: Maranda Pleasant
Maranda Pleasant: What has been one of the biggest struggles in your life?
MP: Where do you find joy? KVK: Whether it is the Hawaiian breeze, a song I love, being in the ocean, or the stars at night, I just can’t seem to get my fill of beauty in this life. I’m always so humbled at connecting with the joy that my children provide me with. Being a mother wasn’t something I was always so sure I would engage in. Lucky for me, my fabulous husband inspired me to consider it. My girls are the heart and soul of who I am. And having had a difficult childhood, I’ve been able to experience for the first time many of the joys of childhood. My husband is my rock, my comic relief, my sounding board, my love and best friend. I seriously at times can’t believe how lucky I am that we found one another. I love doing candlelight yoga with him, surfing on the edge of our small island together in the Pacific, and finding ways to serve our community hand in hand. My work as a sexologist, marriage and family therapist, and yoga therapist has been so rewarding. I’ve been able to diversify as an author, media host, product designer, and spokesperson. I’ve always been involved in the arts and to now have a career that allows me to create is just so satisfying.
MP: What are you passionate about? KVK: Life! And the fact that no matter how bad you think your relationships are, there is hope. There is always room for healing. Educating, facilitating, bearing witness to the beauty that is someone else’s struggle is what keeps me passionate.
No matter how bad you think your relationships are, there is hope. There is always room for healing. MP: If you could give everyone just one message, what would it be?
Kat Van Kirk: I had a run of three years that I seriously thought might break me. While pregnant and giving birth to two beautiful and perfect human beings, we moved four times, my mother died of a chronic illness after having been isolated by my mentally ill father, and then my father committed suicide. The real topper was when I got diagnosed with stage I breast cancer. Rising above all of that and finding meaning in that part of the journey was a process. A process attended to by my amazing family and friends, my Vajrayana Buddhist practices, and my training in anahata yoga. Every time I looked into my little girls’ eyes, I knew I couldn’t give up. I did every medical treatment, surgery, prayer circle, psychological therapy, and alternative healing modality you could imagine—plus completely changed the way I ate and worked out.
KVK: My message would be to never give up. Put yourself out there, and do things that make you feel uncomfortable. Do not live in the negativity. Growth can be painful, but it will help you be grateful for every little thing you have. MP: Do you have any personal mantras?
MP: How do you stay grounded?
KVK: I recite the White Tara, Medicine Buddha, and Chenrezig mantras on a regular basis. I do a lot of visualization and connection with voidness. My girls have learned to recite Chenrezig whenever we see any sentient being in need of compassion.
KVK: Breath, meditation, journaling, yoga, working out, playing with my children, wine nights with my friends, and deep hugs from my husband.
Kat Van Kirk is a clinical sexologist, marriage and family therapist, author, yoga therapist, media host, and a Twinlab spokesperson.
Interview: Nancy Alder
Beryl Bender Birch Helping veterans adjust to life through yoga Nancy Alder: What inspired you to write Yoga for Warriors?
NA: What is it about a strong yoga practice that is perfect for veterans?
Beryl Bender Birch: My book is for all military personnel. These practices can help veterans returning from a war zone and struggling with post-traumatic stress, traumatic brain injury, or difficulty in transitioning to civilian life. The practices also strengthen resilience and can help to prevent PTSD, so they are a terrific aid for those about to deploy to a conflict area. In a broader sense, this practice is for anyone hoping to be healthier, happier, and effectively deal with the traumas of life.
BBB: Men and women in the military are taught to have high external awareness. Yoga practitioners are taught to practice high internal vigilance. Both groups are warriors, although in quite a different way. For veterans, it is simply about reversing the direction of attention from the external to the internal world. I was wellness director for the New York Runners Club for twenty years and worked with all kinds of athletes. Military people are elite athletes. Because they are used to strong training and discipline, the sequences in Yoga for Warriors that incorporate strength and structure are a natural fit. B. K. S. Iyengar’s teachings on alignment, as well as my studies of anatomy and physiology, have helped me to develop appropriate modifications of all the postures for all bodies.
Imagine if you spent a year or two on radical high alert every moment; think how tough coming back to home life would be. So many veterans tell me, “I was depressed. I just couldn’t relate to the things that people at home think are a big deal. After experiencing the horrors and high intensity of combat, civilian life seemed pretty tame. All I wanted to do was go back.”
“For veterans, it is simply about reversing the direction of attention from the external to the internal world.” I was inspired by my student, friend, and colleague Suzanne Manafort, founder of Mindful Yoga Therapy for Veterans. Also, after talking with veterans, having them in my yoga classes over the years, and seeing the benefits of their yoga practices, it seemed a natural progression to write a book specifically for them—to give back, so to speak. My personal ordeal with and treatment for post-traumatic stress helped me to realize how much yoga had empowered me to be a more peaceful, present, happy, and healthy human being.
NA: Tell me about your work as cofounder of the Give Back Yoga Foundation. BBB: My student Rob Schware and I founded the Give Back Yoga Foundation in 2007. Our work is to bring yoga to underresourced groups, such as veterans and those in lower socioeconomic populations. In the spirit of giving back, the Give Back Yoga Foundation will be donating a copy of Yoga for Warriors to any veterans who wish to receive it.
Beryl Bender Birch, a yoga practitioner and teacher for over forty years, is the author of three books on yoga, including Power Yoga. Her newest book, Yoga for Warriors: Basic Training in Strength, Resilience & Peace of Mind, is a guide for veterans struggling to navigate the transition to civilian life. POWER-YOGA.COM | GIVEBACKYOGA.ORG
Confessions of a Cross-
Trainer A Counterposing Life By Julie Carmen
ow would a middle-aged Pitta Aries from New York with four careers, a family, a mortgage, and college tuitions cross-train? I work as a psychotherapist, yoga therapist, college teacher, and actress. Sitting for more than twelve hours per week during talk therapy is not great for my back. Teaching too many yoga classes per week leaves me feeling depleted. Preparing too many psychology lectures demands excessive computer time. Acting, which I’ve done since I was a teen, can make me feel like I have multiple personalities. For years, I fought the narrative of being someone who couldn’t decide which career to drop until I embraced physical routines that supported all four: I swim, hula-hoop, salsa dance, and do lots of Down Dog, Chair Pose, Warrior, and balance poses. Physically, swimming manages problems that stem from an old car accident when my head broke the windshield. There is no better exercise that makes the nerve tingling stay away, and the backstroke aligns my spine. After swimming, I can teach yoga without injuring myself, because the core muscles have been awakened. It’s a common problem, that yoga teachers inflame old injuries, especially if they demonstrate a lot. I’ve learned not to teach a style that my own body rebels against.
“Listen to your innate drive to spend time doing what you love, and follow the intuitive force that keeps you balanced.” The stream-of-consciousness thoughts during swimming meditation help process and resolve current issues. Material from clients percolates. Walking in water is an excellent tool for memorization: read a phrase, repeat it in your mind while swimming or striding, and let the natural breath groups support the thoughts. No matter how churned up my nervous system is, it unravels when I swim. Swimming chills Pitta fire. When senses are barraged by too much noise, being underwater reduces the onslaught. One major benefit to cross-training is less chance of injury, because you’re not doing the same repetitive motion all the time. Because of muscle confusion, your progress doesn’t plateau because your body gets used to the same exercise; therefore, there’s better weight loss and strength-building. JULIECARMENACTRESS.COM | YOGATALKS.COM
Five questions to help you find your inner cross-trainer: 1. What repetitive movements do you use while working that you need to counterpose when you exercise? 2. What is your posture and breath like while working that you can improve through exercise? 3. What is your sensory experience while working that needs balance through exercise? 4. What physical activity do you love and crave that feels like a treat after work? 5. Can you structure your week to include more of that? Most people already naturally cross-train. Listen to your innate drive to spend time doing what you love, and follow the intuitive force that keeps you balanced.
Julie Carmen, LMFT, ERYT-500, is associate director of mental health at Yoga Therapy Rx at Loyola Marymount University. For twelve years, she taught yoga at Exhale in Venice, Calif., and to Suzanne Somers privately. Her new Teaching Yoga One on One DVD is available through YogaTalks.com. Photo: ADAM LATHAM
Six Ways to Stay Centered in a Vigorous Yoga Class Strategies for staying inspired and connected By Danny Arguetty
1. Remember the roots of the posture. Each posture is typically an evolution of another posture—for example, Knee-Down Lunge progresses to Crescent Lunge, which evolves into Warrior III. You can always choose to take a less complex version while still staying engaged and present, and you’ll still receive many of the benefits of the pose. 2. Use posture options. Think about how the posture feels, not about whether it looks picture-perfect. Contemplate the primary action in each pose, and adjust your body
to create the greatest comfort based on this information. For example, in Chair pose, teachers often instruct us to align our biceps with our ears. But depending on your bone structure, this can put excess strain on the upper shoulders. Chair pose can be a vigorous posture even when your hands are resting on your waistline or extending straight out in front of the torso.
4. Use props. Some people think that using yoga props (blocks, straps, et cetera) means you are less advanced. Not true. As you build awareness of your body and the biomechanics of each posture, you begin to know exactly where and when you need props. After fourteen years of practice, I still use two blocks in lunges to take pressure off my hamstrings. Remember, suffering is optional!
3. Expand your definition of “advanced.” Some advanced classes focus on postures that make most of us shake our heads and laugh: twisting pretzels and one-armed balances. You’ll know you’ve found a skilled teacher when he or she takes you to the next level with an exploration of attention, endurance, flexibility, and strength. In a skillfully delivered class, you can choose the lowerintensity posture options every time and still have a deep, powerful experience that touches body and spirit.
5. Take a break. When we try something new, we can get attached to needing to be perfect right away. In exploring a more heated practice, remember to manage your energy levels so you feel refueled, not drained, at the end of class. There’s no shame in skipping a vinyasa transition. You are allowed to pause in Downward-Facing Dog and reclaim your breath, and it’s even legal to rest in Child’s pose! Each time you show up to your practice, your body is different. The mark of an experienced practitioner is the ability to listen within and adjust, based not on what the teacher is offering but on what you’re experiencing. 6. Lighten up. In yoga, attitude is one of the key ingredients for shifting your experience. Instead of being so serious about a vigorous class, give yourself permission to fall, make mistakes, smile, even laugh. Remember—it’s a practice! Take your time and honor the process of learning. A vigorous practice can be a wonderful sandbox of exploration for learning and creativity as you hone mindfulness, build endurance, and enhance your inner vitality.
Each time you show up to your practice, your body is different. The mark of an experienced practitioner is the ability to listen within and adjust.
Even when you feel ready to go deeper in your yoga practice, classes that are labeled “advanced,” “level 3,” or “vigorous” can feel intimidating. So how can you play your edge and also stay safe in your body when you find yourself in a more challenging practice? Here are six ways to stay centered when the practice heats up.
Danny Arguetty, MA, E-RYT, is a Kripalu Yoga teacher and the author of Nourishing the Teacher: Inquiries, Contemplations, and Insights on the Path of Yoga.
“Size 12, So What?“ By Alanna Kaivalya
What if we change the image of yoga to something of diversity and inclusiveness?
Bringing acceptance of others into your yoga practice
The yoga community is astir about body image and how we yogis represent ourselves to the world. As a size 12 curvy yogi myself, I can attest to what the yoga community accepts and rejects: • I have been told that I do not have the right look to be photo- graphed—in yoga-teacher training manuals that I wrote. • I have been told that my shape is “off brand”—for magazines that I write for. • I have been chastised online for not having the right yoga body and questioned about my practice because of the size of my thighs. My self-worth isn’t determined by other people’s perceptions. What bums me out about these judgments is not what these folks think about my body but, rather, that they are missing a key piece of the yoga practice. Instead of thinking that a yoga body should look one way or the other, I suggest we start looking past the body and dig deeper into what yoga is: a powerfully transformative practice that changes us from the inside. What if we turned our attention away from the lithely bent, filtered photos of yogis on Instagram and turned instead toward our practice of karma yoga and giving back? What if, instead of worrying about what kind of Lycra we put on our butts, we sit our asses down in meditation and stop tweeting about it?
The obsession about the body and the way we portray it in yoga actually has little to do with our bodies and far more to do with our state of mind. We may be able to gain strength and flexibility through our physical practices, but until we also drop the judgments of self and others, our yoga practice isn’t working for us. What if we change the image of yoga to something of diversity and inclusiveness instead of the hyper-airbrushed, glossy, filtered images that give the impression that yoga is only about physique and physical ability? That way, when yoga shows its face to the world, that face is a more appropriate, diverse representation of the faces that are actually out there. This is important because there is a whole range of people who hesitate to approach yoga because it doesn’t look like them. This diverse melting pot of people often don’t see their faces, their butts, or their abilities represented in what yoga has become, so they often feel discounted by it. When we get over what the face, butt, or flexibility of yoga should look like, we will open ourselves up to the underlying message of yoga, which accepts everyone—regardless of size, shape, flexibility, gender, sexuality, ethnicity, and so on. So, about body image? I say we get over it. Let’s get past our corporeal obsession and move on to a more cerebral one. After all, Patanjali tells us that yoga occurs when the mind is still. Let’s work on our minds, relax our judgments, and accept every body as they are.
PhotoS: EMMA SEGAL
By Becky Thompson
a n d i n A l l Kin ds of Places “People are practicing yoga in many unexpected and ingenious locations: church basements, storefronts, prison storage rooms, playgrounds, refugee camps, and alongside 12-step meetings.” When Victoria grabs her mat and music to teach yoga at a community center near her house, she wonders whether she should also grab a mop since, often, the floor in the nursery where she teaches is gummy with Cheerios and other lunch-box surprises. Some days, the challenge of a dirty floor is less formidable than the squealing middleschool children in the next room. Victoria is constantly amazed at how calm and centered the students in her class remain in the midst of this clatter—in an environment not usually associated with yoga. The reality is that people are practicing yoga in many unexpected and ingenious locations: church basements, storefronts, prison storage rooms, playgrounds, refugee camps, and alongside 12-step meetings. This is grassroots yoga, a tradition that has been practiced long before we called this land the United States. While many think of yoga as a tradition coming from the East, yoga also has indigenous
Photo: ERNESTO GALAN
and African roots. Sweat lodges, kivas, vision quests, prayer, and meditation are all forms of yoga that are earth-based, with a long history in the U.S. Understanding yoga in this expansive sense guards against the tendency to see it as an upper-middle-class exercise practiced in fancy studios. And it reveals a range of reasons people come to (and stay on) the mat. While “trauma” has become a buzzword in the last several years, in yoga communities, trauma and yoga have been treated as separate entities, leaving little room for those who come to yoga to be honest about their struggles. During my first teacher training, for example, I found myself dissociating on the mat but had neither the language nor the permission I needed to share this experience openly. In my years of teaching and writing about yoga, I have been moved by how much courage it takes for people to talk about what has made them stumble in life.
The range of trauma that yogis have faced include shock trauma—war, natural disasters, accidents—as well as developmental trauma, such as the mundane, extreme violence of racism, sexual abuse, and incarceration. An expansive view is essential because, as renowned yoga teacher and somatic therapist Nikki Myers has taught, “the issues live in our tissues.” Our bodies record everything from the time we are in utero until we die. Yoga is so important because it brings us back into balance; homeostasis is embedded in its very name. Yoga, union with self. Yoga, union with each other. Yoga, union with what can make us whole on this earth.
Becky Thompson, PhD, RYT-500, is the author of Survivors on the Yoga Mat: Stories for Those Healing from Trauma and several other books. She is a professor and chair of sociology at Simmons College and teaches yoga at conferences nationally and internationally.
Balancing Cups a history of my boobs By Elizabeth Cappo Gallo In fourth grade, I wore a preppy green-and-white striped shirt—horizontally striped. It was hard to not be painfully aware of my growing breasts. The white cotton training bras on the second floor of Marshall Field’s were simple and innocent enough, but judging from the looks of my body, I didn’t need to “train” for a bra. Eventually, bra shopping was referred to as parachute shopping, and it was clear that I should be mortified by my body. My breasts were the beginning of my slouch and reason to diet, fueling a hatred of every inch of my full body. Even if the rest of me felt fit, there were still the cups running over, always in the way—twin impediments.
I can almost remember the cup size that corresponds to each year of my life—one way to chart the chronology of my womanhood.
I started to see how we women were dangled above a shame pit for how our bodies developed: too little and we lacked sex appeal, disdained as tomboys; too much and we were sloppy, too dumb to keep ourselves slim, or slutty, no matter how pristine our behavior. More than a handful is wasted, I’ve thought so often. A gynecologist called them “pendulous,” “problematic.” At twentyeight, I had a reduction, tired of the weight, the protrusion, the comments. I was marked up with a Sharpie, left to marinate overnight, then revised the next day. I’ve often thought about and sometimes regretted that decision, those scars, in the sixteen years since. Pregnancies swelled my breasts, so I moved back up a cup size. But I didn’t mind. Prenatal yoga called for the balance of strength and softness, and it was a relief to feel celebrated in my roundness, burgeoning belly and breasts now deemed a blessing.
Though breastfeeding was a challenge, I reveled in the magic of skinto-skin contact. I pumped. I took herbs, hired consultants, repeated mantras as I sat up late, worrying about low milk production. I supplemented with formula. I struggled to feel at peace with how I fed my daughters. I found quiet on my mat. At forty-four, my relationship with my breasts is a balance. Saturday nights, I might appreciate the curve of cleavage in a fancy bra, the feeling of fingers at the edge of the cup. In yoga—chaturanga or sarvangasana—I curse their fleshy weight. I modify, often skip the bind. And then I think of how my daughters still like to snuggle into my breast; my softness is their comfort, even now. I can almost remember the cup size that corresponds to each year of my life—one way to chart the chronology of my womanhood. It’s not a love or hate thing: it’s both. In practice, it all blends into contentment, gratitude for this body that allows me to enjoy my earthbound years in motherhood and yoga and more.
Elizabeth Cappo Gallo teaches yoga to all kinds of beautiful people in the Chicago area. Her writing has appeared on Teachasana, the website for yoga teachers, and in various anthologies and literary magazines nationwide. ELIZABETHGALLOYOGA.COM
PHOTOS: CREATIVEM PHOTOGRAPHY
Vagina Love Unsubscribe from other people’s beliefs By Seane Corn Last week, my fabulous and very open mother called me up to overshare (as usual) and asked, “Can too much yogurt make your vagina dry?” I said, “Well, I guess it depends. Are you eating it or sticking it up there?” “Eating it!” she said. “Ma, I don’t think it’s the yogurt that’s making you dry. Perhaps it’s the fact that you’re almost seventy years old!” To which she replied, “That’s bullshit. What’s age got to do with it? My vagina is always juicy and moist. It must be the yogurt. I’m changing brands!” So I am unsubscribing to the belief that we dry up as we age. Here’s to staying juicy and moist (and open and funny and confident and bold) in every way possible! (On a side note, when I asked my mom if it was OK to retell this story, she said, “Of course! I love my vagina! Everyone should love their vaginas. Vaginas are the best!”) Thanks, Ma, for being the best role model ever.
Here’s to staying juicy and
moist (and open and funny
and confident and bold) in
every way possible!
B o o bs
Jugs By Maranda Pleasant
What’s our relationship to our breasts? They are a symbol of femininity, nurturing, and sustenance for our children and sometimes the target of much unwanted attention and objectification.
From the most beautiful to the obscene, how do we identify our value in our relationship with our femininity and our breasts? How do we relate to ourselves when we lose our breasts to cancer? When they change through motherhood and breastfeeding? How do we relate to our bodies as a sacred feminine vessel as we age? How are we affected when our breasts no longer fit the media ideal? Is our selfesteem affected when they’re not high enough or full enough to fit the
“standard” in advertising campaigns? Do we struggle with our worth and our bodies as they change? What is their significance, and how does our relationship with them affect us? How do we feel when some find them offensive when breastfeeding or in mastectomy photos on social media?
This piece is about celebration and taking back our bodies and femininity and unsubscribing from the bullshit that we have been fed by society and advertising. May we all love, appreciate, and express reverence for the miracle of our bodies and our uniqueness and celebrate the diversity and changes over the years.
Phoenix, Ariz., and Los Angeles, Calif.
Los Angeles, Calif.
Colorado Springs, Colo.
Ah, boobs. The topic is a big one in my house. Primarily because I’m a dedicated yogini married to a gifted plastic surgeon renowned for the beautiful work he does reconstructing women’s breasts. I am naturally well endowed, and my biggest issue has been self-acceptance of my body postpartum. I can’t definitively say that I’ll never partake in my husband’s services, but I can tell you this: I’m committed to loving my breasts in all of their droopy, deflated glory each and every day. I refuse to buy into cultural constructs of beauty, because they fed my baby and because when I want them to look otherwise, I put on a bra.
When I see someone write an article about being big-busted or fearful of showing cleavage, I smile. For I have 36GGs. The only way I could avoid cleavage is by wearing a turtleneck. I dress for comfort. Me being comfortable in my wardrobe and skin is important as a role model to my students. Perhaps that is why the most common email I receive from students and strangers is regarding my choice of bras. For those of us that need a bit more support, I suggest the Glamorise Active Comfort Wrap, Champion C9, and Enell sports bras.
Once I hit puberty, everything changed. I went from flat-chested to a 32B in a matter of months. I gained weight, and by the end of high school, I was wearing a 36DD. In and out of college, my weight fluctuated a lot, and now I wear a 34DD. Shirts are created for women with B cups, so most yoga tops don’t fit. Many articles depicting lovely yoginis don’t look like I do. Now I teach classes to all shapes and sizes, helping women with large breasts—and inexpensive clothing that fits well—do yoga.
PHOTO: KARA MAY PHOTOGRAPHY
PHOTO: KYLE MCGOUGH
cazoshay “shay” ward
“Loving my breasts, like loving the rest of my body, has been a process.”
Anchorage, Alaska Like most of the women in my family, I began to develop breasts at the tender age of nine—and developed them with a vengeance. Loving my breasts, like loving the rest of my body, has been a process. Having garnered unwanted attention because of their size, I went from resenting them to viewing them as a source of power in my teens and early adulthood until finally coming to the realization that “with great boobs come great responsibility.” I am more than the sum of my (physical) parts, and I live to encourage other women to believe the same! PHOTO: YOGA BY DID
As si m p l e a s it so u n d s, th e
b est se lf-ca re I ca n d o is n ot
l ose my ow n p ra ctice.
—m i n a ka s h a n i
1 1 So n d ra Bl oxa m Creator of YogaGrow and researcher at OHSU
My rituals for self-care always start with breath. If I have awareness of my breath, the rest falls into place. I make a conscious effort to take my time with how I get myself out the door, especially when I feel rushed. My favorite ritual is abhyanga, an Ayurvedic oil massage that increases circulation, calms nerves, and nourishes the spirit.
2 2 Mi n a Ka s h a ni When I teach, I give a lot of myself, striving to help each student advance their practice. As simple as it sounds, the best self-care I can do is not lose my own practice. When teaching extra classes, I lose my grounding, so I take a step back, roll out my mat, and get lost in the movement of my own practice. PHOTO: HUNTER ARMISTEAD
YOGAGROWPDX.COM PHOTO: REZA ESTAKHRIAN
3 3 Me g a n Lav n e r Yoga instructor
Three things are high priority to me in my self-care: sleep, yoga, and gratitude. By compromising these three things, I compromise my mental and physical wellness. My practice is of utmost importance to me, so I study with my mentor several times weekly. I awaken with gratitude every day to be able to share the gift of yoga with others. MEGANLAVNER.COM
Wh a t a re yo u r rit u a l s fo r se lf- ca re? 4 Jo celyn Del a n ey Health and fitness writer
Every day, I do something for the sole intention of gaining happiness, and I journal those moments. Taking the time to create my own joy restores my positivity, and journaling helps me to appreciate the value of those experiences. Doing so has also taught me to prioritize the things that add meaning to my life. ALWAYSBEAUTIFULPROJECT.COM PHOTO: MARGARET LIN
5 Re n e e Fu s s n e r Founder of Samatahiti Rincón, Puerto Rico
Salty gratitude. When I’m salty, I’m full of gratitude, and when I’m full of gratitude, life is pure bliss! And when I find myself here, I stop what I am doing and say the same simple prayer, “Thank you.” SAMATAHITI.COM PHOTO: F. JAVIER GIL
6 Da nie l l e Ba r b e a u Co o k The River Power Vinyasa Yoga instructor and owner
As a mother, wife, and entrepreneur, I must be disciplined about self-care. My rituals include getting on my mat, getting outside, and getting into bed. The days I “don’t have time” for movement or rest are the days I need self-care most. Self-care also shows up in the mundane minutia of life: breathing, choosing not to rush, silencing my phone.
7 Ca rrie Fow l e r Owner of My Mat My Mantra
As a mom and entrepreneur, I am grateful to have found a daily self-care ritual in yoga. When I step onto my mat, my breath finds me and I can quiet my mind. I find the space to let everything go and surrender. I leave each practice with my heart open. I have found my spot and I’m spreading the love. MYMATMYMANTRA.COM PHOTO: CHRIS WOLFE
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B y R o n i E l i ss a b e t h
Whatever we say, we create.
The Fat, Naked, Hairy Truth about Stress ( Y o u m i g h t w a n t t o p u t y o u r b i g - k i d p a n t s o n)
tress is becoming trendy. I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of listening to people tell us that lavender oils, a candle-lit bath, and some long, deep breaths are all we need to treat our stress. As a meditation coach, I can tell you that we are not attacking the source. Our culture is working hard to avoid the truth, so here it is.
Dirty, Naked Truth #1 If you are stressed, it’s because you’re choosing it. Stress isn’t contagious; you didn’t catch it on a plane. It didn’t jump you in a dark alley and steal your happiness. Stress is the result of overprogramming your heart. If your mind just began to say, “Yeah, but she doesn’t understand, she doesn’t know all the things that are expected of me,” then you are exactly who I’m talking to. Take ownership of the choices you are making that are creating stress.
Big, Hairy Truth #2 We live in a society that loves to talk about our stress. When we say, “I am so stressed out,” what we are often saying is, “I am so important.” We have begun to equate being busy with being needed. CEOs are people who learned how to accomplish more with less effort, how to delegate, and when to say no. You are the CEO of your life. No longer allow stress to be the mantra that you march to as you run your errands. I promise, there is another way.
Fat, Ugly Truth #3 When we say, “I’m stressed,” we’re really saying, “I’m making bad choices and creating disease.” When the majority of illness in the body is caused by stress, it can no longer be a buzzword. Let’s not let each other get away with talking about it all the time and manifesting more of it. Let’s stop acting like it’s normal. Let’s respect the power of our language and stop under-
reacting to this epidemic. Try to avoid describing yourself as being anything but a balanced human being. Because whatever we say, we create. Now to the nitty-gritty. I don’t care how many deep breaths you take, what you slather on your skin, or how many candles you light, if you are making choices that overprogram your heart, then you will create stress. You have to say no. Your kids don’t need to be a part of four teams and activities. Your partner really can chip in more. A new job may be in order. You do have the ability to radically change your stress level right now, today. Take ownership, decide what you want, and demand nothing less.
Roni Elissabeth, E-RYT 500, is owner of Bella Prana Yoga and Meditation in Florida, a life coach, and a meditation coach. She is a regular contributor to Fox News, Tampa Bay Wellness Magazine, My Yoga Online, and Elephant Journal.
By Saraswati J.
The Wisdom of Your
Emotional Body Are You Listening?
The mind notoriously leads us astray; the emotional body and its intuitive wisdom will not.
Meditation, yoga, and happy thoughts aren’t always the solution. Spiritual bypassing is becoming more and more common as these and other spiritual techniques gain popularity. What if your emotionalbody wisdom is actually the missing link for your spiritual evolution? As a yogi, you are likely tending to your physical body and your mental body daily, but what kind of relationship do you have with your emotional body on a daily basis? What do you do when you experience strong emotions, discomforts, and challenging feelings—the very real (and normal) parts of being a human? Emotions tell us directly what we need, what feels nourishing, and what does not. The emotional body is our direct link to the intuition. If we aren’t listening to our emotional-body wisdom, we likely aren’t fully accessing the intuitive wisdom that is living within us, either. Most people are in fact cutting and pasting over their emotional-body wisdom every day. And many people on a spiritual path are consistently bypassing their challenging emotions by negating and suppressing them with yoga, meditation, affirmations, et cetera. Our Western-centric culture considers the mind to be king. We are taught to strengthen the mind, train the mind, and focus the mind. There are hundreds of tools and resources to help us befriend our minds and our bodies. But these tools don’t necessarily help us cultivate a relationship with the wisdom of the emotional body.
PHOTO: TAIRA RESTAR
In fact, our culture often teaches us to mistrust, suppress, not be victim to, or not be weakened by the emotions. In other words, mind over emotion. As a result, many of us are afraid of emotions, what they share with us, their effects, and our reactions to them. Ultimately, most of us have been offered few tools or resources in order to create a healthy relationship with our emotions. To make matters worse, most spiritual paths do not clearly incorporate emotional-body wisdom into their teachings; they may negate the emotions as useful or helpful. It is important to remember that the mental body is the imaginal realm, the realm of stories, illusions. It likes to retell its stories over and over. The mind notoriously leads us astray; the emotional body and its intuitive wisdom will not. Human emotions give us access to a treasure chest of enlightening inner wisdom. Skipping over this very innate part of our human experience consistently, and without consciousness, can have dire consequences for our health and our spiritual growth. If we choose to cultivate a healthy and aware relationship with the emotions—to befriend them, to listen to their needs and vital messages—then we have a chance at embracing our humanity, and our spirituality, in new and more powerful ways.
Saraswati J. is a Vedic astrologer who bridges ancient wisdom with a body-centered approach to expressive arts therapy. Her Jyotish consultations are well suited to extra-sensitive artists, mystics, and healers and those looking for insights about their dharmic path. SWATIJRJYOTISH.COM
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There is a freedom and peace of mind that comes from speaking your truth.
My truth. Both of my parents were alcoholics. As a child, I was sexually abused by my father and his friends, men who paid my father a fee so they could rape me. As an adult, I had stage III breast cancer. After my last reconstructive surgery, my mother was murdered in her mobile home. Making the connection. I had just turned forty, and what should have been a routine mammogram resulted in a stage III breast cancer diagnosis—happy birthday to me. I spent eighteen months in treatment and reconstructive surgeries to rebuild my breasts. While healing, I found yoga and discovered the mind-body connection. I soon realized I was holding the pain and resentment of cancer and childhood abuse in my body and soul. If I were ever going to find peace, I had to release my story from my mind and body. Owning THE truth. While I struggled with the hows and the whys of the abuse, I kept it hidden; it was my burden to carry. But after the cancer treatments, I was bald and had these new breasts that I simply could not hide. I had to deal with it. If I were to heal, I had to come clean about everything—the cancer and the abuse. LOCKEYMAISONNEUVE.COM
When I first started sharing, it was awkward. I would try to assess what the listener could handle hearing and then edit my words. When I approached it this way, it came off as pathetic and negative. I couldn’t share in a way that conveyed my need to simply get it out of my head.
In time, three key elements became clear: 1. I am not what happened to me. 2. Other people’s opinions of me are none of my business. 3. I do not need outside validation. I realized that figuring out the hows and whys of the cancer and the abuse really didn’t matter. What matters is expressing and owning my truth. Because when I do, it opens space for me to discover what’s holding me back from healing my whole self. The work. I interact with many types of survivors who feel they don’t have the freedom to speak their truth. This is not true. Every person on this planet is entitled to a voice. The one thing most survivors want is peace of mind. This mind chatter has us constantly on guard, protecting, hiding, defending, and justifying to ourselves
and others. Speaking your truth quiets the chatter.
This is a path that you walk in your own time. Start by writing your story; get it out of your head. Then read it to yourself. Maybe share it with another person, then another, until you’ve shared what you need to in a way that is authentic. Most importantly, be kind to yourself. You might get upset and cry. That’s OK, it’s part of the process. The reward. I will tell you as someone who gave in to fear for many years that there is nothing that compares to that feeling of peace when you are all talked out and know you’ve been heard. It is in that moment that you lay down your burden and find freedom. It’s in that moment that you find peace of mind.
Lockey Maisonneuve leads the Let It Go Workshop throughout the United States. This workshop is a direct result of sharing her story of transformation from cancer and childhood abuse, and it encourages others to discover how to let go of what no longer serves them.
“If I were to heal, I had to come clean about everything—the cancer and the abuse.”
“Infuse your echo with purpose. Stand for something even after you’re gone.”
By Bram Levinson
What Remains of Us
I’m an observer. With the state of the world today, with wars being waged for the sake of race, religion, power, and territory, I’ve been observing an inordinate amount of finger-pointing, name-calling, and the general slinging of judgment via media outlets and social media, so I’d like to offer another perspective. How do you want to be remembered? What are you doing to ensure that that’s how you’ll be thought of after you’re gone? How many of you believe that you’re contributing right now to the energy that you leave behind? Think about this: every single word you speak, every single thing you do, every reaction and thought that informs your facial expressions, and every single social-media post you put up is contributing to one of two things—connection or division. Using your energy, you are either encouraging connection or you’re breeding division. As this happens, you are contributing to way more than the world we live in; you are contributing to your echo. Your echo is the energy that others are filled with when they think about you or refer to you. Your echo is the energy that will outlast and outlive you, which you leave trailing in your wake when your body has passed on. Your echo is your imprint and your legacy. It can be solely energetic, or it can be contributed to by a tangible item that you produce. I
wrote The Examined Life to outlast and outlive me so that my intention resonates long after my body is gone. And so I ask you: Is your echo heavy or light? Is it dark or bright? Is it dynamic or stagnant? If it were to all end right now, how would you be remembered? Becoming accountable for your echo requires a clear intention. If you want to be remembered as a kind person, then you constantly have to remember to be kind, especially when it’s the last thing you feel like doing, when you’re pushed to extremes. Do you have kids? What do you want them to know about life? Approach your journey as if everyone in the world will be affected and influenced by you in the same way your children will be. Be conscious of your thoughts, your words, your moods, and the energy you emanate. Be aware of how you’re imprinting the world and how you’re feeding the echo. Infuse your echo with purpose. Stand for something even after you’re gone. Be the future and make it better than the past, and begin now to assemble what will remain of you.
Bram Levinson, author of The Examined Life, is a nationally known yoga teacher, blogger, mentor, and lecturer based in Montreal who infuses his echo daily with tools that assist those who seek to reconnect to what they feel disconnected from.
Photo: ELOI BRUNELLE
What was the craziest thing
you have done for love?
Life coach and founder of Shanti Within
Tune in to the wisdom of my soul and really listen to my inner voice of intuition. It was only when I silenced the noise around me that I realized that my life needed to go down a completely different path from the one it was on. It was this path that led me to my husband and soul mate.
This past Christmas, my love life was not where I wanted it to be due to a rough breakup. With the holidays looming, I decided to buy a cheap cell phone for a stranger that worked nearby my building. Receiving the phone not only boosted his spirits but mine as well. Itâ€™s amazing what a little karma yoga can do!
SHANTIWITHIN.COM PHOTO: RUTH WHITEHAWK GONZALES
CLAIRECOTTONYOGA.COM PHOTO: SANDY FOSTER / YOGA BLISS PHOTO
R aquel Bueno
Sar ah Lesch
Yoga teacher and owner of Liberation Yoga Nashville
Got married and divorced! Stayed too long, left too soon. Quit my job, moved to an island, moved to Nashville, lived in a storefront in the hood in L.A. with an artist, fell in love in a day, in a week, in a month. Opened a yoga studio! Love has been my biggest teacher and my partner in crime!
Agreeing to get scuba-certified with my husband seems crazy to me! Being submerged underwater raises every irrational fear I have about what lurks below. But when I saw how important it was to him, I decided to expand my horizons, let go of fears, and trust. Bring on the adventure!
SARAHLESCHYOGA.COM PHOTO: CAROLINA CARDONA SMITH
There’s a certain powerful
vulnerability in looking at
yourself without comparing
yourself to others.
By Sharon Uy
I HAD 29 PROBLEMS BUT TURNING 30 AIN’T ONE (FIN GERS CROSSED)
he older I get, the younger my chronological age seems and the more I realize I know so much less than I’d thought. Birthdays ending in zero can prompt deeper reflection. Reflecting on the previous decade, I was loath to be in my twenties. I felt lost (not necessarily “found” yet), uncomfortable (not completely relaxed yet), and without purpose (finally found it, I think!). Through this precious but painstaking process of trying to figure life out, here’s what I’ve learned.
1. Stop trying. I semi-recently had this turning point in my relationship, which turned out to be a turning point in my relationship with myself. I was trying to be this idealized version of myself so I could say I did everything I could to keep everything smooth every second of every day. Wait, what? Just writing and rereading that sentence is tiring; living it is a whole other beast. I had this moment where I either stopped caring or got really tired, and I said to myself, “Enough! I’m just going to be me, and if my crazy occasionally falls out of all the orifices of my face projectile vomit style, so be it.” How resentment builds when trying to be instead of just being!
2. It’s all about me. (Or should be.) There’s a certain powerful vulnerability in looking at yourself without comparing yourself to others. I’m working through my fear of accepting responsibility for my own feelings. Owning that responsibility means I can no longer blame other people or situations for my own shit, but it also fosters independence and confidence, both of which are the complete opposite of what comparisons inspire. I’m prone to comparing myself to others on essentially any level available. Then I get sad and waste time wanting a new head of hair or an entirely new life. Which brings me to my next point.
3. Be here now. There’s a part of me whose sole purpose seems to be to upset myself with made-up stories. I’m reminding myself to see and respond to only what’s real. There’s this line in Thich Nhat Hahn’s The Miracle of Mindfulness: “Wash the dishes to wash the dishes.” I’ve surely heard variations of this a billion times, but I truly understood it only recently. The crux is, if we’re not fully present in every moment, if we’re more concerned
with the destination than the journey, then we’re not fully alive here, now. And if we’re not alive here and now, then where and when are we? I no longer want to be anywhere else but here, now. I’ve created a mantra for myself based on Hahn’s dishes: “Only what’s right in front of me.” Anything else doesn’t exist but, if it arises, should be observed without judgment until it passes. Rinse and repeat.
4. I’m not here to teach; I’m here to learn. Some are born destined to lead. I’m not one of those people—at least, not yet. And I’m OK with that. Because right now, I’m still sinking into my own skin, navigating my way to complete comfort in who I am. I’m here simply to learn. I will myself to have sponge-like properties and surrender to life’s lessons. I pray for the compassion, patience, and understanding to find the teacher in every being I meet and in every act I come across. I hope for the ability to see the world in all the shades of gray that exist, where judgment of myself and others does not. And I’m grateful for all of my sometimes terrible twenties that brought me to this very moment.
What truth do you know for sure? 1
Leigh Anne Neal Nirvana Yoga teacher and owner
One truth I know for sure is that I’m lucky. My mantra every morning before practice is “Thank you, universe, for my beautiful life.” When I start my day with this powerful idea, it permeates everything and everyone around me. Living from this space of gratitude helps me appreciate all that life has to offer, even the dark, murky stuff.
K aren Kenney
That God is. That love is. With every thought, word, and action, I can create an experience of heaven or hell for myself and others. I can either choose love or fear. Both my happiness and my suffering are entirely up to me. I’m not a victim of the world. My life is happening for me, not to me.
Lois Leonhardi Yoga instructor, Ayurveda practitioner, and author
One truth I know for sure is that thoughts create our reality. With meditation, yoga, and mantra, we can focus our thoughts and direct our energies to higher vibrations to uplift and heal the world. All one. All love. YOGAWITHLOIS.COM PHOTO: KEN PIVAK
PHOTO: JEFF WOODWARD
NIRVANAYOGAATLANTA.COM PHOTO: KATIE DUNKLE
My mantra every morning before practice is “Thank you, universe, for my beautiful life.” – LEIGH ANNE NEAL
Amy Orrell-Br anco Community engagement at Newark Yoga Movement
Everything changes. I can choose to let my mind take a trip down the rabbit hole, or I can choose to soften with each breath and allow the armor around my heart and mind to soften. It is not easy, but the more I stay present, the more beauty I can see even in my darkest hours.
Cheryl Cr awford Atlanta Yoga Movement founder and Grounded Kids cofounder
Daphne Larkin Sanctuary for Yoga, Body, and Spirit teacher and owner
Life is a paradox. It seems so contradictory and ridiculous, serious and silly, yet it expresses this exhilarating truth when I pay attention. I find strength in softness, power in flexibility, and even clarity in confusion. I know that grounding in meditation and laughter will elevate our planet and unite us in recognizing that truth is the word.
It takes courage to be vulnerable. Four years ago, my heart cracked open in a way that made me more vulnerable than I’ve ever allowed myself to be. I dove in through the fear and experienced the greatest love, freedom, intimacy, and happiness I’ve ever known on the other side. I feel strong and supported with deeper connections, living authentically.
SANCTUARYFORYOGA.COM PHOTO: AMIR MAGAL
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