woke. revolution begins within.
issue no. two
welcome to woke. We are a multi-cultural collective of seekers, doers, believers and creators. We approach life through the possibility and freedom provided by spiritual practice, mindful living, and direct engagement with the world. We believe self-realization is for everyone, that social change is possible, good health shouldnâ€™t cost your life, and that meditation and mindfulness can create a revolution. We are One. We are All. We are WOKE. EDITOR-IN-CHIEF
rosie acosta elika aird ellie lanphier darren main romy phillips zohreh sadeghi tracee stanley nicole taylor
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LETTER FROM THE EDITOR www.ekaekong.com | IG & Twitter: thisiseka These are challenging times. There is so much happening in this world on a daily basis, it’s hard enough to simply be and breathe, let alone stay continually present to our innermost discernment. What do we do, when it’s not “all good”, and it’s difficult to see the light of possibility? When we think we’ve already lost so why even try...? Common refrains in the yoga world are “It’s just your karma,” “Think on the positive”, or “It’s supposed to be that way. #Blessed #grateful.” It’s easy to bypass our feelings with platitudes and even with spiritual practice (don’t @ me), but is our practice really working if we ignore what lives behind our nervous smiles and unconscious behavior?
To create any change in the world, and personally, we must be willing to investigate these intimate, unrevealed depths that we hide from and into. We need to stop feeding the inner troll(s) and instead look at and understand them. These parts of us we brush under the rug, ignore, and lock away, are still a part of us. If we examine what lives in our shadow, which may sound ominous and feel terrifying, we can actually find strength, love, compassion and healing for ourselves, and each other. Our WOKE. contributors are illuminating these obscured spaces. Nicole Taylor considers the gift of our humanity. Romy Philips takes us on a journey across the world and back to Self. Darren Main discusses how the #MeToo movement is showing up in the yoga studio and we share true accounts from some directly impacted. Our resident vaidya, Dr. Zohreh Sadeghi gives us some excellent Ayurveda tips for self-care. Ellie Lanphier ponders why winning could be a problem. Elika Aird talks about how we get in our own way. Tracee Stanley offers us a practice for finding inner peace. And Rosie Acosta, leaves us with her thoughts on the power of choice and how yoga can actually F* you up. “The darkness is not dispelled by surrendering. Light alone tears the veil of the mist, and that light flows from the eternal stream of knowledge.”- Swami Rama May we each tap into the boundless stream of consciousness and remember the truth of our being. xo -E.
CONTRIBUTORS ROSIE ACOSTA has been practicing yoga and meditation since 2004. She completed her teacher training at YogaWorks in Los Angeles and is 500hr RYT certified. Since 2012, her training has focused on the importance of mind-body integration through Somatic Psychology, Neuroscience, and meditation. She is a skillful meditation guide, and a huge advocate of self-healing as a Holistic Health Coach (INHC), She writes articles on the importance of holistic nutrition, yoga and meditation. Currently she studies ParaYoga with her teacher Rod Stryker, which blends the ancient teachings of Tantra, Hatha Yoga, Ayurveda and the Yoga Sutras. Web: radicallyloved.com IG: rosieacosta
ELIKA AIRD, owner of BlissfulBodies Yoga and Birth Services, RYT, CD (DONA) has been surrounded by fitness, dance and wellness from a very young age. Before teaching yoga, she taught various fitness classes and salsa dancing throughout Northern California and Atlanta. She later expanded her fitness training to specialize in various styles of yoga and teaching at corporate locations like Coca-Cola, Turner Broadcasting Systems, and most recently she has returned to the San Francisco Bay Area teaching at Google and Stanford University. Elika incorporates her studies of various styles of yoga with the fluidity of the vinyasa system, to create an environment that allows each student freedom in each pose, while still emphasizing intelligence and the therapeutic benefits of alignment. Her classes blend the strength of a flowing dance along with insightful postures to restore and revitalize the entire body from the outer to the innermost levels. Web: blissfulbodiesyoga.com Twitter: BlissfulBYoga
ELLIE LANPHIER lives in San Francisco with her husband and cat. Spending time with them, practicing yoga, walking on the beach, hiking and cooking make her the happiest. She was born and raised in Ohio, and spent a few years in New Mexico before moving to California. She is always looking forward to the next adventure.
DARREN MAIN is a yoga and meditation instructor and author. He facilitates workshops and gives talks on yoga and modern spirituality throughout the United States and abroad. In addition to writing bestselling books, Darren teaches Yoga on the Labyrinth inside San Francisco’s iconic Grace Cathedral. He currently resides in Northern California with his son Jaden.
Web: darrenmain.com Twitter: darrenjmain
“Many years ago I walked into my first yoga class. I didn’t know it at the time, but that simple decision would change the course of my life. Before I found yoga and meditation, my body ached, my mind was chaotic and my heart wounded. Today, life has its ups and downs and I stumble and fall often, but I’m able to return to my center more quickly thanks to my practice. Because of yoga and meditation, I was able to come out and then to live well with HIV. Most importantly, yoga and meditation helped me to find the courage necessary to become a single father and then to remain present to my son through life’s many highs and lows. I believe yoga and meditation are available for anyone—young or old, rich or poor, religious or non-religious. It doesn’t matter how you identify—yoga and meditation can calm your mind, open your heart and restore balance to your body.”
ROMY PHILLIPS, founder and creator of Yogathology, has been teaching yoga since 2001. A former arts administrator from New York City, with a BFA in painting and sculpture from the Maryland Institute of College of Art, and a MFA in Arts Administration from Columbia University, she spent a decade serving a numver of roles at prominent arts organizations in New York City; namely The Museum of Modern Art and the Guggenheim Museum. In time, the pressures and stress of work and city life led her by chance to Los Angeles in 1999, where in spite of her artistic pursuits, a life devoted to health took over. She walked into City Yoga on a Spring day in 1999 and her life took a dramatic turn that led her on the path to becoming a yoga teacher. Now she is a certified yoga instructor who has taught in a number of studios in the Los Angeles area and leads teacher trainings in Tokyo, Japan, China & Vietnam. Web: yogathology.com Twitter: rromyann
ZOHREH SADEGHI is the founder and director of Roha. She has studied Ayurvedic medicine extensively in California and India. While in India, she was not only studying but interning at Ayurvedic hospitals in both Kerala and Tamil Nadu. Learning about this ancient holistic medicine changed her life forever and gave her the best gift she could ask for, her calling. A calling not only to educate everyone around her but to help them achieve a healthy Ayurvedic lifestyle. Zohreh works with individuals suffering from chronic ailments and over time freeing their bodies from illnesses while maintaining a healthy lifestyle. She also works with clients who suffer from acute symptoms related to cold, flu, and seasonal allergies. She performs a wide variety of Ayurvedic therapeutic treatments which are excellent for aches and pains in muscles and joints. Zohrehâ€™s objective is to restore balance in her clientsâ€™ bodies and minds helping them achieve a state of relaxation and peacefulness through Ayurveda and its sister science Yoga. Her expertise includes Ayurvedic consultations, pulse diagnosis, dietary/lifestyle consultations, Ayurvedic therapeutic treatments, and private Yoga classes. Web: rohasf.com IG: rohasf FB: facebook.com/rohasf
TRACEE STANLEY has been studying Yoga and Tantra since 1995. Her introduction to yoga was through the practice of Kundalini Yoga where she was fortunate enough to practice with Yogi Bhajan in Los Angeles. She was soon introduced to th¬e practice of Hatha yoga and became passionate about sharing how yoga had changed her life. Tracee began sharing her understanding of the ancient technology of Tantra when Yogarupa Rod Stryker initiated her into the lineage of Sri Vidya in 2001. The focus of Tracee’s teaching is empowerment, sankalpa (intention), self-mastery and healing. As a ParaYoga® Level I Certified Teacher and a Certified Four Desires Trainer she utilizes the unique practices of the tradition to guide students towards the door of awakening to their true nature.She is on the faculty of Esalen Institute, is the founder of Sankalpa Shakti Yoga School and a co-owner of Pranamaya, a yoga media company. She leads trainings, presents at workshops, festivals and retreats internationally. Web: traceeyoga.com IG: tracee_stanley
NICOLE TAYLOR, MA, teaches and practices Ayurveda, yoga, and meditation in Philadelphia, PA. She is a NAMA-certified Ayurvedic Health Counselor, a yoga and meditation teacher specializing in gentle, mindful practice, and a Conscious Living Coach, certified by the Hendricks Institute. She has published an adult children’s book called Who is the You?, and has authored articles for MindBodyGreen and Yoga International. Her life’s work is to embody and create sacred space for transformation, thriving, and love. Web: Evolvephiladelphia.com IG: joyful_pause Twitter: joyfulpause
TABLE OF CONTENTS Rolling Deep Into The Dukha What It Means To Be Human The Trouble With Winning 18 Months of Practice, Contemplation and Discovery A Practice For Inner Peace #MeToo Yoga Homemade Ayurveda I’m Just Too Much For You: A Letter To Yoga Journal Here’s Why Yoga Is Fucked Up Home
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ROLLING DEEP INTO THE DUKHA by Elika Aird I often ask myself why would any meditating, bhakti-loving, yogini ever knowingly create suffering when we seem to be surrounded by more of it everyday? – Well, it’s very common. Just think about the resistance you create to cleaning, doing dishes or even a dreaded work task. It’s the resistance that creates the actual suffering, and the clinging to the comfort of relaxing, maybe bingeing on another season of Netflix’s “Shameless”. As humans, our rose-colored classes can unfortunately get clouded by what the Yoga Sutras calls Avidya,. This can be summarized as “that which clouds our view”. Often related to: fear, the ego, rejection and attachment. When we identify with these qualities they create suffering, called Dukha (yes it IS as bad as it sounds). I admit I have unconsciously let fear and the ego cloud who I am and kept me from blossoming into the person I say I want to be. One of those things I say is I want to be a bad ass surfing yogini like my teacher. An integral part of this vision I have been missing is a consistent commitment to get into the ocean.
I teach a lot about releasing this dukha on and off of our mats, and cultivating the energy of moksha, which is freedom, but sadly I have been stifling this energy in my life. Why? Mostly due to those shady characters I mentioned earlier: Fear, ego, and attachment. As a water lover from an early age, I started swimming in preschool and I have wanted to surf waves since beginning studies with my teacher, Shiva Rea. In 2005 was the first time I visualized riding waves in our practice of vinyasa flow, on our “rafts” (read: yoga mats)- linking breath and movement to find a deep connection to the Mother and our natural rhythm in each moment. I knew I had to surf!
One summer in 2009, I was studying in Venice. I finally got the scariest answer to my prayer...a chance to learn to surf with 2 girlfriends. Although I had been dreaming about this day forever I could feel the fear and apprehension building. Thankfully I didn’t allow the fear to consume me. I went into the water on a long board, and it was the most exhilarating and
empowering thing I have ever experienced. Although it could be compared to an orgasmic experience, I would dare say it was better. I couldn’t even stand up, but felt the power of courageously synchronizing my body with the movement of the ocean and rode that wave in with an open heart on my belly! My whole body was in disbelief of the joy that came, after feeling so much fear and apprehension about even getting on this massive board. Most sexual experiences come with high expectations, maybe even some dissatisfaction, and not usually disbelief of how amazing it could be. I laughed hysterically and rolled on the sand and just soaked in that feeling not wanting it to end. In retrospect, I must agree its kind of like Sade sang...”It’s never as good as the first time”. I have continued to feel blessed and amazed by the power that comes every time I get in the ocean, especially now that I am able to stand up on a board, on a good day. Over the past 8 years I have had large gaps in between surfing adventures, and instead living in the past (attachment), hanging “10” on a dream, and wonder why I’m not out there again, belly surfing to the shore, heart and mouth wide open, waiting for more…Why would anyone prevent that desire from being expressed again and again? It’s like the concept of Spanda, from the Tantric tradition, defined as the “sacred throb or pulsation”. This subtle energy is cultivated through yogic and meditative practices that create freedom, not suffering. If one is not ready to experience this sacred power moving through the body it might feel like getting pulled down in the undertow of a massive wave. When you first experience it, all you might want to do is run from it like WTF??!! We doubt our ability to embrace it fully, or if we even deserve to immerse ourselves In this sea of bliss. We say, “Oh no, I might get tangled in seaweed, a shark might get me, its going to be too tough to really stand up and catch a wave for real, why even try <insert the saddest face ever>”. The ego is merely rejecting this experience because it is not ready for a challenge, or wants to feel incom-
petent practicing a new skill. Of course so many times, I felt a myriad of feelings paddling out to a break; From amazement to fear to discouragement, and back to excitement. I’m so fascinated by the suffering that is created from an experience that holds the potential to also feel so exhilarating and liberating. You might not hear of Dukha, much in yoga classes, but I bet you have heard of its’ better half...Sukha. Ahhhh.. yes, it sounds much sweeter...and indeed it is. The Yoga Sutras refer to Sukha as “Ease. space or goodness”, and Dukha is related to everything opposite of that (I often compare it to a similar word that
smells horrible and we release into a porcelain bowl). Unfortunately Dukha cannot be released that easily…. We must work to remove the suffering. Yoga, meditation and pranayama help to lift Avidya, so that we can then see clearly and reduce this dis-ease. Just as we could not have greater unity and social justice movements rising up without witnessing the suffering being broadcasted and tweeted daily; We also cannot achieve sukha without first wading through the muck and mire of dukha.
was the first “Intime2005I visualized riding
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waves in our practice of vinyasa flow, on our “rafts” (yoga mats), linking breath and movement to find a deep connection to the Mother and our natural rhythm in each moment.
WHAT IT MEANS TO BE HUMAN by Nicole Taylor
I think the last thing I’ll say “And is Black Lives Matter is a
rehumanizing project. We’ve lived in a place that has literally allowed for us to believe and center only black death. We’ve forgotten how to imagine black life.
– Patrice Cullors, Co-Founder of Black Lives Matter, during a May 2017 episode of On Being. It is easy to forget what a gift it is to be a human. A look at the news shows all of the ways we have forgotten how to best use this gift. The national political scene illustrates what happens when power is used in an unbalanced way.
And yet every time we come to our yoga mat or meditation cushion, there’s a moment when we relax our bodies and our minds, and we become aware of a consciousness within us that is vast. In those moments, when we get a glimpse of our Self, we remember what it means to be human. And we remember that nothing outside of us can take away that gift. Sometimes this moment comes, not on our mat, but during a conversation with a friend, or a hug from someone we love, or while deeply engaged in meaningful work.
It is worth pausing to imagine our best life. How do we know we are living into our full humanness? The hallmarks of being human are found in the yogic text Samkhya Karika (verse 51). In the Practice of the Yoga Sutra: Sadhana Pada, by Pandit Rajmani Tigunait, the siddhis, or powers and privileges unique to humans, are explored. 1. The power of knowledge without doubt, clear understanding, and intuitive knowledge. We have all had those aha moments, in which we experience a ray of clarity, a moment of deep
knowing. Tigunait writes, “In our day-to-day life, it manifests in the form of discerning power.” Our ability to discern is one of the gifts of being in a human body. No outside force can take away our capacity for profound understanding. We can, however, dull this power through behaviors that overwhelm our senses or fill our minds with useless information. Once we remember that discernment is an innate power, we can make choices that support the power of clear understanding.
2. The power of language. We have the ability to communicate sound and meaning. This ability, writes Tigunait, “has enabled us to develop written languages and preserve a vast range of memories pertaining to human experience.” Our words are powerful. As people of color, how do we talk about ourselves and our community? The more we can use our language to communicate our wholeness, the more we lift ourselves up using this innate capability. 3. The power to study, analyze, and comprehend. We have minds that can study and understand the external world, our internal world, abstract ideas, and underlying intentions. What do we turn that mind toward? While it seems the latest pastime is analyzing the Orange One’s tweets, we can choose to turn our mind toward understanding the innate intelligence that flows through us. We can read spiritual texts that encourage us to explore higher reality. We can comprehend the power of our community and determine how best to contribute to it. 4. The power to eliminate three-fold sorrow— physical, mental, and spiritual. Tigunait writes, “We have the capacity to discover the tools and means to overcome our sorrow.” Do we use our energy to get stuck in the forms of sorrow that we experience, ruminating about it and becoming overwhelmed? Or do feel our feelings and then use our energy to explore tools and means? On the yogic path we have the light of Raja yoga (8-fold path),
Jnana yoga (the path of wisdom), Bhakti yoga (the path of devotion), and Karma yoga (the path of action). There are countless forms of spiritual wisdom in the world that can teach us how to eliminate our sorrow, and we have the innate power to learn and act on what we learn.
6. The power of the ability to give. “We are designed to experience the joy of giving,” writes Tigunait. We may have received messages that qualities like giving and good heartedness are weaknesses. In fact, they are our greatest strengths. This ability to give is a power that offers us the wisdom of knowing when to use it, and the courage to do so. 5. The power to cultivate a good heart and find friends. When our anger rises the point that we shut down Being human comes with a huge range of emotion, the flow of our natural ability to give, we are shutting the most powerful of which is love. One of our innate down one of the privileges of taking a human birth. privileges is a vast capacity for love. Tigunait writes that this capacity “enables us to see beyond the The spiritual path is a path to remembering and boundaries of our little word and share our embodying these innate human gifts. Practices that goodness with others.” Even in the face of a barrage allow us to loosen the grip of afflictions on the mind, of images and policies that would seem to devalue and to rest in our true nature, bring us ever closer people of color, we can choose to cultivate a good to the fulfilment and freedom that is our birthright. heart and find the support and joy of friendship. As we move through the world with attention on these powers of being human, may we be lights in the world that remind all of their wholeness. PHOTO BY
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THE TROUBLE WITH WINNING by Ellie Lanphier
I’ve had trouble with a phrase: “you just can’t win these days” although I think it’s true. When I see the news when I see the comments on the news (goodness why) it seems that everyone else believes that there is (1) a winner and (2) a loser a notion that as I get older the less sense it makes. The trouble with winning: someone loses. And yet, I am inextricably linked to you, and you to me on this planet with finite resources, saddled with our infinite appetite for growth. So we can only really learn how better to share. Win/lose is the enemy of celebrating and building together. We do the best with what we are given, we build on what others have made before, we pass along our best effort to those that will come after. It’s a different picture than winning, maybe the problem is that no one knows when to cheer. woke. POETRY
The trouble with winning: we are all in this together. Thankfully, we couldn’t do it alone.
18 MONTHS OF PRACTICE, CONTEMPLATION AND DISCOVERY by Romy Phillips It has been approximately 18 months since I committed myself to a daily meditation practice. Although, I had been practicing yoga for years, studied and taught various methods of meditation, including mindfulness, guided meditation and yoga nidra ---nothing would galvanize my practice like Zazen. In this time period of 18 months there were dramatic occurrences, travels to far locations, and encounters with the most unexpected teachers. It was a journey from unawareness and a persistently agitated mind, to lucid thought and spiritual awakening. It has been very hard work. I have confronted fear and pain-physical and emotional. Upon reflection, there seemed to be a divine force guiding me on my way. The turning point and influential factor would be Jotokuji---a temple that I was divinely led to in a remote section of the Kyoto Prefecture. Perhaps it was God’s plan to lead me to a place to heal and learn how to take care of myself, because months later, I now realize that I don’t know where I’d be at this moment if I hadn’t discovered this place.
The need and desire to meditate came out of desperation to manage grief from the shockingly unexpected death of my brother, which was quite traumatic for me. We were very close and the loss literally left me with a broken heart. The stress of it all would later bring about a minor stroke. In the desire to get moving again, I took on an overly ambitious workload to teach trainings abroad, making four trips to China and Japan in an 11-month period. These locations are the backdrop for my in-depth journey into meditation and the motivation for healing and self-discovery.
Sitting silently for 5 minutes was not a problem for me. As a yoga teacher, I would often sit silently in mediation at end of my classes while everyone was in Savasana. I also taught guided meditation classes for a while and would sit during the 5-minute silence
I would allot for each class. These minutes would pass in a flash. After the minor stroke, I would maintain a teaching schedule, but couldn’t manage my vigorous daily yoga practice. Instead, I pursued a simple program of short walks and resting. However, since I had upcoming trainings abroad, I instinctively I felt I needed to start sitting quietly in meditation for at least 10 minutes to prepare for the training in China, which would start at 7am each day. Once there I would rise each day at 5 am, drink a glass of water, set the timer and sit. I soon became comfortable with this time limit and after each session, I would feel awake and refreshed with the much needed energy boost to get through my day. Moreover, this daily routine made it possible for me to complete the demanding one -month intensive. After returning to Los Angeles for a brief stay, a close friend and colleague gave me these following guidelines on meditation from her Kundalini training: “Meditation Minutes and Days” • 3 minutes affects the electromagnetic field, the circulation and the stability of the blood. • 11 minutes begins to change the nerves and the glandular system. • 22 minutes balances the three minds, and they begin to work together. • 31 minutes allows the glands, breath and concentration to affect all the cells and rhythms of the body. It lets the psyche of the meditation affect the tattvas and all layers of the mind’s projections. • 62 minutes changes the gray matter in the brain. The subconscious and the outer projection are integrated. • 2 ½ hours changes the psyche in it is co-relation with the surrounding magnetic field so that the subconscious mind is held firmly in the new pattern by the surrounding universal mind. Excerpt from “Meditation for Transformation and Bliss”
She advised me to “change the 10 minutes into 11 minutes. “ From then on, for two months, I would practice 11 minutes each morning and remarkably noticed a slight difference. Not only did I have vitality, clarity and stamina to get through most of the day, the electric tingling current that ran up and down the left side of my body periodically after my minor stroke, started to subside. In fact, for a period of a couple weeks, there wasn’t any active current at all! ….”11 minutes begins to change the nerves and the glandular system.” By August I was back in Japan to lead another training, and I was also anticipating my stay at Jotokjui and wanted to be prepared. I had been given the details of the program ahead of time and knew this would be a challenge for me. I continued my morning mediation practice and also included a short sequence of grounding floor asanas adapted from the Hatha Yoga Pradipika to help open the knees and hips. Still healing,
this short home practice was manageable and gratifying. At the end of each day of training, I would come back to my room and lie down in Setu Bandha Sarvangasana. This would bring some strength and life back into my tired body and refresh me before heading out for a short walk to clear my head and dinner. However, in spite of my self-care routine, during the month of August I endured long days, extremely hot
weather and ill health. Although quite exhausted at the end of the training, I ventured on determinedly towards Jotokuji.
I would soon find out how naĂŻve I was about my expectations and doubted that the next days would beneficial or enjoyable.
This was one of the few programs available to Westerners who wanted traditional Zazen training. Our daily program was lead by a talented young monk named Francisco. He was invited from a Dojo in Mexico to oversee the program under the guidance of the Roishi Hozumi Gensho. We started each day at 4:30 a.m. which included four hours of meditation at scheduled times throughout the day, chanting, rituals with our meals and chores. The long sessions of sitting would stir up panic in my chest and a great amount of physical discomfort. My legs and feet would be so severely numb from sitting, it would take some time for the circulation to return to normal after standing or I would feel dizzy and struggle to find my balance. The meals were also disappointing and surprisingly meager: breakfast- a bowl of raw vegetables and congee; lunch- a bowl of cooked vegetables and rice noodles; dinner-a bowl of broth and rice. After the first afternoon of practice, dinner and evening meditation,
Each day after our morning session of meditation and chanting, we were instructed to do chores before the morning meal. It can be any number of tasks on the temple grounds. Washing the windows, cleaning the bathroom, pulling weeds or vacuuming the tatami mats. Rituals and chores fill our spare time. My time spent there came to an unusual and fascinating conclusion. I would have the fortune to meet the honorable Roishi for a private Zazen session in the Zendo of his temple a mile away. As I sat across from him for what seemed an indefinite amount of time, I realized that I had crossed a tremendous hurdle in this practice. I had been indoctrinated into a realm of deep consciousness. I realized the significance of this moment and knew I had been profoundly transformed. After leaving Jotokuji I noticed that I started to have more momentum, stamina and inspiration--- Powerful healing had begun.
In October I increased my time to 20 minutes. I was surprised to discover what obstacles the extra 5 minutes would present. Deep emotions begin to surface and I would moan or sigh heavily in each session, or I would occasionally experience restless nights filled with vivid dreams or nightmares. My feet would go numb near the last 5 minutes; my hips and thighs ached and I fidgeted. I decided to say with daily sessions of 20 minutes beyond 40 days to see if I could work through these challenges. It is December; I’m home in Maryland for the holidays. I don’t have a timer for my morning practice. I put on the stove timer downstairs and then go upstairs to a quiet room to sit. Oddly enough, although I can’t hear the timer, I end my session on time just as my mother calls up to me. I realized I’m sitting comfortably for 20 minutes---the deep-rooted conflicts and emotions that have plagued my life for years have been dredged up and purged. Feeling confident and stronger, on New Year’s Day I start with 30 minutes.
Once back in LA, I decided to increase my home practice time to 15 minutes. Since, this felt comfortable for me, I then would incorporate a new element into my practice. It takes 40 days to change a habit It takes 90 days to confirm the new habit In 120 days, the new habit is who you are In 1000 days, you have mastered the new habit
A few months later I am back at Jotokuji. It is extremely cold and Spring is late coming. The Roishi has increased our meditation sessions to 2 hours at a time, three times a day. The unheated zendo hall makes sitting uncomfortable and we are freezing even while wearing layers of clothing. Six hours of mediation in addition to chanting, chores and ritual. One morning after our meditation and chanting session, Francisco
From the day I returned I would chart the progress of 15 minutes a day for 40 days. This felt good and as 40 days passed without incident, I remarked at how much endurance I began to feel. I resumed practicing yoga again, but still needed to take it easy. I sought out guidance from an Iyengar teacher who would work with me therapeutically. She suggested wrapping my head in a gauze bandage to soothe the nervous system. This would be another element added to my practice that I found very pleasant. Blocking out external senses helped my breath resonate deeply, which had a calming effect on my body that was very satisfying.
I have been practicing 30 minutes a day ever since then. There are may be times when I have to miss or shorten sessions because of my work schedule. However, since my body actually longs to feel the desirable effects of meditating, I can resume a regular schedule of sitting without problem. Now my legs and feet rarely go numb. Occasionally there are long moments during a session where I’m fully absorbed and lose sense of time, and then I shift back into consciousness. Most of all, the fear of sitting is gone; the panic is no longer in my chest. I know the 30 minutes will conclude at the sound of my buzzer. I crave the sensation in the final moments where I experience a tremendous feeling of letting go---the release! ….22 minutes balances the three minds, and they begin to work together.
assigns us chores. He hands us buckets and tells us to pick weeds out of the gravel in the driveway outside of the Zendo hall. I look down the expanse of driveway and think how absurd. We kneel and begin to pull weeds. My fingers are icy cold; my nose is running. At first, I start picking the bigger weeds, once they are gone I see the smaller weeds and I keep going until I see the tiniest specs of leaves or blades of grass. The bell rings for the morning meal. Our large patch of the driveway is completely cleaned of weeds.
• There is also now a healthy emotional distance evident between myself, and life experiences. I’m not bothered by criticism or if something hurts me profoundly, I sit down, meditate, process it, and release it.
Over the weekend it’s a beautiful day and we bundle up and decide to ride bikes and take a hike on the mountain trail. As we are hiking I ask Francisco what he experiences during so many hours of meditation. He said, “euphoria.” He went on to tell me that I was still a beginner and would be for at least two years.”
• Finally, I am able to examine my faults, life failures, disappointments, and the root of my problems caused by my actions. I sit, ask myself questions and can be honest and truthful about what the real underlying problems may be, as well as how to resolve them-- no matter how difficult the reality may be. I no longer place the blame on anyone and realize that I’m responsible for the outcome of my actions.
I do remember the first time I saw Francisco. I arrived at Jotokuji during the afternoon Zazen session and had to wait outside the Zendo hall. Curious I walked to the side of the building where there was a rock garden. The large sliding doors of the Hall were open and I could peer in to see Francisco and William sitting silently and stoically, unflinching. Their eyes were half cast gazing down. Francisco’s pleasant face glowed with a radiant lightness and a soft smile. After the second trip to Jotokuji and I return to Los Angeles, I noticed more profound life changes:
• The ability to approach, process and complete complex projects and a remarkable outpouring of creativity. Untapped brilliance. In fact I often find myself overwhelmed and have to monitor the pace of my enthusiasm to complete these project so that I don’t exhaust myself. I find myself amazed by the prospect of success and abundance.
• Cleaning becomes a daily ritual: washing the dishes piling up in my sink, organizing clutter, laundry and other small chores, become regular habits. • My mind begins to focus in ways like never before. Almost like a mainframe computer processing, organizing and compiling data. I can prioritize and create a system to complete projects and tasks methodically.
• The persistent emotional anguish from grief begins to recede back further in my mind. My mourning is replaced by feelings of love, empathy and compassion.
My brain, my thinking mind, actually feels different. …31 minutes allows the glands, breath and concentration to affect all the cells and rhythms of the body. It lets the psyche of the meditation affect the tattvas and all layers of the mind’s projections. At almost 14 months into my meditation journey, I can’t imagine life without it. I still continue to maintain a daily practice and actually crave the sensations that it brings. I have now increased my time to 31 minutes. For the most part, I sit with no expectations and instead have hope, strength---physical and emotional— and a sharper perception of life that is assuring and inspiring. In a meditation workshop I taught at the beginning of the year, a student during our 40-day follow up session said that she was disappointed in her practice because she felt like she was sitting and wasting time, and her mind was making lists of things to do. She expected to see a bright light or experience some divine spiritual awakening. I listened to her and realized in our world of instant gratification, we need to see the “white light” to reassure us to keep going--- unfortunately we expect this without doing the work. It’s easy to give up. Anything of lasting quality takes training and time.
I told her, that sitting is the first step. Each day is different. The lists that you are making in your mind, are tasks or problems that you must confront and resolve. Quite often people will tell me that they want to shut off the chatter and stop thinking about the “list.” I say accept that the items on this list are what you need to confront and work through patiently, eventually as you process items, the chatter will quiet down. That bright light you are seeking will emerge slowly over time in subtle forms. You will feel it and know when it surfaces. In this practice, you have to awaken a keen sense of self-observation. To notice the physical sensations, the mental thoughts, and be truthful about how you conduct your life to be as healthy as you can, physically and spiritually.
ALL PHOTOS BY
expected to see a bright “She light or experience some divine
spiritual awakening. I listened to her and realized in our world of instant gratification, we need to see the “white light” to reassure us to keep going--unfortunately we expect this without doing the work. It’s easy to give up. Anything of lasting quality takes training and time.
A PRACTICE FOR INNER PEACE by Tracee Stanley
Find a comfortable seated position, with your spine long, and the crown of the head reaching towards the sky. Feel the shoulders drop down away from the ears. As you sit, you hold the essence of relaxed, effortless grace in your posture. Bring your attention to the base of your spine and see yourself drawing a ring of light around your body. Become aware of the element of earth as you feel your body seated on the floor.
Next bring your attention to the spiritual heart center at the center of your chest. And draw another ring of light around the first ring. Become aware of a vast blue sky at the heart center.
Now let your attention move just above the crown of the head and draw a final ring encompassing the other two rings of light. Contemplate the heavens and all of the celestial objects in the universe. If you like you can repeat the mantra Om Bhur Bhuva Swaha 3 times as you see yourself sitting inside of the center of these three rings of light. As you see and feel yourself sitting inside of the three rings of light. Feel as though nothing can penetrate through these rings of light.
No noise, distractions or thoughts can enter.
You are sitting in the center of the circle like a single point of infinite light. Now please notice your breath, without needing to change or adjust it. Just follow the journey of your breath for a few moments.
Feel the air as it enters the nostrils and as it moves all the way into the lungs. Feel the breath dissolve and then trace its flow all the way back out through the nostrils to where it dissolves someplace outside of the body.
Stay with it and rest in this spacious stillness for 3 more minutes continuing with the circular breath.
When you feel ready to come back take a moment to be grateful for all you have in life. Feel as though Prana, vital life force, is riding on the breath, enlivening you with every inhale. On the exhale, sense any lethargy or toxicity released from the body. As you continue to breathe, begin to feel the chest become still and the breath move more into the abdomen. Iron out any hitches or breaks that you feel in the breath. As each breath fills the belly, the chest becomes more soft and expansive (Continue for 3 minutes.)
Bring your hands to your heart bowing in to your inner teacher and all of the sages and teachers of yoga that have come before us. Deepen your breath.
Feel yourself grounded, open your eyes with a few deep breaths and take in your surroundings before moving back into your day. Hari Om.
Start to notice the gap between the inhale and exhale. Smoothly begin to reduce the gap between the breaths until one breath seamlessly flows into the next. You may need to reduce your breath capacity down to 1/3. But eventually you will feel the breath moving like and endless stream.
Be effortless. You may even see the breath moving around the circle of light directly outside of your body.
3 minutes. No breaks or pauses.
Just pure, circular breathing. Feel a sense of wellbeing and peace being revealed.
For a free audio recording of this meditation, please visit: www.traceeyoga.com
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#METOO YOGA by Darren Main In 1998, a friend of mine traveled to Mysore, India to study with a well-known guru. When she returned I asked her about the experience. She had a fantastic time, deepened her practice considerably, and was more committed than ever to keep her yoga and meditation practice steady and strong. There was, however, one thing that left her feeling uneasy. The yoga master under whom she was studying would repeatedly show unwanted attention to the female students—hugs that lingered far too long, comments about appearance and assists that felt awkward at times and violating at others. This left her feeling conflicted. On the one hand he had helped her deepen her practice considerably. On the other hand, his behavior was very inappropriate and left deep emotional and psychological scars. I would like to say that this is the only time I’ve heard this story, but sadly, I have heard versions of this story hundreds of times from women all over the world. As a gay man, women will frequently feel comfortable telling me things they might not otherwise tell my straight male colleagues. Sometimes the stories involve inappropriate behavior from a well-known teacher or guru. At other times the behavior came from a relatively unknown teacher. The details change slightly with each situation, but they are all strikingly similar at the same time.
When my book, The Yogi Entrepreneur, was first released, I was surprised by the emails I received. I had expected messages about marketing and community building, but what caused me to really sit up was the emotional and heartbreaking messages I received regarding a story I shared in the book.
Several years ago I led a retreat to India. After the closing circle, a young woman approached me and gave me a big hug. She had tears in her eyes and she said that she wanted to thank me. Retreats can be powerful and moving experiences for many people, so gratitude is not uncommon. Her gratitude was not for the reasons I had expected, however. “I want
to thank you for being gay,” she said as her eyes filled with tears again. Over the years I have heard a lot, but this statement knocked me back on my heels. It must have shown on my face because her tears quickly turned to laughter. “Thanks,” I said, “ but I’m not sure I can take credit for that. It is certainly not something I planned. It just sort of happened that way.” Jennifer was a very attractive woman by conventional standards, and I’m sure she receives a lot of attention from heterosexual men. The problem was that she was receiving too much inappropriate attention from male yoga teachers, and when she signed up for my retreat, she feared that she would have to spend the whole retreat fending off my advances. Once she learned that I had no interest in her in that way, she was able to relax and go deep into her practice. Another student, Kelly, overheard our conversation and chimed in. Kelly was attractive as well, but she was slightly overweight. “I have to agree with Jennifer. I’m so tired of going to yoga classes where the prettiest girls get all the attention, and fat girls like me are invisible to the teacher. One of the reasons I come to your class, Darren, is that I know you are not there to hit on the pretty girls. I know that you are there to work with everyone.” The yoga classroom is designed to be a refuge. The world outside is often brutal and unfair. Justice and equality can be elusive and we can often feel unsafe as we face the things, big and small, that assault us every day. The yoga class should be a place where we can take a break from all of that, recharge our spiritual batteries and prepare to go back into the world with a greater resolve to improve our lives and the lives of others. Many times this refuge is where we find the courage to stand up for what we believe to be true and the equanimity to make meaningful changes in our lives and in the world. When people feel unsafe in the yoga class; when they feel violated or disrespected in some way, we as teachers are doing the exact opposite of teaching yoga. The harm we do to our students, our personal reputations and the reputation of yoga more broadly is immeasurable.
I believe that just as other industries are starting to empower women to say #MeToo, the yoga community needs to acknowledge that we have a problem, commit to addressing that problem directly and to empowering women to say no to unwelcome or abusive comments, touch and sexual advances in the yoga space. To yoga students everywhere, I invite you to share your story with a teacher you trust. If you are feeling subtle or overt harassmentâ€” you are likely not alone. I suspect there are wonderful teachers in your community who will listen to your concerns with an open heart and an open mind. You deserve to be heard and we as a community need to listen even if you are sharing something uncomfortable about a teacher we otherwise admire. To my fellow teachers, the time for looking the other way has long since past. At the end of the day, our job is to create a safe space for all of our students. If we continue to accept inappropriate behavior in the yoga space we are not yoga teachers at all. Sexuality and romantic attraction are difficult and a room full of scantily clad bodies can make it even more challenging. But that is no excuse. When we learn of inappropriate behavior on the part of fellow teachers, it is our responsibility to say something and to stand with women who voice credible concerns. Of course, not all people being harassed are women and not all those doing the harrassing are men. Some may make accusations that are not credible, while others will doubt that a
world outside is often brutal and unfair. â€œThe ... The yoga class should be a place where
we can take a break from all of that, recharge our spiritual batteries and prepare to go back into the world with a greater resolve to improve our lives and the lives of others.
prominent teacher could do such a thing. Many of us have acted on attraction in ways that may have made others feel uncomfortable. Men and women, gay and straight, yoga teachers and non-yoga teachers alike can fall into this trapâ€”and we often do. And yet there is a difference between awkwardly handling an attraction and causing someone tofeel violated and unsafe. I believe that the healing associated with yoga is profound. Honest, respectful and permission-based touch that is a part of so many yoga classes provides a much needed counterpoint to uninvited or unwanted touch in other facets of our society. I believe male yoga teacher can and should model what it means to be a true gentleman and many women can find in yoga the courage to stand up and say #MeToo.
But before any of that can happen, we need to look deeply and honestly at our communityâ€”including some very prominent senior teachers and gurus. We need to say collectively, NO MORE. We need to look honestly at the romantic and sexual attractions that sometimes form and make every effort to acknowledge the attraction without expressing in ways that make our students feel uncomfortable or violated. Make no mistake, this will be painful and humbling for our community. But the foundational principles of yoga, the yamas and niyamas, will light the way and in the end, our community will be stronger. If we do this, yoga will continue to be a much needed refuge in our often chaotic world. Namaste.
My life is my message...
Some students were brave enough to share their experiences and had the courage to stand up and say #MeToo. (*These stories contain sensitive content. They are published here anonymously and with permission.) There is a current teacher who has inappropriately touched students (I believe he is still doing so), has slept with multiple students, and lacks boundaries/ understanding of his wrongdoing. Several women have complained. Many women won’t go near him or his class, but apparently he is popular enough to get a pass. It’s heartbreaking that people/teachers often get away with their BS because they are charismatic and manipulative.
Years ago, when I was just beginning to practice yoga, I went on yoga retreats all the time. I absolutely love them. I was on a retreat in Ojai and struck up a conversation with a very highly regarded yoga teacher who also ran a Yoga program for at-risk- incarcerated youths. We had some nice conversations while I was there and talked about teaching. He reached out to me after the retreat. I can’t remember how that came about. I don’t think I was using Facebook at the time. But he did have my phone number. I was young enough to believe that he was offering me a free yoga class because he liked me and knew that I was new to the practice. He had some pointers that he wanted to share. Maybe he just thought I was cute… I don’t know. But he suggested that he give me a yoga private and then that we go to breakfast. I arrived at his home around 10 AM. It did feel a little weird but I thought the weirdness was from it being a private yoga class. I had never taken one before. I remember getting a really great tip about going into triangle. I remember that he told me that I had a “beautiful “practice. Funny what sticks with you after 15 or years. Towards the end of my “private “class, he had me get into Savasana . He adjusted my arms and back. I was very relaxed. And I was focused on my breathing. He started kissing me and my defenses were down. One thing moved to another and he led me to his bedroom.
He didn’t assault me. I don’t think it was that. I was after all a passive participant. It’s more that he groomed me to sleep with him in that short private session. I knew it was wrong as soon as it was over. I was disgusted with myself and disgusted with him. The whole thing had been completely calculated from the start. I just didn’t know that. I am sure that I am not the first student to whom this happened. This is the first time that I have ever spoken about it. I was very ashamed that I allowed this to happen. Teachers have an authoritative position no matter what they are teaching. I am sure that I was not the first.
A teacher, who is extremely popular and quite well known visits to lead workshops and teacher training. This man was my teacher for several years, where I witnessed his fondness for young men, both gay and straight. He would sleep with students, and invasively touch the hot guys in class (he once told me while I was assisting his class that he needed to “stay away from the cute guy “ because he was so distracted. During a teacher training he cornered a man in the back lounge and started grinding on him, saying essentially I’m just so worked up right now. This teacher is the picture of a happy loving guru on the surface. He’s incredibly needy and angry inside. He snapped at me several times in my last few months of working for him as I was beginning to pull away from the toxic environment. I have spoken with several men who left our community because he creeped on them, or they slept with him and then he moved onto the next one. I believe that the owners of the studios where he taught know about his behavior. It seems that the money his classes/ workshops bring in, is more valuable than the wellbeing of students. Many of his followers know about his behavior but they choose to ignore or explain that it’s just him being playful and loving. It’s madness. I’m grateful that I removed myself from his circle several years ago and I’m deeply sad that he continues to harm people.
I used to work with a teacher who has now been fired from several studios for predatory behavior, inappropriate touch, and sleeping with students. He would assist women in happy baby pose and put his crotch next to theirs, grope breasts in triangle pose assists, and other disgusting touch. He is still on the schedule at other places.
HOMEMADE AYURVEDA by Dr. Zohreh Sadeghi
When we talk about beauty care, usually we’re referring to external beauty. In Ayurveda; however, external beauty is intimately connected with internal health. Ayurveda understands beauty to be the product of the overall physical health and well-being of the individual. As we start to take care of ourselves and nurture our bodies with the help of Ayurveda, we become healthier and more beautiful regardless of our particular body shape, hair or skin type. The body gets stronger, and our physical being begins to glow. This glow comes from within when our mind, body, and soul are in harmony.
It’s only then that true beauty could be achieved even as we grow older. The external beauty is the reflection of the internal health. To achieve this harmony, the Ayurvedic emphasis is on gaining the knowledge to perform conscious self-care on a daily basis, and developing positive habits that can bring out the best in us. Ayurveda teaches us how to achieve true beauty
external beauty is “IntheAyurveda reflection of internal health.
by balancing our body and mind, which we do through diet, lifestyle, and external treatments. External treatments, like topical products, are probably what most of us are familiar with. An Ayurvedic external beauty care regimen is simple, effective, gentle, natural, easy to use, and free from chemicals or anything synthetic. You can find most of the ingredients you need right in your pantry or at your local grocery store. Most Ayurvedic cosmetics include herbs, oils, minerals, and other natural ingredients. To start with one external treatment, you can try
a nourishing and rejuvenating Ayurvedic face mask. These masks help remove dirt and toxins from the deeper layers of the skin, prevent blackheads and acne, moisturize the skin, improve skin tone, and nourish the deepest layer of the skin tissue to stimulate healthy new growth.
in accordance to your skin type. Here are 3 different face masks for the 3 different skin types.
At the center of Ayurvedic practice is understanding and identifying our body types. Hence, the first step is to identify the type of skin you have, based on whether you have Vata, Pitta, or Kapha skin. These three categories are the doshas. Doshas are the energetic entities that make up the individual, and perform different physiological functions in the body. Every person has all 3 doshas, but usually one or two are more dominant. Based on the unique combination of doshas in the body, each person has different physical and mental characteristics. Based on the below descriptions, decide what is your skin type.
Pitta mask (sensitive skin): 2 tsp clay, 1 tsp aloe vera juice, 1 tsp honey, ¼ tsp sandalwood powder, ¼ tsp vetiver powder mix with egg white and rose water
Vata skin type: • Dry • Rough • Fine pores • Cold to the touch • Prone to chapping, cracking, and rough patches Pitta skin type: • Sensitive • Warm • Soft • Prone to premature wrinkling, oily “T” zone, inflammation, and rashes Kapha skin type: • Thick • Moist • Soft • Cool • Prone to enlarged pores, oily secretions, black heads, or large white pustules
Kapha mask (oily skin): 2 tsp clay, 1 tsp aloe vera juice, 1 tsp honey, ½ tsp corn flour, mix with lemon juice and spring water Apply the face mask in the direction of the hair as it will help the herbs penetrate into the skin. It’s best to apply the face mask during the day and leave it on for 15-20 minutes until it’s dry before washing it off. Doing this helps tighten the muscles of the face and allows the herbs sufficient time to act on the skin. To remove the mask, wet it first with lukewarm water, and wash your face. Gently pat your face dry with a towel. After applying the mask your skin feels refreshed and rejuvenated. You will feel the effects almost immediately, and see a glow on your face. You can do this mask once or twice per week and over time you will begin to see great improvement in the overall quality of your skin. Make sure to also apply oil on your face especially if you tend to have dry skin. Use coconut oil in the Summer time and sesame oil in the Winter.
Clay is the best base for face masks, as it acts like a magnet for dirt and toxins accumulated deep in the skin. It is also a rich source of minerals like iron, magnesium, zinc, calcium, and potassium. You can use powdered white or green clay. To make the most effective mask for your skin, select the herbs and oils
Vata mask (normal to dry skin): 2 tsp clay, 1 tsp aloe vera juice, ½ tsp honey, ½ tsp almond powder mix with egg white and milk
woke. TABLE OF CONTENTS
woke. TABLE OF CONTENTS
I’M JUST TOO MUCH FOR YOU: A LETTER TO YOGA JOURNAL By Ekaette Ekong Dear Yoga Journal, I think we need to talk. We go back a long time, you and I. I remember the first time we met. It was at the Bodhi Tree bookstore in Los Angeles. I was incredibly new to yoga practice and was ready to start learning more about it. I had heard about you around the way, in studios and hallway conversations. I hesitated for a moment before I pulled you off the shelf, wondering if I was “yogi enough”. I was so excited to read through the articles on philosophy and sequencing, and to see pictures of people practicing! I bought my first issue of YJ that day. Eventually I got a subscription, and even attended and worked at a few YJ conferences. I was hungry for knowledge and community like someone who had been starved in the desert without food and water. As yoga in our society began to change, you transformed too. Issues became smaller and there were more and more ads. One way in which you didn’t seem to evolve was that you still didn’t see me, or people that look like me. I know in recent years, you have had a person of color on a cover annually, but you’re still not fully seeing us. I was looking forward to your June 2017 issue with Chelsea Jackson Roberts on the cover (YAASSSS!). Then I read the header, Yoga for All Body Types. I asked myself, “Am I a body type?” I read through the issue, thinking perhaps I was missing something, some nuance. Then I got to the Anatomy feature- Get to know … Your Glutes. There as your model was Chelsea. I had to do a double take. YJ has an African-American teacher on the cover and the feature is on her butt, with “4 poses to put your rear in high gear”. Do I need to explain how this could be offensive?
Again, you’re still not seeing us. I hung in there. Hoping it would get better…
It didn’t. Recently on a Twitter post, @yoga_journal tweeted, “Here are 5 ways yoga can help you feel more confident about the skin you’re in.” The photo was an African-American yogi in sukhasana, accompanied by the footer description, “5 ways you can use your yoga practice to improve your body image”.
Wait, whaaa??? Am I having Deja vu? “All of us struggle to some degree with feeling at ease in our skin. The perceptions of our external appearance often get tangled up with unrealistic social expectations and ideals, causing a range of “heavy” feelings, such as discontent, embarrassment, insecurity, worry, shame, and an obsession with controlling weight, food, and exercise. Over time, as these feelings pick up steam, unhealthy beliefs about self-worth can take root.”- (www.yogajournal. com/lifestyle/5-ways-you-can-use-your-yoga-practice-to-improve-your-body-image) My skin is not a body type. Although ancestral, familial & societal experience may influence my relationship with my body, they are not the same. I see race, the color of my skin, every time I look in the mirror. It influences how I move into and relate to certain spaces, including the spaces in which I practice and teach yoga. Conflating skin color with body image negates the experience that every POC has. It feeds into the “colorblindness” narrative that is so prevalent in the yoga community, and it does a disservice to those of us who are Yogis of color. Nayyirah Waheed once wrote, “never trust anyone who says they do not see color. this means to them you are invisible. “ So with that, I think it’s time we break- up. What’s the timeless cliché- “It’s not you, it’s me”…? It’s a bit of both. I deserve better. As Queen Bey has said, “You ain’t trying hard enough You ain’t loving hard enough You don’t love me deep enough…” You’re just not diving deeply into comprehending & discussing how yoga is intersectional, and not solely for the “white, female, and relatively slim.”
We may meet again in a bookstore or supermarket line. You may catch my eye for a moment, and I may even move towards you for old times sake. Don’t be surprised that now, I’ve realized I have to turn my back and walk away. -E.
Representation matters. Inclusion and diversity are not just catchphrases. For all of your good intentions they are not being followed up with conscious, inclusive words and actions.
HERE’S WHY YOGA IS FUCKED UP by Rosie Acosta I’m standing in the middle of the street with my hands up. There are six guns pointed at me, lights flashing, sirens going and over the loudspeaker I hear, “Drop your weapon”. I was wearing black jeans, an oversized hoodie with black cotton fingerless gloves with pandas on them. I remember looking at my friends in the distance as they all casually walked away, leaving me standing there, in front of 3 police vehicles plus the one I had just slyly stepped out of. As they placed the handcuffs on me, I remember asking, “What did I do? As if it wasn’t a big deal that I had just allegedly tried to drive off with an abandoned police vehicle.
Ultimately my ability to define “Potential” for myself saved my life.
At 15 years old, I didn’t actually realize it was going to be that big of a deal. This was a pivotal moment in my life. I had a lot of potential… To go to jail; Maybe again and again. To have a baby; Or maybe 10. To end up dead.
When I was young, I always had this dream- a dream where I would live a life without fear, without anxiety, feeling safe and with the love and support of everyone and everything around me. I wanted to believe that there was a force greater than myself that was all encompassing and supported me unconditionally.
Everyone has potential. We’re born with the same amount, no matter how you slice it, but are we willing to commit to the climb and the effort that is necessary? In life, there are people who grow up feeling pretty secure reaching for that next rung, and there are those who aren’t so lucky, Does your blind commitment to your potential supersede, the intensity of the unknown?
I looked around and saw nothing but hopelessness, and struggle, and zero desire to change it because well, if it’s gods will… There was drug use, domestic abuse, gang violence, neglect, and death. I knew that If I could just make the best choices for myself I would end up in a different place, free from the heaviness, tension and anxiety that surrounded me. I felt unsupported by the world around me. I felt unseen and insignificant. I kept hearing about this “potential” but had yet to find its true origin or how this ‘potential’ was going to serve me. I wanted to be more than I was and wondered if this was fueling my faith to reach for the invisible rung(*edit).
Ultimately we all have a choice, and only You have the power to make that choice. I had a choice to walk away from a situation that ended with me being on probation for 2 years. I was not a victim. I made a choice. I attribute all of the faculties of potential to HAVING and MAKING a choice.
My Dad always said, “BE PREPARED FOR LIFE” in the most daunting, Mexican Sean Connery tone of voice. These words came from a man who immigrated to this country to make a better life for himself and his children. These words could have been taken in many different ways: Be Prepared, because life is hard, and it will swallow you whole if you let it OR Be Prepared. This life can make your dreams come true, if you are willing to work for it.
Growing up I often heard people talk about their struggles. There was poverty. There was chaos and no real sense of urgency to change it. Things were always someone else’s fault, or there was some sort of limiting belief that made it impossible to move from a state of helplessness. This taught me a lot about the importance of taking agency in my own choices.
In my late teens I was introduced to Yogic Philosophy by the Self-Realization fellowship in Hollywood. My mom was having a ‘self-development’ phase and I happened to go check it out. I learned about Yoga as a philosophy and way of life way before I learned there was a physical component. This began making
so much sense to me; this idea that we were not only responsible for our own happiness but that it was our duty (plus I was living in Hollywood and I wanted to fit in so becoming a Yogi was completely in style). I began using Yoga as a tool to continue my journey onward. I realized that part of my potential was my ability to forge forward, to move forward and upwards. Yoga began to serve more as a spiritual and mental sanctuary. I did my first Yoga Teacher training not long after that, and decided that I wanted to be able to bring this practice to people who could benefit from it that same way that I had. When I reached a place in my life where I was finally feeling like… I did it! That’s when shit really hit the fan… You see, Yoga means ‘Union’. Yoga is about the unraveling - and sometimes unraveling doesn’t feel so nice. Yoga is about making the unconscious- CONSCIOUS Yoga invites us to not bypass the darkness, but to move through in a way to understand its presence as also being a part of us. Here I was, young girl from East Los Angeles, who grew up during the LA riots, now living in Hollywood with a very prestigious job with tons of responsibility, thinking, God, I already did the hard work! I mean? I have seen someone get shot?? What could be worse?
I was able to work and create a framework that worked for me because I CHOSE to believe that I wouldn’t fall. That I would NOT fail. I chose to believe that anything was possible, that I wasn’t destined to be stuck, and that my dreams we not fleeting, and my tribe was there to support and motivate me. I could have chosen to go to jail, to live a life in the system, to live up to the predispositions of my environment, to live under the numbing of drugs and alcohol, to be an over-weight, anxious and depressed teenager on meds. But I made a choice My teacher, Yogarupa Rod Stryker says, “If you powerfully believe in the value of what you have to offer the world, Your Love and Passion for it will be an unstoppable force. “ Value what you have to offer the world and do what you love. Make a choice. Excerpt from “Commit to Your Potential” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8mVwl7zmh4w
I’ll tell you what’s worse. How disconnected we can be. How in the process of that ‘self-work’ we can become so disconnected from our people, and from what’s really going on in the world. We have become so reliant on communicating through an instrument of technology that we forget what its like to be in the company of other humans.
We have the potential for connection and the potential for disconnection. Look at the person next to you, then the person on the other “next to you”… maybe you give them a little smile. That is a person. There’s a life in there. A Soul. It took a second to acknowledge that, yet the feeling of being seen by someone and connecting with a smile, or a nod or wink can change the course of that person’s day, or week. or even lifetime. We need our tribe our people to help us move up.
you have to understand, by Warsan Shire that no one puts their children in a boat no one leaves home unless unless the water is safer than the home is the mouth of a shark land you only run for the border no one burns their palms when you see the whole city running under trains as well beneath carriages no one spends days and nights in your neighbors running faster than the stomach of a truck you feeding on newspaper unless the breath bloody in their throats miles travelled the boy you went to school with means something more than jourwho kissed you dizzy behind the old ney. tin factory no one crawls under fences is holding a gun bigger than his body no one wants to be beaten you only leave home pitied when home won’t let you stay. no one chooses refugee camps no one leaves home unless home or strip searches where your chases you body is left aching fire under feet or prison, hot blood in your belly because prison is safer it’s not something you ever thought than a city of fire of doing and one prison guard until the blade burnt threats into in the night your neck is better than a truckload and even then you carried the anof men who look like your father them under no one could take it your breath no one could stomach it only tearing up your passport in an no one skin would be tough enough airport toilets sobbing as each mouthful of paper the made it clear that you wouldn’t be go home blacks going back. refugees
dirty immigrants asylum seekers sucking our country dry niggers with their hands out they smell strange savage messed up their country and now they want to mess ours up how do the words the dirty looks roll off your backs maybe because the blow is softer than a limb torn off or the words are more tender than fourteen men between your legs or the insults are easier to swallow than rubble than bone
than your child body in pieces. i want to go home, but home is the mouth of a shark home is the barrel of the gun and no one would leave home unless home chased you to the shore unless home told you to quicken your legs leave your clothes behind crawl through the desert wade through the oceans drown save be hunger beg forget pride your survival is more important no one leaves home until home is a sweaty voice in your ear sayingleave, run away from me now i dont know what iâ€™ve become but i know that anywhere is safer than here
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BLACK YOGIS MATTER
WOKE. is a quarterly wellness publication for people of color and our diverse society. We offer means and methods to live freely in our bodi...