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Pure Land of Iowa We are a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting inner peace, compassion and harmony through our diverse cultural events and the teaching of Eastern philosophy, psychology and contemplative tradition. We seek to encourage secular morality and improve personal happiness for a healthy body and mind, vibrants arts and music and joint charity works for the community.

Please come join us for your inner peace. Find a full schedule of events and special guest lectures at Regular Sunday Activities Buddhism 101 (English and Chinese) 11 a.m.-12 p.m. led by Shao Jie Lunch (potluck) 12-1:15 p.m. Buddhism study (English and Chinese) 2-4 p.m. led by Khenpo Paljor Evening Meditation  6-7 p.m. led by Khenpo Paljor | January 16, 25, 31 & February 10 Half-day Zen Retreat  1:30-4:30 p.m. led by Daishin | February 3 & March 3 Suggestion donation: $25 | Contact: Tergar Des Moines Practice Group   6:30-8 p.m. led by Judy Porter, Amy Scott and Gervase Gallant


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February 14 & 28, March 14 & 28, April 11 & 25

For more information on Pure Land of Iowa:

Pure Land of Iowa 515-991-4347 | 8364 Hickman Rd, Clive, IA 50325

MAY 4 - 6th, 2018 Grand River Center, Dubuque, IA

Yoga, Faith and Ritual


When people are first introduced to yoga, they often associate it with Eastern religion, or at least a general sense of mysticism. And while yoga is rooted in India and deeply intertwined with Hinduism, it doesn’t need to be an expression of faith for everyone. For our winter issue, we decided to explore the relationship between yoga and religion by sharing personal perspectives from yogis of different faiths and cultures. I was raised by parents who didn’t impart any religious teachings. Instead, they guided me with a simple message: “Be a good person.” But we did put up a Christmas tree every year and were rewarded with gifts from Santa. We also ate a big lunch and lots of chocolate on Easter. For us, these celebrations weren’t about religion. They were rituals of family and culture rather than faith. I first learned about religion through my aunt and uncle, who are devoted to Hinduism and continue to live on the grounds of their ashram to this day. Then in third grade, I started attending Sunday school with friends and learned about their religions: Catholicism, Methodism, Mormonism, Judaism, Buddhism. My friends shared with me their unique holidays and expressions of faith, but I also learned that many of these friends also put up a tree at Christmas time and ate lots of chocolate on Easter. Their celebrations, like ours, were rituals of family and culture. As an adult, I had the opportunity to create my own spiritual world, and yoga soon became a new personal ritual. My practice isn’t rooted in the Hindu faith, or any other, but I do believe it can be a conduit to the divine. And in many teachings, the divine lies within you. “Yoga is the journey of the self, through the self, to the self.” —Bhagavad Gita For this issue of YogaIowa, we begin with “Yoga, in a Word,” where we explore the meaning behind some of the most mystical yoga terms. In “Alignment Issues,” Alexander Hiffernan discusses a different kind of religiosity, where devotion to an idealized sense of form can distract us from connecting more deeply with our own unique physical and spiritual needs. Later, we get to know Daishin Eric McCabe, who was raised Catholic but later discovered that yoga, meditation and Buddhism awoke his spirit.

4 Yoga, in a Word

BY ANDY DOUGLAS Om, dharma, mantra— get to the root of some of yoga’s oldest and most mystical terms.


BY ALEXANDER HIFFERNAN Don’t twist yourself into knots trying to make the “perfect shape.” The first step in yoga is getting to know how your body moves.


8 AY oHg ias t o r y o f A s h t a n g a

BY EVAN HARRIS This rigorous style triggered the yoga renaissance in the West. Explore its history and practice an Ashtanga sequence.

10 C l i m b i n g K i l i m a n j a r o

BY BROOKE BIERHAUS Journalist Brooke Bierhaus has visited 21 countries across five continents, but nothing compared to Mount Kilimanjaro.


The Moving Spirit

BY ALLY KARSYN AND EMMA MCCLATCHEY Iowa yogis bring Buddhist, Christian and Native American spiritualism into their practice, transcending yoga beyond the mat.

1 6 IOnassiids e D e s M o i n e s ’ T e a BY LAUREN SHOTWELL With hundreds of international offerings, Gong Fu tea shop encourages tea drinkers to slow down and savor the moment.

1 9 Sink into a Gong Bath

BY BRIDGET TOOMEY Vibrations wash over your body. Time slips away. You fall into a trance. This is the power of a Kundalini gong bath.

2C l o1u dTAsr aY no sg fao rS mc haot oi vl ei nT rtahvee l : BY LILY ALLEN-DUENAS In the mountains of Nepal, Lily Allen-Duenas studied yoga, drank tea with monkeys, ate countless samosas and found her calling.

2 2 YogaIowa Recommends

BY YOGAIOWA STAFF From spiritual meditations to unconventional love stories, browse the books and podcasts inspiring us this winter.

2 3 IMnatceGr rvei ge wo r w i t h K i n o

BY EMMA MCCLATCHEY The Ashtanga yoga star discusses her new book, the pros and cons of online yoga and her experience of the divine.

WIN T ER 2018 VO LU ME 6 , N U MB ER 1

A RT DI RECT I ON Natalia Araujo CO PY EDI TOR Lauren Shotwell



Central Iowa: Linsey Birusingh Cedar Rapids: Kim Reed Council Bluffs: Alexander Hiffernan Dubuque: Shelia O’Laughlin Quad Cities: Emilene Leone Western Iowa: Trishia Gill

Send comments, story ideas, calendar submissions, press releases & public announcements:

A DVI SORY BOA RD A DV E RT I SI N G R EPRESEN TAT I VES Sarah Driscoll Jav Ducker Frankie Schneckloth John Molseed

Sheree Clark, holistic health and nutritional coach Diane Glass, facilitator, Tending Your Inner Garden Dennis Kelly, founder of Yoga in the Park and Meditation Around Town, Des Moines

A DVE RT I SE Ally Thompson, General Manager (319) 640-0091

H EL P U S CO N S ERV E R ESO U R C ES . Share this publication with a friend. Recycle it when you are done. @YOGAIOWA @YOGAIOWA _MAGAZINE


YogaIowa is published four times annually by

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Little Village, LLC. 623 S. Dubuque St., Iowa City, IA 52240. Copyright 2017 Little Village LLC. No portion of this publication may be reproduced without prior written permission by the publisher. All rights reserved. Little Village

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PUB LI SHER Matthew Steele

M A N AG I N G EDI TOR Emma McClatchey

D​aishin Eric​McCabe found Soto Zen Buddhism in college. Today, he is a Buddhist monk—and new father—teaching zen meditation, yoga and Japanese calligraphy in Ankeny and Des Moines. Photo by Melissa Stukenholtz

YogaIowa Winter Challenge

BY EMMA MCCLATCHEY Don’t miss our heartcentered yoga challenge this February.

G EN E RAL MAN AG ER Ally Thompson

On The Cover

Starting a Yoga Journey: Alignment Issues


assumes no liability for damage or loss. Locally owned, locally minded. Printed in Webster City, IA



May your own rituals bring you peace and purpose in 2018.


Yoga, in a Word BY ANDY DOUGLAS Is yoga a religion? It’s infused with Sanskrit words, Indian cultural trappings, even Hindu practices. Practitioners meet in sacred spaces, assume particular poses, sometimes have photos of their teachers on altars. Though yoga is often taught as a purely physical exercise in some gyms and studios, there are many people who embrace yoga as a deeply spiritual way of life. So the answer may depend on how you define your terms. The original etymology of the word religion is “religare”—to bind together. From that perspective, yoga (whose own meaning is “to unite”) seems close to the original meaning of religion. Still, this is a fraught question, because for some, religion has come to stand for a set of (often dogmatic) beliefs, whereas yoga in its best sense aspires to be an experiential search for meaning.


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In my memoir The Curve of the World, I describe my experiences with a yoga-based spiritual organization in India called Ananda Marga. Our focus was on cultivating a relationship with the divine, and the question of whether yoga was a religion sometimes did come up. And yet, we chose to distinguish yoga from religion because of the distinction between practical experience and dogmatic belief. There are many paths in yoga, but they share common, historically rooted, spiritually oriented terms. These terms suggest that yoga is a many-faceted practice with a rich philosophical, historical and cultural legacy. However you choose to embrace it, understanding the language of yoga may offer more perspective on your own practice.

ILLUSTRATION BY FRANKIE SCHNECKLOTH Bhakti is devotion, the rich, heart-stirring longing for connection with the divine. Cakra (I prefer the original Sanskrit pronunciation, pronounced with a “ch” as in children) are energy centers within the body associated with certain mental propensities. In the West, they’ve been linked up with all sorts of associations. You might consider going back to some original texts to understand their context. Dharma refers to the underlying nature and purpose of a thing. Just as the dharma of fire is to burn, the dharma of a human being, most yogis would say, is spiritual growth. Guru means “dispeller of darkness.” Teachers can be useful, and sometimes indispensable, though it’s important to exercise discretion in choosing a guru. The ultimate guru is within, symbolizing one’s connection to the divine. Hatha, Sanskrit for “force,” describes the physical side of yoga, or asanas. Jnana yoga (pronounced gyana) deals with knowledge and study, including the questions “who am I?” and “what am I?” Karma yoga works towards non-attachment to the results. Seva, or selfless service, is a wonderful way to get your ego out of the way. (Karma also refers to samskara, the reaction to an action waiting to be expressed, as in “good karma.”) Kiirtan, a heart-centered practice of chanting, singing and dancing, is becoming quite popular. Kundalini is the coiled serpentine energy located at the base of your spine. When kundalini is aroused, it passes upwards through the various cakras until it reaches the pineal gland, along the route generating blissful sensations. Mantra, which means “that which liberates the mind,” is a word or phrase, usually in Sanskrit, repeated during meditation to bring focus. Mantras are traditionally considered sacred and powerful phrases. Mudras and Bandhas are physical practices that have specific effects on the body and mind.

Mukti refers to liberation while keeping one foot in the world, while moksa is complete merger in God. Namaste is a Sanskrit greeting (in the eastern part of India, they say “namaskar”) literally meaning “I greet the divine spark within you, with all the charms of my mind and cordiality of my heart.” It is often accompanied or substituted by a small bow with the palms of the hands together, held over the heart cakra. Om—more accurately spelled aum—is the primordial sound; each of the three letters a, u and m represent the three seed sounds of creation, preservation and destruction. It’s a popular practice, although the teacher Anandamurti says there’s really nothing special about chanting this sound and that you might better try to perceive the om sound in meditation. Prana flows through our bodies as vital energy, and through everything else, too. Pranayama controls this energy by regulating the breath with ideation. Sadhana is another word for meditation. The goal of union in yoga is pursued through sadhana. Making this effort, the mind gets immersed in pure consciousness, and you experience ananda, or bliss. This suspension of mind is known as samadhi. Shiva and shakti represent mind and energy on a cosmic level. Shiva is the cognitive (conscious) force; shakti the creative force, or nature. Together, they compose brahma, the supreme. (Some confusion often arises here since Shiva is also considered a deity in Hinduism, as are Brahma and Vishnu.) Tantra is a loose set of practices and philosophies; the word literally means “that which liberates through expansion.” The essence of tantra is seeing everything as sacred, as something to be learned from. Writer, musician and activist Andy Douglas ( lives in Iowa City. His memoir The Curve of the World: Into the Spiritual Heart of Yoga was released in 2013. He holds an MFA in creative writing from the University of Iowa.


Starting a Yoga Journey:

Alignment Issues

In this series, YogaIowa will address the uncertainties that arise when one first steps onto a mat, from studio etiquette to finding the discipline that’s best for you.


Over the months since her workshop, I have taken another training from Matthews about bones and read her book Yoga Anatomy. In these, I found a new sense of curiosity in my body, and the anatomical differences that make all of us fundamentally unique beings. When we are born, our bodies are all somewhat similar, but as we age we become an accumulation of all of our life experiences, traumas, habitual patterns of movements, work/hobby movement patterns and more. Because of this, modern yoga can sometimes feel like we are stuffing our bodies into shapes that may not fit where we are in that moment of our life. So to think that each and every person needs or can maneuver into angular poses is a dramatic—and dangerous—assumption. The biggest question I get as an instructor is, “Am I doing this right?” and I know this question all too well. When I started yoga, I was in a place of complete rigidity and remember how frustrating it felt to need to know that answer. The shapes found in yoga books typically assume that we have lived a life never sitting in a chair, probably not working any job that requires your body to be stationary for hours at a time, and have hips and shoulders that open like the gates to heaven. But we are Americans doing what Americans do best: work. This contradiction is humorous, but it’s relevant when the constant drive in yoga is to make “perfect” shapes. We have unique bodies that call for attention when moving. If we decide to make our practice about the anxiety of twisting ourselves into a specific shape, what are we actually learning? I’m going to burst some perfectionist bubbles here, but there is not a perfect shape in any asana. The idea of making perfect lines and angles with the body is kind of bizarre when you consider the actual shapes of our bones. Not a single bone in our body is flat, so why strive for straight lines? My thought is that it relates to aesthetics. I’m not claiming that there isn't a direction for poses to move toward, but when we aim directly for the end shape we may miss out on the experience. These are the moments of sensing our bodies and feeling the subtleties as we explore our soul

From Instagram yogis to professional yoga books to yoga teacher education, we’ve come to question what asana even is. Most recently, I listened to a Yogaland podcast about the yoga teacher Jill Miller receiving a hip replacement from her intense asana practice. This particular podcast discussed yoga-related injuries from the very people who have been trained on the ways our bodies move—the teacher. It is important to remember that the person leading you through a class is a guide, and ultimately you are your own teacher because you know your body and abilities. What I’m offering to you isn't a way to say the hell with trying to move into a shape. It is the opposite. We can still move our bodies safely and efficiently towards a pose, but in my opinion, the feeling should be emphasized over the physical shape. Ask yourself, “How does the pose feel?” If you feel the desire to go further, why? Can you relocate your body to experience this pose differently without pressing further into it? Yoga is a beautiful practice with countless benefits, and when we focus our attention too much on shape and “stretch,” we can miss out on the meditative movements and ability to sense our bodies in space. Alexander Hiffernan is a Council Bluffs-based yoga instructor. Off the mat, he finds fulfillment in creative and entrepreneurial projects, mastering different movement styles, studying anatomy and learning to question everything. Learn more at

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“There is no such thing as alignment in yoga,” she said. My initial response was to think, “What does she mean ‘there is no such thing as alignment in yoga’? I am an ‘alignment-based’ instructor, for God’s sake!”

case (body). When we are constantly striving to move more quickly, more deeply and more vigorously like what you find in modern Power and Flow Vinyasa classes, we can lose the silent stillness found in moving slowly, curiously and intentionally.


Last winter, at a kinesiology and anatomy workshop lead by Amy Matthews, my brain trembled. Everything I thought I knew about yoga and as a yoga instructor was turned on its head.

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vintage is sexy.


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PILATES. YOGA. ART. SINGING BOWL THERAPY & CONCERTS 1064 7th Street, Marion, Iowa Lucid Buddha Atelier

There’s nothing wrong with a little competition, and in yoga, as in most disciplines worth pursuing, the greatest competitor you will face is yourself. Yoga challenges can be the perfect way to hold yourself to daily yoga practice, learn something new, chat with your fellow yogis and even claim a few prizes in the process. YogaIowa is hosting the Open Heart Challenge over the month of February. The challenge begins on Feb. 1, and prize winners will be crowned in early March. Heart-centered postures will be posted to Instagram all 28 days by @yogaiowa_ magazine and cohosts. These daily Step 1 Follow YogaIowa asanas are designed and our co-hosts on to encourage Instagram vulnerability, compassion and Step 2 restoration as we Post using battle winter blues: #OpenHeartChallenge chest-opening and #YogaIowa lunges, backbends, Step 3 twists and poses Be entered to win that allow us to prizes for every move slowly with day you post! our breath. Follow Our Co-hosts

Non-profit yoga with Jesus at the heart

Kelly Harris @subtle.bliss tapas yoga shala in the Quad Cities Tiffany Thomas @ tiffanyth0mas Power Life Yoga in Des Moines Julia Theisen @julia_bodyandsoul Body & Soul in Dubuque

In Downtown Cedar Rapids

yoga—massage—nidra—sound healing

Keep an eye out for more YogaIowa challenges in 2018. Interested in hosting or sponsoring a challenge yourself? Email


Urban Retreats

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Participate by following the hosts on Instagram and sharing your challenge photos with the hashtags #OpenHeartChallenge and #YogaIowa. Every day you post, you’ll be entered to win prizes from Frontier Co-op, Red Piglet apparel and more!

A history of Ashtanga Yoga BY EVAN HARRIS Ashtanga feels austere and rigorous. It is challenging physically, mentally and emotionally, and is designed to create discomfort and test a student's expectations and coping skills. It draws us out and then invites us to learn about ourselves. Ashtanga emerged from the vibrant yoga study and innovation headed by T. Krishnamacharya in South India in the early 20th century. Sponsored by the Raj of Mysore, Krishnamacharya tirelessly taught and promoted yoga to an initially disinterested Indian population. His work was the genesis of the yoga renaissance in full flower in the West today. One young man who heard about these yoga demonstrations was a villager named Krishna Pattabhi Jois. He travelled alone, before dawn, unbeknownst to his family, to see and then study with Krishnamacharya. They would maintain this relationship on and off for over 25 years. In 1947, Jois began teaching yoga out of his house. For many years he had few students, but he taught yoga to his children and lived the practice himself. In the 1960s, the first Westerner came. In the 1970s, the first American. In the late ’70s and ’80s, Jois travelled to the U.S. to teach. By the 1990s, hundreds of Western students were traveling to study with Jois, and these numbers continued to grow until his death in 2009. Today, thousands of students come to Mysore every year to study with Jois’ grandson, Sharath, and daughter, Saraswati. At some point in the later 20th century, Jois began to refer to his yoga as Ashtanga yoga. Ashtanga yoga takes its name from the eight-limbed meditative yoga system outlined in the Yoga Sutra, a text dated to 400 C.E. and ascribed to the sage Patanjali. The modern Ashtanga yoga is sometimes call Ashtanga vinyasa yoga for clarity. Because of its popularity, age and origin, Ashtanga has a fascinating amount of history, practices and lore. Here are three of its defining characteristics. Set sequences. There are currently six posture sequences (the original four were subdivided). All are challenging relative to the average yoga class and include Sun Salutations, standing postures, seated postures, backbends, inversions and meditation. Typical students traveling to Mysore, India to learn Ashtanga Yoga might take five to 10 years to learn the first three sequences. Emphasis on self-practice. Jois insisted students memorize their yoga practice. During the heyday of practice at the “old shala” (the basement of his house in Lakshmipuram, Mysore) students would arrive before dawn. The basement could hold 12; the rest waited on the steps outside. Students would practice together, but move at their own pace. Jois circulated the room, making adjustments, teaching additional postures and assisting students individually. After backbends, students would move to a separate room to finish practice with inversions and meditation; Jois would call “One more!” and the next student would come in off the steps. This style of practice came to be known as “Mysore style.” Six days of practice. There is a standard practice schedule for Ashtanga practitioners. Students are to practice early in the morning (classes begin in Mysore at 4:30 a.m.), Monday through Saturday and rest on Sunday (the rest day was moved from Saturday to Sunday a few years ago). The days of the new and full moon (“moon days”) are also to be observed as rest days.


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Each of the six practice sequences is assigned to a specific day of the week: beginning on Monday, an advanced student would practice second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth and end the week with first series on Saturday. Evan Harris has studied yoga for more than 15 years, including in India and Southeast Asia. With his wife Kelly, Evan owns Tapas Yoga Shala in Rock Island, Illinois, teaching Ashtanga yoga in guided and self-practice classes. Evan and Kelly are also yoga teacher trainers, and Evan is a masters-level social worker and Vipassana meditation teacher. He can be reached at evan@

To get the flavor of Ashtanga practice, begin with 3-5 repetitions of Sun Salutation A to build heat and connect breath and movement. PHOTOS BY KELLY HARRIS

Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana (Extended Hand-to-Big-Toe posture) Inhale raise the right leg and catch the right big toe (or knee). Draw the right hip and shoulder back toward neutral while dropping the tailbone and feeling the back line of the body. Take five breaths and repeat on the left side.

Virabhadrasana I (Warrior I posture) Move through Sun Salutation A into Downward Dog. Step the right foot forward, turn the back leg to 45 degrees and raise the arms above the shoulders. Stride into the legs and narrow the waist. Take five breaths, move through low plank, updog and downdog, and repeat on the left side. Jump or step through to seated.

Janu Sirsasana (Head-to-Knee posture) Bend the right leg to bring the foot to the left inner thigh and exhale into the forward bend, grounding the legs and projecting forward through the spine. Breathe five times. Release the posture, draw the legs in and step or jump to high plank, low plank, updog, downdog and back through to seated. Repeat left side.

Marichyasana C (Sage's posture) Bend right leg, sole of the foot to the floor. Twist to the right, pressing against or binding around the right leg with the right arm. Reach through the left foot and crown of the head. Release the posture, vinyasa and repeat on the left side.

Padmasana (Lotus posture) Fold the legs into lotus, or cross them in easy-cross-leg. Bring the back of the hands to the knees, lift the back waist and deepen the throat. Close the eyes and breathe 10 slow breaths. Release and take rest.


Utthita Parsvakonasana (Extended Lateral Angle posture) Step out with the right leg, turn the feet, bend the right knee and bring the right ribs toward or against the right thigh with the fingertips or hand to the floor (use a block or modification as needed). Ground the right heel to elevate the right hip while dropping the ribs. Extend the left side from foot to hand. Breathe five breaths. Inhale, change sides, repeat and step back to the top of the mat.

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Utthita Trikonasana (Triangle posture) Step out with the right leg, turn the feet and drop the right hip to exhale out into Triangle posture. Fill out the back of the posture and roll the top side open while keeping the ribs in. Breathe five times, come up on an inhale and swivel the feet to the left and repeat. Step to the top of the mat.


Climbing Kilimanjaro

Serendipity has followed writer and filmmaker Brooke Bierhaus around the world, including to Africa’s highest peak.

BY BROOKE BIERHAUS We looked up as the loose rocks crumbled down the side of the mountain above us. I jumped to the side of the trail as the small stones settled feet away from my dustcovered boots. My guide picked up what looked to be a huge sandstone, took out his tattered bandana and wiped off the dirt. Even in its raw state, the exposed unpolished crystals sparkled under the harsh afternoon sun. “This landed here for you,” he insisted as he placed the crystal in my palm; his brown eyes now sparkled in harmony with the crystals. “I have not seen a crystal in this area in years. It must have fallen here for you to have it.” This was the third stone to manifest itself in my path in the last three months. I could no longer ignore the idiosyncrasies the universe kept throwing at me. I held the rock for the entire trek back down to the town of Lalibela, Ethiopia; my fingers enclosed the rough edges like a beautiful secret. Before this crystal, a polished (and obviously lost from a necklace) jade stone caught my eye while trail running in Boulder, Colorado. Before that jade stone, a black onyx stone hit me on the head in Merzouga, Morocco. What was the universe trying to tell me? Days later, before my flight to Tanzania, I met a jewel and precious stones dealer at my gate. I told him of the three strange stone occurrences: how all the stones had appeared by falling out of nowhere and onto the trail in front of me. He paused for a moment and replied, “Sounds like you are on the right path—but you need to start looking up more.”


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With that advice in mind, I continued on my path, but set my sights higher: 19,341 feet high, to be exact.

Caffé Florian Venice, Italy

Top 10 Coffee Shops Around The World

I had planned the climb months in advance with a friend who would meet me in Moshi, Tanzania in late September. Circumstances arose, and days before our start date, she had a horrible cough and fever (which later turned out to be a bacterial lung infection). Knowing full well that her body was not up for the climb, I ended up climbing solo with my guide Dixon, a team of four porters and the best cook on the mountain. The seven-day Lemosho route trek is unanimously the most beautiful and diverse route of the seven established mountain routes. Starting in the rainforest, crossing through semi-desert, alpine desert and eventually reaching the ice-capped, glacier summit—the views are mesmerizing. The day of our summit ascent, we planned to leave camp by midnight. My excitement, mixed with the numerous hot cacao drinks I had consumed that evening, left me unable to fall asleep. My mind raced with the facts and figures surrounding a summit push up Kilimanjaro. There is only a 65 percent average success rate across all routes of climbers who reach the summit. The Lemosho route has an 85 pecent success rate out of the thousands of climbers from around the world who climb a year. As I reassured myself of the daily training I had put myself through leading up to the climb, I began to still my racing mind. Morning runs in the Serengeti heat, bodyweight circuits, running through Mwanza town with security guards—I was ready. I had barely slept two hours before one of my favorite porters, Richard, was outside my tent with a bowl of uji, a Tanzanian porridge made from teff. A typical ascent from Barafu Camp (altitude 4,673 meters) to Uhuru Peak (5,895 meters) takes an average of seven hours. Both Dixon and I felt strong on the climb, and with our steep scramble shortcuts to bypass the larger climbing groups, we found ourselves 175 meters from the summit in a matter of four hours. While this might seem like a good situation, we were in total darkness and two hours from any sign of sunshine for heat and light. As a photographer, part of the allure of reaching the summit was to take photos. Why not just stay on the summit and wait for the sunrise? you might ask. The altitude and lack of oxygen at 19,000 feet can be detrimental after 30 minutes. Here we were at 18,888 feet, numbingly cold, two hours from sunlight and breathing in thin air. At first we found a thick rock to block the howling wind and sat down to rest. However, I was too cold to sit and had to keep moving to stay warm. Our next hour of climbing was painfully slow, but truthfully, it will forever be my favorite hour of climbing on Kilimanjaro. I could hear my labored breath, watch it circle around the light of my headlamp with every exhale. I could hear the stiff rocks crush beneath my boots and smell the crisp, dry air. The stars lit up the mountain’s ridge as I turned to look down the mountain. The view behind was just as breathtakingly

Since coffee is currently my work, my life and a startling 80 percent of my daily diet, I feel obliged to share with you, my fellow caffeine addicts and travelers, my top 10 coffee shops around the world (in no particular order).

Kaffi Vinyl Reykjavik, Iceland Café Babalú Reykjavik, Iceland Toma Café Madrid, Spain Café de Monteverde Monteverde, Costa Rica Tsigie Abebe Traditional Coffee Lalibela, Ethiopia Caffe delle Arrance Trastevere, Rome, Italy Prairie Lights Café Iowa City, Iowa

beautiful as the view in front of me. The string of headlamps, nearly 100 little lights moving in harmony up the mountain, contrasted with the complete darkness that engulfed me. It was not the lights themselves that struck me as beautiful so much as the reality of how hard each one of those climbers was pushing their mind and body at that moment. Gratitude settled into every step I took there on out. Gratitude for a strong capable body, a powerful will and the ability to travel to accomplish this climb. The first glimpse of light rose above the clouds in a dark pink hue. My eyes watered from the wind, from the cold, from the adjustment to the new light—from the sheer awe of it all. There I was at the highest point in Africa, in the midst of a dream turned reality. I walked past the wooden Uhuru Peak sign being celebrated and photographed by some of my fellow climbers from the morning’s ascent. I looked out above the clouds. I thought about what the man at the airport had told me—“you need to start looking up more.” I turned my gaze upward, and just for good measure, looked down at the iced volcanic rock beneath me. I slowly picked up a fragment of the black jagged rock, and placed it in my down jacket pocket. You are my reminder to stay grounded, I thought, regardless of how high I set my sights. Brooke Bierhaus is a University of Iowa School of Journalism alumna currently working as a documentary filmmaker and broadcast journalist. Her work in the two years since graduation has taken her to 21 countries on five continents. Brooke focuses on narrative-driven visual storytelling with an emphasis on human rights. To view some of her work, or to contact Brooke, visit

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Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro had always been a dream of mine. From the age of 8 I had adopted a love of Sir Edmund Hillary and Everest climbing novels, and a fascination with being above the clouds. However, it was not Everest or K2 that I felt a calling to summit. No, it was the magic of Kilimanjaro that always begged to be my first high-peak ascent.

I’ve visited 13 countries in the past year and enjoyed countless cups of coffee and tea while working on my first feature documentary The Connected Cup. You could say that my love for caffeine runs deep. However, I have always defined a “perfect cup of coffee” by the ambiance, conversation and people I get to share it with. The documentary itself examines how coffee and tea play an integral role as an ethnological and social connector around the world.

Brooklyn Roasting Company Brooklyn, New York



Artcaffé Nairobi, Kenya

The Moving Spirit Yoga may be practiced as an exercise or self-help hobby, but at its roots—roots that stretch back before the advent of Hinduism, Judaism, Buddhism, Christianity or Islam—yoga is spiritual. Is yoga a religion? It’s a hotly debated question, but most religion and yoga scholars would say no (learn more on page 4, “Yoga, in a Word”). There is not a deity at the center of the practice, nor any worship involved. Rather, yoga and meditation may be used as conduits for one’s religion—or not.


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Of the Eight Limbs of Yoga, niyama, the second limb, deals most closely with spirituality. The five niyamas encourage spiritual and personal discipline: cleanliness and purity (sauca), contentment (santosa), surrender to God (isvara pranidhana) and svadhyaya, a call to know oneself and study sacred scriptures. Through what lens should you look at yourself? To what god or scriptures should you defer? That’s up to you. Iowans have honored the second limb by combining yoga and meditation with their own beliefs, including Eastern faiths, Native American spirituality and Christianity. When mindfulness meets religion and movement mixes with worship, the opportunities for personal growth are boundless.


A journey into the present

Buddhist monk and Des Moines-area yoga teacher Daishin Eric McCabe found growth in sitting still BY EMMA MCCLATCHEY In the early 1990s, Eric McCabe was studying religion in his college classroom; on the side, he was experiencing a spiritual crisis. He was raised Catholic, and his classes at Bucknell University were starting to make him doubt the existence of God for the first time in his life. “It started to call up questions for me of what my purpose was. What should I do while I'm here? How should I do it?” McCabe said. “Around the same time is when I met my teacher.” McCabe’s introduction to Buddhism was through Mt. Equity Zendo, a meditation center near his campus in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania. His teacher was Rev. Patricia DaiEn Bennage, a Soto Zen nun and former ballerina. “Everything that she said I felt was in alignment with her body,” he said. “She just had a real beauty with the way she

“I think we go on a journey because we think there’s something wrong with us, but Buddhism affirms that as we are right now is 100-percent perfect.”

was able to keep stillness in her own body.” This stillness is essential to Soto Zen, the largest of the three traditional Japanese sects of Buddhism. Zazen, or seated meditation, is designed to root the practitioner in the present, allowing her or him to take in the true reality of the world—unclouded by human fears, ego and attachments. Observance of precepts, the chanting of sutras (such as the lotus and heart sutras) and appreciation for the lineage of teachers, all the way back to the Buddha himself, are part of the Soto Zen path to contentment. “I was also attracted to the fact Buddhism doesn't say anything about believing in God or not believing in God,” McCabe said. “The main concern is the acknowledgment of suffering and that there is an end to suffering. I thought, wow, this is really very, very practical.”

centered me,” McCabe said. “It wasn't that I should give up on trying to be somebody, but there was another half I had been missing, and that was it.” “I think we go on a journey because we think there’s something wrong with us, but Buddhism affirms that as we are right now is 100 percent perfect,” he explained. “There is a journey into the present moment.” McCabe found yoga in the late-’90s, around the same time millions of other Americans did, although his yoga training was more spiritual than most. He trained with Integral Yoga’s Yogaville, where yoga’s ancient history, including its ties to Hinduism and Buddhism, were observed. He would go on to become a certified Hatha yoga teacher and completed a 15-year apprenticeship with Bennage that took him to Japan, France, California and Nebraska. He also finished his religion and biology bachelor’s degree programs at Bucknell. Meditation served his mind and spirit, but yoga was a way to engage his body. McCabe had been a competitive swimmer from the ages of 7 through 21, and he knew how important the connection between mind and body was in keeping both pliable and healthy. McCabe currently teaches zen meditation, Japanese calligraphy, yoga and mindfulness in the Des Moines area. He has taught at drug and alcohol rehab centers and Fort Dodge Prison, and leads Trauma Sensitive Yoga at Broadlawns Medical Center in Des Moines. It’s not always appropriate to infuse his yoga classes with Buddhist teachings, he said, but that doesn’t mean they’re not spiritual. “You can be doing physical exercises in a gym and be totally unaware of your body. What makes yoga different from just a physical practice, if it's really yoga, is that you’re bringing mindfulness into our body,” he said. “To me, that’s spiritual, whether we call it that or not … Right now it feels yoga is kind of a conduit for expressing [one’s faith], no matter what religious context you’re in.” McCabe lives in Ames with his wife and 10-month-old son. It can be hard for new parents to find a spare moment for a Sun Salutation, let alone silent meditation, but McCabe hasn’t had trouble. Everything from teaching a class to driving a car to changing a diaper can be spiritual, with the right sense of awareness. “To me, Buddhism isn’t just a philosophy or an idea, it’s something we embody. It’s the way we walk, it’s found in the rituals we do … There’s no separation between our daily life and meditation or yoga,” he said. “When I’m awake, I’m interacting with the world at every opportunity. To me, that’s where yoga practice is.” Emma McClatchey is the managing editor of YogaIowa. She can be reached at

Light as a feather

Sioux City’s Talking Circle combines the principles of Native spirituality and yoga to promote healing BY ALLY KARSYN Louise* just got back from a 10-day trip to Ireland, and it was lovely. But between walking the cobbled streets and kissing the Blarney Stone, she discovered pain didn’t need an airplane to follow her there. In a pub, a band played “Danny Boy,” and the beloved Irish ballad brought tears to her eyes. Her son’s name is Daniel. She’s lost contact with him. She suspects that he’s using drugs. And even though he’s grown up and has a child of his own, in her eyes, he’s still her little boy. Telling this story in the Talking Circle, she starts to cry. Death, divorce, depression, addiction, health scares, relationship trouble—no topic is off-limits here.

“This sacred space has given people the freedom to be able to say things, I think, they desperately want to say, but have nowhere else to say them.”

Michael O’Connor, a member of the Ihanktonwan Nation, has been leading the Talking Circle at Be Yoga Studio in Sioux City, Iowa every Monday night since late July. Around 10 people show up each week, including a handful of regulars like Louise and Bob Nelson. “I come every week because I have found a real connection with people,” said Nelson, a teacher at Be Yoga. “This sacred space has given people the freedom to be able to say things, I think, they desperately want to say, but have nowhere else to say them.”

The weekly meeting aligns with the studio’s mission to “create a community where individuals can come together and be seen, heard and connected.” Like yoga, there’s a deep spirituality connected to the Talking Circle. It always begins in the same way—with a prayer, which can be offered to Wakan Tanka, the Great Spirit, Creator, God, Buddha, Allah, the Divine Feminine, the Universe, a higher power, etc. And then, there’s a smudging ritual. Tonight, it’s a blend of sweetgrass and South Dakota sage, prayerfully picked from O’Connor’s homeland, the Yankton Sioux reservation. In the Native American tradition, smudging is meant to cleanse the spirit, clear negative energy and encourage healing. “Burning sage makes the Circle holy,” O’Connor says. He uses an eagle feather, a sacred object, to fan the smoldering sage. He moves clockwise around the circle, according to Native customs. On bended knee, he bows his head and holds up an abalone shell smudge bowl to a bunch of non-Natives. Cupped hands wash the rising smoke over their bodies.

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“There's something about that turn of words that really



Bennage prescribed McCabe a book, and just the title made him question the college mindset: young people preoccupied with the future while neglecting their present, often with the use of alcohol and drugs. The book was Being Nobody, Going Nowhere by Ayya Khema.

Lapsed Catholics, Christians, Quakers and other spiritual seekers partake in the ritual. Then, someone reads from the book Meditations with Native American Elders: The Four Seasons. Each day features a quote from a Native elder, followed by a reflection and short prayer by the author. On the Monday before Thanksgiving and Black Friday sales, tonight’s quote is from Mangas Coloradas, an Apache chief, who said, “Money cannot buy affection.” Dawn* holds the eagle feather and talks about the heart attack she had last week. Everyone else listens in silence. Her yoga practice kept her calm in the throes of a medical emergency, and might have even saved her life, she says. But now, she’ll have to trade her trip to Machu Picchu for funds to cover a hospital bill. All things considered, it’s a small price to pay. After several minutes of sharing, she passes the feather to Tim*, who’s going through a divorce and facing a custody battle over his two young children. He’s stressed about buying beds and toys to improve the living accommodations for his kids. He feels alone. But he’s focused on bringing goodness into his life and letting go of what no longer serves him. O’Connor is in the corner, nodding his head. Other meditations have been about the benefits of laughter; the dangers of “firewater,” meaning alcohol; trees as teachers; spirit beings; and dwellings of the mind (i.e. the house of despair, self-pity, hope, joy, peace). The night’s reading is a jumping-off point. The people who sit in the Circle are free to talk about anything that’s on their mind. “Sometimes I’ll come and I’ll be like, ‘Oh, it’s late. I wish I was home. I’m tired.’ And somebody will bare their heart and soul out in this Talking Circle, and I’ll be moved to my very core,” Nelson said. “It’s so much like all the yoga principles of finding our center and sharing and being honest. I just see all these things in our Talking Circle.” Whether it’s intended or not, the Circle becomes an exercise in the yamas, the first limb of yoga that focuses on five guidelines for living a more fulfilling life. Each meeting shows an abundance of satya, which is truthfulness, and ahimsa, which is non-violence toward oneself and others or compassion. Like a few others in the Circle, O’Connor doesn’t have a regular yoga practice—at least not a physical one. But his truth shines through when he says, “I take the Circle with me. The things I practice here, I like to practice when I leave.” In that way, he is practicing yoga. Because yoga is so much more than what happens on a mat. *Names have been changed to protect the privacy of Talking Circle participants.


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Ally Karsyn is the founder, producer and host of Ode, a live storytelling series presented by Siouxland Public Media, the NPR affiliate in Sioux City, where she is the arts and culture producer.

The calling to Christian yoga

Jesus-centered classes seek to make yoga church-friendly and affordable BY EMMA MCCLATCHEY “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” —Matthew 11:28-30 Replace the word yoke with yoga in this verse (“yoke” is one translation of the Sanskrit term “yoga”), and Matthew 11:28-30 becomes a call for Christians to practice the physically and spiritually relaxing practice. “Christianity has historically had a pretty antagonistic relationship with the body and at best, no relationship with the body,” said Meghan Davis, pastor at First Presbyterian Church of Newton. “Yoga has helped me make that mind/spirit/body connection and honor my body—the greatest tangible gift God has given me—thereby honoring God.” Davis teaches Christian yoga at First Presbyterian on Tuesdays and Thursdays. The yoga itself is gentle; the mindfulness practices focus on scripture and prayer, and Gregorian chants or Christian music play in the background. About half of her students are church members and the other half members of the community enjoying an affordable yoga class (the church asks for about $2-5 per class as a suggested donation). A “cradle Presbyterian,” Davis has observed her faith all her life. Every now and then, she’d pop in a yoga VHS tape, clicking it off when the actual workout was over and the meditations began. Her perspective changed after completing seminary and starting yoga at a gym. “I just had this epiphany moment when it all came together for me in my mind and I thought, ‘I really love this. Why can’t yoga be part of a Christian spiritual practice?’” she said. “I thought I invented the concept, not realizing that people had been doing this for decades.” Though 77 percent of Iowans are Christian, according to the Pew Research Center, the idea of connecting Christ with yoga is relatively novel in a state where most yoga is taught from a secular perspective. Yahweh Yoga—a Yoga Alliance-recognized classification of yoga founded in 2005, and from which Davis received her training—and other programs have helped yogis fulfill niyama with Christian philosophy. This style takes the somewhat controversial label of Christian Yoga. “I was a little uncomfortable with the idea of ‘Christian Yoga’ because I was concerned about appropriation and/or being disrespectful to the Eastern cultures from which yoga was developed,” Davis said. “In the course of my training I was encouraged by learning both that yoga predates any religion that it has been associated with and that yoga transcends any particular religion.” A class titled Faithful Sunrise Flow at Evolve yoga studio in Sioux City is one of a handful of Christ-focused classes in the state. Instructor

JENNY CHADIMA LEADS A CLASS AT BE THE LIGHT YOGA STUDIO IN CEDAR RAPIDS ON DEC 11, 2017. — PHOTO BY ZAK NEUMANN Gretchen Wheelock earned a 95-hour certification from Holy Yoga, which trains teachers to see yoga as a spiritual discipline akin to prayer and fasting (and not a religion in itself ) with gospel study, prayer calls and retreats. “I always tell my students that our practice is a moving prayer,” Wheelock said. “Holy Yoga allows you to offer your yoga practice to God by breathing in his love with each inhalation and breathing out your gratitude with your exhalation. Each movement is an offering, a prayer and a meditation.” Wheelock enjoys the meditative qualities of Child’s Pose, Mountain Pose and Corpse Pose. Kneeling with goal-post arms and Sun Salutation A can be heart-opening; some Christian yogis will even recite the Lord’s Prayer during short flows. “I think my faith has changed the way I observe my yoga practice and my yoga practice has changed the way I observe my faith,” Wheelock said. For Jenny Chadima of Cedar Rapids, Jesus and yoga were the yin and yang that helped turn her life around. The loss of her father when she was 18 set her on a “dark road” that became self-destructive, and included addictions to alcohol and cocaine. “There kind of came a point where I just knew I wasn't giving myself the opportunity to live life, I knew that I could not feel whole,” she said. “I felt this calling to do something about it.” Chadima completed a 12-step program, and in February, she will celebrate three years of sobriety. In the process, she found guidance in Christian teachings, though she doesn’t identify with any church. “Out of nowhere,” she got the tugging idea to offer free yoga classes, so Chadima, already a fitness aficionado, became a trained yoga instructor. In May 2017, Chadima opened her studio in a storage room in the Cedar Rapids building containing her in-laws’ business, Hawkeye Fire and Safety, for which Chadima works. She refurbished the space and began

teaching “slow flow” classes, accepting free-will donations, 100 percent of which is given to local charities. One day, Chadima had another revelation: her studio should be Christcentered. She named it Be The Light after Matthew 5:14-16: “You are the light of the world … let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” “Our mission is to cultivate love and unity while giving back to the community,” Chadima said. “I think some people didn't really like the fact the yoga studio changed but in all honesty, I felt I couldn't let that discourage me because I felt I was truly living out my calling in life.” Be The Light classes are taught on Monday evenings; Chadima has organized volunteer opportunities for other days of the week, including serving meals to people in need at Green Square Meals. Chadima’s classes feature Christian music, readings from the Bible or devotionals and occasionally faith-focused testimonies from Chadima. Students are often mothers and daughters, people aged 60 or older and a handful of 20-something women and men. “Honestly, I don't know what their religious preferences are,” Chadima said. “I like to say that you don't need to believe in anything to come. Our doors are open.” Christian Yoga teachers know the infusion of religion in yoga may turn off some yogis and Christians alike. But as they see it, one has little to lose from seeking the Holy Spirit on a yoga mat. “Many [yoga] practitioners choose to unite their faith with their yoga practice as it has the ability to deepen one's faith,” Wheelock said. “That is what Hindus, Buddhists and now Christians have done with the practice. I can't imagine my life without my religion or without my yoga.” Emma McClatchey is the managing editor of YogaIowa. She can be reached at




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Gong Fu Tea Tour Spice Tea

This tea lives up to its name. If you’ve ever been a fan of Big Red, or other cinnamonflavored gum, then this tea will likely smell, and taste, strikingly familiar. The smell of cinnamon wafts out of the mug as soon as the water is poured. When brewed, it has a bite to it that warms you up on the way down, even after the drink itself has cooled. A touch of sweetness and a hint of oranges combines with the spice to give this tea a wonderful holiday-themed flavor.


This is one of my favorite green teas because of the lovely roasted, nutty flavor that comes from the toasted rice mixed in with the tea leaves. It’s a wonderfully savory tea, and my go-to for an afternoon pick-me-up. Although this is one of the more forgiving green teas, like all green teas it can become bitter if steeped too long or in water that is too hot.

Serenity Now

In my head this tea takes the

form of the exasperated voice of Jerry Stiller (whose Seinfeld character recites the phrase “Serenity now!” to keep his blood pressure from rising), but as a relaxation method, sipping a cup of this blend of peppermint, rose hips and rose petals is probably a better bet than Frank Costanza’s anger management technique. It’s an ideal way to sit back and digest a big meal or just relax after a long, cold day.

The Tour De France

This tea has a delightful vanilla smell that inspires memories of baking holiday cookies. When sipped, the vanilla flavor is paired with the crisp, refreshing taste of black currants and the soft mellowness of a well-brewed black tea. It’s a wonderful morning drink, complex enough to be enjoyed on its own, or paired with a breakfast pastry.

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Ancient Happiness

When the outside world is under a pile of snow or just grey and dead looking, this mix of green tea and sunflower, rose and cornflower petals can provide a brief escape. It’s a light, floralflavored tea that is great on its own or with a touch of honey. Just what the soul needs when the winter doldrums set in.



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Inside Des Moines’ tea oasis

Gong Fu tea shop encourages tea lovers and newbies alike to slow down and enjoy the perfect cup BY LAUREN SHOTWELL Gong Fu, the East Village tea shop, is a calming oasis in the heart of downtown Des Moines. With around 150 teas available and staff on hand to help customers shift through the offerings, the shop provides a chance to make a conscious decision to slow down and savor the moment. Mike Feller and Rusty Bishop first opened Gong Fu in June 2004. The shop grew out of a friendship formed between the two while at Iowa State University and from a desire to pursue a different lifestyle from the corporate jobs they held at that time. The shop’s calm, quiet interior and the unhurried process of steeping tea encourages a slower pace and a celebration of the tea ritual. “The idea behind the whole thing is to calm down a little, relax a little, take a little time to prepare something artfully,” Feller said. “I think that’s one of the best benefits of tea—contrary to our Western lifestyle that’s kind of hurried.” Feller said many Gong Fu customers are already fans of tea and visit in search of quality products. Some customers also come hoping to adopt a new, healthy practice or replace an unhealthy habit such as soda or coffee reliance. Gong Fu’s slogan, “Rethink Your Drink,” addresses both the health and spiritual aspects of tea. “It’s about really choosing something that is a little more comforting, a little more soothing, a little more calming than what you’ve been accustomed to gulping down in the past,” Feller said. The shop also offers a tea service in the ceremonial Chinese gong fu style, which dates back to the Ming dynasty. Feller said it’s the focus and concentration of the ceremony that makes it especially meditative, both for the person preparing the tea and the person receiving it.

In the beginning, Feller and Bishop traveled to tea-producing regions in India, Nepal and Taiwan to develop relationships with growers. Now, with suppliers already lined up, Feller said it’s harder to justify leaving the shop. “We still do source directly from the growers,” he said. “And those sources came directly from our travels to the tea lands.” For anyone who is not yet a fan of tea, or who has tried tea in the past but didn’t care for it, Feller encouraged sampling different teas to find one that clicks. “Don’t get caught up too much in drinking tea just because it’s good for you,” he said. “It doesn’t matter how good it is for you if you don’t like it, because you won’t drink it. Find a tea that you do enjoy.”

“The idea behind the whole thing is to calm down a little, relax a little, take a little time to prepare something artfully.”

The shop offers a wide range of teas, from familiar black teas to green, white and herbal teas, some with fruit or floral notes and others with more roasted or savory flavors. Customers can ask for a cupping to sample a tea they are interested in or just take a whiff of the tea leaves.

“The quickest way to determine whether you’ll like the tea or not is to just smell the tea leaf,” Feller said. “Generally, if you like the smell, you’ll like the taste.” Lauren Shotwell is the news director for Little Village magazine in Iowa City. She can be reached at lauren@littlevillagemag. com.


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“The best way to phrase it is, it’s beauty in simplicity,” he said. “To make it beautiful, you have to pay attention to all of your actions.”





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Sink into a Gong Bath “The gong is very simple. It is an inter-vibratory system. It is the sound of Creativity itself. The gong is nothing more, nothing less. One who plays the gong plays the universe. The gong is not an ordinary thing to play. Out of it came all music, all sounds and all words. The sound of the gong is the nucleus of the Word.” —Yogi Bhajan

BY BRIDGET TOOMEY A gong bath truly is a transformative experience. To get a taste, start by imagining yourself lying in a dark room, on top of a yoga mat, covered in a blanket. Your palms face towards the sky and your eyes are closed. The teacher directs you to relax each part of your body one muscle at a time, from your toes to your tongue. The sound begins quietly at first and then slowly becomes louder and more rhythmic and trance-inducing. The vibrations wash over your body. Time seems to slip away and what feels like five minutes can really be 30. That is the power of a gong bath. The gong is a traditional part of a Kundalini yoga practice. Yogi Bhajan, who brought Kundalini yoga to the West in 1968, asked that every Kundalini ashram and yoga center have a gong to be used regularly. Not only is the gong a musical instrument, but it is a healing tool. It releases blocks, reduces tension, simulates circulation and provides catharsis. It is not uncommon for people to cry, feel like they are in between awakeness and sleep, or to fall asleep completely during a gong bath. It can be a deeply emotional and personal experience.

Bhakti Mantra

Mangalacharan Mantra

Ong Namo - I bow to the infinite creator of all

Ad Gurey Nameh - I bow/invoke the teacher who exists at the beginning

Guru Dev Namo - I bow to the divine subtle teacher who guides my soul

Jugad Gurey Nameh - I bow to the teacher who teaches through all times Sat Gurey Nameh - I bow to the teacher who teaches from the truth Siri Guru Dev A Nameh - I bow to the unseen subtle teacher of all

To produce the vibrations and sounds that make the gong so special, the player uses a specific technique. The gong is divided into three regions, each producing a different quality of sound. Different parts of the gong also correlate to the different chakras and can help open and balance the chakras. A gong bath and meditation can be a class all on its own, or the gong can be played at the end of any Kundalini yoga class during Shavasana. Since the moment I first learned how to play the gong, I have been drawn to its sound, its vibration and its benefits. Although my roots in the gong are through the Kundalini yoga tradition, a gong can be played and incorporated into any lineage or medium. Whether it is experienced sitting up as part of a meditation or lying down as part of Shavasana, a gong bath is an amazing experience that I have shared with many and will continue to share throughout Iowa. Now close your eyes and imagine the sound waves washing over you. Bridget Toomey, RYT-200, teaches Kundalini Yoga at Heartland Yoga in Iowa City. She is a Reiki Master Practitioner and is currently pursuing her RYT-500 in the Kundalini tradition in Kansas City. Bridget is also working on her master’s degree in healthcare management though Johns Hopkins University. Follow her on Instagram: @IowaKundaliniYogini.



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“You have no resistance against this sound,” Bhajan once said. “It is the master sound, the adi naad. Everything you think becomes zero—the gong prevails.”

Before playing the gong, there are several mantras that you will either chant out loud as a class, or the teacher may choose to recite internally. Two of those mantras are the Bhakti mantra and the Mangalacharan mantra. The Bhakti mantra shows an appreciation for this moment and the gong while the Mangalacharan mantra gives peace and centeredness.

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Transformative Travel:

A Yoga School in the Clouds BY LILY ALLEN-DUENAS It was a castle in the sky. It felt that way at least, way up high, nestled at the edge of the jungle up the mountains. I hugged a cup of black tea to my chest and stared out over the Himalayas. I had come to Nepal to become an internationally certified yoga teacher and complete a 200 hours training program at Nepal Yoga Home under the direction of yoga guru Prakash Acharya. My decision to come to Nepal, rather than doing the training course in America, was predicated on the fact that I had no interest in a westernized yoga experience. I was here for the real deal. I had hours of instruction and practice every day: yoga, pranayama, Ayurveda, anatomy, Ashtanga, philosophy and meditation. It was a 21day intensive program and I was surrounded by 16 other students, all here for different reasons, but ultimately hoping to deepen their practice and their connection with themselves. Steam curled around my neck as I leaned over the balcony and saw Stina walking up the steps to the yoga home. Stina was my roommate from Stockholm. My closest friends in the program were from Paris and Cairo, and the guy who practiced on the mat across from mine was Nic, a sailor from Denmark. I burst out laughing mid-class on a particularly hot morning, when we were all sweating profusely as I realized that never in my life did I think I’d smell the pheromones of a Danish sailor. Life was too good. Life was too unexpectedly good. People use the phrase “melting pot” to describe America, and I suppose that is true, but we’re talking about one ginormous millions-of-people melting pot. I found Nepal Yoga Home’s melting pot microcosm completely and wholeheartedly exhilarating. Speaking Spanish with my acro-yoga partner, saying good morning in French, exclaiming “nice hair cut!” on accident in Arabic when you meant to say congratulations, learning colloquialisms in Czech for a laugh—what’s better than that? I loved learning Nepali as well. The yoga home was run by a kind and generous Nepali family and everyone spoke varied levels of English,


ranging from zero to blessedly near-perfect. So if I didn’t know how to say “poogeo” they sometimes would keep serving me scoop after scoop of curried rice and vegetables until I’d pull my plate away in terror of the mountain of food I was expected to consume. Let’s just say it wasn’t the same case on samosa day, when I became the resident samosa record holder for the number I excitedly wolfed down. The sun had warmed my shoulders, and the tea had warmed my hands. I looked up and saw a monkey perched on top of the roof. He’d taken a liking to snacking on pasta and bananas from our kitchen. I smiled. Nepal was nothing like I’d expected. Every day was the most beautiful day, the most precious day. I’d let go of all my ridiculous American stress around trivial, banal, nonconsequential things—OK, some things may be consequential, but still shouldn’t be constantly and frantically fretted over. Thanks to the soothing and simple life here, I’d been able to sink into my inner stillness. Nepal gave me many gifts: a YTTC200hr certificate, lifelong friends, enlightening

spiritual and philosophical instruction, but perhaps the biggest gift was clarity. By taking away the frills of my life, I could see my life. The clouds had shifted over the mountain range. Tendrils of varied languages traveled down from the hall above. It’s not exactly hotoff-the-press news to anyone, but Nepal is magic. After returning to my job in Iowa, I soon realized that I was called to dedicate my life to yoga and to follow that passion wherever it may lead me. Turns out that path was pointing me to Cambodia. Serendipity led me to a job as a yoga instructor at an island resort on Koh Rong Samloem. There I’ll be teaching sunrise and sunset yoga until the universe nudges me elsewhere. Lily Allen-Duenas is a traveling yogini who is currently working at an island resort in Cambodia. When not teaching, she’s seeking out masters and mentors across Asia to deepen her own practice. Grow alongside her and follow her journey at wildyogatribe. com or on Facebook and Instagram at @ wildyogatribe

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Yogi Assignment by Kino MacGregor Ashtanga yoga star Kino MacGregor offers an enjoyable bit of homework with Yogi Assignment: A 30-Day Yoga Program for Bringing Yoga Practice and Wisdom to Your Everyday Life. Whether you’re new to yoga or have trouble keeping a consistent practice, MacGregor leads you through daily asanas and meditations designed for physical and emotional growth. Your limitations will be tested, but MacGregor’s caring voice will take you further than your own New Year’s resolve. Know Where You're Going: A Complete Buddhist Guide to Meditation, Faith and Everyday Transcendence by Ayya Khema The German-American Khema was a pioneer for women in Buddhism until her death in 1997. Her bestselling 1987 book Being Nobody, Going Nowhere started yoga teacher Daishin Eric McCabe on his studies as a Soto Zen Buddhist (see page 12); Know Where You’re Going, previously published as When the Iron Eagle Flies, continues her mission of introducing Westerners to Buddhist philosophy and mindfulness, free of jargon and rich with thoughtful meditations. Unplug: A Simple Guide to Meditation for Busy Skeptics and Modern Soul Searchers by Suze Yalof Schwartz No, meditation doesn’t mean sitting quietly for hours on end. No, you do not need to perform the superhuman feat of turning off your brain. Schwartz, founder of L.A.’s Unplug Meditation studio, serves as a meditation mythbuster while offering practical, science-based advice for modern professionals seeking the benefits of daily meditation. Unplug also features interesting sections on aromatherapy, crystal healing, meditation for kids and other variants.







Sivana Podcast “Before you bring home the statue of any deity, ask yourself, would you want that person as your roommate?” This thought begins the sixth episode of the Sivana podcast, exploring mystical symbols; others touch on Ayurvedic life hacks, ancient mythology, spiritual tea-drinking, our metaphysical connection to animals, sacred cannabis, Kundalini, tantric love and much more. Created by YouTube yoga star Brett Larkin, Sivana’s half-hour episodes present interesting facts and advice gleaned from Eastern philosophy.




• WINTER 2018

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Listen on iTunes or Stitcher: espnW’s Free Cookies Kate Fagan is an ESPN writer and former college basketball player. Kathryn Budig is a yoga instructor and author who has appeared on the covers of top yoga magazines. They’re also dating. The two women discuss sports, wellness, pop culture, gender, sexuality and more, filling the conversation with “free cookies”—fun tidbits concerning their guests (from soccer’s Abby Wambach to yoga’s Seane Corn), themselves and you, the listener. Listen on Spotify or ESPN Radio: espnradio/podcast/archive/_/id/19286422 Modern Love Love is infinitely complex, even if Valentine’s Day tends to reduce it to hearts and diamonds. The New York Times and WBUR Boston’s Modern Love podcast presents 15-20-minute audio essays (read by celebrities like Jake Gyllenhaal and Julia Stiles) telling stories of love, loss and redemption: a marriage in which one partner undergoes gender reassignment; a tale of dirty talk gone awry; the journey of a woman reclaiming her body; and more. You’ll laugh, cry and commiserate. Listen on iTunes, Spotify and Stitcher: www.wbur. org/modernlove


Kino MacGregor Kino MacGregor teaches Ashtanga yoga to a worldwide audience through her popular social media channels, yoga DVDs, vlogs and four published books. She also cofounded OmStars, a subscription-based streaming service offering video courses from 20 yoga stars. Originally from Miami, MacGregor now travels the globe leading classes honoring both traditional and contemporary ideas of yoga. You have a firm grasp on the multimedia market that surrounds yoga. Why have such a diversified presence? I believe in spreading the message of yoga to as many people as possible, so I adopt a variety of outlets. Plus, I enjoy it all. I love writing my books and blogs and sharing on social media, but more than anything else I love meeting real students in person who have practiced with me online or remotely. It feels like I’m bringing things full circle. Could you give us some background on your newest book, The Yogi Assignment? When I first started sharing short videos online to connect with my audience I didn’t know what to say. But I figured that I was a teacher and teachers give assignments, so I started giving yogi assignments. People connected with them and it started to be a small movement. Very soon people started asking me where they could find all my assignments and if it would become a book. And now, thanks to their support, it is! How have social media and video streaming changed the yoga community, for better or worse? Right now, there’s a big push in the corporate world to buy up yoga teachers on social media. While I love social media, I think we as teachers need to be very careful about selling our voices for someone else’s product or company. As students of yoga we must be savvy consumers and do the research to figure out what types of companies we want to support.

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Two Rivers Acupuncture & Bodyworks “I noticed a difference from the very first session” Melissa Harris, Yoga Teacher

Morgan Rivers, LAc 5 Element Acupuncture Zero Balancing Bodywork Craniosacral 

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9001 Hickman Rd. Suite 300 Urbandale, IA 50322

Yoga means something because the heart of this practice is the essence of the human spirit itself—limitless and eternal, filled with light and love. Yoga means so much to so many people because of its purity. Yoga has spread across the world because people are in search of something authentic and true, something real and unfiltered. Why is it important to practice yoga every day? Yoga is a daily discipline and it’s best if your practice is a ritual. This means you’ll be more likely to do it every day and it also means you’ll be more consistent in your practice. Anything you get as a ritual becomes a part of who you are, and for yoga to work it has to impact every aspect of your life. Yoga is a personal practice; a daily sadhana, plain and simple. It’s not about the show, it’s about the sweat. It’s not about the fabulousness (although some days you may feel like you’re soaring), it’s about practicing through the days when you feel like crap. It’s not about competition or control, it’s about empowerment and being strong enough to rise up and fight the good fight. What does it matter if you can press up into handstand if you’re not willing to take a stand for what’s right? How did studying in India inform your practice? The whole foundation of my journey is my practice. Without a direct line to my teachers in India I simply would not have had the strength or faith to maintain my practice all these years. My teachers are my foundation and my rock.

Can one practice yoga without any connection to the inner spirit or the divine? Yoga works even when you’re not aware of it. You don’t need to have a concept of God to practice. Over time, your mind and heart will open to a direct and transformative experience of the divine. When the true light shines in your heart, you’ll be forever changed.


Yoga is a path to truth. God and the direct personal revelation of the eternal divine is the ultimate truth. Some say that yoga exists to prepare you for the moment that you meet God, so that your heart is ready to surrender and open. The practice opened my heart and mind to the notion of God. I wasn’t raised with any religion so my understanding is entirely personal and experiential.

• WINTER 2018

This issue of YogaIowa focuses on the intersection of yoga and religion. Has yoga informed your idea of and belief in God?

YogaIowa Winter 2018  
YogaIowa Winter 2018