Sunday, December 19, 2010

Christmas Holiday Schedule

Holiday Schedule:
Friday, Dec. 24, Christmas Eve 9 am class ONLY Mixed Level with Shri
Saturday, Dec. 25, Christmas Day 9 am class ONLY Mixed Level with Shri
(regular schedule will resume on Sunday)
Friday, Dec. 31, New Years Eve 9 am class ONLY Mixed Level with Shri
Saturday, Jan. 1, New Years Day 9 am class ONLY Mixed Level with Shri
(regular schedule will resume on Sunday)
Happy Holidays from Bliss Yoga Shala!!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Practice Gratitude with Enthusiasm!

Growing up, I remember when my mother got her first new luxury car. Before that, she had been driving a Volkswagen and it was quite spartan, but the new car had power everything and soft, supple seats. My brother, who had only recently acquired his drivers license, unfortunately had an accident with my mother's car and totalled it. My mother said "God took the car away from me because I loved it too much." I have never forgotten that and only recently I had a light bulb moment where I realized that when I am grateful for something, that gratitude is limited by my fear that I will lose the object.

Just this week I attended a beautiful funeral service for a friend's mother. My friend had a very close relationship with her mother and did an amazing job at the service making us laugh and cry with stories of her mother. We love and cherish our friends and family knowing that we are guaranteed to lose them at some point. Either we leave first or them, but the loss is going to happen. The Universe gives us the gift of family, friends and even beautiful objects. It is a shame to not fully appreciate those gifts and to let the gratitude and appreciation be inhibited with fear of loss. Resolve to practice gratitude with enthusiasm: from en theos- to be with God. I am firm believer that the Divine rewards passion and enthusiasm. The Universe delights in our joy. Gratitude and love have the highest positive biofeedback effect on the body. When we feel grateful it is physically healing.

There is a cute parable about a Yogini who goes to her kitchen and smells poop. She investigates, but the poop smell remains a mystery. She goes to her bedroom, it also smells like poop. She goes to work, her office smells like poop. She goes to Publix, the store smells like poop. Finally she goes to the bathroom and looks in the mirror. There is poop on the end of her nose! We often try to look for fixes outside of ourselves when the problem, and the solution, begins with us.

Yoga is the cessation of the fluctuations of the mind.
This famous line from the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali defines the goal of Yoga and the path to that goal. Yoga is that state of a quiet, peaceful and powerful mind- no thoughts. That state where we are no longer a victim to negative self chatter. Until we reach that exalted state, we are seeing reality through the distorted lens of our thoughts- we see reality as we are. If we feel poopy then the world looks poopy. If we are angry, then the world seems like a violent place. If we are peaceful, then our world is peaceful. Practicing gratitude with enthusiasm changes our world view and alters our perception of reality.

I cant get too excited about say, Columbus Day, but Thanksgiving, on the other hand, is a beautiful tradition. Carry the spirit of the day with you throughout the year.

PS: I am so very grateful to all the amazing Yogis and Yoginis at Bliss Yoga Shala!! We all grow together and small communities like ours are changing the world. We are the ones we have been waiting for.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Temperance: Moderation

There is a famous story regarding the Buddha which recounts how He gave a teaching to a sitar player who wanted to study meditation. The musician asked "Should I control my mind or should I completely let it go?" The Buddha answered, "Since you are a musician, tell me how you would tune the strings of your instrument." The musician said "I would make them not too tight and not too loose." "Likewise" said the Buddha, "in your meditation practice you should not impose anything too forcefully on the mind, nor should you let it wander." This is the teaching of letting the mind be in a very open way, of feeling the flow of energy without trying to subdue it and without letting it get out of control, of going with the energy pattern of the mind. This is meditation practice.

Chogyam Trungpa from Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Misguided Loyalty

Pitt Bulls are extremely loyal dogs. They are so loyal in fact that they will hurt themselves and others in order to please their masters, right or wrong.

"We Americans are the ultimate innocents. We are forever desperate to believe that this time the government is telling us the truth."
Sydney Schanberg, former New York Times reporter

When the United States went to war with Iraq for the second time, we were told that there was irrefutable evidence that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. The Jacksonville Times Union reported "Iraq is Busted". We now know that this was absolutely not true and that if the American press had done its job and investigated those reports, that fact would have become abundantly clear and some further investigations would have been warranted to determine if the people prop0sing these claims were doing so in a criminal way, with intention to deceive the American people and the world. This is not the first time that the American government has been caught red handed in a lie in order to go to war. We know now that the Gulf of Tonkin incident which preceded the Vietnam War was not accurately reported to either Congress or the American People.
It is estimated that 25 million people world wide were in opposition to the 2nd Iraqui War. Yet, people in this country who opposed the war were labelled as unpatriotic and were often afraid to speak out. Committing nonvirtuous acts and witnessing nonvirtuous acts without at least speaking out are both actions which carry negative karmic debt. Many Americans are like the pit bull, with loyalty to a fault to our leaders. This misguided loyalty allows this country to act in ways that make the rest of the world see us as the global bully. Many Yogis I have known over the years have dropped out of the political arena, some do not even vote. They incorrectly think that if they don't vote, they aren't connected to the karma of this country's actons. Putting one's head in the sand like an ostrich and pretended we don't see any wrongdoing is juvenile and we are all karmically tied to the US just by living here.

"The master class has always declared the wars. The subject class has always fought the wars. The master class has had everything to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose, especially their lives."
Eugene Victor Debs

"There is no flag large enough to cover the shame of killing innocent people."
Howard Zinn

Civilian casualties in WWI were 10%
in WW2 50%
in the Vietnam War 70%
and in the Iraqi War civilian casualties are 90%. 90%!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

"Men who have no respect for human life or for freedom or justice have taken over this beautiful country of ours. It will be up to the American people to take it back."
Howard Zinn

"Where people lead, their leaders will follow."

Annual Military Budgets

UK 34.8 Billion United States 379 Billion!
France 27 Billion (More than the rest of the world
Germany 23.1 Billion combined)
China 14.5 Billion
Russia 29 Billion
Iran 7.5 Billion
Saudi Arabia 18.7 Billion
India 15.9 Billion
North Korea 1.3 Billion

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Thanksgiving Holiday Schedule

Thanksgiving Holiday Schedule:
Wed., Nov. 24: 9 am Mixed Level Class ONLY
Thurs., Nov. 25: 9 am Mixed Level Class ONLY
Regular Schedule Resumes on Friday
Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Kali Energy

The imagery of archetypal deities deeply penetrates the psyche and lessons are learned simply by allowing our attention to rest fully on the visual experience. There is a part of us which knows without needing analytical thought to come to a conclusion.
Kali is black to represent Her transcendental nature.
Just as all colors disappear into black, all names and forms disappear into Her.
Maha Nirvana Tantra
In order to truly know ourselves, Yogis strive to release attachment to all names and forms because these are temporary and pure consciousness is perpetual.
Kali's tongue urges us to savor ALL the flavors of life on planet Earth. Gain and loss, success and failure, these are different flavors and we miss out on the fullness of the human experience when we push some flavors away.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Ganesh Energy

I recently saw a documentary about people who had been hit by lightning. Consistently, everyone was changed profoundly by the experience. Some of the changes were negative and some were positive, but everyone experienced lightning as a huge force of change and transformation in their lives.
The polarity of the Earth actually changes during storms. It is as if the Earth is inviting the lightning to come down and work its magic.
Humans have a force like lightning, in seed form, lying dormant in the pelvic floor. The dormant force, Kundalini Shakti, is a mechanism of change, creativity and transformation and when activated, it is possible for humans to reach their greatest potential. The archetype Ganesh governs the pelvic floor and He has a relationship with the energy in seed form. Ganesh energy works specifically to remove obstacles- obstacles that block the path to healing and empowerment.
In the same way that the Earth invites lightning down during storms, Yogis invite the energies of the pelvic floor to awaken and to work their magic in our bodies and in our lives. Working with the pelvic floor, using the Moola Bandha method in particular, is the means of invitation. The seeds of the dormant, creative force begin to germinate, grow and flourish and obstacles are removed.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Bliss Yoga Events

Bliss Yoga

Please join us!

  • Shri will be teaching a FREE class at Lululemon in St. Johns Town Center every Sunday in October at 9:30 am. Our theme all month will be Learning the Lessons of the Archetypal Deities Ganesh, Kali, Ram, Krishna and Shiva.

  • 30 Hour Introductory or Supplemental Vinyasa Teacher Training with Shri: Nov. 8-12, Mon thru Fri, 9 am to 3 pm each day. Tuition: $600

  • Workshop/ Asana Intensive with Rob Hefele: Sunday, Dec. 5: Lift Off Practice and Yin Practice

  • Free YogaWorks Level 2 Class and 200 Hour TT info session with Sarah Bell: Sat., Dec. 4, 12 noon to 2 pm

  • YogaWorks 200 Hour Vinyasa Yoga Teacher Training 30 Day Intensive held at Bliss Yoga Shala: Jan- Feb, 2011

  • Please go to our website for more information about any of these events.

Sunday, September 26, 2010


Have you ever set an intention to go to bed at a certain time or get up at a certain time and find that you were unable to fulfill your commitment? Have you ever made up your mind to eat only those things you say you want to eat and/or not eat those things you say you do not, only to fail here too as well? Controlling the 5 senses is certainly not an easy task. Masters say that each sense organ is like a dog and that each dog wants to go in a different direction. The sense of sight wants to go off in search of beautiful sights, the sense of smell wants to go off in search of lovely fragrances, and so on. And we are attempting to walk these 5 dogs rather than let these dogs lead us around.
Master Patanjali and Classical Yoga give us a recipe for controlling the senses...... We are to practice Pratyahara, the conscious withdrawal of the senses away from the outer world. With pratyahara, we make a choice to tune into the inner experience, the inner landscape. This is one reason why many Yoga studios are sparsely decorated and why many Yoga teachers choose not to use music for asana practice. We are encouraging you to go inside, even if only momentarily. We spend so much of our lives with external world focus. Let your Yoga practice be a time for internal awareness and dwelling. Practically in class, we cultivate pratyahara by focusing on our breathing patterns and scanning the physical body for sensations. The pelvic floor technique moola bandha is well suited to develop pratyahara as well because the muscle group is located deep inside the body and we almost always lose the technique if we shift awareness to the outside world by looking outside the window or looking across the room at other Yogis.

When the senses withdraw themselves from the objects and imitate, as it were, the nature of the mind-stuff, this is pratyahara.
Yoga Sutra 2.54
Then follows mastery over the senses.
Yoga Sutra 2.55

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Karma for Yoga Teachers

There is a story in the scriptures about one of the gods making a sarcastic remark about a human. The human was very sensitive so she could hear the nasty remark about the way she looked. She said to the god, "had you been an ordinary person, I could have forgiven you". And she cursed the god to only have ugly children from that day forward.

When we call ourselves "teacher", we choose to no longer be ordinary people. Karmic consequence becomes greater for teachers. Teachers' words and actions need to be thoughtful and for the greater good, to the very best of our ability. Great teachers see their students as children who are to be cared for and instructed with loving respect.
We cannot give away that which we do not possess. As teachers, we need to be constantly culitvating light so that we are able to illuminate the path for others even a little. Muktananda Stiles says that teachers need to make sure that they are able to meditate peacefully for at least 20 minutes, otherwise we are passing on our stress and tension to our students.
No one said that teaching is easy, but not enough people are saying that teaching is hard and a great responsibility that not everyone is up for. Will you honor your role as teacher with the full commitment to be of service or will you use the role selfishly for personal gain?

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Labor Day Holiday Schedule

Schedule for Monday, September 6:

9 am Class ONLY Mixed Level with Shri

Happy Holiday!
(Regular schedule resumes on Tuesday)

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Eat: Week One

The next 3 weeks in the studio we are working with the theme Eat, Pray, Love as a life plan.
Eat: Week One

"Yogis eat for energy, not flavor."
Ken Revell

"Energy = Power"

"Let food be your medicine and let medicine be your food."

Clinically and literally, the way we (Americans) are eating is making us fatter, sicker and dumber. I am not one to get on the soap box, but this is go time, the 11th hour as it were, something needs to change. Americans are the fattest citizens of the world and we use up more of the world's resources than the rest of the world COMBINED. "They", groups that are blindly driven by greed, are growing our food in completely irresponsible and nonsustainable ways and adding potently harmful additives to our food. The cancer rate 30 years ago was 1 in 16, now it is 1 in 2. Because of growth hormones added to our food, young girls now are reaching puberty at an alarmingly early age. We would need several more planets like Earth to perpetually sustain the voracious American diet and I don't see any extra planets around.....

What we have been "fed" about food is shakey at best and criminal and malicious at worst. Many of the sources we have looked to for food, diet and health guidance are guided primarily by profit.

Yogis begin to think outside of the box and for themselves. Here are some resources: for a list of "frankenfoods", foods to be avoided, and a new look at the economics of the traditional food pyramid. for great documentaries about food growing and the power of foods to heal, even for cancer treatment. In this country, doctors are prohibited, by law, to offer any other treatment for cancer other than surgery, chemo and radiation. In other countries, however, many other more holistic courses of treatment are offered with similar or better success rates and minimal side effects. (Netflix has many of the Gerson films) is the website of an activist is this area

The documentaries Food, Inc. and The 11th Hour are both very informative as well.

Very easy guidelines for, in my opinion, the healthiest and most Earth friendly diet:

  1. Eat less. We need so much less food than we think and than we have been taught and told. Monks traditionally eat only what can fit into the palms of both hands. Many people (myself included) eat only 1 or 2 meals per day and find that they have even more energy and stamina with less food. There is a great deal of research in this area to be found under RC diet (reduced calorie) and RC diet plus a long fasting duration

  2. Buy and Eat Local and Organic.

  3. Make eating fresh fruits and vegetables a daily event.

  4. Practice Yoga regularly to build up the internal fire which will help to flush out old and new toxins. With a strong fire, we can throw in some green wood from time to time.

Food for Yogis means energy and nourishment. Eating includes all the ways in which we nourish ourselves. The Yogic scriptures tell us that Yogis who know breath as food, know the purest food available. Uplifting music and chanting the divine sounds is food for Yogis. Time spent in nature and time spent with friends and family may also be nourishment. Sleep and rest feed the living matrix. The numerology for the studio address is a 4 and 4 symbolizes stability and rest. I love the idea of Yogis finding rest, stability and rejuvenation with each practice. The artist in me is extremely nourished by creative endeavor. The mystic in me is nourished by meditation and ritual. The point is, find out what feeds you and eat regularly.

In the human body, food is turned into energy by metabolic fire. Yogis build their fire with each practice and digestive fire matures into the fire of transformation. From the ashes of this fire, the Phoenix emerges, the new creation that is now possible.

"Each one of us, regardless of our situation, is looking for the same treasure in the ashes. We are in search of our most authentic, vital, generous, and wise self. What stands between that self and us is what burns in the fire. Our illusions, our rigidity, our fear, our blame, our lack of faith, and our sense of separation: All of these- in varying strengths and combinations- are what must die in order for a more true self to arise. If we want to turn a painful event into a Phoenix Process, we must name what needs to burn in the fire."

Elizabeth Lesser

PS: A word about intoxicants-In Yoga, we are attempting to cultivate self-sufficiency. We are much stronger and have more clarity of vision when we choose not to ingest intoxicants. Intoxicants create tamasic energy- the energy of dullness and stuckness. It is very hard to manifest creative urges in that energy of stuckness. Some masters endorse the use of hallucinogenic drugs used ritually to let us know what is possible, but drugs are a crutch to creating that expansive state of mind and the goal is to learn how to get there without the drug. If you use an intoxicant every day, you are an addict. Freedom does not equal running away or checking out and getting to the doorway is one thing- walking through it is entirely another.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

How has Yoga changed your life?

Pam Hall- 8 years of Yoga Practice
Leslie Wilbur- 15 years of Yoga Practice

How has yoga changed your life? This question was asked to some students at Bliss Yoga.

Leslie Wilbur

I had practiced yoga inconsistently for about 15 years, although I was a regular exerciser (cardio and weights). Beginning around December, while in teacher training, I began practicing 6 days a week and meditating 7 days a week (without fail). What a difference! In the last 8 months, I have experienced the following improvements: my digestive system has been restored to complete health, I sleep like a baby, my "normal aches and pains of aging" are gone, my allergies are gone, my moods are very stable. And these are only the physical changes.
The other changes are more subtle and yet more profound. I feel more grounded. I feel more connected to everyone and everything. I feel more inner peace. I feel more deeply, and at the same time I am not swept away by feelings. I have more coincidences and synchronicities in my daily life. I feel more contentment and gratitude with things the way they are.
Overall, the changes I've experienced over such a short time are amazing!

Pam Hall

I first started coming to yoga class eight years ago, to "decompress" from the daily stresses of a high powered job in financial services industry, the challenges of raising three teenagers and to find an escape from the day-to-day grind. In the course of those eight years, I have happily abandoned the high powered stressful job. The three teenagers have grown up to be wonderful caring productive adults and I no longer feel I'm living in a day-to-day grind.
There are actually two quotes that seem to best sum up what yoga has done for me. The first, by Denis Waitley "Happiness cannot be traveled to, owned, earned, worn or consumed. Happiness is the spiritual experience of living every minute with love, grace and gratitude." Yoga is teaching me how to live life with love, grace and gratitude, thus bringing me a happiness that was in the past, elusive.
Yoga has brought more profound changes in my life on a physical, emotional and spiritual level. While the change has been profound, I wouldn't say it has been dramatic. Meaning, I feel I am the same person I have always been, just a much better version. This brings me to my second quote by Sting "The deeper you get into yoga you realize it is a spiritual practice. It's a journey I'm making. I'm heading that way."

Sunday, August 15, 2010

The Search for Prana

Shiva statue at Cern ( Shiva was the first Yoga teacher) and the LHC (Large Hadron Collider) at Cern Particle Physics Lab in Switzerland.

Growing up, my brother Gary loved mechanical things. He loved them so much, he wanted to know how they worked so he would often take things apart and try to put them back together with mixed success. My father gave him an old, broken down VW Bug and Gary cut off the top and got the engine working so he could have a homemade dune buggy of sorts. Whoever rode in the passenger seat had to hold the "gas tank", which was a used gallon milk container, seriously. Ah, the joys of growing up in the country....

100 years ago, the idea that all matter was made up of atoms was just a theory. Later, when more powerful means of actually seeing these small particles were invented, atomic theory became truth. Then scientists did what my brother Gary did, and began to look inside atoms to figure out how they work. For the most part, what is inside an atom is empty space. The "stuff" of an atom is at the nucleus and the nucleus takes up the same space that the head of a pin does inside a football field.

With this new knowledge came inconsistencies. If matter is made of particles and is mostly empty space, what holds the particles together and why do objects appear to have mass??

A group of scientists offered a theory of a substance that is all pervasive throughout the material world- the glue of universe- and this theorized substance is called the Higgs Boson. The discovery of the Higgs would resolve the mysteries and inconsistencies in current theoretical physics. What was needed to prove the existence of the Higgs was an LHC- a Large Hadron Collider- that could accelerate particles up to massive speeds and then record and study the collisions. Only two LHCs in the world were powerful enough to run the experiments- one at Firmalab in Chicago and one at Cern, in Geneva, Switzerland. The race was on! As soon as Cern fired up their LHC, the colossal piece of equipment promptly broke down. So Chicago was the first to start observing collisions and both labs predicted it might take years. Unfortunately, Chicago found out that their LHC is probably not powerful enough to be successful. Recently, in November of 2009, Cern's LHC came back online and is now running experiments as we speak in search of the Higgs, which has been nicknamed the Genesis or God particle.

I share this because it is so exciting that modern science is now looking to prove the existence of Prana Shakti or what some believe to be the Holy Spirit. According to Yogic cosmology, Prana is that which animates all of the material world. Yogis work with Prana Shakti in every Yoga practice for practical results- it changes the way we think and feel.
Just because you can't see something, doesn't mean it isn't real or that you can't use it to your advantage.

Now the Earth was formless and empty. Darkness was on the surface of the deep. God's Spirit was hovering above the surface of the waters.
Genesis 1:2

Friday, August 13, 2010

Dwelling at the Edge of Melancholy

Buddhist teacher Sylvia Boorstein says that all seekers dwell "at the edge of melancholy." We hover right at that border between joy and sadness. We are easily cheered, some of us easily agitated, but we dwell perennially perched at a vantage point which offers a crystal clear view of the suffering of others. Clarity of vision is cultivated with each practice, so with each progressive month and year of practice, the view gets clearer and clearer. All seekers arrive consistently to the same conclusion as that of the historical Buddha. Life is suffering. Life on planet Earth will include pain, loss, failure, sadness and disgrace, even though some of us live our lives thinking that if we plan enough, or pray enough, that somehow miraculously we and those dear to us will be spared the full spectrum of the Earthly experience. Sooner or later, we understand that no one is exempt from suffering and that knowing sadness makes joy all the sweeter.
The path of Yoga is Agni Vidya, the science of fire. With each practice, we cultivate the desirable qualities of fire. Fire produces light. Experienced Yogis light up a room when they enter. Fire also produces heat. An emotional warmth and tenderness begins to develop in the heart. Our emotions become more vibrant and our capacity for compassion and empathy for others expands. We find that we are more tuned in to the suffering of others, so much that we feel as though we are walking around with a broken heart much of the time. Some seekers find themselves paralyzed at this point, overwhelmed by the depth of emotion that is experienced by seeing the suffering of others with so much clarity. Becoming paralyzed in the face of suffering is not the answer, nor does it bring anything positive to the table, for you or for the person who is suffering.
Life is suffering. So what is to be done about that? Doing is exactly what is required- action is required. The path of Hatha Yoga- Asana, Pranayama and Meditation- is a life plan. It is a method for learning how to navigate through this world of suffering without becoming paralyzed or dying of a broken heart. We learn to cultivate a reliable happiness that is not affected by outside circumstance.

Friday, August 6, 2010

The World of the Unseen

Inside and outside her head, a billion, trillion stars, beyond count, circled and exploded....Songs were heard in spheres within spheres, electric, crackle, sharp. She heard nothing. How could she, when not once had she even heard the sound of her own breathing?

This is the world of Christian mystics, Kabbalists, Sufis, Yogis and Tantrikas- the unseen world. With the discovery of dark matter, electromagnetism and the infrared, ultraviolet and ultrasound frequencies, we know now that what humans are able to perceive in the world is only less than one percent of all that there is. Less than one percent! The world of the unseen is much greater than the world of normal human perception. This is the realm of prana, angels, ghosts, fairies, archetypal deities, Naguals, synchronicity, signs, symbols and the hall of Akashic records. Even modern physics theorizes about this realm with the possibility of countless alternate universes- spheres within spheres. The path of all Mystery Schools is access to this realm of the unseen. The first step on the path is getting comfortable with the sound of our own breathing.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Until You Merge, You Serve

Myths are stories from which to learn for some, but scripture and truth for others, depending on which household one was born into. The stories of Hanumanji are lessons in strength, devotion and a life of service, seva. Hanuman was the perfect servant and devotee of his ishta devata, Ram, and eventually his perfect service matured into union with Lord Rama. When Hanuman opens his chest, we see now that he carries both Ram and Sita in his heart. His words are now the words of the divine and his actions now are the actions of the divine. He has become a walking incarnation of Rama, a holy instrument of peace and healing.
Actions performed in service are not bound by the laws of karma. Hanuman's lesson to us is the joy of living a life in service to humanity and the possibility of merging with That through service. Union with the divine is a concept that is also taught in the Catholic tradition of Christianity, but the techniques are only taught to monks and nuns, not to lay people. In Tantra, this path is open even to householders.
Just this morning, my stepdaughter and I went to a bookstore and on the way there, we stopped at Starbucks for a coffee. We ran into Delores Morford, a longtime teacher of astrology in Jacksonville. Delores spoke to me of what I had been feeling recently. She said in May, we all entered into a time of cosmic weather patterns where those of us who are called to a life of service will feel a sense of urgency in this calling. Now is the time to make manifest our dearest desires. Now is the time to discover your gifts and to use them in service. It is a time to let go of anything and anyone barring the path to growth, expansion and service. Basically, #&*@ , or get off the pot. Be discriminating in your choice of friends and draw from the strength of your sangha. If you are dabbling with a practice, devote yourself with a full heart. If you are practicing, take your practice to the next level.

"There is a river flowing now, very fast. It is so great and swift that there are those who will be afraid. They will try to hold on to the shore. They will feel they are being torn apart and suffer greatly. Know that the river has its destination. The elders say we must push off into the middle of the river, keep our eyes open and our heads above the water. See who is in there with you and celebrate. At this time in history we are to take nothing personally, least of all ourselves, for the moment we do that, our spiritual growth comes to a halt. The time of the lone wolf is over. Gather yourselves, banish the word struggle from your attitude and vocabulary. All that we do now must be done in a sacred way and in celebration. We are the ones we've been waiting for."
Hope elder

Saturday, July 24, 2010

New Summer Schedule- updated

Mondays and Wednesdays:
9:05 am Warrior with Shri, 6 pm Warrior with Shri

Tuesdays and Thursdays:
6 am Sunrise Warrior with Shri, 9:05 am Peaceful with Pam, 5:30 pm Peaceful with Shri

9:05 am Mixed Level with Tru, 5:30 pm Warrior with Ken

8 am Warrior with Shri, 9:45 am Peaceful with Shri
9 am Warrior with Sherri, 11 am Peaceful with Sherri

The first Thursday of each month at 5:30 pm is Long, Slow and Deep practice with Shri

Tuesday and Thursday nights at 7:15 pm is now a Workshop Series with Sherri:
You may pay for 6 weeks in advance and get one week free: $100
or drop in per class for $10
(This class is now a workshop series, so it is now paid for separately from monthly unlimited and from Bliss class packages)

Monday, July 19, 2010

The Heaving Bosom

....She was hot and sweaty, moving sensuously, her eyes radiated with a melting tenderness, the experience of love was expanding in her heart, her breath became audible with the rise and fall of her chest.......

Is this an excerpt from a romance novel or a Yoga practice? This is the experience of dynamic breathing in a Yoga practice.
I once saw Yogi Amrit Desai perform an asana sequence and, although the sequence was not of particularly advanced postures, I was completely mesmerized watching him. He was creating magic on his mat and the observers in the room simply could not look away. I have seen Yogis practice very advanced sequences and not create the same magic, in fact, I have seen advanced sequences performed with a distinct dullness. Over the years, I came to an understanding that what separates practitioners who create magic and dull practitioners is the quality of their breath and therefore their ability to bend and manipulate prana shakti. Dynamic breathing patterns create dynamic prana on the mat. For the most part, this means absolutely conscious breathing of long duration and the breathing pattern is made longer by the use of auxiliary muscles of breathing in the core and in the upper chest. I have also been mesmerized by watching gifted dancers and gymnasts. There is something about the rise and fall of the chest created through powerful breathing that is enchanting and fascinating to the eye. It is the same state of passion that creates the heaving chest in Yogis, dancers and even lovers. The bending of prana shakti through manipulated breath creates magic and if one is able to create magic on the mat, we are also able to create that same magic in life.
This week, I had the absolute pleasure of going to White Oak with a group of dancers from the MFA program at JU. We practiced a little energy bending with heaving bosom breath while moving through vinyasas in the amazing Michail Baryshnikov dance studio. The photo is of me feeding Rick the giraffe some leaves. White Oak is a hidden gem here on the first coast- it was created to be a sanctuary and retreat for humans and endangered animals. The Clintons went there during the Lewinsky scandal, Al Gore went there after he lost (won) the election and international conferences have been held there with diplomats from all over the world participating. White Oak is an amazing animal preserve protecting and breeding endangered species like rhinos, cheetahs and giraffes. The trust also promotes the arts and artists in transition. Check out White Oak at

Pray for More Problems

"Pray for More Problems."

When we encounter difficulty in life, it makes us thirsty for inner work, the search for answers inside, when the answers in the outside world are insufficient. Inner work, like meditation, is highly efficient problem solving methodology.
Einstein said the Theory of Relativity came to him in a meditative state. When I tell students that answers come in meditation, I am not being poetic. I mean this literally. Ask for help, guidance and answers in each meditation.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Follow Your Bliss

"Mind your own business."
This is Sri Brahmananda Saraswati's (SBS) favorite mantra. Joseph Campbell did not say follow someone else's bliss (or drama), he said follow your own bliss. The path of following one's bliss, or dharma, is not easy. You don't have time to mind other people's business, your plate is full.

The path of following your bliss has been widely misunderstood to mean the path of moving away from pain and moving toward pleasure. This is not the case at all. Following bliss means to discover what is yours to do right now, dharma, and then to stay on point until that mission is accomplished, no matter how arduous that path might be. Early civil rights workers told the racists that opposed them- you may threaten our children, burn down our homes, beat us, even kill us, but we are not going away. This is following bliss.

Do not yield to weakness, it does not suit you.
Krishna to Arjuna, in the Bhagavad Gita

Friday, July 16, 2010

Zen and the Art of Air Conditioning Repair

We just had to replace the AC unit at the shala. The bad news is that I had not counted on such a big repair bill this month, but the good news is that the repair crew found out that the system before was not working properly because of faulty duct work. So the new system works better than ever! We should be able to keep it cooler in the Summer and warmer in the Winter more efficiently. The crew foreman told me "keeping a building cool is not just about putting cool air in, it is also about taking the warm air out". Aha! I had a light bulb moment! Yoga teaches the same principle. We not only work to bring in fresh Prana, ideas, wisdom and healing energy, but we also work to release old patterns, habitual responses, negative habits and toxins.

Our work on the mat with asanas and pranayama is the warm air going out- we build up fire in the belly and get body fluids moving to release that which no longer serves us. The meditation at the end of practice is the cool air moving in- we consciously relax body and mind and a deep peace settles in and nourishes the living matrix. Stress out- peace in, stress out- peace in. Over time, the scales begin to tip and we find that peace is the predominant feeling. We begin to feel good most of the time. Most importantly, we begin to recognize when we are out of balance and choose not to act from a state of imbalance. We have tools and techniques to bring us back to our new default state.

Om Shanti, Shanti, Shanti.
Om Peace, Peace, Peace.
With this statement, in the vibrational language of Sanskrit, the Yogi cultivates and imparts Peace.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

New Summer Schedule

New Summer Schedule Effective July 19, 2010:

Monday and Wednesday: 9:05 am Warrior with Shri, 6 pm Warrior with Shri
Tuesday and Thursday: 6 am Warrior with Shri, 9:05 am Peaceful with Pam, 5:30 pm Peaceful with Shri
Friday: 9:05 am Mixed Level Flow with Pam, 5:30 pm Warrior with Ken
Saturday: 8 am Warrior with Shri, 9:45 am Peaceful with Rachel
Sunday: 9 am Warrior with Sherri, 11 am Peaceful with Sherri

First Thursday of each month at 5:30 pm is Long, Slow and Deep Practice with Shri
Meditation with Stan each Tuesday at 7:15 pm Downstairs

Saturday, July 10, 2010

The Path of the Bow and Arrow

I am in Miami. Just finished a workshop on the Baghavad Gita with Manorama, a Sanskrit scholar who has a Sanskrit studies college in New York. (Pronounced MaNORama or Ma) The Gita, or Song of the Lord, is a Yogic Upanishad, meaning those teachings which one receives while being close to the teacher, so the teachings are meant to be imparted orally. I chanted the poetic verses of the Gita for 7 hours today and fostered a new relationship with the text. I have to admit that previously the Gita was not a favorite Yogic road map for me, which was part of the reason that I signed up for this workshop. The beauty of a vibrational language like Sanskrit is that the sounds encourage union and cultivate Oneness. And the meaning of the words is contained in the sound vibration of the words. When we chant Sanskrit, we know the meaning in our hearts and in our bellies. Sound, Shabda, comes from Space, Akash, and the more subtle the element, the more powerful it is. Space is the most subtle of the elements, so working with sound is a potent endeavor. The 51 sounds of the Sanskrit alphabet correspond to and heal the 51 petals of the lotuses of the Chakras, the energy vortexes in the body.
I leave Miami tomorrow morning.......I had forgotten the beauty of Coral Gables, the international flavor of Miami and the vividness of the tropical sky. Thank you Prana Yoga Miami, my gracious workshop facilitator and hostess.
Back to teaching at Bliss Monday morning at 9 am. Our theme this week is inspired by Arjuna, the main player in the Gita- we will be working with The Path of the Bow and Arrow- Awakening the Warrior.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Happy 4th of July!

Yoga Schedule remains the same for the 4th of July holiday weekend!

Sunday: 9 am Warrior Flow with Tru
11 am Peaceful Flow with Sherri
5 pm Long Slow and Deep with Ken
Monday: 9 am Warrior Flow with Shri
4:30 pm Mixed Level Flow with Erica
6 pm Warrior Flow with Shri

Balancing the Forces in Pose

I took a workshop once with a heart surgeon/ Yoga teacher who had the good fortune to find himself sitting on a plane next to Yoga master B.K.S. Iyengar. He thought deeply about formulating a proper question to Mr. Iyengar, not wanting to waste this golden opportunity. His question was "What is most important when practicing asana?" Iyengar's response was to balance all of the forces available to us in asana. If the hand is lifted toward the ceiling in a pose, for example, then part of us is working to open the hand, part of us working to close the hand into a fist, part of us is working to splay the fingers and part of us is working to glue all the fingers together. In perfect balance, none of these forces overpower any of the others. Gravity is a strong force to be reckoned with in poses. In a standing tree for example, the force of gravity is pressing down on the practitioner and the balanced effort is to create an equal and opposite lift from the foot up through the crown of the head. The same is true for the inversion, shoulderstand, but because we are upside down, the balanced effort is to create an equal and opposite line of energy from the shoulders, up through the instep of each foot, toward the ceiling. This concept works well with the idea of Resistance Stretching- the way most modern world class athletes now cultivate flexibility. Resistance stretching is where part of our effort is to actually prevent the stretch- more balancing of the forces- and the muscle or group of muscles are contracted as we stretch them. This way of stretching, as opposed to passive stretching, is now the preferred method because it reduces the possibility of injury through overstretching and it strengthens and stretches simultaneously. There is still a place for passive stretching in Yoga practice (Yin style), I just prefer to sprinkle it in judiciously for safety. We will be exploring resistance stretching all this week in the studio.
Another physiological concept that is important to work with here as well is the balancing of forces in joints. Some of us have the ability to take a joint beyond 90 degrees- the hyper extension of a joint. There is disagreement in the Yoga world and the medical world about whether this is even a problem, but having suffered physical problems from both hyper extension of knees and elbows, I do see it as a problem and as a structural form that can be therapeutically corrected. When we hyper extend the elbow joint and put the bottom of the humerus bone in a different alignment, the top of that bone, that connects with the shoulder joint, will also be in a different alignment. Hyper extension of elbows often sets us up for shoulder injuries in the same way that hyper extension of knees throws the pelvis out of optimal alignment and can set us up for back problems. At the very least, hyper extension of elbows produces weak and/or flabby triceps (underside of upper arm) and hyper extension of knees produces weak and/or flabby quads (fronts of the thighs). If one is working on handstand, then strong triceps are a prerequisite in order to be able to bear the entire body weight on straight arms and strong quads are necessary in order to perform the donkey kick that lifts the legs into the handstand. If you are able to hyper extend, find some reason to get excited about changing the pattern.
As the mind thinks, so the body becomes.....this is a two way street. Often we find, that by changing a structural pattern in the body, that change is also created in the mind. Knees are associated with foundations in life, fear, security and prosperity issues- standing where we don't want to stand- and arms about the balance of giving and receiving. Arms are an extension of the heart- are we putting our heart out there and into it? Arms develop from the voice box of a fetus- arms are our voice in postures and in the world.
The balancing of the forces in the asana reminds us of balance in the larger sense for practice. We balance strength and flexibility, in breath and out breath, right side and left side, steadiness with comfort, relaxation with appropriate effort, structure with creativity, outer focus with inner focus and gross practices and subtle practices. In life, we strive to balance giving and receiving, doing and nondoing, work and play and material world growth and expansion with spiritual growth and expansion.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Celebrating the Fullness of the Guru

"Whether you practice the dynamic series of Pattabhi Jois, the refined alignment of B.K.S. Iyengar or the customized vinyasa of viniyoga, your practice stems from one source: a five foot two inch Brahmin born more than one hundred years ago in a small South Indian village."

The full moon in July is traditionally Guru Poornima, the celebration of the fullness of the teacher. It is a time to formally honor special teachers. This July, we will honor Sri Krishnamacharya.
A lineage of Yoga teachers is called Guru Parampara, literally "one after the other". A lineage is access to an unbroken line of energy. Our lineage in the studio is Vinyasa Yoga in the tradition of Sri Krishnamacharya (1888-1989), a legendary Yoga teacher, healer and scholar. Krishnamacharya is credited with the creation of the Vinyasa system, intelligent sequences of asanas combined with steady gaze (Dhrishti), manipulated breath (Ujjayi Pranayama) and core emphasis (Bandhas).

Krishanamacharya had 3 students who also went on to become very famous Yoga teachers in the their own right- B.KS. Iyengar, Sri K. Pattabhi Jois, and T.K.V. Desikachar, his son. Iyengar's vigorous style of Yoga is known for an emphasis on alignment and the use of props like blocks, straps and sand bags. Pattabhi Jois' Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga has an emphasis on repetition and structure. Practitioners perform nearly the same practice 6 days a week. Pattabhi Jois has said that the three key words that describe his style are strength, stamina and sweat. The Yoga of T.K.V. Desikachar is customized individually for each practitioner according to their specific needs and goals. These three students, who all studied with the same teacher, created three very different styles of Yoga. Yet, the one aspect of practice that all three of these teachers agreed on was the importance of meditation in a Yoga practice.
"Let us set aside as much time for meditation as possible."
Sri K. Pattabhi Jois

I began my journey into Yoga with a meditation practice. I had practiced meditation for years before I did my first down dog. When I started teaching, I taught in the way that most teachers teach led classes- instructing asanas combined with pranayama (conscious breathing) for the bulk of the duration of the class and then finishing with a short Yogic sleep meditation and maybe a very brief seated pranayama and/or meditation. The heart of the class is asana work with the subtle practices just thrown in very briefly at the end. Part of the reason for this is because students have a difficult time with meditation and often, initially, they simply do not see the benefit. Also, unfortunately, many Yoga teachers do not practice meditation themselves, so do not see the benefit of teaching it to others. For teachers like me, who do practice meditation, we often teach classes speaking of the importance of meditation, giving students a short taste of meditation at the end of each class and then hope beyond hope that maybe we have inspired practitioners to commit to a home practice of meditation. Yet, I found that after years of teaching serious, regular students Yoga, there were only a handful of students who were meditating at home.
About six months ago, I decided that I could no longer live with myself teaching in this way. If I really thought meditation was so important, then I had to give students a real experience of it in each practice. The change that is possible from a Yoga practice is profound, but most teachers agree that the miracles that are possible only happen with a full Yoga practice- asana, pranayama and meditation. Asanas with pranayama cultivate fire and devotional practices like chanting and meditation cultivate the sap of vitality that protects daily practitioners from getting burned by the fire.
Nowadays, when I teach, I draw from the wisdom of all the root gurus from this tradition. I teach poses with some emphasis on physical alignment honoring Iyengar, tempered with the energetics of the pose, "feeling" our way toward optimal alignment and enhanced energy flow. I like to work with repetition and structure in sequencing honoring Pattabhi Jois, yet allowing some wiggle room for a sprinkling of creativity. Form and freedom are nice. And I teach with the idea of using Yoga as therapy honoring T.K.V. Desikachar, instructing students how to tweak poses, breath and sequencing to best suit their own anatomies and nervous systems. It is possible for students to practice the very same sequence of poses with very different bhavanas, intentions. Honoring Krishnamacharya and all of his students, each practice ends now with an extended experience of Yogic Sleep Meditation, Yoga Nidra.
"Silence is not silent. Silence speaks. Silence is not still. Silence leads."
Sri Chinmoy

Sunday, June 27, 2010

The Art of Sleeping and the Cultivation of Awareness

Coffee beans are the second most widely traded world commodity, second only to oil.

"When someone says they need only five hours of sleep, I tell them they're delusional," says Thomas Roth, Ph.D., of the Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit. "It's very important to differentiate between how much people sleep and how much sleep they need."

Because of the invention of electricity, we get on average 90 minutes less sleep per night than our ancestors. Add to that overworking and overplaying, and what we end up with is a sleep restricted and/or sleep deprived modern society. For many, sleep is simply not a priority. Sleep, however, is just as integral to the building and maintaining of health as exercise, diet and stress management. The body rejuvenates itself each night when we sleep and sends its resources to nonessential tasks like cellular repair, antiaging, enhancing the immune system and healing itself. Charles Czeisler, Ph.D., M.D., professor of sleep medicine at Harvard Medical School and one of the country's leading sleep experts, calls lack of sleep "a huge, pervasive problem, the elephant in the room."

I teach a Yoga class at 6 am two days a week and need to get up those mornings at 430 am. 10 years ago, this simply would not have been possible. In fact, back then getting somewhere at 9 am seemed arduous. Even 7 or 8 years ago, my preference for Yoga asana practice time was in the afternoon or early evening. Practicing asana first thing in the morning seemed foreign to my body. Over the years, naturally and gradually, my rising time and my choice for asana practice time has grown earlier and earlier. I love getting up early now and my body really enjoys physical activity around the time that the sun rises. This is the traditional time for Yoga practice. That time right before the sun rises is auspicious, it is special, because it is one of the tween times- not quite day but not quite night either. The energy then is quite balanced and perfect for the task of creating balance physically, mentally and energetically. Universally, all of the ancient medical texts from all of the ancient medical systems, teach us that getting to bed early and rising early is what is most healthy for us. The body, mind, energy complex, the living matrix, likes to be in harmony with the sun. The more we can rise when the sun rises and go to bed when the sun goes to bed, the better we feel. Many Yogis traditionally, have risen before the sun rises and the morning practice ends with a puja to greet the morning sun and a prayer of gratitude for one more day with the precious gift of a human body is offered.

"Yogis get up early."
Yogarupa Rod Stryker

The intention of getting up early begins with the necessary intention of also going to bed early. This part of the plan is what requires discipline and regularity. The body begins to know what is expected of it if we go to bed around the same time each night. In the pranic system, there are 5 major currents of energy in the human body- the 5 prana vayus. One of these currents, is called pran vayu- names often overlap and mean different things in Yoga. Pran vayu is located in the head and heart region and its main job is to create vitality in the living matrix. It governs the sense organs in the body and is depleted when we overstimulate the senses. Stimulation of an electronic nature is the most devastating on the senses and watching tv and spending too time on the computer and cell phone are recipes for depletion of energy. Deep sleep is the time when we revitalize the living matrix and counter the damage done from so much time spent exposing the senses to electronics.

The newest sleep studies show a link now with sleep deprivation and health problems as varied as diabetes, heart disease, miscarriage, preterm birth, ADHD in children, clinical depression and obesity. If you chart how sleep has declined over the past 50 years, it exactly parallels the increase in our waistlines. Lack of sleep alters our metabolism so that we crave carbs and eat more. The brain sends us signals when we are tired that make us think we are hungry. Some of the first symptoms from lack of sleep are declining mental moods and a slowing of cognitive functioning (cranky and foggy- sound familiar?). We make 10 times more mistakes when we are tired and 1 in 5 of all workplace accidents are caused by lack of sleep. Patients with clinical depression are 5 times more likely to suffer from a temporary bout of depression when they are tired. There is a 50% increase in irregular insulin production by the pancreas when we are sleep deprived.

Yoga is a science that facilitates change. Physical change, mental/emotional change, energetic change, change in life and ultimately, change in the world. As Yoga teacher, my goal is to create as much change as possible in each student in each class. Modern psychology tells us that if we want to change a person, then we must change that person's awareness of themselves. Yoga wholeheartedly agrees- introspection will create change most effectively. Swami Kripalananda writes, "If a seeker can relax the body and mind at will, then introspection is cultivated." The Yogic Sleep Meditation, Yoga Nidra, is a beautiful way for seekers to learn and practice to relax the body and mind at will. My goal with the practice of an extended Yoga Nidra at the end of each practice is to save Yogis time- to create change as quickly as possible. The scriptures tell us that Yoga Nidra is incredibly nourishing to the living matrix as well. Yogic Sleep is 4 times more revitalizing than regular sleep so at the end of each practice, Yogis catch up on some much needed sleep time too. Yoga Nidra is a window of healing opportunity- your job is to say yes.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Circular Sequencing: Cultivating the Mandala

This morning in the shala we began our theme for this week of Mandala Vinyasa, or circular sequencing. Archetypal symbols penetrate the psyche and the circle is universally pleasing to the human eye and nervous system. Circles call to mind a coming back full circle, a sense of completion and wholeness. In Pagan ritual, honoring all the directions in a ceremony is called calling quarters and purifies the space, setting the stage for sacred work.

I grew up in a small community in Virginia. In fact, if you ever watched the 70s family show, The Waltons, then you are already familiar with my hometown, Walton's Mountain. About 15 minutes from my house was a place called Yogaville. Word on the street was that it was a cult and my parents would not let me go there. I moved away from my hometown in my early 20s, but in 1999, I took Yoga teacher training through the "cult". I found out it was not a cult at all, but a Yoga school and hotel and retreat center where people could stay as long as they liked to study Yoga and to be immersed in a Yogic lifestyle. The point of my story is that I came full circle with my dharma. There was a reason that I grew up so close to a Yogic community. It just took me 35 years or so to figure that out.

A part of you remembers the first 9 months of your life, that time spent in your mother's womb. This was a time when we were certain of our dharma- our purpose. Our purpose for the first 9 months of life was to grow and expand. We never worried about where our next meal was coming from- this was a time of complete safety, security, comfort and peace. Use the circles this week to come back full circle to that time of wholeness. It is possible to live life with absolute certainty about our dharma and to live life knowing that everything is perfect just as it is right now and even to feel an intimacy with the Divine Mother as we fulfill our obligations and learn our lessons.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Skin: The Open Barrier

This week in the studio we will be working with the sheath of skin.
of Cultivation of sensation at the level of the skin is beneficial because:

  • The skin is the largest organ of elimination in the body and working with the skin promotes the removal of waste product from the body.

  • The skin is a metabolic organ as well- it aids in the metabolism of fat.

  • The skin helps to regulate blood pressure: the opening and closing of capillaries helps to promote the healthy flow of blood.

  • The skin is an integral part of the immune system by way of the large network of lymph vessels.

  • The skin is part of the respiration process- there is some gas exchange at the level of skin.

  • There is a strong connection in the way we feel emotionally and what we feel at the level of skin: we blush when we are embarrassed, we get goosebumps when we are scared or excited. When we work with the skin, we affect and benefit the nervous system.

Massaging the skin is an incredibly healing technique, whether we have a therapist massage us or we practice Ayurvedic self massage. Yogis are picky about what we put on the open barrier of the skin- it is best to use culinary grade oils. Working at the level of skin reminds us about appropriate barriers in life- be picky about who you spend time with, which foods and/or drugs you take in and the environments that you choose to spend time in.

In class, we work with the skin practically by stretching and squeezing the skin through muscular contraction and expansion and by promoting the exchange of fluids through perspiration.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Yogic Sleep to Wake Up

This week in the studio we will be exploring the Yogic Sleep Meditation, Yoga Nidra. The goal of the Hatha Yoga process, asana, pranayama and relaxation practice, is the state of balance in order to set the stage for Kundalini Shakti to rise. You may not understand the concept of Kundalini Shakti or Enlightenment, but if you have practiced Hatha Yoga with some regularity, you have absolutely seen some changes in your body, your mind and your life. Your body begins to transform- those areas that were soft start to strengthen, those areas that were hard become supple, your gate becomes more graceful, aches and pains diminish, digestion becomes very efficient, the skin and eyes look more radiant and energy levels go through the roof. Yogis find with practice that a reliable happiness begins to flower and we find ourselves being overwhelmed by negative emotions less and less. Peace and contentment become the default emotional state for Yogis. Changes in the body and the mind create change in life. For Yogis, life is an adventure. The dance of creation between the Universe and individual free will becomes tangible reality for Yogis. Life becomes ground zero for infinite possibility. For simplicity's sake, let's call Kundalini Shakti the change and growth that Yogis' experience- the Yogic growth spurt. At the most advanced levels, Kundalini awakening culminates in some epiphany regarding life on planet Earth. The light of understanding begins to dawn in Yogis at the most primordial realms. Your understanding of life as we know it, will change and the practice of Yoga Nidra can facilitate that flash of insight.
A word of caution if you intend to read on......the concept that follows is a doozy. If your Yoga practice is working and you have created some physical space in your body, you have also created some space in your mind. There is some wiggle room now in your mind- you have an open mind and there is some space for the possibility of new wisdom. Clarity of vision is possible. For some, epiphanies are instantaneous, but for most of us, it is necessary to chew on new ideas for some time to let the new information germinate in the psyche. The seed is planted and some gestation period is required before the birth of a new vision is possible.
The chanting of the Om is the summation of 4 distinct sounds. The A sound to begin, the O sound next, followed by the Mmm and completed with the sound of silence. There are 4 possible states of consciousness and they are intertwined with the sounds of Om. The first sound, the A sound, corresponds to the first possible state of consciousness, the waking state. We are all familiar with the waking state, in fact Joseph Campbell says that western culture has an unhealthy attachment to waking state- we give it top priority in this culture. The second state of consciousness is the dream state which corresponds to the O sound. The dream state is interesting- we find ourselves in crazy situations with "other people", but when we wake up, we find that those "other people" were really us- they were a creation and a projection of our own minds. The drama, fear, heartache or romance of the dream state were not "real" either- they were also a creation and projection of our own mind. The next possible state of consciousness is the deep, dreamless sleep state which is connected to the Mmm sound. We know we have visited this state when we awaken refreshed and science and medicine tell us that humans will go insane when they are deprived of this nourishing state for too long. The deep, dreamless state is perhaps the state that is most accurate and "real" according to Yogic and Tantric tradition. It is in this state that we return to our Source, the vast expanse of Pure Consciousness that we are. This state is absolutely nourishing and revitalizing, which is why we need it so much and feel better when we have experienced it. The nature of that state is Truth which never changes, consciousness that is aware of itself and bliss (Sat-Chit-Ananda). The fourth possible state of consciousness which is connected to the sound of silence that follows the Om is the state that Yogis aspire to- the transcendant state- the possibility of waking up from waking state on the Earthly plane- experiencing Yoga while living life- Heaven on Earth- the state of Grace and the state of Communion. The Baghavad Gita teaches us "Yogastha Kurukarmani." Established in Yoga, perform action. Life is infinitely more joyful when we perform our duties and obligations on Earth, while in that state of communion with Pure Consciousness, with some connection to that default state of bliss. The flash of understanding that becomes possible when Kundalini Shakti is awakened from Her slumber is that waking state and dream state are the same. In both states there are stories- stories of drama, joy, gain, loss, redemption, romance, etc with "other people" that are merely creations and projections of our own minds- these other people are extensions of us, part of us that we choose to see as separate for right now. In both states there is this huge sigh of relief when we awaken, this thought of how it seemed so real then, but in the light of day, or understanding, we know it as temporary. The clarity of this new understanding brings comfort to the Yogi. This epiphany always goes hand in hand with the alleviation of suffering which is why any master who has seen this vision later teaches it to others as the path of salvation.
Your holiness is your salvation.
Rolf Gates
Mythology is a public dream and dreams are personal mythologies.
Joseph Campbell
In Yogic Sleep meditation, the Yogi practices the deep, dreamless sleep state with the waking state in order to get a glimpse of the transcendant state.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Core Work: Journey to the Moola

All this week in the studio we will be working with the vast area in the body that we call the core. This area includes the pelvic floor muscle group, lower abdominal muscles, upper abdominal muscles, the hip flexors and the diaphragm. Tone in the core- a perfect combination of suppleness and strength- is an accurate indicator of overall fitness and health. If you are strong, your core is strong. If your core is strong, you are strong. 70% of the immune system is in the core, so working with the core is also a great way to keep the immune system functioning efficiently. The tone of the pelvic floor directly affects the alignment of the spine. When the pelvic floor is weak there is a wide range sagging effect and prolapse of the spinal column as well as organs and glands in the trunk of the body. Keeping the pelvic floor healthy holds the spine in optimal alignment and repositions organs and glands back to healthier locations in the body. The sciences of Ayurveda and Chinese medicine teach us that it is possible to stimulate every energy line in the body by working in the pelvic floor so through the pranic system, we send healing energy to every nook and cranny of the body when we engage the pelvic floor.
Working with the core prepares us for the advanced techniques of Moola Bandha and Uddiyana Bandha- the root lock and belly lock respectively. These techniques were kept top secret for thousands of years. One would need to travel to remote locations on the globe and study with a master in order to receive these teachings. Yet now, both of these techniques are commonly taught in many traditions of Yoga to even brand new students. There are no mistakes, obviously the world is now ready for moola bandha, but I think it is necessary to impart these teachings with a warning statement. Both of these techniques are absolutely empowering because they initiate the Yogic growth spurt- the awakening of Kundalini Shakti. In the same way that one would not dam a river without first knowing what to do with the energy created, it is necessary to make sure we are prepared for the energy awakened by these techniques and to be very mindful of the actions we perform. Tantra does not have a concept of sin in the way most westerners are familiar with, rather there is the concept of karma- cause and effect. There are actions that create beneficial results and there are actions that create suffering. If we practice moola bandha and we are a liar, we become a very good liar. If we practice moola bandha and we are a thief, we become a very good thief. Techniques this powerful need to be practiced with reverence.

For kundalini to rise, the body must be able to cope with its force and the nervous system must be made strong, healthy and mature. This is attained through Yogic practice. When preparations are complete, kundalini will rise spontaneously of its own accord, liberating and expanding the consciousness. When you awakened your kundalini you stand of the threshold of infinity
Moola Bandha The Master Key

This mechanism, known as kundalini, is the real cause of all genuine spiritual phenomena, the biological basis of evolution and development of personality, the secret origin of all esoteric and occult doctrines, the master key to the unsolved mystery of creation, the inexhaustible source of philosophy, art and science and the fountainhead of all religions past, present and future.
Kundalini: The Evolutionary Energy in Man

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Memorial Day Holiday Schedule

Heads up for Memorial Day weekend:

Regular Schedule remains the same except:
Monday, May 31: 9:05 am Class ONLY

Have a great holiday weekend!
Bliss Yoga Shala

Friday, April 23, 2010

You and Your Heart

You and your heart shouldn't be so far apart...
Jack Johnson
I love to encourage students to set 2 intentions when they begin a Yoga practice. The first intention is concrete and timely- the honest reason why you walked into a Yoga class- a friend invited you, you are going through a stressful time in life, you want to lose weight, tone up, etc. This bhavana is easy. For the next intention we need to get loftier and more expansive. Allow yourself to explore the world of magic and fantasy. What is the secret desire of the spiritual heart?
Joseph Campbell calls the divine the Great Mystery. The spiritual heart is the part of us that is most connected to the Great Mystery. Throw practicality and logic out of the window. If you could move heaven and earth with your thoughts and your desires, what would the spiritual heart fancy? Would you like to fly? Would you like to know the time of your death? Would you like to see all of your past lives? Would you like the strength of an elephant? Would you like to know all there is to know and have the answer to every question revealed to you? The recipes for all of these siddhis, psychic powers, and more are written in the Yoga sutras. The way to mystery and magic and the path to the world of what we call impossible is the science of Yoga. Those things that we call miracles now are those events that science will explain in the future.
Of course this path begins with the first step and the acquisition of power is progressive and gradual. Maybe we start with those things that seem impossible right now......the ability to overcome anger, the ability to love unconditionally, the ability to do what we love for a living, to know absolute abundance, to become master over our senses and our emotions and maybe even to do a handstand.
Yoga makes that which seems impossible, possible, and with regular practice that which is now possible becomes easy.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

This week in the studio our focus is the Crown Chakra. The lesson of Sahasara is connection- your connection to the Earth, Bhumi Devi, to the mineral kingdom, the plant kingdom, other humans and animals on the planet and ultimately, to the divine. The path of connection, quantum entanglement, is a recipe for reliable happiness. We may think that the path of acquisition is the way to happiness- acquisition of power, friends, money, things and even the acquisition of health, but the end result of getting what we want is still feeling empty inside because what we really want is to be reunited with our Source, to remember who we are. Yogis still walk the path of acquisition, we still work to achieve material world goals, but we are open to the possibility of being happy right now, a reliable happiness that does not depend on external circumstance.

So tell me what you want, what you really, really want.....
world famous rishis, the Spice Girls

Friday, April 2, 2010

"You can't handle the truth!"

The Universe teaches me lessons like this: I hear, see or experience something that I find interesting. I make a note of it in my mind, I say hmm, and then I wait for the other parts of the lesson to unfold in countless, fascinating ways. The Universe knows now that I pay attention to signs. We have established, over the years, a viable method of communication.

Recently, I noticed in 2 people the interesting inability to hear stories of animal abuse. It is not that they simply do not like to hear those stories, who does?, it is that hearing those stories raises so much anxiety that there is the possibility of a panic attack coming on. A simple definition of the experience of a panic attack is when one is completely overwhelmed by their emotions. I am an animal lover myself, but I find it perplexing to not have the ability to process the emotions that arise from just hearing about real life. There is brutal suffering in this world, to be sure, but becoming paralyzed in the face of suffering is not helpful to either the observer or the situation. We need to find a way to go on- to serve, to love and to find peace and joy. Thinking about those 2 people made me think of that movie with Jack Nicholson where he growls, "You can't handle the truth!" Less than 3 days later, while watching television, I happen upon, you guessed it, that very movie, A Few Good Men! Now I know it's on like donkey kong- this is a full fledged lesson so I am really waiting and watching now.
The next part of the lesson, unfortunately, was me hearing about something that I did not want to hear about, something that was true but was a hard truth for me to hear and carry around. Immediately I felt compassion for people who cannot hear and handle the truth because now I was one of them.
Last week a shaman came to the shala for a workshop. Shamans are the medicine men and healers from indigenous traditions. I met with this shaman for a one on one "journey" as private sessions are called. As I sat holding a severed chicken foot in one hand and spoke to a man with a coyote pelt headdress (really), the conversation turned to what was happening for me right now. I spoke of the painful truth that I was carrying and I said fleetingly "ignorance is bliss." The shaman said, profoundly, that part of growing up is learning to hear the truth, to speak the truth, to recognize the truth and ultimately, to live the truth. No matter how painful the truth might be, if we want samadhi, union with the Divine, this is part of the path.

Once upon a time......

Yashoda, baby Lord Krishna's nanny, was watching the dark blue one play with some other children. One of the children lied and said that Krishna had eaten dirt. Yashoda said to Krishna harshly, Lord, please open your mouth. When baby Krishna opened his mouth, inside Yashoda saw the entire material Universe- stars, moons, planets, infinite space. She said, Lord, please close your mouth.

We all think we want to see God/Goddess, but the scriptures are full of stories about people who are offered just that and cannot handle the truth. Arjuna in the Bhagavad Gita sees the now grown Lord Krishna in all His fullness and he also asks for the vision to be taken away. Prajna, full understanding of the divine plan, is so unfamiliar to us, so immense that we need to prepare for more and more clarity of vision. Progressively, the light of understanding dawns and learning to live in harmony with truth is part of the quickening.

What is Sadhana?

A student recently spoke to me about Sadhana, the Yogic word for practice.

Tatra sthitau yatnah abhyasah.
Effort toward steadiness is practice.
Yoga Sutras 1.13
Everyone it seems, struggles with the "for a long time, without a break and in all earnestness" definition of a well grounded Yoga practice from Patanjali. But, the student asked, if a person chooses actions that are consistent with a spiritual practice and is making an effort to elevate their inner consciousness, isn't this also a practice?

In my opinion, while seeking to grow and to be a better person is good and positive, what separates this ambition from Sadhana or Abhyasah is the use of a system to reach that goal. Yogis use some system or systems like Tantra, Hatha Yoga, Raja Yoga, Karma Yoga, etc. and in addition to using a system, they also maintain some schedule with the system. A Yogi with a dedicated practice knows that they do this technique for 30 minutes every day and that technique 3 times per week- the work is not free form or just when we feel like it. Why do we practice this way? Because it works. Maintaining a practice schedule adds just a bit of austerity to the Yogi's life. The fire of Tapas is transformative and mighty powerful.
It is said that there are 2 ways to achieve the enlightened state: Practice and Grace. One way is through a system and a schedule and the other way is by Divine Grace- a boon or gift from the Universe.
I often think of my grandmother, Lois, as a Yogi without a Yogic practice. She is someone in my life that I have admired and tried to emulate. When you walked into her house, you felt loved. She was eternally cheerful, could tell a good story, loved to laugh, could cook up some amazing southern food, was an accomplished gardener and a natural healer. She would often do some calisthenics as she called them for exercise outside in the mornings. She had a long, happy marriage and produced 10 children and many grandchildren. She never went to church, but she was reverent and spiritual and tried to see the good in people. I happen to love stones and rocks. I actually see and feel the life force in them. I see them as stone "people". I learned to love stones from Lois. We often went on hikes with her and she always returned home with pockets and handfuls of natural treasures- rocks, flowers, Indian arrow heads, feathers, pine cones and often, produce from her large garden. The sacred objects were displayed over the sink on a sunny windowsill and the produce was gobbled up on the way home. She seemed to possess that state of contentment that I seek, yet, when I look for spiritual teachers, I specifically look for those who have accomplished the exalted state through a system so that they are able to teach the method for the path. One of my teachers says that practicing Yoga without a teacher is like building a house by yourself. It might be possible, but wouldn't it be more efficient to get some help from someone who has done it before?
On this path no effort is wasted,
no gain is ever reversed;
even a little of this practice
will shelter you from great sorrow.
Bhagavad Gita 2.40

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Easter Holiday Schedule

There are no changes to our schedule for this weekend so join us on Easter, Sunday, April 4 for these classes:

Free Form Vinyasa 8 am
Meditation 9:30 am
Peaceful Flow 11 am
Long, Slow and Deep 5 pm

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Be as little children.....

Be as little children...
How much fun are you to live with?
Dr. Phil
There are no accidents. This week in the studio we are focusing on 4th chakra, the heart center. The archetypal deity that governs the 4th chakra is Lord Krishna. Krishna energy is playful- His lesson is to remember to keep the innocence, curiosity and sense of wonder that children possess. The goal is to keep looking at the world with the eyes of a child our whole lives. Have fun! I was asked to facilitate a welcoming ceremony for the baby of my friends Tru and Lucius. I was delighted to discover that the puja was the very same weekend that we began our Krishna/ heart chakra work! Synchronicity is one of the organizing principles of the universe- we should expect meaningful coincidences to happen all the time. They let us know that we are not alone and that we are on the right path. Chaos theory is really not so chaotic and random.
Baby Vita is a baby born to a Yogic household and her Godparent or Guideparent is my friend Uma, another Yogini. The scriptures tell us that one delivered to the world with these conditions will be special. Vita is beautiful, smart, healthy, affluent and born to Yogis. The divine is obviously expecting great things from her to give her such an auspicious birth.
Sun, Moon, Stars, all you that move in the heavens, hear us!
Into your midst has come a new life!
Winds, Clouds, Rain, Mist, all you that move in the air, hear us!
Into your midst has come a new life!
Hills, Valleys, River, Lakes, Trees, Grasses, all you of the earth, hear us!
Into your midst has come a new life!
Birds, great and small, that fly in the air,
Animals, great and small, that dwell in the forest,
Insects that creep among the grasses and burrow in the ground, hear us!
Into your midst has come a new life!
All you of the heavens, all you of the air,
all you of the earth, hear us!
Into your midst has come a new life.
Make her path smooth.
Omaha Native American Blessing