Let’s All Be Dangerous Yogis

by Laura S
me-in-the-dark

It seems especially dark to me this winter as we move toward the Solstice. Others seem to agree; it comes up in conversation a lot lately. As I try to compose this, news of the fire in Oakland is almost more than I can even bear. I feel helpless and devastated when surrounded by such darkness. Words frustrate me. Even yoga frustrates me. No response seems quite right or like it’s anywhere near enough.

In this vast darkness, we need our gurus more than ever. Our teachers guide us, but they are also people capable of holding space for both the light and the dark. Pragmatically that ability is a lot harder than it sounds in poetic or symbolic terms. In the past, I’ve often interpreted the translation of guru to mean that the light illuminates the darkness. But this winter, I’m thinking about the light and the dark side by side instead.

In a recent NY Times article, “I Am a Dangerous Professor,” George Yancy discusses being put on the Professor Watchlist, a conservative website that targets specific teachers over the content of their courses. Reading Yancy’s words struck a nerve; our teachers are so vital to our survival, and it’s important to remember that the work they do on behalf of their students (us!) is not always easy or safe.

Yancy writes, “In my courses, which the watchlist would like to flag as “un-American” and as “leftist propaganda,” I refuse to entertain my students with mummified ideas and abstract forms of philosophical self-stimulation. What leaves their hands is always philosophically alive, vibrant and filled with urgency. I want them to engage in the process of freeing ideas, freeing their philosophical imaginations. I want them to lose sleep over the pain and suffering of so many lives that many of us deem disposable. I want them to become conceptually unhinged, to leave my classes discontented and maladjusted.”

I’m especially moved by the words “discontented” and “maladjusted.” Previously, these sensations were not necessarily ones that I invoked as a yoga teacher, or that I sought as a yoga student. Yet, I think we should, and I plan to start now. Our yoga practice should not help us sleep more soundly; indeed, it should cause us to lose sleep. We should feel unhinged!

Here is wisdom I’ve encountered in the last few days that has offered me some light AND kept me up at night:

Gandhi reminds me, “Those who say spirituality has nothing to do with politics do not know what spirituality really means.”

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichi reminds me, “Now is the time to refuse the blurring of memory…Now is the time to call things what they actually are, because language can illuminate truth as much as it can obfuscate it. Now is the time to forge new words…Now is the time to talk about what we are actually talking about…Now is the time to discard that carefulness that too closely resembles a lack of conviction.”

(I highly recommend her recent article in The New Yorker “Now is the Time to Talk About What We Are Actually Talking About.”)

Jack Kornfield reminds me, “You are not alone. You have generations of ancestors at your back. You have the blessing of interdependence and community. You have the great trees of the forest as steadfast allies. You have the turning of the seasons and the renewal of life as your music. You have the vast sky of emptiness to hold all things graciously.

You have been training for this for a long time. With practice you have learned to quiet the mind and open the heart. You have learned emptiness and interdependence. Now it is time to step forward, bringing your equanimity and courage, wisdom and compassion to the world.”

Pablo Das reminds me, “While non-reactive presence to what’s happening within you and around you is foundational, for me non-reactivity simply creates the conditions for a wise response. Non-reactivity is not the end game. Action is! Please don’t be another privileged person who thinks sitting with YOUR sadness is enough. It’s not!”

As sad as I’ve felt in recent weeks, thanks to my gurus, I’m reminded again and again that my individual sadness is not enough. The words and inspiration of my teachers calls me to take action, participate, and be vigilant.

There is a lot of noise to sift through out there. But our teachers are everywhere. We must listen to them, and we must use their guidance to harness our own courage and strength. Our yoga practice cannot just be a solitary pursuit. If we come to our mat only to feel better and only to address our individual needs, then we’re missing the profound and much larger impacts our practice can and should have. Each person’s Trikonasana looks different, feels different, and is a specific expression of who they are. So too, we can each step off our mat and take action in our own unique way. Let’s use our practice to be dangerous, discontented and maladjusted!

I’ll end with one last mantra, a reminder from Sri Rainer Maria Rilke: “Let this darkness be a bell tower, and you the bell.”

There are many fundraisers to support the victims and families of the Oakland fire, and here is one through the Gray Area Foundation for the Arts: Fire Relief Fund for Victims of Ghostship Oakland Fire.

Slow down and reconnect with your practice in a Lotus Basics class with Laura on Tuesday/Thursday mornings at 10:45am and Friday morning at 9am.

Look for an Absolute Beginners workshop in the new year on January 22!

Restorative Healing for Vata Season

by Genevieve McClendon

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“Life (Ayu) is the combination (samyoga) of body, senses, mind and reincarnating soul. Ayurveda is the most sacred science of life, beneficial to humans both in this world and the world beyond.”  -Charaka Samhita, Sutrasthana, I.42 -34

I was walking home from the Bart train station at 8:40pm, when I thought to myself: How did I do everything I did today, and I still have a 20 minute walk ahead of me? I started my day with my yoga practice, a morning appointment, taught three classes in the afternoon and evening, commuted on two trains, took two uber car rides and one bus. I also made time for breakfast and some small snacks along the way. I find a lot of us live the life of “checking off lists” and existing in “overdrive” or “overload.” So how can we make the time to be present with ourselves and others? How can we allow ourselves to be so “alive” that we seize the juiciness of every moment and live in wholeness with our mind, body, spirit? Doctors say chronic activation of stress response damages our system, causing high blood pressure and flows of stress hormones that continue throughout the day. Hence, why a lot of us don’t feel good, have a hard time sifting through emotions, or can’t find our zest for life. I believe if we help ourselves come into our own unique harmony, we can heal the world one person at a time. So, how can we learn to remove obstacles present in our daily lives, cultivate inner harmony, and harness healing power? One way is Ayurveda!

Ayurveda is the ancient science of self-healing, also known as “the Science of Life”. Yoga and Ayurveda are sister sciences that came together to bring natural balance to the mind, body and spirit over 5,000+ years ago in India. It is considered one the most remarkable holistic practices in healthcare. Ayurveda allows the knowledge and skill to create a specific dosha balancing yoga practice. It enables us to use food with awareness, and create a basic lifestyle plan.

Through the practice of Ayurveda and yoga we can empower ourselves in self-realization and self-healing by learning how to apply daily care to our own constitution and dosha. In Ayurveda it is believed we are derived from energy, light and matter. These three powers make up the three elements of the dosha’s: Kapha (earth/water), Pitta (fire), Vata (air). We each have unique portions of each dosha within our constitution. It is how we each manifest our prakriti or nature in the living world. Working with our doshas, we help heal and harmonize ourselves. The doshas are also marked as part of our seasons and times of year in Vedic knowledge.

At this time, we are living in the season of Fall which in Ayurveda is also known as Vata season. Vata dosha and season is predominately an energetic, active, creative frame of mind, always on the go energy. When Vata is out of balance we experience anxiety, fear of the future or what’s going to happen and we tend hold our breath. Not letting the Prana (breath/spirit) flow easily we jeopardize our life force. I believe because we all live in such a fast paced culture, we all experience Vata disorder, even year round. Because it is Fall, and most of us are experiencing fast movement and anxious minds with the election and holiday’s arriving, I want to offer you some Vata calming support. Creating grounded spaciousness allows us to breathe and touch our own inner self. With a few easy to do Restorative yoga poses you can rest the anxious Vata and feel lighter, more stable and peaceful. These two simple versions of Savasana definitely help me in my journey to stabilize my Vata dosha.

“Yoga and knowledge are the two methods for dissolving the disturbances of the mind. Yoga is control of the movements of the mind. Knowledge is clear observation of the them.” -Laghu Yoga Vasishta V.9.72

savasana-1
For this basic form of Savasana, all you need is a quite, warm, comfortable space. You will need a pillow to support your head, a pillow or rolled up blanket to support the back of your knees, a small towel or washcloth to place over your eyes and an extra blanket to make sure your hands and feet are warm. Set your timer for 15-20 minutes and lay down. Feel your breath gently move in and out, relaxing your mind into the back of your skull, releasing all your weight into the ground. To come out of pose, bend your knees slowly into your belly, roll onto your side, using your arms to set yourself up to sit gently.
savasana-2
This is an elevated Savasana with the support of a chair or couch. This is great for if you sit a lot at work or on an airplane or if you’re feeling anxious. This pose helps bring energy into your root chakra and feet, supporting and relaxing the lower back. Find a space that is quite, warm and comfortable with a soft chair or couch, a small towel or washcloth to place over your eyes and extra blankets to cover up your feet and hands. Lie on the ground with your back on a soft surface with your legs elevated and resting on the seat of a chair or couch. Make sure your shins are parallel to the ground. Set your timer. Allow your breath to softly move in and out, creating a longer exhale for a few breaths and then come back to your normal breath. To come out of pose, bend your knees slowly into your belly, roll onto your side, using your arms, sit yourself up slowly.

Genevieve is committed to serving and helping others come into their wholeness. She is a compassionate teacher that invites all her students to live their truth and celebrate who they are as they are. She is a passionate Reiki Master/Teacher. Genevieve teaches Restorative Yoga with Reiki at Laughing Lotus on Friday from 6:45-8:00pm and Sunday from 6:15-7:30. Her website is InLightandSoul.com.

The Spiritual IS Political

by Minerva Arias
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I’m a Vata, which means I’m in my head – a lot. When things don’t make sense, I grab a book and I throw on my spiritual tool belt and I pray, sing, dance or whatever else Spirit calls me to do. This past week, after the elections, as I laid in my hammock soaking up the sun, trying to hold space for the over-saturation of hate, confusion and chaos that was surrounding me, I reached for the Bhagavad Gita.

The Bhagavad Gita is a sacred Hindu text. For some who practice yoga in the west, it is a required text in teacher trainings and used as a guide in how us yoga teachers craft our classes and live our lives. A brief synopsis of this sacred ancient text – Arjuna is a warrior on the battlefield with Krishna as his charioteer. There’s an epic war about to go down and it’s up to Arjuna to go to war against his own cousins and uncles to protect and defend the sacred land. At first Arujna is like – no way Krishna, I can’t go to bat with my own family, I’d rather they kill me. And throughout the story, Krishna is educating Arujuna as to why it’s vital for him to follow his dharma (as a warrior to defeat his evil cousins).

Krishna drops gems like “Devote yourself to the disciplines of yoga, for yoga is skill in action” and “Strive constantly to serve the welfare of the world; by devotion to selfless work one attains the supreme goal of life. Do your work with the welfare of others always in mind.” And “The infinite joy of touching Brahman is easily attained by those who are free from the burden of evil and established within themselves. They see the Self in every creature and all creation in the Self. With consciousness unified through meditation, they see everything with an equal eye.”

As I was re-reading parts of the book, my natural Vata nature began to make infinite connections across philosophies, practices and our current reality. Darshana, the Sanksrit word for philosophy, literally means seeing. Ayurveda is a philosophy which allows physicians to see patients in the same way Nature sees them. Yoga is a philosophy that allows individuals to see themselves in their Divine Nature. The sages who codified these practices were called “Seers” because of their ability to perceive reality clearly.

Yoga gives us a tool belt to be able to sit with our own shadows, our own darkness and allows us to have revelation after revelation for our growth and spiritual r-evolution. It gives us a constant reminder of our Divine Spirit, our interconnectedness, our karma and our dharma. It brings us back into our physical bodies, our breath and our greatest super power – love.

Ayurveda, “the sister science” of Yoga, is the art and science of reminding us that we are the microcosm of the macrocosm and that our natural state of being is one of harmony, of living in unison with the rhythm of Mama Earth. It reminds us that everything we need, we already have inside and if we let our internal clocks mimic Mama Earths clocks, we should be good. “Spiritual health is a dynamic balance between a strongly integrated individual personality and the cosmic personality of Nature, a balance that is possible only so long as a being remembers its debt to Mother Nature.”

Here’s what else Ayurveda teaches us – there are layers to prevent us from getting sick and the body with its infinite wisdom tries to warn us before shit hits the fan. But lucky for us, our immune system and its intricate system is controlled by a single boss – ahamkara. Ahamkara constantly reminds every one of your cells of its identity and allegiance to the glorious entity known as you. Ahamkara is like our own personal Arjuna. Living inside with her own personal army, ready to serve and keep you aligned, safe and healthy.

Healthy in Sanskrit is Svastha. Sva = self and Stha = established in Self. So, Svastha, or to be healthy, means to be established in the Self – mind, body, spirit. And what did the Gita tell us about being established in Self? It said that we “see the Self in every creature and all creation in the Self.”

So this is why I always find it disturbing when one of two things happen – one: the physical yoga practice (‘asana’ – which is a pathway to getting us to be able to sit in meditation to reach these higher levels of our spiritual consciousness) is sold solely as a workout, stripped from the spiritual aspect of it and two: when people fail to see how the spiritual IS political.

If I am to be established in Self, then how do I do this while completely ignoring the ills of the world and all the suffering that surrounds me? If I am to strive to see everything through an equal eye – through a continual practice of mediation – how do I not take what I learn in this individual practice with me with every breath I take? If I am practicing yoga, ayurveda and reading these spiritual texts and yet only applying them to my own individual life, then I am just feeding my ego and not pushing myself into the uncomfortable spaces to have the necessary dialogues needed so that we ALL are established in Self?

It’s not a passive practice. It’s an active one. Being a peaceful warrior, a warrior of light, a Spiritual Warrior does not mean that we pretend that people aren’t suffering. It does not mean that we keep our eyes closed and avoid the uncomfortable conversations, confrontations and spaces. Everything about this practice teaches us the opposite. When we choose to not express what impacts us, when we choose to not listen to how and what deeply impacts others, when that expression is restricted, we lose our resonance and no longer vibrate in the chorus of creation. We become less alive, out of step and dissonant.

Ayurveda teaches us that the longer we stay dissonant and refuse to listen, the further we move from our alignment, and eventually our bodies will force us to listen by shutting down. Remember that the balance is possible only so long as we remember our debt to Mother Nature. So the more we refuse to listen and pay this debt, the louder Mother Nature will scream to wake us up into taking action to get back in formation! I don’t know if she can be any louder than she is right now.

The Spiritual IS Political and mama Earth is waiting for us.

Here are just a few ways to hold space for yourself and to show up for those most impacted by our violent political environment:

  • If the election results have left you utterly shocked and you’re just becoming aware of the many ways in which this country does not deem all of us equal or worthy, that’s ok. Recognize where you are and understand this isn’t a competition of whose grief weighs more. Welcome and now begin to unpack your old way of thinking that no longer serves. You can start with “Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack” by Peggy McIntosh. Begin to listen to the people who knew this was going to happen because it’s our every day reality. There are many of Black & Brown women writers who have been describing our reality for a long time.
    • Audre Lorde
    • bell hooks.
    • This bridge called my back: writings by radical women of color
    • Gloria Anzaldua
    • Assata Shakur
    • Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
    • Michelle Alexander – the New Jim Crow
    • And so many more
  • INTERSECTIONALITY – learn what this means and why it is vital and important in understanding our lived realities.
  • Join local organizations that are already doing the work to help dismantle systems, which literally kill and displace marginalized groups of people.
  • Find ways you can offer any resources you have to ease others every day struggles.
  • Have the difficult conversations with your loved ones – put that yoga practice to work!
  • Connect and learn from people in real life – not just on social media. Log off and tune in, in person, to the realities of not just your city, state and this country – but around the world, and begin to see the larger picture.
  • When it all feels overwhelming – go to yoga and go back to your breath. This being conscious thing is work. But it’s worth it. Remember we are all a Gift of Divinity.
  • Get Solar Panels! Shop local. Begin to think of ways you can live a minimalist lifestyle. Protect Mama Earth.
  • Join our 25-hour Yoga & Activism conference in January with Jasmine & crew.
  • Love harder. Love tenderly. Love fiercely.
  • Come chop it up with me at the studio (let’s chat) because I have way more ideas and words than I can fit on this blog post.

Minerva, a devoted yoga mat souljah, loves to lead folx back into their bodies, with their breath, to remember their Gift Of Divinity. She’s all about getting back to our roots – learn more at RootsHealing.org & join her in March for a beautiful trip to Cuba!

With the magic of music, asana, pranayama and meditation, Minerva’s classes are soulful, playful & makes you sweat – #coconutmagic Join her every Tuesday at noon for Soul Sweat, Tuesdays & Thursdays at 5:30pm for Happy Hour Flow, and Saturdays at 11:45am for a sweet Lotus Basic.
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Nourishing Our Ancestors and Ourselves

by Jasmine Tarkeshijasmine

Autumn is my favorite season and time of year. The glorious colors of the leaves changing, the wild movements of the skies, and the crispness in the air all have me so inspired and energized! Unfortunately, it’s also a time of getting run down, stressed out, and prone to disease. It’s a time of movement and change, a time to nourish our ancestors, as well as ourselves.

In Vedic wisdom, it’s said that if we want to be healthy and happy, we must honor our ancestors in order to free ourselves from our karmic pasts. We must nourish our ancestors through daily offerings so they may serve and support us. As the Great Ayurvedic Sage Maya Tiwari says: “At this significant time of year (Autumn) when ancestors are energetically open to receiving nourishment, we have an incredible chance to remember them, and in so doing, to free ourselves from ancestral karmas of grief, despair and disease.”

Creating an ancestral altar is a beautiful practice to reconnect to our roots and the universe, which connects us all. To start, place pictures of your ancestors or the country of their origin, along with your teachers, or anyone who has supported your growth. Make daily offerings of fruit, candles, incense or anything you know your ancestors loved! Offer their favorite food, drink or music and speak to them and ask for their guidance and strength. Another way to honor the ancestors, especially if you don’t know much about them, is to do service in homeless shelters, or senior homes, or serve in any way you can.

Autumn is also a time of self-nourishment, where if we forget to acknowledge and remember ourselves, we are most prone to dis-ease. In Ayurvedic Medicine, Yoga’s sister science of healing and living in harmony with nature, Fall is Vata season, ruled by the elements of air and ether. Vata is translated as “wind” or “that which moves,” and is characterized by the qualities of dryness, lightness, coldness, mobility and erratic energy. As we see these qualities manifesting outside with the drying leaves, cooler and fluctuating temperatures. and wind, we can see these qualities in ourselves too: dry lips, dry skin, dry nasal passages. We might also experience constipation, gas, bloating, weight loss, insomnia, disrupted sleep, cold hands and feet, sensitivity to cold, feeling restless, depleted, weak, forgetfulness, trouble concentrating, hyperactivity and excessive talking, nervousness, anxiety and fearfulness.

Here are a few Ayurvedic suggestions to balance the symptoms of Vata during fall, to enjoy the magic and richness the season has to offer, and to prepare for winter! Instead of thinking of them as a list of do’s and don’ts, think of them as making sacred offerings to honor and connect to yourself, just as you are also connecting to your ancestors.

1. Stress Less!
Ayurvedic medicine believes that stress can weaken your immune system, leaving you vulnerable to dis-ease. One of the best ways to balance Vata in the fall is to reduce stress through self-care. Create a daily routine, eat regular meals and make them nourishing, warming and grounding foods. Don’t take on too many projects at once. Prioritize what is most important, make lists, and give your self plenty of time to finish projects. Spend quality time with friends and family.

2. Sleep Deep!
Make sure to get plenty of sleep during Vata season, which strengthens the immune and nervous systems. Rise with the sun, but also set with the sun. You don’t need to go to sleep at 5 during the shorter days of fall, but try turning in and tuning in as the sun sets. Vata’s positive qualities are heightened during dawn and dusk. Spend time reading, writing, meditating. Find quiet time, while limiting internet and television, and try to sleep for eight hours.

3. Balancing Breath!
To reduce excess Vata and its symptoms, practice a deep, balancing, gentle breathing practice called Nadi Shodhana, or Alternate Nostril Breath. Place your right thumb loosely on your right nostril, and your right ringer on your left nostril. Inhale and exhale through both nostrils a few times slowly and the gently close off your left nostril and exhale through your right, inhale right, switch fingers and exhale left, inhale left switch and exhale right. This is one round, practice 9 -18 rounds in the morning or evening or both!

4. Nasal Nourishment!
The neti wash and nasya are two therapies that are great for the Vata dosha. The neti wash flushes out dust, bacteria, viruses, and excess mucus. Mix ¼ teaspoon of non-iodized salt into one cup of filtered, distilled, or pre-boiled warm water into a neti pot. Bend over a sink and insert the tip into your top nostril to form a tight seal. Tilt your head slightly to one side and let the saline pass through your nasal passages and out the lower nostril. Repeat two to three times on each side, gently blowing your nose to release mucus from the nasal passages. Most sinus problems originate with dry and irritated sinuses, Nasya is a therapy aimed at lubricating the sinuses so they are less reactive to dryness and airborne irritants. To try it, lie down on a sofa or bed and tilt your head back as far as you can. Drop two to four drops of oil in each nostril and sniff the oil into the sinuses.

5. Slow Flow!
Make sure that your yoga practice is nourishing, instead of fast and depleting. This will reduce stress and strengthen immunity. Slow down the flow and include more Yin and Restorative Yoga, and spend more time Savasana.

6. More Massage!
An Ayurvedic practice called abhyanga is a full-body hot oil massage, which you can practice yourself to reduces anxiety, stiffness, stress, and excess Vata. Use warm organic sesame oil in the fall, as its warming qualities counteract the season’s cold, dry nature. Massage into your whole body, but especially your feet, and everything is nourished through the ROOTS!

Jasmine Tarkeshi is the Co-Founder of Laughing Lotus Yoga Centers in NYC and SF and is a renowned teacher and devoted student of Yoga’s ancient and transformative teachings and practices. She has been teaching for 19 years worldwide with the deepest faith in every being’s innate ability to awaken to their truest Selves and become true agents for change and healing our world. She teaches open classes weekly.

With a Mane Like Medusa

by Robin Wilner

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With my curly dark brown hair askew in the mornings, my big brother once proclaimed, “You look like Medusa!” As avid lovers of Greek mythology and the ‘80s film Clash of the Titans, I knew he wasn’t stroking my ego. Medusa was a cruel and ugly monster, with greenish skin, bloodshot eyes and a ferocious stare that turned all who looked upon her into stone. She also had a den of venomous snakes in place of hair. Thanks, big Bro.

But what most may not know is the story of who she was prior to this curse. The only mortal of three sisters, Medusa was once a beautiful, fair-skinned priestess to the Goddess Athena, with wavy golden locks and kind, loving eyes. She’d taken a vow of lifetime celibacy, but like many young adults, soon found herself infatuated with a lover (Poseidon), and chose to marry him rather than honor her promise. As punishment, Athena transformed Medusa into a repulsive creature, which caused the world to detest and reject her until she was forced to flee from her home to live out her cursed existence in solitude. She was eventually hunted and beheaded by the great warrior, Perseus.

Sure, my brother was making fun in the way that ignorant youngsters often do. My messy, seemingly unattractive hair reminded him of the evil snake monsteress. This myth has an interesting twist, however, when looked upon through a more mature lens. We often forget that a promise is not to be broken, and that there are consequences for being dishonorable. There are also times when we exhibit ugliness (in the non-physical sense) and feel no repercussions; and yet, society tends to perceive physical beauty as acceptable and unattractiveness as dangerous or threatening – symbolic by how Medusa was first shunned by the world and her cursed gaze would turn onlookers to stone if they looked straight into her eyes. We often don’t want others to see us angry, frustrated, sad or hurt; we’d rather they turn away or only engage with the façade of happiness and contentment that we create instead. And Medusa’s struggle was to maintain her authentic sense of identity despite her outward appearance, which she eventually succumbed to in the ultimate form of suffering.

Myths are often stories that reveal our humanity, that help us to see our habitually destructive patterns. We’re encouraged to generate more tapas – the fire we burn throughout the Yoga practice that helps to free us from these damaging behaviors. Each sacred tale bathed in tradition goes even a step further, helping to make sense of the human experience by answering timeless questions that may eventually lead us towards a richer life: Who am I? What is my purpose? How do I want to be in the world? When connected through the common human experience, regardless of ethical or cultural differences, we can even appreciate the humanity in all beings.

While I may not have realized this initially as a youngster, Medusa was as multi-layered as any other mortal. She made poor decisions without weighing the consequences, attached her sense of Self to outward appearance and the external world, and was doomed to suffer for the rest of her shortened life. Truthfully, we all start out just like Medusa, but then the practice of Yoga takes effect in such profound ways. With time, we come to realize that a pure state of Joy is only attainable when we look deeply within ourselves. The internal world must be in harmony in order to find true peace, and no amount of external pleasure or acceptance will satisfy our desire for internal tranquility. It’s completely up to us to seek the truth of our Divine nature in order to lessen the suffering.

Formerly a Broadway dancer/singer/actress in NYC, Robin mixes her love of movement, chanting, energetic healing and yoga philosophy into all her teachings. She believes that human potential is infinite and that the path to joy starts with mindfulness and self-transformation. Known for her inspiring sequences, sense of humor, and juicy hands-on assists, Robin aims to guide students through a rich and heartfelt experience that maximizes their potential. She is also a Holistic Nutritionist. www.nutritiousyogini.com

Classes: Mondays 9am & 12pm, Wednesdays 9am, Fridays 12pm & 5:30pm or Sundays at 10am.

The Cycles of Creativity

by Valerie Starr

valerieThe story of creation(s) in Hindu Mythology starts as so many other stories of creation do, and because these stories have mostly been carried through word of mouth, there are many interpretations. This story, in particular, starts in the complete dark and mysterious nothingness. No space, no earth, no heaven, no hell, no place in between only darkness….darkness beyond darkness.

 In this darkness, a wave washed up onto the shore of nothingness carrying a large snake. The snake was coiled up with Lord Vishnu sleeping and dreaming so soundly. Out of the depths of darkness a vibration started to take shape and got louder and louder, rumbling into what eventually formed the sound of OM. As Vishnu awoke from dreaming, he noticed a lotus flower springing from his navel. The flower started to blossom open, and Lord Brahma emerged out of the petals of the lotus. Brahma then began to create the world….Only to have Shiva destroy it. These three gods, known as the Trimurti (meaning having three forms), are essential for the process of creation. This cycle happens over and over again. Creation – Balance – Destruction.
 
This cycle is generally how the creative process starts for most of us…in darkness. When we close our eyes, something begins to stir, a wave of inspiration might wash up into our minds, we bring whatever that is inside of us outside (if we are lucky and determined), and then it gets washed away making space for the next idea or inspiration.
 
I find that my most creative time of day is early. Before the sun rises in darkness, before everyone else in my household is awake. There is a soft vibration and fresh mystery to the day and what it will hold. The first thing I do when I wake up is turn on the teakettle and go to my mat, every single day. This is my space and time to create; teaching is my biggest form of creativity right now. There is something so palpable about moving and breathing in darkness; there are no distractions for the mind to get wrapped up in, and so I am moving with absolute clarity of mind. My body is in a state that knows where it needs to move. The tensions that are built up are very present and speaking to me…. this is where I want to go. Sometimes in my dreams I will be teaching or practicing a class. If that happens, I bring my dream onto the mat because somewhere in my deep subconscious this movement needs to be had and experienced from out of the dream world and into the material world. I find many parallels to my process of creation and the Hindu myth of creation.
 
I have been drawing up a lot of inspiration from Elizabeth Gilbert in her newest book Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear. She has a keen way of describing how ideas have the ability to find us if we are willing and open to them. If not, they go back into the ether to land into the minds of someone else that is open. 
 
“I believe that our planet is inhabited not only by animals and plants and bacteria and viruses, but also by ideas. Ideas are a disembodied, energetic life-form. They are completely separate from us, but capable of interacting with us—albeit strangely. Ideas have no material body, but they do have consciousness, and they most certainly have will. Ideas are driven by a single impulse: to be made manifest. And the only way an idea can be made manifest in our world is through collaboration with a human partner. It is only through a human’s efforts that an idea can be escorted out of the ether and into the realm of the actual.” 

So I ask, what do you want to bring forth from inside and out into the world? What is holding you back or what do you need to release in order to move forward? And how can you sustain it? 

The Mythology and Yoga of Harry Potter

by Erica Martin

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“We’ve all got both light and dark inside us. What matters is the part we choose to act on. That’s who we really are.”

– Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

I remember the moment when I found the yoga in Harry Potter. As an adult, I decided to reread the series of books that I had read on loop as a child. I thumbed through the familiar, dog-eared and chocolate stained pages, and a great sense of remembering washed over me – a remembering much deeper than the narrative itself.

Ultimately, Harry’s story is the story of all of us, realizing on one hand our latent magical abilities, and on the other the darkness that resides within. In the end, Harry is called upon to recognize this duality and release his attachment to this great struggle in order to move past it. If that’s not yoga, I don’t know what is! In this practice we are constantly dancing between opposites; lightness and darkness, sukha and dukkha, adho mukha and urdhva mukha. Our great teachings hold that we observe these binaries, yet find a seat in between them, neither running away from one nor towards the other. We bow to the light within each of us, but also recognize the darkness, and our ability to chose between the two.

This is not a theme exclusive to Harry Potter and the yogic tradition, but one we see playing out over and over again through mythological stories across cultures and religious traditions. From the great Hindu tradition the beautiful goddess, Lakshmi, when examined closely, turns into the great and fearsome destroyer, Kali. In turn, one who is willing to embrace Kali’s darkness, and look at her in the face lovingly, will have her transform into Lakshmi. In essence, they are two sides of the same coin, and the devotee who recognizes them both receives their full delight and love. (It is important to note that the intersection of myth and religion is a complicated one! All religious traditions have mythological stories that are sacred and communicate profound truths. I share this example here in acknowledgement of the divinity of both Kali and Lakshmi and their importance in a religion and culture that is not my own).

This is the great power of myth – to take a truly universal human experience and try to make sense of it through fantastical yet utterly human stories. The great mythologist, Joseph Campbell, notes that one of the most important functions of mythology is, “to foster the centering and unfolding of the individual in integrity in accord with himself (the microcosm), his culture (the mesocosm), the universe (the macrocosm), and that awesome ultimate mystery which is both beyond and within himself and all things.”

This is the stuff of great storytelling. From Harry Potter to Voldemort, from Lakshmi to Kali, the great dance between lightness and darkness is happening within us all.

Erica teaches at 7:00 AM on Tuesday mornings and 8:15 PM on Thursday and Friday nights. When she is not at the Lotus she can be found cuddling her puppy or sharing yoga practices with Bay Area educators through her non-profit Breathe For Change.