How to Love Fear

by Sonya Genel

If you are like most people then you don’t like to feel fear, anxiety, or sadness. But what if there is nothing wrong with having these feelings? What if these feelings are actually the keys to your most radical freedom and happiness? There is no way out, but there is a way through! It is a difficult way, but it is also indescribably beautiful, and well worth the walk.

There was a time in my life where I felt like a failure if I wasn’t happy, energetic, and productive constantly. I realize now that it is ridiculous to expect such an existence, and in fact, it would be boring even if it could be attained. The truth is we need our lows just as much as we need our highs. We need to contract before we expand. We need to die before we can be re-born. We need contrast and texture in our lives. It is the fertile ground from which our souls can blossom. And yet simply Sonya Genel knowing the hidden value of difficult emotions is not enough. Many people, myself included, have struggled with the reality of actually encountering and transmuting them.

Enter: Yoga.

The practices of yoga have risen up to support me in the most difficult moments of my life. I am deeply grateful for the teachers and for the mysterious turns of fate which brought me to yoga. I am honored now to serve as a teacher and guide for others today. Yogic practices give us very real tools for navigating the inner landscape of our consciousness. This body and mind doesn’t come with a driver’s manual, and many of us get through life by coping, not by thriving. Yoga connects us to a greater sense of self, aligns us with our natural rhythms, and gives us the strength and courage to move through our most frightening inner shadows.

“The cave you fear to enter holds the treasure you seek.”
~Joseph Campbell

In the very center of our pain is the key to our liberation. If we listen carefully and patiently to our difficult emotions, we will recognize them as allies on the spiritual path.

The Wisdom Voice Inside:

Screen Shot 2016-08-02 at 11.13.50 AMLet’s take for example, the difficult emotion of anxiety. Who likes to feel anxiety?? Not me! But try this… think of anxiety as a crying baby, and approach it with patience and love, rather than shame or anger. Listen to it, and as the crying slows down, the anxiety reveals an important message. The first time I heard the wise voice of my anxiety was in meditation. Instead of running around trying to fix my external life in a hopeless effort to calm my fears, I finally just sat down and began to meditate. And then my anxiety said this to me: “the earth is calling you to come down”. My eyes popped open in astonishment. Who said that? The message rang clear and true like a voice from heaven. I went outside and laid belly down on the earth. I breathed in the smell of dirt and grass. I allowed my bones to be heavy. A flood of connection and relief washed over me. I could once again feel my place in the family of all things. I knew what i had to do, and my anxiety lifted with a gentle sweetness.

What I learned is how to move energy through my subtle and physical body. When all your energy is in your head, your mind and emotions spin to the point of exhaustion. This leads us to feeling scattered, disconnected, restless, tired… The sense of anxiety which occurs in this state, is actually your body calling you to come home. When you feel anxious it means you quite literally need to ground! Getting into your body by connecting with the breath is an easy and extremely powerful way to “come down to earth”. Slow mindful breath soothes the mind and allows the parasympathetic nervous system to turn on. It is in this space that all deep healing and restoration happen. But how would we ever enter this state if their was nothing calling us down?

Thank you, anxiety. I promise to always honor you and all my feelings.

Fear becomes an indispensable friend who tells us to pay attention. Sadness teaches us about compassion. Worry shows us where we are leaking energy. Envy reminds us to stop giving away our power. Depression may just be asking us to grieve or process and unfelt loss. There is great wisdom in your shadows. Yoga can help you uncover it.

This post originally appeared on Sonya Genel’s personal website. 

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Sonya Genel, ERYT500, joyfully embraces the power of yoga not only to heal and transform the body but also to heighten human consciousness and to create a radiant life. In her classes, Sonya weaves precise anatomical alignment with flowing movement. Always approaching her students with authenticity and humor. Sonya’s intention is to hold space for a direct embodied connection with Spirit. When she is not teaching yoga, Sonya can often be found drawing or painting. As an artist, she notices the profound effects yoga has on her creativity, and she has dedicated herself to enthusiastically guiding others toward enhancing their own unique life path through yoga.

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The Collective Tarot: Six of Wands

“The more pressing question is, Where will you go with your new set of wings?”

From the Wild Unknown Tarot

Rise up and take flight, people! Now is the time to step into your truest self and leave behind the tough bits that got you here. Let this be our mantra for the week: May I be winged and soar.

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Art as Meditation

What began as a project to free the mind from its artistic block has come to be like an ongoing meditation. After many years of commercial art, my artistic process had become so gummed up with the idea of what people might BUY that I felt incapable of creating from the heart. I had to find a way to switch gears. A friend had returned some art supplies I once gave to him, many years ago, and I decided I would use what I had and do a little watercolor on this attractive block of paper he had given me.

IMG_5557My premise was that I could do nothing “wrong” and that I would just continue to layer and layer watercolor and ink until something beautiful or meaningful happened.

At some point in the process, I started some canvases that were like little studies, with blobs of watercolor that I could draw on top of. I delved into circular patterns, triangles, moon phases. It turned out to be so fun that I plucked a stack of nice paper from my stash and just let the colors melt together in fascinating circles on small pieces of paper.

Water – color – drying. Lots of papers lying next to each other on my art table. It was very therapeutic.

IMG_5569IMG_5591After some overnight drying, I could draw on top of them and little mandalas came pouring out. I would draw a bit, switch to a new one, let it simmer, walk away, come back later. I often try not to think about the patterns that I am creating, I just let them evolve over time and flow from another place in my Self, not my thinking brain. Some are inspired by specific ideas, like Ayurveda or elements in various systems of belief. The process is very freeing – like taking a hike outside with the wind blowing through the trees and whispering in your ear.

IMG_5562After an inspired framing idea, they felt ready to share with the world. You can see these tiny treasures in person too — they have a home on the walls of Namaste Berkeley. Come in to take a peek or take one home for your own altar. Focus your mind on the center and let it spill outward. They are full of love and a symbol of the freedom we all deserve.

 

 

 

 

10423645_10152253194114051_3455534993665733593_nHelene Cotton is Namaste’s Creative Director, responsible for all of our beautiful graphic design and all three Namaste boutiques. Helene is an integral member on the Namaste team and one of our all time favorite humans.

Interested in learning more about Helene? Check out her amazing website http://helenecotton.com/.

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Maternal Lineage Meditation

Maternal Lineage Meditation

This body-mind meditation is part restorative yoga posture/part guided meditation, a whole body offering to your lineage of maternal ancestors, and an embodied acknowledgement of the earth beneath you that holds you up.  This meditation was inspired from the wise words of my doula in a moment of birthing my son where I felt I had no reserves left to go on.  She came close to me, placed her hand over mine, looked me in the eyes and said:

“I need you to dig down deep and feel all the women who have done this before you.  I need you to feel their strength rooting you down and holding you up.”

Those words nourished my soul with the last drops of energy I needed to move forward in my labor.  And I often think of all the mothers before me, who have shared in this path of motherhood, when I am holding my son on one hip, tired at the end of the day.

About Lily Dwyer-Begg

Though she has had a committed practice since 2000, Lily’s most profound, direct, earthy, transcendent, and soul-altering experience of yoga in her lifetime was giving birth to her son Blaise in 2013. Lily has taught yoga since 2005 in Berkeley, CA; Berlin, Germany; and Baltimore, Maryland. Her work has brought her to work with hundreds of pregnant and postpartum mothers, in yoga studios internationally, with an NBA basketball team, an NCAA diving team, and to homeless women and children. Lily studied with Shiva Rea, Ana Forrest, Don and Amba Stapleton, David Moreno, yoga for scoliosis with Elise Browning Miller, Ayurveda with Kameko Shibata, Prenatal yoga with Marisa Toriggino, and Yoga for the Female Pelvic Floor with Leslie Howard.

Her approach to Prenatal Yoga is a signature balance of precise alignment based posture, slow flow, uplifting community building, and humble acknowledgement of the sacred inner strength, boundless love, and liberated consciousness within all mothers every step of their own motherhood journey no matter what shape it takes. She currently makes her home in Baltimore with her husband, Aaron and son, Blaise where she is the director of the YogaWorks Baltimore Prenatal Yoga Teacher Training.

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Zen Mind-Beginner’s Mind

ZEN MIND – BEGINNER’S MIND

by Vlad Moskovski

“In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s there are few.”

–Shunryu Suzuki (Founder of SF Zen Center)

I love this quote because it reminds me that the mind is the filter through which we see the world around us. What Suzuki meant by “beginner’s mind” is that when when we look at the world with fresh eyes, there is a newness and vividness to what we see that allows our minds to be open to new possibilities.

When we take things for granted, when we stop seeing with fresh eyes, the world around begins to get stale. Old and uninteresting. Beginner’s mind is a way of thinking and being in the world that can re-kindle the freshness and newness that makes everything around us sparkle with vibrancy. When we see the world with beginner’s mind, we become inspired, energized, and excited.

The first step is to engage in a simple thought. Try saying these words to yourself, “I don’t know, but I am curious.” Repeat several times and notice how it feels to be in that place of not knowing but openness.

Now, use the trigger question “What is happening right now?” to uncover how you are blocking yourself and what obstacles stand in the way from seeing the world with fresh new eyes. Take a few moments to either note silently to yourself or to write down everything that you can perceive which includes what you are seeing, hearing, tasting, touching, smelling, thinking, and feeling.

Try this exercise in different settings throughout the day to start to develop your beginner’s mind muscles. After all, when you change the way you see, the things you are looking at also change!

For more inspiration, watch Vlad’s recent video, “Waking Up”  

This post was originally published by Vlad Moskovski on his blog. You can gain more wisdom from Vlad in his upcoming workshop at Namaste Berkeley, Mindful Meditation: Guidance for Daily Living. Sign up for the workshop here.

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The Path to Happiness

General Vivek Murthy, the US Surgeon General says that there is one factor that leads to health and success in life – happiness.  He defines happiness not as hedonistic pleasure, but as emotional well-being that comes from fulfillment, social connection and love. He says that “happiness is protective,” and reduces our risk of illness and death from illness if we do become sick. Further, our happiness is not due to external factors in life, but from our own internal response to life events and circumstances.  Scientific research shows that this state of emotional well-being can be cultivated by practicing gratitude, kindness, exercise, meditation and social connection. These simple practices lead to a healthier and stronger world.  

The Buddha taught these very same principles 2,000 years ago. Our own well-being and ease arises from how we respond to the ups and downs of life. He taught gratitude as one of the paramis – a “perfection” of the heart. Kindness is considered to be at the pinnacle of human development.  Meditation teaches us to work with our minds.  Community is a sanctuary and refuge in this life.  

These days you can find mindfulness in many settings such as the workplace or a hospital with no mention of the Buddha who was the original teacher of mindfulness.  In large part this is because research has shown the effectiveness of meditation.  Yet many of us still don’t understand what is meant by mindfulness meditation and we feel that we can’t do it because of some perceived fault such as impatience. Mindfulness meditation is not about coming to a kind of blank thoughtless state – in actuality, it is not about coming into any particular state at all.  Mindfulness meditation is way of observing and experiencing moment by moment whatever is arising.  Mindfulness meditation allows us to practice non-contentiousness with everything that arises during the meditation including impatience, grief or peace. We practice not judging whatever comes and cultivate the habit of non – reactivity. When the mind is clear and free then wisdom and intuition arise naturally. The capacity to respond rather than react to whatever we may meet in daily life grows through practicing doing this while meditating.  We create more peace and less suffering.  We learn, as General Murthy says, our well-being is not due to external circumstance, but to our response. Meditation gives us a chance to practice responding with wisdom.

The Buddha taught community as a refuge in this life and recommended that we surround ourselves with others that are committed to waking up.  Research shows that we are deeply influenced by the people around us, our community. In the same vein, General Murthy also recommends social connection for happiness.  

Want to dive deeper? Join Ashley Sharp for a deeper look into yoga, meditation and mindfulness in a 10-month Yoga and Dharma immersion combining exercise (yoga asana), meditation and social connection in one program.  This program is a deep immersion into the cultivation of happiness and emotional being through the ancient teachings of both yoga and meditation. Learn about the many forms of meditation and which types work best for your mind. Practice yoga asana, breathing exercises and sacred mantra.  Do what needs to be done to cultivate peace and create a better world for us all…

Learn more about our Yoga and Dharma 65 Immersion with Ashley Sharp!

 

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Pranayama with Nubia Teixeira plus a Practice Recording

As we each develop and go deeper into our yoga practice we also begin to deepen our understanding of the connection between the breath and the body as well. This connection is absolutely fundamental to our ability to fully practice the yoga poses or Asana to their full potential and experience the most profound benefits. Pranayama may feel like a very advanced concept but fortunately Nubia Teixeira, one of our core teachers and the head of our Teacher Training at Namaste, is able to dissect and break down the meaning and uses for pranayama in our lives in a clear and useful way. Read on for Nubia’s insights on Pranayama and a practice exercise to begin your exploration:

nataraja

*Excerpts adapted from the Namaste Yoga Teacher Training Manual

UNDERSTANDING PRANAYAMA 

The word Pranayama is derived from two Sanskrit terms: prana which means vital energy, the very seed of life within and without; and Ayama, which means to control, to expand, to lead beyond death. The intention of the practice of pranayama is to breathe in a conscious way, to honor the life force in our physical bodies, the grace that breathes us into existence.

Prana is mostly present in the air we breathe (Air – Vayu), the wind and the electrical currents, the light of the Sun (Fire- Agni), the water we drink (Water- Apas), the bodily fluids, the food we eat (Earth-prithvi) and the forces of gravity and magnetism. It is also in the sounds we vocalize (Ether-akasha) and in the sounds we hear.

Developing a relationship with the breath facilitates the withdrawing of the senses (pratyahara) and our communication with the inner world. A pranayama practice supports the awakening of the dormant sensations and memories within ourselves and also teaches us how to heal ourselves by allowing the vital energy to move to the places of joy and sorrow within us. The practice of Pranayama is one of the most effective ways of balancing the energy in the body, mind and emotions.


mudra

FINDING OUR TRUE PURPOSE with PRANAYAMA PRACTICE

Humans often are blinded by the ego and uncertain of their true purpose, which can lead to the separation of the self from others, from life and from Source. As a result, confusion rises, despair creeps in and inner wisdom, intuition and sense of Self is forgotten. In this place of loss and confusion, it becomes only natural to grasp on to the material world.

Human evolution is intrinsically connected to spiritual growth, and it is only through our bodies and actions in this world of things that we evolve. Our approach to living our lives, moment-by-moment, fully present, rests on our ability to surrender to the Divine.

This, in turn, ignites our innate Wisdom. Developing the capacity to follow the in and out breath without interfering in the flow, awakening faith and confidence.

This “Thread of Life” that we call breath, is a thread that connects us, each individual soul to the universal soul’s trajectory, beyond time and space, beyond body, beyond the beyond. It is a continuum, without beginning, middle or ending. Life after life. One Love through infinity.

Join Nubia for her upcoming Pranayama Series, a 4-week exploration focused on learning and implementing simple pranayama practices into your life. Learn More About Nubia Here.

Listen below to an introduction to Bhakti based meditation with an intro “Twameva” – sung by Jai Uttal

 

 

 

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Growing Generosity

Growing Generosity with Ashley Sharp

We can understand generosity in two ways.  First, generosity is a spontaneous expression of an open heart and mind.  It is not a matter of deciding to be generous, but instead it arises and simply flows out of us. When we are connected and wholehearted, generosity emerges without thought. Hafiz says:

“Even
After
All this time
The sun never says to the earth,
‘You owe me.’
Look
What happens
With a love like that
It lights the
Whole
Sky.”

The second way to investigate generosity is as a practice.  When we practice generosity we are, as Pema Chodron says, learning to let go.  Generosity helps us connect with others and it generates awareness of our interconnectedness with all beings. In order to give, someone must receive and in order to receive, someone must give.

Recent science coming out of the University of Notre Dame says that being generous causes a person to be happier and healthier.

The ancient teachings of the buddha speak of generosity as a treasure and recommend practicing acts of generosity as a basis of social harmony and personal virtue.

To cultivate generosity, take on the challenge of acting on every generous impulse you have for 24 hours. Give food away 4 times this month.  Give away $20 or $50 dollars to a stranger.

Generosity need not be limited to money and goods.  Practice generosity with your time or your receptivity.  Give a smile and a kind word.

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“In the end, though, maybe we must all give up trying to pay back the people in this world who sustain our lives. In the end, maybe it’s wiser to surrender before the miraculous scope of human generosity and to just keep saying thank you, forever and sincerely, for as long as we have voices.”  Elizabeth Gilbert

Join Ashley for her upcoming Growing Generosity workshop on Saturday, April 11 to continue this teaching.

Sign up here for Ashley’s workshop

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Sadhana: What 21, 30, and 40 Days of Yoga Will Reveal to You

photo 4By Judy Rukat

[Originally posted on www.DoYouYoga.com]
January marks the season for fresh starts and you may see Yoga Challenges sprouting up all around you: at gyms and yoga studios, in your workplace with additions of yoga (office yoga, chair yoga, meditation breaks), and a sea of yoga selfies flooding your social media.‘Tis the season to get back to the mat! Let’s face it, some days (or weeks, or eeek…MONTHS) yoga ranks low on the to-do list. Have you deemed 2015 the year to go for it and deepen your practice by making it to your mat more consistently over the course of the next few weeks?If so, read on to learn more about what you can expect (as well as making room for the unexpected) during this transformative process.

The Meaning of SADHANA

Put simply, sadhana means dedicated practice. Typically, a modern day sadhana lasts 21, 30, or 40 days and will inevitably shake you free from your usual routine by creating new healthier habits.

The radical shift in your schedule will pull you up and out of your yoga slump as you observe your practice climb to the top of your mountain heap of priorities.

Without a doubt, for the willing practitioner, participating in sadhana will, at a minimum, encourage accountability and ensure that by SIGNING UP, you will actually SHOW UP and have a greater likelihood of sticking with it in the days (and hopefully years) to follow.

21 Days Later: From Resistance to Receptivity

Resistance or the “negative” fear of change differs from the “positive” fear that protects and warns of pending danger. Like all creatures of habit, we get used to moving in one direction and eventually become complacent.

When a desire arises and inspires us to change course, resistance slams on the breaks and stops us in our tracks. Critical self-talk, doubt, and rationalizations attempt to persuade us into continuing on our usual travels even when the path no longer supports our spiritual growth.

Receptivity, on the other hand, allows us to navigate life’s windy roads full of scary twists and uncertain turns. You will certainly confront the stubborn roadblocks of resistance that tend to get in your way during the first 21 days of your sadhana. You may even consider quitting.

If you can stick through it, you will discover that you have developed a calminner “knowing” that allows you to receive life as it comes your way and handle those difficult transitions with grace.

30 Days Later: From Grief to Gratitude

There is necessary grief which is part of the healing process when recovering from a loss, and then, there is the lingering grief wrought with shame and regret for the things we cannot go back in time to change.

This second type of grief can paralyze and blind us from seeing anything beyond our identities, stories, and personal histories. Gratitude, however, grants you permission to bow to the past, honor the lessons learned, and release it once and for all.

Practice is repetition, and showing up for 30 days requires enormous patience to overcome monotony and wake up to the universe of subtleties going on during a meditation, asana, and pranayama practice.

From the outside view the practice “appears” the same, but indeed, your internal gaze or “perspective” has shifted and in that way no two practices are ever the same. Wallowing in past failures creates expectations, and so does reveling in the nostalgia of past successes.

Gratitude reveals the new beginning in each moment and makes the tiny details as well as those lightbulb “AHA” moments of revelation visible. These moments keep a yogi coming back to the mat everyday!

40 Days Later: From Strength to Surrender

We all strive to increase strength and flexibility through yoga, and those noble goals certainly benefit the muscular, cardiovascular, and skeletal systems of the body, not to mention decrease stress hormones while increasing energy levels.

However, as you progress towards the 40-day mark of regular practice, you will learn understand what “muscling” through a pose or asana sequence means, and notice that even during a challenging moment, you will use less and less mental and physical exertion.

The term “samadhi” means meditating through movement, and it occurs when you can let go and trust the body to function and perform at optimal levels of efficiency with the least amount of energy expenditure.

Nevertheless, surrendering does not mean giving up,avoiding challenges, or taking the easy route. In order to truly surrender, you must move with and not against your nature.

Sharon Gannon says it best, “You cannot do yoga. Yoga is your natural state. What you can do are yoga exercises, which may reveal to you where you are resisting your natural state.”

The Divine in Me Honors the Divine in EVERYTHING

Ultimately, after you commit to yoga for ANY period of time, you will feel a boost of energy, ease of movement where you used to feel pain, and a pristine mental clarity that will help you seek serenity amidst all life in its terrible gore and tremendous glory.

You will simply know peace in your mind and peace in your heart.

 Whether you start a 21, 30, or 40-day sadhana, the REAL challenge begins by simply getting up and making it to DAY 1, and soon you will discover that EVERYDAY is somehow, for better or for worse, another version of DAY 1. You eventually just do your practice and stop counting the days. Namaste.
Interested in studying with Judy? Her 40-Day Challenge with Whitney Walsh begins this weekend at Namaste. Learn more here.
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How to Use A Mala for Meditation

Malas have recently become more and more popular on the fashion scene, but their historic use and meaning is much more than just a beautiful piece of jewelry. Malas are tools for meditation and mental focus. Meditation, one of the healthiest practices you can have, is not always as simple as it seems. Finding the discipline to sit still, even for five minutes, can at times feel impossibly challenging. Curing fidgetiness and a busy mind are the exact reasons we love Mala beads. They provide as Ram Dass puts it, a “kinesthetic cue device” that allows you to continuously re-awaken and stay on course throughout the practice of meditation.

Mala beads, or Hindu Prayer Beads, are similar to Rosaries or other types of prayer beads and often used in Hindu and Buddhist traditions. Traditionally a Mala is strung with 108 beads, a sacred number in many cultures, or 27 beads (1/4 of 108). Malas are used for keeping count while reciting, chanting, or mentally repeating mantras or deity names, a practice referred to as Japa in Sanskrit.

When simply meditating or chanting it can be easy for the mind to wander off. The act of passing the beads through your fingers while focusing on each breath or each mantra provides the opportunity to reawaken each time a new bead crosses the finger tips. It is a tactile reminder that you are here, participating in this moment, breathing and honoring each second of life as it passes through you.

There are a few ways to hold and move the Mala through your fingers as you meditate. In traditional Hindu use, you place the Mala in your right hand, with the first bead that you will count draped over your middle or ring finger. You then use your thumb to move the Mala as you count. The 108 “counting beads” meet in the center where there is a “guru bead” that hangs perpendicular and does not get counted or skipped but rather used as a point of reflection.

Mala Post

How to use a mala for meditation:

1) Find a comfortable seat. Take your mala in your right hand and take a few deep breaths. Notice the airflow as it enters in and out through your nostrils. Sweetly set an intention for this meditation or choose a mantra that you feel comfortable repeating. Repeat the mantra once or say your intention quietly to yourself out loud before beginning the count. Make sure that you know how many times you intend on repeating the mantra before so that you do not get lost in the counting process.

2) Begin by sliding the beads between your thumb and middle finger, repeating the mantra or focusing your intention with each bead and breath. When you reach the guru bead, pause and reflect, then reverse the direction of the beads as you begin to count again.

3) When you finish, take a moment of silence before getting up to continue your day. Feel gratitude for allowing yourself to practice and to do something loving and healthy for your body. Carry the peaceful feeling of the meditation with you for the rest of the day.

Interested in getting mala beads? Check out any of our three Namaste studio boutiques! We have hand-made malas from in various styles, lengths, and prices.

Mala

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