Meet Your Teacher: Sean Feit Oakes

Namaste Yoga + Wellness is a container for the Bay Area’s best yoga teachers to offer their incredible talent and wisdom to students of all backgrounds. These highly experienced teachers have dedicated their lives to sharing the gift of yoga with others and we couldn’t be more grateful. It is an honor to support them and to connect them with yoga practitioners like you.

We are excited to share this special new blog series focused on celebrating your yoga teachers and hopefully giving you a glimpse into the brilliant team that is the Namaste Yoga + Wellness family. We have over 55 teachers in our community and every single person offers something unique!

Meet Sean Feit Oakes:

How long have you been at Namaste?
4 months

What inspired you to become a yoga instructor?
I was on Buddhist retreat in India and they wanted a yoga practice on the retreat but there were no yoga teachers around. I volunteered, and it turned out to be easy and pleasurable. Coming from both Insight Meditation and vinyasa Yoga lineages, it became a core part of my work to emphasize embodiment for the meditators and mindfulness and concentration for the yogis. I started teaching in both forms around the same time, and they have always woven together for me.

Do you have any go-to yoga and wellness books or podcasts?
I still love Vanda Scaravelli’s classic, “Awakening the Spine” as a book about yoga that weaves together reflections on postural practice and some of the more meditative or philosophical concepts about yoga. I have been deeply inspired and challenged in my ideas about yoga by Matthew Remski’s research and writing, and for beginners in contemplative practice, I recommend my teacher Jack Kornfield’s overview of spiritual life, “A Path With Heart”.

Which teachers influence your practice?
My first formal teacher was Joshu Sasaki Roshi in the Rinzai Zen tradition (1993-99). In 1997 I started Ashtanga with Larry Schultz and Alice Joanou, Authentic Movement with Bill McCully, and postmodern dance with Keith Hennessy and Kathleen Hermesdorf. I did yoga teacher training with David Moreno in the Bihar tradition in 2007, and the Spirit Rock Mindfulness Yoga and Meditation program with Anne Cushman and Jill Satterfield. My Buddhist teachers have been Jack Kornfield, Eugene Cash and Sylvia Boorstein (Theravāda & Insight Meditation), Anam Thubten (Tibetan Mahāyāna), and Sayadaw U Janaka (vipassanā). In 2008 I started studying trauma resolution and systems theory with Steven Hoskinson (Somatic Experiencing, Organic Intelligence®), and have been strongly influenced in my recent work on the integration of trauma, mindfulness, and yoga by Dr. Stephen Porges.

What does your yoga practice look like and how has it changed your life?
Recently my practice looks mostly like parenting and providing for my family, which means that the “practice” part of it consists of mindfulness of emotions, speech, and actions, as well as the maintenance of my energy through attempting to balance work, sleep, physical exercise, and family connection time. The best formal practice support I have right now is prānāyāma, which changes my energetic state quicker than meditation can. When I get a chance to sneak away for some actual āsana, it’s fantastic, and brings me back to myself. It’s always done that, and it’s why I kept with it. Yoga, Buddhism, and inner inquiry saved me, slowly, from being an existentially depressed loner. Now I’m an existentially curious philosopher with better relationships and coping strategies. And I look forward to years of unfolding further along this path.

Sean Feit Oakes Namaste Yoga + Wellness Mindfulness

What is something you wish your students knew?
I wish students knew more deeply that they’re not alone in their struggles, and that way more is possible in life than mainstream culture, including yoga culture, suggests. I wish teachings of renunciation and liberation were more common in the Yoga and Buddhist communities, so that these gorgeous practices wouldn’t be reduced to surface interventions that help people survive our current inhumane social systems but don’t uproot the systems themselves, either from global power or from our own hearts.

What is your morning or evening routine?
Morning: up before dawn awoken by a toddler saying “Mama, Papa!!”, sitting and Refuge Puja while our boy nurses, then playing with him and making breakfast while his mama sleeps some more. Evening: after everyone goes to sleep, if I’m not exhausted, I get some quiet time to drop into my body. I do whatever feels good.

What is your favorite thing about being a teacher?
The relationships that form as a class or practice space becomes consistent, and how those consistent communities and practices start to affect people’s lives in real and meaningful ways. I love deep discussion about the implications of practice and the teachings on people’s lives.

What are you involved with outside the studio?
I teach Buddhism, Yoga, and Organic Intelligence® in various places, including Spirit Rock. My main work is individual sessions for yoga and meditation practitioners where we work in various ways to deepen practice, including counseling, trauma resolution, subtle bodywork, and inquiry. Other than work, I try to write as often as I can, and the rest of my time is for family.

What is your go-to movement (asana, dance, hiking, etc.) that allows you to feel the most connected to yourself?
A slow, intuitive vinyasa is still my most grounding movement practice, but I also love running as a meditative energy practice, and my long-time deep movement home is the postmodern dance form Contact Improvisation.

What is your favorite thing about the Bay Area?
It’s my home! I grew up here, and I don’t have a favorite thing specifically, though the main thing that makes it hard to move away is the depth of connections I have made over the decades. I’m grumpy about the Bay Area nowadays and can barely afford to live here anymore, but nowhere else feels like home, and that’s still a precious, subtle feeling.

Anything else you want to share?
I want to offer my blessings to everyone who calls Namaste home, and say that I’m thrilled to be bringing my teaching work here. I’m excited to meet many of you over time, and to contribute whatever I can to deepening the practice and study being offered at the studio.

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20

Meet Your Teacher: Sita Devi

Namaste Yoga + Wellness is a container for the Bay Area’s best yoga teachers to offer their incredible talent and wisdom to students of all backgrounds. These highly experienced teachers have dedicated their lives to sharing the gift of yoga with others and we couldn’t be more grateful. It is an honor to support them and to connect them with yoga practitioners like you.

We are excited to share this special new blog series focused on celebrating your yoga teachers and hopefully giving you a glimpse into the brilliant team that is the Namaste Yoga + Wellness family. We have over 55 teachers in our community and every single person offers something unique!

Meet Sita Devi:

What is your name and when/where/what do you teach?
Sita Devi. I teach vinyasa and power vinyasa and lead kirtan at Namaste Rockridge and looking forward to starting classes at Grand Lake next year.

How long have you been at Namaste?
2 months

What inspired you to become a yoga instructor?
Seva: selfless service.

Do you have any go-to yoga and wellness books or podcasts?
I love the calm app. Awesome daily meditations and nighttime sleep stories. Best wellness app hands down.

Which teachers influence your practice?
Govind Das, Bryan Kest, Janet Stone

What does your yoga practice look like and how has it changed your life?
My practice is constantly evolving and transforming. I was a dancer and performer for many years and yoga was my rock, my foundation. Yoga reminds me how precious every moment is. It is my greatest teacher.

What is something you wish your students knew?
The Beatles were Hare Krsnas.

What is your morning or evening routine? (whichever is your favorite..or both!)
Dinacharya, my morning practice consists of 10 minutes of meditation, oil pulling and abhyanga.

What is your favorite thing about being a teacher?
Hearing, “this is exactly what i needed” after class. Helping people heal.

What are you involved with outside the studio?
Nature, Retreats, Festivals, Travel.

What is your go-to movement (asana, dance, hiking, etc.) that allows you to feel the most connected to yourself?
Ecstatic Dance

What is your favorite thing about the Bay Area?
Everything.

*Monday, Friday, and Saturday classes begin January 1, 2018!

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20

Meet Your Teacher: Melina Meza

Namaste Yoga + Wellness is a container for the Bay Area’s best yoga teachers to offer their incredible talent and wisdom to students of all backgrounds. These highly experienced teachers have dedicated their lives to sharing the gift of yoga with others and we couldn’t be more grateful. It is an honor to support them and to connect them with yoga practitioners like you.

We are excited to share this special new blog series focused on celebrating your yoga teachers and hopefully giving you a glimpse into the brilliant team that is the Namaste Yoga + Wellness family. We have over 55 teachers in our community and every single person offers something unique!

Meet Melina Meza:

How long have you been at Namaste?
Almost three years in total

What inspired you to become a yoga instructor?
I was asked to be a yoga teacher by a friend who wanted to open a studio in Seattle back in 1996. After much consideration, I said YES and was inspired to do so because of how much I loved yoga and the way it made me feel. After one year of teaching a lot of classes, I took my first pause and moved to Maui to study with Gary Kraftsow for the winter. During my first year of teaching, I felt I taught everything I learned from my first teacher and exhausted my resources. On Maui with Gary, I found what was missing….my home practice. Since then, my home practice is what continues to inspire me to teach.

Your favorite literature on yoga or meditation?
Tough question…but if you’re looking for an entry point into yoga and meditation, I recommend, The Heart of Yoga by Deskichar for yoga and A Path with Heart by Jack Kornfield for meditation.

Which teachers influence your practice?
Kathleen Hunt (Seattle based teacher), Gary Kraftsow, Sarah Powers, Tias Little, Jin Sung, Scott Blossom (listed in the order of when I studied with them)

How often do you practice?
My practice of yoga extends beyond the yoga mat into my life. I consider all the times I wake up and do my meditation + Ayurvedic cleansing routines, hydrate, and eat right for my constitution as part of my practice. When I’m actively listening to another, or walking mindfully by myself, I also consider this part of my yoga practice. The asana portion varies for me but in general, I do sequences at home every other day and outdoor activities like walking or tennis on alternating days.

What is your morning or evening routine? 
The morning starts with tongue scraping, brushing teeth, rinsing eyes with Ayurvedic Rose Water drops, Nasya Oil in the nose, hydrate then meditate for 10-20 minutes. After meditating….a leisure cup of coffee before celebrating the day. Depending on the season or travel schedule, I give myself an oil massage every other day or when traveling everyday before showering.

Your favorite self-care practices?
Eating when I’m hungry and not eating when I’m not hungry, oil massage, 20-minute naps, staying hydrated and eating soup often, being creative every day, getting 8 hours of sleep.

What are you involved with outside the studio?
At the moment….photography, tennis, cooking, and a little guitar.

Absolute favorite asana?
Downward Dog

What is your favorite thing about the Bay Area?
Sunshine and the variety of avocados!

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20

Why I Teach Prep for Birth

When I was pregnant with my first child I remember facing the unknown of giving birth. It felt like it didn’t matter how much I read, I still couldn’t get a handle on what the first, second and third stages of labor might look and feel like. This created a background feeling of tension and unease that I was only barely aware was there.

Second time around, I not only had the benefit of having been through the experience, but I also took HypnoBirthing® classes. These classes offered several fantastic tools that, in part, inform my upcoming Prep for Birth workshop. Having immersed myself in the world of prenatal yoga after having two children I feel passionate about bringing these tools to new mothers.

Combining experiential exercises, including some gentle partner yoga, as well as informational pieces, the main focus is on practices supporting relaxation.
In our busy modern lives, being able to relax is a skill that can take some training, especially in the face of a brand new, unknown experience.

Another important piece is to make sure you’re not sweeping concerns under the rug like I was that first time. When we have the time, space and support to explore those background worries and bring them to light, we get to either find action steps or see that we’re holding on to something unnecessarily and can let it go.

My favorite part of the class is a couple of simple exercises to bring you and your partner into a deeper connection. I love hearing from the couples that I work with that, in the course of their preparations, these exercises have them come back to the very reason they are bringing this amazing new life into the world together. It’s not uncommon in committed relationships (and even more so for those already parents), to have that deeper connection fall by the wayside.

So this class will not only give you tools to take into a relaxed and easeful birth, but can support you going forward in your relationship too!

In three hours, you’ll connect sweetly and deeply, you’ll learn, move and relax. I look forward to meeting you and supporting you on this very special journey.

Rosy Moon Schlussel

 

With love,
Rosy Schlussel

This class is an opportunity to come together with your partner and learn some foundational tools to support the mother-to-be in the lead up to delivering her baby.

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20

The Driven Yogi: Wisdom for New Teachers

About 25 prospective teachers go through Namaste’s teacher training every year. These students take their newfound knowledge and promote wellness in their communities by teaching at local studios, opening up their own studio, or even teaching yoga at non-profit organizations. However, one of our recent graduates is using her time, knowledge, and new skills to help other yoga teacher graduates like herself. Keisha Courtney started The Driven Yogi.com, a site that offers free tips and advice to help new yoga teachers land their first jobs after training. We wanted to find out more about Keisha and her company. Read on to learn more!

1. Where did you grow up and at what age did you discover yoga?
​I’m from a small town in Clinton, Utah. Growing up I was a competitive gymnast and power tumbler. The competitiveness I learned at a young age carried into different areas of my life, including my career.

It wasn’t until the age of 26 when I discovered the magic of yoga. I was in a high-visibility, high-stress career as a TV news reporter. I covered a wide range of stories from natural disasters to murders, and my stress and anxiety got to an unmanageable level. Since I use exercise as an outlet, I started experimenting with different classes. I took one yoga class and was hooked! I left the studio feeling grounded, light, and clear-headed. From that moment forward, I knew that yoga would be an integral part of my life.

2. How has yoga changed for you since you began practicing?
​When I first started practicing I was always frustrated when I couldn’t do a pose (the competitive gymnast was still in there). It was 6 months into my practice when I was finally able to dig deeper and really understand that I needed to accept where I was in my practice from day-to-day. Sometimes I wanted to move and move hard, and other times a child’s pose was exactly what my body needed. When I accepted this idea, I was finally able to let things go on my mat and that’s when my practice truly blossomed.

3. What attracted you to take a yoga teacher training?
​As much as I love yoga, it actually wasn’t the yoga at all that compelled me to enroll in a teacher training. I’m a competitive pole dancer and I absolutely love pole. When tackling difficult moves in pole, I use the breath techniques I have learned in yoga to help me get through the moves. Because of the benefits yoga brought me in pole dancing, I wanted to bring it to other dancers and create a class that combined the two forms of exercise. I was halfway through my yoga teacher training when I realized I wanted to teach yoga, as there were soooo many directions I could take it. For now, I’m focused on teaching yoga, improving my teaching skills, and sharing my journey through The Driven Yogi.com. I may still come up with the pole/yoga hybrid class, but for now, I’m just happy teaching yoga and guiding my students in their practice.

4. Do you have any advice for people who are just getting into yoga?
​There are a lot of misconceptions that stop people from practicing yoga and the first one relates to flexibility. Since teaching I have had several people say “I can’t do yoga because I’m not flexible,” but that’s not what yoga is about. For me, yoga reminds me to breath, not take certain things in life so seriously, and to come to my mat to find that release and stillness that my body (and mind) need. If people decide to try yoga for the first time I would just say don’t have preconceived notions about what yoga is or isn’t. Try it out and see what happens. Allow yourself to have your own experience.

5. You have a great presence and have really put yourself out there. Any tips for teachers who may be shy about marketing themselves?
​First off, thank you for that compliment! As for the question, putting yourself out there is scary – I totally get that. But marketing yourself as a new teacher is necessary.
If people don’t know about your classes, how will they be able to come? The studios I work at are super helpful in promoting teachers’ classes, but teachers can’t solely rely on studios to do that for them.

In regards to digital promotion, it doesn’t have to solely​ be about promoting yourself and your classes.​ I find that students actually enjoy getting to know more about their teache​rs outside of class, and they look for ways to relate to them. The posts I put out that don’t have anything to do with yoga tend to get more interaction than the ​posts that ​do​​.​ And ​sometimes, students ​will mention things they’ve seen on my page when they come to my classes – and it’s always the post that don’t ​have to do with yoga.

6. Who are your favorite Namaste teachers and why?
​Oh my goodness, there are so many! I love how much knowledge and experience each one has and I love getting the chance to practice with them. Obviously, I rea​lly enjoyed my teacher trainers: Domonick for his unique yoga classes that combine sequences with dancing, Baxter for his knowledge around anatomy, Vickie for helping me fall in love with alignment-based yoga, and Ashley for helping make meditation bearable (I couldn’t stand doing it before I had her leading me and teaching me certain techniques). On top of the teacher trainers I had, Whitney Walsh (my mentor) is amazing and has such a unique way of leading classes. She drew me in immediately and I HAD to learn more from her. I practice with her weekly and am blown away every. single. time.

7. Where do you hope to be in 5 years?
​In five years I hope The Driven Yogi is the go-to source for new yoga teachers. Many great and experienced teachers have already contributed to the site by providing insightful tips for new teachers. As the site grows I will continue to reach out to teachers, but I definitely have plans for the future of the site​ – stay tuned!​

8. What is one tip or self-care practice that you can’t live without?
​This is cliche, but I couldn’t live without yoga. I have a Type-A personality and my mind is constantly on the go trying to figure out how I can check more things off of my neverending to-do list. Yoga reminds me to breathe, be present and let little things go, and it also keeps me grounded so that I can get back to tackling lists – in a healthier way of course.

9. Anything else you’d love our Namaste community to know about you?
I​f you’re a new teacher and curious about the next steps you should take after your yoga teacher training, or if you are thinking about doing a training, please visit my website and sign up for our email list so that you are always in the loop when new tips come out – TheDrivenYogi.com.

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20

Summer Reading List: Volume 2

Stay Curious! Summer is a great time to catch up on your active desire to read more and be inspired. Here, we’ve collected some top yoga-relative reading from your fave teachers. So, before it’s too late, pick a book up from our boutiques or load up your kindle with some of these brilliant recs.

[bottom left] Carpenter: Richard Rosen’s newest book, Yoga FAQs. Local Yoga Legend, Richard asked his students what they wanted to know, and he answered! Its a fun, accessible and yet remarkably thorough — and profound — collection and everything we always wanted to know about Yoga, its past, present and future.

[bottom right] Domonick Wegesin: One recommendation:  Stumbling on Happiness, by Daniel Gilbert.  It’s more of a mindfulness book, but shares psychological insights into what makes us happy.  Insightful read.

[top left] Baxter Bell: I love the books by Stephen Cope, The Wisdom of Yoga, and Yoga and the Quest for the True Self, as well as Richard Rosen’s Original Yoga and his newest book, Yoga FAQ.

[top right] Julia Alexander: I would recommend poetry – invoking our imagination, reviving the inspiration, speaking the language of the heart…Hafiz, Rumi (of course), Rilke…Mary Oliver, David Whyte…

[bottom left] Nubia Teixeira: Gita Wisdom by Joshua Greene, Yogini by Janice Gates

[bottom right] Siri Peterson:  Awakening Shakti by Sally Kempton, Disease Delusion by Jeffrey Bland

[top left] Vickie Russell Bell: The Mirror of Yoga by Richard Freeman, Yogabody by Mark Singleton (a controversial read!), Yoga FAQs by Richard Rosen

[top right] Claudia Florian McCaffrey: Bountiful, Beautiful, Blissful, by Gurmukh, Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth and Baby Massage, The Calming Power of Touch

Heads down people!

Learn more about our amazing teachers here.

(Including Jaimi Patterson, featured in pics in this post.)

Shop local and visit our boutiques where many of these books are available for sale!

 

 

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20

What does it mean to Embrace Your Shadow?

by Sariah Jiwan Shakti 

Kundalini Yoga is an ancient yogic technology that helps us heal, strengthen, and cleanse our body as well as balance our mind and our Ego. It brings together all of the different branches of yoga into one practice that will quickly and powerfully transform your life. The thing about high speed transformation is that it can often feel uncomfortable and messy. As we heal our nervous system from past trauma, the residual emotions come up so they can be cleared. Sounds fun, right? Navigating this kind of mass clearing might feel daunting and even a little scary. Fun isn’t quite the thing that comes to mind! However, on the other side of that is freedom, clarity, more creativity and joy and those things may seem a bit more attractive, and yes, can lead to fun!

I’m excited to speak about these things because I’ve been there and personally experienced the messiness, freedom, and joy in transformation. But it definitely wasn’t always easy. When I was going through my Kundalini Yoga teacher training I experienced a lot of irrational anger. All of my suppressed childhood anger was coming to the surface with a vengeance my target became my teacher. I wrapped up all of that angst and frustration, stuffed it into a ball and lobbed it right at his Ego. It was perfect. One day I flat out told him that I didn’t like him. As I waited with my foot in my mouth for him to ultimately dislike me back, he said, “Sariah, where there is a bright light, there is a dark shadow.” This comment has always stuck with me and I’ve often shared it with friends and students when they are grappling with their shadow self. It helped me realize that in him was darkness and light as well as myself. I also realized that my suppressed shadow was projecting judgements onto my teacher as away to find some relief. Classic stuff.

As humans we have strong polarities or opposite forces within us with the most obvious being left and right hemispheres of the brain, masculine and feminine, and positive and negative charges. We have acidic and alkaline qualities within us, we experience hot and cold, high energy and low energy, we are awake and then we are asleep, and I could go on. Often times we equate our dark side or shadow self to the negative and the light side to the positive. Our brains often go to this place of negative = bad and positive = good. However, I want to invite you to take on a different perspective as you read through this. Because all of the polarities within us make up our whole self and allow us to function and on this earth plane, let’s allow both dark and light, positive and negative to be a perfect part of who we are, not good or bad, just part of our Is-ness. That being said, why does our shadow self often seem so intense, negative, and something that we want to push away, or has consumed such a large part of who we are, there is no room for the light?

Let’s explore what the shadow really is according to Carl Jung. Jungian psychology teaches us that the shadow aspect of who we are refers to an unconscious aspect of the personality that the conscious ego does not identify in itself. It’s the least desirable parts of ourself and so our conscious mind tends to push those away and make them largely negative storing them away in the subconscious. Jung says, “Everyone carries a shadow, and the less it is embodied in the individual’s conscious life, the blacker and denser it is.”Sariah Jiwan Shakti

So the more we push away this often labeled negative part of ourselves and do not give space for it to express in our conscious life in healthy constructive ways, the more destructive it can become taking up so much space there is not much room for the light to get in. This may manifest as chronic depression, addiction, angry rages, or deep internalized anger that contorts the personality. Ultimately, in it’s most extreme form, if this shadow is not expressed, someone may cause harm themselves or others.

When the shadow aspect of ourselves is causing us to self destruct, we become cut off from our connection to spirit, GOD, soul, and our pure creative playful nature – The Light. The good news is that humans are inherently heliotropic which means we are constantly reorienting towards the light. Even in our darkest times with enough digging we can find an ember within us that if stoked will turn into a bright fire. Why? Because one cannot exist without the other. Dark cannot exist without the light and vice versa. So where there is darkness there will always be light.

How can we embrace our shadow, love it, and transmute it into light? What does a healthy relationship with our shadow self even look like? How can we start to cultivate a loving relationship the perceived negative parts of ourselves so we can become more balanced, have more room for our light, and ultimately shine bright, be big, and connected to our soul’s creativity?

1. Practice Allowing All to BE

When you notice that you are experiencing some uncomfortable emotions, thoughts, images, or sensations in the body, give yourself some space experience this energy. Breathe deep into your body, allow it all to be with you instead of labeling your experience as wrong or bad. Recognize that these darker emotions are here to give you information about what you need to improve your experience. As you allow all to be with you, remain open and notice if new, more constructive thoughts, impulses, and ideas come to you. Notice if your body begins to relax and release. Remain open without attachment to the outcome.

2. Play with Your Shadow

Are there some safe, fun, and inspiring ways for you to express and play with your shadow? Perhaps there is a loud, aggressive rock band you want to go and dance to. Maybe a costume or outfit you want to rock at a party that expresses your shadow self. Maybe you go out to a secluded place in the woods and throw rocks and scream obscenities and all of your dark thoughts to release them and ground them in the earth? Creating art and music is a great way to express your shadow self, channel this aspect of your subconscious self into something dark, beautiful, and inspiring for others. Find a friend, teacher, or coach to help you work more constructively with this energy.

3. Practice Yoga, Meditation and Prayer

Yoga and meditation are the fast train to getting into your subconscious mind, clearing out the old, and changing old pattern behavior that does not serve your highest good and your light-being self. Prayer is a way to connect with the God consciousness within you that trumps all darkness and will instantly bring the light. Surrender the destruction of the shadow to God and your Higher Self. Prayer also provides the energetic support you need to pull yourself out of a funk. Yoga will strengthen your nervous system and when you have a strong nervous system, it is easier to take a pause, a breath and be with the shadow so you can metabolize the bad feeling emotions.

4. Celebrate and Shine Your Light

When you notice that your dark energy has shifted to more lightness, celebrate this! A great way to recognize this is if you notice your system has gone from feeling tight to feeling big and expansive. Make it a point to smile at others and say nice things. Share your experience, your grace, and the brightness that is within you. Know that all good things, dreams, goals, and visions come from within you. External circumstances do not get to dictate how you feel. Allow your inner light to shine outward and create all of the good things in the world your unique self is here to create!

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20

Odisa Walker: My Dad, My First Teacher

I grew up in the 70’s in Southern California. My mom and dad emigrated here from South America (Colombia & Peru) in their early twenties. They came not to get away from their own countries but simply looking for adventure, something different, and they made the US their home. My mom was down to earth, dealing with how to pay bills, put food on the table make a good life. My dad was sort of the opposite. He was, and remains a seeker. He was also looking for the ‘the good life’ but that meant something completely different to him. He was always looking for meaning, and from my mother’s perspective, not concerned enough about the day to day realities of supporting a family.

My dad’s life (and ours) changed drastically around 1973 when he went to a party at our neighbors place. He was already a vegetarian and wasn’t interested in drugs or alcohol so he wasn’t thrilled about attending but he remembers seeing this couple dressed in white. He was immediately drawn to them and started a conversation.The couple were members of a group called La Fraternidad Universal. This group was pretty far ut but not all that unusual for the seventies. My dad remembers thinking, ‘These are my people!’ They were the perfect balance of science, astrology and spirituality and yoga.

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I remember being a little girl and seeing my dad so serious about his yoga. It was a way of life. My dad and uncle were both a part of this group and greeted each other and all members of the group not with a handshake but an upraised hand with thumb turned in towards the palm and the words ‘Pax, hermano.'(peace, brother.) I remember many gatherings, everyone dressed in white, lots of vegetarian foods (the odors of these foods I remember to this day.) Lots of philosophical discussions and then the actual yoga asana practice. At home my brother, sister and I loved lotus and headstand and laughed hysterically trying to do these poses. My brother, sister and I lived with our mom but on weekends this was our life. We were kids and so we put on bored faces and gagged over the smell of the food but this group planted seeds of profound awareness to something beyond the superficiality of life. My dad never stopped talking when he was with us, in the car, on a hike to the Griffith Park Observatory, or camping. As much as we tried to tune out his constant contemplation on the meaning of life he made each of his children not thrill seekers but peace seekers.

I avoided yoga for much of my twenties but always had a nagging feeling that I needed to get back to it. I tried prenatal yoga during my first pregnancy and was utterly bored. My mind and body were not ready to slow down. I took other Hatha Yoga classes that I thought were nice but did not make me want to come back. In my early thirties I walked into a step aerobics/yoga combo at the Oakland YMCA that blew me away. The yoga was so fast and strength based and I couldn’t keep up at all. I laugh now to think that’s what it took to get me to stop, listen and feel. I was exhilarated at the end of class and knew I had just stumbled onto something amazing. It was my first vinyasa yoga class. Shortly after trying my first vinyasa class I moved to the east coast and eventually made my way to a studio in Washington DC. It was a Power Vinyasa studio where the yoga was hot, humid, fast and furious. I remember hearing Om’s being chanted in the studio for the first time, feeling a little breathless and emotional and knowing I had finally come back in my own way and time to the teachings of my childhood. This was my place, these were my people. I can walk into any yoga class now (and I often do) and quiet my mind. It doesn’t have to be fast or hot but that is what brought me back. I love the practice of breath and movement. It slows me down and becomes a meditation and that is what I love to teach. We can call it Hatha or Vinyasa or flow but essentially it is simply and profoundly Yoga.

My sister and I are both yoga teachers. It is a practice that sustains us physically, mentally and spiritually. We always know we can talk yoga anytime, we are each other’s captive audience. I believe my brother finds yoga in his life among his everyday tasks and has a quiet strength and peace within. Even my mother who did not think much of ‘Yoga’ eventually became a student of mine and my sister’s as well as at her local gym. My dad is still talking, maybe not quite as much, but still very much in deep philosophical thought. A flower is not just a flower and a star not just a star there is deep meaning to everything. The spider walking up the wall should not be killed but gathered up in your hands and taken outside. In talking to him recently about writing this piece he was excited and is now sending me songs he wrote and his own remembrances of this time. The teachings continue…

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Namaste Teachers Share the Best Yoga Advice They’ve Received

We asked Namaste Yoga teachers one question: what is the best advice that you’ve received regarding your yoga practice? (spoiler: we have some seriously wise teachers!).

Here’s what they said:

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Judy Rukat

When I began my teacher training with the late Larry Schultz, I had NEVER practiced yoga before and was not enjoying the training (to say the least). Yoga broke me down, humbled me and was too much for me in every way. In fact, it felt like a sort of painful death. I approached Larry with my discontent and he told me, “You are on the path to becoming a great teacher,” and GENEROUSLY gifted me my teacher training because he believed in me. That’s real yoga.

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Richard Rosen

A friend of my wife is a professional astrologer and psychic and he once gave me a free session. Though I’m not a psychic kinda guy, I went just to be polite and he told me that “as a yoga teacher I’m not working with people’s bodies as much as with their souls” this advice has stayed with me now for many years.

 

Elana Morgulis

Elana Morgulis

I think the best advice I’ve received was a simple reminder mid-pose to notice the quality of my breath. If my breath felt constricted, I could gently back off. It gave me permission to be gentle with myself, and I experienced a profound relief and freedom within. Whew, I feel good just thinking about it!

 

 

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Reba Gray

Master the practice of ahimsa (cause no injury or harm). Make that the most important thing in your yoga practice right now.”

 

 

 

 

kenbrenimanKen Breniman

The best advice I received from my teacher Darren Main, was when he said: “Ken, teach from your heart!” He really encouraged me to connect to my authentic self and through following his wisdom,  I have focused much of my on-the-mat and off-the-mat healing on connecting to Source so that I can teach what the students want/need without my  worries or doubts getting in the way.

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Annemaria Rajala

I draw constant inspiration from one of my teachers, Sam Chase. He told me that a yoga practice should “meet us where we are and help guide us toward what we desire to become.” I strive to live by this on a daily basis.

 

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Poh Teng

My favorite advice is something passed down from senior practitioners of Eknath Easwaran’s Passage Meditation and the collective wisdom of the satsang. “The spiritual path is not easy. It is similar to climbing a mountain. On our trek towards the summit, the conditions of our journey change all the time.  Sometimes, the sun shines brightly, the weather is fine. Maybe the incline isn’t even that bad.  We experience progress during our travels and we feel pretty good about ourselves. Other times, the weather is dreadful and we cannot find shelter. Maybe the trek around the dark side of the mountain, where the sun is hidden from us, is longer and harder than anticipated. Maybe we come to an obstacle in our path that causes what appears to be set backs. (sic) In our own time, we eventually arrive at the summit where we meet each other. Keep practicing. And all is coming.”

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Julia Beauchamp

The best advice I received from a yoga teacher was about how “the inhale is a rising up and the exhale is circling down”. In this way we create an energetic loop around the spine every time we breathe. The change of direction above the head and below the tail bone are important, crucial points of transition– the moments in between when time stops and for a moment we cease to exist until the loop picks up momentum again.David Schlussel

David Schlussel

“Practice less, more often”

 

 

Domonick Wegesin

Dr. Domonick Wegesin

“Just fucking do it” from mindfulness teacher Jon Kabat- Zinn.

 

 

 

Naushon Kabat-Zinn

The best advice I have ever received is from my teacher Baba Hari Dass, who always said “Teach to Learn.”

 

 

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Rosy Schlussel

My teacher Sofia Diaz has said some things that have stuck with me for many years, here’s a couple of zingers: “Yoga is the willingness to feel what you have committed to through being alive.”

 And a little more complex & shocking, perhaps: “The difference between dragging your body around behind you like a dead dog on a leash and yoga, is the answer to the question: “Are you in love?”

 

Claudia Florian Mccaffrey

Claudia Florian-McCaffrey

The best yoga advice I’ve received from one of my teachers was to “get on my mat for just 5 minutes.” This taught me that all I needed to create a practice was a mat and my breath. After those few minutes I had the choice to stay on my mat or finish my practice and it worked! I never stayed on my mat for just 5 minutes. I got inspired to take care of myself because those five minutes felt great and I wanted to stay longer!

Tara Sullivan

Tara Sullivan

Best advice about my practice was from my teacher Sharon Gannon who said, “The best way to uplift your own life is to do all you can to uplift the lives of others.”

What is the best advice you’ve received from a yoga teacher? Please share in the comments!

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Kundalini Yoga: Find the Missing Sock in Your Soul!

By Sariah Sizemore

Housekeeping 

I love it when my house is clean. Everything is in its place and the thin film of dust that covered the tables and countertops has been wiped away exposing vibrant color and shine. The air is fresh and fragrant. As I move around my space, I actually feel the spaciousness inside of myself as a reflection of my external experience. I find things again! I’m no longer irritated and confused when I can’t seem to locate the one knee sock that goes with the other knee sock that perfectly goes with the dress I want to wear. I know, as they say, first world problems, but it can be maddening to not find the missing piece to your ideal outfit. For me, laundry always seems to be my downfall when attempting to keep a tidy home. 

I know you might be thinking that this is a blog on Kundalini yoga and energy so why the heck is she talking about cleaning her house and finding her socks! As I was contemplating what I wanted to share with you about my experience with Kundalini, I thought a lot about how developing a relationship with the life force in myself, the Kundalini energy, has allowed me to more directly clean, clear, and organize my internal experience.

Through practicing Kundalini Yoga, I have cultivated more spaciousness within myself. I have more access to the information my mind, body, and spirit has to offer me. Ultimately, I experience more clarity and awareness so I’m able to find the “sock” within myself, or I should say my soul, that completes my whole self.  

Yes, I’m saying that Kundalini Yoga will help you find the missing sock in your soul! It is an ancient technology that works to cleanse, balance, and activate the self-healing superpowers inherent within you. We humans are pretty complex beings with a lot of bells and whistles. The amount of information we process is mind blowing, literally, and we manage to do all this processing as we accomplish our daily tasks at work, spend time with our families, travel, plan for the future and tend to all of the other threads that weave our lives together. The way we manage all of this data is through the subconscious mind, and it’s called sub – conscious for a reason…it’s not conscious. If all of the info we take in on a daily basis was in the forefront of our consciousness it would in fact blow our minds. However, this does not mean that it is not contained within us. 

The Subconscious Mind and Autonomic Nervous System

Our subconscious is associated with the autonomic nervous system that manages all of the functions our bodies carry out without us having to think. For example, we don’t consciously tell our heart to beat-beat-beat, it just does that. We don’t have to tell our food to metabolize, or our cells to regenerate. These things just happen and they happen through the silent work of the autonomic nervous system. Our nervous system keeps us alive and functioning on all levels and using the subconscious, records all of the data it needs to diligently perform that duty.  Sounds good right?! Thank you Autonomic Nervous system! 

So what does all of this have to do with Kundalini Yoga and finding our socks? As evolving humans, our physiology is constantly changing to meet the needs of the modern environment we live in. Unfortunately, we haven’t quite managed to sync up. Actually, we haven’t changed that  much since the time of the cave man except for the ability to use language, which happened about 4,000 years ago. When we examine how our autonomic nervous system works, we gain some insight into this fact. The nervous system is categorized into two different functions: sympathetic and parasympathetic. The sympathetic nervous system is responsible for the “fight or flight” mechanisms in our system. For example, if we are in the jungle and see a sabertooth tiger, this will activate your sympathetic nervous system which in turn fires up everything in your body to run or pick up a big stick and fight! The parasympathetic nervous system is responsible for resting, regeneration, and relaxing. 

The subconscious starts recording information from the time we are in the womb and stores info on how to stay safe, comfortable, and out of danger. It saves the threatening experiences, imprinting trauma right into your system, so you will be activated to move away from that same danger again through the sympathetic nervous system. The problem is that in modern society we experience so much stress and pressure that our nervous system’s ability to recognize a real threat can be off base. 

Is it a tiger about to eat you, or just your boss breathing down your neck to finish a deadline? Our ability to switch between the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system becomes abnormal when we experience our every day environment as a threatening place. This contributes to fear, confusion, disorientation, and anger. When spending more time activated into sympathetic nervous system response, our adrenal glands excrete high levels of adrenaline and cortisol hormones. These hormones increase blood flow, heart rate, and send more nutrients to our muscles so we can get the power we need to escape the threat. The problem is that it takes away resources from other bodily functions and that leads to lack of sleep, irregular metabolism, fatigue, and dis-ease in the body. 

When we are inundated with information that is not being processed appropriately and our nervous system is not regulated, we often have an experience of feeling blocked, cluttered, or not having enough space to execute on the things we want to accomplish. Fear can be a debilitating emotion and when you mix that with a lack of physical energy and resources, struggling may be more of your experience than fresh energy and spaciousness. Our minds may feel foggy, memory slow, and our ability to connect with ourselves and others becomes more difficult. When all of this is happening inside of us, it is very much like having a messy home with dust covering our color and shine and it’s very hard to find that missing sock or perhaps even know what we are looking for! 

Kundalini, The Healing Life Force Energy

Practicing Kundalini Yoga infuses you with fresh life force energy and regulates the nervous system. It is a practice that cultivates awareness and through that awareness, you have more choice in how to respond to your environment instead of being in the reactionary place of fight or flight. You are able to recognize the triggers that happen in your everyday experience that re-stimulate you into experiencing the trauma of the past, and consciously clear them instead of having them lay dormant in the subconscious continuously activating fear and protection. Soon your experience becomes more neutral, you are more embodied and present, and have more space to bring forth creativity from a deeper connection with the soul and our whole self. 

Kundalini Yoga combines all of the aspects of yoga practice: physical, breath, sound, service, and intention to quickly and powerfully realign the energetic centers in the body connecting you with your whole self. It is a quantum technology that if practiced regularly will give you the ability to transcend time and space and create the life you want to have through the power of vision and directed positive thought. The life force energy, or Kundalini, moves from the base of the spine, through concentrated energy centers called the chakras up to the crown of the head and out into the aura, the electromagnetic field that surrounds the body. You can think of this energy as a healing salve that washes through entire system to regenerate you – mind, body, and spirit. This practice unlocks you in such a way where old trauma is brought up from the subconscious to the conscious so it can be healed and cleared. If you are looking for a yoga practice that gives you the full package of physical, mental, emotional, and nervous system fitness, give Kundalini Yoga a try. Because it’s so powerful, you might have a range of experiences with it. Sometimes it’s pure bliss and at times as it wears away the layers of fear and protection, it’s uncomfortable. Practicing yoga teaches you how to stay present with that uncomfortableness, however. In allowing that stuff to come up and move, you experience more presence, liberation, and ultimately more joy and expansiveness in your life. 

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Want to learn more about Kundalini? Listen to Sariah speak further on the Spirituality 101 Podcast.

Please join me every Thursday at 6pm at Namaste Grand Lake for Kundalini Yoga and meditation. I am a life coachcounselor offering private Kundalini Yoga sessions as a tool for quickly moving through the blocks that hold one back from experiencing a fully expressed and joyful life. Please visit my web site at www.sariahsizemore.com

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