Yoga can help reduce anxiety and improve physical wellness in our stressful everyday. The effects can perhaps be even more pronounced when one is in the experience of living with cancer. Although not a cure, yoga can help soothe the nervous system and encourage the body to relax and heal. Gentle movements linked with breath can help practitioners cope with challenges and uncertainty. Try this home practice to help with your journey.
You can also catch Poh for weekly classes:
We are choosing 2017 as the Year of Empowerment. There is an unprecedented amount of trauma and change happening in our communities here and throughout the world. We believe our practice is our power. It holds the key to understanding, strength, and the grace to use our own powers to serve the best good. We’ve chosen the word empowered because it is time for us all to tap into our wells of wisdom. We need balance and perspective more than ever. Workshops are a great way to deepen your practice. They can provide juice to fuel you through your weekly routines.
We’ve hand picked the workshops we believe will help you activate your practice and feel your most epic:
Start your year off right by using your yoga practice to dive into your creative side! Train your mind to be more creative, learn the true source of creative blocks and how to overcome them, and discover the inherent connection between creativity and your yoga practice.
Jerry walks you through creative theory through the lens of classical yoga and meditation, drawing real-world examples and practices as you awaken your hidden creative potential.
Date: Jan 14, 2017 From: 1:00 PM – 4:00 PM Location: Rockridge
We will look at the roles of self-worth, empowerment and releasing negativity play in prosperity.
Studies by Russian molecular biologists have proven that when you speak the right words, in the right way, your DNA rearranges itself for the better. The traits that make you successful – like perseverance and self-confidence – become dramatically amplified. Wealth-destroying habits like fear, procrastination and greed, disappear. Learn the yogic approach to asanas, to meditations, to chanting that open you to your ‘Prosperity DNA’.
Sat Date: Jan 14, 2017 From: 1:00 PM – 3:30 PM Location: Berkeley
“My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style.”
~ Maya Angelou
Challenge yourself to THRIVE with 30 days of dedicated practice. We will use the tools of yoga, meditation, nutrition, self-care, self-reflection and mindfulness to deepen our awareness and create space for healthy personal growth. We will also have fun in the process as we support one another on this journey of not just surviving but THRIVING!
Wed Date: Jan 18, 2017 – Feb 15, 2017 From: 7:30 PM – 9:15 PM Location: Rockridge
New monthly extended practice with Ava, designed for a dedicated group to ‘go deeper’. We will begin this two hour session with seated meditation and gentle preparation poses, followed by the ashtanga primary series. After completing the finishing inversions, we will shift into deep hip, heart and shoulder openers and longer held yin postures.
In this extended session, we will practice softening into intensity, seeking ease and deep release as well as building strength, stamina, and focus.
Three Sundays: January 22, February 26, April 30
Price: $25 single session, $65 for all 3
Weaving together therapeutic movement, asana, and fitness training, this class dissolves the everyday toll on the body. We will flush out shoulder stress and unravel the hips, as we release the breath and reboot the core.With over 12 years of yoga and fitness experience, Sadie challenges and invigorates students of all levels. Leave this 2-hour class feeling worked out, relaxed, and energized.
Sat Date: Jan 28, 2017 From: 1:00 PM – 3:00 PM Location: Rockridge
I recently attended Sound Healing with Missy Felsenstein, which I can describe as being on an auditory journey into space. I thought it would be a restful, relaxing experience – but have to admit there were moments of unrest mixed in there for me. Still, i think it is an experience not to be missed! We all need to practice being more restful, and that is the whole point of the exercise.
It did make me wonder — how does it work?
According to current research, the vibrations of sound in various frequencies cause the brain waves to slow down and you start to move into Alpha brainwaves. This state of being is a state of relaxation, a restful place. If you have old injuries, you might feel some tingling in those areas. Once you become more practiced, it is possible that the sound might move you into the Theta brainwave state – this is one which is meditative, and which lives between awake and asleep.
Since no one processes sound in the same way, how this state feels to you and the experience you have will be different than the person next to you.
I found that I moved in and out of the Alpha state of relaxation. But when I would waken to reality, I couldn’t tell you where I had been. It didn’t feel like I had been asleep – it felt like my mind had been doing something – thinking thoughts or travelling down some path, or following the sounds as thought they were a path of footprints — but it was all lost to me when I would become aware of where I was.
Concentrating on sound helps to retrain your nervous system and your brain to learn how to relax. Here’s a tiny snippet of the experience. It’s big and booming, because the planetary gong Uranus was there, so go easy on the volume while you lay in a restful pose and take this auditory experience in.
Join Missy for her next Sound Healing with Restorative Yoga on Sunday, November 13. Sign up here!
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.”
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?
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.
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.
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.
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!
by Poh Teng
Do you have achy neck and shoulders from too much driving? Me too! Try these easy-to-do yoga postures to create some space in the neck and shoulders and relieve neck and shoulder pain. I commute four times a week from Oakland to San Jose and these postures are a part of my self-care routine. Try holding each posture for 5-8 deep breaths. Remember to practice on both sides of the body.
Don’t miss Poh’s next workshop:
“I so wish I didn’t have to be here, and I am so glad I came!”
This was the heartfelt wisdom that a participant shared at our last Yoga for Grief gathering. I have been holding sacred space for bereaved folks for almost a decade and I could not have said it any better. Why is it that the deeper we love or the fuller we live, inevitably we each must enter into the healing ground of grief one way or another?
Each gathering that we have held has reminded me that while grief is a universal teacher, that everyone has their own unique way of coping with loss. By acknowledging this and other paradoxical truths in the grieving process it can be very disorienting and baffling at first but as we map out our own path we grow more confidently aware that we do indeed hold internal resources and resiliencies that help us along the way. It is like stumbling around in the darkest of rooms knowing that there is a flashlight, candle and matches or a light switch somewhere. We are not sure how we will find the light but we must search nonetheless. In the yoga for grief gatherings, participants get to have their own nest and safe space to deepen their yoga practice and at the same time be witnessed and bare witness along with other group members. Mary Oliver shares with us yet another one of those unavoidable and paradoxical realities in her poem “In Blackwater Woods”:
To live in this world
you must be able
to do three things:
to love what is mortal;
to hold it
against your bones knowing
your own life depends on it;
and, when the time comes to let it
to let it go.
I am honored to hold space so that participants can circle up in a way that allows the ancient and evidence-based practices of yoga and other healing rituals can nurture our bereaved minds and bodies. As you read this, trust the part of you that intuitively knows if this is the right gathering for you or for someone you know. Trust that if it does not feel like the right time to join that just by contemplating these paradoxical truths about our mortality you are already part of our circle. And trust that if it does feel like the right time to join us, that you will be held and supported by me and the other group members. It is in this gathering that the light of other members often helps us realize that we can indeed find the light within, even in the darkest of rooms.
There is indeed a time for all things and this is the time for you to trust your heart and know you are on the right path. Thank you so much for taking the time to open your heart just now. And may you deepen your breath into what ever thought or emotion arises in this moment, because that is a gift you can always offer to yourself.
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.
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…
First, let’s just say we absolutely adore our students. They are the reason behind everything we do. Recently, one of our dear students Greg Hubbard, emailed us requesting to cancel his membership. Although normally this would be a sad occasion, Greg let us know it was due to the fact he had just welcomed a new baby with his wife who he met in Sadie’s class!
We asked Greg and his wife Jenya to share their love story and how yoga has impacted their life. We hope you enjoy their sweet interview as much as we did!
1. What first drew you each to Namaste or the practice of yoga overall?
When I met Greg I was very new to yoga. I had moved back to the area and started a yoga membership as a way to get over the dissolution of a relationship. To give myself a new focus and a different experience. Greg, on the other hand, has been attending Sadie’s class for 8 years or so at this point, he loves stretching and strengthening his body and feels that her class is always evolving and left him feeling invigorated every Saturday.
2. How long had you taken Sadie’s class before you met and what was the catalyst for making that first connection?
So for Greg this was a typical Saturday morning in Rockridge at a Sadie class, and this was my first. Typically I would have attended something later than 9:30am on the weekend, but for some reason I was up and the description of the class sounded enticing. I noticed Greg right away immediately to my right :, and I felt that little pang of excitement in my stomach right away! Soon enough, Sadie asked us to partner up for an activity, and within 3 minutes I was getting a stretch assist from Greg! – yes!!! Greg says that Sadie is not often known for partner exercises, so this too was fortunate 🙂 And that is how the magic started
3. What is your favorite part about the Namaste community?
What we both really enjoy about Namaste is that it gave us a context to do a healthy activity together. We started taking classes together, and going to weekend yoga really became a part of our weekend routine to the point that having to miss a class for events or travel felt strange. We really enjoyed going to a class, chatting with folks after that we were getting to know, having a latte – starts of the day right!
4. How do you feel yoga has prepared you for this next chapter in your life?
We just became parents on Wednesday (eeeek!) and are really recognizing how important it is to really focus on taking care of ourselves as well as baby Olivia right now. We are trying to get her to learn how to breastfeed and just today Greg said “man I need to go to yoga to loosen my back from all this twisting.” So we are trying to be more gentle with ourselves. Also, Greg was helping me take deep breaths during labor, the breaths we learned in yoga! So yes, tons of benefits from ongoing practice, now we just have to find the time and money for it all! 🙂
5. What is your favorite thing to do off the mat?
Off the mat, we love to take our doggie, an 85lb rescue mix, for walks, still have lattes together on Saturday mornings, and try out new recipes at home and local restaurants. Now we also really love to cuddle our very new daughter!
By Vickie Russell Bell
I woke up this morning after sleeping for 8 hours and I felt wrecked, like I’d been hit by a bus. No, I didn’t have too many drinks the night before and I hadn’t even been awake at 3:30 needing to read for awhile to shut off the chatter in my mind. But I had been dreaming vividly. And the dreams were a bit like a post apocalyptic video game. What I knew upon waking was that my mind had been working through some stress. The evening before, I had finally made the decision to be honest with a man that I had been dating for a couple months. We had been having fun together, kind of a “friend’s with benefits” set up. But, I had been having this unsettled, nagging anxiety. After spending an hour quietly practicing restorative yoga, and inviting in this unsettled feeling (the sensation was just a clench in my chest and a hollow feeling in my belly that quickly dissipated as I gave it space) I knew that I needed to stop my current behavior in order to make space for the kind of relationship I truly desire.
Is this a piece about being single or dating etiquette? Not really. This is a piece about what’s often missing in our yoga practice. In the current yoga culture some of us have confused the practice of yoga with working out. Don’t get me wrong, working out is great and has it’s place. But the physical benefits of the practice of yoga are what I consider to be side effects. Long, lean, strong and flexible are wonderful by-products of showing up on our mat.
The other day I was talking with a colleague about the idea “gentle is the new advanced”. I wholeheartedly agree.
I tell myself I am important when I answer the question “how are you?” with the answer “I am so busy!” We learn to ignore our exhaustion, our discomfort and our heartbreak. We learn to abandon our deeper Truths and needs in order to be productive beings.
And there it is BEINGS! For a long time I was a doer who had forgotten how to be. I ignored the young parts of myself that needed my attention and my comfort. I pushed all of that away and ran on adrenaline. Until I couldn’t do it anymore. Slowing down felt scary like a little death.
When I learned about restorative yoga and my nervous system, I felt drawn to it and scared at the same time. How can I stop pushing? Who will I be? What if all those plates I’ve been spinning crash down around me…then what? The ease that I touched kept drawing me back. I craved the comfort of the props and the deliberate stillness and silence. The physical yoga postures feel amazing in my body. It is fun to work hard in practice and to learn new things. The asanas can invigorate and challenge; they can be sensual and soothing. Gripping and protection start to soften and my mind is more clear. After 26 years of practice, this softening and clearing is the entry, the invitation to sit or to lie still. To invite the feelings that have been pushed down or distracted against (that nagging sensation of anxiety that leads me to the tenderness of knowing that I want more from a relationship).
After my quiet practice this morning, I knew that I had made a decision that was filled with integrity and honored all my desires and needs. I also knew that even though I had slept for 8 hours, I had still been exhausted. Sleep and relaxation are not the same thing. My restorative practice honored my night of disturbed sleep and the sadness of disappointing another in order to care for myself.
Some days when I lie down I am faced with a whirlwind of thoughts and an almost pounding sense of my energy. What I know now after years of balancing active asana practice with stillness and meditation is that it takes a little time, a little patience and a light attention on the breath and little by little my whole being starts to quiet down. Some days the ease feels deep and wide, and others, I barely touch it. When the chimes ring after 22 minutes of sitting or watching my breath or doing a restorative pose, I am more spacious, more sane and sometimes I feel like I’ve had a healing vacation.
Give it a try. Silence, stillness and savasana. Set your timer for 20 minutes. Switch gears. Get still and quiet. It will change your life. What’s missing from your yoga practice?
This Sunday, March 26 | Opening to the Equinox with Vickie Russell Bell
Take time to open up the body, wring out stress and balance winter kapha energy. This practice will center on restorative twists and renewing poses that free the breath to prepare your entire being for springtime. Sign up today: http://ht.ly/acWN30aarC5