The Collective Tarot: The Magician

“Self Empowerment and Action”

from The Wild Unknown.

The Magician breaks away from the major arcana modus operandi of highlighting stillness and insight, instead it pushes ACTION. Take stock in the resources around you and realize you have access to all of the elements necessary for taking charge. Be fearless like the wildcat and pounce on the initiatives you’ve been eyeing with grace, speed, and agility. Don’t be afraid. You are as powerful and sleek as the feline in the jungle.

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Yoga for Grief

“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
go,
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.

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Healing Teachers, Healing Communities

Imagine a world in which the humanity of both students and adults on school campuses are honored as an integral part of the education experience. Adults are well-equipped with stress resilience tools, able to honestly communicate their boundaries so they don’t burn out, and are well-fed and well-rested. When triggered by stressful situations at school, they know how to pause, breathe, step out of their reactive brains and into appropriate conscious responses.

As a result, student discipline referrals decrease. Students are able to learn more effectively and more deeply because classroom tension and distractions decrease. Reactive racial biases and test anxiety decrease. Adults on school sites are able to support one another when problems arise, much like thriving parental partnerships, and mindfully make the best choices for everyone involved.Everyone can finally exhale. Students and teachers alike live in a community of trust and mutual respect. Everyone thrives and rises together.

This vision is possible—and why we began The Teaching Well.

The Teaching Well

As any long (or short-term) yoga practitioner knows, our abilities to be present and mindul off the mat are a direct result of the work that we do to train our bodies and minds on our yoga mats.I began practicing yoga in Los Angeles (if only we had Namaste there!) over 7 years ago. Day
after day, merging the world of my body and soul, my capacity to be resilient in the outside world dramatically increased. As B.K.S. Iyengar says, “When I began yoga, my mind was in many pieces and my body in one. Now, my mind is in one piece and my body in many.”

As a teacher in public schools in Los Angeles, I needed the tools yoga provided me. Simply by coming back to my mat, I became conscious of my body’s stress responses and how I felt when I spent too many hours in a chair grading papers or how I reacted to students when I had too much
caffeine. I noticed that I was able to pause longer when a student triggered me, or come up with more compassionate solutions to student’s misdirected aggression.

The Teaching Well

I won’t beat around the bush—our schools in this country are in crisis. More than ever, we focus on test scores as the only measure of achievement. Funding is so low that many schools don’t have libraries, arts or music programs, or access to basic supplies. And worst of all, teachers, especially in urban environments, are leaving the classroom at a staggering rate. In Oakland alone, according to a study done by GO Oakland Public Schools in 2012, 70% of all teachers leave within five years.

Its time for us to take what we all know in our personal lives and bring it into schools. Many incredible organizations are bringing yoga and mindfulness into schools—and changing the student experience. But what happens when a teacher, overworked and exhausted, reverses all of the powerful work being done on behalf of the students? Or, having burn-out, leaves the classroom and is no longer able to channel her expertise to students?

The Teaching Well

 

Teachers are the socio-emotional leaders of schools and classrooms—and when they aren’t well, they simply cannot channel health and wellbeing (not to mention academic content) to the young people they serve.

Our mission at The Teaching Well is to provide educators (both teachers and administrators alike) the wellness tools that they need so that they can be their BEST for students. We provide professional development workshops in nutrition, stress resilience, mindfulness, yoga and healthy communication, and follow-up with one-to- one and group mentoring to ensure that like a regular yoga practitioner, our teachers are being given the opportunity to continually reflect up and practice their self-care.

As Namaste’s SEVA Recipient for this quarter, we are humbled and incredible grateful. This generous donation (made by all of you!) will allow us to serve educators in Oakland who cannot afford our work—but who serve our city’s most marginalized youth on a daily basis. We cannot thank you enough for giving to us, so that we may give to Oakland.

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For more information about The Teaching Well, a non-profit teacher wellness organization (and their current Back-to- School Crowdfunding Campaign with video!), visit www.theteachingwell.org or theteachingwell.mydagsite.com.

Jane Mayer, Director of the Los Angeles Region of The Teaching Well

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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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Greg and Jenya: A Yoga Love Story

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!

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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!

Have your own yoga story?

Share with us at marketing@ilovenamaste.com to be featured on our blog!

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Seeing Gentle as Advanced Practice

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.

Our culture rewards us for going hard all the time. We feel worthy when we push and stress.

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.

IMG_0833When 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?

11_monthlyrestorative-socialJoin Vickie Russell Bell for the first session in her Restorative Series:

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

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10 Minute Morning “Primer” for Gratitude

A common myth around meditation is that there is a right and wrong way to approach it. Often we believe we must sit perfectly still in order to reap the full benefits of the practice. The truth is, mindfulness can lead to similar results and may appease some of us who are just too energized to sit and focus on one thought (or lack of thought). We first heard of the gratitude meditation, or morning priming exercise, from the motivational speaker Tony Robbins. Here is our suggestion for how you can get started!10 Minute Morning Gratitude Meditation

End your meditation practice by honoring yourself for taking the time out of your day to tune in. A healthy, clear you is what helps makes this world a better place.

[Photos taken from our friend Alaia at Localwise Jobs]

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Style Drishti: Friday Dressing

Friday dressing is an art form. The vibe is casual, but office-friendly. Finding the right balance of this professional, casual stance is critical. But I will share a secret with you, and the secret is called a jumper. What is it about a jumper? I can tell you 3 things that make a jumper magic:

  1. A jumper requires no matching. Put it on and voila, all you need are some shoes and a little sparkle. Top and bottom taken care of in one fell swoop.
  2. A jumpsuit is a statement. Without even trying, you will look polished and put together and like you are ready to take it all on. Again, does this have something to do with the top and bottom already matching?
  3. The playful aspect of a jumpsuit adds just the right touch of casual. It’s not a dress, so you can be active and move easily, but it’s not skinny jeans either, so you will stand out from the crowd.

Featured here on Xandra:

IMG_4256Tina+Jo Cowled Short Romper. Tina+Jo is designed and manufactured in LA and their styles feature hand dyes and urban ease. Head into our September heat waves with an effortlessly fashionable romper and make Friday dressing your own.

Leslie Francesca  Half Moon Necklace. Add a little sparkle to any outfit with one of Leslie Francesca’s raw gem understated pieces. As a gemologist, Leslie starts locally with the perfect druzy quartz or gemstone, sometimes plates them with fascinating iridescent finishes, and has them set in metals to her specs in South America. Add a little sparkle to your Friday, because admit it, you are closer to the weekend than ever.

Tina + Jo available at our Berkeley studio, Leslie Francesca jewelry available at all locations.

 

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