Ashram-ing in Place with Ken Breniman

For notes on living our best lives while we shelter in place, we checked in with our resident Namaste therapist and instructor, Ken Breniman. It’s been a long time for all of us here in the Bay Area, as we stay in our houses and reassess our lives. We hope to inspire you with how our instructors are navigating these strange times.

“For me, these past nine weeks have been filled with challenges and opportunities.

Ashram-ing with KenAs a yogi with extroverted tendencies, shifting to virtual yoga classes and individual yoga therapy sessions has allowed precious connections to continue during the pandemic, yet I still miss in person interactions.   Interestingly, I get to share yoga and singing bowls with people all over the globe as the virtual yoga studio allows people from far away to join my classes.   Perhaps the best part is, we each get to visit one another’s homes (virtually), which adds a unique form of intimacy (like when a pet playfully joins a student on their yoga mat!).

As best we can, we are all enlivening the OM in zoOM.

As we each sit in our own cocoons, the imaginal cells which help transform a caterpillar into a butterfly have been activated in every single one of us.  The ego may not be completely content with its caterpillar status but the ego so seldom is on board with the icky, messy ‘there’s no going back’ process of metamorphosis especially when we are uncertain what waits for us on the other side. This is not going to be easy, and I suspect some of us are struggling way more than we might be willing to admit. I sense there is a stirring below the surface allowing each of us to see what mantra, gift, or practice might align with our desired path.

I hope each of you finds a way to reassure your fearful heart.  I hope you have found some grounding and can hold your composure in the current situation, and that you reach out and share your approach with those around you. I am optimistic you will find a mantra or practice, which can be a beacon of light in the most stormy of nights.

 

Ken’s Triple Enough Mantra:

I am enough (to counter any sense that I am not doing enough in the world right now)

There is enough (to remind us of abundance)

That’s enough (stated compassionately and firmly to any negative self talk that might add doubt and to make space for affirmations)

 

Rinse and repeat frequently.

Ashram-ing in Place

While ashram-ing in place, I am committed to deepening my commitment to health and business development. I have deepened  my outdoor hiking and jogging practices as well as engaged in some online professional development endeavors.  My new website is up along with my new logo!

Find Ken on our weekly public schedule here. You can also find him for an upcoming Instagram Live on our @ilovenamaste channel. He will be offering a Mindful Mini-Practice Journaling Exercise for an Optimistic Outlook. Join us on Monday, May 25 at 3pm or find the practice on our IGTV after it airs.

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Meet Your Teacher: Rachel Wilkins

Meet your Namaste Teacher, Rachel Wilkins. Rachel believes that yoga practice is a way to connect with the sacred within and to recognize the universal reflected within all of us. Her approach to yoga is inspired by seasonal energetic shifts, lunar cycles, the radiance of the sun, the steadiness of the mountains, the fluid churning of the waves, the cleansing flow of the wind and the wild dance of the heart flames. Her classes may best be described as intuitive, creative, and transformative.

What do you think it is that makes your class unique?

Each class is a synergistic dance between the flow of creative sequencing, intuitive movement, breath and the energy of everyone practicing together. That’s one of the things I love about teaching, the magic that unfolds when we all come together with the collective intention to honor and embody the creative pulse. We flow together, move together, and see where the prana takes us.

What words of advice or motivation do you find yourself saying in class lately?

Let your breath be your teacher.

Meet Your Teacher Rachel Wilkins

What poses might students often find in your classes?

While I used to be a hardcore Ashtangi, my practice and my offering now comes from a more lunar, feminine approach. I still love sun salutations, but we explore more poses inspired by moon salutations, such as goddess pose, malasana, skandasana and sahaja (spontaneous movement). A classic Rachel pose would be goddess with simhasana, lion’s breath.

What is a potent alignment cue that you might give to students?

Close your eyes, listen to the somatic wisdom, the poetry of the body . . . how does it feel?

What’s the best general life advice you can give?

Meet Your Teacher Rachel Wilkins

What can you say that might help students to make time for their yoga or meditation practice?

Come as you are. You don’t need to have everything together to do your practice. That’s why we do yoga. Keep showing up and see what happens. If you need to just roll around on your mat for an hour, that’s perfect. If you need to sit and breath for an hour, if you need to do 50 chaturangas, do your thing. It’s perfect. It’s all yoga. The essence of sadhana, a spiritual practice, is showing up with devotion and commitment. Showing up is more than half the battle, what happens on your mat is up to you.

Is there one wellness practice that you would recommend for everyday use?

Morning gratitude meditation

What is one of your favorite mantras?

Om Mani Padme Hum

✨ Om: the seed sound of creation

✨ Mani: inner jewel

✨ Padme: lotus

✨ Hum: unity

I bow to the inner jewel, the inner lotus. I bow to the inner knowing, the inner fire of consciousness. That which is pure. I connect with all that is.

What are you grateful for today?

The sense of hope in the air.

Please join Rachel for her weekly public classes with Namaste, live streaming on Zoom. They are a fun and freeing way to spend your yoga hour.

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Quarantine’s Rewards with Renee Bruno

Namaste instructor Renee Bruno’s quarantine has revealed some surprising riches.

“One of the sweetest rewards through this period of time is to have both the firm push alongside the excess time to both think and act creatively. To problem-solve. To consider new ways of living. To let go of old patterns as they once again appear in a new light.

My partner and I began by grocery shopping for our elderly neighbors. The exchange grew and we are surprised every week with new treasures left on our doorsteps.

Freshly laid eggs, letters, flowers, chocolates. One that is especially sweet is a new pen pal art exchange which has blossomed with a neighbor.

There is nothing more fulfilling than sharing gifts from the heart, just because!”

Find Renee in her weekly classes with Namaste. View her schedule and sign up here.

Share your story of life under quarantine with us – how you are taking care of your self or others, or what yoga has meant to you during this time. Learn more about our #keepeverydaysacred campaign here.

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Virtual Classes Cross State Lines

We asked for your stories of how you have been caring for your self and for others, and it has been emotional hearing your responses.

We are moved at how one silver lining of the current situation is how virtual classes cross state lines and has allowed our student community to expand across local boundaries.

Namaste student Mairin Lee shared the following about her experience:

“I’m an Oakland native living in New York City. I only get to take class at Namaste when I am in Oakland for work or visiting my family. One of the bright spots of the last few weeks has been getting to take class online, all the way from New York!

Here is my story: I live in a large, 300 unit building in Chelsea. Our building has a group email list that has been full of encouraging, kind, and supportive messages in the last few weeks. There are residents offering to run errands for people who can’t; there’s a doctor who is keeping us informed and calm with his weekly check-ins; and one person even organized a donation of PPE for hospitals. We had some latex gloves at home that I usually wear for cleaning the house, and we donated the remainder to her collection. Other residents gave gloves if they had them, and one person even had access to 3,000 masks somewhere offshore that they had shipped here! It feels like we have really become neighbors and a community.”

Mairin shared one of the doctor’s notes that has helped to hold her building together:

“This is the time a family pulls together, a community comes together. I was born in Buffalo, NY but raised in India where I did all my schooling, medical school, residency in Internal Medicine and worked in critical care. When I first came to NYC in 2003, I knew no one and I recall during my neurology residency after a call was over, just sitting in Union Square watching the world go by. This city adopted me no questions asked. It opened its arms and welcomed me and in 2011, I made 555 W my home in New York. We all have a story to share. This is the time to give back to the city and the people who make it so unique.”

~Nitin K Sethi, MD, MBBS, FAAN

Have something to share about how you are caring for yourself or others, or how you are being cared for by someone else?

Inspire us with you story! Learn how you can win a free class this April by joining this inspirational campaign.

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Quarantining with Margi Young: Your Face Brightens Everything

We know from the student perspective how comforting it is to see your teacher there waiting for you when you get on the Zoom platform. But how is it for your teacher? Do they feel like they are teaching to the empty room they are in? We asked Margi what the experience of teaching online classes has been like for her. She shared some very special sentiments.

“It is a new found thrill to have to clean up, get out of my ultra soft pajamas, leave Fin and Michael downstairs and go up the the attic space, formerly a lego space/guest room. I take a few breaths to prepare to interface with Zoom… somehow, it’s not smooth yet.

Then as I see your faces pop up, I lean in and am aware of a massive smile that I can’t take off!

Quarantining with Margi

The three jewels of Buddhism are Buddha (the teacher), Dharma (the teachings) and Sangha (the community). Way more than ever, I am feeling the importance of that third pillar. I am totally transformed to be with my dear students and sense all of our aching pumping hearts together, but apart. It is a blessing to have formed these bonds in the flesh which are quite strong enough to carry to the screen.

One of my favorite moments teaching a virtual class lately was when i was very much feeling like Ms. Marianne from Romper Room (I see Julie, I see Robert, I see Lucy…..i don’t mind dating myself!) and one of my beloved students piped in to say that she was one of the kids on that show! It reminded me of a class in NYC when I taught “ice skating pose” and later someone told me that Bryan Boitano was in class!”

Join Margi for online Zoom classes at Namaste.

You’ll make her day! Sign up for a class here. Remember to sign up 30 minutes before the start of practice.

Do you want to share your story about how you are taking care of yourself or your community, or what your experience of sheltering in place has been like for you? We want to hear the stories of our community and be inspired by you! Visit our #keepeverydaysacred to learn more and see how you can share with us.

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Quarantining with Baxter Bell

We are taking the time to check in with our instructors to see what wisdom they are gathering from this historical moment, and to hear their tips on caring for themselves and their community of students and beyond. Here’s what we learned about quarantining with Baxter Bell.

How did it make you feel seeing your students online?

“Having taught at the studio since we first opened in the early 2000s, I have a lot of long time students, so it is not only reassuring to see them in class and know they are well enough to join me for yoga, but old time students I have not seen in many years have been able to take class with me again. This reconnection with old and new students alike has felt quite special and precious!”

Have there been surprising rewards to the life changes you are experiencing?

“Being sequestered at home with my sweetie, we are getting around to dealing with important things that affect us as a couple, like finally consolidating health insurance, car and renters insurance…things that would have just sat there waiting for our attention when things “slowed down,” which they normally never do! Although not glamorous, these small things will improve the quality of our lives.

Also, it has been fun to be able to help Melina with some of her online classes, and she has been super supportive of mine!”

Quarantining with Baxter Bell

What activities have kept you grounded during these times?

“I’m reading a book about Libraries, which is surprisingly engrossing, and I have had the time for more of my own yoga practice, which really is helpful in keeping me grounded. We also try to get out for a long walk or bike ride in the neighborhood, practicing excellent social distancing with our community!!! And I have been playing my violin and mandolin a lot lately, which has been a great focus for my mind and spirit. Working on a few John Prine tunes since his very recent passing.”

Join Baxter for online Zoom classes at Namaste.

You can view his schedule and sign up here. Be sure to sign up at least half an hour before the start time!

Baxter has also created an excellent resource on finding items in your house that you can use as yoga props.

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Giving Gratitude for those Who Keep Us Well

In gratitude for the work that is done on the health care front lines, we are giving back in the way we best know how. We believe in Yoga as a modality that will provide for the chance to come back to your body, to honor your self, to release physical and emotional tension, to relieve stress, and to offer perspective.

We are indebted to all of our teachers for making this offering possible.

Namaste’s owner has said it best:

“The biggest takeaway of these days for me is one of gratitude.  Grateful for all that we have.  Grateful for this yoga practice.  Grateful that it fulfills us and keeps us grounded during times like this.  Grateful that we are able to share it with others to provide refuge, safety and in service for others.”

It is in this spirit that we are extending the offer of complimentary classes to all local Bay Area frontline hospital health care workers.

To learn more about this initiative or to redeem classes, click here. Do you know someone working in this capacity? Please help us get the word out by sharing our initiative directly or through social media.

 

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Inspired by Yoga to Care for the Community

We recently received a very sweet email from one of our students sharing how Namaste’s ability to navigate the temporary closure of our physical space into the opening of our virtual space provided a spark of insight for her own impacted business. We’ve always believed in the power of yoga to create a better world, but now more than ever, we can see how yoga is a grounding, connecting, and inspiring force. Since we can all use a little inspiration and positivity these days, we are sharing the inspiring story of one student here. With gratitude to Isabel Gomez for sharing her story, and with the hope that it may inspire you to share your own journey with the community.

“It didn’t take Namaste long at all to figure out a way to keep us students connected with our teachers and our practice. The day the shelter in place was announced, Namaste reached out with how we would be able to continue our practices through virtual class offerings.

With so many things uncertain, with so many businesses shutting down, and with anxiety over public health reaching a tipping point, we at least knew we had access to our yoga community. A constant that we desperately needed.

On my end, it took a few tries to get the location and setup right. Where was the best place for my laptop to sit? Which part of the living room would be ideal for my practice? Do I prefer the camera on or off? After taking a few classes, my own little practice space revealed itself to me — my balcony!

Inspired by Yoga

 

It’s not big, but my yoga mat fits stretched out. The birds chirping, the occasional car passing by, and the clinking of dog leashes serve as my soundscape. I have found myself spending savasana with my eyes open as I use the lively branches or moving clouds as visual meditations.

I own a small daycare here in Oakland. After the shelter in place order went into effect, and all of my families went into quarantine, my staff and I wondered how we would be able to offer a service like caregiving, which is so interpersonal and tactile, during a time of isolation.

I was inspired by Namaste’s quick and creative response to the communal need for yoga. After my first yoga class on Zoom, I organized a virtual circle time for my families to meet up on every other day of the week. The children see their friends’ faces, we sing some songs together, and we reestablish a sense of community and routine.

On the topic of routine, I have very much appreciated the ability to continue taking some of my favorite teachers’ classes. I have also been able to try classes that never used to work out with my schedule. Teachers often say that the hardest part of yoga is deciding to go. While the Namaste studios are less than a 10 minute walk or drive away, it certainly makes it easier to commit to a class when the commute only involves clicking on an email link.

Inspired by Yoga

Late last week, I noticed that there were five classes that I wanted to take on Sunday. Before signing up for one of them, I thought, why not take a couple that day and make it a sort of personal yoga retreat, so that’s what I did.* I wrote up a little document with my intentions for the retreat and some journal prompts and signed up for three classes: Abby’s Hatha Flow in the morning, Hayley’s Hatha Flow at noon, and Rebecca’s Yin Yoga & Meditation to close out the day. I can honestly say that I would not have done something like this if I had to drive to the studio back and forth.

Going deeper into my hOMe yoga practice is something I have always wanted to commit to. With the shelter in place order, I certainly have the time to do that now, and with Namaste’s online offerings, I also have the guidance.”

You can learn more about Isabel and her small business, The Circle Childcare, here.

* While we love that our students are excited to take multiple classes a day with their unlimited memberships, this is just a reminder, to please remember, that it does put additional pressure on our business as we struggle through these times. Everything in balance and moderation. 

Do you have a story to share about what you are doing to take care of your self or your community at this time?

During the month of April, we are raffling off a free class to a few people each week who submit their stories to us. Send us an email, dm us @ilovenamaste, or use the hashtag #keepeverydaysacred on social media when you share your story, and we’ll enter you in our raffle. More details can be found here.

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What to Read: Recs for a Slower Lifestyle

Wondering how to spend your time these days? We asked our teachers what they were reading. Finding inspiring and positive content can help you strike a better mental balance when dealing with the exceptional circumstances we find ourselves in these days. There is a tendency toward information overwhelm and it is easy to get bogged down with anxiety producing new articles and social media. Balance those tendencies with some media that inspires, educates, or simply allows you to transport yourself.

Here’s a list of some books our instructors cracked open recently. What are you reading?

Memoirs

Renee Bruno: Frida and Me: Art and One Woman’s Triumph over PTSD by Eli Weintraub

Margi Young: Everything is Under Control: A memoir with Recipes by Phyllis Grant

New Ways of Thinking

Ken Breniman: The Way of the Psychonaut by Stan Grof

Simona Balan: Transparent Power by Tatsuo Kimura

Melina Meza: Why We Sleep: Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams by Matthew Walker

Domonick Wegesin: Behave: The Biology of Humans at our Best and Worst by Robert Sapolsky

Hanna Malm: Pelvic Liberation By Leslie Howard

Good ol’ Fiction

Sarah Moody: The Testaments by Margaret Atwood

Jill White Lindsay: The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

Rachel Heron: Shadow Tag by Louise Erdrich

Torrey Mansur: The Dutch House by Ann Patchett

Jamie Patterson: IQ84 by Haruki Murakami

Kids Books

Annemaria Rajala: Moomin books (reading with her son, Cole)

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What to Expect in your Perinatal Class

Wondering what to expect from a perinatal class?

During a prenatal class you’ll gently move your body into different asanas (or poses) aimed at developing your strength, flexibility and balance. Breath work is strongly incorporated to prime you for labor and childbirth by training you to stay calm and strong when you need it most. Our instructors are trained in the nuances of yoga for an expecting body, so you will be guided gently through pregnancy appropriate poses.

A postnatal practice aids in healing, increasing relaxation, and gentle strengthening. These classes are also a wonderful way to connect with other new mothers in a supportive and healthy environment. You may or may not do a lot of yoga, depending on how your little one behaves, but making the effort to come to class and even having a bit of the class to move on your mat will make a world of differnece. Postnatal classes are appropriate for women from about four to six weeks postpartum and up until about six months, or when baby begins to crawl – twins welcome!

Learn more, find class times, and sign up for workshops developed for the various stages of motherhood on our Perinatal Yoga page.

Each of our experienced instructors brings their own unique flavor to class. While they may focus on different movements, the end goal is always to have you leave feeling a little better than when you entered.

What to Expect in your perinatal class

 

What to Expect in your perinatal class

 

What to Expect in your perinatal class

Mamas, and mamas to be — We hope to see you in class soon! Come join our community and find the support system you need to stay present in your new role.

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