How to Use A Mala for Meditation

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

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

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

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

Mala Post

How to use a mala for meditation:

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

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

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

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


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Why You Should Always Practice Savasana

by Judy Rukat

[This post originally appears on]

I often remind students at the end of teaching a challenging and sweaty Hot Power Yoga Flow class that we show up to the practice for the Savasana.
It is the moment of surrender when the idea of self dissolves, when we release the burdens that plague the body, the fears that invade the mind, and the expectations we place upon ourselves–inviting liberation to awaken from deep within the psyche.

How Do I Get Liberation?

Freedom is the natural state. At the core of human existence, a primal need to survive motivates us to exist within the structures of society—creating boundaries and limitations through which we channel ambitions and desires, and confront personal, relational and global conflicts.

All of these are real, of course.However, just as there is no denying that sustaining a Warrior III pose is a definite struggle, the struggle alone does not define the experience of yoga or of life. If anything, I encourage a physically challenging practice to break down the walls we have in place that define who we are in the world.

Those walls construct the much-needed ego, without them I could not be I, nor you would not be you. These beautiful distinctions provide individuality and a medium through which we engage our unique selves…and coexist, fall in love, and break apart to keep the cycle in motion.

Who Do You Think You Are?

However, we are NOT merely who we THINK we are. Savasana puts us back in our place, so to speak. Practicing at least five minutes serves as a visit home, where we invite presence or an acknowledgment of being right here and right now into the moment.

This we do without projecting into an undefined future or remaining stagnant in memories.

A few moments of simply observing BEing nothing more than an infinite state of blossoming rejuvenates the spirit and invites freedom from the depths into everyday life.

Savasana is peace.
Freedom is peace.
You are peace. Nothing more.

JudyProfileAnewI teach yoga for the rebels, the rogues, the weak, broken, and damaged, the lost and hopeless, the underdog, the ones who only know struggle, the motherless, the addicts, and those who love too much. I am all of these, and I know that a vast ocean of peace lies beneath all this. I’ll never tell you what yoga is and isn’t, you decide for yourself. Just show up and find what liberates you on your mat! Connect with me on Instagram and Facebook.

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The Middle Path of Parenting

by Rebekkah LaDyne [This post originally appeared on Rebekkah’s blog, This Mindful Life]

A colleague of mine, who has been practicing and teaching meditation for a long time, said to me, “Before I had kids I never knew how angry I could feel.” Ahh, sigh. Our kids bring out the best and the worst in us at times. And yet isn’t it sooo taboo to feel angry, especially at our beloved children? However we all sometimes do. I mean I do, don’t you?

From what I’m hearing “on the street” lately, it seems to me that the “conscious parenting” camp, which is a very respectable map for encouraging family connection and emotionally intelligent children, comes down too hard on the parents. The message I’m hearing, and that it seems my friends and neighbors are internalizing, is that we are supposed to always know just what to say, just how to resolve, how to console, lift up, teach and role model for our children. I’ve seen so many books and videos that offer really valuable information about how to raise happy healthy children but sometimes the main message that comes across is that we parents should all be trying just a little (or a lot) harder.

It leaves me wondering, where are our advocates? When does a book or video series get produced that talks about happy, emotionally intelligent parents, one that lets us make mistakes, foible and kindly lets us off the hook for getting it wrong sometimes?

Recently, at the park with a friend, while our gaggle of children played, my friend confided in me, “I blew it with my kids this morning.” “Me too,” I say. “Really?” she replies, very surprised. And the added guilt that, “I, the Mindfulness teacher, should never mess up,” comes traipsing right into my head. I take a breath and send that thought on out. “Yes, I think everyone does sometimes. This is a hard job!” I smile and say (for both of our benefits).

“I don’t think anyone really admits it though.” she responds. “Well we all should.” I sigh, “We’re only making ourselves more miserable with these impossibly high standards.”

It all makes me think of the extremes and impossible standards that Siddhartha Gautama (the man who later became the buddha) discovered. His pendulum swung between having all pleasures and comforts and having none of them. Much to his surprise, all imaginable pleasures did not bring lasting happiness. So he went running from them, only to discover that denying all all pleasures was nota source of lasting happiness either. The extremes were leading to unhappiness not away from it.

“There is addiction to indulgence of sense-pleasures, which is unworthy, and unprofitable; and there is addiction to self-mortification, which is painful, unworthy, and unprofitable.” -Siddhartha Gautama

The extremes in parenting might be described as: Being totally passionate, aka obsessed, about being the perfect, excellent, grade A parent – a source of unhappiness; or being uninvolved, checked out, and giving up on the whole process of parenting – a source of unhappiness.

Mr. Gautama discovered that neither extreme was satisfying in part because each led to obsession and “addiction”. He discovered that the middle way was the path of happiness. And that not getting “addicted” to the seemingly perfect extremes was a key.

I think we could use more middle way parenting. Right away I think of pediatrician and psychoanalyst, D. Winnicott’s research on ‘good enough parenting’ and the idea that “ordinary devotion” from a parent is enough to help the child feel “alive and real in one’s mind and body.”

I’ve fallen prey to the fantasy that if I just scowl at myself hard enough for being impatient, it will make me more patient…It never works.


When I am able to maintain mindfulness during a row with my child, I have thoughts but they don’t have me. And if I notice that my self talk is aghast at my own feelings and reactions it always revs my engine higher, making the conflict worse. If instead I am kind to my feelings, understanding of my own thoughts as well as the feelings and thoughts of my child, it deescalates much more easily.

So just as the middle way to enlightenment asks that we not distract ourselves with perfect and imperfect “practice” but rather just keep showing up, being mindful, taking time to sit and breathe and trusting the practice will work through us, I believe (even though I forget sometimes too) that the same is true for middle way parenting. Keep showing up, keep talking through the blunders and relishing in the sweetness, keep breathing through the flip outs (your child’s and yours). And kindly allow the ups and downs of it all.

Jack Kornfield, teacher, author and co founder of IMS and SRMC, said, “We couldn’t hire a better master teacher from anywhere – some amazing and wise person who would really take us to task on growing our compassion, patience, love in the face of adversity – then these little people we live with called our children. They are the greatest, most diligent, hard driving teachers we will ever know.”

Mindfulness if the process of beginning again and again, wrote Sharon Salzberg teacher, author and co founder of IMS and NYI.

Lately I’ve been mindlessly expecting perfection and completely not achieving it. (Deep breath.)

As I begin again I know these next few mindful days will not just be easier but also more loving and patient, to my sweet children, to my partner and last but not least, to myself.

One of my favorite stories (and illustrations of the middle way of leadership) is of the Dalai Lama. He made a clear translation error in front of, oh, thousands of people. He went so far as to argue back and forth with his translator about the error and after several exchanges of his translator very respectfully saying, “Your holiness the translation is ‘x’, not ‘y’, the Dalai Lama’s eyes lit up, and he said, “Oh yes, you are right. Ha ha ha, I made a mistake.” He then bowed to translator, interviewer and all, and simply went on with a big smile on his face.

May we all be so graceful and light-hearted in the face of our next parenting mistake! One foot in front of the other down the middle way.


Rebekkah’s informal and accessible manner makes learning Mindfulness easy.

Rebekkah has been practicing Mindfulness, Meditation and Yoga for over 20 years and been teaching these wisdom traditions for the last 15 years. She teaches Embodied Mindfulness by guiding each student to bring the practice not just into the head but into the heart and body as well. As director and lead teacher of a thriving Yoga and Mindfulness Center from 1998 – 2008 Rebekkah guided thousands of students to reconnect with their hearts, minds and bodies. She taught at Spirit Rock Meditation center as their ongoing Family Program Teacher from 2010 – 2013. Currently, through this mindful life, she delights in teaching Mindfulness to families, teens and adults through her private practice, workshops, and retreats.

Rebekkah is leading a Mother-Daughter Mindfulness Series beginning this week!


5 Wednesdays: February 25 – March 25
4:30-5:30pm | 8-10 year olds + mom
Namaste Berkeley


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Mama, I Hate You: A Lesson on Peace and Parenting

by Rebekkah LaDyne [This post originally appeared on Rebekkah’s blog, This Mindful Life]

Mama, I Hate You.

..said my little girl, looking up at me with sadness and anger in her eyes. This from a girl who really loves her mama. She’s my daughter who often says she does not want to go to school or even playdates because she would rather “be with mama.”

On the morning of her birthday party my daughter had a special breakfast at a restaurant with her grandmother – kind-hearted grandma who incidentally uses the word “hate” frequently. It’s a generational thing, I tell myself, and yet, when grandma is visiting, “hate” always seems to make a few cameo appearances in my daughter’s speech. But until this morning it had never been used to describe how she feels about me.

While she was out for her party day breakfast, I had been busy hiding surprises all over our yard. As grandma’s car pulled into the driveway, my husband jumped outside and called to me, “Stall them,” as he ran to our backyard to hide more surprises. I headed out front as casually as possible and kept everyone in the driveway interviewing them about their restaurant adventure. I commended myself for successfully acting nonchalant while inside I felt slightly frantic – I still needed to frost the cake, set out the snacks, and get my girls dressed. After the hiding was complete and everyone back inside, I rushed around like a slightly off-kilter tornado. As I whirled this way and that, I was all too aware that I needed to calm myself so I could provide the most important element of the party for my little girl, a settled and present mama. But centered mama was no where to be seen at that time. When my daughters started protesting about getting dressed for the party, I was quick to cut them off at the pass. Firm and uncompromising mama was now in residence, kids were going to get dressed and the stern tornado—me—was off to frost the cake. Birthday girl was not happy with the frosting. Her displeasure was made clear as she hid from her cake inside my apron.

Mama’s tornado was desperately trying to complete its tasks without leaving any rubble in its wake.

I was losing my patience despite my efforts to play it cool and be the friendly, calm, loving mama I wanted to be right then. While I attempted to smile and “fix it” (the cake), my tension was mounting and the rock in my back that appears when I am forgetting my mindfulness was pressing hard on my spine. Apparently the birthday girl felt tense too, because that’s when the dreaded declaration made its debut: “Mama, I hate you.” At first I felt startled. Then I felt frustrated with grandma, whom I blamed for re-injecting this high-octane word into our household. And finally, I was sobered. “Mama, I hate you” had been my mindfulness bell. It had pulled me out of the mindset of there and then — the party fun will begin out there in the yard (with all the fun things I’ve been breaking my back to hide) and the cake will be enjoyed then, during the fun, fun party we are about to have, (enjoying it now is of no importance). This mindfulness bell had brought me back to the here and now. The fun birthday celebration for my little girl was right now, not then, and right here, not there.

“Mama, I hate you” echoed in my head once again and I got what she was telling me. She hated how I was being. The rushed, frantic, short-tempered mama who was throwing this party was not the mama that my daughter wanted to spend her party day with. I was being a mama to be hated.

When I realized all of this I scooped her up in hugs, kisses and empathy. While we talked through the incident; each of us apologizing and conceding to use our kind words and calm bodies, something more important was being transmitted, and it did not come from what we were saying. As we were talking, my body was softening, my frantic energy was transforming into calm, and I was with my daughter for the first time since she’d come home. I was finally in the here and now. She responded right away to my presence and as we went to the kitchen to finish the cake together I was careful to sidestep any of my own inner reactivity at her delivery of this important message. While, “I hate you” is not the way I would have wished to receive her plea for me to return to her, those were the words she had at that time and so I chose to just hear her message. After I had returned to my body and my mindfulness, and saw clearly that what I had intended to do was very different from what I had actually been doing, the tornado flew away. I was relieved to be left there in the yard on a bright sunny day with my family and a lovely party ahead of us… and I can happily share that it turned out to be a truly wonderful day.


Rebekkah’s informal and accessible manner makes learning Mindfulness easy.

Rebekkah has been practicing Mindfulness, Meditation and Yoga for over 20 years and been teaching these wisdom traditions for the last 15 years. She teaches Embodied Mindfulness by guiding each student to bring the practice not just into the head but into the heart and body as well. As director and lead teacher of a thriving Yoga and Mindfulness Center from 1998 – 2008 Rebekkah guided thousands of students to reconnect with their hearts, minds and bodies. She taught at Spirit Rock Meditation center as their ongoing Family Program Teacher from 2010 – 2013. Currently, through this mindful life, she delights in teaching Mindfulness to families, teens and adults through her private practice, workshops, and retreats.

Rebekkah is leading a Mother-Daughter Mindfulness Series beginning next week!

Wednesdays October 1 – 29
7-8 year olds + mom
Namaste Berkeley
Wednesdays October 1 – 29
9-10 year olds + mom
Namaste Berkeley
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Mindfulness Tools for Today: An Intro to MBSR

Video by Rebekkah LaDyne

At Namaste, we strive to offer programs that we feel can easily be integrated into our modern lives. Mindfulness is something all yogis strive for but really is a fantastic practice for everyone, whether they have a yoga practice or not. Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction is a way of separating yourself from the thoughts that trigger negative emotions, therefore allowing space between you and the urge to react to those thoughts that often trigger stress. MBSR has been praised by people across all demographics, industries, and schools of thought as a scientifically proven method for treating depression, anxiety and insomnia.

Our thoughts are extremely powerful and sometimes, when left unchecked, can manifest into physical illnesses. The beauty behind MBSR is that it does not teach us to ignore stress and illness, but rather to relate to them in a new way. Changing our perspective us gives us a new freedom and ability to approach our problems with a calm, level head.

In this article from, Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn (the founder of MBSR), acknowledges that “there are few outright cures for chronic diseases or for stress-related disorders,” however, “it is possible for us to heal ourselves — to learn to live with and work with conditions that present themselves in the moment. Healing implies the possibility that we can relate differently to illness, disability and even death, as we learn to see with eyes of wholeness.”

If you are interested in learning more about this holistic practice, we encourage you to watch the video below and consider attending our September MBSR workshop series!

This post originally appeared on Rebekkah’s blog The Mindful LifeMindfulness practice can invite us to allow our experience to be as it is, opening to, accepting it. Mindfulness can also help us to take wise action, and to incline the mind away from unhelpful thoughts. Find out more about these practices with this pithy teaching.


pic_aboutrebekkahAs director and lead teacher of a thriving Yoga and Mindfulness Center from 1998 – 2008 Rebekkah guided thousands of students to reconnect with their hearts, minds and bodies. She taught at Spirit Rock Meditation center as their ongoing Family Program Teacher from 2010 – 2013. Currently, she delights in teaching Mindfulness to families, teens and adults through her private practice, workshops, and retreats. 

Join Rebekkah in her upcoming 8-week series beginning September 14th.


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There is No App for Happiness

By Max Strom

“No poet is ever going to write about gazing into his lover’s emoticons.”

I bought a perfectly good flip phone three years ago, but lately people tease me about it as if I’m using something from the Victorian Era. Before that, I had a different flip phone, which followed an analog cell phone. Remember those? And before that, I had a telephone with a wire that stuck in a wall. You want to know which one had the best sound quality? The one that stuck in the wall. But I digress… What I want to talk about is what hasn’t been upgraded: the quality of human communication. The quality of our conversations with friends and loved ones hasn’t improved one bit. In fact, many people now send text messages instead of conversing at all. We have far greater access, but far less intimacy.

Information technology is expanding at such a rate that nearly every aspect of our world has been impacted, yet there has been no corresponding expansion of personal happiness. Instead, we find that we have become anxious, sleep-deprived, depressed, and over-medicated.

One in four women in the United States takes antidepressants and/or anti anxiety medication, with men not far behind. And for sleep? The Center for Disease Control has declared that insufficient sleep is an epidemic.

My premise is not that technology is supposed to increase our happiness but that our society now believes it does. We have become confused as to the difference between happiness and entertainment. The constant glancing into our smart phone to see if anyone has pinged us, while a friend is sitting across the table speaking to us, are indicators that we are addicted to something that is making us less considerate and more alienated.

Here is one of the most important statistics you may ever read that explains the clash of human happiness with text-based technology. According to research from 1981, approximately 90 percent of human communication is nonverbal. So although we are more connected than ever, when we communicate with text, it is only 10 percent of us that is connected. It is no wonder we feel more alienated. The overuse of social media, texting, and gaming is causing our society, especially young people, to develop symptoms that remind me of Asperger syndrome — verbal difficulties, avoiding eye contact, inability to understand social rules and read body language, and difficulty in forming true friendships.

Emotional intimacy requires personal knowledge of the deeper dimensions of another being and is developed through trust. Trust can begin, or end, with a first glance, because, like other animals, we inherently know a great deal about each other through body language and tone of voice. In fact, we often ascertain the trustworthiness of a person in mere seconds, without a word spoken. Based on nonverbal communication we regularly make life-altering decisions; whether or not to begin a business relationship, accept a date with someone, or allow someone to look after your child. We rely on nonverbal communication at the deepest level of our being.

Innovators are making great strides in programing humanoid-type robots that have faces and can produce human expressions. These robots are programmed to make eye contact and to read and respond to human emotional expressions, tone of voice, and body language.

The strange and perhaps history-bending irony is that we are teaching robots to make eye contact and watch for nonverbal cues, but meanwhile, we humans are now avoiding these things, opting instead to send texts and then adding smiley faces to crudely humanize the message. We are humanizing robots as we voluntarily dehumanize ourselves.

In my new book, There is No App for Happiness, (Skyhorse August 2013) I introduce readers to three imperatives that accelerate change from the inside out, humanizing change that I believe can make us happier. The one I will mention here is Life-Span Management. We have an incongruous schism between the concepts of our time and our life as if they were two completely separate things. In one hand we have a precious short life, and in the other hand we have time to kill. Time is not only money, it is much more than that; it is the minutes and seconds of our mortal life. Your time is the finite resource from which you experience this world — everyone, everything, and especially that which you are devoted to and live for. Because it is a finite resource, whether we are aware of it or not, we all purchase each time-event at the cost of another. When we come to this realization, a giant bell rings as we comprehend how much of our life-span we have been wasting on meaningless activities that serve no one and nothing. Happiness costs something. What are you willing to sacrifice to have more life/time? And what is stealing your time?

Remember Steve Job’s famous quote? “My favorite things in life don’t cost any money. It’s really clear that the most precious resource we all have is time.”

I am sharing this quote not because it is unique, because it isn’t. I share this particular quote because these words were spoken by the icon of tech success. Jobs achieved great wealth, power, and fame, only to discover that his favorite things in life were free — and not made from silicon.

To be clear, I am not anti-technology. Quite the contrary, I am even an advocate of self-driving cars. But I think that we have to select our technology wisely. If we bring technology into our life, it should simplify our life and give us more free time, not take it away. If it doesn’t make your current life run more seamlessly, get rid of it. Everything new is not better.

Maybe it’s time we start applying Silicon Valley style innovation to ourselves so that we find a path to a more meaningful experience of living, and a more sane world.

MaxStromThis article first appeared in the HuffingtonPost titled “There is No App for Happiness”.
Max will be leading a workshop at Namaste on July 20, learn more.

Max Strom is a global teacher, speaker, author, and trainer, and is known for profoundly inspiring and impacting the lives of his students for nearly two decades. Many of you know him from his inspiring book, A Life Worth Breathing, which is now published in six languages, and his recent book, There is No APP for Happiness. In 2006, the increasing demand for his work caused him to take his method beyond his center in Los Angeles, and he now takes his message around the world to people of many faiths and nationalities every year. As a result, Max Strom has become a new voice of personal transformation. Max’s method, Inner Axis, is a system of field-tested skills and techniques that get immediate results. It includes a philosophy for real world living, breath-work, yoga movement, and meditation.


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Invest in Rest, Reduce Your Stress

We all know that it pays to take it easy sometimes. But with the sun shining and the air full of sweet summer smells, our ability to take that life advice sometimes falls to the wayside. Neglecting to slow down comes at a high price though. Over activity and stimulation leads to many of our most common health problems such as back pain, heart disease, weight gain, adrenal fatigue, and mood swings.

Good news is there are simple ways to “mindfully relax” that help the body, mind, and spirit feel renewed and ready to keep taking on the world. These easy techniques are perfect for healing the body of injuries, letting the mind unwind, and giving yourself permission to emotionally just chill out for a few minutes.

Vickie Russell Bell knows plenty about relaxation and restoration. She is leading Namaste’s 20 Hour Restorative Yoga Immersion this summer and is passionate about sharing the importance of mindful relaxation with our community. A little R&R never hurt anybody, and let’s face it, who doesn’t want an excuse to just rest up?

Vickie gave us a few suggestions on how to tune into tuning out the world. We encourage you to try your hand at one of these today!


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Meditation in Motion: How to Stay Present in the Body

By Jill Satterfield

Meditation in Motion is a way of practicing being present by being in our body, wherever it is and whatever it is doing.When we are exactly where our body is, we are in the present moment. The body isn’t in the past or future, it’s not conceptual or imagined; it’s part of nature and contains all of nature’s elements. It houses our awareness, is shaped by our stories, thoughts, and emotions, and holds our memories within its tissues. The body is our house—and how we live in it and where we occupy it are uniquely ours, as well as being part of the common human experience.

The body is a treasure trove and an exquisite vehicle for our practice of waking up and being with what is. The body senses thoughts and emotions, and it displays this psychic knowing in sensations before our mind actually cognizes them. So being in tune with our bodies is a way to be intimately involved in having choice.

Noticing a small vibration, a contraction, or a tightening of the breath all can signal that something is about to be announced, and if not heeded it might be announced in a rather big way. (Think of the rumblings of the ground before the eruption of a volcano.) As we inhabit our body with increasing sensitivity, we learn its unspoken language and patterns, which gives us tremendous freedom to make choices.

The practice of cutting thoughts and dispersing negative repetitive patterns can be simplified by attending to the patterns in the body first, before they begin to be spun around in the mind. Practice is the ground of training that influences all we do at other times. As an outgrowth of the concentrative awareness developed by our meditation practice, there is a natural seeping of wakefulness into our daily life. We begin to notice what we’re doing while we are seated, walking, lying down, or assuming some sort of posture.

But our mind training doesn’t have to stop when we are not in a seated meditation posture, because most of the time we are in some sort of posture without actually naming it as such. For instance, sitting at the desk and craning our neck forward toward the computer is a posture, albeit not one of very good alignment. If we’re standing in front of a crowd and giving a talk, we are in a posture, depending on how confident we feel, and if we simply walk through a crowd of people we don’t know, our body mirrors our self-consciousness by assuming some sort of posture called the way we carry ourselves. A posture is a posture whether we give it a name, practice it in a class, or abide in it unconsciously.

So how are we occupying the posture we are in? By simply locating our breath at any given moment, we begin to develop an intimate relationship with our body, its posture or shape, and the way it is reflecting our thoughts and emotions.

In the Buddha’s discourse on the four foundations of mindfulness (Satipatthana Sutta), he asks the monks to notice the breath, whether it be short or long, and he says: “He trains himself, ‘I will breathe in sensitive to the entire (breath) body.’ He trains himself, ‘I will breathe out sensitive to the entire (breath) body.’” We can notice what our breath is doing and, just as importantly, how it is reacting to what is going on both internally and externally, especially if we are sensitive to the entire body.

In many traditions consciousness and breath are considered to be two wings of a bird—I like to think of breath and consciousness as travel partners. For instance, when we are asked to breathe into an area of the body, what are we actually doing? Certainly we aren’t literally breathing into our hands, for example, but we are beckoning our consciousness into our hands, or wherever we might choose to bring it. Consciousness, breath, chi, prana, energy—these are all words pointing toward the same thing. What’s important is primarily the experience of it, then the naming of it in order to communicate about it with others. What we notice when we metaphorically breathe into an area of our body is that we feel something. That something may be difficult to describe, as many esoteric things are, but it is an undeniable experience.


Mindfulness of breath can also organically lead us to be mindful of when we are not breathing. We may also recognize the conditions of the body around the area where we sense a contraction or holding of breath, bringing our mind and heart together to be with sensations—pleasant, unpleasant, and neutral. When awareness becomes quite keen, we notice our patterns of moving breath away from discomfort in the body.

This refined awareness can eventually translate into knowing our patterns of holding, tightening, and controlling breath when we are in emotional discomfort. It’s easier to be aware of breath related to physical discomfort than it is to be aware of breath associated with emotional discomfort, so we can train the mind to stay with what is in the body first, and then take it up a notch to be aware of breath and body when experiencing emotional difficulties. This is not a conceptual practice; it is experiential, personal, and intimate.

Eventually we might choose to follow breath into many areas of the body as a continuation of training, to see how the mind and breath are intimately connected, and how they actively mirror each other both playfully and protectively. As we “see” how the breath and mind are connected, we begin to have the ability to move our awareness around our body, locating areas of emotional blocks and areas of unconsciousness.

After intentionally traversing our inner landscape with breath and mind, we can prescribe a practice that might hold the most treasure for us at any
given moment. By witnessing how we are, in our body, heart, and mind, we become armed with the necessary information needed to respond thoughtfully and with care.

There are as many types of practice as there are mind, body, and heart states: whether we are seated, walking, or in a purposeful posture, we have the means to address ourselves with real kindness. This intention to pay attention leads us to skillful action—in our own inner and more private world and in the shared world at large. Ultimately, taking care—by taking time to be with what is—will provide a key to being more spacious and at ease, able to be present with whatever our lives hold for us for as long as we have life, in this body, right now

This article originally appeared in as “Meditation in Motion: How to Stay Present in the Body” in Tricycle Magazine, 2012

jill__0201-240x300Jill Satterfield is the founder of Vajra Yoga + Meditation, a synthesis of yoga and Buddhism that combines meditation, yoga and contemplative practices. Named “one of the 4 leading yoga and Buddhist teachers in the country” by Shambhala Sun Magazine, the VY+M trainings were the first to integrate Buddhism and meditation directly into asana practice in New York City in 2002.   Jill has instigated mindful and creative educational programs for over 28 years.

She is also the founder and Director of the School for Compassionate Action: Meditation, Yoga and Educational Support for Communities in Need. SCA is a not for profit that trains teachers, psychologists and health care providers to integrate mind and body practices into their professions. SCA also provides classes to people in chronic pain, with illness, those suffering from PTSD, and at- risk youth. SCA is now taught and practiced across the country and in Europe.


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3 Simple Ways to Gain A Mind Body Connection


By Jenn Mason

I am guilty of going about my day without thinking about how my actions impact my body and mind. There are days that go by without any self-care practices. When I finally take the time to just sit and breathe, practice yoga or get an acupuncture session I notice the difference instantly. My body is more at ease, my mind and spirit are calm, the back pain I experience is gone and my headaches subside. What is most surprising is what difference it makes in my interactions with my husband, co-workers and strangers I encounter on the road.

Though I have been practicing yoga for years now, I did not make the mind body connection until I practiced self-care for one week straight. As part of a movement awareness class I practiced qi gong, yoga and soft-belly breathing for seven consecutive days. I went online and found a couple of free 20 minute videos and began my practice. Within the day I noticed a significant change not only in my body, but my mind was clear, my mood was lighter and my spirit felt at peace because I wasnt so worried or caught up in the daily grind.

I am a “worry-wart” by nature and I tend to rush because if I am not running late I have a long to-do list. I am also a control freak and want to make the most of my day by cramming in as much as I can. Which, come to think about it is a little counter-intuitive for someone wanting to live with less stress.

Needless to say that despite my controlling characteristics I am learning to live more in the “calm and at ease” space that I discovered during my week of self-care.

Instead of living in the constant “fight or flight” state and doing damage to our adrenal glands why not take three long breaths?

Our bodies are capable of creating and living in a state of relaxation, why not take advantage of these free tools?

Below are some easy steps you can take on a daily basis to kick start your journey to less stress.

1. Before opening an email take three deep breaths from your belly (you should feel your belly expand with every inhale).

2. During your lunch break go outside (weather permitting), sit comfortably with your back against a wall or bench and your feet on the ground. Let your arms relax and close your eyes gently. Begin to breathe, in through your nose and out through your mouth. Take 5 minutes and increase as needed.

3. Go for a walk! Walking meditations are easy and free. Instead of bringing your phone and checking it as you walk, plug in some of your favorite music OR go without media and bring your awareness to the sights, smells, what you hear. Feel the wind against your hair and the sun on your skin. How does this feel? Bring your awareness to your surroundings while walking in silence

If you need a guided soft belly meditation I would recommend Dr. James Gordon’s soft belly meditation.


This article originally appeared on Jenn’s personal blog, Heart Filled Life. For more inspirational posts follow her blog for regular tips on staying happy and healthy.

Jenn’s background is in non-profit management, health care and sociology. She is a birth doula and leads stress reduction and mindful living workshops. She holds a master’s in women’s health and is currently getting a PhD in Mind-Body Medicine with a certification in health and wellness coaching and hypnosis.


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Spring Cleanse for the Mind

by Elika Aird

Springtime is the season for celebrating Easter, Passover, doing taxes (ugh), spring cleaning, and maybe an internal detox for the body. But what about the mind?! Unless you are a regular mediator our minds can get clogged with so many thoughts, creating conflict between the body and the mind.

I have been sharing this chant with my students over the past month, encouraging them to release not only the old clothes and paperwork we don’t need, but also the old habits and limiting beliefs that no longer serve our highest Self. Despite all the blissed-out yoga you might be practicing, public classes primarily focus on the physical practice, so a negative thought or two could slip in from time to time. One of the most powerful ways to dispel these thoughts and create  a more elevated mind-state is through the practice of mantras or nada yoga (yoga of sound). Ayurvedic teacher and healer Maya Tiwari, offers a selection of mantras in her book Path of Practice:A Woman’s Book of Ayurvedic Healing. The mantra above is used to help cleanse the mind of negative thoughts and promotes a state of spiritual and emotional tranquility.

Don’t worry about how you sound, just sing with an open heart and mind

In the Vedic tradition, the practice of chanting is used to create a vibration that has the ability to attune our body/mind with nature, creating a harmonious balance with the universe, the primordial wave sound, or the One Consciousness, which is Infinite and all-pervasive. Just try this mantra if you are feeling a little down and see if doesn’t pick you up. Don’t worry about how you sound, just sing with an open heart and mind and the intention to connect with the power of these healing sounds.

Take class with Elika 

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