Waiting for Baby: Birth Preparation and Practicing Patience

In the Tao Te Ching Lao Tzu poses this question…
“Do you have the patience to wait till your mud settles and the water is clear? Can you remain unmoving till the right action arises by itself?”

In the land of on-demand everything; meals, rides, movies and even dating apps, you may ask, how can we slow down and turn on the patience switch for an easeful birth experience? For many couples the need for patience started pre-conception with fertility challenges and then is required again in the first trimester with often all-day sickness. Through these periods of patience and suffering we experience gratitude, but often again around 35-38 weeks that little monster called impatience rears its head again, creating anxiety, stress and often doubts that make us question whether or not something is wrong.

In prenatal yoga, as well as birth prep classes we learn tools to work with discomfort, whether they be contractions or just indigestion. We also learn to step back and let go of judgments, thoughts of limitation and just notice what is happening right now in the present. Through mindfulness meditation, and by intentionally bringing awareness to postures, we start to see where we are holding back, holding on, or preventing the opening that might be needed to welcome this new life into our arms.

We are all aware that our birth experience may not go as we had planned–and I’m grateful for the resources available in the hospital when an emergency arises or medical intervention becomes the best option to reduce suffering. We always hope that our babies are able to come to this planet in their own time, without prodding and provoking, unless there is a real medical concern. Sometimes interventions like Pitocin, the epidural and C-sections seem like the best option to numb the discomfort of labor and the waiting because our mind says “run from pain, cling to pleasure. A common theme in my classes is Impermanence, knowing that everything changes, including the pain of labor and once you allow yourself to be in a place you might want to bolt from, you learn that its possible to stay a little longer without defeat…maybe even feel encouraged!

 Next time you want to push away that thought or sensation, see what happens if you stay still and wait–until the mud settles–and trust that you will be guided so that the right action arises by itself.

To learn more join Elika for her upcoming ‘Prep for Birth‘ workshop on Saturday, April 18th. Register HERE.

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Growing Generosity

Growing Generosity with Ashley Sharp

We can understand generosity in two ways.  First, generosity is a spontaneous expression of an open heart and mind.  It is not a matter of deciding to be generous, but instead it arises and simply flows out of us. When we are connected and wholehearted, generosity emerges without thought. Hafiz says:

All this time
The sun never says to the earth,
‘You owe me.’
What happens
With a love like that
It lights the

The second way to investigate generosity is as a practice.  When we practice generosity we are, as Pema Chodron says, learning to let go.  Generosity helps us connect with others and it generates awareness of our interconnectedness with all beings. In order to give, someone must receive and in order to receive, someone must give.

Recent science coming out of the University of Notre Dame says that being generous causes a person to be happier and healthier.

The ancient teachings of the buddha speak of generosity as a treasure and recommend practicing acts of generosity as a basis of social harmony and personal virtue.

To cultivate generosity, take on the challenge of acting on every generous impulse you have for 24 hours. Give food away 4 times this month.  Give away $20 or $50 dollars to a stranger.

Generosity need not be limited to money and goods.  Practice generosity with your time or your receptivity.  Give a smile and a kind word.


“In the end, though, maybe we must all give up trying to pay back the people in this world who sustain our lives. In the end, maybe it’s wiser to surrender before the miraculous scope of human generosity and to just keep saying thank you, forever and sincerely, for as long as we have voices.”  Elizabeth Gilbert

Join Ashley for her upcoming Growing Generosity workshop on Saturday, April 11 to continue this teaching.

Sign up here for Ashley’s workshop

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Sadhana: What 21, 30, and 40 Days of Yoga Will Reveal to You

photo 4By Judy Rukat

[Originally posted on www.DoYouYoga.com]
January marks the season for fresh starts and you may see Yoga Challenges sprouting up all around you: at gyms and yoga studios, in your workplace with additions of yoga (office yoga, chair yoga, meditation breaks), and a sea of yoga selfies flooding your social media.‘Tis the season to get back to the mat! Let’s face it, some days (or weeks, or eeek…MONTHS) yoga ranks low on the to-do list. Have you deemed 2015 the year to go for it and deepen your practice by making it to your mat more consistently over the course of the next few weeks?If so, read on to learn more about what you can expect (as well as making room for the unexpected) during this transformative process.

The Meaning of SADHANA

Put simply, sadhana means dedicated practice. Typically, a modern day sadhana lasts 21, 30, or 40 days and will inevitably shake you free from your usual routine by creating new healthier habits.

The radical shift in your schedule will pull you up and out of your yoga slump as you observe your practice climb to the top of your mountain heap of priorities.

Without a doubt, for the willing practitioner, participating in sadhana will, at a minimum, encourage accountability and ensure that by SIGNING UP, you will actually SHOW UP and have a greater likelihood of sticking with it in the days (and hopefully years) to follow.

21 Days Later: From Resistance to Receptivity

Resistance or the “negative” fear of change differs from the “positive” fear that protects and warns of pending danger. Like all creatures of habit, we get used to moving in one direction and eventually become complacent.

When a desire arises and inspires us to change course, resistance slams on the breaks and stops us in our tracks. Critical self-talk, doubt, and rationalizations attempt to persuade us into continuing on our usual travels even when the path no longer supports our spiritual growth.

Receptivity, on the other hand, allows us to navigate life’s windy roads full of scary twists and uncertain turns. You will certainly confront the stubborn roadblocks of resistance that tend to get in your way during the first 21 days of your sadhana. You may even consider quitting.

If you can stick through it, you will discover that you have developed a calminner “knowing” that allows you to receive life as it comes your way and handle those difficult transitions with grace.

30 Days Later: From Grief to Gratitude

There is necessary grief which is part of the healing process when recovering from a loss, and then, there is the lingering grief wrought with shame and regret for the things we cannot go back in time to change.

This second type of grief can paralyze and blind us from seeing anything beyond our identities, stories, and personal histories. Gratitude, however, grants you permission to bow to the past, honor the lessons learned, and release it once and for all.

Practice is repetition, and showing up for 30 days requires enormous patience to overcome monotony and wake up to the universe of subtleties going on during a meditation, asana, and pranayama practice.

From the outside view the practice “appears” the same, but indeed, your internal gaze or “perspective” has shifted and in that way no two practices are ever the same. Wallowing in past failures creates expectations, and so does reveling in the nostalgia of past successes.

Gratitude reveals the new beginning in each moment and makes the tiny details as well as those lightbulb “AHA” moments of revelation visible. These moments keep a yogi coming back to the mat everyday!

40 Days Later: From Strength to Surrender

We all strive to increase strength and flexibility through yoga, and those noble goals certainly benefit the muscular, cardiovascular, and skeletal systems of the body, not to mention decrease stress hormones while increasing energy levels.

However, as you progress towards the 40-day mark of regular practice, you will learn understand what “muscling” through a pose or asana sequence means, and notice that even during a challenging moment, you will use less and less mental and physical exertion.

The term “samadhi” means meditating through movement, and it occurs when you can let go and trust the body to function and perform at optimal levels of efficiency with the least amount of energy expenditure.

Nevertheless, surrendering does not mean giving up,avoiding challenges, or taking the easy route. In order to truly surrender, you must move with and not against your nature.

Sharon Gannon says it best, “You cannot do yoga. Yoga is your natural state. What you can do are yoga exercises, which may reveal to you where you are resisting your natural state.”

The Divine in Me Honors the Divine in EVERYTHING

Ultimately, after you commit to yoga for ANY period of time, you will feel a boost of energy, ease of movement where you used to feel pain, and a pristine mental clarity that will help you seek serenity amidst all life in its terrible gore and tremendous glory.

You will simply know peace in your mind and peace in your heart.

 Whether you start a 21, 30, or 40-day sadhana, the REAL challenge begins by simply getting up and making it to DAY 1, and soon you will discover that EVERYDAY is somehow, for better or for worse, another version of DAY 1. You eventually just do your practice and stop counting the days. Namaste.
Interested in studying with Judy? Her 40-Day Challenge with Whitney Walsh begins this weekend at Namaste. Learn more here.
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The Art of Honoring, The Strength of Vulnerability

by Caverly Morgan

We have countless ways to dismiss our experience. Endless strategies to shirk from, abandon, and resist the moment – in particular, the experience we are having in the moment. Picture a mother consistently dismissing her child. Imagine the effect that this has on the child. We learn to assume that our experience isn’t valid. We craft and rely on coping mechanisms in order to survive our lives. We become more and more ‘protected.’ We build walls. We defend them.

In Awareness Practice, we are invited to honor our experience – whatever that experience is. This isn’t some kind of airy-fairy, “It’s all good,” panacea. This is the real and gritty work of moving toward the very thing we’ve deeply believed will harm us – moving into the experience that we’ve avoided in an attempt to ‘stay safe.’ We are invited to trust, rather than question and discard. This is the foundation of a practice of fearlessness.

While the image of a warrior with a finely sharpened sword can certainly aptly apply when speaking of spiritual practice, in particular in terms of cutting through delusion, the honoring being pointed to here is a process of nurturance. It is the turning toward ourselves, with deep compassion. It is the embrace of our experience without the distortion of judgment. It is the gift of love.

We aren’t conditioned to give this gift to ourselves. We honor the experiences of others we love; yet we, habitually, don’t honor our own. For others we love, we reserve the ‘right’ to judge. Not for ourselves. For others, we may even see the divine workings of how life has unfolded. We trust the process. For ourselves, there is recrimination, accusation, fear. We are to blame. We are at fault. There is, with ourselves within the conditioned system, little to honor yet much to fix.

As we learn to honor our experience, we become more comfortable with our vulnerability. We no longer need to protect the tenderness of our experience because we understand, experientially, that that tenderness cannot be threatened. It is held, gently and firmly, within the context of unconditional love. When our attention is aligned with unconditional love, our conditioned definitions of ‘perpetration’ fall away. We lose the desire to defend.

With practice, the tenderness of our experience is the only place in which we wish to live – to truly rest inside of. With practice, we become intimate with ourselves, each other, and the world at large through our own ability to touch, and fully experience, the most authentic and open part of our experience of being alive. From that union with our experience, rather than the conditioned tendency to separate from it, and from our own ability to honor ourselves, we become unafraid to be vulnerable. In fact, we find the strength in our vulnerability. As we learn to reside in love, we become fearless.

caverly-200Caverly Morgan is a teacher and founder and director of One House of Peace, a nonprofit that began as a small meditation center located in Sacramento, CA. Caverly has been devoted to Zen Awareness Practice for the last eighteen years. She is a former Zen monk who lived and trained at a silent monastery for eight years. In 2012, One House of Peace expanded into Portland, OR, where Caverly now maintains her own spiritual practice while offering the gift of practice to others.

Join us for Caverly’s next workshop:

Awaken Your Heart’s Desire in the New Year
Sunday, January 18 at Namaste Berkeley

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Winter Solstice Journal Exercise

“Winter Solstice, the longest night of the year, focus on the fertile darkness and your creative power that allows life to emerge from the soil, which will manifest fulfillment and bliss, from all the seeds you wish to plant for this next year.

Clear all the weeds of the past and let go of any disappointments or negative feelings and allow the new to be birthed from the wisdom that has been gained. Moods are like weather ~ rain, wind, snow and Sun ~ feel free in your expression but be informed by your higher nature, how to channel it appropriately into all you wish to create for 2015 and beyond.

Be content with what you have, rather than be sad or frustrated about what is lacking… Send healing love to all those you worry about, rather than take on the stress or worry about their well-being. Trust the Source Love that surrounds you and be aware that all you have created is something your higher self and unconscious self has wished to create for you ~ so that you can step into your highest potential and divinity without holding back. Every loss and failure, all being part of that creation – phoenix always rises.

Don’t be afraid to shine brightly, release any voices of sabotage or learn to not let them control you, celebrate the blessing you are and let Love be your strength to make it through all adversity. Spirit is the greatest wealth, bask in its golden rays and embrace Freedom!

We are more powerful than anything negative ~ it only shows up to remind us to rise above the forces that limit, so that we can develop our highest abilities and have mind over matter, Spirit over form ~ shaping the World around us into Heaven on Earth…”

– Laura Magdalena (via awelltraveledwoman.tumblr.com)
Winter Sunset

How are you celebrating the Winter Solstice?
As the year comes to an end and days begin to grow longer, we encourage you to take some time to reflect on 2014. Here are few questions to help inspire you:

  • What new things did you learn new things about yourself?
  • What was a favorite trip, local or far away?
  • What inner strengths proved to be most valuable this year?
  • What new people entered your life? Who is no longer here?
  • What, or who, are you most thankful for?

We hope this year was a beautiful one for you in so many ways.

With love and gratitude from all of us at the studio – Happy Winter!
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Spiritual Maturity

[Spiritual Pioneer Jill Satterfield interviewed by Geertje Couwenbergh. This originally appeared in Happinez]

‘Deep inside I knew: there is always hope’ Her chronic pain was incurable, American Jill Sattersfield was told by doctors. But Jill’s intuition said something different, which led her onto the path of yoga and meditation. Now she travels the world to share her self-healing techniques.

The morning is still young when I meet 56-year-old Jill Sattersfield. Her cheerful face, framed by a white mane of hair, radiates a kind of wild wisdom.

Jill has something I’ve seen in many people who meditate: a kind of naughty youthfulness, wrapped in an experienced body. The hope to grow old in way she has, is motivating me to meditate.

1tJu4ifMg7pW_Llo_S2WM1LSZpUnrxcMz1gHTvcXX9YI have studied under Jill for a few years now. She helped me to trust my intuition and to integrate my yoga and meditation exercises. This is because I have had one foot in the world of yoga and the other in the world of Buddhism, and quite a few times they have slipped apart like Bambi’s legs on the ice. The yogis, with their mala chains and stories about bliss, love and light did not seem to me to be representatives of a Proper Spiritual Path. My Buddhist meditation tradition did, but it would often drive me spare with its emphasis on sitting, sitting and more sitting.

Enter Jill. I got hooked during her first workshop, when she talked about the difference between being in a yoga position and being the yoga position. When during yoga we also did my favourite Buddhist guided meditation (about loving kindness), I was officially ecstatic. Because although yoga and meditation are often spoken of in the same breath, they tend to be done separately. First you move for a bit, then you sit, or the other way around. And Jill said there is no need for that.

What is the biggest misconception about meditation?

‘That you have to stop your thoughts when you’re meditating. You don’t. You may have fewer thoughts, and you may allow the thoughts you have to move, rather than freeze them or hold on to them. Another big misconception about meditation is that you can only do it in a formal sitting position. Formal meditation of that kind is very important to train your mind. But we can be mindful in many different positions, and that is indeed how you translate it into yoga. With intention and attention, you can approach a yoga position as a different form in which you can be aware.’

I often hear people say that they feel sitting down during meditation is unnecessary, because they can also meditate when they are cycling or doing the washing-up. ‘Although I feel it’s laudable and I’m all for it, I think that what you are doing then probably isn’t meditation, unless you are very well trained (laughs). You train your mind in a formal sitting position because it is harder to be present and silent when you are moving, even in walking meditation. Once you are more experienced, you can build up some movement in which you continue that silence. It takes a bit of time to get to that level. After all, you don’t go to secondary school right out of playgroup.

Do you feel that many modern types of yoga in fact detract from a meditative consciousness?

What I like so much about yoga, is that it is one of the most versatile types of exercise. You can do it as fitness, you can do yoga as flow, and you can zoom in, deep into the individual positions. That’s all fine. The intention you do it with, determines your yoga practice. If you do mindless yoga, you will not change fundamentally. If you do anything at all in a mindful way, it will cause an inherent, brilliant change. It all depends on how you work with your mind. How can you explore yoga positions in a mindful way? That is what interests me.

Jill is rooted in both the hatha yoga and the Buddhist theravada traditions. Her initial motivation for her spiritual quest, she tells me, was despair. She fell ill when she was twenty. She suffered chronic pain almost all day round for thirteen years before nh6SFqm6Gq8NqJrpCxwoeDuvnEZQc3WCa_NPkIj1Qekdoctors found out what was wrong. A large part of her large intestine had come loose and had penetrated her diaphragm. The intestine was replaced and attached to the abdominal wall, but the pain remained. Worse, her bowels had lost peristalsis.

Jill: ‘I’ve seen every doctor in the land. Eventually I ended up in a pain clinic, where I was told that the only thing they could do to stop the pain was to paralyse my nerves. I hit a wall. I had just a couple of options: either turn into a junkie, get deeply depressed, or try to help myself. After being utterly desperate, I decided that I wouldn’t go down the path of depression and drugs. I put a proverbial finger up to the world and said: Fine, if you can’t help me, I’ll help myself.’

And that’s what I did. It took more than seven years, but against all the medical odds Jill cured herself. Inspired by stories of old yogis who could transform body and mind, she launched into a strict regimen of yoga and meditation.

‘I started with the intention to totally rearrange my cells.’

She went on countless meditation retreats, meditated for 45 minutes twice a day, and did yoga for at least two hours every day. Her own brand of yoga, because the positions she was taught were not always right for her specific needs. It took you seven years to cure something that doctors said couldn’t be cured.

Was there a time in all those years that you became sure that what you were doing was working?

‘Yoga opened up my body and gave my mind access to the specific parts that hurt. The turning point came when, with my full attention, I found the centre point of the main, which turned out to be far smaller than I had thought! It was a small spot, as small as the tip of a needle, which radiated pain out to a wider area. That realization dismantled the fear. I no longer felt I was at the mercy of the pain. My mind remained separate from it, that was maybe the greatest discovery I made. Another high point was when I could finally feel sympathy for my body. Because in the beginning I was incredibly critical about myself, I hated my body and wondered why this had to happen to me. When the fear of the pain lost its hold on me, I felt much freer. And then things started to change.’

Jill says that because of her illness, she explored the interaction between mind and body ‘as an alchemist’. Using that experience, she started to give yoga lessons at meditation retreats, which was unique at the time. In these lessons, she tried to build on the theme Ajahn Amaro, her Buddhist teacher, had spoken about earlier that day.

‘My approach, and I’ve done a lot of work on this, was to ensure that my yoga lessons did not interrupt the meditation retreat. Imagine that on those retreats you meditate, walk and sit for about ten hours in complete silence. You don’t even look at the others. When there’s a yoga lesson, everybody goes: ‘Yay! Give me a break! Give me something to do!’ But I was determined that my lesson wasn’t going to be entertainment.’


How did you do that?

‘I profoundly felt that I wanted to offer people something that I hoped would benefit them in some way. I got a lot of positive feedback and they kept asking me back. This reinforced my confidence in this method, and that fed back into itself. But at the end of the day it was a real experiment, because there was no one to tell me what to do or how to do it. Which incidentally is a recurring theme in my life; I like that. In fact, I thrive on it.’

Jill is undeniably self-willed. After the Happinez Festival last year, where she gave workshops, we had a meal together, and I got to know a very different side to her. Casually, she told me where she’d met her ex-husband: at an illegal street race. I was in hysterics. She asked: ‘Do you know what “playing chicken” is?’Her eyes twinkle behind her mineral water with lemon, and she explains it’s a game in which you challenge the driver of the car next to you to a race. The first one to get scared and pull out is the proverbial chicken, and loses. I forgot to ask who won that race, but in any case it led to a wedding. This is Jill’s other side.

‘People tend to be shocked to find that I do more than meditate in silence,’ she laughs when I meet her this time. When she was young, she worked as a visual artist in New York City. ‘That was the punk era, the late 70s, early 80s. It was a pretty dangerous place, with a lot of drugs and crime. But there was still a kind of Wild West feel about the place; it was an incredible time to be an artist there.’

It was the first spot where Jill really felt at home, at the art academy. ‘I had finally found my tribe.’ It was a world away from her childhood in North Connecticut, where she’d been raised as a ‘proper girl’, but always felt she was the black sheep of the family. ‘I had other interests than the other school children. I was always breaking the rules: smoking, skipping school. I was even expelled for that.’ She quickly adds that there were plenty of others, but that she was the only one who didn’t try to hide it.


So you were always a maverick?

‘I guess so. When I was five or six, I visited my grandparents in Ohio, and I went along to Sunday school, where we sang church songs. I used to change the words of the songs (laughs). I had never met
Jesus and we hadn’t been introduced, and I didn’t believe that he loved me. So I sang: ‘I don’t love Jesus and he doesn’t love me.’ I kept getting into trouble. Later, as a teenager, I avoided having to go to church with my parents by teaching little children in Sunday school. I would tell them to draw God. They were puzzled, and asked me what God looked like: was he a man with a long white beard? And I
would tell them: ‘No, he can look any way you want.’ We made beautiful drawings with lots of colours and abstract shapes, and then I’d say: ‘Yes! That is exactly how God looks for you.’

How does your Wild West side manifest itself these days?

‘Well, it has pros and cons. I don’t like people telling me what to do. Or what to think. That was reinforced by the medical system, because in the beginning I was constantly being told that the pain was all inside my head. It works as fuel to the fire for my radical part, the cowgirl who wants to go where no girl has gone before. I think that ultimately, every tradition starts this way; someone has to discover something…’

JillYou mean like the Buddha wasn’t a Buddhist, as people say.

‘Exactly. What did the Buddha do? He explored various techniques. Some he found too extreme, others worked. He used what worked, found enlightenment and taught others. I don’t consider myself as a Buddha, but I always keep at the back of my mind that something isn’t necessarily true just because somebody says so. I can now say that I mostly trust my intuition. I’ve developed it mainly through the experience of not trusting my first instinct, and then often finding I was right all along. Especially when I was ill, I came to a point that I just couldn’t blindly trust other people’s advice any more, because they said there was no more hope. And I knew, deep inside, that there is always hope. That’s when I started to follow my own radically different sense of direction.’

In 2004 you founded the School for Compassionate Action, which offers yoga lessons for people with chronic pain and all kinds of psychological problems, traumas and addictions. What did that originate

‘From the experience of healing my own body. And also that I saw that at the time yoga was only available for people who could afford it, not for people who had cancer or who couldn’t get out of bed or had serious psychological issues. I felt a great need to take these techniques out of the studio and into the community. I was immediately struck by how hungry people were after something they could do themselves, because they had been so disenfranchised by the medical system – just as I had been. So I offered them things they could do at home. And they did them. These were mainly attention techniques, because doing yoga was hard for people in hospital or who were overweight. Also, it’s a very sensitive matter for people with emotional or physical traumas to work with their bodies. So I had to be careful. But I was surprised how quickly these people took to my techniques. And they really did help. So I stopped teaching yoga in studios for thirteen years in order to this work.’

She’s now teaching again, with lots of street cred. The respected American Shambhala Sun magazine even called her one of the four best meditation teachers in the country. However, she never attained yogi star status, as some of her colleagues did, her good friend Sarah Powers among them. Jill: ‘I’m such an anti-guru that it’s hard to market myself in a particular way. I want to be invisible to the student so that he can find his own way, not my way.”

Join us for Jill Satterfield’s workshop Spiritual Maturity:

Saturday, December 13
1:00-4:00pm at Namaste Berkeley
Cost: $45

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Survival Skills for the Holidays

by Ashley West Roberts

[This post originally appeared on Ashley’s Blog]

I am just going to come right out with it. We don’t do the holiday hustle and bustle in our house. In fact, most Decembers you can find us in Mexico or Hawaii or some other warm place straight CHILLEN. But unless you stay in the house all season long, you are going to have to deal with the disaster that has become the holidays in the US. Not interested in the crazy (and by crazy I mean, oh let’s see, camping out at Target for several days, or living off a diet of Christmas cookies for two weeks or pretending to like yet another gift you never wanted or needed in the first place) check out my survival skills for the holidays:

Be intentional.

Do not allow yourself to get swept up in all the hooplah. Sit down this weekend and make a plan for how you want your holiday season to go. What are your priorities for this time of year? My partner and I decided we want two things from the holidays this year: To take plenty of relaxing down time and to do some kind of service in our community. Sit down with your family and plan out what you all really want to do over the holidays and make it a priority. Just because you went to Grandma Janes house for the last 5 years does not mean you have to go this year. Politely explain that this year you are trying something different.


I repeat, do not regress. Spending the holiday with family can be beautiful but it can also be stressful. If you notice yourself acting childish around your mother or being the “boss” to your younger sibling, take a moment and pause. Remember that you are an adult and you should conduct yourself as such. Also, give your family members the space to do the same.


Communicate wisely without being defensive.

Come up with one liners that easily shut down a conversation you’re not open to having. Your family may not agree with your dietary habits and things can become tense around the dinner table. “My body feels great when I eat this way” is a short and effective response. Or, perhaps a family member is disapproving about the way you celebrate with your children.You can simply say ” celebrating this way brings our family so much joy”.

When all else fails….BREATHE.

When all other strategies fail, simply return to your breath. It’s seems obvious but it works if you do it. If you feel yourself getting worked up or stressed, take a moment of pause or excuse yourself to the restroom and do this simple meditation.

Sit quietly and focus on how the inhalation and the exhalation FEEL. Match the length of your inhale and your exhale. Image a small circle around you-your personal space- and remember that you are in control of this space. Remind yourself that no judgement and no drama can come into this space unless you allow for it. As you breathe make space for yourself to be just as you are and for your friends or family members to be as they are.

Ashley West Roberts Yoga | Namate Yoga Ashley believes whole-heartedly in movement and meditation as practices for self healing. Her goal as a teacher is simply to help you become more yourself. She stresses “yoga is not one more thing to be good at” but a daily process of checking in with what is present.

Ashley’s classes are anchored in the traditional teachings of yoga sprinkled with experiential anatomy and creative play. Her classes are informed by her background as a classically trained dancer, daily meditation practice and her passion for minimalism and simple living. It is her greatest pleasure to integrate her yoga and dharma as taught to her by her teacher Katchie Ananda.

Ashley West Roberts


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Loosening the Grip: Yoga for Self Compassion

by Jill Satterfield

[This post originally appeared on Vajra Yoga & Meditation Blog]

Here’s what I have come to know as a fairly universal contemporary problem – many of us are a bit too tough on ourselves. We criticize our looks, our thoughts and emotions, our progress on the spiritual path, our practice quantity and quality. And, the fact is, that it’s not helpful!

If we add to our outlook, vocabulary, thoughts and emotions – tenderness – we can loosen the unhealthy grip of the overactive critic and relax into our lives and being a little bit more.

Just to inspire and remind you – one of the goals of practice besides alleviating suffering, is to be in the present moment. When you bring yourself into your body, you are in the present, when you absorb the natural beauty of the sky, you are in the present, when you hug someone you love, you can be in the present – there is plenty of beauty and things to appreciate in the present, anchor yourself in that.
Jack Kornfield says, “Buddhist texts describe compassion as the quivering of the heart in the face of pain, as the capacity to see our struggles with “kindly eyes”. Developing these kindly eyes allow for some faltering, some forgetting, some mistakes, and gently remind us to start again.

Gripping onto thoughts, feelings or anywhere in the body just causes discomfort and resistance. What we resist will persist. If we can soften around displeasure, discomfort and the occasional raw mistake, we can flow a bit more into the movement of life. Movement implies softness; nothing moves very far in constricted areas, or very easily through tight places.

Of course there’s a distinction between too tight and too loose, which was famously brought to light by the Buddha in the story of the sitar player. The musician asked him, “Should I maintain tight controls on my mind during meditation or should I let it flow?” The Buddha asked, “How do you tune your instrument?” The sitar play said, “If I tune the strings too tightly, they break. If they are too loose, no sound comes out.” “Just so,” replied the Buddha, “you should hold your mind in meditation.” If we are too loose with ourselves we won’t practice, or even attempt to be mindful – that would require too much effort. On the other hand, if we are too tight with ourselves, we create tension, guilt and will probably eventually give up on practicing.

Remember that a practice has room for creativity. Play around from time to time and see what the results are. Rigidity in form is not always the answer, some of us need a little freedom to experiment – to find out which technique works for us depending on our current situation, mood, state of health etc. So a creative practice might include gazing at the sky and sucking the blue of a light sky into your body, or walking in the woods or by the beach, or reading some poetry to inspire the next session of meditation.

Tenderness. Kindness. Creativity. Spiritual friends and teachers, ah the stuff of a great life, not too loose or tight but usually just right.

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.

Jill turned to meditation and yoga over 35 years ago to successfully heal from a debilitating physical condition with acute pain that she was told could never be healed. Her personal triumph became the inspiration and drive to guide as many people as possible in utilizing and understanding their own mind, heart and body to help themselves.

Jill’s next workshop is this weekend, Self-Compassion: The Ultimate Pursuit, November 15 at Namaste Berkeley. 

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Spiritual vs. Physical Yoga

by Sadie Chanlett-Avery

I have been asked, “Why don’t you teach the more ‘spiritual’ kind of yoga?” It’s true that I don’t talk about God and one of my students recently commented that I wasn’t an “Om’er”.

That question puzzles me. It assumes a fundamental separation between body and spirit and implies that we could attend to our physical health or transcend to a higher pursuit.

With clear and erudite teaching, I enjoy classes with more mystical language, Sanskrit chanting, and spiritual themes. However, I cringe at the sing-song, “yoga” voice lacquering on the new age psychobabble. With a mind always chattering about dramas of the past and projections of the future, I don’t need more flowery chatter.

My classes unapologetically invite an internal focus into the body. Tracking sensations, concentrating on form, and appreciating the breath anchor us in the moment. The proprioceptive feedback of movement harnesses the mind. As our bodies and minds unite we dwell fully in the present. With presence, an individual sense of spiritual connection can arise spontaneously.

I want my classroom to be as inclusive as possible so I don’t assume that everyone shares my beliefs. Although we may have different Gods, we have similar bodies. With acute awareness, addressing the quotidian maintenance of the body is a profound practice. My instructions aim to cultivate vivid embodiment, establish optimal alignment, and get students moving. The yoga works its’ magic regardless of our spiritual inclinations.

SadieProfileBSadie Chanlett-Avery, holistic fitness trainer, yoga instructor, and writer, was named a 2013 Athleta Sponsored Athlete. As the In-house Yogi at Clif Bar & Co. she directs the yoga and perinatal programs, trains with kettlebells, and serves on the Wellness Team. Sadie received her teacher certification from Ana Forrest and has immersed for months in the jungles of Costa Rica with Master Yoga and Meditation Teacher, Glenn Black. Her M.A. in Holistic Health Education and multiple fitness certifications lends antomical depth to her innovative and playful classes.

She appreciates the diverse expression of the human genome with the belief that people of all ages and sizes can benefit from exercise and heal with yoga. Teaching for over ten years, she applies ancient yogic principles to individual needs and modern lifestyles.

Sadie blogs at www.activebodystillmind.com.

Blog posts by Sadie: The Dark Side of Detoxing

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Spotlight on Seva: RISE Yoga for Youth

Every quarter Namaste chooses a local non-profit organization to support as part of our SEVA program by raising awareness and donating our mat rental revenue. This quarter we are proud to partner with the RISE Yoga for Youth organization. RISE empowers adolescents to be agents of change in the world. Through the physical practice of yoga, wellness education, and community building, students develop inner resources to respond to life’s challenges in constructive ways.

RISE offers a comprehensive education in hatha yoga for high school students, which includes instruction in physical postures, mindfulness, and breathing practices, as well as a series of life skills workshops on non-violence, self-esteem, anger management, conflict resolution, nutrition, drugs and healthy relationships. Unique to the program is a focus on teambuilding activities designed to help students explore their relationships with themselves, each other and their communities.

[This post originally appeared on RISE’s blog]

RISE Meet Sophia Corbett, a RISE Yoga for Youth Teacher at George Washington High School in San Francisco. Here she describes her observations of what yoga has done for her students and why she thinks it’s so important to bring yoga to more youth.

At the beginning of the school year, watching, listening to my students in seated relaxation, I didn’t know how it would be possible to get them to sit still and be quiet. They fidgeted, made obnoxious noises, shouted out at times and were just typical teenagers, trying to get a laugh. Fast forward to May, about 8 months after practicing yoga , 4 days a week, and I saw the transformation. We had decided to start our practice out on the back field that day, as it was beautiful out, and had invited a 9th grade PE class to join us for a little intro to yoga. As my students sat in a large circle in seated relaxation, in the middle of the field, the PE classes started to file out onto the track, noisily running around the field we sat on. And I looked at my students, serenely breathing, eyes closed, bodies still and I knew they had been transformed. That they had developed the ability to find peace among chaos, through the gift of yoga. I welled up with joy and gratitude.

Its important to bring yoga to youth because it provides them incredible life skills. The ability to control one’s emotions, to respond instead of react, to listen to one’s body, and find inner peace amongst a often chaotic world, are priceless skills that are not taught anywhere else in schools (in my observation). Students walk away with an invaluable sense of self-efficacy, that helps provide them the confidence that they can handle any situation, as long as they breathe.


Learn more about Namaste’s SEVA program or make your own offering to the RISE Yoga for Youth Organization. 

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