Be fearless: Fall Cleanse Q+A

Q+A with Ayurvedic Practicioner Kameko Shibata

Why cleanse in the fall? 

The theme of this cleanse is nourishment! Summer is fun, hot, dry and full of play. All the can leave up feeling pretty depleted in the fall. The dry and windy nature of Fall is deeply taxing for the skin, joints, nerves and adrenals. In Ayurveda, Indian classical medicine, we practice gentle detoxifying practices and then nourish and rebuild our tissues. It’s also a great time re-set from summer. Fall can be irregular- weather is hot then cold, schedules shift, so it is the perfect time to create more regular and balanced routines.

Will I be eating only cabbage for a week?

No, that would be boring and likely to give you gas.

What will I be eating?

Red lentils, or moong beans, quinoa, non-soy miso soup, cooked greens, cilantro, medicinal pesto, AVOCADO, fruit on its own.

What won’t I be having?

Alcohol, refined sugars, caffeine, meat, excess social media.

Is it all about food?

No, thank you for asking. Food is part of it, but cleansing is an ancient Ayurvedic art, that includes the mental and emotions systems as well as the physical body. You will be asked to do a guided daily meditation and pranayama practice to sooth the nervous system. You will be asked to practice self care- oilinate your skin and use a neti pot. You will be asked to journal/reflect on your patterns and emotions related to food, stimulants and self-care. This cleanse is a holistic experience!

Is this a fad diet?

No, Ayurveda is a lifestyle. Most yogis/ayurvedic practitioners/ spiritual followers, abstain from sugars, caffeine, alcohol, gluten most if not all of the time. I hope you find the food to be delicious and cleansing, and the self-care practices to be something you will continue to use over time. It can just be nice to have some quick-start support, which is what the cleanse does.

Will I be fasting?

Nope, its healthier to keep the digestive system working at a slower reduced rate than to suddenly shut it off altogether. There is an option to only take liquids (miso, broth, soups, juice) for one day, but I only recommend that to more kapha/pitta clients, or if you have the day off. No major work deadlines on juice!

Will I lose weight?

Depends on how different this diet is to your normal diet. The goal is not to lose weight, this is an opportunity to cleanse and relax the system not lose weight. if you struggle with weight what this cleanse offers is an opportunity to cut back on unhealthy habits to notice where you have patterns and attachments to food. Going forward you might not choose to use so many foods/substances that trigger you.

Will it be hard?

The first 3 days are usually the hardest especially if you are cutting out caffeine and sugar for the first time in awhile. those affect our endorphin levels and we feel bummed without them. After about 3 days your body normalizes and you no longer feel so cravey and dependent of substances. This is why its nice to do it with the support of a group. We can email each other-like “damn I was crabby, but now I’m feeling better”

Will I levitate?

Not likely, although if you fast you might fall over . But it could happen. I do believe in possibilities!

What if I miss a meeting?

The final meeting is not a big deal, its just a post fun celebration. If you need to miss the main first meeting email me, I maybe able to phone/email chat with you to get you up to speed.

What if I need to cheat on Wednesday?

Do it with grace! Choose your poison.

What if I’m raw..gluten free…vegan etc?

Email me before it starts we can work around it. The cleanse is already gluten free and vegan (although you have the option of ghee) Raw is a little harder, as ayurveda is all about cooked , simple,warm and easy to digest foods, but it would be a fun challenge.

What will I tell my friends?

That you are taking a week to reset your digestive system, and balance your mental and emotional health to come out of summer feeling grounded and nourished. Ask them to join you. Tell them you are taking responsibility for your own health.

What will I feed my kids?

This maybe the hardest one. Try to have some things pre-made for them. Kids may not like lentils, but the veggie pesto, fresh fruits, miso soup you can often get them to go for. Explain what you are doing so they feel included and interested. Try not to yell at them in the first 3 days!

basil-829776_640 *Go to Hydration Pesto Recipe:  blend like regular pesto in a food processor adding oil as you go. You can add water to thin it out but you must eat it within 3 days if you use water. Use this pesto as a dip w/ veggies or a smear for wraps or thin it out w/ extra olive oil or water for a dressing.

  • 1 bunch cilantro
  • 1 bunch basil (if in season)
  • ¼ bunch dandelion greens or arugula
  • 1 fennel bulb
  • ½ RAW seeds or nuts (tahini also makes it super creamy)
  • 1-2 juiced lemons
  • olive oil , spices, salt and water to taste



After reading this you will probably feel ready to join up for Kameko’s Fall Cleanse that begins September 27th. Don’t be scared, join us in changing your habit and in turn positively influencing your life! Sign up for Kameko’s Fall Cleanse here. Learn more about Kameko here.

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New Moon Spring Cleaning: Body, Mind, and Space

Today marks two big events in the astrological space. It is both a Supermoon (and a new moon) and the first day of Spring. New moons are powerful in their ability to remind us of how important taking time to reset can be for our emotional, mental, and physical health.

According to Mystic Mama, “A New Moon marks the beginning of a new cycle, a fresh start in it’s cycle of waxing and waning. During this time, the Moon is empty and receptive and full of potential. This is an optimum time to plant seeds of intentions for what you wish to manifest in your life.

Most of us, live our lives so disconnected from the Earth, and devoid of any ritual that creates the space for us to connect. So the New Moon provides us with an opportunity to take the time to create SACRED SPACE for ourselves. It’s essential.”

If the beginning of a Supermoon New Moon cycle was not a strong enough catalyst for change and renewal, it is also the beginning of Spring! The Equinox is celebrated throughout history as a turning point from the dark days of winter to the brightness of blooming flowers, new births, and longer days full of sunlight.

This is a time for re-evaluating what is not serving you and figuring out how to move forward with a lighter load. We have put together a few tips on how to do some “spring cleaning” in your body, mind, and space!


1. Take a yoga class! Teachers tend to do a lot of work on detoxing and releasing during the beginning of Spring. Wring out any old tension and stagnation from Winter with a lively vinyasa class.

2. Go for a hike. Being outdoors in nature is a perfect way to enjoy and appreciate the natural world’s changes. Stroll through some trails nearby in the Oakland or Berkeley Hills to experience the meadows of blooming wildflowers and possibly some new baby animals!

3. Clean up your diet. Consider taking a week or two off of sugar, meat, alcohol, or anything else that may feel like it is weighing your digestion down. During the Winter, we tend to indulge in these things, and Spring is the perfect opportunity to reset our system with healthy, raw or Ayurvedic foods!



1. Write down all your thoughts about things that have been holding you back. Create an action plan for how to actively bring awareness to these habits or thoughts and then pin up your reminders somewhere you will be able to see on a daily basis.

2. Create a time for early morning meditation when your mind is fresh and rested. Repeat your new affirmations in your mind or out loud for a more powerful effect.

3. Talk to a loved one about things you would like to let go of and parts of your life that you are ready to change. Letting someone in on your vulnerable moments can help hold you accountable for making the changes necessary for a healthy life!



1. De-clutter your space. Get rid of anything that has been laying around without the use for too long. Do the basic sorting: recycle, give away, or re-use in a new creative way!

2. Wash your linens, curtains, and do a deep clean. Having a freshly cleaned home does wonder for our bodies and minds. Consider using some soothing essential oils in your cleaning supplies to get an aromatherapy bonus!

3. Smudge your home with sage. Smudging is the ancient art of purifying a room with sacred herbs to help clear a space of any negative energy. The smell of sage and the physical act of smudging your home can be grounding and clarifying.


Have other ideas on how to reset for the spring? Share the with us on Facebook or Instagram at @ilovenamaste – #namastespring

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Sadie’s Sequence for the Tired and Restless


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

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Sadie’s Sequence for the Tired and Restless


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

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This is Dedicated to Everyone in a Hurry

By Sparkle Thornton


Why is it so hard to slow down?

When I imagine slowing down it reminds me of a time when life was simpler and cheaper. I begin to wonder how much self-care, meditation, and yoga it would take to truly balance out the stress of modern urban life. But what’s underneath the idea of slowing down? For me it’s scarcity- the idea that if I treat myself to massages, healing sessions, yoga workshops and all the ‘retreats’ that I desire there won’t be enough…. money for bills, time for responsibilities, and chances to ‘catch up’.

Kameko and I share this, and we’re wondering whether this is the truth, or just pressure we feel. We want to keep that rebellious spirit that believes there is a way to truly live in alignment- a peaceful life that serves and inspires others while caring deeply for the body/mind/spirit in a way that allows us to do our best work.

Is it possible to be ‘still’ within the city? For moments, sure.. but can we claim enough time to experience our spiritual selves? Can we detach with love from the pace, pressure and productivity around us?

Let’s make a space to try it! That’s what the Blissful Body workshop is to us: An idyllic container for letting go, receiving, and escaping from the business.
I think we’re all wishing for an environment that feels spacious and slow while we lead busy, uptempo lives. Some of us have even gotten good at ‘getting’ it done’… whether that’s dinner, the day, or yoga practice. But life is to short, and the busier you are the faster life flies by.


The other day I was pulling away from a loved one to check my email. I was that distracted, totally missing the point. I wouldn’t want anyone to miss one of these ‘special moments’. I wish I had slowed down. Slowing down is going to be uncomfortable. In fact, sometimes I think happiness is uncomfortable, but what we need doesn’t always make us feel good… at first.

So we’ve created this workshop. Dedicated to anyone who is in a hurry, and especially for those willing to try something new.

Kameko and Sparkle invite you to explore what happens when you choose self-care, self love, and the art of receiving. Please join us in exploring why it can be so hard to slow down in a very special Blissful Body 2/15 from 1:30-4:30pm at Namaste Grand Lake. This workshop is mostly restorative yoga with massage therapists offering therapeutic touch, some gentle flow (beginners very welcome), hot stones, aromatherapy, chanting, and a musical surprise.

Kameko Sparkle Hannah
Photo by Adam Kurzfeld

Join us this Sunday for Blissful Body with Kameko Shibata and Sparkle Thornton

Sunday February 15
Namaste Grand Lake

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

photo 4By Judy Rukat

[Originally posted on]
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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What Exactly IS The MELT Method®?

The MELT Method® was something that at first, sounds a little funny but once experienced is truly heavenly. Here is our breakdown of the what, for who, and why The MELT Method® is our new favorite way to release tension and stress.

Who is MELT for?

The MELT Method® is a breakthrough self-treatment system that restores the supportiveness of the body’s connective tissue to eliminate chronic pain, improve performance, and decrease the accumulated stress caused by repetitive postures and movements of everyday living. This patent-pending, pro-active self-treatment technique is backed by science and acclaimed by thousands of devoted MELTers.

New research has revealed the missing link to pain-free living: a balanced nervous system and healthy connective tissue. These two components work together to provide whole-body support, protection, and mind-body communication. Manual therapist Sue Hitzmann has transformed groundbreaking neurofascial science and hands-on therapies into a one-of-a-kind treatment method called MELT.


Who is MELT for?

MELT is for anyone who wants to slow down the aging process and live better, longer. For those in their 40s, 50s, and older who want to stay active, mobile, and independent — MELT is a must. MELT is for active younger adults and athletes who want to maintain a fit, toned body and achieve optimal performance without debilitating wear and tear. MELT is truly for everyone! Even if you are pregnant, injured, post-surgery, overweight, sedentary, out of shape, have limited mobility, chronic pain, knee/hip replacements, or bone disorders — you can still MELT. It’s the best starting point for any exercise program.

What benefits does MELT offer?

MELT creates a strong, flexible body that maintains its upright posture for life. And you will see and feel results after just one session!

MELT improves:

 flexibility & mobility

 posture

 the results of exercise

 range of motion

 sleep & digestion

 overall well-being

  MELT reduces:

 aches & pains

 wrinkles & cellulite

 tension

 headaches

 risk of injury


How does MELT work?

Day-to-day living creates tension within our bodies. Physical stressors range from sitting at a desk to running a marathon. Carrying children and heavy bags creates trapped tension, as does even the gentlest form of exercise. Emotional, mental, and environmental stressors such as processed foods, medications, environmental toxins, and daily worries all build tension in the body.

New science reveals that this “stuck stress” is literally trapped in our connective tissue, which surrounds every joint, muscle, nerve, bone, and organ. Unaddressed trapped stress causes connective tissue dehydration and cellular damage. This creates a domino effect that begins with aches and stiffness and leads to common health issues such as neck and low back pain, headaches, insomnia, digestive problems, and injury. Accelerated aging and chronic health problems can follow . . . leaving us with limited options such as medicine, surgery, and a sedentary lifestyle. However, when the connective tissue is hydrated and free of roadblocks, our bodies function at a more optimal level. MELT is a breakthrough technique that keeps our connective tissue and nervous system in top condition and slows down the aging process. MELT rejuvenates tissue hydration and relieves the tension of day-to-day life that gets trapped in our bodies. No other proactive approach directly treats the connective tissue—including nutrition, exercise, yoga, meditation, or vitamins.

MELT is easy to learn, backed by cutting-edge research, and offers immediate results that you will see and feel the first time you MELT. Changes in posture, flexibility, energy, mood, and performance occur within only a few sessions. Best of all, your body feels great long after you MELT!


Is MELT like yoga, Feldenkrais®, Pilates®, or physical therapy?

No. MELT is unlike any other technique because it addresses an entirely different system of the body. MELT is to the neurofascial system (nervous and connective tissue system), what all other forms of exercise are to the musculoskeletal system. The science of the neurofascial system is being introduced to the health and fitness arena for the first time by Sue Hitzmann and MELT.

Far beyond weight loss and exercise, through a series of easy, precise techniques—using simple, specialized equipment like soft body rollers and small balls—this groundbreaking program quickly rehydrates connective tissue, making it more supportive, allowing the body to release long-held tension frequently leading to chronic pain symptoms. MELT also helps decrease accumulated stress in the nervous system improving any person’s overall wellness. It’s like getting all the benefits of a great massage yet it lasts longer and takes only minutes a day to get lasting results.


Has MELT been reviewed by experts?

Yes, MELT has been reviewed by internationally respected doctors, neuroscientists, and connective-tissue researchers, including Jean Pierre Barral, D.O.; Ben Domb, M.D.; Gil Hedley, Ph.D.; Tom Myers; and Robert Schleip, Ph.D. Each expert has recognized that MELT is grounded in scientific principles and offers extraordinary benefits.

How often should I MELT?

MELT a minimum of 15 minutes, three times a week to experience immediate and long-lasting benefits. And if you want to MELT every day, that’s okay too. MELT before strength training to improve muscle performance or after a cardio workout to erase joint compression and stiffness. People who MELT regularly find that they want to exercise more often. It’s just more fun to move when your body feels good, has more energy, and is free of pain.

Join us for this month’s upcoming The MELT Method® workshop!
MELT Intro Workshop with Aliza Sutker
Sunday, January 18 at Namaste Berkeley

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Sacred Skincare: The Beauty of Ritual

By Denmo Ibriham

I began making herbal skincare in 2006 when I started my private practice in bodywork and was confused by what most companies considered natural and organic. I spent hours shopping the bath and body section of Whole Foods comparing ingredients and settling for basics. I’d hop from one product line to the next uninspired and frustrated. Why were so many lines loaded with preservatives, mass-produced and made without a mindbody philosophy. I wanted something fresh, without fillers, made from the whole plant not just the extract, and formulated with integrity and intelligence. I wanted personal care products to serve as a daily reminder to celebrate my health and nurture my body and I knew that cleansing my face was an invitation to purify my mind. I wanted my products to be part of my practice.

This was the seed for Earthbody Sacred Skincare, a line of small-batch organic and natural skincare I designed with whole plant botanicals inspired by Ayurveda and handcrafted in San Francisco. Initially, I made these for my clients and myself. Demand quickly grew by word of mouth and soon people I had never met were asking for these products to relieve muscle tension, ease arthritis, and calm eczema. They wanted a healthier alternative to lotion and soap, to elevate their massage, treat their acne, and ultimately integrate mind and body.


My training in Ayurveda taught me the principles of healing. Opposites balance. Like increase like. Harmony is a relationship with the five elements. These were ancient guidelines for total health.

But I found that the Ayurvedic language was difficult to grasp, somewhat obscure and for those without a working knowledge, alienating. So I found a way to address the dosha but speak to the person. Instead of stressing the constitution of Vata Pitta Kapha – I highlighted the mood and actions associated most with the dosha in need of balance. How do you want to feel, I asked. Do you want to move? Do you want to dream? Do you want to bloom? Do you want to inspire? Do you want to ground?

These became our five therapeutic body oils ~ Move, Dream, Bloom, Inspire, Ground ~ and are the heart of Earthbody Sacred Skincare.


Why body oil? Because according to Ayurveda, when the body falls ill, the very first recommended course of action is warm oil massage. Also known as Abhyanga, warm oil massage stimulates the entire organ system, lubricates the joints, and kindles the lymph to release what no longer serves. It is recommended that self-massage become a daily priority to maintain the health. So as a massage therapist, body oils were an obvious herbal remedy to design for homecare post session.

The big picture here however isn’t about daily self-massage or natural skincare or even a non-toxic green lifestyle. It’s about aligning your life with your practice so that all divides dissolve. When I take the time to draw a bath or make a facial mask or condition my hair or massage my body, my breath changes, time stands still and I remember the truth ~ I am whole and all is one. This is the inner temple for which all practice is a path toward. This is the beauty of ritual.


Namaste is proud partner of Earthbody Sacred Skincare.
All Namaste Signature Treatments include organic, cold-pressed, locally made botanical infusions by Earthbody. Inspired by Ayurveda and handcrafted in San Francisco, choose from five organic body oils designed for the mind and body to for your next massage.

Denmo in The KitchenAbout Denmo Ibrahim | Founder & CEO
Denmo is the founder & CEO of Earthbody, an award winning day spa in San Francisco and Earthbody Sacred Skincare, a botanical line of organic vegan skincare handcrafted by healers and inspired by Ayurveda. She integrates wellness, business coaching and spiritual mentorship in all of her work to inspire an inner path of mindfulness, leadership, and personal transformation. Learn about her life and work by signing up for her weekly letter of love. ||

Book your wellness treatment at either Namaste Berkeley or Namaste Grand Lake today.

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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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