Now Accepting Remote Clients!

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Now Accepting Remote Clients!

Enjoy private customized yoga practice at home, on your own schedule.


Check out “First Dibs” deal below!
First 3 New Clients for A Year in Yoga private instruction save $1,000!

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Schedule private session here or e-mail: info@ayearinyoga.com

“First Dibs” A Year in Yoga Deposit

$250 deposit, refundable within 10 days minus 25% processing and administrative fee. Client will be contacted for confirmation and payment plan information within 3-4 days of initial deposit. A Year in Yoga Includes: 6 week Foundations Video Series Download (2 hours each) Bi Weekly On-site, Phone or Video Check-In’s Custom Practice or “Sadhana” Custom regular practice designed to meet your specific needs Journal Entries to monitor and measure progress Video Feedback (up to 12 videos) adjust and modify your practice as things arise in your life First 3 Clients (First Dibs): $1,999 / year Then: $2,999 6 months In Yoga: $1,499 / 6 months *Flexible payment plans available

$250.00

 

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Get Away Weekend, In Mindfulness

Mindful Moments Retreat June 2018

Continue reading “Now Accepting Remote Clients!”

Guest Post: Meditation and the joy in every moment

Ben began his practice in 2003, Since studying at his local physiotherapy clinic, Ben has expanded his scope to include yoga acupressure, acupuncture, naturopathic medicine and applied kinesiology.

Meditation and the joy in every moment
By: Ben Rogers, Edited by: Amy Osborne

Meditation has been described as “no mind” or “not thinking.” It is a stilling of the mind for a sustained period of time.

Mastering meditation can sometimes feel like coming home. You feel as if you have simple rediscovered something that has always been there. The door into tranquility that you know has already been within you is now opened.

For example, if you work in an office, are a musician, painter or another creative field, you likely know that in the midst of creation you are not thinking – but the work is simply flowing through you. Allowing this to happen is quite a challenge, which is why meditating and sitting down before work can be very helpful.

Your mind does not like to be switched off, it will constantly interrupt your meditation, demanding your attention.

Somewhere within each of our minds there is a sanctuary away from the noise and disruption of our own busy thought process. Meditation is about calming that chatter of your mind and rediscovering the calm and still space within yourself.



Breathing and meditation

Don’t forget to breath, that sounds very obvious, but it is a natural instinct for some people to hold their breath when concentrating. Don’t gasp for air, as you get into your meditation your breathing should become more gentle and rhythmic.

Posture for meditations

First imagine the top of your head is being pulled towards the top of the ceiling by an invisible string, so it feels as if your head is floating above your spine. Your chin is slightly lifted, perpendicular with the floor, to open and expand the heart and throat centers.

Relax your shoulders, drawing them back and down, and gently ease your chest (heart center) forward.

Focus and meditations

When you are ready, close your eyes and focus on your breathing, as it comes in and out through each nostril; this is one possible point of focus. This is where your attention can stay. Take several deep breaths and allow your diaphragm to lift, expanding the belly with each full inhalation. Three count inhalation, three count exhalation.

General tips for meditation

  • Don’t think about the past or future – you are participating in the present moment
  • Don’t strain, just breath
  • Don’t have expectations – It may be amazing or just difficult the first, third, and thirty-fifth time you meditate. The practice is simply being with any experience that might arise.
  • Don’t be disappointed – the benefits of meditation come with regular practice and persistence

Exercises for joy on the go

Whether you walking across your living room or across town, consciously slow your footsteps and pay attention to each sensation in your heel, the ball of your foot and then your toes when they make contact with the ground. (Walking Meditation) Notice how this simple practice relaxes your stride and your breath as your attention settles into the fullness of your present moment awareness as you go along with your day.

Observe your thoughts as you walk. What are you thinking about? Can you see a tree, person or car go past without internally labeling it? Practice moving though your surroundings without attaching thoughts, stories or judgments on what you see.

Exercise your heart (cardiac/circulatory system) whether it is bicycle riding, skating or dancing. Find an aerobic activity that brings you pleasure and you can joyfully commit to for half an hour or more during the day.


Wouldn’t it be nice if we could skip past the pain and fast forward to the bliss? The truth is to experience true contentment, we must be willing to feel all of our emotions, from despair to sadness. Our willingness to accept the moment, acknowledge the emotion and be willing to let that go is to find true peace.

Meditation is a tool that teaches us to meet ourselves (and others) where we are, and to be with whatever thoughts and feelings arise without attachment or judgement.

While the practice of meditation is profound, it is also quite simple to learn. There are many types of meditation, from walking meditation, contemplative writing, chanting or focusing on objects. But all forms of meditation begin with getting still and quite inside.

 

Join Amy for Meditation 101 at North Port Yoga to learn six methods of meditation to kick start your personal practice. amy@northportyoga.org / www.northportyoga.org

 

Perfectly Imperfect

All of a sudden, I feel like Britney Spears. She was right. I’m not a girl, not yet a woman. And, it f***ing sucks. Excuse my language.

I have become more adult in the past six months, it feels, than ever before. Although this could be attributed simply to my fleeing Los Angeles (where adult children thrive) in my new role as a business owner in suburbia, there’s also been a lot of other shifting. Shifting into a sense of suddenly knowing. Knowing what? Ironically, I have no idea. And yet, a calm persists. I’ll take it.

[Shakti rams her head against my leg in a rewarded effort to engorge her beef meaty bone.] Perfect imperfection is a practice I’m embracing full force. It means that I can arrive 10-15 (sometimes even 20) minutes late to any engagement and feel justified; I’m imperfect. Haven’t you heard? I still feel terrible but send an early notice text that I’m running behind. I’m imperfect after all. And that’s all imperfect people are expected to do. Move forward. Be human. Embrace whatever’s happening with humble honesty. We’re all imperfect after all.

So, I’ve found some of the happiest moments during my indulgence in imperfection. It’s a painful thing to lose people due to a perceived imperfection, or several – just because nobody’s perfect. I’ve found that many of the people I admire most in my life have lost others through a prolonged misunderstanding, or unresolved disagreement. It’s a painful point, but I’ve realized that self-conception is everything. And that if I can truly live with myself happily, I’m more able to live with others well. I honor the moments of my imperfection as benchmarks and growing pains. Anyone who can’t wait out my darkest moments doesn’t deserve my best and brightest. An unfortunate truth.

I’ve learned that honoring myself is an acceptable first priority. I’m ever grateful to the many strong women in my life who have encouraged me to feel, honor and acknowledge the difficult moments in my life. The sooner we acknowledge our vulnerabilities the stronger we become. I believe it, and I’ve seen it. I’m ever stronger from the village and tribe that has emerged in this community. With me, not from me or for me, they thrive; we thrive.

It’s clear how we can be happiest in life, finally. Loving others, serving others, loving yourself, serving yourself. From there, everything else comes easily.

More adventures to come no doubt. Just an update to let you know I’m thinking of you. Like love notes from my heart…I’m inspired to approach life with curiosity, because I have a reason to share it. Thanks for reading.

Cheers/YOLO/with gratitude,
Amy

Midnight Glory

This week, I am preparing to graduate. That means it has been not only one, but two years in yoga since I started this venture in writing…

I have no words, and I have so many. But, the greatest piece of knowledge I’ve likely received is a broadened awareness of myself, and of the world. I no longer feel that I need to fit into a box. In fact, I am even more intent on creating my own – but, now with a sense of foundation and roots, from and through which I can really flourish (instead of flounder…)

I have learned that there are no ‘rules and norms’ that guide our lives and our rituals. Only the things we allow to affect us, do. Knowing this – and really, truly believing it – we can experience freedom from everything, and everyone. Freedom in decision-making, in self-validation, and even in self-nurturing (through practices like yoga, that teach us to care for ourselves).

There is no normal. Our world is made of so much difference, and yet we’re all so interconnected, and interdependent. A teacher once told me, “At the root of every issue is a lack of love.” By believing this, and bringing a willingness to openly share love, there can be a solution, to anything. It’s so silly, and extremely idealistic; and yet, in my experience, it is absolutely true. Love changes everything. If you bring sincere friendship, empathy and compassion into any type of environment, it will flourish. From hospitals to prisons, universities and rehab centers – love, it seems, cures all.

There are no norms, there are no rules. There is only you, and this; and ideally, love.

But, that part’s up to you. First to find in yourself, and then to unabashedly share.

You can.

 

In love,

Amy

Seeking Surrender – Guest Writer: Shelby Sih

We all have a story to share and lessons learned. This is the story of Shelby Sih, a rising senior studying Communications, Political Science and and Global Social Entrepreneurship at Northeastern University. In her spare time, Shelby is an evolving yogi and yoga instructor in Boston, serves as Editor-in-Chief for Woof Magazine, and as the Mission and Mentor Development Coordinator for Strong Women and Strong Girls at NU.

By finding parts of ourselves in others, we can begin to know how small our world really is. I enjoy learning from and seeking inspiration from Shelby, and hope you will enjoy her story as well.

————————-

“True surrender requires an opening of the heart to the unknown.” – Gurmukh Khalsa

Surrender to the present moment. Surrender to what is. Surrender. These are phrases I have heard countless times throughout my yoga studies and practice. Yet I always had a hard time embracing this part of the practice. I struggled with the feeling that surrendering was somehow conducive to giving up or giving in. What about fighting for what we want and being in control of our lives? How would surrendering to the present moment get me out of a tough situation or keep me striving forward in my life? I had glimpses of what I thought it might mean and knew the theory, but was hesitant to fully embrace this practice in reality – until surrendering, unknowingly at first, became a vital part of my practice.

In the last six months, my life has thrust me between two extremes: I went from spending my summer at a yoga retreat center in Spain to my busiest college semester yet. As I danced between these polarities, I found myself struggling to keep up with the pace of my life, feeling that my heart was often a few steps behind my body. Even though I was physically present, and my mind was telling me I was excited to embrace these new environments, emotionally I hadn’t caught up yet, creating a dissonance I couldn’t quite understand at first of wishing for what I had just left behind.

During the summer, I spent over a month in the mountains of Andalucía, Spain working at an international yoga retreat center. My days in Spain consisted of taking or teaching yoga classes and meditating in the morning, gratifying chores such as washing dishes, gardening or mopping, reading and writing in free time, and evenings spent watching the most beautiful sunsets and clear night sky with the other volunteers.

After the initial travel stress and transitional period subsided, I was still left with an uncomfortable feeling. I knew that something more was at play. As I sat with the feeling, I came to realize that this long-desired free time was in fact unsettling to me. That I didn’t know how to slow down or be still. Despite years of practicing yoga and meditation, wishing for time off, complaining about being so busy and actively choosing to spend my summer in a place so conducive to peace, I still couldn’t allow myself to relax into this state of being. I was trained to be in a state of doing.

Initially, all I wanted was to hide from the discomfort I was feeling. On top of that, the dissonance of feeling some kind of disconnect in an environment deemed “perfect” – and not actually understanding why – only made my discomfort worse. I found myself trying to deny the feelings I held or wondering why I felt anything other than happy in this yogic paradise. The more I rejected my inner experience and found myself wishing away what was happening presently for me, the more I struggled to find any connection with or understanding of myself, which was a main reason I had come in the first place.

Given the fact that I was in an environment designed for introspection and solitude, this was not a feeling I could hide from. Unlike many other times when the simplest and easiest solution was to throw myself into work to distract myself from what’s going on, this time I had nowhere to run. My work left me alone with my thoughts, my daily yoga and meditation practice made me sit with my emotions and my personal time reminded me that I should be rejoicing in this long-awaited time-off instead of running from it. All I could do then was lean into it.

So I did. I began to meet my inner struggle with curiosity and open arms. I welcomed it in. I embraced it.

Once I stopped resisting my emotions, I began to see why I was feeling unsettled, and that this discomfort held a purpose, a message of sorts.

As I shifted my approach – instead of denying how I felt, welcoming it; instead of labeling my emotions as “negative” and trying to get rid of them, labeling them as “interesting” and wanting to know more about them. I felt myself begin to accept all that was happening for me. Although I wanted answers and to understand why, I also knew that sitting around and hypothesizing about why things were the way they were wouldn’t yield actual results. All I could do was continue to be present within each moment. I began to let go of the ever-strong grasp of control that I hold around my life. I gave in to all the emotions and experiences that arose with faith that they were there for a reason. I embraced the moments of pure joy and the moments of anguish or frustration. I stopped trying to formulate answers or make excuses and instead let myself be with what was. The less I fought the discomfort, the easier it got, until it almost entirely subsided. Unknowingly at first, I was learning to surrender.

And (somewhat surprisingly) my world around me did not fall apart because of it; in fact, it began to feel more fulfilling. The dissonance I had about feeling bad subsided so that I could then sit with the discomfort itself without all the labels and assumptions I had previously attached to it. As the discomfort became more of a teacher than an enemy, the control it had around me (and that I tried to have around it) subsided so that I could learn from it without being attached to it. Without the need to control – to qualify and quantify and objectify and categorize everything – I began to meet each emotion and each moment that arose with curiosity and equanimity instead of judgment.

Hindsight has allowed me to see that I was beginning to surrender, and that I was relinquishing some of my control in exchange for more openness and faith to the beauty of life in all its facets.

All too soon, my time in Spain came to a close. I was thrown back into my regular, overloaded schedule as a college student, making free time virtually nonexistent. Once again, I felt myself resisting my current situation. Only this time, ironically, I longed for the days when my biggest responsibility was making sure the dishes were washed and I could decide in the present moment what I wanted to do. Instead, now I barely had time to even cook for myself, let alone live without my agenda dictating my every step. At least this time I knew what was causing the discontent.

But this was the life I (mostly willingly) chose. Despite the stress and exhaustion, I ultimately knew there wasn’t anything I would happily or willingly give up. Which meant I needed to change my internal environment since the external one felt like complete chaos.

If practicing to surrender to my situation in the mountains of Southern Spain was a step into the unknown – a bit unsettling at first but an important switch to a more fulfilling time – trying to surrender amidst the chaos of Boston was like clinging to a life vest in tumultuous waters: a survival tactic and true test of all that I had been working towards. But maybe this was the point of going away in the first place: to be able to come back to “real life” and dive headfirst into the waters, knowing I now had the tools to stay afloat.

As I slowly changed the narrative from which I viewed my situation – embracing the chaos, finding purpose in the responsibilities, remaining present with the priorities in the moment instead of all that was ahead of me – I was able to exist amidst the whirlwind of activity with a level of unattachment that made me no less involved or passionate, but instead kept me at a level of peace within. That’s not to say that I wasn’t stressed out most days or feeling completely overwhelmed by all that I had going on, but instead it meant that I was able to stay afloat (even when it felt nearly impossible to do so) without drowning in my external circumstances.

It has taken daily reminders (some in the form of self-made notifications on my phone to stop and breathe, or my morning meditation to set my intentions for the day) to keep me coming back to this practice of letting go, even if just a tiny amount more. Without this intent of surrendering to my situation, I would have continued wishing for some ideal version of my life and applying unneeded, unrealistic pressure on myself (i.e. wanting to recreate the peaceful bliss I felt in Spain, thinking I need to do at least an hour of asana a day, etc.). Even though these thoughts and self-induced pressure didn’t disappear, I was at least more aware of them, which made them feel a little less threatening. While I still experienced moments of panic and moments of wishing things were different, I also had more faith in my ability to handle what came my way and more acceptance that this was the way things were supposed to be in this moment – and that was okay.

Like any aspect of yoga, learning to surrender is a practice, and one that takes time, patience and nurturing. It’s also an important reminder to me that I’m only grazing the very surface of yoga and still have much work to do.

Now trying to surrender is part of my daily practice; a reminder to myself that each moment holds a purpose that may remain concealed from me at first, and that wishing moments away or holding onto some ideal of control only strengthens resistance to the present. Surrendering does not mean becoming complacent with life; instead it means welcoming all of life’s moments in order to connect to a higher state of living; one that doesn’t depend on an outer environment or external circumstance, but rather to an inner strength and openness that is ready to embrace the life that I’m leading right now.

Om Shanti (Peace) xx

 

// Photo Cred: Shelby Sih @ Om Dome in Suryalila, Spain (Summer 2015)

 

Know Thyself

A huge, hindering theme of the past year (2015) has been, “know thyself.” Without religious context or forceful presentation, the advice or suggestion to better ‘know myself’ was prevalent; and perhaps unsurprisingly, came to a head in the intensely evocative, hazy midst of India. What I might now recall as recovering from a “deep depression,” (relative only in the realm of my own experience), was much less an awakening but a pervasive relief; a relinquishment of some terrible unidentifiable burden of the past. What was I carrying? Pain, fear, grief. I carried them all the way to India. But, they never made it back.

That’s the magic, and the “spirituality” of India. You don’t know what happening when it’s happening. You don’t always know your own pain, your own sadness or overwhelm, before, during or after. It’s a shadow of darkness we avoid like the plague, that contains all of our sadness, confusion, pain. Things you never even knew bothered you suddenly arise. Things you never wanted to remember. Things you usually can’t remember. It’s all buried in us, and is rediscovered and released through the practice of yoga. Yoga is a process of purging, of cleansing and purifying, that challenges our being and threatens immediate gain for the promise of a truer, happier, healthier, more prosperous “you” somewhere down the road. This is my path, as I’ve ridden the tsunami wave of my past year; likely one of the most difficult, and one of the most rewarding of my life. I can’t yet know completely what it all means and how it all ends, but I so welcome the year ahead.

And welcome the beacon that challenges me: KNOW THYSELF

On the first day of the new moon as a new year unfolds, I hope you might find inspiration through your own practice to seek renewal – whatever this means to you. As I’ve also been reminded before, ‘once you face the darkness, there is only light.’ (That means simple, straight-up happiness always. Imagine no mood swings.) Turns out, it’s attainable. But the road is hard as #*&$.

But so, so worth it.

KNOW THYSELF!

Embrace 2016 with open arms. And perhaps you’ll share my commitment to renewal through regular practice, learning, and well practiced self-love. (Manicures, massage, candles always, incense often…) Best. Year. Ever.

With so much love,

Amy

//

Photo Cred: Snapchat by (fellow Yoga Master) Whitney Cerullo on New Years Eve 2015. Judge as you must…This is me in a moment of real happiness. Surrounded by friends, hope and so much love. 🙂

Living Yoga: A Tribute to India

Preparing myself for India, I anticipated change. Particularly, I imagined a life-changing, entirely radical moment of clarity. One that snaps you back down to Earth exactly where you need to be at that very moment. A transformational moment. Samyag drsti.*

But, of course, what we get is rarely what we want, and what we want is rarely what we really need. For me, India was an amazing experience. I learned so much about the world, Jainism and Indian culture, and even more about myself – my strengths and limitations. I learned that compassion can and should be inclusive toward all living things, even and especially Nature. I learned that I do well with heat and humidity, but am considerably bad at managing bugs and dirty streets (not entirely new knowledge). I learned a lot about my privilege as a caucasian American, not from a workshop or a round table discussion, but first-hand gazing out the car window into the desperate, withered faces of starving women and children in the streets. I learned that in the midst of chaos and hell (whatever that may be for you), it is still possible to smile, to shed light, to lend kindness, and to have faith. I learned that despite my studies and efforts in yoga and meditation, I still struggle to maintain peace in the chaos. In fact, I still have a long way to go.

India was stealthy in her approach, overwhelming my senses with new sights, scents, and sounds while my mind was consumed by an intensive course itinerary of lectures, temple visits and reading, reading, reading (six books in three weeks warrants the repetition). We spent our first two weeks at an ashram in New Delhi where we were greeted with warm smiles, tea & biscuits, and an impressive schedule of lectures and puja ceremonies for our full immersion in Jainist tradition. In contrast, our third week was marked by long, bumpy bus rides, too much Limica soda (for my unending “Delhi belly”) and countless hours gazing out at the expanse of Indian countryside in sleepless, silent reflection. There was so much to process, to take in, to debrief that I allowed my mind to wander. I found, and often still find, that my mind is consumed by incessant questions into the “why” for all of this – past, present and future: How did I get here? What are my goals? How can people live in these dire conditions and still embody such contentment and happiness? What can I learn from them? Is yoga the answer? What can I do to help? Am I doing enough? What is that man smiling about? Does he have a family he loves? Does he bear the responsibility to support them? What does he do? Where are they? I hope they’re smiling, too…**

I came back from India with many more questions than answers. Yet I’ve noticed (and am grateful) that, over the past year and particularly since my return, I’ve become more mindful and free to ask questions, to consider difference, and to explore new places with equanimity. The more open I allow my mind to become, questioning the basic ideas and norms I have always taken for granted, the more questions and freedom arise. So a year after I began this endeavor to chronicle my year in yoga, I feel in many ways that I know much less now than when I started. However discouraging it may sometimes feel, any Indian guru will tell you: Admitting you know nothing is the first step to true wisdom.

What I found in India was not samyag drsti, but instead was as much an experience of internalization, as it was an outward excursion. It was a passive process; my mind like a camera capturing each moment as it came with mindful awareness, acknowledging each moment’s value and relentless brevity. Practicing yoga for me in India wasn’t predominantly physical asana, but was a conscious effort in self-compassion and non-judgment as I sought balance between pushing beyond my limits and caring for myself. As I like to see it, India was the perfect culmination to a long and taxing process of change, accompanied and instigated by a newly emerging, intensive year in yoga studies. Learning, living and practicing yoga from and among dedicated yogis has undoubtedly changed me for the better by opening my eyes to all I still have left to learn: about myself, my connection to others, to the Earth and to the world around me.

In 21st Century Yoga: Culture, Politics & Practice (a recommended, easy read!), Chelsea Roff shares a short essay on her nearly lethal battle with anorexia and her experience with yoga. She says with beautiful concision:

“For so long, I’d come to my mat to run away from myself. Now I came to connect. I had to reconnect in order to thrive.”

For over six years, while indulging in and learning from yoga communities across two cities and three continents, yoga is my constant. Its purpose and form in my life is ever evolving, and yet it remains unconditional and devotedly focused on revealing my best self to the world, even and especially when I’ve given up on myself.

Sometimes my mat is my hideaway, and other times it’s my own slice of heaven, a sun-soaked temple on my bedroom floor. At times it’s a complicated relationship (when I find myself avoiding my mat, afraid of what I might face there), but it is always consistent, welcoming and one of deep, penetrating compassion. From this place, I’ve grown and continue on knowing that whatever I face in the future I can withstand with contentment and kindness in my heart. India reminded me of this fact, and of the importance of remaining humble and eternally eager to learn. To care for ourselves, others and the world around us, to live each day and each moment purposefully in seeking love and connection, this is living in yoga.

May you find a few moments of solitude today and everyday.

In love,

Amy

——-

*Translated literally from Sanskrit as “right insight.”
**Unfortunately, with a busy schedule in India I fell away from my regular meditation practice. ‘Sitting,’ though, is just the practice of observing your own incessant (and often disjoint) thoughts as they arise non-judgmentally and, over a period of time and daily practice, learning that you can control and quiet your own mind (and thereby reduce anxiety, stress, and signs of depression at their onset). I wonder how my trip to India might have been different if I had prioritized my practice…I won’t waste any valuable time or brain space mulling that over (it’s in the past!), but I know that I’m a brighter, better person when I sit for 10 min a day. (It has to be consistent/daily for your brain to catch on – Check out more on neuroplasticity here.) The free app Headspace is a great resource.

My Hymn to Wisdom: Surrender (+ Excerpt)

Longer than I’d like has passed since my last note! This month has been quickly gobbled away by an upcoming Editorial deadline for Worldviews (my first edited issue was published this week & is available to read online), and my first [15-page] paper due in my [boss’] class, Yoga Philosophy: Text & Practice. Despite my scattered priorities, I was able to write what I felt was a kick-ass paper – Even if it meant checking a bit of my sanity. (Shout out to my bf and roomie, Matt, for handling me with love and grace!)

Overall, my lesson from the past several weeks has been: Surrender. In those moments when everything seems to be exploding in my face. When I’m moving so fast that I’m tripping over myself. When I can’t keep my eyes open, but I know I have to keep on going. In those moments – we all have our own versions – I’ve learned to just surrender. What this means physically (aka ‘in my body’), is just to stop. Pause. Inhale deeply. And, exhale deeply. Now that I’ve stopped: Is the world still moving? Are the walls crumbling around me? No. Well, then I guess I didn’t have to hurry as much as I thought I did. And then, I surrender. I either suck it up and keep on going, if that’s what I’m feeling. Or, I suck it up and go to bed, if that’s what I’m really needing. Either way: I surrender. It’s not worth the hassle of a meltdown, or a freakout. The world will keep on turning, either way. (Pass or fail, good or bad, finished or not…it all, always works out.)

My essay for Dr. Chris Chapple’s class focused on my personal interpretation of a hymn from the Rg Veda. My inspiration was a beautiful poem embedded within the ancient text, which divulges the essence and evolution of humanity through an individual’s own self-expression of the spoken word (or Vac). You could say this hymn spoke to me on several levels (the rhetorician, the advocate, the academic…), but I think its resonance on a purely human level makes it worth sharing. What’s more, inspired by our cohort’s recognition of National Eating Disorders Awareness Month by hosting the Day of Play Yoga Festival this Saturday Feb 28th at LMU (@ 1pm — details below), I thought I would, and should, share part of my personal interpretation of the hymn, explaining how I continually find strength and surrender in yoga.

You can find the Hymn to Wisdom (Rg Veda) below, along with a brief overview of the Rg Veda and an excerpt of my personal application of the hymn to my own life. From my corner to yours…

Excerpt: The ‘Right Path’ of Vac: An Exegesis Review of the Rg Veda 10.71, “Hymn to Wisdom,” Feb. 15, 2015

Introduction: Context & Meaning

The significance and impact of the Rg Veda, a foundational text of yoga and Indian philosophy dating back to 1500 B.C., is most evident through its longevity and its undying relevance to contemporary life. The Rg Veda is one of four major texts that together form the foundation of Vedic philosophy. The Rg Veda’s inclusion of sacrifices and hymns to guide readers’ successful completion of ancient rituals demonstrates its historical value; however, arguably even more significant is the text’s meaning and relevance for contemporary readers (who, notably, are not likely reading for literal reenactment). The complexities of life, love, relationships, and the human condition, among other topics, are divulged in poetic simplicity across the pages of the Rg Veda, particularly throughout its series of over 1,000 hymns.

Nine families are credited with writing the hymns, which brings our attention to the plurality of hands, minds, and thereby, perspectives at work in its creation. The majority of authors of the Rg Veda were poets and seers, or those advanced on the path toward enlightenment, often said to tote psychic abilities or magic powers (siddhis). Similarly, brahmans, as referenced in the particular hymn I will examine here, are representative of the highest priestly caste or social class in Vedic society. “Brahman” is also frequently used throughout late Vedic literature to reference the divine aspect residing within all living things, which I interpret as equal to one’s “soul.” Veda, in and of itself, is literally translated to mean “knowledge” in Sanskrit. Through what is likely the oldest philosophical text of this depth (even pre-dating Plato in ancient Greece), contemporary readers are able to find new resonance and wisdom to guide them through the most complex philosophical conundrums spanning the existence of humanity.

The power and complexity of human expression, as well as its interpersonal and social implications, are explicitly explored in Rg Veda 10.71, Hymn to Wisdom:

When men, Brhaspati [Lord of Speech], by name-giving
Brought forth the first sounds of Vac,
That which was excellent in them, which was pure,
Secrets hidden deep, through love was brought to light. 

When man created language with wisdom,
As if winnowing cornflour through a sieve,
Friends acknowledged the signs of friendship,
And their speech retained its touch.

They followed the path of Vac through sacrifice [ritual],
Which they discovered hidden within the seers [wise men].
They drew her out, distributing her in every place,
Vac, which Seven Singers her tones and harmonies sing.

Many a man who sees does not see Vac,
Many a man who hears does not hear her.
But to another she reveals her beauty
Like a radiant bride yielding to her husband.

Who forsakes a friend, having known friendship,
He never had a part or a share of Vac.
Even though he hears her, he hears in vain;
For he knows nothing of her right path.

.

  1. One man recites verses,
    Another chants hymn Sakvari measure.
    The brahman talks of existence, and yet
    Another sets the norms for the sacrifice.1

Personal Application

As a successful graduate from a private university in Boston, I quickly secured a job out of college with an impressive title, and had loving friends and family who supported me unconditionally. But, I was very unhappy. What right did I have to be unhappy? And yet, I couldn’t deny it, seemingly without cause. Despite my decision to seek guidance from a nutritionist and weekly meetings with a therapist, my eating habits became increasingly disruptive and unhealthy as a result of my unhappiness. My therapist informed me that I was classified as having ‘disordered eating,’ characterized as being on the verge of an eating disorder, but not (yet) having fully taken the plunge. When she asked me why I didn’t [take the plunge], I hesitated. Truthfully, I wasn’t quite sure. “I guess, I couldn’t do that to my body,” I responded. “Or to myself.” My therapist suggested that I was a “psychological prodigy,” given my ability to self-analyze and discern unhealthy thought patterns to choose my course of action, or “right path,” accordingly. When I didn’t gain what I’d hoped from my sessions with her – I still didn’t know what was ‘wrong’ with me – I ended them after six months. Soon after, I moved to California, in search of whatever it was I was missing. Today, my daily rift with depression is gone. I eat whatever I want without fear or anxiety. I am the healthiest I have ever been without the stress or self-loathing that characterize disordered eating, or an exercise obsession. And, most importantly, I am the happiest I have ever been.

You would think this is the end of the story; but in truth, it depends on which story we’re telling. Yes, my struggle has subsided to reveal a happy ending: I am healthy, I am happy, and I have conquered (at least a few of) my demons. But the real catalyst for this positive transformation wasn’t any event in singularity. Rather, it was learning to consistently listen to and cultivate my own intuition or Vac, and to leverage this wisdom in guiding my actions and learning self-love. This is an instance of how surrendering and harmonizing with my inner guiding principle proved to remedy a source of suffering in my life. However, this is just one instance and one moment in my life, while realizing Vac [as real peace] requires cultivating inner harmony throughout a lifetime. And so, in truth, my story continues…

*This is not to suggest, by any means, that this is an easy feat, or that yoga is the only or best way to address disordered eating, depression or an eating disorder. These are just some of my personal thoughts and observations. And, of course, when these types of thoughts do arise, it’s a continuous battle – not to be discounted. But, learning to control your own thoughts, to cultivate positive thinking, to practice yoga (of the body and mind), in my experience, is a wonderful place to start.

With love, Amy

Day of Play Yoga Festival
Sat / Feb 28 / 1p-5p
Sunken Gardens, Loyola Marymount University

Day of Play will bring together Yoga, music, movement, and discussion in order to cultivate awareness, self-care, a supportive community, and positive feelings about one’s body. This event is donation based and open to the public. Activities include a group Vinyasa Yoga class, AcroYoga, Yoga Slacklining, vendor booths, food trucks, a discussion panel, and a mindful sound bath meditation.

For more information please visit: http://www.gofundme.com/kjtxzo.

  1. deNicolas, Antonio (1976). Meditations Through the Rg Veda: Four-Dimensional Man. Stony Brook, NY: Nicolas Hays Ltd.

Arm Yourself (with Crazy, Strong Asanas)

“Summer’s coming!”

“Spring break, wedding season, and bikini season are right around the corner,” they say. Well, of course, these (rarely helpful) reminders often succeed in turning our attention to our day planners and our post-hiberation bodies. If you’re like me, then your inner monologue usually follows, “So, how much time do I have?” (Time enough to fit in one more weekend of Ben & Jerry’s and red wine indulgence, I hope!)

We can’t avoid all the reminders, and we can’t always hate them either. It’s important – all year round – to evaluate how we’re treating our bodies. But, instead of fueling a love-hate relationship with our bodies by feeling the need to suddenly ‘kick it into shape,’ could it be better (and healthier) to check in with our bodies on our own accord, in an effort to ‘take care’ of ourselves? The holidays bring an equally welcome and dreaded break in our regular schedules and eating habits, and the stress – and cold – of the season eggs on our urge to put on the pounds. (Literally, biologically, our bodies crave the extra fat for added warmth in the colder weather! My favorite excuse for reaching for a few extra Tollhouse cookies on a frigid night…)

Checking in with ourselves, as I discussed in a different context in “No Regrets: A Guide to Managing the Chaos,” is all it takes to stay healthy and happy on a daily, weekly, monthly and seasonal basis. Every day, checking in allows us to notice how our bodies are feeling, what our minds are up to, and consequently, how one might be negatively influencing the other.

For example, recently, I realized that my busy busy mind had been neglecting some physical discomfort and ailments that really deserved closer attention – so, I scheduled a doctor’s appointment. After taking the time to be more present to my body, I also began to notice how my headaches and other symptoms were affecting my focus, and thereby making me cranky and irritable. Not getting enough rest at night (8 hours or more, most nights each week) was also contributing to my negative attitude and my overall mindset. These are examples of how the body and mind are in sync at a very fundamental level, which ultimately affects our day-to-day comfort and productivity. By giving both my mind and my body the attention they deserve, as you would ‘take care’ or check in with a good friend or family member on a consistent basis, you’ll notice it’s much easier to be and stay healthy and happy for as long as you’re willing to stay present.

As I’ve said before and am often reminded, it’s already in you. Don’t bother looking at magazine covers with pictures of a body they’re telling you you should have this summer. Instead, check in with your own body, and treat it well; and you will undoubtedly be the happiest, healthiest, and sexiest you this summer, and always. Physical fitness can and should mean checking in with our body and what it’s really craving, (extra cookies are always okay to have sometimes; and despite your regular gym routine, maybe your body is craving a run outside or an exercise class this week). By paying attention to what the body really needs to be flawlessly in sync with our mental health and well-being, we can find balance and fitness that’s easily sustainable – if it’s approached as a welcome lifestyle shift, rather than a ‘quick’ fix.’ By listening more closely to what we already know (like that voice that tells me when I’m full, before I make the decision to pick up another cookie anyway), we can be our happiest and best selves without the high anxiety and the love-hate relationship. We’ll just keep the love part…

There’s nothing wrong with wanting to look your best when it’s part of wanting to be your best. As much as yoga helps to manage daily mental chaos – of should’s and shouldn’t’s, temptations and remorse – by providing steadiness and clarity with regular practice, yoga also has its physical benefits. For me: I crave healthier, lighter foods because I have a greater awareness of how different foods impact my physical and mental well-being (and equally how I impact my food, through my footprint on the environment). I also am slowly but surely getting into the best shape of my life, effortlessly. Because, I return to my mat for benefits beyond a few push-ups; simply because I’m better (and certainly a better friend, daughter and girlfriend) when I do.

Since I’ve already introduced a few well-rounded basic asanas for home practice in “Happy Holidays! Your Asana Cheatsheet,” I wanted to share a few basic postures that specifically target arms – an area that caused my college girlfriends and I much anguish, as seemingly always “the last part to tone!” – so you can feel confident whatever the new season brings, without needing to master handstand or flying lizard pose to do it.

So…let’s do it.

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ARM YOURSELF with Crazy, Strong Asanas:

All the poses I’ve included below are for beginners, unless noted otherwise. Any beginner posture can be made more challenging by either holding it longer (anywhere from 30 seconds to 5 minutes) or by adding modifications which require additional strength building, as I’ve noted below. My daily practice is a fluid (ever-changing) combination of these postures, which I’ve built upon over time to further challenge myself and engage new muscles in the body. Through repetition, we gain muscle memory – so as we practice more and more frequently, learning to engage our muscles in new ways, our bodies naturally start using these muscles more in our daily lives. For instance, bending over, you might find you engage new muscles in your core, or you might not notice. But over time, your body will change, as it becomes more engaged, stronger, and healthier. This heightened awareness and efficiency of our physical body is called body clairvoyance.

The sequences below are basic techniques that will, at face value, promote greater arm strength and stability. With further practice, however, these postures can also become a full body work-out, enabling you to begin to engage your muscles in new ways and stimulate greater all-day awareness for all-over strength building.

As always, be careful and present in your practice by listening to your body. Every body’s different and, as I’ve learned more and more throughout my studies, not every body is able to do every pose. Don’t judge yourself for what you can or cannot do today, just be present in acknowledging where you are, and set a goal for yourself of where you’d like to go from here. With patience and determination (aka repetition), the form and strength of the posture will come and you’ll be able to embody more and more of the cues I’ve included here. (But likely not at first, so go easy on yourself!)

Click the posture name below for step-by-step instructions and check out my full body cues for an added challenge. Enjoy, and let it flow! 😉

Down Dog Vinyasa Flow

Downward-facing dog
-Widen the fingers of each hand apart from one another, and press the palms firmly into the ground. (This means there should be no gap between the floor and your fingers, particularly where your ring finger meets the palm of each hand.)
– Lift your hips up and press back through your arms, engaging your triceps and keeping a micro (small) bend at the below. Then, gently straighten your knees and engage the backs of your legs (your hamstrings) to lower your heels closer to the ground. Once this is accomplished, you can press firmly through your heels, with equal force pressing through the hands, to engage the calves and enjoy a rock solid down dog. (Go ahead and try me, tsunami – I ‘ain’t budging!)

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High Plank
– Lowering into plank from down dog, extend from your wrist through your shoulder without lifting out of your shoulder socket, by ensuring your arm/the head of the humerus rests securely in the shoulder socket.
– Holding this position, lower your hips and engage your core to maintain a straight spine.
– Flex your feet and push your heels away from you, to lengthen from your hips through your heels. This way, you’re engaging and lifting from the legs away from the ground and away from your upper body.
– Check back in to straighten your spine and engage your upper and lower body muscles, planting firmly into the floor and lengthening away from it in equal opposition for full body strengthening.

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Chaturanga Dandasana
– Slowly lower from high plank to chaturanga by first bending at the elbows and focusing on drawing the elbows in against the sides of the body as you lower. (This is a great example of listening to your body, as some bodies may need to modify by moving the elbows slightly away given their unique skeletal structure.)
– Engage the core, flex your feet and push through the heels to engage your hamstrings and lengthen the legs away from the hips. Set your gaze slightly in front of you to straighten your neck and cervical vertebrae for a straight spine.
– As you build arm strength, you will be able to lower more slowly, hold this posture, and even push back up into high plank for a yogi push-up. Using your breath to guide this movement makes it much easier, by pressing up on a strong, deep inhalation and slowly lowering down with a deep exhale. (Trust me, it helps a lot.)

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Vasisthasana/Side Plank (with advanced modifications)
– The secret to holding this posture is core strength. Lift your hips away from the ground and lengthen the spine. Flex your bum and hamstrings, and lift your lower body up while pushing away through the feet.
– Widen your fingers and press firmly through the hand grounded into the floor. (Remember, the ring finger rule!) Once you’ve found this stability, draw your other arm up and lengthen away from the body, gently pulling your torso in opposite directions. (To start, it’s helpful to rest your arm on your hip to lift into the posture and work towards lengthening through the fingertips, only once you’re firmly grounded and comfortable in the basic posture.)
– *This posture has recently been scientifically proven to reverse sclerosis by practicing for 15 sec.  or more per day on the side with the spinal curvature.

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– Once you’ve mastered side plank in it’s conventional form (above), begin to play with movement and test your strength and stability by trying these variations:

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– Remember to utilize your core by lifting from the hips for stability, and flex the foot using the heel to guide movement of your free leg while strongly engaging the leg muscles. You may rest the foot above or below the knee to hold this posture, but do not rest your foot or put any pressure directly on your inner knee in this posture. 
– Maintaining the opposite force of pressing down and drawing up through the fingers and wrist is also key to maintaining upper body power and stability in this posture.
– Head and neck positioning is really unimportant in this posture, as long as you’re comfortable and not straining or holding tension in these places. Gazing up and through the finger tips is a popular choice for an added balancing challenge.

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– Fully engage your leg and slowly reach your foot up and away from your body through the heel, while maintaining upper body stability.

One-armed dog push-up’s
– Lower from downward-facing dog into a position similar to high plank (except here, it’s okay if your bum sticks up in the air a bit). Lift one foot off the ground and lengthen your leg away from you by flexing the foot and lengthening through the heel.

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– Bend at the elbows, and draw your arms alongside your body (for stability). Lower the forehead towards the ground while lengthening your leg further away from your body through the heel.

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– Lower fully down in an upper body chaturanga with your forehead on the floor and your leg still raised and pushing away from the body through the heel.

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– Raise back up, pressing firmly through the hands on a deep inhalation, keeping the elbows slightly bent and held tightly alongside the body with leg raised. (Returning to original ‘one-armed dog’ posture)
– Repeat 10, 20, 30+ times, switch legs and completed on the opposite side. (In a recent workshop, we were asked to do 50 of these on each side, in unison. There was a 60+ year old woman beside me who killed it. Time to give it a try?)

Intermediate/Advanced: Upward Bow or Wheel Pose Push-up’s
– For intermediate to advanced practitioners only, this posture becomes much easier once a solid foundation of arm strength is gained.
– First, lay on your back with your knees bent and your feet firmly planted on the floor. Bending your elbows and pressing your palms into the ground behind your head, push firmly into wheel pose while engaging the core to stabilize the spine. (See link above for more detailed instructions.)

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– Find a comfortable position in wheel pose by walking your feet in towards your hands and always keeping a micro bend in your elbows as well as your knees. (Did you catch it? I’m missing my micro bend below! This creates instability and undo pressure at the joints which can cause bone degradation and nerve damage over time. So keep that bend!)

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– Bend your elbows and gently lower the top (crown) of your head to the floor. Just like in chaturanga, be sure to draw the elbows in toward the body rather than letting them splay out and away, to maintain stability of your joints.
– Once your head is planted on the floor, push firmly through the feet and lift the hips up through the core. Move your hands slightly back (1 inch) towards your head, allowing brief and gentle pressure to rest on the crown of the head (*advanced practitioners only*), and press back up firmly through the hands into wheel pose, for an inverted yogi push up!
– For beginner and intermediate practitioners who want to give it a try, keep your hands firmly on the ground at all times and lower the head down to the floor before lifting back up for a safer, modified version of the push up.

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Resting Postures* (These are counter postures designed to stretch your muscles in gentle opposition to the work you’ve already done. Feel free to sprinkle these in between your more intense postures, but definitely include them during your post-practice cool down – that is, before you take your well-earned, luxurious Savasana!)

Relaxed Standing Forward Fold
– Grab onto the elbows and release the head and neck to fully relax the neck and spine.
– Press firmly through the feet and legs, but keep a micro bend in your knee to alleviate undo pressure to your joints.
– Gently hang here, releasing any remaining tension in your upper body and allowing your autonomic nervous system to kick in, sending ‘feel good,’ relaxation-inducing hormones to your brain. (This happens anytime you lower your head below your heart. Hence, why EMT’s have patients lower their head between their legs following an accident.)

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Knees to Chest Pose
– Gently wrap the arms around the knees, drawing the knees into the chest. Grab onto your fingers, wrists, or elbows, whatever is most comfortable for you. Hug your knees in and rest here (remembering to maintain your deep breathing).
– Hold for 30 seconds – 1 min., with or without rolling gently side to side, if this feels good to help loosen up tight hips.

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Reclining Bound Angle Pose
– Bring the soles of your feet together, and allow your knees to relax towards the floor and your hips to gently open. If you feel any tension or discomfort in your knees, move your feet further away from your body (1 foot away, or more) until you find a comfortable position.
– Allow your arms and shoulders to relax, turning your palms upward. Draw your arms alongside your body, place them farther away or let them rest above your head; whatever is most comfortable for you in the moment.

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Namaste ❤

Photo Credit: A big thanks to my photographer, Matt Annese! Check out more of his work here.

No Regrets: A Guide to Managing the Chaos

I’ve experienced quite a shift in the past few weeks. And from what I’ve heard from family, and especially friends – going through the same grad school grind or 40-hour funk – the feeling is mutual. Perhaps the New Year holiday isn’t such a pointless occasion. Maybe, something actually does happen worth celebrating; a shift into greater consciousness. Or, as it’s more likely be familiar as, a new perspective. Suddenly, we’re all asking: Where am I going? What am I doing this for? Is this really where I want to be?

A new year will do that to you. Just when you think you have it all figured out, and you’re in full-out holiday 2014 turn up mode. Routine strikes again, and we find ourselves asking: Why? Why do I do the things I do? Is this really what I want?

Doubts inevitably start sweeping in. And then you have a choice – continue doing what you’re doing, or change it. Well, unfortunately I’ve (pretty much always) opted for the path of most resistance. Change it. Or change something. Because, if you’re noticing there’s an issue – how can you go forward with it any other way?

After spending a good part of my holiday ‘break’ formulating my plan for change, I realized that all of my commitments (work, school, research) are important to me, and worth going after. There’s nothing I want to, or can change, at this point in time. And, I’ve also learned bailing isn’t always the answer. There’s always something to be learned and gained, even from the most difficult situations. Then, I came to an interesting thought: You can’t muscle through it. You can only breath through it.

I’d been pushing and pushing, and putting my head down and hoping for ‘the end.’ (Whatever that means…) I was muscling through it, and hoping that would be enough. But of course, my strategy didn’t sustain and despite my efforts, I couldn’t see the end of the tunnel. But, even in the worst situations, there’s always a light; a way to make it better for yourself. I’d been trying to muscle through it when I really needed to just stop and breath.

Distinguishing these moments, when you’re running out of gas and it’s time to switch gears, is the secret. It’s everything. Because, if you can keep your self in tact, you can do anything you want to do without feeling mysteriously (and overwhelmingly) exhausted, or stressed, or angry. For me, allowing myself to have downtime; to take care of myself (who knew a home manicure could feel so amazing?) and in turn, devoting myself back to the hustle; to stay true to the commitments I’ve already made, and be present to all the things I’m looking forward to this year. It’s an ongoing balance and it takes work. But, most importantly, this means ‘checking in’ (or as somatic psychologists call it: a body scan) – every day, as often as you can. How am I feeling? Am I thirsty or hungry? Tired or getting sick? Am I agitated or stressed? Am I angry or irritable? What can I do to take care of myself right now?

We’re used to – and good at – putting things off. Especially, when it comes to self-care. The last priority on our “To Do lists,” often are the items that involve taking care of ourselves. But, what good are we really after we reach our breaking point? I know when I was working a corporate job, this came before lunchtime. Last semester, it came even sooner. So naturally, you start to wonder: Why am I doing this?

I found it helpful to consider why I’d started instead. School or work is tough sometimes, sure. But it must be that the reasons why we’re there in the first place are far more worthy of consideration – the long-term vision, rather than the day-to-day grind. Now that the honeymoon period has ended, what’s your motivation?

Only you can answer that, and it’s for no one else to judge. It’s your life, and you should make it yours. No matter what position you find yourself in, there can always be a reason to get you through (especially, the tougher times) – be it personal, professional; trials, tribulations; learning, growing, sharing. If you allow yourself to believe there is a purpose for this place in this time, then you allow a feeling of forward movement and fulfillment to supersede. And if you check in with yourself, and put yourself first (for the benefit of everything and everyone that comes after), there’s only joy.

Whether you decide to muscle through it, or breath through it – only an attitude, a perspective changes simply by changing your focus. And, you control it. (Imagine that, in this crazy, scary world of ours…You ultimately have control.)

Like many I know, I’m off to a very busy and daunting 2015; but I’m optimistic. I’m taking one day at a time, and trying my best to be present when and where I am, in each moment. If these events, and people, jobs and classes are important enough to be part of my life, then I owe it to myself to be present for them. (Also, you can be sure this way: you’ll have no regrets.) We can choose when and how, and if we want to change. But ultimately, it’s all a matter of perspective.

Wishing you all the very best things a new year can bring, and all the joy that can possibly come along with it.

No Regrets,

Amy

Personal Photo: Meditation Retreat @ Benedict Canyon, Los Angeles, CA (January 17, 2015)