The Rhythm of Ashtanga
By Kari Ann Levine, teacher at Urban Yoga
If you have ever been to a traditional led Ashtanga class, you will have undoubtedly noticed—and were perhaps even mesmerized by—the tempo of the Sanskrit1 count, the melody of the asana2 names spoken in the same native tongue, the hum of your own breath.
It is this illusory, intangible rhythm where I, too, rest my focus when I’m teaching. In fact, sometimes I teach with my eyes softly closed, although only after I’ve ensured that you’re established and safe in the asana or sequence.
It’s not that I’m unconcerned with your posture. In fact, I am. Very much so. But if I focus too much on it, I will get in the way. And so will your mind.
There is something that happens in between the poses, the breath and the gentle count of Ashtanga vinyasa. A sort of transmission that takes place through my voice, my hands, the energy of your fellow practitioners, and eventually, as you learn the practice, directly through you.
In a sense, even as your teacher, I am not here to teach you. I am here to hold the space that allows the practice to do the teaching. As the class moves and breathes together, we entrain ourselves to the rhythm of the practice. This rhythm is what lulls you deeper and deeper into yourself, where your body provides all the teaching that you need.
Then you become your own teacher.
Most Ashtanga vinyasa teachers choose not to play music. Despite this, to me, the felt sense of the practice is that of a song, beginning and ending with the same chants that have been sung by practitioners for nearly 100 years and, in between, the flow of body and breath that inspires a most hypnotic and entrancing dance.
No need to know the dance already. The more you come, the more you will see that it is already within you.
Humans of Urban Yoga | Amber Reed
By Amber Reed, boutique manager at Urban Yoga
Humans of Urban Yoga is an occasional look at the students, teachers and staff at our yoga studio.
I feel so blessed for having been given the gig of boutique manager. There’s so much peace and magic in this space. It’s my peaceful place. I want to keep people here a little longer.
My main objective is to get as many local artists and artisans as I can to share their work, their art, their souls with our students— paintings, photography, fashions, rotating artwork—similar to a local Etsy.
I think what we’re still missing in the boutique is men’s and women’s clothing in an array of sizes and styles. A lot of people shy away from yoga because they don’t think yoga is for every body. It is. It’s a nonjudgemental zone.
I’ve been designing jewelry for 7 years. But I began my career much earlier than that. I was always artistic—I loved to paint and draw and crochet and do anything creative—and even as a child I collected stones. When I was 16, I started studying gemstones. There were a lot of local gemstones in Michigan that you could collect, in particular Petoskey stones, and we used to collect them all the time as part of our zen routine. I’m a Capricorn through and through, an earth sign, so I’m very connected to the earth.
Jewelry stuck with me. It’s way more than just a material item. It’s a way to tell a story.
When designing jewelry, whether for the boutique or for someone in particular, I go by what the individual may be going through and what she needs in her life. Then I create. I think about humans’ fundamental beliefs and needs and what we need to move forward in this life. Most people need safety, security, being grounded to the earth. I look for gemstones that are extremely healing and that bring people closer to their center.
Jewelry is essentially something to elevate someone’s spirit. And to create a conversation between people. I think that’s really important. You know when someone says, “Oh, I think that’s really nice, where’d you get that?” I think there’s a conversation there. We get so caught up in our own life. It’s a chance to connect with other people.
It’s also been extremely healing for me. I’m blessed to be able to create with nature every day. You’ll see a lot of amethyst in my work. It’s the stone of self acceptance and recovery. A large majority of us are suffering from addiction of some sort, whether lack of love or feeling not good enough. We have really harsh tones in our brain. Amethyst is a stone that I go to because it creates the ability to let go of that and be in your true self.
Abalone shell is also known for its healing properties. It’s a traditional ceremonial thing that when you put abalone in a stream of water, such as a river, it allows you to go with the flow of life. It also creates abundance. Another is rose quartz, a forever healing love stone. It’s always spoken to me, even when I was little.
Yoga has been part of such a great transformational experience for me. I started practicing 10 years ago and it created a new awareness about myself that I didn’t know I needed. I got to see my habits and also how other people see the world and not put judgement on any of that. And I call that yoga. It’s hard to put into words what yoga has really done for me. Yoga has brought me closer to the source. The source to me is love. When I practice, I focus on shedding old patterns, beliefs and pain that no longer serves me or the world around me. I unlearn. I forgive. I listen. I sink into Gaia’s healing embrace. Rooted. This is where I grow into deeper awareness so I can tread even lighter than before.
As a member of Urban Yoga—whether you have a 6-month, 1-year, or unlimited membership—you receive a 15% discount on boutique purchases.
Our boutique currently features fashions, jewelry, natural skincare products and a rotating array of creations by local artists thanks to Amber, who has brought her inimitable style and grace to every corner of our space. Although yoga teaches us to bring awareness to each moment, it can still be easy to find ourselves in familiar situations and no longer notice what surrounds us, including as you walk through our front door, sign in and make your way to class. Take a moment. Notice the beauty in our boutique.
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Yoga Philosophy | The Yamas
By Renee Schettler, teacher at Urban Yoga
It’s easy to confuse doing yoga poses with doing yoga.
There’s a difference.
In the Yoga Sutras, a collection of short verses on the theory and practice of yoga written centuries ago, the author Patanjali sets forth eight limbs of yoga, only one of which has anything to do with the physical postures. What’s considered far more important than the physical expression of yoga are our thoughts, words and actions and how they align with what’s right. Known collectively as the yamas (pronounced “yah mahz”), these moral standards comprise ahimsa, satya, asteya, aparigraha and brahmacharya, and they basically remind us how to be kind humans. Though these ethical ideals were written centuries ago, they remain as apropos to contemporary life as they were in the days of Sanskrit and gently remind us to be nicer, truer versions of ourselves.
The first yama, ahimsa, is typically translated as non-violence. It refers to refraining from inflicting not just physical harm but psychological and emotional harm as well. Ahimsa means bringing respect and compassion to our interactions with others as well as ourselves. Societal injustices are clearly contrary to ahimsa. So, too, are gossiping and criticizing and even harsh self talk. Though this principle has broad implications off the mat, it also applies to our physical practice. Take note, those of you who tend to berate yourself for wobbling in a balancing pose.
Satya means truthfulness. It encompasses speaking and acting honestly, in relation to others as well as yourself. The objective is to quiet your thoughts and become in touch with your truth, your inner wisdom, and to let your words and actions align with your intentions.
Asteya translates literally to non-stealing, which sounds exceptionally easy until you consider it means more than not engaging in petty larceny. Ever find yourself rushing to do just one more thing and, in so doing, running late to meet with someone? That’s stealing someone else’s time. Asteya also applies to those situations when we want to take something that isn’t ours, including when we struggle to achieve a pose but pushing ourselves to go deeper even when our body simply isn’t ready yet.
Brahmacharya refers to being moderate as we pursue our desires, drawing on some measure of self-restraint rather than indulging in excess. This applies to all manner of tendencies, whether it’s distracting ourselves with social media or endlessly slaving away at work. It reminds us to ask, in all aspects of life, where do I want to place my energy? And then being disciplined in the pursuit of that.
Aparigraha has many translations, among them noncovetousness and nonpossessiveness. It nudges us to let go of attachments and expectations and be grateful for what we have while understanding that life is, by nature, impermanent. What we are graced with in any moment may not last. Aparigraha asks us to be at peace with that.
Learn countless other specific ways you can translate ancient yogic wisdom to contemporary times at our upcoming Yoga Philosophy Foundations workshop on Saturday, August 4th, with yoga teacher Brendan Lentz. The workshop is part of an occasional series of classes that addresses how to take yoga out of the studio and into everyday life.
Renee Schettler is a writer, editor and yoga teacher whose practice was turned upside down, or rather right side up, when she moved to Phoenix and began taking class with teachers who emphasized the breath more than the pose. She took Yoga Teacher Training at Urban Yoga and currently teaches the Sunrise Flow at 6 am on Fridays and the Candlelight Flow to Zen at 7:30 pm on Fridays.Comments Off on Yoga Philosophy | The Yamas
Humans of Urban Yoga | Haley Tilden Ritter
By Brendan Lentz, manager and teacher at Urban Yoga
When Haley Tilden Ritter was four years old, she loved watching Linda Bove, the deaf character on Sesame Street who introduced sign language to children. By the time Haley was eight, she’d taught herself to sign the alphabet, despite the fact that she had no family or friends who were deaf. Her early experience with Sesame Street had spawned a life-long passion for sign language that ultimately led to her career as a professional interpreter for the deaf.
I met Haley after a class I taught at Urban Yoga. While we chatted, she more than held up her end of the conversation by speaking and signing at the same time. When I asked her about yoga and the deaf community, Haley explained why she believed the combination isn’t more common. “Deaf people can be somewhat removed from trends in society at large because they lack something that most of us take for granted—the ability to overhear conversations around them. As a result, the deaf community can be years behind on certain trends.”
Haley is also part of another subculture—the biking community. She helped launch the Tempe Bike Action Committee and, more recently, Phoenix Spokespeople, which are local bike advocacy groups. Her passion for creating a more bike-friendly Phoenix didn’t stop there. She’s been recognized as having helped create the Comprehensive Bicycle Master Plan for Phoenix under Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton. Haley has also been known to appear at city council meetings and successfully persuade city planners to revise street plans to include better bike access. You can thank Haley for the bike lane on Indian School between the I-17 and 19th Avenue.
If you want to make a difference, Haley says, all you have to do it show up. “Meet the officials in charge. Tell them you’d like to see more bike lanes. They’re open to hearing citizen input.” In terms of making a difference regarding bike access, Haley recommends going to the Transportation and Infrastructure subcommittee that meets the second Tuesday of each month at 9 am.
The story with Linda Bove doesn’t end with Sesame Street. It turns out Linda now lives in the Phoenix area. Haley recently met her at a conference and got the chance to thank her childhood hero in person. Linda was warm and gracious. Haley explained that she works as an interpreter and, when Linda had a medical appointment and needed an interpreter, guess who got the job?
You’ll catch Haley attending Urban Yoga classes at all different hours of the day in between cycling around town serving as an interpreter for various clients. When you see her say hello. Better yet, sign it.Comments Off on Humans of Urban Yoga | Haley Tilden Ritter
Introducing Urban Mysore starting August 13, 2017!
Mysore-Style Ashtanga classes are now available as part of your Urban Yoga Membership or Class Package.
Starting Sunday, August 13, 2017, Urban Mysore kicks off with a Sunday Ashtanga Led Primary class at 8am to start the week. The Sunday Ashtanga Led Primary class provides Urban Yoga practitioners another opportunity for Ashtanga Primary series practice.
Urban Mysore classes start Monday, August 14, 2017 and are scheduled from 5-8am Monday through Thursday.
Urban Yoga now offers Mysore Ashtanga Monday through Thursday and Ashtanga Led Primary Series Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Sunday. Check our schedule to see which class fits your schedule best. If you have been wanting to try Mysore Ashtanga, now’s your chance!
Frequently Asked Questions:
WHAT IS MYSORE-STYLE ASHTANGA YOGA? Your first walk into the Mysore room may surprise you. One student might be in headstand while another could be bending into the triangle posture and yet another pushing up to balance on her arms. It may appear chaotic, but after closer inspection you will begin to notice the practice patterns. Each practitioner is at their own place on a precisely choreographed path. The rhythmic breathing is striking, with only the occasionally verbal cues from the teacher rising above the dominant sound of the collective breath. You’ll notice the teacher move swiftly from student to student, giving adjustments and cues as appropriate.
HOW TO START YOUR MYSORE STYLE PRACTICE
If you have an existing Mysore practice, please join us for a morning practice at Urban Yoga. If you are unfamiliar with the Mysore style Ashtanga practice but would like to start, the teacher will guide you through your first practice according to your ability. Each of the postures in the Mysore series is designed to prepare you for the rest of the series. Your first practice sessions may be short, but you will easily learn the series and progress according to your ability. As you gain strength, stamina, flexibility and concentration, you will be guided deeper into the practice by the teacher. With commitment, patience, and persistence, you will be amazed at how your Mysore practice will change your body and spirit.
ABOUT COMMITMENT TO YOUR PRACTICE
The Mysore practice room is open between 5:00 am and 8:00 am Monday – Thursday. The Mysore Ashtanga method is intended to be a daily practice and students are encouraged to make a commitment to practice at least 3 times a week for a month. Traditionally Mysore practice occurs 5 days during the week with an Ashtanga Led Primary class on the weekend. We rest on Moon Days which occur about twice monthly. At first you may have difficulty practicing more than a few times a week, but don’t be discouraged. The Mysore style practice often takes a year or more to develop.
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Welcoming Swami Govindananda
Swami Ji is based in New Zealand, and is a gifted, wonderful speaker who travels the world giving profound, inspiring talks and workshops on yoga philosophy and meditation. As part of these programs he also gives kirtan chanting meditation. He brings his experience and knowledge of yoga wisdom into yoga studios in a very special, practical, and inspiring way. Numerous people have enriched their lives by attending his classes.
Swami Govindananda is the founder of Ji Living – Think Well. Though a Westerner he lived many years in India learning personally from the great Master, Jagadguru Shri Kripalu Ji Maharaj. Swami Ji specialises on teaching the essence of the great Indian scriptures known as the Vedas, Gita, Bhagawatam and Ramayan; focusing on the philosophies of Karma, Gyan and Bhakti Yoga. With this blend of cultures, Swami Ji brings extraordinary clarity to the complex and timeless philosophies of India, making this knowledge easy to understand in a way that has rarely been seen in the West. He embodies positive spirituality, showing how we can all live joyous lives while moving towards our fullest potential.
Swami Ji has presented lectures at the Asia Yoga Conference in Hong Kong in 2012, 2013, 2014 & again this year, and he will be presenting there this year also. He has also been involved in the Taipei Yogalife conference in April 2014, and he has presented at the Wanderlust Festival in Taupo, NZ in January 2015 & Sydney, Australia in February 2015, and he will be presenting meditation classes at Wanderlust Festival in Squaw Valley in July this year.
He also works closely with some of the top yoga studios in Singapore (Pure Yoga) and Australia (Power Living Yoga Australia & InYoga).
Urban Yoga Phoenix invites you to attend these special events with Swami Govindananda where he will bring you extraordinary understanding of your life, of your self, and of the world around you. It is an opportunity to gain true perspective of everything you hold dear.
by Master Teacher Swami Govindananda
at Urban Yoga Phoenix
Intro to Swami Govindananda
Friday, July 24th | 7:00PM – 8:30PM
Join us for our evening intro session, open to all! Enjoy an inspiring talk by Swami Ji, a short meditation, followed by refreshments.
The Continual Search for Happiness
Saturday 25th July | 10:00AM – 12:30PM
From the moment we wake up and arise from our beds, there is a subtle compulsion to find joy and happiness in everything that we do. This feeling flows through our whole life, yet we never realize its fullest potential. The Yogis and Sages however, tell us that happiness can be an ever-increasing experience, it can blissful, and is available for everyone.
The Big Picture of Life
Sunday 26th July | 1:00PM – 3:30PM
It was just a memory ago when you were but a small child, and it is merely a memory away when you will be old, bent and grey! How quickly this precious life passes! Moreover it can end at any moment. Life is uncertain. Yet it is precious, remarkable and full of profound potential.
Drawing from time honoured teachings like the Gita and Vedas, Swami Govindananda will outline the big picture of life, giving you a greater sense of purpose, understanding of your inner self, and of the world around you; knowledge which goes right to the heart of your being.
All of Swami Ji’s programs include traditional kirtan meditation, assisted by Carmen. This meditation is considered by the Sages and Saints of India to be the easiest and most enjoyable way of entering a meditative state, a meditation that has been used for thousands of years all over the world, and continues to be used today. It is a chance to quiet the mind, remove obstacles, and bring you back to the center of your being.
Friday night session: $10 before July 10th | $15 after July 10th
Saturday & Sunday: $30 each or $50 for both before July 10th | $35 each or $60 for both after July 10th
Saucha is purity in mind, body, and spirit.
“When you’re house is in order, everything else falls into place.”
Let’s explore how we maintain purity in the home, our outside home, the roof over our heads.
Keeping our house has the obvious health benefits, but it also adds to peace of mind. I know for myself at least, life seems more peaceful and serene when my environment is tidy. However, it’s not glamorous and we all can be resistant to some of the seemingly mundane duties of life.
In my home the laundry is/was my nemesis. It’s an ever-growing pile of “to-do”. An insurmountable Mt. Everest of woe. It’s everywhere! I see socks hiding under the couch, pjs sneaking around the hallway, and towels, so many towels. (Where do they all come from?!?!?)
My approach to laundry is a bit crazy. I let it pile up, first unwashed, then washed but not folded and put away. Thinking that if I wait until all of the laundry is done, I won’t have to see any dirty clothes for a day. This has never happened. My family and I are not nudists, we wear clothes every day and there will always be dirty laundry.
I let it pile up, not wanting to accept the fact that this is a part of my work, resenting the ever-growing pile that is the result of my in-action. This may sound a bit hilarious or weird, but I am telling you, I have had a hate-hate relationship with putting clothes away since I was about ten years old.
I recently realized the laundry wasn’t my problem my attitude was my problem. So I changed it. It was that easy. I chose to change my attitude towards the laundry monster, making it just another something. I chose to be grateful. Grateful that I have two sweet children who get ridiculously dirty every day. Grateful for my loving, supportive fiancé who loves to leave his socks and pants around our home. Grateful that we all have enough clothes to wear and keep us warm, running water, and washing machines.
The next step was to create a new pattern surrounding the actual process of doing laundry. First I thought I would just do a little laundry every day. But that drove me insane, putting clothes away everyday? NO THANK YOU. So I found a happy medium. I do laundry once a week, and fold and put it away as it is finished. Sound simple? Sound silly? The answers are yes and yes.
My resistance to folding laundry was a losing game I played in my mind, every single week, for years. Resist what is resisting you. My aversion to this pile of laundry can be translated to my aversion to vulnerability, or any other challenge I face.
If I change my thought process surrounding the laundry, a seemingly mundane and inconsequential task, I can change my thought processes concerning anything. If I replace an old, damaged habit and develop a new, healthier pattern concerning the laundry, I can do that with anything.
Our samskaras are deeply ingrained patterns and habits that we adopt over the years. Over time some of these grooves become trenches, requiring intense study and practice to get out of and change. The laundry for me was an average size groove. I did it. I replaced that average size negative groove with a positive one. Now my brain is familiar with this process.
The essence of saucha starts out with the fundamentals, clean house literally. The aim is to purify all aspects of ourselves. By changing my attitude, thoughts, and patterns concerning tasks that may seem mundane, I am creating the framework for changing my attitude, thoughts, and patterns that revolve around how I view myself in the world and how I relate to others. These small shifts create even bigger shifts that allow me to express myself as a unique spark of light and love. The sparks begin to flame and soon every person I know will feel the heat from the fire of my soul. All because today I choose to do my laundry, The Laundry doesn’t do me.
With love, ~k
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Random Acts of Kindness
Writing, Reflection, Intention Day 13
Today our attitude exercise is practicing random acts of kindness. Everything can be done with a smile, softness, and compassion.
Most of us go through life thinking, acting, and being with some kind of expectation or self-reward in the back of our minds. It’s an interesting place of self-discovery to observe, witness and honor what expectations we have of others and how they guide our decision making. Today let’s be in the world interacting with our fellow travelers simply for the sake of existing in this life together. Let’s give everything we have, our love, time, and care and expect absolutely nothing in return.
For our experience together today
This could mean smiling more, anonymously buying a person’s coffee, helping a stranger in need of assistance, or just listening (really listening) when another is speaking to you. For me it’s often easier to be kind to strangers and a challenge to genuinely kind to people close to me. Explore this.
As you go through your day get curious about your motives.
Ask yourself what you expect to gain. Then let the expectation go. Act for the sake of acting, do for the sake of doing. Be for the sake of being.
At the end of the day sit and reflect on your experience. Explore your resistance as well as any shifts that may have occurred.
I think the ultimate act of kindness is doing something without expectation of something in return. I have been practicing my own version of this for a few weeks and the result has been more freedom in my life. Acting without expectation, being for the sake of being has allowed me new space mentally free from disappointment and feelings of being “let down”. It has created peace and ease in my relationships allowing me to honor you being you as I am me. It has opened a softness and tenderness in my heart. It has been the ultimate kindness to myself.
Stay Curious Friends,
Give everything, expect nothing
with love, k
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Writing, Reflection, Intention Day 5
The simple fact that we are alive and breathing is a gift. An attitude of gratitude is often the one single shift that can transform any experience.
I say thank you many times a day. Sometimes without connecting to the essence of the words or even looking the person I am thanking in the eye. I try to be as conscious of this as I can, but like many, my mind is distracted, I am multi-tasking, and I am saying these words on auto-pilot.
For our experience today:
What does gratitude mean to you?
What people, places, things, from 2014 are you grateful for?
Today try creating a connection as you say thank you. Stop, breathe, look into a person’s eyes, say and feel the words.
Today try feeling gratitude for as much as possible. Say thank you to yourself and to the divine though out your day. Say thank you for every parking spot you find, every trip you make in your car that got you where you needed to go safely, your morning coffee, your warm, cozy sweater, your opportunity to practice yoga or exercise, your teachers, finding a pen when you need one, the food you eat, your children, family, pets, neighbors, co-workers, say thank you and feel it for as much as possible today.
A gratitude meditation:
Find a comfortable seat and connect to your breath. Relax your body, lengthen your spine. Begin to observe your breath. Now, equal the length of your inhales and exhales. You can count the breath if it is helpful, inhaling a count of four, exhaling a count of four. Do this for a minute or more.
Next, bring to mind the essence of gratitude. Notice how it feels in your body. Bring the feeling of gratitude into you body. Feel thankful in your toes, your feet, your shins and calves. Grateful knees, thighs, hips, and glutes. The belly is soft, the breath is soft, receiving gratitude. Thankful stomach, liver, intestines. Breathe gratitude into your lungs. Grateful, full heart, throat, and neck. Fill the muscles of your face with gratitude. Notice how the corners of your mouth may even turn up a bit. Grateful teeth, nose, ears, eyes, eyelashes, and eyebrows. Feel thankful in every cell and fiber of your being, your bones, muscles, skin and hair. Allow gratitude to fill you from the bottoms of your feet all the way to the crown of your head.
Now sit for a moment in this space, full of thanks, full of love. Breathe into it and expand out from it.
Release the technique when ready, bring you hands to your heart center, bow your head to your hands, and with the fullness of the meditation, say and feel the words, “thank you.”
A gratitude practice:
Two options here kids:
The gratitude jar. At the end of your day, or throughout your day, write down at least one experience you are grateful for and slip it in the jar. I have always wanted to do this and am excited to start. I am planning on bringing my tiny humans into the practice with me, the world from the eyes of a three year old and a seven year old is truly filled with wonder and quite hilarious!
The second option is to write three things in your journal you are grateful for. This practice has always worked for me in the morning. It really helps to set the tone for my day, but feel free to do it whenever you can!!!
Have fun, smile, and spread the good vibes of genuine thanks today!!
with love, k
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Writing Reflection Intention Basic Info
It’s almost here party people, the start of our journey!!
Some basic info you may need:
- Start date: Thursday December 11th. I will post a topic to explore each morning around 8am Arizona time.
- Posts can be viewed on my Facebook page, Paleoyogamom, I will also be sharing some of my personal entries on this forum. If you would like to stay connected, click here. Writing prompts can also be viewed via Urban Yoga’s Facebook page, click here to connect.
- An open mind and curious heart
- A notebook
- A pen
- Ten minutes set aside for 21 days committed to writing. I find that like most things if I don’t set aside time to do something, create a plan, it is very easy to just skip it. A large part of this experience is about learning to create new habits and patterns that support your dreams. Intentions and resolutions fail for two reasons, A.) There is no plan for action, we will cover this and B.) We think too small, too much in the “I”, we will also cover this. Make a plan; set aside some time to write, for yourself, you deserve it.
As we explore our inner most selves together I thought I would first offer a few basic guidelines:
- Keep it simple, don’t over complicate yourself or your writing. This is meant to be thought provoking and inquisitive, but also fun. We can be both at the same time!!
- Stay honest, stay true to you. Write the first thing that comes to mind, without editing, without inhibition, without fear, shame, or regret. Our process is as authentic as we choose to make it, or adversely, as we choose to not make it. Let this experience be unguarded, expansive, and brave.
- It doesn’t always “have to make sense”. If you understand your message that is enough for today. If you don’t understand today, that’s ok too. Let spirit flow, let go of the left brain’s need for order and structure, surrender to the experience. Brilliant ideas are born from wild spirited, open-hearted, free -thinking. One day of our journey is dedicated to making a plan, that is the day to put things in order.
Looking forward to our experience together. With love, k
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Writing, Reflection, Intention
Writing, Reflection, Intention is a 21-day writing as yoga experience. Yoga is a path of self-exploration. Writing can parallel that process and amplify it. There is power in having an idea and writing it down.
For 21 days I will offer writing prompts and/or themes. These prompts will create the space to look back on our year and see what served our highest good and what is continuing to take us away from our truth. The experience will also provide space for setting an intention and creating a plan for seeing it actualized in 2014.
You can connect with this experience by liking Urban Yoga and Paleoyogamom on Facebook and also via http://urbanyogaphx.com//. The prompts will appear via the Urban Yoga Blog, then shared through social media. All you need is a pen, a notebook, and a genuine sense of interest and curiosity.
This is our time to shine yogis. For many of us we have been playing small trapped in our small selves, driven and controlled by ego. It has been said that we have more power in our pinky finger than we can possibly imagine. What would happen if we tapped into the essence of the divine that exists within us all? What would our lives look life if we allowed our inner truth to guide us, letting go of our small selves and remembering our big selves?
This writing as yoga experience is a call to come back home to a very simple truth, we are not separate from the divine, but living, breathing embodiments of her. It’s time to stop playing small, to drop the stories, release our limiting patterns and behaviors. The world is hungry for a collective remembering and a collective action. This is our time, the time to remember, to act, to be, to shine and let our truths become our purpose.
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The niyamas are the counterpart to the yamas. The yamas are the guidelines prescribed to yogis to co-exist in the world. The niyamas are the guidelines prescribed for ourselves.
The niyamas lay out a prescription of self-care to prepare the body and mind for the practice of yoga. They are:
- Saucha-cleanliness of mind, body, and spirit
- Tapas-heat or discipline
- Svadyaya-self-study, seeking knowledge
- Ishvara Pranidhara-surrender to the divine
The yamas apply to our relationship with the world. The niyamas apply to our relationship with ourselves. It is easy for me to take a good hard look at the way I exist in the world. Taking a good hard look in the mirror, now that can be intimidating. I mean who of us really wants to admit our faults, to be open and honest with ourselves, take accountability and responsibility for own happiness and the quality of our lives?
“Resist what is resisting you and become yourself.” This is a quote from the Mahabarata, an ancient Indian text from which the Bhagavad Gita is but a chapter. The niyamas are an invitation to explore resistance within ourselves. By examining the hows, whats, and whys, of whatever brings us out of our authenticity we are better equipped to move forward along the lines of personal transformation.
Winter is upon us here in Phoenix. This is a time of self-reflection, of turning in. Let’s take this journey of self-discovery together yogis. Stay tuned to our blog for more on the niyamas. Stay tuned to yourself for more information on how to grow, flourish, and thrive, through your personal exploration of these principles.
With love, k
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I Am Enough
Aparigraha, the fifth yama or personal restraint is defined as non coveting, or speaking in terms of opposites, contentment and wholeness with what you have and who you are as a person. These conditions are rooted in believing, “I am enough”.
The longing and desire we as a culture have for more, more, more are estblished in the ideas of fear and scarcity. We are told by clever marketing that if we do not have the newest this, or the hottest that, that we are in fact inferior. This scarcity mentality of not having enough also presents itself in our mental and emotional psyche, as the negative self –impression of I am not enough, I am lacking
in some way or another.
This scarcity and fear is a reflection, even a suggestion to move into the deepest aspects of our being that have been wounded, to unearth the parts of ourselves that are limiting, and to dissolve theses tendencies so that we can rest in a state of awe and wonder in the miracle of being alive.
I struggle at times with the idea of self-worth, and often question my “deserved-ness” of love and companionship. I would love to say that these contemplations come up as I am journaling and are a thoughtful, inquisitive processes. If I were to paint that picture for you it would be a lie.
My sense of security, or lack of, actually manifests in my life as anger and anxiety. For some people its depression or lack of zest for life. The emotions expressed when feeling unlovable, or not worthy of success and joy may change from person to person but the actions that we take in our lives and relationships are very similar.
When I am feeling like I am not enough, I shut down. I close myself off from receiving and giving love. Even when people that love me offer to help me, I fight receiving that help, because it’s easier to hide behind my walls than it is to be vulnerable and let love into my life. I create problems to avoid processing my own pain. I act aggressively, not taking time to consider the facts in front of me. I become a slave to my mind, to my samskaras. In essence, the actions I take increase my imbalances and perpetuate my wounds.
For a large part of my life I was stuck in a very dark circle of existence. Anger and anxiety plagued me frequently, depression stopping in from time to time to make it’s presence known. There were large periods of when the darker days outnumbered the days full of light and joy.
Yoga has been my gateway to myself. By using the tools yoga offers; asana, pranayama, kriya, bandha, mudra, mantra and meditation I am able to connect to the light of God in my heart more often than not. I still experience pain and stress in my life, but my reaction to these “stressors” is changing. I am becoming less affected by the ghosts of my pass. My wounds are beginning to heal. My perspective is slowly shifting from reactivity and anger to patience and compassion.
Aparigraha is an invitation to resist what is resisting you, to heal your wounds, and transcend the ghosts that limit our experience in this life. It’s time to begin an honest conversation with ourselves and to lean into vulnerability, to be open to love, and to honor light and love of God in our hearts. We are human beings, having a spiritual experience, we are whole, we are complete, I am enough.
with love, k1 Comment »
Aparigraha On the Mat
Aparigraha the fifth and final yama refers to non-craving and non-clinging. This can be directly applied to our yoga practice.
One of the most challenging and most rewarding aspects of practicing yoga in a studio setting is the community of like minded yogis and yoginis we practice with. It’s rewarding to know that in our crazy lives we can escape the “rat race” and competition that often comes with the work place to unroll our mats, breathe and move with a group of people all looking for the same thing we are, steadiness, ease, and health.
The flip side to this is that sometimes our denizen of peace mimics the rat race and the competition, and we unwillingly, controlled by our ego and monkey mind begin to crave our neighbors perfectly aligned, graceful revolved triangle. (Yikes! When I even think of that pose my IT band starts screaming at me!!) Or, we yearn for the flawless handstand to jump back to plank.
Believe me I get it!! As a practicing yogini for ten plus years, and a yoga teacher, I have often felt the pull of my ego when kicking up to handstand and falling right out of it, again, and again, and again. I wake up every day and my hamstrings are rubber bands, so freaking tight, everyday.
Aparigraha is an invitation to let go of our ego driven craving. When we allow ourselves the space for acceptance, compassion and gratitude on the mat, the practice facilitates a much deeper unfolding than any arm balance will provide.
We begin to practice this on the mat. We honor our bodies and where we are at. We do the work every day, and celebrate the new growth, flexibility and stability that comes with an asana practice. Then something shifts, we still notice the perfect alignment of our neighbors, the handstand kick-ups in the middle of the room, the seated forward folds that take our breath away; but instead of lusting after these people’s practice, we can be genuinely happy and excited, not just for them and the progress they have made to get there, but for ourselves, knowing that through the discipline of practice maybe some day, we may get there too. BUT, (and this is a big but J) we are not attached to the idea that if we do not ever “get” these poses, we will be less of a yogi/yogini.
Like all yoga, what we practice on the mat, mirrors our lives. We learn to be where we are at, honoring our journey for the miracle that it is then this peace and acceptance ripples into our lives. We begin to notice that our former insecurities and petty jealousies cease to exist. We genuinely celebrate our path and journey, allowing us to genuinely celebrate the people around us.
As for me, my handstand is improving and I am working on it. My hamstrings are still tight as hell every single day when I wake up. That may never change, and I’m ok with it. What has changed is my relationship to my body. I used to curse my hamstrings, curse the intensity of my first forward fold of the day. Now, I welcome it, the physical sensation is like an old friend, it greets me when I step onto my mat and says “good morning friend.” I know that stress and tension in my body is simply information to me from me. This makes me curious about my practice, where will it take me today? What can I learn, what new space can I discover in myself? I take a deep breath in, exhale fold forward, inhale halfway, exhale fold and with the help of aparigraha, lean into the unknown.
with love, k
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Brahmacharya, Moderation of the Senses
Brahmacharya, the fourth Yama or restraint refers to our ability to participate in moderation on all levels in our lives.
This moderation exists on many levels, sensory, physical, and emotional to name a few.
Sensory moderation can be defined as a mindful approach to what we allow to enter our internal atmosphere and psyche.
All day long, every day we are inundated with information and sensory stimulation. The music we listen to, the books we read, the type and amount of television we watch, content of internet surfing, as well as social media distraction all leave psychic imprints on the body mind.
For most of us our days are spent tuning out, allowing whatever media around us to fill up our time and space.
Brahmacharya is an invitation to acquire a sense of awareness about these stimulants.
When engaging in any type of media, ask yourself, how does this serve me?
I grew up watching horror movies and reading thriller novels. As a result I often had nightmares as a child, teenager, and young adult. The first month of living on my own was wonderful from sun-up to sundown. When the shadows of night settled in, my internal state became very agitated. I would often get up from bed, two to ten times, to check that my windows were locked, the doors locked, and the deadbolts were in place.
Those first few months on my own became an interesting play in opposites. During the day I was attending my 200-hour yoga teacher training, learning the philosophy, practice and beauty of yoga. I was exploring a new sense of being, doing, and loving. At night, my mind became my own personal horror story.
One night after I finished a particularly graphic Tami Hoag novel, I remember not sleeping, afraid to shut my eyes; I stayed up all night, rechecking the locks and windows.
The next morning, I observed the obvious, the contents of my reading for “fun”, did not serve me in any way. My mind, my heart, my body and my soul were being tormented by these external stimuli.
To this day, I no longer read horror novels, I quit watching Law and Order SVU, and now I will walk out of the room or fast- forward through scary movie previews on television.
I now choose to let my media content inspire me. As my practice grows, so does my self- exploration. As many of you know, our personal ghosts, or bhutas, haunt us on a much deeper level than any Stephen King novel could. The difference being that, our practice allows us to work with, uncover, and dissolve these ghosts. What remains is referred to as kaya sthira, or good space. Good space within ourselves, coupled with a sense of empowerment and fortitude.
My invitation to you this month is to pay attention to what you allow into the sacred space of your being. Observe closely your relationships, conversations, reading material, and social media interaction. Then ask and be guided from the knowing voice within, does this serve me, aide in my development, in fulfilling my dreams, or is it simply taking up space and drawing you more out of yourself?
This life is an honor it is a gift. When you begin to really feel this, you will only allow that which challenges, engages, and tickles you on the deepest level into your sacred space. Happy exploring yogis and yoginis!!
With love, Kim
Stay tuned for next week, Brahmacharya and our addiction to distraction!
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Satya, The Four Buddhist Rules of Speech
“Three things cannot be hidden, the sun, the moon, and the truth.” James Russell Lowell
Satya, the second yama, is defined as truth in speech, thought, and action. Speaking in terms of opposites, satya is not lying, exaggerating, and not playing into sarcasm.
The most useful tool to guide us towards truth in speech is the Buddhist Four Rules of Speech. When speaking to others, or to yourself, think first:
- Is it kind?
- Is it necessary?
- Is it honest?
- Does it improve upon the silence?
These four rules of speech can help to dictate when, how, and why we should speak. Satya is very much about speaking our truth. The other side of satya is knowing when to honor silence, and refrain from speaking.
Is it kind? This principle is founded on ahimsa, non-violence. Will my speech hurt another person?
Is it necessary? Does what I have to say really need to be expressed? I like to think of this as the “having the last word clause.” Often we say things just because, or to get the last word. This is a reminder that silence is golden and can carry much more weight than words expressed out of anger, frustration, or discontent.
Is it honest? This speaks for itself, bit also goes into little white lies, exaggeration, and the ways we spin our versions of the truth. The truth speaks for itself and does not need embellishments.
Does it improve upon the silence? Does what we say make a difference in any situation? This can be translated to how we inter-act with others and also the conversations we have with ourselves. Gossiping, sarcasm, negative self talk, judgments and criticisms are all examples of speech that do not serve any party involved.
This being said, I will allow satya to guide me in saying that not every situation in life is worthy of talk about sunshine and rainbows. Sometimes you have to hash it out, life can be intense. Even in these moments, satya allows us to speak our truth from a place of reflection and clarity that allows us the wisdom of knowing that our truth is enough, without embellishments, over-simplifying, or over-reacting.
Here’s to speaking your truth with the wisdom that it is enough, because you are enough!!
with love, k
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Urban Asana, Ahimsa
Ahimsa is non-violence in thought, word and deed. Thinking in opposites, it can be defined as kindness, love, and compassion.
What does ahimsa look like on the mat? How can we embody and actually live this practice? It is revealed as going at your own pace, letting your breath guide your practice, not over exerting. A balanced yoga practice is equal parts effort and surrender. We set ourselves up with optimal alignment to encourage a sense of effortlessness and freedom in the pose.
Let’s take a look at a pose and as they say, break it down.
Trikonasana when embodying ahimsa has many different variations. These include:
- Using a block. Place the block on the outer edge of your front foot. If you are unable to reach the block, keep the bottom hand on your front hip.
- Pressing firmly into the big toe mound of your front foot to prevent hyper-extension
- Pressing the back inner heel into the back outer heel, allowing for balanced action between both legs
- For shoulder injuries, keeping the top arm on the hip, instead of extending
- Finding a drishti (gaze) that works for your body, either at the floor, straight ahead, or up at the hand. Bring awareness to the back of the neck, and imagine lengthening, this can be done by drawing the chin slightly in and bringing the sides of the neck back.
- Maintaining natural range of motion with the top arm, not turning this pose into a back bend
- The tendency here is to roll the top should onto the back, focusing on opening more from the chest and shoulders. Instead, extend the top arm up, plugging the blade onto the back. You should be able to see the palm overhead, with out torking your neck. To work more on opening, try turning your navel more to the ceiling, allowing the effort to come from the inside as opposed to muscling into it.
The most valuable indicator of whether or not ahimsa is guiding our practice is the breath. The breath should stay steady and even. If it becomes labored in any way, that is information that your practice is not acting in the most fulfilling way for you. How can you modify, soften, or adjust where you are in this moment, to allow for a connection to your inhale and exhale? Sometimes, the sweetest thing we can do for ourselves is to take a moment, and find child’s pose until we feel as if the breath is breathing us. When that remembering happens, get back into class, and begin again.
Ahimsa on the mat sets the foundation for trust, in ourselves, our body, and our breath. This trust cultivates a sense of ease on the mat that ripples back out into our lives. Ahimsa on the mat allows us to each shine in our own unique way, honoring that we are all on different paths but our journey is the same. We are coming back home to ourselves, a million shining stars, lighting the same bright sky.
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“Love means non-hurting, non- harming, non-injuring, and non-killing, not only through actions, but through speech and thoughts.” Swami Rama
In the most traditional sense, ahimsa refers to maintaining a vegetarian diet. The premise of which being non-killing and non- harming of another living creature to sustain one’s self.
Personally, I don’t believe in blanket statements, such as, all people should be vegetarian. If that diet works for you to maintain health then yes, it is a beautiful option. However, for many people, this is not the case.
There is a way to practice ahimsa even for the carnivores out there. The first step is to make mindful decisions when grocery shopping. You can also sing your favorite mantra while cooking to infuse the food being prepared with all of potency of that mantra. Always pray, and be thankful for the animals that have died so we can live. You could even do a little reiki over your meal before you eat.
“Be kind, everyone is fighting a hard battle.” Anonymous
Ahimsa also refers to right action and right speech. Obviously, treat people kindly with respect. On another level, and perhaps the most important level, treat yourself with kindness and respect. The way we treat and interact with other people is a reflection of how we treat ourselves.
What does this look like off the mat? Ahimsa off the mat looks a lot like making time to care of yourself, through yoga, journaling, running, painting, dancing, or even napping, whatever fills your cup. Ahimsa also shows up in life as healthy boundaries, forgiveness, acceptance, and compassion
Ahimsa on the mat reflects ahimsa off the mat, showing up as acceptance and non-judgement in your practice. This means not comparing in class, and letting your practice be your own, guided by your breath and inner knowing. This also means not pushing or practicing in an overly aggressive way. Yoga is an equal balance of action and surrender. Listen to your body, dull and achy is acceptable, sharp and acute pain is never necessary. If the breath becomes labored, static, or not easily accessible, that is valuable information to you, from you, somewhere there is a disconnect. Take a break, slow down, or rest in child’s pose. Overtime, ahimsa will guide you back to trusting yourself, and the wisdom that exists within your body and breath.
Yoga is ultimately the practice of breath and asana combined to create shifts that allow us to see beyond our limitations and illusions, revealing our true nature, limitless joy, love, steadiness and ease. By embodying ahimsa, we allow this process to be fueled by love and compassion. When we bring these qualities to ourselves first, they begin to ripple out into all areas of our lives, improving the quality of not only our personal life, but also every person we come into contact with. Everyone benefits from the practice of ahimsa.
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Hello Urban Yogis,
The month of February has arrived. For some of us our resolutions and intentions we set at the beginning of the year are in full swing. For others, maybe the commitment to our best selves has wavered. This month let’s allow our yoga practice to guide us back to a place of commitment to the self.
Resolution comes from the root word, resolve, which has several definitions. The one most associated with making a resolution being to reach a firm decision about. As in, I resolve to do more yoga 🙂
A couple other definitions I really love are: to deal with successfully, to clear up, to find an answer to, and to make clear and understandable.
Yoga provides many tools for us to see the world and ourselves more clearly and with more understanding. The Yamas, the first limb outlined by Patanjali in the Eight Limbs of Yoga are a really great starting point to work from.
The Yamas are a yogic set of guidelines. They are meant to influence our attitude and behavior towards ourselves and as we engage in life and the world. Yama translates to restraint or abstention; basically the “do nots” of yogi philosophy.
Ahimsa, the first yama, refers to nonviolence and inflicting no injury or harm to ourselves and to others. Ahimsa can also be translated as non-violence in thought, word, and deed or very simply put, to be kind.
Satya refers to truthfulness in speech. This can also be interpreted as “right” speech, no lying, exaggerating, or even fibbing. For me I like to think of the Four Buddhist Rules of Speech when thinking about satya:
- Is it kind?
- Is it necessary?
- Is it honest?
- Does it improve upon the silence?
Asteya refers to non-coveting, non-stealing, and/or not desiring something that doesn’t belong to you. This can be defined very directly; do not steal. This can also be defined as stealing another person’s time or energy.
Brahmacharya refers to moderation of the senses. Meaning, to make “right” choices concerning who and what we give energy and time to. Everything we encounter, what we read, listen to, watch on TV, time spent on the internet and the people we interact with all leave a psychic blueprint. Choose wisely.
Aparigraha refers to non-hoarding and non-clinging. To sum it up, be content with what you have, but at the same time, be content with the idea that you may not always have it.
Wherever you stand in your resolve for the upcoming year let the yamas aide you. Allow these guidelines to shine clarity and understanding on your desires and goals, and then work “in” from there.
Stay tuned to the Urban Blog through the month of February for more information and practical application of the yamas.
as always, with love, ~k
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