Niyama#1 Saucha – Cleanliness in Mind, Body and Speech

Niyama#1 Saucha – Cleanliness in Mind, Body and Speech

The present moment is a gift: to just be.
It is also the truest way to clean
The doldrums, the emotions, the memories
they are not me.

Saucha- cleanliness in mind body and speech

Writing is an excavation and an evacuation of the mind. I scribble the angry, the insane, and the horrible onto the paper. It is an act of Saucha- not to ignore my putrid thoughts, illicit cravings, and ominous dreams. Rather, the cleanse occurs when we bring the obscene to the light. What is this dirty thought really about? What does my spirit really need?

Scribbled two months ago in a Buddha bound diary:
“I love it here in Puerto Escondido….but, I would do dirty, dirty things for a long, hot shower….”

I could write a book on Saucha. These past three months- I’ve delved deeply into the cleanse. Arctic showers amidst radiant skies. Plunging into the pool  a spiritual ritual rather than pedantic exercise. Body absorbs in waters- weightless, effortless, momentarily without sin or circumstance. Sometimes, I wish to exist within the metaphor.

Saucha- we yogis carefully orchestrate our bodies in harmony with our breath. We salute the sun and detoxify from our waking weariness, We fly, bend back, and land more focused than ever before. Saucha- sweat cries out our toxins.

Saucha- breath drowns out the mental debris.

Roll up your mat. You’ve done your yoga for the day. Drink your water and a eat your vegetables. Cloak your body in fair trade fabric and float into dream-time beneath the bamboo sheets.
You swallowed unkind words. You smiled and you served. But something was missing.
Cleanliness is my speech, body and mind.

I implore you to explore the state of your mind. Travel a layer beneath the skin – to the valley where mischievous thoughts lurk. Because Saucha is not a superficial procedure. It is a inventory of your honesty. Distance yourself from the bad/good dirty/clean dichotomy. Instead, consider the inconsistencies. The heaviness in your chest. The tightness in your jaw. The lingering beliefs that you are not good enough and nor were you ever lovable. Saucha is not about perfecting your diet or showering fifty times a day. Rather, this niyama invites you to clean house. What thoughts, feelings, and behaviors are preventing you from seeking union from yourself and others? What negative thoughts and barriers would you like to wash away?

To cleanse is superficial
Brush your teeth
yes
eat your vegetables
yes
sweat it out
oh would you, please?
but there is something more
cavernous that we must seek
to cleanse
what is your intention
when you wash
do you want to wash away
your pain
do you want to scrub clean
your identity
what are your intentions for
getting clean
because if they aren’t there
set in your heart
your heart is after all flesh
so malleable and sensitive
not some stoic stone
if you cleanse just to cleanse
just to start fresh again
you wash away in vain
there is nothing wrong with you
you need love
and foundation
not flagellation

Saucha
cleanliness
purity
in body and mind
would you mind
taking some time
to cherish yourself?

This article is the 6th entry in the blog series covering the traditional 8 limbs of yoga, written for It’s Yoga International.For an introduction to the series, please visit, “Intro to the 8 limbs.” The author, Randee Schwartz, shares her own personal journey as a yogi and what it means to stay true to her own path. She’s currently living in Mexico and supporting the It’s Yoga International family with her creative writing skills.

Yama # 5: Aprarigraha: Non-Possessiveness and Not Hoarding

Yama # 5: Aprarigraha: Non-Possessiveness and Not Hoarding

“I’m not my car, I’m not my house, I am my breath.”
-Larry Schultz-

Finally, a yama I have mastered. I do not collect things. This is where I lay my head to sleep and unroll my mat to practice. There is no room in my budget for new clothes or sexy shoes. When I go to the store, I try to buy only what I need to feed myself for the week. Too much stuff makes me feel claustrophobic.

I mastered the art of not hoarding.

But then one day, I packed up my life to move to Mexico.

Moving is a yoga practice of its own kind! You  bend, lift, and climb. You sort through your life. Everything is emotionally charged: even the shoebox of W2’s and 1099’s.  You say sudden goodbyes to attachments: people, places and things. After three years of living in one home: there are SO many things.

Have you every moved before? How do you practice yoga when you move?

I have fifteen thousand pairs of yoga pants, two hundred and fifteen bottles of lotion, and a million earrings and socks that do not match. I have broken necklaces that I kept meaning to fix. I have ripped dresses: I kept meaning to stitch. What am I going to do with my $200 “rocket” vacuum cleaner (can you see why I bought it)? I keep all of these letters my mom wrote me. I sort through this alphabet of tax forms in a shoe box. But, now we are in the thick of it: the clothes, the art, the jewelry. It all reminds me of my ex-boyfriend: of a relationship that I recently ended. I sit on the floor and cry.

The goodbyes: they add up. Goodbyes, to my beautiful students, coworkers, bosses, my sacred friends. There is a goodbye to this beautiful life I created from nothing. This house: this room: this sky light that I practiced under each morning. There is fear: I am leaving something I worked so hard to cultivate. I am stepping into the unknown and living in the question. On paper: how sexy! In reality: how terrifying! But, this is not the first time, I’ve packed up my life and “vinyased.” I am simply out of practice. I have forgotten how to practice Aprarigraha.

Aprarigraha does not just entail hoarding clothes, food, or other material possessions. Aprarigraha refers to non-possessiveness in relationships and jobs. Can you be content with all you have, or do you mourn a loss?

Do you stay at a job that doesn’t serve you? You tend to your duties with neither enthusiasm nor intricacy. Perhaps, this company is better off with an employee who functions at her highest capacity. Perchance, it is time for you to look for a different opportunity to not just work, but serve.

Every twenty-seven days, our skin regenerates. We are dynamic creatures in an ever undulating universe. Relationships change form. Suddenly, you no longer have anything in common with a friend from high school or college. You put effort into the relationship, but it doesn’t seem bring either of you joy. Do you need to cling to this friendship?

Or perhaps, there is a friendship or relationship that no longer feels healthy. You cannot put your finger on it. Maybe, you feel like you give: your time, money, energy, and love. But, what do you get in return? Maybe you ran past so many red flags, that you feel forced to commit. You love this person so much, more than words could ever articulate. But there is a distortion in the palpitation of your heart: a tight almost/heart burn sensation in your chest, a looming feeling in your low belly that inhibits your ability to engage uddyinaha and mula bandha properly.

“Quiet the voice of your inner critic and wake up your inner teacher.” Larry reminds us.

Are you holding on to something or someone? Are your hoarding or possessing someone for your own psychological protection?
Relationships change form, yet Marie reminds us, “only the love is real in the relationship.” The pain or sorrow that brews and culminates in the break up: it is not real. The only things that is real, is the love that you shared together. Now, it is time to let go.

Aprarigraha: it is about so much more than collecting shoes or hoarding food for the next zombie apocalypse. Aprarigraha is a daily meditation in all people, places and things. It is an inventory of the masquerades that block you from seeking unity with yourSelf.

Yama # 5 Aprarigraha: I have all that I need: I feel no loss


This article is the 5th entry in the blog series covering the traditional 8 limbs of yoga, written for It’s Yoga International.For an introduction to the series, please visit, “Intro to the 8 limbs.” The author, Randee Schwartz, shares her own personal journey as a yogi and what it means to stay true to her own path. She’s currently living in Mexico and supporting the It’s Yoga International family with her creative writing skills.

Yama #4 Bramacharya: Moderation in ALL Things

Yama #4 Bramacharya: Moderation in ALL Things

“Do you play sports?”

Eyes shift upwards from this serpentine sentence. Who distracts me during this sacred, creative moment?

He is twenty-five, tall, and muscular in a way that encourages me to rip his shirt off so I can embark on a lesson in human anatomy.

His voice is low: his cadence slow and seductively rhythmic.

The features of his face are slightly feminine.

On my fingertips, I sense the blade that etched his exquisite eyes.

Accordingly, I let myself go there for a second. I’ll give him my number. We will meet at a bar. Maybe, he will invite me over to his place. Perhaps, he will try to finagle his way over to mine. We will have: unsatisfying sex. Hey, he looks athletic.

Maybe the sex really will be fantastic!

Then, he will say, “Hasta luego.” He will ignore me at the cafe. He will pretend like it never happened. He might even have a girlfriend.

“Do you run? Would you go running with me? What, you don’t run? Then, how do you get a body like that…”

“No, I only run when I am about to miss a plane.”

I wake up from my rather unsatisfying fantasy.

Ego reminds me that at thirty- one, I am not getting any younger.

There is this dull, pavlovian urge to flirt back. But, it is just that: dull. Therefore, I smile: participate in some Spanish small talk: and delve back into my writing.

After fifteen years of practicing yoga, do I finally understand Bramacharya?

When I first learn about Bramacharya, I assume the yama mandates celibacy. I am sixteen and just starting to consider where yoga exists outside of the vinyasa flow. I attend a lecture on the yamas and niyamas. I resonate with ahimsa (non-violence), satya (truthfulness), and Asteya (not stealing). I consider Aprarigrahana (non-possessiveness).

However, as a virgin, Bramacharya feels a little inapplicable.

A couple of years later, I attend my 200 hour teacher training at It’s Yoga® San Francisco. The second day, we start climbing the 8 limbs of Ashtanga Yoga. The beautiful, wise, and strong Katie Carrife discusses the yamas and niyamas with us. She is pregnant. Right away, I realize (with considerable relief) that bramacharya does not mandate celibacy. Rather, she eloquently explains: bramacharya encourages us to be mindful and respectful in all things: body, mind, and speech

Are you respectful with your words?

Do you practice respectful and responsible sexuality? Are you a loyal, loving partner?

As a teacher, are you careful to put boundaries up between yourself and your students? So much is happening when you instruct a yoga class. Channels are opening up, people are having revelations in their bodies. Sometimes, the students get confused and interpret this as an attraction to you: the instructor. You offer a simple adjustment in child’s pose. The student is a little overzealous, thanking you after class. You feel conflicted: you want the student to stay your loyal student. But, you don’t want to be sexualized.

Your role as an instructor is sacred. Accordingly, it is so paramount that the teacher maintains appropriate professional boundaries to preserve the safety and sanctity of the yoga practice.

I have been fortunate to only experience a few inappropriate teacher interactions. But, they left such an unpleasant taste in my mouth. Yoga is where we go for solace, so I remember this when I communicate with students on and off the mat.

 

Sometimes, Bramacharya isn’t about sex.

 

Marie tells a story about a girl who exercises obsessively and eats restrictively during the week. On the weekends, she uncontrollably feasts. The girl repeats this process week in and week out: a most agonizing samsara.

“Bramacharya.” Marie reminds me.

We’ve all been there, haven’t we? Coincidentally, I started my yoga journey while I was recovering rather painfully from anorexia.   But years after, I still found myself oscillating between starving or stuffing myself. During this time, I also discovered that I could drink alcohol to hide from my emotions. Suddenly, I played with potions and emotions like I was my own chemistry set. And, I know that I am not alone in my thoughts, my feelings and my struggles with Bramacharya.  It took me many years to find a healthy equilibrium. Yet, sometimes I still slip past the moderating line of moderation. Where is that glass of Sancerre…

“You would not understand: you are a yoga instructor!”

-A friend confesses-

Yes, I do understand. I am a human, not a saint! This is modern day Bramacharya. Bramacharya isn’t naivety, celibacy, abstinence or sainthood. Bramacharya is learning to treat yourself and others with respect and dignity. It’s a dirty secret that is so prevalent in the sisterhood. We have pain. We are undernourished. So, we grab on to that one thing that we know will fill us up: something that will make us feel temporarily full, happy, and loved.

But, it never fills up, does it?

Hangovers crush the skull. Stomachaches question our food choices. The sex was fine, but you feel a little emptier after the affair. A little dirtier. Some people prefer cigarettes, drugs or prescription pills. I don’t judge, because we have all been there. We all struggle with Bramacharya.

Last year, Marie appeared to me in my dream. She told me that it was okay that I was drinking and eating my feelings. But, I had to remember that I would never find happiness that way. I had to discover happiness within myself first.

Where do you find happiness within yourself?

 

Where is there an energetic block that inhibits your ability to self nourish?  Is it physical? Do you need to sleep? Do you need to hydrate and nourish with water, produce and protein? Is it spiritual? Do you need time alone? Do you need nature? Are you creatively starved?  Do you need to write? Are you lonely? Do you need a therapist?  A cat to snuggle?

Are you experiencing a toxic situation? Do you feel undervalued in a job or relationship?

Be honest with yourself. What does your spirit need to be happy. Be gentle with your mind and body. You can be celibate, abstinent and sober. But, the core component of Bramacharya is respectful moderation. How do you care for yourself so you can show up with light and love in the universe.

Only love is real, but you have to start by loving yourself.

This article is the 4th entry in the blog series covering the traditional 8 limbs of yoga, written for It’s Yoga International.For an introduction to the series, please visit, “Intro to the 8 limbs.” The author, Randee Schwartz, shares her own personal journey as a yogi and what it means to stay true to her own path. She’s currently living in Mexico and supporting the It’s Yoga International family with her creative writing skills.

Yama #3: Asteya: Not Stealing: Is It a Gift to be Simple?

Yama #3: Asteya: Not Stealing: Is It a Gift to be Simple?

I finish my rocket practice: every cell and muscle fiber vibrates within my body. Now, it is time to eat (another one of my favorite activities). I take a deep round of breath before I enter the kitchen. I have gotten over the cold showers, the sleazy internet and the nonexistent water pressure. Peace treaties were sent to all ant camps. However, in the spirit of Satya, I confess: I hate this alfresco, communal kitchen with its leaky sink, disgusting refrigerator, and poorly washed/often unavailable supply of cutlery. I prepare an iodine bath for my vegetables: I meditate while the vegetables cleanse. Finally, it is time to eat. I chop up the vegetables, and the avocado. I bend down to take a can of tuna from my stash…only to discover: my collection of tuna is gone! Why did someone steal my tuna? That person KNEW it wasn’t his or her food to eat. I REMEMBER buying it yesterday from the corner store and storing it on this cobwebbed shelf. Now, I have to walk ten minutes in this blazing, winter heat to buy more fish. I am already running behind schedule today. Who steals tuna?

It is ten fifteen in the morning. Yet, I already morphed from calm yogi into this monster. I take a deep breath.  I remind myself: I can  afford to buy three or four more cans of tuna. Maybe that person needs the food more than I do. And just maybe, I need to write about Asteya.

Oh, I never steal. I confess: I most certainly have stolen from others! When I ran out of almond milk at my previous house, I snuck a couple drop’s from my housemate’s container. It’s just a couple drops, but did I ask her?  Occasionally, I stole sponges from my office. Why, I don’t know! I felt like I wasn’t paid enough? I felt like the office would not miss a  sponge or two from the costco pack?

It’s New Year’s Eve: I find myself sour, sick and solitary. I walk upstairs with a Chilean Sauvignon Blanc. Sitting sexy on the stairs: a large pile of money. Did, I drop that? I am no stranger to disorganization and misplaced personal items. I pick up the sum: it sits heavy in my hands. A gaggle of frantic party boys parade down the hall: high on love and probably something else in the alphabet.

“Did you drop your money?”

-I begrudgingly hand over the cash-

It wasn’t mine to take. But, from time to time – I take what isn’t mine. Did I rob you of your time? You sucked my energy dry.

Our personal psychology is fascinating. All the time, we justify the sneaky things that we do. Especially, if there is no one around to watch us! Our little transgressions do not warrant as deviations from our strict, moral code. It was okay: it was just that one time: I deserved it.

Maybe, you did.

But maybe, you find yourself thinking about that incident later during the day. You feel guilty, and out of sorts. You recognize that your behavior or action, no matter how trivial, misaligned with your morals, your beliefs, and yourSelf. You feel agitated, anxious, or angry, because you created a separation between yourself and yourSELF.

It’s easier to see Asteya through the eyes of tangible transactions. However, most of us struggle with asteya in more nuanced ways. As a yoga instructor, are you present when you teach classes? Or is your mind lost in thoughts and scenarios. Do you walk around the room and adjust students? Or are you on your mat the entire time, trying to fit in your personal workout? Do you guide with purpose? Or do you fumble with your music absentmindedly while narrating the instruction in autopilot? One summer, I distinctly remember: Larry removed the stereo at It’s Yoga in San Francisco.

“No more music!” He exclaimed exasperatedly.”

“You need to focus on teaching the class, not playing deejay!”

Off the mat, out of the classroom, and outside of material possessions, how else do we struggle with asteya?

Your coworker or housemate looks visibly distressed. He or she hasn’t said anything to you, but you don’t want to go there. You are exhausted, crabby and time-strapped. You do not have the energy to deal with someone else and his or her problems.

But, you don’t realize  your fault in this situation. You are stealing, but not offering what someone else lacks. You are in your safe world: huddled in your headphones looking at your phone. You could peel off your headphones and listen. Maybe all this person requires is:  your ears, your smile, your attention. You underestimate your power in this situation. You are stealing, by not offering  your presence to this person in need.

We seek union, with ourselves: with each other: with our interpretation of the divine. But, with this union comes profound responsibility. We decide when we want to schedule our asana practices. When is it most convenient for you to practice: early in the morning or after work at night? But, we do not get to pick and choose when we practice yoga off of the mat. We are not excused from observing the yamas, between the hours of nine am and five pm. Even when there are no witness, we are not exempt from practicing Satya. No matter what the time of day or circumstance may be: it is always our responsibility  to serve those who are suffering. This a practice of love.

               “We do this practice to love ourselves so we can love others more.”

           -Larry Schultz-

This article is the 3rd entry in the blog series covering the traditional 8 limbs of yoga, written for It’s Yoga International.  For an introduction to the series, please visit, “Intro to the 8 limbs.” The author, Randee Schwartz, shares her own personal journey as a yogi and what it means to stay true to her own path. She’s currently living in Mexico and supporting the It’s Yoga International family with her creative writing skills.

Yama # 2: Satya- Tell me the truth, how are you true to your nature?

Yama # 2: Satya- Tell me the truth, how are you true to your nature?

It’s always an intimate moment, when I lay naked in an unfamiliar place. However, my hopes for this encounter are strictly medicinal. After 20 minutes of massaging my feet, the masseuse finally travels to my neck. I must spend too much time on the computer, because my neck always aches.

                        “Hmm, your throat chakra is blocked. Are you struggling with Satya: honesty?”

               “I am an honest person: I don’t lie,” I respond rather indignantly.

I came here for a massage, not an inquisition!

At that particular moment in 2017, there are about ten lies that I juggle. Never mind the nasty web of self-deceit that haunts the  crowded crevices of my mind. No, I do not lie.

 

Lies don’t feel like lies when they are justified: or worse, embedded within your cell fibers. We all tell lies. White lies: to make people feel better. Violet lies: when we would rather tell a truncated version of the truth. Red, glaring lies when we feel hurt: our safety jeopardized. I tell a lot of yellow lies.  Sometimes, it is easier to omit from the truth. This is still a lie. But, hiding behind this screen, I confess to a rainbow of lies. Green, when I feel anxious and insecure. And the most maddening indigo: the lies that I do not surmise as lies. They are so deeply ingrained in my psyche, in my blood, in my bones. It will take a daily commitment to the eight limbs to discover my true nature.

 

Honesty is not easy. We learn from a young age to fess up: to be honest. But, we are also taught to be mindful of other people’s experiences. We need to maintain our appearances. There are confounding storms that shake our trees and we forget who we are: who do we want to be?

 

You disguise yourself to fit in at work. You omit parts of yourself to integrate into a community, a relationship, a friendship, a more conservative family. Where do you draw the line? One lie finds another and they sew a web…

 

On the mat….do you lie to yourself? Your hips don’t enjoy the way you practice pigeon. Over time, you notice more agitation than solace in your body when finish practice. Are you practicing with honesty?

 

When you offer adjustments as a teacher, do you gravitate or skip certain students? Have you ever asked yourself what this is about?

 

Satya is an honest inquiry of your life on and off the mat. It also an opportunity to practice ahimsa. Can you honestly but lovingly take inventory of your thoughts? Can you observe what behaviors and relationships make you feel comfortable and which cause you strife?

What lies do you tell yourself?

This article is the 2nd entry in the blog series covering the traditional 8 limbs of yoga, written for It’s Yoga International.For an introduction to the series, please visit, “Intro to the 8 limbs.” The author, Randee Schwartz, shares her own personal journey as a yogi and what it means to stay true to her own path. She’s currently living in Mexico and supporting the It’s Yoga International family with her creative writing skills.

 Yama 1: Ahimsa

 Yama 1: Ahimsa

Ahimsa: Non-violence, Loving Yourself and Others, Gentleness

“We do this practice so we are less miserable to be around.”

-Larry Schultz-

On the mat, I practice ahimsa by moving with breath, bandhas and, awareness. When I arrived in Mexico, I experienced a triad of sensitivities: left hip, right wrist and left shoulder. I widened my stance in Parsvotonasana, Virabahdrassana A, and Pavrita Trikonasana. I pulled in Mula Bandha like crazy during Somakonsana. Now, both hips smile. The shoulder and wrist require me to pay extra attention to where I place my hands and feet on the mat. Interestingly enough, I find every day my upper body prefers a different placement. Today, during primary series, I discover ease within these sensitive places. Today, I discover so much love during pranayama.

 

When I teach, I pay attention to the energetic lines within my students. Some students need a little extra encouragement: an invitation to meet the bandhas: a suggestion to up level. Other students benefit from a softer approach to this dynamic practice: a more feminine engagement. I whisper to these students: relax your neck:  experiment with a less restrictive arm variation, and focus on the cadence of your breath.  These rocket practices build strong, flexible bodies. But the true alchemy occurs when we practice with the rhythm of the Yamas. The transformation manifests when we prioritize union with breath, self, and others over mere asana achievement. This above all: is a practice of love.

 

“We learn to love ourselves, so we can love others more.”

– Larry Schultz-

 

Off the mat, many yogis tout ahimsa by preaching vegetarianism. As a yogi, I believe that all beings should be happy and free. However, I must confess: I am not a vegetarian. I’ve been a pescatarian for seventeen years: always waiting to jump the next ship to vegetarianism. When I was younger, it was easier for me to pass weeks and months without dipping into the sea. But, as I have gotten older, my body composition has changed. My recent attempts are rather unsuccessful. I lose my hair in big clumps. My energy levels plummet. So, I stick to my dietary lifestyle because the nutrition gives me the energy to serve. Sometimes, I meet teachers and students who scold me for my dietary choices. Don’t I know that I can’t be a real yogi if I eat fish? Don’t I like animals? Couldn’t I try a little harder? I want to remind YOU that ahimsa means loving yourself. How are you nourishing body in way that gives you the energy to feel happy and free (rather than curled up in fetal position?) It is not our job as yogis to judge others. Actually, this first yama encourages to not judge!

 

Nonviolence doesn’t mean sitting back when terrible things happen. You need to stand up for people in need. You need to speak up. What are we doing about immigrant children who are separated from their families? What are we doing to address the violence in schools? How are we exercising our rights to address this political turmoil? You don’t get to opt out as a yogi by meditating and visualizing peace. Do You say you want “all beings to be happy and free?” Do your research! Vote for a candidate who best aligns with your morals. Encourage other people to do the same. Nonviolence is not non-activity.

Fear. We don’t think about fear when we discuss Ahimsa. How could fear be a barrier to practicing? Fear is a powerful emotion: it is a psychical and psychological block that prevents us from seeking unity with ourselves, each other and our interpretation of the divine. When we live in fear, we block ourselves from visualizing and manifesting positive outcomes. We hide from people who may offer us love, or who need our love. When we are scared, we forget our roles as humans: seekers of the Self.

 

It is natural to be scared. My  journal entry last night screams, “I am scared.” I break it down and see what I can do to address the fear.  Are there practical steps that  I can take?  Can I make a smart goal?  Or do I need to let go of the anxiety?
Ahimsa: it all keeps coming back to love. The eight limbs ascend to an unlimited sphere of love. The love has to start with yourself.

“Those who see themselves as whole, make no demands.”

-A course of Miracles, lesson 37-

 

All of this: the postures, the breathing, the ethical observations: these things lead us to absorption into the universal.

 

Marie Russel reminds me: You have to decide: is the universe a friendly or unfriendly place? Could you make your life on and off the mat, a practice of love?

This article is the 1st entry in the blog series covering the traditional 8 limbs of yoga, written for It’s Yoga International.For an introduction to the series, please visit, “Intro to the 8 limbs.” The author, Randee Schwartz, shares her own personal journey as a yogi and what it means to stay true to her own path. She’s currently living in Mexico and supporting the It’s Yoga International family with her creative writing skills.

Intro to the 8 Limbs – by Randee Schwartz

Intro to the 8 Limbs – by Randee Schwartz

What am I doing?

I unroll my mat six days a week. I meditate. I chat the opening invocation in a cadence that feels too sacred to be my own. 

Then, I flow with my breath to a Rocket  or Primary Series Sequence. I am: in union with my breath, my mind and my body. Suddenly, savasana is over and with it that ephemeral sense of unity. A race replaces the tranquility. The psychological beat down begins: work, traffic, sprinting to teach one or two classes after a day at the desk.  “Relax, breathe and go with the flow,” I remind my students. In my students I see the transformations: bodies grow stronger, energetic lines awaken. I sense the metaphysical metamorphosis: a sea of anxiety rides the wave of vinyasa into a collective calm. Smiles replace seething gazes and grumpy shoulders.

 

But is my work enough? Or have I only patched  a superficial fix?

 

I drive home, drained, hungry, stressed. Time for a force-fed routine: a healthy meal, skincare/oral hygiene, bags packed for tomorrow. I watch an episode of something just quiet my brain: there is too much kinetic energy: thought stimulation: a lingering/leftover film of social interactions that I cannot wash off. I lay in bed: lights out. Behind the smirk of the candle’s smolder, I ponder: Am I failure? I practice and teach daily. I attempt to breath and do the right thing even when no one is watching. But, it feels as though I am huffing about on a hedonic treadmill rather than climbing the eight limbs of yoga.  This is a daily practice with the duration of my lifetime. But, how often do we teachers and students practice yoga off the mat? When was the last time we cracked open our dusty training manuals and explored the other limbs? I instruct power yoga and rocket classes.

 

There is no time for spiritual pontificaion. People are here to breathe. They don’t want to listen to me preach my very egotistic experience of spirituality. My biggest pet peeve is when instructors begin flow classes with some esoteric  thesis on the yoga sutras. I came here to sweat: not play audience to your exhibitionist fantasies.

 

But there has to be some spiritual intersection: some interaction between the limbs. Otherwise, we are just practicing acrobatics.

 

Yoga is not just about breathing and moving on the mat. This unifying practice teaches us discipline, self-study and genuine curiosity.  We do this practice so can brave through our physical and psychological blocks in order to discover our true self. Believe it or not, your true self is not anxious, greedy, scared, or sad. She is calm, patient, and generous. When we remove these blockages, we are able to entrain our rhythms (the palpitation of the heart, the waves of the brain, the cadence of our breath) with the rivers of the divine ( the gravitational hum, the oceanic roar, the sun’s dance along the universe). Yes, this yoga practice is a discipline. However, it is also a light-hearted journey. The eight limbed yoga practice does not preach austerity. Rather, the practice rouses us to reduce the dissonance between ourselves, each other, nature, and our interpretation of the divine. We realize that we are not our thoughts, desires and fear. We are composed of the same threads that connect us to each other. When we operate within the structure of the eight limbs, we find peace within ourselves and we are able to interact harmoniously with others. This manifests a chain reaction across the universe. This process requires persistence not perfection. Many of us yogis possess the intention. We do the practice, we meditate, we explore pranayama. We share these tools with others catalyzing a positive chemical reaction in others.

 

However, let us take a dirty look at our lives off of the mat…

 

Let’s start on limb one: the Ethical Observations (yamas). Maybe, you never lose your temper at your partner, family, or friends (bless you!) But, you sure do judge that person. Maybe you harbor resentment and the anger inside you festers! Do you really practice Ahimsa? Are you a vegetarian who gossips? Do use cruelty free beautiful products, but spend hours a day lost in your neurotic thoughts?  Do you really practice Satya? Oh, I am so honest! Are you authentic and genuine in all aspects of your life? Or do you assimilate for personal gain? Do you silence yourself to appease a loved one? Do you tell a white lie here or there or a more glaring, red  lie because you are ashamed? Or perhaps, you think it is easier to ignore a situation and stay comfortable with it rather than make a terrifying change? How dare I accuse you of stealing (Asteya)! Okay, every now and again you help yourself to your housemate’s almond milk when you run out. You work on personal projects when you are on the clock at work. Okay, I confess I stole a few sponges too. But, when I sense someone wants to talk, do I offer my presence? Or do I reply with terse answers and bury myself in social media and disguise my ears with headphones? Bramacharya. You are a faithful, honest, loving partner. You don’t drink, smoke or watch TV. But, everyone struggles to moderate something. It is never really about sex, food, or alcohol is it? Aprarigraha: nonhoarding. I thought that I had mastered this limb until I attempted to pack my life into one suitcase. Why do I possess so many things?

 

In the next few weeks, we embark on an exciting exploration of the 8 limbs. We begin with the first limb, the yamas. This way, if you want to jump off, the ground will be close-by! A modern transparent yogi will provide personal, relatable stories that will inspire you to ponder you life. How can you incorporate these ethical observations joyfully into your life? Remember, the goal is persistence not perfection.  By viewing our lives through the lens of the eight limbs, we brave through physical and psychological blocks that prevent us from knowing our true selves.

 

When we align with our Self, we seek union with a source of power/rhythm that is present in all of us. Our internal well of knowledge encourages us to see ourselves in others. We are all just trying to take it one day a time. Enjoy this beautiful life, in harmony with yourself, the others and your interpretation of the divine.

Randee is a 2007 graduate of the It’s Yoga Teacher Training in San Francisco.  She currently lives in Puerto Escondido and is serving IYI as a superstar contributor to our global mission, that all beings everywhere are happy & free.  And, she loves the Rocket!

To give and receive are one in truth – A Course in Miracles, lesson 108

Just waking up to another day in paradise.

Its the perfect time to reflect and get squeaky clean in my thinking patterns, in order to truly step into my power and live in the truth of who I am.  Trusting I am blessed, as a Child of God.  My creator is only love, and therefore, so am I.

Being a student of A Course in Miracles  (ACIM) has been a master blessing.  It brings me to the light daily, allowing me, encouraging me to give up my burdens, my fears, concerns and worry about life in its many facets, and instead, offers me eternal peace, direction in all my actions, and faith that I am and will be guided every step of the way.  As the Course teaches, “make no decision for yourself.”  Thus, we learn to trust what the Course refers to as, “the Holy Spirit” as the direct link back to our Creator, and thereby, the Truth.  The Course shares universal principles, however, it is not a religion nor does it have any doctrine, its a self study course in psychotherapy that dismantles the thought systems based in fear and re-aligns are minds to think vertically, via metaphysical truths, my favorite being, “Only Love is Real.”

In ACIM the author states, “my way is not difficult, but it is different.” and that has never been more true in my life.  Always being a bit  “different” and somehow residing in the general feeling most of my life that I was too “outside the box.”  I could never fit in to the social constructs that tend to permeate our culture…and thus, in cancer, that has run true as well.  When I was in the inquiry around how to approach my cancer diagnosis, a dear student,  said to me, “what is your inner teacher telling you to do?”  What is your guidance?”

My own words back at me.  I began to feel the tears pushing through, and knew immediately, my guidance was telling me to stay the course, have faith, and look for alternative ways to treat cancer.  To walk out of the fear, and into the Love.  That the loudest and most obviously well known way of treating cancer, was not the one for me.  I was afraid, and in a way feeling betrayed my inner Self – “why must I always be so different, why do I always choose difficult paths, why can’t I just go with the flow and do what others would have me do?”

Then I remembered, as I do each day, “My way is not difficult, but it is different.”   

So when I do see my mind taking me to, this is “difficult,” and “I’m all alone” and trust me, cancer is a full on journey with some serious capacity to challenge the mind, I tell myself to have faith, to know that the Universe has my back, that I am blessed and guided.   My fears are nothing, they have power to the extent that I give them energy.  Fear is the absence of Light, and in and of itself, is nothing – So I stay the Course, I look for miracles each day, and learn to accept them rather than deflect them.  I study and learn about cancer each day.

I mediate and pray, I eat the best I can, I take my supplements and added rick simpson oil,  and now have the rife machine to take my treatment to the next level.  Thank you to Lisa Taylor of her generosity of spirit.  Her story will break your heart, and I’ll share it another time.  But I want you to know about Royal Rife, an amazing doctor who demonstrated cancer could be attended to by light frequency, so I am attaching some information to this blog, and I know it is “controversial.”

Overall as humans, we don’t like to even think that the social constructs we have in place to “protect” us are unethical.  We want to think we are on the side of the angels all the time, as Americans and in our systems.  However, the way that the pharmaceutical companies have usurped power of the medical field is worthy of knowledge, particularly in the field of cancer.  In 70 years, there has been little change to the alopathical way of treating cancer, – surgery, radiation and chemo are the way, and everything else is for “quacks.”   The word ignorance is not a favorite among us, however, it simply means, to “ignore” what is true. To be unwilling to see things differently – another major theme in A Course of Miracles – our willingness to see another way.

 If we study the facts, we can begin to make choices that reflect who we are rather than who we “think” we are.  We can as Eleanor Rosevelt once say, “be the change we wish to see in the world.”  If I think I am a victim of cancer, I will be.  If I think cancer is a blessing and teaching me how to be healthy on a whole other level (heal – thy body)  – than that’s what it will be for me.  And thus here we are.

On the” different path,”  I’ve been led to paradise,  I’ve been led to learn about detoxification, the importance of clean eating, and supporting my immunity to do its God given job.  I’m learning about the importance of a healthy relationship with finances and service in the world, and to surrender my mistakes in the past, to release the guilt, and embrace the learning happening in the present, and residing in the assurance of a future filled with Love, even through the hard times.  As Larry used to say, “You are stronger than you think you are.”

So greetings to each and every one of you, from sunny and warm Puerto Escondido. Oaxaca, Mexico.  After a yoga practice, a little swim, a bit of writing, and then off to coaching 3 clients today! WOO HOO! I will spend the afternoon with my precious children watching them swim in the ocean waves.  I will know that although my way is different, it is not difficult, in fact, it is the easiest journey of all, to follow Him who sent me, and to know that my only purpose, is to extend, the good, the holy and the beautiful.

“To everyone, I offer quietness.

To everyone, I offer peace of mind.

To everyone, I offer gentleness.” – ACIM Lesson 108 – “To give and receive are one in truth.”

Today, I send you my faith,  that all is in Divine Right Order, and trust you will feel the love I send you in the moment.

Namaste,

Marie

I am determined to see things differently. Lesson 21, A Course in Miracles

When I found out I had cancer, I experienced a shakedown of sorts.  My psyche was disoriented.

How could this happen? I practice Yoga, I eat organic (most of the time) and I’m pretty positive, right?

Wrong, actually.  I was living a toxic lifestyle on a physical level and emotional level; I knew it and didn’t listen.  I wasn’t willing to see. If I really looked hard, and was radically honest, I could see that there were major adjustments that needed to be made, so that I could really show up to my life and live my life’s purpose and potential.

I started to go inside, for real.  I started to search for errant thoughts (cells) that operate outside the natural state of things.

I’m of the Mind that only love is real, so anything unlike love needs to be weeded out, as its unnatural.  We could cut out the cancer, and radiate my breast, but bottom line, if I wanted to be cancer free, I had to be free of fear.  I had to take care and honor my body on another level.  I had to think right, all the time, and be committed to that process, to surrender my will (thoughts) for God’s will.  At least re-commit to that practice.

Marianne Williamson, in this video, speaks about living God’s Will.  If God is Love, and Will is Thought, to follow God’s Will, is to think like God, and only like God.  And God is Love, and, only Love is real.

A Course in Miracles is a curriculum that is for everyone, our only choice in the matter is when we take it. It is highly specialized and each of our journeys’ is specific.   It’s meant to teach us that our egos are unreal and made up based on our belief in separation, that when we accept atonement (at-one-ment with God) for ourselves, we contribute to the healing of the planet, that forgiveness is the key to happiness.  So instead of asking how this could happen, I started to allow myself to be guided so that I could heal the errant thoughts, that allowed cancer to manifest in my body in the first place.  To practice trusting that the energy that created me, had a solution for every problem that was heavy on my chest, literally.

When I went to Claudia, owner of our local health foods store and longtime mentor,and finally told her what was going on, she said to follow my heart, and to to trust my decision wholeheartedly.  That that would allow my choice to work for me.  I asked her if people really healed themselves of cancer, she said without hesitation, “Yes, I see it daily and have for over 40 years.”

Wow.  For me that was so new, I’d never heard of such a thing – I went to Spirit, can I do this?

The answer was, “No, but I can through You.”

And thus my journey began.  A tender space, of really nurturing myself, my inner child, and all her fears.  Listening for guidance, and being pro-active around what that guidance said, with words and energetically in my body.  Paying close attention to the signs.  Regardless of what my ego and the rest of the world thought about those decisions.  I decided to be fully committed to the journey of Love only, and on that path, there is only one voice, and it is kind and loving, all the time.

Co-creating with the most powerful entity in our universe, Love (or God) is a privilege and a Joy.  I am so grateful that I was diagnosed with Cancer, I am so empowered by this journey of healing, and know that my only purpose is to be open to love, to be a conduit for love, share only love and receive only love.  Anything unlike love, is an illusion, and simply needs healing.  And in healing, we are never alone.  We have mighty companions, legions in fact.  A little bit of willingness, A Course says, is all it takes.

Namaste friends.  Let’s keep it real, and only Love.

The Value of Your Soul

The Value of Your Soul

“See no one as a body. Greet him as the holy Son of God he is, acknowledging that he is one with you in holiness.” – A Course in Miracles

Each new year brings new beginnings, energy and ideas around what we want to accomplish.  This year,  I am grateful for  a surge of new ideas and inspiration on how to grow our international community around the practice of yoga, on and off the mat – as well as the big themes that I often  hear when new clients are looking to join: Time & Money.

We live in a culture that places high value on outward appearances. It seems so easy to spend money on our hair, our clothes, our skin. We decorate our bodies with tattoos and piercings and make-up.  Gyms and yoga studios’ memberships surge in January, exemplifying the value placed on getting in shape, physically. Most acknowledge these types of expenditures are money well spent and I agree, physical vitality and looking good feels good.

But, what about the inside? What about the soul? In yoga, we say to truly be in a state of wellness we must tend to the mind, body and  soul (or spirit).   We are fortunate to have organic foods, supplements, and other facets of healthy living at our fingertips; if we are willing, and so many of us are (myself included!), to pay the asking price.  So here we are, eating healthy, looking good, with expensive haircuts & super cool body art,  even $100+ yoga pants – yet why are so many of us still not at ease, at peace in our minds and hearts?  We can be having a perfectly enjoyable morning and then bam! one negative comment from a friend or stranger, shifts our energy from comfort to discomfort, from ease to dis-ease, from feeling “good” to feeling “bad.”.  We are so very tender emotionally.  How is it then,  that we can thicken our emotional skin? Beyond skincare products promising youth and radiance, how can we tap  into the timelessness of inner radiance, peace of mind and well-being that lies within each of us, waiting to be awakened?  

So much of my life’s journey up until now has been living in the question:   How do I stay centered  when it feels like the winds around me so easily seem to push me left and right?  How do I reside in the clarity and certainty of my true heart, of knowing who I am, regardless of the actions or words of another? And, am I attached to this feeling of being at the mercy of the world around me or am I willing to invest time, energy and money so that I may dwell internally in an unshakable place of wellness, peace of mind and certainty about who I am.  Am I willing to learn how to train my mind to value only loving thoughts?  My answer to what may be the most important question of the souls human journey, is for sure –  a mighty YES!

I hold the vision that the only answer, when we step out of fear and into our hearts, is a collective, resounding YES!  I believe we all want to live in a place of physical, mental and spiritual wholeness. I also believe it is our birthright.

Recently, a “Yoga on the Mat” client asked to meet with me about The It’s Yoga International Coaching program, “Yoga off the Mat.” During our initial complimentary session, I shared with him our coaching model, as well as some of the benefits of engaging in this life affirming process.  I shared that I have been committed to my own coaching mentorship for over 12 years. I also conveyed the progress, awareness, healing and transformation I have experienced as a direct result of my work with my life coach in sync with my Rocket® practice. Through my willingness to let go of my past thoughts and behaviors, in addition to a deep trust in my coach (Dorothy Divack), I can confidently say that  I am at peace most of the time,  that I feel certain of my purpose and aware of my connection to my Creator throughout my days and nights on planet Earth.  

I can also say with confidence that it is only through my financial investment and personal commitment that I have reaped these and many other benefits. Afterall, finances simply represent energy.   I would certainly invest the time and money all over again, and I  continue to invest in this blessed relationship with yoga on and off the mat on a day to day basis.   I see the value of this work for me and for so many others, my family, my clients, my students and my friends. This commitment to personal and spiritual growth is all that matters.  When i do the work here, all the other pieces fall into place.  Thus, I have come to see and live in the truth that Only Love is Real and I feel privileged and honored to share this truth with others.  

Back to my client; he was very excited about the opportunity and potential to grow, and expressed interest in transforming several  aspects of his life. First and foremost, he identified feeling held back by a myriad of “insecurities,” and, secondarily, acknowledged that he wants very much to excel professionally.  Interestingly, what he also expressed was that, though confidence and success were paramount, he felt he could not rationalize the investments necessary to access these priorities.  He wanted the transformation, yet wasn’t yet ready to invest the two things that would give him this profound life change: Time & Money.  Another client shared with me her opinion recently, “Marie, you can’t be wealthy & healthy!”  Well, that’s what we are out there to demonstrate is untrue.  “Health is wealth,” as my friend Claudia likes to say, and health encompasses Spirit, Mind, Body – in that order.

Yoga – either on or off the mat – above all, tends to the  soul.  It may look initially like the practice, especially asana/postures,  is all about the body. One only needs to peruse  the beautiful bodies and movements of Instagrams yoga feeds to see this emphasis on the body as real..  After all, the transformation of the body is often the gateway to the deeper transformational aspects of yoga. It’s important to remember that what happens on the mat is practice for life. Can we breathe through the difficulties we face from moment to moment? Are we willing to stretch ourselves spiritually and emotionally, to apply what we have learned in our practice to our daily life? To invest in healing ourselves so that we may inspire those around us to heal themselves? Can we acknowledge and then dare to live in our full potential, thereby giving others permission and encouragement to do the same?

The  practice of  yoga is about awakening to the Truth of who you are, your highest potential, your birthright. We invest time and money in gyms, yoga studios, organic foods, skincare products, haircuts, clothing and the list goes on.  Yet, many of us are still apprehensive to value the inner work it takes to explore our inherent potential, to dare to breathe through the fear and learn to stand on our hands, off the mat, to extract all the juicy lessons from life’s experiences, to forgive ourselves and others to live an impassioned life, at peace, focused, living in compassion and manifesting our potential.  I feel incredibly grateful that I connected with my mentor 12 years ago, and that I trusted her to support my journey towards wholeness, that I was and continue to  be willing to invest in the It’s Yoga Centers and Center of Excellence trained coaches that have dedicated their lives to embodying and embracing and enlightened & empowered thought system.  It is with a grateful heart that I share the desire to support you on your journey to wholeness, to unlocking your hearts desires, and building the confidence to walk that path.

My Vision and the collective vision of all of us  at It’s Yoga International, is to support human beings in stepping into their potential and this happens when we unlock our hearts most sacred desires and discover the value of our precious unique soul.

We are all familiar with thought patterns such as.  “If I had more time (or money), I would do what I loved, or change this or that and then I would be happy and  healthy.”  Yoga invites us to shift to an acknowledgment of the truth, that we have the time and money for those things that we value, and that to value our soul is the single most important act of our lives.  The bottom line is that all we all want and deserve to  be at peace, and to be happy.  We all have what it takes to achieve this. Peace and happiness is a choice.  Are we willing to do the work that will allow us to welcome these divine gifts in all their radiant abundance, the gifts of our birthright? How and where will we invest our time and money  in 2018 to bring about real and lasting change?  If you are ready for this journey, know that it is my honor, and our function at It’s Yoga International – to support you both on and off the mat.

I want to acknowledge ALL of you for your willingness to be brave enough to create space to be the best version of yourself possible. It is truly a, calling, and an  inspiration or me to continue this transformational service of supporting personal and spiritual development.

Yoga, on and off the mat, connects us with our soul’s journey to the truth.  For our part, we must simply make the investments necessary and have faith – so that when we put in the time, energy, money, and peace of mind, unconditional love and happiness come knocking, we know how to open the door wide, and welcome the Light of our Souls’ true potential to shine in on us.

I am so looking forward to this upcoming year. I believe and hold the vision that this year will move humanity closer to our true nature, that one by one, we will choose to invest so that we may discover the value of our souls expression, on and off the mat, and from the inside out.

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