Japa Meditation

by Crystal Woodward

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Japa is a form of meditation done using the repetition of a mantra, for example OM or om shree maha lakshmi namaha. A mantra is a word or a sound repeated to aid concentration. Typically Japa is practiced using the aid of a mala bead necklace to further direct attention toward a single place of focus, in this case the mantra itself.  A complete mala consists of 108 beads while a smaller mala has 54 or 26 beads.  Malas can be made with various materials but most are include semi-precious stones, crystals or seeds.  A mala is special and sacred, and should be treated as such. The mala should never just be cast onto the floor or tossed in a pile. A mala deserves the care of  something that holds a vibration of our dreams.  Some believe that a personal mala should have a special bag and others should not see your mala. Others believe a mala should be worn around the neck so that the day’s intentions stay close to the heart.  In the center of each mala is a slightly larger bead often referred to as the Guru or God Bead.  The Guru Bead is used to create intention within the wearer and to be a reminder of the motives for sitting in meditation. There is also a tassel at the end of most traditional mala necklaces that lays below the Guru Bead. The tassel is said to represent one-thousand petals of a crown chakra lotus flower.

When a mantra is repeated the yogi can use the sound vibration as an anchor for their awareness that can draw them into a deeper state of meditation.  Mantra can be a great entrance into meditation because there is more happening on the external physical plane to support the mind in being present in the moment; speaking and moving a bead with the hand.  Mantra can be practice aloud, whispering, muttering to one’s self or mentally. It is generally easiest to begin practicing Japa aloud however, it is believed that mental repetition of a mantra is the most potent.  

When you sit for Japa, close your eyes and bring the Guru Bead either to the heart or third eye and pour in your intentions - hopeful and powerful manifestations and prayers for your day. This can also be a time to make associations with the specific mantra about to be preformed.  Holding the mala in their right hand, the yogi begins to circulate the mantra, spinning the bead in each finger as the garland moves.  I find that this spinning is a great meditation tool, when the mind wanders throughout the Japa practice the feeling of the spinning bead in the fingers draws my mind back into the meditation practice.  The right hand moves the garland with the thumb and middle finger. Using the index finger is not recommended as this finger is associated with the ego.  If when going around the whole mala the yogi would like to continue their mantra practice they will hold the last bead closest to the Guru Bead and flip the mala over, to go back over the way they just came, so as never to pass over the Guru Bead out of respect for all of the gurus or teachers.  Traditionally malas and a specific mantra were given to a student by a teacher.  In our modern life this is not always possible.  Go ahead and choose a mantra that speaks to you and feels special to you. If you are crafty you could make one!  When picking a mantra do a little research, know what the mantra means and why you would chose it. If you get stuck, ask a trusted yoga teacher for guidance in choosing your mantra.  Try a few and when one feels right, stick to it.  

Mantra is powerful and we will want to work consistently with only a few mantras at a time.  Yoga is about repetition and practice to get results. Keep at it and begin to slowly add Japa into your daily routine. Start with once or twice a week and practice more often with time. Japa meditation calms the senses. At the end of the mantra repetition, the yogi may find it easier to the sit in silence and meditate in the residue of the vibration.  This is a practice that I have added into my daily routine and has really helped me deepen my meditation practice.  I would love to teach you more about this practice in person at my weekly Japa meditation class.  This class is about 20 minutes long and is offered at no cost. It is held each Saturday after my 9:30 am Flow: All-Levels class at the Shala.  Come to both the Flow class and the Japa meditation or arrive at 11am for just the meditation piece.  I hope to meditate with you! 

Donation Class to Benefit First 5 El Dorado County

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In the months of January and February the Shala's donation based classes will benefit First 5 El Dorado.

First 5 El Dorado Children and Families Commission is committed to strengthening children birth through five and their families by promoting and enhancing comprehensive early childhood systems.

The first years of life are critical for a child’s learning and development. Children raised in healthy, strong families are better prepared for school. 

First 5 El Dorado Commission invests $1 million annually to build an early childhood system to assist families in preparing their children for school. 

Attend our weekly by donation (cash or check only please) class to support this resource in our community.

Ashtanga Improv: All-Levels on Sunday at 5:30pm with Laura

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Why Mysore Style?

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by Annie Davidson

When I went to my first Mysore class, I picked it because the time worked. I had no idea what Mysore meant (although in my American naïveté I thought it meant I might get sore!). I remember Kacey asking me if I had done any yoga before. I said, “Of course! I had done yoga for years and I ‘knew’ the poses.”

Over two years later, I can confidently say that Mysore has transformed my body, mind, and spirit - no joke, no exaggeration. Now, if you asked me, I’d say I am still learning the poses, even the very first sun salutation! I rediscover my body, mind, and spirit every day. I can do things I never thought this middle-aged body could do and still I have so much more to learn. 

For me, the biggest difference - as compared to how I practiced before with led classes - is that Mysore is MY practice. The approach allows me to truly own my practice and this means it has deepened me in every way. I can take it wherever I go - hotel gyms, visiting family, outside, inside.  I am constantly surprised by doing things I never thought I could - like standing on my head for extended time. And along the way I have never been injured or scared off because I get so much support from the amazing, wise teachers who have committed to this journey, too.

I’m deeply grateful to Kacey and Laura for their loving kindness, support and HUMOR in my first two years. I look forward to living the rest of my life with the practice. If you want to explore the universe that is you, step on your mat with the Mysore approach at Yoga Shala. 

Donation Class for Lake Tahoe Humane Society

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Katarra is a 10 year old pure bred Alaskan Malamute. She needs a home as an only dog as she is choosy about her dog friends. She needs to be kept on a leash whilst out walking and on a runner when left in a yard because like most Malamutes she is great at escaping.   Katarra is available for adoption at El Dorado Co. Animal Services – S. Lake Tahoe

Katarra is a 10 year old pure bred Alaskan Malamute. She needs a home as an only dog as she is choosy about her dog friends. She needs to be kept on a leash whilst out walking and on a runner when left in a yard because like most Malamutes she is great at escaping.

Katarra is available for adoption at El Dorado Co. Animal Services – S. Lake Tahoe

In the months of November and December, the Shala's donation based classes will benefit Lake Tahoe Humane Society.  

Lake Tahoe Humane Society Mission: “Dedicated to enhancing the lives of animals in our community through service, education, and, stewardship.”

Find more information on their website at www.laketahoehumaneandspca.com

Attend our weekly by donation (cash or check only please) class to support this resource in our community.

Ashtanga Improv: All-Levels on Sunday at 5:30pm with Laura

The Art of Ashtanga

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THE ART OF ASHTANGA

by Shelley Zentner

When my yoga teacher, Laura Josephy asked me if I’d be interested in drawing every pose in the Ashtanga Yoga Primary Series for her teacher training manual, I jumped at the opportunity. I love drawing the human figure. The challenge of making 75 studies felt like an extension of my own yoga practice and an opportunity to deepen my understanding of anatomy. What I hadn’t anticipated was the profound nature of the journey, both artistically and personally. I’m learning so much from the repetition and discipline required to work with this much consistency. The fine nature of the drawing style requires a level of concentration and absorption I haven’t experienced since I was an art student. I have a yoga anatomy book under my easel, along with David Swenson’s seminal Practice Manual for reference.

Uniting other disciplines with art is not a new venture for me. I graduated from the University of the West of England in 1997, with a degree in Art and Visual Culture. The program was an experimental blend of studio art, philosophy, theology, politics and history. It suited me because I love ideas as much as I love making art. To me, they are inextricably linked. I’ve always had a very broad range of academic interests, and am not and expert at anything - I just have a childlike curiosity about things and find connections intriguing.

This curiosity has led me to combine art with many different fields of study, such as science and cultural politics. I also use my art for social and political activism and founded the local group Tahoe Activist Artists in 2017. The imagery that manifests in my work is usually centered on the human form although I like to spend time outdoors, communing with nature. I fill sketchbooks with observations of landscape and nature, working out ideas and emotions with words and images combined.

I first came to Ashtanga around 12 years ago, not long after I moved to Tahoe from Wales. My husband and I had met whilst bouldering our way around Canada and the US. I didn't have my work visa yet, so I took a few classes at Lake Tahoe Community College for something to do and to connect with like-minded people. I took oil painting and figure drawing with Phyllis Shafer and Ashtanga with Amrito Cross. I was too committed to climbing to maintain a regular practice though, and soon ended my daily practice after the quarter was finished.

I began practicing yoga again last October after I realized that I had to let go of climbing after 21 years. I was diagnosed with endometriosis and breast cancer in 2015, and the treatments, trauma and surgeries have changed my life. The transformative nature of the disease has presented me with what I call the ‘dark gift’. Meditation and a new spiritual practice brought me to the realization that I needed physical activity which nurtured my body and soul in a way that climbing no longer did.

Ashtanga initially attracted me because it reminded me of a long, technical boulder problem. Visualization, memorization of sequence, and fine, meditative, detailed work balanced with the big movements or gestures are the qualities of bouldering and art that I love. I find this again in yoga, with a different language that translates to the same thing.

When I can practice regularly, I feel at one with the world. The nature of Mysore style classes allows for a personal journey, supported by caring teachers. I feel part of a community again, and I also enjoy occasional Yin and flow classes. My body feels strong and supple, and I feel nurtured and empowered. The athletic nature of this practice satisfies my need to be physically energetic. The spiritual, meditative aspect of the practice calms my mind, makes me feel connected to the universe, and helps release the tension of my body.

I’m profoundly grateful to have found the Shala, my teachers, and to have the opportunity to explore my practice in more depth through art. It makes me happy to know that the drawings will continue in their journey as a teaching tool, and find purpose in the education of a new generation of instructors.

Shelley Zentner is a professional artist, wife, mother and instructor at Lake Tahoe Community College. Learn more at www.shelleyzen.us

Shelley’s Drawings will be available to view and purchase at our Art of Ashtanga event on November 11 at 6pm.

Manager Spotlight: Sally Sjolin

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Name: Sally Sjolin

Practicing Yoga Since: A long time

1). Tell us about the first yoga class you took?

I lived in San Francisco two blocks from the Guru Ram Das Ashram which is housed in a beautiful victorian. The Ashram was founded by a co-op community of students and teachers and is now known as the Kundalini Yoga Center. I remember walking into the building and being seduced by the smell of food cooking. I signed up for a beginner series and learned that they had a community meal each evening after class. At the time, I was living a stressful corporate lifestyle and was craving balance and interactions with mindful people. I went to class at the Ashram 2 nights per week until I moved from SF.

2). What do you remember of the first yoga class you taught?

Last January, I started managing the Shala which gave me the opportunity to be more involved with the yoga community that I love.

In June, I got very lucky and was accepted into Tim Miller’s Ashtanga Yoga Primary Series Teacher Training in Encinitas. Because this door opened, I am currently apprenticing/assisting one day per week during Mysore class. I have become surprisingly unattached to the outcome. I love yoga and want to learn as much as possible. Thank you fellow Mysore students for allowing me to learn by pushing on you. ;-) I will also take the Tahoe Yoga Shala 200-hr teacher training which begins in April.

3). Who/what are your teachers? Why?

Laura and Kacey, because they are amazing and I love them. They offer a safe space to practice and grow. The Shala Mysore program is growing and thriving. It’s the shared commitment and the love and support from teachers and fellow students that motivate me to practice every day.

I’ve also been able to spend time with the wonderful teachers at Ashtanga Yoga Center in Encinitas. It was eye opening to study at Tim’s studio with people who have been practicing and teaching for so many years. It’s not uncommon to see practitioners side by side doing 3rd series or others working on 4th. The community is inviting, happy to share space and teach no matter which series you are practicing. The energy at AYC is magical and inspiring, but there is so much to learn.

4). In what ways has yoga supported or impacted your life?

Yoga has been a part of my life for a long time, but did not become a lifestyle and spiritual path until recently. Practicing daily has had a huge impact on my body and mind. It has opened my heart, helped me gain physical and mental strength and has reduced anxiety. It’s meditation, spiritual movement, truth, love, and a path to peace. But it’s rarely that simple, because the practice meets me right where I am on any given day. It can be challenging to keep my mind calm when faced with fear, doubt or impatience. Yoga has become a comforting ritual and for me and is ultimately an act of devotion, trust and faith. When I become unmotivated, I remind myself that dedication is a choice.

5). What does your current yoga practice include? Why?

I practice Ashtanga Mysore Style 6 days per week. Mixed in with my Asana practice is pranayama, meditation, chanting and Sanskrit. Like many things in life, it started out of necessity. I was struggling with anxiety caused by a heart condition. I was told by my doctor to stop exercising and not elevate my heart rate, but yoga was ok. Obviously, that doctor had never done Ashtanga because it’s really not that easy. One of my earliest observations was that Ashtanga is a breathing practice and that focusing on breath during Asana would calm my mind and help reduce the anxiety. This was much easier to accomplish in the Mysore room with a self-led practice. Now that my heart is fixed and my anxiety is mostly gone, I still practice daily.

6). What currently inspires you?

My dog Lizzi who has been fighting cancer, but continues to love and make the most out of life despite what she goes through.

7). What is your favorite season? Why?

I love Spring. Mostly because there are baby birds, but also because it’s such a beautiful season in Tahoe.

8). What secret helps you to maintain balance and stay healthy?

Taking time for myself. This has been a learning process, but it’s one of the most important things that I do to keep myself balanced and sane.

9). A fun fact most people don’t know about you?

I love wildlife and have been known to do dumb things to observe them more closely. I wouldn’t say that these encounters were fun, but they were definitely exciting. I’ve been bluff charged by a Bull Moose in Canada, a Bull Elk in Yellowstone and a Male Lion in South Africa. I was trying to take photos and got too close.

10). What do you want to share with the Shala community?

I’m so grateful to be a part of the Tahoe Yoga Shala community. I’ve recently had the opportunity to take a class from each of the teachers at the Shala. What a great experience, they are all wonderful. We are so lucky to have such an experienced team of diverse teachers, each offering their own unique style. It was hard for me to step out of my Mysore comfort zone, but I’m glad I did. Try a different teacher or style of yoga, you might be amazed.

Donation Class for The Trini Foundation

Trini Foundation | Taylor hunt | trinifoundation.org

Trini Foundation | Taylor hunt | trinifoundation.org

In the months of September and October, the Shala's donation based classes will benefit The Trini Foundation. Support the work of this foundation by attending Laura’s weekly by donation class. (cash or check only please)

Ashtanga Improv: All-Levels on Sunday at 5:30 pm

The Trini Foundation is dedicated to teaching the transformational practice of Ashtanga yoga to individuals suffering from drug and alcohol addiction. Their mission is to provide yoga as a tool to aide in the recovery process and help those who are suffering maintain long-term sobriety. Donations go directly toward teaching yoga classes in treatment centers and providing tuition scholarships for individuals in recovery to practice at yoga studios across the country. 

Some of the programs that the Trini Foundation offers:

Scholarship Program

Through the scholarship program, the Trini Foundation offers tuition assistance at yoga studios around the country to individuals in recovery from addiction, and other economically disadvantaged individuals. 

Treatment Center Classes

The Trini Foundation works with treatment centers and other recovery programs to bring the healing practice of Ashtanga yoga to those suffering from drug and alcohol addiction.

Yoga in Underserved Communities

Trini Foundation strives to reach a diverse group of people by bringing Ashtanga yoga to other underserved or high-risk populations such as prevention services for delinquent youth and community programs.

Yoga in Prisons & Alternative Treatment Programs

The Trini Foundation supports the rehabilitation process of incarcerated individuals by teaching Ashtanga yoga in prisons, halfway houses, and alternative treatment programs. 

Ashtanga and Addiction Forum

Ashtanga Yoga Columbus, in conjunction with the Trini Foundation, offers a series of workshops that allow teachers to effectively share Ashtanga yoga in the communities we serve.

Outreach Programs and Cooperation with the Professional Community

The Trini Foundation participates in community awareness and outreach programs.

Donate directly or find out more about the programs The Trini Foundation offers on their website http://trinifoundation.org


Intro to Mysore

Intro to Mysore

by Kacey Davy

Warning: Practicing Mysore style Ashtanga Yoga might be addicting; it will get you grounded, healthy, strong and flexible.

Mysore Style is the traditional way of learning Ashtanga Yoga. Named after the city in India where it originated, Mysore, is the source of this lineage based yoga method.  To practice Mysore Style is, for most, a different experience than what people think of when they go to a yoga class. The poses are taught individually in a group setting. The teacher is not leading everyone through the sequence at the same time. Instead, you will receive one-on-one instruction from the teacher. When you first walk into the Mysore room it may seem chaotic as everyone is doing something different. However Ashtanga is a set sequence of poses that you learn one-by-one, allowing you to commit the sequence to memory over time. Everyone begins the same way, first learning the sun salutations and then the standing poses, and so on. Repetition is used to help you develop a deeper understanding of the sequence each day and gradually you begin to feel at home in the movement-breath patterns. Then, through a dedicated practice, whether one or several days a week, you learn the entire Ashtanga Primary Series poses one by one. By moving slowly through the series you gain strength, endurance, and a sense of empowerment. Since this is individual instruction, the teachers can offer you modifications and personal feedback.

  The Ashtanga practice is all about the breath, learning how to move the body with the breath to take the shapes of the sequence, it is not about perfection of poses and achievement. The practice is all about keeping the energy moving. Yoga seeks to transform us, to build awareness of ourselves by connecting mind and body together. Ashtanga emphasizes the breath as the connection for self-awareness and over time the practice reveals the many layers and aspects of ourselves. 

The purpose of yoga is to bring peace and balance to our lives. Ashtanga is a sequence of poses designed to detoxify the body, the practice builds strength, stability, stamina, flexibility, and restores range of motion to the joints. It purifies the nervous system and, when done consistently, it helps you to feel balanced and grounded. Anyone of any age can learn Ashtanga. The 4-Week Intro to Mysore Series I am offering in October is an excellent way to learn more about this practice and integrate this style of yoga into your life. 

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Pit Stop!

Pit Stop!

by Brent Grueter

Drawing by Sunshine KiR | sunshinekir.wordpress.com

Drawing by Sunshine KiR | sunshinekir.wordpress.com

Greetings yogis!  This month I just wanted to touch base on a few helpful things to consider as our practices head into the heat of summer.

Have you ever been in a class, just settling into your breathing, when you suddenly notice something in the air?  All you really know is that it's not exactly Palo Santo.  The thing is, sometimes it's us and sometimes it's our neighbors.  Then comes the tricky part. What to do next? Well, it's really not tricky and there's no need to let yourself get rattled.

In the summer we get really active and playful. Sometimes that means we go on a run or a bike ride before class and don't always get a chance to shower beforehand. So maybe we show up a little spicy or musky.  Our feet might even be extra dirty and you don't always notice it until you're there.  No need to panic, just take a walk to the restroom and freshen up a bit.  A little water can go a long way in a pinch.

Now let's say that you are on the other end of that experience and it's not you, but your neighbor instead. There is still no need to panic. In that moment you have the opportunity to put your yoga to work.  Ask yourself if it is worth letting any smell keep you from enjoying your practice?  Can you keep yourself present enough to not be bothered? Sure, your mind is going to run down the old rabbit hole with storylines of why you can't stand this particular aroma. That is the vrttis or mental activity, giving us some good work to do. We restrict our vrttis with abhyasa and vairagya, these Sanskrit words meaning practice and non attachment. Patanjali, in his Yoga Sutras, explains the importance of abhyasa and vairagya in achieving a tranquil state of mind.

Sometimes it's just a dirty mat or old yogi clothes that seem to hold on to our practice and all the sweat we put into it a little too well. So it doesn't matter if it's you or your neighbor, we can all work together to be a little more thoughtful on the topic of sauca which translates to cleanliness or purity.  The next time you come in, just take a second to check and see if you're putting your best foot forward or if you need a little freshen up first. If your nose alerts you to someone else in the room try to be courteous and avoid making them feel any more uncomfortable then they might already be.  The bottom line is that it comes down to compassion and good old fashioned manners.

So in closing, just continue to be the great, kind and beautiful souls you all are and keep the Shala as fresh as possible.