What is it to be a Yogi?

PC: @LOLOANDTHELENS

PC: @LOLOANDTHELENS

by Crystal Woodward

As the Seasonal Yoga Living Immersion I have been imagining draws closer, my mind swirls with creative potential and the imagining turns to planning and action.  What is it to be a yogi? The best place to begin is with your own unique answer to the question; why do I do yoga? To this question there are as many answers as there are shades of a human.  I want to be healthy, lose weight, be happy, heal from trauma, try something new, find peace, experience ease in my body, manage stress and so many other heartfelt desires. Eventually with dedicated and prolonged practice, I believe these intentions lead us to deeper self-awareness.  This awareness begins in our outer most layer, our physical body. If you decide to continue pursuing yoga after this first step, the second, third and subsequent steps arise naturally. These steps become the road travelled on a literal Journey to Self, consciousness and potential moments of divine enlightenment. This journey will challenge and change you, ask you to be honest with yourself and clear the lens of your perception. Would you like to be a yogi on this journey? 

In my upcoming Four-Season Immersion I will share what I have gained on this path and offer you a way to become a living yogi.  Incorporating the elements and seasons in my daily posture, self-care and meditation practices are just a few aspects of the yoga tradition that I have woven into my yogi lifestyle. The Journey to Self is a journey in working on oneself.  To be a yogi first and foremost you need a consistent physical practice. Most of us need a moment to reconnect with and step back into our bodies. This is why yoga is most commonly associated with movement and shapes. The physical movements of yoga are a doorway into awakening the body to the flow of life force energy that moves within and links each shape together in a dance. 

A daily practice gives you an opportunity to check-in each day: how do I feel?  why am I feeling that way? what choices can I make to feel different? Immersion participants will learn two short home practices to balance the energy of each of the four seasons. These home practices become a part of your self-care toolkit. For example, when you have a lot of energy a solar heat building practice may feel inviting. On other days a slower, more lunar practice may feel more appropriate.  Sometimes we just need to rest and restore and on these days we can pull in a Yin or Yoga Nidra practice. The seasons also play a role on the style of practice to which we are most drawn. We are currently in the fire element summer season. We can literally feel the heat surrounding and coming off of us. Throughout the summer months of our journey we align with the water element to support us in maintaining balance.  A fluid and playful practice will help cool and soothe the overactive fire that can lead to irritation and sharpness in our attitudes. 

Much of the self-care we do as yogis is aimed to support ourselves through the continued work of our journey.  Most of these practices are quite enjoyable, full of self-love and leave you feeling good. These self-care rituals involve diet, lifestyle choices and self-study.  Journaling about your daily life routine is a form of self-study we will explore in the Immersion. With an understanding of your typical day you can begin to slowly add practices in support of your yoga journey. For example what changes to your evening routine will support your morning practice?  Do you need to go to bed earlier, get up earlier and/or have healthier lifestyle practice to feel better in the morning? To this routine we add self-love practices like oiling the body, tongue scraping and drinking warm citrus water. I will share just a few practices each season so that you can truly integrate each of these refinements into your daily routine. Something as small as drinking warm water each morning can take time to become as natural and basic as brushing your teeth.

As yogi we get much of our self-care practices from Ayurveda, yoga’s ancient sister science.  Thousands of years ago humans ate fresh seasonal whole foods and learned which foods and herbs could be used for healing.  In our modern age of fast food, preservatives, pesticides and prescription medication, a return to this simplistic way of living can feel like quite a shift!  Throughout the Immersion we will come together and cook a whole food organic meal for each season. By sharing the meal created with our own hands and sitting and talking yoga with other yogis a community is created. We all need allies, yogi friends that understand the awakening you are going through and people to talk to about consciousness and the bumps of the journey.  Trainings and immersions are a fun way to meet like-minded new friends!    

Lastly, the doorway of posture practice may lead you to philosophy and meditation, the primary tools through which we reach for enlightenment.  There are many different ways to approach meditation. We will explore Japamala mantra meditation, walking meditation and Yoga Nidra as techniques for sitting still with yourself, clearing your mind and dive into the depths of yourself. Together as a group, and in small groups, we will discuss yoga philosophy and concepts and continue to inquire into our ourselves, our reasons for practicing and just what this yoga thing is all about!

The Seasonal Living Yoga Immersion begins October 4-6th. This Immersion will offer you a strong foundation to work from and return to again and again on your journey to Self.  Early bird registration rates for the full Four-Season Immersion as well as the single Autumn Immersion end September 6th. Full schedule details and online registration available on the Shala’s website.  Stay tuned for information about free seasonal living talks at the Shala. Ready to learn more? Questions? Email Crystal to schedule a free 20-minute conversation.

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! 

Bringing the Outside In

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By Audrey Villanueva

Go inward, bring the outside in. This is a big part of the yoga practice. The winter season is a perfect time for inward reflection. Hibernation is nature moving inward toward the pineal gland, an acorn shaped endocrine gland located in the middle of the two hemispheres of the brain. In energy anatomy terms, the pineal gland is the "Third Eye" that modulates waking and sleeping patterns and other seasonal functions. Balasana, child's pose, is an excellent way to access the inward journey through the 3rd Eye Chakra or 6th Chakra. This chakra controls the various bio-rhythms of the body, and when it wakens, one may feel a pressure at the base of the brain. The 3rd Eye relates to clear seeing and intuition. By learning to focus your consciousness and trust what you see, the yoga practice may deepen and the ability to draw inward becomes more available.

The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali refers to the inward journey through its discussion of the 8 Limbs of Yoga. The Yoga Sutras explain the eightfold path and define it as Ashtanga, which literally means "eight-limbs." Pratyahara, the 5th Limb, is to withdrawal from the five senses or sensory transcendence. It is during this stage that we make the conscious effort to draw our awareness away from the external world and it's stimuli in order to focus on the inward journey. The practice of pratyahara provides us with an opportunity to step back and take a look at ourselves. This allows us to objectively observe our cravings: habits that are perhaps detrimental to our health and which likely interfere with our inner growth. This sets the stage for deeper concentration and helps relieve us from outside distractions thereby bringing the Outside - In.

Moving inward by visualizing the middle of the brain-pineal gland-3rd Eye facilitates pratyahara practice. The winter season when, naturally the rhythm is to hibernate, is an ideal time to move deeper into the practice of slowing down into self-awareness, self-study, and self-discovery. By stimulating the 3rd Eye in poses such as Balasana we can attune ourselves to the body's natural rhythms and allow life to flow more simply by letting go of old habits and patterns that hold one back from moving onward, upward, and inward.

Energy Anatomy

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By Gina Quincy

The Sanskrit word Chakra literally translates to wheel or disk. In yoga, meditation, and Ayurveda, this term refers to meeting points of subtle energy channels called nadi.  These channels carry Prana (life force) throughout the subtle energy body keeping us vibrant and healthy. There are seven primary Chakras which move along the spine from the tailbone to the crown. These swirling wheels of energy correspond to nerve plexus in the physical body.  Each of the seven main chakras contains bundles of nerves and major organs as well as our psychological, emotional, and spiritual states of well-being.  Each Chakra controls a specific area of our physical, energetic and emotional body.  As we bring attention to each Chakra thru breath, color visualizations, mantras, and clearing statements we can illuminate fears that may be preventing energy from flowing freely.  When we let go of fear by opening and balancing the Chakras we can begin to see our life's purpose clearly.  

Chakra Clarity is like having a clear glass of water in front of you.  As the Sun shines into the glass you see a rainbow refracted onto the wall.  The glass of water is you; your body, your mind and spirit.  The sunlight is the white light of the Divine.  The rainbow is the energy of your True Nature spread out into the world.  As we step into the rainbow - a place of clear-seeing - we see that security, gratitude, happiness, unconditional love, peace, intuition, and source energy is the reality.  Everything else is an illusion.  When you feel negative emotions come up, remember this illusion. Bring yourself back to your breath and see yourself lit up in rainbow colors.  

The last Charka Meditation of the season is this Sunday, December 18th from 7-8pm. Step into Chakra Clarity and receive an energy anatomy "tune-up" that will keeping you dancing through the holiday hustle and bustle with grace and ease. 

Namaste: The Rainbow Light in me sees the Rainbow Light in YOU!

Mountain Yoga Is Now Tahoe Yoga Shala

For Immediate Release

Mountain Yoga Is Now Tahoe Yoga Shala

South Lake Tahoe, California. — South Lake Tahoe’s favorite yoga studio, Mountain Yoga, is now Tahoe Yoga Shala.  South Lake Tahoe resident, Laura Josephy, recently purchased the “the Shala” after instructing and managing the business since 2011.

The Sanskrit word shala (sh-ah-la) translates as home or abode.  It can also mean the upper branch of a tree.  When asked about the symbolism of the business’ new name and logo, Laura shared, “At the Shala we believe that one's ability to expand and blossom is directly proportional to one's ability to gather and root. This philosophy is reflected in our approach to the postures and breath techniques we practice and it is the platform upon which balanced and healthy lifestyle practices are founded and maintained.”  This dynamic equilibrium offers endless opportunity for self-discovery and awakening at the level of the body, mind and spirit. It is Laura’s hope that the Shala is held as a reliable home in which students can take their attention inward to engage this process.

Laura has been practicing yoga since 2001, teaching since 2003.  She has owned and managed yoga studios since 2005.  She is devoted to the yoga tradition and continuously seeks opportunities to study with renowned lineage teachers in order to deepen her personal practice and cultivate new methods to guide and support her students and teachers.  Laura believes that in order to become a master teacher, one must first be a masterful student.

The Shala will honor all existing Mountain Yoga memberships. Students enjoy a number of membership options that provide them with the flexibility and access necessary to support their work-life schedule.  The Shala offers discounted introductory offers to full-time Tahoe residents. Offering a variety of methods including Ashtanga, Restorative, Prenatal, Family, All-Bodies and Power Flow, the Shala’s 35 weekly classes aim to provide something for everyone. 

The Shala, is located in the Tahoe Keys Village at 585 Tahoe Keys Blvd, Suite F1A.  An Open House featuring free classes, teacher meet and greet ,live music, acro yoga demonstration and kids chakra art will be held on January 16, 2016 from 12 - 3 p.m.

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Laura Josephy

Owner

Tahoe Yoga Shala

530/543-1400

tahoeyogashala@gmail.com

www.tahoeyogashala.com