October Theme: Generosity

How do we incorporate the generosity we find on our mats with the outside world?  Personally, when I set intentions for my practice, I often set personal intentions. At the end of class I like to encourage myself
and my students to appreciate the self-care, generosity and compassion found on the mat. With that, I like to encourage the idea or "plant the seed" of noticing that we all crave that same kind of care. This feeds into allowing yourself to be generous in your own practice so you can be generous with that same care and compassion to others.

October is filled with so much closing in - the dying leaves around us, the cold weather - that we
often relate to the same closing and coldness. This theme brings a positive light to a month that could use more generosity.

-Rein Short

September Theme: Trust

Each time I think of trust, I end up traveling inward. One of the greatest gifts that my practice of yoga has given to me, is to find trust within myself, both on and off the mat. It took me many years of practice, with many wonderful teachers who repeatedly expressed this idea to me in a variety of ways, but for so long it didn't sink it. I seemed to unconsciously fight against the concept that nobody else knows me like I do.

Nobody else knows me like I do.

And then it finally made sense... Nobody else knows how a pose feels in my body. Nobody else knows how my breath feels in my body. Nobody else feels the connection between the two: my body and my breath. Nobody else's. It took me a long time to understand this, and an even longer time for me to begin to believe this - to trust myself!

Once I discovered this sense of trust in myself, I opened up a whole new way of seeing myself from the inside-out. I opened myself up to explore my physical practice and to explore the other layers underneath the shell. A shell and layers that nobody else can know the way I do, by trusting myself.

-Molly Drazin

August Theme: Slow

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Okay, New Yorkers, admit it: yogi or not, we’ve all had evil thoughts about that unwitting tourist we end up walking behind down the subway stairs. Even if you’re not running to get somewhere on time, New York trains you to have a certain gait that outpaces most all other people on the planet. Yeah, we live in that city.  What’s cool about it is we get more done in a minute than many do in an hour, but that speed catches up with you when you get to the end of your day and you can’t slow down or shut down. So we come to yoga and meditation to balance it all out.

A few weeks ago, an old knee injury started acting up again. I was in a great deal of pain. The only thing that would work to not aggravate it was to not go anywhere (not an option), or walk really really slowly. Slower than even the most relaxed person living in the deep south on the hottest day of the year. Yeah, that slow.

You can imagine what an odd thing it was to slow down that much. As a New Yorker, I was careful to move out of the way as the typical Ferrari-paced person needed to pass. But almost right away, I started to really enjoy myself. As I walked down a street in Brooklyn, I looked up at the sky, took in the breeze, and noticed the colors on the buildings.  Then something else started to happen. My brain waves became smooth. Not slow, or spacey, actually smooth and clear. All of the stuff on my mind stopped rattling around in a disorderly jumble and started to organize itself like rambunctious kids who finally found their place on stage in the school play.  Something else happened. I heard my breath. I was actually breathing all the way down into my lungs the way I do and teach every day in yoga.

Thich Naht Hahn, a world renowned spiritual leader, guides a beautiful meditation called the “Walking Meditation.” I’ve shared it to many students when we go to the ashram and are walking through the fresh green forest. But I’ve never done it in the city. I could feel my pulse slow, I could feel my cortisol (stress hormone) levels dropping, and my eyes began to see the world through a shine as when I’m in yoga class, or out in nature.

For all the philosophical perspectives I’ve learned and taught to buffer our sensitive systems from metropolitan madness, this very odd, accidental practice had more real physical and mental affect than any of them. Once again, I’m shown that our injuries can be wonderful teachers.

Studies show that slowing down, for even just a small period of time, has been correlated with better decision making, higher levels of creativity, and increased problem solving skills. Taking it slow can also increase our attunement to each other, causing a positive effect on our relationships. In their book “How Words Change your Brain” authors Andrew Newberg and  Mark Robert introduce the practice of Slow Speech. In my yoga class this week I had students take a few minutes to tell a partner about a current challenge in their life speaking one word at a time, at a pace of about half as fast as we usually speak. Students reported feeling a sense of ease surrounding a problem that had been causing them stress, and also a greater appreciation and connection to the person they were listening to.

That day on the sidewalk, my friend who was meeting me for dinner had seen me coming from the restaurant window. When I got there she laughed and said she’d knew better than to wonder if I’d taken drugs, but that’s still what it looked like. I laughed too. “No, no drugs," I told, her, "just trying out a little bit of “slow.”


-Ella Luckett





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Transitions by Danielle Hernandez

Transitions

It's so easy to get wrapped up in our next step that we forget to enjoy the moment of taking that step. For me, my morning commute is a perfect example. I jump on the train, and all I am thinking about is getting to work. It's almost as if my mind is already at work and I'm just waiting for my body to arrive to join. I am not present in this moment. The act of getting to work is equally as important as being at work. Every moment in our lives is important as another. Every breath has a meaning- we are here, and with every step we arrive. Rushing through and thinking ahead just causes us anxiety and stress.

It's ok to look forward to something but it's important to enjoy the time in between. Just because there is somewhere else we would rather be doesn't mean that is where we need to be. Stay present!

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July Theme: Transitions

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Transitions by Ella Luckett

 
In the vinyasa flow practice we move from one posture to the next linking them with vinyasa and breath.  Focus on the poses is like focusing only on a photograph of your favorite day at the beach instead of breathing it in while you are there and absorbing the full serene, warmth and ocean air around you.

It’s like when tourists get so focused on getting a good selfie picture at the top of something magnificent, like Machu Pichu, that they don’t settle in, get quiet, and take in the glory of the site before them.

This month we are focused on the “In between space.” The little moments in between the glorious ones.  You might be going along in your practice focused on the postures themselves. You might focus on alignment, sensation, breath, and meditation while in the posture itself, but are you able to carry that through the transitions? Now, we’ll take our practice to the next level where we put energy into maintaining that meditative mind, qualitative breath and smooth body motion in the little moments between.

Enter in a little bit of “savoring.” Draw the sweetness you feel in the postures into the moments between them. A languid journey from Tadasana (Mountain pose, standing simply at the top of your mat) as you spread your arms wide and float and fly down to your forward fold.  Seeing the full long inhale as you step forward and rise up into High lunge.  Let your mind be fully engaged the entire time in the liquid, steadiness of breath, the clear and open mind, and a breath filled body.  In these little transitions our practice goes from a set of postures to a full embodiment of yoga’s “Bhav” or spiritual “mood.”

Then, when we bring it off the mat we go from relishing in only the highest moments, to being fully present through all of life. So if you currently in some kind of great transition breathe through each moment, and stay present through it all, no matter how frazzled it seems at times. If this isn’t a month of transition for you, then notice the little moments from here to there, the small transitions from work to play, what are the details of your life around you? Are you breathing through all of it?

Vinyasa is the linking of all the little moments into one big bouquet. Even the flowers that seem too small to matter, collectively make the vision.

Click here for a little clip where Robin Williams explains: “The Good Stuff.”

June Theme: Ascending the Summit

With yoga we have to always remember it’s a balancing swing. The release of attachment to results is the medicine to those held in the clutches of misery when they don’t get what they want. But we can’t hover at the front crest of the swing, any more then we can hover at the back end. Meaning, complacency is as much an obstacle to a free and happy life as anything. It’s the attachment to being unattached! Read More

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May Theme: Dvesa



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Dvesa is an obstacle (klesha) in the way of freedom. It is our avoidance of pain. I noticed during the spring month of April that I had a  lot of internal rules that helped steer me clear of things which even remotely reminded me of past pain or echoed possibility of pain. I'm, at times, too good at learning. Having built up a stockade of "don'ts" I realized this month it was time to tear them down and let myself walk into fires that once burned me. Testing my new layers of unshakable peace and love. You know what? I have learned how much I've grown, how much courage has built up under my scabs, and now I no longer need those thick shells to feel protected. Life is richer, more open, and I am grateful for every new experience, welcoming it in whether it carries potential for pain or not. 

--Ella Luckett


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April Theme: Thrive!



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Thrive by Ella Luckett


I was sitting near my friend on her wedding day as she was getting her hair done. I looked over at her face and I could see that her body was in the room, but her mind was in a million other places. Behind her eyes was a map of thoughts: did all the relatives get in okay, is the catering going to work out? on and on and on… The details of life, especially surrounding the big things, are endless. I could tell my friend was about to miss her wedding day. Her body was there, but her experience was split in a million directions.

I asked her if she wanted to join me in a five minute meditation after her hair was done. She said yes, absolutely.  We sat in two chairs, chaos all around, and breathed for five little minutes.

In that five minutes she became present to the beauty of the day. Her mind settled and released the unnecessary thoughts that were blocking her experience, and when she opened her eyes, there she was. She was back in her body, suddenly full of life and joy.

To this day, she thanks me for that moment.

The difference between surviving and thriving is almost always in the perspective. It’s in what type of breath you are taking in. Are you gasping in short shallow breaths to serve only the purpose of the moment? Or, can you breathe in big, and ride the moments like a wave – whether tumbling inside it, gliding on it’s crest - always with a laugh  just because you are in the ocean at all!?  

That is what our yoga practice is, friends. We take that daily moment to get inside our experience, instead of hovering all around it.  Sometimes there’s resistance, because most days are not our wedding day. Most days are pulling through the grind to realize the bigger picture. But our practice gives us the touch of that big picture now, in the present moment. Usually it takes a moment to get past the stuff that doesn’t feel so good. We travel deeper inside our body and mind and find that, at our core, we are peaceful. Just below the surface of stress, there’s a well of abundance that encompasses all the good and bad and gives us the gift of presence. So we don’t wait to look back at the end of a particular journey and appreciate it. We get to feel life's sweetness and saltiness more potently in every moment.  

This month notice the times when you are only half there. Gripping on for survival, racing through just to get done, or just dull and bored with the moment. Take a deep breath and loosen the grip, slow the gait, or shine your eyes. This life is made up of unmarked moments that you can either survive through -- or drink in, and thrive on!

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March Theme of the Month: Expectation, Inspiration, Communication

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Expectation, Inspiration and Communication by Ella Luckett


Expectation can get in the way of receiving. When we expect we are bound to be let down. But when we receive, everything is a gift.

I recently had an experience where my own expectations blinded me to the value of someone in my life. My own unmet expectations made me angry and uncommunicative. I realize in retrospect they were my expectations making me angry, not the person. My own frustration made me unsuccessful at communicating any desires from the relationship as something positive, or inspiring. Instead, mired in anger and frustration, I simply shut down and became distant… And then I lost them because of this distance. The loss is a great one. It took losing them to realize that I had been a victim only to my own expectations, and not one to that person’s lack of having the ability to be or give me what I wanted.

While I was dwelling in the story of what "should" have been, I became blind to the beauty of what was actually there. Something different then what I expected. Something I didn’t dream up myself, but that was being presented as a gift. Something that did actually make me happy, but in a different way then I had been attached to it looking.

We all have expectations from life. We dream things, are conditioned to want things, and also work hard toward achieving the things we want. But “expectation” is just a little far over the edge. Expectation is like the over ripe tomato. It has lost it’s inspiration to potentiality be something delicious by stewing it it’s own sense of itself.

When we were young and every experience was new, there was so much magic. It was so easy to get us to smile just by an adult presenting a simple thing in an inspired way. It could do us all some good to conjure back up that kind of open vision of what this life is to provide us.


So we want to keep, inspiration, momentum, communication, desire, achievement, and play, but experiment with high, but “OPEN” expectations of the result of all of those efforts. If you widen the scope if what comes your way perhaps it will contain just a little bit of something special that you hadn’t planned, for, but is in itself unique and amazing. How boring would life be if it was just a lever that we pull, and out comes exactly what we wanted.  

People are amazing creatures who each have their own gifts, and our expectations of them can block the colorful rays they are trying to bestow on us. 

So, this month, enjoy noticing your own expectations, and ask yourself if they are serving you or bringing you down. Transform them into inspiration and communication and see what you get!

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Loving Kindness by Lauren Slivosky

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This theme has been alive in my life very actively the past few months.  I used to think that in order to maintain good relationships or connections with the people in my life I needed to empathize with them no matter what the emotion.  In this way I attracted a lot of negative energies (insecurity, jealousy, anger, ext.) into my life.  Instead of trying to counteract these people and their emotions with joy and kindness I got bombarded with my own load of negativity for no reason at all but to simply be accepted by others!  As I write about it now it sounds crazy to me but I know that because I've learned that I can't let other people shape me and my emotions, I am very happy with my life and I am now reflecting that in everything I do and towards everyone I meet no matter who they are.  I come across ALL sorts of people at the restaurant and I approach each person with the same kindness and if they try to counteract that with a negative energy I work to maintain an indifference with them as opposed to a frustration.  It's really saved me a lot of my own energy and I'm glad for it, in fact I deal with less negative energy with this approach.  

"Love as an external focus, exterior to you, will always bring a sense of vulnerability, always needing constant validation by someone or something.  Love, as an internal focus projected outward, is a constant flow of self-assurance, self-acceptance, always striving to incorporate and project more of this blissful feeling of unity and harmony with all creation." - Ronna Star

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