December 26th, 2013
By Manduka Ambassador, Dana Damara
I love the holidays … I love decorating the tree, baking cookies with my daughters, pulling out holiday lights, lighting candles, the smell of pine cones and evergreen, pumpkin pie spice and the quietness at the end of the day that ends so early.
When I was a kid I loved baking with my mother, making decorations with my grandmother, eating homemade everything and running around the house with my cousins. I grew up around the corner from my “Auntie” and about six blocks from my grandmother. The holidays started the weekend before Thanksgiving and didn’t end until after the last football game was over on New Year’s Day.
I think that the holidays were the best part of my childhood. I was raised Catholic Italian in a family that was loud and boisterous. My grandmother’s home always smelled like spaghetti sauce and garlic, and when the holidays began it was a flurry of connecting, cooking and chaos. Actually it was always like that, holidays or not.
In the basement, my grandfather encased sausage and boiled live crab. Upstairs in the kitchen, my grandmother rolled out her homemade pasta, had her sauce going on the stove, basted the turkey in the oven, tended to the ham in the garage and us kids had to set the table and chop vegetables. My mother and my aunts talked and laughed a lot!
I can remember music playing, grown ups dancing, food and lots of wine. My grandmother sipped from the same glass of wine all day that had melting ice cubes in it. She had a house-coat for every meal, Jesus and Mary medallions around her neck, a Kleenex in her bra and her glasses on top of her head.
My family danced together, we laughed together, we teased each other, we fought loudly and we loved fiercely. We didn’t need the holidays to have a great time, the holidays just amplified everything.
There were several of us “little ones” who played pool, jumped on the beds, ran around outside without a coat, and played board games in the quiet of someone’s bedroom until we all fell asleep, usually on top of each other in one big bed.
A lot has happened since those days and times have changed. However, every holiday season comes and I feel the love from that time fill my heart. I can smell my grandmother’s homemade sauce, hear her voice singing in Italian while she worked in the kitchen.
I don’t “do” the holidays like my grandmother did; I wouldn’t even try! She was amazing! And unfortunately, I don’t have the opportunity to see my family over the holidays either. But the love I experienced during that time in my life fills me with such joy and gratitude.
Families move, they break up, they break down, they shift and they change. For many years I lived by the credo that “Your family can be one of blood or choice – either way, you have family.” I did this because when my family broke down I rebelled, I moved away, I made my own “family” and I did this to survive the pain I felt when all of that “connection, cooking and chaos” ended.
Now, some twenty odd years later, several thousands of hours on my mat, and at least hundreds of hours in church, I hold my family in my heart… my blood family. The ones that brought me into this world, that can trigger me and that love me unconditionally, even if I didn’t know that for years.
This year, give thanks for your family – the one that holds the reflection of who you were, who you are and maybe even a nugget of who you are becoming. There is nothing like family, nothing. When we deny our family we are denying our greatest gift. You needn’t see them, hang out with them, spend holidays with them – you can just love them.
December 18th, 2013
By Brian Hyman
“At the center of our being is a truth that shines brighter than a thousand suns.” – The Vedas
My experience as a teacher and student of yoga is that the center of our being is a cradle of infinite wisdom; knowingness within a realm of timelessness; a birthright of calm; a reservoir of love without boundaries; and the place where mind, body, and Spirit are informed by the rhythm of the cosmos.
The center of our being can be found in many ways. For example, I have used various religious, spiritual, and secular methods to find the center of my being. I have called upon God, Buddha, and Jesus; I have prayed to Shiva, Ganesh, and Hanuman; I have meditated on a mountain top, in the desert, and beside the ocean. I have also sang, danced, played music, and invoked the spirits of my ancestors.
Ultimately, the search for the center of our being is an inner journey. There is no right or wrong way to approach this type of self-examination. However, I would suggest the following three guidelines as means to remain determined while on such a path: 1) Be open, honest, and willing to discover truth in all its forms; 2) Be sincere with intentions and efforts; and 3) Lead with the heart.
Below are 5 ways to help illuminate fundamental truths and eternal wisdom within the center of your being.
When noise ceases, experiential knowledge supersedes intellect. Quietude stimulates concentration and comprehension. Amidst silence, a sense of interconnectedness with all things forges a path toward the center of our being.
How to Go There: Set aside times during the day to turn off the TV, radio, and computer. Choose moments each week to refrain from texting, talking, and emailing. Sit in silence and focus on the breath.
Nature is reliable and devoted to purpose; its consistency is trustworthy. Nature is a gauge by which thoughts can be realigned. Groundedness is established through communion with nature. When the integrity of nature is revered, awareness of Oneness becomes a pathway to the center of our being.
How to Go There: Go outside, touch the earth, look at or swim in the ocean, take a hike, work in a garden, and enjoy the sun, moon, and stars.
Yoga practitioners connect to the center of our being through mental, physical, and spiritual stimulation. For example, standing pose tadasana, or mountain pose, cultivates solidity and stillness; sitting pose sukhasana, or easy pose, allows for discovery of patience and presence; and supine pose savasana, or corpse pose, offers opportunity to learn humility through surrender.
How to Go There: Take a yoga class at a local studio or gym. Also, practice at home alone, or with a DVD or online class.
When a candle is lit, a drishti, or focal gaze, can be utilized to contemplate the flame. The eyes can then be closed and the image of the flame can become a point of focus within the mind (a yogic process known as trataka). Attention will shift from physical sight to Inner Vision; the center of our being can be accessed during this transition.
How to Go There: Find a quiet spot and light a candle. Focus on the breath to anchor this meditation in the present moment. If friends are invited to join this practice, create a circle and place the candle (or other fire source) in the middle of the group.
Prayer strengthens the energy of mindfulness. Prayer can be offered aloud and in silence; sitting, kneeling, and standing; communicated in solitude and among spiritual or religious friends. When prayer is utilized for sacred relationship, connection to the center of our being is made.
How to Go There: Pray to a higher power of your own understanding. Speak from the heart.
How do you find the center of your being? What do you find and feel when you go there? Please leave comments and suggestions below, we would love to hear from you! Namaste.
December 17th, 2013
By Patti Cocciolo
The holidays are officially here – Thanksgiving and Hanukkah are just behind us, and Christmas and New Year’s are right around the corner.
It’s easy for your yoga practice to lapse this time of year – it’s hard to find time to unroll your mat with so much going on. If you practice in the morning, a warm cozy bed can be hard to leave. If evening practice is your thing, holiday parties, shopping or increased workload often take priority. And if you travel at all over the holidays, all bets are off.
But here’s the thing – now is when you need your practice the most. It’s what will keep you peaceful when Aunt Bernice gives you yet another “hand crafted” macramé snowflake sweater or when your boss dumps a pile of work on you, Scrooge-style, on Christmas Eve. But if you can’t get to class, and a full home practice seems daunting, what’s a yogi to do?
Here’s a suggestion: choose something simple, whenever and wherever you need it. It might not be your whole practice, but it will connect you to your regular practice in a way that can be really powerful. Here are just a few examples to get you through the holidays, and tide you over until everything calms down a bit:
1. Sama Vritti Pranayama: This practice of even breathing (literally translated as “same breathing”) is a great starting point to find balance. The theory being, that if you can find evenness and balance in the breath, the mind will follow. And it’s super simple. In a seated position (at your desk or on a plane, train or automobile) or even standing (in line at the grocery store, or waiting for that plane, train or automobile…), find a long torso and spine. Now, breathe in for a count of five; breathe out for a count of five. Repeat. If counting is not your thing, chose a word or mantra to focus on, just make sure it’s the same on the inhale, as on the exhale. Taking just a few rounds of this breath can bring calm and clarity immediately, and you can literally do it anywhere, for any length of time.
2. Ardha Surya Namaskar: A few Half Sun Salutes can get your blood moving and get you focused again. Here’s the key: allow the breath to initiate each movement as you go through the linked poses. When we’re busy, our breath can get shallow and kind of lost – like it’s chasing after our body, trying to catch up. Give the breath a few minutes to be back in charge, and you’ll find your center again in no time. An added bonus? It takes only slightly more room than Tadasana. If your cubicle is big enough to stand in, it’s big enough for a half sun salute.
3. Prasarita Padottanasana C: In general, forward folds can relieve low back pain and calm the mind. In this version of the wide legged forward fold, the fingers are interlaced behind the back to aid in the opening of the shoulders, and the release of the head and neck. Try this after too many hours hunched over your computer, or standing behind a register at work. It’s also handy if you’ve just run past 10 gates at the airport, pushing a double stroller, with a giant toddler car seat slung over each arm. Just sayin’.
4. Apanasana and Simple Twist: When you finally hit the hay at night, even if it’s hours past your bedtime, give this one a go. Moving slowly, hug your knees into your chest, and let your knees fall to one side. Slowly bring them back up, and then let them fall to the other side. This simple action releases low back tension, aides in digestion, and it just plain ol’ feels good. It you practice Sama Vritti here too, it can ease an agitated mind and get you off to sleep a little faster.
5. Forward Fold: When it all gets to be too much, fold inward. You can pick your favorite: Paschimottanasana, seated, with your legs straight in front of you; Janu Sirsasana, seated, with one leg folded in to the midline; Uttanasana, a standing forward fold. And then there’s always sweet, delicious child’s pose. Whichever asana you choose, lead with your heart and bring your focus inside. This will keep the world at bay, even if just for a moment. Close your eyes to remove visual distractions and bring you even deeper into your center. Sama Vritti is dreamy here, too.
The most important thing to remember is that your yoga practice is exactly that: YOUR yoga practice. Find simple movements, asanas and pranayama to keep you connected to what you value most from your time on the mat. That should be enough to sustain you through the holidays and into the New Year.
Happy holidays, everyone! XO
December 16th, 2013
Where being able to breathe, be, let your fear disappear and feeling part of the community are staples. Your practice, your mat and you, become one. Let the sun salutations warm your body let the energy flow and your spirituality awaken.
Each instructor brings their own unique quality in their teachings. Born from experience is wisdom.
We wish to promote health and wellness and to inspire peace and bliss for many.
Ebb n’ Flow yoga was an idea brought into practice by a mother daughter team. When understanding the meaning of ebb and flow, consider that the entire cosmos is an ocean, and that all life lives within this sea. This body of water is made up of vibration, tides of energy that ebb and flow in natural cycles the same way the ocean does. As with all tides in life we ebb and flow, our energy, our spirituality even our personality ebbs and flows. It is important to acknowledge in life that there will always be changes, ups and downs, ins and outs, but to remember that their will always be an upcoming tide ready to bring you back to your true self. In our lives family has always played a strong role in staying grounded, and being true. Whenever I ebb too high she is always there to reel my head back out of the clouds, or whenever she flows too low I’m there to pull her back up to the surface. This comfort, strength, and confidence that we find in the ebb and flows of our own family is what we hope to establish here at Ebb n’ Flow yoga. The place for you to come to be grounded, to be well and to find ones true self.
December 15th, 2013
Give great this season with a Manduka eGift Card. Let the yogis on your list pick their gift + we're sharing the love: 10% of proceeds go directly to Off The Mat Into The World®. Off the Mat, Into the World® (OTM) is a non profit organization, dedicated to bridging yoga and activism. Their mission is to use the tools of yoga to inspire conscious, sustainable activism. OTM helps individuals take the path of yoga “off the mat and into the world," expanding the sphere of change outward to local and global communities. OTM does this by facilitating personal empowerment through leadership trainings, fostering community collaboration, and initiating local and global service projects.
You can support the practice of your loved one and also support communities around the world!
Click here to learn more about Off the Mat, Into the World.
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