October 31st, 2013
By Manduka Ambassador, Brian Hyman
I was near the end of a 30-Day Yoga Challenge when I realized that something amazing had happened as a result of taking one yoga class every day for nearly 30 days.
One night after class, I got into my car to drive home. The rearview mirror faced downward. I did not move the mirror before I last exited the car. I sat for a moment and contemplated how the mirror could have shifted. I tried to remember if I bumped or adjusted the mirror or hit any large potholes. I was without an answer. I would have let this go, however a strange feeling surrounded this moment and I felt that I needed to figure this out. A few minutes passed. I then realized what happened. The mirror had not moved. I moved.
I had heard to “lead with the heart” often during the Challenge classes. As I sat in my car that night, I realized that this mantra had now inspired me off the mat – my spine was elongated; my shoulders were rolled back; my posture was sturdy; my chest was open; my gaze was focused; my mind was calm. I was content, relaxed, and grounded. I had learned to lead with the heart.
My physical, mental, and emotional states of being forever changed that night. My yoga practice healed my heart that night.
I looked into the mirror. A light shone from behind my eyes. I sat up tall. I readjusted the mirror upward to meet my gaze.
The following lines by Rumi describe what I felt at that moment:
“This is when the power of love came into me
and I became fierce like a lion
then tender like the evening star.”
After I learned to lead with the heart, I began a daily practice of yoga and meditation. I then became a yoga teacher to bring the healing benefits of yoga to others who did not know about it or could not get to it.
When I now lead with the heart, I realize that each day that we are given is a gift; that each encounter with another human being is an opportunity to share experience, strength, hope, and love.
I must now thank Chelsey Charbeneau who completed the 30-Day Yoga Challenge with me. I will be forever grateful for her friendship and guidance. Thank you Daniel Stewart, Claire Hartley, Jen Black, Michelle Goldstein, and the other teachers at Rising Lotus Yoga. Much gratitude to Saul David Raye, who taught me to go deeper into the heart so that I could teach others how to do the same.
How has your practice affected your life off the mat? How do you lead with the heart?
October 29th, 2013
By Manduka Ambassador Patti Cocciolo
What kind of crazy person decides to become a yoga teacher at 42? Apparently this kind of crazy person does. But to be fair, it was years in the making.
In 2004, I was just a few months pregnant with my first son when I walked into a prenatal yoga class in Mill Valley, California. I was nervous about everything at that point – the changes to my body, my relationship, and my career. I was also completely terrified that I would do something to harm the tiny being growing inside me. As I unrolled my mat, I was immediately struck by how calm all the women were. They seemed to have none of the fear that was controlling my every move. They were grounded and peaceful. They moved about the room fluidly, seemingly unencumbered by their giant, round bellies. They were laughing quietly and smiling. They were gorgeous.
Then our teacher arrived. She looked like an angel to me, with blue eyes that met each student with love. From our first encounter, I imagined that scene from When Harry Met Sally…. “I’ll have what she’s having.” She was, like her students, grounded…yet floating. Over the course of the next hour and a half, she gently guided all of us – from first trimester newbies to full term mamas – through a series of poses designed to put us in touch with the power of our bodies, and specifically, to put is in touch with the power of the prana coursing through our veins. I was hooked.
Two trimesters flew by, and I became one of those mamas. I felt both steady and nimble. I gained more weight than I know (I stopped counting after a certain point…), and yet I felt light as a feather. But more importantly, I wasn’t freaked out anymore. As important as the benefits to my body were, the benefits to my mind and my spirit were literally life changing. What a wonderful gift that is to give someone: to teach them how to use the body to open the spirit. That is some powerful stuff. I thought to myself, what a wonderful way to make a living, to impart peace and calm and kindness into the world – one person at a time.
Many years, another son, and a move to Los Angeles later, I finally did something about that long nascent thought. Six years after donating my beaten-up old mat to Goodwill, I took a yoga class. And while the room was different, and the practice was different, I had the same wonderful feeling I had all those years ago: I’ll have what these people are having.
I immediately signed up for an intensive, four-week 200-hour teacher training. (Ok, to clarify, I am also a person who signed up for a marathon as a way to lose my last bit of baby weight…) It was the hardest, most terrifying, humbling thing I have ever done. I was the second oldest person in the room. I was a marathon runner, but I was waaaaay out of yoga shape. My ego was taking a serious beating. I was missing my children terribly. Yet as hard as it was, something kept me there. And it was this: not only was I getting back in touch with my practice, I loved teaching. I was finally living my secret dream to follow in the steps of my yoga teacher from all those years ago. I was in heaven.
It’s been two years since I finished that training, and I’m now a yoga teacher. Our family has moved back to Marin County, and I often teach in the very same rooms where my teacher first inspired me to make yoga a way of life. I am grateful to all the teachers who supported, loved and inspired me along the way. But every day, I think about you, Zoe Collier Rolland, and how you completely changed my life. Thanks for giving me some of what you were having, and allowing me to indulge. I’ll do my best to pay it forward.
October 24th, 2013
By Manduka Ambassador, Dana Damara
With this season change I am again reminded of the law of impermanence. Nothing stays the same. Nothing. As I watch the leaves turn, and feel the change in the air, I quickly remember that we are no different than the trees and we too yearn to flow with nature and its’ faith in what is.
This past summer I moved my children from the Pacific Northwest to live with me in Northern California. And while my ex-husband and I both knew that theoretically, this was for the best, it still sidelines us every now and again. The longer nights will certainly give us all an opportunity to go inward and take inventory with what just happened!
All summer we played, we hiked, met new people and enjoyed each other. Being the momma bear that I am, I strived to make things as “normal” as possible for them. But the reality was that it wasn’t normal; the minute they stepped foot on California soil, everything changed. Some days that change is like a gentle breeze that blows through our life. And on other days it’s like a tsunami and we all get pummeled to the ground.
As I watch them navigate new friends, new schedules, new sports teams, new EVERYTHING … I am proud of them. Their openness, strength, and honesty, their trust in me and in their dad, and their trust in this Universe inspires me. But even the bravest of souls cry out when things get a bit like a dust storm.
It’s change … it’s transformation… it’s NEW. Some of us thrive in it and some of us hunker down, clinging to what was because it’s familiar and feels comfortable. Now to be fair, transformation and change, letting go, doesn’t have to be a radical event. You can let go of something small … you can change your life 2 degrees and create a brand new path for yourself.
I guess the depth of your change depends on just how much you have accumulated and how much you cling to stuff… people or even ideas…
So how do you navigate through change and letting go – especially when it involves other people?
1. Just sit. Sit in the uncomfortable-ness. Sit in the grief, the pain, the fear … feel all of it. Just be with it all because it will move through you. Don’t try to fix anything and don’t try to stuff it down.
2. Appreciate. Look outside your box of life and see what’s waiting for you to embrace, to love, to cherish and to be grateful for. Sometimes we cling so desperately to what we thought was ours, we miss out on what’s sitting there, just waiting to be recognized.
3. Look for the lesson. And there is one… for your growth and evolution.
4. Let go of Scarcity. Subscribe to the belief that there is enough… enough money, enough time, enough love… enough of everything and when you let go, more will come. It’s a law.
5. Let go Gracefully … with love, gratitude and compassion for what was (even if it hurts), what is and then be open to the miracle of what comes next.
6. Trust. Trust that the Universe is handing you everything you need but if your hands are full you can’t receive right?
So after your tantrum of wanting something and not getting it, wishing circumstances were different or trying to change things to your liking. After the tears have subsided, take a breath and look around you. Be with what is … be in your stuff and you will witness such beauty and grace it will astound you.
October 22nd, 2013
In the past I always went through this journey of dieting like I was losing my best friend. It often began with the “taking away” of something, in my case delicious treats. I love food, I love to cook and I love to eat…but I also love being healthy. I started to find that every time I would diet or detox I went into this militant mode of “I WILL NOT EAT ANYTHING Bad” as my mantra. I would approach it almost as a punishment for “eating bad”. I thought that self-care would come naturally with dieting since it was in the best interest of your body. Right? Well, It took me a long while to figure out that was not entirely accurate. The energy we give to our food and to ourselves was a bigger culprit to your overall healthy then just eating salad.
I recently led a detox workshop, which I do four times a year seasonally. We all join together to clean and renew and find balance internally and externally. It is so much fun to do this as a group, to that the support of our sangha. I can’t stress enough how important it is during this time to be gentle and caring with our bodies and our thoughts.
A few days ago one of my students who is currently doing the detox came to my morning class, she was clearly very anxious and approached me right before we started. She was feeling terrible because she had a little sugar “slip up” during the detox. She proceeded telling me how she wanted to have a hard and sweaty class because she felt guilty. I stopped at that moment and thought, this sounds oddly familiar. So it’s not enough that she already feels guilty because of the minor slip up, but now she wants to make her body pay for it? Instantly being able to relate, we spoke about this briefly and instead decided to do some restorative asana postures instead of going into a vigorous practice. She realized how much more this benefited her body and her state of mind and she left feeling totally elated.
I’m not sure exactly what happens to us when we get into this mode of self-punishment when things go astray, especially when it comes to eating and food. I feel that with all the time that has gone by, and all the studying I have done… this is still a difficult habit break free from even for me. I have to constantly remind myself that IT IS OK to enjoy the things life has to offer, like chocolate and nut butter…in moderation of course. It isn’t the end of the world if there is a minor speed bump along the way. Self-punishment is clearly not the answer and it negates all the other work we do to make us pretty incredible human beings. Then there’s that!
Using our energy to feel good when you’re doing something great for your health like a detox. Taking care of yourself is a practice, being compassionate to yourself is a practice. Finding balance when your making a change in your life can be challenging but it does make it easier when you have the support of your community to help you. That being said, here is a truly delicious recipe for us to without feeling guilty.
Vegan Chocolate Ginger Orange Cupcakes (YUMMMM!)
Serves 12 Large Cupcakes
3 cups all purpose flour (organic unbleached if you have it)
2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups natural cane sugar
1 2/3 cups water (or cold freshly brewed coffee)
1 cup canola oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 tablespoons freshly grated ginger
4 tablespoons zested orange peel
1 tablespoon orange juice
4 tablespoons cider vinegar
Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Mix all dry ingredients and whisk to combine. Add water, oil, vanilla, orange juice, ginger and orange peel. Stir to combine. Add vinegar and stir quickly together. Once the mix turns slightly dark then you know you've incorporated all the vinegar and you're set to pour it into muffin tins or even two cake pans. Bake for 15 minutes for a medium sized cupcake. Allow sitting in pan for 5 minutes, removing and placing on wire rack until completely cool.
Ingredients (for frosting):
6 oz. vegan cream cheese
1/4 cup vegan butter
2-3 tbsp shortening
3 tbsp limoncello
1/2 tsp lemon extract
1 tsp lemon zest
3 cups powdered sugar
crystallized ginger, to taste, minced, to top
Recipe (for frosting):
Combine all ingredients but ginger and mix well. It shouldn't have a soupy consistency. If it does, add more sugar. I like to place it in the refrigerator to firm it up before I frost.
October 18th, 2013
This Fall is about returning to YOU, allowing yourself to indulge and provide that self care that you so greatly deserve. It’s about giving yourself permission to receive, taking in a quite moment and welcoming delicious and decadent goodness into your life, body and practice.
Over the past two weeks we’ve been lucky enough to receive a glimpse of how our yoga community embraces the moment, welcomes life with open arms and proudly accepts and embraces their uniqueness.
Thank you to all who opened their hearts and shared your inspiring stories with us.
Here is a photo of our winner, @Kaysqui embracing herself as a US soldier and yogi and a few of our other favorite #LetsGoThere Instagrams:
@Kaysqui - Winner!
Over the next two weeks, we’d love to see how you pamper yourself and give into your indulgent dreams and wishes. Tag your Instagram photos with #LetsGoThere and @MandukaYoga so we can see your journey. We will be selecting a winner to receive a luxurious home yoga sanctuary of their own – The PRO Squared, two unBLOKs, and two eQua hand yoga towels.
#LetsGoThere and Practice On,
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