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  • Yogi of the Week: Christa

    Meet Christa.

    Christa used to manage broadway shows for a living. That's how she found yoga.

    A musician working on one of the shows also happened to teach Iyengar yoga, and could sense the stress and pressure that Christa was under. He ended up offering her private instruction for close to 6 months – all he asked in return was that she ‘pay it forward’ to someone else in need.

    Christa took that request and ran with it. She has opened a non-profit organization called Compass Yoga, teaching free yoga classes in New York City to people who don't otherwise have the opportunity, or the funds, to begin a yoga practice.

    This past spring, Christa went on her first trip to India. It was an experience that broke her down and built her back up completely new, and more powerful. She now refers to her life in two eras: her life before India, and now her life after India. She returned home with a newfound gratitude for all of the opportunities she has available to her, and feels more determined in her purpose to spread the benefits of yoga and meditation to more people.

    Yoga has truly been therapeutic for Christa.  It has helped her to work through her father’s passing, and to let go of the guilt she still carried from their rocky relationship. Yoga taught her that we don’t have to wait for healing, it is within us and available to us all the time. We have all the answers and all the knowledge we need; we just need to tap into it.

    Practice On.

    --Manduka

  • Yogi of the Week: Jenn

    Meet Jenn.

    Jenn has no idea why she started practicing yoga so many years ago.

    One day, she wandered into a yoga class at her university’s gym, and admits that at first she didn’t really like it: “All the things the teacher was asking me to do seemed entirely out of reach. Still my mind? Twist like what? Stand on my arm and head? What the? But for some reason I kept going back, and I kept unfolding and growing and after awhile I stopped doing yoga and yoga started doing me.”

    These days, Jenn’s yoga practice is a "luscious love." She is heavily involved in Africa Yoga Project, an organization bringing jobs, improved health and leadership training to Africa's urban slums. What was supposed to be one teacher assistant opportunity at a Baptiste teacher training in Kenya in 2009 revealed her passions and new purpose. At a recent fundraising event in the San Francisco Bay Area, where Jenn helped raise over $50,000 for Africa Yoga Project and Children’s Hospital, someone told her it  was the most inspiring day of their life. That moment brought everything into a new light.

    Her practice has given her patience, deeper relationships, unexpected lessons everyday and maybe most surprisingly, a job!

    Practice On.

    --Manduka

  • Yogi of the Week: Jennifer

    Meet Jennifer.

    She completely accepts herself. Acknowledges her insecurities, bares her flaws and loves them all. But it didn't used to be like this. That kind of self realization comes with practice.

    For all that yoga has added to her life, maybe the most significant is what it took away: the judgment. "The first time I didn't judge myself based on those around me, the first time I practiced fully on my mat, fully with my breath.  All of that came together in a moment I didn't grasp until I left the class and realized I didn't judge myself for a full 90 minutes."

    She may have started yoga "to look like Madonna, of course," but her yoga became her path and her practice eight years ago, when she was both a new mom to her baby daughter and a daughter to her mom dealing with ovarian cancer. She learned a lot about the circular nature of life, and how to live fully present in the flow of it all. That is complete and total freedom.

    Practice On.

    --Manduka

  • Yogi of the Week: Grayson

    Meet Grayson.

    Grayson is in high school. He's 16 to be exact. That's pretty young to have suffered a terrible sports injury. After breaking his back training for his most beloved sport, Grayson knew that his future in football was over. When he recovered, he was left with a football-shaped void in his life. He tried a few other sports – rock climbing, mountain biking, trail running, and then yoga. Unlike the other physical activities, yoga helped relieve the back pain leftover from his injury. It became his new center – with mentoring support from his mother Stacey, a yoga teacher and studio owner herself. After just one year of yoga practice, Grayson enrolled in a teacher training and now is one of the youngest RYTs in the country.

    Before yoga, Grayson was 'a run of the mill jock,' as he puts it. He lived on protein shakes, used the weight room like a second home and couldn't touch his toes for miles. But yoga helped to break down all of his barriers -- while expanding his mind and body to places he'd never been able to reach, or even knew existed. It's been Divine.

    Grayson admits having been a little 'ignorant to what yoga is' – assuming it was easy, a lot of people sitting around and chanting weird syllables. What he got from yoga instead was patience, love for all things, a non-judgmental outlook on others and incredible strength (he thought he was strong before, but now he's really IN his body).

  • Yogi of the Week: Jessie

    Meet Jessie.

    Jessie ran away from an abusive household, and ran deep into the mountains of Montana. Feeling “nerved up,” she turned to yoga on the recommendation of her new neighbors. 7 years later, her practice is the “place” she goes to get herself over her fears.

    A lot of Jessie’s practice is about control – mind and body. Now her asthma doesn’t even bother her anymore. Yoga taught her to stand up for herself – and the world, from a place of responsibility instead of reaction. She has become an environmental steward, studying natural resource management alongside her husband, a timber faller. “Our world is like a garden; properly thinned, managed, and recycled the garden will flourish; left unchecked it will not thrive.”

    As she likes to say, "today is done. Tomorrow is fresh with no mistakes in it. Live well and dwell little." Her practice has shown her how far she’s come, particularly from a difficult childhood, and empowers her to come to peace.

    Practice On.

    --Manduka

  • Yogi of the Week: Lashel

    Meet Lashel.

    Lashel started practicing yoga 10 years ago, and she says that she still learns something new every time she goes to a class. “That is what I love about yoga; the practice is never ‘finished’. There is so much to learn, and every teacher has his/her own unique qualities. I am inspired by teachers who understand that I am me, I am not like everyone else, and my practice is mine and doesn't look like everyone else’s.”

    She still remembers the first time she shared an OM with a large group of people in a yoga studio. She felt the vibration of those OMs running through her and for a split second, she felt almost frightened. Then all she felt was joy spreading throughout her entire body. Even now Lashel still gets a tingle of excitement just before the first OM in class.

    Lashel is passionate about taking care of the world we live in. She feels that the money we spend is our most powerful tool for change. “I try to think about the dollars I spend, and make them count for the things I want to see more of. I don't want my hard earned money to count for or invest in things that harm the world I live in.”

    Practice On.

    --Manduka

  • Yogi of the Week: Rick

    This is Rick.

    He started practicing yoga to look inside himself. Ancient texts, meditation, asana - it was a study in his own true nature. One day in class he heard the words "open to grace" – and that's exactly what he felt. Tears rushed down his face, his heart blew open and his posture… totally fell apart. Eureka moments really can sweep us off our feet.

    Rick admits that he can be clumsy (he IS a human, after all), but yoga has given him the power to fearlessly look inside - to see the things that haven't awakened and acknowledge the parts that are loving, open and heartfelt. He found connection.

    What Rick didn’t expect to find through yoga is an amazingly supportive community. Being a member of this kula has shown him that there is someone there to hold you up - whether it’s in a handstand or in a hug. We are ABUNDANT here.

    Practice On.

    --Manduka

  • Yogi of the Week: Mia

    Meet  Mia.

    Mia has always felt that teaching and inspiring others has been her calling. She found yoga while teaching cardio kick boxing in 2002, and decided to try yoga to help stretch her body. But she never guessed how much yoga would stretch her soul as well.

    Mia feels that it’s her dharma to be a teacher because she can feel the teachings flow through her as she teaches therapeutic yoga to prenatal inmates in Cook County Prison, as well as to domestic violence survivors. For her, it is amazing to see the look on their faces after a helpful yoga class.

    Mia believes that every person has a specific and important reason for being on this planet and that we have a responsibility to fulfill what we're meant to do. She feels that everyone can have the confidence, open heartedness and strength to live our destiny, and that yoga can be a way to help us figure out what that is.

    Practice On.

    --Manduka

  • Yogi of the Week: Danielle

    This is Danielle.

    We often like to help tell the story of our Yogi of the Week, but we have no words as beautiful as hers. This is her story:

    I remember my very first yoga class. I hid in the back because I was afraid the teacher might ask me to leave or tell me that I couldn't do yoga. At home, I practiced with videos with no one around to watch. I came up with my own modifications. In my first class, I didn't know if I should take my prosthetic leg on or off. I didn't even buy a mat because I didn't want to get my hopes up. I didn't think of myself as a person who could practice yoga. Now, when I go into class five times a week, I always remember that first class and the limits I almost set on myself.

    Diagnosed with cancer at fifteen, my leg was amputated when I was sixteen. When I returned to cross country and track, the pounding hurt my residual limb and felt too rough on my body. Four lung surgeries and a second round of chemotherapy later, I was overweight and weaker than I had ever been. I kept acting in college and after I graduated but I didn't think I could make a career out of it because of my body. I wrote but felt isolated and alone. Finally, I decided I didn't want to wait around for doctors to determine what kind of life I would be able to live. My mom and husband helped me do research and radically alter my lifestyle. Three years later, I'm still in remission. When I start to worry "what if" about my next scan or the success of my screenplay, I remember to be here in this moment.

    Yoga has taught me to live in uncertainty. As a creative person, I used to be devastated by the cycle of acceptance and rejection. I'd put so much of my heart into a project and get so giddy when an agent requested a full manuscript; only to have my hopes dashed by rejection. Yoga helps me find peace now. Peace gives me the strength to keep editing and reapplying. During the highs and lows, I always have my mat. Yoga reminds me that daily practice is more important than end results.

    I believe disabled people deserve an opportunity to tell our stories. Mainstream media has such a narrow definition of what is beautiful, healthy, and sexy. In a world where so many people are sick from a lifestyle of fast food and high-stress living, everyone has a million excuses for why they can't change. I aspire to be a role model to people of all abilities. You are never too old, too sick, too broken to begin your journey toward wellness.

     

    Practice On.

    --Manduka

  • Yogi of the Week: Sherrie

    Meet Sherrie.

    Sherrie is a yogi who truly feels inspired to do her best on and off the mat.

    Her most memorable moment on the mat is when she successfully performed her very first arm balance – crow pose. She used to come to class unable to get into the pose, and would even tell herself she’d never be able to do it. One day, she was able to hold both of her feet up and prove herself wrong. Since then her mantra has been “never say never”.

    Off the mat, Sherrie is a Registered Nurse. During her studies, she had the opportunity to serve lunch to the homeless at The Midnight Mission as well as administer Flu Vaccines at a church in Downtown LA. Sherrie is a believer in Karma yoga – something you can practice every day by doing something for others without receiving anything in return.

    Yoga is Sherrie’s sanctuary that brings her peace and enlightenment: “It is such an important part of my life that it flows through my blood. I place my trust in yoga to clear my mind and focus on the present.”

    Practice On.

    --Manduka