November 12th, 2013

Appreciating Your Asana

By Manduka Ambassador,

“The essence of all beautiful art, all great art, is gratitude.
Friedrich Nietzsche”

Yoga at its essence is the art of transformation. Its practice is accompanied by magnificent postures that can reach super-human levels. As a practicing yogi/yogini, appreciating these postures (asanas) as a work of art and a path to magical transformation can sometimes be difficult. Getting into poses that require a lot of strength and dedication are not an overnight phenomenon. Yoga has been “celeb-ified” by yogis and yogini’s getting into beautiful poses with grace and ease in magazines, facebook, twitter, instagram and the like. It is absolutely incredible, so how am I going to get there? And how long is it going to take? How can one appreciate advanced asana with gratitude and as a work of art? Especially when we sometimes find ourselves listening to the “inner critic” because your asana doesn’t look like your neighbors.

So what’s the point? Is it that important to my own personal transformation to get into pincha mayurasana? Well.. the answer is of course NO. A BIG NO. I think the bigger question is to grasp a higher understanding of who and what we really are. Of course, wanting to get to these poses can most definitely help propel a yoga practice into action. I know that was the case for me. I would hear my teacher instruct the more advanced yogi’s, and I would feel completely left out. Even though she would preface this by stating how “acceptance” and “patience” should be our practice if we couldn’t get into that particular pose on that day. Well, come on.. That’s just not going to happen, that’s the truth. You hear the words, but somehow, when your over run by your “inner critic” you do not hear “have patience”, you hear… “What’s your problem?” “Why did you even come to class?” “She’s totally fit, so its so easy for her.” “That guy just came to yoga for the first time? What gives!” Or whatever other story likes to play on repeat.

The purpose of such postures is to get to what lies beyond the surface, the connection between the body and mind. Most which require strength, balancing prowess, compassion and a whole lot of patience.

In my personal practice, I was able to moderately move towards more advanced poses with a lot of work, practice and PATIENCE. The practice itself is what has had the most effect on my life. I began to really evaluate what the purpose was to getting into these more complex postures. It wasn’t about balancing, or fancy sequencing, it was about appreciating, and having gratitude for where I was in that particular moment. It took me longer than I would like to admit to come to that realization.

A few days ago one of my students was having a hard time getting into Bakasana (Crow Pose) on her first go. She was so frustrated, and I thought how lucky she is. I remember this feeling- the feeling of defeat when everyone else was able to get into a pose and I was the only one who was trying to figure out what was going on. Those are some of the best moments to experience. That is the moment of transformation; that is the practice of yoga, of union, of patience, of love. What an incredible learning opportunity.

Looking on Facebook and Instagram on the daily seeing people post pictures of these incredible forms have a different affect on me now. I know how much effort and work this entails, and how these bodies are truly a work of art. I have realized that advanced asana is subjective. On a practical level advanced asana requires a proper warm up, prep poses and extreme mindfulness. Asana is an integral part of a yoga practice, but most importantly is your approach, your intention. How you appreciate and accept where you are in THIS moment with deep gratitude.

November 7th, 2013

No One Smiles In Chair Pose

By Manduka Ambassador, Patti Cocciolo

No one, except my 85-year old mother, that is.

My Mom, Dolly, started doing yoga only two years ago. She had just lost her beloved husband, Jack, and was in need. Of something. When your heart breaks, it creates a space, an opening. Fortunately, into that space came yoga, by way of her amazing teacher, Cathy Yonaitis.

When Cathy and my Mom first started their work together, my mother was very weak – both physically and emotionally. She was unsteady in every sense of the word. By starting with restorative poses, Cathy helped Mom find the space in her body and the permission in her heart to work through her grief. From the start, the focus was on the breath, allowing her to literally breathe through her feelings of loneliness and loss.
As my mother’s heart started to get stronger, she and Cathy added core and back strengthening poses to support in her body what was happening in her spirit. And now, after almost two years together, Mom is working with balance poses, both against the wall and in the middle of the room. She is a fierce warrior and a steady tree. And yes, she even smiles in chair pose.

Cathy put it best. She told me, “During our sessions, your mother and I breathe, we laugh, and sometimes cry at the situations that life deals us. We honor each other’s feelings, and we connect with each other’s light, the divine presence within. Yoga teaches us that no matter what the circumstance, happy, sad, strong, or weak, yoga is here to serve us. By honoring where we are each day, we can begin our practice new each day, and choose a practice that serves us.”

My Mom’s life has changed dramatically. She has the ability to maneuver every day life so much better than before. She can walk steadily without her walker, and she sometimes gets across the room before she realizes her cane is way back where she started. My mother has found her voice again. She is as warm, as funny, as sharp, as involved, and as interesting as ever. And her heart has opened again. That, as anyone who knows her will tell you, is a beautiful thing - for everyone she comes in contact with.

When Cathy mentioned the first yoga sutra, "Now the exposition of yoga is being made", she translates it as, "We begin here.” She said, “This means that each day, each moment is an opportunity for growth, transformation, for healing, for love.”

I can’t imagine anything better at any age. Maybe that’s why Mom’s smiling.

November 5th, 2013

A Step Off Of The Karmic Hamster Wheel

By Manduka Ambassador, Caleb Asch

It’s no secret that most yoga teachers aren’t in it for the money. Like any profession there are those who are the “rock stars” but the majority of us do this because we love it.

Being one of the latter group, I have a family of four and making ends meet at the end of the day is a challenge. We all know that money matters, especially when it deals with survival and is stressful. I have found many ways to deal with the stress. One of the most effective is a healing modality called the “Emotional Freedom Technique (“EFT”), aka “Meridian Tapping” or just plain “Tapping”.

The technique is really quite elegant in it’s simplicity and accessibility. You simply bring up an issue (and it works with ANY issue, especially physical pain), you find the emotional charge underneath the issue (there always is one), and you “tap on it”. The actual tapping itself is done on the acupuncture meridian points around the eyes, cheeks, mouth, collarbones, ribs and top of the head. There are nine points in all. Ergo, if you want to calm down, this technique will get you there. What’s more is the issues that you tap on don’t come back, so the peace you feel is real and lasting. (For more information on “tapping” go to

After having used this technique successfully for anxiety, I opted to try it on my issues around money. The first step is always to see how you feel. Is there a corresponding sensation in your body? In my experience and practice, if you quiet down and be honest with yourself, there is always an emotional reaction to the reality. In my case I was angry and frustrated. I also felt victimized by my circumstances, and was blaming them. Even though I am one of the hardest working yoga teachers I know, I was stuck. There was an invisible ceiling that no matter how hard I worked I couldn’t get beyond. No matter what I did I couldn’t get ahead. The more I pressed, the more it pushed back.

If you pay any credence at all to the “Law of Attraction” then you know that on a vibrational level at least, you attract what you’re focused on. The trick is to become aware of what you’re focused on. It’s not some intensive narrowing down of your attention. It’s different than “Ok now, I’m just going think about a million bucks in my bank account,” and if you do that long enough it “magically” happens. I found that when I wasn’t looking, my mind was always worrying in the background, always anticipating the next breakdown. I realized that I perceived my world through the filter of my own personal scarcity glasses. What I looked out on as my reality gave me back evidence for my beliefs. Everywhere I looked I saw struggle, lack, not enough, and “I don’t deserve” or “I’m not good enough”. And I noticed a distinct lack of joy in my life. True joy isn’t really about anything in particular. There is no reason for joy; it just is, and I had forgotten the last time I felt it!

I looked into my past for more beliefs and ideas I had created around money, i.e., “it’s scarce”, “in order to make money you have to work harder”, or “money isn’t spiritual”. I made a list and I tapped on all of it. Afterwards, I felt much better.

Around this time the studio I work for notified me that I was eligible for medical benefits under their plan. Financially, it wasn’t feasible, so I chose to look at my former professional industry and what was available to me upon retirement. As it turned out, upon my retirement I was eligible for full medical benefits for my family, and additional income way beyond my expectations.

This opportunity has been available to me for the last 4 years and I didn’t know it because I couldn’t see the forest through the trees of my money beliefs. The last 3 years have been the hardest on us to date financially, and the only reason for the difficulty was my coming from my ingrained, limited, world view of there never being enough.

The actual amount of money I own hasn’t changed, but I cannot look out into a world of scarcity anymore.

Since this breakthrough I have “found” over $1500 that’s either owed or coming to me in some way, giving evidence to my belief that my outer reality is a reflection of my inner reality.

When I reexamined these old wounds, and the decisions that came out of them, I was continuing to run on my financial Karmic hamster wheel forever. Letting go of all this past baggage, which had been robbing me of the fullness of my life, has freed me to cultivate trust in my reality as a benign, supportive, and nurturing one. The universe is abundant! Period. I am so grateful.

November 1st, 2013

Let’S Go There – Indulge And Onward

Over the past 8 weeks, we’ve asked you to Go There with us. To that place a little outside our comfort zone, where we boldly dare to let ourselves come out to play, explore and grow. To Go There is a powerful thing, and nearly 1,900 of you did through photos shared on Instagram and Facebook.

In this last theme, we explored Going There through self-care: INDULGE. An indulgence is a gift. It restores, uplifts and allows us the peace to play. Here are some of your indulgent moments:

Here is the photo from our winner, @annlevine who won a decadent PRO Squared Mat, blocks, and towels.

@annlevine - Winner!

And here are some of our other favorites!








Now we continue onward, to There. Out and beyond, with a special warmth for the THRIVE, VERVE and EMBRACE that helped us on the path. Feel free to share your thoughts about below.

It’s an honor to be part of your practice.

With love,

October 31st, 2013

Lead With The Heart

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?