So what’s going to make you happy? Let’s get more specific: what’s going to make your brain happy? And let’s focus on things that are simple and easy to do instead of stuff like winning the lottery.
This article from www.thriveglobal.com notes five ways neuroscience answers that question. Try some of these techniques out for yourself;
2. Smile - and wear sunglasses
The brain isn’t always very smart. Sometimes your mind is getting all this random info and it isn’t sure how to feel. So it looks around for clues, called “biofeedback." The idea is that your brain is always sensing what is happening in your body and it reviews that information to decide how it should feel about the world.
You feel happy and that makes you smile. But it works both ways: when you smile, your brain can detect this and say, “I’m smiling. That must mean I’m happy.” So happiness makes you smile, but smiling can also produce happiness. Feeling down? Smile anyway. “Fake it until you make it" can work.
Continue reading about how to make our brains happy HERE, and then check out the rest of our upcoming workshops and events to enliven your body and being as well.
I went to India the first time in 2008. I saw this trip as a once in a life-time opportunity to travel with my teacher to her Guru's ashram for a teaching on Shri Vidyaa. I had recently separated from my first husband, moved into a new house and had two small-ish kids, but somehow, someway, I was going to make the trip work logistically and financially. I expected that this adventure would change my life in some way, as many who take a spiritual journey do. I am happy to report I was not disappointed, although I can’t really pinpoint how it changed me.
I had done a fair amount of travel before, but honestly nothing I had encountered was quite like India. For a year or so after I returned I would weep when I saw a scene in a movie that took place in India, I missed it so much. I just wanted to walk barefoot and eat with my fingers again. Many of the things I purchased there held on to a certain scent, including my journal, and when that smell ultimately dissipated, I was heartbroken.
I can’t say why I feel different each time I return. It could be the practices that I have done while there, or the teachings received and the temples visited. Some of the Gurus I met there would laugh at our earnest group of travelers, asking why did we bother to make the trip? "God is everywhere! Even back home in America! You don’t need to come all this way to find God!” (This is obviously not sanctioned by the travel bureau.) While I understand that theory technically, there is just some way that this particular western mind is able to experience that more in India. It could be that I just want that to be true, or that the energetic vortex is stronger there, or that all of the practices done over the centuries have really changed the environment. But really, I don't care what the reason is, because for me, it just is. Each time I have gone it has been the same-there is a little sigh of relief when I realize I am back home again.
I am very excited to be going back in 2019. I am equally excited that Rafa, my spiritual brother, will be joining me in sharing some of the teachings that we have both been engaged in for decades. If you have had the pleasure of hearing Rafa chant you know how he can weave a magic that slowly, but strongly, pulls at your heart strings. His devotion is infectious! Ganeshpuri is one of the sweetest places on the planet. It is one of the last places I received a structured teaching from Mukunda, and it is where he received teachings from his Guru, Swami Muktananda.
I hope if it is in your heart to join us you will find a way to make it happen. We will be offering an early registration discount up until April 24th. We do have a limited amount of spaces available in the retreat center itself, so hopefully you will be able to commit sooner rather than later, and take advantage of the discount. Please let me know if you have questions! I know it can seem like a daunting journey, but you will be happy you did it.
“Poetry is a little lens through which one can examine, at close range, some details of the universe”. — Luci Shaw.
The Subject of the month for April is poetry, in line with National Poetry month. When Parvathi was still teaching asana classes she would often read poetry while we were in the deepest of twists or bends. She reminded us that the ambiguity in poetic verses allows the mind to be free from its pull towards a usual and known meaning. That freedom allows us to almost feel and possibly taste the words rather than think about what was just said.
Here is another quote about poetry, this by Roger Housden as published in the Huff Post:
"Poetry at its best calls forth our deep being. It dares us to break free from the safe strategies of the cautious mind; it calls to us, like the wild geese, as Mary Oliver would say, from an open sky. It is a magical art, and always has been — a making of language spells designed to open our eyes, open our doors and welcome us into a bigger world, one of possibilities we may never have dared to dream of.
In addition to using poetry to soar through the open sky this month, we will practice Garuda Asana. Garuda is the fictional half-bird, half-man vehicle that carries Vishnu, the god that sustains. He serves the task of this deity well as he is often seen carrying a vessel full of amrit, the nectar that sustains life and keeps death away. He uses his super-human strength to serve rather than to dominate. Garuda is known to act as a messenger between the gods and the humans. Perhaps he uses poetry to convey these as tidings from beyond. After all, in my experience anyway, messages that come as intuition from the god-realm (or you can just call it grace) often appear as a bundle of words that require consideration and need to be felt deeply in order to be assimilated on some level, just like poetry. And of course the different levels of meaning can take us lifetimes to understand.
And as a side note, I am very proud to host my husband’s book release party on Friday the 6th at the studio. His connection to poetry has helped me to relax in to the music of words and let myself be in the place of not-knowing. I am also grateful to witness an intention come true, which was on his part to have a book published by the end of 2017. Staying true to Warren’s nature of procrastination, we received the first copy from the publisher the end of December. I am happy to say we have reached (over) full capacity for the reading, so if you have not RSVP’d already you can pick up a copy at the studio after next week or visit Amazon.
PS-He did not edit this writing, I take full responsibility for all grammatical mistakes and misspellings.
Going to Mexico to teach TRE was an amazing experience. The idea started when a friend from Mexico was visiting while two earthquakes hit Mexico City. He is a body-oriented psychotherapist who knows about David Berceli and his work with TRE. I mentioned how great it would be to be able to teach this self-regulating technique there, he agreed and just a few months later I found myself shaking with a wonderfully diverse group of people in both Mexico City and Playa Del Carmen. Everyone was excited and appreciative during these workshops, and no one, including me, was sure how the 4 hours flew by so quickly. The people at the workshops were very ripe for this type of work; perhaps it was because of the strong connection to Shamanism that is embedded in the Mexican culture, or the fact that many of the attendees are already involved in some type of self-study and consciousness raising work. Whatever the reason, everyone was happy to have yet another tool in their arsenal.
There are two stories that I wanted to share. One is about an attendee at the workshop in Mexico City. She was following along with the process but having a really hard time. Anxiety was coming up, which was not new for her. Her eyes were red-rimmed by the time the workshop was over, even though she barely tremored in the afternoon. After the workshop she decided she wanted to work privately with me. During this session we slowed down the process and she was able to watch how the feeling of pressure in her chest dissipated as she tremored. She practiced intentionally bringing in negative feelings so she could see how those feelings dispersed too, and as a result her perspective about her anxiety dramatically changed. She was able to make friends with the tremors and understands now how to use them at home to chip away and soften her familiar anxiety reaction. I credit her for being brave enough to try tremoring again, even after her uncomfortable experience with the group. Tremoring is simply a tool! Some of us need more thorough instructions on how to use tools. Some may need to go slower and focus on different things. This is one of the things that makes this process so amazing-it can work on so many different levels, in so many different ways.
This other story touched me deeply. I worked with a woman who has small children, one of whom has been struggling with very severe scoliosis. The mother and the child apparently have a very strong connection. Just recently this little girl had to visit her surgeon in the States to discuss the next step in her treatment, which understandably is a stressful trip for all concerned. One night in the hotel the child started to tremor! The nanny calls the mother in to see. (The nanny had a session with me as well, so she was also familiar with the process.) The little girl was extremely pleased to be shaking, and very proud of herself, and she calls out "Look at me! Look what I can do”. Mom and the nanny asked her how she was doing, if she was ok, and she replied that she was loving it. So here we have two primary care givers for this child familiar with shaking, and their comfort with the movement, and their own practice empowered the girl to discharge her stress in a joyful and spontaneous way. I don’t know if the girl had seen them shaking at home or not, but in either case I love this story so much because if the mom and nanny had not been familiar with the process of tremoring, and saw the girl shaking, they might have thought something was wrong, pathologized the movement, and worried themselves and the child, who was already under a great deal of stress from their trip to the doctor. Instead the girl was able to discharge her stress and reboot her resilience which will be much needed for her journey ahead. It also shows how our own practice can help with our family-whether directly, or indirectly by changing our responses and reactions.
I will most likely go back in October as the participants want to do a two day retreat to refine the technique, and bring their friends and clients. I am very pleased to be invited back. I hope to piggy back with a trip to Puerto Rico to teach TRE to people who lost so much in the hurricane and are still living without electricity and running water. So I shall continue my Spanish lessons and my own practice! And if you would like to join me in Mexico City for the retreat, I would be happy to have you come along. However it might be less expensive to join me for the TRE retreat April 7th and 8th in Perkasie, PA. Either way, if you are a TRE fan, or just curious, these extended sessions are a great way to find out how the tremors can best serve you and how to fine tune this amazing tool.
When I was in Playa Del Carmen I was interviewed by a lovely and dynamic YouTuber named Kalinda Kano. She recently switched her blogging from makeup how-tos to mental and physical self-care. Once she started to talk about it she realized how much people really wanted to hear how they can keep themselves happy, healthy and peaceful. I will post the link to the video once it is done-most of it will be in English with Spanish subtitles. Stay tuned….
We just got back from Mexico Monday night (yes, just in time for the storm)! The time I spent in Mexico City (the first 5 days) turned out to be very much a personal retreat. I woke up, sat in the grass to do my practice, ate breakfast and worked with people. My daughter traveled with me and fortunatly she was on her own retreat which consisted of a hammock, quesadillas, card playing and reading. I was only needed to slice up the super ripe mangos for her.
I saw 17 clients in three days in Mexico City. It was an amazing blessing to work with such a variety of people in such a short amount of time. Each person I worked with responded so very differently to the work, but there were also the common elements; everyone left relaxed, calm, happy and really surprised at how the gentle the process was.
There were of course some language issues. My clients and I did not always understand each other when we tried to speak, but fortunately the look on their faces and the shine in their eyes when we were done didn't require any verbalization. Nor does the natural unwinding of the body! It was actually my limitation with Spanish that confirmed my theory that the less I know about a persons story, the better off they were going to be in the session. Without knowing what the "issue" is I will not anticipate or guide erroneously. The body always shows the way, and that is exactly what I relied on.
After the last client of the day I would stay in the treatment room and sit with the resulting deep sense of gratitude and awe that moved me to tears. It was amazing to have this time to acknowledge the blessings of service. Usually at home I am on to the next thing right away, but here I had time to sit and remain in this feeling. I understood in these evening sittings that you can know you are following your dharma when you feel it in your bones, and that dharma can only be known through surrender.
I also taught two 4 hour TRE sessions, which I will write about next week. Until then, stay warm and cozy!
AFR Spring time special:
Try your first three 1/2 hour sessions for $150 (regularly $190)
Click here to request your first session
When some people find out I am a yoga teacher they are quick to tell me how inflexible they are. They used to be able to touch their toes and now they can’t, or they have never been able to touch their toes, or they have a cousin once removed who once touched their toes… I have heard so many stories about toe touching that I find myself looking down at someones feet when the yoga-teacher introduction comes, knowing that if I see them in clogs or some other kind of footwear that does not require bending down, I might need to be ready to make a quick get-away.
Touching your toes may be one of the most common ways non-yoga people measure their range of motion because it is something most of us, except clog-wearers, have to do on a regular basis. Yoga people will know their range of motion is changing if they can’t make it as far into the poses as they used to, or if the stretch sensation feels off. I like to describe it as “feeling rusty”.
Stretching the way we learned in gym class (bounce bounce bounce) will not have you back in lace-ups! I see bouncing to touch your toes as a series of mini traumas inflicted on the hamstring muscles. That movement is not going to get the hamstrings longer, in fact this mini trauma and other ways of incorrect stretching might actually make them shorter. So will some yoga poses, if they are done too aggressively and without the proper dose of patience.
Fascia, which surrounds all of our muscles and separates them from neighboring muscle, is protective in nature. It responds when there is a threat to the organism by tightening. When you bounce, your body is going to respond to the possibility that you might tear the muscle tissue. It will send out danger-hormones to do that. The same thing happens if you stress yourself in a pose (going deeper and/or faster into a stretch than you should). The fascia will tighten up to protect the muscle from the possible tear. Fascia is so interconnected that this tightening doesn’t only affect the muscle in question-it will restrict your breathing, your heartbeat, your brain from thinking rationally, as well as your other muscles.
Fascia can also restrict our range of motion by adhering to fascia that is enclosing the muscle next to it. Ideally the fascia will slide along the fascial surface next to it, but if it is dehydrated, injured or defensive as above, it will be more sticky than slick. Fascia can start to build up in an area in our body, practically molding it in a certain position, like forward rounded shoulders. This thickening makes it very hard to move the body out of that position without constant effort.
A combination of strengthening the antagonist muscle (in the case of the hamstrings, it is the quadriceps and hip flexors) so as to change the shape the body has molded into (ie, slumped seated position accompanying tight hams) and stretching with a ton of patience, will get your fascia long, thinner and back to its slippery state. (Did I mention drink a lot of water?) I have seen people achieve greater range of motion in the hamstrings and inner thigh muscles more quickly and with longer lasting results through tremoring (TRE) than through stretching. That is because TRE and other techniques, such as myo-fascial release, AFR (Assisted Fascia Release), Melting, Yamuna Body rolling, etc are working on the fascial system, not just the muscles. Happy fascia equals relaxed happy muscles which equals happy joints. And happier foot wear.
By the way, I am a big fan of clogs and slip-ons. I myself don’t wear lace-up shoes if I can help it. I like a fast exit from footwear and I am always kicking off my shoes at the earliest possible moment. So don’t worry, I recognize my assumptions about clog-wearers is a generalization, as I myself am a clog-wearing toe-touching yogi who is always searching for the perfect winter clog.
Check out the TRE retreats coming up soon.
Get more information on private TRE and AFR sessions.
I recently had the opportunity to do a presentation on fascia at a TRE training. I have always been somewhat fascinated with fascia-it always seemed mysterious and magical in appearance and function, and when speaking of fascia, many people put their hands out, palms up, and shaking their heads slowly and say “we have no idea…."
However, because of my preparation for my presentation, I found out that actually, yes, people DO have ideas about fascia! There are researchers not only asking great questions, they are coming up with fantastic answers! So I wanted to share some of the things I have learned in a short ongoing series about fascia.
To begin with, let’s identify what it is. Fascia is essentially connective tissue that runs throughout the body. It covers your muscles, it forms your tendons, ligaments, it runs through your organs and bones. It is everywhere. Think of a grapefruit and the whitish membrane that covers the pulp, separates the sections from each other and connects the skin to the fruit and you have an idea how fascia exists in your body. And like that grapefruit “fascia," it is different strengths and thicknesses through your body.
An interesting thing to consider is that it is thought that fascia gets the signal to move a body part before your muscle tissue. So when your brain says “Let’s go places” the fascia is the first to mobilize. The other interesting fact to put with that is that your fascia molds itself to the shape or position that you have spent a long time, or a life, time in. What does that mean on a practical level? As you stand up to get out of the chair you have been sitting in for a few hours while checking your email with your right leg crossed over your left leg, your hip extensor and quad muscles may be fired and ready to go, but your fascia, which has kind of settled into the position you were sitting in, is still kind of molded to that sitting position, and not always ready to leave. So you get up, you feel stiff, creaky and rusty and you find it hard to take the first step without feeling like something is going to break off or that you are going to fall over. Pause, shake your body out a bit, give your fascia some time to get with the program. Give it yet another signal that you are going to start walking, take a deep breath and then start to go. Consider that the fascia is in charge here-nothing is going to start moving until it is ready, and respect that hierarchy.
Not being in the same position for a long amount of time will ease this kind of facial constriction. Staying hydrated will help to. So a great idea is to drink a ton of water when you are working. This helps keep you hydrated AND moving because you will have to get up to go to the bathroom more frequently.
Of course practicing yoga helps, but you already knew I was going to say that. Yin Yoga is particularly a good practice to loosen up fascia. As fascia is protective in nature (we will get into that next week) you may want to consider Restorative Yoga as well. Until next time, drink up! (By the way, choose warm or hot water with lemon over ice water)
Click here to sign up for Yin Yoga with Sally and Restorative Yoga with Deb in February
Welcome 2018! While there is no telling for certain what this new year might bring, it is pretty safe to assume we will all face challenges of some sort. This quote below inspired me to choose our subject, The Spiritual Warrior, for this first month of 2018.
"The basic difference between an ordinary man and a warrior is that a warrior takes everything as a challenge, while an ordinary man takes everything as a blessing or a curse." — Don Juan, as quoted by Jack Kornfield in A Path With Heart
The Spiritual Warriors task is to win in the war against self-ignorance and fear. The challenge is maintaining awareness, having courage and discipline, and establishing a commitment to transformation. This can be difficult as we begin to recognize stuff about ourselves and the world we live in. It is when something is recognized, when a truth, or falseness is revealed, we might find ourselves on shaky ground. We can either push the recognition away using the very popular technique called "deliberate ignorance," or we can stand and face it, toe to toe, with our eyes wide open.
The way I was trained in this particular battle plan was to continually ask myself "What am I not noticing?". You see the predicament in that line of questioning, right? When I was training in Karate this was actually a much easier task. For one thing, your opponent was always going to let you know with a well placed kick or punch that you didn't notice you left an opening. You might spar with someone you thought was an amazing mind reader because they always knew what your next move was going to be, until you finally realized you were consistently signaling what kind of kick or punch you were going to throw with a hitch of the shoulder or wiggle in the hips.
If someone chooses to begin training as a Spiritual Warrior they are probably not going to get kicked in the head if they turn away from a truth. This makes it all the more alluring to distance oneself from a truth as there are seemingly no immediate consequences, such as a black eye. But those who have an interest in training as a Spiritual Warrior know the possible liberation that can be experienced is worthy of the small battles waged along the way.
Join us this month as we contemplate the possibilities in becoming a Spritual Warrior as we stand firm in Warrior 1 pose, which is our pose of the month. Lets begin 2018 with our feet firmly on the ground, our hearts facing in the same direction as our eyes and our minds awakened to the possibe battles that await us.
You might be sick of reading about New Year’s resolutions, but please indulge me. I see New Year's resolutions as being one of the niyamas (tools used to increase social and personal harmony and elevate consciousness) found in the yoga sutras; swadayaya, or self study.
Mukunda, one of my dear teachers, would encourage us to look at what our actions were and ask ourselves if those actions were giving us what we want. For example we keep eating food when we are not hungry, but we want to loose weight. We stay up late, but we want to be better rested. We watch violent movies and TV, but we want a calm mind. We want our body to be strong and healthy, but we don’t exercise enough. In practicing swadayaya we might recognize the disconnect between what we want to manifest in our lives and what we are doing, or not doing, to have that happen.
It has been shown that to create a habit takes at least 40 days of repetition. It is hard to say what it takes to break a bad habit, but when we see what we are doing is not giving us what we want engaging in a productive habit might replace a misguided habit. Simplistic perhaps, but it's a good start. However it is not always easy to stay with those 40 days, or even 1 week. It definitely helps to have a buddy (or two) who is also walking down a path of change to share the challenges.
Ok, now that I have written all of that yoga-teacher inspirational stuff, let me make a few confessions:
Number 1-While many people think that I practice asana every day, I am going to come clean and tell you that is just not true. The only asana I practice every day is sitting cross-legged for a minimum of 10 minutes, longer on a good day.
Number 2-My body is getting old! Things are beginning to wear out, wear down and disintegrate. People told me this was going to happen and much to my surprise, it is.
Number 3-Yes in fact I did think I would be immune to the above aging process because I, at one time in my life, did practice asanas every day. But those days are long gone and with them went the fluid joints, strong bones and toned muscles that accompany such consistency.
At 49 I noticed things were changing. By 50 I was able to properly ignore those changes, and by 51, when knee and back pain began to creep up on me I went back to a consistent asana practice. You might be happy, hopefully not surprised, to know it worked. I found some awesome asymmetries in my body and used poses to begin to correct them.
Here is another confession-If I did not need to get up and down from the floor many times a day, move easily around a room full of people doing yoga, and occasionally demonstrate an asana, I could have kept up ignoring the small failures of my body for a long time, at least until those small failures became much bigger failures.
I understand how easy it is to not notice when our body begins to weaken, stiffen and age. This kind of “acceptance” is built in to us. Sometimes when people come in to start yoga they say that the rigidity in their body, or their injury is relatively new. But I can often see that it has been a long time in the making. Things settle in and then get hard to move. The good news is the less time we wait the easier it will be to get back on the right track. We can replace the habit of ignoring our bodies and minds with the habit of self-study and assessment. You might remember this from the first paragraph; it is called swadayaya.
This is not about being cranky about aging and trying to stop the process. Our bodies are designed to last 120 years! Between the demands and stresses of life, disease and our frequent indulgences, it is hard to meet that potential. The longer we can keep ourselves moving comfortably and efficiently through life the more we will be able to give to those we love, right? The longer we have to fulfill our dharma. And generally speaking, we will be less cranky. This world doesn’t need any more negativity- It’s good to do what you can to not contribute.
So, to help you with this ongoing process I have created a coupon code that you and a walking-on-the-path buddy can use when you register for a workshop or a class block**. The coupon code will give you both 10% off your fees, but you have to email me so I know who your buddy is, and then your buddy has to register at the same time. I have also added classes to the schedule in the evening, and given you more time to sleep-in on Wednesday, Friday and Saturday mornings. There are a bunch of workshops for people who are either less experienced with asana and meditation, or they just do better in a workshop setting. Check them all out by clicking on the hyper links above.
Don’t forget January 1st there will be a sale on class blocks and workshops. Just in time for you to fill your tool box with manifest-worthy habit-making classes for 2018.
** Your buddy must be a new visitor to Yoga Loka to receive a buddy discount on class blocks. Workshops are valid regardless of how long you have been at Yoga Loka.
Yoga Loka is about to begin its 15th year in Frenchtown.
It’s been an amazing journey.
I am incredibly humbled by the degree to which the community has embraced Yoga Loka and what we do here. And I am so very appreciative of the kindness and enthusiasm of our students and teachers.
As we continue to grow and seek to deepen our commitment to yoga, to healing, and to community, we plan to introduce new classes, workshops and events at the studio. Our aim is to continue to cultivate what we have planted here 15 years ago and have so diligently nurtured all the time since.
In addition to these other changes, we will also be increasing some fees — for the first time since 2014. As of January 1, fees for drop-in classes will be $18. Class blocks and other fees will similarly increase. Click here to see the 2018 rates. Monthly unlimited auto-renew fees will remain at $99 for current subscribees until May 2018 when they will increase to $108. That $108 level also upgrades to receiving 10% off all workshops and boutique sales.
We are offering current students an opportunity to purchase class blocks for 2018 and other passes at 2017 prices through the end of the year. On January 1st we will continue our usual discount day — the 2018 class blocks will be 10% off for current students. You can purchase the class blocks on-line or during Aniko's New Years Day Class.
On behalf of all of us at Yoga Loka, I want to thank you for being part of this wonderful yoga community, for your ongoing support of the studio and of your friends and family who tread this ancient path, and for your dedication to your own practice. We wish you peace, health, happiness and success in the coming year.