Tag Archives: yoga

Do No Harm

In a recently published article in The Walrus titled “Yoga’s Culture of Sexual Abuse” a lens is turned toward the yoga community and a renowned teacher who abused his position of power in a similar manner to many of the #metoo stories which have recently come to light in other industries and organizations around the globe. The major difference in this story is that the abuse took place under the guises of spirituality and spiritual practice. A painful article to read, this expose on Krishna Pattabhi Jois’ inappropriate behaviors as a yoga teacher not only brings to the table an uncomfortable conversation but also the need to recognize blind trust in the yoga community, and to understand its detriment to a person’s health.

While the #metoo movement has made it more common to out sexual misconduct and inappropriate behaviors of men in power, accusations and exposes of the sexual misconduct and deviancy of male leaders of yoga schools are nothing new. Back in 2012 John Friend the founder of the Anusara Yoga tradition, the tradition that I study and teach, was himself accused of deviant sexual misconduct and consequently stepped down from the organization completely. Jois and Friend are not alone, they in fact are in thick company, joining the many male leaders of varying yoga schools who have been accused of sexual wrongdoing. These men are undoubtedly excellent yoga teachers; this is why they have generated enormous followings and grand schools of tradition. Yet these men were always human no matter how beautiful the practice they were teaching was; these were always men with human faults.

The article mentioned above relays the stories of nine women’s accounts of being sexually perpetrated by their venerated yoga teacher, all while being assisted in asana. Reading the article made me very upset. As a yoga student I have only been the recipient of respectful touch. As a yoga teacher I am diligent about touching respectfully and with consent. As a studio owner I expect my teachers to follow the same protocols. To be the victim of sexual assault is detrimental to one’s health on every level, to be the victim of sexual assault while pursuing a spiritual connection is damaging beyond words.

As students of yoga we generously follow our teachers with great swaths of trust. Most yogic traditions espouse absolute and unquestioned devotion to the Guru and in general, a great teacher can charm you into trusting and following blindly with charisma alone. No matter how much the teacher reminds you to be in your own body it is easy to get swept away in the current of the room, the bigger the body of water (i.e. the more students there are) the faster and stronger the pull. Such a pull has a hypnotizing effect, as does the asana, and the subsequent re-wiring of the brain and nervous system make the practitioner ever more vulnerable.

As I understand it Jois’ assaults were not protested in the moment. They were not protested because they took place in an environment that championed spirituality and surrender. The rewiring of the nervous system in the context of spiritual practice must have led to confused minds which muffled the inner knowing that something was explicitly wrong.

Vulnerability is inherent in a yoga practice. For the practice to do its work the practitioner needs to become vulnerable on every level. Therefore, it is of utmost importance to find a teacher who is trustworthy and will respect such vulnerability.

For students of yoga who have become intoxicated on yoga’s goodness it is easy to believe that the leader of an international and long standing yoga school is honorable. It is just as easy to walk into a relationship with the leader of such a school with unwavering trust. Because the roots of yoga sit deeply in principle and ethic, being sexually abused by an internationally renowned teacher is never a consideration. Such a thought would not cross a passionate student’s mind amid the gift of being able to study with their “teacher” or “Guru”. Violating a student in such vulnerable space is disgraceful and must be exposed and eschewed.

After reading the article I have questioned the value of hands on assists. I know that in my own experience they have been very beneficial. I also know that I do not need those assists to have a spiritual connection and therefore must question their weight. In an environment where vulnerability is inherent anything I as a teacher can do to nurture trust is valuable.

When new students arrive at Shree I like to remind them that the instructions are an invitation and not a command. Some schools of yoga approach such concepts differently but in the end, it is all the same. The practice of yoga is about getting to know your own inner voice of authority and teaching it to be wise and discerning and in alignment with something bigger than oneself. That authority which is bigger than oneself is also bigger than the Guru touting it. Questioning authority must be inherent in such a practice. Teachers of self-realizing practices who put the kibosh on self-authority must be left behind. Tolerance of forced deviant behavior from leaders of any organization on their subordinates must never be condoned, it makes everyone look bad and prevents full vulnerability and true personal and spiritual growth.

The practitioner always has the last say on what is right in the pose for them, what is good about the practice for them, what serves in their body, mind, and spirit, and what to leave behind. For many years now I personally have had to wrestle with the ugliness of this industry and the many misguided values of the greater yoga community. The fall of my own yoga teacher invited me to ask the hard questions many years ago and in the end, I do my best to remember to first look for the good, second remember what serves, and lastly choose something that enhances life. Sharing this article sheds light on some of the ugliness of this industry and at the same time the power that it is inherent in everyone to make choices. Doing nothing is a choice. Following blindly is a choice. Listening to your inner voice of authority and saying no to the outer voice of authority is also a choice. The purpose of the practice is to quite the fluctuations of the mind-stuff, not to spiritually bypass them. Be vulnerable, be trusting, and be your own Guru.

With Love and Respect, Always, in All Ways, For Giving,

Genevieve

 

 

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Guest Post By: Liz Fox

I’m 62, And So Are You

As I was checking a visitor into class the other morning, she was asking what style of yoga I taught.  It just came out of my mouth, “I’m 62, and so are you!”  She was likely in her 50s, but she totally got it.  As did I at that moment. I don’t really look my age, and I certainly don’t act my age, and I don’t really feel my age, but my body, especially in the morning, owns its age.

I never thought about it until I started teaching yoga. I would always do the class the teacher provided, inhaling and exhaling on cue, lifting this limb or that, reaching, bending, folding, etc.  It was all fine, but it was actually not fine. I was listening to the teacher, not to my own body.

Once I was in control, it all changed. I realized my body was not usually ready for what the teacher provided, and it was my responsibility to take this on. Let me explain: I remember the first morning I woke up in pain. I was about 28, and had been at an all-day horse show the day before, where I won the All Around. That was 14 classes, really pushing it. (I now wonder how my horse felt the next morning.) I woke up and felt stiffness, and it was really the first time in my life, and I said, “Wow, this is what they are taking about.”

Now, every morning is a form of that first experience. The first thing I do is lower my 14 pound dachshund from the bed. (I try to limit his jumping, which is hard on his long spine.) That experience, which I do every morning, I compare to every other day that I begin with the same movement. Even with super safe lifting technique, I feel it in my back. I joke to myself that I will now move from being a cripple and transform into a yoga teacher.

This is normal for most of us, right? Our bodies have been used, enjoyed, pushed, tested, and that is life.  But many of us, in our 2nd or 3rd acts, are in the best shape of our lives.  I could to a backbend in a doorframe when I was 14, but so what. Those amazing photos on Instagram of young girls doing backbendy and strength moves are impressive, and impossible for most of us. Inspiring, but like a trip to the moon. Yet, we are taking much better care of ourselves now, and appreciate each breath in a way we never could in our youth.

Hence, Morning Yoga.  Sonya told me a story once about a guy in her classes in Mysore. The poor guy was in his 40’s, and the Mysore practice was a strong, early morning Ashtangha practice, so he would get up 2 hours earlier, which was like 3 am, to do Feldenkreiss, to prepare for yoga practice. The point being, that Ashtangha was designed for bodies much younger, like teens and 20’s, the first act of life.

That story resonated with me. First, because I am not that responsible to really get up that early to take care of myself. But wow, yeah, that is what I need. Sure. (Nothing against Ashtangha, not at all. There is so much wisdom in that practice, but it is not for everyone!) But it also gave me total permission, as if I needed it, to look into my own body, and prepare what needs to be prepared, and I saw the value of this.

It is an open secret that yoga teachers teach what they are experiencing. If my shoulders are hurting, I will likely gravitate towards a shoulder opening practice. When my hips feel tight, I will go to that. And since my body is stiff in the morning, it is natural for me to teach to that.

My injuries have been spinal, so for me, a long slow, consistent, somewhat predictable spinal warm up works best. Others might have knee injuries, and need to attend to that. We all have stiff shoulders.

Morning yoga, the way I teach it, assumes we are all 62, or older, and our bodies do not spring out of bed ready for an strong practice. We might get there in half an hour, and might do the most lovely utthita hasta trikonasana of our lives, twisting our spines, lengthening our limbs, lifting our hearts. But first, we listen to our bodies, offer them some time to unwind, and recover the bloom of youth.

Yoga is a journey, often one without goals. Sure, we have goals, and sometimes the goal is to feel better in our bodies, in our souls, to more deeply connect to ourselves. Sometimes the goal is to face reality, putting our limitations into context, yet seeing what might be possible.  For 6 years, I started each class I took with the intention of “I will not get hurt.” Nothing wrong with that, but now I am learning, and hopefully teaching, more thoroughly, that precaution.

My favorite book title is Pema Chodron’s “Start Where You Are.”  Duh, but so profound.  Even if you do not know where you are going, or where you want to go, or where it is possible for you to go, find out where you are now, and start there. Take care, let fear go, and trust yourself.

dristi and saving daylight

One gift that the darkness of winter offers is an appeal to inward reflection. When the outer eye’s view is obscured, whether by darkness, by dream, by death, or by obstacle, we are encouraged to turn in to see. It is here, in and behind what is observable that our intuition, perceptibility, and deep wisdom are nourished, and often, born. Through svadhaya – self-reflection or self-study – the yoga is always an invitation into this intimate work. It refers to honing our consideration of patterns that bubble up from less than our highest places, and a noticing practice for the effects of our habits and behaviors. Svadhyaya is getting to know oneself as an inherent step in the process of improving the way we move in the world. Much of the time, svadhyaya is a commitment made on the practitioner’s behalf. Occasionally, we receive svadhyaya support from the outside – utter darkness, dream space, a particular relationship or experience that forces us to look within for a reflection of the truth. If we are confident that we are in the right place at the right time, we call these things inspiring, even “teachers”. And if we are not so grounded, we might run from the very same things, screaming.

After spring ahead daylight savings, the evening classes at Shree are suddenly completed in the daylight, and at least a little of the internal, intimate energy of a class in the quiet of dark, is lost. Having led 5:30-7 evening yoga classes for bunches of years, this springtime change always tosses me, a bit. As an act of rebellion, ‘cause I think daylight savings is kinda bunk and discombobulating, my classes this week have been all about dristi – focusing the organs of the eyes through the transitions of asana. Dristi has been presented to me as “the eyes look here in this posture”, and I have found great power in following the dristi rules. For sure, looking to one particular place rather than all over the room, is an improvement for a distracted mind. As I understand, there are nine possible dristi points the yogini could be “looking”, though the direction of the outer eyes does not necessarily delineate what we are seeing. Sure, it refers to an internal relationship of the structural form of the posture to the nervous system – by aligning skull and eyes to what is happening throughout the body, channels for optimum movement of prana are also aligned, thus improving the effects of the posture. But also dristi is a external seal of the relationship between inner and outer sight, or perception and attention.

Sutra 37 of the Radiance Sutras 112 Gateways to the Yoga of Wonder & Delight states :

nirvrksa giri bhitty adi dese drstim viniksipet
viline manase bhave vrtti ksinah prajayate

as translated by Lorin Roche :

go to a wide-open space
gaze without looking anywhere.

the mind stops its building of thoughts,
and rests on its own foundation –
immensity.

the light you see by
is the light that comes from inside.

By choosing one point or channel of focus, the mind is stilled. When the fluctuations of the mind are calm, the deeper knowing that the mind is capable of digesting, is more available. To look beyond the veil of what the outer eyes can see is to step through a gateway into the divine mystery of the boundless. A simple practice of concentration, which is where the dristi work fits in to the ashtanga system – the limb of dharana – becomes an open door to see beyond the obvious, to dream, to imagine, and to connect our single selves with something bigger. As we step over the threshold of tomorrow’s new moon, and Tuesday’s new season and new year with the sun’s drop into Aries for another round, mind where your eyes are. What is it you are looking to create? What has been taking up space on your screen? What do you see when your eyes are closed? What do you wish to gaze upon in the coming cycles? As you look with respectful, and curious eyes to your place in the universe, may you be lit up from the inside.

Big respect and Love, Suki Ola

time soup

if we had never forgotten
and were in a state of
always remembering

there is no mistake
in being here

we might fall
to our knees
in praise of a bee’s buzz
– their sting –
and harvest

we might be easier
about shitty behavior
and traffic
and rather, focus
on how
to heal a planet
a sick society
our children’s lungs
and their heartbreaks

we might
raise one another
up

it is
quite a magic thing
that any of us
are breathing
can laugh still
and ever
fall
in
love

that these miracles
go down alongside
the nightmares
and the way my heart fibers have known
a version of each
is enough proof

for me

time is a bending
resilient
thing, like us
brewing in
a well and slow-cooked broth

bones and aromatics
bubble away with
dreams
as garlic cloves,
bursting

days
duly become decades
and sip themselves
into
the eternal marrow of a
fortified invitation
to do something
with
and within
this living
simmering
soup

Love from the bubbling broth,

Suki

No More Bah Humbug

There was a time when the Holiday season would really spark a deep agitation and discomfort within me. I was quickly the first to state I was a Humbug. My hum buggery at the time was grounded in what I considered sound mind, reasonable beliefs, and a fear of repeat past experiences. Bad past experiences.

I am happy to say my previous resemblance to Ebenezer Scrooge has morphed into something less severe and absolute. Not that I have swung so far across the pendulum to the other extreme, I am still far from a Holiday season lover. Nevertheless, the agitations I experience at this time of year are no longer glaring, constant, and without relief. I tell this tale of my past because from the Humbug’s point of view, a commitment to a yoga practice during this time of year is a great antidote to Scrooging out.

This year I’m not sure what I will do on Christmas day, but I do know that for the week leading up to Christmas and for the week after I will be getting on my mat in the company of others. I do know that such a commitment will create room for whatever experience I am having to be bigger, softer, smoother, fiercer, more relaxed, more pleasurable, or whatever the moment calls for. I know this from experience.

I know that through a commitment to the practice during the Holiday season, my own experience has become more bearable. I know that my commitment to practice during this time of year has enabled me to continually make more room. Not only in my body but also in the limited belief structures of my mind which were stifling my ability to previously experience these holidays with joy. Yoga does that, it makes room in the body, mind, and spirit.

While this year I am still not putting up a tree, nor will I be wrapping many gifts, I won’t be saying “Bah humbug”. That’s a thing of the past. I will be saying Namaste, 13 times or more, as the moon waxes to full and the year comes to a close. I will also be saying prayers of gratitude for all that has transpired for each new day to pass. I hope to share my gratitude, my Namaste, and Holidays with you.

With Love, Always, in All Ways, For Giving, In Joy,

Genevieve

 

Open to all the possibilities

The point of the To the Moon and Beyond yoga challenge is as you like it. There is no intended goal beyond an invitation to take a peek – a glimpse into what might benefit you to bring into your life, and what might be ready to drop away. We’re banking on the idea that in the stages along the way from dreamy conception of a commitment to practice thirteen times sandwiched between the new and full moon, to the dripping pomegranate seeds of culmination with the full moon and new year, there is magic in the mix that couldn’t have been imagined at the outset.

Personally, I’ve not seen the end of the yoga tunnel. There have been fruited apex moments on the mat, sure, and progress and happiness in relationships off the mat that I have been able to cast clear linking lines to the yoga. I can only truly say that thanks to my time exploring this yoga stuff I’ve : gotten better at moving in my skin; gotten better at dealing with conflict; gotten better at taking deep breaths when I’m stressed, when I’m resting, and when I might otherwise retreat into headspace and check out; gotten better at taking care of myself and others; I’ve gotten better at being me. And there is oh, so much more coming down my line and more fruit, for sure.

I’m curious to see what pops up with the commitment to be at the studio a whole bunch, to forgo other things in lieu of the grind of practice, to sit with what is stirred up to begin and what the gates will close in upon and finish, and to be with other people embarking on their similar and all the way original journeys at the turn of a new moon cycle and year. All in the light of the magic, reflective, and constant love of the moon, for who better to witness the outer work of all that asana on the surface, and to measure the profound alchemy that just might unfold in the dark cave of our hearts?

Ready.

Love, Suki Ola

To The Moon & Beyond – an adventure of commitment, discipline, and community through the holiday weirds.

It doesn’t matter if you love or detest the deep winter holiday season, there is no escaping it’s tug. Like the moon pulling the tides, this conglomeration of celebratory days is in no way casual. And whether you’re super into gift and party, or find the holidays stressful and sad, the impulse and effect of a culture pushed to consume and come together in these short-short days is strong. This year we invite you to the mat, beginning on the dawn of a new moon cycle December 18th, and reiterating your link to practice and to your Self through to the new year full moon of January 1st, 2018.

A consistent and steady yoga practice is one of the many ways we can learn to honor our ever-changing selves, from cellular structure to our interrelationships with the world, and beyond. It is a litmus along the way as we transform, and bolsters the courage it takes to allow habits that no longer benefit, to fall away like the last oak leaves, sinking into the stir of early winter wind, and gone. I, for one, believe that the yoga has saved my life many a time, providing a safe space to process, to grieve, to make sanctuary, and to learn in about joy amidst of all my other moves and shakes.

Asana is a friend that heats the body, and cools the mind. Meditation encourages the mind to steady, and settle on what is actually important. The deeper teachings of spiritual tradition warm the heart, connecting individual soul to the expanse of divine mystery. I’m surprised we’ve not offered a yoga challenge at this time of year before, really. It’s a season in which a human body seriously benefits from movement, not only to untangle indulgence, but because the tamas, or inertia, is quite high in the abbreviated days and cold, heavy nights. And there may be some very good medicine in the brew, avoiding the dilution and distraction of what is surely meant to be a sacred time, oft lost in the fray of festivity.

Come. Move. Gather around something progressive, healing, and nourishing amid the end-of-year madness. I’m jumping in, and happily anticipate sitting with some of my favorite and most powerful humans – all of the amazing teachers at Shree – through the holiday chaos parade. I look very forward to gathering together with presence and intention, and making a new commitment to the moon’s sweet pulse below the surface. We’ll set the tone for a fresh cycle and fresh year as the light builds in the day, and in the night.

In radiance, in self-reflection, in love and mucho respecto, Suki Ola

Everything is medicine, and everything is poison.

The climate, literally, and in a broad view of humanity and politics, is feeling pretty v(olati)ile at the moment. And so, our opportunity to discern – to really truly get honest about what is helpful and life-affirming, and what is blighted behavior – is real. As autumn’s patina wends its way into the high desert sunshine and the gardens dry, I marvel at what the last year has brought. What a story I am tempted to tell about our lineage of human relationship with each other, and the planet! And I am aware that knowing what has gone down and how it got us to where we are, is invaluable information, but that the story, which lends itself to blame and shame, is venomous, and nary helpful.

In just the right proportion, at the right time, and for all the right reasons, we can take in poison, and heal. Shiva did it, we all have. I’ve also dosed inappropriately something I thought was “good medicine”, and made things way worse. Peppermint tea isn’t actually a panacea, and neither are antibiotics, this is the premise of the medicine-poison thing; nothing is for always.

People can also be medicine, and poison. Those we learn from, whether it feels delicious or bitter, are catalyzing change. We are all medicine people if we walk with awake eyes and hearts to how we affect each other, and we are pushing poison if we walk with closed-minded attachment to what is no longer true. Life is powerful! It is no small gift of being that we incarnated with human life. Wise living strikes the ultra-fine equinox balance between healing and harming inside of each breath.

And since we’re s’posed to be talking yoga, the asanas, pranayamas, and deep wisdom teachings of the yoga are also, medicine and poison, alike. Maybe one day a posture feels magic, and another, it causes pain. The pranayamas, inappropriately used, diminish life force, create stress, and can do serious harm. And scriptures written for the climate of a few thousand years ago may not be applicable verbatim to us, today in 2017, trying to figure out how to “be ahimsa”, or “cultivate peace” in the wake of bigoted buffoons playing as world leaders. Reading the news by default negates our opportunity to focus only on breath all the ding-durn day. We can’t do both, see? It feels dangerous to pretend to “stay cool” while watching devastating images of life destroyed, and a t-shirt that says “Namaste, Bitches” doesn’t feel loving to me, but who am I to say? Prescribed snippets of media-free moments, and critical doses of stress-relief during urgent times set the tone for healing in the now, and in the ancient ways. Small acts of self-and-together-care help us to rise from the ashes of judgement that keep us all down, and move forward in equity, respect, health, and love.

This is what healing looks like. I do believe that a guiding light and divine wisdom – God – is everywhere. And I commit to making and tending a thread of personal connection (context), between individual and the vastness, or else, I’m just prescribing unrealistic and ofttimes harmful concepts and practices. Anything we learn from is a guru. Taking the reins, then – even taking power back – is a process of making choices in every moment with intention (the thread), and willingness to transform (openness and humility amidst the vastly immeasurable spiritual stew of life-altering potential) through the experience. In the brewing process, maybe we learn to put poison into context, and make medicine with our words and actions that will actually begin to heal the wounds of the past? Apply love liberally.

Blessings for this equinox time, friends.

In deep respect,

Suki Ola

Walk Strong, with a Gentle Heart

Current political circumstances are intense. To say the least. With blatant outright bigotry, lack of tolerance, and escalating violence it is nearly impossible to stay away from, or uninformed of, the present political environment. In such palpably contracted times one’s commitment to their yoga practice, or any mindfulness practice for that matter, must be exercised as diligently in the world as it is on the mat in order to walk strongly with a gentle heart through this crazy realm.

At times like these apathy has no place. The fundamental teachings of yoga demand attention too higher ethical and moral values. Ahimsa-lovingkindness; classically non-violence, is at the top of the list. And what is lovingkindness? In its simplest it is the pure intent to love all with kindness and care. It is easy to get caught up here. Does lovingkindness only exist for that which an individual knows and understands, resonates with and is aligned to in belief? No. Lovingkindness is the most basic notion of its value as the first Yama-precept for being with the world, (and self must be included in this) has to extend to all existence. So then the question becomes, must we be loving and kind to people who actively hate, are violent, seek out ways to harm others maliciously and subversively? Yes. If your aim is to truly practice lovingkindness or non-violence then yes, the teaching demands that you love them in the company of their faults. However, the word love and the practice of love is not synonymous with making oneself available for abuse, nor acting and speaking out in alignment with something bigger.

Mindfulness practice means using the mind in a discerning manner. In this vein to use the mind to acknowledge that while a human or a group of humans are severely misguided they are not outside the circle of deserving love. This discernment is then followed with action. What is the appropriate action to take in the face of true racist hate? When the teaching is to love? Love exists with boundaries. There is too much awareness, knowledge, wisdom, and understanding in this world to play ignorant to the harm racism, bigotry, and simply the belittling of any human for any reason. Therefore appropriate action in the company of such ignorance is to first acknowledge with love the lack of value in such awareness and behavior, and to withdraw contact with such a person until the time when they can see beyond the limited vales of their perception. To share the premise of your choice with such a person may or may not be valuable to them, but is ultimately valuable to the greater good. To do so with words that emanate from love is to act in alignment with the precept of Ahimsa. This is Sakriya-with action; one who performs one’s responsibilities; putting into effect what one has learned from their spiritual teachings. Acting with a moral compass.

To do nothing. To say, “it is all good.” To say, “I am practicing non-violence and lovingkindness and they are only doing the best that they can.” To be apathetic. To avoid confronting the ignorance for fear of making waves, especially when the hatred is espoused by someone you deem friend or family, this is Niskriya-without action; one who does not perform one’s responsibilities; one who does not put into action what one has learned.

Apathy, fear of rocking the boat, just plain old doing nothing does not cut it for the sincere yogi. Such Niskriya is far from in alignment with a good moral compass. This is nowhere near doing the best you can.

A true yogi assigns themselves to shining the light of awareness into the darkness of ignorance. Lives in their responsibility of practicing the Sakriya of love in the abyss of discrimination. From love, with love, for love.

A Yogi has a large toolbox from which they can pull the correct tool for the situation at hand. Mudras are such tools. A mudra is a hand gesture which correlates reflex reactions from hand to brain. Mudras are powerful tools which redirect energy flow. And in the case of standing strong with a gentle heart in a crazy world, mudras can bolster a yogi’s capabilities. A combination of Varada Mudra and Abhaya Mudra can be used to support and enhance a yogi’s aptitude of Sakriya in harmony with Ahimsa.

Varada Mudra is represented with the downward facing palm of the left hand. It is the mudra of the accomplishment of the aspiration to devote oneself to human salvation. The five extended fingers of the mudra symbolize respectively; generosity, morality, patience, effort, and meditative concentration. This mudra expresses not only the act of giving and benevolence, but also the act of receiving. Varada Mudra is seldom used alone and is regularly used in combination with Abhaya Mudra.

Abhaya Mudra is represented with the upward facing palm of the right hand. This mudra is not only known worldwide as a gesture of waving and salutation; it is also known worldwide as a gesture which means “stop.” Abhaya in Sanskrit translates to fearlessness, and the mudra is also one which dispels fear and symbolizes protection and peace as well as being seen as a gesture of good intentions, offerings of love, and reverence to the highest.

Together the combination of these two mudras powerfully express an individual’s capacity to simultaneously be generous with love and maintain discerning boundary. This is what is called of all humans who seek to live in the awareness that dispels ignorance in this world, at this time. This is what is called for from those who have committed themselves to the primary tenant of yoga, Ahimsa. As crusaders of awareness, as practitioners of love and non-violence, it is a yogi’s responsibility to hold the human race to a higher standard, knowing that standard can be met. To say “they are only doing their best” when one knows that they can do better if they are liberated from the veils of limited belief, is to be apathetic. Is to walk in Niskriya. This is not the time for apathy this is the time for courage. Now is the time for Sakriya. To speak and act with love and a gentle heart.

With Love, Always, in All Ways, For Giving, In Joy,

Genevieve

Shanti Mantra

Maybe I’ve already written about this mantra before, but holy Ma, has it been soothing my fires of late, and so, I’ll lay down the Shanti Mantra for you again. Shanti means peace in Sanskrit. What is happening in the world at large is discordant and uncomfortable. In my smaller world, I find myself ridden with anxiety and less-then lustrous behaviors, poor knock-offs of my fretfulness for the big issues. On the bright side, I am alight with fresh fervor to ease the disharmony that is born in hatred and judgement. And I know that I am not alone.

Translated through my heart and head, and with the help and guidance of the luminous Joe Barnett, the mantra goes thusly:

Aum sahana vavatu: Maha (big, humongous, ever-alive) mantra aum – sound and vibration of all things in the perhaps not infinite, but immeasurably large universe – may our practice be protected. May the practice space be safe for all beings, and a sanctuary from the distractions of the external world, and its fleeting states of chaos. May those who partake be held in the nourishing net of good support and community, and do no harm to themselves or others.

sahanau bhunaktu: May the practice be pleasant. Let’s be honest, if we don’t like it, we won’t come back. There is plenty of yuck and crud up, there must be a bit of pleasure left in the world, hey! Let it reverberate and come through our work together. And may we be filled up, nourished and fed with the deliciousness of rekindling connection to our bodies, minds, and souls. Let the practice beget more joy, as in the sharing of joy, great growth occurs. Rather than suffering, may the practice spread comfort, ease, and happiness.

sahaviryam karavavahai: May the practice be courageous. It is not without effort that we will turn this shitpile of misunderstanding and mistreatment of ourselves and others into wine. We are going to have to be wholly courageous, full of vim and vigor and unyielding vigilance to stop the disharmony from further jarring our communities, our entire population, our planet, and our connection to all that is beyond our imagination. (Interjection of my belief : the damage is not done, but there isn’t a moment to spare. Never has been.) It is the selfsame fires of our commitment to study that will conduce productivity, making our practice potent and sufficient. May we not doubt our capacity, but have faith in the process.

tejas vinavati tamastu: Through the efforts of our practice, may the effulgence of understanding move and spread between us. Let’s turn all this effort into good energy, good feeling, and good will. Nature’s way is collaboration and balance, and compassion is a force of light that will cut through the murk of enmity, which is not the nature of humanity.

maa vidvishavahai: Dispelling hatred is just what this light of understanding will do. When the lights go on upstairs and in our radiant hearts that we are all connected and in this together, may polarization and judgement disperse and be gone. This light is not harsh, but gentle and yielding, integrating of all life force as it brings all beings together in life, and love. That’s how powerful we are, people! Go.

aum shanti shanti shantihi: and fostering peace peace PEACE. Peace in our minds, in our hearts, and in the world. Peace in all the worlds. Peace throughout the humongous vast universe that begins at home, and on the mat.

For aspirant and teacher alike,the request is the same, as the journey we take in a class, and in the world, is one of together energy.                                               

                                                                                                                                                                                I love you. Suki Ola

Aum sahana vavatu                                                                                                                                                                      sahanau bhunaktu                                                                                                                                                                     sahaviryam karavavahai                                                                                                                                                                        tejas vinavati tamastu                                                                                                                                                                           maa vidvishavahai                                                                                                                                                                                 aum shanti shanti shantihi