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Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Are You Breathing?

Are You Breathing?

No – really, are you breathing? Well, I certainly hope so. You wouldn’t be reading too much further into this post if you were not.

But seriously; are you truly breathing?? A breath that keeps you nourished, oxygenated and healthy? Many people do not understand the importance of breath.

Approaching it from the science side, there are many systems in the body that are totally dependent on the ratio of oxygen to carbon dioxide in the body. If the body’s level of oxygen drops to a certain level, systems begin to shut down; kinda like an emergency mode, where non-essential systems (like metabolism) slow or shut down.

Moving along at the speed of LIFE, we often find ourselves in this constant fight-or-flight mode that leaves our bodies starved for oxygen. From the yogic perspective, this also limits your intake and quality of prana or lifeforce. Breathing is one of the major ways to bring in and move this lifeforce. (Note for the yogis: sometimes people think that the term “pranayama”in yoga means simply breathing techniques, even though the breath is only one of the many ways to move prana – other pranayama techniques include mantra and yantra – anything that controls {yama} lifeforce {prana}).

You could say that the way you breathe your breath is how you live your life.

Studying the breath has become a major portion of my practice, having recently picked back up my restorative breathwork apprenticeship with Kathleen Barratt of Barratt Breathworks. Check out her site at www.BarrattBreathworks.com.

When discussing the breath and any conscious, cultivated breaths, I always like to quote Goswami Kriyanandaji – “[the breath] is like a sharp knife -- used precisely, it is very effective; but if you wave it around, someone is going to get hurt.” Breathwork practices are extremely powerful.

The Barratt Breathworks model approaches the breath in a simple but potent way that helps to dismantle ineffective breathing patterns and restore the natural adaptability of the breath. It helps you to figure out where in your body your breath moves; or doesn’t. It unites breathwork, mindfulness and energy flow in a way that brings you more in tune with yourself. And, eventually, opens you up to permitting the natural intelligence of your breath to move through your body in a way that brings healing, health, and a deep spiritual awareness.

The breath can heal you; open you; nurture you; connect you back to spirit. Really.

Whether you are an experienced yogi with a regular pranayama practice, or just someone who is ready to be more open to this life, Kathleen is facilitating a Restorative Breathwork Weekend at Uttara in January, details below. I’ll be there assisting for my apprenticeship. If you are interested, register soon, space is limited.

And really; it’s about time you started to truly LIVE; and to truly BREATHE . . . . .

Saturday, January 7 from 1:00 to 5:00 pm
Sunday, January 8 from Noon to 4:00 pm

Barratt Breathworks Restorative Breathwork Weekend --
Combines Hatha Yoga, Breathwork and Meditation; Facilitated By Kathleen Barratt. This program is tailored both for the beginner as well as the experienced student of Restorative Breathwork. Emphasis on exploring the interrelationship between breath and energy and its dynamic influence on consciousness as well as physical health and well-being.

Dynamics are specially designed for small groups to provide one on one attention from Kathleen. Fee $125. For more information please call 540-966-6703 or visit http://www.barrattbreathworks.com/. Pre-register by December 30; continuing education credits are granted in accordance with Yoga Alliance.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

What Do You Wish To Attain Through Yoga?

We have an intake form at the Studio; you know, asking for
name, address, email; medical complications; blah, blah, blah.

On that form we also ask this question: What do you wish to attain through yoga?

This is because of one of my primary teachers, Goswami Kriyananda. Throughout my training, he continually emphasized that we are to teach what the students want to learn; not our own little agenda; not what we think people need.
What do the students want? What information do they seek?

So, I was thinking about this, because I’ve been thinking a lot about intention – about the linking of thought/action/spirit – which is how you make anything, ANYTHING actually happen in your life.

What do our students want?
Oh, the majority of intake forms say things like “strength,” “flexibility,” “toning,” “stretching.” But there are some really interesting answers lurking about in the file drawer, and I thought I’d share my favorites.
And the interesting thing is – all these things – ALL THESE THINGS, yoga can bring you; it delivers. All you ever have to do is this: PRACTICE.

meditation and flexibility

it’s part of my spiritual practice

enlightenment

focus, calm, openness, fire

tone and stretch

not sure


relax, man

time with my wife

internal space

exercise

quiet mind

joy!

physical and personal growth

pain free

that could take a long time . . . .

inner peace and badass flexibility

a better understanding of self

better breathing

a happy spouse

inner strength

?

awesomeness

love and light

open hips

weight management

community of like-minded individuals

destiny

help for my back

a positive experience

re-educating my body

fun

deep relaxation and spiritual advancement

sweetness

eternal youth!

to feel better physically, mentally

toning

peace, connection, oneness, movement

sleep

peace and light

balance

learn to be more calm

happiness!

better health

improve my practice

everything!

fabulousness

core strength

wife happy

anything!

opening up and letting go of stress

self-acceptance

hmmm . . . there’s many things

mind yoked to body


experience
So . . . if you read this far (and I hope you did . . . ) what is it that YOU seek?
As Kriyanandaji says . . . "Traveler in time . . . this is not your final resting place, what is it that you seek here?"
Shanti,
Jill

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Thanks and Thanksgiving



So, today, I received the most beautiful email. It read like this:

“Thank you for being my friend. I love you.”

And . . . that was it.

Wow; holy WOW. I am
so grateful to this person. Things are
so busy this time of year; this day!
Cooking and cleaning and preparing and planning and trying to make
memories and magic. This tiny gesture
helped me to feel my relationship with her; a connected and happy and safe
place; and in the quiet space of my mind, in that moment, deep gratitude
bubbled up.

I always say that there are friends and then there are
FRIENDS. You know; the kind that you
call and say “hey, I’m kinda in . . . Singapore . . . and I . . . kinda lost my
passport . . . and I . . . kinda have no money . . . can you . . . kinda, come
get me??? . . .

This is one of those friends for me; I am blessed to have a
long, long list of those kind of friends.

Sometimes, we overflow with gratitude; for big things, small
things; for everything. And, other
times, we get stuck in “don’t have enough of” or “why can’t I have” or just “why
couldn’t you just . . .” or simply . . . “ouch ouch ouch.”

Ouch.

So, this is a week (astrology, not holiday caused!) of a little more emotion and anger and
movement in the direction of change than most people can handle with grace and
style. Have you noticed this in your
life, in the world around you?

I challenge you to take a moment; a deep breath, and tell me
-- what are you grateful for? What
inspires your soul? Can you see the gifts
have you received? Can you see each
inhale and exhale as the deepest blessing?
Each morsel of food as communion?

Each interaction with family (family!) and friends as a
lesson on love and boundaries and acceptance and kindness and
it’s-okay-to-know-that-being-around-you-is-not-so-great-for-me-so-I’m-gonna-take-some-space,
OKAY?!

Can we offer gratitude for our health before we are
sick? Enjoy the food even if it is not
our taste, our brand, our way? Can we
create a safe space to love within our families and serve them without an
attitude of self-sacrifice or not speaking our own truth?

There have been many, many years that I could do none of
those things. I am aware, and trying to
do better.

“Thank you for being my friend” -- what greater gift could
you give to anyone in your life, be them blood related or spirit connected?

Blessed Thanksgiving,

Shanti,

Jill

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Angels, Guides and Teachers

When I decided to open Uttara, you have to understand where my life was; I’d been a stay-at-home mom for nine years; had three children,
the youngest was four; no family in town to count on; I’d never run a business, and frankly; didn’t have a clue what I was jumping into.

But from the very beginning; I had a strong sense that it was going to be okay; a deep feeling of safety that came from a source that felt real and true. And in everything I did, there was guidance; even the silly, simple things.

I decided I need a large basket to hold mats; a week later, there’s an enormous basket out at the curb in my neighbor’s trash (perfect basket, no damage – we’re still using it); needed something to hold purses and belongings; wander into the local Habitat for Humanity store and find a gorgeous piece for $75 (as I was hauling it out another patron told me that I would have made it onto one of the home decorator shows with that find).

And one day in particular, I had a small block of time to finish outfitting the place; hired a sitter to watch the kids, time was precious. As I got in the car, a little inner voice talked to me and instructed me in these mundane tasks, advising where to go, and what to buy. If you know me, I’m not a shopper, nor a decision maker.

But this day, it was like I was on a mission; from place to place, finding precisely what I needed at the price I needed it to be. Was thinking, “maybe God really wants this place to open . . . .”

Final item checked off my list, rushing to drive home, five minutes to spare to hit the deadline of my babysitter. Cruising toward I 581, my little voice tells me to exit the road and take the longer way.

“Uhh? What? WHY!?!”

This inner wisdom, which had guided me all morning to make wise decisions, gives me this piece of information and I . . . . complain; I argue with it. It didn’t make sense! I was in a HURRY! (Inner voice, don’t you get it, paying a sitter by the hour! Promised the kids I’d be home!).

So, as I have done more times than I wish to count, I ignored this voice. What the heck, really?! My inner voice is telling me how to DRIVE? Like it's my ex-husband or something?!

This whole exchange took mere moments, and as I merged onto 581, rounded the bend, and saw that traffic had come to a standstill, I understood. There had been an accident. And so, there I was; stuck in traffic, because of my stubbornness.

Had to laugh, and I did; but it reminded me of myriad times I neglected that inner wisdom; when the little voice in my head told me to go left, and I went right; when the little voice said no and I said “but but but -- why not?” When the little voice screamed and cried and I just looked away, because clinging to what I had been doing or what I had committed to seemed to make more sense than this frightening unknown path speaking up inside my head.

Would love to say that I learned my lesson; that I always following my intuition; and that my inner voice and I have established a clear and visible connection; but that is not true.

Sometimes my head has a cacophony of voices; sometimes, I still deny what my heart and wisdom tell me. Sometimes I do nothing; or take the easy way out.

But I am aware, and I am trying; every day; to hone that inner wisdom and to listen listen listen to the angels, the guides and teachers who surround me and support me.

Perhaps it all comes down to having a little faith . . . and the ability to trust.

Shanti,

Jill

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Camella Nair will be at Uttara!

I’ve brought a lot of other people’s teachers to Roanoke to do workshops. This month, I am excited to be bringing one of my teachers to Uttara.

Camella was my advisor during my Hatha Teacher Training program through the Temple of Kriya Yoga. It is not an understatement to say that her guidance helped to significantly shape my path as a yoga teacher, and as a person.

Camella is a Kriya Yoga Swami, which is a yogic priest, in addition to being a yoga teacher; ordained through the Temple of Kriya, she’s also one of those rare people who live their yoga 24-7; she lives in an Ananda community in California; she teaches yoga for a living; and is also an accomplished author and recording artist.

Her special gift is the way that the teachings just flow through her; her vast knowledge of yoga, and specifically Kriya yoga, are just a part of her nature. She also has the most beautiful chanting voice and a total no-nonsense way of bringing forth the teachings. Honest, forthright, blunt, true; Camella lays it all out, and in a language that you can actually perceive and understand.

Yoga is an oral tradition; it was never intended for written material or books; something is always lost in translation when you write the teachings down, in the same way that a picture is worth a thousand words. The teachings are organic, and as the teacher’s experience changes, and so do their teachings. So actually being in a teacher’s presence is an important piece.

In yoga we call this concept of “darshan” -- the blessing bestowed by being in the presence of someone who has done the work, and is ahead of you on the path. Just their very vibration in proximity to yours allows a shift in consciousness.

The workshops will be focused on the three “bodies” – meaning the physical body; the astral (energy) body, and what is called the “causal” body – your spirit, which is the never-born-will-never-die part of each of us. The yoga poses, meditation, philosophy and discussion will connect back and weave into this theme, and will be accessible to student of all levels. Don’t be afraid to learn more about who you are, or to seek to deepen your practice. Each workshop stands alone, and you can take only one or all.

Call or email me with questions! Jill@UttaraYogaStudio.com, 540-309-0071. For more on Camella, check out her website, http://www.camellayoga.org. Info on the workshops is below!

Saturday, October 22 and Sunday, October 23:

Camella Nair: Yoga of the Three Bodies -- Join us for a special weekend immersion into hatha yoga, meditation, mantra and discussion on navigating the chakras, nadis and koshas of the subtle (energy) body. You will also learn techniques on how to purify and balance energy from the Kriya Yoga tradition. Workshops can be taken individually; all are accessible for students of all levels.

Camella (Swami Nibhrtananda) is an ordained Swami within the Kriya Yoga lineage, author of two books, recording artist and mentor. She has studied mantra with Russill Paul and Ayurveda with the California College of Ayurveda. She teaches yoga, meditation and offers Ayurvedic body therapies in the South bay area of California.

Saturday, October 22:

9.30 am - 12.00 pm
Kriya Vinyasa Flow Class
-- Camella has developed and taught this series of asanas (yoga poses) over the past decade that has helped many people develop greater self-awareness and discipline in their lives. Class will finish with some breath/prana exploration and a brief meditation. Accessible for all levels of students, $25/$30

2:00 pm – 5:00 pm
Subtle Anatomy; Chakra Hatha Yoga
-- You are more than a physical body. To understand and learn about subtle anatomy and the energy body is to delve deeper into the science of yoga and take more control of your life. This class will be a discourse followed by asanas (yoga poses) that specifically affect certain chakras. $25/$30

6:00 pm – 8:00 pm
Kriya Yoga 101 (with nada yoga and meditation)--
In this class Camella will share balancing techniques from the Kriya Yoga lineage, as well as lead some group chants and meditation. $20/$25

Sunday, October 23:

10:00 to Noon
Hatha/Pranayama/Meditation
-- A complete yoga practice incorporating Kriya hatha yoga techniques, breathwork, and meditation; create your Kriya sadhana. $20/$25

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

My New Teacher

Meet my new teacher; it's a Cannondale mountain bike.

Like many synchronistic meetings in my life, I didn’t really go looking for it. Was thinking of getting a road bike, now that all three children can ride. Went to Just the Right Gear in Salem; they had been so patient and helpful when I bought a bike for my daughter. After a talk with the owner, I chose a mountain bike with tires that would let me occasionally road bike.

Now, I’m not unfamiliar with bikes; but it’s been 20-some years since I road regularly. Bikes have changed! And, mountain biking is different from road biking; the first time I came upon a rock, I squished my eyes shut preparing to get dumped; and instead, just flew right over that sucker. Wow!

I’ve been meeting friends and riding out at Carvins Cove (which is a little slice of heaven) about once a week. REALLY fun; like I’m 12-years old again and so brave and so free.

Mountain biking gets me out in nature; gives me a feeling of freedom and ease; is great exercise; and there are no worries of traffic or crazy car drivers. It’s so fun trying to jump the bike over piles of logs and flying down hills. It reminds me of those days of building ramps out of bricks and old boards with my brother; doing crazy stuff I’d probably never let my kids try now.

On my very first ride I was sucking wind; not used to riding; and two of my friends zipped off in a little friendly competition. Another rider hung back with me, introduced himself and we started to talk. “This is my therapy” he explained. Now, I totally get that.

There are so many amazing metaphors between life and riding the bike. Like if you focus on the obstacles, you’ll steer right into them, so be sure to keep your eyes on the path you want to choose, and not what’s in your way.

Remember not to be gawking at the scenery while riding; sometimes I want to look around, it’s so incredibly beautiful! But don't let the mind get distracted, or think about your grocery list. Out of nowhere obstacles appear; a root, a rock, a low-hanging tree, and BAM, down you go. So if you’re gonna ride, RIDE; and if you’re gonna rest, REST. Multi-tasking is overrated.

It also helps me to remember when facing a steep hill, or a place in the path where I’ve gotten stuck before to just put my head down and pedal; because if I obsess, or look far ahead, it’s too daunting. If I just put my nose down and deal with the little bit of the path that’s right in front of me, then it’s just not so difficult. You just get on through it, and keep moving.

Riding with my friends has helped me to see how often I put myself down (in my mind and out loud); apologizing for not keeping up, or for struggling with a portion of the path; or for having to get off and walk the bike up a hill or through the mud. We have a running joke about how often I have said “sorry” – something I have struggled with for years. They are my friends; they don’t mind waiting up for me, or helping me out. Why do I struggle to accept their kindness and their help?

Recently while making several attempts to jump a log pile, I got a little scraped and bruised up. Showing them to my friend with a laugh, he said “It’s all about quality of lifestyle . . . .”

Yeah . . . riding may occasionally leave me with a bump or a bruise or a cut; but each time it happens, I’m a little wiser and a little stronger; and it’s WAY better than staying home on the couch and missing out on the fun.

Shanti,

Jill

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Shifting

Last week, I sold the children’s swing set. It was a really nice one, with a little tower thingy and three swings; tiny little climbing wall. I remember when we first purchased it. I wondered why I had waited so long; it was magic the way all children would run to it, mostly wanting to swing. Swinging is a lovely, rhythmic way of releasing tension, at least for me; I still love to swing, so I always understood the draw.

But in five short years, the children have outgrown it; probably this Summer was the first lonely Summer for the swing set; the first time it was wished away to make space for soccer and tag.

It feels like a turning point in my parenting life; there was the time OF the swing, and there is the time AFTER the swing.

The children are 13, 11 and 8; each within a few months of a birthday. No more babies in this house; nor toddlers; actually, only one child.

So, I like to think I sorta understand where that is and what that is for them, because I’ve been those ages before and had some of those growing experiences. The question is: what is it, where is it, now, for the adult middle-aged (eek!) woman. You know, me.

I was telling a friend recently, that it’s like climbing a mountain; at this point in parenting, you catch of glimpse of the vast horizon; of a space that isn’t just nose-to-the-trail. During the years of babies; of diapers and runny noses; of learning to do everything, EVERYTHING from walking to talking.

Not to mention just plain trying to keep those creatures ALIVE.

And, suddenly; that’s not your role any more. Even if you thought of your parenting-self as a sculptor; a painter; someone who had a hand in or a major role in their development; the reality is – they are who they are. What you’ve said and taught means very little compared to what you’ve done and what you’ve conveyed with the very essence of your being.

And whether you think you rocked it, or if you just barely escaped, it really doesn’t matter – it just . . . IS. There are no do-overs in this incarnation.

Leaving the grocery store the other evening I ran into a former student; I was rushing home to the children as she ambled into the store. We exchanged hellos and when I asked how she was, she shrugged and said “empty nest now . . . go home and hug your children.”

There’s a really big space in my back yard right now; which I hope is filled with running teenagers, and soccer balls, and who-knows-what after that.

Might be a good time to remember that some day, there might be an even bigger space in my life.

Shanti,

Jill

Patience vs. Push

In order to work with the current cycles, I have been spending some time going back through my journals. It helps me to see the patterns; to see the sticky places and the blind spots (though, I guess if they weren’t blind spots they would be easy to see, eh?!).

In my journals I came across an entry from about a year ago where my sister disciple, Gracia, passed a Kriya technique for healing along to me. And THAT reminded me of the little lump in my foot.

See, on the top of my right foot, this odd little hard lump showed up; it was hard, like bone, and right under the skin. It got large enough to stick out, and it really looked icky; it also made it hurt to sit on my feet, which as a yoga teacher, I do a LOT. So, I decided to use this technique on my little lump.

I probably used the technique for a month and a half; really, no more than that, and not even daily. And, right away, I got impatient with the process. Five times; no change; fifteen, twenty times; and my lump, still the same. How great could this technique be if it couldn’t handle my little lump?

So, I stopped the technique, abandoned it really; chalked it up to something that either I wasn’t good at, or just plain didn’t work.

And I had not thought about it for a long time, until I re-read that entry and realized; the lump, it’s gone! I don’t know when it disappeared, but when I reached down to feel for it, there was just a teeny tiny little spot left. Not visible to the eye.

Did the healing technique do the trick? Was it my desire for it to go away? What happened here? And why, why, was I so impatient?

Actually, patience factors into everything in my life; living, loving, parenting, teaching, growing, learning, healing; where is it that patience is not required?

So, I’m thinking now – what other bit of fabulousness have I glossed over because I didn’t take the time; because I didn’t devote the minutes, the hours, the years? And the flip side of that is – where have I been WASTING time; throwing minutes and hours and years at things that are not growing, that are not evolving; that just aren’t taking me where I need to go?

The ever-present issue of where to lean into Life, and where to ease up? Push vs. Patience.

If you’ve figured it out, please let me know; in the meantime, I think I’ll pick that healing technique back up and work on it; I am thinking it belongs in my practices. But I also must re-examine my life -- where I am spending those minutes, those hours, those years? What is taking time away from what matters? From what is real? From what is true? From what . . . matters to me? Hmmmmm . . . .

Thursday, August 25, 2011

August 2011


“We should be training for August [2011] like athletes.” -- Mystic Medusa

This is from a post back in July by one of my favorite astrologers, who goes by the moniker Mystic Medusa. If you haven’t noticed, this has been a very interesting month in most people’s lives; very few are unaffected.

The question is, how are you doing? [Not just the little surface smile and “I’m fine.”] How are you really doing with . . . everything!

Cosmically, some very long-term aspects are being triggered, both within us and around us. The key with any change is to try to approach it in a balanced way; a harmonious way; a don’t-throw-yourself-under-the-bus way. But it is important to note that the aspects being touched upon this month are just a tiny taste of what is coming; these are big, long-term cycles. Expect similar circumstances and energies next July-August, and continuing on for at least two years after that.

Seriously.

Now, I don’t tell you this to frighten you, and if you’ve been following this blog for any period of time, this is not news to you. But for those of you who have become complacent; who think they can just tie a knot and hang on and it’ll all go away, please; don’t do that.

If you are experiencing intuitive flashes that require you to lighten up, shift directions, let go of old ways of doing and being in this world, listen to them. If you are not yet journaling, please, PLEASE begin. When these cycles repeat – with more intensity – it will be ever so helpful for you to have a record of your thoughts, a record of what was happening in your outer world AND your inner world. Both are important.

If you do not have a meditation practice, or take time for quiet, peace and prayer, I strongly urge you to commit to at least a minute or two a day. A clear head and the ability to use wisdom under pressure will serve you well.

Remember that all is karma; all is earned. You signed UP for this existence.

Use the infinite power of your mind to create a balanced life for yourself; whenever terrible thoughts attach to you, immediately wrap them in light and say in your mind “it does NOT have to be like this.”

Slipping into fear, anger, sadness, despair; these are not useful emotions. Counter fear with courage and faith; counter anger with compassion and understanding; counter sadness with happiness and joy; counter despair with hope and love.

And, hang in there.

Shanti,

Jill

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Summer Reading 2011



Oh, I SO meant to get this up earlier! But if you are looking for a good read for the last precious weeks of Summer, I have some suggestions; a couple recent releases, as well as some old favorites.



Blood, Bones and Butter, by Gabrielle Hamilton. This is just a great read. It’s the biographical story of a woman who is the chef/owner of her own restaurant in New York City, and the life experiences that all brought her to where she is and who she is today. The stories are beautifully crafted and heart-breakingly honest. Family dynamics, food, addiction, obsession, food, struggle, triumph, food, intensity, love, loathing, food. Absorbing.

Yamas and Niyamas, by Deborah Adele. For those of you who are ready to start at the beginning of the yoga path, the first two limbs of a true yoga practice are the yamas and niyamas. Essentially the “don’ts” and the “do’s” of living. Deborah Adele breaks down these basic ways of living and being in the world and explains them in a modern context. I don’t know anyone who would not benefit from this book. We have it available for sale at Uttara if you want to buy it locally; it’s a slim little volume that will give you a lot of food for thought, and shine a bright light on your path.

American Prophet, by Sidney D. Kirkpatrick. A fascinating book about the life of Edgar Cayce, this very complete volume digs into all aspects of the Cayce readings and will be of particular interest to those who wonder about the years of Jesus Christ that are not spoken about in the Bible, and for those of you interested in past-life experiences.

The Alchemist, by Paulo Coehlo. I have heard of this book many times, but just like when the student is ready the teacher appears, I was finally ready and this book appeared. A profound read that helps you to understand how all truly is one; that love is a super-power; and that you should live every day in pursuit of your most beautiful dream.

The 13 Original Clan Mothers, by Jamie Sams. This book speaks to women, particularly if you attune at all to native American cultures. A beautiful description of the various steps of growing spiritually, as an individual and in context with our “tribe” and community. So much of our individual experience is tied into the Universal experience of woman. Adore this book.

Sastun: One Woman’s Apprenticeship with a Maya Healer, by Rosita Arvigo. Fascinating true story of a woman determined to learn the old ways of healing. The author became the last link in the ancient chain as an apprentice to the last known authentic Mayan Healer, Don Elijio. The stories of sickness, healing, spirituality, prayer, and the bounty of the rain forest are just amazing. Made me re-think my concepts of healing, health, the power of prayer, the destructive nature of spiritual dis-ease, and the commitment it takes to become an actual healer. Plowed through this book in two days, couldn’t put it down.

Rainforest Remedies, by Rosita Arvigo. If you decide you are not interested in Sastun and the story of Rosita Arvigo, you still will want to read this great little volume. Arranged so that you can look up specific issues and remedies, it is a wonderful resource for those interested in homeopathic remedies and natural healing. Gives everything from recipes to massage techniques; prayers and rituals; as well as specific herbs, teas and tinctures. Not just for illness, but for wellness. Amazing resource.

Where Men Win Glory, The Oddessy of Pat Tillman, by Jon Krakaur. Most of us prefer to turn our heads away from the sheer waste and tragedy that was the War in Iraq, and what is the War in Afghanistan. This book helps you to see Pat Tillman, someone’s child-brother-friend-husband, as a three-dimensional personality – flaws and all -- and dissects the propaganda that our Government has rained down upon us about what truly went down. The Jessica Lynch story is also critically researched and frankly re-told. This book will open your eyes, extract your head from the sand, and hopefully give you a more critical and discerning mind when you are spoon fed information. Prepare to be inspired, as much as your heart breaks.


Sunday, July 10, 2011

Getting Ready

We are always getting ready to live, but never living.
--Ralph Waldo Emerson


Couple months ago I was finishing up teaching a class. As everyone gathered their things, two women came into the Studio. Both beautifully dressed in office attire, they began to inquire about class times. As I spoke, both nodded their heads and smiled enthusiastically; it seemed like they were ready to give yoga a try. One looked to the other -- “What about the Noon Power class tomorrow?” “Oh, nooooo . . . “ she protested with a wide smile, “I have to go shopping for this.”

Needless to say, they haven’t made it back to the Studio. Perhaps someday they will. Maybe, in fact, with the latest and greatest yoga mat in a matching bag, the best-fitting pants, and the cutest Hard Tail top. But you know, if they never make it to class, none of that stuff matters.

What matters is showing up on your mat. In your ratty sweats, your Target sale pants, or whatever. Whether it’s at Uttara, at the gym, at home. Whether it’s your first class, your 50th class, or your I-cannot-even-count class.

Yoga is a practice. It’s not a start, and a finish. There’s never “you’re done, that’s it.” Yoga is constant change; constant evolution; constant exploration. Meeting yourself, whoever and wherever you are, and going for it.

And so with life. You have to show up. You HAVE to participate. You need to get in the game, be ready to face down your fears, embrace change, and figure it out. You have been given profound gifts from God; you have gifted yourself with incredible blessings and challenges. Whether you know it or not, you are on a mission to meet them.

There’s nothing wrong with waiting to find the perfect yoga pants; nothing wrong with getting that really fabulous eco-friendly wonder mat. It is okay to want to plan, to prepare, to set yourself up for success.

But at the end of the day, whether it’s your yoga mat, your meditation cushion or your life; planning and thinking and dreaming will only take you so far.

You gotta show up.

Shanti,

Jill

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Greece and Italy Travel Notes

Just back from a family trip to Greece and Italy. (Really! I am jealous of myself.)

A few comments and observations:

*British Airways is amazing. There was no comparison with any of the American airlines that I have ever flown, even overseas; it cost a little bit more, but everything was included and was worth every penny.

*The people of Athens were amazing. Everyone (everyone!) spoke beautiful, fluent English. And many spoke several other languages as well. As for a command of their language, I now get the origin of the saying “it’s all Greek to me.” Their words look to me like someone pressed the caps lock AND the alt key and then sat on the keyboard. Utterly undecipherable.

*There was a sadness and desperation in Athens that made me sad. Everywhere people were so kind, but also apologetic for the state of their country. Protests and strikes everywhere. Small bands of police officers clustered in the squares. A trip near the Parliament building where we passed officers bearing uzi’s on the street. It felt like a little taste of what might occur in this country should our economy continue its current path.

*People were very kind. We were traveling with four adults and four children, three of whom are pre-teen girls. With the giggling and squealing and chattering there is no WAY you can even pretend to pass yourself off as some sophisticated European traveler. You may as well carry the American flag on a stick. Complete strangers would strike up a conversation or offer guidance. We felt very safe and looked after considering the difficulties in Athens right now.

*Solar panels were EVERYWHERE. On so many buildings in Athens; great fields of them in Italy. I kept wondering, “um, why, why aren’t WE doing that?”

*The Italian countryside is just breathtaking. I love how the country-quilt landscape of olive groves, fields of sunflowers, hillsides of grapevines. So many homes seem to have a little patch beside them with maybe a couple fruit trees, some grapevines, a small garden patch. Never just giant field after giant field of the same crop.

*The culture of walking; of taking a stroll. Of being out and about, visiting; I am sure this also springs from the fact that the homes are smaller, and there isn’t tons of personal space. But that sense of community really shines through. In the small town where we spent several days, I let my girls go to the piazza by themselves. They ran into five people that they knew. Very sweet.

*My children have returned as much more adventuresome eaters. Sure, they ordered French fries at every opportunity! But, hey, they tried a lot of different things, and truly got over any phobia about green things being sprinkled on their plates. We also developed some new passions (Greek cheese dip, potato pizza) and honed some others (my son had calamari daily, and we expanded our list of gelato favorites.

*Once again I was taught that you can plan your brains out, but at the end of the day, you gotta go with the flow. One of the most magical moments came after dinner one night when my friend spontaneously called her art restoration teacher to see if we could stop by his workshop. He kindly met us at his studio, and he had just completed restoration of a wooden sculpture of Jesus the Christ that was just in the beginning phases of restoratation two years ago when I had visited before. To stop by that evening and see the masterpiece (photo below!) completed; it was astonishing to behold.

*Traveling; meeting people from other places, other countries, other experiences; I realize that people -- US -- humans; no matter where we live on this planet. We are spirit, crammed into a body. They are no different than me, just born in a different spot on the planet. I hope, I truly desire, that when I make choices, decisions that impact the planet; that I will remember it's not just about impacting me and my children. My decisions, my choices; will affect them, and their children.

Shanti,

Jill

Christianity and Yoga

Hello kind blog readers: The following is a letter that I wrote in response to one of the several articles that appeared in our local newspaper over the past few months where certain sects of Christians expressed the view that yoga was a negative and . . . um . . . devil worship.

In order to get my sadness and anger out, I blasted out this response. After thinking about it, I decided not to fuel the flames (not to mention give their accusations any credit), and so I did not post this letter. Recently, however, I have re-read this response and decided . . . it wasn't too bad. In fact, I want to put forth and document my opinion, in a response to those who claim yoga is evil, or negative in any way.


Dear Mr. Moyer:

Recently you announced that you think Christians who practice yoga should stop because you consider it to be against the tenants of the Christian faith.

My first inclination was to ignore you; I think that when people make declarations such as this, with such obvious lack of knowledge or facts, I kinda don’t like to dignify them with a response. But, the more I think about it, you need to not be ignored, but refuted.

In the same way that all Christians are not people who choose to categorize individuals or groups of people into “saved” and “damned,” all who practice yoga are not converting to other religions, or turning their back on their Christian faith.

Please include this caveat in what I say – there is absolutely nothing wrong with other religions or ways of seeking God. Um, you might have heard this, but I’ll remind you that Jesus was Jewish.

I am in the midst of figuring out what it is I believe, and how best to serve God through my beliefs. I love to chant in the Sanskrit language, because it helps to turn off my brain and turn on my heart. Christian hymns about how I’m a sinner and saved only through the death of a saint just don’t help me to find God.

Being spiritual is much more important to me than choosing a label or a religion; religion is a structure made by man for and to serve man, not necessarily to serve God.

I’ll quote Anne LaMott -- “Religion is for people who are afraid of Hell. Spirituality is for people who have been there.”

I particularly feel the need to stand up for Hinduism, which is completely misrepresented and misunderstood in this country. There are many sects of this ancient religion, and I don’t pretend to completely understand it (of course, I can’t say I completely understand Christianity, the religion I have practiced since birth). But I will say that many people think that Hindus worships a series of Gods when most branches of Hinduism only worship the different aspects of God, in the same way that Christians revere their trinity of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

No one has yet to accuse you of worshipping doves.

What is Yoga? Yoga is not a religion; it is a science; a system for solving human problems. It is a very ancient, proven system for improving one’s life by first becoming morally accountable for all actions – physical, mental and verbal -- and improving one’s life by disciplining the senses and mind. By attaining heath and equilibrium in the body, which is the temple, for it houses your spirit. By gathering the invisible forces of energy that flow through your body; and allowing you to raise those energies to the highest possible places, so that you can connect directly with that spirit, that higher power – God, the Divinity, Great Spirit, whatever it is that you call the highest of high.

I am wondering if perhaps your greatest problem with this is that it tells people that they do not need a guide to God; they can find God on their own.

For many people in this country, practicing yoga is simply an exercise class; it’s a way to get strong, and more flexible. And that’s totally fine. For many of us, the practice of actually inhabiting the body, of studying the mind has led us down a path of figuring out exactly who we are, and why we’re here. For many, it leads to you to attuning to a higher spiritual power, however you see that power.

Some see that power as Mohammed, some as the Blessed Mother Mary, perhaps others see that power in the forests and the planets; and some see that power as Jesus.

Who are you to say that any of them are wrong?

Mr. Moyer, I invite you to take my yoga class (you might want to start with the level 1 class); perhaps if you stretch your body, and soften your heart, perhaps you might open your mind to the possibility that there are many, many pathways to God.

Shanti,

Jill

Service

My friend and contractor, Josh, is the salt of the Earth; a sweet, gentle, bear of a guy. One day he was at the house, working on our kitchen. A friend had been visiting, and when she left I gave her a card with a little cash in it to help out; she was having a tough time.

She must have driven down the road a while before she opened the card, and she came back, ran into the house and gave me a big, tearful hug. No words. We were both crying. And then she left.

He looked at me quizzically, and I said “Just helping a friend.” And he said “That’s how it should be; we should take care of each other – take care of the people around us.”

I try to always remember what he said, because he is so right.

Right now it feels like there is a deep awareness of sacrifices; much is falling apart and a new reality is being created. All around us, there is tremendous need. People in our community need money; food; help with the very basics of life. You may want to help and think "how?" Remember, each and every moment, every day, you have something to offer to others, even if it’s not cold hard cash.

It can be such a blessing to offer to cook a meal for someone; to watch a small child for a neighbor while they run an errand or go to the doctor. To mow the grass or plant some flowers for someone who cannot do it for themselves.

It is so simple to smile at everyone. To put down your cellphone and speak to the cashier who helps you with your groceries. To write a note of thanks to a teacher,a mentor, or a relative.

There is pain and suffering all around the world, but there is also pain and suffering right outside your door. We all can’t drop our lives and go feed the hungry in a foreign country. But we can serve a meal at our local soup kitchen. We cannot always send money to repair cleft palates in India, but we can provide toothbrushes to homeless students at the local high school. We might not be able travel to the Brazilian rain forests to save an animal from extinction, but we can go cuddle the pets at the SPCA.

We can use our collective energies to visualize a world at peace; to send light and loving thoughts to the troubled, the hungry, the frightened. We can pray and meditate for others, for the troubled people of Japan, for the wildfires in Arizona; and also for ourselves. So that we can become a beacon of hope, a rock of stability – for friends, for neighbors, and for anyone we meet along the path.

Two minutes, ten minutes, a couple hours, a weekend; the simple offering of your time and talent can change not only another person’s destiny, but your own.

Little things really do mean a lot.

Shanti,

Jill

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Manifesting

“YOU are a manifestor.”

“I’m a . . . . what?” Sitting on the floor three years ago in the big, empty yoga studio, chatting with a woman who was interested in presenting a workshop, it hardly felt like I had “manifested” the Studio. At the time I was stressed, worried about making the rent, and thinking, ”Honey, this didn’t just appear; I have been working like a dog."

In the years that have passed, an understanding of manifestation and the laws of creation have become more clear to me. And I realize, this woman who I really didn’t know very well; she was right.

Nobody said manifesting didn't also occasionally include some blood, sweat, and tears.

I am thinking of this today because outside my kitchen window, there is a big raspberry bush. We did not plant it, but we are sure happy it is here.

When we moved into this home, our hillside was shady and quite thickly laid with layers of English ivy. We culled the trees, and in doing so, created space. I kept thinking how wonderful it would be to fill the hillside with berry bushes, redbuds, fruit trees. Wrestling with the ivy has been more challenging than I anticipated, so actually planting things on the hill is practically impossible.

Impossible for me, but not for Mother Nature; and into that space on the hill countless blackberry, and now raspberry bushes, have sprouted up. Now I realize; those bushes are a manifestation. I drew them into my yard, and my life.

When we first moved into the house, I spent much time looking from the front porch toward the mountain view, a view obscured by a huge weeping willow tree. I adore weeping willows, and admired it often, but often in my mind thought . . . “ahhhh, what a view we would have if that tree was not there.” It was not long until a great portion of the tree came down in a storm. Not long after that, the owners had it dissected and removed. A dear friend tells me that the tree wanted me to have the view. I’ve always felt a little bad about it. It was an excellent lesson about the power of the mind.

The concept of “aham brahmasmi” (I AM the creative principle) is central to yogic thought. Absolute and total responsibility for everything and everyone in your life.

Everything. Everyone.

Eek.

And the thing is, the more you become self-aware and look to the symbols around you, the faster it happens. You dream a dream, and it creates. You have a desire, and it is fulfilled.

Though, not always in the way you originally thought. You have to be clear; you have to have a vision, and this vision needs to serve not only you but the Universe.

So lately I am studying manifestation with (hopefully) a little more self-awareness; reading up on creating our reality, and how to draw things, people, events, into your personal universe. The book I am reading suggests no coy wording; no “if I could” or “if it’s in my best interest . . .“ It says to ask for what you want; to give thanks for it coming towards you; and to have confidence and faith that this creation will be brought into form.

Whether you realize it or not, YOU are a manifestor. Vow to create more consciously; and to figure out what will bring you happiness, wisdom and joy. And before you begin to dream your dream, be REALLY certain what you THINK you want is truly WHAT you want.

Time to go pick some berries.

Shanti,

Jill

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

The Gift

ONCE upon a time there was a woman and a man. The man loved the woman with all his heart, and the woman loved the man with all her heart. A holiday was approaching, a day that the man wanted to honor the woman with a gift. The woman knew the man would bring her something, kind and generous as he was, so she suggested a wheelbarrow.

Now, not everyone’s heart’s desire would be a wheelbarrow, but this woman was a gardener. She worked long hours moving rock and soil and stone. She was tired of doing things the hard way. A wheelbarrow would make every project easier.

Sure, she could purchase one herself. But wheelbarrows come in a giant, unwieldy box. Assembly is required. She would need to arrange childcare (all three car seats would have to be removed!) so the thing would fit in the car. She would have to ask for help at the store (something at the time that she did not like to do) to get it from-the -shelf-to-the -cart-to-the-checkout-to-the-car.

She thought the idea of a fully assembled, big, beautiful contractor’s wheelbarrow sitting on the front porch would be a most marvelous gift.

The woman, of course, did not list these reasons. Or come outright and ask for it. She simply suggested a wheelbarrow; and the man, thinking that it would not be much of a gift, made his own plan. He purchased a necklace. A truly beautiful piece, with a stone in the woman’s favorite color.

And the morning she unwrapped it, the woman cried tears of sadness. And the man did not understand. The gift was generous, and beautiful but the woman felt it was not what she needed, or what she wanted. She felt that he did not listen. He was hurt that she did not appreciate his gift.

This made the man and the woman realize that perhaps, in the rush of life and jobs and children and bills, they were not communicating; not relating to each other; not understanding each other.

They set to work. It took time, and it took effort. They made time to be alone together, to actually talk and exchange, ideas, feelings, desires and expectations. The woman stopped expecting the man to read her mind. The man came to understand that sometimes a gift is more than money, but time.

Once upon a time there was a woman and a man. The man loved the woman with all his heart, and the woman loved the man with all her heart.

They lived happily ever after.

She has a very nice wheelbarrow.

THE END

Friday, April 29, 2011

Part 3: Death, Dying and Re-Birth (for T)

For T, Part 3: Where Am I Going?

When the time comes for a spirit and soul to move on, remember that all endings are also beginnings. Blow your mind open to the big BIG picture. Heaven and Hell are not places, they are states of consciousness. Trust in the process, use your intuition, and remember some of the most important things cannot be see with the mortal eye.

This person you have loved and had experiences with; they are just moving on. To return to the quote that begins this series, from one of my favorite Guru's, Yoda says, “ . . . mourn them not, miss them not.”

A very advanced practice, indeed.

I close with the important question Kriyanandaji poses in his books; “Traveler in time, this is not your final resting place; what is it that you seek?”

If you have read all three parts of this blog, thank you for your infinite patience. If you have questions or comments, email me at Jill@UttaraYogaStudio.com

Deepest Blessings, and Shanti,

Jill

Part 2: Death, Dying and Re-Birth (for T)

For T, Part 2: Why Am I Here?

Now, there are many things that are specific to this lovely blue and green planet. This is not a complete list. There is the law of energy – anything that exists must be fed in some way. Which relates to the law of reciprocity – you must give and you must receive; nothing can be sustained that only gives or only takes. There is the law of gravity (we should all be pretty clear on that). And there is the law you may not have been told about -- the law of karma; meaning whatsoever you do, say or think to or about another, returns to you. The classic “you reap what you sow.”

All these laws can, of course, be transcended; there are verified stories that refute these laws; tales of saints who do not eat; who defy the law of gravity and levitate (read Yoganandaji’s Autobiography of a Yogi); and people can and do transcend their karma. But none of these feats are easy, my friends.

And so after a few attempts at wrapping yourself in matter and coming here, you started to create karma; you loved, you were loved; you hurt, you were hurt; you killed, you created, and on and on. You created desires and thought forms that are seeking fulfillment. Remember back to the first part – thoughts are things! They are creations and they take form (prakrati). And as lifetimes pass, and you choose time after time to return here and fix those mistakes, to fulfill those dreams and desires – and instead, you create more issues, more drama – more karma. You return again, and again, and again.

If you do not believe in reincarnation, that is fine – but that is one thing I will challenge you on, because I do have specific memories of past lives. It was even a part of the Christian doctrine until the Church decided people were not so willing to do the right thing when they figured they had another chance at bat. Again, do your own research; decide what you believe. What does born again mean to you?

When we decide we are ready to return to this school for the soul, as Kriyanandaji calls it, we have to choose certain things that we’re going to deal with – because we have so many! We have to pick people around us who will help us to achieve our goals; and we also tend in reincarnate with souls/spirits that we have karma with. For example, fall deeply in love with someone? You separate without feeling that the love between you was completely fulfilled? You draw that spirit to you when you return. The same with strong hatred. Foster a deep, abiding anger towards someone? It’s like sending them an energetic rope. They’ll be back in your life, and next time they might be your child, or your mother; seriously; the circumstances could be quite different. But whatever it is between you that needs to be resolved, you will be given your opportunity.

Each time we return to this place; we create a type of contract with the Universe to come here. This is where the natal chart of astrology enters into the spiritual practice. It is a map of what we have chosen to tackle in this lifetime; our blessings, and our obstacles. Our stumbling blocks and stepping stones. It indicates the timing of events and the flow of energy.

This current time in history is known in Hinduism as “Kali Yuga” (the Dark Age). Most of us incarnating now are a rather ambitious lot; we are coming in with grand plans to tackle some heavy karma. And the chart will show us – there will be group karma (the group meaning culture, family – any group you identify with); there will be individual karma. There will be karma that manifests in your outer life; there will be karma that manifests only in your mind. There will be karma from past lives; karma from the present life; and some karma you will create that cannot be brought to you in this lifetime. That’s set aside for the next incarnation. You will choose when to resolve it, when circumstances permit.

Choose. Remember this always. You choose. Another law of the Earth plane. There is a portion of free-will involved in all situations. You make choices. Those choices either resolve karma, create karma, or some lovely mix of the two. You choose -- to stand a deliver; to shrink in horror; to blame; to ignore; to fight; to surrender; to apply your wisdom, or say “who cares?” You choose.

You even choose your parents; the child will rotate the mother’s spine for about three months before birth, so that their spirit can see if their karma is resonate with the mother’s karma. A person has the karma to die at 5 and the mother does not have the karma to lose a young child, that child will not be born to that mother. Look at every person in your life and accept the responsibility. You have drawn this person into your life for some purpose, for some reason. What are they trying to teach you?

Sometimes this concept, this responsibility, is terrifying. We look at our circumstances, and we say NO; no, truly I would not have desired this experience, to have been with these individuals. We look at the incredible lack and struggles of people around the world; the poverty, the pain, the needless suffering. And it is not okay to sit back and think “oh, well, that person has that karma, so let them be in agony . . . .” That thought form alone creates karma.

Instead, cultivate the important spiritual practice of PATIENCE. For yourself, and everyone; we are all on a grand adventure. Our job is to remember why we came. Anyone you encounter deserves your respect. Anyone who hinders your progress, resolve the energy that exists between you with wisdom and walk away. (Or in some cases, RUN).

.... completed in the next post ....

Part 1: Death, Dying and Re-Birth (for T)


“Death is a natural part of life.

Rejoice for those around you who transform into the Force. Mourn them do not. Miss them do not.

Attachment leads to jealousy. The shadow of greed that is.” -- Yoda



For T; part 1 of 3; Who Am I?

Death. Transitioning. Leaving the Body. Whatever you call it, we humans struggle. The unknown terrifies us. We read books, we talk to people who seem to know what happens – but when the illness comes, once the body drops, we retreat to fear and trepidation. What happens? Where do we go? Is there a soul storage place for “good” ones and “bad” ones? Who defines good and the bad? And what about the rest of us that are neither good nor bad, but just somewhere in between? Yogic philosophy has helped to evolve my understanding.

I am not telling you what to believe; I am not even telling you things that I know beyond a doubt. I am telling you what I have been taught by wise people that I trust; what makes sense in my mind in my life (so far); and what resonates with my own soul experience as a seeker.

There are six major schools of yogic thought, and the Kriya lineage flows from the Sankaya school. There is one Divine Creator; one God. We are all a part of that Divine Creator. In the same way that water is all WATER. Even though some of it might create an ocean, and some might be sweat, and some might be an ice cube in your soda (organic, all natural soda, right?). It’s all still water. Separate out that ice cube, and it looks so different. Return it to its source, and it effortlessly merges with it. Our spirits, they are like that.

Might be a good time to define the difference between spirit and soul. In Kriya Yoga, the spirit is the actual piece of divinity that is your essence; the soul is the storage place of memories, and karma.

On the Earth plane, there is duality; that divine portion of us, spirit (in Sanskrit, purushra) and the matter (Sanskrit, prakrati). Matter includes everything you can see, as well as thought forms, etc.; everything that is NOT spirit, is matter.

At some point, we, as spiritual beings, a portion of the spiritual whole, found a being more balanced than any of the others we had ever met; more balanced than ourselves. We asked this divine being, how did you come to being so balanced? In such a pure state of deep knowledge of yourself? And he/she told us, look, I made a creation; a mirror in which to come to know myself; this Universe. And we, being curious, asked if we could take form to come to know ourselves; to enmesh ourselves in matter to experience this creation. And we did. And as we did so, we became very attached to our earthly existence and the physical pleasures and sensations of this realm. The more attached we became, the more we continued to draw ourselves back here.

. . . . . continued in the next blog . . . .

Friday, April 22, 2011

Protection

Encountered some grumpy people this week? Yep, me, too.

Being a yogi, I look at it in terms of energy. I am sensitive to other people’s energies; if I am around an angry person, it makes me anxious, even if they are not angry with me. If someone is sad, my heart breaks for them. When someone driving lays on the horn, it makes my heart race. Some people are impervious to these types of encounters, but I am not.

The older I get the more capable of maintaining some separation between other people’s emotions and mine. It is a practice to detach from emotionality so that you can see things clearly, and offer assistance.

It is kinda like if a doctor saw you wounded and got so upset about it she couldn’t do what needed to be done to help you. Even if it is not a crisis situation, day-in-day-out interactions with difficult people sucks your personal prana (energy, chi, whatever you like to call it) supply dry.

One of your first go-to solutions should be water; water is magical, there is nothing else like it on the planet. Drinking water helps to remove impurities, whether they are physical or energetic; add a squeeze of fresh lemon to really move things out.

Frequent showers help; visualize negativity flowing off of you like dirt. Use the power of intention. When I shower I always say “I release back to the Universe the pain, the suffering and the fear that I’ve absorbed from my fellow beings and I neutralize that pain, that suffering and that fear.” Not everyone needs to go to that level, but because of the work I do, extra care is required.

Baths are great as well, but since you are soaking, it’s a good idea to add Epsom salts to the bath; they really draw out impurities and neutralize negative thought forms that may have become stuck in your energy field. Add a couple drops of essential oil, and you’ve got yourself a relaxing spa moment; just remember to use your intention again, don’t just sit there inspecting the grout.

Cover your chakras; I always think it is a little unfair that businessmen normally wear a silk tie that covers their throat chakra on down; they are energetically protected because silk insulates. For women, get on the Winter Silks website and get yourself a silk camisole or two. They are inexpensive (though they have to be hand washed, ugh), good to wear if you are going to be somewhere where there is a lot of stressed out people. They even sell silk sweaters and other garments. A silk scarf around the throat and chest area would work well.

Covering your heart or throat chakra with a stone or medallion is also a great idea and very protective. Some stones are more protective than others (ex: amethyst), so take a few minutes to ponder your choices (if you live near downtown Roanoke, Seeds of Light on the Market has some beautiful reasonably priced ones in the cases on the wall behind the cash register). Try it, you will be surprised how much it helps.

Wearing something around your wrist covers the small chakras there; it is one of the reasons we Kriya yogis wear malas on our wrists. Look back at drawings from ancient times; people often wore some type of bracelet or cuff on their wrists.

If you have an argument in your home or office, light a stick of sandalwood incense, or spray some rosewater around to dissipate the negative energy. Ever noticed there are certain stores or houses that are always for sale or for rent? No business can ever make a go there? It’s all about the negative energy. And intention! When I purify a space I usually say in my mind “I release from this space any and all negative energies and entities, and I bring in love and light.”

Finally, cultivate your self-awareness. Work on your ability to be self-contained, and how to breathe through difficult situations and personalities. Own your ability to protect yourself; to even just visualize yourself being wrapped in golden-white light, or whatever color you perceive as protective. Thoughts are things; use them wisely.

Shanti,

Jill

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Waste

Usually, I wear my hair pulled back into a ponytail; I prefer the no “ouch” covered hair bands with little grippies on them so it stays put. Not one to fiddle around with hair. Just want it out of my face when I practice and teach.

Last Summer my supply dwindled to one hair band. Some misplaced; some broke; I like to pretend my daughters commandeered the rest.

The thing is, when I had only one hairband, I was really good at keeping up with it. Made sure it was in the same place every night so I could put it on in the morning; if I pulled it out, I put it on my wrist. Very careful, because there wasn’t another one; I kept that one band for many, many months.

This month I purchased another pack of bands. And it is interesting how frivolous I have been with those new bands. Instead of going from the bathroom to the bedroom to find the band I wore last night, I’ve been just whipping out a new band. They are everyone; bedroom, bathroom, car, purse.

Who cares, you might say, about my losing hairbands? Well, it has started to remind me of waste in general; of taking things for granted. It makes me think of Japan, and the suffering people of Japan; and particularly, the problems with the nuclear power plants. The man-made problem of the power plants has the potential to be much worse than the horror caused by the earthquake and tsunami.

Why, I wonder, don’t we all have solar panels on our roofs? Why are we dependent upon an energy source we scarcely understand and can barely contain for our energy needs? We have 104 nuclear power plants in this country. I had no idea.

Instead of railing against them, I turn the gaze around on myself and realize, I am the reason that they build those plants. They build those plants to feed my lifestyle. The way of many lights and electronics and gizmos and gadgets.

Got up the other night at 2:30 am and came to the kitchen to get a glass of water. The glowing stove clock, microwave clock, printer button, computer modem, cd player, coffee maker; geez, I could have probably read a book in there. Maybe it is time to trim.

We have five clock radios in this house; that is unnecessary. The microwave, do we really “need” it? Could I maybe throw more clothes over the line instead of using the dryer?

The question is, will I use wisdom and change my lifestyle, or wait and be forced to change?

Shanti,

Jill

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Seven Springs Farm

I am a person with good intentions. A great starter, but not much of a finisher. My life has been littered with projects begun and abandoned.

This time of year, my good intentions turn to the garden. I love to dig in the dirt. My mother-in-law likes to say that I could put a stick in the ground and it would grow for me. In my secret heart of hearts, I cherish this idea.

The reality of my life right now is that I have neither the space, sun, soil or time for a proper vegetable garden. Herbs, oh yes; a few flowers, indeed. But a properly bountiful vegetable garden, the kind that keeps a family of five eating well for a season; that takes tending and nurturing; time and attention. Preparation, preparation, preparation.

And a load of back-breaking work.

Over the years, I have learned that organic vegetable gardening is not something you can do half way. So I plant a bunch of basil, a few tomatoes, and turn to a local cooperative farm to keep us in fresh, fabulous vegetables.

Polly, the farmer at Seven Springs Farm in Floyd, Virginia, has been gardening for . . . well, forever it seems. Eternally optimistic (a requirement for someone earning their living in such a manner), incredibly talented, she (along with help from her husband and a couple interns) somehow coaxes enough gorgeous produce from her carefully amended and tended soil each Summer to feed over 100 families. And not just in the warm months. The farm shares from Seven Springs span from May into December. Starting out with the freshest greens, garlic scapes and other delectables you will never find at the local grocer, and wrapping up the season with keeper veggies like squash, garlic and potatoes.

If you live in the Roanoke area, Blacksburg or Floyd, and you want a piece of this magic; to know who grows your food; to know that care is taken not to use genetically modified seeds; that your food has not been sprayed with chemical gunk; to have the opportunity to work a few hours at the farm in exchange for a portion of your food; NOW is the time to sign-up. You’ve only got a couple weeks left to grab a spot; for more check out http://www.7springsfarm.com/csa/csaprospectus.html.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Return from Retreat

Just returned from a beautiful three-day sound healing retreat at the Stillheart Institute. Gorgeous place in the redwood forests of California. The retreat was led by my sister in spirit, Camella Nair. Check out her site at www.camellayoga.org.

I have a few observations from my travels.

*Note to self: do not wear a long, full, flowy, hippy-skirt to the airport. Unless you seek to experience a full leg up-to-the-crotch pat down by a large woman wearing blue plastic gloves. Though, I guess it could have just been the karmic result of me observing the woman in front of me wearing a tight micro-mini corduroy skirt and thinking “who travels comfortably in something like that?”

*The Roanoke airport is dead as a doornail; except, when it isn’t. After years of flying out of here, I showed up less than an hour before my flight and had to stand in line in security forever. How many 6:00 am flights can there be? I made the flight; my luggage, however, did not.

*Is there anyone on the planet who fits comfortably in an airplane seat? Even with my sweater balled up to support my lumbar, the headrest hits me right at the top of the back of my head. Five hours of jalandhara bandha, anyone?

*When you go on retreat with yoga people, even if you don’t know a soul, you will leave with a bunch of new friends and a deep sense of community and connectedness.

*Tree hugging is underrated.

*Why when I travel do I take so many books? I slipped a couple into my luggage, had two in my purse, and then a pile that I threw in at the last minute. SEVEN books, including my dream journal. For four days. Guess I am an optimist.

*I need to remember: it is so hard to make the time for myself; to get away. To leave the family, spend the money, whatever. But it is an important part of keeping me centered, healthy, happy and on the path.

Wish me luck on re-entry . . . .

Shanti,

Jill

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The Bees (a poem)

I am the blogger who speaks for the bees
who seem to be vanishing, notice this, please.

Beautiful day, it is 80 degrees.
So from home I do roam to admire the trees.

Blossoming peach, apple, pear and more.
Circle the neighborhood, beauty galore,

trees cloaked in flowers, colors are glistening,
daffodils, hyacinths; something is missing?

Violets, quince, the humble dandelion;
but where is the humming? No bees are alighting,

I remember the Summers and Springs that have past
when trees were just humming, alive with a mass
of honeybees, bumblebees, small creatures with wings
who, we seem to forget, do important things,

which include pollinating the things that we eat.
And so when I walk, two miles, up the street
my heart fills with sadness; where did they go?
Down in my soul, I already know.

Chemical spraying for grass, perfect green.
People want produce looking pristine.
Purveyors of chemical, toxic solutions
persist despite all of our resolutions.

Go green! Earth first! On surface, maybe true,
but when it comes down to it, what do you do?
Are you buying organic? Not spraying your lawn?
Have you switched your dishsoap or still using Dawn?

I am the blogger, who speaks for the bees
and I offer this hopeful note to you, see
at the end of my walk was a huge weeping cherry
and there – there were bees! Though not very many.

Choose to act carefully; examine your ways;
be a blessing to bees in these coming days.


And maybe; just maybe; they won’t ALL go away.

Shanti,

Jill

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Preparation

So; how are you doing? It’s been an interesting year so far; my personal experience is time flying by; lots of chaos and busy-ness; progress, but with a price. And even from my insulated vantage point in Roanoke, the world is changing fast.

The rebellion and crisis happening in parts of the world is going to spread; this is really the end of many things, but the beginning of others. And crisis, rebellion and destruction are the themes.

I began writing this blog last Wednesday, before what went down in Japan, because of all the talk in astrology circles about this Friday’s moon being a “super moon” – very close to the Earth. As I drove home to write the blog, I saw that the government had put up a “preparedness” type billboard near my house. Interesting.

It is one thing to have the mind prepared; to embrace change, be ready to let go of your current reality; but it is quite another to actually let things go. And right now, the lines are blurry; real life, dream life; reviewing the past, contemplating the future.

These next few years, there will be plenty of environmental disturbance. These are fundamental suggestions, but from now on (I mean, from NOW ON . . .);

Have water on hand; enough for your family for several days. Have food on hand. Food that doesn’t need to be cooked or prepared; canned food and staples; food for your pets. Don’t depend on daily trips to Kroger or the Co-op because you are always out of something. Don’t go all end-of-the-world on me, but stock up, and then rotate your stock so there is no waste.

Create local food connections; find someone who raises chickens and will sell you eggs; register for a local food cooperative like Seven Springs Farms or Good Food Good People. Dig up a little garden bed, or fill some planters with herbs and greens. Realize there might be disruptions in shipments of food, gas, and pretty much anything else you can imagine.

Have a basic plan to pack up your car and be gone for a while. Have a check list of things you would not want to leave behind if you had to get out of town quickly. Basics like clothes, blankets, diapers; phone, charger; maybe one of those crank-up radios that doesn’t need electricity. A can opener; important documents; road maps; medicines; matches and flashlights.

Don’t let your gas tank get to below ¼ a tank; I know it’s a pain, and you don’t have time; but if something comes up and you need to get to a safe place, you don’t need to sit in a gas line. Time to be a grown up; fill up more often.

Have a little cash on hand – just a couple hundred dollars in small bills. You need to make sure that if computer systems went down you wouldn’t be driving around trying to find someone to take your debit card.

And most important; listen to your intuition. You get a strong feeling you should do something, call someone, go somewhere; whatever; go with it. Tune into that inner wisdom now, and always.

Shanti,
Jill

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Current Astro Info


You think life has been flying by? Technology boggling the mind? Rebellion in the air?

Well, buckle up, my friend; the planet Uranus goes into the sign of Aries Friday, March 11, 2011, at 7:49 pm EDT.

Which means, um – what?

Well, first of all, Uranus is the planet of freedom, change, rebellion, electricity; Aries is the sign of the Ram; expect this energy to be as subtle as a sledgehammer.

Not necessarily bad; just quick, fast, and intense. Had a little more of a temper lately? Yep, that’s this force. Been feeling oppressed and ready to break free from something or someone? Uh-uh.

Savvy enough to know what house Aries is in your personal birthchart? Then you know what area of your life is about to experience some radical change.

How to handle this energy? Well, if you’ve really got it figured out, call me; cause I’m not 100 percent sure myself. But, I’m trying to embrace change; be open-minded enough not to freak out when it arrives.

I’m trying to embrace technology; because that’s about to hit the fast-forward button to the max. I’m totally open to other realms, other worlds; a tear in the fabric of the Universe as it were. I’m cautious but optimistic that we’ll embrace this period and use it to our collective highest good.

Trying to avoid people who are obviously stuck in the old ways; who are entrenched in their personal views, and unable to be flexible, open and optimistic. Cause we need to be sending out the positivity; with all the energies about to go down these next few years, there is no room for the “glass half empty” people in my life.

Going to do some journaling and review of the period 3/9 through 3/12; look at my world and the world around me for the proverbial “writing on the wall.”

And, vibe strong.

Shanti,

Jill

Yoga Instructor Burn-Out

Several years ago I overheard two yoga instructors chatting. One said “oh, I teach about 15 classes per week right now; it’s my livelihood, you know.” My mind immediately was critical. “How?” my mind judged. How could you teach that many classes a week and do it well?

As you might guess, in the beautiful way the Universe instructs us, in less than a year I found myself teaching 15 classes a week; or more.

Owning a yoga studio has been a terrific blessing, but also more work that I could have dreamed. The challenge of running the Studio and teaching classes to support it; raising three young children; maintaining a marriage and a spiritual practice; is very hard work , indeed.

There are days I’d prefer to have my old life of a stay-at-home Mom. No conflict between my schedule and their schedule. Have a clean house; have homemade cookies in the cookie jar. It is a tremendous gift to have children and be able to be home when they are home; to stay home when they are ill. My husband has worked incredibly hard for the years I had that priviledge, and now I more fully appreciate that gift.

All the rules have changed now that I’m working, and the challenge of staying on the “want to teach” side instead of the “have to teach” side is one I’ve met often, and will again in the days and years to come.

For me, the first order of business is to take care of my body. Along with keeping myself hydrated, well-rested, and eating as much whole food as possible, I get a massage every month. Consider it essential, like brushing my teeth. Constant giving and no receiving is unsustainable. Massage really keeps my physical battery charged, and immune system strong. Don’t have the cash for that? Try swapping a private yoga session with a local massage therapist. But, truly, it is WAY cheaper than the co-pay for a doctor’s visit and even one round of antibiotics.

When classes seem rote, or I’ve said the same phrase constantly, it’s time for me to take a class. Seems so simple, but too often yoga instructors never take another teacher’s class. For me to hear how they describe a pose, or see how they sequence their class can inspire a shift or change for me.

The other side of taking another instructor’s class can be to approach it as a mental discipline to just “be” in the class and not be analyzing it. (“Well, I would not have done that many backbends without a twist . . . . “ – instructors know what I mean!) To truly immerse yourself as a student helps me to reconnect to my original love of yoga; and the savasana is always sweeter in a class setting for me than at home.

Speaking of a home practice, if you are a yoga teacher, you’ve got to have one – even if it’s “legs up the wall” for twenty minutes. Teaching is not practicing. Your home practice has to keep evolving and growing, or your student’s growth will outpace you. That’s fine if it happens naturally, and they move onto new things, for but don’t let it be because you yourself have stopped growing.

Subscribing to a couple yoga magazines can be helpful; always go through and tear out the sections on poses and keep them in files; I have one labeled “sequences,” one labeled “inspiration,” and another labeled “poses.” When boredom strikes, or I feel like the poses or sequencing is stale, a look through these articles can help to find a new approach, or a pose that I personally wish to master. Your students are a mirror. Recognize you tend to attract people with the same issues you have either had in the past, or are dealing with now. Your personal growth, the poses that are helping you will in turn help your students.


Ask other teachers what good books they’ve read lately, and borrow them. A book on mudras inspired me to research and practice several of them regularly, and my students love them. A book on Yoga Nidra led me to using the scripts in some of my restorative classes, and again, the students really loved the experience. Then again, if your nightstand only has yoga books, it’s time to find something else to read. Don’t think everything you read has to be spiritual or yogic. A great escapist novel or learning something new and different – perhaps another language -- keeps the mind sharp, and allows you to let go of your attachment to your yogic persona.

And finally, for me, yoga is a spiritual experience. If I am able to stay connected to the Divinity -- remember that I’m a spiritual being having a human experience -- it allows me to be patient with myself and with my students. To remember to recognize that all is change. And that this body, this mind, this personality; they don’t teach yoga classes. The teachings flow through my vehicle.

It is my job to open up, and receive.

Shanti,

Jill
Uttara Yoga Studio, LLC. Blog design by Jessica Hedrick