the image on top is "Welcome Home Sweet Sugar" by Kelsey Brooks

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Gigi Yogini

I won't lie, I read up about Gigi, particularly the way she lives in a yoga cottage, the night before I took her class. I think it is very exciting to me to meet teachers whose lives and practices are very integrated.

Gigi's class- although a vinyasa flow- has a rhythm to it that feels more like a hatha class. First we started off with breathing- different types of heating breaths. Now, the room we were in was called "water". but make no doubt, this was a heating practice. We started off with rounds of various breath work, including bhastrika, a brisk and strapping breath that kills anxiety. We did a few versions, combined with different arm work, and some twisting afterwards. Then we began to move into a flowing practice, which was paused for select poses such as crow, with challenges- perhaps you would like to try a twisting crow, today? perhaps you would like a supported arm balance?

Gigi's authentic and accepting presence forms a powerful class.

As a side-note, Gigi had her fellow artists express themselves on the outside of her house and fence. She was forced to take this down due to a Los Angeles law violation on graffiti. This blows my mind as graffiti is specifically the act of writing on a person's property *without* their permission. To best of my reason, you can't ban a medium of painting because it "looks" like graffiti. I would love to learn and participate in how this works out.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Ally Hamilton

If you want to take a moment to truly fall in love with humanity, take a trip to the bathroom at Yogis Anonymous. You'll be greeted with the most positive, energizing and inspirational bathroom graffiti that has ever existed. You know the graffiti in your favorite coffee shop- scratch that- that's nothing- this stuff is fantastic. It creates a sense of community that is truly inspirational.... I may have never met the person on the mat next to mine, but if I have the suspicion that they wrote "trust your struggle" or "follow your bliss" on the wall next to the sink, I have an innate trust for that human being.

Ally is the director of the studio, and her class is power vinyasa FUN. Her alignment background shines strong and keeps her students on track. My favorite part was when we imagined we had a tennis ball between our thighs in warrior 1 and in crescent lunge (I think).

We did yelling kick ups from warrior II, lots of lunging with some fun side angles, and there was time for handstands or other inversions right up against the wall. There was a point when her playlist switched over to her 4th of July playlist- for no reason- and she just rolled with it. It became a part of the enjoyment of the class.

Yogis Anonymous is a down to earth yoga studio specializing in real world bliss and creativity. The post art on the walls (a woman with her finger to her lips..shh), the blank canvasses, the figures doing chair pose above the bathroom...all a reminder not to take anything too seriously....

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Aria Mayland

I had the good fortune to practice next to Aria one day in class, and let me tell you, it's impressive. After taking her class, however, I understood that her inversions weren't a result of pure luck, but of intelligent, mindful and a very specific sort of hard work. After some slow stretches, strengthening and awakening work and some flow, we moved onto our peak pose, handstand. The intention for the class I took was about rolling in the inner thighs, and we took out blocks and practiced that. Aria commented about firming the triceps towards the biceps, and gave us many more precise cues that unfortunately I cannot now remember. But I did mind them very much, and as all yogic work, it sinks into the body sometimes without notice. Then, Aria took it one step further, and asked us to do donkey kicks with a block between my thighs. This was absurdly frustrating (and for that reason brilliant). I can do a decent job with donkey kicks, but with a block, my ego took a nose dive. And watching that process, and the senselessness of those thoughts- there the yoga kicked in. We moved into other handstand preparations, and then finally went up, which was so fun and super rewarding. Aria gave lots of options for how to kick up into handstand, and individually guided students. Handstand (next to camel) is my favorite super refreshing pose. I felt amazing after that class....

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Mary Beth

Mary Beth has such a beautifully soothing voice! I jumped into her candlelit gentle class five minutes late to be comforted by the ease and comfort in her voice. I was impressed by her tone even all the way in the back of the room. Mary Beth is personable and kind, warming the space with her presence.

We did a lot of anjaneyasana, low lunges, pulling the elbows back and allowing the heart to shine. Her music was seductive, particularly 'Slowly' by Max Segdley, one of my favorite vinyasa songs. The simplicity of the sequence was perfect for a late night Wednesday class, and everyone in the room was feeling the calm vibe. Candlelit, slow, smooth vinyasa, ending with some backbends and restorative poses. As always, there is a warm supple heat that naturally occurs in every Surya class.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Lila Jones

Lila has tremendous grounded energy: my first instinct was the say she was the second most grounded person I've ever met.

To enter her class at Santa Monica Yoga Co, you have to travel a staircase with the words "Down To Earth" atop it. If that doesn't set the mood enough, she also started out with nadi shodna, a balancing breath that requires complete focus and concentration.

Afterwards, we did some warming poses before heading into a steady smooth vinyasa. The room was heated, but not in an oppressive sense, but more in a warm and cozy rainforest type of heating. Lila's verbal cues were as powerful as deepening adjustments, and her commitment to the room invited her students to find their dristi as well. Her Annie Carpenter roots shine through with the precise alignment cues and physiological outlook.

I remember heading into arda chandrasana fairly early, and then moving into a twist. After, I was in such a trance that unfortunately I remember very little, apart from the fact that I liked the music and I was moving with a strong flow of energy. I remember pausing and savoring a triangle. The ironic thing about a wonderful class is how difficult it is to remember what one did afterwards. I do remember that as some point I traveled up into a handstand and fell over, and how ok it was to fall over in that class. I remember taking my hands to my head for clear thoughts, to my mouth for clarity in my speech, and then bringing my clarity to my hear.t

I'll have to take class again, with more careful notes : ).


I think the theme of this week, this weekend, is most definitely turning out to be hope.

Why is hope important:

1. You cannot align your actions with your intentions without hope: If you do not believe that actions will benefit you, you will be far less likely to take them. This is very common in the case of a discouraged worker: she or he does not believe they will find employement that befits them, and thus stops looking.

2. You cannot fake hope: Others can tell. You can, of course, force yourself into the situations half-heartedly, without hope, but you cannot be effective. If you do not hope your date will go well, you will be sending a plethora of signals, from body language, eye contact, manner of voice, manner of communicating...even such minor details such as the brightness of your eyes. All of that will show through. And they will effect the people around you. Alternatively, if you have hope you will attract lots of people towards you.

3. Hope creates compassion. It has been my observation that if one chooses to suffer, he or she will be of the opinion that everyone else should suffer in a similar fashion as well. This is because in order to choose to suffer, I must tell myself that I only have one option in a situation, even if it is an option I do not like, or that I have two options, one which has less suffering than the other. I then expect everyone else to be in similar situations and make similar choices, or be annoyed when they do not have to make such a choice. And it is subconscious. We may want to believe that we want freedom, love and happiness for others, but unless we have it for ourselves, it is not possible.

I am going to research hope and find physical, emotional and spiritual practices to cultivate it.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Yoga, Mojo and Chocolate

Yoga, Mojo and Chocolate....my three favorite things, combined in one workshop.....

I was helping out with a couple things, and I got to see the whole experience unfold.

There was about thirty woman at the workshop, and Sarah and Deborah at the front, with feathered boas and dressed in black and red.

We began with a feminine energy flow. Sarah talked about how feminine energy was the grounding energy, a downward flow. Which is why native american woman wore skirts, she said, to connect with that energy. We got super grounded, through our feet and through our hips. There was lots of malasana, and swirling hip circles. Getting in touch with liberating circular movement, a luxurious vinyasa.

One of my favorite moments was a combination of chair pose (bent legs) and cat/cow. Hands were on the thighs and spine undulated back and forth. Another fantastic moment was in warrior two- just the sheer emotional strenght of thirty concentrated women in that pose was overwhelming. There was lots of malasana, and of course, it was all centered around the breath.

We finished with a partner yoga childs pose/ savasanah that was so much fun, and super relaxing. It helped cultivate the environment of trust that nourished Deborah's talk. Then, we did a tantric exercise that was my favorite. We somehow got an entire room to synchronize their breathing, till everyone was one inhale, one exhale, the effect was tremendous harmony and power.

Then Deborah began to speak, and her talk was about getting in touch with what she described as feminine energy: attractive, magnetism, creativity and most importantly, sensuality. Sensuality, she said, is the practice of living through the senses, and it rests in a separate circle from sexuality. And sometimes those two circles come together, she says, and that is wonderful. But remember that they are separate. She talked about the intelligence and wisdom of connecting from the neck down, how there is all this intuition that makes women powerful, and how we need to remember to check in with it.

She taught us a technique that involved rubbing swadhisthana. Take your forefinger and middle finger together, and touch a spot two inches below your belly button. Then, moving counter-clockwise, draw a circle. This, she says, is a powerful technique to staying grounded in your body and sensuality.

I also was deeply impressed and inspired by the Love Body Wash (which I immediately recommended to my friends). Get in the shower, and start with your legs. Massage your legs "I LOVE these legs! They are so fanastic! Look how they get me from place to place! So wonderful....and my thighs...I LOVE my thighs...." And so on.

THEN: oh man, Erin from 2good2beraw.com showed up.

ROSE chocolate. SPICY chocolate. MINT chocolate and Coconut chocolate. all of it raw. Oh my god, it was so amazing! It was the most powerful mint and rose flavor explosion I could have ever imagined, and the spicy chocolate was so nourishing! Her chocolate is amazing. Truly, truly amazing. And it has a nice crisp taste, which is amazing since it's made with Agave, and melt in your mouth....ah...

Wow, we finished off class with a free flow movement while Sarah, Deborah and I went around and gave out pieces of chocolate. Chocolate and movement....pure bliss.

PS: Check out Sarah's personal pampering products.... and her way too cute grooming mirrors for the fun between yours legs http://peeka-bu.com/

PSS: Check out Erins website: I want a peppermint patty....

Humility: Openness with Sarah

Sarah Nehaman has incredible soul.

Last Sunday, I had the privilege of assisting a workshop with her, and right away, I was humbled. I like to pretend I'm a pretty open minded person. And I like it when that illusion is shattered by someone with a bigger heart, and a more noble mind.

Before the session began, a woman showed up at the door. I am ashamed to say that I did judge her: she had on an old t-shirt, she spoke loudly, she was worried about unemployment (like me, remember? yeah, just like me), and she had never taken yoga before. Maybe she would disrupt the mood, I thought with my reptilian brain. Most likely, I saw in her what scares me about myself, particularly her worries about finding work, fears I don't know how to cope with.

I suggested she come back for a beginner class. Sarah came to the door. "Come right in," she says, "don't worry, just come right in". It was her first class, she said. Sarah continued to invite her in, reminding her to take it slow.

And I saw that woman relax as the class proceeded, saw her have a kind, open heart towards the proceedings, saw her working through her concentration and taking in the empowerment that was happening.

I intend on remembering that.
And acting on it.

Why I'm Scared of My Hips

I was lucky enough to be able to take Annie Carpenters last week- a hip opening session that, like all her classes, offered enough information to be considered a workshop.

Annie has this incredible creativity that disguises itself in simplicity and modesty. And we did a lizard lunge: instead of bringing the back knee down, we extended our hands right away.

Like always, I wish after class I had written down all the techniques we used, but as I recall, the main emphasis was on squaring the hips and rolling in the inner tight. This had the effect of engaging mula bandha and lifting the pelvic floor.

Then we went up against the wall, and, again much like Natasha's, that's when things got tight. We put our knee against the wall, top of the back foot on the wall, and began to move into a low lunge. In the words of an acquaintance, 'Oh My Science!'.

I was really scared. I had so much anger, resentment, annoyance stored in there. Although in the back of my mind, I know all emotions, all human possibility is accessible to everyone, there is a part of me that refuses to believe that I can be an angry, jealous, or resentful person. And like how I can. The moment I stepped into the lunge- I don't remember the thoughts, only their quality- they all jammed up into my head and attacked me. I was terrified.

And that type of radical self-knowledge and fear-facing is what I want to discover through yoga now.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Maitri: Bhakti Yoga with Govindas

Govindas has shining eyes and a pure presence through his teachings. I've taken two classes and I'm hooked. Recently, I've been resonating with a slower paced, devotional practice, finding a more interesting type of challenge there.

In the beginning of class, Govindas had everyone come over and meet each other, saying their names and engaging in a bit of conversation. Really underlines how everyone is sharing an element of their experience, interactive in it....

Afterwards, we placed a great deal of emphasis in ujjayi breathing, and moved into a slow and deliberate flow, every motion had more space and time. And this, perhaps, is what made it so difficult.

Counter-intuitive as it sounds, a slow flow class is much harder than a fast-paced class. There's so much more space for the self to witness the mind's chatter. And for an ego-driven kid like me, this is annoying to watch. I want to become frustrated, why so noisy?

And yet Govindas held the space with so much love, and the space resonated with so much devotion, that I wanted to fully face myself with love in my practice. I wanted to maintain calm, maintain compassion and dedication in my practice, as a way of matching the space somehow.

I'm trying to recall particular poses- a few stand out to me, malasana moving to tadasana about ten times, deep lunges, and in the past class, the chanting- My life is full of beauty and love (so true). I am scintillating with positive energy. Scintillating.

Heart-openers. So intense. I kept thinking about maitri, unconditional love and compassion. In my second class, we did partner work. Supported wide-legged forward fold, holding on to our partner's forearms. And I could honestly rest my eyes on my partner's. It amazed me. how in this culture, such a thing is possible. Beautiful.

Savasanah seemed to last forever in every class, I loved each beat of it. Slow flow definitely rendered a different, and perhaps admittedly deeper, meditation than I've experienced in a post-class high in a while. Definitely a good sign.

Bhakti Yoga Shala is a space filled with true love, noble and radical acceptance. They are a donation based studio between 2nd and 3rd on Arizona Ave in Santa Monica. I love how this noble, donation based studio can keep their classes unique, their intentions pure and attract a community of loving, knowledgeable and dedicated instructors and students..