• An Interview with Erica Tenggara

    Who is Erica Tenggara? You may have seen her course on OMstars, or maybe you follow her on instagram, but we wanted to know more – about who she is as a teacher, about her relationship with yoga, and why yoga is so important to her. So we reached out to Erica with a few interview style questions, and now we’re sharing her answers with you! Check out Erica’s Interview below and find out if she’s someone you can relate to, someone you might like to practice with or someone who inspires you, then check out her course, A Week Of Practice, on OMstars.com!

    1. How long have you been practicing yoga and why did you start practicing yoga?

    I’ve been practicing for 5 years.

    I started practicing for a few reasons, the instigator was that I was bored. My boyfriend at the time spent most nights socializing & I was bored of that, so I decided to fill my nights with yoga.

    Why yoga? Because I couldn’t really do anything else. I tore my ACL in high school & couldn’t do anything high impact so yoga it was & yoga has been my main squeeze ever since.

    1. What is yoga to you?

    Yoga is my happy medium.

    I’m a very extreme, emotional, erratic/irrational person. I’m very up & down but in yoga, I’m at a medium, I am just okay & I’m okay with that. I can’t escape, it’s not an escape. Practicing is a time for me to find a way to be okay with the practice and myself & that has a ripple effect into my life off the mat. So in a way, yoga is my mediator.

    1. How did you feel after your first yoga class and how do you want students to feel after they practice with you?

    Like I was on a high. I started out with Bikram yoga, the teacher was Irish & spoke with this incredible motivating Irish accent. I loved it! It was so hard, so much sweat, so much holding of what seems easy but isn’t & left me feeling like “woah – I don’t know what it is but I friggin love this”

    For my students though, I’d love for them to walk a way from my practice with a better sense of understanding. I’m not so into needing to create a high. But if someone can understand either themselves, a pose, a process, a feeling a little more than they did before. I feel like I have done my job. Awareness & perspective I realize more & more each day is what makes living a little more manageable & that’s what I’d like to give to my students, a way for them feel like what yoga is for me – a happy medium. A mediator.

    1. What impact has yoga had on your life? Who were you before you started practicing and how have you changed, evolved and transformed?

    Such a huge question. Where do I begin!

    Long story short: I’m a third culture kid who has gone through 2 parent divorces. Both of those divorces made me feel abandoned. Even today they still do although I realize them leaving me has actually nothing to do with me (that’s the yoga there – the realization/awareness)

    For whatever connecting reasons, in school I was depressed, bulimic & attempted suicide I think in 2009.

    Today though – I love my life & I believe I have a future in this lifetime.

    I feel I am naturally, highly emotional. I’m very erratic and irrational which can be a great thing but not always. I take everything to heart & it’s hard for me to take a joke and criticism. So of course I am also hard on myself & I am hard on others. This has affected the relationships I’ve had with everyone I have known from family, friends, colleagues, boyfriends and even students etc.

    I cannot say it is the yoga practice itself but it’s the elements of yoga & the yoga community that has helped me become a more understanding, empathic person with both myself & others.

    I can’t say I’m made of sugar but I can say that if someone is in child pose, I no longer just think they’re lazy. When it comes to my family, especially to my Mum, maybe it’s just cause I’m finally growing up a little bit, but I am making an effort to be nicer to her. Even when she’s so annoying, I try to make peace with her & try not to control the decisions she wants to make for herself.

    When it comes to relationships and yes I mean romantic relationships, I try to make better decisions. I think someone like me who is so erratic, who has gone through parent divorces, bulimia, depression etc. You crave love. You crave love, attention, affection. You want to feel wanted & desired & that feeling when you have it is addicting. It’s a high.

    I’ve learned though, to have a little more self control, to be aware of those feelings of need & desire, try to step back and look at the bigger picture “is this what I want?”

    And so the relationship I am in now, is the most grown up relationship I have ever been in. It’s one where although there is still a lot (like loads) of love, there is an effort to not just rely on affection. But to be two responsible adults for not just ourselves, but each other. Basically, I don’t always win all the fights & I get called out for my s**t. Which rarely happens. Even with my friends & family.

    I’m kinda rambling but in summary I’m a better person to myself, I’m a better colleague, better friend, better lover & daughter than I was before yoga.

    1. Why did you decide to start teaching yoga and what makes a good yoga teacher?

    I didn’t really decide I want to teach yoga, it was more a “wow, this is what I am meant to do” kind of situation.

    It was when I was doing my mock teaching during YTT – which I took for just curiosity sake really, and that’s when I had the “aha” moment.

    What makes a good yoga teacher? This is based on personal preference.

    I have a few teachers that I consider mentors & I love them for different reasons so I’ll just describe them and I think then it’ll make sense.

    Patrick Creelman

    Patrick is a child in an adult body. But when he teaches he is all business. Mostly influenced by Iyengar & Anusara yoga so as expected he is also strict. The only time I have ever done a child pose outside of his sequencing was when I had altitude sickness.

    His instructions can get annoying, if you have been to an Iyengar class, they talk – non-stop. But I kinda love it, the instructions make me work hard, Patrick makes me work hard. He’s one of the few teachers I know who doesn’t give a crap that I am a teacher, that I’ve got Instagram, that I’m… whatever. But if I’m in class, he works me hard & works me to my fullest potential without forgetting the other 50 students in the room.

    Arun Rana

    Arun is more your guru type yoga teacher. He has that presence. When he walks into the classroom everyone stops talking & sits in preparation. He specializes in flexibility & is the inspiration behind many of my tutorials that I have shared both on OMstars & instagram.

    Arun is also a very empathetic & understanding teacher, his is the total opposite of Patrick but still he has the ability to make you work hard without telling you to work hard. He just has that presence where you want to work hard for him.

    His sequencing I would 100% say can make the stiffest person more flexible.

    Noelle Connolly

    Is an American teacher based in Sydney & she is a 40 year old beast. She is just bad ass. She is a no fuss take no bull kind of teacher yet her teachings come through with love & intention. She totally summaries the definition of tough love.

    Her sequencing is what inspires my flows. She somehow is able to combine methods of iyengar & ashtanga into a modern day flow to amazing music.

    So Patrick is I would say my alignment & technique teacher, Arun is my flexibility (both physically & emotionally) teacher & Noelle is my transition & movement teacher. Each all so different from the other but each great at teaching.

    Not everyone likes these teachers, no one can please everyone. But more often than not, it’s the teachers who make you realise your potential or who believe in your potential, whether through asana or just life in general, who make you come back for more.

    1. What style of yoga do you practice and what makes that style most effective? Do you have a teacher in your style of yoga?

    I practice mostly Hatha yoga that is iyengar inspired.

    I love alignment, I love simple effective sequencing that isn’t about being pretty, but about creating accessibility & thus freedom in the body & mind.

    Patrick Creelman is right now is my main influence in my teachings.

    1. What advice would you give to someone who is just starting out on their yoga journey?

    Dont worry, dont rush. Trust.

    1. What has been your biggest struggle and your biggest milestone in the practice?  

    The handstand.

    I have such a love & hate relationship with handstand. I don’t feel that anyone is better when they can hand balance but it seems to be what is most admired on Instagram these days. Maybe that’s why I don’t love it? And to be honest, I was very happy when I couldn’t handstand but now just because I know it’s so hard to get & I see it all the time on IG. It makes me want to do it more & I question – why. Like is this so necessary?

    So although it was such a high when I could finally handstand, it’s also caused me injuries & makes me question my ego more than I would like.

    1. What is the single most defining issue facing the global yoga community today?

    Instagram.

    It is so love and hate. Instagram for me in the beginning was a place where I could discover other local yogis & just kind of rejoice in our little community. But now? It’s about personalities, popularity etc. What you see on Instagram, with an exception to a few select accounts is not what yoga really is in a class setting.

    It’s so conflicting & I am conflicted as well. 95% of my photos on IG, I’m wearing make up & my hair is down.

    But in real life? I only really wear make up for date night & hair is mostly tied up.

    But everyone does that. So does it make it okay? Or am I just thinking too much? Let IG be IG, let real life be real life. Does this even matter?

    1. What’s the most embarrassing thing that has ever happened to you as a student and as a teacher?

    Queefing & sweaty back farts. In both teaching & student situations. But such is life.

    1. What is your dharma, your life mission? 

    I don’t really have a life mission to be honest and many may not know but as much as I love teaching yoga, I actually just really want to be a mother and eventually have being a mother as my main job & teaching on the side. Can that be considered a dharma? A life mission? 😅

    Erica Tenggara

  • Interview With Erica Mather

    One of the great things about OMstars is that we have a wonderful community of students and teachers from all around the world, with various styles of practice. Want to know more about our amazing teachers? This week, we asked, Forrest Yoga Guardian, Erica Mather several interview style questions about herself, her practice, and her teaching. Get to know a little more about Erica here on the blog, then log in or join OMstars – The Yoga Network to start practicing with her today!

    1. How long have you been practicing yoga and why did you start practicing yoga?

    I’ve been practicing since 2001. I began because I experienced adult-onset migraine headaches, and I was told that yoga could help with that.

    1. What is yoga to you?

    Yoga is a system for getting to know yourself—your body, mind, heart, and spirit—and for learning to live in honor and integrity with that human being you’re getting to know.

    1. How did you feel after your first yoga class and how do you want students to feel after they practice with you?

    I don’t exactly recall how I felt physically after my first practice…sore? Tired? I DO remember being excited and relieved that I found a place where I could rehabilitate my own relationship with my body, independent of a value assumption based on what it looks like, or what it can do.

    I want my students to feel free—in their bodies, in their relationships, in their work lives, and in their spiritual lives. It’s a tall order, but I DO get reports back from my students that they feel expanded through the breath work, and stronger in their bodies and their minds from the ways that I ask them to engage deeply. These are good places to begin.

    1. What impact has yoga had on your life? Who were you before you started practicing and how have you changed, evolved and transformed?

    I’m not sure I could even recognize the person I was before yoga. What I do remember is feeling more anxious about all the things I thought I should be, and as a result experiencing far more doubt, social anxiety, self-recrimination, and self-loathing.

    In terms of transformation and evolution, above all, the practices of connecting with the body as a source of wisdom, exercising compassion for all the ways I mess up, and studying myself—the things I admire AND those I dislike—have brought me into closer relationship with myself. As a result, I’m more aware of the things that I need and long for out of life, and can be brave enough to go after them, or to ask for them from others.

    I’m very proud of so much that I accomplished as a young person, before I began practicing yoga. But, I’m also aware that the person I am becoming is more in alignment with the kind of person I can admire, and THIS is the result of my yoga practice. When we confront our own deaths, THIS is the ultimate judgment, the only one that really matters: are YOU proud of yourself and the life that you lived?

    1. Why did you decide to start teaching yoga and what makes a good yoga teacher?

    I decided to start teaching yoga because it was a natural next progression for my life as a teacher. I’ve been teaching in some capacity since I was 17, and I consider teaching to be my key skill.

    A good yoga teacher knows how to teach. Yoga is the topic. Teaching is the skill. To teach well, you must have an understanding of HOW people learn, and you yourself be curious about learning more and more about people, because each and every student will learn slightly differently than every other student. So, you must be curious about people, even more than you are curious about yoga. This is the foundation of a good teacher.

    1. What style of yoga do you practice and what makes that style most effective? Do you have a teacher in your style of yoga?

    I teach Forrest Yoga. What I think makes Forrest Yoga effective is that it teaches the body is central to the project of self-realization. Instead of the body as a mere stepping-stone ON the path, the body itself IS the path.

    Ana Forrest is my teacher. I am a lineage-holder in her tradition. I am very honored to be of service to the world in this capacity.

    1. What advice would you give to someone who is just starting out on their yoga journey?

    It’s a lifelong journey. Think of it as the beginning of a new kind of relationship with yourself and with the world. Throw out all expectations, and enjoy the view.

    1. What has been your biggest struggle and your biggest milestone in the practice?  

    Biggest struggle…letting go of the need to feel accomplished.

    Biggest milestone…my goodness. I feel like every day is a milestone!

    1. What is your favorite yoga pose and why? And what’s your least favorite yoga pose and why?

    I really enjoy Bridge Pose—Setu Bhanda. I like the way it frees up my lungs and helps traction my back, which is often quite painful.

    I can’t think of a least favorite. They all are in the running to become a new, unexpected favorite.

    1. What has been the most inspirational moment you’ve experienced as a yoga student? And how about as a teacher?

    As a yoga student…the most inspiration comes when I have an epiphany on the mat, or make some connection off the mat that improves my relationship with other people or with the world. As a teacher, it’s really as a teacher-trainer. Those are the moments when I really get to engage with a person, knowing that they are all-in and hunting personal transformation and I’m able to say something that touches them in a way that heals their heart.

    1. Why do you practice? Why do you teach?

    I practice because it is a never-ending connection to myself and a forum for getting to know myself. I teach because I love connecting with other humans through the act of teaching, and also because the act of teaching is incredibly creative for me, and through it I learn things that otherwise would not have been available to me.

    1. What’s your favorite yoga quote or mantra?

    “A true contemplative is one who lives with a broken heart. A heart that is open to the world must be willing to be broken at any time. This brokenness produces the kind of grief that expands the heart so that it can love more and more.” ~Stephen Cope Yoga and the Quest for the True Self.

    1. What is the single most defining issue facing the global yoga community today?

    Listening to people with whom we disagree. As “open minded” people we have become very close minded to people who do not view the world in ways that conform to our own. It is exactly the responsibility and the challenge of the modern yogi to remain open-minded and open-hearted to other view-points and other voices. When we stay centered, open, and compassionate to those with whom we disagree, we open a channel for them to relax, feel heard, and therefore, perhaps to be willing to listen to us in exchange. It is our DUTY as modern mystics to tend to the world, and the way forward will call upon us to be the highest versions of ourselves.

    1. What’s the most embarrassing thing that has ever happened to you as a student and as a teacher?

    Clothing malfunctions. I’ll leave it at that.

    1. Do you have any recommended yoga reading?

    I think that The Heart of Yoga by TKV Desikachar is essential reading for all yoga practitioners and teachers or all lineages. It provides context and history for all that we do now.

    1. What is your dharma, your life mission? 

    My dharma is to heal the broken love lines in my family and all around me. I believe that it is my calling to become a bodhisattva, and to be available to love the world. This is my life mission.

    Interview With Erica Mather

    ERica Mather, Forest Yoga teacher, interview about yoga

    Erica is a Forrest Yoga Guardian, hand-picked by Ana Forrest to become one of a handful of senior teacher in the Forrest Yoga tribe.

    Start Practicing With Erica On OMstars – The Yoga Network

     

  • An Interview With Joseph Armstrong

    How much do you know about your favorite OMstars teachers and they’re relationships to yoga? Get ready to find out! Earlier this month we hosted the #ActualizeYogaChallenge with Joseph Armstrong, and if you joined the challenge, you had the opportunity to practice with him on OMstars – The Yoga Network. So this month, we reached out to Joseph to ask him all about his experience with and relationship to yoga, plus a whole bunch of other yoga related questions. These are his answers…

    1. How long have you been practicing yoga and why did you start?

    I began my practice in 2008. I started when a friend invited me to class. I dabbled casually for quite a while, unknowing that it would eventually transform everything.

    1. What is yoga to you?

    On a physical level, Yoga is a process of creating stress in the body and learning to remain calm and relaxed at the same.

    On a psychological level, Yoga is a revelatory process that helps us realize behavioral patterns that we are stuck in and emotional tendencies that are repeating and controlling our lives.

    On a spiritual level, Yoga is about seeking. Perhaps finding we are neither the body nor mind, but something else entirely.

    1. How did you feel after your first yoga class and how do you want students to feel after they practice with you?

    I have an addictive personality. After my first class I knew I wanted more.

    I don’t care how my students feel after practice. 🤷🏽‍♀️ It will vary. Sometimes they’ll feel great. Sometimes they’ll feel like shit. How they feel after any given practice is less important than the fact that they show up with regularity for the long haul. It’s this dedication that will light the fire of yoga in their lives.

    1. What impact has yoga had on your life? Who were you before you started practicing and how have you changed, evolved and transformed?

    The inevitability of everything has become very clear. No matter my grasping or great revulsion, life will happen just the same. The external world will unfold as determined by laws of cause and effect. My opinions and ideas are equally a result of that phenomenon.

    Sometimes I feel yoga is a tool that has helped me restructure my life. Before yoga I was a drug dealer, a liar and a thief. I was existentially morbid and inconsolable. I could not make peace with my place in the world.

    Sometimes I feel that I am a tool that’s helping yoga restructure the universe. I am hopeful now. I’m certain that I am power for good, because I aim to be of service. I am to help those who are suffering as I once did. I have blueprints for living.

    Where once there such great doubt and terrible fear and need for answers, now there is comfort with uncertainty. There’s an adventurers heart. There is a love for possibilities and questions that creation poses.

    1. Why did you decide to start teaching yoga and what makes a good yoga teacher?

    I failed miserably at everything so tried before I committed to yoga. I managed restaurants, sold kids furniture, worked in a carpets factory in the middle of nowhere. You name it… Yoga is the only thing I’ve felt might allow me to devote a life time to it.

    Whenever someone tells me I’m a good teacher, I tend to respond: I’m only doing what my teachers taught me to do. I believe my skill as a teacher derives from my own mentors and our shared devotion to tradition.

    On the other hand, I do have a curious and questioning heart. So I tend to seek both the scientific and spiritual underpinnings of practice. I seek common ground between the two.

    1. What style of yoga do you practice and what makes that style most effective? Do you have a teacher in your style of yoga?

    I practice and teach Ashtanga yoga primarily. It’s very effective in that the sequence is highly structured. Using the Tristhana Method (3 points of convention, movement, gaze and breath) the practice is directed and stabilized. Once these details are memorized, and with substantial practice, the process becomes a meditative one.

    My teachers are R. Sharath Jois, Tim Feldmann and Kino MacGregor.

    I also teach multipractice classes which incorporate Asanas, breath work and mindfulness meditations. I call the practice Actualize. These classes are structured to increase self-observation and utilize the power of the parasympathetic nervous system for relaxation response.

    1. What advice would you give to someone who is just starting out on their yoga journey?

    I kept a practice journal when I first committed to a regular practice. On my second day, the notes read something along the lines of: ‘Hopped on bike and headed towards studio. Turned around half way. Too nervous. Did sun salutations at home instead.

    Starting can be intimidating. And it’s okay to be nervous or scared even. For me the vital part was just not to give up. No matter what keep coming back, even if there are some fits and starts.

    1. What has been your biggest struggle and your biggest milestone in the practice?  

    I struggle with maintaining a deep breath. I smoked my first cigarette when I was 13 and then half a pack a day from the time I was 18 until I was 35. I have had to put a lot of thought into what breath control is in my practice and how to make peace with my very reduced lung capacity. Everyone’s experience of practice will be a bit different, it’s important to see that and fit the practice to differing abilities.

    1. What is your favorite yoga pose and why? And what’s your least favorite yoga pose and why?

    I feel my current work in second series Ashtanga has been a milestone. This sequence has tested my resolve and required me to develop a new level of physical strength from a never-before-tapped well of determination.

    I’ve learned to appreciate that I will not love every posture every day, but it’s important I do them all the same. Likewise, I shouldn’t get too attached to the ones I sometimes gravitate towards, because who knows when injury or illness might make them go…

    Karandavasana has been my buddy for some time now, though. It’s been the slowest progression of my yoga asana development. For over a year I’ve gotten steadily stronger. Recently I lifted my lotus up with some amount of control and confidence. A year ago my nervous system was a wild electrical storm every time the pose approached. Today I remain calm and focused. Something deep within me has shifted. I feel at peace and proud of my long-term dedication. Proud because I suspect I now have something to offer others, because of my devotion and determination I can now be of service to others.  

    1. What has been the most inspirational moment you’ve experienced as a yoga student? And how about as a teacher?

    As a student my most inspirational moment was walking into the KPJAYI Shala in Mysore India for the first time. To be called in by my teacher, Sharath Jois, and given a spot to practice under his guidance was pure magic. There’s something very special about that place and I’m so lucky to have been, and to be returning in June of this year.

    This Mysore Magic inspires my teaching too. It’s only because of this method that I am able to share yoga well, with a sureness granted by the thousands of teachers and practitioners who have come before me. Every practice of Ashtanga yoga begins with the count ‘Ekam, Inhale’. Each time I hear this count, I raise my arms above my head and look up. It’s like I’m moving in unison with every Ashtangi throughout time. It’s powerful.

    1. What’s your favorite yoga quote or mantra?

    I think often about the Amit Ray quote:

    Self-observation is the first step of Inner unfolding.

    I also am very inspired by the quote from drag queen superstar, RuPaul:

    We’re all born naked and the rest is drag.

    1. What is the single most defining issue facing the global yoga community today?

    Yoga is and always has been about developing a more neutral mind, so that we might see the world as it truly is and not as we want it to be. This stillness may offer some revelation. I can’t speak for the masses, but for me this search for clarity defines my practice more than anything else. Even if it’s just my doubts I’m seeing more clearly. I believe many in the modern world are yearning for a neutral, secular yoga. Spiritual, not religious, practice.

    1. What’s the most embarrassing thing that has ever happened to you as a student and as a teacher?

    Being a recovered addict, it follows that I burned up a lot of valuable brain cells in my misspent youth. Learning new things can be a challenge. Memorizing the sequence of Ashtanga yoga was overwhelming for me initially. I was so embarrassed every time I had to ask my teacher, yet again, what the next pose was.

    Today when I have students who struggle with memorization I feel such empathy. I almost always tell them they can ask me as many times as they need. I joke that if they weren’t there to ask me so many questions I’d be out of a job completely!

    1. Do you have any recommend yoga reading?

    Moola Bandha: The Master Key is a great, easy read. Filled with practices for and philosophy of deep core awareness, it’s been so helpful in my own practice.

    1. What is your dharma, your life mission? 

    In recovery lingo, we say: If you wanna keep what you have, you have to give it away. That’s why I’ve devoted myself to the practice and sharing of yoga. I was a destructive force in the world for so long, but something miraculous occurred when I surrendered to powers greater than myself. My teachers in Ashtanga and my sponsor and peers in Recovery are those greater powers. These people helped me reshape my life, they did for me what I could not do for myself. They set me free to thrive. They gave me a gift that is transmissible, I can help others now. This is my sacred responsibility.

    Joseph Armstrong

    Learn More About Joseph On OMstars

  • A Time To Listen

    We are living in a challenging and powerful time. A bright light is being aimed at our shadows of racism, sexism, misogyny, xenophobia, prejudice, violence, and hate. These elements of our nature have always existed, though sometimes they have changed forms, sometimes hid from view, sometimes remained visible but ignored. Systemic, institutionalized oppressions are being identified and called out. Claims of injustice are beginning to be taken seriously. Evidence via phone cameras brings horrors that have always been experienced by some to the consciousness of the many. Groups are collecting, unifying to bring about change. What certainly may be an increase in hate and violence recently is coinciding with greater illumination of what has always been there.

    The marginalized populations have always known. Women have always known the degree to which they experience harassment, assault, manipulations of power dynamics. People of color have always known that systems of racism were alive, well, and strong. Trans people have always been aware of the dangers they face when confronted with fear and ignorance. Oppressed people are gaining agency in spaces where they had little or none. Now, those of us that have never been affected personally are becoming aware. And now, we are faced with choices. We can continue to bury our heads in the sand, deny and fight the truth, or we can join this building wave, support the voices demanding justice and change, contribute our efforts to something important and right.

    My two children are biracial. While I think of myself as someone who always believed in equality, a feminist and anti-racist, having children that are directly affected by racist ideologies and institutions has certainly made it personal – to a degree. My first son was born six years ago, and at the time I had an idealized view of interracial relationship, and the biracial offspring born of them. My immediate community was diverse and had been for years. I had minimal negative experiences related to my relationship, my friendships, my work, etc. Of the very few I had, I was able to package them up as isolated, fringe, and atypical. Discussions in my personal life or online that became racially charged were a place that I felt comfortable standing up, speaking out. I would passionately share what I believed and then move on with my life.

    As the Black Lives Matter movement gathered strength, and my boys got older, and a new president was elected, I found myself speaking out less and listening more. I began from a place of desire to identify, to myself and others, as non-racist, or anti-racist. It took a while to recognize how self-serving that desire was, and that it literally benefited no one but myself. I decided to only offer my voice when it would benefit the conversation, when it would positively contribute to the fight. In conversations where I used to know exactly what to say, I found myself at a loss for words. I don’t want to say the wrong thing, to offend, to appear ignorant, or arrogant. I felt helpless. And I think this is appropriate. This has been a part of my process. I gradually came to recognize that I, as a white female, will never, ever know what it is like to exist in our culture as a man, as a person of color, as a non-cisgendered person. I came to acknowledge when and where my voice is not needed, not beneficial, not helpful. As I found myself in spaces, both virtual and real, where important conversations were being had, instead of speaking, I learned to listen.

    I listened to the points of view of bigoted, ignorant, racist people. I listened and heard their beliefs, I learned of their pain, fear, anger. I learned what I shared with them, how I was like them. I listened and learned from the privileged, from the saviors and light workers. I learned that people don’t feel comfortable exploring and acknowledging their darkness – that of their culture and that of their soul. I listened and learned from POC. I came to recognize how little I knew, how little I understood, and how great was my own participation in, and benefit from systems of inequality and dynamics of power and marginalization.

    I am still immersed in this process, but through listening I am coming to acknowledge when my voice should stay silent. There are organizations and forums and conversations where the voices of POC are strengthening and getting louder and finally being heard. In these spaces, my voice is not needed, or wanted, or beneficial. There is nothing I can add to the conversation from my perspective, from my life experience, that produces anything beyond a salve to my own white guilt and sense of helplessness. In these spaces, I can offer myself as a soldier at their command, an additional hand set to a task. I can offer myself as a support to their work.

    There are places I have decided I can affect change, where my voice can be heard. It is in conversations with other white people. There are spaces where POC are not invited, where their voices are silenced. Those people that would not hear a black person, might hear me. A message that would be resisted if coming from a person of color, might seep through the barriers when spoken by me. When I am in a white dominated space and racism is present, my voice needs to be heard. For too long, we have been silent as our uncles tell inappropriate jokes, when we observe our boss passing up qualified employees because of their name, when a random comment by a stranger in line at the grocery store is said a little too loudly. These are the places we should be speaking. Our silence is complicity.

    Each day that passes and my boys get older, I become more and more unsure of how to raise them in this world. I mentioned above that this issue has become a personal one only to a degree. I am limited in my understanding of what they will experience by my whiteness and my gender. I have no idea how they will experience the world as children born of such different truths as mine and their father’s. What I can do now is listen: To the world as new voices and truths rise to the forefront, and to my boys, as they begin to share their world with me. Their experiences will form their truth and will inform my reaction which will, in turn, influence their reality. I will make mistakes, I have already made so many. But if I listen, I may continue to learn something along the way.

    A spiritual practice, like yoga, asks us to be present. To face our challenges, to sit in difficulty and just breathe. We aim to find steadiness and peace in our discomfort, pain, and ugliness. As you struggle to find your place in this time of change and activism, I ask you to take this method of self-study beyond the mat. Stay in moments of discomfort, pain, and ugliness. Don’t avoid the darkness, in fact, seek it out. Join Facebook groups that you wouldn’t otherwise be a part of. Go to community meetings. Go to social venues that stray outside of your usual. Have conversations with people different than you. Stay, breathe – and listen. As you absorb the truths of another’s experience, you will learn where you fit. You will learn how to apply your unique circumstances, perspective, skills, and talents to something important.

    By Angelique Sandas

    Practice With Angelique On OMstars

  • Who needs Yoga?

    The imagery of modern yoga has an ethereal edge.  Wherever we look, we see lissome bodies bending into improbable forms, and balancing elegantly on the precipice of medical disaster.  This imagery can lend the impression that yoga is for people who live an ethereal existence, people who may be missing bones, who drift through the atmosphere, and rarely touch ground with their feet.  But these images are incidental.  They do not reflect the profile of the ordinary yoga practitioner.  On the contrary, they do something more interesting.  They reflect our fascination with the contortive potential of the human body, and in doing so, they symbolize, however imperfectly, our inherent admiration for resilience.

    Yogic imagery is remarkably old.  It provides the earliest evidence we have for yoga in the ancient world.  One of the earliest pieces is the Pashupati seal from the Mohenjo-Daro excavation site in present day Pakistan.  It features a humanlike figure with long horns seated in what appears to be Mulabandhasana.  The seal predates the current era by more than two millennia, and represents a civilization about which we understand very little.  The meaning of the seal is veiled in obscurity, and this is usual for artifacts that pertain to the ancient origins of yoga.  Sometimes we can decode their symbology enough to tell a coherent story about what they might mean, but we can only imagine the consciousness in which they were composed.

    Throughout its long and complicated history, yoga has formed countless alliances with  diverse alchemical and soteriological traditions.  In light of the diversity, many scholars now argue that there is no single thing called “yoga” whose tradition we can trace.  And so that may be.  But if we look at examples of yogic imagery throughout the ages—from the ancient seals of the Indus River Valley, to the medieval temple carvings of Tamil Nadu, to the Kalighat paintings of colonial Bengal, and to the crystalline images that stream through our social media channels today—there is always that ethereal edge.  There is always that evident longing to elevate consciousness above our limitations, and so to enrich and expand the human experience.

    This ethereal edge is the common thread to what we recognize as yogic imagery.  And if we can follow that thread through the ages, weaving through countless social and ritual contexts, this is arguably because of the way that what we recognize as yoga practice answers an archetypal human need—the need to be resilient, to be malleable, and to meet the persistent pressures to adapt to the ever changing circumstance of life.  That need has been understood in diverse and often opposing ways, as demonstrated by the Vedic, Tantric, and Advaitic approaches to the problem.  Arguably no single one of these is definitive, but neither can any one of them be discounted.  What is pertinent is the way that each of them answers our felt need to break up our inveterate patterns of conditioning, open our minds and evolve.

    Modern yoga does not cohere around any particular philosophy.  It exists more simply as an open set of practices and techniques for helping us overcome our psychological limitations.  Whatever the promises of yoga practice might be, the most pertinent and most compelling is that yoga allows us to relate more openly to otherness.  The practice teaches us to hold an open space of compassionate awareness for our own thoughts, emotions and memories to unfold, no matter how excessive or threatening they might seem.  Through this practice, we give ourselves space, and we allow our minds to breath, so that otherness can appear within our consciousness, and we can relate to it more openly, without being impeded by our fears and anxieties.  That is, we can receive otherness, and be impacted by otherness, adapting to its reality without having to reinforce any particular idea or image of ourselves in the process.

    The reception of otherness within ourselves helps break up our self images.  And in this sense, the practices of yoga are vehicles for psychical release.  They help us release ourselves from the tangles of thought, emotion and memory to which we so ardently cling.  They help us to let go of things, so that we do not congeal into the imprint of our experiences, but we can continue to change and adapt to our circumstances.  To put it simply, the techniques of yoga help us break ourselves up.  They help us break up the congestion of our delusions and conceits, piercing the armor by which we conceal and protect ourselves from the otherness of the world.  And in doing so, they help us liberate ourselves from the stagnation of our conditioning, so we can open ourselves to new relationships, and new possibilities of experience.

    The orphanage of modern yoga practices from the historical traditions from which they descend is often regarded as corrosive to their potency, but arguably the reverse is true.  However rich and compelling those traditions might be, it remains essential that we translate our experiences with yoga into our own living language, into words that bring those experiences home to us, and engage us as we are.  The elision of antiquated concepts from the language of yoga is therefore an essential and not entirely regrettable aspect of its adaptation to modern life.  Without imposing upon ourselves the arcane limitations of historically distant ideas, we can have a more authentic experience of ourselves through the practice.  The removal of those ideas means that we can give ourselves more room to breathe, more room to settle into ourselves, and more room to follow the currents of awakening that are already flowing through us.

    This is part of the intelligence of modern yoga.  As a global phenomenon, yoga is not bound too tightly to any particular philosophy, nor to any particular conception of the relationship between the human and the divine.  And for just that, it can focus on what is more compelling, namely, the process of breaking up the self, and creating more space for the natural processes of creativity to unfold.  There are, of course, people today who would argue endlessly about the relative credentials of dualism, non-dualism, monism and the like, but the modern yoga movement is largely agnostic on these speculative questions, and understandably so.  In these late modern times, we have no need for the kind of thinking that hangs so breathlessly on these delicate distinctions, and evidence abounds of the problems that arise when we allow that kind of thinking to congeal into certainty.  Moreover, the speculative questions that underlie these distinctions tend to lose their force under the softening influence of the yogic experience, and that experience is really the center of the attraction.

    What holds the attention of most modern yoga practitioners is not any particular view of reality that may or not be encouraged by the practice, but the immediate experience of psychical release that is so warmly invited by each and every breath.  The most intriguing thing about yoga practice is that it works—when we undertake the practice assiduously, without pause, for a reasonable amount of time, we find that we can break into ourselves, creating space within our minds to relate to otherness in a more open and authentic way.  And here is the point—it is only by relating openly and authentically to otherness that we can evolve, for it is precisely in relation to otherness that we express creativity, awareness, compassion, and resilience.

    So the process of breaking into ourselves, and creating space for otherness, is crucial for our psychological development.  And we all could use some kind of internal practice to help make that process unfold, for we all tend to stagnate into our own psychological patterns.  This is perhaps the fundamental problem that yoga practice has always been called upon to solve, the problem of pulling us from the mire of our own conditioning.  This problem is arguably more pressing now then ever.  Modern life, after all, draws us into extremes of isolation, where we shun our collective problems with dangerous apathy.  It is perhaps no coincidence, then, that an unprecedented collective effort is the only chance that we have to reverse our destructive patterns today and resolve the colossal problems of our time.  At this pivotal moment in history, when we have nuclear weapons pointed all over the globe, and our patterns of extraction and consumption are quickly destroying the conditions of human life on our planet, our survival depends on our ability to break our conditioned patterns of thinking and acting, to come out of ourselves, to recognize the stark reality of our crises, and then to join together, with the rest of humanity, to take radical and immediate measures to cope intelligently with our nearly apocalyptic problems.

    Today, we can no longer afford to limit yoga to spiritual purposes.  Yoga is perhaps the most powerful instrument that we have for breaking out of ourselves and overcoming the paralyzing effects of our psychological conditioning.  On the same account, we can no long afford to restrict access to yoga, or create divisions within yoga that reinforce that archaic and destructive “us-versus-them” mentality.  What we think of as “real” yoga might not be for everyone (or anyone living now for that matter) but everyone today needs the kind of provocation to openness and change that even the more popular forms of yoga can inspire.  The real yoga is not the one that comes down to us through this or that authority, but the one that rattles us out of our delusions, draws us out ourselves, and exposes us to the fact that we are not isolated from one another, but bound together inextricably, and tasked to find ways of living together that express our basic resilience, kindness and generosity.

    The popularization of yoga, whatever its drawbacks might be, can help to inspire this kind of realization, by giving us simple and compelling methods for breaking up our mental congestions and our practical stagnations, and dissolving the individual and collective delusions that obscure our deeper and more loving nature.  This is something that we can all support without reservation, if we can only set ourselves aside, and look at the bigger picture.  Instead of creating more divisive hierarchies, more elitist obscurations, or more structures of restricted access and protected privilege, we should work together to churn the collective mind, uncover the potent essence of yoga, and then allow it to flow, so we can share it with absolutely everyone.

    By Ty Landrum

    Have you tried Ty’s Ashtanga course on Omstars? He explores techniques and tips for jumping through and jumping back, the energies of prana and apana in practice and also teaches a full primary series practice as well! Stay tuned for more articles and courses from Ty on omstars, but in the meantime you can read more of Ty’s brilliant articles on his website tylandrum.com!

    Practice Ashtanga with Ty Landrum today on Omstars

  • #upsidedowniscomingtotown with Holly Fiske

    December is an exciting month for many reasons; spending time with family, enjoying the holiday season, the arrival of cooler weather and the ending of the year. Sometimes these can be challenging times when we have lots of obligations, events and plans, which can make getting on our mats or cushions a struggle. Here at Omstars, we’re always thinking of ways to inspire, motivate and bring you new courses, content and challenges!

    Enter Holly Fiske, aka upsidedownmama, mama of 2, yoga teacher, inversion master extraordinaire and eco-yoga clothes designer! Join Holly and Omstars starting December 3rd for her Instagram challenge #upsidedowniscomingtotown. She’ll be counting you down to the holidays, sharing practices to help you stay focused, challenging you to find your inner strength, as well as offering you insight into her upcoming course that releases Dec 4th, Upside Down Yoga, exclusively on Omstars.

    Meet Holly…

    What were your ideas and intention around hosting your upcoming challenge #upsidedowniscomingtotown?

    Challenges via social media reach people in an outstanding way.  People who are seeking inspiration, guidance and community.  I know, because I was one of them.  Finding fitness and yoga challenges on instagram created a physical, mental and social outlet I was struggling to find when my children were babies. Here I found camaraderie, support, knowledge and inspiration that helped me get to where I’m at today.  When I host a challenge, I know that I’m speaking to many people just like me and I want to make them find health and happiness and know that they can be and do whatever they set their mind to.  A lot of times we can look at what others are doing, their abilities and how they look and wish we were more like them.  I want people to get motivated and look at themselves, believing in themselves and conquering their wishes, happy in their own skin. Let that be the cycle. 

    What would you like participants to know about it that are thinking of joining?

    All of the poses in this challenge are designed to compliment, build or further explore an inversion practice.  Not every pose is upside down, but every pose will be supportive towards that endeavor.  This challenge is equal parts strength and flexibility, equal parts building blocks and exploring capabilities and equal parts serious and fun.  Upside down people or those seeking to explore this world…this challenge is for you!

    What can participants expect and what outcomes are you hoping to offer?

    I hope to provide a quality challenge where intentions are pure and hosts, sponsors and participants are present, challenging ourselves and supporting one another.  I expect people to be inspired, pleasantly surprised, eager to try more and be a little sore.  At the end of the day, I hope that everyone walks away taking something with them and preferably joining me some more via my online classes with Omstars!

    How does the challenge connect with or relate to your upcoming course release?

    My upcoming course series is all about being upside down but not limited to handstands.  I truly believe in my building block series and think that those who are already capable of standing on their hands could benefit from it as much as complete beginners.  I believe the winning recipe is the balance of strength, flexibility, alignment, muscle memory, perseverance and release.  The result is breaking barriers and preventing injuries.  Technicalities aside, my creative and fun side is very excited to also offer the Upside Down Yoga series.  Each vinyasa is centered around a specific inversion, incorporating progression, strength, flexibility, counter balance and of course a lot of creative good times.  You’ll find a couple poses in the challenge that represent the mini workshops I’m offering in my online class series on upside down backhanding and also my personal inversion favorite, the hollow back.  Well rounded, all levels, vinyasas and workshops!

    Well, are you ready to join or what? Download the collage above or follow Holly and Omstars on instagram @upsidedownmama @omstarsoffical. Join for 15 days of upside down inspiration and a chance to win an eco and ethical outfit from Um Stuff, Holly’s personally designed eco-yoga clothing line, as well as a 6 month membership to Omstars !!!

    To learn more about Holly, her clothing line and more visit her website www.upsidedownmama.com

    By Anna Wechsel

    Check out Omstars Feature courses for all of our newest releases

  • Yoga for Kids with Lexi Hidalgo

    Welcome Lexi Hidalgo to the Omstars family as she releases her 11 episode course, Yoga for Kids. At 16-years-old, Lexi is Florida’s youngest certified yoga teacher, who found her passion for sharing yoga with kids at a young age. Through her course Lexi shares her excitement for teaching, practicing and getting your whole family involved in the practice of Yoga. Yoga has so many benefits to offer kids of all ages and through Lexi’s course she shares her own personal insight and experience through a variety of different classes. From introductory yoga flow, to motivating meditation practices, yoga flows for young athletes and so much more. Lexi draws on her own experiences as a teacher and truly understands the physical and emotional benefits that yoga offers to young people as they transition through different stages of life. Lexi’s course shares this knowledge and makes sure everyone is having fun at the same time! 

    Meet Lexi…

    What impact has Yoga had on your life?

    Yoga has changed my life. I found yoga 3 1/2 years ago and I didn’t know it would lead me where I am now! Before Yoga came into my life I spent years involved in competitive cheerleading, and I needed change- I just didn’t know what that change might be. All through my middle school years I felt lost and had zero self confidence because I believed everything people told me. After practicing yoga consistently during the end of middle school, I finally felt a connection and love for myself that didn’t exist before.

    How did you feel after your first Yoga class?

    The first time I did yoga, I was completely in love with everything about it. Not just physically but mentally. It inspired me to become my own person and at that moment I felt that I wanted other people to have the same opportunity to experience this powerful practice, one that I knew could help people discover themselves. It was then that I decided I wanted to become a yoga teacher, at only thirteen it wasn’t something my family, friends, or anyone expected to hear from me. I was okay with it, okay with doing something different, something unexpected. After 8 years I left all star cheerleading and continued on with 7 months of yoga teacher training. The experience of teacher training was incredibly transformative for me and in those 7 months, this experience created a new and a better me.

    What was it like being on a teacher training at 13?

    Yoga teacher training not only taught me about yoga it taught me to see the perfection in people, the perfection in myself and completely disregard anything else. Being 16 I feel like I’ve discovered who I am and I know that as the years go by I will only discover and learn more about myself. Since my certification I’ve continued to have accomplishments and I don’t plan to stop anytime soon. Overall, my point in this story is that you can never be to too young or too old to chase your dreams, to reach your maximum potential. We can all change this world and I know we’re going to do it. 

    We’re so excited to have Lexi as one of our newest hosts on Omstars offering classes for your whole family. Not only is Lexi teaching young people about yoga and the physical benefits, she also invites a deeper purpose of taking the lessons they learn in class off the mat and into the rest of their day.

    To learn more about Lexi you can follow her on Instagram @lexxyoga and check out her website for upcoming events and classes at www.lexxyoga.com.

    By Anna Wechsel

    Watch Yoga for Kids with Lexi on Omstars