• Cruelty-Free Winter Coat Guide

    “To live the yogi life means that you take responsibility for all of your actions, and the repercussions, really, of all of your choices.  Whether that’s food, diet, or lifestyle.  Remember that as you’re going through your day.  Don’t be too hard on yourself. . .bring that little bit more consciousness into every decision of your life, and you’ll be living the yogi life.”
    –Kino MacGregor

    We can help conserve the Earth’s beauty through the choices made in our closet. There are many conscious, eco-friendly options being released by both new and familiar brands, every day. It is easy to become overwhelmed when searching for the perfect coat that matches with your desired comfort and environmental awareness. In this blog, brands are broken down into all-vegan companies, and companies that offer vegan options. At the bottom, you will find a few tips on garment labeling to help guide your search.

    100% Vegan and Cruelty-Free Brands

    These all-vegan, cruelty-free companies are passionate about protecting nature and actively research sustainable resources.

    Save the Duck

    Save the Duck’s simplistic, clean designs give the wearer the chance to accessorize up. Pair with many other items in your closet for a constantly changing look. Save the Duck offers both waterproof and water resistant coats with their signature down alternative, PLUMTECH to keep you cozy.

    Watch Kino’s Closet featuring Save the Duck

    Didriksons
    Swedish company, Didriksons, offers a wide range of fully waterproof coats with loose fiber padding polyester insulation. These designs work for everyday practical comfort, outdoor activities, hiking, and pretty much any occasion where you want to keep perfectly warm and dry.

    Noize
    Noize creates unique designs with bold colors that add a blast of flare to any collection. Their water-resistant coats keep you warm with fillers made from recycled plastic bottles.

    Vaute
    With their sleek lines and designer styles, Vaute Couture coats are both warm and stylish. They offer waterproof and water-resistant models lined with Primaloft ECO, which is made with 100% recycled fibers.

    Brands with Vegan Options

    Just like many of us, brands are starting to become more aware of the needs of our environment. By purchasing a company’s cruelty-free options, it heightens their awareness, and encourages them to create more.

    Fjallraven 

    Fjallraven offers a few vegan coats that are durable, and come with high-quality waterproofing and warmth, in timeless Swedish styles. Their lifetime guarantees are a true step in the right direction toward sustainability.

    Watch Kino’s Closet featuring Fjallraven

    66°North

    Once an Icelandic Fisherman apparel company, 66°North offers a waterproof vegan parka designed to keep you warm and dry with taped seams, and polyester insulation.

    Watch Kino’s Closet featuring 66 North

    Columbia

    While it might be a little more difficult to sort out the synthetics from the non-synthetics, Columbia does have quite a few options using all man-made materials. Using 100% polyester, Columbia provides several well-made synthetic options, such as their Suttle Mountain™ Long Insulated Jacket that will certainly keep you warm and is available in many local shops.

    Marmot

    The clever title, Featherless, helps individuals find vegan options more easily with this brand. Check out Marmot’s Featherless synthetic insulation line. These coats are lined with cruelty-free, 3M Thinsulate and recycled synthetic materials which promotes sustainability while protecting you from the cold.

    when in doubt, Check the materials

    While out shopping with friends, one may come across an unfamiliar brand. There are a few simple ways to find out what materials were used to make it.

    Read the labels.

    Material labels are typically located on the inside of the jacket, or even hidden in a pocket. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) requires garments to be labeled with fiber contents that make up the garment if the material used is above 5 percent. That 5 percent portion typically includes trims and decorations. Synthetic, Faux Fur, Nylon, and Polyester are keywords to look for. The phrase, “exclusive of trims” can mean that decorative pieces such as logo patches or zipper pulls could potentially be made out of non-synthetic materials that are not listed on the label.

    Ask the Shopkeeper.

    Your detective work could be easily cut short by asking for advice from the employees who know their inventory well. They might even have local recommendations to offer.

    Do a Quick Online Search.

    If you’re equipped with a smart device, and in a place with a good signal or connectivity, you can always do a quick internet search to get more information about the brand.

    A Sense of Peace and Well-Being

    Regardless of which style you choose–whether it is vegan, almost vegan, or second-hand–the conscious effort to preserve the Earth and its animals will bring a sense of peace and well-being. Please remember not to stress out too much about finding all-vegan options.  It will be challenging at times, though eventually this whole process will become second-nature. Simply feel confident that you are doing what you can.

    To stay inspired, check out Kino MacGregor’s vegan fashion talk show, Kino’s Closet, on Omstars.com! We would love to hear about all of your favorite cruelty-free brands, too!

    By Jodi Lane

    Omstars marketing manager, Jodi Lane, discovered Ashtanga yoga in 2017 from Kino MacGregor. You may see her on Instagram as @kittytreets chatting with fellow yogis, trading vegan recipes, and sharing art techniques with other artists. She loves cats, creating meaningful stories, and illustrating sincere pieces of art that reflect her passions.

  • Omstars Yoga Challenges of 2019

    When you practice yoga, you can literally help change the world. Part of being a yogi means giving back to the community, and here at Omstars, our favorite way to give back is through hosting challenges that allow us to collect and donate money to carefully selected causes that we believe are helping to make the world a better place.

    The 30-Day Yoga Journey with Kino MacGregor

    “Change only happens in the present moment. The past is already done. The future is just energy and intention.”  –Kino MacGregor

    The path to yoga begins one day, one pose, and one breath at a time. The beginning of 2019 brought yogis all over the world together to experience different styles of yoga such as Ashtanga, Vinyasa, Yin, and more. Omstars and Liforme donated $1 to Yoga Gives Back for every person who joined the challenge in the New Year. This important charity is dedicated to raising awareness and funds to help impoverished children and mothers in India–the birthplace of yoga.

    Ashtanga Basics Challenge with Kino MacGregor

    Experiences in yoga can change your life. In March of 2019, Omstars members joined Kino MacGregor for a 10-day yoga challenge. This 22-Class, Ashtanga adventure included live practices and on-demand classes that focused on foundational postures and movements found in the Ashtanga Primary Series. A few lucky winners of the challenge were treated to prizes such as an Ashtanga Yoga Card deck by Kino MacGregor and Shambhala Productions or a delicious tea set from Fifth Limb Wellness.

    Everyday Joy of Yoga Challenge with Kaitlyn Kreitzman

    May of 2019 gave Omstars members The Everyday Joy of Yoga Challenge. Challenge host, Kaitlyn Kreiztman, included invigorating flows and restorative yoga into this 9-day yoga journey. To kick off this challenge, Kaitlyn provided a gentle yoga blog sequence to supplement this course.  This challenge supported the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP), a foundation that supports families and individuals affected by mental health trauma. Omstars donated $1 for every signup to AFSP. A few prize winners were treated to subscriptions to In The Moment Magazine. The Omstars community came together to raise awareness for this outstanding foundation through the healing practice of yoga. Kaitlyn led members through a variety of yoga methods that focused on alignment, breath work, meditation, and yoga philosophy.

    Practice of Peace Challenge with Kino MacGregor

    “This challenge will guide you through contemplative and movement practices to calm the mind, open the heart and begin your journey into the inner world.” – Kino MacGregor

    International yoga teacher, Kino MacGregor, brought the Practice of Peace to everyone in this 20-day yoga challenge. Featuring one yoga practice and one meditation each day, challenge participants were given the tools to cultivate a peaceful mentality in June of 2019. This challenge supported Yoga Gives Back. For every participant, Omstars and Liforme donated $1 to this charity which helps give young women and children in India the power to build sustainable livelihoods. Together the community helped to share peace throughout the globe.

    Ashtanga Home Practice Challenge with Kino MacGregor

    Kino MacGregor reinspired the home practice with the Ashtanga Home Practice Challenge in September of 2019. For 16 days, challenge participants were guided through courses that help develop and structure a safe home practice in the Ashtanga Yoga method. Challenge participants learned to honor their personal limitations by exploring physical, mental, and emotional capacities. As an insightful bonus, Shanna Small joined the challenge to teach five live classes that examined a variety of poses and movements, sharing variations to suit all shapes and sizes. Challenge prize winners were treated to prizes such as titles from Kino MacGregor’s book and DVD collection, Omstars by Liquido clothing, and vegan, hand-crafted soaps by Smithmade Essentials. Yogis all over the world shared the inspiration to keep coming back to the mat, everyday.

    Be Strong Challenge with Kino MacGregor

    “Learning how to be happy with failure is one of the lessons of strength.” –Kino MacGregor

    Kino MacGregor gave participants the tools to safely progress in developing strength. Sharing personal experience from years of practice and exploration, Kino designed this 13-Day challenge in November of 2019 to integrate the mind, body, and soul. These 13 classes build you up from the basics and take you all the way to the peaks of the strength. Yogis all over the world were guided through strength-building drills that develop foundational strength while reinforcing the connection to one’s inner being.

    Yoga IS Challenge with Kino MacGregor

    Start the new year with a journey into the heart of yoga. Every day for 30 days, receive a new accessible practice designed to guide you on a process of inner awakening. Each class will be centered around a pose with modifications to make it truly accessible and offer key lessons about the meaning yoga can have in your life. This challenge is appropriate for all levels from beginner to the most advanced. Commit to the Yoga Is Challenge to experience more peace, happiness, and love in your life.

    Sign Up Today!

  • Yogis at Ramadan

    When I teach yoga, I often say to my students “as you are.” For example, “as you are, breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth.” What I really mean is something much deeper than that. As you are — whatever you brought with you to this mat and this practice, whatever your body is today, whatever emotional or spiritual energy you have with you, we can work with it because as you are, right now, is exactly as you are supposed to be.

    This month, Ramadan, is one of deep inward reflection for Muslims. For many non-Muslims, the month of Ramadan immediately suggests a time of fasting, hardship, and deprivation. Perhaps for those very reasons, many of my non-Muslim friends are shocked to hear that I maintain my same yoga teaching and practice schedule throughout my observance of Ramadan. They are indeed correct that Ramadan involves fasting — from dawn to sunset, Muslims, myself included, refrain from the intake of food and drink and even abstain from bodily pleasures of intimacy. And they are certainly correct that this is a deprivation and can be a hardship, but the result is a time of deep cleansing and renewal and the effect supports and enhances my yoga practice. My yoga practice is deeper and more spiritual than it is at any other time of the year. Yoga and Ramadan bring out the best in each other and the combination brings out the best in me.

    When I teach yoga, I often say to my students “as you are.” For example, “as you are, breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth.” What I really mean is something much deeper than that. As you are — whatever you brought with you to this mat and this practice, whatever your body is today, whatever emotional or spiritual energy you have with you, we can work with it because as you are, right now, is exactly as you are supposed to be.

    “As you are” takes on an even deeper meaning to me during the month of Ramadan, because it is a month stripped bare of distractions. We spend a lot of time distracting ourselves from who we are. For many of us, we are not comfortable facing who we truly are, so we distract ourselves with food, alcohol, sex, curated, online personas of ourselves, memories of what we once did, anxieties about what we might one day do. In fact, we have any number of tools at our disposal to keep us from facing the stripped down truth of who we are, as we are, at any particular moment. Yoga provides one framework for accessing our true selves, as we are, by penetrating and examining the five koshas, or sheaths, that overlay our true selves. The observance of Ramadan helps us strip away the distractions and focus on each kosha.

    Annamaya is the physical layer, our flesh and bones. During Ramadan, we fast during daylight hours and make careful choices to hydrate and nourish ourselves during the precious few hours between sundown and dawn, mindful of the delicate balance with our bodies’ countervailing need for sleep. Making the right choices involves a keen understanding of our physical selves, where our body is on that day and in that moment.

    Pranayama is our energetic layer, manifesting through the breath as a symbol of the energy of life. Islam encourages us to find balance in our lives and, during the month of Ramadan, we are asked to fast from the worldly desires that may, at other times, overtake us and throw us out of balance. During this month, we fast from temptations, anger, and aggression. Instead, we prioritize compassion, kindness, giving, and community involvement. This renewed focus cleanses our energetic selves.

    Manomaya is the mind, our means to self-identify, and Vijnanamaya is our intellect and wisdom. During the month of Ramadan, we increase our practices of reflection, contemplation, meditation, devotion, and prayers. Our increased prayer practice forces us out of the daily bustle and drops us into ourselves. This inward focus quiets the noise of our daily lives and connects us deeply with our own spiritual beliefs. Free from that noise, we understand who we are and we grow the intellect and wisdom that supports us on our path.

    Anandamaya is the absolute truth, our true self, as we are, at this moment. These daily practices purify our body, our mind, and our soul. Ultimately, they help us pull back the curtains we wrap around ourselves and face the reality of who we are. It might not be quite who we thought. It might not be an Instagram-perfect reality. It might be something we’ve been avoiding. But finding our true self is important because it links us to God. Believing in God requires you to find yourself and believe in yourself, after all, you are the only version of yourself that He made. To ignore or hide your true self is to ignore God. To change yourself or avoid your true self is to assume that God made a mistake in creating you. He didn’t. We tend to look for things in the wrong places, God included. In Arabic, we say Allah for God, pronounced al-Luh. When we say it over and over, it mimics the sound of our own beating heart. Our own heart is the best place to find our connection to God. 

    So, find your true self and celebrate what you find.  You may not be perfect, but you are as you should be, right now.

    Practice with Ahmed on Omstars

    By Ahmed Soliman

    Before I found yoga and began teaching, I was a wildlife biologist and environmental scientist. Serving the natural environment and helping to recover endangered species was my way of giving to a greater good. This is a concept that I’ve carried daily into a yogic lifestyle, both in teaching and in practice. I seek to serve this community in a way that supports strength, healing, and sustainability. After having multiple knee surgeries due to a car accident, I myself sought these qualities from my own encounter with yoga. I had to transition from contact sports like soccer to the safer and deeper space that the practice provides. A continuing student of Iyengar yoga, vinyasa, and meditation, I believe that awareness of breath, knowledge of the body, and mental focus on the mat lead to mindfulness and living harmoniously off the mat. I draw from my own experience and the study of human anatomy to offer a safe and grounded space for practitioners. I endeavor to help them explore their physical boundaries with a focus on intelligent alignment, awareness of breath, and steadying or relaxation of the mind. I have studied with Nikki Costello, Nikki Vilella, Magi Pierce, and other influential teachers. I am an ERYT-200 hour yoga alliance certified teacher with additional specialized training in anatomy, meditation and yoga nidra. Connect with Ahmed on Instagram or http://yogisoli.com/

    Join live classes with Ahmed on Omstars

  • Ayurvedic Potion: Adaptogenic Golden Mylk

    This is my favorite tea to drink. I drink this multiple times a day, especially when I’m writing, and it’s adaptogenic golden mylk.

    So, what are adaptogens? Adaptogens are a type of herb that adapt to whatever your nervous system needs. So, let’s say you wake up, first thing in the morning, and you’re really tired, and you take an adaptogen.  That will actually bring up your energy, so, it’s a really good replacement for coffee, matcha, any other kind of stimulant, and there is no caffeine.

    Now, let’s say, you take that same adaptogen, at night. It will actually help cool you down, chill you out, and prepare you for sleep. So, they really adapt to whatever the nervous system needs at that time. Either, more energy, or bringing it down. So, it’s really good if you have a stressful job, adrenal fatigue, or anything like that. So, the adaptogen that I am using today is called, Ashwaghanda, and Ashwaghanda literally means, strength of a stallion. It’s a very commonly used adaptogen in Ayurveda, and formally was used more for men, to give them strength, but now a lot of women, we need that extra strength, too. So, Ashwaghanda is good for everyone, and the feminine version of it is called, Shatavari. And you can make this recipe with Shatavari, as well.

    So, golden mylk, a lot of people call this yogi tea, is a turmeric-based potion. The reason why turmeric is the base, is because turmeric is really anti-inflammatory. So, we spoke about how it’s really anti-inflammatory for the brain, and that helps it work as an anti-depressant. Clinical research has now found it as effective as Prozac, but it also works in the body. So, if you’re doing a lot of yoga, you’re doing a lot of exercise, physical activity, inflammation can be created over-time.  So, the turmeric is going to help just alleviate that so you feel much more agile, much more comfortable in your body.  So, it’s really good for everyone. Turmeric also helps burn belly fat, which is another really cool thing about it. It’s been found that it specifically works on fat in the mid-section, again, because it’s stress-related, cortisol-related.  So, turmeric really helps with that. So, I love turmeric for so many reasons, which is why it’s the base of golden mylk.

    Golden Mylk Powder Mixture

    • Turmeric
    • Ginger
    • Black Pepper
    • Ashwaghanda

    Golden Mylk Potion

    • Unsweetened non-dairy milk
    • Hot water
    • 1 teaspoon Golden Mylk Powder Mixture

    I like to make this ahead of time, I actually travel with it because I can just take a spoon and add it anywhere. It’s like a tea that requires really no steeping. So, again, turmeric, ginger, black pepper, and the ashwaghanda. Just mix up the powders. You can put it in a little glass jar, travel with it, keep it with you at home. You can actually kind of customize it to what you want. So, let’s say you want it a little bit more spicy, a little bit more gingery, you can crank that up. You can add more black pepper, less black pepper, again, there’s really no rules, just make sure you have the ingredients in there somewhere.

    Learn more with Sahara’s Ayurveda course on Omstars

    By Sahara Rose Ketabi

    Sahara Rose is the best-selling author of the Idiot’s Guide to Ayurveda, which is the #1 best-selling Ayurveda book globally and Eat Feel Fresh: A Plant-Based Ayurvedic Cookbook. She has been called “a leading voice for the millennial generation into the new paradigm shift” by Deepak Chopra, who wrote the foreword of both her titles. Sahara hosts the Highest Self Podcast, ranked as the #1 top podcast in the spirituality category on iTunes. Sahara’s mission is to awaken people to their innate potential so they can share their gifts and fulfill their purpose on this planet. “This is Ayurveda’s next evolutionary step. Sahara Rose has successfully refreshed and revitalized the ancient knowledge without watering down its significance and depth. She blends reverence for the tradition with an awareness of present-day needs. Find more wisdom on Sahara’s website or Instagram.

  • I Felt the Power of Yoga

    Yika’al. It is possible. I decided to be more creative with my English activities.  One of the activities I came up with was teaching English through yoga.

    Sometime after graduating college, I decided I wanted to serve in the United States Peace Corps (pronounced “core” not “corpse”). Please note: Omstars is not affiliated with the United States Peace Corps or the United States Government. Serving in the Peace Corps means committing yourself to living two years in a community abroad, typically a developing country, building capacity and exchanging ideas and experiences. And of course, promoting peace.

    You integrate as best as you can by immersing yourself in the language and culture and make lifelong friends.  In May 2011, I stepped off the plane in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. After studying the northern language, Tigrinya, for several months and living with a host family, I was sent to a rural town of about 16,000 people to teach English and pedagogy at a college of teacher education.

    Over the course of my first year there, I ran around in so many directions trying to make things happen. There were times I held workshops and no one came. There were times I asked for colleagues to support me and no one did. There were times I put things on the schedule, only to learn there was a holiday I didn’t know about. It was hard, but with every failure, I learned how to improve. I learned how best to communicate to the students. I learned which people to work with. I learned which customs were most respected. Finally, the most important thing I learned was that, not everyone wants your help, and that’s completely fine.

    As I started my second year, I decided to be more creative with my English activities.  One of the activities I came up with was teaching English through yoga. I had dabbled in some yoga classes before I joined the Peace Corps, and felt confident I could at least talk about the shapes. I was still nervous to do the presentation, but one phrase that kept me going. Yichalal, spoken by the famous marathon runner Haile Gebrselassie, means, “It is possible.” There’s a sense of optimism among Ethiopians that’s contagious. The day I gave the presentation, we didn’t have yoga mats and I didn’t know how to really instruct students to flow, but it was fun to make the poses and laugh together. The presentation was so successful that my colleague Yikuno and I agreed we should repeat the yoga classes. He suggested we take it outside to the soccer field.

    I will never forget the day I led our students through the poses with the backdrop of the mighty mountains behind us. I think this is the first moment I felt the power of yoga. I realized it was greater than all of us. Suddenly the female students felt like they had a place among the male students. All students could make poses, let their breath guide them, and be a part of the beautiful practice of yoga. Yoga transcends language, geography, culture, and identity.

    By Ally Born

    Ally is a yogi, runner, Ironman triathlete, and a former competitive swimmer and water polo player. She started running after earning her bachelor’s degree and has now completed five marathons. She served in the U.S. Peace Corps in Ethiopia for two years and returned to the states to complete her master’s degree in international educational development. While job-hunting, she dabbled in yoga challenges on Instagram with Kino MacGregor and fell in love with the practice of Ashtanga yoga. During the following year, she earned her 200-hour level yoga teaching certification. Over the last couple years, she has been fortunate to have trained with several authorized Ashtanga instructors, including Kino and Harmony Slater. She truly believes that yoga is for everyone and loves teaching it. When she’s not on her mat, she can be found training for triathlons, traveling, and researching. Keep in touch with Ally on Instagram.

  • Create a Soul Inspired Intention

    The first thing that we need to know is, that desire to fulfill our desires is part of the soul’s nature.

    In Sanskrit the word for intention, or resolve, is Sankalpa. We are going to be talking about Sankalpa Shakti, how to give power to our intentions. The first thing that we need to know is, that desire to fulfill our desires is part of the soul’s nature. According to the Vedic scriptures, your soul is born with four desires.

    Dharma
    The desire for dharma, or purpose. A destiny, to have a fulfilled life.

    Artha
    The desire for artha, or the means to fulfill your desires. And that doesn’t only include material wealth, but it also covers health and security of housing and everything that you need in order to fulfill your desires.

    Kama
    We also are born with the desire for kama, or pleasure in all of its forms, earthly and spiritual. And it’s for pleasure and enjoyment of everything that life has to offer.

    Moksha
    And then Moksha, the desire for liberation, to be free. And that includes freedom in the world and freedom from the world. The ultimate spiritual freedom.

    Let your heart tell you, which of these four desires will help me fulfill my purpose. Which of these four desires, in the next 6 to 12, or 18 months, move me closer toward the goal of who and what I am meant to be in this world. And without letting your daily functioning mind get in the way, just simply trust your heart. You might see that one of the four desires is shimmering, or brighter, or more attractive to you, and just trust that, that is the desire that needs to be focused on for the next 6 to 12, or 18 months.

    Continue this lesson with Inge on Omstars

    By Inge Sengelmann

    Inge Sengelmann, LCSW, SEP, RYT-500 is an embodiment specialist and integrative psychotherapist licensed in Florida and Colorado (Florida Lic. # SW9606; Colorado Lic. # CSW09923364). She delights in helping people connect with their intrinsic self-regulation and inherent inner wisdom through meditation practices and somatic psychology. As a Somatic Experiencing® practitioner, Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) specialist, and tantric hatha yoga teacher, she treats the effects of acute and chronic stress on psyche and body to restore the person’s innate capacity to heal. Weaving the latest developments in the field of neuroscience with the ancient wisdom of yoga, Inge develops skillful awareness practices that help people embody their lives in a more fulfilling way, renegotiating past trauma by reestablishing a strong relationship to safety in the present moment. http://www.embodyyourlife.org/

  • Maintaining Peace, Equanimity, and Authenticity

    I want to talk with you about what it means to maintain peace, equanimity, and authenticity in your walk in the world.

    As a yogi, it’s traditionally understood that you are held to a higher standard, which means that, as a yogi, you constantly have to tune back into yourself.  Maintaining an equanimeous mind and a compassionate open heart that simultaneously maintains the dual vows of what’s called in Sanskrit, Ahimsa, which means non-violence and truthfulness, or Satya.

    These two together will help you walk in the world, and truly live the yogi’s life. For it is not enough to only be truthful but you must also be compassionate.  And it is not enough only to be compassionate, for you must always be truthful. So, as a yogi in the world, it’s inevitable that you will come into contact with difficult situations, but you always have the benchmark of your daily practice.

    If you get on your mat everyday it will bring you back into your center, and if you don’t know how to act because you have interacted in the world or been stimulated by negativity, then the yogi’s teaching, or the yogi’s path, is to not act in anger. To not act out of jealously. To not act out of negativity, but instead, to remain calm, to redirect your mind back into the inner body until your mind maintains a calm and equanimous center.

    And only after the mind maintains a calm and equanimous center then compassionate, rightful action, that is simultaneously truthful and compassionate will be presented to you. And it will unfold almost like light shining on the path ahead.

    Continue this lesson with Kino on Omstars

     

    By Kino MacGregor

    Kino MacGregor is a world renowned yoga teacher, the youngest ever teacher to be certified in Ashtanga Yoga by Sri K. Pattabhi Jois, author of several yoga books, and the founder of OMstars.com

     

  • Yoga & Cultural Appropriation

    I often hesitate to call myself a “yoga teacher.” I prefer to view myself as a student, a lifelong disciple of one of my culture’s most precious gifts, yoga. A tradition of spiritual teaching that has evolved and survived several cultural onslaughts for well over 2,500 years. The latest being its current somewhat distorted avatar. A casual ‘Namaste’ printed at the base of a photograph of a smiling bikini clad woman on an impossibly beautiful beach. A Pincha on a bridge with a quote from Patanjali’s sutras. A pair of $100 leggings with an ‘Om” stylishly embroidered on it.  Lots of ‘Chakra cleansing’ and ‘Om’-ing gleefully bandied about over turmeric lattes and conversations about coconut oil and clarified butter. The question arises, what is wrong with that? Why would the global adoption of yoga be anything but good?

    To answer that simply, it is, and it isn’t. There is nothing more wonderful and heartwarming than watching people of all races from every corner of the globe embrace yoga with so much warmth and enthusiasm. It is beautiful to see bodies of all shapes and sizes feel the benefits of this tradition. Watching as yoga connects people from all walks of life and provides a welcoming place for young and old is wonderful to witness. On the face of it, this is the age of the yoga revolution. The unprecedented numbers of people from the West practicing, learning and teaching yoga like never before in its rich history is exciting!

    What is less exciting, less heartwarming and less easy to process is the way in which yoga is often treated and consumed today. If you were to do a cursory search of your Instagram account, arguably the current haven for yoga practitioners, you would be hard pressed to find many faces that look Indian, wielding any sort of real influence on the way yoga is perceived or practiced. The face of yoga is invariably Caucasian, smiling, thin and dressed in stylish yoga gear doing something impossibly stretchy. A fair number of practitioners are wholly ignorant of yoga’s Indian roots and perhaps a fair number do not care to acknowledge it nor see it as relevant. That is problematic. Ignoring cultural appropriation also ignores the biases and prejudices races like mine have long endured. We have had our curries called “smelly”, we’ve had our gods made fun of, we’ve been called ‘dotheads” and the list goes on. To then have parts of our cultural and spiritual practices sanitized and made palatable for profit with no effort to represent us is hard to watch.

    It is more than a little strange to witness ‘bindis’ becoming a fashion accessory and a traditional greeting like ‘Namaste’ become a trendy graphic on everything from tank tops to coffee mugs. Of course, the argument is often made to normalize cultural appropriation. Which is that every culture learns and absorbs practices from other cultures and that it shouldn’t be a big deal. Unfortunately, a lot of the absorbing comes from cultures that seek to profit from others while removing almost every trace of the people originally practicing it. To cherry pick the things that suit a profit margin and discard the rest. For a community that is more mindful and ethical than most, it is important for the global yoga community to understand the hurt and anger of a lot of Indians. Anger that comes from seeing not one face which looks like theirs on the international yoga stage when the source of yoga is Indian. There aren’t any multi-million-dollar yoga apparel brands rushing to sponsor Indians, no one is asking Indians to host retreats in beach paradises. In fact, no one is asking us to speak – at all! That is problematic.

    At its core yoga is a spiritual practice comprising of 8 limbs – Ashtanga. Only ONE limb of is devoted to ‘asana’, the physical practice of yoga. In today’s yoga context, it’s easy to imagine the hyper physical, athletic portion of yoga is all there is. That it is a glorified cousin of gymnastics in some way. The imaging and understanding of yoga seems to perpetuate this perception. Yoga isn’t a competitive sport that stresses physical ableism. It is at its heart a practice that shows you how to still your mind, to form a deep connection with your breath and body, to inculcate practices in your daily life that teach you to respect and love yourself and your fellow man. To learn to form a detachment from the material world and all its trappings and to learn to associate yourself with the oneness of the universe instead. In fact, Patanjali’s sutras do not contain a single instruction on how to do ‘Urdhva Dhanurasana’ or ten easy ways to enter a handstand. The physical aspect of yoga is almost incidental to what yoga really wants to teach you. The fetishization of handstands is a little incongruent in this light. There is nothing wrong with a rigorous ‘asana’ practice. It’s truly wonderful and does do your body a world of good but to assume that’s all it is, devalues this deeply spiritual practice and perhaps more unfortunately robs you of gaining a deeper more layered understanding of yourself.

    The status of ‘Guru,’ or teacher, is not handed out lightly in the Indian yogic tradition. A teacher is someone who leads you from the darkness of ignorance into the light of knowledge. A 6-week, 6 month or even 6-year study is perhaps only a beginning? The great thing about an ongoing study of yoga is that it automatically addresses the issues of respect, representation and cultural appropriation. Dedicating yourself not just to ‘6 ways to achieving Tic Tocs,’ but also to the study of the history, evolution and meaning of yoga would, I think, automatically make you a better practitioner and a better yogi. You could then go on to ensure that this wonderful source of learning not only survives but thrives. Now isn’t that exciting?

    Namaste.

    By Kashvi Lakshman

    Kashvi Lakshman Aiyar is a 200 hour certified yoga teacher and fitness enthusiast. She is a vegan and proud dog mommy. Kashvi cannot resist a bad pun and is often seen laughing at her own jokes.
    Find Kashvi on instagram @omgomie
  • The Top 3 Things You Need to Know to Start Yoga

    Many, many more people think about doing yoga than actually get around to starting. I’ve often pondered what is getting in the way. After talking to many an interested, but nervous potential student, these are the most pressing 3 things that I have gleaned.

    1. You do not need to loose weight first. I know that all the people photographed doing yoga look really thin, but believe me, there are many, many people doing yoga who do not have bodies that those models do, and they still benefit from yoga, and are still happy doing it. Moreover, many of those people with “regular” bodies come to appreciate the body that they have, instead of longing for to live in someone else’s.

     

    1. You do not need to already be flexible. When I started yoga, my hamstrings were very tight. As I’ve done yoga, they have loosened up.   Many an interested person will say “oh, I can’t do yoga—I’m not flexible enough!” I think that often adults figure that if they don’t already show an aptitude for an activity, then they ought not to waste their time. For instance, why learn to play the piano if you believe you have no musical talent?

     

    The point of yoga is not to excel, but to experience. When you allow yourself the space to do so, you might find that your hamstrings relax, and that you have an aptitude for flexibility that you didn’t anticipate.

     

    1. You do not need to have the right wardrobe. People who do yoga—especially in the coastal urban metropolises—have become their own kind of fashionistas. This can be a bit off-putting to the beginner. When I went to my teacher training—a 27-day immersion—I went with 5 sets of clothes. It worked out—I washed my clothes in the shower. My experience of yoga was not improved or diminished by my clothing choices.

     

    As I’ve grown into a busy teaching career, my yoga wardrobe has expanded considerably, for two reasons: it is my professional attire, and I spend all day wearing it. I have more yoga clothes than street clothes.

    To start yoga, all you need is some comfortable clothes that you can move in. That’s it. Sweatpants and a tee shirt will do quite nicely. Over time, you may choose to wear things that are more fitted, because you will discover that there is a fine line between comfortable clothes, and too much fabric.

    Once you overcome these common impediments, we can fine-tune your approach to yoga, like what style, teacher, level, and how often to go.

    Above all, have fun!

    by Erica Mather

    Originally published in Mantra Yoga + Health Magazine (print version). 

    Start Practicing With Erica On OMstars

    Visit Erica’s Blog for More Content

    Top 3 things you need to practice yoga

     

  • Yoga for Parents

    We are a product of our environments.  We are a product of our parents.  Monkey see, monkey do.  What are your little monkeys observing in the day to day?  Posture is no little thing on the list of providing our children with happy, healthy and safe lives.  But, if we are constantly revolving around a sedentary life, how can we lead by example and show them how to move through this life with healthy posture?

    Since the internet and cell phones became a household and even an individual norm things have shifted, quite literally.  We sit too much, in cars, on the couch, at school and at work.  We are sitters. For the sake of our children, we need to become movers and shakers again.  For the sake of ourselves, we need to change this idea of “back breaking” work and do things with posture and muscular support that allows us to work hard without “breaking your back.”

    Two quick steps in the right direction:  

    1 Sit more. Wait, what?! Let me explain: Not on a chair, not on a couch, not with a screen and not with a slouch.  Dr. Suess rhymes aside, we need to squat.  We need to squat and work the posterior chain that gets neglected.  The backside of the body needs more attention and the spine needs that support. Six packs are pretty and all, but you know all the sayings: Don’t judge a book by its cover. Beauty is only skin deep.  Bark with no bite.  

    2 Posture, posture, posture.  This is where having a Yoga practice gives you an upper hand.  Practice at home and practice in front of your kids.  Their incredible human brain will process and digest what they are seeing.  I’ve always said it is no wonder every mother and father thinks that their child is a genius…humans are amazing!  Lead by example and show them correct posture.  Telling them to sit up straight means very little if they have never seen it before.

     If the above is a rant about the asana of Yoga then below is my little rant about the awareness of Yoga.  

     Processing information is hard, especially when you are learning rapidly, growing rapidly and experiencing heightened emotions that are relatively new.  You might think I’m talking about you at this point, but I’m actually referring to children.  When you stare at them in disbelief because they are reacting with such intensity, remember that it is all very real to them and they are experiencing those emotions inside no matter how irrational it seems to an adult.  It is very overwhelming and takes age and time to process in a more socially acceptable manner.  I know this from personal experience.  I too was once a child.  Seriously though,  often times reflection can be the easiest path to compassion.  You don’t just get off the hook as an adult either, this is a life long battle of thinking before you act or even thinking about how you act.  Yoga teaches us patience and that life itself is a practice.  One more time:  Life itself is a practice.  Practice makes progress.  Practice what you preach.  Lead by example.  Awareness.  I guess I was talking about you after all.

    By Holly Fiske

    Join Holly and Omstars for her #upsidedowniscomingtotown Instagram Challenge starting December 3rd, follow her on instagram @upsidedownmama and check out her website www.upsidedownmama.com to learn more about Holly and her beautiful clothing line!

    Watch this space for the release of Holly’s course Upside Down Yoga