• What is Vedanta?

    Author Neema Majmudar explains how Vedanta addresses the fundamental questions of existence and purpose.

    What is it that I am really seeking through my various pursuits in life? What do I seek when I pursue money, pleasures, fame, name, power or heaven? Do I seek all these for the sake of themselves? If it were just for themselves, I would be satisfied when I fulfilled any given desire. However, I am only momentarily satisfied when I fulfill them. Soon I find myself with another set of desires. This way, the desires I entertain may change in nature and in time. But one thing remains constant, in spite of all accomplishments I may have, me the unsatisfied and inadequate person, the person who would like to become somebody different from what I am at present. Why? Because I am conscious of myself and as a result of my relating with the world, I have a judgment about myself. My conclusion about myself is that I am limited, mortal, subject to sorrow.

    I cannot accept myself as I am and therefore make attempts throughout my life to be acceptable to myself by pursuing different things. However, if I am an individual confined to this limited body, with limited powers to change situations, things and people in this vast universe, it seems impossible that I will one day become totally acceptable to myself and find a lasting fulfillment that does not depend upon any situation or any given place or time.

    This preliminary inquiry into the nature of my pursuits leads me to the fact that there is no connection between what I want and what I do: I want to be free from being a wanting, limited, insignificant person. And my different pursuits in life only have the capacity to give me temporary relief, in the form of momentary satisfaction and joy.

    At this point, some will say, this is the reality of existence. Life is meaningless, you are a limited entity confronted with the immense forces of the world and you have to accept this fact of existence. You can give a meaning to it by your actions: just be an ethical person and try to excel in what you do, whether you are in business, arts, science or working in a company, contribute to society as much as you can, but do not expect anything more than this from life. And, do not forget to enjoy the small and big pleasures of life. But, how can I accept this kind of reality and dismiss this intense aspiration for freedom from fear and sorrow, this fundamental search for everlasting fulfillment that seems to be at the core of my being?

    Others will say, there is a heaven where you will enjoy eternally some special pleasures, provided that you behave well and follow the commandments of our scripture. But how can limited prayers and good actions that I do in this life produce an eternal stay in heaven? Since any limited action cannot produce a limitless result, eternal stay in heaven cannot be acceptable to my reason.

    Then the only possibility is that maybe the conclusion I have about myself is wrong. This is precisely what Vedanta says. It says that you are already what you are looking for, the limitless, the whole, you are already free from this sense of limitation, insecurity and lack. Logically, this seems to be the only solution: because if I am really a limited individual, no matter what I do, no action will ever produce the limitless I am seeking.

    But if I am making a mistake about myself, and taking myself to be limited while I am in reality limitless, there is a solution. It is in the form of knowledge of my true nature. This seems to be the only way out.

    It is interesting that most religions, philosophies, psychologies, etc., do not attempt to question this fundamental and universal conclusion that everyone has, “I am a limited individual.” Often they confirm the conclusion about the limited nature of “I” and start their system of beliefs, school of thought or therapy with this in-built assumption. Keeping this paradigm, whatever solution they envisage, it can never solve the problem of being a limited individual.

    Since Vedanta addresses the most fundamental problem that is universally faced by everyone, any discerning person will examine what Vedanta has to say about one’s true nature.

    This article first appeared in Discover Vedanta and is written by its authors Neema Majmudar and Surya Tahora

    This article was contributed to Omstars by Mysore-based, Indian online Yoga Magazine @sanatana.yoga

    By Neema Majmudar

    Illustration: Sambaran Das
    Published by Indian online magazine SanātanaYoga

  • What Is Mantra & How Do We Use It Respectfully?

    As you begin your yoga practice, you are probably searching through a lot of information. Some of this information you may come across is most likely unfamiliar territory. After all, there is a lot that goes into REAL yoga. From its history, to its poses, to avoiding the cultural appropriation, and to the language used in the practice. Here we will dive into Mantras specifically, learning what they are and how to incorporate them into the practice, as well as our everyday lives.

    So, what is a mantra?

    When dipping your toes into something new, especially new cultural things, it is essential to know the technicalities of elements. It is important, in order to be able to practice these things respectfully and accurately, to gain a holistic and full scope of appreciation for what we are doing. Mantras in yoga are a culmination of words in Sanskrit said repetitively, that are believed to work into one’s unconscious mind and clear the inner self. Mantras may:

    • Increase self awareness
    • Help calm overriding emotions
    • Align your focus
    • Help with anxiety

    Let’s focus on anxiety for a second, because mantras can help immensely when you’re in the midst of an anxiety attack. Because mantras allow you to help calm emotions, this may be a tool you can incorporate if you should ever have an anxiety attack. Simply repeat your mantra, focus on it and allow yourself to calm down through the process. Now that we know what Mantras are here are a couple examples of mantras in Sanskrit:

    • Om
    • Om śāntiḥ śāntiḥ śāntiḥ
    • Sat Nam
    • Neti-Neti

    For a full explanation of what these mantras mean, and the correct pronunciation be sure to check out this website. In addition, this spotify playlist has a few really good ones with which you can get started!

    What are disrespectful ways in the practice?

    On another note, you may be wondering why we talk about engaging in respect while learning the practice of yoga. This is because within yoga there has been a history in the US of westernizing and appropriating the practice culturally. It is great to appreciate the culture from which the practice comes, but, in order to do so, we need to make sure we are being respectful to the traditions and the accuracy of yoga. 

    Disrespecting the practice may come in many forms, one of the more common ones is playing pop music during class. Yoga is certainly meant to be a peaceful practice. When teachers strive to make their class palatable to Western tastes, it’s outright disrespectful. The usage of pop music does not encourage peaceful practice the way it is meant to. Nor should yoga be about breaking a sweat, or limiting seated meditation time.

    Now back to mantras specifically; if someone is singing sacred, Vedic mantras and hymns because they are practicing the spiritual tradition (regardless of their race), then they are NOT doing anything inappropriate. If that person is singing mantras at a music festival while high just to be ‘exotic’ and cool, without any understanding of what they are actually saying or how to pronounce them properly, that IS disrespectful and inappropriate.

    How can we fix this?

    Easy! With Mantras! We now have the knowledge of what they are and what they are meant to do, as well as some examples. Instead of playing pop music, make a conscious effort to walk into class with a mantra in mind. Or, if you are an instructor, encourage your students to relax and set up a mantra that will be ready for them to practice during the class. There is nothing wrong in engaging in activities of other cultures, however a problem is created when we do not do so respectfully. This is done by dishonoring the origin, butchering sacred texts, focusing only on the physical aspect of yoga, or treating it like a commodity if you own your studio.

    Practice mantras, and enjoy the process

    All this to say, mantras are at the core of yoga and have some great benefits that come along with them. Hopefully from this article you learned something new, and have a brand new perspective on appreciation for an element of the yoga practice.  From here we hope you learn some mantras that work for you and incorporate them in your daily yoga practice and everyday life. Especially now that there has been a foundation on what mantras are and some examples, we may go forth and practice them! May the peace of the mantras be with you! For more information, articles and tips on how to NOT culturally appropriate the sacred healing practice of yoga, please visit our guest author’s website: https://www.susannabarkataki.com/

    By Susanna Barkataki

    Deepen and Honor your Yoga Practice Here

    An Indian yoga practitioner in the Shankaracharya tradition, Susanna Barkataki is the founder of Ignite Yoga and Wellness Institute and runs Ignite Be Well 200/500 Yoga Training programs. She is an E-RYT 500, Certified Yoga Therapist with the International Association of Yoga Therapists (C-IAYT). She is the author of the forthcoming book Honor Yoga’s Roots: Courageous Ways to Deepen Your Yoga Practice. With an Honors degree in Philosophy from UC Berkeley and a Masters in Education from Cambridge College, Barkataki is a diversity, accessibility, inclusivity, and equity (DAIE) yoga unity educator who created the ground-breaking Honor {Don’t Appropriate} Yoga Summit with more than 10,000 participants.

  • Bakasana (Crane Pose) – Living with Equanimity

    Bakasana or the crane pose calms the nervous system while one attempts to stay in the posture with hands placed on the floor and the knees placed in the armpits with gaze fixed at the tip of the nose. The composure of a crane that is focused on fishing for food in water is what helped Yudhishthira the Pandava King to save the lives of his four brothers.

    The Mahabharata one of the Sanskrit epics narrates the story of Pandava brothers who were exiled to forest for twelve years. The banished King Yudhishthira, eldest of the five brothers led his brothers to the forest. After having walked several miles the brothers were thirty and tired. Yudhishthira sent one of his brothers to look for a lake and fetch water for everyone. Hours passed by but the brother did not return.  He sent his other two brothers to search for the missing brother, but they did not return too, Yudhishthira was worried and set out to look for the missing brothers with his last remaining brother. After a while the brother asked Yudhishthira to wait under the shade of the tree again since he had spotted a lake nearby and was sure that the other three brothers would be at the lake. The last of the remaining brothers too went towards the lake. Yudhishthira waited and waited under the tree but the brother did not come back. Now Yudhishthira was very anxious as all his four brothers were missing.

    He set out again looking for the lake hoping to find his brothers, after sometime he reached the lake which lot of cranes in it fishing for food. And was shocked to see his four brothers lying unconscious near the lake. Yudhishthira rushed to get some water from the lake to sprinkle on them, as he was about to touch the water ‘Yaksha’, the water spirit appeared in front of him in a form of a crane and warned him not to the touch the water of his much-loved lake without permission and having answered all his questions correctly, or else he too would be poisoned to death just like his four brothers who did not pay heed to Yaksha’s conditions.

    At that moment Yudhishthira kept his nerves together knowing that he had to remain calm because only ‘Yaksha’ the powerful water spirit could bring his brothers back to life. With his hands folded in reverence for the water spirit he agreed to answer all of Yaksha’s questions.

    Yaksha asked his first question, “What is faster than the Wind?”

    “Mind is faster than wind,” replied Yudhishthira.

    “What is true cleansing?” questioned Yaksha again.

    “Cleansing of the mind is true cleansing,” replied Yudhishthira.

    “What is true religion?” asked Yasksha.

    “Charity is true religion,” came the answer from Yudhishthira.

    “Where do religion, success, heaven and happiness resides?” Yaksha asked.

    “Religion resides in awareness, success resides in charity, heaven resides in truth and happiness resides in self-restraint,” Yudhishthira replied with his hands folded.

    “Who is truly happy?” asked Yaksha

    “One who has no debt is truly happy,” said Yudhishthira.

    “What makes one loveable and wealthy?” The water spirit asked the Pandava King Yudhishthira.

    “Pride when renounced makes one loveable and desire for more, when renounced makes one wealthy,” replied Yudhishthira.

    “What is correct path of life?,” asked Yaksha again.

    “The true path is the path of Dharma (righteousness) where one makes constant efforts to know oneself, living in gratitude and associating with learned teachers,” was Yudhishthira’s reply.

    Yaksha was pleased with Yudhishthira’s answers and granted him the permission to use water from the lake and also revived the four brothers.

    This conversation between King Yudhishthira and Yaksha in form of questions and answers shows us a way to lead a yogic life which emphasizes moderation in everything we do, maintaining a sense of balance in all aspects of life. All our thoughts and actions are to be guided by self-restraint and gratitude for harmonious living.

    King Yudhishthira in spite of seeing his four brothers poisoned to death by Yaksha did not lose his calm and attended to the situation by keeping his emotions in control. The bakasana is not only symbolic for a life of equanimity and balance, but also helps achieving metal steadfastness and focus like that of a crane in water.

    By Ankur Tunaak

    Ankur Tunaak has been an Ashtanga yoga practitioner for over a decade, studied with Shree M. Vishwanath who was one of the first students and nephew of Shree Pathabhi Jois. Also, an alumnus of Bihar School Of Yoga, one of four premier Yogic Studies Institutions in India. Ankur is a storyteller and photographer, currently teaching yoga in New Delhi, India. Portrait photography by Ankur Tunaak.

    Read More Yoga Stories by Ankur Tunaak

  • What is Mudra and How to Do It Respectfully?

    Before diving into mudras, we should ask ourselves how we acknowledge yoga a universal practice while honoring its roots.  It is essential to jump in with this as mudras are at the core of many practices such as yoga. Yoga stems from South Asian and Indian cultures.  That is the very tip of what any aspiring yogi from Western culture should know. It has been transported to our Western culture and has been popularized here.

    So what is a Mudra?

    Mudras are a posture that includes a ritual gesture, and are symbolic in nature. They have been used within meditation in yoga for thousands of years to heighten the experience that is meditation. Mudras may come in many forms. Some are gross, meaning done with the physical body. Some are subtle, meaning done with the mind, and some are transcendent, alluding to when the practitioner merges with the mudra itself and there is no separation between the symbol, the doer, and the meaning.

    A quite common mudra is a hand posture where the thumb and index fingers touch at the tip, creating a circle, and the rest of the fingers lie straight. This is Gyan Mudra, or wisdom mudra, a gesture to help instill a sense of peaceful, calming, wisdom as well as spiritual enlightenment. 

    Another famous mudra is Anjali Mudra, often called Namaste mudra, or  the prayer’s pose which is held with both palms touching one another at one’s heart center. In Sanskrit, Anjali is translated to “offering.” It signifies something along the lines of, “I bow to the divinity within you from the divinity within me.” It can also be used as a sacred “hello” or “thank you” — spoken to recognize the divinity of everyone. For a further informative video on what Anjali Mudra means and looks like, click here.

    Mudras are so important to Indian culture that when you enter the New Delhi Airport (International Terminal), you see GIANT mudras on the wall to welcome foreigners to India and its culture! However, in addition to the most common forms seen in media, yoga classes, or at temples, there are also rather unknown mudras that involve the head, body, heart as well as perineal area.

    Another mudra we love to use in our daily lives is the Jupiter Mudra, where you point your two index fingers together, harnessing the power of Jupiter. The purpose is to activate good luck in your aims and projects. Interlocking the fingers together can help you focus your energy before taking an exam, before an important interview, or to break through difficult barriers in your communication. Here you will find a resource that can give insight into the different mudra positions possible, and how to best achieve them.

    What would be disrespectful when using Mudras?

    If you were to walk into a yoga studio in New York City or Los Angeles, the most common demographic you would find is white, upper class women waltzing in with their $100 lululemon leggings on and Gaia tank tops. While what they wear itself is not disrespectful, it is important to avoid disrespecting mudras and their use in yoga practice. Why we mention the demographic of these big city studios, is because often you will find that yoga is moreso appropriated than appreciated.

    Many of the individuals in these studios find yoga as a fun and calming workout, instead of for what it was originally culturally intended. If you were to walk in and ask one of the students from these studios about the history and origins of yoga, and specifically about mudras, we guarantee most surveyed will not be able to tell you much, if anything at all.

    In order to not just throw up the funky, cool hand signs your teachers are doing and not knowing anything about these positions or their use, do your research! I mean you wouldn’t toss gang signs with your hands without knowing who or what they represented first, would you?

    How can I avoid being disrespectful?

    If you are someone who walks into big city studios with your expensive lululemon leggings, don’t think this is all a jab at you. It is simply to avoid the appropriation of yoga. In order to respectfully practice yoga, and more importantly mudras, it is essential to be a forever student. Always do your research, learn more about the culture from which the practice comes, and learn the proper ways to use and do mudra postures.

    A final thought

    Western yogis aren’t necessarily ruining practice in yoga per se, but we are at fault for not informing ourselves and being respectful towards the origins of yoga. However, now, with some basic knowledge on mudras, for example, one can jumpstart their own research into a lot of different avenues within yoga; therefore cultivating more knowledge and, thus, respecting the sacred healing practice. We hope you found this helpful as a basic guide into mudras if you have been curious about them, and how they could be beneficial in your own meditation!

    By Susanna Barkataki

    Deepen and Honor your Yoga Practice Here

    For more information and tips like this to incorporate into your own yoga practice, practice meditation and asana with Susanna on Yogagirl.com, visit our guest author’s blog: www.susannabarkataki.com or follow her on Instagram for daily tips @susannabarkataki 

    An Indian yoga practitioner in the Shankaracharya tradition, Susanna Barkataki is the founder of Ignite Yoga and Wellness Institute and runs Ignite Be Well 200/500 Yoga Training programs. She is an E-RYT 500, Certified Yoga Therapist with the International Association of Yoga Therapists (C-IAYT). She is the author of the forthcoming book Honor Yoga’s Roots: Courageous Ways to Deepen Your Yoga Practice. With an Honors degree in Philosophy from UC Berkeley and a Masters in Education from Cambridge College, Barkataki is a diversity, accessibility, inclusivity, and equity (DAIE) yoga unity educator who created the ground-breaking Honor {Don’t Appropriate} Yoga Summit with more than 10,000 participants.

  • Yoga Stories Series: Bharadvajasana

    Knowledge is never knowledge until shared. The posture of Bharadvajasana with a spinal twist looking over the shoulders is symbolic of the effort we all can make look beyond ourselves, just as the spine is twisted sideways which is different for its usual action of flexion and extension.

    Bharadvajasana a very effective asana has great benefits for dorsal and lumber region and makes the spine supple. This asana has its origin in the lifetimes of Sage Bharadvaja who was one of maharishis (great sages), known for his vast knowledge of the Vedas. Rishi Bharadvaja dedicated his whole life in learning and understanding the Vedas; the most ancient revered spiritual texts. He toiled hard to learn the Vedas and remained steadfast in writing them down and memorizing the knowledge. His only life purpose was to understand and memorize the texts and devoted his entire lifetime to the purpose.

    Sage Bharadvaja after having exhausted his entire life in the study of Vedas was reborn again. In his second life, the maharishi realized his purpose once more, which was to gain a deeper understanding of the Vedic knowledge and thus began the study of the text again with equal dedication as in his first lifetime. He immersed himself completely in his studies living a solitary life learning as much as he could in his lifespan. He dedicated his second life to Vedas as well.

    The third rebirth brought him a reputation of being the most learned sage with extraordinary knowledge of the Vedas, but that changed nothing for Rishi Bharadvaja, he continued with his studies living alone in his pursuit to understand and realize the supreme power. And then came a time when his physical body became old and sick and he could not study anymore.

    The wise sage knew it was time for him to leave the physical world, he closed his eyes meditating upon the Supreme Being waiting for death to come and take him away. At his moment Lord Shiva appeared before him. Rishi Bharadvja was happy to see Shiva. Lord Shiva came close to him and kept a handful of mud next to the Rishi.

    “O wise sage this is what you have learnt in your three lifetimes in comparison to the mountain that you see outside your window”, Shiva said with a smile pointing at the handful of mud and the mountain outside sage Bharadvaja’s hut.  Bharadvaja was saddened hearing this from Lord Shiva.

    “O lord I spent every iota of my existence in studying the Vedas so that I could be close to you, is it still not sufficient? What more could I do?” the dying age asked Shiva dejectedly.

    Lord Shiva came close the Rishi and said “you spent three lifetimes studying the sacred text in solitude and never shared what you learnt with others, the knowledge you gained is meant for the benefit of mankind, it was your duty to share what you received as scared knowledge”. “If you want this handful of mud to weigh as much as that mountain you see outside, go and share what you have learnt with the entire world.” “You were endowed with the intellect to study the Vedas thus it becomes your responsibility to use it for the benefit of others”. Rishi Bharadvaja was granted another life and he spent that entire life teaching the Vedas and spreading the message of Vedas.

    Each one of has a life purpose irrespective of whether we realize it or not. And pursuing that purpose brings us a sense of fulfillment and when we are at that stage, it is important to share our experiences with as many people as we can. All of us have the ability to lead someone to the path of self-realization and joy. The posture of Bharadvajasana with a spinal twist looking over the shoulders is symbolic of the effort we all can make look beyond ourselves, just as the spine is twisted sideways which is different for its usual action of flexion and extension.

    By Ankur Tunaak

    Ankur Tunaak has been an Ashtanga yoga practitioner for over a decade, studied with Shree M. Vishwanath who was one of the first students and nephew of Shree Pathabhi Jois. Also, an alumnus of Bihar School Of Yoga, one of four premier Yogic Studies Institutions in India. Ankur is a storyteller and photographer, currently teaching yoga in New Delhi, India. Portrait photography by Ankur Tunaak.

    Read More Yoga Stories by Ankur Tunaak

  • Truth Beyond Assumptions: Check Your Gendered Language, Reduce Harm

    If you’re cisgender, meaning you identify with the gender you were assigned at birth, you may not yet have considered the way your gender impacts your body image.

    Maybe you have–as a society, we’ve certainly begun to reckon with the impact that popular representations of men and women have on our ideas about our own bodies. Perhaps you’ve recognized that the lack of body diversity represented in media has made you self-conscious or critical of your weight or that it’s formed the basis of how you present yourself, from the way you dress to the haircut you choose. When it’s constantly reinforced that the ideal female form is slim, waifish, and demure, and that the ideal male form is muscled, tall, and hyper-masculine, it’s not unlikely that you’ve set goals for your appearance that align with the stereotypes that shroud your gender–acceptance is a basic human need. It’s possible you’ve found yourself falling short of the normalized ideal and that it has been a source of strife in your life.

    When you’re transgender or non-binary, meaning you identify with a gender other than that which you were assigned at birth, expressing your gender comfortably can be extra challenging. External pressure to conform with the stereotypes and norms associated with your gender assigned at birth can feel extra heavy when they’re not only unrealistic for many cisgender folks, but also completely out of alignment with your self-understanding. And indeed, research shows that trans folks are particularly vulnerable to struggles with body image–”gender dysphoria,” the psychological distress of feeling like your body doesn’t match your gender, is a common (though not universal) experience for trans folks and is still used as a diagnostic reference and criteria in the DSM, and studies indicate that rates of disordered eating are likely higher among trans individuals.

    I was assigned female at birth and raised as a girl, though I’ve come to understand myself as agender, a non-binary identity that denotes a lack of identification with any particular gender. I now understand that gender is not a binary, nor even one consistent spectrum, but rather a number of intersecting spectrums with infinite possible combinations. There is no universal experience of gender. After years of work to dismantle my learned self-hate around my fatness, I generally feel pretty neutral about my body. I appreciate it for what it is: the vehicle through which I get to experience this life. In this neutrality, there’s nothing about myself that I desire to change.

    But frequently when I meet new people, they look at my body and make the assumption that I’m a woman. It hurts every time. Whenever a teacher walks into our yoga class and addresses the group as “ladies,” or a classmate refers to me as “she,” I feel an immediate physical tightness and emotional distress. I experience second-hand harm even as a bystander to another person’s misgendering.  This happens everywhere, but it hits me particularly hard in yoga spaces. I see yoga as a spiritual practice that’s oriented towards non-harm and a search for truth beyond our assumptions, but this is not what I experience when I’m misgendered in yoga spaces. That sharp dichotomy between the perception of yoga spaces as welcoming and sheltered from harm and my lived experience trying to exist within them makes the sting of misgendering feel like a particularly potent betrayal of the supposedly shared ethic.

    And here’s the thing–not only does misgendering make me feel deeply unseen, something I’m hoping to escape when I come into a yoga space, it actually triggers harmful thoughts about my body. When someone looks at me and then addresses me as “ma’am” or “she,” when I feel so deeply unseen, I start to hate those parts of my body–my breasts, my wide hips, my short stature–that I know the other person is drawing on as the basis of their assumptions. This particular form of negative self-talk is particularly hard for me to combat, because I feel like my only two options are to accept the body I have and live with perpetual misgendering or to express myself inauthentically, making changes to my body that I don’t want and shouldn’t have to make. Neither option feels good or just.

    You can never tell someone’s gender by looking at them. There are plenty of trans and non-binary people who, like me, are still searching for a presentation of gender that is both authentic and publicly legible, or who are still “in the closet” for reasons all their own. There are people who don’t feel a need to change their gender expression to match external, constructed expectations of gender readability, but still deserve to have their gender and pronouns respected as much as anyone else.

    Respecting trans people and making sure you’re gendering people correctly is part of a larger practice of non-harm. I recognize that deconstructing our gendered assumptions is an uphill battle and have empathy for everyone who has been conditioned to make these assumptions–fighting our conditioning, regardless of context, is a tough task. It’s set up to be–that’s exactly how systemic oppression perpetuates, by making it difficult to change the status quo and move towards equity.

    If this is a concept you’re just starting to explore, maybe take this moment to ask yourself how many times a day you look at someone and assume their gender. Or, you could think about all the times your gender is assumed by someone else–how often does your yoga teacher greet the class with gendered language, a restaurant worker call you “ma’am” or “sir,” a public speaker address the crowd as “ladies and gentlemen,” an author write the phrase “he or she?” You may just be noticing how frequently you encounter this, but for me and many other trans and non-binary folks, it feels omnipresent.

    I’m calling on my fellow yoga practitioners to be our allies in reducing this ongoing harm. Both inside and outside of yoga spaces, practice avoiding assumptions and use gender-neutral language with people you don’t know, help normalize the practice of asking every new person you meet what their pronouns are by doing it consistently, add your own pronouns to your email signature, your Twitter bio, and your next conference nametag. Extend your ahimsa practice to trans folks. Just as you can never know who you might be hurting when you assume gender, you never know who you’re helping to exist in their body when you don’t.

    By Melanie Williams

    Melanie Williams is an East-Coast-based, fat, queer, non-binary yoga teacher and self-love advocate, called to create profoundly accessible spaces for self-inquiry and the inward journey by integrating mindfulness and adaptive movement practices with the spirit of social justice. They believe that the goal of yoga, as of life, is collective liberation and in turn challenge contemporary yogis to dismantle the systems and beliefs that hold us all back. In addition to teaching group and private yoga classes, Melanie offers workshops that explore queer identity and body image, leads adaptive yoga teacher trainings, helps coordinate trainings internationally for Accessible Yoga, champions diversity and inclusion in the yoga industry as a member of the Yoga & Body Image Coalition leadership team, and serves leading industry groups as an expert advisor on diversity and accessibility.

    NOTE: This post is part of a collaborative media series organized and curated by Omstars and the Yoga & Body Image Coalition intended as a deep dive into yoga & body image.

  • In Support of POC and Marginalized Folks in the Yoga Community

    To understand why I feel strongly about providing resources to POC and marginalized populations who want to practice Yoga, I need to tell a little bit of my story.

    From a very young age, I learned that being Black was not desirable or of importance to the larger world. My mother would go to multiple stores in search of Black dolls. They were often sold out because it wasn’t as important to manufacturers and stores to carry as wide of a selection of Black dolls as it was White ones. One Christmas, in order for me to have a Black doll, She had a woman hand-make one. When I opened my gift, I cried. Why couldn’t I have the popular dolls that the White girls received instead of a knock off?

    White girls were the stars of the shows I watched and the Black girl was the sassy sidekick. One of my favorite Saturday morning shows was Saved By the Bell, a story of a group of high school kids in California. Even though the Black character, Lisa Turtle, was pretty and stylish, she rarely had a love interest. Though she definitely had episodes where she was featured, she was not centered. For a Black person to be featured, the show pretty much had to be about Black people. Shows like A Different World, the Cosby Show, and reruns of Good Times and Sanford and Son were a part of the hand full of shows that centered Black people living day to day life. Other then the sassy sidekick funny homeboy/girl who supported the White character or was killed first in horror movies, Black people on TV were largely entertainers, i.e.basketball players, singers, dancers etc, or criminals.

    When I started school, I noticed that the closer you were to White, the more attention you received from teachers. When your skin was lighter and your hair straighter, you were called beautiful. The girls with kinky hair and dark skin were told that they had “pretty faces” or the boys talked about their “nice bodies”. We were never called beautiful. By the time I saw Grace Jones, an avant-garde Black supermodel on TV, I was so confused and I didn’t understand why she was in the James Bond Series which was known for its half-naked “beautiful” White “Bond” girls. Were they making fun of her? Did James Bond really like her or was she a joke?

    One year, I was having trouble with math. The immediate assumption was that it was because I must have come from a bad home and not that I had a horrible teacher who tripped over herself to help White students but berated and yelled at the Black ones. And don’t let me get started on education. Except for Black History month or brief mentions of slavery, Black people didn’t exist. We definitely were not kings and queens from advanced societies that predate White culture. The mini-series, Roots, was the first movie I ever watched that hinted at Black people having an existence before slavery. These are just a few stories and hopefully enough to see where I am going.

    As a Black child, I was surrounded by beautiful Black people from my family, my church and my community. They were not all football players or singers and they were definitely not criminals. In my life, stunning and amazing Black people were everywhere, yet, we were erased from every other aspect of culture that extended outside of my own neighborhood. The message I received as a child was that Blackness was not important to the rest of the world. It was only important to our own community. Outside of my community, no one wanted to see color or talk about it.

    To keep everyone else comfortable, I had to become complicit in my own erasure. Because when White people were uncomfortable, bad things happened. Sassiness is cool when you play the sidekick in a cop show but might get you killed when stopped by a cop in real life. They needed to be comfortable with my hair, my dress, my walk and the way I talked or teachers would not like me, I would not get a job, or people may feel that I am a threat. If I wanted to be considered attractive, I had to downplay my African features and alter anything that could be molded into something that resembled White standards of beauty. I needed to smile all the time to get the position of sassy sidekick, which from what the media taught me, was the quickest way to a good life. A supporting roll in a White centered world was a blessing and something to strive for.

    Can you even begin to understand how hard it is to thrive in a world that is hell-bent on erasing your culture from existence? The pain of it? The daily struggle to keep living and breathing in a culture that only seems to mention your people when you can entertain them in some sort of way or a crime has been committed?

    You would think that this narrative would stop when I started practicing Yoga. Yoga is about love, liberation and oneness, right? Well, it didn’t. The same dynamic is in play. People in the Yoga world are constantly talking about how to make “people” comfortable enough to try Yoga. Have you ever stopped to think about what “people” they are referring too? I will give you a hint, it is not POC. Making a Yoga class more “comfortable”, “accessible” and less “intimidating” are often just code words for erasure. Think about it. What often gets taken out? Chanting, Sanskirt, mentions of South Asian deities and concepts. What gets added in? “Popular” music or music that is popular among mainstream Whites. If a studio does play chants, they are usually performed by White people like Krishna Das or Dave Stringer. Information is conveyed in ways that White people vibe with. Stories from the Gita are replaced with Brene Brown quotes. Om symbols are replaced with pictures of skinny White people in Lululemon.

    Even though I have done a lot of work unpacking the trauma of being raised a Black child in a society that doesn’t really value her existence, when I teach in a predominately White studio, I have to use the same survival mechanisms I use anywhere else. I thought I didn’t because this is Yoga and we are all “woke” and love each other right? Wrong. A White Yoga studio owner told me to smile. They wagged their head and used their “sassy black woman voice’ when they quoted me. I got feedback from students that they thought I didn’t like them because I wasn’t smiling at them. People didn’t understand why I didn’t like the popular Yoga clothing brands that did not fit my curvy body and insisted that I was just wearing them wrong. I made playlists I hated because they did not reflect me or my culture but that my White students loved. I would greet people on their way to class who looked at me like “why was I talking to them” who would be shocked when I walked into class and said I was teaching it. I have been in countless meetings and wrote countless blogs where I have said things that were ignored but were listened to when a White person said it. Like my childhood examples, for the sake of brevity, I am going to stop here but do know that I can keep going. If you are thinking about commenting on this article and gaslighting me, it won’t work. I know what I experienced and am still experiencing.

    When I speak on these things, people often ask, “what are you doing about it?” I think to myself, “You mean besides continuing to live on this earth, teach and practice Yoga while experiencing microaggressions and race-based trauma on a daily basis from the community I love and wish would just love me back?” Sometimes I have to laugh to keep from crying. After one of these conversations, I was like, “you know what, I will start an organization to help.” I didn’t start it to let those who perpetrate the erasure of POC off the hook. I started it as a way to be of service to those who experience what I experience. To make it a little bit easier for them to move in the Yoga world if they so desire. I started the organization to help end the idea that comfortable Yoga is White, binary, and heteronormative.

    When I started talking about wanting to start an organization that gave scholarships to marginalized groups who wanted to practice Yoga and educated people on inclusion and honoring the roots of Yoga, a White colleague in the Yoga world immediately wanted to be an ally. In the end, four women who have a passion for offering Yoga to folks and their families struggling from various traumas such as addiction and abuse, came together to form Yoga For Recovery Foundation Inc. The trauma that POC and other marginalized populations endure by systemic erasure from practices and societies that they helped create, is where I chose to put my focus.

    By Shanna Small

    Read More Insightful Articles by Shanna Small

    Shanna Small is the author of, The Ashtanga Yoga Project, a website that teaches how to live the wisdom of Yoga in modern times. Shanna began her Yoga journey in 2000 and her teaching journey in 2005. She has studied the Yoga Sutras, the Hatha Yoga Pradipika, chanting and Ashtanga at KPJAYI in India with Sharath Jois and Lakshmish. She received her Yoga Alliance registration for Vinyasa Yoga in 2005 and served 4 years as the director of Ashtanga Yoga School Charlotte. She has written for Yoga International, OmStars and Ashtanga Dispatch Magazine. Photo Credit: Wanda Koch Photography

  • Yoga Mythology Series: A Defeated King’s Last Words

    The car suddenly stopped with a jerk. Liam got out of the car and opened the hood and started doing a meticulous inspection, it seemed that sun was getting hotter by the second. After few minutes being inside the car his grandfather, who was travelling with Liam, got out too. “What seems to be the problem Liam”, he inquired. “Looking into it Grandpa”, Liam replied with his head under the hood. Almost an hour passed and Liam tried everything to fix the car but it did not start.

    “I saw a garage about a half mile back near the gas station, let’s get a mechanic here and get him to inspect the car”, grandfather suggested. “Grandpa, I am a qualified automobile engineer, what could the mechanic do that I can’t”, Liam retorted to the suggestion. After a while Liam gave up and got the mechanic to the car. After inspection, the mechanic asked Liam when they refueled the car and Liam told him that it was from the gas station near his garage on the highway. “You have misfuelled the car, this a petrol engine and you have put diesel in it”. Both Liam and the grandfather looked at each other in silence. “Sorry Liam I thought your car had a diesel engine and put the same in it”, the grandfather said apologetically. The diesel was pumped out and petrol was put into the tank. It was almost evening and both of them were driving on the highway again.

    Both sat in silence with their eyes on the highway as Liam drove.

    “Liam have you heard of the story of Ravana and Prince Laxmana?” Grandpa broke the silence with his question. But Liam kept driving without replying.

    “Ravana the mighty scholar King and a great yogi was lying on the battle ground injured by the arrows of prince Rama and the younger brother prince Laxmana, awaiting his death”, grandfather continued.

    “Rama the elder brother asked Laxmana to go and pay his last respects to the dying defeated King of great wisdom, and seek true knowledge from him. Laxama resented the idea and said that he did not want to go near his enemy who they had defeated. Rama requested his younger brother again telling him that there was lot to learn from the Ravana and that he should go to him. Laxmana gave in to his elder brother’s request but came back furious and told his brother that Ravana did say a word to him inspite of him asking. Rama asked Laxmana where he was standing when he went close to Ravana, and Laxmana told him that he went and stood next to Ravana’s head while he lay on the ground.

    Hearing this Rama said “dear Laxmana please go again and this time sit close to his feet and request for wisdom again”. Laxmana was annoyed at his brother’s suggestion and asked why should he sit at Ravana’s feet? Prince Rama explained it to him that he had to approach Ravana as teacher to seek wisdom and since a person’s feet represent mother earth which gives birth to everything and that all which is created goes back to earth eventually, thus it’s a sign of humbleness and acknowledging mother nature, which is existence in its vastness, so when you bow down or sit close to a teacher’s feet, you lighten yourself of your ego and become like an empty vessel to absorb, a teacher will realize it and help you in your quest, it’s not respect the teacher is seeking but looking for sign if you are ready to learn, and you can learn something from everyone if you are willing to empty for vessel from all memories and impressions that fog your perspective.

    Both Prince Rama and Prince Laxmana approached the wise king Ravana again and sat by his feet.

    “Oh wise king please show us a path to righteousness” Laxmana requested Ravana.

    Ravana looked at Laxmana and spoke “Young prince, with my last few remaining breaths I can only tell you that I lay here because of my pride, the pride I took in being the most learned and most powerful. And in those moments of self-obsession I lost my ability to distinguish between righteousness and irreverence.”

    “Laxmana always remember any action that we do with a feeling of compassion, kindheartedness and thoughtfulness is a right act and such act demands our immediate attention and we should complete it without delay or procrastination.”

    “Lastly, always be aware of your enemy. This enemy resides within oneself; the one who makes us put ourselves over and above everyone else around us”. Prince Laxmana stood in silence as Ravana the teacher spoke his last words.

    It was 7:30 p.m. when the car halted at the driveway. Liam and his grandfather got out of the car. Liam came around from the other side and gave his grandfather a hug and then led him to the house holding his hand.

    By Ankur Tunaak

    Ankur Tunaak has been an Ashtanga yoga practitioner for over a decade, studied with Shree M. Vishwanath who was one of the first students and nephew of Shree Pathabhi Jois. Also, an alumnus of Bihar School Of Yoga, one of four premier Yogic Studies Institutions in India. Ankur is a storyteller and photographer, currently teaching yoga in New Delhi, India.

    Portrait photography by Ankur Tunaak.

  • Yogi-Bitionism: How Patriarchy Steals our Female Elders

    Youth, for women, is a tremendous form of currency. And, this is the crux of my problem with yogi-bitionism. Yoga is, presumably, a space where we can find our intrinsic worth. Ideally, it can counteract the poisonous tendency of evaluating women on the basis of their appearance.

    A Christmas Eve yoga practice! Just what I need to relax and stay calm before the Christmas holiday. So many gifts to still wrap. Gotta drive a long, long distance to get to my aunt house tomorrow (although I do greatly love this aunt and uncle and find them well worth the drive). Looking forward to seeing my siblings, too! So right, better get my butt in gear so I can get to class on-time. Only, I’m on this aspartame cleanse using bentonite clay? And the shits be like…anyway. I just gotta hurry this up so I can get to class. OK so what time is it? (pun! zing!) I only have 15 minutes to get to class and it will take me at least 18. $#@! Late again. I pull up only two minutes late (no traffic!) and race to check in. I imagine that I enter class a mere 5 minutes late, which feels utterly respectable. I park my mat on the far side of the room, near the window, and join the class in a little cat-cow. I look up during cow position to see that another lady has come in after me, parked her mat diagonal to my left. Ha! I thought, I wasn’t even the latest $#@! in here.

    We press up into downward-facing dog. I keep my knees bent, articulating my spine, which always feels stiff around the thoracic. I’m undulating, loosening the muscles and tissues surrounding the vertebrae. The instructor calls out “Uttanasana.” I’m feeling pretty open across the shoulders, since I did a practice the day before. I decide to jump forward. Now, before my first jump, I sometimes lift my tailbone and kind of bounce my booty a little bit. It gives me momentum going into the jump. I rock my booty a taste and jump forward, landing softly. Then I hear a cackle, “HA! Ahahaaha!” It’s coming from the late white lady (LWL). She was really getting a hearty laugh out of something. Now, save the music playing in the background and the teacher’s instructions, the room is entirely quiet. No one is cracking a joke. The only things in her line of vision were my swaying bottom, and the wall. True, I wasn’t sure why LWL was laughing. Was she laughing at a thought that just arose in her mind? Was it something the lady next to her—who she clearly didn’t know—said or did? Or could it be, since she was in clear view of my ass, that she found my butt rocking utterly hysterical?

    Thing is, I am usually the lone black person in a yoga room. Sometimes, I am the only person of color amid a sea of white. I can tell you that there have been many times white people have looked at me sideways. Frowning, anxious, fearful, and of course amused. (I can tell you endless stories of white folks getting a kick out of seeing me in a yoga room.) It’s like a bear sighting. I wasn’t entirely sure she found me funny. But, I had a pretty strong feeling that was what got her going. I knew it was going to be a long yoga class. It’s no mean feat to block out a smug, self-satisfied, yoga practitioner when they are in your midst. This is especially true when the yogi is really flexing. Giving the fullest, most challenging expression of every pose, for no particular reason. These “yogi-bitionists” as I’ve taken to calling them want you looking. They’re expecting your eyes, praying/preying on your gaze. You watching them is one of the things that brings them to class. And yes, they’re trolling the $#@! out of you.

    This woman was the most obvious type of yogi-bitionist. We were in a Vinyasa 1 class, the purportedly lowest level of asana instruction. The type of class that gives the practitioners, new and returning, the chance to focus more on alignment and breath work than contortionism. Yet, she was attempting handstands and arm balances at just about every transition. Don’t get me wrong: when you know your body, you will do the expression that you are most comfortable with. I was in one “advanced” class wherein before the class even started the woman to the left of me jumped into a handstand, while the woman on the right dropped back into wheel. I was like, “Oh, it’s this kind of class? I’m here for it.” In terms of mastering the asanas, these two women (who also appeared to be in their 50s) were impressive. Confident and self-possessed. Not there to make friends, but nevertheless kind to the other folks in the class.

    In this particular class though, because we hadn’t warmed up for some of the more advanced postures LWL was attempting, she kept falling out of them. This was seemingly her body’s way of telling her it was not ready for them. In the rare cases when she managed to effectively land an inversion, she’d only be in the pose for a millisecond before the entire rest of the class transitioned to something else, because it was a Vinyasa 1 class. With short holds. At the end of the class, our instructor turned and walked over to this woman. Introduced the lady as her own teacher. It was the first time LWL turned around so we could see her face. She was in her mid-50s. Wearing a crop top and several cute little ponytails. Then, I knew what the whole show was about: wanting to intimidate, instead of being intimidated, in a space full of younger women. It was sad, not mostly because of how she was put together.

    Tomorrow, when I’m in my 50s, I might rock my styles just like that. (Er’ryday it’s a battle not to wear a catsuit because $#@! everybody.) It was discouraging because of what the combination of her hairstyle, attire, and posturing signaled as a unit. It was like she was overcompensating for being older. She seemed to keep her gaze down a lot, and it clearly wasn’t from modesty. Seemingly she was doing it because the face reveals the age. She didn’t want any of us noticing her wizened visage. Instead, she seemed to be goaling toward drawing attention to her performative “mastery” of the asanas, in an effort to appear superior to women two-three decades her junior. The reason is clear. Youth, for women, is a tremendous form of currency. And, this is the crux of my problem with yogi-bitionism. Yoga is, presumably, a space where we can find our intrinsic worth. Ideally, it can counteract the poisonous tendency of evaluating women on the basis of their appearance. Of pitting women against one another to determine who’s got the cutest face and the perkiest tits. Who’s most flexible. This latter point is an underestimated expectation of patriarchy. Not a new one by any means. But one of the reasons why the idea of yoga being performed by young (white) women, has been taken up with such relish in our capitalist, hetero-patriarchal culture.

    The experience was a reminder of what patriarchy has taken from us. It has taken our women elders. How many women over the age of 50 do you know who are competitive with much younger women? (And again, I’m not talking about sexy women of any age living their best lives. Each day I know that because of women like Adrienne Banfield-Jones, anything is possible.) Women’s sexual objectification is the root of the problem. And yet, white capitalist hetero-patriarchy doesn’t have to be the final word. Instead of using yoga for yogi-bitionist aims, yoga can help us move past our objectification. It can help us value ourselves, and genuinely appreciate the humanity of other (cis and trans) women. You can think of it as a form of Aparigraha (non-possessiveness) or alternatively not clinging. Aparigraha tells us that rather than clinging to youth, beauty, age and ability, we can let all that go. In so doing, we can become more generous, and less competitive with others. It suggests that for women who are long-time yoga practitioners, as we age we can view ourselves as worthy of teaching, guiding, leading, or at the bare minimum respecting, the next generation of women. Not remaining in the competition with them for the implied male gaze. Because even without the presence of cis-het men, the visual economy of preferences which they have conjured is still working on us.

    I was reminded of Chris Rock’s indictment of the old man in the club. 37, too old to be in the club. I was 37 when this incident took place, and I’m 40 now. The more I go to yoga studios in southern California, the younger the women seem to get. Perhaps the LWL, in a rebuke of father time, wanted to prove to these young women (in which group I personally did not include myself) that she still had it. It is the opposite of what yoga has been about, historically. But, it is a reflection of what happens when yoga is taken up commercially. I’d like to think of yoga as a space where I can bring my whole self. Where I have a right to practice even when I haven’t got on a new outfit (I’mma tell y’all about that time I was outfit-shamed later.) I’m not going to compensate for aging as a woman by becoming a yogi-bitionist. We all deserve better.

    By Sabrina Strings

    Sabrina Strings, Ph.D. is Asst. Professor of Sociology at the University of California, Irvine. Prior to coming to UCI, she was a UC Berkeley Chancellor’s Postdoctoral Fellow with a joint appointment in the School of Public Health and Department of Sociology. She has been featured in The Feminist Wire, Yoga International, and LA Yoga. Her writing can be found in diverse venues, including Ethnic and Racial Studies; Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society, Fat Studies: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Body Weight and Society and Feminist Media Studies. She was the recipient of the 2017 Distinguished Contribution to Scholarship Article Award for the Race, Gender and Class section of the American Sociological Association. Her new book is titled Fearing the Black Body: The Racial Origins of Fat Phobia (NYU Press 2019). It has been featured on NPR, KPFA and WNYC, as well as three “must read” lists.

    NOTE: This post is part of a collaborative media series organized and curated by Omstars and the Yoga & Body Image Coalition intended as a deep dive into yoga & body image.

  • 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.