• Forrest Yoga: On the Value of Lineage

    Here at Omstars, Kino has made a point of showcasing teachers from many different lineages, in addition to her home lineage of Ashtanga. In New York City at PURE Yoga, where I teach, we also have a similar approach with teachers from many lineages educating members. The PURE slogan is Many Practices, One Intention. In both instances, the intention, I believe is similar: to guide you home to your Self.

    In other words, many roads can lead you home. Which one is right for you? What if you are a practitioner? Or a teacher? Part of what’s wonderful about the time we live in, is that it allows us many options. We can sample so many yoga practices and find what we like, and what we don’t like and figure out what will work for us.

    The downside of this modern phenomenon is that it diminishes the need to commit. And, for personal development of any kind, commitment is key. I recall reading a book by Pema Chodron, in which she suggested that we “stick to one boat.” This means, get in a boat (lineage), and stick with it. If we have the option to simply bail out when the waters get choppy, or we decide we don’t like rowing, or the person sitting next to us smells bad, we will miss real opportunities for growth, change, development, evolution, and transformation.

    We often think that our spiritual life, or our yoga life, ought to be a place of sanctity, and relief from “daily life.” But, if anything, our yoga practice IS part of our daily lives, and eventually will be fraught. Other practitioners trigger us, our teacher doesn’t respond in the way that we think he or she ought to, we feel critical of the teachings. This is where the real teaching, and the real learning occur. The very purpose of our discomfort and suffering is to help us to grow. (Note: discomfort and suffering are not to be created through malicious intent or abuse.)

    So what lineage is right for you? What one will provide you with just enough comfort, and just enough abrasion to create the right circumstances for you to grow? It’s hard to say. This is a personal matter. My lineage is Forrest Yoga, and my teacher is Ana Forrest. How did I decide to stick to this boat? I sampled some other practices, and they simply did not speak to me as loudly as Forrest Yoga. It was less an intellectual decision than a soul decision. It’s not all been smooth sailing!

    There have been plenty of rough waters. It can be seductive to believe that when you find “the right lineage” everything will feel good and everyone will be nice. But, wherever people are involved, this is simply not how events and interactions ever unfold. Even among those who quest for peace. As a practitioner I still explore other lineages; as a teacher I also teach Vinyasa and what I call Forrest-Inspired Vinyasa. But, even as I roam I know that I always have a home, and that is Forrest Yoga.

    Once I took a weekend workshop with a wonderful teacher from the Iyengar lineage, Tias Little. It was the first time I ever did a weekend immersion with someone other than Ana Forrest. I texted her, and told her “I feel like I’m cheating on Forrest Yoga!” She wrote back, “Education is never cheating.”

    This too, I believe is the hallmark of a healthy and safe lineage. One in which the founder herself, and the teachers he or she has trained encourage curiosity, questioning, and “cross-training.” At the same time, I think that it’s important that, when you teach “the lineage” you keep it pure, to the best of your knowledge and ability. What does this mean? Here’s what this doesn’t mean. It doesn’t mean that you can’t be yourself. In fact, this is impossible and any healthy lineage will encourage you to be the most authentic version of yourself, in your life, and in your teachings.

    For me, what this means is that I have Forrest Inspired Vinyasa where I can teach and explore things that aren’t specifically part of my lineage, and create and invent, if I feel called. And then when I go to teach Forrest Yoga, I do my best to teach it as Ana intended, and when I want to “throw something in” I explain that it’s NOT Forrest Yoga, and the reason why I chose to include it in the sequence. I can hear protests already: but I feel so confined when I go to teach someone else’s way! It doesn’t feel authentic. Yes, I feel you. But, I want you to consider a few things.

    First, can you access your authentic self, at any time, no matter what you are doing? This is, in fact true freedom. This is a family get-together, where no-one really knows you anymore, or accepts you, and nevertheless you find a way to show up as yourself in a graceful, inspiring, and inviting manner. This is a difficult conversation where you feel boxed in, and you find your voice anyway. This is feeling judged, shamed, or objectified and still being able to access your highest self. Sticking to one boat trains you to find yourself, no matter what.

    Second, there is a difference between freedom and chaos. When there are no edges, no rules, no containers—this is chaos. In chaos, there is no freedom. Do you know the music of Igor Stravinsky? He was basically the Picasso of European classical music. Often when I’m thinking about lineage, and teaching, and rules, I think of Stravinsky, because to create the remarkable, vanguard, intensely creative music that he did, he gave himself rules. For each composition, he set up a series of parameters to function within. And these boundaries are what set him free. He even said so himself:

    My freedom will be so much greater and more meaningful the more narrowly I limit my field of action and the more I surround myself with obstacles. Whatever diminishes constraint diminishes strength. The more constraints one imposes, the one frees one’s self of the chains that shackle the spirit.

    So, what if you stick to one boat, and still feel called outside? O.K. then, maybe this is a great evolution. But it doesn’t mean abandon your boat. For instance, you might know of the powerful teacher Les Leventhal. Les and I share a common heritage in Forrest Yoga. We were both teaching at the Bali Spirit Festival a number of years ago, and connected there. He recounted to me a conversation he had with Ana where she asked him why he was no longer teaching Forrest Yoga. He told me, he said, “You taught me to find my authentic voice. And when I did, I discovered it wasn’t to teach Forrest Yoga.” Les is what I’d call “Forrest-Adjacent:” we love him, he loves Ana, and we support one another. Les didn’t abandon the boat. That boat and its occupants are allies.

    The hazard of a lineage that does its job well is that people discover themselves and some leave the system. Others find themselves and also ways to bring their true and authentic voice to enrich the teachings of that home lineage. And this is also why within a lineage you will find so many rich and wonderful voices, all teaching the same things, in their own way. This is, I think, the most wonderful effect of having constraints. Within “the rules” or whatever you feel is confining you, you are forced to discover yourself.

    Chafe a little. It’s O.K. to be uncomfortable. Instead of seeking to remove the discomfort, stay. Sit. Find out who and what you are when you bump up against an edge. This is the way home. To get home, you must have a vehicle. Stick to one boat.

    By Erica Mather

    Top 3 things you need to practice yoga

    Practice with Erica on Omstars

    Author, Yoga Therapist, Forrest Yoga Guardian, and Master Teacher Erica Mather, M.A. is a life-long educator. She teaches people to feel better in, and about their bodies. Her book Your Body, Your Best Friend: End the Confidence-Crushing Pursuit of Unrealistic Beauty-Standards and Embrace Your True Power (New Harbinger, April 2020) is a 7-step spiritual journey helping women befriend their bodies and utilize them as tools and allies on their quest to live their best lives. Her Adore Your Body Transformational Programs help overcome body image challenges, and the Yoga Clinic of NYC supports students, teachers, and health professionals learn about empowered care for the body. Mather is a recognized body image expert and a Forrest Yoga lineage-holder, hand-selected by Ana Forrest to guide and mentor teachers while they learn about Forrest Yoga. She lives in New York City and teaches at PURE Yoga. Visit her at www.ericamather.com

  • What is Bhakti Yoga?

    With regards to a formal definition of bhakti, there were, naturally, a variety of overlapping definitions of bhakti in circulation in textual sources of ancient India, highlighting its various ingredients and different emphasis given by different sages.

    The Bhakti Sütras of Nårada (16-19), for example, expresses a few: “bhakti includes attachment to püjå (ritual worship of ˆΩvara) according to sage Vyåsa; love of kathå (stories about ˆΩvara’s incarnations) and such things, according to sage Garga; and the offering of all acts to ˆΩvara and the experiencing of extreme distress upon forgetting this, according to sage Nårada.” The Sauñ∂ilya Sütra states that “bhakti is supreme devotion (anurakti) for ˆΩvara” (I.2). In his Bhaktirasåmrtasindhu [BRS] the 16th century Krsna theologian Rüpa offers the following definition: “bhakti is said to be service to Krsna, by means of the senses.

    This service is free of all limitations, dedicated to Him and pure [of self-motive].” His nephew Jîva opts for a similar definition: “The root bhaj means to offer service, Therefore the wise have described bhakti, which is the preeminent path of attaining perfection, as service.” Thus, putting all these together, bhakti is theistic and encompasses such activities as worship; the offering of one’s acts to ˆΩvara, or ˆΩvarî, the forms of the Goddess; reading the stories of their divine incarnations; constant remembrance of these; and, for Rüpa and Jîva most especially, bhakti is using oneself in the service of Krsna, who for them is the ultimate expression of ˆΩvara.

    We might briefly note, here, that service is synonymous with love. True love, is nothing other than the experience of complete satisfaction attained from fully dedicating oneself to pleasing one’s beloved through acts of devotion and service. And, of course, for love to be true, this devotion and service must be fully reciprocal, as we find in the beautiful lîlås of Krsna, where, despite being supremely independent as the ultimate Supreme Being, Krsna returns the love of his devotees by submitting to them according to their desire.  Bhakti, then, is love of God free of all self-interest, including the desire for liberation itself.

    Indeed, Rüpa nuances loving service by defining the ‘highest type’ of devotion (uttama-bhakti), as: “continued service to Krsna, which is [performed] pleasingly, is unobstructed by the desire for liberation or enjoying the fruits of one’s work in the world, and is free of any other desire.” In the words of the paramount bhakti text, the Bhågavata Puråña: The characteristics of bhakti yoga, which is free of the guñas, has been described as that bhakti to the Supreme Person which is free of motive, and uninterrupted. Those [who engage in this] do not accept the five types of liberation…. even if these are offered, if they are devoid of service to God (III.29.12-14).

    By Edwin Bryant

    The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali with Edwin Bryant

    Edwin Bryant received his Ph.D in Indic languages and Cultures from Columbia University. He taught Hinduism at Harvard University for three years, and is presently the professor of Hinduism at Rutgers University where he teaches courses on Hindu philosophy and religion. He has received numerous awards and fellowships, published eight books and authored a number of articles on Vedic history, yoga, and the Krishna tradition. In addition to his academic work for the scholarly community, Edwin’s Penguin World Classics translation of the Srimad Bhagavata Purana, the traditional source for the story of Krishna’s incarnation, is both for Indology specialists as well as students and those interested in Hinduism from the general reading public and the yoga community. As a personal practitioner of yoga for 40 years, a number of them spent in India studying with traditional teachers, where he returns yearly, Edwin strives to combine academic scholarship and rigor with sensitivity towards traditional knowledge systems. In addition to his academic course load, Edwin currently teaches workshops on the Yoga Sutras, Bhagavad Gita, and Hindu Philosophy at yoga studios and teacher training courses throughout the country. His translation of and commentary on the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali (North Point Press, a division of Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2009) is specifically dedicated to contributing to the growing body of literature on yoga by providing insights from the major pre-modern commentaries on the text with a view to grounding the teachings in their traditional context. His most recent work is a sequel to this by the same publisher entitled Bhakti Yoga: Tales and Teachings from the Bhagavata Purana. This work, too, seeks to ground the practices of Bhakti in a traditional framework.

    Photo Credit: Women’s White Top and Orange Floral Skirt by Samuel Silitonga

  • Discovering Energy

    From pranayama, extending our life force energy, through our senses and then where? We have to ask where did sensation, or feeling, start? Did it start now or when we were a happy single cell without a head, heart, hands? The history of us goes beyond our ability to perceive with the senses and the mind.

    Stop Controlling Your Breath: Controlling the breath was how I first discovered energy. 

    When it comes to the practice of yoga, most of us have heard the word “pranayama.” Breathing is how we often describe pranayama. When we extract the word, it appears as ‘prana’ (energy) and ‘ayama’ (to lengthen or extend). The word “prana” is also made up of two words: ‘pra’ and ‘na’ meaning ‘first or most basic unit’ and ‘measured energy.’ The etymology of pranayama has little to do with breathing and urges us toward sensation. If we alter the most basic unit from breath to sensation, pranayama would be the practices to lengthen self awareness through sensation.

    When we change simple elemental factors (e.g. diet, exercise, sleep and creating a regular schedule around these parts of living) our energy is in repair. Longevity exists in the body energy level throughout the day. We see positive mental and emotional changes in our perception and outlook. The nervous systems changes to accommodate these transitions into this less reactive state. We feel better! Feeling is the sensation. That shift is un-measurable, though we attribute it to positive qualities. People who practice yogasana (postures) report experiencing these shifts within a short period of time.

    Divine Sight: As a child, I would lie in my bed and follow my breath. I would watch spirit float out of my body.

    The methods in which we use to create change can also be the same techniques that confine us. If the diet is too controlled, sleep, etc., we lose the sense of wonder and letting go. My generation grew up on the cutting edge of many underground movements. The common theme in these collectives had little to do with what it looked like but what it felt like. The creative drive in full expression was observing each other letting it go! There was a super vision in letting go–a divine sight! No matter how we slice it, yoga is about the mind. Even if we lead with the heart or heart-centered practices, the mind is what can cut that connection. My first guru, Dharma Mittra, used to give satsang on how we all have clean diets but still think negative thoughts. These thoughts contaminate the system, no matter how clean the diet. I’ve once heard a yogi described as one who is even-minded. This idea does not push the fantasy of a visionary or force one to be super human or holy but to work with the mind (and heart) and create evenness.

    If we turn to scriptures, the path of understanding is through the body (hatha) to get to the mind (raja). Regardless, when we allow practice to take a hold of us, the super power doesn’t come from the advancement of the yoga or meditative tool. Our progress is from the instrument into something new. Work on this with new eyes, into the world and self-discovery! From pranayama, extending our life force energy, through our senses and then where? We have to ask where sensation, or feeling, start? Did it start now or when we were a happy single cell without a head, heart, hands? The history of us goes beyond our ability to perceive with the senses and the mind. The practices we use, the practice we take, the yoga journey we have, takes us beyond the things in which we do. From spirit, I could see myself lying.  I could feel my body and the part of me floating above, in a shared awareness.


    Pantanjali’s most quoted sutra is: “yoga schitta vritti nirodaha.” Swami Vivekananda translates the sutra to: “Yoga is the restraining the mind-stuff (chitta) from taking various form (vrttis).” In yoga circles, training programs, and classrooms, this passage is thrown around. While, rarely a conversation occurs on what happens in this reality. By using a method of control it leads to an absorbed state. Patanjali does explain this level of concentration. The application without modification, will allow the seer (the energy of the one who uses the technique) to peer into the self (nature or natural existence) without the two being crossed.

    In short, through concentration we can inhabit both spirit and form! Yes, we go beyond sense reality into the internal witness. This fold is the stepping-stone toward meditation. It may be separated by a hair (in our casual conversation about the states of awareness) but is colossal in attainment. Although we may not be in a state of deep meditation, deep concentration creates a reality. One where we can see infinite and finite, hand-in-hand, ushering us to explore.

    By Will Duprey

    Read More From Will Duprey

    Will Duprey is an international yoga educator and is known for effortlessly combining classical theory and storytelling with contemporary yoga methods. With over 17 years of teaching and consulting on yoga teacher trainings globally, his unique mentorship program provides deep knowledge and balance among different styles of yoga. Hathavidya is his personal approach to teaching — starting with the individual practice (sadhana), energy (pranayama) and intuitive framework — classical hatha yoga. Will is a contributing writer to publications such as: Elena Brower’s teach.yoga, Kino MacGregor’s OmStars and is a guest columnist for YogaLife Magazine Malaysia. He lives between Vermont and Malaysia. This article was updated from Routine Practice published in October 2018 by Will Duprey.

  • The Postures of Prayer

    Never stop praying. 1 Thessalonians 5:17 (NLT)  Pray without ceasing. This is our commandment, to never stop praying. There is no right or wrong way to pray, or one position of a prayer that is superior to another. The only thing that we, as believers must do is humble ourselves before the Lord, acknowledge His Lordship of our lives, and pray without ceasing.

    The following is simply observations on prayer postures found in the Bible that may elevate your spoken prayers. Sometime the postures of our prayer can let God know that we are serious about specific issues. Again, we are observing the powerful and miraculous prayers of great men and women of the Bible. If Jesus needed to get alone on His knees to pray, why would we ever think that it isn’t important for us to do the same?

    As we combine our faith with our movement, or put our “prayers in motion” with YogaFaith, we can recall ancient times and miracles as we move, breathe, and have our being. (Acts 17:28) If there is an urgent request, we can find ourselves in a prone position, flat on our face before the Lord as many were in scripture. Perhaps we find ourselves in a simple seated position to simply quiet our anxious thoughts and meditate on Him. You will read about all of these postures and what they mean. Keep in mind, there are no rules.

    Sometimes it is not just about what we are praying, but how we are praying. The posture of our prayers can take our prayer life to a whole other level of intimacy with Christ. There is no mistaking that God hears all of our prayers, even if we don’t speak them at all. When we are born again and receive salvation, we become one with Christ. He dwells in us. His spirit is all consuming and envelops our every fiber. This is the time when grace piled upon grace enters into our lives and it becomes our [true] desire to live for God and cause Him to smile each day by our actions, words, deeds, gifts, and talents. Even if our prayers go unspoken, God can perceive our words before they are [actually] even thoughts, He knows our thoughts well before they are [actual] thoughts. (Psalms 139:2) I am sure you have experienced times when you do not know what to pray. God knows what you need before you even utter a word!

    The Lord knows the thoughts of man, that they are but a breath. (Psalms 94:11) Sometimes when we cry, that is the only prayer needed. Often I have found the only prayer I can pray is one word, “Jesus”. He knows the rest. Other times I simply hold the Bible up to my heart in silence and download all of His great and precious promises. Prayer is our lifeline. Without prayer, whether spoken or unspoken, there is no communication to the Life Giver. Throughout scripture we see how prayer postures elevated the meaning of the spoken prayer. Regardless of any posture that you pray in, the most important posture is truly the posture of your heart. Keep this in mind as you read the following posture descriptions. To say that any one prayer posture is superior to another would be biblically incorrect. The bible teaches us that God loves variety and He speaks to each of us differently. There are no rules, no right or wrong way, just as long as we pray! Always be spirit led and never led by anything or anyone else. Because whether we are standing, sitting, kneeling, or flat out on our faces, our heart must always be humbled in acknowledging the Lordship of Jesus Christ, this is more important than any external physical position.


    Prayers that were prayed while standing were for adoration, thanksgiving, worship, and praise. While standing in awe of God, the hands were typically open with the palms facing upward toward Heaven and generally speaking the eyes were open and lifted toward the heavens. Orans is the Latin word for praying. It is the oldest prayer posture found in scripture and most commonly used in today’s western churches, Jewish synagogues, practiced during mass and the standard position for taking communion together. Some pastors today require standing for the reading of God’s word. During this time many lift their hands or face their palms upward to receive and absorb the words or prayers that are being spoken. Seeing a church gather and stand at the reading of God’s word proves that there are Christians who honor, revere, and respect the written Word of God. Some of the most memorable stories and miracles from the Bible have come from standing postures that look up to Jesus or Heaven.

    • 1 Timothy 2:8, In every place of worship, I want men to pray with holy hands lifted up to God, free from anger and controversy.
    • John 17:1, Jesus spoke these things; and lifting up His eyes to heaven, He said, “Father, the hour has come.”
    • John 11:41, Then Jesus looked up and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me.”
    • Luke 9:27-32, The Mountain of Transfiguration, “But I say to you truthfully, there are some of those standing here who will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God.” Some eight days after these sayings, He took along Peter and John and James, and went up on the mountain to pray. And while He was praying, the appearance of His face became different, and His clothing became white and gleaming. And behold, two men were talking with Him; and they were Moses and Elijah, who, appearing in glory, were speaking of His departure which He was about to accomplish at Jerusalem. Now Peter and his companions had been overcome with sleep; but when they were fully awake, they saw His glory and the two men standing with Him.
    • Psalm 121:1, I look up to the hills from where my help comes from.
    • 1 Sam 1:26, Hannah presented to the Lord her petition while standing, and the Lord answered her.
    • Psalm 4:4, Stand in awe, and sin not: commune with your own heart upon your bed, and be still. Selah.
    • In Luke 18:10-14, God answered the prayers of sinners as they stood, prayed, and humbled themselves. “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. “The Pharisee stood and was praying this to himself: ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. ‘I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I get.’ “But the tax collector, standing some distance away, was even unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven, but was beating his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, the sinner!’ “I tell you, this man went to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

    One of my most beloved stories in the Bible is found in 2 Chronicle 20. A story of how God answered Jehoshaphat as he and his small army gathered corporately and stood in prayer believing God would fight their overwhelming battle for them as they obeyed His commandment of standing still. God performed a miracle. Jehoshaphat and his people stood victorious in the face of their defeated enemy! When you have done all that you can do, stand!

    • 2 Chronicle 20:5, Then Jehoshaphat stood up in the assembly of Judah and Jerusalem at the temple of the Lord in the front of the new courtyard. Verse 13 continues, All Judah was standing before the Lord, with their infants, their wives and their children.
    • Ephesians 6:13, So use every piece of God’s armor to resist the enemy whenever he attacks, and when it is all over, you will still be standing up.
      The Message Version “Be prepared. You’re up against far more than you can handle on your own. Take all the help you can get, every weapon God has issued, so that when it’s all over but the shouting you’ll still be on your feet. Truth, righteousness, peace, faith, and salvation are more than words. Learn how to apply them. You’ll need them throughout your life. God’s Word is an indispensable weapon. In the same way, prayer is essential in this ongoing warfare. Pray hard and long. Pray for your brothers and sisters. Keep your eyes open. Keep each other’s spirits up so that no one falls behind or drops out.”


    Seated prayer postures typically demonstrate one who is seeking guidance, counsel, or instruction from The Lord. Sometimes we read how one would use a seated positions to simply be alone, find calm, peace, quiet, and just bask in the presence of God. Jesus often went to be alone with His Father and pray. Other times we read how one would sit to pray and let God know they were ready and willing to serve Him and walk in obedience. We may need to remind ourselves to sit quietly and bask in His presence more often, or perhaps sit down with the Lord and let Him know we are ready to walk in obedience. Have you ever said to The Lord, “Here I am, send me”. Perhaps it is time. Are you ready? Are you willing? Let us sit and surrender our will. Let us sit and ask for guidance. Let us sit before the Lord and tell Him we will serve Him for the rest of our days, then let us sit and ask, “Where do you want me to go and what do you want me to do oh Lord?” He will answer you. Simply sit in His presence in stillness, and listen.

    Prayer is a dialogue, it is not a monologue. He speaks, we listen. We speak and He hears us. As with any conversation, we must be quiet and listen to Him. Seated postures are used most often for meditation. While combining our faith with yoga, these are great postures to sit quietly in His presence and converse with the Creator of the Universe….your Dad! Imagine climbing on your dad’s lap and talking to Him. Maybe you just wrap your arms around Him and say nothing at all?

    • King David sat down before the Lord to inquire, “Why me Lord?” 2 Samuel 7:18, Then King David went in and sat before the Lord, and he said: “Who am I, Sovereign Lord, and what is my family, that you have brought me this far?
    • Ezekiel 8:1, As I was sitting in my house with the elders of Judah sitting before me, that the hand of the Lord God fell on me there, and who is ready to serve Him.
    • Judges 20:26 (AMP), Then all the Israelites, the whole army, went up and came to the house of God [Bethel] and wept; and they sat there before the Lord and fasted that day until evening and offered burnt offerings and peace offerings before the Lord.

    Fasting is an expression of emptying oneself out to seek the Lord so that His word, will, and presence would be the one and only thing that would fill us up. Here, and many other passages, we see the manifestation of miracles that occur when we couple our prayers with fasting. Combining a specific prayer posture with fasting can elevate the intensity of our request and petitions. It will demonstrate to God that we are serious about His call on our lives.
    Psalms 46:10 Be still, and know that I am God!


    Kneeling is a traditional posture that demonstrates humility, repentance, submission, and supplication. It is the position that we see most often where one is seeking favor or making their supplications known to God. When you practice a kneeling pose, we can acknowledge our weakness and grant His strength and power access to our every fiber. Lets use Camel Pose as an example. This is a great kneeling backbend, but it also allows us to open our heart upward to God. During this pose we can surrender all and worship wholly!

    • Ezra 9:5, And at the evening sacrifice I arose from my heaviness; and having rent my garment and
      my mantle, I fell upon my knees, and spread out my hands unto the Lord my God
    • Psalms 95:6, Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the Lord our Maker
    • Daniel 6:10, He got down on his knees three times a day and prayed and gave thanks before his God.
    • Acts 9:40, Records the miracle of Peter praying on his knees asking God to raise the dead to life. Peter sent them all out of the room; then he got down on his knees and prayed. Turning toward the dead woman, he said,“Tabitha, get up.” She opened her eyes, and seeing Peter she sat up.
    • Acts 20:36, When Paul had finished speaking, he knelt down with all of them and prayed.
    • Ephesians 3:14, For this reason I kneel before the Father.
    • Philippians 2:10, That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth.
    • Exodus 34:8, Moses bowed to the ground at once and worshiped.
    • 1 Kings 18:42, Elijah climbed to the top of Carmel, bent down to the ground and put his face between his knees.
    • Luke 22:41-42, He [Jesus] knelt down and began to pray saying, “Father, if You are willing, remove this cup from Me; yet not My will, but Yours be done.”

    Jesus, Paul, Peter, Elijah, Moses and many other great men prayed as they bowed their knees and completely surrendered. If Jesus got on His knees, surely we should too!



    Prone (on the belly) postures typically symbolizes a desperate plea, an urgent request, or to express to God complete and utter dependence on Him. There have been many times in my life when I had to eat dust bunnies! Have you ever been out of options? This is the time we find ourselves flat on our face, eating dust bunnies from our floor, and crying out to the Lord, “Save me!”

    Prone positioned prayers are also used for intercessory prayers, these are typically urgent prayers in themselves. When we find ourselves grieving over a loved one or need to stand in the gap for another brother or sister, these are usually prayers of urgency and desperation. Prostrated prayers are often used for repentance and confessing sins, sometimes this is an urgent task as well. In Samuel we see how a prone position pays honor and respect to a superior. This is also a position of true worship as we see in 2 Chronicles when Jehoshaphat bowed down face first.

    • 2 Chronicle 20:18, Then Jehoshaphat bowed his head with his face to the ground, and all Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem fell down before the Lord, worshiping the Lord.
    • Joshua 7:6, Then Joshua tore his clothes and fell to the earth on his face before the ark of the Lord until the evening, he and the elders of Israel. And they put dust on their heads.
    • 1 Samuel 28:14, “What does he look like?” he asked. “An old man wearing a robe is coming up,” she said. Then Saul knew it was Samuel, and he bowed down and prostrated himself with his face to the ground.
    • Matthew 26:38, Then He said to them, “My soul is deeply grieved, to the point of death; remain here and keep watch with Me.” And He went a little beyond them, and fell on His face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; yet not as I will, but as You will.”
    • Deuteronomy 9:25, I lay prostrate before the LORD those forty days and forty nights…
    • Revelation 7:11, And all the angels stood round about the throne, and [about] the elders and the four beasts, and fell before the throne on their faces, and worshiped God


    Lying down and meditating on the Lord is a sweet and precious time with our Maker. Lying down, especially in bed, is one of our most surrendered and vulnerable positions anyway. Corpse pose, I like to call it “Resting Angel”, it sounds slightly better than Corpse pose, is one of the most important postures in one’s yoga practice. As we are on our backs, we are allowing the Holy Spirit to have His way in our body, heart, mind, spirit, and soul. We simply meditate on the fact that we are breathing and alive because of Him. All things are from Him, and because we were created to hear from our Creator, this is the perfect posture to do so. Allow His spirit to speak to yours. Our focus turns towards gratitude as we thank Him, spirit to Spirit, for the temples He has loaned us. This is the time to allow yourself stillness and a peace that passes all understanding.

    • Psalms 4:4, Tremble and do not sin; when you are on your bed, search your hearts and be silent.
    • Psalms 63:5-6, My soul is satisfied as with marrow and fatness, And my mouth offers praises with joyful lips. When I remember You on my bed, I meditate on You in the night watches, For You have been my help, And in the shadow of Your wings I sing for joy.
    • I Kings 1:47, Moreover the king’s servants came to bless our lord king David, saying, ‘May your God make the name of Solomon better than your name, and make his throne greater than your throne;’ and the king bowed himself on the bed.


    • STANDING; Praise, honor, thanksgiving, worship, adoration, reverence, and awe: a deep respect. A place of strength and glorifying God.
    • SEATED; To inquire, seek counsel or guidance. Sit alone with God and enjoy His presence. Converse and dialogue or simply meditate on your Heavenly Father. Submit, surrender, and let Him know we want to walk in obedience and serve Him.
    • KNEELING; Humility, submission, honor, and complete surrender. Supplications and petitions made known. Acknowledge Christ’s Lordship over one’s life.
    • PRONE; Urgency, emergency, humility (releasing all ego), surrender, confession, repentance, desperate pleas or cries, intercessory prayer for others or standing in the gap.
    • LYING DOWN; Resting and enjoying the presence and goodness of the Lord. Be still, quiet a busy mind and an anxious heart. Used to meditate on Him and His precepts. May also be a posture of exhaustion, vulnerability and posture of complete trust in the Lord.

    Prayer: Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for breathing your Spirit into mine and giving me life! My praises for You shall continually be in my mouth! Today I come before you with praise and thanksgiving. I know there is no right or wrong way to pray, just that I never stop praying. There is no good, bad, correct, or wrong posture of prayer, just that we communicate with each other throughout the day. Thank you for blessing me with a healthy body, one that can practice may postures of prayer. And as I set my prayer in motion and worship you with all my heart, mind, spirit, and soul I give thanks to you for all of your creation and what you would have me do for you while I’m down here on planet earth. Thank you Lord for every breath, may my every breath and my healthy temple glorify you, the Living God! In Jesus’ mighty name, amen and amen!

    Practicing Postures as Prayer with Michelle on Omstars

    By Michelle A. Thielen, from Stretching Your Faith. A Publication of YogaFaith

    Michelle Thielen, E-RYT 500 and Founder of YogaFaith. Michelle Thielen is an international speaker, humanitarian, and published author. As a Trauma Sensitive Yoga Trainer, Michelle regularly travels worldwide to aid in rescue efforts of human trafficked victims, raising awareness of this global crisis, and guiding those who have suffered from complex trauma into a life of restoration, freedom and purpose. Michelle found yoga through her professional dance career and has been teaching and choreographing dance, yoga and somatic movement for over 25 years. She holds certifications with the American Council of Exercise, Yoga Alliance and International Association of Yoga Therapists. She is also the founder of YogaFaith and the Christian Yoga Association.


  • Are You Happy on Planet Yoga?

    Faith is that initial inquiry you had in the quest of yoga. That deep, indescribable feeling that there is something more in this world. That very inquiry you showed up to yoga with, you are now answering through observation of what is being cultivated within sadhana and what clarity you have come into.

    Yoga is your life and you want to live your yoga. You may have taken teacher training. You listen to spiritual music, podcasts and lectures. Your clothes are all yoga. You are very much yoga.

    You have your community and you have your guide but the support you receive in a packed room full of sweaty bodies feels less authentic — less you. You compare yourself to those practicing around you. You have a little voice in your head that grows with doubt about your practice and well-being.

    The world around you seeps in. Not even ujjayi can help you now. Where did the yoga go? How do I stop making myself mental about yoga? How do I create bliss in life? Surprising enough, we rely a lot on what we consider or fits in the yoga ideological world view rather than the actual attainment of yoga. In short, our attainment in yoga is based on societal definitions of what yoga actually is.

    No matter the claims —actual or media enhanced — yoga is something that is cultivated over time. Yoga is a doctrine of habit. That may seem sterile, making yoga a mere habit or something done without feeling. Comparatively, when was the last time you felt blissed out brushing your teeth? I am not trying to deflate the mental energy and pedestal that you put the culture of yoga on however one thing, for certain, yoga involves you!

    Pretend yoga is a planet. That perfect planet with perfect balance. This perfect planet, planet yoga, is on a normal orbital pattern, moving around and the sun. A few months later, the approach of another planet enters an equally perfect orbital pattern.

    During parts of your day, the orbital pattern of the second planet blocks out the sun. Light has been taken away. The world, for a moment, has come into darkness — void of light and clarity. These moments of darkness are minimal but in a highly sensitive and concentrated mind these less illuminated hours can seem cataclysmic.

    How do you gain light?

    • Rule 1: Start a sadhana.

    A sadhana can be thought of as a means to attain something. At the root of this inquiry is truth. Truth is not meant in the opposite of telling a lie. Truth is something that creates a fixed aspect of your intellectual reasoning. If we look back to planet yoga, truth is the planet is in an orbital pattern.

    The planet may be in motion however it is on a path. That path creates reliability and strengthens awareness. A sadhana does this for us mentally, physically and spiritually

    What is cultivated in this understanding is not being the best at sadhana but coming into a clearer understanding of yourself and that which influences you, moves you, directs you in life. This develops something individually unique: self-purpose. Planet Yoga is moving with duty and so are you!

    How do you get started?

    A simple daily sadhana to practice daily

    • Wake up slowly
    • Avoid electronics
    • Use the bathroom
    • Rinse your mouth, face and eyes with water
    • Massage the body with a brush of small amount of oil
    • Sit in a dedicated practice space (or on the same piece of cloth or material if you travel a lot)
    • Listen to your breathing and let that guide your meditation
    • Let your thoughts form and dissipate. Watch them but do not chase them
    • Follow your breath without disturbing the natural rhythm
    • Practice stretching, yoga asana or physical movements
    • Rest or take shavasana – Observe your mind and thoughts without control or judgement
    • Drink water
    • Walk to integrate your internal experience with the world around you
    • Give thanks and write any predominant thoughts in a journal
    • Slowly start your day

    The practice is not long but detailed in taking the morning with ease and observing internal awareness. The most important part is observing the mind and breath without trying to control anything. Paying attention to what is, without interference is the most critical part of our practices in spirituality. Try to become very familiar with your inner orbital pattern and know that there is going to be one point, perhaps during the day or the year, beyond your control, where the view of the sun is not clear. Create inner light!

    How do we see beyond the darkness?

    • Rule 2: Cultivate Clarity

    Vitarkabādhane pratipakṣabhāvanam.

    What was that!? This passage comes from the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali in the second chapter and 33rd verse. One of the best translations is from Kofi Busia. Mr. Busia offers the entire translation for free with chants on his site.

    Be sure to check out the free resource! Mr. Busia translates the above sutra as follows: “When the mind is disturbed by negative thoughts, opposite ones should be contemplated.” This is practical, straight forward but maybe easier said than done.

    Returning to planet yoga.

    The other planet is blocking the view of the sun and darkness of thought is starting to enter your mind. It is now time to think opposite thoughts. The mind loves to put words into categories. The category provides comfort on a mental level. This is why when a rule, that the mind sees as defined, is broken that a serious psychological reaction may result.

    In plain view, we are talking about another planet on its own unique trajectory and purpose. Planet non yoga is not deliberately trying to stifle your light. A large amount of negative thought comes from thinking that there is an intentional harm aimed at you. Cultivating opposite thoughts comes with practice. Being aware of your need to respond will remove frustration, judgement and reacting with harm.

    The short analogy: try to continuously meet every heavy thought with an opposite thought. In our day-to-day that may not come with ease but elevating the plummeting mind is something that requires awareness and consistency. A great tactic when meeting opposition in conversation is to say in your mind ‘I wish you a good day and I know that ultimately you are trying to move through life according to your own purpose.’ This simple technique is excellent for creating sound responses when dancing in others orbital spaces.

    You can rework this phrase to something that suits your understanding of the situation. Take into account that what is coming at you is not applicable directly to you, it is nothing more than planetary trajectory in the form of someone being upset. We all get upset. This exercise is especially helpful when we have someone we feel is directly influencing our positive attitude.

    Pair this with change of scenery, listening to your breathing or other exercises and it should remind you of earlier in the day when you were practicing Rule 1. And if all else fails, say the most ridiculous word you can think of out loud — try, ‘BOM BOM!’ — and you will surely smile.

    What can we gain?

    • Rule 3: Observe and Develop Faith

    Knowledge is something we tap into, allowing it to become us rather than something we impress our importance upon.

    Observation is key here. Planet Yoga comes around, past the non yoga planet, out the darkness and you bask in the light! Everything illuminates and is vibrant. You observe the splendor and a spark of faith is grown within — you are on your uniquely perfect and vibrant path.

    Observation does a lot for us so look clearly within and how you respond to practices in Rule 1 and Rule 2. Be sure to allow for reflection.

    When we reflect we are not remembering but offering serenity to that which is. In short: It really is what it is. There is no need to change, alter or make better as this would only disturb the process and rob you of faith.

    Faith is that initial inquiry you had in the quest of yoga. That deep, indescribable feeling that there is something more in this world. That very inquiry you showed up to yoga with, you are now answering through observation of what is being cultivated within sadhana and what clarity you have come into.

    All that comes up is brought into your wider lens of self-awareness and reflected in kind from planet yoga. You, yourself are becoming the sun!

    I wish you a pleasant journey on Planet Yoga and should need orbital guidance, feel free to send me a signal.

    By Will Duprey

    Will Duprey is an international yoga educator and is known for effortlessly combining classical theory and storytelling with contemporary yoga methods. With over 17 years of teaching and consulting on yoga teacher trainings globally, his unique mentorship program provides deep knowledge and balance among different styles of yoga. Hathavidya is his personal approach to teaching — starting with the individual practice (sadhana), energy (pranayama) and intuitive framework — classical hatha yoga. Will is a contributing writer to publications such as: Elena Brower’s teach.yoga, Kino MacGregor’s OmStars and is a guest columnist for YogaLife Magazine Malaysia. He lives between Vermont and Malaysia.

    See More From Will Duprey

  • Finding a Balanced Path

    Yoga seems to be full of contradictions.  For instance, in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, a text that codifies the path of Raja Yoga, Sage Patanjali lists running from pain/aversion as a Klesha/obstacle to yoga but then says “Pain, that has not yet come should be avoided”. 

    Patanjali says that we should practice non-attachment but we also should maintain a daily practice for a long time, without stopping and with faith and devotion.  The Hatha Yoga Pradipika, a text that explains the path of Hatha Yoga, says that the yogi should follow no rules but then says you need a Guru and you should follow his/her rules.

    What is a yogi to do?

    Patanjali states that everything exists for our soul’s sake.  We are either here to experience the world or to liberate ourselves from the world. Everything in existence has characteristics that bind us or liberate us.  Everything has both/and.  You choose how to work with the universe/God’s creation/nature’s creation.

    At the very beginning of the Yoga Sutras, Patanjali introduces the concept of both/and.  He lists thought patterns that can be both harmless and/or harmful.  For example, one of the thought patterns mentioned is memory. Without memory, we cannot do basic functions like drive a car or make breakfast. However, dwelling on events from our past can cause pain in our futures. Remembering why we come to our mats can help us maintain a consistent practice but clinging to our past physical accomplishments on the mat results in comparison and suffering. Our memories can be both a blessing and a curse all at the same time.

    To get a deeper understanding of working with paradox on the spiritual path, let’s go back to the examples in the first paragraph.  Should we or should we not avoid pain? In order to change, grow and evolve, we often must become uncomfortable.  For example, if you want to become more physically fit, you must endure the pain of sore muscles. This is good pain.  If you use improper form during your workout and become injured, this is the pain that should and could have been avoided.  Another type of pain, that may be beneficial to work with and not avoid, is emotional pain that keeps you yoked to fear, shame, anger, guilt and hate.  This type of pain keeps you locked in the Klesha of Avidya, ignorance of your true nature.  Avidya is an obstacle to yoga. On the flip side, if you had an unhealthy relationship with your ex that you healed from and they ask you on a date, that may be a type of pain that you would want to avoid.

    Now let’s look at yogic practices. If you have a mental tug of war whenever you miss practice, you are most likely attached to it.  This is not all bad. Sometimes, we have to baby step change. Going straight from stressed out mess to enlightenment may be too much of a stretch. A daily practice provides a systematized way of gradually working with our neurosis. As we slowly create new healthy patterns, it is important to occasionally reevaluate our practice and ask ourselves if our practice is leading us to freedom of bondage. The practice, when done properly, should create more freedom in your heart, soul and mind. As you become freer, you grow less attached to yogic techniques. Eventually, the yogi can keep his heart and mind light without the use of yogic techniques.

    Our last example will be Swami Svatmarama’s, the author of the Hatha Yoga Pradipika, declaration that yogis should not follow rules, however they should follow their teacher’s rules.  While there have definitely been sages that didn’t make rules or honestly, even want students, who managed to teach students, yogic practices generally come with rules. Even if a teacher shows many different variations of Down Dog, there is still some idea of the general shape or purpose of a Down Dog which means there are rules for Down Dog.

    We cannot get around rules. The universe has rules. If you jump off your roof, you will not float up…unless you have super powers. We also will most likely always need someone else to teach us about rules. Our parents or care givers were our first teachers. They taught us that, even with a cape, if we jump off the roof, we will not fly but fall straight down.

    Though yoga is ultimately an individual journey, a yoga teacher ensures that the yogi has a good map for their journey.  So, when do we not follow rules? Swami Muktibodhananda, a teacher and commentator on the Hatha Yoga Pradipika says, “As far as social rituals and religious doctrines are concerned, it is unnecessary that they be maintained for spiritual progress. Sadhana (practice) is not dependent on social morals nor are its effects promoted by religious practices. Adhering to rules makes one narrow minded. Yoga is meant to expand the consciousness, not to limit it. A yogi should have a free and open mind.”

    As we practice, we get to know ourselves. Discernment grows and we understand what actions lead us further on the yogic journey, which ones are inconsequential and which ones stop progress.   Any rules that don’t serve the yogi or the greater good are questioned and possibly cast aside.  A great example of this is Gandhi, who used civil disobedience to protest British colonial rule.

    The quote, “A yogi does not do what is right. A yogi does what is appropriate” by Sadhguru is a really beautiful way of looking at paradox in the spiritual world. Every moment calls for a new and different action. What is right for one moment, may not be appropriate for another. Within every moment or person there lies the seeds of good and evil, death and life, growth and stagnation and/or liberation and bondage. Traversing the slope of paradox calls for a strong heart, a willingness to stay open and the ability to forgive.  We are human and flawed.  Because we hold the possibility for both/and, sometimes we will not do what is appropriate and we will not do what is right. Luckily, we can find our way back on the spiritual path as many times as we need. No effort is wasted and no one is ever permanently lost.

    By Shanna Small

    Read more articles by Shanna Small

    Practice LIVE with Shanna Small on Omstars

    Shanna Small is the mind behind, The Ashtanga Yoga Project, a website and home for information on how to use the wisdom of Ashtanga Yoga in Modern life. Shanna Small has been practicing Ashtanga Yoga and studying the Yoga Sutras since 2001. She has studied in Mysore with Sharath Jois and is the Director of AYS Charlotte, a school for traditional Ashtanga in Charlotte NC.  She has written for Yoga International and the Ashtanga Dispatch.

    Photo credit: Wanda Koch Photography.

  • The Difference Between Intent and Impact

    Why Knowing the Difference Between Intent and Impact are Important on the Yogic Path.

    An important part of the yogic principle of Ahimsa, non-violence, is understanding that intent and impact are not the same.  There is a lot of wisdom to unpack in the old Christian saying, “The road to Hell is paved with good intentions”. Even if our intentions are good, if our actions result in negative outcomes, we still have to pay the piper.  As the saying suggests, if we don’t atone for our behavior, the results will be the same as someone who had bad intentions; both are going to Hell. For you, this Hell may not be a lake of fire and brimstone, but instead a world full of pain and suffering.  If we are to call ourselves yogis, we must own up to how our actions, even when we didn’t mean anything by them, cause harm.

    There is no way to live on this earth and never harm anyone. Ahimsa is the practice of doing the least amount of harm possible; emphasis on “least”. Ahimsa is a part of the Yamas or Great Vow, that a yogi on the 8 limbed path of Patanjali or Raja yoga, takes.  When a yogi takes this vow, she cannot break it regardless of class, time, place or circumstance.  She is always asking herself, “is this the least amount of harm I can cause in this situation?” Nonviolence is the most talked about Yama in yoga because it is pretty easy to grasp and apply and it is palatable to most humans. Most of us can agree that we don’t want to be hurt.  Ahimsa, when things are going our way, is simple.   However, are we also using it when things become uncomfortable?

    The easiest way to shut down (attempt to anyway) an uncomfortable topic in the yoga world is to belabor positive intent.  The yoga world is seeing the rise of people speaking up against the commercialization and commodification of yoga, the erasure of the culture it came from, the worship of able bodies, inaccessibility, privilege, appropriation, spiritual bypassing and corruption.  If you are being accused of any of these, stop, breathe, then ask yourself, “Does my intent actually match the impact?” Understand that, as a yogi who has taken the great vow of Ahimsa, it is your duty to consider the impact your actions have on the world and to seek to do as little harm as possible. It not only means that you must change your words but you also have to change your actions. At the very least, own up to it and apologize.

    If you look back in your memory, you will probably see that you have been hurt by someone who had good intentions. Someone who had no idea how deeply their actions impacted your life but they did. Is it unreasonable that you may be guilty of the same? Can you give someone else the apology that you yourself have always wanted? Can you exemplify the changed behavior that was not exemplified for you? Can you give the kindness and understanding you craved to someone who is also seeking kindness and understanding? As a yogi, I should hope so. This may be uncomfortable but without examples, it is easy to purport innocence.  It is easy to act the saint of  the yoga world. These examples are meant to get you thinking. They are meant to empower you with higher levels of discernment that increase your capacity to apply Ahimsa and contribute to the reduction of harm.

    Anybody can do yoga

    The intent of is to present an open and welcoming environment for people who are new to Yoga. However, what happens when they actually cannot do your class? Maybe the class is moving so fast that you cannot stop and help them. The class might be so busy that you cannot spend time helping them. Do you truly know options that anyone can do and can you give the student those options as they practice? What is the possible impact to a student who cannot do the practice you just presented? They could leave feeling not only that yoga is not for them but also feel there is something wrong with them because they cannot do a class that, according to you, everyone is supposed to be able to do.

    Classes in exchange for cleaning

    The intent is to provide a means for students who cannot afford yoga, to be able to practice. What are some possible negative impacts? Instead of feeling like they are a part of the community, they feel like “the help.”  Most people have an unconscious bias towards people like waiters, handymen, or house cleaners. They are expected to be in the background.  They move around doing their work and are largely ignored. This student could easily spend their time at your studio on the fringes feeling isolated and alone.

    Not having anyone of color represented on your staff, on your list of presenters, your book or magazine.

    The intention is simply to hire good teachers and present the best information.  In this case, they all just happened to be White. What are some of the possible negative impacts? POC feel excluded, unwanted and that their expertise is subpar. Another negative impact is that you have a staff or panel of people who have an implicit bias toward the experience of being White. This results in a very skewed, and often times unrealistic and untrue view of the information presented.

    Thrust me, being White in the yoga world is a different experience from being Black or Brown in the yoga world.  You may say, “information is information”. Take a breath and really think about it. It is well known that historical information is always skewed towards the people talking about it.  Take this excerpt from History.com on the Civil War, “Northerners have also called the Civil War the War to Preserve the Union, the War of the Rebellion (War of the Southern Rebellion), and the War to Make Men Free.

    Southerners may refer to it as the War Between the States or the War of Northern Aggression. In the decades following the conflict, those who did not wish to upset adherents of either side simply called it The Late Unpleasantness. It is also known as Mr. Lincoln’s War and, less commonly, as Mr. Davis’ War.” This same thing happens with yogic information. Trust me. All good teachers can acknowledge their own implicit bias towards the information they are presenting.

    For instance, I absolutely have an implicit bias towards Ashtanga and I totally view all yogic information through the lens of Ashtanga. I absolutely know and acknowledge that I have a filter that looks for information to support my Ashtanga practice and, that If I am not careful, I will throw out or not acknowledge anything that goes against it.  If I were to put together a panel to talk about Ahimsa in the broader context of yoga, to offset my bias, I would need to invite non-Ashtangis to speak. Does this make sense?

    If you just work hard enough, you can do any yoga pose your heart desires.

    The intent is to uplift and motivate. Some negative impacts are people hurting themselves doing poses that are not meant for their bodies, people quitting yoga because, since they cannot do the poses, it is obviously not for them and a feeling of being a complete failure and worthless.

    We are all one

    This statement is dependent on the situation. The intent is to create unity and inclusiveness however the impact can be the opposite. To someone who is communicating that they don’t feel comfortable and accepted, to say, “we are all one” does not address the reason why they don’t feel comfortable or accepted. In this example, “We are all one” is spiritual bypassing at it’s finest. Dr. Robert Augustus Masters, PhD defines spiritual bypassing as, “the use of spiritual practices/beliefs to avoid dealing with painful feelings, unresolved wounds and developmental needs”.

    Saying “we are all one” when someone is hurting because they feel otherwise, shuts the discussion down and stops all positive possible solutions. For instance, if a South Asian practitioner is saying that they don’t feel represented by a panel of White people, “saying we are all one” does not change the fact the they are not represented. I can go on and on with these examples and I am sure that you have many you can add as well. Were you able to see how impact and intent are not the same? In each of the examples, could you see how more Ahimsa or less harm could be done? As a yogi, who has taken the vow of decreasing suffering in this world, do you understand how the question of impact vs Intent must be a part of your spiritual practice? I hope so.

    By Shanna Small

    Shanna Small is the mind behind, The Ashtanga Yoga Project, a website and home for information on how to use the wisdom of Ashtanga Yoga in Modern life. Shanna Small has been practicing Ashtanga Yoga and studying the Yoga Sutras since 2001. She has studied in Mysore with Sharath Jois and is the Director of AYS Charlotte, a school for traditional Ashtanga in Charlotte NC.  She has written for Yoga International and the Ashtanga Dispatch.

    Read more articles by Shanna Small
    Photo credit: Wanda Koch Photography. 

  • Body Acceptance: Tools for Cultural Upheaval

    Gordi. Flaca. Chula. Fea. Vieja. Linda. Fatty. Skinny. Sexy. Ugly. Old lady. Cute. Whether positive or negative association, I grew up hearing terms that were quick to remind us that we were defined by our appearance.

    These were terms of endearment. I grew up believing that describing others based on their outer appearances was not only normal, but expected. And though I occasionally encountered someone who interpreted these descriptors as malicious, I usually dismissed those responses as excessive sensitivity, especially since my initial descriptions were most often welcomed. Not until much later did I realize that this was not the way I wanted to relate to others, nor how I wanted others to relate to me.

    Partially, I recognize that this experience as a woman, and woman of color, it is inescapable to be described and critiqued in a physical context. Mexican, native, fiery Latina, curvy, tribal, dark skinned, too sexy, too loud, too weird, too bossy, too opinionated, too intense; these were descriptions I came to know all too well. When I think about the future generations, I never want them to hear or feel that they’re too much of anything. We need all of their intensity and passion and skills. So how do we come to welcome all of their existence in a world that asks us to be small?

    When I think of growth, I am reminded of the old tenant, “the personal is political.”, and remember that we always start with ourselves. We start by exploring our relationship to ourselves; by living in our awareness intentionally. Yoga is filled with beautiful practices to explore mind, body and their intersections. Though in recent history, the term “yoga” has come to be known almost exclusively as the postures, there are other practices, such as meditation and breathwork, that can help us deepen our connection to ourselves.

    Prochaska and DiClemente developed the Stages of Change transtheoretical model in 1983, and it remains a core teaching of psychology and recovery programs. Following Precontemplation, comes Contemplation, which is such a powerful step in exploring our motivation for change. Yoga and other forms of meditation, journaling, dance are all examples of contemplative practices. Within the context of personal development, we can examine if our external judgements of others a representation of the narrative we carry about ourselves. Practicing mindful meditation can help train us to notice our thoughts enough to discover the themes of our internal narrative. Is it critical or encouraging? Is it filled with compassion or condemnation? As with all forms of yoga, remember, this is a practice to give you a sense of agency over your thoughts. Meditation is the work of change, and change is difficult.

    Within the context of exploring our relationship with our bodies, I love using Breathwork, or Pranayama practice. Breathwork and breath retraining has long been used to support mental wellness and has gained popularity for addressing stress, anxiety and depression (1, 2). Although breathing is an involuntary process, struggles with posture and stress can lead to improper breathing and lead to increased cortisol release, the hormone our body produces to cope with stress (4).

    Breathwork practice can be destabilizing, so it’s important to explore these techniques with a trained or experienced practitioner. My experience with breathwork has been one of bringing awareness to my felt experience I have frequently worked to avoid as someone who recovered from an eating disorder and someone living with chronic pain. Practicing breathwork allows me space to embody my experience and encourages me to let go of the idea to simply “tolerate” discomfort. In breathwork practice, it may be helpful to explore our relationships with physical and emotional pain. Where do our thoughts go when we experience discomfort? Is that a time our mind goes to judgement, criticism, or blame? How does our experience of discomfort change when we approach it with compassion?

    Contemplating our inner experience allows space for us to become better allies, better equipped to hold space for the experience of others. Recognizing that we are impacted by situations outside of our control may be easier to do within the context of ourselves than others, according to the Attribution Theory (2). Meditation and practicing awareness of our thoughts allows us the necessary interruption to see that we are all reacting and responding with the skills available to us today.

    Coming to a place of acceptance of our body, all of our body, all of our thoughts, all of our worries, and anxieties and joys and anger and pain, is a tool in taking back our power, our autonomy, our agency. This is not a small endeavor, but it is worth it. Next time your mind wanders down the path of judgement or criticism, take a few diaphragmatic breaths when you notice. This negative or critical voice developed over time, in effort to keep you safe, to help you fit in, to protect you from examining potentially painful or complex issues. Now, as an adult, allow yourself to consider that criticism isn’t typically an effective way to interact with ourselves or the world, even when the effort feels to be coming from a place of concern. Embrace compassion as an experiment and examine how your relationships with yourself and others change.

    By Celisa Flores

    Celisa Flores: Since obtaining a Master’s degree in Counseling in 2007 at CSU Fresno and a PsyD in Clinical Psychology from The Chicago School of Professional Psychology in 2013, Dr. Flores worked as a therapist and program director in a wide variety of mental health treatment setting. This diversity of experience allowed research and training to expand her skills as a Feminist therapist with emphasis on Eating Disorders, Mindfulness and women’s issues. With a history of providing individual, group, family, and couples counseling services, as well as therapeutic yoga services, Dr. Flores has focused on evidence-based practices, providing guidance and support in Mindfulness in Recovery, Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT), and other self-empowerment strategies. In addition to training as a therapist, she is a Certified Yoga Teacher, also trained in Mindful Stress Reduction, Reiki and as a doula. By integrating a variety of holistic tools into recovery and wellness, she works to create a long-lasting, sustainable wellness plan.  Now proudly with Center for Discovery, providing clinical outreach for Orange County and the Central California region.  This role has included national and international training and speaking engagements on eating disorders, mindfulness, yoga, body acceptance, and professional wellness, as well as facilitating accessible, body-affirming yoga annually at the Los Angeles NEDA walk.  With a passion to support other therapists and community members with understanding eating disorders and treatment as well as self-care and overall wellness, she is always working to share information, research and training. 

    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
    (1) Brown, R. P., & Gerbarg, P. L. (2005). Sudarshan kriya yogic breathing in the treatment of stress, anxiety, and depression: Part II – clinical applications and guidelines. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 11(4), 711-717
    (2) O’Donohue, W.T. and Fisher, J.E. (Eds.). (2008). Cognitive Behavior Therapy: Applying Empirically Supported Techniques in your Practice (2nd ed.). Hoboken, NJ, US: John Wiley & Sons Inc.
    (3) Ross, L. (1977). The Intuitive Psychologist And His Shortcomings: Distortions in the Attribution Process. In Advances in experimental social psychology (Vol. 10, pp. 173-220). Academic Press.
    (4) Thibodeux, W. (Feb 8, 2018). Science Says You’ve Been Breathing Wrong. Here’s how to do it right. Inc.com.

  • Confessions of a Pregnant Yogi


    Let us make pregnancy an occasion when we appreciate our female bodies. – Merete Leonhardt-Lupa

    My name is Karine. I am a 27-year-old yoga and Stand Up Paddle board yoga instructor, also known as, SUPyoga, living in Canada. I am currently pregnant with my first child and I couldn’t be more excited for the new adventure that lies ahead. But let’s be honest, my journey through pregnancy thus far has not been all rosy and easy, and I’m not only referring to the dreaded first trimester nausea. This blog is merely an open reflection on my experience, so far, as an expecting mama, yoga instructor, and yogi. (Disclaimer: I am not a certified medical professional and I do not have the capacity to provide medical advice pertaining to you and your child’s health). My wish is that you may find comfort in knowing that you are not alone in this journey whether you are currently expecting, thinking of conceiving, or already the parent of little ones.

    “I think it is not safe for you to teach anymore. You need to practice only at this point. We will see if we can find a sub for tonight but next week your class is off the schedule. Take care of you.”

    I was 14-weeks pregnant when I received the above quoted email from a studio owner notifying me that I could no longer teach yoga classes because they deemed it to be “unsafe.” I had been teaching room temperature flow classes at this studio for nearly two years and I was in the midst of co-leading a YTT program at the time. I sadly had to abandon the YTT students as well as my partner mid-training as I could not for the life of me be associated to a studio that made such discriminatory and unjust comments regarding their instructors, let alone a pregnant woman. For obvious reasons, I was quite distraught and saddened by these events. I was angered and disappointed. This ultimately led to a whole lot of self-blame. Voices of doubt and fear overwhelmed me with negative thoughts.

    “Having a baby will ruin your big dreams.”
    “Your yoga career is over.”
    “Forget all of your future plans to travel the world.”
    “Your body will never be the same.”

    You get the picture.

    With time and support from loved ones, I healed from this event and found it in my heart to forgive this person for the hurt they caused. I also finally understood all of the typical clichés one hears regarding one door closing and another one opening, working hard on your dreams even if others don’t believe in it, and everything happening for a reason.

    The biggest lesson, however, was that my pregnancy journey is no one else’s, but mine. As an expecting mama, right when your pregnancy test turns positive, your mind automatically fills with 10,000 worries you previously never had. You must learn to adapt to your rapidly changing body and growing belly, not to mention fluctuating hormones that can make you go a little nuts. Breast pain, backaches, headaches, nosebleeds, gum swelling, nausea, cramps, anxiety, vivid dreams, insomnia, you name it. On top of that, sooner than later, you will start to hear comments from colleagues, friends, family members, strangers at the grocery store, or even the barista at your local coffee shop.

    “Are you finding out the sex the baby?”
    “Why don’t you want to find out the sex of the baby?”
    “Make sure you control your emotions, the baby can feel everything you feel.”
    “Are you sure you should still be working out at the gym?”

    The list goes on.

    People will always have unsolicited advice regarding your pregnancy but, truth be told, this is your, and your baby’s, journey. You are blossoming life inside you and it is a beautiful thing. We should not fear losing ourselves along the way in this new adventure. When it comes to your yoga practice or your health and fitness regime, it has been proven time and time again that physical activity is beneficial to you and baby. Keep in mind that engaging in a strenuous exercise program or starting a brand new fitness regime may not be the greatest idea, but maintaining your usual movement practice is generally safe and encouraged.

    You are so beautifully designed that childbearing does not automatically incapacitate you from enjoying pleasures like, spending time on your yoga mat, unless medically necessary. There is a magnitude of programs at the disposal of pregnant mamas looking to stay active. Practicing yoga through pregnancy can help reduce backaches, increase your energy, encourage better sleep, help with laboring, and aid in digestion–which is slowed by the Relaxin hormone causing bloating, excess gas, and constipation. In addition, yoga can help calm the anxious mind, as well as, help in developing good breathing techniques. Omstars offers a wonderful 40-week yoga series called, Prenatal Week-By-Week: Fertility Goddess by Sonia Ribas, specifically created for mamas-to-be. As for my personal practice, I still teach yoga classes on average 3-times per week on top of my full-time, regular work, attend the gym 3-to-4 days a week, and walk a minimum of 4-kilometers per day. I feel happier, healthier, and stronger than ever. Doors have continued to open since leaving the yoga studio and new adventures continue to brew in the horizon.

    Practice Prenatal Yoga on Omstars

    To the wonderful mamas to be, I encourage you to listen to your body and your medical professional’s advice, not someone else’s opinion or judgement. Although every woman’s pregnancy journey is different, it’s important to remember that your emotional and physical well-being is a priority.

    You are strong.

    You are beautiful.

    You were made for this.

    After all, this is your body and who knows you better than you?

    By Karine Halle

    Karine is a yoga instructor & SUP yoga instructor from Ottawa, Canada. She trained and coached competitively in gymnastics and dance for years and after having suffered sports related injuries, she realized the importance of safe practice and healthy movement. She enjoys the beauty of rhythm and flow by linking breath with movement. Karine makes it her goal to always remain a student – continuing to deepen her knowledge, her practice, and forever learning from her students. Learn to fall in love with taking care of yourself body, mind, and Spirit.

  • 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.