• 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.

  • Interview with Angelique Sandas

     I practice to learn about who I am, why I am that way, and to become the best version of myself that I possibly can. I teach because this practice has been so significant for me and I believe it can also be beneficial for others, I have to share what I know! I feel obligated to help make the practice available to all who seek it, it is my duty and honor.

    Describe your personality in three words. 

    Task-master. Nurturer. Seeker.

    Where are you from and/or where do you live? 

    I grew up in the MidWest but have lived in South Florida for a while, now specifically West Palm Beach

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

    My first experiences with yoga were whiles studying dance in college. I became a committed practitioner around 2002 when dealing with a deeply broken heart.

    What is yoga to you?

    Yoga is a method of developing self- awareness so that you can choose self-transformation.

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

    I took several yoga classes in different techniques with different teachers until I found the one that fit.  I truly believe there is a method, an environment, a teacher that is right for each of us and we only need to keep seeking until we find that match.  I want people who come to my class to feel inspired to find their practice, or if they find it with me, to feel supported, to feel like they found something special that works for them.

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

    For me, the results we at first obvious – I saw myself becoming for thoughtful, more conscious of those around me and my actions. Then, as time moved and I continued to practice, the effect fas more subtle but no less profound. It’s one of those things you don’t realize is happening until you get some perspective to look back, or are tested in some way and see that you are behaving differently,  or are thinking differently about a thing. You ove through your world with more consideration, with more empathy and connection, with more strength and acceptance, with more awareness and intuition.

    Join Angelique’s LIVE classes on Omstars

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

    I really do feel like this has been a sort of calling for me. My experience in dance, teaching dance and choreography, my natural interests in the body, psychology, etc – it all led to yoga. within a year of committing to my practice, I knew I would teach. I honestly can’t imagine any other path. What makes a good teacher? That is so hard to answer. I could dig in and it would take days to get all of my thoughts down on paper – and in the end it might not mean much to anyone but me. Generally a good teacher is also a student. Through our own practice we learn so much. We learn also from each student we interact with. A good teacher has to always be willing to adjust as they receive new data. We can’t know everything and we can’t possibly know what we don’t know. As soon as a teacher thinks they have nothing else to learn, they have lost something.

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

    I practice and teach Ashtanga Yoga. The Mysore method in particular is a very independent way of practice, while at the same time allows for a deeper teacher student relationship to develop. This relationship provides the basis of trust for a student to be willing to challenge themselves, to venture into new territory, to face unknowns. That is where the growth lies. I mostly self-practice these days but I do consider my teachers to be Kino MacGregor who I worked closely with for many years, and Paramaguru R Sharath Jois, the current head of the lineage, who I try to practice with as regularly as I can!

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

    My biggest struggle is also my biggest milestone. Becoming a mother. Motherhood was ego-annihilating. And that really what we are trying to do in yoga right? Become aware of the trappings of our ego-self, the limiting labels, the attachments and aversions, the boxes. Motherhood shatters all of it. All of the ways you identified to be “self” become distorted or cease to exist all-together. I navigated those early days of motherhood as I tried to regain some sense of self on the yoga matt and it all failed, over and over again, until I realized that I was trying to be something I no longer was. I had to surrender to a new way of being and this opened up so much by way of my yoga practice. While my physical capabilities seemed atrophied, my yoga became stronger.

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

    Generally I enjoy deep back bends – they are intensely liberating. Strength postures are always challenging and I don’t enjoy them much – especially if they are new.

    What has been the most inspirational moment you’ve experienced as a yoga student?

    I am inspired by my teachers and fellow practitioners. This community of people is incredible.

    And how about as a teacher?

    I am constantly inspired by what I observe in my students, their experiences with this practice. I see people discovering themselves everyday – that’s amazing!

    Practice with Angelique on Omstars

    Why do you practice? Why do you teach?

    I practice to learn about who I am, why I am that way, and to become the best version of myself that I possibly can. I teach because this practice has been so significant for me and I believe it can also be beneficial for others, I have to share what I know! I feel obligated to help make the practice available to all who seek it, it is my duty and honor.

    What’s your favorite yoga quote or mantra?

    My favorite changes depending in what I am going though, where I am in my practice, or in life. One that has stayed with me for a long time and comes from a former teacher is “If it is challenging, growth is inevitable” Another comes from Nisargadatta Maharaj “I am that” So simple and so vast.

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

    The desire/effort to define what yoga is. Can it be defined in a way that suits everyone’s understanding? I don’t know, can it?

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

    I’ve had so many falls and crashes and “fails” as a student that those events all blend together in my memory and no longer have the power to embarrass me. Same as a teacher – I have made many missteps, numerous. At this point I try to only learn from them and move on. There is no one major embarrassing thing that comes to mind.

    Do you have any recommended yoga reading?

    Specific suggestions would depend on the type of interest the reader has. First identify yourself as someone who is interested in philosophy, history, biographical stories, yoga as healing, anatomy and kinesiology, etc. There are so many branches of learning available within this practice and nowadays, there is so much material out there.

    What is your dharma, your life mission?

    Healing. I consider yoga to be a practice of healing, and as a teacher it is my purpose to facilitate that process and effort for my students.

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

    There is a practice for everyone. If you are not sure where you fit, keep trying classes, teachers, studios, until you feel supported and inspired. There is a yoga for you, a practice that will feel right and there you will begin to receive the benefits.

    Are there any current projects you’re working on that you can tell us about?

    I’m currently excited about my new Live class on Plankk Studio App with Omstars! It is a beginner’s journey into Ashtanga Yoga Primary Series and I am having a lot of fun with it! I love breaking things down and looking deeply into the intelligence of the practice. I am also working with some fellow Mama yoga teachers in my community to establish supportive workshops and classes for new moms. Getting back into a yoga practice after having a children can be daunting – not to mention the challenges of simply adjusting to a life of motherhood! We are reaching out to support women – it takes a village! I am also going to be beginning a series of clinics with teachers working on asana adjustment training. I love working with other teachers so I’m really looking forward to it.

    Watch Seek Up interview with Kino and Angelique

    Aside from your fantastic course on Omstars, do you have a favorite class that you’d like to share?

    I actually really love some of the non-practice features of Omstars. The travel, food, fashion, and especially, the interviews. We all come to a yoga practice and yogic lifestyles with our own stories. Sharing these stories is a wonderful way to feel connected.

    By Angelique Sandas

  • I Felt the Power of Yoga

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

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

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

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

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

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

    By Ally Born

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

  • Create a Soul Inspired Intention

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Continue this lesson with Inge on Omstars

    By Inge Sengelmann

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

  • Moon Day – May 4th New Moon

    Sun in Taurus ~ Moon in Taurus 14º.  Saturday, May 4 at 6:45 pm EST. We’re kicking off the month of May with an astrological event that’s all about new beginnings: a new moon. Every New Moon is your opportunity to complete a chapter and start a new one. This New Moon is in Taurus, and Taurus is the producer of the zodiac that’s all about groundedness, pleasure, and indulgence.
    Taurus has this uncanny ability to turn something ephemeral like an idea, into something real. The New Moon in Taurus is a time to get focused and produce! It’s time to get real.

    Take this cycle to remind yourself of how deserving you are of feeling powerful and sensual and grounded and do whatever feels right for you. Anything that engages your senses and your physical body, like massage, aromatherapy, and indulgent food.  Reassessing what can be tweaked about your daily routine to make it more supportive and nourishing is a great thing to consider during this new moon. You may wish to perform a grounding exercise on this night to channel the restorative and stabilizing energies of this moon phase. Meditate on what pleasure means to you and how you might attract more of it to create more balance in your body and spirit.

    Now is a fertile time to set intentions around your commitment to become more aware, responsible, proactive and present. Work with the questions of who, where, what and with whom as an exercise to focus your awareness of where you are in your life right now. If you get clarity regarding a needed change, move into that change with ease and grace.  This new moon is unique because it occurs so close to May 1, the holiday of Beltane or May Day. It’s the midpoint between spring and summer, a time of fertility, abundance, and warmth. Taurus is a Venus-ruled Earth sign, the hedonist of the zodiac that’s all about the physical. This new moon, merging with the energy of Beltane especially, really gives us the chance to make pleasure and embodiment our priority.

    This new moon is grounded and offers a chance to accept change as the norm rather than a random act. As you become more aware of your process of growth, you have also become aware of a new sense of stability that comes from within instead of relying on the known and familiar aspects of your external environment.  The good news is that May is much more upbeat than April! It is not that May is less intense – with a Full Moon in Scorpio and with Mercury and Venus conjunct Uranus – we will for sure have our share of fun! May will be intense, but it will undoubtedly be less heavy.

    May also comes with some fantastic opportunities.  If there is one word to describe the month of May, that is opportunity. Why so?

    • In May we have Uranus and Venus (the father and the daughter) together in Taurus – for the first time in 80 years!
    • Mercury will also be conjunct Uranus in Taurus again, for the first time in 80 years.
    • We have an intense Full Moon in Scorpio opposite the fixed star Algol.
    • And we’re also in the middle of the Mercury cycle, with Sun conjunct Mercury at 0° Gemini. There is no better place for Mercury to be in; yes to Mercury!

    Beautiful, steady Taurus, you teach us to enjoy the riches of the Earth plane, to be resourceful, to know what we value, to dig in and work for what we want, to use the fertility all around us to create abundance, and to value stability, consistency, and loyalty. A fixed, earth sign, Taurus with the ruler ship of Venus, Goddess of Love (and pleasure) is a fertile combination to begin a new cycle. In this midpoint between spring and summer in the North (fall and winter in the Southern Hemisphere). Plants and animals are busy growing and reproducing, and gratitude is strong for our beautiful home planet. It’s a time to celebrate and dance and sing our joy to be alive and in a body.

    It’s a luscious time this Taurus New Moon cycle ruled by Venus. Make some tangible goals for bringing enjoyment through the body and for bringing more beauty into your life. Receive the abundance you are offered and honor your havingness and the resources you have accumulated. Send love and gratitude to Mother Earth, Gaia, Pachamama for all her gifts.

    By Danielle Hicks

    Danielle Hicks is an adventurer, writer, creator, and explorer of the unknown. RYT-200hr and longtime yoga practitioner, she came to Ashtanga Yoga right before embarking on a year-long van-life journey two years ago. Danielle is on cloud nine as she is an apprentice, assisting, and guiding others in their Mysore style practice at The Yoga Shala in Orlando, Florida. A zany magnetic off-beat intuitive Danielle is learning to share and embrace her side of the inner world. Cultivation of her fruits will be gifts to share as she is on the verge of something new. To read more about Danielle’s journey visit, elfeatheryoga.com @el.feather.yoga

  • Creamy Tomato Pasta with Devyn Howard

    The dish that I am making for you guys today is inspired by something that I loved when I studied abroad in Florence, Italy.

    It was a gnocchi rosa.  It was this creamy tomato sauce, so beautiful and full of flavor, but it had cream in it. So, it’s definitely something that I wouldn’t want to eat now. I decided that I needed to recreate this beloved dish of mine, and that’s how this creamy tomato pasta was born. The dish gets its creaminess from soaked cashews.

    Ingredients

    • 1 12-Oz. Can Crushed Tomatoes
    • 2 Red Bell Peppers
    • ½ Red Onion
    • 1 Clove Garlic
    • 5 Tablespoons Italian Seasoning
    • 1 14-Oz. Box of Vegan Pasta
    • 3 Tablespoons EVOO Salt
    • Pepper to Taste
    • Fresh Basil to Garnish
    • 1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
    • 1 Cup Soaked (overnight) Cashews

     

    Method

    In a pan, heat up the olive oil, the sauté the red bell peppers, onion, and garlic until the onion is translucent and the peppers and garlic are tender. Pour in the crushed tomatoes and their juices, mix everything together and then let simmer. Start a pot of water boiling for the pasta. In a blender, blend together the soaked cashews and ¾ cup of water until smooth and creamy. Add the pasta to the boiling water. Season the tomato and pepper mixture with salt, pepper, and the Italian seasoning. Then, add the blended cashew mixture to the tomato and pepper sauce, and mix together well until it’s creamy. Using a strainer, drain the pasta. Then add it to the sauce mixture. Toss well and serve.

    Continue cooking with Devyn on Omstars

    By Devyn Howard

    My name is Devyn Howard, and I am a vegan food blogger from San Diego, CA. At 11-years-old, I realized that it didn’t morally make sense for me to continue eating meat as I made the connection that the animals on my plate were the same animals I adored when they were alive. From that point on, I dedicated much of my life to promoting vegetarianism, veganism, and cruelty-free living. I’m eager to show the world that veganism can be incredibly easy, fulfilling, and delicious, even while traveling the world. I share restaurant recommendations from around the globe, proving that a cruelty-free lifestyle need not inhibit one’s experience in a new culture. Traveling from Asia, to Australia, through Europe, and the U.S. is always an exciting foodie adventure…even as a vegan! I’m currently based in Los Angeles, CA, and have plans to take over the world one plant-based plate at a time. Join me on my adventure! Connect with Devyn on Instagram. 

  • How to find your niche

     In today’s day and age, with social media, people really want to be able to connect to you on a personal level.

    It’s really important when you’re coming into your own as a yoga teacher, is really finding your voice, and finding what it is that is authentic about you. In today’s day and age, with social media, people really want to be able to connect to you on a personal level.

    So, as you start to mirror, and you start to think about your favorite yoga teachers out there, even though they say imitation is the greatest form of flattery, you want to be able to make sure that you’re not imitating too much.  And that you’re not watering down your true essence and who you truly are.

    What I’d encourage all new yoga teachers, and even existing yoga teachers, who are maybe struggling a little bit in their practice, or in their business, is take some time to really find your niche and connect to who your favorite yoga teachers are.

    Start to ask yourself different questions:

    • What is it that you like about this particular yoga teacher?
    • Is it their cues, is it their sequence?
    • Is it the music, maybe it’s just a simple playlist?
    • Is there an emotion, or something, that is tied to the way that they speak in their classes that you connect to?

    This is a moment where you really need to start thinking about how you want to be able to incorporate that into your own practice and throughout your teaching. No matter which way it is that you try to find your niche, the most important advice that I can give any yoga teacher, and any new aspiring yoga teacher, is to be genuine, be sincere, and always be yourself.

    Continue this Business of Yoga lesson with Sandy on Omstars

    By Sandy Fernandez

    Sandy Fernandez is a Mother, certified yoga teacher, clairvoyant, Financial Advisor and author of Karmic Currency Chakras and Money. She is now the President and Founder of Karmic Currency.  Sandy combines her many years of financial experience, with her talent and love for yoga and spirituality. These soul renewing practices have been a part of her life for over 6 years and have played a major role in helping her get through some of life’s most difficult hurdles. Yoga has allowed Sandy to grow stronger physically, and most importantly, mentally.

  • Maintaining Peace, Equanimity, and Authenticity

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

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

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

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

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

    Continue this lesson with Kino on Omstars

     

    By Kino MacGregor

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