• Interview with Marie Belle

    Yoga is the understanding that there is no separation. As a practice, I use movement, asana, meditation, and breath to step into that current of just knowing, being, and allowing any transformation to take place as it needs.

    Describe your personality in three words.

    Chill. Driven. Receptive

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

    I am from Puerto Rico, currently living in DC

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

    I started practicing yoga in 2007 right after the shootings at Virginia Tech. I started as a way to mindfully move into my body and begin to trust and come back to life.

    What is yoga to you?

    Yoga is the understanding that there is no separation. As a practice, I use movement, asana, meditation, and breath to step into that current of just knowing, being, and allowing any transformation to take place as it needs.

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

    I felt super tall and light and like I just achieved something within myself. I wanted to return as soon as possible. I would love my students to feel more centered, empowered, and alive.

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

    Yoga has completely transformed my life, my movements, my profession, thought patterns, relationship dialogues, everything really. I was very much a scripted person before yoga; I wanted to always be seen a particular way and I followed cultural norms to the best of my abilities. I fulfilled all my expectations with school and profession (I received a Ph.D. in Psychology and Graduate Certificate in Women’s Studies), and still felt empty. Once I found yoga, I slowly started integrating all aspects of myself: the athlete, the teacher, the artist, the hermit, the seeker. I feel more integrated and complete without any cultural scripts.

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

    I started teaching donation only classes as a side gig to raise money for a non-profit. At the time I was training to Bike Across The US for MS, and wanted to support their mission. Gradually I got asked to teach more and more classes and I just kept saying yes.  A good yoga teacher is one who practices, spends time alone daily, checking in with her/him self, body, system, deepest wisdom. One who is receptive, kind, and clear.

    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 Ashtanga mostly, Dharma every now and then, and my version of Yin and Restorative. I don’t think one is most effective for everyone, but for me, Ashtanga works. It demands more and more of me all while showing me all my potentials and all the ways I limit and sabotage myself. It’s a super powerful and transformative practice; very demanding, unforgiving, and inspiring all at once. It has helped calm and regulate my nervous system in ways no other practice has. I also love Dharma Yoga, I see it as a perfect complement to Ashtanga’s straight lines and structure. Dharma yoga invites me to be more devotional, less rigid, calmer, and receptive; more curvilinear. I love and practice Ashtanga Yoga with Tim Feldmann, Faith Scimecca, and David Robson. I practice Dharma Yoga with Dharma Mittra.

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

    Injury and dogma.

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

    I like any hip opener and back bends. They’re just so crucial in helping me remain spacious and grounded and receptive.  My least favorite yoga pose: I can’t think of one. 

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

    Healing from injury, healing from heartbreak, learning to accept myself, and love my body.

    And how about as a teacher?

    Seeing my students move beyond limitations just from a simple comment or them learning how to do something they never thought possible.

    Why do you practice? Why do you teach?

    I practice because it calls me. I love the practice. I don’t have particular goals, I just really love being in silence with my breath and body, observing how I calibrate and change; understanding the microcosm gives me some insight into the macrocosm.  I teach because I love it. I teach from where I practice. Practice has taught me self-referral, self reliance, self respect. All of these can be cultivated, refined, and practiced daily.

    What’s your favorite yoga quote or mantra?

    My favorite yoga quote is from the Yoga Sutras 1:14.  In order for your practice to be grounded and of the earth, it must be done consistently, for a long period of time, with devotion.

    Do you have any recommended yoga reading?

    I like anything by Dharma Mittra, Mooji, Jack Kornfield, Anodea Judith, Caroline Myss, Tara Brach.

    What is your dharma, your life mission?

    To live and share in the experience of realizing who we are in whatever form it takes- for me it’s in the form of practice and teaching. Living and sharing the process of realization via the practice through teaching.

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

    Enjoy it. Learn as much as you can. Trust yourself. Be receptive.

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

    I have developed my own school, Roots Love Yoga, as a way to share more deeply with students. I offer 200 Hour Yoga Teacher Training, 300 Hour Yoga Teacher Training, Yoga Workshops, Retreats, Classes, Online Coaching and Mentorships.

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

    I like all of the Yin classes by Anamargret Sanchez.

    By Marie Belle Perez Rivera

    Practice with Marie Belle on Omstars

    I am grounded in a daily Mysore and Dharma yoga practice. I also love and train hand balancing, rock climbing, and dance; all of it is intuitive movement. It’s all love. I am happy to offer yoga classes, movement retreats, workshops, and intensives in the United States, Bali, Costa Rica, Mexico, India, Europe, and the Caribbean. My life calling and practice has led me to travel the world and immerse myself fully in yoga and meditation through villages in India, Indonesia, Portugal, the crisp blue Caribbean waters, and the heart of Miami Beach. With extensive training as a Psychologist in Social Emotional Development (Ph.D.), Women’s Studies (Graduate Certificate), Reiki, Magnified Healing, and Oneness Awakening, my classes utilize a keen awareness of the intellectual, emotional, and energetic body to empower those who practice consistently, for a long period of time, with devotion. I offer universal intimacy, full of love, honor, and a sweet mix of playfulness, integrity, and discipline. To connect with me, make sure to follow my ongoing journeys via Instagram and Facebook.

  • Demystifying the Mysore Method

    And even if you have some knowledge of what Mysore is, the idea of taking a class may be a bit intimidating.  I totally understand. It is hard to anticipate what you are in for when you think about taking your first Mysore class. However, it really is a very welcoming and inclusive form of yoga practice even for beginners. Maybe especially for beginners. Allow me to clear up some of the haze around the mysterious Mysore Method.

    I teach the Mysore method of Ashtanga Yoga.  Have you heard of it? If you practice any yoga technique you have probably heard of Ashtanga, but Mysore may be a mystery.  And even if you have some knowledge of what Mysore is, the idea of taking a class may be a bit intimidating.  I totally understand. It is hard to anticipate what you are in for when you think about taking your first Mysore class. However, it really is a very welcoming and inclusive form of yoga practice even for beginners. Maybe especially for beginners. Allow me to clear up some of the haze around the mysterious Mysore Method.

    First of all, let’s be clear on what Ashtanga is. Ashtanga Yoga is a vinyasa method. Vinyasa refers to the synchronizing of movement to breath. Breath is the first layer, a steady flowing of in and out, setting the pace and dynamic of your yoga practice. The body’s movement is layered over the constant rhythm of the breath. In a vinyasa method, such as Ashtanga, the postures, moments of stillness, are linked by transitional movement sequences. Every breath has an assignment, either to maintain and deepen the experience within the posture or to transition from one posture to the next. In this way, the mental connection to the practice can remain unbroken. From the first inhalation to the last exhalation, the practitioner is asked to stay focused, stay engaged, stay in their yoga.

    Practice with Angelique LIVE on Omstars

    Ashtanga is a vinyasa method that has a set sequence of postures. You do the same postures in the same order ever time. The sequence is progressive in that each posture is built on the information received from previous ones. There are six series of postures, each one more challenging than the last. The first is referred to as Primary Series, also Yoga Chikitsa, yoga therapy, and is intended to rehabilitate the body. The postures address the main areas of the body: spinal column, hips, knees, shoulders, as well as the internal organs. The intention is to assist in healing old injuries, correcting chronic patterns, and bringing the body to its most optimal neutral state. The second series, referred to as intermediate series, or Nadi Shodana, is a practice of nerve cleansing. This practice deals with purifying the energy channels of the body. The third series and beyond continue to challenge the physical body and the subtle bodies of energy, mind, emotion, and spirit in increasingly deep and intense ways. Each series can take many years to learn and fully integrate. Most practitioners find a lifetime of benefit within the primary series alone. A handful may venture into the intermediate series and only a few work their way into the advanced series of Ashtanga Yoga.

    Mysore then is the traditional self-practice approach to the Ashtanga technique. It derives its name from the city in India, Mysuru, where it developed and where the current head of the lineage continues to live and teach. In a Mysore class, each student moves independently, according to the timing of their own breath, through the sequence of postures as they have learned them from their teacher. The teacher moves through the room, giving assistance, instruction, and guidance as needed on a one on one basis. This method requires a commitment of time and effort. Frequent and consistent practice results in deeper understanding and greater connection to the work of the yoga. It is considered to be a daily practice that includes one day of rest per week, rest on the full and new moons, and rest for women during their monthly cycles.

    When a student new to the practice begins, the teacher provides a lot of attention and instruction, teaching them the beginning sequences of the practice, bit by bit. They do not need to know anything about Ashtanga to begin, they don’t even need to know anything about yoga! The instructor meets them where they are and teaches them the practice at the pace that best suits them. Every practitioner is different and this method honors that. The teacher determines the student’s readiness to progress deeper into the challenges of the practice. As the student mentally integrates the order of postures and physically integrates the information of each pose, the teacher gives them more information; more poses, building slowly and intentionally through the series.

    Practice the Primary Series with Angelique on Omstars

    The nature of the method allows for a significant amount of independence for the student. They are required to memorize the order of postures and to flow through them according to that memory. They are also given the space and time to give attention to areas they struggle with. A student may do one posture two or three times to work on obstacles before continuing through the sequence, or may stay a bit longer in order explore an experience. There is opportunity for each student to do the work they need to do in order to best receive benefit of the practice.

    This method also allows for a relationship to develop between student and teacher. A good teacher of Ashtanga Mysore is assessing your progress as it projects forward into the days, weeks, months, even years to come. They are aiming to develop a program that will help you navigate the practice according to your specific strengths and weakness. Trust grows in this relationship based on an understanding and empathy from the teacher and a knowledge that the teacher has themselves gone through the same process. The student is tasked with finding their teacher, the person they connect with, can trust, and allow the overall guidance of their practice.

    Ashtanga Mysore can be an incredibly transformative yoga practice. The set sequence allows for a daily checking in of progress and the fluctuations caused by…well, life. If the practice remains the same, day to day, what changes? We do. Our physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual states are subject to fluctuations. This is natural. The consistency and structure of the Ashtanga method is the framework within which we can become aware of and assess these fluctuations. As we develop understanding of how our lives affect us, we can make choices. We can learn to respond intentionally rather than react impulsively or out of habit. The set sequence also allows for muscle memory to develop, freeing the focus of the mind to enter a more meditative state. When we no longer have to think about what pose comes next, we can fully immerse in the present, in the sensations of the posture and the thoughts and emotions that arise. We can find and cultivate the inner witness of the present moment, the self that observes and can remain steady within the swirl of distraction. When the self can be at peace, no matter the intensity of the posture, the self can also be at peace no matter what challenges are encountered off the mat.

    By Angelique Sandas

    Angelique Sandas is a life long student of movement and the interconnectedness of mind body and spirit. It began with gymnastics and dance, initiating her love of movement, the body’s natural way of expressing ideas, emotions, and experiences. Angelique received her B.A. in dance from the University of Minnesota, graduating in 1999. It was during these years that she was first introduced to yoga. In yoga, Angelique’s relationship with movement developed new depth and meaning. Movement became a path to profound inner transformation. She was inspired to share what she was learning and felt drawn to teach. In 2003, Angelique traveled to Thailand to study with Paul Dallaghan in the Ashtanga yoga system as taught by Sri K. Pattabhi Jois and received her teaching certification. She has also studied pranayama and yogic philosophy with Sri O.P. Tiwari of the Kaivalyadhama Institute, India and received advanced anatomy and adjustment training from David Keil. Until 2007, Angelique taught and practiced in Chicago. She then moved to Miami Beach where she worked closely in the Ashtanga method with her teacher and mentor Kino MacGregor as well as Tim Feldmann and Greg Nardi at Miami Life Center. Angelique ran the Mysore program at Shanti Yoga Shala in Philadelphia, PA in 2012 – 2013 and Delray Yoga Shala in Delray Beach, FL. 2014 – 2016. Currently, Angelique runs a Mysore program Ashtanga Yoga Palm Beach at Yoga Path Palm Beach in West Palm Beach, FL. During her 2011 visit to study in Mysore, India, Angelique received Authorization to teach Ashtanga Yoga. She remains a dedicated instructor and a devoted student of yoga, growing into the potential of the spirit through it’s physical expression.

  • Moon Day – March 21st Full Moon

    It brings me great joy to offer you our very first Omstars Moon Day Blog Series! I’m nervous, scared, excited, and all things – but you know what?! I decided that I have to do this for myself and not behave the way my mind would want to. It feels good to shed some new skin, push out of our boundaries and shake up what we’re used to doing.

    T he Full Moon enters Libra Wednesday, March 20 at 9:43 PM EST. It’s a rare and powerful event as the Super Moon and Equinox land on this same day. The Equinox in the sign of Aries is about questioning what’s important to us as we connect to our hearts and co-create our reality. Do we want what we see or do we want something different, maybe new? Open to the real potential of you living your wildest dreams.

    We end a cycle most recently with the Sun moving through Pisces that was finishing, closing, wrapping things up from the previous year making way for this time. It’s a culmination of all the inner-work that is going to manifest socially in our relationships and the world. Libra full moon is a time to bring fairness, balance, and right relationships into our lives. Major life issues may come up for transformation and resolution. Significant aspects of your shadow may emerge to be integrated, loved, or acknowledged. Significant challenges may arise for you to change your trajectory to align you with your highest timeline and potential.

    The super full moon in Libra highlights relationships, with restoring the balance of energy shared and given. Pay attention to what comes up for transformation, healing, and resolution. Ease of opportunity to show you a whole new way to show up in your relationships. How do you balance giving and connecting while taking the time to nurture, uplift and support yourself? Go within your practice (meditation, yoga, outdoors), so you can develop and bring greater love and awareness to all relationships. Through this, there is potential for flourishing connections and for the ones out of balance they may fall away. Use your awareness to observe from a place of non-duality. Recognize where the relationship is giving you opportunities to learn and grow. See where it is mirroring to you something about yourself and how you can expand into your higher divine self.

    This year, the equinox point is conjunct Chiron. This conjunction stands out because it is very close together. Chiron is a symbol of holistic healing. It means that 2019 will be the year of holistic healing. The Northern Equinox conjunct Chiron implies that at a collective and individual level, this year we will have the opportunity to restore our wholeness. No matter what needs healing in your life, in the coming year you have the chance to regain your balance and become whole again finally. In these alignments, an opportunity to access higher realms and dimensions of spirit by an influx of divine crystalline light assisting and supporting you in embodying the next level of your highest divine truth. There is a new potential in how we can live our life. We’ve seen the possibility of what we could do, have, and become. It’s a process of rapid reorganization with what no longer serves us. We will have to go down into the lower world and face what’s in there. We will have to open ourselves to the mysteries of the upper world and embrace the unknown. Yes, the journey will not be easy, but it will be worth it. There is no greater gift than restoring one’s wholeness.

    We are not alone as Chiron is also a symbol for mentors, so you can expect to find a mentor that will steer your life in the right direction. You may also find yourself traveling to holy sites to receive messages and spiritual growth. Emotional maturity and connecting with our hearts will enable us to speak our truth. The true you always existed, and now it wants to be living in your physical character, personality, and actual life. Cosmic Service will be more prevalent to raise the consciousness of humanity.

    Get somewhere with a good view low to the eastern horizon at dusk on March 20th. A pale orange moon will appear due east, and quickly become pale yellow. It’s golden for a few minutes if there are clear skies. If not, you’ll have to wait for 29 days until the next one. That’s half the fun.

    I wish you clear skies and wide eyes!

    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 go here: elfeatheryoga.com @el.feather.yoga

  • Parsvakonasana B Pose Guide

    This standing twist of the Ashtanga standing sequence is rather complex with many moving parts. You may find that different teachers approach this pose differently, but each are aiming for the same eventual end. I work this pose by prioritizing three different pieces: the the twist, the foundation, and the hips.

    If you are brand new to this pose, I suggest starting with the back knee down, both knees aligned with about a 90 degree angle. This is a good starting place to end up with the right distance once the legs and feet are in full expression mode. If you feel confident, you can begin with the back leg lifted, but keep it in the parallel position, heel up…. for now. Connect to the front foot as your primary foundation point, and work your opposite arm across the leg, aiming to hook the elbow beyond the knee. Once you get that hook, you can leverage the leg and arm against each other. This establishes a bit of foundational energy and balance control, it also allows you to ratchet your ribcage deeper into the twist. See if you can, reach the floor with the hand, even if it is only fingertips. Press into that connection. More foundational energy. keep the arm across the leg, keep the leg resisting the arm. Remember, the push/pull of that connection is stabilizing energy. As you press deeply into the hand, energy rebounds across the ribcage owning and freeing your twist, reach the upper arm up and over the ear at a diagonal. finally, if you feel stable and if you have accessed your freest twist, bring attention to the back leg. If your knee is down, lift it by reaching the heel back, keeping the hips low, the front knee forward. If that position is stable, find the rotation of the back leg by releasing any tension in the hip joint, roll the thigh externally without dragging the pelvis along. As he hip opens, the heel reaches the floor.

    Piece by piece, bit by bit. Prioritize one element at a time, giving full attention to each without sacrificing the previous. If you loose something along the way, back up, re-establish the previous moment and work there. If this approach doesn’t work for you, try something else! The is rarely an exactly right way to enter a pose. If you understand what the posture is asking of you, and you honor its intention, you will get there!

     

    By Angelique Sandas

  • Cut To The Feeling

    In those classic Hollywood silent films, the big climax was always some exciting chase scene. The hero had lost something, and a mad dash ensues to get it back. Filmmakers of the time knew that too much dialogue would bore the audience and they would lose interest in the movie. Instead, the director would cut straight to the fun excitement of the chase. 

     Believe it or not, there is a similar philosophy in Ashtanga Yoga! 

    The physical postures that we practice, Asana, are not the first or even the second focus of yoga. Classic Yoga texts outline eight principles, of which asana is the third. 

    Instead of exploring all 8 limbs right away, our Guru, Sri K. Pattabhi Jois guided his students towards a physical practice that would include all the branches in one method. He summed up this philosophy simply, by saying that yoga is 99% practice, 1% theory. He laid out a detailed yoga sequence requiring strength, flexibility and focus, leading to ever-growing self-awareness.  

    In the west yoga is often synonymous with a physical fitness routine. Given Jois’ ‘99% practice’ suggestion, that might be an understandable conclusion. But what initially could be perceived as a form of exercise, is in fact a spiritual path.  

    So, ask yourself: In the movie of your life, what have you lost? What are you in pursuit of? Do you wonder why you’re here and what your purpose is? What are you chasing? What do you seek? Do you have big questions? 

    As a teacher of yoga, I could point you towards ancient writings or challenging seated meditations that could potentially help you find true, personal answers to these questions. But instead, I follow the lead of my own teachers and advise you to start a simple, daily practice of yoga asana. You will discover that all the questions and answers come together there! 

    So, when in doubt get physical and cut straight to the feeling. Start with what you know – get in your body and get on your mat. See what happens when you come face to face with yourself. Keep showing up every day, for a long time. Practice with the three big Ds: Dedication, Determination and Devotion. Chase that inner life! 

    By Joseph Armstrong 

    Joseph Armstrong is a yoga teacher at Miami Life Center and the Tierra Santa Spa. Follow him on instagram @josepharmstrongyoga or explore other available Ashtanga style practices on Omstars!

    Explore Your Ashtanga Yoga Practice On OmStars

  • Who needs Yoga?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    By Ty Landrum

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

    Practice Ashtanga with Ty Landrum today on Omstars

  • Omstars New Yoga Challenge Course! Pssst…it’s free!

    The Omstars #30dayyogaliving challenge course has been created to inspire, empower, and get you started on your yoga journey. After the holiday season busyness, returning to work, and family life can be challenging enough, let along to think about movement, practice or anything other than napping. That’s where we come in!

    Start your new year, not with a resolution that may or may not stick around, but by joining the Omstars yoga challenge community this January 2018 and you will kickstart the beginning of a yoga lifestyle. Throughout the #30dayyogaliving course you will be supported by your peers and your teachers, challenged to trust and know your inner strength and be motivated by each new day, each new class and each new experience.

    What you need to know:

    1.) For the entire month of January Omstars will be releasing a new video everyday featuring a variety of teachers, styles and approaches to the practice, which have all been curated by world-renown teacher Kino MacGregor. This course is designed for EVERYONE- there is no right body type, yoga pose, or style of practice, all you need to get started on this journey is the desire to do so.

    2.) To join, click here. No payment details are required, signing up allows you access to the Omstars January #30dayyogaliving challenge course. You’ll also receive a daily email letting you know about the latest video release!

    3.) Then, to win some awesome prizes share you journey on Instagram! Re-post the #30dayyogaliving collage on your instagram, tag @Omstarsofficial along with all of the sponsors and the hashtag #30dayyogaliving. Everyday there will be one new yoga posture that will be posted on Instagram taken from the corresponding day of the video challenge course. To help keep you on track participants will be required to post their own photo of that day’s posture to qualify for prizes. But you can also still do the challenge without sharing your journey on IG—just practice every day for the month of January with us!

    5.) Post for the whole month and you’ll have the chance to win one of 10 prize packs which include;  Liforme yoga mats, a variety of different gift cards and apparel from Sankalpa, Jala, Run & Relax, Liquido, Ohmme, a signed copy of Kino’s book “Yogi Assignment”, one of 50 limited edition Omstars January Challenge Tanks and much more!

    The #30dayyogaliving one month challenge course with Omstars is an opportunity to kickstart the new year by inspiring you to get on your mat and practice! You will create more peace, get established in healthy living, increase mindfulness, and embark on living the yogi life. Starting something new can be a time to let go of unhelpful habits, thought patterns and cycles. It doesn’t mean that the month will be easy, or that it won’t be challenging to continue on after January, but by committing to #30dayyogaliving  and joining Omstars you will firmly establish yourself in a routine of healthy, positive and transformative practices. You will become a part of not only a community but of a movement, inviting Yoga into your everyday life, bringing peace into your body, into your mind and into your spirit. 

    Get excited, get involved and join us for our January Challenge!

    By Anna Wechsel

    Join the Omstars January Yoga Challenge Today!

  • Navasana: it’s all about balance

    Navasana gets me every time in a Led Ashtanga Yoga class. No matter how much I practice or how many extra breaths I take on my own, I always suffer when I get to this point in the practice. Since Navasana is traditionally repeated five times it gets increasingly more intense. The first round usually ignites a mild burning sensation in the core. The last round culminates in shaking, burning and emotional anguish. Each time I jump back I feel like a survivor.

    But, you probably wouldn’t see that from watching me practice. The hidden secret of the practice is that often times what looks equanimous and peaceful from the outside corresponds with a great deal of effort and grit on the inside. Knowing how to distribute your effort most efficiently means that you will be able to maintain a balanced state of mind regardless of the challenge. Finding that sweet spot in Navasana begins by changing your focus from lifting the legs to the inner work of the pelvic floor.

    The key to finding good balance in Navasana is to orient both your effort and attention to the pelvic floor. Not only do you need a strong core but you need to distribute your weight between your sitting bones in order to feel comfortable in this asana. Translated into English as the Boat Pose, in Navasana you have to focus on building a firm hull so that your ship won’t sink.

    Start off in a seated position, then bend your knees, place the soles of the feet on the floor and keep the legs together. Root the heads of your femurs into their sockets and begin activating the pelvic floor. Allow a gentle roundedness in the base of the pelvis, in the space between the sitting bones and the tailbone. Contract the anus and the pelvic muscles and draw the lower abdomen inwards. Avoid trying to balance on the tips of your sitting bones. Use a subtle rounding of the base of the pelvis to be your connection into the ground. Especially if you have a bony protrusion around your tailbone, you will find t useful to soften into a more rounded root. Next, lengthen the torso, relax the next and straighten the arms. Then, to enter Navasana, shift your chest back  just to counterbalance the weight of your legs, come up onto the tips of your toes and inhale as your lift and straight the legs. Gaze towards the toes and stay for five breaths.

    By Kino MacGregor

    Practice with Kino and watch the Navasana episode of Yoga Encyclopedia

    Watch Yoga Encyclopedia for more asana tips & breakdowns

     

  • Asana as inner dialogue

    Many of us who practice yoga have heard the quote from the ancient text Bhagavad Gita that “Yoga is a journey of the self, through the self, to the self”. Yoga is a means of self discovery that is all. Simple, right? Maybe not at first.

    In another ancient text, The Yoga Sutras, Patanjali presents an eight-limbed path of yogic practices to guide us on that journey. The eight limbs include: how we interact with our world, how we treat ourselves, the physical practice of asana, breathing practices, sense withdrawal, concentration, meditation and finally, liberation. When we learn about the multi-faceted method of yoga from Patanjali we often come to a question: why is there so much attention on the body contorting, shape taking, third limb, asana?

    In this reality, we happen to exist in a physical form, the human body. This form dictates certain rules of our experience, based on our five senses. Through the senses we receive information about our world, our environment, and other humans. But how do we receive information about ourselves? We begin with our senses and then cultivate a way to turn further and further inward. The body is gross rather than subtle, easy to detect and observe. As we move it around, take shapes, hold positions, challenge it’s mobility, we are able to receive information, and then interpret it.

    As we turn our senses on ourselves, we begin to refine this method of communication, developing the vocabulary, establishing context for greater understanding. In attempting to create the shape of a posture, we look at our feet placement, use references of the room to adjust our alignment, refer to the parallel lines of our mats, and eventually depend only on our own bodies as visual reference. We use the focus of the gaze to align our attention and energy to the intention of the posture. Tuning in to the sounds of our breath helps to avoid distractions in our environment. Suddenly we no longer hear the breathing of another student, a door closing, or traffic on the street outside. Our breath becomes the only thing we hear. Like the act of an inhalation moves air from the space around us to the space inside of our lungs, so also do we move our attention from the spaces outside to the spaces within.

    In the beginning, we identify most physical sensation as pain. But over time and with experience, we begin to refine our understanding of the feedback coming from our bodies. We learn the difference between the feeling of stretch in the muscles and the burning of strength exertion. We begin to categorize our sensations as tolerable and beyond our limits, as safe and risky. As we take ourselves deeper into our bodies, we notice sensation in the joints and develop understanding of what they mean. A sensation that is new is often frightening, so we pause and pay attention.

    There is communication along the nervous system, linking the awareness of the mind with the sensations of the body. Each of us connect to ourselves in different ways. Like speaking different languages, down to the unique dialects, accents, slang. As we learn a new language, we often need to ask someone to speak slowly so that we can identify the subtleties of articulation, enunciation, and delivery. The same is true of the communication in our bodies. By moving slowly into the sensations we experience – by focusing our attention – we can gather more nuanced information. Over time we develop context from our previous experiences and we increase our vocabulary. We learn to not only identify the shouting sensations from deep stretches and long holds, but we learn to acknowledge the whispering sensations of the smallest movements in our deepest bodies. Where at first all we notice is our screaming hamstring, eventually we become aware of the sensation of the thigh bone rotating in the hip socket, or the gentle pull of the psoas drawing the inner thigh and low back towards each other, even the squeeze of our internal organs as we compress with a twist or a carefully placed foot.

    So what is doing the learning? We often think of the mind as the preferred mode of understanding. But the mind itself is a tricky beast. How do you know what you know? This is a topic for another ten pages of contemplation! With regards to the inner communications of the body, the mind can often get in the way. As we try to think our way into postures – into our body – we close ourselves off to any information that doesn’t fit the mind’s current understanding of things. The mind cannot lead the way. It too has to sit in observation, as witness. At most it is an interpreter in the conversation, gathering data, providing reference, mapping experiences, giving background, building bridges, and filling in gaps. If it remains a supportive player in the conversation, it limits influence, and understanding is allowed to be fluid – to alter, adjust, and develop according to experience rather than pre-established beliefs. There is a deeper aspect of self that is learning.

    If our internal communication system can be so refined as to receive the information coming from the body, it can also learn the subtler language of the mind, and emotions. As witness, we can observe the tendencies of our thinking mind and our emoting heart-space. As we struggle with the physical body, our mind also sends us feedback. It tells us we are not strong enough. It tells us our arms are too short. It tells us we will never be as good as that other practitioner over there. We turn judgment on ourselves, become angry or sad or frustrated. If we are using the same skills we developed with our physical self, we receive the information slowly, identify its source, its nature. Without surrendering to its shouting, we can soothe it to a whisper. Context develops around the communication: the sources of judgmental thoughts, the truth or untruth of our beliefs, whether or not the thoughts and emotional responses serve us, benefit us. Within the space of intentional, directed inner dialogue, we can make choices. We can identify who we really are and choose how we present that to the world.

    The body is a tool to develop our communication skills. Those skills are directed ever deeper and deeper into ourselves. We journey through the body, the mind, the emotions to the true nature of ourselves. The self that is beyond the fluctuations of our environment, beyond the fluctuations of our bodies, the tendencies of our minds, and our emotional reactions. We become intentionally responsive rather than impulsively reactive. We trust ourselves because we know ourselves. From that space we can learn to eventually exist in our truest, purest self, the self that yoga calls Atman.

    By Angelique Sandas

     

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