• An Unmoving Mountain: Reflections from a 10 Day Vipassana Course

    I felt the need to run away, away from the work they were asking me to put in. I was looking for distractions in conversations, emails, planning, doing. I quickly realized I wouldn’t have access to any of them for 10 full days. At first, being there sitting from moment to moment, I wanted to do anything else.

    Reintegrating into daily life is easier than I thought it would be. 

    It’s the day after I completed my first 10 day vipassana course and reintegrating into daily life is easier than I thought it would be, because going from no talking, only sitting with yourself to interacting with the outside world and answering emails should feel abrupt. Or at least I thought it would. For the time being I’ve undone my knee jerk reaction of reaching for my phone, because I feel more settled in my own skin, and somehow that makes being in the world simpler.

    The happiness of liberation. 

    I was given the opportunity to participate in a vipassana course, ten days of silence learning one of India’s most ancient techniques of meditation. Vipassana was rediscovered by Gotama Buddha more than 2500 years ago and passed down to the present day by an unbroken line of teachers. It is taught as a ‘universal remedy for universal ills’ aiming for the total eradication of mental impurities and the resulting happiness of liberation.

    I was looking for distractions. 

    Nestled in the Rocky Mountains with not a town or neighbor in sight, I was asked not to communicate in any way. I sat with myself, in silence, alongside 50 others. Initially, I felt the need to run away, away from the work they were asking me to put in. I was looking for distractions in conversations, emails, planning, doing. I quickly realized I wouldn’t have access to any of them for 10 full days. At first, being there sitting from moment to moment, I wanted to do anything else. But what? Why?

    Before external action there’s an internal sensation. 

    With the Vipassana technique we work with felt sensation in the body. Before external action there’s an internal sensation, and according to the technique it’s at this level we need to think about transformation. Our subconscious experiences a sensation it’s come to associate with pleasure, and we automatically act towards it (cravings), it experiences another sensation associated with pain and we act to avoid it (aversions). We are asked to observe and dissect these subtle and gross sensations by observing the moment before the automatic reaction towards or against the sensation and re-route.

    A sensation in the body that will eventually pass. 

    We re-route to simply being there with the sensation and thereby break its association with pleasure or pain. We observe it for what it is – a sensation in the body that will eventually pass. Before bringing our awareness there, our actions and the way we are in the world, seem to only be interfaced with experiences outside us, which leads us to believe it’s someone or something else dictating our reality. That notion that its me, it’s always been me—or rather my unconscious mind calling the shots by reacting to those sensations – flooded my understanding.

    Our subconscious mind has come to associate the sensations. 

    An example to paint a picture – you have a big presentation coming up and you get anxious. Our subconscious mind has come to associate the sensations that come with anxiety with something to push away, so the usual avoidance strategy kicks in. We spin out, go over in our heads the worst possible outcomes, maybe figure out a way to bail, or we say something to bring someone else down. With vipassana, we are asked to observe the anxiety and bring the discomfort to our conscious mind. Feel the tension and how it actually feels in the body. For me, it’s a knot in the throat, shallow breathing, tightness in the chest.

    They are just energy vibrating without our awareness. Until they aren’t. 

    The pleasures and discomforts are merely sensations felt in the body that shouldn’t be labeled. They shouldn’t be considered good or bad, right or wrong, craving or aversion. They are just energy vibrating without our awareness. Until they aren’t. Until we become aware and discover the mind body connection and how that determines our external world. The process put forth by this technique seemed almost scientific to me. We feel the sensations and retrain our bodies and minds to not react by our deeply rooted patterns of attachment and aversion, patterns ingrained internally by past experiences. We do this by observing objectively. From this space we can retrain our actions to be less reactive and therefore less tainted and more connected to our authenticity. If all our reactions and unconscious patterns were to be erased, there would be nothing fogging our view of the present moment, and we could experience the world as it is.

    You can consciously choose your next set of actions. 

    Back to the example – by observing the anxiety, you settle the mind on the body, into the present. Maybe you watch the anxiety pass soon after, or it remains until after the presentation is over. Either way, the anxiety is there but it’s not taking hold of you dictating your actions. You can consciously choose your next set of actions from a clearer state of mind. It’s not easy and it’s something that takes practice. It takes doing it consistently in a daily seated meditation practice, when your effort is focused on objectively observing the sensations in the body, for it to be a new way of operating out in the world, when the attention is mostly outwards.

    The work needs to start beneath the surface. 

    Changing external circumstances is useless because the method of perceiving and interacting with the world would remain the same. In other words, you’d be looking at something different on the outside, but the lens through which you’re looking would be the same, with that same warped tint. There would be the same unconscious reactions to things feeling good or getting tough, so from where you’re standing the world would look the same. The work needs to start beneath the surface for real change to happen. You don’t change the presentation, you change your reaction to the anxiety that comes up because of the presentation.

    Around the 4th day the staying got bearable. 

    The first 3 days were mentally challenging. Getting through an hour of just sitting in the same room, never mind not changing positions just yet, was hard. Really. Hard. I had to come up against all the reasons why that was so difficult and find the mental determination to overcome them. I had to tell myself to just wait it out and no matter what I wasn’t going to run back to my room (sometimes we had the option of meditating in our rooms but I knew I would just take a nap or start stretching to distract myself). So I stayed, and stayed and stayed. At some point, I think around the 4th day the staying got bearable, and I was able to face the next challenge—staying without moving. That’s when the pain came. To some extent the physical pain was easier for me to deal with: there were moments it was excruciating, but it felt like something tangible to work with, whereas the mental discomforts of restlessness were so hard to pinpoint in my body. But the sharp precise pain was a clear place to rest my mind. The challenge at this point came from observing objectively, removing the mental anguish from the physical pain and simply witnessing the sensation within the body. I went in.

    There was one particular experience during the 10 days. 

    When there was discomfort there was pain, uneasiness, anxiety, more pain, sadness, a scattered mind and then more pain. And then there was the other side of ease, calm and glimpses of peace. I watched and trusted that what I was told was true—there’s always another side, and it’s worth going through the pain to get to the other side. There was one particular experience during the 10 days where I was able to observe the pain without reacting and see through to the other side of pain. I watched as the intense pain in my left shoulder was broken down into vibrations moving faster and stronger, taking all my attention. I studied it long enough to eventually watch it dissolve into the sea of vibrations contained in the rest of the physical, energetic body.

    I couldn’t let this experience inform future ones. 

    There’s a catch though, in this process of looking through to the other side of pain. After moving through the pain in my left shoulder, I felt good. The vibrations dissolving into the rest of the body felt ecstatic. It felt so good that I wanted more of it and just like that I was again caught up in the cycle of craving. I faced another challenge—continuing with objective awareness even as the gross sensation passed and the other side was sensed. Moreover, I couldn’t let this experience inform future ones. I needed (and still do) to develop the capacity to observe for the sake of observation, not for the promise of a particular sensation arriving or disappearing. Instead there should be genuine objective observation, without the expectation of a particular outcome.

    I was with myself and that’s it. 

    Another profound part of this course was the silence. No talking, no communicating in any way with anyone (unless you had an emergency you could talk to the course administrators). Since I wasn’t communicating externally all my attention was internal for 10 full days. I was with myself and that’s it. The first couple days I realized just how much actually goes on in my head. With no other noise to cover it up, it was all I could hear. Then to watch as these thoughts slowly faded as the days went by felt so settling. It was a relief to know that all the thoughts, conversations and stories created in there aren’t really necessary. I had this deeply rooted idea that I needed to keep these thoughts active to maintain a valuable identity.

    Who am I without these stories?

    Who am I without these stories? Who am I without the person that comes up to interact with others? Who am I without people around me I know and share a common life with? Who am I without a job to do and people around me telling me that I am doing it well? Who am I without my parents and family showing me where I came from and those who came before me? Who am I without all the distractions covering up who I really am underneath all that? I think these are all questions that will take a lifetime (probably more) to discover and definitely a 10 day course didn’t answer for me. But what it did do was offer a path to understand that the labels we give ourselves can’t define who we truly are because they are always changing, in the same way the sensations in our bodies are always changing.

    I knew I just wanted out to distract myself from the work. 

    There were moments I wanted to run after the next car that passed and beg them to take me with them. There were moments I grew so restless and agitated knowing I needed to be there for another day and another… but the bigger picture of getting through day by day (rather than getting through one sit) put things in perspective for me yet again. Why did I need to get out of the course? To be who? To do what? I would continue being the same person out there that I was in the course. No matter where I go, I’ll be there, with the same reactions, cravings, aversions, with my insides reflected on the outside. I knew I just wanted out to distract myself from the work. Wholeheartedly coming to terms with all this gave me the determination about halfway through to really get down to work. To look in and keep looking in and keep looking in. I found the determination to put in the work. And that’s something I wasn’t prepared for—just how much effort this would require.

    What first meets the eye isn’t the whole story. 

    It was amazing to me, and still is that I experienced this whole process through the means of looking inside, by my own effort! Every sensation I experienced, whether mental or physical, came and went. To experience the reality of impermanence inside myself was a sort of paradigm shift in the way I see myself, but also beyond that – how I see the way events and people unfold before me. What first meets the eye isn’t the whole story. It’s just a glimpse of a moment in time. There is so much more. There’s the inner world, the whole story of the entire universe. To think we understand someone or something fully by only perceiving the superficial external aspect in a particular moment is misleading. Because that will change and therefore we must look deeper. What we’ll find is true for everything—nothing lasts forever. People aren’t set as the person you see or think they are. Events aren’t set in one condition. I think it’s important to re-learn the people we think we know and to look at situations with a new perspective. Refusing to accept the truth of impermanence will only lead to suffering, because contrary to what the subconscious is trained to believe, nothing lasts forever, so we might as well surrender.

    There’s nothing about us that remains the same. 

    The mountains surrounding the center helped me get through the course and understand the process I was going through. They hovered over me, strong, stable and unmoving throughout the entire 10 days; yet their external appearance never the same as the sun rose and set, the shadows and the way the sun rested on their sides was always changing. Likewise, we are always changing—our minds, bodies, ideas, everything. There’s nothing about us that remains the same, yet we act like we are this one unchanging being with a perfectly constructed image. An image that can so easily be shattered at any moment. Only awareness is always there looking out— the unmoving mountain.

    This course is truly accessible to anyone. 

    To learn more about Vipassana 10 day courses taking place all over the world, visit https://www.dhamma.org/ This course is truly accessible to anyone! No prior meditation experience is necessary, although having a daily practice of even 10 minutes a day is helpful. They even give the option to sit in a chair, if sitting on the floor is uncomfortable. I highly recommend participating in one and I’d be happy to answer any questions you have about the course, just reach out. For some guided meditations of varying lengths, check out my YouTube channel.

    By Monica Arellano

    Meditate with Monica Arellano

    Monica’s teachings are informed by the knowledge carried on from her teachers and the first-hand experience from her daily asana and meditation practice. Her classes emphasize the breath, alignment, proper foundations and methods of concentration; in hopes of exploring the deeper intention of Asana and the resulting expression in each student’s unique body and mind. In this space, she believes we can deconstruct unhealthy patterns, facilitate healing on many levels, and find our way back to the most honest version of ourselves.

  • Yoga Pose Tips: Upward Facing Dog

    Upward facing dog is the first posture where you start to establish the patterns for back bending.  It’s the patterns that are going to eventually help you get into the deeper and more advanced back bends.

    When I’m stuck in an advanced posture I always go back to its building blocks in basic postures, which are conveniently placed at the beginning of every Ashtanga yoga sequence. I imagine this will be a lifelong process of going back to the foundations and finding more subtler experiences of them. Which is why I think an intro class can serve any level. It’s intended for beginners but there’s something to learn for any level practitioner when slowing things down and allowing ourselves the space to rediscover the inner workings of a basic posture.

    Establish the patterns for back bending.

    It’s important to create the right foundation right from the beginning with upward facing dog. In order to do that, we’re going to come into a sphinx position, to start to understand some of the movement mechanics involved in upward facing dog. Where your forearms are on the ground, and your elbows are underneath your shoulders.  First thing, you’re going to point the toes, and press the tops of the feet into the mat.  Engaging the legs, and lifting the knee caps. And then you’re going to pull the lower belly in, towards the spine.

     

    Create space in the front side of the body, a main objective of back bending.

    And this part is really important. You’re going to press the elbows down. Shoulders down.  You are going to sort of like drag the elbows back towards your ribs.  You’re pushing the elbows back towards the ribs.  That gives you the leverage to push the ribcage forward, and up, away from the hips. This helps to create space in the front side of the body, which is one of the main objectives in back bending.  Pressing the tops of the feet into the mat, engaging through the legs, and then moving the elbows back.  Ribcage forward, stretching the front side of the body.

    Translate the principles of Sphinx into Upward Facing Dog.

    Translating these same principles into upward facing dog, you bring your hands underneath the shoulders.  Straighten the arms. Press the shoulders down.  Tops of the feet on the mat.  Press into the tops of the feet.  Engage through the legs.  Drag the hands back.  Ribcage forward, as you pull the lower belly in towards the ribs. Shoulders down, and breathe.

    Practice with Monica Arellano

    By Monica Arellano

    Monica Arellano is a Level 2 Authorized teacher in the Ashtanga Yoga Method; a formal blessing received by her teacher R. Sharath Jois in Mysore, India. She first connected with the practice of yoga in 2010, looking for a more peaceful way of being. When she found her way to Miami Life Center in 2014 she began a regular Ashtanga Yoga practice and soon after completed a 2 year apprenticeship program under Tim Feldmann. Today she continues to practice, teach and travel regularly to Mysore, India to learn yoga directly from the source. 

    Monica’s teachings are informed by the knowledge carried on from her teachers and the first-hand experience from her daily asana and meditation practice. Her classes emphasize the breath, alignment, proper foundations and methods of concentration; in hopes of exploring the deeper intention of Asana and the resulting expression in each student’s unique body and mind. In this space, she believes we can deconstruct unhealthy patterns, facilitate healing on many levels, and find our way back to the most honest version of ourselves.

  • Be Strong Yoga Challenge with Kino MacGregor

    Increase your strength with Omstars Members Be Strong Yoga Challenge. In this 13-Day challenge, Kino MacGregor will share her personal experience from years of practice and exploration, passing on the the tools you need to safely progress to develop your strength.

    Strength doesn’t happen overnight, but as you complete these classes you’ll lay the foundation you need to have a safe home yoga practice. Use this challenge to take your strength to a whole new level and transform not only your practice but your life. The most important part: Remember to have fun, believe in yourself, and never give up!

    In the Be Strong Challenge you will:

    • Learn the building blocks of strength.
    • Integrate body, mind, and soul as you train yourself to be strong both mentally and physically.
    • Find inspiration and support with daily emails, our online community & Kino’s expert guidance.

    Sign Up Today!

    The decision to be strong is a statement of self-worth. When you decide you’re worth it, you also decide that you’re willing to put in the work to be strong. It’s a shift in the heart that says, yes, I’m good enough.

    Join this challenge and expect to be, well, challenged. Strength is hard work and building strength takes time, patience and determination. The lesson of strength took me years to integrate in body, mind and soul. I designed this challenge so that you can learn all the tools I learned on my journey and safely progress deeper in your practice. It doesn’t matter if you get it right on the first try.

    In fact, you should expect to fail and then slowly build up from there. Learning how to be happy with failure is one of the lessons of strength. If you need to get it perfectly on the first try, then you’re in a competition. We are here to learn and grow, not to compete with ourselves or anyone else. It only matters that you try and learn from your experience.

    The 13 classes of this challenge build you up from the basics and take you all the way to the peaks of the strength. This journey has taken Kino over 20 years so be patient with yourself as you commit to the process.

    Daily Poses:

    1. Hands to a T-Shape
    2. Full Navasana
    3. Full Plank
    4. Chaturanga
    5. Pinchamayurasana
    6. Side Plank / Vashishtasana
    7. L-Sit
    8. Tittibhasana
    9. Handstand Tuck
    10. Crossed-Leg Lift Up
    11. Handstand Pike Position
    12. Parsva Bakasana (straight arms)
    13. Meditation Seated Pose

    Daily emails will include modifications to make the practice truly accessible! Remember to have fun, believe in yourself and never give up.

    Are you ready? Join Now! 

     

    By Kino MacGregor & Omstars

     

  • Yoga, Journaling, and the Healing Power of Self-Discovery

    The human experience on this Earth is one that often comes with discomfort, pain, confusion and suffering. Our job, as human beings, is to navigate our way through the challenges presented to us in life so that we can find healing. This is what it takes to make our way back to our own essential natures, which are peace, love, beauty, and bliss.

    Yoga, Journaling and the Healing Power of Self-Discovery

    My belief is that the key to healing is self-discovery. As we begin to know ourselves more and more, the truth of our own essential nature becomes more apparent – like sifting through mud to find natural treasures buried beneath. Unfortunately, we cannot simply decide to know ourselves, snap our fingers and make it so. Self-discovery is a process that we must be fully dedicated to for it to unfold.

    Up to this point in my life, yoga is one of the most powerful tools for self-discovery that I’ve come across yet; and journaling, I’ve found, can be a pivotal piece in our ability to process that which we discover. We can think of yoga as the lens we use to see and capture the most beautiful pieces of ourselves, and journaling as the mechanism for focusing and zooming in so that the image becomes clear.

    As we do the work of capturing the most beautiful parts of ourselves, often times, we have to sift through our own muck first. Remember the discomfort, pain, confusion and suffering I mentioned earlier? These things often build themselves onto our being like a thick muck that keeps us from tapping into our essential nature. Both yoga and journaling can also help us with chipping away at our muck.

    If you’re already a yoga practitioner, it’s possible that you’ve been able to encounter the beautiful pieces of yourself on more than one occasion. When you’re ready to begin the work of processing and further developing your understanding of those things, so that you can integrate them into your life effectively, journaling could be the next step.

    Develop a Journaling Practice

    One of the best things about journaling is that there are no rules and you can choose to develop your practice in whatever way suits you. Whether you’re the kind of person who likes to make lists, build out thoughtful essays, write through stream of consciousness or just sketch and doodle, you can develop a journal practice.

    One of my favorite ways to journal is through stream of consciousness. A good yoga practice can help us tap into that essential nature I was talking about – the part of each of us that is peace, beauty, love and bliss. So, whenever I practice yoga at home, I like to lay out my mat and keep my journal close by. Then, after I move through my practice and/or meditation, I’ll grab my journal and just write down whatever thoughts pop into my head. Trusting that the words I come up with are either helping me work through the muck that blocks me from my essential nature, or helping me to focus in on that essential nature is key.

    Stream of consciousness journaling isn’t always easy for everyone, however; especially those who are newer to the practice of journaling. That’s where journal prompts come in. Using prompts to guide your journaling practice can help you focus on certain aspects of your life and yourself. You can choose to pair these prompts and your journal time with your yoga practice or keep them separate. Ultimately, working with prompts will help you let the process of self-discovery unfold in specific ways.

    When you’re ready to deepen your connection with the truth of who you really are, Omstars will be here to support you with yoga practices, meditations AND journal prompts. A membership with Omstars will give you access to regular practices and meditations; following @omstarsofficial on Instagram will give you access to weekly journal prompts.

    Every Friday, Omstars will share a new journal prompt that will help you develop a deeper understanding of yourself, your yoga practice and the world around you. Each month’s journal prompts will focus on a different overarching theme and each individual prompt within that theme will build upon the other. Ultimately, these prompts are designed to help create an organic unfolding of self-discovery and movement towards healing that can be supported through the practice of yoga. Plus, there will even be downloadable worksheets that you can print out and use to put together your own journal as you go.

    The human experience always comes with discomfort, pain, confusion and suffering in some form or another. Begin the work that will help you transcend these elements of humanity when you join us in this journey of healing and self-discovery through yoga and journaling. Let this be the beginning of a path that leads you back to your own essential nature of peace, love, beauty, and bliss. Sign up for your Omstars membership to practice with us every day and follow us on Instagram to journal with us every week!

    Download the Free Flow Friday Journal Template

    By Alex Wilson

    Alex C. Wilson is a SWFL based Writer, Certified Yoga Instructor and Ayurveda Yoga Specialist who is dedicated to helping others establish a strong sense of mental and emotional well-being. After spending much of her life in a state of depletion as a result of being fully dedicated to others, Yoga taught Alex how to first, be dedicated to herself. Now she spends her time helping others create more space for their own healing and self-discovery without ever letting her own cup become empty in the process. See more from Alex by following her on Instagram or visiting her website at www.alexcwilson.com.

     

     

  • Ayurvedic Potion: Adaptogenic Golden Mylk

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

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

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

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

    Golden Mylk Powder Mixture

    • Turmeric
    • Ginger
    • Black Pepper
    • Ashwaghanda

    Golden Mylk Potion

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

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

    Learn more with Sahara’s Ayurveda course on Omstars

    By Sahara Rose Ketabi

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

  • Challenge Update: Supporting Young Families in India

    Last year, Omstars teamed up with Sahara Rose and Bhakti Chai for the #EatLikeAYogi challenge. Through this challenge, we had a goal to raise funds for the non-profit organization, OneProsper, in effort to help them support young girls living in the Thar Desert of India. We are pleased to announce that through this incredible challenge, we were able to raise a total of $5,000 for OneProsper, which enabled them to sponsor 10 girls living in the Thar Desert of India.

    By March 2019, these girls will start attending school rather than walking 5-7 hours per day to collect water. This is an amazing feat, and we couldn’t have done it without the support of our amazing community of yogis. Thank you so much for your helping us achieve this goal!

    One of the girls sponsored by OneProper is called Gita. At the beginning of the program, back in August of 2017, Gita would accompany her mother in walking hours each day in the searing desert heat to collect water.  Gita and her siblings frequently faced stomach pains as a result of drinking dirty water.  Together, this family lived in a basic shelter made from tree branches and four poles.  Most importantly, Gita was not able to attend school because she was busy helping her mother to collect water and complete chores.

    Thanks to your support, OneProsper has built a rainwater harvesting tank with a bio sand filter for Gita’s family.  Gita received a bicycle, school supplies and tuition to attend school. OneProsper provided Gita’s mother with seeds and training to grow crops for nutrition and income.

    Today, Gita’s life is filled with books.  She attends school on a daily basis thanks to a brand-new rainwater harvesting tank and bio sand filter. Free from walking hours to collect water, Gita’s mother has found work and is building a new home made of bricks. What a wonderful accomplishment for this beautiful family. We are so honored to have had the opportunity to support Gita and her family, plus the 9 others just like them.

    Unfortunately, this work is not over yet. There are countless other families out there, just like Gita’s, who need our support. Knowing this, Omstars has plans to team up with OneProsper for another challenge at some point this year. Stay tuned.

     

    By Alex Wilson &  Raju Agarwal

  • Practice Yoga Online with OMstars – Your Yoga Network

    As more and more people become aware of the benefits of yoga, more and more people are starting to look for places to practice yoga online. Even though there are plenty of yoga studios in communities all around the world, many people still prefer to practice from the comfort of their own homes. That’s where OMstars comes in.

     

    Whether you’re completely new to yoga or you’re already a dedicated yogi, OMstars offers something for everyone. From the free yoga classes that come with our regular challenges, to our entire library of easy to follow practices, meditations, wellness videos, cultural shows and more, OMstars is your go to place for all things yoga. Plus, we’re yogi owned!

     

    OMstars.com was founded in faith by world renowned Ashtanga yoga teacher, Kino MacGregor. Students wanted a place where they could, not only practice yoga online, but totally immerse themselves into the world of yoga, all from the comfort of their own homes. So, with a lot of hard work and dedication, plus support from Kino’s friends, family members, and the global yoga community, OMstars was born.

     

    The best part is, because we are a yogi owned company, we are not backed by a major corporation, or big parent company and there is no venture capital private equity. It’s just us. That means, OMstars is the only place where yoga is not only bottom line, but it’s truly at the heart of everything we do.

     

    We are yogis and we tell the story of yoga. From our at home yoga practices and yoga instructor interviews to our plant based recipes and our philosophy courses, we carry the heart of yoga with us.

     

    We make the tools of traditional yoga practice available to everyone and we unite ancient techniques with modern life.

     

    If you’re a truth seeker, we’re here to light the spiritual path for you, every step of the way, and we want to inspire you to dive into your yoga and start living the yogi life.

     

    We host challenges, and share free yoga classes that help us raise money for causes we believe in, so we can empower yogis to change the world. We are a force of change, a global yoga movement, and we are your window into the world of yoga.

     

    We carry the torch of yoga, lead you to the true light, and create the spark that sets your world on fire.

     

    So, if you’re looking for a place where you can practice yoga online from the comfort of your own living room, without being tied to a yoga studio; if you’re looking for an all encompassing platform that offers more than just yoga practices at home; or you’re looking for an online yoga community that’s number one goal is to share the gift of yoga with everyone; then you’ve come to the right place.

     

    We are OMstars and we are yoga.

    By Alex Wilson

    Alex Wilson is a writer, yoga teacher, Ayurveda Yoga Specialist, and the content manager here at OMstars.com
  • Suffering, Transformation, & The New Reality

    Needless to say, there is suffering. Part of suffering is unavoidable. Small sufferings can wreak havoc momentarily as we attend educational programs, training, relocate, have a child or suffer the loss of a loved one. Often suffering is not the cause of something that was unforeseen though not desired. The word “change” means that something will be made different. It does not say how. We often hear the famous quote “Be the change you…” without taking into account that in order to be change, it is a position elected for one comfortably moving into that which is different, unknown, change itself.

    One of the first ways to seek out the imbalance in Ayurveda is by creating routine. Dinacharya, or a daily care, allows a reset to transpire. The regular, consistency is also crucial in a yoga practice. This daily practice, usually aimed at self-realization, is referred to as sadhana. At root of that work, we have ‘sadʼ to find truth. Seeking change is different than seeking truth. Change can come if we call it but truth is exploring that which is universal and simultaneously internally

    stationary.

    When we seek truth rather than transformation we create stability in our own light. The change can move around us rather than through us. This sets us up for what I refer to as a shift in our psycho-spiritual framework.

    What does this look like?

    Professor Narasimhan and Dr. M.A. Jayashree presented this concept of a metabolic state to me. Think of a coned, funnel standing on the tip. Easy to knock over. Now imagine it balanced on the mouth. Harder, however you can still push it over. If you leave the funnel on its side and push it, it spins in a complete circle. You see it moving but the center of it looks still. The change spins around the fixed point.

    Taking this concept into the framework I mention above it is not as simple as okay, Iʼve knocked the funnel over, I understand. The mind is often not prepared for this change. As Samkya philosophy and yoga introduce there are plenty of dualistic views; good and bad; hot and cold, etc., yet some are blurry to us: pain and pleasure; happiness and sadness. They become blurry as we usually seek to fulfill one that is appealing and avoid one that is potential suffering or painful.

    Patanjali, author of the “Yoga Sutras” spoke of this very concept as part of what is termed “avidya” which is not seeing clearly or with knowledge. This provides us with some word weaponry. One is that knowledge is not merely what you know. It is what you can access, experience and conceive within living. Further, sight is not limited by what you see but it can be limited by avoidance, fear, egoism and demands we place in the world. You can imagine that when the view, or our sight is reactive and operating from avidya that it is incredibly difficult to have a desired, long term outcome that creates stability. In turn, our ideals, mind, get caught up in the spinning of change and it appears as if this is happening to us. That we are in fact here to suffer in the world.

    I am not going to pretend to know anotherʼs suffering and will not ask you to understand that which I have suffered. Perspective, understanding brings about empathy and this is one of the beauties of being a sentient being. You can actually care for someone else. And you can feel for them. That is amazing in itself. Going into that amazing, intimacy, suffering, healing, feeling, each of us also possess a quality which is unique to us. Dharma, which has many definitions, but we will expand into individual purpose. I have noticed in mentoring and teaching and talking to people about life, that we most suffer and experience pain when we are missing or forgetting purpose. Not our occupation but our purpose.

    Another beauty with yoga is it is not for a select few with an unlimited clothing budget, but is readily available to all as it aims at self-identity and realization and part of that is purpose. Our own dharma is a guide. When we move with that, the mind is clear, steady and the movements around us are like a dance. We feel the vibration of the world, people, places and in height or downturn but constant and steady amongst the change.

    Transformation is experienced by feeling our way, growing in the shit and allowing our findings to push into the light. Change is the way in which we transform and it bring us from known to unknown. This can be made steady by dropping the identity in which we had before. Classically, when a siddha (master of yoga) would pierce these states, they would change their name. This is common in yoga by identity but classical is earned through initiation process and reflected purpose and not a cool name that you saw or heard. You lived by the name, reflected in sound and breath and an aspect of the energy that poured through you. That you danced that way, dreamed that way, held another that way and when the mind holds onto identity of that which was, this is when we have psycho-spiritual strife.

    Now what is amplified is not the suffering but the identity of the suffering as one moves from the center of the spinning funnel and into outer spaces of their mental, emotional understanding. Healing involves our own identity that we have with suffering. Transformation involves allowing the body, mind to change, dropping the skin of those results, cravings, desires and moving into the more visible light of our own purpose, over and over again until we no longer need to hold steadiness as we become it amongst change. Is that awesome, you, radiant one!

    Will Duprey

  • Plant-based New Years Eve Appetizers

    We can’t believe 2017 is almost over! What will you be doing when the clock strikes 12? Maybe you’re having a relaxing night in by the warm fire, or perhaps you’re heading out for a night on the town, whatever your plans may be you’ll need to figure out what your going to be eating on the last night of the year! How about your spice up your night with delicious plant-based recipes by Naomi Seifter owner of Picnik Austin! She has pulled together two absolutely amazing dishes just for you and your nearest and dearest to enjoy- Butternut Squash Soup and a Holiday Platter full of incredible flavours with each bite!

    Holiday Platter

    We played around with using yummy ingredients as the ‘bread.’  We used steamed butternut squash, steamed sweet potato, apple, red bell pepper, jicama and cucumber slices.  We also went the traditional route, using bread rounds for the crust.  We wanted to give loose instructions so that you to make this at home with your favorite fillings.  Take ours as a guide, but have fun and make it your own!

    ‘Crust’ Ingredients:

    • 1 large sweet potato

    • 1 butternut squash

    • 1 jicama

    • 1 red bell cucumber

    • 1 cucumber

    • 1 apple

    • Optional: gluten-free bread

    Directions:

    Step 1: Prepare “crust”

    Crust options are: cucumber rounds, gluten-free bread, steamed sweet potato rounds, apple rounds, jicama rounds, and red bell pepper. Mix and match to your heart’s desire! (see image below)

    1. Using a mandolin (or very sharp knife) cut the sweet potato and butternut squash into 1/8 inch thick slices length-wise (see below for reference).

    2.  Steam sweet potato for 5-7 minutes (dependent on how many you put in the steamer at once). You want the potato to be soft but not mushy. You want it to still hold it’s shape.

    3. Steam butternut squash for 5-10 minutes (dependent on how many you put in the steamer at once). You want the squash to be soft but not mushy. You want it to still hold it’s shape.

    4. Place both squash and sweet potato in fridge to cool.

    5. Using a 2 inch round cutter, make your “crust” rounds.

    *Repeat using 2 inch round cutter with other crust materials but do not steam apple, jicama, red bell pepper, or cucumber. These are best served raw! The bread can be toasted to make it crunchy.

    Step 2: Make Fillings

    Curried Chickpea “Chicken” Salad

    Ingredients:

    • 1 15 oz. canned organic chickpeas

    • 1 shallot bulb, minced

    • 1 celery stalk, small dice

    • 2/3 cup apple juice sweetened cranberries, rough chop

    • 1 tablespoon dijon mustard

    • 1 tsp. apple cider vinegar (or lemon juice)

    • 1 tsp. Himalayan sea salt

    • 1.5 cups avocado oil

    • 2 tsp. curry powder

    • 2 tbsp. pecans, finely chopped

    • 1 pinch cayenne

    • 2 pinches paprika

    • himalayan sea salt and pepper to taste

    Directions:

    1. Strain can of chickpeas. Place brine in Vitamix and chickpeas in a large mixing bowl.

    2. To the bowl, add minced shallot, chopped celery, cranberries

    3. To the blender, add mustard, apple cider vinegar, and sea salt. Turn Vitamix on low and slowly drizzle in avocado oil to create your homemade vegan mayonnaise (you can skip this blending step entirely by using the pre-made mayo of your choice).

    4. Add ¾ cup of blended mayo to the bowl.

    5. Using a wood spoon, fork, or potato masher, mash the chickpeas for several minutes until the chickpeas break apart and are well incorporated with the other ingredients. *If you prefer, you can use a food processor to speed the process up, although we did not demo this method.

    6. Add curry powder, cayenne, paprika, optional honey, and pecans.

    7. Add salt and pepper to taste.

    8. Place in fridge until ready to plate sandwiches.

    Other filling examples:

    Hummus

    Mix a 8 oz. container of hummus with ¼ cup finely chopped red bell pepper and ¼ cup finely chopped cucumber (reference photo) or other vegetables you prefer. Place on crust rounds of your choice.

    Nut Butter & Jelly 

    Combine equal parts almond butter (or peanut butter) with jelly. Mix together in a bowl. Try with apple or sweet potato crusts.

    Step 3: Arrange Tea Sandwiches

    Arrange tea sandwiches on a plate of your choice and top with any of the following:

    • Black sesame seeds

    • Hemp Seeds

    • Paprika

    • Flavored Salt

    • Garnish of choice

    Add fruit, herbs or decor to plate for extra color and sparkle!

     

    Butternut Squash Soup

    Before Naomi had a team to support her, she did all of the cooking out of her and Kevin’s house. This was a crucial time in our history because not only was Naomi creating the dishes, but she would then be at the trailer all day receiving feedback directly from our customers. That time laid a solid foundation of our food philosophy and helped us to discover exactly what kinds of food our regulars loved. This soup, was created during that precious time.  

    The coconut milk makes for a creamy and dairy-free base, while the spice mixture creates a unique, yet subtle, flavor profile; the ideal balance of sweet and spicy. Choose a veggie broth to make the soup vegan or a chicken broth if that is more your style. We hope you and your loved ones enjoy it as much as we do! Let’s get started…

    Ingredients

    Produce

    • 3 delicata squash

    • 3 apples

    • 3 cloves of garlic

    • 1 yellow onion

    • Olive Oil

    • Himalayan Sea Salt

    Liquid

    • 1/2 cup coconut milk

    • 1 cup apple cider

    • 3 tbsp maple syrup

    • 6 cups chicken or vegetable stock (we made a shiitake mushroom broth*, recipe below)

    Spices

    • 1/2 tsp turmeric

    • 1/2 tsp paprika

    • 1/2 tsp cayenne

    • 1/2 tsp ginger

    • 2 tsp cinnamon

    • 4 tsp himalayan sea salt

    • 2 tsp black pepper

    Directions

    1. Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees.

    2. Cut squash in half and remove the seeds.  Thick slice the delicata squash and large/rough chop apple and onion.  Peel garlic, and lay squash, apple, onion and garlic in a single layer on 2 baking sheets. Liberally apply olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt. Place in oven to roast for 1 hour at 400 degrees.

    3. When roasting is complete, add produce from your 1st baking sheet to your high-powered blender (Vitamix/Blendtec) with 1/2 of the liquid and 1/2 of the spices (everything except salt and pepper – this will be added at the end). Blend and transfer to a large stock pot.  Repeat the blend process for the second batch of produce, liquid and spices.  Transfer to the same pot.  

    4. At this point, soup can either be placed in fridge for later or it can be transferred to the stovetop and heated immediately.  I like to season this soup to taste with salt and pepper when I’m ready to serve it.  As the soup is thick, it can “pop” and make a mess as your heat it up, so it is recommended you use a lid.  An additional note:  If soup is too thick for your liking, feel free to add additional stock.

    5. Enjoy!

    Stock Recipe

    1. To make your own shiitake mushroom broth, add 1 oz. dried shiitake mushrooms to 8 cups of water and bring to a boil. Once water is boiling, turn down heat and let simmer for 45-60 minutes.  Final yield is about 6 cups of stock.

    By Naomi Seifter

    Follow Naomi on instagram at @picnikaustin 

    Discover more scrumptious plant based recipes on Omstars

  • Blow your mind with Meditation

    To me, the popularity of the war-time phrase ‘Keep Calm and Carry On’ seems out of place in one of the most prosperous and war-free societies in the world. In our connected, fully wired 24-7 society, it can be hard to switch off.  Our normal rhythms are easily out of sync and ‘stress’ has become an everyday word.

    As a lawyer, I remember hearing stories about how – before email – documents took days, if not weeks, to be passed around by hand, typed and re-typed with corrections handwritten in different colours – now it takes seconds to ping an email to everyone and complex contracts can be marked up overnight with tracked changes. The pace of modern life is sometimes astounding. 

    It’s easy to lose ourselves in the rush and pressures of modern life.  Meditation is an antidote; a route to perspective and calm, to navigating the hectic traffic we experience in all areas of our lives. Meditation can change how we work, it can improve our health, and it can affect how we relate both to ourselves and to others.  Beyond a mechanism for coping with stress, mediation can be a vehicle towards finding more meaning, purpose, depth and connection in our lives.

    The mind is a surprising instrument. So powerful that science has yet to understand more than the basics of how it fully functions. But then, trying to understand ourselves has always been a tough, yet valuable pursuit.

    Our minds (along with our bodies) have developed over millions of years of evolution to give us the best chances of survival in a sometimes hostile world. Our brain is rewarded with pleasure – with substances such as dopamine, serotonin and oxytocin – when we do something that evolution would suggest is survival-enhancing. And, of course, the other side of the coin is pain when our survival is threatened.   When we sit in meditation and train our attention, we are acting against many of the reactionary tendencies that we have developed as a result of evolution.    

    Our evolutionary tendencies have helped us to survive so far, but some of them now lead us to overreact.  We have, for example, developed a bias towards negativity, giving far more weight and attention to negative events and emotions than positive ones.  And, particularly, under stress, we overestimate and ‘dial up’ the perceived ‘dangers’ around us. The evolutionary ‘down’ that we sometimes experience after the ‘high’ of being with a partner, is designed to draw us towards that person helping us to mate and procreate. But if that evolutionary tendency is too strong in us, our neediness may get activated and end up pushing the person away. Meditation helps us to temper the reactions that evolution has set in motion, so in that sense it is going against some of our evolutionary instincts.  But maybe, that’s what’s needed for us to evolve even further.

    Previously the purview of monks and lamas, meditation is now being used by the likes of Google, hedge fund managers  and MBA students to boost their performance. Scientific research supports many health benefits of meditation mainly associated with stress reduction, and ability to focus.  Cautiously promising research in its early stages even suggests that meditation may have some effect on a cellular level on patients in remission from cancer. Further evidence is needed to confirm that. So, maybe, in terms of health and focus, meditation is giving us an extra edge. 

    Meditation affects the quality of your attention and where you place it. And, as Stanford scholar and international meditation teacher B. Alan Wallace, PhD explains in his book The Attention Revolution, ‘Our perception of reality is tied closely to where we place our attention’. What we focus on shapes our experience and the things we ignore, pale into insignificance for us. In 2012, Usain Bolt says he won the 100 meters in 2012 by concentrating on his strength on “concentrating on his strengths” (execution) rather than his weaknesses (his poor start). Meditation allows us to choose where we place our attention.  That, in turn, gives us more control over how we shape our lives.

    Meditation also helps us to navigate our emotions. Neuroscientists debate whether regions of the brain perform specific functions or whether a more interconnected view is more accurate.  It is, however, established that the amygdala (emotional centres) play a huge role in the fear response. In order to deal with the fear-causing – at an evolutionary level read ‘life threatening’ – situation, we dissociate. We stop using the logical, decision-making functions of our brains. I interviewed Louann Brizendine, neuroscientist and author of bestseller, The Female Brain. She described this to me beautifully, using the analogy of a car with the clutch being pushed in. When we are in a state of stress and fear, the gears are unable to engage with the decision-making functions of our brains.

    Of course, modern day stressful situations are not always related to mortal danger. And, in a non-life-threatening situation such as work, most of the decisions we make would probably benefit from some logical engagement! Awareness developed through meditation can help break the cycle and get you back there. 

    Meditation helps us to press ‘pause’ on our reactive patterns. It gives us perspective and choice. This allows us to be cool under fire.  In this sense, it helps to blow the patterns that have been deeply ingrained in our minds out of the water, leaving us clearer, calmer and more available for genuine meaningful connection.  Any takers?

    By Mia Forbes Pirie

    Watch Mia’s course, Intelligent Start, on Omstars

    Join Mia’s 5 day meditation challenge and see how meditating for as little as 5 minutes a day can make a difference to your day https://intelligentchange.life/five-day-challenge/ or be part of Mia’s small Facebook “Not too Perfect”  Yoga & Meditation community https://www.facebook.com/groups/379578869076090/