Yoga and Friendships

Friendships

As I look back at 2015 it was an outrageous year! My mantra was to “get out of my house” so to speak and experience life outside of my comfort zone. And serendipity somehow invited three trips to Mexico, Italy and Costa Rica. I had the time of my life and each adventure was amazing and unique with beautiful friends!

Then the second half of the year I ventured out in my business which turned out to be the most challenging thing of all. The world can be a harsh place but the silver lining is all of the support I have received from my real friends, which also now includes my amazing daughters who supported me every step of the way! I am blessed with people who love and care about it. It has been truly amazing. And one thing I know for sure is that the true meaning of yoga is friendship. A direct outcome of your practice shows in the quality of your friendships. Your true friends shine in the darkness. There are friendships all around when you open your eyes to the world. We can all be kinder and more compassionate to ourselves and to each other.

Even though I don’t put much emphasis on the calendar new year, I do feel the pull of winter draw me in deeper to my inner-self. I have been wounded these past few months so I am taking the time to heal. I know the world can be a harsh place out there but I still choose to see the good in everyone. And even though my strongest desire is to run and hide, I am practicing courage to stay connected to my friends and the world. So as one year ends my practice is to let go and release. In the practice of contemplation and meditation, it has created space and freedom for something new. My new mantra for 2016 is to nurture the friendships I have and to cultivate new friendships and deeper intimacy with others and the world around me. I do have a tendency to cocoon and be a bit of a loner but I know that we can not heal on our own. We need each other and we need to share our pain and joy with others. I also know that the ability to be with your own suffering also gives you the ability to be with someone else’s. And isn’t this what true friendship is about? Being there for others in time of need and also to share the happiness too.

Michael Stone said “…2016 is not yet written and that who we live at this very moment has the power to write it with every act of our body, heart and speech.” And Mahatma Gandhi said “The future depends on what we do in the present.” So I intend to stay open even though I want to close in the illusion of safety. And in the present I stay connected to my true friends even though sometimes I want to hide. And in the present I am always grateful for whatever arises whether sadness or joy as I know and trust that life is always changing and I am always growing and learning. I choose to balance between time to cocoon and nurture myself and time to be with my treasured friends.

Namaste and many Blissings for the New Year

 

Yoga as a Gift

blue yoga mat with a bowI remember my first yoga class when I was much younger, giggling with my best friend as we did the lion pose with our tongues stuck out and making the sound “hhhhhhaaa.” And I also remember how calm I felt after the class. We did the yoga classes in the back of a new age book store and I had bought myself my first meditation cassette tape. It was a guided meditation to the tune of Pachelbel’s Canon. This was pre-internet era so we did not have as much access to online meditations etc. I would lie down everyday after work and listen to it. Shortly after I became pregnant with my first child and I continued to listen to the tape daily and even brought it with me to the hospital for the birth. I took a break from yoga classes after her birth but always seemed to find my way back to a class on and off over the next few years. After the birth of my third child life became more demanding and yoga was my saving grace, especially when I became a single mother. Yoga was the one place that I was able to let go of all my concerns and stress. I went through a depression in my early thirties and believe yoga was the gift that got me through it. Depression felt like a hole I had fallen into and whenever I did yoga it was like being pulled out of the hole for that one hour. I usually slid back into the hole after but over time with the gift of yoga I was spending more time out than in. And with time and patience I slowly came back to life. Yoga was an awakening for me. I started to read spiritual books and my life now felt like a quest of discovering the deeper meaning of life and existence. After visiting an Ashram in 1999 I knew I wanted to be a yoga teacher one day and the seed was planted. I didn’t realize it would happen so quickly but I graduated from my first yoga teacher training in 2001. When I was doing the training I had a thought that “this was a trick to come here to get a certificate” and instead “it was a transformation of the self.” I had grown and learned so much about myself. When I returned home I felt empowered as I had learned so many tools to assist me in my life. And this is the gift of yoga. So when I started to teach others, I felt like I was teaching others how to transform their lives. Sure it came in the guise of a practice of poses and breathing techniques but that was just the lure in. Good thing our society is obsessed with their bodies and exercise because I think that is what brings many people to the mat. But the true gift of yoga is actually to help us let go of the external obsession with ourselves and to go inside to the true inner light of awareness that resides within each one of us. We are all one and connected, and the gift of yoga is to remind us this. Yoga is more about letting go of all the ways we cause ourselves to feel disconnected. Yoga is about becoming more intimate with all of life and in all of our connections, with ourselves, with others, with nature and the even the world around us. I believe Yoga is a gift to our world and I am honoured and privileged to share this gift with others. Namaste, Nienke

Raw Chocolate Decalcifies the Pineal Gland

buddha pine cone headThe Third Eye Chakra can also be considered our sixth sense and is our gateway to higher levels of consciousness. According to Descartes it is known as “the seat of the soul.” It is associated with the pineal gland which can become calcified causing it to malfunction. The good news is that ‘Raw Chocolate’ helps decalcify it!

THE PINEAL GLAND is cone shaped, like the top of a buddha head, and is located in the middle of the brain. It contains pigment similar to that found in the eyes, is connected to the optic part of the brain, and controls the action of light in our body. This gland secretes the hormone melatonin which is an important part of the body’s circadian timing system and can synchronise daily rhythms. The pineal gland is also thought to inhibit the immediate discharging of thoughts into action which causes us to look inward and to deeply ponder our actions and reactions. This introversion is an important part of the third eye chakra ‘clear seeing’ which allows us to perceive patterns in our life that may inhibit us from evolving. We also need the inner light of the third eye to shine towards our future so that we can see the path towards a brighter future for all.

CALCIFICATION of the pineal gland causes it to malfunction and it under produces important biochemicals such as melatonin, dimethyltryptamine (DMT) and pinoline. Aging is partly responsible for this, as well as, fluoride intake, food additives, excess sugar and sweeteners in your diet or even regular exposure to cell phones has been linked to the phenomenon of calcifying the pineal gland. Some believe in the conspiracy theory that fluoride has purposely been put in our water and toothpaste to ‘dumb us down’ as a society, so that we cannot think for ourselves and to sever our spiritual antenna and connection with a higher consciousness. Research has shown that this calcification of the pineal gland shows a strong correlation in the developing of Alzheimer’s disease (Mercola 2011).

RAW CHOCOLATE helps to decalcifies the pineal gland. It has the highest food source of antioxidants that fight free radicals and keep your brain healthy. Raw chocolate also contains MAO inhibitors (monoamine oxidase) which allow more serotonin and other neurotransmitter to circulate in the brain which are some of the ‘feel good’ chemicals. So make sure you eat some raw chocolate everyday. It not only tastes good, but also makes you feel great and makes you smarter too!

Synchronicity

i-am-open-to-the-guidance-of-synchronicity-and-do-not-let-expectations-hinder-my-pathSynchronicity is a meaningful coincidence. Have you every thought about someone and then they call you? Or someone mentions a book to you and then you come across the book again? These are synchronistic moments that invite you to pay attention. People and things can come into your life for a reason. It is up to us to pay attention to this guidance.

The word synchronicity, coined by Carl Jung, comes from two Greek phrases meaning “joined with” and “time.” According to Jung, “Synchronicity is the coming together of inner and outer events in a way that cannot be explained by cause and effect and is meaningful to the observer.”

Robert Ohotto says that “synchronicity points us toward destiny, but often by midwifing fate into our lives at precisely the right moment as a statement of where we’re out of harmony with ourselves. Yet it can also show us when we’re in perfect alignment with our soul. It reveals how our inner and outer lives connect and directs us to the soul’s intention- but only if we’re willing to see our lives symbolically.”

James Redfield, author of The Celestine Prophecy, theorizes that all coincidences are important because they direct the way to an unfolding or our personal destiny.

If we believe and are aware that everything happens for a reason then synchronicity is an opportunity to wake up to worthiness, potential and most importantly to conscious choice. We start to see where life is sending us messages to wake us up. We see the magical moments where everything before aligned us for the exact moment and/ or meeting with someone. We also trust even the hardships are on purpose to help wake us up. It is up to us then to make the steps toward our destiny.

When we slow down and take time everyday for some stillness and silence, then we can tune into the synchronicity all around us. This is a gift of grace and allows us to see through the lens of the Divine.

Getting out of My Comfort Zone at hOMe and being with cOMmUNITY!

TIMG_4668his year I made in intention to get out of my comfort zone (hOMe) and get out of the house and connect with others and live life to the fullest!

Well as it turns out the universe seems to have been waiting all this time for me to be fully ready to take the leap of faith! I was invited to go to Mexico in April (all expenses paid- no excuse not to go), Italy in May (most expenses paid and my daughters and sister were going- so I found a way to make it work! … and stay tuned for Yoga Retreat in Italy May 2016) and I am taking a group to Costa Rica in August for a Yoga Retreat. For a gal who is not too motivated or comfortable travelling this is quite outstanding!

I was also invited to collaborate with another local Yoga Studio and join our Yoga Teacher Training Programs together. What an opportunity to support each other in creating a wonderful program to offer others. So of course I had to say YES! It gets me out of my hOMe studio and into the cOMmUNITY!  My intention of getting out of my comfort zone is all about coming together and supporting each other in life.  I seem to have created this habit of trying to do everything on my own and struggling with asking for help. As I bring more light to this sabotaging pattern I am learning to let it go and make space for support and coming together in community with others. I am learning and practicing to ask for support and be open to receive it when it does come. And I have also realized I am having a lot of fun at the same time! I realize the universe is always there to support us but we get in our own way and block it. So let’s break free and have the time of our lives.

And this is really what the Teacher Training Program is all about to me. Coming together in support of each others growth. We create a sacred space for presence that allows each one of us to simply “be” who we are in all our ‘FLAW-SOMENESS’. I believe Yoga is about becoming more of who you truly are and inviting others into this authenticity of life. Of course it comes in this guise of a physical practice and it is definitely great for your body and mind, but ultimately it is about re-membering and re-connecting with your ‘true-self’ and the place within you that is ‘oneness’ where we are all connected.

There is a Sanskrit word, Adhikara, that refers to being open and ready. It also implies a level of ownership and willingness to take responsibility, as well as dedication. When you are ready to be open to the support of the others and the universe then life will support you. And as the saying goes, “when you are ready the teacher will appear”. And life is our teacher, so when you are ready to break through to the next discovery of your life… then life will invite you to step into it, to learn and grow and evolve. So if you are ready to break free and get out of your comfort zone to dive into this journey of self discovery and TRANSFORMATION then I hope you can join our journey of Yoga Teacher Training starting in September.  I am so thrilled and honoured to be co-teaching with Penny (owner of Fountain of Youth Studio). We both come with different styles and strengths and look forward to sharing some of the jewels of this ancient tradition of Yoga with you!

The Magic of Italy

villaI just returned home from a trip to Italy and I was enchanted by Tuscany and the beauty of the countryside, the ancient villages built on rock and the rich history of the cities. Italy was on my top three places to see and a few years back I was offered to do a yoga retreat just outside of the medieval hamlet of Vitorchiano, which is just a few kilometers from the touristic and cultural interest of Alta Tuscia, the cradle of Etruscan civilization. I hesitated as I had not been there before and felt a bit overwhelmed at organizing such a retreat. I accepted an invitation to go to Italy a few weeks back I knew the moment I arrived at the villa that I would be coming back to offer a yoga retreat next year.

As we came off the highway and entered the rolling hills of Tuscany my eyes soaked in the beauty. Through the winding roads we passed through a village of stone houses and cobblestone roads. Then the road narrowed and we were surrounded by trees as if we were entering into an enchanted forest. Then as we passed through a gate we came into view of the villa, an ancient building, that dates back to 1644. It stands at the foot of a stream which moved the grindstones to grind both flour and oil (olives). The stream is animated by the surrounding woods and a little bridge takes you over to a charming swimming pool, surrounded by volcanic stones. And there is a panoramic view of the countryside with over 70 hectares of green hills of olive groves and nut trees, woods and wonderful valleys. It was like something I have only seen in the movies. Inside the villa is charming and has been renovated in full respect of its original architecture. Each bedroom is unique and cozy. The antique italian handmade glass light fixtures created a beautiful design of shadows on the walls. As I stood in awe it felt like arriving home to a piece of heaven on earth. I soaked it all in and savoured every moment there. I feel truly blessed for the privilege of being there and now there is a little piece of Italy in my heart always.

Time to Dance

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It’s late February. I am sitting in my living room watching large fat snowflakes bump

silently against the window. My pink Himalayan salt lamp is determined to push

away winter shadows with its warm pink glow and my two-year old husky-mix pup,

Laci, has abandoned her search for a sunbeam and curled into a furry ball on my

yoga mat.

I reach for a turquoise, spiral-bound notebook and flip to a fresh page, free of

previous rants, lists and half finished poems. As long as I can remember I’ve put pen

to paper. It offers a comforting sensation of coming home. Emotions are pulled from

my cells, quiver down my arm through my fingertips and bleed out through the pen.

The blank page captures the ink, gives the torrent of words a place to land.

Sometimes, blue ruling is smothered with frustration, grief, sadness, while other

days it’s caressed with love and contentment. But always, it resonates with truth. A

moment captured and released.

When I don’t make space in my day to do this, I miss the words. I miss hanging out

on the page letting them tumble over each other. Writing invites me into the quiet

and allows me to slow down. The challenging part is to ignore the dog fur puffs piled

in the corner, the mountain of laundry cascading down the stairs and the spotted

bananas buried in fruit bowl, waiting to be transformed into muffins for school

lunches. I remind myself of Natalie Goldberg’s words, “To find your writer’s voice is

to find your spine; it is to connect your breath of inspiration with the world’s

breath.”

The laundry looses the battle.

As with yoga practice, the important part of writing is to show up just as I am. Pick

up my pen and write. There are so many reasons to do so.

Write to remember.

Write to create.

Write to share your stories.

Write to communicate.

Write to heal your wounds.

Write to make art out of the ordinary.

Write to know your true self.

Write for no reason at all.

Sometimes it’s enough to just dance with the words. Would you like to dance?

Into the Woods

As we draw close to the ending of 2014 my inbox is full of e-mails on ideas for new years resolutions. Along with the busyness of the
holidays it seems we jump ahead to next year without a thought of consciously ending 2014. Before we turn that pBuddha-Snowage maybe we could take some time to contemplate all that we created and all that crumbled in 2014. We can also acknowledge what is dead, dying and/or about ready to die. Just like Yoga being a practice more about letting go… maybe a new year can be more about letting go… cleaning out the weeds and preparing the garden for transformation. We are often so busy moving on to the next thing that will make us “happy” that we miss out on resting in the potency of emptiness.It is hard for us to let go. We often resist change. It is scary to admit that something is ending in life. Robert Ohotto said that newyear can be a time where we examine the year ending and take some space to hang out in the emptiness.

This christmas break has been extra quiet for me so I have allowed lots of time for reflection and meditation. The yogis say that our true self, our inner nature, is full of joy and completely at peace. So if this is true how come I don’t feel this all the time. Sure I may get glimpses now and then but it is not sustained. I am realizing how my thoughts get in the way of that, how thoughts are linked to emotions and how both of these can become habits and then can obscure the present moment. Our true presence is always contented. When we can completely rest within our inner beingness it is always at peace. As I notice the patterns of thoughts I see how they are the root of my discontent. When I watch them with detached awareness it seems to lessen the emotional reaction. This is like my inner weeding. All unhappiness stems from wanting things to be different in that moment and that could not happen without a thought. I have been using a mantra inspired by Byron Katie’s work “who would I be without the thought?” and the answer I always get is “happy and free”.

I went to see the movie “Into the Woods” with my daughter, Eponine, the other day. It is a musical which is based on play with lots of fairytale antics. Deep beneath the silliness of the story is a deeper symbolism. The woods represent a place in which inner darkness is confronted. We all can make the journey inward to discover our trueself and find our inner light otherwise we’ll be lost in the woods forever. In the beginning of the story the characters are all discontented because they want something they do not have. And they each feel alone. Along the journey they discover the darker parts of each other and what they are capable of doing to get what they want. They lie, cheat, kill, and steal. But it is along this journey that they also help each other and discover their own strengths. They realize that they are not alone and together they are stronger so they can face the giant together. There is song in the movie which goes like this: “ Sometimes people leave you halfway through the woods. Do not let it grieve you, no one leaves for good. You are not alone. No one is alone.”

It is in hardships that we may discover our weaknesses but we can also cultivate inner strength and contentment. We can all have desires and dreams but we also need to be mindful for what we wish for as it just might come true. Just like another song in the movie: “…careful the spell you cast….Sometimes a spell may last…Careful the tale you tell. That is the spell.” So what story of thoughts are you listening to. As Byron Katie says “Is it true?” What story do you want to create for your own life? 

What the yoga masters tell us is that in our ignorance we can easily spiral into discontent. In that place, things become distorted, and we become victims of our thoughts and feelings. What to do? When we feel alone in the woods we can focus on our inner light and beingness. When you find yourself getting lost in the dark, simply shift your attention to your breath and come back to yourself, your center. Remember you are not your thoughts, although that can affect your peace of mind. Making time to discern your inner garden and rest in the spaciousness, you will journey towards the inner light of wisdom, peacefulness and joy!

Adventures of a Yogi-in-Training

Adventures of a Yogi-in-Training
By Sacha Bala Kavitanienke and sacha

I walk through the garden gate at Yogabliss, met by swirling incense and a smiling Nienke. She asks me to pick out a pretty purple daisy to secure behind my left ear, presses a turquoise bindi onto my forehead in the place of my third eye, and burns dried sage for smudging. I wrap myself in the cleansing smoke before slipping off my boots and stepping barefoot into the studio. Jai Bhagwan.

A circle of cushions surround an alter, where eight pink roses are arranged with several mementos from our nine months together. I settle onto a cushion with excitement, anticipation, joy and sadness. It’s graduation day. Emotions scatter through me like tumbleweed. I let them. This is my yoga.

White washed days of winter mark the start of my YTT experience as our group of eight assembles to study asana, pranayama, yoga philosophy and meditation. At our first retreat I am wrapped in the gentle arms of silence and rattled by my loud life I make friends with the quiet. In between weekends, evenings are peppered with Kirtan, movie nights, yoga classes and stacks of yellow-highlighted yoga books. I choose a mantra and repeat it daily. This is my yoga.

Spring is in no hurry. Icy winds send shivers up my spine as I dash from my car into the studio but when a complaint tickles my throat chakra I’m reminded it’s okay to slow down. I practice 27 poses, lay emotions on the page with a set of oil pastels and study yamas and niyamas. Spring doesn’t have to arrive on my schedule. I tuck windblown hair under my orange hat and breath in acceptance. This is my yoga.

Summer joins the party with a solstice celebration in park and I watch as we wriggle out of our comfort zone and push past our boundaries. We design and teach yoga classes, finishing each one with a circle of appreciation for the teacher, who sits cross-legged in its sacred center. I struggle with which words to offer. I want each of these women to see what I see. Bravery. Beauty. Boldness. Brilliance. I speak my truth. This is my yoga.

Copper-caramel colours of Autumn paint the landscape and the time has come for a road trip. We pile into two vehicles and drive to Kripalu Yoga & Health Center in Massachusetts where mist spills off mountains and trees drip leaves into puddles of gold. At this oasis I enter a rain soaked labyrinth, take a word walk and dance to drums. I laugh often. This is my yoga.

Now on graduation day, our beloved group gathers once more, the same but different. We have shared heartbreak and hugs, meals and stories, challenges and successes. But most importantly we have built a community of love. Namaste.

Throat, Thyroid and Storytelling

The throat chakra’s purpose is communication. Are you good at communicating your truth or good at communicating in general? Can you speak your ideas clearly? Do you keep it to yourself when something is bugging you or do you talk about it too much? Do you exaggerate the truth or do you lie? All of these things affect your throat chakra energy. When you stand in your truth, speak your truth and live your truth it puts you in resonance with your purpose.throat chakra picture

If you are the type of person that tends to keep quiet and keep it all to yourself when there is challenge then you are shutting down your throat chakra. A chronically deficient chakra often relates to something you are avoiding in your life. If you tend to talk about your problems all the time then this can cause the energy in your throat chakra to be excessive. A chronically excessive chakra often relates to something you are fixated on. This continues to perpetuate the issue. Both can keep you stuck in the issue and prevents you from moving forward. And both prevent you from you living your truth.

Having someone to talk to is healthy and can help you feel better. And we all have a story to tell and it is important to have the opportunity to tell it. But sometimes when we are reacting towards a person or situation we tend to want to prove our point. And once we are fixated on it we want to build a story to prove the point. This keeps us stuck in the stress based energy. So there is a time to tell our story and a time comes to let it go and not let it define us.

Silence before you talk is always beneficial. I love this quote by Sai Baba, “Before you speak, ask yourself: Is it kind, is it necessary, is it true, does it improve on the silence?” Silence allows time for contemplation. Meditation allows the sediment to settle to the bottom so you can see more clearly. Then you are able to speak your truth. I think it is also important to choose wisely who you talk to. Someone who can listen without judging or even trying to fix anything for you. Sometimes the simple act of sharing your story with someone and be truly heard, can be so healing.

The thyroid gland is directly linked to the throat chakra and every time you speak you stimulate your thyroid gland. So what you say and how you say it directly affects the health of your thyroid. This gland is located just under your Adam’s apple and secretes hormones into the bloodstream to control the rate that every cell and organ turns nutrients into energy. The thyroid also controls metabolism, growth, body temperature, muscle strength, appetite, and the health of your heart, brain kidneys and reproductive system. If your thyroid doesn’t work properly then neither do you.

Hyperthyroidism is an over active state which can cause many symptoms such as nervousness, irritability, anxiety, sweating, rapid heartbeat, sudden weight loss, fatigue, muscle weakness, thinning skin and brittle hair. Hypothyroidism is an under active state which can cause symptoms such as slowed heart rate, unexplained weight gain, pain, stiffness and swelling in your joints, depression, puffy face, impaired memory and dry skin.

Mechanical manipulation of the thyroid can release the hormone Thyroxine into the bloodstream, which is why massage therapists are cautious about massaging the throat. There is also another mechanism which stimulates the thyroid which is the voice box. When you make a sound with your voice, your larynx vibrates, providing a gentle massage to the thyroid that surrounds it.

We live in a technological age where we tend to talk less and communicate via texting, e-mail and other social forums. More people are living alone now and also talk less. This under stimulates our thyroid gland. But the opposite is also true if we are over using our voice box. Excessive yelling can over-vibrate and over-stimulate the thyroid and stress is a known risk factor for hyperthyroidism. The vibration of excessive loud sounds and music, especially low frequencies, may also cause damage to the thyroid tissue. I think we live in a culture that is out of balance in both areas. Imagine the havoc that wreaks on our thyroid.

This is a great reminder for me that time for silence is essential to living a healthy life. It allows for clarity and space to get in touch with our truth. And there is also a time to speak that truth and express who you are in the world. We all have a purpose and it is our birthright to live that truth. Paraphrasing from the Bhagavad Gita, it says that it is better to live your truth and fail than to live someone else’s truth and succeed.

So spend time in silence, time in nature, repeat a mantra, sing uplifting songs in the shower, and remember before you speak ask yourself: “Is it kind, is it necessary, is it true, does it improve on the silence?” And let me also leave you with this delicious quote from George Leonard.

“At the heart of each of us, whatever our imperfections, there exists a silent pulse of perfect rhythm, a complex of waveforms and resonances, which is absolutely individual and unique and yet which connects us to everything in the universe. The act of getting in touch with this pulse can transform our personal experience and in some way alter the world around us.”