Pilgrimage of the Heart Kirtan Band Live Podcast

Join Pilgrimage of the Heart Kirtan Band for a live kirtan podcast recorded in June 2018 with New World Kirtan and Kitzie Stern.

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Join Pilgrimage of the Heart Kirtan Band for a live kirtan podcast recorded in June 2018 with New World Kirtan and Kitzie Stern.

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Ep 70 – Exploring Pratyahara

Ep 70 – Exploring Pratyahara: Turning your awareness inward through mantras, mudras and visualization.

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The Pilgrimage of the Heart Mediation Podcast is a recorded broadcast of Sujantra’s weekly Tuesday night meditation class held in San Diego California. Each week Sujantra introduces a new topic related to meditation and leads the class through various types of meditations including: visual concentration, yogic concentration, breathing techniques, chanting and much more.

Ep 70 – Exploring Pratyahara: Turning your awareness inward through mantras, mudras and visualization.

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Taking Risks: How A Good Support System Allowed Me To Open My Own Yoga Business

I was very fortunate to do my yoga teacher training at Pilgrimage of the Heart Yoga.(POTH)…

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by Brentan Schellenbach

I was very fortunate to do my yoga teacher training at Pilgrimage of the Heart Yoga.(POTH)

From the moment I walked in the doors I always felt at home. I quickly fell in love with every yoga class and every teacher. I absorbed with fascination everything my teacher training mentors brought me. I started meditating with Sujantra, going to philosophy class and joined the kirtan band (aka yoga music) on Thursday nights. It was yoga studio heaven for me.

The Big Move

But alas, I was 22 and adventure was calling—it was time for me to go beyond my comfort zone and move to Chicago.

When I moved, I was eager to explore the yoga studios and find what I expected to be POTH equivalents in the Midwest.

By my third year living in the city, I was working as a yoga teacher full time—teaching 25 weekly classes at nine different locations around the city. Some studios had massive infrastructure and were well-oiled machines, others were smaller boutique studios run by a one-man-band owner-manager-lead teacher.

But there was still no Pilgrimage. Now I’m sure many students have found their yoga home in Chicago—their cherished studio that claims all their love and loyalty and affection—but it just wasn’t there for me.

But what was I to do? I had already invested three years in Chicago building relationships with students and studios, and I was finally paying my bills with money I earned teaching yoga.

Additionally, I had a wonderful musical partner named Oli, who I met as a surrogate for Sujantra’s kirtan band that I was missing in San Diego. Not only had he and I written and recorded our own kirtan album, but we had also fallen in love—a love that was founded on self-inquiry, creative expression and philosophical pondering.

Me and Oli

Me and Oli, one of our many dinner-time toasts after a long day of one of our many projects.

Shortly after Oli and I started our romantic relationship, he started coming with me to my evening classes. Sometimes we would stay after class with students deep in conversation about yoga and life and God. But there was still a sense that something was missing—a community, a home, a family. We wanted something more than the fragmented moments before and after yoga class—we wanted friends and teachers who infiltrated every aspect of our lives.

Fermata Yoga Center

This is why we opened our own yoga studio in Chicago.

As first-time business owners, we had a lot to learn. We recruited all the help we could find, including Sujantra, who helped us remotely establish our metrics for evaluation and success. We learned the simplest of things, like what it means to rent space commercially, or develop a relationship as a business entity with other businesses. We learned about balancing our creative ambitions with the needs of the market, how to advertise, how to represent the business publicly.

In a lot of ways, Fermata Yoga Center was a success. After two years we were on a steady upward sales trajectory (and en-route to make a profit in our third year), our word-of-mouth had kicked in and was yielding new students every day, and our operational processes were running smoothly.

But there were still a few problems. Neither of us had really grown to love the city—we had tried even to the point of opening our own business, but it still didn’t feel like home. We were also meeting many traveling yoga students at the studio from all over the country who confided, “If only your studio was in my town, I would come everyday.”

Saturday morning live-music class

Saturday morning live-music class at the studio. Oli played ambient guitar and his looping machine while I taught a slow flow class. Our most popular class on the schedule by far!

We felt so silly owning a business in a place we didn’t really want to live and only be able to offer our services to those who magically lived in a four-mile radius from the studio.

We had some big decisions to make.

After two years, we decided to close the studio. The heartbreak was palpable for everyone involved, but we wanted to move back to California (closer to what I still consider my home). We also wanted to move our business online so that budget, time and distance was no longer a factor in whether people could practice with us.

And that’s where we are now.

Yoga In Your Living Room

We just launched the new leg of our business, called Yoga In Your Living Room, which is an online yoga platform that brings high-quality yoga into students’ homes. The site features a Free Videos section, updated regularly, which is full of diverse content. It also features an annual membership that unlocks what we call Premium Videos, which are specialized classes filmed on location that target more specific body and mind goals. And because we know how important it is for students to feel listened to and connected to their yoga teachers and each other, we’ve incorporated multiple communication platforms in the site (blog, commenting, social media) for friendships to emerge and flourish.

Yoga In Your Living Room

We are excited to offer this to our Chicago students as an extension of the yoga studio they fell in love with and to grow our client base all over the world. We’re looking forward to offering more diverse products like teacher trainings; retreats; clinical yoga programs for depression, anxiety, PTSD; and meditational therapies.

Most of all we are excited to be home in California, to settle our roots and be present for the ever-changing Now.

I am so thankful for my unparalleled education at Pilgrimage of the Heart, which inspires me to keep practicing, learning and growing as a yoga teacher and student. And I’m also thankful for the community—for Sujantra, Nikole, Linda and all the staff and students—this is the support that makes me feel comfortable taking risks, becoming independent and walking my own sometimes terrifying path in life.

I am blessed and I am home.

Brentan

 

 

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Bhakti Yoga at Pilgrimage of the Heart

Bhakti Yoga is the yoga of emotion, bliss and devotion; devotion to Creator, creation and our place in It…

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Bhakti Yoga at Pilgrimage of the Heart

Bhakti Yoga is the yoga of emotion, bliss and devotion; devotion to Creator, creation and our place in It. Bhakti is one of the four major aspects of the yoga path, the others being Jhana spiritual self-study, Karma, the yoga of (selfless) service, and Raja or Royal Yoga the mystical reunion with the Creator thru meditation practices and lifestyle. All are paths to enlightenment (see the Bhagavad Gita (I personally recommend the Arnold translation). These four traditions have each their own chapters. Any or all of these paths are available to the practitioner.

Pilgrimage Audience

Kirtan at Pilgrimage of the Heart

Kirtan is a legitimate and valid part of the Bhakti tradition. It is a chanting, devotional practice centered around the singing of the Names of the Creator. As a practice it reminds us of our origin and ‘Maker.’ The distractions of our lives often will veer us away from higher truth and firmly root us in a purely physical mindset. Kirtan elevates us to the more spiritual realm as we sing and chant devotions to our Creator. It reminds and motivates us to look more frequently at the subtleties of our existence. It’s truly an avenue to a higher mindset.

I’ve looked at the demographic of our Kirtan practice. I find it interesting that most of our participants do not practice yoga (Hatha, Asana, etc.) nor are they members of the Pilgrimage of the Heart yoga studio. We have attracted a large following from outside, some of who have been attending regularly for years, which to me is fantastic. I am inspired by the high level of awareness of our participants and I am committed to bringing relevance and meaning to our practice for them.

But I also find it interesting that we draw less that 1% of the members of our studio to our Kirtan practice on any given week. That’s a little troubling. Not that I am complaining… our Kirtan is in the top 10% of all classes attended at Pilgrimage and has been for years! I just wonder why our members don’t take greater advantage of this incredible offering.

A few years ago an anonymous, lovely soul posted this comment about her first Kirtan experience. It brings a tear of joy to my eyes that we can bring such a joyous and meaningful experience to someone from our humble practice. Truly, my hope is to have Kirtan generate this type of experience for all who attend, every week. So I repost this in hopes that I might motivate our members to join with us. We want you. We need you. We are here for you! Kirtan is a heart-opening experience… and an eye-opener, too. It’s bigger than the sum of its parts!

Join us on Thursdays at 8:30pm in the East Room.

“I will never forget my first week at Pilgrimage of the Heart. I was immersing myself in yoga – I took a week off work and had a “stay-cation”. . . practiced 2-3 times a day, meditated, hiked; basically created my own little yoga retreat on the cheap. Of course I had to try out the Thursday night yoga philosophy class and musical meditation double header. What I learned that night has been a foundation for many of the decisions I have made over the past two years.

I couldn’t even tell you exactly what ancient text we were reading from in the philosophy discussion. However, the main point being made was this . . . Life (or the universe, or God — put in your entity of choice) will ALWAYS give you what you ask for. However, many times it will be presented to you in a way you don’t recognize at first, and often in a form which is scary. So, do you run away from what you want because it scares you, or do you accept what life/the universe/God is offering?

This idea stuck with me as I shuffled my way into the east room for music meditation. I was expecting an hour of gentle music as I breathed in inner silence. Ha! Instead, I got an hour of chanting. Drums, harmoniums, a guitar? It was fantastic. And kind of weird. A whole room full of people shaking noisemakers and chanting “Hare Krishna!” This was pretty far outside my comfort zone. I mean, come on. . . what would all the non-yoga people in my life think if they saw me now? And then it hit me. I had been looking for a place to sing for a long time. I love to sing. I mean, this is a love the runs deep to the core of my being. It’s a visceral love that I’ve felt my whole life. For a while I had toyed with the idea of joining a church choir, even though I don’t follow any particular religion, just to sing with a group. And there I was. Singing with a group. I felt a joy I hadn’t experienced in years. And it was scary.

I almost cried when I realized how immediately this lesson was being presented to me. It was a big moment. I decided then and there that I would keep going to music meditation. I have to keep singing, and I also have to investigate why I was so scared of such an amazing group of people. Why was I so concerned with what others thought? Where had I picked up all of these judgments, and why the heck would I keep holding on to them?

That lesson has come back to me many times, guiding me to make decisions that have clearly changed my life. Each time I actively choose to take what life has to offer, no matter what it looks like, I find myself deeply grateful for the way things unfold. It’s funny how sometimes we think life just isn’t working out the way we want it to, but it always seems to end up exactly how it should be.”

— Author unknown

 

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Karma

“My own gratitude heart is all that matters.” — Sri Chinmoy

When we meditate we create a surface upon which we can build…

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Karma

“My own gratitude heart is all that matters.” — Sri Chinmoy

When we meditate we create a surface upon which we can build a platform of stability, where gratitude and compassion can be the grounding sources of our causalities.

I’ve been thinking about Karma and it’s meaning. In simple terms, Karma is the law of cause and effect. Our causes (thought, word, deed) have effects on others (positively or negatively). Those causes we create are ‘recorded’ on our personal ledgers, so to speak, and we are responsible for the effects.

What we do after we create a cause is important.

But Karma should not be regarded only by the effect our causes have on others. More importantly perhaps, karma should be regarded as the effect our causes have on ourselves. Common references to this concept include: ‘An eye for an eye,’ ‘Live by the sword, die by the sword,’ ‘What goes around comes around.’

Dominos

I’ve developed a personal mantra:

The only thing in the entire universe that truly matters is my own personal ledger.

Karma is what we have done to ourselves. Karma is ‘Life-Lesson’. Every day we have to deal with the effects created by others. How we deal is our own. Our response creates good or bad Karma for ourselves. But the causality belongs to someone else, in this case.

But when we create a ‘cause’ the responsibility is all on us. It goes on our ledger.
(Our response to the effects of other’s causalities goes on our ledger, too.) Our ledger contains our causes and our response to causes created by others.

Wayne Dyer Quote

50,000 years from now the only thing that will have mattered is our own life’s record. Everyone that we have ever helped or hurt will be dead. Nothing will have mattered to anyone. Only your own life’s record will matter. And it only matters to you.

What’s on your ledger?

Is your record black… or red… or is it the purity of white? I’ve found that in this life there are but a few lines, which once crossed, cannot be uncrossed. We have the capacity to fix our wrongs. We can correct the karmic influence. We can rewrite our ledger… mostly. We can take responsibility. We can do better. We can learn and grow. We can create the causality of repair. We can move forward in a positive, compassionate manner from this point forward, while we work on our past discrepancies. We can apologize. We can forgive… We can forgive ourselves!

It can be rightfully said that we are in control of our life experiences. We have the capacity to choose: to choose to create with compassion and gratitude and to respond with compassion and gratitude. No one can influence our choice. It’s up to us. We may find ourselves in less than desirable circumstances; circumstance beyond our control. But how we respond affects our karma, our ledger.

I try to consciously remember the truly miraculous nature of life. We are so distracted by the attraction to form, to stuff. We literally identify ourselves with our possessions, rather than our heart, the place where discernment lives. Our lives are true miracles. We’ve lost sight of the miracle. We are more than just the memory of our bygone possessions. We are miracles beyond the capacity of our language to define. Life is a miracle! It’s not commonplace! We are still the ONLY life that we have positively identified in the universe (conspiracy theories, not withstanding). That realization should generate a degree of gratitude. In fact,

“My own gratitude heart is ALL that matters.” —Sri Chinmoy

Coming from a place of gratitude and compassion for our miracle-life enables us to create peaceful, loving causes. Gratitude enables us to respond positively even to negative causality. And it gives us the insight to go within ourselves and correct our causal mistakes.

Open your ledger. Look carefully… and be constantly aware…

Pilgrimage of the Heart offers Pranayama with Lauren, Mindfulness with Joe, Meditation with Sujantra, Papaha and Astika and Kirtan (chanting) with Tom, Sujantra, Sita Rose and ‘Fast Heart Mart’ every week. Check the schedule for times and dates.

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The Diaphragm: A Link the Conscious and the Subconscious

Last week I discussed the link between breath and heart and I gave you an exercise to gain greater awareness…

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Last week I discussed the link between breath and heart and I gave you an exercise to gain greater awareness and control of this subtle correspondence. This exercise can be utilized during a variety of meditation practices.

Here is another link in the chain.

 Consider the diaphragm.

The diaphragm is a muscle and a membrane, which separates the lower abdominal region of our bodies (intestines, kidneys, liver, etc.) from the upper thoracic region, the area with our heart and lungs. The diaphragm is the main motor mechanism of the breath.

Inhale. Exhale.

Simply, when we inhale the diaphragm moves downward, decreasing the pressure inside the lungs compared to the outside air pressure. It creates a vacuum: air rushes in.

When we exhale the diaphragm moves upward, putting pressure on the lungs; increasing the pressure inside the lungs compared to the outside. Air rushes out.

And so, as you know, our subconscious, autonomics control the diaphragm… mostly. When we control our breathing through our practices we are consciously taking control of our subconscious diaphragm. The idea is to be able to recognize and feel the diaphragm as the mechanism you are controlling.

yoga_breath_lg

 

Everything you do with your breath centers around the diaphragm.

And to me, here’s the cool part: When we consciously recognize the diaphragm as we meditate and control it, the diaphragm becomes a bridge between the conscious and the subconscious: a very powerful meditation! It’s like having one foot in each world.

Sit and breathe. Feel your heartbeat. Then add the diaphragm link. Connect your conscious and subconscious. This creates an atmosphere of mindfulness which permeates into your overall life experience. And that’s what we want: More mindful, more of the time.

Sit down. Be still. Take a deep breath and feel your diaphragm descend!

Pilgrimage of the Heart offers Pranayama with Lauren, Mindfulness with Joe, Meditation with Sujantra, Papaha and Astika and Kirtan (chanting) with Tom, Sujantra, Sita Rose and ‘Fast Heart Mart’ every week. Check the schedule for times and dates.

Happy breath, one and all!

Tom

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THE ABCs OF ENLIGHTENMENT Part 7: Gratitude

GRATITUDE   Expressions of gratitude, things like thank-you notes, are considered signs of good breeding. I think I may have written one, maybe two, during my entire life. They also seem to be more of an activity for the leisure class and a girl thing, too. (I’m sure that if I were married my wife […]

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GRATITUDE

 
Expressions of gratitude, things like thank-you notes, are considered signs of good breeding. I think I may have written one, maybe two, during my entire life. They also seem to be more of an activity for the leisure class and a girl thing, too. (I’m sure that if I were married my wife would make me write them. Or would write them and make me sign them.) And in this regard we can imagine a Grand Duchess in some costume drama seated at her secrétaire in her silk and gold embroidered housecoat, penning proper little perfumed notes in her exquisite cursive and handing them off to her lady’s maid while the Grand Duke is off being rugged, chasing around a helpless little fox with a pack of wild dogs and an arsenal of WMD, while a crew of hundreds of dirty little men, red faced and on the verge of collapse, runs along behind trying to keep up. But who, these days, has the time or especially the resources for any of this?
 

A Hilarious Southern Comedian

 
I saw an interview the other day with Larry the Cable Guy, a hilarious Southern comedian whom I must confess I really enjoy—though being a Northerner (and his jokes being about things like fat people and farts) supposedly I should not—during which he was asked how he now likes playing big arenas and making $100,000 per night as opposed to the few hundred dollars a week he used to make working dives. A ridiculous question of course, and at first Larry was like, “A-duh, what do you think?” but then, “I feel really thankful, of course,” and I felt a sense of relief. He was not just a lowlife, I thought, and I could feel less guilty about watching his performances. Though I can’t promise you I could have stopped myself, regardless.

That we consider thankfulness (gratitude) an elevated condition is interesting; that an ungrateful person would be considered boorish, from the Dutch word for peasant, while a grateful one would be thought to be gracious (according to Oxford, “to exhibit high social status”) would seem to suggest a commonly held belief that to experience, and especially express, gratitude is something noble.

There is a popular quote, “There but for the grace of God go I,” attributed to one John Bradford, a Protestant, imprisoned in 1554 by Queen Mary Tudor of England—also known as “Bloody Mary” (a Roman Catholic who, though she would only reign for five years, thank God, still managed to burn close to three hundred “nonbelievers” at the stake). And reportedly uttered through the bars of his jail cell while watching one of his fellow heretics being led off to their own custom-designed rotisserie. Then, just a few months later, in January 1555, he was also barbecued.

Thanksgiving Ingredients

via Pixabay.com


 

Thank God I Wasn’t On That Plane

 
And this is the kind of gratitude we can all relate to: the “thank God I wasn’t on that plane” type. (I felt that way after 9/11 as I used to service the pianos at Windows on the World, the restaurant at the top of the World Trade Center, where all perished that day.) It is also similar, though perhaps to a less graphic degree, to the sentiment that we express each year at Thanksgiving (or are supposed to since that’s what the occasion is about—not, believe it or not, stampedes at shopping malls): “Thank God that, unlike most of the rest of the world, those of us gathered here today are not starving to death.”

Many so-called primitive cultures not only offer gratitude to God before their meals in this same way but also to the spirits of the creatures or even the plants that they are about to consume. I’m sure that if you asked for permission to say a prayer along those lines at your next family Thanksgiving you’d be quite the topic of conversation, especially as everyone traveled back home: “What the hell was that?! ‘The soul of the unwitting turkey.’ Well, there was more than one turkey in the room this year! It was so embarrassing! We can’t let that happen again! No more prayers, ever!”

Gratitude Otter

 

A Higher State of Awareness

 
Gratitude is essentially a higher state of awareness. At its most basic level it takes the form of a Thanksgiving-style recognition of what the world has given us in order that we might live; understands that other living things have sacrificed, suffered, or even died on our behalf. Then beyond this there is a level of thankfulness called unconditional gratitude to God, whether material blessings have come our way or not, or in the extreme, despite the fact that we have suffered or are suffering unbearably.

This work is subtitled, “A mystical primer” (which means an introduction) so we will leave that category alone for now. For it would require an entire other volume to explain in a convincing way how a saint, especially, could endure unremitting torment and yet be overflowing, almost to the point of bursting, with gratitude to God.

“You fool,” others (like Queen Mary, for example) might say, “how can you be grateful to a God who would do this to you?”(Of course, she is the one actually doing this to you!).
 
 
Look for the next topic, Hope, next week! Can’t wait to until then to read more? Order The ABCs ofThe ABCs of Enlightenment cover Enlightenment: A Mystical Primer today.

 

Jeffrey BakerJeffrey Baker was a student for more than forty years of Sri Chinmoy, who named him Kalatit (Kal, time; atit, beyond). Called “our preeminent humorist” by his teacher, he was a frequent contributor to publications and events in his spiritual community and elsewhere. A card-carrying Baby Boomer, he attended the Woodstock Festival, performed in various rock-and-roll ensembles, and has a degree in ecology from The University of Connecticut. He’s been a gardener for the Rockefellers in Pocantico Hills, New York, and “the piano tuner to the stars” working with artists such as Billy Joel, Chick Corea, Herbie Hancock, Richard Goode and Andre Previn. He has composed more than one hundred works in the classical as well as the theatrical genres. (https://www.reverbnation.com/jeffreybaker) His The Music of the Zodiac, has had more than 40,000 downloads. His corpus of philosophical treatises, Eat My Dust, Martin Luther, as well as a collection of epigrams, 1000 Pearls of Wisdom, and a group of essays on contemporary subjects, Blah, Blah, Blah, are available as e-books (Amazon) and in paperback (Createspace).

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The dance of the cobra ~ Bhujangasana   

As a small child, I was often haunted by snakes. I remember running wildly through the rugged terrain near my home in the Los Angeles hills…

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by Teresa Austin

Childhood Snakes

As a small child, I was often haunted by snakes. I remember running wildly through the rugged terrain near my home in the Los Angeles hills with the raw anticipation of what I might encounter in my daily adventures. In the fraction of a second, though, my childhood glee would be halted and my breath stopped. A snake and I would meet. My spine would tingle in fear and anticipation as to what this mysterious creature would do. Would it see me? Would it strike? Not only was I suspended in fear, but truly hypnotized by its powerful energy.

Little did I know that years later, I would come back to my childhood snakes, but this time in the form of yoga, in the great pose bhujangasana – cobra pose, and that my spine would be awakened once again in wonder.

Pilgrimage Yoga Online

It is no wonder that snakes have had an important role in India for thousands of years. From the magical snake charmer seducing the venomous cobra out of its basket, to the mythical 1,000 headed serpent, Shesha Naga, India has long held serpents to be sacred. The mysterious animals were thought to be relatives to the Naga people, the ancient warrior tribe, which is believed to have dispersed throughout India around the time of the epic Mahabharata.

Cobra

The Celebration of the Snake, Nag Panchami

Animal worship has played an important role in India’s national culture for thousands of years. The celebration of the snake, Nag Panchami, is a festival that celebrates the snake, and all it represents: death, rebirth, and immortality. Devotees sprinkle turmeric, vermillion and flowers on snakes to honor their role in nature.

Some Hindu gods like Shiva, the god of destruction and transformation, and Vishnu, the god of preservation, are pictured with the cobra enfolded around them. Even Buddha is often represented cradled within the great snake. Vishnu is often seen reclining on one of the folds of the great serpent Shesha, who weaves throughout the celestial waters of the Milky Ocean. With the symbolic role that snakes have played in Indian culture, it is no surprise, that Patanjali, the great compiler of the yoga sutras and the forefather of modern yoga, is believed to have been an avatar of Shesha.

Kundalini energy is believed to reside in the realm of the great sleeping serpent who is coiled along the base of the spine, and once awakened through devout meditation, slithers up the spine toward the pineal gland and through the crown chakra ultimately moving one into divine Selfhood.

 

Cosmic God

 

The Practice

Like the snake that sheds its skin over and over again, we too shed our skin, over and over again, each time we come to our yoga practice. In each shedding, an energetic rebirth has the potential to take place.

Of course it is important to keep our spines supple and strong like the great serpent. For it is our beloved spine that holds us up and allows us to continue to move throughout life.

In elegant bhujangasana, or cobra pose, we get to know our spine. It is along the lines of the spine that we channel our inner cobra. Cobra not only provides back strength, but also massages our precious digestive organs, stimulating the swadhisthana and manipura chakras

In its full fruition, before it is ready to dance into attack, the cobra raises its great hood, just as we do, as we inhale our hearts forward. The snake also moves between the light of day and the darkness of the underground. Inhaling, we lift our cobra-hoods towards the light (joy); exhaling, we drop our hearts back down towards the earth into darkness (contemplation).

Cobra Pose

Snakes also teach us that we too should we be more in tune with our “gut instincts” as snakes are aware of their surroundings through their bellies as they feel the reverberations of the earth around them.

Let our breath then, our mystical snake charmer, seduce the energy of our snake spines to emerge vibrant and alive! And just like the mystical snake charmers who were thought to have strong ties to the gods due to their magical ways with cobras, we too can energetically tap into that divine space that resides along the lines of our beloved spine through the power of the ever graceful and strong bhujangasana.

 

Teresa AustinTeresa Austin is the creator of Myth Asana®, a progressive yoga practice that infuses mythology and symbolism within the beauty and strength of yoga. She has been a practitioner of yoga for over 20 years and a teacher for 10 years. Teresa was a world mythology teacher for many years and currently is finishing up her 1000 hour yoga therapy certification specializing in the power of symbolism and storytelling in a therapeutic setting. Her dvd is available at www.mythasana.com .

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Why I Practice Yoga

Stepping on my mat is coming home. And as we grow up, the idea and definition of “home” becomes amorphous. It doesn’t have clean edges anymore…

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Finding Home

Stepping on my mat is coming home. And as we grow up, the idea and definition of “home” becomes amorphous. It doesn’t have clean edges anymore. Maybe it never did. Is it in San Diego, where I’ve lived for the past decade? Is it where I go for the holidays? Is it wherever my mom is? Toto, I don’t think we’re in Kansas anymore. Life gets topsy turvy sometimes and anxiety :: worry :: doubt :: fear :: loneliness often become my regular, unwanted companions. Sigh. But when I practice yoga asana I feel “home” wherever I may be: an airport waiting area, a beach somewhere, the yoga studio down the street. Lately I’ve been intentionally cultivating that home feeling within myself as I move through the world; making it a goal to find that feeling of wholeness :: safety :: okay-ness.

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Being Grounded

And each time I get on my mat, I remember: Oh, right, this is what it feels like to be grounded :: to have my feet on the earth :: to be supported :: to take risks and fall :: to try again :: to get back up :: to breath deeply :: to take flight :: to exhibit courage :: to have my own back :: to challenge myself :: to be enough as I am today :: to rest.

 

Here’s what I’ve found helps me most:

Start with Sun Salutations.

*  The moving, repetitive flow of the sun salutations is a mindless meditation that gets me out of my head, into my body, and connected with my breath.

Sun Salutations

 

Move with breath:

*  As I take deeper breaths my body relaxes, my thoughts quiet, and I find myself more connected with what’s actually happening in the present moment.

Yoga Pose on the Beach

Photo by Mario Covic

Practice outside:

*  When I get on my mat (or on the grass :: sand :: dirt) out in nature I breathe in fresh air and remember that I’m part of this universe :: earth :: world :: community. (Try it. It’s magical. And maybe you’ll inspire someone else to take a breath :: slow down :: and remember their own wholeness.)

 

Set an intention:

* Sometimes I dedicate each sun salute to a friend or choose an affirming word for each breath. It helps me feel purposeful :: connected :: home.

 

 

Lena Schmidt

 

by Lena Schmidt

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Falling Into Practice

I fell into the practice of yoga several years ago when a coupe of friends of mine had invited me to attend a Moksha Hot yoga class…

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by Keith Macpherson

I fell into the practice of yoga several years ago when a coupe of friends of mine had invited me to attend a Moksha Hot yoga class. I remember walking into the studio and feeling like I stepped into another planet. The culture was so different compared to what I had known outside the walls of that building. A calm came over me as I placed my mat down in the sweaty hot room and waited for class to begin. I remember feeling very self conscious as the instructor entered the room and started referencing words I had never heard of. “Savassana this and Udyana that”. My mind raced into overdrive as I didn’t want anyone to look over and see me in the corner trying to keep up with the next to impossible stretches the people around me seemed to be so easily doing and yet somehow after the experience, I couldn’t stop thinking about how good I felt. I left the studio that day feeling so light, open and completely present. Everything seemed clearer and made more sense.

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Words Can’t Explain It

To this day, I can’t completely explain it in words. I continued to make my way back to the studio every week and the practice became a regular routine for me. It was then that my life began to change. I started absorbing more of the information being instructed to me in class; from physical cues to specific intentions and inspirations spoken to relate to the postures I was doing in my body. The yoga world became a magical place for me. It made me feel alive and free. I graduated my practice into teaching yoga and have been for several years. Although I am now in the role of a yoga instructor, I have come to see that we never stop growing. Everytime I step foot in the studio as a student or instructor, there are so many opportunities to learn and grow on so many levels. Such is life. Yoga is a remembrance of what life is really all about. It reminds us to take things one moment at a time, to breath, to stay present, to surrender our tension and holding patterns, to love and be grateful. At first, at least in my experience, it all appears to be kind of impossible. How can something so basic like stretching lead to such deep insights? I have come to see that yoga is so much more then just people stretching their bodies. It is a reflection of life. I am a big believer that we are all on a journey back to oneness. In sanskrit, (the language associated with the yoga practice), the word “yoga” means “union”. Underneath all that appears to separate us on the surface, whether it be our body size or shape, the way we look, the way we think, the choices we make, there is a deep connection that we all share. Think about it. We are all sharing this planet, we are all breathing the same air, we are all able to be present in this body because we all have beating hearts.

#Fallintopractice

30 Day Yoga Challenge Ahead!

This practice of Union deepens us and will eventually lead to a realization that we truly are all connected in a way much deeper then the physical reality that we think we are. I am passionate about making yoga accessible to everyone. It is a game changer worth trying. Over time it will improve the quality of your life. For that reason, I am launching a 30-Day yoga challenge on Instagram with my good friend Rachelle Taylor (Editor of Prairie Yogi Magazine). Together for 30 days we will be posting a picture of a yoga posture once a day for you to try and then post up a photo version of you doing the pose at the hashtag #fallintopractice. We purposely decided to put postures in this challenge that could be accessible to as many people as possible. So this is your chance! If you haven’t attempted this practice before but have been curious- try out a few postures and take that extra step to share your journey with us. Even if you have been practicing yoga for a long time- even better to encourage others to fall into their practice. There are some great incentives attached to this challenge that you can win simply by posting your photos to the hashtag including spa certificates from Thermea, NHL Jets Gear, Yoga Studio Passes at Moksha Yoga Winnipeg Lianne Gail Jewelry and some great swag from Prairie Yogi not to mention a few copies of my new yoga dvd that just got released. I hope you will take the risk and dive into to meet our invitation for you to try yoga. After all- this is the perfect time to try something new. Life is here waiting for you to expand and grow! I look forward to seeing what you come up with and hearing what you think of the practice!

Join the Instagram Challenge at http://www.instagram.com/keithmmac .

Subscribe to Keith’s daily email intentions and updates here.

 

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4 Summer Drinks That Will Keep You Slim

Oscar Wilde stated “Everything in moderation, even moderation.” and this couldn’t ring truer in our current balance-obsessed culture…

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by Sara

Is maintaining balance stressing you out?

 

Here’s 4 summer drinks that will keep you slim without going to extremes.

Oscar Wilde stated “Everything in moderation, even moderation.” and this couldn’t ring truer in our current balance-obsessed culture. I’ve always tried to approach health without going to extremes but like most twenty-something females living in Southern California I’ve definitely done my fair share of experimenting with juice cleanses and strict vegan or gluten free diets. In the end I’ve found that the best way to maintain a healthy weight is to value mindful balance and let go of perfection.

As a personal chef and food-documentary junkie, I have my fair share of opinions when it comes to eating. There are some things I won’t touch like soda or artificial fruit juices. Other times, I throw out the rulebook and enjoy some delicious French cheese on baguette with a glass of rosé for dinner! Quality over quantity and moderation over deprivation.

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Learning to approach health without going to extremes will be incredibly helpful in the long run. If maintaining balance is stressing you out, you’ll likely never receive the benefits of a moderate lifestyle!

Most people associate the holidays with packing on the pounds, but summertime, with its weekly BBQs and sugary drinks, can put a serious damper on your weight loss plan. Instead of reaching for that soda, try these delicious drinks that will increase metabolism, detoxify your body and curb your appetite. You’ll find yourself shedding a few pounds easily, in a completely healthy way!

Metabolism Tea

Metabolism Boosting Iced Tea

A simple cinnamon, ginseng or green tea can stabilize your blood sugar, boost your metabolism and detoxify your system. Keep a pitcher in your fridge and enjoy unsweetened or add a small amount of raw honey when the tea is still warm.

Breakfast Smoothies That Fill You Up

A morning smoothie can be a great way to get a serving or two of fruit in before you start your day. Adding a tablespoon each of flax seeds, chia seeds and hemp seeds will provide enough fiber and protein to suppress your appetite and fill you up until lunchtime. Try this simple and delicious green smoothie.

Green Smoothie

De-stress with Adaptogenic Herbs

Did you know that chronic stress can lead to increased cortisol levels which trigger hunger and keep you from losing weight? Adaptogens are ancient herbs that can help improve your body’s hormonal responses and balance the adrenal system. Ashwagandha, Ashitaba and Rhodiola can help stabilize hormones and keep your body in balance. Try this simple recipe to reduce stress and lose weight.

Fat Burning Apple Cider Vinegar

When insulin levels spike, fat is more easily stored in the body. Apple cider vinegar can help to stabilize your blood sugar and suppress your appetite. While some choose to take a shot of the vinegar straight, I prefer a smoother approach by adding a tablespoon of ACV to a glass of half water, half freshly squeezed grapefruit juice. Drink a glass an hour before each meal to curb the appetite and improve digestion.

A long-term healthy diet rich in fruits and vegetables will almost always lead to successful weight loss and it never hurts to go for a few walks or do a bit of yoga or strength training, too. The secret is to find joy on the path to your goal weight and always focus on lifestyles changes rather than quick fixes. Incorporating healthy ways to hydrate into your day-to-day life is a great place to start!

 

SaraSara is a health food enthusiast and has been practicing yoga for over ten years. She currently works as a personal chef and as Natural Lifestyle Specialist for Purtylife.com.

Photo by Vince Marcial.
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Review: Shambhu: Sacred Love

Let’s skip the name dropping and talk about this very impressive solo debut that contrary…

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by Michael Debbage

According to Shambhu’s website this guitarist has previously performed with Carlos Santana, Narada Michael Walden and Whitney Houston to name a few. But let’s skip the name dropping and talk about this very impressive solo debut that contrary to its album cover is not flowery and light but actually a very expressive recording that fuses organic contemporary instrumental music with light elements of jazz and world themes. Of course it does not hurt to have the Will Ackerman team, however this does not take away from the creative juices that flow from this new solo artist who co-produced and wrote eleven of the twelve impressive songs.

Shimmering Sitar and Guitar Work

The album is anchored in the mature opening track “Together” that features a conservative Charlie Bisharat on violin with the legendary bassist Tony Levin gently driving this mid tempo song. Similar results can be found on “Natural Moment” this time with Shambhu’s shimmering sitar and guitar work giving the grounded composition a unique folksy yet exotic feel. Shambhu also adds the vocal chants of Claytoven Richardson on “Maui Breeze” and “Hide And Seek” cloaking the music with a bossa nova edge to it.

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Simply brilliant!

In contrast, Shambhu also captures a more tender approach best illustrated by the poignant “Eyes Of A Child”, the sublime “Revelation” and even the subdued restrained passion of “Imagine.” On the latter,  Ackerman not only co-writes but also performs alongside Shambhu and veteran bassist Michael Manring who sounds like he is performing on a fretless bass, that only adds to the smooth silky sound. Shambhu takes an even more meditative approach on the likes of “Nirab Amare” and “Call To Spirit” and then seizes the opportunity to add a Western flavor on “Shiva Grove” by adding a jazz element courtesy of George Brooks’ saxophone as he intertwines with flutist Ravichandra Kulur. Simply brilliant!

An Album of Integrity and Maturity

Shambhu may have an unusual name and along with the meditative and very light artwork of the album cover, this may not be the smartest marketing decision as the meditative influence is nominal at best. However, this would certainly support the expression of don’t judge the “book” by its cover. Simply put, Scared Love is an album of integrity and maturity that is very capable of exploring several genres yet still creating a very cohesive and entertaining album making it the sleeper hit of 2010.

Shambhu’s Website     Amazon     iTunes      CD Baby

Michael Debbage writes music reviews and interviews artists for MainlyPiano.com.  He is a regular contributor to the Pilgrimage Yoga Online blog.

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Review: Shambhu: “Dreaming of Now”

Dreaming Of Now not only matches Shambhu’s first offering but frankly abundantly exceeds it. But be ready to just follow the musical escapade…

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by Michael Debbage

Shambhu’s impressive 2010 debut took many by surprise however a follow up album especially after a strong debut is always a difficult position to be in. shambhu_Pilgrimage -SMALLNevertheless, Dreaming Of Now not only avoids the dreaded sophomore jinx but it will put to rest any doubt that Sacred Love was just a fleeting musical moment. In fact Dreaming Of Now not only matches Shambhu’s first offering but frankly abundantly exceeds it. But be ready to just follow the musical escapade you are about to embark on as the guitarist continues his boundless musical exploration yet creating a complete unified musical vision.

A Smorgasbord of Musical Dishes

Once again Shambhu teams up with Will Ackerman behind the production board along with several musical guests including the more obvious choices of Charlie Bisharat on violin, Eugene Friesen on cello and Jeff Oster on flugelhorn. Add in the instruments such as the saxophone, flutes and various levels of percussion and combine that with Shambhu’s tasty guitar work on both acoustic and electric and you have all the ingredients for a smorgasbord of musical dishes all for your listening consumption.

Simply Heavenly

The album opens with the optimistic “Waterfall” that cascades and flows with the joy of George Brooks’s saxophone countering with Friesen’s cello all anchored around Shambhu’s melodic guitar work. It completely sets the tone of Dreaming Of Now that is simply heavenly. Followed immediately by the more moody “Windows Of Time” that then flings you into the toe tapping breezy “Starbucks Landing” will keep you keenly aware that this artist, much like his debut, refuses to pigeon hole himself into one specific musical style. “Starbucks Landing” focuses on the electric guitar and no it is not Carlos Santana but our very own Shambhu’s letting loose.

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Dreamy Moments

Dreaming Of Now is not without its dreamy moments that can be best found on the title track with Premik Russell Tubbs’ flute work floating effortlessly with Shambhu’s softly shaded acoustic work. This less complicated composition is utterly mesmerizing. The lighter musical hues can also be found on “Country Aire”, “Devodance” or even better yet the naked and stark yet gorgeous closer “Sanctuary” where Shambhu shows us he is capable of doing a superfine William Ackerman like performance but in his own musical tongue.

You Will Like from Start to Finish

Shambhu lost his element of surprise after his strong debut, however this does not take away from the absolute beauty found on Dreaming Of Now. With absolutely no filler, Shambhu’s follow up effort shows an artist that has not only blossomed but has also formally announced himself as a ready for prime time musician. The only question is in which genre? It does not matter as Shambhu takes elements of World, Smooth Jazz, New Age and Meditative qualities to create a musical experience that you will like from start to finish making it one of 2013’s finest releases.

Shambhu’s Website     Amazon     iTunes     CD Baby

Michael Debbage writes music reviews and interviews artists for MainlyPiano.com.  He is a regular contributor to the Pilgrimage Yoga Online blog.

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The Wandering Yogis’ Article

Thank you The Wandering Yogis for posting this great article! “I recently watched a news clip about Pilgrimage Of The Heart yoga located…

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Thank you The Wandering Yogis for posting this great article!

“I recently watched a news clip about Pilgrimage Of The Heart yoga located in San Diego.  What captured my attention was the way these 2 studios have removed all barriers to accessing yoga classes.  No longer can we say ‘I can’t afford it, I don’t have transportation, I can’t make time during my day or I feel uncomfortable in a yoga class.’  Pilgrimage Of The Heart offers pay as you wish online yoga classes accessible to anyone with a computer….read more

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