Soften and Enjoy

You have hopefully heard it said many times that when we practice for ourselves we practice for…


by Courtney Yezzi

You have hopefully heard it said many times that when we practice for ourselves we practice for the benefit of all beings. The effort, thought and energy we put into our practice first creates a positive impact on our life force and then goes out into the universe to create a positive impact on the world around us. Isn’t that amazing concept!?

Up the Vibration

If this is the case wouldn’t we want to practice next to the most positive, fluid thinking, relaxed, intelligent yogis in the room to catch that vibe first? Wouldn’t we want to be those yogis who exude life force energy and a peacefulness that UP’s the vibration in the room? Sure we all would and we all do want that for ourselves and want that for others. So how? Simply, let go and receive.

Relax and Receive

One thing I emphasis in my classes to help get into that flow state of UPing the vibe and generating positive life force is to soften. So many students come into the yoga room with very serious faces or rigid bodies ready for a good workout or to beat their overactive minds into submission for an hour. That tension and mindset can be palpable to others in the room and for sure is palpable to the formless spirit inside. When students are taking themselves too seriously in class I will ask that we all take a satisfying breath in and soften the outer form so the formlessness inside can start to move and enjoy itself. To allow the magical and medicinal properties of the asana practice to take over and move through us all. To allow the over tight, overworked and unnecessary tensors to relax and receive the potency of the practice.

Let Go

Many more of the magical benefits of asana will show up for us when we let go stop taking ourselves so seriously and soften ourselves to happiness and even silliness at times so energy can flow through us with ease. As much as asana is about concentration and meditation it is about enjoying to the fullest capacity the time you have set aside to befriend yourself and learn yourself anew. This is one way we can up our vibration and send it out into the world.


Courtney YezziCourtney Yezzi has taught at Pilgrimage since 2008. She teaches the full array of classes from our power classes to our gentle classes. She understands yoga as a tool on the great journey to self-awakening. Courtney is an inspired yogi who is constantly focusing on sharing her highest with her students.

“To my shining spirit and the shining spirits of others who I will meet on this path. May our hearts beat joyfully together as we journey forward.”

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 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


The Pilgrimage of the Heart Interviews Podcast E05

Explore yoga, asana, meditation, mythology and brahmacharya with renowned instructor, Alanna Kalvalya…


Enjoy interviews with inspiring and uplifting guests who share their insights into yoga, personal improvement and world transformation. We feature yogis, writers, musicians, teachers and visionaries from many fields who are reaching for the highest in human potential. The program is hosted by Sujantra McKeever, founder of Pilgrimage of the Heart Yoga in San Diego, CA.

Ep 05: Explore yoga, asana, meditation, mythology and brahmacharya with renowned instructor, Alanna Kalvaiya.

Mario Covic – Yoga Photographer

Have you ever tried to take a photo that captures you at the height of your asana? We recently sat down with photographer Mario Covic to talk about photography and yoga.


Have you ever tried to take a photo that captures you at the height of your asana?  We recently sat down with photographer Mario Covic to explore photography and yoga.  Mario has captured the exquisite beauty of yoga and nature as the official photographer for Bhakti Fest, Wanderlust, and Lightning in a Bottle.

PYO: What are you looking for inside the viewfinder when you’re composing a yoga image?

Mario: My aesthetic is one that I like to call ‘clean’. When I’m working with people I compose an image that’s clean and focuses on the individual where the background isn’t going to distract from what the individual is doing.

Often I shoot in Nature and I use Nature to compliment the human and what they’re doing. The whole point is to capture the brilliance of a moment where someone is expanding in their asana and the beauty of Nature is a reflection of the expansion at that peak moment. Nature is brilliant but you can clearly see what humans are doing. The beauty of Nature adds to the brilliance of what’s being captured — it does not distract from it.


PYO: Why do you mix nature and yoga?

Mario: When I’m shooting yoga photography outside, the whole point of it is to capture the brilliance of a moment where someone is expanding in their asana. The beauty of nature is a reflection of the expansion that’s happening in the peak moment of that asana. That’s what the whole point of asana is – centering ourselves, rooting ourselves, grounding ourselves so we can expand out. A beautiful tree is rooted and grounded equally and can expand out into its brilliance above ground.


PYO: Why do you love yoga?

Mario: Yoga is about a balance between body, spirit and our minds. When we go into nature we’re usually being active which brings us into our bodies. When we’re in the body we’re not so in the mind. Nature brings us into the present moment. That’s the goal of yoga and asana. Spending time in Nature that is Yoga. Doing Asana reminds us of our own brilliant nature which is easier to do outside in Nature.


Arriving late to a career in photography, Mario Covic earned a degree in biology and environmental sciences and grew to love the outdoors, adventure and yoga – all of which influence his startlingly beautiful imagery. His clients have included major athletic brands REI, Prana, and Lululemon.  Mario Covic is based in Oceanside, CA.  Connect with him on Facebook.

Asana & Pranayama – Feel the benefits of your yoga practice!

In the ancient books of yoga is says that the postures, asanas, should be firm but pleasant. We can think of our posture not only…


In the ancient books of yoga is says that the postures, asanas, should be firm but pleasant. We can think of our posture not only in terms of our yoga practice but also our posture in life and our daily activities. There is our physical posture, how we stand and support ourselves, and also our inner posture: the condition of our minds, hearts and sense of self.

Asana & Pranayama

Through the practice of asana we bring awareness, strength, balance and flexibility to our physical body. Through the practice of breath control, pranayama, we bring awareness to our breath. Breath is the great passageway into our inner dimension. Once we have learned to concentrate on our breath we can begin to refine our inner posture. We can learn to channel our mental and psychic energy in various ways. Ad

Our Meditation Classes

In our meditation classes we suggest that you use the concentration power of your yoga to reveal the qualities of your spiritual heart: love, compassion, acceptance, forgiveness, gratitude and oneness. Feel and manifest these qualities in your life. It will benefit not only you but everyone whose path you cross. We create the world by our thoughts, feelings and actions. Create consciously and remember the significance of your role in creating this world of ours. Happy Spring.

Yoga Tips

Linking breath and movement is one of the keys to yoga. Try this exercise: stand in Tandasana, mountain pose, with your arms by your side. Do a few shoulder shrugs to loosen up your shoulders and a few head rolls to relax your neck and head, then focus in on your breath, if possible breathing in and out through your nose. As you breath in open our hands as wide as possible: spreading your finger as if they were your lungs filling with air. At the same time lift your toes off the ground. Now as you exhale clench your hands into a fist and grab the floor with your toes. Repeat this cycle, linking breath with precise movements for 3-30 breaths. Feel the results.