Thursday, December 20, 2012

When the Cup is All Empty





The Circle of Life is a phrase we've all become familiar with, but how much have we thought about circles, cycles and the energy of roundness.  Our lives are cycles. Our years are cyclical.  Frequently, we find the energy in and around us turning and spinning in a circular motion. When we understand the rhythm and direction of that current, we can jump into, instead of going against the flow.  Trust me, it makes life easier.

We witness this as we watch our creative process.  There is a time for manifesting and there is a time for filling up the cup.  It doesn't matter what our occupation, we all give of ourselves and we all receive from others and from the world around us.  And there are periods when one of those choices makes more sense than the other.

For many of us, receiving is the problem.  Guilt often keeps us from opening up and accepting all the universe has to offer.  Especially here in New York, there is a sense that we should be doing and giving and going all the time. I see a lot of this with moms and other caregivers.  Certainly my own mom was this way.  As a child I watched her go and go and give until she broke down depleted. At one point I vowed not to give at all, not to care, but to be completely tough. Obviously this was not a good plan, but who knows that at 14?  So, what is the appropriate amount of giving?  That depends on the person and where they are in their process.  But since what you give comes back exponentially, ideally, you want to make yourself available for big output.

You get yourself to that place by clearing yourself of what you are holding on to and as you move forward you work on allowing energy to flow through you so that you no longer build up large holding patterns. One excellent way to do this is by doing yoga.  Daily practice is like clearing the slate and starting new each morning. This is why it is so good for actors who need characters to run through them.  By combining breath and movement, yoga releases deep internal muscles otherwise too hard to get to. And by relaxing in stressful situations on the yoga mat, the habits of the nervous system are also changed.   Space previously crowded by tight muscles and restless thoughts, becomes open and free. There are many ways to create more space. You create space in your life by throwing out the things you don't need, keeping your home and work clean and clear of clutter.  You create space by letting go of stifling ideas, habits, people.  You create space by under scheduling yourself and allowing yourself time and even boredom. If you want to bring something new into your life, you must first make space.

This is the concept we will focus on in our New Year's Eve class and meditation.  In order to receive all the good coming our way in 2013 we must first create a vacuum like setting inside of us that yearns to be filled.  We will do this by letting go of the things which are holding us back.  In a silent environment so we can experience peace and quiet and look inside, we will have an opportunity to release and burn those things we do not want to take into the new year.  The powerful collective ritual I have designed for this night is structured for maximum impact and longevity.  I will be guiding you as you safely open your hearts and let go old grudges, insecurities and limitations to create room for more good to enter your lives.

I hope you will join in this beautiful candle lit class and meditation which will conclude at midnight with nine repetitions of the sacred sound Om.

Register here.


This is just the beginning...

The thing about creating new space is that space wants to be filled! As soon as you make that space, so much will come sweeping in to fill it.  How will you know if what comes is the right thing?  You must prepare to attract what you want!

There has been plenty said of the power of attraction, some of it on point and some of it not.  I want to help you to understand what the power of attraction is, how it works, and how you can start to use it to get where you're going.  It is a lot less complicated and than most people think.  Simply put, there is an infinite amount of sensory information around us at any given moment.  If we took it all in we would go crazy with the overload.  (In fact, we see this affect with some who have sensory sensitivity) So, like a director, our brains are constantly editing what information we consciously receive.  How do our brains decide what we recognize?  I will help you understand this process and how to be in charge of what you are receiving. Your mind has developed a sieve for information based on experience.  Signs of danger are the first bits of information it is on the look out for.  After that most of the information your brain is allowing into consciousness is based on what has been important to you in the past.  This is great- if those things are still important to you, but if not, you may want to TRAIN YOUR BRAIN to look out for what supports your current mission and life path.  This is pretty much it.  And it is not at all difficult.


I will be following up our Space Creating New Years Class and Mediation with a Workshop on Attraction, Sunday, January 20th at 4PM.  
Look out for registration details at www.landyoga.com.


May you manifest all you desire and more and may it serve your highest good.

Blessings, Lara


Sunday, October 21, 2012

Conference Notes 10/21/12



Sharath started by reminding us that yoga is not new.  It's been practiced for many thousands of years as we can see from the numerous manuscripts where it is mentioned.  He gave the Bhagavad Gita and the Upanishads as examples.  Later many rishis began to practice yoga as a science to control the mind and to achieve higher consciousness.

In the Bhagavad Gita, Sharath explained, Ajuna is confused and upset because he has to fight his grandfather, uncles, and cousins.  Krishna tells Arjuna that the cause of his confusion is the fact that he has forgotten his Dharma (duty), which is to be a warrior and fight for truth.  Krishna tells Arjuna that he will teach him about yoga again.  This, Sharath points out demonstrates that even then yoga was not new, it had only been lost over time.

Even up to twenty years back, Sharath said, not many people were practicing yoga.  Most thought it was for saints and renunciates.  People were afraid to practice yoga thinking it would turn them into priests.  It was only after Krishnamacharya started to teach that people began to realize that anyone can do yoga.  Sharath said that this was because Krishnamacharya taught everyone, men, women, and children.  In fifty years everything changed.  Krishnamacharya taught and then only when he gave permission did Pattabhi Jois and his long term students start teaching.  Sharath emphasized that then yoga teachers were simple.  They were not "hifi".  For them the goal of yoga was self transformation and higher consciousness.

Sharath said that Guruji had no idea how famous he was.  He was focused on these goals and daily did his chanting, teaching, and chanting again.  Sharath warned that now yoga is everywhere but it has changed.  Modern yoga is like aerobics.  He reminded us that our goal should be for self transformation.  If our goal is only to learn asanas and to be a teacher we will get that, but we won't go further.  If we keep in our mind that the goal is higher consciousness, there is no end.

Then Sharath said, "I can't become bigger than yoga.  Nobody can own yoga.  Nobody can copyright yoga.  Yoga is what happens in you.  You can experience it, but you can not own it." He went on to compare yoga to the sun which gives energy, solar power, good light, and a healthy body, but which we can not own.  "We don't own anything in this earth." Sharath said,  "We don't even own this body.  How can we own yoga?"  "Clothes, body, you can wear for some time.  After life goes, this body goes back to nature."  He reminded us that everything we have one day we give back.  "We are like tenants."

Sharath's remarks moved toward nature and particularly the importance of clean air.  Since we are practicing yoga which is harnessing the mind, and the mind is controlled by the breath, having air to breath is particularly important.  Sharath said that each human needs about three and a half acres of land to breath properly.  He expressed concern about air pollution, excess carbon dioxide and lack of trees, saying soon we will have to go to zoos or special conservatories just to look at a tree.  He mentioned that instead of having a third child he was going to plant ten trees. (Three are already planted.)  Sharath said that planting trees is yoga.

"We have to care for everything: plants, animals, each and every living being on this earth.  They have the same right what we have."

Next Sharath told a story of a village where people used to sit outside on a platform under a Peepal tree.  He explained how a young boy wanted to cut it down thinking it of no use, but how an old man explained that this tree gave the purest oxygen changing the boy's mind.  Sharath used this to illustrate how we need some fresh air when we practice and should leave a window open so we aren't breathing in other people's exhaled air.  He also pointed out that at that time, people sat and conversed with each other instead of sitting in front of the TV only speaking to comment on soap opera characters.

Sharath explained how before recent times, a student had to search hard to seek out a yoga teacher and the teacher would check first to see if the student really wanted to learn.  He shared a story that Guruji told him about Krishnamacharya's experience finding his guru, Ramamohan Brahmachri who was up in the mountains.  When Krishnamacharya got there, Ramamohan didn't even come out, but sent his son to see who this visitor was.  His son asked him some questions and Ramamohan came out to give Krishnamacharya two rotis and telling him to be on his way.  But Krishnamacharya had come to Ramamohan to Learn yoga, not to Try yoga.  He would not leave, and when Ramamohan saw that he could converse in Sanskrit, he let him stay and took him on as his student.  Together they studied many yoga manuscripts including the Yoga Korunta which our system is based on.

The texts all explain yoga as withdrawing our senses to see our inner soul - inner purity.  Yoga is described as putting our vision inward.  Sharath said a yogi is not bothered by what is happening around him, but wants only to realize the purity within.  To do this he must first get rid of the 6 impurities that we all carry, known as the six enemies.  They are: lust, anger, attraction, greed, pride, and jealousy. Sharath described them as six shells incasing the pure soul which is like a pearl.  He said anyone can break through the shells and become enlightened if he uses proper effort in the right way.  But sometimes we have delusions which won't let us go higher.

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Then Sharath took Questions.

One student asked if at home she should do self-practice or practice with a certified teacher.  Sharath asked what it was she wanted to get from the teacher.  He wanted to know if she wanted more poses.  He ultimately answered by saying she could study with an authorized or certified teacher or do self-practice.

Another student asked if Sharath lost his friendships as he got deep into his disciplined practice in his youth.  He said no, but that friends have moved on due to marriage and life change.  He said that when he started his practice he had only himself to think of.  Then he got married and he had to think of two people.  Then he had his children and his concern was for four.  Now it is for six.  The fifth is his mother and this sixth is all of us.  Sharath said that he didn't mind because it is his karma.  He said, "This is my karma to teacher others, to help them how I can.  I try to teach what I can, what I know.  I don't say I am a master.  I have no Ph.D.  No Masters."

Then he told us a story of two big scholars who were in a village of thousands of people.  The scholars had studied all the yogic texts.  In the village a boy sat down under a Peepal tree.  He just sat quietly and closed his eyes.  All the people from the village came and also sat in silence in dhyana.  The scholars saw the boy and couldn't believe all these people were sitting in silence around him.  They decided they were going to expose him by asking him a bunch of questions to see how much he really knew.  They went up to the front, but when they got there they could not remember any of their questions.  They sat in silence.

Sharath explained that it is like that when you are around someone who has immersed themselves in yoga.  You feel it.  Then he said he had told too many stories.  He said Guruji's conference's were one sentence because all the philosophizing in the world could not make a person experience yoga:

"Practice and all is coming." 




Sunday, October 14, 2012

Conference Notes 10/14/12




Those who have attended conference here in Mysore know it usually starts with Sharath speaking on a topic and ends with a Q & A session.  This week he switched it up by opening it up for questions immediately.

The first question was if we should maintain silence before practice and the answer was a definite YES.  Sharath went on to explain why:  By talking to much we lose our prana and breath for our practice and our stamina will come down.  Next there was a question about the hand position in headstand and Sharath answered that the palms should be open so the head can fit, not closed with the head behind.  Then someone asked about the meaning of OM TAT SAT.  OM means The Divine, everything.  TAT SAT = That's it.  "God is everything.  We think we are great, but we are not.  We are small, not even a dot in this universe," Sharath elaborated.

After that someone asked if the practice used to include full vinyasa, and if so, why we don't do that now.  Doing "full vinyasa" means instead of jumping through to sit after downward dog, you would jump forward and finish the vinyasa, ending in Samasthiti and then from there, vinyasa into the next pose or second side of the pose.  This got Sharath talking.  He said full vinyasa is not necessary when we are doing so many poses.  He wanted us to understand that doing too much is bad, and warned that doing more than your body needs will cause you to become crazy.  He stressed that we should be careful when doing asanas.  He said that there are certain asanas that women shouldn't do because they can damage the womb and reproductive system.  There are also some asanas that are only for Brahmacharis.  Brahmacharis have no attachments and no commitments to the world.  If we try to do what is only meant for them, we will become crazy.  Sharath explained that we were born into this life of maya (illusion) which makes it harder to go to higher levels, but once we give up attachments we can go higher, and even while we are here we can do our sadana (spiritual practice).  We just can't do everything.  For example, there is a kriya (a purification) where you cut under your tongue to make it longer and then fold it back into the mouth.  This is done to capture the Amrita Bindu. Amrita Bindu is the nectar of life which drops down from the back of the head and gets burned away as it hits Manipura Chakra.  By retaining Amrita Bindu we can live a long time.  Sharath said that people did come to Mysore in the 70's and they did this kriya and others that they were not ready for.  "They were hippies and they were smoking (pause) and they went crazy."  Again, he stressed the importance of studying the philosophy and having knowledge before rushing to complete actions which can be harmful when done incorrectly or in the wrong time.  Sharath explained that Sirsasana (headstand) is even better for storing Amrita Bindu than the kriya he had previously mentioned.  Sharath shared that headstand can be done for up to 3 hours at a time, but you have to build up slowly by slowly to that amount of time.  When you do headstand for that long, you don't do your other asanas.  You can do it every two weeks or so.  He also mentioned that head standing has other benefits like increasing blood circulation and regulating the nervous system.

Sharath went on to explain that how you breath also has a strong affect on your lifespan.  He imitated the rapid panting of a dog and then made the point that a dog lives only 14 years.  The Shastras say humans have a lifespan of 100 years.  Humans breath on average 21,600 times per day.  If we take longer slower breaths and reduce that number we will increase our life span.  This is one of the reasons we do pranayama (when ready)  The old saints and rishis used to live 5 or 6 thousand years and this is how they did it.  Sharath added that breath control is not only to increase life span.  It is also to control the mind.  The breath affects the mind.  If you are anxious, angry, even happy, the pattern of the breath changes.  If you have anger or anxiety and you consciously relax your breath, those feelings will fade away.  Breath in asana should be free and it is important that the inhale and exhale are the same in length and sound.  We should also practice even breathing in life.  Sharath recalled attending an asana event and watching a man take big gasps of air through his mouth as he practiced.  He warned that you lose energy quickly that way and will only be able to do a couple asanas.  If you breath properly, you can practice for hours.  More importantly, when you take gasping breaths of air through the mouth as this man was doing it puts stress on your heart and your organs and you have problems when older.

There continued to be questions about head standing.  Sharath spoke about the importance of going very slowly in and out of headstand so that the blood vessels aren't damaged.  If they are, it affects the nervous system, so you have to be careful and not stay long until you can stay properly.  Then you can stay in headstand a long long time.  This happens when the weight is only in clasped hands and elbow like a tripod for a camera (Sharath's analogy).  Someone asked if there were certain diseases which mean you shouldn't do headstand.   Sharath said if you have Spondylosis you have to be careful, but then again, if you've learned the asana previous to the condition and don't put pressure on the head, you can do it.

With so many headstand questions, Sharath finally decided to demonstrate despite having had his breakfast not much earlier.  He pointed out his open palms, the weight disbursement, the pose variations that make it impossible to do with weight in the head, and the part of the head that touches lightly on the ground.  Someone asked about pressure on the head in Prasarita Padottanasana and he said it shouldn't be full weight in the head, but that with that pose and the headstands at the end of intermediate, the amount of time in the pose is minimal so the affect of weight in the head not as drastic.

"Guruji would always say to perfect an asana it must be practiced 1,000 times," Sharath said.  "One main reason people get injured is they have no patience.  It takes time.  The body has to change day by day, month by month, year by year."  He said many people come to Mysore just to get more asanas, but the stability of the asana is what is most important.  "If you are not stable, how can you do meditation, withdraw the sense organs, stabilize the mind?" Sharah probed.  "If you just close your eyes and sit it doesn't mean you are meditating.  To be still the mind must become stable."  Overtime the practice becomes mediation.  The senses are withdrawn and under control and the practice becomes more effective, meaningful, and spiritual.

Next a woman asked how Sharath was able to practice and focus when his children were very little.  He said that since he had been doing it so long before marriage, he already had the ability to keep going.  He said his wife is a big support and that it would be very difficult to go deeper in the practice without a supportive partner.  Even his daughter, he mentioned, knows not to disturb him after his 8:30pm bedtime.  He said keeping to a schedule over many years makes it manageable and normalizes it, though his friends did have the habit of calling him Dracula.

The final question was if all students can do all asanas if they apply the proper effort.  First Sharath said definitely, then he said that it did depend somewhat on ability and also the age you start practicing.  But if you put in effort, dedication, devotion, determination, and discipline you can do it.  Sharath said he kept himself very disciplined not going out, and in regard to food.  He said you have to sacrifice many things.

On the other hand, Sharath was clear that if you have lots of expectation around yoga it will not come.  "It has to grow with in you..."When it grows with in you it becomes part of yourself." If you force it, it will not happen.  If you have goals like learning a certain series by a certain date, it will not happen.  First you should have love towards your practice.  Then you will want to come to it.  Then as time passes you will feel uncomfortable if you don't practice like if you didn't brush your teeth.  You will feel off and those around you will notice too.



Sharath concluded with a very heartwarming and generous blessing:

"Sometimes you go to a level of practice...You don't want anything. Someone could put 1 million dollars or a Mercedes next to you and you wouldn't want it.  You want to totally submerse in practice.  Nice backbend feels so good, like 1,000 lotus flowers floating on you, especially if you have a guru like Pattabhi Jois.  When you are sitting too.  Your attention is only in The Divine.  I hope you experience all these things"

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Do Less



I remember it was at Boston University that I was first exposed to the idea of doing less and achieving more.  It was my Alexander teacher, Betsy Polatin that spoke to us about this concept and it was a complete paradigm shifter.  Even though on the surface we were talking about the body, I understood immediately that there was a deeper connotation and I was floored.  All my life I was raised with the mantra- work more, get more.  It was completely unheard of to me that one could WORK LESS and GET MORE.

The kind of working less I am talking about is not about sitting around watching TV and clipping your toe nails 10 hours a day.  It's a way of life in which you do less and what you choose to do is smart and effectual.  Since the day I heard of this concept I have been working to incorporate it more and more strategically into my life and undo the conditioning that it is cheating to know how to WORK WELL and to conduct work from a place of calm and relaxation.

Some people work day and night but GET NOTHING DONE.  Still they fall back on the time and energy they put in as "proof" they've done their best and an EXCUSE to complain about the futility of their work.  I was one of those people, but once I understood there was another way, I had no more excuses.  I had to accept that I had the knowledge of how to DO BETTER and therefor the OBLIGATION to myself to do just that.  Now I get satisfaction out of WORK that WORKS.

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about retraining the brain.  In fact there is a very serious retraining that happens as the yoga practice develops.  So many people who come to the Ashtanga practice are A-type worker bees.  They try to apply that sensibility in class and soon find out it will only take them so far.  There comes a point in the practice where only UNDOING will take you to the next place. This means getting into the asana and then remaining STILL, looking inside for muscles you can release and finally simply BEING a shape in space.  This means investigating what it is you're doing that is NOT NEEDED and DOING LESS.  This is a life lesson.

We have so much POWER inside us but we WASTE so much each day chatting, and fidgeting and running our mind around things we can not change.  Try BEING STILL when inclined to sway or fidget.  Try BEING SILENT when inclined to chime in.  Try being present in the FEELING of the moment without the looping commentary.  Do this by relaxing your jaw, noticing your breath, and accepting the support of the ground beneath your feet.  DON'T make yourself crazy trying to reverse all your habits and trying to change everything at once, but DO come to OBSERVE and UNDERSTAND yourself better at least during the time you are on your mat.  You might just find out you hardly knew yourself at all!


*Betsy is seeing private clients this week in New York.  You can contact her through the link above.  Purchase the life changing book Body Learning to learn more about Alexander Technique.





Sunday, October 7, 2012

Conference Notes 10/7/12

Sharath and his son Sambhav in Podmasana

Sharath gave a beautiful and demo filled conference today on the theme of the 8 limbs of yoga.  He started off saying how when people think of Ashtanga yoga they often think of asana because that is how they were introduced to the practice.  They hear the word Ashtanga and they react by commenting on how hard it is.  Sharath said he agrees, "it is very difficult" but "it is difficult because it is NOT only asanas.  It is anushtanam."  Anushtanam means the total absorption of the qualities of yoga.

We develop the qualities of yoga by observing the outer limbs (Yama, Niyama, and Asana) and then over time there is a transformation that happens within us.  Sharath went on to explain that Yama, Niyama, and Asana are the pillars of spiritual practice.  He likened them to a tripod holding up a camera (Sharath's an avid photographer) or to the foundation of a building which must be strong, for the upper levels to survive.  Sharath said he's often heard there are two kinds of yoga: yoga in the east and yoga in the west.  He frowned on westerner's obsessions with asana details such as jumping through with straight or crossed legs which put too much emphasis on the physical aspect of yoga and leave out the spiritual.

Sharath said stability in asana is important, but as a support for the spiritual practice.  Each individual should watch and observe how the asana practice helps him as a spiritual being.  After years the practice will become like a meditation.  Sharath explained how in the Hatha Yoga Pradipika only 6 limbs are mentioned. He said this is because Yama (restraints) and Niyama (observances) should be practiced while doing the asanas and went on to give some examples.  Saucha (cleanliness) has two parts, internal and external.   Inside we should practice keeping our thoughts clean, being good to others, and keeping the internal body and mind purified.  External saucha refers to keeping your body, clothes, and environment clean.  You should bathe before your asana practice like you would before going to temple, because it puts your mind in a clear state for asana practice which is like prayer.

Santosha, the second Niyama, means being content with what you have.  Some people have everything but internally they are not happy.  Santosha is a joy which can come only from the inside.  Tapas means to live a strict and disciplined life.  Spirituality doesn't happen with out discipline.  When the body and mind develop discipline, spirituality will come naturally.

Sharath emphasized that when the external limbs (Yama, Niyama, Asana) are practiced regularly over time, all the internal limbs will naturally come.  Samadhi isn't something you practice, it's something that happens to you.  Even the lower of the internal limbs, Dhyana, can not happen unless you give time and effort to nourishing your mind and your practice with the Yamas and Niyamas.  The amount of effort is different for each student, but over time the change happens inside you.  Otherwise if you try to control the mind forcefully before you are ready you can create more harm than good.  When the mind is unleashed it will jump around more than before.

Ashtanga yoga is more than a practice.  It is a Sadana.

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Students went on to ask some questions:

*One student wanted to know why Pranayama (technically an outer limb) is not taught.  Sharath replied that he teaching Pranayama but only to the students who are ready.  First the asana practice must be very stable or you can cause illness.

*Another student asked about Sharath's diet.  He explained that he keeps a vegetarian diet and eats only one big meal a day.  He doesn't have a taste for western food, but he does like pizza when on tour which his children have turned him on to.  He also mentioned that he reduced his eating in conjunction with his 40th birthday, siting a slowing down of metabolism as we age.  Sharath warned of the danger of excess eating on the organs since they have to do extra work to process excess food.

*Students also asked about pain in the body.  Sharath explained that there are different kinds of pain and you must come to understand which can heal through slow attentive practice and which need more attention.  He also remarked that age is a factor.  We heal more easily when we are young.

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Sharath began to reminisce about his youth and playing cricket with friends.  This was the catalyst for a question about engaging in sports or other physical activities like running while doing the yoga practice.  Sharath answered simply that it wasn't advisable.  Running and other sports create swelling in the joints which causes excess stiffness in practice and problems later in life.  Yoga is all that is needed and the only thing that makes one more active and energized in old age.  Going for a swim or playing a sport once in awhile with a friend is okay, but it shouldn't be done regularly.


Thursday, October 4, 2012

Life After Mysore- Allison reflects on how her first trip has changed her




As most of you who have been following know, for the first time, this year I took a student with me to Mysore.  Having Allison with me was so special.  In some ways it was like coming full circle since I was fortunate to have my teacher bring me for my first trip.  Her instant reaction upon walking into the shala was a clear indicator that this decision was right.  I documented Allison's experience during her time here and asked her to write once more about how she is feeling now that she is back home.  Here's what she had to say:


Before I left for Mysore I was admittedly a little nervous, not really knowing what to expect being so far away from home.  However, sometimes in order to grow you must step into the unknown and face your fears.  While in Mysore I was simply immersing myself in my new environment, local culture, and my practice (of course); I didn’t really think about how the trip would impact me.  Only after I started settling back into the hectic NYC lifestyle did I fully appreciate and miss the yogic lifestyle of Mysore.  

It’s as if my ‘batteries’ have been recharged; I feel rejuvenated from the rest, yoga, and freshly made Indian food.   As a result, my under eye circles disappeared, skin cleared, and I have a slight glow from the warm Indian sun.  Not only do I feel refreshed mentally, but also physically I feel different.  Previous to Mysore I was able to easily practice in the evenings after work without a problem.  After three weeks in Mysore my body became used to 5:00 A.M. practices on a completely empty stomach.  I now find myself in need to make the switch to early morning practices.  Will I become a ‘morning’ person?

While I am blessed to live & love in a beautiful city with ample hot water, comfortable beds, reliable power and seatbelts, one thing is certain: I miss Mysore.  NYC was simply a shock to return to, three weeks of yoga and relaxation left me in a new state of mind.  The first day back was just spent ‘catching up’ from being away…so much to do with so little time (at least it felt like this).  Going back to work was a major shock, so fast paced and productivity based.  Experiencing the yogic lifestyle in Mysore reminds me how important our daily practices are at ‘home’, wherever that may be.  Since, I have returned everyday to Land Yoga with pure happiness and appreciation for the Ashtanga practice.  

Making the journey to Mysore has certainly allowed me to grow as a person; I am stronger and more adventurous than I realized.  Even the practice in Mysore changes you.  You have to be strong and self-reliant in the Shala, it can be intense at times.  I’ll always remember my experiences I had during this journey, even after my post-Mysore glow disappears.  The practice, people, and the place stay with you.  I am already dreaming about the next trip!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Stronger than you think



Last week I set out to write about some struggles I was having in my physical practice and how they related to my emotional state.  Once I started writing, I realized that a whole separate blog would be necessary to make clear that there is a connection between the physical and the emotional and spiritual spheres, so I wrote that one first.  (If you haven't read it, link HERE.) I don't usually write about asana because frankly, I find reading about it to be kind of gross!  BUT, in the sense that it is a manifestation of an internal state, in this entry I will make an exception and use my own personal practice as an example.

Our bodies carry our life experiences and specifically hold on to any situations that we don't let ourself feel fully and allow to pass through.  Certain parts of the body take the lead at holding certain kinds of situations.  No one person is the same.  There are universal holding patterns, cultural, and individual ones. For example, instances which provoke anger are often stored in the jaw.  Over time, these storing areas become very good at their job and jump in to hold vibration and protect you from pain sometimes even before there is any pain to protect you from.  Then these preemptive responses become patterns and without our conscious input, habits are formed.  These habits manifest themselves in everything we do, from the way we walk, to talk, to eat, to brush our teeth.

The habits we carry with us, for example, the way we shift or cross our arms in response to a stimulus, were likely very useful mechanisms for dealing with some uncomfortable situations in our lives.  We probably had an experience where we didn't want to show all our feelings when talking to our boss, or a new romantic interest, and even with a loved one.  Sometimes it is appropriate to edit.  The problem begins when we don't even realize we are doing it and our bodies start to send messages we don't agree with and hold tensions we don't want to hold.  The solution lies in bringing our unconscious tendencies into the conscious realm where we have choice.  This is done through mindful yoga practice.

Last week I was struggling with pain under my left shoulder blade.  It was immediately obvious to me that the cause was not my hard Indian bed, 30 hour journey, or overly enthusiastic first practice (though those were triggers).  The root of the tension was my heavy reliance on that area in the previous weeks.  Busy getting ready for my trip to India, and not wanting to engage fully (aka feel) I fell into old habits like tensing my neck and shoulders.

Once the pain got severe, I was forced to correct my overuse.  This meant a week instructing myself to initiate all movement from my lower body.  Even when lifting my arms up above my head, I imagined that they were being lifted by the use of the bandhas.  This caused my lower body to engage and my shoulders to relax.  The point I am making is that in order to heal my body, I had to retrain my mind to override patterns that were no longer serving me.  I recommitted myself to mula and uddiyana bandhas and promised not to lift up or jump through if the action couldn't be initiated and supported from these inner locks.  In the cases that it wasn't I would step back and forward.  I had to be stringent because the mind is very tricky and wants to maintain its old habits.  Complete honesty with the self and consistent repetition of the new pattern must be there to make change.

Forced to look INSIDE for strength I soon became happily reacquainted with the bandhas and reminded of their numerous benefits.   One of the great things about drawing strength from the bandhas is they don't leave you with residual tension.  They also have a well of power to pull from which gets stronger, not weaker as you use it.  They demand presence and encourage and support deep breathing.  In addition, they move energy upward and leave you feeling light and elated.  In fact, the bandhas have energetic and emotional affects so intricate that whole books are written about them.  The deepest understanding, however, comes from experimentation in your personal practice and by allowing them to develop over time. 

I knew I was cutting off emotion and increasing upper body tension in the days leading up to my journey.  I allowed it to happen knowing I would soon be in India where there is a lot of time and support for obstacle removal and self development.  With any pain or injury there is a great potential for learning about oneself, especially about ones habits.  Still, if injury and tension can be avoided they should be.  In fact, there is so much to learn in this oh so short lifetime that in addition to not repeating ones own mistakes, we should also avoid making the mistakes others have made.  And that, is the number one reason I share this story with you.  There are many paths to enlightenment and we need not all take the same one, but at least take one that doesn't have too much divergence.





Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Body, Mind, Spirit: the impossibility of a solely physical practice



Is it possible to have a solely physical practice?

You're working too hard - you wake up with a stiff neck.  You have a big assignment due - your stomach aches. Your relationship's in crisis - your back goes out.  We have all had these experiences.  We know there is a connection between our emotional state and our physical one, but most of us don't acknowledge how deep that connection goes.

You may realize that if you go for a run or do any exercise that you feel an emotional shift, but if you want to get into the body, mind, spirit connection, there is no more direct, affective, and lasting way than the Ashtanga Yoga practice. In the Ashtanga practice we use a three pointed focus which yokes our body, mind, and spirit.  First we listen to our breathing.  The breathing we use is called Ujjayi Pranayama and it has a sound.  Our mind stays focused on observing this sound as the breath creates an internal heat, purifying the blood and releasing toxins.  Secondly, we focus our eyes on one point.  This soft gaze is called drishti.  It has numerous benefits for circulation, eye strength and for focusing the mind.  Finally we have the actual pose or asana.  This shape is supported through use of certain bandhas or locks within the body which redirect our energy upward creating lightness, clarity, and presence.  It is impossible to drift away if you are using all three focus points correctly.

The primarily reason the Ashtanga Yoga practice is so affective at connecting mind, body, and spirit is the breathing.   The soul and the breath are intimately connected.  We express our thoughts and feelings through words which ride on breath.  When the breath is "in tune" the right words come out without hesitation, tone is perfectly matched to meaning, and we are heard and understood.  When breath is "off" we hear our words coming out and they don't sound right even to us.  There is an element of falsehood in what we say and misunderstandings are common.

The problem is, most of us are cut off from our breath.  We work in fields requiring the use of our heads, necks and arms, and we use little of our lower bodies.  We live in cultures where displays of emotion are not accepted and so we swallow down vibrations and hold our breath causing internal stress which manifests in illness and violent outbursts.  With regular yoga practice we begin to breath fully again.  When the breath is moving more freely, we start to notice the places it is particularly stuck.  Then, using mindfulness we go into those places and create space.  As tension is released, and space is created we feel the sensation of the whole shape of our being and an ownership of that form.  There is a continuity from the bottom of our feet to the top of our skull and a growing ability to allow emotion or vibration (as I prefer to call it) to run through, rather than get caught inside creating stress, tension and illness.

When you inhabit your form, you become a channel for energy to pass through.  You hear others and are heard by others.  You unite mind, body, and spirit.  When these are united, things like being in the right place at the right time and knowing something you could not possibly have known begin to happen with frequency.  You are clear.  You are present.  You are powerful.

Trying to bipass the body is as futile as expecting to work on the body without affecting the spirit.  In this existence we are in physical form.  If the body is uncomfortable, weak, or ill, it is silly to ask the mind to be still and calm.  How can it?  That is why we take up the practice.  It may appear solely physical from the outside but there is a whole internal process occurring that is sometimes unknown even to the practitioner.  On the flip side, many people fear a practice that goes beyond the physical.  They come into the yoga shala very sure about it only being exercise for them.  This too is silly.  Of course the practice is going to affect you.  No one is saying you will become Buddhist or even vegetarian, but you will be affected, in time, and in the right amount for YOU.

So, no, there is no such thing as a purely physical practice, because there is no such thing as a purely physical you.  Through the act of breathing you are already connecting to your spirit.  You can't escape it, so you might as well embrace it and enhance it through correct practice.  With the guidance of a teacher and a slow and steady approach which employs all three focal points, you will discover it is easier to let go then to hold on, and you will fortify the connection that is already there: body, mind and spirit.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

First time India Traveler Allison Lafferty Reflects on her First Week in Mysore


Allison right after her first class at KPJAYI

Allison started her Ashtanga practice on June 17th, 2011 at Land Yoga, just one day after we opened.  Since then she has committed to daily practice, and even encouraged her partner to do the same.  Allison has embraced all aspects of the practice and has taken it on her own to understand the history of what she is engaged in, by reading books and watching documentaries on Ashtanga yoga, taking class with Sharath when he came to New York, and finally, making the 30hr journey to Mysore, India.  Fairly new to her job, Allison had to work hard and sacrifice to get enough vacation hours combined to make this trip.  Before coming here, Allison had never before been off the North American continent.  Curious about her thoughts and desperate to know she was happy about her decision to follow me across the planet, I asked Allison to answer a couple questions:

Lara: It's been one full week since you arrived here.  I have some questions for you.  How was the plane ride? Were you bored?  What did you do?

Allison: Surprisingly, the plane ride wasn’t too bad.  I wasn’t overly bored because all I did was sleep and watch movies/TV shows on the plane.  However, sleep did indeed dominate most of my travel time.  I actually brought a book to read, thinking I could get some literary action in but I wasn’t able to stay awake long enough to read it!

Lara: What were your first impressions of India? Is it what you expected?

Allison: We arrived very early in the morning on Friday and the weather was cool and damp with a certain smell to it; I think it was incense, Indian food, and burning garbage.  It was also very loud with many horns beeping.  The airport was much more modern than I was expecting, yet it is like another planet compared to NYC.  I was a little shocked when I saw an oxcart being pulled. I was predicting India to be very dusty and that part did live up to my expectations.

Lara: How are your accommodations? Are they what you expected?

Allison: The house we are renting has a kitchen, two bedrooms, a room with a kitchen table, a room with a daybed for reading, a ‘wet room’ with a western toilet, a washroom for laundry, and a separate room with an Indian squat toilet.  I really had no idea of what to expect as far as accommodations, but I am really happy that we have a refrigerator and hot water.  I will admit that I was surprised to find out that the ‘wet room’ is literally wet all the time since the shower is just attached to the wall with no tub or shower curtain to contain the water.

Lara: What has been the highlight of your trip so far?

Allison: The highlight of the trip is definitely practicing with Saraswathi.  Each day I look forward to my practice and a great deal of my energy is expended there.  My first class here in Mysore was at the main shala and it was truly amazing to practice in that space.  The energy one gets from practicing with Saraswathi and along side so many wonderful yogis is beyond description and need to be experienced first hand to be believed!

Lara: What surprised you?

Allison: I think I was initially very surprised by the lack of traffic organization and severe scarcity of road signs.  That was indeed a shock to my system….I have no idea how one would give directions or navigate these streets alone without a rickshaw driver or taxi.

Lara: What are your days like?

Allison: The days here start very early, waking up around 3:45 A.M. to bathe and get ready for practice at 5:00 A.M.  My practice takes about one hour, twenty minutes to one hour and a half since I can really take my time with the practice.  After leaving the shala I go to the coconut stand and drink one or more coconuts.  Then it’s time to head back home and bathe again and grab something to eat.  There is plenty of time in the mornings to go out to the local places serving brunch or eat at home, whatever sounds appetizing.  Some mornings I have a Yoga Sutras or Chanting class at 10:30, otherwise it is total ‘rest & relaxation’ time!  After a taxing practice, you just want to relax and read a book or maybe take a nap.  Some days, especially when we first got here, we did some outings in Mysore: for instance we hit the market for shopping and had a pool day.  In the afternoons we head back out to grab a lunch that will give us fuel for the next morning’s practice.  Bedtime here has been between 6 & 7 P.M., since the days start so early.  

Lara: What is your practice like?

Allison: My practice is basically the same as in NYC, but I can take more time since I have none of the time restraints like I have at home.  The first day I stopped where my practice usually would end and Saraswathi came over and began instructing me.  The last two asnas she has given me are a bit of a challenge and she has been guiding me though them every day.  We take our closing poses is the same room and then move to an adjacent room to rest.  It is indescribable to practice here but with all the energy in the shala you are so alive and focused on the present moment throughout your session.  

Lara: Are you happy?

Allison: I’ll be honest, the first day was rough and I was very jetlagged and a bit lonely.  Now, a week into the trip I am happy, everyone is very friendly and I have chatted with some of the other students in my class.  It has really been wonderful traveling with Lara and having her ease me into life here in Mysore.  I feel blessed to be with Lara who knows all the good foods to eat and keeps me feeling healthy.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Poses, Patience and Becoming Yoga


There is no way to Peace. Peace is the Way. - Mahatma Gandhi


Conference Notes 9/9/12

Sharath had one main point for this conference: If your approach to yoga is to try to get every asana, you are going to find yourself in a tough position.  There are millions of asanas.  The amount of asanas is equal to the amount of life forms on earth, including things that grow from the ground like trees and other plants, the organisms that come out in your sweat, animals in the water, and those that hatch from eggs.  The poses reflex nature in all its forms.

Through our lineage, the lineage of Krishnamacharya, we have 600-1,000 asanas.  In our tradition the poses are broken up into beginner (Primary series), intermediate, and advanced.  If you try to rush through these or skip ahead you will injure yourself and create bad health.  One asana should be perfected before moving on to the next.  Guruji used to say a person needs to do a single asana 1,000 times before it is perfected.  The first group of poses called the Primary Series is extremely important for the pulmonary system, digestion, flexibility, stability, and all around good health.  It should be practiced for some time before moving on.

Intermediate Series is called Nadi Shodhana (nerve cleansing).  Sharath pointed out that all the series including Primary have the element of Shodhana (cleansing), but it is most intense in the intermediate poses.  This series of asanas focuses on back bending.  Sharath emphasizes that back bending is not just about the back but requires a lot of strength in the legs.  This must be built up first.  To highlight the importance of patience in one's approach to the practice, Sharath shared his own experience of a two year period where he did not receive any additional asanas from his grandfather.  He even admitted to his own impatience at the time.

The advanced series, Sthira Bhaga, translated as "divine steadiness" or "strength and grace" focuses on increasing stability.  Sharath didn't say much about advanced which is typical.  Those poses come from the teacher when the student is ready and as with all the poses, should not be learned from books or video.  Sharath emphasized how important a teacher is in this process and how you can always tell when a student has learned with out the guidance of a teacher because of incorrect Vinyasa.  The correct linking of breath and movement is EXTREMELY important.  Done properly, this it is the key to stability and good health, but done improperly, agitation and bad health will occur.

As usual, there was a time for questions.  A student asked about what to do when the mind starts to drift during practice and Sharath remarked kindly how this will happen even to long term practitioners.  Doing Japa, the repetition of a mantra or divine name is helpful.  Mostly we should remember, that slowly by slowly the body and then the mind will change.  Sharath maintained, we can not change the world, but we can change ourselves.  Through the practice we can become calm, focused, and manage our own thoughts and actions.  The limbs of yoga are not simply practiced, but ultimately absorbed.  Given time and proper practice this will occur.  Then, as Gandhi became a living, breathing example of Ahimsa (non-violence), so will we come to live yoga, expressing it as a quality in all we do.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

30 Hours


On route from Bangalore to Mysore

30 hours.  Call it crazy, but I love the journey from New York to Mysore.  Thirty hours door to door is just enough time to sleep away city exhaustion, read a page or two, listen to an old nostalgic tune, eat some snacks, and create a space between what was and what will be.  It's that space, that chasm I treasure so dearly and look forward to each year.  My friend points out that right before each visit I question worryingly, "Will I be able to go there, to get into that deep India mode?"  And each year the trip is satisfyingly different and the correct "mode" attained.  I'm not certain, but I have a very strong feeling that this year's theme is Play and Practice as Play.

I'm consistently deep about my practice on the mat and off.  I'm able to search inside using the breath to let go of secret hidden holdings and tensions, and peel away layer after layer of protective habit until the raw truth appears, but what about Play?  Play is essential in practice and in life.  The older I get, the more aware I am of the importance of Play and taking things lightly.

How fitting then, that I ended up with a copy of Gretchen Rubin's, The Happiness Project, a perfect companion for my 30 hour journey.  In The Happiness Project, Gretchen shares her year long attempt to increase her happiness using a list of personal resolutions.  Some of them, like "Act the way I want to feel" (which I call "fake it till you make it") I have been using for years and find very helpful.  Others like, "Find More Fun," "Take Time to Be Silly," and "Lighten Up" are perfect compliments to my theme of Practice as Play.

In the book, Gretchen talks about squeezing the most happiness out of a situation by anticipating, savoring, expressing, and recalling our happiness.  As our plane began it's decent at about hour 25, I was clearly in anticipation mode.  The sites, smells, and sounds of India came pouring back to me and I imagined clearly the life ahead of me: purchasing coffee at the little store and watching the man grind and weigh it, opening my trunk of treasures stored each year at the end of my trip, stepping into the shala for the first time and feeling the worn rugs under my feet.

Now that I'm here, my commitment is to enjoy each of these moments fully by being present, sharing my joy, and documenting my experience so that I will be able to look back on these happy times and smile long after I have left.  This plan has already shown itself to be extremely easy mostly due to having a first time India traveler with me.  Seeing India and the practice through her eyes has already opened me up to experiencing the wonder that had, I will admit, worn off a bit after 6 previous trips.

As I sign off now ready to enter a deep and dreamy India sleep, I anticipating my first yoga practice in the shala and the smile that is sure to pulse through my body as I raise my arms in rhythm with teacher's first "Ekam, Inhale" and take my first practice in the spirit of play.


Monday, August 27, 2012

A Post for Allison



Just over a week till India trip 7 and I am getting excited.  Those who have never gone ask over and over about certifications and greater permissions and will never know how impossible it would be to quantify this annual transfer of knowledge and self realization.  But one more person will now get to experience it for herself.  This trip I am taking my student Allison with me.

Answering Allison's questions about making the trip to Mysore has brought back tons of memories and reminded me of all that makes India so special.  I hope the answers will help you whether you are traveling to Mysore or simply envisioning this great journey.

Questions for Lara:

What are some of the things to do that you recommend for first time yoga students in Mysore?
1. Get a massage at the 3 Sisters
2. Walk up Chamundi Hill
3. See the Mysore Palace lit up
4. Go to the Market
5. Eat at the Green Hotel

What made you decide to take your first trip to Mysore?
It was my teacher who influenced me to make my first trip.

What are some memories from your first trip to Mysore? 
I remember exiting the airport and smelling the air thick with incense.  The car ride from Bangalore to Mysore was like a feast for my eyes. I was amazed at all the animals in the road. The first taste of chai was equally unforgettable.  I remember going to the shala for the first time and being overwhelmed and under dressed for Guruji's birthday celebration.  Feeling shy and dirty!  Practice was amazing every day.  After that we'd have long breakfasts at Green Hotel and go on day trip after day trip to temples and waterfalls and to visit Indian friends of my teacher.  It was exhausting but also invigorating.  I stayed with an Indian family.  I remember the sounds of the family eating dinner and watching TV at 10PM and the vivid Malaria pill induced dreams.  Mostly I remember feeling unbelievably happy and free.

Is there any special yoga ‘etiquette’ at the shala?
Oh, yes.  First thing to remember is the shala clock is 15 minutes fast.  Set your watch to it when you arrive.  If you make plans with someone you have to ask if they mean regular or 'shala time'.  Arrive about 15 minutes before your assigned time, which means a half hour before that actual time. LEAVE YOUR SHOES OUTSIDE! You will wait in a little room for people in your time slot to be called.  Be quiet in this room.  You move closer to the door as it gets closer to your time.  It's important to be patient and kind letting those who arrived before you go first, but also to go when it is your turn so you don't hold up the flow.  You put your mat down and then go in the changing room to leave your extra things.  Make sure to always close the changing room door behind you. Mats are close together.  Try not to be in another student's space, but don't fixate on this as it is nearly impossible and you are there to practice not stress.  Don't do any poses that haven't been given to you by your teacher including during led classes.  After back bending go to the changing room to do your finishing poses.  Be silent in that space.

India is conservative.  Cover your arms and legs when outside the shala with scarves and skirts over your yoga pants.  It's best not to touch people of the opposite sex.  A simple Namaste is best for greetings and goodbyes.  Stay out of the middle of the street as this bothers India's famously fast drivers.


What is a typical day for a yoga student in Mysore?
There is no typical day, as the trip can be anything you want it to be, but there are common practices.  Most people get up well before their time to wash, drink coffee and prepare for practice.  After practice it is customary to have a coconut or two or three and sometimes a chai.  Breakfast is the biggest and longest meal and there are a couple options of where to go.  After that there is time for chanting, studying, reading, touring, volunteering, resting, etc.  Around 5:30PM you'll usually see students at the coconut stand for 'Happy Hour' before heading home to watch a movie on their computer or read before an early bedtime. Getting crazy in Mysore might mean getting an ice cream or going to swim at the pool in one of the local hotels.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Filling the Cup




“The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” 
                                                                                             ― Lao Tzu

Six times down and now a seventh on the way.  Not one trip to India has ever been a simple decision.  I have lost family while there, missed major moments in friends' lives, skipped seasons and all the sounds and colors that go with those seasons.  Never before have I surrendered Autumn though.  And now my heart aches for the crunchy leaf New York days I'll never get back.  Can you be nostalgic for future nostalgia?  Miss moments you would have spent missing moments?

Each year New York threatens to own me, to tie me down in attachments and pleasures and feelings about things imagined and unreal.  And then India comes and takes me away and takes everything away from me.  Home, family, friends, feelings, personality even.  Gone.  Left there with nothing but my soul surrendering I have become my strongest me.  And now India is coming again to take me and shake me and show me who's boss.  But this time, this seventh time, she's given me an even loftier mission than leaving it all to find myself.  Now the purpose of this journey, all these journeys has become clear.  For the first time, I will be taking a student with me so that she can have a journey of her own.  

Below are the questions I asked first time India traveler, Allison Lafferty, and the answers she gave me.  At the end are her questions to me, which I will address in the next post.


Lara: What is the farthest you've traveled to date?  What is the longest you've been away from home?

Allison: Well, I have travelled within the US and to Canada, but never further.  The longest flight I have been on was to Las Vegas, but never experienced an international flight.  I think the longest I have been away from home is a week or two, but that was a while ago.  Most of my travel plans had been derailed during the last couple of years when I decided to go back to school to study Occupational Therapy, so this is a big trip for me.

Lara: How long are you going to India?

Allison: I think it works out to be 19 days, so just shy of 3 weeks.


Lara: What made you decide to take the trip to India?
Allison: The Sharath and Saraswati led class in April in NYC was such a meditative experience that energized my practice and me.  After, I started to think about how a trip to Mysore could impact my practice and how it could allow me to experience the deeper dimensions of the practice.  Being in sore need of a vacation, I am very lucky to have this opportunity to travel to Mysore with Lara and it was a blessing to be able to go.

Lara: What does your family/significant other think of you going to India?
Allison: My parents and brother are very excited and instantly thought I should go, without a doubt. My boyfriend, Bill, can’t believe the trip is coming up so soon and he is excited to hear about the experience!  I initially wanted to take the trip with him and share the experience, however, Bill didn't think he was ready for the trip.
He is open to the idea in the future and maybe our next trip will be together!

Lara: What did you do to prepare?
Allison: I didn’t realize there would be so much preparation - guess it’s because I haven’t travelled in a while!  Getting an Indian Visa, all the shots/immunizations, getting electrical outlet converter/power adapter, deciding on the kinds of clothes to pack so you don’t offend anyone, how much clothes to pack to limit washing clothes in a bucket, deciding what mat to bring, and a lot of little details.  Being away from home for 3 weeks you want to bring a lot of stuff, but not everything is practical!  Thankfully, Lara has been very helpful in giving me tips on what to bring.

Lara: What do you most want to do/see?
I want to experience Mysore fully – including taking chanting/Sanskrit classes at the Shala.  I would also like to visit the palaces in Mysore and other local sights.  Most importantly I want to be open to new experiences!

Allison: What do you expect Mysore and the yoga shala to be like?
I am trying not to go there with any expectations, however, I am expecting the shala to be busy and possibly crowded. 

Questions for Lara:

What are some of the things to do that you recommend for first time yoga students in Mysore?

What made you decide to take your first trip to Mysore?

What are some memories from your first trip to Mysore?

Is there any special yoga ‘etiquette’ at the shala?

What is a typical day for a yoga student in Mysore? 

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Keeping the Old in with the New




Keeping the Old in with the New
by Rachel Segrest
Most of us have probably heard a story beginning with, “when I was a kid all we had a was a ball to toss…” The truth of the matter is that a ball will never again suffice to occupy anyone for an entire day – even our dogs have more high tech toys to play with. 
For the most part, things like maps, books, and even bowling have been left behind. Why use a map when a GPS is far more efficient? Why bother with books when an e-reader will hold an entire library? But most importantly, why would a kid physically go bowling when he can just bowl from home? 
Today many traditional activities for children have gone digital. Digitized games have allowed children to enjoy most of their favorite activities from the comfort of home. However, many of these games don’t actually require kids to be physically active. Children can bowl a strike with a flick of a finger or run endlessly by holding a button; leaving the couch is optional. While this may be entertaining, modern technology is not realizing its full potential. In fact, according to the researchers, Ogden and Flegal, 20% of kids between ages 6 and 11 are obese (childstats.gov). Do I sense a connection between obesity and inactivity? YES! 
Nintendo was on to something when it created the Wii, which integrates physical movements into the digital world. Adventures in Yogaland is taking this concept a few steps further. By using a digital character, Chloe the Yogi, the Adventures in Yogaland app teaches yoga to kids while allowing the adults in their lives to participate in the fun as well. The e-book/app is compatible with tablets like the iPad and Nook, which makes the gift of yoga available to the largest number of children. 
Consider the findings of Pew Research Center, which estimates that 11% of Americans own a tablet. That’s about 33 million people! These tablet owners are able to practice yoga with any of the children in their lives: their kids, nieces, nephew, brothers, sisters, cousins and anyone else with whom they’d like to share the gift of yoga. The portability of tablet computers combined with the versatility of yoga allows both kids and adults to get out of the house and experience a fun and rewarding activity together, anywhere from the living room to the park. 
After the baby boomers came the echo boomers, which is the generation categorized by a desire to learn while being entertained. The next generation has an even higher demand for entertainment, which is further intensified by rapid technological developments. With its digitally integrated approach, the Adventures in Yogaland app provides kids with a way to appreciate and understand yoga in the format with which they are most comfortable.
 A few months ago I was playfully chatting with my nephew, Cullen. At the incredibly advanced age of three and a half, Cullen uttered a common group of words, which I had only heard from college students and the like – and even from them, I did not like the connotations that surrounded these words. 
“What did you just say??” I asked with complete shock. 
Unaffected, Cullen repeated his question, “Aunt Rachel, do you have Angry Birds?”
While Cullen poked around on my smartphone, searching for a game that he would never find, I let the reality of what he had said sink in. Please understand that I think most apps/games are a waste of time. I advocate actually doing things rather than virtually doing them. Hurdling down the New York streets on my bike, reading a book, or simply talking to a person ranks leagues higher than playing with small cartoon birds. After this incident, I took care to press blocks and books upon Cullen, while I kept my smartphone safely hidden away.
When I learned about Adventures in Yogaland, I was thrilled! Not only does it teach kids a life skill that can be used in the real world, but it allows adults to participate also. I immediately thought of Cullen and how much fun he would have learning yoga. He has a ton of energy, plus he loves to sing and dance, so I know this wonderful innovation is perfect for him. Whether I like it or not, Cullen and his peers have grown up watching Baby Einstein on lap tops and playing Angry Birds on smartphones. These kids could probably figure out the computer system at NASA before any of us could add a contact into the next iPhone. Adventures in Yogaland is one of the first tablet apps to take advantage of children’s tech savvy and to use that savvy for the children’s betterment. Yoga is an age-old practice that has changed lives all over the world; meanwhile new technology is continually spreading to every corner of the globe. Whoever coined the phrase, “Out with the old and in with the new” was severely misinformed. Sometimes the sweetest things in life just combine the old things we love with a new way of understanding.