Monday, December 28, 2015

No Resolutions Please: Why Starting and Failing at Resolutions is WAY worse than never having them at all.



Success begets success. Confidence builds upon itself and guides a person toward her dreams. You never want to teach yourself that you don’t do the things you say you will do. You never want to create the story in your subconscious that you lie to yourself, don’t complete your actions, fail. For these reasons it is of maximum importance that you only make promises that you are GUARANTEED to keep, especially those you make to yourself. 

Many people are great at keeping their word when it comes to others, but fail horribly with the stories they tell themselves. The time has come to acknowledge where you have been letting yourself down and make a full stop. No resolutions please. Before you resolve to do a thing this year, you must ask yourself some real questions. One of those is going to be if the thing you are resolving to do is really something you believe in at all. I know your immediate reaction is that ‘of course it is’, but if you have resolved at this change before and failed, you may not be as sure inside of your reasons as you think you are. Any doubts will show up as excuses to quit later. Make sure the changes you are trying to make aren’t just because of outside influence.



To know something isn’t working, you need to feel it deeply. Instead of resolving to start yet another diet this January, just eat as you eat, but more consciously. Notice and sit still in the way you really feel when you overeat. Recognize without shame the way your body and clothing feel when you’ve not taken care of yourself. Be real. This practice of adding consciousness can transform any negative behavior. 

When you take the time to feel you’ll know the next and natural step or goal to make in your personal development. That’s when you make it. Declare it if that helps. Write it down. Tell people. Make yourself accountable, but only if you can’t fail. Instead of giving up chocolate totally, give up chocolate on Sundays, or in your home, or when you are eating alone. Make the tiniest step and bask in the glory of your success. Don’t reward yourself with “treats” that counter your goals. Let the feeling of accomplishment be the reward itself. Feel how good it feels to be a person who knows herself and honors herself and is true to her word. Know that by being that person you are teaching your friends and children that’s how they too should behave. You are setting the tone for authenticity and success.  


Do mistakes come? Sure. It’s how we handle them that makes all the difference long term. Brush off any slip up quickly and never use it as an excuse to dump your whole resolve. The better you get at this, the better you’ll be at resolutions, but we’re not making those of course!

For more on training yourself in the habit of success, attend my Train Your Brain workshop this January. More details HERE.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Temazcal and New Years


Temazcal is a place where the elements, air, fire, water and earth intersect. Physically it is a small hut with a pit in the middle where rocks (typically volcanic) are burned along with medicinal herbs. The participants are encouraged to breath deeply in the steam produced, occasionally chanting sounds led by a Shaman guide. 
I did Temazcal with my New Year New You Yoga Retreat Group in Tulum. The ceremony opened by standing in a circle and conjuring the energies of the four directions each of which corresponds to one of the elements. After, we entered the small hut. Up to this point I was fine. I felt open and present under the night sky and close to my recently deceased grandfather who came to my mind as the Shaman referenced “Grandfather Wind”.
Inside the Temazcal I sat crossed legged and straight spined in back, waiting for what was to come. We were asked to share an intention or prayer for the ceremony which I did, choosing something deeply personal and setting the stage for an intimate experience. Then, without warning, the door dropped shut and the sound of a gong reverberated. I couldn't breath. The Shaman asked us to imagine the safety and warmth of the womb, but all I could think of was the claustrophobia of the casket I’d end up in if I hyperventilated. I crawled out not sure the Temazcal was for me.
Outside I considered returning to the hotel but knew I’d regret missing out on an important experience. I looked for an opportunity to return. That came fairly quickly, when between elements, the Shaman opened the cave door. I sat back down (this time close to the exit) ready to try again. I felt immediately more safe, knowing there would be breaks in intensity and reclaimed my spot in back.
What happened next can only be described as like what one experiences when hallucinating. Images so vivid I became them entered my sphere. I literally saw though my third eye, testing this often by making sure my physical eyes were actually closed. I was assured of my purpose, my ability to fulfill that purpose, and my connection to the Universe. I am forever changed.
I came out of Temazcal reborn and with the feeling of exiting a holy bath. My eyes were brighter which I photographed. It reminded me of the way my students look once a year after our New Years Eve Candle Lit Yoga and Meditation which also involves a lot of sweat and a fire ritual, though never before directly conjured the four elements. This year it will. I now know how I am able to transform others and how to do it more deeply and authentically and we will enter that Temazcal space this December 31st. I invite you to join holy bath and emerge in 2016 reborn.

Monday, November 30, 2015

The Little Death


We've come to the last of the eight-limbs, Samadhi. Samadhi is a concentration so deep, that only the essence of the object being observed radiates. It's as if the mind itself is no longer. In this sense, it is a death. The levels of Samadhi deepen until one merges with infinity, never again to return to a fractured state. At each stage something must die so that this joining can take place. 
Figuratively and literally we will all experience death in our lifetimes. Each time we let go of a personality trait, opinion, or limiting idea it is as if a part of us dies. As we shed what we are not, we come closer to the infinite, non divisive being that we are. For instance, to define myself as smart, I must have an idea that somewhere out there exists someone who is dumb. I need also a concept of intelligence which depending how I characterize it, may dismiss particular forms of knowledge. There will come a time when I discover my lifelong "certainties" to be incomplete and realize they have caused me to brush off people and experiences. Some get a glimpse of this and retreat deeper into their previous paradigm, looking for any evidence not to change. As a yogi I must move fearlessly forward. When I open my eyes to a new concept of wisdom the whole world will look different. I will also come to realize there are all these other assumptions I have made that are also limiting or incomplete. I will have to reexamine my whole life and let die what is not true.
Fear, is a reaction from our system that some sense of who we are is in danger of death.  Our ego wants to assert its separateness so it screams to be let loose. The beautiful thing is that each time we deny its hold on us and move through fear toward truth, we teach ourselves that we will be okay. We don't actually die. We can still find our way.
The little deaths we experience in our life are preparation for the ultimate letting go and show us that the more we surrender, open and accept, the easier and more blissful we will be.
 
It's been an absolute joy dissecting the eight limbs of yoga with you over the last year and a half. To see all the previous discussions visit www.youtube.com/user/alleightlimbs. I'll be doing a full review and offering more in-depth lessons as we aim for the highest expressions of ourselves in 2016.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

More Thanks. Less Full.


Happy Holidays everyone! With Thanksgiving and Holiday time coming up I wanted to share three of my favorite personal tips to keep from overeating.  I hope they help you to stay balanced and gorgeous during this hectic time of year.
1. Eat Breakfast. Many of you get in the mindset that you'll counter the damage of your afternoon feast by saving on the AM calories. This actually backfires. You'll end up eating so much more if you starve yourself during the day, so, even if it seems counterintuitive, eat a sensible breakfast though you know you'll be eating a lot later.
2. Crunchy Healthy Snacks. If your family is like mine, there is a whole period of hanging out munching before the main meal even happens. I keep tons of crispy vegetables out so that if I'm tempted to snack, it's on something healthy. My favorite are organic baby carrots which really take some time to bite into and have a fully satisfying crunch factor. When it's time to dip, I do it in my super simple Yellow Pepper Guacamole. 
3. Sleep. Do Yoga. Meditate. We all have the tendency to eat to fill a void emotionally. This kind of eating is certainly exasperated around holiday time which can be stressful and pull us into old habits. (What can make you feel more like a child than being back in your parent's house, right?) Prepare for these natural inclinations by getting enough sleep, practicing yoga (or some endorphin producing physical activity), and doing a bit of quiet reflection and centering before your meal. You'll thank me for it later! 
What are your best tricks to staying balanced during holiday season? Tweet them out to me at @landlaraland

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Dress for Success:Halloween as a Spiritual Practice


“We don't see things as they are, we see them as we are.”  -Anais Nin
If we want things to change we have to change ourselves. Then, suddenly, the world around us appears different. But how can we change ourselves? First we must become aware that there is an option to change. Most of us spend a good deal of our lives adhering to certain decisions about our preferences and characteristics, never questioning where those labels came from or if they are indeed permanent and true.
For instance, I may appear a loud and bossy type. When I come into a room, I let my thoughts be known and assert my desires. Perhaps my whole life I have behaved this way and from this behavior enjoyed much success. I may become known as "loud and bossy" to the point where others around me adjust to take supporting roles and even choose me for activities where those traits appear helpful to the group. I may not realize there is another role I can take. I may have been told that this personality comes naturally to me, but it may just be well practiced, or it may be that I subconsciously feel a need to play a role I was assigned, worried no one else will take that part or that I won't be effective in another position.
Eventually I will likely be awakened to the malleable nature of personality. I could be faced with a similar personality type across from me and find my usual responses ineffective. I could experience a loss. I could read a book or blog like this one and realize I do have choice. Then I might decide to allow different aspects of myself to come forward until my personality wouldn't be described as bossy at all. Part of the yogic journey is making better, more artful choices and finally arriving at no choice, but as an experience of our perfect, non-personality touched souls.
The self-help guides tell us to be ourselves, but who are we? Personality is a strange and fluid thing. Most of us have many; Sometimes they war inside of us. Other times they know their roles. Mom comes out at bedtime with the kids, but becomes a shy student in her night classes, hardly recognizable to her mother self. On date night, with girlfriends, with parents, all different personalities emerge.
Sometimes parts of our personalities remain buried for a long time. Suddenly I arrive at a situation where I want to use an archetypal energy but I can not access it. That's where the costume comes into play. If I've been demure for a long time I may need some help expressing my authentic assertive self.  In this case I can wear heals, and suits, and certain kinds of colors and hair styles until she comes out. Through the flow or restrictions of her clothing, movement becomes dictated. Through the eyes of those who witness my transformation I access her spirit.  She was always there inside of me. Never false. Just hidden. Suddenly the world around me looks different. New possibilities emerge. 
Choosing to transform through costume may have to be subtle on the day to day if we don't want to shock our friends and neighbors, but on Halloween we have the opportunity to go all out. This one day we can access our superhero, magical, sexy, silly, even dark, vampire selves. Each of us has a chance to play a part not allowed to us normally and access a layer of our personality that is hidden away. As we expose more of ourselves we gain more choices and open ourselves to seeing the world around us in a different way. This is a healthy and important part of the journey to self-realization, so be sure to use your societal pass this Halloween and be whoever you most want to be. Don't be shy. I know I won't be!

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Follow Your Bliss! Retreat with me in Tulum this December!

MIND, BODY, SPIRIT: TULUM



Summer may have come to its unofficial end with the passing of Labor Day, but the ease, boundlessness, and warmth that come with it should not have to be lost. I figure we can all hold on until the beginning of December, but we are going to need a re-boot before holiday time comes around.
As many of you know I was in Napa in August teaching yoga for UPTOWN magazine's food and wine retreat, Uncorked. It was a spectacular moment for so many from so many different backgrounds and locations, who came together in peace for peace and transcended even their wildest dreams.

In that beautiful setting, separated from city life, and surrounded by an intension of positivity and growth, I saw our guests thrive and grow at such a rapid pace. With my help, they were able to tune in to some really deep places and let go of some serious blocks. Morning sessions were physical, fun, & challenging and got everyone out of their heads and energized for the day. Evening sessions were slow, meditative, and reflective. Everyone who wanted to could participate and felt comfortable doing so.
I left with a string of testimonials and stories of great personal and professional progress that each guest attributed to our time together. It was beyond inspiring to have that kind of impact, and just the sign I needed to be sure I must do more retreats like this one. This is what gave birth to Tulum, Mexico.
Famed as one of the absolute best retreat centers in Tulum, Amansala was the obvious choice.  I wanted a place that was close and doable but also transcendent and I know we have found just that in their eco-chic, beachside accommodations. Everything from the food, to the yoga, to the mud treatments is designed to cleanse and bring you an experience that will have you at your highest self when you return to "normal life". There are some personal growth secrets that I've been accessing and I will be sharing those step by step with all who want to makes leaps, personally, spiritually, even financially in 2016. All you have to do is show up.

There will be daily yoga and meditation offered on this trip, but it is in no way required. Anyone looking for a chance to get away, rest, and get clear is welcome.
Please join us. Email me at lara@landyoga.com.
For more information link here.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

The Horrible Price of Cheap Yoga


This article was featured in the Huffington Post last month. It drew a lot of attention. I wanted to give you a chance to read it incase you missed it.
Since opening my first yoga studio, Land Yoga, in 2011, I have had the wonderful opportunity to offer free and donation-based yoga classes to our community. In fact, I was featured in New York Magazine for offering free classes in neighboring Morningside Park in collaboration with the Community Markets Farmer's Market. We love to support our community, especially those in need, so we have continued our specially curated partnerships and our generous teaching staff donates classes when they can. In addition to the market, we've worked with The Ralph Lauren Center for Cancer Care and Prevention and even at Columbia Law School.
However, we do NOT offer cheap classes at the studio. You heard it, no $5 community class, no Class Pass, no Groupon. The reason is simple: we are not free or cheap. We come with homes, bills, and grumbling tummies, and we deserve to have all those needs met.
Most people have these same needs, so the question becomes why do only some yoga teachers demand livable payment for teaching? The issue is very complicated and multi-layered but one of the major components is the ubiquitous "yoga teacher certification." With no prior experience you can hand over a few thousand dollars, train for 200 hours, and walk away a "teacher." This leads to undertrained teachers, agreeing to work for very little, causing a culture of unfair wages for qualified teachers, and a lack of real benefit for the average yoga student. After completing such a short yoga course, the green teacher knows she knows nothing, and therefore can take little issue with being paid nothing, perpetuating this cycle.
In the Ashtanga Yoga tradition in contrast, you don't learn to be a teacher until well after you have come to a level of understanding of the practice and learned to be a student. You commit to making life-long annual trips to India for months at a time to be with your teacher and learn to teach primarily through watching and experiencing the way he IS. You show up every day and maybe one day he gives you the nod to teach a little something to the people back home, if you agree to continue your learning and training and teach as you've been taught. 
The teacher who goes through this process has struggled and sacrificed to internalize these ancient teachings and values the knowledge that has been handed down to her.  For this reason she will ask for what she is worth.  She is aware that her energy and self-care are vital to the transmission of the teachings and serve as an example. She must therefore resist running herself ragged teaching every class she can find and instead spend time deepening her own practice. Her dedication to her own self-improvement is one of the reasons she has become a great teacher.
But let's think about the consumer for a moment. Do cheap classes really benefit the student the way we've come to believe? All you need to do is think about the psychology surrounding purchases to understand that a student who has enrolled in a cheap class will not value it the way they would a larger purchase. Think of a time you saved up for something you truly desired and were finally able to afford it. Remember how excited you felt when you could finally make that payment. Recall how much you treasured your deserved and earned gift and how you took such care to keep it new and unharmed. You put the most into and got the absolute most out of that object of desire.
That's the kind of student an Ashtanga teacher yearns to develop: one who comes from a place of hunger and who can't wait to pull out each bit of nourishment from the practice. It's not about exact pricing because what is expensive is relative, but about paying a real price, the kind of price that makes you have to choose your practice over other things. 
What I observe consistently as a yoga studio owner is that the people who really want to practice always find a way to make it work.  We have a partial scholarship program at Land Yoga with an application to help us distinguish real need and evaluate desire to learn. We would never turn a truly dedicated student away. More typically what I find, however, are those who can afford classes asking for discounts and those who can barely make it work, making sacrifices to put their practice first.
Another major issue I see with cheap trials is the encouragement to hop around from studio to studio. While a period of exploration is necessary before choosing a teacher, no real growth occurs until that decision is made. Surrendering to the teacher teaches us how to let go of our egos, a major component of the yoga process. One will never get to that place of surrender by bopping around to different studios especially if they leave right when they face challenge in their practice.
So what should the yoga studio owner/teacher do when so many are offering their yoga services for so little? How can they compete with the endless free trials and $5 classes? I believe that educating the consumer is key. Students should understand a quality variation exists in yoga classes that can mean the difference between no real advancement, attachment to the physical aspects of yoga, and even injury, verses a chance to experience knowledge of self and perhaps even taste enlightenment through the guidance of a true teacher. When, we as teachers, own our role, and trust in the value of our service, we will always know what to charge for that exchange and those students seeking our knowledge will be drawn to us like we were to our teachers, making it a win-win at any price.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

#HowIMeditate Part 2: Five Steps to Easier Meditation.



There is a lot of confusion, frustration, and misinformation around meditation. Perhaps the word itself needs re-defining. In most yoga circles you'll more often hear it said that one has done their "siting practice". It's fair to say we've sat still for a length of time. What happens inside that stillness, only the practitioner knows for sure. I promise you, more often than not, it's a louder internal landscape then you think, especially if one is just beginning. 
Here are five steps for getting started:
1. Create a Sacred Space. This is a lot easier than it sounds. In my house it is literally a corner. The idea is that when you adorn a space and only use it for a specific function, that area takes on a new energy. (Think church.) Even if the energy were to remain the same, your brain associates that space with its single function (in this case meditation) and you'll settle into that function more easily then you would in a different space. 
2. Make Time. Set a specific time aside each day for your sitting practice. I recommend morning since as the day goes by, more and more things can get in the way. Also, the mind is quieter in the early hours. By coming to your space the same time each day it becomes a habit that you are unlikely to break. By scheduling in your meditation time you never have to "find time". It's already been made.
3. Be Still. Most teachers recommend that the spine be in alignment for meditation. If possible you'll be sitting with a tall straight back, and the legs in a cross-legged position (ultimately padmasana). Some students who can't sit up comfortably for long periods of time will sit against a wall or lay down on the ground. The most important thing is to be still. Once you find your position, try not to adjust or move in any way. Meditation is an attempt to move beyond the body so activating the muscles is out of alignment with your purpose. Most of the time, if you let the impulse to move pass, it will dissipate.
4. Just Watch. To meditate you will have chosen or been given an object of meditation which could be your breath or a mantra. (See my previous blog.) You will be telling your mind again and again to focus on that object only, but your mind will have other thoughts. This is normal. Keep working to make yourself aware as soon as the mind leaves the object of meditation and bring it back. Do this act without judgement. Simply observe the process. Ultimately you are the object of meditation, so by observing the way the mind moves, you are doing the work.
5. Get a Physical Yoga Practice. As mentioned, the upright spine position is optimal for meditation practice. Still sitting in this position for a long time is very difficult unless there is asana in your life. The physical practice helps you develop an easy seat and also does a lot of the pre-meditation work, cleaning and calming the mind. How long should you sit? The current experts say 20 minutes, but that's really just for entering a space of meditation. For being in and deepening that space one needs closer to an hour. Sounds long, right? Even 20 minutes is very difficult at first. Start with 5 minutes daily and slowly increase minute by minute as the practice becomes consistent in your life. You'll be at an hour in no time and craving more! Once you find the peace of meditation, staying in isn't the problem, it's coming out!

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

#HowIMeditate


The seventh of the eight limbs of yoga is Dhyana, or meditation. This state occurs when Dharana (concentration) is held on the same object for some time. Another way to describe this state is that it is made of a string of back to back moments of concentration linked together without interruption. Again and again and again we are only aware of the object of choice.  
Different teachers and traditions advise on different objects of concentration. Some suggest focusing on the breath, others the third eye point, and still others put the focus on a Mantra (a repeated sound). Patanjai suggests focusing awareness on one of these things: breath, the sensations of the senses (just feeling), the inner light which is free of pain (most easily felt at the heart center), a mind which has already attained freedom of desire (the mind of a great sage or yogi), the state of dreaming or sleep (not the dreams themselves), or any object which brings a state of stability to the mind of the practitioner.
Through the practice of meditation our mind becomes stabilized and clear like a transparent crystal. The mind in this state is bright and aware, and can come to know any object it puts its attention on. In this clear state the mind is less susceptible to the impressions that create the cycle of karma. It lives in pure consciousness.
I'd love to hear about your meditation. During the month of October, please post your meditation or meditation inspired pictures to Instagram. Tag me at @landyoganyc and hashtag #howimeditate #alleightlimbs and I'll share your stories.
Meditation techniques should not be forced and are best experienced under the guidance of a teacher and in conjunction with all the previous limbs. 

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Dharana


I can hardly believe we are up to the sixth limb. For over a year now I've been blogging on the limbs and now we have finally reached the final three, known collectively as samyama. These limbs are the most subtle and internal so I wondered during the year if I'd have something to say about them. I do. Today let's talk about Dharana. 
Dharana may be translated as holding, holding steady, concentration or a single focus. It's about bringing the mind to one point of attention. Why is this so hard? These days articles are written almost daily about social media, video games, our over stimulated lifestyles, and our inability to concentrate, but what really is going on?
The issue with concentration is not the concentration itself. When we are engaged, all our senses pull toward the object of engagement and we concentrate. The problem is in choosing the object. Concentration by definition means choosing a single object to focus on, to the disregard of everything else. Before we can practice deepening concentration, we must choose a place to put our focus. 
Why are we so scared of making a choice? One fear is that we will choose incorrectly. We should understand that avoiding making a choice is much worse than choosing poorly. Firstly, in many instances we can't choose wrong. There is no actual wrong choice, just different choices that all work out in time.  But let's say we do choose incorrectly. A wrong choice is at least feedback. The moment we sense it is wrong, all we have to do is re-route. We have more information about what other options may not work and can settle more closely on a right choice. Lots of successful people have spoken at length about the power of a mistake and the growth it brings.

Deeper than our fear of making a wrong choice is the fear we have of eliminating options.

We know the whole essence of focusing is attaching ourselves to one thing and leaving all other options behind, so we refuse to choose at all, and instead never fully experience anything. What we don't realize is that by understanding one thing absolutely completely, we can know all things. Until then, we are just floating around taking no control of our lives. This approach will bring no fulfullment. Our fleeting moments of concentration will be random and even more troubling, will be navigated by the wills of others. 
Take comfort in understanding that even in just this one life, we have many lives. Did you know I got my BFA in theatre? I've been an actress, writer, director, waitress, insurance agent, and a million and one other things. I've had at least three to four fully distinct lives and I plan to have many more. 
There is always an opportunity to reinvent, but please make a choice. All the good that comes in life comes after we stop trying and testing and finally make a decision. Some people claim they want to be well informed before they make a commitement to one path. While this has validity, we must recognize when the investigation has become an excuse for indecisiveness. We will never know every variable. In the end we must choose.

What you choose to focus on will grow and thrive more than you can imagine, the second you make it yours, so stop waiting, put your self on one-pointed focus today.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Silencing the Cravings: An intro to Pratyahara



You’re listening to an engaging story, desperately trying to weave a thread through a needle, perhaps deep in a daydream.  Whatever it was, we’ve all had the experience of being so in the moment that we fail to hear a siren outside, feel the dog licking our leg, or smell the smoke coming from the kitchen. This is Pratyahara.
It's rare enough that these moments come on their own but to silence the senses at will requires a serious mastery. First we must be able to control our prana. Consciously drawing the senses away from distraction and inward toward the self is the work we do everyday in Ashtanga Yoga and one of the many reasons I decided to practice and teach this specific lineage. Pratyahara is why though you love a fancy music playlist in class, you may not actually be practicing yoga if you are listening to it. It is why though you may have so much fun looking in the mirror and adjusting your alignment, there is argument that this is also not yoga. Patanjai’s definition of yoga states clearly that we are required to turn our senses inward to become yogis. 
In the Ashtanga yoga method this pulling of the senses inward is done by employing a three-pointed focus. First we bring our attention toward the sound of our breath. Next we focus our eyes on one spot and consciously keep them from wandering around. Finally, we feel with every cell, the shape of our body in the pose. This trains our senses to steer inward and keeps us completely present in the moment.
The senses and mind are linked. If we can get mastery of the senses, we can master the mind. Though perfection in Pratyahara happens only after flawlessness is achieved in the limbs which come before it, there is no reason we can't begin to practice training our senses now. Non reaction to stimuli is an incredibly powerful practice which brings great benefits into our lives. You pass a great sweater in a window of a store. Suddenly you are having this whole silent conversation in your mind about how you could really use a sweater. It's off season. You haven't gotten yourself something in awhile. At the end of this mind talk you have given yourself permission to purchase and you think you have done well by "thinking it through". Truth is you have been scammed by the one who knows you best- your own mind! You never had any intention of purchasing a sweater only your senses dragged you into it! You were perfectly content till they got involved. When you start to observe this process and let the mind know you are into it, the senses will have much less power over you. Keep training your mind to dismiss the cravings. They will stop coming, and you will be free. This is the power of the practice of Pratyahara and the beauty of authentic yoga.
Cravings are the children of habits. Starve off your craving while your mind gets strong. Here are three steps to becoming craving free:
1. Avoid the trigger: If you return home each day at 5pm and immeditely open the kitchen cabinets scavenging for a treat, you've been programing your mind to think it's hungry by the time you walk up to your front door. Take a walk at 5 instead to form a new habit.
2. Give yourself a reward: The 5pm snacks felt to your child self like a deserved reward for a day complete. Substitute with a new reward that gives your heart that full feeling. This could be as simple as sitting in the sun, or a nice long chat with a friend. As long as you feel it and recognize it for the reward it is, it will work.
3. Praise heavily: Make sure to consciously acknowledge yourself each time you make a new choice with positive self talk. "I'm doing a great job making fantastic choices." Say it out loud for maximum benefit!

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Prana-yama



Prana is life force. Similar in concept to what the Japanese call Ki and the Taoists call Chi. It is not breath, but that subtle energy that causes the body to take breath. All of our selves and all of the universe contain prana and by learning to control your prana you may also learn to control the prana outside of you, giving you superhuman control of the world around you. Know, however, that just to control your own prana may be several (or more) lifetimes of work on its own.

The act of pranayama is the act of bringing consciousness to what was previously subconscious. It's an act of awakening and it can not be done without the mind. Having complete control of your prana, you control all of your body's seemingly involuntary systems. In addition, you can move your prana to areas where it may be depleted, preventing illness and giving you more energy.

Most people think of breath retention when they think of pranayama, but this is only one way (and the most risky way of controlling prana. Breath control should only be done after years of correct asana practice and with the right teacher.  Even then there are many factors to consider including the quality of air around you. Premature or incorrect breath control can cause instability and even mental and emotional illness as it directly affects the nervous system. It is better not to do this type of pranayama than to do it incorrectly.



There are other methods of pranayma. The Ujjayi breathing style used in the Ashtanga tradition is pranayama and has no breath retention. This non-reactive nostril breathing is extremely affective for controlling prana. One can feel the effects almost immediately. Since there is no breath retention, it is pretty gentle and good for beginners though a teacher should still be present! Alternate side nostril breathing without retention is also good pranayama as our prana has three main channels, the Ida, which runs along the left side of the body, the Pingala, which runs along the right, and the Sushumna which connects the base to the crown. Alternate nostril breathing balances the sides and helps us to feel more relaxed and centered. Meditation also controls the prana and is therefore pranayama. So is sun gazing. We get life force from the sun which then goes into the food that we eat. Those who have mastered pranayama can skip eating and feed off prana directly from our closest star.

We are all looking for a healthier more vibrant feeling in our lives. We try to get more sleep, drink coffee or a juice. These are temporary fixes. A yogi looks for the real solution. We are all looking for more control over ourselves, our bodies, and our reactions to life. We try to gain this from pressuring change in others or forcing our own bodies to do what we think is best. The yogi looks for true authority. There is no forcing when there is true control over prana. There isn't even an asking. There is a completely harmonious state where the mind and the body become one. The end of all conflict lays at the end of prana control. And the beginning of the highest of the eight limbs.

Thoughts on Pranayama? Share them on your instagram, tag @landyoganyc and hashtag #alleightlimbs

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Where is my mind? Understanding Asana.

Photo by ARMY OF TANKS

Oh my Lord, the universe is great! For an hour now I've been listening to The Pixies, "Where is My Mind"on repeat when I suddenly sit down to write this blog and realize it's the perfect title. Asana has everything to do with where your mind is at and learning how to put it where it isn't. Let me explain.

When most people begin their physical yoga practice (asana), they have very little control over their bodies and very little idea how to find comfort and steadiness in a pose. Since, they have up until then believed they had some authority over their bodies, this can come as a bit of a shock. This inevitable discovery is the reason so many will do everything possible to avoid starting a physical yoga practice even though they know they should. They don't want to look stupid.

The inability to make the body do what we want it to is simply a result of not knowing how to get the appropriate message to the appropriate parts. Sure, we can move our hand to our hip, but how in the world do we release our Splenius Capitis? Yoga gives us the opportunity to travel within our bodies, using our mind. As we explore, we make new connections and bring awareness to parts of ourselves we hadn't been paying attention to. For me it's like going into a dark room and turning on the light, and I've taken to making a game of finding awareness (aka feeling) in new areas of myself in every practice. Eventually, we can have full awareness in each moment. This is presence. Asana is pretty deep.

Photo by ARMY OF TANKS

Each shape triggers different feelings in the body. Some shapes make us feel powerful, some anxious, some vulnerable, and so on. We experience various degrees and layers of feelings from pose to pose, but also from within the same pose day to day and even breath to breath. We may start out a posture with a feeling of dread or desire to leave, but as we remain in that shape breathing and still those feelings pass. Overtime an evenness permeates the practice and spills out into life as our nervous and hormonal systems become trained to choose calm. This choice is reinforced by the positive experience of calm acknowledged and the realization that danger is not in fact there.

I love the ability of asana to dig out stored experiences I haven't allowed to free flow out my body. We all hold and have patterns of holding that don't always serve us. The instinct to grab is there to protect us and should be honored and respected, but that doesn't mean we can't move past instinct into conscious choice. When we are ready, the asana practice gives us a great tool for release. In the beginning there may be a great letting go, but as time goes on each daily practice looks more like a shower, simply removing what dirt might have crept in the day before.

Photo by ARMY OF TANKS

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There's so much to say about this Third limb of yoga which is sometimes sited as the first and which carries all eight limbs with in it.  Please post your thoughts on ASANA all month long on Instagram. Tag me at landyoganyc and hashtag #alleightlimbs for a chance to win a tank by Ekam Inhale!


Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Ishvarapranidhana

Surrender to the Lord. Surrender to The Power that's greater. Surrender and release. Let go and believe.

The thing about surrender. You think you're doing it. You ARE doing it and yet you are not. There is another layer and another layer and deeper and deeper you drop. Surrender isn't once and it isn't always clear.  How much must we surrender? All of it. But only in doses. Let go too much and like a rubber band, back you snap. Creep toe by toe into the vast ocean and you just might submerge wondering, "will I ever come back up?" My one student told me she didn't know where her arms were. Exactly. Given up, they mean nothing and yet they are there.

I still think of Kurmasana when I think of my first real surrender experience. In this way the asana was the teacher. Each day I'd imagine water rippling, spreading apart.  Years of hurts fell into that floor as my chest let go. Now that memory is the step into surrender when I don't know how to find it. What brings you there? We must be taught how to go.



Surrender is the rest at the end of practice, but so many find this the hardest pose of all. Eyes open, I meet them restless, unable to be still. The beauty of Ashtanga is it rips the fight out of us. Most have no choice after the hour and a half of sweat and concentration but to get carried into the stillness. Some, however, do hang on. Those we must teach the Art of Surrender. To know that the floor is supporting them. That they need not hold on.

Surrender is a gift you give yourself. It's a lane you step into. A moving pathway that is always there. It requires a trust that the floor is there below you. It's reinforced when you remind yourself it is. Surrender is scary but it's also joy. It can feel like falling or flying by the quality you decide to give it. Surrender each day on your mat and you begin to understand a broader life surrender. A way of living that isn't a fight but can perhaps be easy, be floaty, be free.


*Share your thoughts on Ishvarapranidhana on Instagram. Tag us at @landyoganyc and hashtag #alleightlimbs

Monday, March 16, 2015

The Art of Self-Study

As a scientist studies a cell, we are asked, in yoga to study the Self.  Where to start? What are the tools for assessing our true nature and how can we possibly accurately know ourselves? I ask myself, "Who am I?" Am I this personality? Social? Loyal? My sun sign tells a whole story of who I could be and yet I step outside it . I've stepped outside it. Time and time again I've acted "As If" to play a role to make a goal, to grow my own image of myself. Successfully new elements of my personality emerged. Successfully I became a new me. But if can can change my personality, is my personality me? Who is the real me that can't be altered?



And so I sit. As I sit I let all the layers of personality come out and try to assert themselves and then finding themselves unattended vanish, disappear. I become myself. I study a purer version, less changeable. Still. And I study the bubbles too. I notice and bow to the callings, chatter, the stabs of emotion because they are teachers too. Only now instead of allowing them to take me with them I turn to them in observation and curiosity. Why something moves me from my stillness is information and a starting point for growth.


This self-study seems to have no end and I'm okay with that. Sometimes the thing I come to know, the nugget of truth that comes out of mediation seems so bright I write it down and affirm I'll never forget it and yet it goes. "What was that," I find myself asking myself, "that thing I was always to hold on to?" A new affirming statement arrises just the same. They come and go and come and go.


Ashtanga is also self study. There is no asana practice I have ever come across that will show you yourself like this one, and that is why I know so many people who tell me they are avoiding it till they can avoid it no longer. You can not hide from your stuff in this practice. Same sequence, same teacher, same mat everyday. The only variable is you. All your misalignments will arise. (And I don't mean the physical ones.) Every story you've told yourself about yourself will be tested. In the end the only the truth of who you are will remain. When you are ready, we are here for that. We are here for you.

-- Share your Svadhyaya (Self-Study) thoughts with us on Instagram this month. Tag @landyoganyc and as always, hashtag #alleightlimbs

Monday, February 2, 2015

Tapas: Secrets on the Art of Discipline.


I've written about Tapas before, but there really is never any end to the depths of a yoga concept and as we change, our understanding of these concepts change as well. Tapas refers to the discipline, the heat we bring to our practice. Similarly to turning up the heat on a pot to get water to boil faster, when we increase tapas, we see quickened results of our practice.

I've often preached, and it remains true that we must be committed to detachment from results of our actions.  This, however, does not mean to approach life or the practice with no game plan. With out some passion, some heat, some discipline, you will float in the abyss wondering why nothing is happening. In fact, things will happen, but undirected, you will not be able to learn or grow at any real speed.



I see this in class all too frequently. Heads shaking no. Defeated faces. Lack of real directed effort. To move forward in your practice, you must have tapas.  This means showing up and taking a step forward each day, even, and especially when it feels uncomfortable. Before the moments of great growth, there is most often an unpleasant or unfamiliar feeling which will trigger the mind to tell you a story about why you should pull back. You shouldn't. All progress happens by going outside your comfort zone.  You do this in the name of discipline.  When you have made an agreement to show up each day, regardless of the circumstances, and to take a step forward, this mind chatter has no power over you. This is beauty of Tapas. Leaning on discipline is an incredibly powerful skill.  It's an admission that you don't have all the answers and a surrender to the process. Each time you resist the urge to listen to your mind's stories they have less and less power over you. The power created by the self-realization that you don't have to listen to the mind, that you have a will that is stronger than your internal fears, is incredibly strong and will give you the energy to do anything. For those of you who always ask me how I do everything, this is the answer: Tapas. Over time the habit of discipline becomes second nature both on and off the yoga mat. It becomes such an innate habit that you may even decide to commit to more challenging disciplines to continue to get the benefits conquering the mind.



Don't give up! The biggest mistake people make in regards to commitment and discipline is to give up the second they break them. This is the whole problem with diets and New Years resolutions. (How did you do this January?) Most people make a mistake (because that is natural!!) and then punish themselves more by negative self speak and by giving up on their intentions. Become an EXPERT at discipline by reinforcing small successes with fantastic self speak and forgiving errors immediately and fully while continuing along your path.  This is the SECRET to Tapas!

Share your thoughts on Tapas with me all month on instagram by tagging LANDYOGANYC and hashtag #ALLEIGHTLIMBS One of you will win a prize!