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Yogis Can Eat Meat (if They Want to)

Yogis Can Eat Meat
I’m a flexitarian, which means that I eat small amounts of healthy meat. As a yoga teacher, people tend to assume that I’m a vegetarian. I enjoy vegetarian cuisine and have experimented with vegetarianism, but it isn’t in my best interest to eat that way.

I could replace meat with supplements or food combining options (such as rice and beans) and would do so if I had no other options. I just know that my energy level and health is enhanced from animal proteins. I understand that every person’s body is unique and their diet should reflect that. This is just what works for me.

I grew up in an American home. My family belonged to a co-op for a while and supported the Maine organic farmers association. I experimented with vegetarianism when I was in high school, but quite honestly I had no idea what I was doing.

When I went to college I didn’t like the cafeteria food, so I wound up eating a lot of cereal, bagels and salads. My boyfriend came to visit and saw how depleted I was, so we bought a hotplate and we made pasta and sausage in my dorm room. That first home-cooked meal was like finding water in the desert.

After a year at college I decided to take a leave of absence and began apprenticing with my dance teacher. Being on the road and eating out a lot while teaching five days a week took a major toll on my body. During spring break I experimented with the Blood Type Diet. After just a week of eating according to my Type O recommendations I felt healthier than I had in years. I was eating sprouted grain breads, vegetables, fruits and small portions of healthy meats and fish. The higher cost of eating this way kept me from continuing, so I fell back into my old patterns.

After my dance teacher passed I became friends with a group of people who had a cooking tradition. Each week a different person would cook a shared meal. I was very nervous about cooking for a large group, and my first attempt was a failure. One of the older women shared some of her cookbooks with me. One was specifically for “starving artists” like myself.

I started teaching myself how to cook.

I began to integrate these books with what I’d been learning about food energetics. Cooking became a meditation for me as I practiced listening to my intuition while preparing simple meals.

I moved to New York where I met a Chinese doctor and martial artist. He taught me about cooking alchemy from an Oriental medicine perspective. I started to view my food as medicine. For the first time in my adult life I started relaxing my belly while I ate. As a dancer I’d always held it in out of fear of eating too much. I was exercising a lot and learned that in order to train effectively I had to have enough of the right kinds of fuel in my body.

I went on to study yoga and Ayurveda, and continued learning about food as medicine. Like any other food, meat has medicinal benefits. My yoga teacher (who eats fish and eggs) taught me about the importance of gratitude and the power of prayer when eating.

There’s a common misperception in New Age circles that eating meat is somehow less “spiritual” than vegetarianism or veganism. There are many yoga teachers who eat meat and even the Buddha ate meat. Apparently eating meat was what killed him though – the story goes that he died from being served contaminated pork, which is a great argument against mishandling.

Every person has the right to eat however they want.

This is just my story about food and I’m interested to hear yours. Feel free to leave a comment in the box below.

If you enjoyed this article you might also like:

Body as Clay

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Is Power Yoga the Anti-Yoga?

Is Power Yoga the Anti-Yoga

A friend sent me a coupon for a week of free yoga classes so I decided to check out a studio in Manhattan. I’d heard good things about this place – that it’s one of the better studios in the city. On their website they describe their signature style as being based on the chakra system. I let go of any pre-conceived ideas of what this could mean and went with an open mind.

There was a strong MTV element.

The walls were painted with graffiti and one wall displayed a mural of Ganesha holding a boom box and a stack of dollar bills. The floor was covered in glitter and pink hearts that were arranged to help students align their mats so they wouldn’t kick one another in a packed room.

The studio owner came in sporting an Obama tee shirt and a half sleeve. I’d never seen such a blatant political advertisement by a teacher (yoga is not political BTW). The music was bumping from start to finish and the sequencing included some creative variations. The predominant theme of the class was fun, Fun, FUN! It must be what the student-clientele are willing to pay $18 a class for.

I had a hard time concentrating.

The over-stimulation was a stark contrast to my usual “studio” of parks and nature. It felt like I was in a dance class rather than a yoga class. I didn’t experience anything about the “signature style” to indicate a relationship with the chakras. It may have not been a part of the lesson that day (which I honestly don’t remember).

A few days later I received an email from a Buddhist Dharma teacher who shared his reflections on the benefits of Slow Yoga. He said that Slow Yoga helps his students with their meditation practices and that they believe that power yoga is the anti-yoga, or at least anti-enlightenment in the same way that guided meditation is anti-meditation.

With the MTV yoga experience still fresh in my mind, I had to agree that power yoga presents an obstacle. It’s not to say that power yoga can’t be used as a stepping stone but its primary function is aerobic entertainment. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that guided meditation is anti-meditation though…

What do you think? Is power yoga the anti-yoga? Feel free to leave a comment in the box below.

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The Bowl of Light

Hawaii Sunrise Bowl of Light

As I was digging through some old papers I found a letter from when I traveled to Hawaii in 2008. I was staying at a hostel on Maui’s north shore and the owner was a native Hawaiian. After a few conversations he started teaching me about Hawaiian spirituality. Before I left he gave me a letter with a story. These are his words:

The ancient Hawaiians believed that we are NOT human beings here to have the occasional spiritual experience, but that we are spirit beings here to LIVE the human experience. And they had a very beautiful story which represented this called the “Bowl of Light.”

Each child, as they were born, would have a bowl carved for them by one of the elders. And it would be given to them at birth and explained to them as they grew that this bowl represented them, as their True [self].

They were like bowls of shining LIGHT. They were ‘uhane nui’ – spirit greatness – and that all humans are spirit greatness, and that we shine from this place. We shine as spirit light. And as we go through life and as things occur that are not pono (in divine order), it is as if a pohaku, a rock is put into the bowl, it blocks out the light and we can no longer shine, shine as spirit greatness the way we were meant to be.

The Hawaiians had a very simple solution for this: they would just huli the bowl. In other words, turn the bowl over so that they could continue to shine as the spirit of light that they were meant to be.

There are similar lessons within yoga and Buddhism. It can be tough to let go of things that aren’t working but it can also be the best medicine. When life puts rocks in your bowl that is THE best time to practice. And when it seems like the whole world is being turned upside down it might just be a necessary step in emptying the bowl. Especially if we’re having a hard time letting go of the rocks.

May you shine as spirit greatness, the way you were meant to be.

If you enjoyed this article you might also like:

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Tandem Yoga FAQs

Yuki BirdWhat is Tandem Yoga?

Tandem Yoga is an umbrella term for partner, contact and acrobatic Yoga.  Tandem means a group working together, and Yoga means union, as in a pair of opposite forces uniting.  In Tandem Yoga we work together to understand and experience this balance of opposition through our shared Yoga practices.  This playful, heart-centered practice takes yoga to the next level.

What are the benefits of Tandem Yoga?

There are many benefits, some of which I talk about in a previous article (read: Tandem Yoga – Inversions).

Do I need a partner?

No, it really isn’t necessary.  Many practitioners claim that it can actually be more challenging to practice with their significant other.  It’s best to come with the idea that you’re going to have fun playing with friends.  Of course, if you and your partner want to attend together that’s fine, but you should know in advance that you’ll have the opportunity to practice with a variety of people.  Tandem practices are a great way to get to know a person for the first time.

Are there any Tandem Workshops just for couples?

Yes and they are advertised that way – example: Valentine’s Day.  I also offer private Tandem Yoga sessions.

Can you recommend any videos?  

Yes, you’ll find that there’s a lot of free material online if you search for ‘partner’, ‘acro’, ‘contact’, etc.  For our purposes, I’d recommend that you start by watching the video “108 Seconds of Aero Yoga.”  This includes a lot of the basic floor poses that are taught in Tandem Workshops:

 

Other questions?

Feel free to post them here or send an email to mindbodymandala@gmail.com

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Yogaerobics is for Posers

PhysicalPoser: noun

  1. A person who poses
  2. A person who likes to be seen in trendsetting clothes in fashionable bars, clubs, etc.
  3. A person who attempts to blend into a specific social group
  4. A puzzling or baffling question

I’ll start this rant with a little disclaimer:

“Everyone does not have to like everything.”  

We all have our own share of experiences which form the basis of our opinions. That said, I’m going to be honest with you… I don’t like yogaerobics classes – I think they’re really boring. I know that saying this is a faux pas in some circles but I don’t care.

Some people will argue that sometimes you just need to move, so who cares how you do it? But if that’s the case, then why – out of ALL of the things you could do, then why choose yoga?  If you just want to move then why not EXERCISE?  Like running, or gymnastics or any other physical sport?

Part of the answer stems from the numerous studies in recent years highlighting the health benefits of yoga. They’ve been very effective in steering people towards trying yoga, but it’s only one piece of the yogaerobics puzzle.

There is so much money invested in blinding people from their true potential. People are being coerced into buying into the yogaerobics trend. Magazines and newspapers present us with well-crafted ideas of what it means to be socially accepted. If celebrities do it then it HAS to be cool, right? The groupthink mentality encourages people to become part of a scene. To create a scene is to create a market. (Mental health tip: don’t watch television). 

The yogaerobics industry is designed to foster the “see and be seen” mentality. It plays upon people’s insecurities so they get wrapped up in their appearances, so they’ll buy $200 stretchy pants and brand name accessories. The overemphasis on the physical leaves little room for contemplation of the subtleties of the practice.

Even basic comprehension gets skimmed over in yogaerobics classes. I recently took a poll at a studio that specializes in vinyasa classes. I was curious to see how many people actually knew what the word ‘vinyasa’ means. Out of six classes only a few people knew that it means linking movement with breath. It was totally mind-blowing for me. I couldn’t help but wonder how did this happen? How did so many certified yoga instructors manage to create such a huge gap in the general public’s comprehension?

It’s been three years since I wrote this article and I’ve revised it to reflect my current viewpoint. The challenges I described back then are still prevalent today. I’m not sure if there’s anything to do about them (other than what I’m doing now). If you have any insights to share on this topic feel free to leave a comment in the box below.

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Neo Yogis

Neo YogisSo I’ve had this idea lately. It’s still developing, but I’ve been thinking a lot about the “McYoga” epidemic and how the neo yogis can survive it.

Consumerism and materialism have done a number on watering yoga down. The evolutionary force of yoga is being overshadowed by the superficial results. The many recent innovations are wonderful but at this point it’s yesterday’s news. You wouldn’t know that from looking at a copy of Yoga Journal. Speaking of which, I flipped through one recently and didn’t find a single thing of interest in it.

Not even one.

I see gifted teachers falling into step with the politically correct monoculture (hey, everyone has bills to pay). The teachers who have stayed true to the call are widely dispersed. Some of them stay well underneath the radar. I can understand why.

The yoga market is a slippery slope.

On the flip side the iron is hot right now. Yoga has become a household word and people are ready to dive in. But they don’t necessarily know which pitfalls to avoid. These are revolutionary times and there have been some recent explosions in the yoga world.

It’s easy to get disillusioned and cynical but I do believe that within the widespread interest lies a seed of greater possibility. We are experiencing a resurgence of ancient wisdom in a technological era. It’s a blessing to be alive in this information age. We are part of a shift in the collective consciousness and people are waking up.

The potential for personal evolution is mind blowing and it’s all the more reason to meditate. But we have to shed the extraneous distractions and resist segregating ourselves.

Let go of the petty story lines.

It doesn’t matter whether or not you eat meat.

The greatest style is no style.

Enough with the New Age elevator music.

You’re not your fucking lululemons.

Let yoga be the discipline of freedom that it IS.

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Pure Perception

I do some of my best thinking in the shower.  Puzzles have a way of coming together for me in there.  Such as how to explain my view of Pure Perception.

What interferes with our ability to have free, inspired thought?  

To start, consider the impact of our consumer culture: TV, magazines, mainstream news. Hollywood and media icons.

We’ve been taught to view these things as entertainment.

For many people, television is a form of daily meditation.  And yet so much of what’s on television is mediocre at best.

Next, consider the experience of standing at the checkout counter in your local grocery store.  The tabloids are brain numbing – filler for the mind the way McDonald’s is filler for the body.

These things do nothing to uplift, enlighten or educate people. Instead they fuel our lower tendencies.

Extracting ourselves from mind-numbing influences is essential for inspiration.  This can be challenging to do when we’re surrounded by the influences of our cultural engineering.

It is possible to re-pattern our thinking and perspectives.  It just takes time and energy, which doesn’t fit with the quick-fix mentality a.k.a. mall mantra:

“Give me, Love me, Buy me, OM.”

Lack of Self Worth

Negative belief systems also interfere with pure perception.  Mainstream culture does very little to support people in feeling whole.  The focus is on fueling states of conflict, discontent, and a sense of striving for something that is impossible to attain.

So what does an alternative look like?  And what does neutrality feel like?  Most people can relate to this as the experience of being in nature – feeling calm, quiet, and receptive.

(I go more into detail about environment in Creating Space.)

 The state of pure perception is subtle but can be very vivid within the right circumstances.  It involves creating a gateway for clarity and inspiration.  This allows us to connect with our humanness, our creative selves and our highest sense of purpose.

What’s your biggest challenge with staying open to inspiration?  Feel free to leave a comment in the box below.

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Inspiration – Sri Yantra

Red Sri Yantra

 

The Sri Yantra is the symbol of Hindu Tantra. This sacred geometrical symbol is a visual representation of the energy pattern of the universe and the goddess Tripura Sundari.

The Sri Yantra design consists of:

•   9 interlacing triangles which create 43 smaller triangles

•   a lotus of 8 petals

•   a lotus of 16 petals

•   a square representing the earth as a temple with four doors

The interlocking triangles represent the union of divine Masculine and Feminine energies. The four upward pointing triangles represent Shiva as the Masculine, and the five downward pointing triangles represent Shakti as the Feminine.

Tripura Sundari translates as the “beautiful goddess of the three cities.”

The three cities represent:

•   The trinity of matter, energy and thought

•   Our three bodies: physical, astral and causal

•   The three states of consciousness: waking, dreaming and deep sleep

The three cities are symbolized by the three lights of fire, sun and moon.

Tripura Sundari represents the highest form of beauty – the light of consciousness.

External beauty is but a reflection of our inner light. The light of divine beauty can never be permanently contained in any object and will never die.

We can raise our awareness of divine beauty when our minds are clear and calm. This allows for pure perception. When we release self-defeating thought patterns we can delight in seeing all of the beauty in the universe as a reflection of true consciousness.

Where has your light been shining lately? Feel free to leave a comment in the box below.

Resources: Tantric Yoga and the Wisdom Goddesses by Dr. David Frawley

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Tandem Yoga Benefit

 

Tandem Yoga BenefitOn Saturday I had the opportunity to teach a Tandem Yoga benefit class at the Yoga House in Kingston, NY. I’m so appreciative of the group that came together for this community event at the Yoga House. Special thanks to studio owners Jacqui Potente and Leigha Butler for hosting such a fun experience.

This fundraiser was part of the LuvMat Yoga Empowers Project with all proceeds going to Off the Mat Into the World’s Global Seva Fundraiser for Haiti. Seva is the spiritual practice of selfless service, stemming from the Bhakti and Karma paths of yoga. The essence of seva is part of why I enjoy Tandem Yoga, as it naturally illuminates the heart and inspires compassionate action.

Tandem Yoga Benefit AssistTandem Yoga is an umbrella term for partner, contact and acrobatic yoga. Through the practice of “balancing Earth and Sky” we explored the relationship of opposition within ourselves and our shared yoga practices. We created a solid foundation through clear communication, safety and support, and balanced this with lighthearted laughter, playfulness and enjoyment of sharing our yoga practices.

This was an all-levels class and I was especially honored to work with people who were new to Tandem Yoga.  The questions and insights that everyone shared were amazing! We talked about the importance of trust and learning to let go, as well as the adventure of “playing the edge” or challenging our sense of limitations.

One lady suggested how this practice is great for parties. She reminded me of when I first started teaching partner yoga some ten years ago. To this day I still enjoy “climbing” my friends at parties. I loved hearing about how some of the students plan to share these Tandem Yoga practices with their friends.

Thanks again to everyone who helped make this benefit such a great success!

Tandem Yoga Benefit Basics

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St. John USVI

Sunny and Emily St. John Yoga
March 9, 2011

Chi is my Co-Pilot

 

“A genuine smile distributes the cosmic current, Prana to every body cell. The happy man is less subject to disease, for happiness actually attracts into the body a greater supply of the Universal life energy.” – Paramhansa Yogananda

 

I’ve never seen the ocean turn purple before. The sky is a lighter shade of violet smeared with gray clouds and the final sweep of the sunset. Across the bay the islands are beginning to light up. As I’m writing this entry the color of the water changes to indigo.

I’m sitting in my friend Sunny’s apartment on St. John. It’s been almost a week since I arrived in the Virgin Islands. The energy of this place is tangible. A few hours ago I ate a bowl of potato leek soup that I helped Sunny prepare. It left me feeling totally buzzed. She asked me if I wanted to go to a party with her.

“Will there be people there who I can do Tandem yoga with?”

Probably not. So here I am, writing to you and enjoying the sunset. I have to say it’s pretty awesome here. I’ve been practicing yoga every day in Sunny’s kitchen that sits high up overlooking the water. We sit on her porch in the mornings watching the basil and tomatoes grow. Sunny tells me the names of every island in the bay. Hummingbirds and iguanas come to visit us.

I am happy… being… here.

This is the perfect place to write about chi. I’ve been working as a freelance writer on a book about health and energy practices. One of my assignments is to write about what chi (life energy) means to me.

Chi is all around me. It’s inside of me. It’s the feeling of looking at clear turquoise water. It’s the after-effects of hiking up the incredibly steep (!!!) hills. It’s in the sensations in my body when I meditate. It’s the fresh juice from Sunny’s Champion juicer, a sunset swirl of carrot, beet, apple, ginger, lemon. I feel it when I’m laughing.

The sky and the water have turned to black. In the distance the hills are glowing orange and white. The crickets are singing and the evening air is soft and inviting.

I wish I could practice yoga here with all of you.

Anna and Emily Tandem Yoga St. John

 

March 28, 2011

Reflections

 
“Thirty spokes converge upon a single hub;  
It is on the hole in the center that the use of the cart hinges.
 
We make a vessel from a lump of clay;
It is the empty space within the vessel that makes it useful.
 
We make doors and windows for a room;
But it is these empty spaces that make the room livable.
 
Thus, while the tangible has advantages,
It is the intangible that makes it useful.”
 
– Lao Tzu, The Tao Teh Ching
 

I’m inhaling another sunset here in the City of Love. For the past month I’ve been awake at dawn almost every morning. This is what happens whenever I’m in the tropics. Before coming here I received a Reiki treatment from my friend Mandy. She predicted that this place would feel like home to me. It has in ways that I didn’t expect. St. John feels like a hybrid of Maine, Hawaii and Colorado.

It’s another world here. People drive on the left side of the road which does a number on my dyslexia. There are no fast food restaurants or strip malls. The internet is limited here so I’ve been reading a wonderful book called “The Enzyme Factor – How to Live Long and Never be Sick” by Hiromi Shinya.

Very rich food for thought.

I’ve taken to calling this trip Sunny’s Island Boot Camp Adventure. We’ve been hiking, snorkeling and stand-up paddle boarding. We practiced yoga with friends and went dancing. Every night is Friday here.

Sunny has been teaching me about the history of the island and about the slavery uprisings. One morning we hiked to a sacred pool on Reef Bay which sits below the largest waterfall on the island. On the rocks surrounding the pool are petroglyph carvings made by the Taino, the early inhabitants of St. John.

This was a place of ancestor worship. The petroglyph symbols are positioned to reflect in the water so as to represent the inter-dependency of the spiritual and physical worlds. I wanted to meditate there and will go back sometime when there are less tourists.

Three more days until my gypsy caravan moves on. I’m looking forward to coming back. There is an amazing retreat center here and a wonderful community who I would love to continue practicing with.

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