Peace. Our Theme for September.

May you find peace within.
May you find peace with others.
May there be peace throughout the world.
These words were spoken at the end of my very first yoga classes and they have rooted me ever since to one of the fundamental reasons we do yoga.  We search, in our yoga practice, for ways to embody peace in order to counter balance the ever present pull towards difficulty and unrest.  I’ve yet to meet a human who has escaped entrapment!  Despair, sorrow, frustration & anger, to name just a few, rear their powerful heads daily.  Our yoga practices invite us to bear witness without judgement to what is arising in each moment, even if it’s uncomfortable.  We hold what we see as a sacred part of our soul’s journey.  Our hope is that by acknowledging and honoring our struggles we are able to free ourselves from the negative residues, and to find the ever expanding pure consciousness that’s within us & every other human being on this earth.  If we are honest with ourselves when we practice, we will face many demons.  It’s through these fires, the yogi walks.
The yogi chooses to embrace and respond to struggle with a great deal of purpose & discipline. We do practices to cultivate a peaceful inner presence within this state of constant churning and instability.  We participate consciously in breath-work because the breath is the bridge to our nervous system.  Through steady breathing, we have the ability to free ourselves from a fight or flight nervous system response.  We can actually reduce our internal stress responses.  We can promote a sense of wellness from within and from a more peaceful & grounded state of mind, the actions (or non-actions) of the yogi are more mindful and less likely to cause harm.  Focusing further on accepting ourselves and others, developing compassion, practicing stillness of the mind, and building healing strengthening postures in order to open the body’s gateways are just some of the tools that can move us more deeply into a relationship with peace.
Have you ever been around someone who simply makes you feel calm and quiet?  I have, not so very often, but often enough to know the potential that is possible.  The fact is, the vibration that radiates out from someone in a peaceful state of being, in time, may grow so strong in frequency that those in contact may be able to perceive that peace and in turn feel more peaceful.  Take the image of throwing a stone into a still lake where the ripples expand outwards all the way to the edges of that lake.  When we cultivate a place within us that is peaceful, our interactions with others have the potential to be more peaceful, and furthermore the energy of peace has the potential to spread it’s gracious roots deep and far throughout the world.
Is this a tall order? Yes. But, have you watched the news lately?  I don’t mean to sound cliche, but in response to the violence that never seems to cease, to create a stronger foundation for peace to flourish is, to me, a vital and pressing endeavor.
I ask you to think of Sacred Thread Yoga as a safe haven of peace.  We at STY want to encourage self-exploration in the name of peace this month.  We are aware that exploration may not feel truly peaceful much of the time.  Lean into your teachers for support.  We are here for you as you step into the fire of each practice.  Let’s step bravely to build our internal resources in order to meet the challenges of our insane and wondrous world.  We know that even if just a SLIVER of peace arises from within, that experience of inner peace and stillness is worth every ounce of effort put forth.  Let’s unite our energies this month to send strong waves of peace outward to touch the many people fighting so desperately throughout our world.   Breath with me, please, breath with me.  Om Shanti, Shanti, Shanti.
Written By Shonali Banerjee, RYT500  for {sacred} thread yoga

 

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Moksha: Clear your heart, clear your mind, and let it go.

The idea of Moksha, in its traditional interpretation, means liberation or release from samskara – the cycle of birth, life and death.  The ultimate liberation.   But Moksha is also often invoked in Eastern traditions to symbolize self-realization or enlightenment and is considered to be one of the four goals of all human life in Hinduism.

Moksha is often considered to be synonymous with the more prevalent term Nirvana.  But what does Moksha mean for us? What does this liberation mean in our everyday lives, on and off the mat?

To me, it’s simple. It is liberation from your ego; it is liberation from certain ideas of how things should be. I t is liberation from patterns or behaviors that prevent us for being who we truly are.  It is allowing yourself to be in the here and now.

Have you ever felt during a yoga practice how time seems to just vanish?  How the present moment is experienced so truthfully, so mindfully, that you are only able to identify that feeling of “being in the moment” once its over?  That is liberation.  That is letting go.  Release from our thoughts and from the walls of ego that we build around ourselves as we go about our lives – the forgetting of the past and the releasing of the future, the present moment.  And the more we are able to do that, the more liberated we feel.

So we invite you in the month of July, a month often associated with freedom, to practice freedom from the walls we construct inside ourselves.  To break down those barriers.  To experience the present and, in this place of self-realization, to fully rest in your most authentic self.   To practice Moksha, both on the mat at Sacred Thread and off, everywhere you go.

~Maria Cadena,

Teacher @ {sacred} thread yoga & co-director of 200Hr Teacher Training Program

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June’s Theme is inspired by the vibration of Om…

On Om: Defense Mechanism, Dog-Speak and Your Voice Actually Rocks
By Elizabeth Rowan

My dog Boudreaux was going berserk yesterday as dogs that err toward neuroticism tend to do. He’d pushed his bone off the balcony into the yard below and was emitting some otherworldly combination of screech and bark at me, at the bone, at the world at large. Without thinking, I Om’ed at him. Like, at him. He froze, eyes wide with his head tilting 90 degrees, dog-speak for “The Hell?” I did it again. He jumped up and lapped the air; I burst out laughing. Then I retrieved his bone and all was right again.

As much as the yogi in me wants to believe that Om resonated with my four-legged on a cerebral level, I know better. But I do know from my own practice, teaching expectant and new mamas, and chanting with kids and adults alike that Om yields a unique power. A soothing, centering, healing one stemming from vibration, connection and both inward and outward awareness at once.

Do you Om? Don’t you? Why?

I sometimes ask this in my classes to a wide span of replies that often result in laughter. “Um, yeah. The teacher does, so…” “No because I don’t know what I’m saying.” “My voice is the worst!” You’re your own guru; we’re getting to that; and I’m not any opera singer myself.

The Yoga Sutra tells us that, simply put, God is Om (1.33). Tasya vācakaḥ praṇavaḥ. (What he said.) That Om is God’s name as well as form. The sound or sensation of Om is the best outer approximation of an internal feeling, our shared vibration – and the infinite vibration that is the basis for the universe at large.

Here’s the deal with the g word: yoga invites us to insert our own higher power, capital or lowercase g here. Truth is one and paths – whatever your personal God or practice or religion or inner spark may be – are many. Om unites us across all paths.

Sri Swami Satchidananda’s translation of The Yoga Sutra invites us to hear audibly and then within the four sounds of Om: A, U, M and anahata, the vibration of the heart that remains long after the sound. The vibration we each carry within. Satchidananda tells us, “It is a variation of this Om that we see as the “Amen” or “Ameen,” which the Christians, Muslims and Jews say. That doesn’t mean someone changed it. Truth is always the same. Wherever you sit for meditation, you will ultimately end in experiencing Om, or the hum. But when you want to express what you experienced, you may use different words according to your capacity or the language you know.”

My favorite excerpt from his translation of this sutra invites us to simply sit with eyes and ears closed and feel that higher power, the vibration, the Om within. Satchidananda tells us, “If you allow the mind to be completely silent and then listen within, you will hear God humming. God talks to us always, but we talk so loud we fail to hear.”

If this resonates (pun intended) with you, Om it out. If not, just listen. Om if it feels good, if it allows you to feel connected, if it does nothing more than settle you. Or don’t. Either way, yoga invites us to listen. Om or not, we meet in truth. And either way, you’ve got a mean tool now to try out on rambunctious four-leggeds, kiddos or roommates.

Lemme know how that goes.


Connect with Elizabeth at FB, Instagram, and Twitter.

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And our theme for March is…

vul·ner·a·ble  [vuhl-ner-uh-buhl] 

adjective

1.capable of or susceptible to being wounded or hurt, as by a weapon: a vulnerable part of the body.

2. open to moral attack, criticism, temptation, etc.: an argument vulnerable to refutation; He is vulnerable to bribery.

Origin: 

1595–1605;  < Late Latin vulnerābilis,  equivalent to Latin vulnerā ( re ) to wound + -bilis -ble; see vulnerary

It seems almost every month I read an article, blog post or book that encourages me to “be a kid again” – to play, to let go of what is expected, to live from a place of what makes you truly you. Yeah. Easier said than done my friends. It isn’t that I don’t understand or even agree with that advice, I just find it incredibly hard to move back into that space of childhood. Too much has happened; good things and bad, praise and criticism all of which shape the character I feel will be most likely to be accepted – the character I am as an adult.

So you can imagine my surprise last month during a 3-week stay in India that in many ways I was thrown back into childhood almost instantly after getting off the plane. Here I was without any ability to comprehend what was being said, what I was expected to do, how to navigate, how to order food or eat it…. It wasn’t that I couldn’t do those things or figure it out, but it was this overarching sense of vulnerability as I did it. Am I doing this right? Will they understand me? Will I somehow offend someone? Even understanding how to cross a street (and survive) took both the act of watching and learning from someone with experience (an “adult” so to speak) and then the scary act of stepping out on my own and trying those first steps. 

And, this is what vulnerability is, the willingness to do something first. To say I Love You. To ask for help. To stand up for someone who needs it. It is risky and scary – you could be rejected or criticized, made to feel wrong or stupid or silly but this same risky, scary stuff is what makes us beautiful. As Brene Brown says, “In order for connection to happen we have to let ourselves be seen.”

Asking questions, not being afraid to not know, allowed us to meet wonderful people, hear stories and have experiences that if we had been “pros” and pretended we knew everything there was to know about India, we would have missed out.

Vulnerability is the birth place of joy, creativity, connection, love… Vulnerability is being okay with uncertainty, being okay with the pain and the hurts that come our way because we know that if we can experience the bad we are also open to experiencing the good.

As an adult, feeling like a child is easily equated to feeling like an incompetent fool, but that isn’t what we are going for here. In India, my experience wasn’t one of feeling foolish. It was an experience of being wide-eyed. Of asking many, many questions. Of enjoying the sensation of being delighted by seeing a monkey in person. Of wearing clothes that may or may not match but made you feel beautiful. Of asking how to mail a package and then spending 3 hours with your new best friend.

Now, the question becomes, when we aren’t in a foreign land, how can we still cultivate vulnerability? How can we be wide open, joyful and a little risky even in the safe confines of our little adult worlds? I’ve just gone back at watched Brown’s Ted Talk (http://www.ted.com/talks/brene_brown_on_vulnerability.html) on vulnerability and she gives us these 3 keys as a starting point:

We have to let ourselves be seen

We have to practice gratitude and joy

We have to know that we are enough.

How do you practice vulnerability?

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L.O.V.E. – –

HiResL.O.V.E

Writing about love is a lot easier said than done. When Annelise, the new owner of Sacred Thread, asked me to write a blog post about Love for the studio’s theme of the month, I think I responded by saying, “no problem.” Really? No problem writing about love? I thought… I brainstormed… I pulled out my favorite authors to read their quotes on love… but, in the end I kept coming back to something much more personal. Sharing a personal journey of love feels terrifying, but also completely right because what is love if not a personal story? I can’t tell you what to feel or how to experience, but I can tell you how I feel and how I experience.

Six months ago, I was pregnant. Unplanned and unexpected but pregnant. Shocked and scared but also, even more shockingly, immediately in love with this little baby. It didn’t even take 24 hours, I don’t know if it took 24 minutes. I was just in love. And, then I miscarried. Unexpected, shocked and scared all over again. And, this time, heartbroken. And lonely.

It took me months to feel even close to whole again. But somehow, in the devastating chaos of that time, I discovered that this heartbreak was also showing me my ability to love. And it had grown exponentially through this process. It brought me closer to my husband as I learned to ask for the support that I needed. I love other women so much more now. Those that have lost a baby, or had a baby or don’t want a baby. I feel their experiences just as I felt my own and I love them for it. Most crucially, I somehow discovered that I already love myself in all the ways I’ve always tried and failed – experiencing my body, my feelings and my thoughts with so much less judgement.

So my understanding of love comes from loss. It is a practice in full on truth-telling, in asking for the support you need, in acceptance of the ugliest bits of you, and complete and utter vulnerability. It is the experience you didn’t know you were scared to have and then the bizarre realization that the silver lining was totally worth that god-awful experience.

In this month of “love” being everywhere – forget the chocolates and flowers and romance. Instead spend sometime with yourself being truthful. Your greatest experience of love won’t come from someone else. It comes from your ability to be with yourself just as you are.

Turn down the lights and turn on some music. Rub oils all over your gorgeous body. Eat something that makes you feel good. Grab a pen and paper and write down exactly how you feel. Without justification or explanation. Love yourself. All those thoughts and emotions and rolls. So many incredible, magical things had to happen for you to be where you are today, and that is worthy of a love that never ends.

Written by Meryl Arnette for Sacred Thread Yoga

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Love In Our Owns Words –

“Musings on love, lifted in part from a beautiful ongoing attempt at articulating its power with one of my best friends and fellow yogis:

Raw. Open. Hardcore. Heart.
Vulnerable, yet stronger than steel.
Able to hold us up when we’re on our knees.
Nonattached, not needy, yet forever by our side.
A faith in an unseen force that unites us all.
What remains when it seems all else has failed.
Sought after through the ages, yet ever present within us all.
The greatest possible offering of our life.”
~Elizabeth Rowan, STY Teacher
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Love…NOW.

Me and My Love

Me and My Love

Lately I’ve been feeling rather fearless.  As I’ve taken ownership at Sacred Thread this month, life is challenging me constantly with new opportunities.  I adore the feeling of stepping out on faith especially when it’s sink or swim.  The exhilaration that comes along is actually becoming fun.  And, ironcially, it’s making me even more fearless.

Maybe that’s why I chose love as our theme for February?

Love is not something I’d typically take the lead on.  I honestly don’t know if I’m good at relationships or even making others feel loved.  I have no husband.  I have no children.  I have no relationship with my father.  As a woman, these are three primary connections that help you establish yourself as a “lover of life”.  But while I am not sure I am good at loving, I DO know that I want to be.  And maybe that simple fact alone has given me enough confidence to step out and lead.

Saturday I had dinner with a friend who confided his disappointment in being perpetually single.  Certainly this type of love – the type associated with a soulmate – is top of mind in February.  My advice, which comes mostly from pep talks to myself, was to find love other places.  Find love completely independent of someone else.  Force yourself if you have to but figure out what YOU love.  What makes your heart soar?  Fill your life with those things…it’s the most seductive cologne you can find.  It is also the only way to practice what it takes to really love.

My teacher always tells me we get good at what we practice.  It’s as simple as that.  This is why doing yoga in a class setting is so intensely powerful – because we are forced to practice things we may never approach on our own…and we get GOOD at what we practice.

So for February the challenge is simple…can we practice love?  Can we get good at love?  Loving ourselves on the mat.  Our hamstrings, our super tight hips, the shape of our feet as we gaze down in padagustasana.  Can we practice love by being aware of what makes us feel distinctly alive?  Perhaps it’s the feeling of a warm breeze on your skin?  Wind through your hair as you jog at dawn.  Find the joy in life and connect to it.  Music.  Food.  Family.  A really good book.  Be aware of what awakens your senses.  Be grateful for drops of love in your veins.

Can we also practice love through our connection to others?  And not just our (in my case elusive) soul mate.  Can we remember that loving someone isn’t only an emotion WE feel.  It is an ACTION we take.  And really what good is it to love someone if they never get to feel it?   This may be the most difficult one, even for those with a great relationship – but it’s the practice that will make us better.  Meditate on the energy of love and pass it to those who inspire you.  If they push you to be a better man, let love reciprocate.  If they are always there when you need them, let love come full circle.

There are 28 days in the month of February, giving us ample opportunity to go forth in love.  Fill your mat up with it.  Breathe it.  Believe it.  Never hide from it.  And know that no matter how you feel on day 17 or day 24 — you are always surrounded by it.

~Annelise Bodil Lonidier, written for Sacred Thread Yoga

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