Ecstatic Reunion: Amy Caldwell’s Reflections on Coachella

by Amy Caldwell

This piece originally published on Yoga Digest

Screen Shot 2016-04-29 at 8.55.05 AMDance

We’ve moved four times in the past year.  I’ve packed and unpacked, made hundreds of lists, sorted and simplified.  At times, amidst the chaos, I’ve wanted to drown myself in a good bottle of red wine (and done so).  Yet I’ve also danced, joyfully and lovingly, with each family member; a slow sweet dance with our eleven year old daughter to Sean Hayes in the kitchen of our tiniest rental, merengue to “Suavemente” with my husband, and our seven year old son learned to waltz near the Christmas tree at our final move, our new (very old) home.

At these times particularly, I remember that which we seek is already at hand. Feeling at “home” wherever we are is our true nature. No matter where we are or what we are doing, that which we seek is already inside each and every one of us…and all around us. However, it seems as humans we often forget this essential truth. That’s where suffering enters. Dancing can help us embrace the present moment.

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Find Your Space

Special people, places, situations or activities may help facilitate easier remembrance. Some meditation teachers recommend looking at the sky to reconnect to the big energy. Often being in nature or resting in Savasana (corpse pose a.k.a. final resting posture) after a balanced yoga practice can open the doors of perception to the deep peace of what being “home” feels like.

For me, as strange as it may seem, Coachella music festival is one of those places where deeper connection happens. A sea of diverse peoples, sights, smells, and of course sounds – Coachella can be akin to world traveling. Although it’s not far in terms of actual distance from my San Diego home, it is worlds away from my day-to-day experience (caring for a family and owning / operating a yoga studio).

Get Out of the Rut

While perhaps one might think, “Ah, yoga teacher, her life must be fancy free…” I encounter the same responsibilities as many adults. I pay bills, aim to conscientiously raise my children and maintain a healthy relationship with my husband of 20 years while managing teachers and staff, growing our business and making it a priority to maintain my own yoga practice and self-care.

In our day-to-day lives, there is often a routine, a rhythm that becomes like a groove on a vinyl record (“samskara” or “samsara” aka conditioned existence or stored mental and physical aversions).  When we step out into a new or different situation or environment, there is no blueprint. This phenomenon can provide an opportunity to be connected to our child-like, open presence. So for me, an out of the ordinary experience such as Coachella is like a reset button, reminding me to wake up and truly embrace the moment.

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Listen to What Speaks to You

One of my first yoga teachers advised, pay attention to that which speaks to you. I agree it is essential question to ask our selves, “Where do I feel connected to the ‘big energy’? What helps me feel at ‘home’?” Then equally important, is to really listen for your unique personal answer.  Another technique to arrive in the present (where, of course, we already are) is to close your eyes, take a few deep breaths and fully pay attention to the complete inhale and complete exhale – why not give it a try and notice how you feel (so simple but effective!).

Yoga practice is a useful tool to help us recognize our connectedness to each other, all living things and ourselves.  It isn’t about changing anything or adding anything. And, we definitely don’t need to constantly try new things to feel enlivened. But we can fully enjoy the many journeys of our life while remembering the comfort of our inner “home”.

So whether at Coachella with your best friends immersed in a sea of 90,000 plus pulsating, dancing, smiling fellow humans, on your yoga mat, or even driving your car, as my favorite teacher Diana Beardsley says, how wonderful “that every moment is an opportunity for ecstatic reunion.”

– Originally published at: http://yogadigest.com/ecstatic-reunion-tips-remembering-connectedness-present-moment/#sthash.oIfcgqjc.dpuf

Mike_Amy-178

 

Head Yoga Teacher and Co-Founder of Yoga One, Amy Caldwell has dedicated herself to the practice, study and teaching of yoga since discovering its joys and benefits in 1997.

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Yoga Philosophy for Everyday Life: Saucha

Celebrate Earth Day by embracing Saucha (cleanliness and purity) in your thoughts, your home and the whole world.

by Laura McCorry
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Spring is a time fo new beginnings and for cleaning out the old cobwebbed spaces to bring in fresh air and light. Sometimes these spaces are in the depths of closets and sometimes they can be found in the depths of our thoughts and habits.

Saucha is one of the five moral observances, or Niyamas, of yoga and it refers to cleanliness and purity of body, thoughts and deeds. At first glance, saucha seems rather straight-forward. It’s easy to remember to bathe and to cut your finger nails. Your body won’t feel comfortable or function properly if you stop doing these items of daily maintenance.

But widen the perspective just a bit and you can see how saucha applies to your home as well. If you were to allow trash, papers and other items to accumulate in your home, it would soon be uninhabitable. A clean living space is good for both your health and your mental clarity.

One of the many benefits of yoga is that over time, your awareness will expand in every direction. If you stick with the practice, you’ll find what is good for the body, is also good for the mind and soul. The lessons learned on your mat will follow you into every corner of your experience.

So my hope is that one day, as a species, we will all recognize that the earth, too, needs to be cleaned and maintained.

We learned disposable habits of living from the adults who came before us. It’s easy to fall into the habits of convenience and sticking with the status quo. But there was a time not so long ago before plastics. When things worth having cost a bit more, or took a bit longer, or we knew how to do without them.

You don’t have to revolutionize your life overnight, but I invite you to take a first step. Here are some of the changes I’ve made in my personal life and some that are on my list of what to do next:

  • unnamed-1Consider the “end of life” of each object and avoid the use of all plastics wherever possible
  • Choose reusable grocery bags and produce bags
  • Shop grocery products sold in cardboard boxes or glass jars
  • Refuse single use to-go cutlery
  • Use cloth placemats and napkins at home
  • Extensive use of kitchen towels to avoid using paper towels
  • Bring my own tumbler to the coffee shop
  • Replace my toothbrush with a bamboo alternative
  • Use a glass water bottle for travel
  • Cook my own food and eat the leftovers
  • Buy less – bring fewer new items into my home
  • Invest in a small space/balcony composter

What’s on your list? Share with us in the comments. Here is a great resource with tons of ideas to go even further: plastic free guide

Laura McCorry

Laura McCorry
Contributing Writer

Yoga and Laura had an on-again-off-again relationship from 2004 until 2009 when they decided to move in together and there’s been no looking back since. Passionate about both yoga and writing, Laura loves to introduce others to the joys and benefits of yoga and healthy living.

Contact: laura@yogaonesandiego.com

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Chakra Meditation: Swadhisthana, The Sacrum

by Monique Minahan

swathi-aniThe womb. Love is made here. Life is made here.

Swadhisthana is the seat of our right to feel and represents the duality (and sometimes dueling nature) of separation versus attachment, two concepts I became intimately familiar with while carrying and birthing my son.

A chakra often characterized for its sexuality, I find its watery dimensions to be layered with both humanity and divinity. Growing up in a society that exploits sex and a religion that denied it, I observed it too often reduced to one or the other. The sexual energy this chakra represents spans desire, sensation, pleasure, need and emotion. Much like water changes form to become ice or snow, this chakra’s energy can shrink or expand commensurate to our awareness of it.

As the life inside me grew from hiranyagarbha, the universal womb where all is in its potential state, into my baby, I began to tune in to this chakra on a physical level like never before. The process of creating and carrying life plunged me down into my fears, opened up new depths of emotion, and baptized me more fully into my humanity. It didn’t wash away the ugly or the shameful or the unacceptable – but they were revealed to me without the lens of judgement. I could feel it all, be it all, allow it all.

The space of the womb expands greatly in weight and size during pregnancy. Once baby is born the energetic space is still expansive, but the weight is gone. For weeks I stacked heavy blankets on top of my pelvis to physically weight down swadisthana chakra. The sudden weightlessness felt ungrounding to me, as if the watery energy was struggling to find its boundaries after the enormous experience of childbirth.

I choose a simple mantra for my practice today, the beeja mantra vam.

Pressing on the chakra’s front-body location with one finger, the pubic symphysis, and with another on its back-body mirror image, at the level of the sacrum, I recall that during labor the downward pressure in this space was enormous, an oceanic surge of power I didn’t know I possessed. I release the memory but keep the feeling of intensity in my body as I repeat the mantra.

I free my hands but not my attention. Emotions, memories and judgments surface and I practice allowing them instead of trying to repress them. Some days my mind is as wild as the ocean and all I can do is cling to the anchor of the breath while it swirls me around and around. Today my thoughts feel peacefully contained, like a river flowing downstream content within its banks.

As I end my meditation I return to hiranyagarbha. Some call it god, others universal consciousness. While I cannot grasp its mystery, I can understand it on a level that does not require words. Just presence.

Part 3 of a 7 part series. You can find part 2 here: Mooladhara, The Root.

Mo Minahan

Monique Minahan
Contributing Writer

Mo is a writer and yoga teacher who believes in peace over happiness and love over fear. She likes to set her sights high and then take small steps to get there. You’ll find her walking the dirt path behind her house with her little fluffy dog, practicing walking her talk by keeping her head high and her heart open. Contact: moniqueminahan.com

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Balance for Kids… Always Better Together

by Gopala Amir Yaffa,
Rainbow Kids Yoga Founder

The 3-Day Rainbow Kids Yoga Teacher Training is well rounded and intensive, with practical theory, discussions and TONS OF FUN! Most importantly, you will come out with immediate tangible knowledge and tons of fabulous ideas to create original, captivating and fun yoga experiences for kids of all ages, anywhere in the world.

Their next training will be held at Yoga One, April 29th – May 1st, 2016
FRI: 9am – 11:45am then 2:45pm – 8:45pm
SAT 10:30am – 7:30pm
SUN 11:30am – 8:30pm
Go here to register and reserve your space today!

120512_rainbow_kids-107To be able to balance is not just impressive; it is also an essential skill that young children need to gain as part of their development. You might think that they will obtain this skill on their own, but there is a direct relation between children’s activity and their level of development: kids who are physically active will develop faster than sedentary kids.

Young children under the age of 3 cannot balance on one foot on their own… But they definitely can with a friend, teacher or a parent!

It is amazing how much more we can do when we do it TOGETHER!

Holding hands or supporting each other with arms over shoulders or waist, we can balance in poses while facing each other, standing side by side, back to back or one behind the other. It’s easy!

And it is not cheating… Our balance does improve immensely when doing yoga together. All while we learn many other important skills such as working together, communication and safe gentle supportive touch.

One of the leading principles we use in our classes is “success builds success.” If children feel successful in one achievement, it gives them the self-confidence they need to be more successful in their next endeavor.

Balancing with a friend or with mom and dad builds self-confidence and so it gives children the assurance they need to try even more daring yoga feats. It also helps children develop trust in their friends or parents, and it is an engaging way to deepen our connections without even needing to talk much.

But most importantly, balancing together makes yoga FUN!

Kids learn best through fun. And when yoga is engaging, interactive and fun, they want to do much more of it. And yes, it is always more fun to do yoga together!

Even older children might find it challenging to balance on their own in a pose like the Tree Pose, Dancer or Airplane for more than a few seconds. But if we start from where they are and build their confidence gradually, there is no limit to the incredible yoga tricks we can perform.

You might think that tricks and performance has no part in yoga, but for older children many times yoga is not interesting enough on its own, and making the class fun is just not enough… it has to be COOL!

So when standing in Tree Pose gets way to easy, we start balancing on top of each other spicing up the yoga class with some Acro-Balance and Human Pyramids. This is uber-cool!

And it is yoga. It increases our balance and flexibility, our coordination… and of course our balancing skills!

Yes, it is a bit risky… But it is not as dangerous as you might think. In the circus they say “no risk, no trick”, and beside, do you know what is the greatest risk in life? It is to take no risk. If we don’t take any risks, we stay stuck where we are.

When doing more acrobatic yoga in pairs or groups, we always assign an additional person to be the Mini Teacher. The Mini Teacher’s job is to make sure that everyone is safe. They are there with their hands ready to assist and to slow down the fall if anyone loses their balance. There is a lot to be learnt about caring for others and being present while being the Mini Teacher.

Kids fall all the time, even when they don’t do yoga. So it is a very small risk to try some more challenging balances and partner and group balances during a class while learning in a supportive environment.

Falling down has its benefits too… it teaches us to get up and try again. If we over protect our children, hover over them and scaffold their development so much that they never fall; they simply don’t learn how to get up. Then every little tumble becomes a big emotional tragedy that they find hard to rise from.

I always try to pass on my very wise grandfather in-law’s motto “you fall, you get up.”

As parents, teachers, and as Mini Teachers, we don’t want to over protect our yoga friends while they balance. If we hold on to them tightly while they are in a Headstand or a Handstand for example, they will never be able to find their own balance.

Keeping everyone safe is always our priority, and there is a wonderful technique we use to strike the right balance between safety and over helping… we call it Hot Potato.

In Hot Potato we never actually hold our friends when they balance, because again it will inhibit them from finding their own balance. They are a “hot potato,” so they are too hot to hold on to. Instead we just touch here and there, touching with our fingertips for a moment and letting go, without ever holding our friends. Try it, and you’ll be amazed how fast your children or classmates will improve with their yoga balance!

Here is another awesome method you can try at home or in your classroom. It is the Protective Circle. We do it in a group of three and it can be done with most balancing poses, as an example lets try the Headstand.

As one friend prepares to come up into the Headstand the two others stand on either side of her and form a “wall” behind her by reaching toward each other and holding each other wrists.  They can than hold onto the head-stander ankles and lift her up, or she can jump up into the Headstand Pose. The two standing partners now form the ‘Protective Circle’ around the head-stander legs by joining each others hands at the wrists. The head-stander stays safe from falling inside the Protective Circle while their legs bounce off her friends’ arms until she finds her own balance. It works!

The communication skills we can learn by balancing in yoga together with our parents or friends in the relaxed atmosphere of a yoga class can go a long way in helping us keep our cool and our connection to each other as we try to find balance also off our yoga mats and into our everyday beautiful lives.

Hold on to each other, it’s going to be soooooooooooooooooooooooooo much FUN!

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Meditation: A Yoga Teacher’s Poem

by Amy Caldwell

Amy lotus pose beachMeditation

What is the point of all this if not to be here now?
How can I remember sooner when lost?
Remember more often?

Portals into knowing slip away
separation, loneliness, depression, anxiety
sometimes accompany the loss

Running doing running doing

I want to remain in being
in peace
in oneness

I want to trust, completely
to learn how to dance gracefully with fear

To love with abandon
this moment
everything
right now
always

 

Mike_Amy-178Head Yoga Teacher and Co-Founder of Yoga One, Amy Caldwell has dedicated herself to the practice, study and teaching of yoga since discovering its joys and benefits in 1997.

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Yogi Reads: Living Your Yoga

by Olivia Cecchettini

Living Your Yoga“Living Your Yoga: Finding the Spiritual in Everyday Life”

by Judith Hanson Lasater

Summary: You don’t have to go to a mountaintop in order to have a spiritual experience. Living Your Yoga makes it clear that spirituality can be encountered anywhere, at any time. I appreciate that this is the biggest lesson Judith Lasater wants to share because it is simple and profound.

Lasater provides examples of everyday situations that become the basis of lessons, learning and growth. Honoring the wisdom of the Yoga Sutras and the Bhagavad Gita, Lasater shares off-the-mat practices to guide you into deeper relationships with yourself, your family, friends, and the world.

Why I Love It: Living Your Yoga is a beautiful reminder to slow down, stay present and practice gratitude. In our fast-paced world, life can so easily feel overwhelming. It is more important than ever to meditate and discover the place of wisdom within. This book reminds the reader that there is nowhere you can physically go to find that place. Instead, you can use the tools of meditation and present-moment awareness to rediscover what is already within you.

Recommended For: This book is a great foundation for individuals starting the yogic path; someone ready to cross the bridge from the mind of yoga into its heart.

Living Your Yoga was given to be by a friend during my first Vinyasa 200 hour teacher training and I absolutely loved it. It opened my eyes to new ways of being compassionate with myself and taught me how to access a place of spirituality more readily in my everyday life.

I hope you enjoy it and I invite you to pass it along when you’ve finished. Just the same way it came into my life, let’s keep the spirit of giving going. Ciao!

Olivia headshotOlivia Cecchettini
Contributing Writer

Olivia’s yoga journey began in 2003. She is certified in Vinyasa, Hatha, and Aerial Yoga and holds a Masters degree in Spiritual Psychology. She believes the mind, body, soul connection is sacred and encourages her students explore and expand within their own bodies and consciousnesses.

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Chakra Meditation: Mooladhara, The Root

by Monique Minahan

MuladharaI sit on the Earth herself and hold a smooth rock in the palm of each hand. I dug them up when we moved into our house and I use them when I need extra grounding, like today.

Mooladhara chakra is rooted in survival and threatened by fear. It’s located at the literal “root” of our bodies; the Sanskrit word moola meaning “root” or “foundation.” Its location differs for men and women. For me, I visualize it deep in the cervix. 

“Lammmmmmm. Lammmmmm.”

I start with the beeja mantra Lam because sound has always calmed and focused me on a deep level very quickly. The mantra lets me start low. From there I travel within. Deeper than I want to go. 

I allow my thoughts to keep running, and for the moment I descend into the breath. It changes from a natural breath to ujjayi pranayam, and I focus on it like my life depends on it. Because in so many ways it does. 

Once I feel grounded here, the rocks heavy in my hands and my breath steady and full, I feel safe to explore. 

Now I can dance with fear. Now I can speak with fear directly. Now I can feel my fear without being swept away. I’ve been running from her ever since she showed her face during a recent illness.

Sitting with my fear is uncomfortable. It is sticky. It is all mud and no lotus. I want to run but I stay put. I stay present. I keep breathing, I keep observing, I keep listening.

Eventually I open my eyes for nasikagra drishti, nose-tip gazing. This is one of the traditional meditations for mooladhara and inviting my attention to hover just above the skin anchors my vision, which helps steady my mind.

Before emerging, I come back into my breath.

I visualize each successive exhale traveling down through the root of my body, into the ground beneath me, winding its way through layers of earth and liquid until it reaches the intensely hot inner core of our planet.

Then I imagine my inhale drawing all that earth energy back up, through layers of earth and liquid, up through the ground beneath me and into my root chakra.

Nothing outside me has changed, but something inside has shifted. Like the rocks I dug from the earth, I sense my fear has been unearthed, acknowledged and respected. In the pause before I move, I savor this moment of feeling both connected and free, grounded and lightened, human and being.

Part 2 of a 7 part series. You can find Part 1 here: Ajna, The Third Eye.

Mo Minahan

Monique Minahan
Contributing Writer

Mo is a writer and yoga teacher who believes in peace over happiness and love over fear. She likes to set her sights high and then take small steps to get there. You’ll find her walking the dirt path behind her house with her little fluffy dog, practicing walking her talk by keeping her head high and her heart open. Contact: moniqueminahan.com

 

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Mantra Monday: Don’t Do Yoga

by Laura McCorry

yogasnow2Don’t do yoga. Step onto your mat with your bare feet. Breathe. Pick a yoga pose, any pose. But don’t do it; at least not the way in which you’re accustomed. Arrange your arms and legs and body to take up the outer form of the pose, then wait.

Breathe. Feel the yoga pose spread from your center and push out into the edges of your body, refining. Don’t move so much as expand by millimeters wherever it tells you to make space.

Start on the outside. Soften skin, then muscle. Then ligaments and tendons and bones. Let go everywhere except those isolated muscles needed to hold you steady.

Then go inside. Soften your thoughts, your feelings. Can you let go of your fears? Allow a thin mist to drape over your dreams and ambition.

Still don’t practice the yoga pose. Allow the yoga pose to practice you, to work on you and through you.

You’ll know when it’s finished. You’ll feel the weight of your body humming the same low tones as the rooted trees in the forest. You’ll become aware of your own absolute stillness. This is what comes after.

When Yoga becomes subject and you become the object acted upon, what comes after is the real fruit of your practice. After exertion, the deep peace of stillness. After the rough seas of life, the wide, clear expanse of your own soul.

 

Laura McCorry

Laura McCorry
Contributing Writer

Yoga and Laura had an on-again-off-again relationship from 2004 until 2009 when they decided to move in together and there’s been no looking back since. Passionate about both yoga and writing, Laura loves to introduce others to the joys and benefits of yoga and healthy living.

Contact: laura@yogaonesandiego.com

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Yogi Reads: Courage: The Joy of Living Dangerously

by Olivia Cecchettini

Courage by Osho“Courage: The Joy of Living Dangerously”

by Osho

Summary: Courage: The Joy of Living Dangerously examines the very human experience of fear and challenges the ways in which we would typically respond. A provocative spiritual teacher, Osho believes that change and uncertainty are opportunities for adventure instead of reasons to experience fear. He asks the reader to use these opportunities to deepen their understanding of themselves and the world. Osho writes that developing inner courage by facing your fears will lead to a more authentic and fulfilled life.

Why I Love It: One of the reasons Osho’s book is so reassuring to me is because it acknowledges that feeling fear is a natural and normal part of life. What matters more is not the experience of fear, but how we perceive fear and our reaction to it. I love the change in perspective that stayed with me after reading this book. I felt more free to accept life as one long journey to experience and enjoy rather than something to conquer or master.

I also love that Osho writes very directly without any fluff, which is such a relief after reading more dense texts. It sends the message that spiritual teaching needn’t be complicated even though the work itself might be very difficult.

Recommended For: This book is for the yogi ready and willing to look within and expand their consciousness. Osho was one of my first spiritual teachers and I’m grateful for all I’ve learned from him. For me, simply acknowledging that fear is not the be all, end all was very powerful. I hope this book inspires the reader to become curious about fear, to explore it without bias and bring to light whatever they find.

“Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the total presence of fear, with the courage to face it.” – Osho

Olivia headshotOlivia Cecchettini
Contributing Writer

Olivia’s yoga journey began in 2003. She is certified in Vinyasa, Hatha, and Aerial Yoga and holds a Masters degree in Spiritual Psychology. She believes the mind, body, soul connection is sacred and encourages her students explore and expand within their own bodies and consciousnesses.

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The Yoga Poses of Parenthood

by Laura McCorry

Becoming a parent can you leave physically exhausted and sore all over at the end of the day. Here’s a run-down of all the yoga poses you may not have realized you’re already doing!
plank pose with babyPlank Pose – Might as well do your own ten minutes a day of tummy time while the little one is down on the floor.

Crescent Pose (dynamic) – Keep baby upright while you pick something up off the floor. Pro tip: remember to alternate which leg is in front.

Boat Pose – Your baby is sleeping on your chest but you need to burp her, gently move from high to low boat and pat her back.
boat pose with babyChair Pose – Load your laundry machine because your darling baby can’t be separated from you for even ten minutes at a time.

Seated Forward Fold – You can play with baby while seated if your hamstrings allow your torso to move forward.

Child’s Pose – Baby gets to feel snuggled in close and you get some relief for your lower back!

Ujjayi Breath – Babies actually regulate their breathing based on their caregiver’s breath. When you’ve done everything you can but baby is still crying, a nice, loud ujjayi will keep as least one of you calm.

Om – No lie, my partner would lean over our fussy baby on our bed and om and she would instantly quiet down. Magical sound of the universe indeed!

Savasana – Nope, sorry, this isn’t compatible with baby. It’s just called sleeping whenever you get the chance.

Laura McCorry

Laura McCorry
Contributing Writer

Yoga and Laura had an on-again-off-again relationship from 2004 until 2009 when they decided to move in together and there’s been no looking back since. Passionate about both yoga and writing, Laura loves to introduce others to the joys and benefits of yoga and healthy living.

Contact: laura@yogaonesandiego.com

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