Chakra Meditation: Ajna, The Third Eye

by Monique Minahan

ajna-chakra-495076I start with ajna, the third eye chakra. It might seem like any chakra practice should proceed from bottom-up, but working with the lower chakras can dig up some dirt… so to speak. Connecting with ajna first helps me step back and observe the meditation process as it unfolds.

“Ommmmm,” I chant it slowly, visualizing the sound vibrating at the center of my eyebrows, waiting until it fades completely to begin the next one.

Each chakra has what’s called a beeja mantra or ‘seed sound.’ Om is the seed sound for ajna chakra.

This practice is settling and slow. Questions about my vision begin to float to the surface. Literally my vision (I started wearing glasses at 7 years old); metaphorically my vision (where do I see myself in five years); and spiritually my vision (who do I think I am and who am I really?)

Instead of reaching for the answers with my mind… I just sit with the questions, letting the om soothe my need to know, my need to define myself.

Each chakra has a color associated with it. Ajna is a two-petalled silver-grey lotus flower. I imagine silver beginning as a small dot of color in my belly and watch as it expands through organs and limbs until my whole body is filled with silver, until I am radiating silver. Until the sound of om and my silver being fill all my senses.

The oms naturally begin to wane. The silver color dims and fades completely.

The silence that follows is so crisp, so clear. As if I can hear the everything in the nothingness.

I blink my eyes open slowly, pausing as I take in my surroundings with my actual eyes, grateful for the ability to see where I’ve been, where I am now, and to discern my next step clearly.

This is the first of a 7-part series on the chakras. Check back soon for the next installment!

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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Meet Your Massage Therapist: Emily Gaspar

Massage therapy is proven to improve circulation, decrease chronic pain and generally help you feel like a million bucks! Catch up with Yoga One Wellness Team Member, Emily Gaspar and schedule your massage today.

Emily Gaspar1. Why did you decide to become a massage therapist?

In 2007 I moved out west with the intention of studying massage therapy in Hawaii. What a great excuse to live on a tropical island, I thought! I landed in Portland, Oregon and fell in in love with the city. There was an open house one day at East West College of the Healing Arts and I was so impressed by their program that I decided to stay in Portland and pursue my massage studies there.

I really decided to become a massage therapist because, outside of the normal bumps and bruises, I personally know the joy of living a pain-free life. The tools of massage education have enabled me to go forth and help others, which is an invaluable experience.

2. What benefits have you or your clients received from regular massage therapy?

It is always amazing to see the transformation in my clients before and after a massage. So many of us wait too long to get a massage and once we lay down on the table we ask ourselves why we waited this long! It is important not to beat ourselves up about this, but rather to use the time we have set aside to make some positive changes. Regular massage therapy gives our bodies the break they need to heal, restore and move forward with ease and productivity.

3. Do you have a favorite type of massage?

I love Thai Massage. One of my favorite instructors in college, Allison Lurie, specialized in Thai Massage and took groups of students to Thailand each year. She inspired me to take my own journey abroad to study and explore. What a beautiful country! The colors, smells, architecture, culture, people, and the incorporation of massage into every day life really made an impression on me. While traditional Thai Massage (think acupressure and assisted Yoga) is something special and unique, there are so many ways to incorporate Thai Massage into Deep Tissue Massage and other massage modalities.

That brings me to my second favorite type of massage, Deep Tissue. I hope that it is okay to have more than one? I’m not good at picking favorites! Another incredible instructor in college, Jonathan Primack, who drilled Kinesiology (the study of human movement) into all of his students taught me to use movement therapy in my own practice and explore areas on the body outside of the direct area of pain or tension. Everything in the body is connected and often times there are other structures impairing or affecting the area of focus.

4. Something interesting your clients might not know about you is: I ride a Vespa and have been playing alto saxophone for over 20 years!

5. What’s the best advice you give for how to really enjoy a massage?

Take deep breaths. Trust. Allow yourself to relax and let go. Ask questions! Oh, and I am also not noticing your body hair or anything else that might make you feel self conscious. :) Thank you for taking the time to love and appreciate your body. Every body is beautiful and deserves a moment of respect.

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Yogi Reads: Yoga and Long Life

Yoga and Long Life by Yogi Guptaby Olivia Cecchettini

“Yoga and Long Life” 

by Yogi Gupta

Summary: Books often have a way of coming into your life at just the right time, but I wish this book had found me sooner on my yoga journey!

“Yoga and Long Life” is best described as a “manual” but it covers a wide range of topics including the philosophy of yoga, food, health, and spirituality. My favorite quote is, “Through Yoga, a Hindu becomes a better Hindu, a Christian a better Christian, a Mohammedan a better Mohammedan, and a Jew a better Jew!”

As a yoga teacher, I’ve encountered a lot of people who fear trying yoga because they misunderstand it to be a religion. To me, yoga is a personal practice that creates more balance and compassion in my life – which I feel is compatible with every religion and culture.

I also resonated with Yogi Gupta’s knowledge of food and its effect on the mind, body, and spirit. He ate raw foods for twenty years and writes about the connection between a food’s color and its vibration. “[The color green] influences the heart, blood pressure and the emotions, and vitalizes the nerves. It also imparts wisdom, peace, harmony, sympathy and generosity.” No wonder green juice is so popular these days!

Why I love It: After twelve years of practicing yoga, I became a vegetarian. My friends and family couldn’t believe it (I am Italian and was raised on salami and parmesan cheese!). But yoga has helped me connect to my body and that has heightened my awareness about food choices. The transformation happened naturally and slowly. Reading “Yoga and Long Life” helped me more deeply understand why these transitions were happening in my life.

There are so many tips and tools I want to apply in my daily life, I highlighted passages I’d like to go back and read again. Sometimes I find yoga texts to be dense and I need to read them several times to fully grasp their meaning but this book flowed nicely and was very accessible – which I love.

Recommended For: Individuals who have been practicing yoga for awhile and are curious about why they like it so much!

Disconnection has become such a dangerous norm these days. It takes more discipline and compassion than ever to come back and live from our heart space. I recommend this book to those who are interested in self-study and truly connecting with the world around them.

I find most people connect with the physical yoga practice first and then want to know more about the how and why and what. For example, the yamas and niyamas. And if you have no idea what those are yet, then this book is perfect for you. I hope you enjoy it!

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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Om, A Yoga Teacher’s Poem

guest post by Arati Lane

AratiOm
Yoga was back then, in my youth, the stuff you did with the body
Bending, stretching and breathing
And I knew how to do that and shine and be happy
So easy, like playing

And the depths and wisdom yoga has to offer,
The philosophy and psychology of it and how to apply all that…
Came very slowly. With maturity, with time.
With the need of it.

The longing and struggle that turns oneself inward
Away from the illusions of the world.
Yoga for the feeling, yoga for the thinking…
I need it to go through life.

Transformation into motherhood without yoga would have been so
isolating.
I learned relationships can have a foundation in yoga.
My yoga teachers support me in every way even though they have no
physical body anymore.

It’s very profound to have my life immersed in yoga on every level:

When I am sick or hurt, yoga heals me
When I am afraid, yoga soothes me
When I am lost, yoga is my guide
When it is dark, yoga gives light
Where there is ignorance, yoga gives love.

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Five Things I Won’t Be Doing in 2016

by Laura McCorry

Anti-resolutions for the modern yogi

New.Year_.2016.orange.stock_.medium-750x400It’s good to reflect on where you’ve been and where you’d like to go – to identify the areas of your life where you’d like to see change. But too strong a focus on these things draws us into regret/shame about the past or anxiety/pressure about the future. 

Here are five things I don’t want to do in the coming year. The only way I can avoid them is by not doing them this very moment. There is only here. There is only now. The stroke of midnight will come and go, but the present moment is always with us and always extends the promise of change and of living life more abundantly. 

May you find balance and harmony, right where you are, right now.

1. Dream about things I want instead of doing them.

If you never take the risk, you can never be disappointed. It’s easy to talk or think about the big, incredible things you want to do or experience in life but not take steps towards accomplishing them. Almost any goal can be broken down into concrete small steps that will set you on the course to accomplishing it. Even if your goal is an experience like traveling, you can consciously save a little bit of money each week to work towards this goal.

2. Put off until tomorrow something that can be accomplished today.

On a related note – there’s almost no task more onerous than the repeated experience of thinking about and dreading it. The more you practice embracing the present moment for action, you practice cutting off anxiety at its source. Do your chores. Have the hard conversation. Make an appointment with the dentist. There’s no time like the present moment – in fact, yogis know that’s all there is.

3. Blame someone else for not doing the thing I expect or would like them to do. 

This one sounds ridiculous when you put it in words but it’s very common. Your partner didn’t do something the way you would have done it. Your friend hasn’t called to check on you and you’re feeling lonely. The weight of all these hidden disappointments is too much to carry around embittering your own heart. In the now-immortal words of Elsa, Let it go, let it goooo…

4. Try to adhere to a strict new schedule of eating/exercising/meditation/reading/etc. 

There’s a reason most people fail to keep up with their New Years resolutions by February – it’s because habits are so very strong. Do I want to eat healthy, delicious food, do more yoga and make a bigger dent in my reading list? Hell yeah! But trying to use January to force myself into compliance just isn’t going to work. There are other ways to bring about positive change in your life and all of them require attention throughout the year and not just on January 1st. Marianne Williamson captured the yogic philosophy by stating, “You must learn a new way to think before you can master a new way to be.”

5. Continue to think and operate on the scarcity mindset. 

All too often, we confuse abundance with scarcity. For example, scarcity thinks: I won’t invite my friend over because my house is messy. But focusing on abundance thinks: I have friends, a house, and everything I need and want for daily living. Each day you’re presented with the opportunity to view your life as a scarce commodity or an abundant one. You can guard, protect, and parcel out the best moments or you can celebrate, share, and be fully present for them. I know which one I need more of in this new year.

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: The Complete Guide to Yin Yoga

by Olivia Cecchettini

complete_guide_to_yinyoga“The Complete Guide to Yin Yoga”

by Bernie Clark

Summary: The Complete Guide to Yin Yoga provides a great in-depth look at the practice and benefits of Yin Yoga. All forms of yoga provide benefits on the physical, emotional, mental and spiritual levels but Yin Yoga is practiced at a reduced pace. Poses are held for up to five minutes at a time, which allows deep access to the body’s connective tissues, ligaments, fascia, joints, bones, energetic channels, meridians, nerves and even the blood system. Now that’s some serious body work!

The Complete Guide to Yin Yoga includes break downs of over 30 yin poses, making this book the perfect tool to help you slow down and bring your home practice to life.

Why I Love It: This book helps me slow down, a lesson that has never been easy. Over the past year and especially in the past six months, my life has become very full as I take on more classes and responsibilities. I couldn’t be more excited about all of this growth, but it can feel overwhelming at times. A Yin Yoga practice helps me stay grounded, balanced and clear. 

Recommended For: Anyone who needs some time for themselves (and isn’t that everyone during the holiday season?)

I remember taking a Yin Yoga class with a friend a few years ago. I thought it was so wonderful to finally slow down and be in my own energy. She, on the other hand, said the hour long class had felt like five hours! She found it so challenging to stay still and focus on her breath.

Whether you can relate to me or my friend, the benefits of Yin Yoga are still the same: improved range of motion, ease from chronic pain and an excellent opening guide to seated meditation. My suggestion is to try different styles of yoga and be open to new experiences. Welcome the ebbs and flows in everything you practice and remember, “life is a journey, not a destination.” Hope you enjoy taking some time to connect with yourself this month!

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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Finding the Sacred in “Sacred Space”

by Monique Minahan

DSC_0229Where is your sacred space? How does it receive you from the world? How does it release you back into the world?

I’ve come to understand sacred space as anywhere we offer or receive love, listening, beauty or life. Sometimes that space has walls that hold us and sometimes it has arms.

The word sacred shares the same root as the word sacrifice. Sacrifice, as in making an offering, not as in being a martyr. In our sacred spaces sometimes we offer up and sometimes we receive.

Sacred space is wherever I feel held; by the earth, by another human, by the walls, by the trees, by open sky, by open minds.

It’s wherever I hold; the earth in my hands, my baby in my arms, the polarities of life in my heart.

It’s wherever I feel listened to, validated, encouraged, seen.

It’s where reality is respected, fear is faced and the impossible becomes possible.

It’s where grief is practiced, vulnerability is nourished and love is planted.

It’s bigger than a church, a mosque, a synagogue, a yoga class or a cluster of crystals and talismans.

It receives me however I am, wherever I am. It releases me back to the world equal parts human and being, with my own unique offering alive and beating in my heart.

This piece originally published on The Huffington Post.

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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Yoga One at Work

Yoga One rooftopsEver find yourself at the end of the work day wishing the yoga studio was just a little bit closer to your office? What about having yoga classes available in your office?

Yoga One proudly offers high-quality yoga instruction on-site for local businesses. We’ve helped establish corporate yoga programs since 2002 for companies such as SDG&E, SEMPRA, and Cox Communications.

Establishing an onsite class is easier than you might think! There are many different models of cost sharing available between employee and employer. All you need is an open space (often a conference room!) and you and your team can experience the joys and benefits of yoga:

Benefits to Employee

  • Decreased stress
  • Promotes a healthy lifestyle
  • Improved strength and flexibility
  • Sense of peace and relaxation
  • Improved listening and communication skills
  • Increased energy
  • Better emotional balance
  • Leave class feeling refreshed and renewed!

Benefits to Employer

  • Increased productivity
  • Increased workplace satisfaction
  • Fewer employee sick days
  • Promotes a positive office environment
  • Excellent team-building experience
  • Your office will love it!

Contact Michael Caldwell to set up yoga at your workplace today! Phone: 619-544-0587 or email: info@yogaonesandiego.com

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Finding Gratitude in Unexpected Places

guest post by Missy DiDonato

gratitudeDuring this month of November, we’re reminded to give thanks. I count myself lucky that I’m grateful for my family, friends, my body and breath. These things are so important, but also obvious in a way.

I was taught to look for the good in everything. This year, I’m trying to find the positives in the unpleasant and downright annoying experiences of life. Here’s my top three unexpected situations I’m grateful for this season:

TRAFFIC: The sound of the word alone probably sparks an ugly feeling inside you, as it does me. Like many other San Diegans, I drive a lot, so being stuck in traffic happens often. I use traffic and driving in general to practice patience and compassion. I’ve come to the realization that no one wants to be in traffic – we all have destinations and other places we’d rather be. So instead of complaining and yelling (which is my first instinct) I simply put on some mood music and try to enjoy just being. I am grateful for the time to relax and listen to good music.

JERKS ON YELP: We recently got a yelp review that rocked my world! The guy was a pretentious asshole who didn’t have any traction for his opinion of the teacher whose class he almost attended. My first response was to be defensive, angry and sad. After I calmed down, I asked myself why a rude comment on the internet upset me so much. I realized it was because I have created a life filled with people who are supportive and non-judgmental. I am grateful for my family, friends and colleagues who show me their love on a daily basis.

992edit.jpgDIVORCE: Now this one is pretty unique to my experience. Divorce may have had a different impact on your life. The divorce in my life happened to both of my parents before I was born. They were both married and divorced before they met each other, so I wouldn’t be here without it! They both had children with their previous partners, which helped create the large family that I have today. I embraced their exes as parents, so I got double the love. My second mom has taken me around the world which has been a huge influence on who I am today. My dad’s ex-wife remarried a man who was also divorced and had two sons whom I now consider my brothers. We are lucky because there is a mutual respect for all the ex and current spouses. As hard as it can be for families to separate and recombine, I am grateful for divorce because it has given me the loving family that I have today.

Missy DiDonato

Missy DiDonato
Guest Writer

Missy began practicing yoga at home when she was fourteen, following along to a DVD in her living room. She has since completed two separate 200 hour Yoga Teacher Trainings with UCSD and Yoga One. Missy loves helping others find their own yogic path and students of all levels appreciate her warm and friendly teaching style.

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Calling Savasana By Its Name

by Laura McCorry

Missy DiDonatoAs a new yoga teacher, I was in love with everything yoga. I wanted to soak it all in and learn as much as I possibly could so that when my training was over, I could go out into the world and help people move and feel better in their bodies.

I diligently memorized all the Sanskrit names and their English translations. I practiced saying both names whenever I taught a class (and I’m a bit embarrassed to think how many Sanskrit names I’ve now forgotten). But there was one pose, one name, for which I always used the Sanskrit: savasana.

After yoga and namaste, it’s probably the most-recognized Sanskrit word, so you can get away with not saying its translation. I’ve used “final relaxation” to explain savasana in many classes. But here are the words I’ve avoided saying for so many years:

Corpse Pose.

I was reminded of the proper translation this week. I had just finished leading a restorative yoga class and everyone in the room was lying down on their mats, not moving. This is the most relaxing part of yoga, the culmination of the previous hour and the time when the body receives the greatest benefit from the practice.

And I remembered that savasana meant corpse pose and I felt a chill go up my spine to see a room full of people, essentially “practicing” death. In that moment, I realized how much easier it was for me to be the teacher, to sit on my mat and stay “awake” so I could guide them out of savasana when the time was right.

My level of comfort with death ranges from “not very” to “nope, this is not even a little bit okay.” And I know I’m not alone. Our culture pushes death outside the realm of public discourse. We cover it up in medical jargon and leave death in the hands of hospice and the funeral home – anything to create some distance between us, the living, and the-thing-we-fear-above-all- fears.

So there’s something profoundly radical about the practice of yoga ending each session with the practice of death.

It flies in the face of popular culture which would rather pay attention to the youngest, newest, brightest thing under the sun. Which helps explain why savasana at some of the trendier, more corporate-feeling yoga studios can be so short – sometimes no more than two minutes.

How long savasana should last is a matter of debate in the yoga world, but the goal is long enough for you (your essence/spirit/soul) to surrender you (the body/mind). To truly practice corpse pose, you must recognize your Self as separate from your body. This acknowledgement can take years to manifest because we are very attached to our bodies in both a literal and psychological sense.

One of yoga’s primary tenets is the yama of non-attachment, aparigraha. It is natural for us to cling to things, to hold on tight to the people we love and the experiences of our body. But yoga teaches that You are not your body. In order to be free, to experience samadhi, or union with the divine, you must let go. Surrender. And yes, even practice death.

I believe that fear and discomfort can only ever hold us back from the fullness of life. We are meant to be alive. We are meant to fully enjoy this beautiful world and to live abundantly. I hope that over time, this practice of yoga continues to mold me, body, mind and spirit until I can one day acknowledge death without fear. Until the practices of living and dying can peacefully coexist that I might move with greater ease through this experience of life. And I wish the same for you.

**This post was partly inspired by Contributing Writer, Monique Minahan’s piece When I’m Gone Please Don’t Have a Funeral on Huffington Post. Thank you Monique for always writing from your heart!

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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