Sunday, March 27, 2011

Shine the Light on Spring Cleaning!

With the new spring season here, I’ve been contemplating what I want to cultivate more of and rededicate myself to in my practice on and off the yoga mat. Whenever we move into a new cycle, whether marked by a new season, a new month, or even a new moon, it is important to turn inside and ask, “How do I want to enter this new cycle? What do I want to cultivate or reaffirm in my life and my relationships?” Depending on the timing of these new beginnings in our lives, sometimes pausing and asking these questions can be hard. Requiring effort. Maybe even enormous effort, but being the beautifully skilled yogis and yoginis we are, we’re used to effort right? It is effort in balance that we strive for, because it brings us into alignment, into the flow of Grace, into that something bigger, into the joy of the mystery and possibility. It is however, effort nonetheless. So, even in times when it may seem like too much to effort, to pause amidst our busy lives and turn inside, push yourself and do it anyway. It’s worth it! Find the balance that is right for you.

In this long awaited springtime, just start with one sentence. Choose something easy that resonates with you. Something that you’d like to cultivate more of in your life. To cultivate more love. To cultivate more down time. To be more mindful of time in general. To remember. To practice. For me, I want to cultivate more Awareness within my community and myself.

Recently I read The Heart of Meditation by Sally Kempton, and on the very first page she says, “There is only one thing in the Universe: Awareness and that Awareness is me.” Still, I read this sentence again and again and each time it blows my mind. She is so right. After all where would we be without awareness? Without it, would we know how or what to choose in life as the choices reveal themselves? Without any self-awareness, how would we be able to relate to each other?

Remembering to connect to our own awareness is part of the practice. We do it on the mat when we hug the midline and move our thighbones in, back, and wide. We do it when we bring the head of our arm bones back and melt our hearts. On the mat, the awareness is usually there. Off the mat, well, it is harder to remember. I asked one of my teachers for advise on this practice of awareness off the mat, and she offered me a very simple question. She said, “How did you walk through the door? How would you have liked to?” My immediate response was, “What door?” To which I got no answer, only a slight smile. After sitting with this I realized she meant both the literal and metaphorical door. We are all so powerful that we have the ability to affect all the people around us without even knowing it. Seriously, you are that powerful! That is why cultivating self-awareness and being mindful of all those around you is so important.

My new practice, which I offer lovingly to all of you, is to begin to pay attention in this new season, this new cycle, to how you walk through the door of wherever you are. Pause and ask, “How do I want to walk through the door?” The door of this new season? The door of the approaching month? How do you want to walk through the door of your home? The door of your work? The door of Yoga Sanctuary? The door of your own heart? Each of the doors in our lives lead to the next, they are all intertwined. Practice walking with awareness through one, and you will be able to walk through all. Think of it as a wonderful way to start over. Do some spring-cleaning and cultivation. Remember, the way you enter affects the way all the people around you walk in. So choose carefully! And if you forget to pause or make a mistake, just remember it is all part of the great practice of yoga, and ask yourself, “ How did I walk through that door, and how would I like to walk through next time?”

Written by Suzie Goldstein

Monday, March 21, 2011

the Kula Project spotlights Japan this Sunday, March 27

Last Wednesday evening’s Level 1&2 class finished on high yet humbling note for me, held in my memory with two distinct moments. With the help of two lovely classmates, I did a supported handstand in which I felt powerful and free. As someone who used to preface this task with “I can’t,” it was particularly wonderful to fly upside down with my friends. Later, as we bowed to our hearts and each other to close the class, our teacher Amy Reed asked that we send cooling thoughts to the nuclear reactor in Japan, which is still on the verge as I write this on Sunday afternoon. I imagined a snowy wind wrapping its way across the Pacific Ocean, and hoped that the chill I felt was universal.

There are many ways to deal with what is out of our immediate control. To release energy, I run. To harness it, I do yoga. What do we do when the world feels crazy, when the energy of the universe feels out of alignment? On Wednesday evening, I found focusing on my schoolwork impossible. Instead of being frustrated with my tendency to procrastinate, I allowed myself to sit with the big shifts, both social and geological, that are happening around the world. Having the time and space to ruminate was a privilege that led me away from an “I can’t” attitude about the global upheavals.

I see my yoga practice as self-care, and as a point of entry into a compassionate community. We have access to this practice, to each other, and to resources. Let’s harness our power as a community to collect and direct our energy to what seems beyond our reach individually, and send funds toward the relief efforts in Japan.

In that spirit, the Kula Project will be offering a community class this coming Sunday, March 27. From 4-5:15 come practice together with the big picture in heart and mind! We are asking for a $10 donation at the door. This month’s donation will benefit Peace Winds Japan ( All are invited to attend a discussion following the class to explore ways to work as a group, unite our yoga practices with potential for social justice and activism, and to expand the Kula Project beyond our yoga mats.

If you are unable to join us on Sunday afternoon, please consider leaving a donation for the Kula Project, at Yoga Sanctuary. Checks should be made out to “Peace Winds America.”
Read more about the Kula Project at

Written by E. Grace Johnston

Friday, March 4, 2011

Maha Shivaratri! This Sunday, March 6

The great night of Shiva happens once a year on the 13th moon, just as the light glow of the crescent moon dissolves into the darkness of a new cycle. Shivaratri is a potent time of transition and transformation. It is the time to pause, rededicate ourselves, set new intentions, and deepen our relationship with ourselves, and the Divine. In the darkness lies abundant possibility. In the darkness creation is of the deepest and most transformative kind. In the darkness, and in celebration of the Great Lord Shiva we chant Om Namah Shivaya, because on Maha Shivaratri one prayer, one mantra is worth 10,000. We chant Shiva’s mantra with a full heart of devotion and love. “ I honor the auspiciousness of myself and the Universe.” “ I honor that part of myself which is capable of living in crystal clear awareness.”

Maha Shivaratri is about remembering our very essence. Remembering we are innately good and worthy. Remembering that we are made of the same pulsing energy that is all around us, breathes us, and sustains us. The energy that is present in all things. There is nothing more powerful than change and transformation. Nothing more powerful than breaking away from negative feelings or patterns in our lives. I remember last year sitting on this day in front of a candle lit Nataraj, chanting from a place deep within. A place I had never been to in myself before. This time last year I found myself bound in the darkness. A very sad place. I begged Shiva for freedom. For the courage to make big changes in my life in order to find joy where there was none. I remember the chant vibrating through me. For five hours I chanted. I experienced great pain, sadness, joy, and pure bliss. The full array of emotions. I thought, “Well if one Om Namah Shivaya is worth 10,000 tonight, then five hours worth is really something!” And it was. No matter where you find yourself in your life, as Anusara yogis we know there is always more. So I invite you in the darkness of this very auspicious new moon, the moon of Shivaratri to set your intentions, think about the changes, transitions, and transformations you want to see in your own life and the world. Plant a potent seed in the darkness. As John Friend says, “ Have a vision of goodness, beauty, and light…” Above all else, be careful what you wish for because you might just get it! I did…

Come join us for a special Wah! yoga class and chanting 5pm and our annual celebration of Shiva chants with Dave Russell at Yoga Sanctuary Sunday March 6 at 8:00pm. Be prepared to release negativity with joy and an open heart!

Written by Suzie Goldstein