Yoga + Social Justice: The Preliminary Inner Work

YogaSocialJustice-HomePage4.jpgAs part of the Yoga + Social Justice training that I am thrilled to be able to participate in at Laughing Lotus San Francisco, I was required to fill out a detailed and thought-provoking questionairre. As part of Radical Self-Care for Radical Action (#RSC4RA), I am documenting every element of this training for this blog! I am writing this now from San Francisco, two hours away from joining the training myself. I missed the first day and, unfortunately, Jasmine’s class this morning because of train troubles and needing to be in NYC an extra day, but such is life. In the spirit of this training and RSC4RA, I am setting an intention for the day: gentleness + calm.

Anyways, I want to share with you some of my answers to the deep questions asked of me by the organizers of this training. Here goes…

What is social justice to you?

Social justice is a collective understanding that all members of society deserve to and should be treated with dignity and respect. It is the belief that all people deserve everything needed for physical, social, emotional, and spiritual well-being. Yet social justice does not stop at that understanding. Rather, that understanding translates to direct action that bridges gaps so that individuals become closer to obtaining all that they need to be Whole and have their existence in the world affirmed.

What is your understanding of privilege?

To this day when I think of privilege I still think of the Peggy McIntosh article on “invisible backpacks” that we all carry. I probably read it for the first time when I was in middle school and realized that my own backpack contained within it the fact that I’ve never been in a situation where my basic needs were not filled. With that privilege comes a complete lack of understanding for what that is like for others. I remember when I filled my first emergency food box as part of my AmeriCorps work and was told that I filled it with the bare minimum. My supervisor told me that when people are in crisis – when they lack in their basic needs – we need to approach our service work from a place of abundance. That was when I realized as well that my own privilege informs my biases. In this new year, my primary intention involves learning when to listen versus when to speak up, and in doing so, to call myself and others out – in the most gentle and implicit ways – on our privilege.

How do you navigate privilege and/or social justice as a yoga instructor?

I want my yoga teaching and practice to mirror my overall philosophy on yoga: that it is a bridge and a way of life. Yoga is a technique for getting to higher practices…like doing the work and actually serving people and causes. So, for me, I navigate social justice as a yoga teacher by not teaching yoga full time. I don’t yet know if that is the right decision for me, but what it does mean is that I get to infuse my day-job as a third grade teacher with as much yoga (both the asana and a yogic attitude) as I can. This comes with practice. Through practicing at Laughing Lotus NYC I am able to refuel so that I can give to others. I have had times when I’ve had very little to give because I wasn’t refueling. This is a tension I find in my activist and teaching life in general: taking the time to fuel up so that I can respond rather than react to all the various chaotic life that comes up when immersed in service.

What is the relationship between yoga and social justice and privilege?

During this new era, I believe that we need to keep activism and social justice efforts continuous and sustainable; we cannot afford burnout. While burnout and activism have had close relationships to one another, so have healing practices and social change methodologies. We need to learn how to systematically refuel during these trying times. Yoga is a thoughtful, spiritual, emotional, and physical way of refueling so we can approach Social Justice Work from a place of intentionality and responsiveness.

What are three Yogic teachings or practices that bridge Yoga and Social Justice?

  • Tapas – steady discipline (this means writing down actions – representatives to call! – in my planner, and carefully planning out the lessons I’ll teach).
  • Aparigraha – non-possessiveness – as a way not to hoard conversations around social justice. As mentioned previously, my intention for the new year is to gauge when I need to listen versus when I need to speak up. Also, determine when I need to speak up and do so thoughtfully. And then, I intend to act from that space. I think it is imperative to act with intention. To act unintentionally is to act carelessly, and we can’t afford carelessness. I also want to acknowledge my own privilege and my own unique experiences. I want to use them to be a better listener anda better activist…which are really one in the same.
  • Setting an Intention – As a yoga teacher and a practitioner, the asana practice offers me a specific time and ritual around intention-setting and asking myself (in the post-election words of writer Elizabeth Gilbert), “Who do I want to be in this situation?”

written from stanza coffee in san francisco’s mission district, a convenient 1/2 block away from laughing lotus sf

 

6 States, 12 Yoga Studios: My Summer of Wellness

I’m having a real first teacher summer…and am loving it! Besides producing online courses, working on a grant, and doing grad school online (I don’t like to be bored, okay?!), I’ve been traveling a bunch to see loved ones + friends. I’ve prioritized doing yoga or some form of yogic-like exercise every day this summer and the results are in in the form of all the studios I’ve visited across the country. That, and I’ve even re-discovered and just plain discovered some studios in New York that are, well, not Laughing Lotus. Here’s where I’ve been practicing this summer. It’s a long post because I am very aware that it has been a very long time since I’ve posted! Let’s go East to West, shall we?

New York, New York 

5 Pillars Yoga

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  • Location: 92nd St + Madison Ave
  • Vibe: Upper East Side
  • Phenomenal Teacher(s): David Regelin
  • Asana Style: straightforward slow flow
  • Intention: Move with intention, steadiness, strength, and from a place of light-heartedness too.

 

Yoga Vida

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  • Location: 11th St + University Place
  • Vibe: NYU (a great locale for students to go to)
  • Phenomenal Teacher(s): Domenic Savino
  • Asana Style: straightup vinyasa
  • Intention: A safe environment to explore the tried-and-true practices of yoga.

Laughing Lotus

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  • Location: 19th St between 5th + 6th Avenues
  • Vibe: GLITTER
  • Phenomenal Teacher(s): Sheri Celantano, Deb Langley, Kenneth Frisby
  • Asana Style: Lotus Flow
  • Intention: Move like yourself…and sprinkle glitter all over!

 

Katonah Yoga

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  • Location: 17th St + 8th Avenue
  • Vibe: Hard.Core.
  • Phenomenal Teacher: Abby Galvin
  • Asana Style: Katonah
  • Intention: Fuse Taoism with the bodily practices of yoga to open everything up in an extremely intentional way.

 

New Haven, Connecticut

Fresh Yoga

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  • Location: 49 Orange St
  • Vibe: Get Your Yoga, No Strings Attached
  • Phenomenal Teachers: Kami + Ed Mikelis
  • Asana Style: Vinyasa Flow
  • Intention: Come in, get your yoga, open up your body, get a workout, and then move on with your day feeling refreshed.

Nantucket, Massachussetts 

Sconset Yoga Club

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  • Location: 18 Baxter Road
  • Vibe: Move + Be Still in the Sun
  • Phenomenal Teacher: Jenavieve Varga
  • Asana Style: YogaWorks
  • Intention: Practice yoga in the beauty of the sunlight, scenery, peace + quite of Nantucket, MA. It’s evident that the whole operation was created with a lot of heart by ladies who grew up spending summers on the island and now teach yoga in NYC most of the time.

Aspen, Colorado

Aspen Shakti Shala

  • img_3256Location: 422 E Cooper Avenue
  • Vibe: Movement = Pleasure
  • Phenomenal Teacher: Jamie Butemeyer
  • Asana Style: Vinyasa
  • Intention: Take practice seriously + lightly at the same time.

 

Seattle, Washington

Grinning Yogi

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  • Location: 345 15th Avenue E
  • Vibe: Fast + Fierce
  • Phenomenal Teacher: Nancy Hwang
  • Asana Style: Lotus Flow
  • Intention: Lose + find yourself at the same time…through movement.

 

Portland, Oregon

People’s Yoga

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  • Location: 44th + Belmont
  • Vibe: Dedicated + Full
  • Phenomenal Teachers: This time around, I took class with Linnea Solveig.
  • Asana Style: vinyasa with heart
  • Intention: Feel a sense of complete spiritual flow + fullness while practicing in a room filled to the brim with like-minded people.

 

YoYo Yogi

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  • Location: 13th + NW Hoyt
  • Vibe: Sheer Awesomeness
  • Phenomenal Teachers: Alex + Kristi Cole (yes, they’re a father-daughter pair)
  • Asana Style: joyful flowing cathartic vinyasa flow (yes, I am being redundant on purpose – it’s just that good!)
  • Intention: Move so fast and with such flow that you forget what you’re feeling when you walk in the door and walk out with those feelings processed + feeling good!

Love Hive Yoga

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  • Location: 1847 E Burnside St
  • Vibe: Yoga w. Heart
  • Phenomenal Teachers: Jessica Garay, Audra Carmine + Roger McKeever
  • Asana Style: Vinyasa + Hatha
  • Intention: Move straight from your heartspace + while doing so, stay in touch with what your body needs + wants.

 

Grinning Yogi

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  • Location: 30th + Division
  • Vibe: Fierce + Kickasana
  • Phenomenal Teachers: Chase Connolly + Tori Greising
  • Asana Style: lotus flow
  • Intention: Provide a dance-like flow that allows students to lose themselves in movement + the themes it’s paired with.

 

Written on the subway on my way to Laughing Lotus because hey, hOMe is where the glitteriest OM is!

On Bhakti and Valentine’s

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At both Harlem Yoga Studio and Laughing Lotus (my two main yoga homes these days), we have a tradition of choosing a theme / dharma of the month. All classes are framed around that theme and the asanas all have something to do with them as well. This month, the theme at both these studios is Bhakti, or the yoga of Devotion (cue a ton of humble / devotional warriors in each class). I took a moment last week to journal about what comes to mind when I think of Bhakti and here’s what came up:

I am reminded, again and again, how vital touchstone practices are for human growth. I heard one dharma talk, years ago, from a favorite teacher at Laughing Lotus (Sheri), which particularly blew me away. The lesson was on leading from the heart, but mindfully and with integrity. This means that we let our hearts guide us, but we don’t let them flail around and guide us carelessly.

That dharma talk was given at a FLY workshop two years ago. Sheri stood in the middle of the room essentially showing with her body why all parts are necessary for well-being. She thrust her chest out and her a$$ back and said, “We don’t want to lead only with those two, do we?”

That is the beauty of the practice and why Bhakti is such a good theme for Valentine’s Day and February – a month that brings cognizance of the role of the heart out into the world. I find myself profoundly grateful to understand that dharma talk now, when I am in a romantic relationship and learning and learning to prioritize emotional self-regulation on and off the mat. 

So this Valentine’s Day, whether you are single or not, take a moment to place your left hand on your heart and your right hand on your belly. Breathe in. Breathe out. Feel the expansion, the regulation, and the feeling that accompanies love led with integrity: Everything is going to be okay.

New Years Eve + New Years Day in Manhattan: An Alternative Ringing-In

When everyone else seems to be taking one back in Times Square anxiously awaiting the drop of a ball, thousands of New Yorkers have their eyes closed and their breath big in downward facing dog. When ringing 2014 in, I joined in this tradition and there’s no going back for me because really, it’s quite fun to show up fashionably late to a New Years Eve party (i.e. after midnight) and why not make a grand entrance with a fabulous post-yoga glow?

Here’s the Growing Up On OM guide to ringing in 2016.

NEW YEARS EVE

Harlem Yoga Studio 108 Sun Salutations

139.jpgFull disclosure: this is the NYE event I’m most excited about because I’ll be attending it and teaching some of the sun salutations at one of my true hOMe studios where I teach my weekly 5:45pm Saturday class. From my personal FB page:

SO INCREDIBLY EXCITED to ring in the New Year with lovely teachers and yogis. Very excited to lead some of the sun salutations in this event (a yoga nerd dream of mine). C’mon by and flow with us NYE – blog post to persuade you even more forthcoming!

  • Teachers: a HYS variety!
  • 9:45pm – Midnight
  • $20

Come Ring in the New Year with deep breaths, Yoga, Community, and lots of LOVE! 10 PM through Midnight! Join many of your favorite HYS teachers and fellow Yogis as we celebrate the passing of 2015, and welcome 2016 with intention and open hearts. We will meet, ground, throw away what is not needed from the past year, and offer our intentions and wishes for 2016. Then together we will complete 108 Sun Salutations led by various teachers. We will end with a collective Metta meditation and then mingle and snack with healthy, nourishing food (and cookies!).

Why 108? The average distance of the Sun and the Moon to Earth is 108 times their respective diameters. There are 108 Upanishads, and according to yogic tradition there are 108 marma points, or sacred places of the body.

Register here or just show up at the door!

Integral Yoga Institute 108 Sun Salutations: Peace, Prayers + Loving Energy 

  • Teacher: Nalini Kuhnke
  • 5-6:30pm
  • By Donation

364.jpgWhat better way to welcome 2016 than to stretch, breathe, and celebrate Yoga with 108 sun salutations, led by the wonderful IYI teacher Nalini? Come and enjoy the sacred space of IYI’s Lotus Room as you join with other Yogis and Yoginis in this beautiful practice. Whatever you do for the rest of the evening, you’ll be refreshed, energized, and ready for a great new year.

Register here.

Laughing Lotus Let Magic Reign w. Victor

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  • Teacher: Victor Colletti
  • 10pm-Midnight
  • $60

Patti Smith was taught by her mother that the way she spent the first day of the year would influence the following 364 – so start YOUR 2016 off right with this two-hour intention-setting ceremony filled with fluid asana, chanting, powerful kriyas!

Register here.

NEW YEARS DAY

New Years Soul Sweat w. Dana Trixie Flynn

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  • 1-2:30pm
  • Laughing Lotus

 

Join Dana for a deep and beautiful fluid practice that rolls into a delicious gong bath. Let’s start the year off together with more energy and sweetness. All Levels.

New Years Day Yin Yoga Class

  • 3-4:30pm
  • Susan Derwin
  • Laughing Lotus

We will take time to ground, to release what is in the past, and to open up and create space and intention for the New Year!  Yin yoga is a more passive practice, utilizing props and gravity to facilitate lengthening of the connective tissue to increase mobility.  This class is open to all levels, including beginners.

@YogaGirl Virtual 108 Sun Salutations (Live from the Upper East Side)

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Happy New Year! May 2016 be happy, joyous + free!

Namaste,

Shira

written from the boca raton resort

A (Yoga) Room of My Own

When I decided to move back to New York City from Portland, OR, the last thing I expected was to find more space in my Manhattan apartment, compared to what I had in my Portland one. But Harlem was kind to me and my roommates, and we found (well, correction, they found it while I was still living in PDX) a fantastic four-bedroom apartment. One of the bedrooms just happened to be a “railroad room,” meaning it has two medium-sized rooms attached to one another. It was a no-brainer; I decided to make one of those rooms my Yoga Room.

The friends of mine who showed up for our housewarming party joked and said it was my office. But really, they weren’t joking. When yoga is at least part of your line of work, a space to practice is also a space to prepare and study. My yoga room is all of three of those things. And I would love to give you a tour of this space I am so proud of on this blog!

Furniture

When you have a lot of space, you need a lot more furniture. I decided on a mini coffee table that I’m using as a sitting desk (i.e. it enables me to sit in lotus and get sh*t – read: blogging – done). I also got a bookshelf that I use to store all my yoga texts. Having these in a separate space is actually making these books, teacher training manuals and journals so much more accessible. (All the furniture, BTW, was brought to me by the lovely and stressful Ikea – my yoga practice after that shopping trip was on point!).

Books

I have developed quite the collection of texts over the years. More important, though, this summer I had the opportunity to practice the yama (“restraint”) called aparigraha, which, in English, translates to “non-hoarding.” When I moved out of my apartment in Portland, I had a slight problem: I forgot to ship half my books in advance, and I ran out of room in my suitcases. These were books I loved and annotated. They were about the chakras, the sutras, the Gita and more. But books – and especially yoga books – are meant to be shared, not hoarded. On my last afternoon in Portland, I took those books in my arms and walked down Division St until I arrived at unfold, the yoga studio I taught at all year. I left them on the desk for other students to peruse, use, annotate and learn from. Here are the books I am currently left with in my new yoga room:

  • Myths of the Asanas by Alanna Kaivalya & Arjuna van der Kooij
  • Sacred Sound by Alanna Kaivalya
  • Love Poems from God translated by Daniel Ladinsky
  • The Red Book by Sera Beak
  • The Bhagavad Gita translated by Barbara Stoler-Miller
  • Yoga & Ayurveda (Frawley)
  • Healing Mantras by Thomas Ashley Farrand
  • Jivamukti Yoga by Sharon Gannon & David Life
  • The Tree of Yoga by B.K.S Iyengar
  • The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali by Edwin F. Bryant
  • The Little Book of Hindu Deities by Sanjay Patel
  • Narada’s Way of Divine Love by Swami Prabhavananda
  • be love now by ram dass
  • Tranquilista by Kimberly Wilson
  • The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz
  • Babar’s Yoga for Elephants (De Brunhoff)
  • Awakening Loving-Kindness by Pema Chodron
  • OM Yoga: A Guide to Daily Practice by Cyndi Lee

Mat

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Now that I am an official “member” at Laughing Lotus, I store my big, heavy Manduka mat in a mat cubby at the studio. The one I choose to use in my yoga room is an Athleta mat that I was gifted upon completion of my 5k at the Wanderlust 108 Mindful Triathlon. I also have the tote bag that came with hanging on the wall of the room as a reminder that I DID IT, and to store my pink boxing gloves because hey, boxing is a yoga practice all its own.

Props

Next to my mat are two blocks, a balance ball, and a meditation pillow. I also have a strap and on my wish list is a bolster and blanket.

Office Supplies

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When yoga is my line of work, a lot more is involved than practice. I also have to promote what I am doing so I can better share it with the world. That is why I have a Blog Planner from Etsy (so cute!) and a Poppin’ to-do list.

Wall Decor

I have little hanging elephants (Ganeshas) hanging from a beaded string that an old roommate gave me, my bandana and number from Wanderlust 108, and what was probably the best gift I’ve ever received: my very own Laughing Lotus graffiti wall that my dear former roommate A made for me for my 23rd birthday.

Deities

Also adorning my walls are deities: Goddess Guidance Oracle Cards (Doreen Virtue) I’ve chosen and Sanjay Patel‘s big book of Hindu deities posters. Atop a storage bin, I have a mini Ganesha statue…because after last year, I need a remover of obstacles.

G.I. Yogis / Yoga Joes

When I left Portland, former roommate J gifted me the sweetest lil things she saw on This Is Collosal: yogi G.I. Joes. Different poses are hidden in nooks and crannies of this room and provide endless inspiration for the asana practice.

Bottom line, here’s what I’ve learned from creating a yoga room, after coming from being a bit…space-deprived. You don’t need a lot of space to create a room of your own, but compartmentalizing yoga can sometimes be an aid to focused practice. Take some time and carve out a room of your own.

“There is no gate, no lock, no bolt that you can set upon the freedom of my mind.”
Virginia Woolf, A Room of One’s Own

What I’m Loving: The In-Between Week

Two weeks ago, I moved back to NYC. Today, I’ll informally start my new job. My official start date is next Monday and next Tuesday, I’m scheduled to move into my new apartment. In the meantime, I’m basking in a lovely sort of limbo: staying at home, shopping for clothes I won’t be wearing until work starts, catching up with friends I haven’t seen in months…

A part of me wishes I started this column in Portland, where there was so much that I did – and still do – truly love. But I know that I’ll be back to visit Portland, with the idea that this will be a weekly column that will travel along with me.

So here’s the deal:

Each week, I will post 5 things I’m loving with a 3-sentence description of what it is and why I’m loving it (in case you couldn’t tell based on previous posts, brevity can be a challenge for me and concision is a skill I’d like to hone). This column is inspired by The College Prepster’s On My Radar and Gala Darling’s gratitude posts…but with my own spin. These “things” will be a wide variety of passions: places, books, podcasts, yoga studios, teachers, etc. to convey what it is that’s fueling my inspiration to keep growing on OM. Here goes…

This week, I’m loving

Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

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Close friends have been recommending this book to me all summer long and I’m so grateful to finally be reading it. It is an extraordinarily well-written take on what it means to come to America from Nigeria, and discover what race means to a country fraught with its battles. The protagonist, Ifemelu, is also so genuine and likable that it’s made for the best subway read a girl could ask for, and one that keeps me thinking well after the 5 train arrives at my stop.

Laughing Lotus

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Baby, I’m back! When I arrived back in the city, I felt overwhelmed by the largeness of it all. Returning for class after class at Laughing Lotus, being hugged by my favorite teachers out there, getting lost in Lotus Flow sequencing, and running into people I’ve done trainings with over and over again has been one of the things that’s made me feel truly at hOMe.

Hu Chocolate

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Me, my mom, and my sister have gotten hooked on Hu chocolate. The three of us try to stay away from refined sugar and Hu, from a paleo eatery downtown (but they sell the bars at Fairway!) contains none of it; it’s sweetened with the wonderfully low-glycemic coconut sugar. The bar that we’re loving is their dark chocolate almond butter quinoa bar. Pro tip: eat a piece or two with a glass of red wine and bliss the eff out.

Elena Brower Summer School for Yoga Teachers

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A fellow teacher at HYS suggested this 3-day-long surge of inspiration to all yoga teacher colleagues and Facebook. These calls, which I listened to the recordings to via teach.yoga, were just the inspiration I needed to validate how much I love being a student, and how that dedication to studentship is what drives my desire to teach. Each call focused on different elements of what it means to be an independent-contracting (which most are) yoga teacher.

Poppin

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I am thrilled to be tasked with decorating a new office (which doubles as a supply room). I’ve been seeing Poppin office supplies pop up (pun intended) on some of my fave blogs and during my second back-to-school (this time as a teacher) trip to Staples, I snagged myself some gigantic post-it-like memo pads and adorable stylish pushpins. I still really want their gold pencil case…putting it, along with other items on the Pinterest wish list.

written from devachan hair salon, while wearing one of their fabulous gold robes

April Link Love: Teachers, Thrive-ing + The Times Talks Yoga

Introduction to the monthly Link Love column: One of my favorite blogs (and a total blogger role model of mine) is Gala Darling. Every month, Gala Darling publishes a link roundup in a narrative form of what she’s been reading. Lounging in bed on lazy Friday mornings (when I was in college) or Sunday mornings (now that I’m a working lady), I open up the links Gala posts like presents on Chanukah evenings. I want to create a similar experience for my readers…with the added bonus of documenting these reading gems so I no longer have 17 tabs open on Google Chrome. So, without further adieu, thank you Gala for the inspiration. Here is a delightful (Central Park) link carousel of my own.

I met Nicole during Bhakti training as part of my 300-hour with Laughing Lotus. I love her teaching website because it gets to the essence of what she’s about and wants to provide for others.

Speaking of the fabulous Lotus, I got lots of inspiration through Ali Cramer’s Lululemon Ambassador video, where she takes you on a tour of NYC’s Chinatown and her favorite place to buy herbs (for an Ayurveda expert, that’s a big deal!). And speaking of Ali-ma, here’s a one-on-one interview with her and the Adhara online mag.

Via Harper’s Bazaar (an expert on such things), an art director on why she wears the exact same thing to work every day.

For the Yogathon, Living Yoga shares fundraising strategies and special classes in April!

Greatist shares the only 7 things you can control in life.

I love it when the New York Times talks yoga! Especially when it was so relevant to all the travel I was doing – I did every single pose this article recommended…on my cross-continental flight!

A Yoga International article on the mission behind the make-yoga-accessible movement. And speaking of, they’re having their first conference in September!

I can’t sing the praises of this interview and how it brings two aspects of my life together more, but here it is, folks, Melanie Klein, founder of the Yoga + Body Image Coalition, interviewed on Feministing on the power of the intersection of yoga + feminism. #mylyfe

Speaking of, here is a truly earth-shatteringly fabulous interview with curvy yoga Instagram star @mynameisjessamyn.

BUST Magazine reviews the IUD…it’s like a movie review, but more useful.

Here are some Maya Angelou quotes to make your day.

We delight in the beauty of the butterfly, but rarely admit the changes it has gone through to achieve that beauty.

This girl I went to school with is the new face of herpes (happy STD Awareness Month, BTW!). She’s interviewing her exes on her blog and me and my friends are loving keeping up with her press tour, both internal and external.

Last chance to donate to the Living Yoga Yogathon (sorry not sorry, I had to).

Via HuffPo, Lena Dunham tackles the stigma of mental health with a workout selfie. Bottom line, again and again, it’s about feeling good and Lena Dunham is just quite simply amazing.

BUST lists 7 female musician memoirs you should read. (I want to read Joni’s!)

Via Yoga International, inspire your teaching with the language of the yamas and the niyamas.

Elena Brower, the yoga business machine, did it again with this gorgeous and innovative new website for yoga teachers.

Meg Cabot writes more about the new PD books and I. Am. Getting. So. Impatient.

This SEED program is sparking my educational interest because it is an academic approach to incorporating diversity into both public and private school settings.

The website THE MUSE is absolutely fantastic and coming into my life at just the right time (i.e. as I try to figure out WTF I’m going to do come September).

BUST shares 10 mason jar meals to take to work…time to get domestic!

Via Gala Darling‘s own “carousel,” here are questions to ask before giving up.

Here are 20 career tips from entrepreneurs in a lovely narrative form.

To all the single ladies going through breakups out there, a. I get it right now and b. here are some reasons why jerks show up in our lives, via Danielle LaPorte (also via Gala’s Carousel).

Thrive Forward is a program on Low Glycemic Index clean eating (a process I am beginning on). What a great resource!

Via NYMag, here’s what happens “when rich people marry poor people.” A very interesting topic, especially after meeting a couples finance blogger last weekend at the blogger meetup.

I got quite Glamour.com happy this month. Here are 8 ways to know “he” (I always find the impersonality of their pronouns to be quite amusing!) is in love with you. Now, I read this one for the fashion: profiles of the best plus-size models out there! What TV couples teach us about relationships (because those are, of course, just so realistic!).

Aron Chilewich, fellow Wes grad ’14, wrote this very, very interesting piece on when Burning Man meets Passover (A likely combo? I think not…but he makes it work).

This infographic on where and why people practice yoga…and for how long, is fascinating!

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Happy May, folks!

Namaste,
Shira

2014 in Review

I am inspired by bloggers Kimberly Wilson, Gala Darling and Chris Guillebeau to, in Kimberly’s words “tie a bow” on the year to make room for the presents the presents can bring. And heck, if Facebook is making one for me, I might as well make one for myself!

2014 was a huge year. I wrote a book thesis. Graduated college. Moved across the country. Began an AmeriCorps service. Started biking everywhere. Began paying rent. The list goes on…below (in chronological order).

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2014 was filled with
laughing lotus FLY skool + hands-on 50-hour intensives
• co-directed + passed off the middle school tutoring program in middletown
• taught diy yoga workshop
• participated in iron chef experiment with dear friends
• co-taught kids yoga class w/ the fantastic a
• taught radical vinyasa + fierce flow w/ wesBAM
• passed on wesBAM w/ partner-in-crime r
• attended NYCORE conference
• worked on friend’s senior architecture thesis
• wrote senior thesis on the cuban literacy campaigns
ayurveda + bhakti laughing lotus 50-hour modules
• participated in all senior events
• graduated from wesleyan university
tied a bow on story of a college yogi
• started new blog growing up on om
• spontaneously traveled to chicago for a day to be w/ friends
traveled to italy w/ mom + sister: rome, florence, venice
• romantic vacation on nantucket
• worked as a summer teaching fellow w/ the pase summer learning teaching corps
• had my own first middle school class
• taught a three sisters yoga alumni class
• taught yoga privates
• taught at harlem yoga studio, a new hOMe
• beach + lighthouse tour weekend in maine w/ old roommates + paris friend
• rekindled byfi friendships
• traveled to washington, dc for yoga weekend + to tie a bow on passing on wesBAM
• practiced at laughing lotus nyc a bunch
• returned after a few years to laughing lotus sf for inaugural courage + grace advanced tt
• continued shakespeare in the park tradition

* assisted ali cramer at gigantic yoga class in times square
said goodbye to nyc w/ summer streets + governor’s island

* took boxing course
• successfully completed 250 out of 300 hours of my advanced yoga teacher training w/ laughing lotus
moved to portland
• moved into tiny apartment
• heaps of happy hours
• began americorps service at the best elementary school imaginable
• turned 23 w/ a fabulous birthday party + day of service
• attended chris guillebeau reading
• trips to seattle to visit aunt

* camping trips + visit to oregon coast

* participated in and “won” national novel writing month

• began teaching at unfold yoga studio
broke leg + had surgery
• began healing process
yoga + social change training @ unfold
• home to nyc for the holidays

Here is to a 2015 filled with Metta: Safety, Happiness, Joy + Freedom!

Namaste,
Shira

Back to SF: Courage & Grace Advanced Teacher Training Preview

me at LLSF three summers ago

me at LLSF three summers ago; photo cred to hannah cressy

Laughing Lotus San Francisco was my safe haven during a very intense summer (my first summer not living at home in NYC or with a specific led program). With a sublet that was inconveniently out of the city, this space truly did become my hOMe away from home. I am simply elated to return there next week (less than a week, actually, Oh My Goddess) for an advanced teacher training with Keith and Jasmine. This training feels like a dream come true and like the perfect transition to adult life in PDX. Time to nourish that spirit before entering a year of AmeriCorps service!

You can be sure that I will blog the sh*** out of this training, but in the meantime, I wanted to provide some meaningful answers to the application questions on this blog.

What inspires you to immerse yourself in this training at this time?

I want to immerse myself in my practice at this time because I am at a crossroads, a transition point. A week ago today, I graduated college where I was the most experienced yoga teacher in a sea of undergraduates (and keep in mind I had only three years of teaching experience). Now, out of college and seeking to continue to pursue teaching, I am reminded of all that I do not know and have yet to learn. Now, this transition time, seems ideal to start learning more and to expand my knowledge base by completing a 300-hour with Laughing Lotus.

What draws you to Laughing Lotus Yoga? What excites you about learning and understanding the architecture and freedom of Lotus Flow Yoga?

This is a fantastic question because I honestly believe that I found freedom on the mat through Lotus Flow and at Laughing Lotus. I began practicing Lotus Flow during my 200-hour training, but I pursued it seriously when I lived in San Francisco for a summer and was a karma there. Lotus Flow busted open what I previously thought of as asana. Through Lotus Flow sequencing, I felt complete with my practice and I learned to use boundaries to inspire even more creativity. I also found that the more creative I was on the mat, the more creative I became off the mat as well, as a teacher, student, and writer.

“Lost in the spirit of the dance I found a path, a dancing path, that took me to the deepest, most alive place I had ever known.” Gabrielle Roth. Have you found a path for yourself? What is it for you?

My path is teaching. I feel alive when I am of service in a classroom or a yoga studio. I am studying to become a public school teacher, but it was through being a yoga teacher first that I learned to feel alive while instructing others to reach their fullest potential. It is exhilarating to know I can make an impact in that way and it forces me to dig down deep.

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What training(s) have you done and/or where have practiced yoga for the last four years?

My 200-hour teacher training was with Three Sisters Yoga at the Yoga Collective in NYC. I also did a Street Yoga training in Portland, OR. For the past year, I have been collecting 50-hour trainings from Laughing Lotus NY in FLY Skool, Hands-On, Bhakti, and Ayurveda. When I wasn’t practicing at Wesleyan University, I practiced at Laughing Lotus and occasionally Yoga Vida.

What aspects of the practice do you want to focus on? How can we serve and support you in this Immersion?

I want to focus on the holes in my own practice and teaching – primarily the bandhas and pranayama. I want to learn how to incorporate these into my practice and teaching so that the poses have more integrity and presence within them. I would also love to focus on how to teach to multiple abilities in one room and the sheer poetry that is Lotus Flow sequencing.

How does yoga allow you to celebrate your life?

In setting an intention when I stand in tadasana at the front of my mat in the morning, I celebrate my life. And by “celebrate my life,” I mean that yoga allows me to close the gap between the type of person that I want to be and who I already am. That, for me, is where the transformation lies. It allows me to celebrate possibility and potential.

What does being a yogi mean to you and share how you carry your yoga into the world?

To me, being a yogi means being a healer. Being a yogi means I heal myself first and then can heal others. It means that I move through the world with integrity and with sacred pauses between thought and action. I am able to be mindful with mind, body, and spirit. I carry that into the world by sharing my own experiences and strength with others. I also help others cultivate it themselves. I try to give my world and actions mindful meaning as I speak, converse, and write. I actively practice ahimsa by being of service in the world around me and most of all, being a yogi means that when I don’t do those things, I don’t beat myself up; I practice sacred gentleness.

Describe an element of the practice (asana, meditation, mantra, etc.) which was difficult for you, but with persistent effort you experienced a shift.

Before and during my teacher training, meditation was challenging for me. Externally and internally, I talk fast. Sitting down and being alone with my thoughts made me feel like a failure in a practice I so wanted to embody. Then, during my 200-hour, I learned Metta – lovingkindness – meditation. That practice enabled me to go inward and outward at the same time and provided me with a service-driven internal drishti that transformed my meditation practice into something deeply nourishing and that moves me away from the realm of “right” and “wrong.”

The Last Weekend of June

June has been an intense month. Transitioning out of graduating college…spontaneously surprising friends in Chicagotraveling to Italy with my family…beginning two teaching jobs…a romantic beach trip in Nantucket…

It seems only appropriate that it would end in an intense way. 

Yoga is, and has been for quite some time now, my buffer. My constant in a sea of change. In the transition out of school, out of relationships that have become my backbone, and my impending transition out of New York City, my need for this practice has only grown. I’ve had to find organic ways to comfort myself, newness in a practice I have gotten to know almost too well. Yoga and I, well, we’re like a couple that’s recently celebrated our 6-year anniversary. We started out dating slowly, then more intensely, and then the intensity became the norm. We have gone on honeymoons (yoga teacher training) and we have fought (about finances). We’ve met one another’s friends, loving some and disliking others. It’s as if we have almost gotten too comfortable.

So, as any good couples therapist would suggest for a relationship like ours, we’re mixing it up. Going on new dates. Trying new places. And all in a rapid succession before I start work full time and me and Yoga start seeing one another just a little bit less.

This weekend, we’ve gone on dates galore. They have been exhilarating, fun, and we’ve learned so many new things about one another. 

(And okay, now my yoga personification will terminate as I move into a description of our weekend-long revisiting of our honeymoon.)

Friday

Harlem Shakes

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I had, as per usual, a fantastic time subbing Harlem Yoga Shakes on Friday. But what made it even more fantastic was the emphasis on Pride and Love that the upcoming weekend allowed for. Being in NYC during Pride, while not as happy, joyous and free as it would be if I were in San Francisco…is still pretty freaking happy, joyous and free. The playlist emphasized that sense of unabashed love that this holiday brings about. The icing on the cake, however, was the Poetry. Picking up a book of translated poems by Rumi from the little HYS boutique in the lobby, I read two poems by one of the best Lovers I’ve read.

Kirtan

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Honestly, my plans for after teaching were to go home, eat Chinese takeout with my mom and watch OITNB. But as my class ended, the Kirtan artists introduced themselves to me at the HYS lobby and as the incense, candles, blankets, altar and drums got set up in the room I taught in 15 minutes prior, I simply could not bring myself to leave; I felt viscerally compelled to stay. That night, I did not need Chinese takeout. I needed divine human connection of voices and of souls. I have had experiences in Kirtans where I haven’t been able to stop smiling even if I tried and this Kirtan, where we chanted Interfaith melodies and words (including to Yemayá, reminding me of my spiritual experiences in Cuba!), was certainly no exception. 

Saturday

Vinyasa

In what seemed like a few hours later, I was back on 125th Street for a full day at HYS. I began by opening up the studio at 9am and taught another Pride-themed class. I was reminded yet again of the transformative power of teaching and the ways in which it is a Practice in and of itself. After I left Nantucket I felt sad, but I am oh-so-aware that the one true remedy for sadness is to GTFO my head and into Service. 

Yoga, Sewing + Creativity

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After a quick lunch and walk around Harlem, I returned to HYS for Tara’s fantastic workshop. We began with an introduction of ourselves, why and when we started yoga, and our creative practices other than yoga. I was reminded that so many of us come to yoga after we have been Awakened by something else as well. For me, that something else (that constant in a sea of change) was – and is still – writing. In high school, I was part of the most nourishing writing group: Girls Write Now. Yoga is most certainly not the be-all and end-all for me; it, rather, nourishes all else that I do. At this workshop, we channeled the Second Chakra (the theme of the weekend and I suppose of my life lately) and the Goddess Saraswati of Creativity and Learning. Tara led us through a gorgeous Second Chakra-themed yoga sequence and deep, deep guided meditation. These practices infused me with the patience I later needed in order to learn how to use a sewing machine for the first time and create my own yoga mat back (which is still a WIP). 

Sunday

Lotus Live at the Rubin Museum

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Image via http://rolfgross.dreamhosters.com/Thanka-Web/Thanka-Web.htm and the Rubin Museum

It is no secret that Sheri and Ali are two of my fave teachers at Laughing Lotus. I did FLY Skool with Sheri as my first 50-hours of my 500-hour training and Ayurveda Skool with Ali as my most recent. Their energy combined is grounding, healing, but most of all, CREATIVE. It also felt like coming full-circle: during my 200-hour teacher training with Three Sisters Yoga, we took a very memorable field trip to Chelsea’s Rubin Museum of Asian Art, which frequently features exhibits on the Gods and Goddesses of Hinduism, Buddhism and other Eastern traditions. The class itself channeled the Goddess Tara. After the class, we went on a guided tour of the exhibit and saw three different sculptural iterations of Tara, the Goddess of Compassion.

(There are more yoga + museum tours at the Rubin during this exhibit – check them out here

While I ended the weekend feeling a bit exhausted, I also closed it by feeling yogically fulfilled, temporarily satiating my ever-present desire to learn more.