Describe your love story with yoga?
When I was 15, my English Teacher from India was a devotee of Sai Baba. I came from a broken family and the pain was evident in my expressions be it writing or poetry. I believe I had a very deep Karmic connection with my English teacher. He taught me about Mantras and directed me to healing through Sound and Vibration. This is when the Yoga Seeds were planted. He emulated a deep sense of wisdom, peace and influenced me to write, to chant, and to explore Vedic passages. I began to explore the concepts of Non-Duality, Liberation, and Yoga. I wandered into my first Asana class when I was 19, and everything began to open and shift. Closing my eyes and being one with every breath, moving through asana, and pranayama, it all felt familiar and deep. It became my sacred place to connect and build a deep intimacy with my soul for many years before visiting India.
Yoga has taught me how to be free and how to live in the moment. It brought me closer to becoming more playful, more creative, and has allowed me to connect to my heart. It has given me the permission to feel, and to have compassion for both myself and others which is essential in life. It has taught me to let go of fixed and rigid ideas, and helps me to get out of my own way when I have to. Yoga has merged me with the idea of unity and oneness with nature, animals, energy, spirit, and people without borders or separation. This concept Yoga, to Yoke, to Unite has changed my life. It feeds my dreams, and pushes me to be fearless and to follow my path truthfully. It has connected me to free-thinkers, rebels, anarchists, poets, gypsies, sadhus, and some of the most inspirational people who have brought joy and spirit into my life. The Globe is my home, because of Yoga. I am a seeker by nature, and it has brought me closer to my soul.
What does yoga represent to you?
Suffering was a pathway to my Yoga Practice initially, and it showed me that we are love and nothing more. Reading passages from the Vedas and Buddhism all address the principles of suffering, and I found many answers there. It softened my heart and allowed my spirit to be free and accepting of the things I cannot control. I am so sensitive to subtle things like energy, intuition, compassion, empathy, sentiment. Yoga embodies these many layers and keeps them in balance and healthy. It has taught me to align myself with divine energy, and to give energy to the things I want to manifest in my life. It represents the balance between both dark and light and doesn't deny that everything is part of the whole. Our suffering is our greatest gift actually. When you know this, everything just begins to flow around us without clinging or aversion. It's a balancing act, and it can be very creative and playful once you get a grip on it, and you learn to let go at the same time.
What style of yoga do you teach?
I teach Free Style variations of Vinyasa , Hatha, Power, Yin and Yang, and Upside-Down Yoga which is a class I am passionate about and love. I have studied with many different lineages and spent years in India and Asia exploring ways to heal, and use yoga for transformation. I honor the originals, and try to stay true to the lineages and masters that came before us. I see Yoga as a constant evolution, so I am always changing, shifting, adapting, growing, re-learning, and un-learning. All Yoga is Hatha Yoga really, the balancing of the Sun and Moons energies.
Tell us about your teaching style?
My teaching style is all about empowering the students to find their own way. I just want people to fall in love with life and to embrace every part of themselves without denial and regret. We have the power to be and do whatever we want, even if we have been given circumstances that seem challenging. That is the message I want to send to everyone. If our body is an instrument, the mind is simply the music it makes. We learn to live happily in the body, so that our minds can become clear, and our hearts can stay open. The whole world would find harmony if we came from this place of balance and abundance. We have to be activists, warriors, and anarchists in this life, and I encourage everyone to find meaning in this crazy world.
Who are your (favorite) teachers?
Danny Paradise (Ashtanga, Vinyasa, Shaman), David Life and Sharon Gannon (Jivamukti, Animal Rights Activists and Rebels) Michael Stone (Psychotherapist, Author, Buddhist, and Yoga Teacher), Rudra Gowda (Senior Iyengar Teacher and Sivananda Swami) Ram Das, Allan Watts, Ken Wilber"¦..how much time do we have?
How does your personal yoga practice look like (on and off the mat)?
I am constantly in the Flow with everything I do in my life. I try not to plan, or resist things too much. I am open to new things, to step out of my comfort zone, to live in new countries, to make new friends, to spend time in solitude. I was once told I live my life like an Alchemist, and I liked that description very much. It's a balance of Meditation, Self-Study, Action and Asana. Some days I have a gentle practice, other days I am upside down! I try to make sure I always balance out the yin and yang aspects of practice in life and this can be very grounding. I love Meditation and Chanting, spending time in Temples, Monasteries, Seaside's, Mountain Tops, Flea Markets and Coffee Shops. I have a strong Bhakti and Jnana practice which is what brought me to Asana to begin with.
Which asanas would you recommend to invigorate someone's day and make them want to come back for more?
Upside Down Yoga! I am a big advocate of all Inversions. I find them to be so empowering, and inspiring. After an inversion I feel like I can do anything! Spend more time Upside Down and see how your views of who you are and the world change. Upside Down Yoga- Change your perspective. Being Upside down is Medicine for the body and the mind.
What tips would you give to a new yogi?
Do all things with love. Be fearless. Step out of your comfort zone. Find teachers who are free-spirits, rebels, anarchists. Live the life you have always dreamed of having. Believe in yourself. Make new friends, dance and live in your heart. Be involved in social change. Fight for those who don't have a voice. Start one breath at a time.
Please share your favourites with us - books, sites, anything that tickles your yogic fancy!
The Hero With a Thousand Faces-Joseph Cambell Ram Das -Be Here Now. Radha: Diary of a Woman's Search-Radha Swami, Yoga for a World Out of Balance- Michael Stone..
Whats your secret to happiness?
To learn to let go of the things that hold me back from becoming who I am meant to be. To be kind, to be loving, to forgive, to be true to myself and congruent with my beliefs. To let go of the things that don't serve me, and to dedicate my life to serving others.
What are you grateful for today?
I am thankful for my Dharma and being able to share what I love with the world. I am thankful for all of my hardships and heartbreaks. For the enigmatic strangers I have met in my life that gave me wisdom, just by having a conversation on a hilltop in the Himalayas, or a coffee shop in a crowded city. I am thankful for my Karma and my family. I am thankful for dance floors, music, art, healing and everything that connects us to spirit.
How do you live a wholehearted life?
By being Transparent, and allowing myself to make mistakes. For doing things that terrify me, without having regrets because the unknown is where magic seems the happen. By missing Flights home as often as I possibly can and being open to changing plans. By getting out of my own way, and letting the Universe guide me. She knows what I need more than I do, and I am happiest when she is my spirit guide.
You love to travel, how does your passion for travel connect with your passion for yoga?
It has forced me to step outside of my conditioning, and has re-created who I am by living in different countries and cultures. When you travel, you meet new parts of yourself, as well as new outlooks and perspectives. Traveling is my Yoga Teacher. The world is much too big to stay in one place. I think my Soul was born is India in many past lives before this one. Another part maybe Brazilian, so I must travel there soon! Traveling and Yoga has brought the Unity of Yoga into Practice, it becomes more experiential and integrated. I Thank God every day for my Passport, Visas and for the fact I can live from what I love to do. I don't own anything, and I prefer it that way. It keeps me free to just be in the flow of life, and open to move anywhere I want to go.
How do you balance travel and teaching and learning?
I make sure I have a ticket to India once a year, and that usually means I allow myself to get lost in Asia with teachers, and my practice becomes a part of everything I do. Every time I board an airplane I feel like I just signed up for a Yoga Teacher's Training. I put myself into places that are not mainstream, and that is generally when my practice begins.
Which cause (s) do you support? What concerns you the most?
I support animal right groups and I pray that one day Vegetarianism becomes a part of everyone's life.
What is your top travel tip?
Miss your flight home as much as possible! Travel lightly, and embrace the unknown.
Your favorite destination and why?
India, because its where I found my heart.
In Asia I immersed myself into new depths and unknown concepts of Yoga and Mindfulness on Mountain tops in Nepal, with Monks studying Tibetan Tantric Buddhism, living with people who challenged by conditioning and beliefs to the core of my existence. These people live the word Yoga, and their knowing of obscure concepts to us are second nature to them. Their hearts are light, and their very existence feels transcending. We explored questions that we all contemplate: Who am I? Am I free? What is my purpose? In Bangkok I practiced Vipassana, walking and sitting meditation in a Monastery in the middle of the chaos, and I experienced a deep opening in my heart. I decided in that moment to just live my life, to move with the flow, and to believe in my Karma. I decided then and there to just listen to my heart when it speaks. I decided to let go of my agenda, my expectations, my constant conditioning to control every experience I have in my life. I changed. I found myself in conscious communities where we took care of our health, through meditation, vegetarian diets and cooking together, to Yoga practices that support the whole being and not just the body. I've met people who changed my life forever through simple connection. We lived surrounded by beaches, jungles, and an abundance of raw nature that fed every inch of the soul. Some of the most significant memories are in Hill-stations in Nepal where the Buddha himself meditated because the land is said to be very auspicious. I believe it to be true, because I had some of the deepest meditations and lucid dreams that changed my way of thinking forever. I've changed and I can't go back to my comforts. It's true. Old habits don't feel right anymore. Fears don't rule my mind like they once did. My Yoga mat has become a close companion where I Practice and accept all my imperfections one breath at a time. Asia opened up my soul to see, and it's given me tools to take care of my spirit.
Walk and touch peace every moment.
Walk and touch happiness every moment.
Each step brings a fresh breeze.
Each step makes a flower bloom.
Kiss the Earth with your feet.
Bring the Earth your love and happiness.
The Earth will be safe
when we feel safe in ourselves.
- Thich Nhat Hahn
I met these 2 humans in 2003. They're influence transformed my life in deep, rich, meaningful ways beyond anything I thought was possible in this lifetime. They brought yoga philosophy onto my yoga mat and Bhakti filled the space around me. Before meeting them my yoga practice was fragmented. I could never find a place where I could study asana, jnana, and bhakti all under one roof- with an edge that was raw, confronting and thought-provoking. Once Jivamukti was formed in Toronto all of my needs as a student were met and I found balance and grounding in my practice. Sharon adviced me to go to India on a Pilgrimage like her and David once did when they began their journey, seeking masters and going to the source. A few months later I was on a plane to Kerala, to take my very first Yoga Teachers Training at the Sivananda Ashram, following in the same foot steps they did. My whole life exploded into magic that year, and a true journey into the many schools of yoga began. I will always be grateful to Jivamuki and the method Sharon and David created. These are true Bhakti Yogis.
After she died, I carried her around with me in China for a year in a wooden box. I held on tight and didn't want to let her go. She sat on my Alter, and I prayed to her daily. I would speak to her when I was lonely and confused meditating on death and what that means. I was broken because finally my Mother and I reunited after 10 years, truly bonding with genuine love and presence. She saw me, for the first in my life- and then I had to say Goodbye.
Impermanence is a difficult practice.
I cared for her day after day while she was dying, brushing her hair, gazing into her eyes, reading the lines on her face, admiring her strong spirit. I listened attentively to her stories like never before, truly getting to know the woman who gave birth to me for the first time. I could never really face her until she was dying. Her illness forced me to get closer, to surrender to my karma and love her.
It was painful, but I fought like a warrior through my fear and chose to finish this story with forgiveness, and endless compassion for her.
This became my seamless Yoga Sadhana practice- loving her.
I moved to an Ashram in Rishikesh, India nestled on the River Banks of Mother Ganga. I would sit and listen to the constant flow of the current day and night. I would sit and pray crying feeling every inch of my life, revisiting story after story about how I got to where I am. I practiced yoga, moving those stories around in my body to become sensitive and aware of hidden messages that lived deep inside. I became so silent, that I could finally hear.
This is when the layers were lifted that protected my heart, and my soul became alive again.
I could feel my Mother there with me, I felt her warmth and love. I knew it was finally the right moment to scatter her ashes into the current, to free and purify her soul and my own.
It was time to let go.
I walked up and down the river banks that day for hours, looking for the perfect spot and time to say goodbye.
I resisted and shivered, but knew she was ready to go home, to unite with God.
I sat and cried while my tears became one with Mother Ganga.
I opened the box and slowly began to sprinkle her fairy dust into the sacred water and prayed.
My whole body vibrated, and I knew this was it- I was letting her go giving her something sacred and so dear to my heart- a bond and connection the three of us with share for lifetimes on the Holy Ganga.
My Mother now lives free from pain held in the sacred womb of Mother India, and I will return again and again revisiting them both knowing our souls belong to India forever united and embodied in Love.
This is our Karma.
Yamas and Niyamas
Storms rage around me, I calm my heart and send out peace. -C.L
Is my "yes" coming from a dark corner or from the light in my heart? -C.L
Why steal from your life by steeling your will? Instead, be still and love God. -C.L
In the dark and muck, a golden lotus blossoms- Gods grace waits. -C.L
Fall deeply in Love, Cherish all in your heart. Now open and go. C.L
It was glistening on the green Lady's Mantle- Dew so clear and pure. -C.L
Stay in the center and notice each moment with calm and serenity. -C.L
Can you show courage and stay in the fire until you find the blessing? -C.L
Know yourself so well that you grow into your wholeness and greatness. -C.L
Ishvara Pranidhana- Surrener
Jump into your life with your whole heart, trusting that you will fly with God! -C.L
The Four Noble Truths
1. The Truth of Suffering (Kutai)
The Buddha declared that this world if full of suffering; that actual existence including birth, decrepitude, sickness and death is suffering and sorrow. This is called the Truth of Suffering.
2. The Truth of the Cause of Suffering (Jutai)
The cause of human suffering lies in ignorance and Karma. Ignorance and its resulting Karma have often times been called "desire" or craving. The Buddha declared:
Verily it is this thirst or craving, causing the renewal of existence, accompanied by sensual delight, seeking satisfaction now here, now there - the craving for gratification of the passions, for continual existence in the worlds of sense.
3. The Truth of the Cessation of Suffering (Mettai)
The extinguishing of all human ignorance and Karma results in a state known as Nirvana. This is the Truth of the Cessation of Suffering.
4. The Truth of the Path to the Cessation of Suffering (Dotai)
The Truth of the Path to the Cessation of Suffering is the Noble Eight-fold Path.
The Noble Eight-fold Path
1. Right Views - to keep ourselves free from prejudice, superstition and delusion and to see aright the true nature of life.
2. Right Thoughts - to turn away from the evils of this world and to direct our minds towards righteousness.
3. Right Speech - to refrain from pointless and harmful talk to speak kindly and courteously to all.
4. Right Conduct - to see that our deeds are peaceful, benevolent, compassionate and pure; to live the Teaching of the Buddha daily.
5. Right Livelihood - to earn our living in such a way as to entail no evil consequences.
6. Right Effort - to direct our efforts incessantly to the overcoming of ignorance and selfish desires.
7. Right Mindfulness - to cherish good and pure thoughts for all that we say and do arise from our thoughts.
8. Right Meditation - to concentrate our will on the Buddha, His Life and His Teaching.
Since these eight paths can be put into the categories of precepts, meditation and wisdom we can say that the path of practice of Buddhism is the Three Vehicles of Learning. By following the precepts we learn to control the body and mind. Through mediation we learn to unify our mind. Wisdom is attained by the practice of the above two and through this wisdom all ignorance and passions are cut off and true state of Enlightenment is then realized.
As we look upon Buddhism we find that the various ways of explaining this state of Nirvana and the methods of attaining that state of Enlightenment are not one. The reason for this is that Buddha's sermons were like the diagnosis of a good physician. Just as a physician prescribes his medicine according to his diagnosis of the patient, so the Buddha taught teaching which were simple or complicated, high or low, according to the capabilities of his congregation. Again, even though the sermon is the same the disciples interpreted it differently. Thus, through its long history Buddhism underwent many changes.
Living in China, has been intense. I purchased the movie Lost in Translation last night, it's very similar to what I am experiencing here. My outer world is completely foreign and my inner-world is changing into something unfamiliar at the same time. Its confusing, and difficult to grasp all of the changes all around me. This is what I needed in order for my soul to become a chrysalis for transformation. We always need change in order to grow, to step out of our comfort zone, and to take ourselves deeper. I spend all of my time teaching Yoga, reading, and going to Temples. I wake up early, and sleep early.
Since there is a language barrier, I've had to learn to communicate and translate Yoga in a very different, more pure way. Its no longer a routine, a habitual word like "sirasana" that roles off of you're tongue after saying it so many times. Its more a transfer of energy, and honesty. What is Yoga really, and why are we practicing?
These are the questions I am revisiting and uncovering the answers has made me look into what brought me onto this path 14 years ago. I have a new Love for Iyengar: alignment, taking you're time, breathing, and patience....lots of patience! Sometimes holding a pose for 5 minutes, and realizing the pose changes so much if we stay in the breath, in the moment, and allow ourselves to go deeper. It helps me slow down in my mind as well to connect to my heart, and my sensitivity. This is what seduced me when I found Yoga, it made me feel things in such a profound way. It's helped me to face the fact that I lost my Mother before I came, and that's ok. We said goodbye in peace, and she is still here living in my spirit and in my practice. She asked me if I would teach her Yoga once she got better, because she could see it's helped me to be more kind, more gentle, and healthy. Whenever I teach, I think of her, and I want to help people to find those things: before its too late.
I went to a Yoga retreat this weekend to teach in exchange for a free stay. To rest, reflect, and just be still. I went on long hikes in the Mountains alone, and found this beautiful Temple from the 1700's. It was so mystical, and serene. I felt like I was in a different world, a different realm! No one at the center spoke English, which I am realizing is exactly what I need right now. I taught classes, and they followed, and flowed with me. We meditated and chanted. And I felt what the real meaning of Namaste was for the first time "the light in me, see's the light in you.".......it was beautiful. Now, I know why I am on this path, and why I teach Yoga. I am following my heart, and I was born to be on this path. Its healing, and deep, and honest, and full of love and compassion. Its a gift. There are days that go by here, where I don't speak to anyone, I just teach, and flow, and connect on a different level.
This is what it feels like to feel inter-connected to something greater, to an energy that is called Yoga. Its not just a word, its a whole vibe that manifests over time. All of the years of practicing, I am finally getting closer and closer to the real meaning of Yoga.
I found peace inside myself.
Om Tat Sat,
Buddhist texts, sitting, observing, no clinging, no aversion; stories. Stories of good, bad, right, wrong. Analyse. Associations. Sounds, smells, taste, touch. Comfort, discomfort. Polarised sensations. Sit, breathe. Sit, breathe. Investigate. Seek. Austerities. Patanjali Raja Yoga. Begin; Ahimsa. Breathe. Pranayam. Purify. Asana. Play. Explore. Intelligence. Knowing. Let go. Samadhi. Sit. Offerings: Flowers, fruits, nuts, prayers, chants, japa beads. Light. Illuminate. Close my eyes. Sweet smell of incense. Breathe. Let it go. Light. Love. Acceptance. More love. Serve. A new story. Sigh. Let that one go too. Begin again
Are you constantly seeking approval and positive reinforcement? Do you question whether or not you are enough? Are you attached to your familiar patterns? What are you willing to pay to be free? The first step is to recognize the masks we wear, trapping ourselves in a cycle of doing that keeps us in suffering. We must see beyond the maya, the identification with the ego, and surrender. We must recognize the true self- this is the way to Samadhi. It's a space where we lose our identification with self, and we become nothing. It's when we think with the heart, and not the head. If you want to realise Samadhi you must see yourself beyond the senses, beyond thoughts. You must go deep within, beyond distractions, beyond craving, beyond aversion. Examine your life honestly, without judging yourself. Sit, find silence, meditate. Breathe, observe your nature to become more awake. We must drop our identity, for new life to grow. This is one of the most challenging truths to fight for. To change our inner world, we have to change our inner world.
This is the way to Samadhi- self-surrender.
"The mind makes a good servant, but a poor master." -Vedanta