Wednesday, January 26, 2011

A Birthday Wish for Love

Happy Birthday to ME and all other Aquarians born on January 26th. Happy Indian Republic Day too! While I am grateful for the outpouring of love from all my family, friends and students....I enjoy to joke that the entire nation of India likes to Celebrate my birthday as well....even though India is celebrating it's Republic Day...In my heart, I can believe that the glorious parades, dances, and fireworks are for my birthday right! (Just a joke). The republic day of India celebrates the power of love. This day when India became a sovereign nation, celebrates the dream, and amazing triumph of love and peace from the example of Gandhi, who lead the nation to freedom and liberation with non-violence.

So while everyone makes a wish on their birthday.....I too make a wish. A wish for love. May this new chapter in my life bring me and everyone I come across incredible experiences of love and kindness. In my life, I have found that when I fill my heart with love, when I give love in my thoughts, words, and actions, love is returned to me in so many ways. This love is something I am grateful to have learned from the amazing example of my beloved parents. I wish that myself and everyone who is my friend, my student, and my family is inspired to always act, speak, live, and think with love.

This wonderful practice of Yoga is more than just a physical exercise, and as teachers and students, it is important for us to go deeper into the practice. Yoga is, and always will be mind-body-spirit. At least abiding by the first Principal of Ahimsa (non harming to all living things) people will experience the power and depth of this practice. This act of non-harming is not just being a vegetarian, it is found by abstaining from gossip, boasting, grudges, and negative thoughts towards others. Forgiveness and learning from sorrows creates triumph and love in this Universe, while dwelling on the pains of the ego, only breeds further negative energy, that will karmically transpire in all areas of our life. Thus, love is my wish! My wish for this new year of life, is a wish for love, for myself and everyone! While you may believe that your grudge is valid, while you may have been a victim, challenge yourself to find freedom from this negative energy, to lose your ego, to detach, to forgive, to learn and grow, to overcome with love and find peace, and then and only then, life will bring you love and peace in return. After all, yoga is supposed to make us flexible, not just in our bodies, but in our hearts and minds as well. Our life is a reflection of our thoughts and our heart. If you mind and heart is filled with love, you will receive love in return, and it will reflect in your relationships as well as your yoga practice, however, if your mind and heart is filled with negative thoughts, your life, your relationships and your yoga practice will be a reflection of this energy. A heart is like a lovely tree, when nurtured with love, it grows and bears wonderful fruit. Choose love.

1 Corinthians 13: 4-7

Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Photo: Ambria in Tree pose taken by David Blottner

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Falling with Joy

Sometimes in life we fall. In yoga we can fall out of poses. What makes us fall? Is it our lack of focus, is it lack of deep breathing? Is it just meant to be? What about it something we can learn and grow from? Too often in life we are faced with a storm, and never look for the sunshine after. The same attitude translates into our yoga practice, we are faced with a challenging pose, and we get so negative when we fall out, when we lose balance or when we don't do it as good as the next person. Let's begin by losing the ego, and living in the moment! Lets take the concept of detachment from our yoga practice into our life, if you fall, learn, grow and get back up again. Stop revisiting the fall, stop reliving the emotions behind the fall, and celebrate the courage it takes to get back up again. Let's take the concept of joyful learning from our yoga practice into our life. When we fall, rather than harp on it, instead, smile and be joyful, you survived Tree Pose, YEAAAAA!!! It is easy to create a laundry list of negative experiences, and thoughts, but that negativity even if directed towards someone who has hurt us, will transpire in other areas of our life. Do we need to carry such baggage? Shift your energy to a positive laundry list of positive experiences and thoughts, celebrating people who have challenged you and made you learn and grow, celebrating experiences that made you stronger, celebrating your faith in poses that taught you the importance of breathing. Throughout life and yoga, we all fall, the challenge is to fall with joy!
Photo: Ambria "falling" out of Astavakrasana "Eight Angle Pose", taken by Denise Rivera-Melendez

Friday, January 21, 2011

Karate meets Dance

Thursdays are Harmony by Karate are always a chance to grow and learn. I entered the dojo, still sore from overworking my back in a few advanced yoga classes, but excited to be there! All I hear is the glorious sounds of the Tibetan Singing Bowls. This sound is so beautiful! Before class, myself and Sensei Joseph give Sempai Fariha a lesson in Ohashiatsu Body work, and she learns how to work on my "bladder meridian"....ahhhhh relief! Thank you Sempai! Fast forward to the kids classes, and surprise Sempai Karen is awarded with a yellow belt black stripe (yeaaahhh we match!!!) both the classes end with Sensei John circling the students up to discuss the powerful "philosphy of the week", and when it's time to meditate the bowls are played. Beautiful.

Now it's time for the adults class, in walks Sensei Oscar. Sensei Oscar leads us through an amazing class that is inspired by the free movement of dance. Sensei taught us to keep our body free when throwing punches, when moving our hips, and work with our breath. With a gradual progression into sweaty fun, we lined up and worked on punches, pushes, and body movement that I would almost compare to a Vinyasa yoga class, only the Karate version. Whenever I see Sensei Oscar, Sensei Joseph, Sensei John, Sensei Adam, Sempai Farrihah, Sempai David, and Sensei Leonard move with such quick agility and ease, I am in awe, and truly admire and respect their obvious dedication to their practice. That being said, I don't have a poker face, so sometimes during the demonstration of the exercise, I have a mini look of fright (which I am working on) because I am unsure if I can recreate such mastery, actually, in the moment I am pretty sure I can't. That was the case tonight, Sensei Oscar demonstrated quick punches and movements, and I had that expression of "OH WOW". Sensei Joseph tends to catch my looks and it results in a moment of laughter for him and I.

When it was time to partner up for technique exchange, I was initially with Sensei Joseph, and while he sees my fear, he is such an amazing instructor that he helps me identify it, sees right through it, and coaches me to work around it. He is so amazing at watching a student and guiding them to shift out of their comfort zone. So when Sensei Joseph was coming at me with Bruce Lee style punches and kicks, (seriously he was really coming at me) and I reverted to an automatic "Oh My goodness, this guy is really coming at me!" reaction which tells my body to cower and run away in fear, he simply said, just breathe. The irony, that a yoga teacher is being told, "just breathe", I love it!!! Breathing being a verbal cue that I guide my students in throughout yoga class, was being instructed to me, and it could not have come at a more appropriate time. When we are faced with a situation that brings out fear, the best and first reaction should be, breathe, and then we can react with ease. Thank you Sensei Joseph, once again for sharing your amazing energy.

The class left us all drenched in bliss, and aware that we will feel the fruits of our labor the next day. The best part, Sensei Oscar had us finish class laying on the dojo floor in a similar fashion of "Savasana", and the singing bowls echoed us into a dreamless sleep.

Some people ask me, why as a yoga teacher do you want to learn Karate of all things? Well, I believe it can improve strength, focus and confidence, and I love to learn. Along with that, I can scare easily, if I watch a movie that is even slightly scary, don't be surprised if I scream and jump into your lap if you are next to I am working on changing that habit. When we want to change anything in our lives, it requires action. Even just the small moments where I learn to just breathe through my fear during technique exchange, kick or punch at the given target, and even avoid choke holds are precious lessons that are bringing about the change I desire. Whenever I seek to learn, grow, and challenge my body, I seek out the best people to learn from or model after, then only do we have a proper benchmark. Thank you Harmony by Karate for providing the best platform for this amazing experience!
Photo: Ambria, Sensei Joseph, Sempai Karen, Sensei Oscar

The Power of a Mantra

Recently, the amazing owner of Bamboomoves, Michael Baez, delighted students with an Gayatri Mantra and Moola Mantra. The event was spectacular. I had to rush off to teach evening sessions on Wall St., but students who remained began putting together dream boards, with pictures, quotes, and anything that can help set a visual goal for the year. Thank you Michael for making an awesome event.
empowering workshop. The studio was full with new and regular faces of people eager to set goals and intentions for the new year. Michael is our mini Tony Robbins, and ironically he is at Date With Destiny right now. Michael got the energy so high, people were sharing their intentions, winning prizes, dancing, stretching, breathing, laughing, massaging each other and much more! It really was awesome. Towards the end of the workshop, Michael, Denise and Michael's friend gave students the "oneness" blessing. During the blessing, myself and another student played a few awesome chants like the

The Gayatri Mantra is one of the most beautiful and powerful Mantras to meditate on. It is based on the Vedic Sanskrit verse from a hymn from the Rigveda :

Om, bhur bhuvaha svaha, Tat savitur varenyam, Bhargo devasya dhimahi, Dhiyo yonah prachodayat.

Basic Translation:
Praise to the source of all things. It is due to you that we attain true happiness on the planes of earth, astral, casual. It is due to your transcendent nature that you are worth of being worhipped and adored. Ignite us with you all pervading light.

The ancient practice of mantra is powerful. Maybe you might not want to recite a Vedic mantra, or a Biblical psalm, but what is your personal mantra? Do you have a mantra of abundance, good fortune, good health, better relationships etc? or do you have a constant mantra or inner dialogue that promotes fear, lack of focus or misfortune? Spend some time listening to the way you talk to yourself. Our words are powerful, and evoke change in the mind and body. Set a positive mantra for this new year and keep it in your heart. Write the mantra, recite the mantra and live the mantra. It may be I am strong, I am brave, I am the voice, I defy the odds, I am a force for good...just reading that felt good right? Well keep on going with positive mantras and watch how the energy shifts in your entire being! ~Om Shanti

Photo: Ambria jamming with students at the Teacher Training Retreat

Embracing the Bliss of Silence

So while the feedback was wonderful from our recent silent yoga class at Bamboomoves, I just want to say that having music in class is also beautiful. We must remember that we are ultimately vibration, and the silence is actually, the vibrational energetic sounds of the Universe that exist within us. Silence is a tough concept for many people, but when you have witnessed the breathtaking view of a mountain top, when you have closed your eyes in prayer/meditation only to find a deep sense of peace, when you have drenched yourself in the seconds after an incredible jazz solo, when you have escaped in a dreamless sleep during savasana, or even when you have celebrated the only sound to be that of a lovers breath, you will understand the beauty and power of silence. Silence is the best opportunity to listen, to grow, and to focus. Embrace the bliss of silence!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Mouna Yoga - Embracing the Silence

"Awesome, intense, amazing, wow, loved it, we should do it more often, incredible, I enjoy chatting before and after class so it was hard, I like to talk so I just talked to myself in my mind"......just some of the reactions to Monday nights Mouna/Vipassana inspired AWESOME "silent" yoga class. It really was an outstanding experience. Students entered the studio refraining from speaking to anyone. They rolled out their mats and quietly read a handout that I prepared for them, and sat in silent meditation. With the lights dim, and tea light candles illuminating the room, I briefly explained to them how the class would progress and guided their meditation. As the class progressed the yoga poses were held longer, collective consciousness was created by unison in movement, students were receptive and present.

People fail to realize that talking to others in class, talking to the teacher, talking to themselves, even the dialogue in the mind, are the blocks from the ultimate goal of the yoga practice of silencing the monkey mind. Also, it lacks respect to other students who may be there for a spiritual experience, and it can be disrespectful to the teacher. The darting curious eyes, the frustrated reactions from coming out of poses, the verbal and facial reactions, the egos rush to advanced poses without letting the pranayam initiate (without letting the breath initiate the movement), are our vritti's or agitations, that we need to dissolve.

Below is some of the information on the handout I prepared for students to read prior to class.

Welcome to a Vipassana inspired, Mouna Yoga practice. Vipassana is the practice of mindfulness in meditation, Mouna is silence, and both are done by quieting the mind and observing the breath. Vipassana developed from a Buddhist tradition and Yoga with roots in Hinduism, both arose out of the same spiritual culture of ancient India and share a common goal: freedom from suffering. Silence requires listening, so listen to the portion of God within your heart.

  1. Set your intention of compassion (Karuna).
  2. Have an open heart free of judgments of yourself, others, and your practice.
  3. Listen to your breath and observe your body always.
  4. If you need to glance at the instructor, do so, and then come back to your own silent meditative practice.
  5. Poses are to be held along with the instructor, so ease the body into the pose with the breath, and remain. If you know your body is tight, refrain from pushing. Be present and receptive.
  6. Advanced variations are ONLY to be taken when demonstrated by the instructor, this is not a competition, and it is an opportunity for self-reflection, transformation, and healing through introspection. Embrace staying in stillness.
  7. Changes through asana will be done with minimal verbal instruction and the “Chh” sound to inspire a pure universal mind (chitta).
  8. Let your breath get longer as you get deeper in the poses, keep your shoulders relaxed throughout the practice.
  9. The only sound is the Ujjayi breath, done through the nose, with mouth closed and tightening of the throat.
  10. Let all reactions be silent with full intent to listen, until reactions cease.

Yoga Sutra 1. 2 yoga citta-vrtti-nirodah Yoga occurs when the machinations, vacillations, perturbations, whirling, spinning, and agitations (vrtti) of the mind-field (citta) dissolve, cease, and become still (nirodha)

Yoga sutra 9, shabda-jnanaupati vastu-shunyo vikalpah (true wisdom where the ordinary monkey mind stops its spinning is when the words and concepts cease).

“Water, if you don‘t stir it, will become clear; the mind, left unaltered, will find it own natural peace.” ~ Sogyal Rinpoch√©

While this was an amazing experience, I personally enjoy playing music in class, I enjoy cuing allignment and making physical adjustments, I also love the dialogue with students before and after yoga class, as it creates a beautiful sense of community. Sometimes even an instructor can work on talking less, so students can experience the healing in the silent moments of class. If you are looking for a different way to create/teach a yoga class, or practice, challenge your monkey mind and practice in silence. ~ Om Shanti

Quote of the Week

"Faith is taking the first step even when you don't see the whole staircase." Martin Luther King, Jr.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

OUTSTANDING "Zoga-laties" Success Story of 2011

Many people are rushing to the gym, signing up with trainers, joining yoga studios, adjusting their diets, and other changes are being made, in order to lose weight in this new year. The slimmer waistline, the healthier body, stronger muscles are goals many people strive for. I am happy and honored to say as a Yoga instructor, I have witnessed and participated in some amazing transformations. One student lost over 70lbs since joining Bamboomoves, one student proudly showed off her taut mid section calling it "BODY BY AMBRIA", others have lost a considerable amount of weight as well, found new strength in their core and back muscles, embraced a sexier "bootylicious" gluteus maximus, and all of them have found a healthier/happier mindset. The success stories of my students make me more excited than you could imagine!!! This is because they had a goal, devised a strategic plan of action, and took action. These success stories help me to grow as an instructor, and I am grateful to be part of the process.

While some students refer to my carefully crafted "zoga-laties" class as the "torture" class, or lovingly call me a "Drill Seargent", they keep coming back because they know they enjoy the awesome results of their hard work. I had to take the Shakira song "Latortura" off of the playlist because I didn't want to encourage associating torture with the "zoga-laties class", I prefer the word "challenge". I enjoy challenging their bodies in a safe yet fun way, because I know that the results will be awesome! They know that my voice is loud to drown out the "rocking play list", they know that after the warm up it's more work from their, and they unanimously agree that they feel "OUTSTANDING"!! I know that they feel "outstanding" because periodically through class, I will ask them "How are we feeling?" and unless the response is a unanimous "Outstanding" class may have to get a little sweatier to ensure "outstanding status". There really is no other way to feel in this class. These students (men & women) come into class, and know that they will challenge their bodies, laugh a lot, leave drenched in sweat, leave slightly sore, and sometimes even more sore the next day! Despite the challenge (which is putting it nicely) that the class poses to the entire body, these Boogie Down Bronx peeps keep coming back for more! Recently, it has come to my attention that a devoted "Zoga-laties" fan, who has only been coming to Bamboomoves since last September has successfully lost 27lbs!!!! YEAAAAA DEANA!!!!

Deana started taking the incredibly challenging class "Zoga-laties" in September of 2010 (just 4 months). She takes "Zoga-laties" class religiously twice a week, she takes Carissa's awesome Zumba class, and does 30 minutes of daily cardio on her own. Along with the fitness she has put into her routine, she has also opted for a healthier diet, "cutting out the junk" as she would say it. Clap it up for Deana and her sexy, new, healthy body!!!! Hard work, sweat, and dedication has helped her get closer to her goals! If you are looking for a healthy way to stay fit, if you have goals for your mind-body-spirit, if you wanna try a class that will have you sweating/moaning/working and feeling "OUTSTANDING" all at the same time, come to Bamboomoves in the Bronx, if you dare. Today's Snow storm couldn't keep people away, we still had an awesome size class, which is truly dedication!!!
Photo: Deana & Ambria right after the "torture" class

Vipassana Inspired Yoga Class

Every Monday nights yoga class at Bamboomoves, promises to challenge the body, inspire the soul, and relax the mind. I like to switch up the play list with a variety of music selections like Radiohead, Coldplay, MC Yogi, Madonna, Stevie Wonder, Pearl Jam, The Dead, My own originals (Ambria), Sade, and many more amazing music selections. Sometimes we have live music, sometimes we have an entire night of music selections that are inspired by one particular artist. As a musician, and a practitioner of Yoga, I believe in the vibrational energy that we all are made of. Scientists are now discovering how Samuel Barbers Adagio for strings has the ability to create a euphoric change in the human body, creating a sense of getting high. If you have listened to your favorite music and got lost in the amazingness of it, you know that high that this study is speaking of. This study was predated with the ancient Yogis, who found the connection of certain instruments, and frequencies to specific chakra (energy points) in the body.

While it is awesome to have great music in a Yoga class, it is also awesome to challenge yourself to a quieter class. Since I love to change things up, this coming Monday night will be a "Vipassana" inspired Yoga class. Vipassana is a popular meditation practice done worldwide. Many people spend a week in total silence at Ashrams that offer this practice, with guided meditation and pranayama. Respecting tradition. No words.

Students at Bamboomoves will enter in silence, meditate in silence, practice in silence, and challenge themselves to remain in "silent obedience" as (Sri Dharma Mittra calls it) to the practice of Yoga. Without any regard to the student next to them except for mentally offering love and compassion, and instead digging deep for the purpose of self transformation. This type of yoga practice is meant to bring self transformation through self observation and introspection. It is a powerful and ancient way of practicing Yoga.

While it is fun to joke with friends, and catch up in a yoga class, especially if you have a "Cheers" like vibe as Bamboomoves does, sometimes it is good to challenge yourself to step out of your comfort zone. Challenge yourself to go within. These silent moments can bring about life changing epiphanies, but people must be open to the opportunity. Yoga Journal and many Yoga publications debate over the concept of Yoga Etiquette.... Are we respecting the practice when we talk? Are we respecting the instructor when we talk? Are we respecting our classmates when we talk? Are we allowing the Mind-Body-Spirit connection to take place? Are we embracing our pranayama practice? We must always remember, group fitness classes are fun & engaging, and yoga is too, but it can also be a spiritual opportunity for fellow students to discover and uncover things they avoid facing. Ultimately, the energy of the class is usually facilitated by the Instructor. In truth, when we talk too much, can we allow our minds to calm and quiet? Can we find Samadhi when we are always chatting/giggling? While I tend to talk through class, and even crack jokes, especially in my Fitness inspired class "Zoga-laties", I am excited to deepen students focus and spiritual experience in this Monday nights level 2 Yoga class. Light instrumental music may echo in the class, and Spiritual transformation will take place.

Ironically, this week when I assisted in the Harmony By Karate Kids Class, Sensei Joseph challenged the kids to go through their katas, and drills in total silence. The focus that kids displayed was amazing! The energy that was created was outstanding! To witness how creative the kids got was truly inspiring! I felt like Sensei Joseph had read my mind, when he introduced the exercise to the class. If kids can do it in Karate, so can adults!!!

Time For A Spot of Tea!

With the weather in NY cold and snowy, it is wonderful to indulge in some tea. Tea is calming, soothing, relaxing, and healthy. I love drinking tea. In the Indian culture, it is a tradition to have tea throughout the day. On each visit to India growing up, it would be totally normal to have a minimum of 4 cups of tea throughout the day. Hot tea in a Hot climate can be interesting to get used to but very beneficial for the body. In India tea is called Chai, which literally translates to "spiced tea" or "masala tea", it is tea leaves with additional spices like cloves, Cinnamon, cardamon etc. These spices poses many medicinal benefits. Historically, tea is considered an Ayurvedic remedy for many illnesses in India. When the British invaded India, along with many other things that they staked claim too, they adapted a love for Tea, and that is how they established phrase/custom "TEA TIME". Over here in the West many popular coffee shops have coined the name "CHAI" and used a translation for fancier sugary/flavoured types of teas.

My personal indulgence is purchasing loose bag tea from Alice's Tea Cup on the Upper West Side (occasionally they have Vegan Scones too!). Natural Green, Oolong, and Black Teas are a healthier option than the sugary laced, dairy infused other teas in your local coffee shop. Many studies have shown that tea is loaded with antioxidants polyphenol properties that are a wonderful for fighting cancer. Many teas can help reduce risk of gastric, esophageal, skin, and even ovarian cancers. Some studies suggest that green tea even lowers rates in heart disease. A research study in Sweeden took over 60,000 women ages 40-76, over 15 years found that women who drank more than 2 cups of tea a day, lowered their risk of Ovarian Cancer by 46 percent, those who drank one cup a day lowered the risk by 18 percent (results of this study were published in Archives of Internal Medicine 12/05).

Teas like White, Green, Oolong and Black teas tend to contain the polyphenols, because they derive from the warm-weather evergreen tree known as Camellia-Sinensis. While the herbal blend teas which are usually a combination of flowers, roots, spices and herbs are generally considered more of a tisane tea, meant for calming and relaxing. A popular South African tea "Roobis" is also said to have antioxidant qualities but in realty it is in the "calming" category of teas, since it does not come from the Camellia-sinensis family of trees.

Sometimes I enjoy adding cloves and cinnamon to my tea pot. Cloves are amazing for cleansing the body, preventing infection and killing bacteria. Cinnamon is the amazing addition that everyone should add to their diet, as it helps regulate sugar levels in the body. Along with the health benefits of cloves and cinnamon, they create an amazing aroma for your home. Adding lemon or honey to your cup of tea can help heal a sore throat.

Whether it's a daily ritual like mine, or something you share with friends, take a minute to have a spot of tea! ~ Namaste

Monday, January 10, 2011

How to Choke a Yogi?...Harmony by Karate Style

How to choke a yogi? Actually it's more like how to teach a Yogi to choke, and escape from a choke hold. Growing up my older brother enjoyed practicing wrestling moves on me, and I admit I loved being "airplane spun in the air" and various other activities that big brothers put their baby sisters through. Physical challenges have always excited me, last year I was happy to do the Fire walk with the Tony Robbins UPW event. This year, I challenge myself with the ongoing physical challenges in my weekly Karate class. I find myself slightly nervous when I enter the class. The instructors and classmates at Harmony by Karate are awesome!!! They are so helpful in the process of educating people in martial arts. Kudos to Sensei Oscar who guided us in a beautiful breath work movement based class in December, it really was awesome. Kudos to Sensei Adam who introduced Choke holds this week. WOW, was I nervous! I am not a fan of choking, kicking, hitting etc, and I am challenging my limits by diving into this awesome weekly class, so I am still working through the nerves! I cam sing in front of crowds of thousands, no nerves, teach group and private yoga classes to just about anyone, and no nerves, but ask me to spar with another person, and a different energy starts to spark inside me. It really is not in my nature, and I love the challenge! If I had the choice of styles of battle, I would prefer a battle of wits over anything physical, but unfortunately wits cannot get you out of every situation.

Once again, we partnered up and practiced "choking" and escaping. Sensei Adam demonstrated many methods and had us go through the movements. Towards the end of class I was partnered with my friend, Sensei Joseph. Sensei Joseph is no joke, he is an accomplished Black Belt, and while he is my friend, he is not afraid to challenge me. He could see my intimidation, and talked me through, pushed me to use my body and escape. While I tend to giggle in excitement/mini celebrate when I do the given task, especially because I consider myself still very new to the world of martial arts, I quickly learned it is more than just going through the motions. The amazing thing about Karate is "focus". A situation can arise within a second, and if you lose focus, you can lose a lot. Sensei Joseph literally flipped me over, and I did not even see it coming!!!?? It reminded me of days when my big brother would flip me over! I have to admit, it felt awesome, but it taught me the importance of "focus" in Karate and martial arts. In Yoga our focus in inward, observing our spirit, mind and body, inevitably becoming detached to the world, which is beautiful. In Karate, we have to have focus inward and outward because we are dealing with another persons spirit, mind and body, which is also beautiful. Karate teaches you to maintain focus in order to be ready for any circumstance. In true Sensei Adam style, we ended the class with grueling drills, that apparently someone does to him??? Maybe that is why he enjoys putting us through the gauntlet? Thank you so much to the family at Harmony by Karate for enlightening me, challenging me, and teaching me to deepen my focus.

Gratitude, Ego Free Yoga, and Scheduling

First off, gratitude....many thanks to the showering of lovely gifts from all my students over the Holiday Season. I must say, I am truly blessed to work with a variety of people all over NYC, and everyone of them is so generous of heart. Your love is the most amazing gift, that I cherish, your dedication to the practice no matter how challenging is what I admire, and your gifts are truly an honor to receive. I love you all, and I am grateful for all that you teach me as well. It's really a blessing to be part of your Mind-Body-Spirit transformation.

Second, Ego Free Yoga. I have touched upon this subject many times before, and I realize that this is my challenge as a Yoga Instructor to detach from this reality. The reason this ego based practice, bothers me, is because it is not safe for every one's body, and it is not embracing a Mind-Body-Spirit connection. In order to join the Mind-Body-Spirit, one must deepen pranayama (breathing exercises), these deep breaths allow us to go inward, this breath is meant to initiate the movement, so we flow through the poses. No pushing, no straining, just floating with peace and ease. Nonetheless, it is evident that here in the Western part of the world, we embrace the concept of challenging the body with the Asana practice. If you have taken my classes, you know, I LOVE A CHALLENGE. But, there is sometimes what I call, "the race to headstand" in yoga classes. As an instructor, we should all respect the anatomy of the body. If a student is practicing headstand on the wall, and unable to perform headstand in the center of their mat....shouldn't this tell us that they may need to improve core strength? Or maybe they need to shift their shoulders higher into their back? And maybe they need to stabilize the muscles surrounding the spine before attempting more challenging variations on Sirsasana (headstand)? Variations in Headstand can risk injury to the cervical spine, two seconds of saying "I did Headstand with my legs in Eagle" compared to a life time of neck pain is not worth it. This was a scenario that some students of mine told me they experienced at a popular studio here in NYC, and the reason for this post. If you are teaching a group class and want to inspire a challenging class, here are some tips:
  • Get to know your students, if you have a new student be attentive to their needs.
  • Demonstrate variations of the pose so people can learn a step by step process of getting into advanced asana.
  • Make sure students body's are warmed up, and ready to go into deeper variations.
  • Be ready to do hands on adjustments for students who need.
  • When you see that a student is unable to do certain poses, please do not cue them to do a more intense variation....cue "watch-asana" or have them practice the beginner variation.
In the linage of Astanga yoga, students are required to master certain sequences before they progress to the next. This is done for a reason, so that the body flows naturally into the sequence. Yoga is meant to be a practice, and not a perfect, so enjoy the challenge to the body and practice but without the ego. We have a responsibility to our students to make them experience a Mind-Body-Spirit connection, embrace that connection and come back for more. We can still challenge the body, make them sweat, and have fun, but be safe and good to the body at the same time!

Finally, scheduling.....Last year I was blessed to be teaching nearly 30 classes a week and taking yoga classes with some of my favorite teachers at the same time. Some would not find such a schedule a blessing, but for me I enjoyed every minute of this labor of love. A fellow yoga Instructor/friend of mine met me early this year with the similar scenario. We both love what we do, and see how dedicated our students are. We are also both artists, so our passion is deep. While it is awesome to be able to affect change in so many people's lives, to do what you love for a living we have to make sure that we are being good to our body, mind and spirit too. I noticed how I missed my music, I missed out on being social aside from with students, and I chose to make a change. This year, I decided to cut back on some yoga classes. While it was so hard to come to that decision, I knew I needed to do it, for me. In order for me to make time to be social, to possibly travel, to do more work with Special Needs Yoga, to promote and share my books, to work on and perform music, to volunteer more, I need to free up some space in my schedule. With any job that you do, make sure you schedule time to do the things that you love. Luckily for me, I love yoga, so work is more like play for me.....but in order to maintain love for the other things I enjoy, scheduling it is important. Tony Robbins talks about scheduling your life, your success, and I agree. It is wonderful to be a free spirit, and go with the flow. However, when you write down what you want from life, your mind/body drives towards it, and when you schedule it, you have a definite date with your destiny!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Neti Pot Bliss

Recently I had a brief encounter with the flu, two days of high fever, bed rest, and congestion. Since I tend to have a healthy diet, I won, and beat the flu quicker than most. While I beat the fever, I was left with some congestion. This being the season of the flu and colds, it is important to keep up with your vitamin C, Vitamin D, Green juices, and Neti Pot. Neti Pot???....What's a Neti Pot? some of you may be asking. The Neti Pot helps cleanse the nasal passage, improves breathing, and gets rid of pollen and other germ like things that tend to clog our breathing passage. With a gentle salt warm water solution, and a tilt of the head, and pouring your genie lamp of love into one nostril, the natural irrigation starts to allow the salt water solution through the other nostril, and within seconds you are as good as new! If you remember drinking really fast through a straw as a child, having a huge laughter attack, and witnessing the beverage come up through your nose, then you will remember a similar feeling that a Neti Pot brings. Neti Pots are an ancient, natural solution to better breathing! Neti Pots have been used for thousands of years, and can be traced back to the Ayurveda traditions of healing, as done by the Yogis of old, with references in the hindu vedas. It is a wonderful tool for those suffering from allergies and also people recovering from colds. For those who are not interested in a Neti Pot, you can purchase other Saline inhalers that provide the same sort of nasal cleanse. For those of you interested in trying the Neti Pot, feel free to check out the video of Dr. Oz teaching Celebrity Soap Star, Alison Sweeny how to use a Neti Pot. Neti Pots can be purchased online or at your local Whole Foolds or Health Food Store. Happy breathing!!!!

Yoga for People Diagnosed with Psychaitric Illness

Last year I had the honor to teach yoga to a beautiful group of people diagnosed with Schizophrenia. The group of people would meet weekly with their ACT (Assertive Community Treatment) team therapist. At first I was hesitant because I had little experience working with people suffering with mental illnesses, and more experience working adult or kids yoga, and with children who may be diagnosed with special needs. The therapist who is also a yoga teacher in training assured me that I would be great, and the owner of Bamboomoves was kind enough to offer the space at the studio for this amazing experience to take place. This experience truly changed my life.

While the Therapist provided me with literature about the mental illnesses in question, and assured me that he would be present in case I needed a back up assistant, I really had no idea I would be in for an experience of a lifetime. We had our first meeting, and the group enjoyed some gentle yoga. We did pranayama, hip opening stretches, back stretches, and balance postures. The sincere commentary from the group made the class so fun! While many people in the group have little family support, and have a truly sad situation in life, it was so awesome to witness how the yoga practice made them feel happy, peace, joy and one person even felt "turned on", I guess the experience awakened his "Swadhistana Chakra"! People in this awesome group expressed how their body felt good after the yoga, they felt like they could breathe better, the noticed how special yoga made them feel, and they truly supported each other in the class! This experience as an instructor was more than awesome! I am so grateful to have spent weeks with these awesome people, and witness how powerful the yoga practice really is. When I would hear how excited they were each week about their weekly yoga, it truly brightened my day! I am so happy to see how many places around the US are noticing the importance of providing a Yoga practice to people who unfortunately are overlooked in society.

 In DC, they are looking into teaching yoga to juvenile delinquents to inspire a sense of calm in the youth with a new department of youth rehabilitation services program. A dear friend of mine here in NYC, is teaching Yoga to battered pregnant women. I was also contacted to offer Yoga to people in the NYC prison system, which I would be honored to do! After my experience with the group in the ACT team, I am excited to share the yoga practice with more and more people who society tends to overlook. In the west Yoga is often times a means of fitness, and sometimes ego driven by focusing on mastering the asana (yoga pose), which if that is what makes you feel bliss, as an instructor I am happy to facilitate, but experience with the ACT team reinforced the power of the mind-body-spirit connection that yoga is truly about. This awesome group inspired me to respect how amazing the yoga practice truly is. Thank you Bamboomoves for providing a space, and to the Therapist and Jacobi Medical ACT team for inviting me to be part of this amazing experience for your patients. While we took pictures of the group doing some amazing yoga poses, to respect their privacy I will not be publishing the pictures in my blog.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Angelica's Kitchen

This Sunday morning I had the desire to take the class of my fellow Bamboomoves Yoga Instructor and friend, Carissa. I have taken Carissa's class before, and it is a lotta fun. Normally, my Sundays were booked, but since we are starting into a New Year the Holidays have extended for some....which meant I can take class! YEAAAA!!! I thought I would try Zumba for the first time, but I had things to do, so decided to make it for the 12:30 yoga class. I head down to the Bronx, and class had started???? The class actually starts at 12. I roll my mat out next to the door and flow through with the rest of my students while Carissa leads us in an awesome class.

After class we decide to head to the city to get lunch. We start to list some yummy Vegan places we know, and eventually decide on Angelica's Kitchen. Angelica's Kitchen is an awesome Vegan Restaurant! We feasted on yummy corn bread, delicious soups, steams veggies, and more!!! Sharing laughs, fun we discussed the famous Vegan Pumpkin Moonpie that Carissa had bought for me last Thanksgiving, which I was unable to eat/enjoy due to a fast, and she graciously ate for me. This discussion prompted the decision to go across the street after dinner to Cafe Viva to get the Moonpie. So after diner we glanced at the desert menu, and then headed across the street instead. I knew I was going to try this delicious desert that everyone seems to be salivating while describing to me. It was not there!!!??? So Carissa tells us that Atlas Cafe which is maybe 5 blocks away outsources the moonpies, and while they never carry the pumpkin moonpie, they have other Vegan deserts. So we head down there, everyone is enjoying the cool weather, excited about desert, and I have it in my mind that I will taste this moonpie TODAY. We walk in, and TADAAAA!!! It's there!!! I bought two, one for me and the other for Michele. Veronica and Ricky bought some other sinful Vegan Deserts, and we all share the treats, and moan in heavenly gratitude!

For many people going Vegan or Vegetarian is a New Year's Resolution. Some people also have made the choice to have a more conscious dietary lifestyle, or even just to reduce the intake of meat. People sometimes worry that there are not as many options for eating out. While it may be true for some cities, in NYC you have plenty of options, and Angelica's Kitchen is one of the many wonderful choices! Also, some feel like they may not have the sweet tooth indulgances they enjoy, well let me assure you Vegan deserts are BETTER!!! On the way home, I was talking about how growing up I never really liked eating sweets, except my mom's chocolate cake or banana bread and my Aunt/Godmother's (who is from Austria) Christmas Cookies. Ricky stopped at some random Vegan Yummy place and brought out a Vegan Linzer Cookie, and it was actually yummy!

Choices are available, and food sources are rich in taste, vitamins, minerals, and goodness. If you are planning on making the switch it is important to educate yourself. We at Bamboomoves will be hosting our 21 day to wellness challenge in this new year, but there are also books available too! Happy Healthy Veggie Eating!!! Thank you Ricky, Veronica, Carissa, Michele and Latesha for sharing in a lovely healthy lunch!
Pictured: Ricky, Veronica, Carissa, Michele, Ambria, Latesha

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Happy New Year Yoga Party!!!

Happy New Year!!! Wishing everyone an amazing new year with better health, wealth and happiness! Last night a small portion of the Bamboomoves family joined me for some yoga and braved the semi cleaned streets of the Bronx.

We had the honor of live music from fellow Yoga Instructor and his friend Patrick. Some of us began with a slice or two of the Vegan Pizza that one student had made for us at the most awesome Pizzeria! Then we progressed our night with meditation where we celebrated our victories and the moments/people we are grateful for in our 2010 journey, then progressed into sharing our goals, eased into light sweaty yoga, which helped us all see how the holidays storm/break/dietary indulgences have affected our yoga practice in a celebratory way, and approached balance postures with the joy of a fearless/limitless/joyful child where we picked the tree we wanted to be for the new year (I of course was a cherry tree), we sang and found balance, finally the long 10 count to savasana where our legs were the iconic NYC ball, and BLISS!!

We awoke from our dreamless sleep just in time to watch the ball drop in the lobby on the live feed online, share in some more yummy vegan pizza, Chips and salsa from Sandi, Chocolate covered fruits from Denise and Armondo, Wine/Juices from Doris and I, Yummy "babycakes" Brownies from Latesha, and Robert's "Bourbon Balls", exchanges of Laughter, Joy, Hugs, Kisses, and One Student and Patrick jammed out to the wee hours of 2011!!!! What an awesome New Years Party!!! Yoga, Meditation, Joy, Fun, Laughter, Jokes, Vegan Yummies, Live Music and much more....only at Bamboomoves!

Thank you to all who participated, YOU ROCK!!! Denise, you can totally give Godiva a run for the money with your chocolate covered fruits, and you are right "chocolate covered apples ROCK"!!! Those of you who walked by and wanted to join, and even texted me about it, but felt bad cuz you thought you were were more than welcome, and you are never late except when you just don't show up (that goes for life and my yoga classes) love you and missed you guys, I am so grateful to have you all in my lives, to share in your journey to health and wellness, to celebrate in your progress, and make you laugh!!! Love you all! You all inspired me to beat my recent bout with the flu. just so I could host this ROCKIN Party, so thank you!!!! I would say my cool phrase "see you next year" is next year NOW! All the best of the best of the best in 2011!!! Set goals and go after them, have faith and let go of fear, Laugh, Love, and live life to the fullest!!!!