Thursday, December 6, 2012

Yoga for Better Digestion

While the tail end of the year is considered Holiday Season with Thanksgiving, Diwali, Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanza etc., it is a time when many people enjoy lavish meals.  Lately, I have been getting so many emails from my students who want to know How Yoga can help Digestion Problems.  The first thing each of us should examine is our food consumption because this is the initial cause of digestive problems. 

With many leading Western Doctors like Dr. Max Gerson (creator of Gerson Theraphy Treatment), Dr Fuhrman (author of Eat to Live), Dr. William Davis (author of Wheat Belly) stirring controversy by advocating the "Food is Medicine Theory", it is unanimous that dietary adjustments can lead to improved health and disease prevention.  Dr. Gerson's Treatment has helped many people cure and eliminate cancer and various other diseases with specific juicing and dietary changes.  Dr. Fuhrman has helped patients lose weight, lose psoriosis, lower blood sugar, lower blood pressure, lose migraines, and increase energy and encourages patients to use food as medicine.  Dr. Davis believes cutting out all wheat products will result in better health, weight loss, and disease prevention due to the GMO wheat that contains a protein complex that leaves people hungry and with increased insulin.  All three doctors have had incredible success stories, and only spark controversy in the Western World because of promoting food rather than pharmacy.

In the ancient practice of yoga, the sister science of Ayurveda examines the individuals unique constitution and first offers dietary adjustments for improved health.  This concept of consuming foods that improve your digestion like Vegetables, Roots, Legumes, Fruits, Seeds etc has been around for centuries.  Therefore, this new found research has ancient years of Ayurveda study to back it up.

Is it easy to adjust your diet?  Ultimately it is up to the individual.  Obesity, Disease and Dimentia was not as rampant decades ago, and if we analyze the food intake there is direct correlation.  Some will say that we all die anyways, but dietary changes is not for death prevention but rather for overall health & quality of life improvement.  These dietary changes provide the superficial benefits of a sexy body, glowing youthful skin, but also have proven to lead to reduction and prevention of today's leading diseases.

With regard to Yoga Asana, the best poses to help digestion are twists.  Often times twists are the yoga poses that help to "ring out the internal organs" and help the detoxification process.  One Beautiful Yoga Asana that is wonderful for digestion is Revolved Triangle Pose (Parvritta Trikonasana). 

Revolved Triangle Pose (Parvritta Trikonasana) with Ulrike and Ambria giving the Adjustment in Kerala, India.

Start your twist on the right side first. 
  1. Step or jump out to the right on your yoga mat.  With 3 feet distance between your feet.
  2. Point your right toes to the back of your mat, and angle your left foot 45 degrees.
  3. Keep both points of your hips pointing to the parallel side of your mat
  4. Turn to your back foot, right hand on hip and left hand high to the sky
  5. Root down in your back foot with a slight lift of the inner arch & engage * uddiyana bandah.
  6. Inhale, and as you exhale hinge forward at the waist with your left hand reaching down
  7. Depending on range of motion (beginner to advance) allow your left hand to float to the outside of your shin on a block, or flat on the floor on the outside of your foot.
  8. Inhale and continue to lengthen through the crown of the head, keeping the spine long.
  9. Exhale and extend the right hand up to the sky with the gaze on the right hand.
  10. Every inhalation lengthen, every exhalation twist a little deeper, allow breath to initiate movement.  Breathe comfortably. Lift the Corners of your lips (SMILE).
  11. To exit the pose, exhale and gaze to your foot, inhale and slowly rise up extending both arms out to the side, exhale hands to the hips.
  12. Step to the front of your mat and repeat on the other side.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving Yogis

This is the time of year many families and friends across North America get together and eat till they sleep.  This is one of the busiest times at American Airports.  Many yogis engage in Pot-lucks at their yoga studios.  Some studios who embrace the practice of yoga with Ahimsa, encourage students to eat vegan/vegetarian Thanksgiving.

For many years I used to volunteer at the Missionaries of Charity in NYC, and the past few years I invited yoga students to join me for serving food on Thanksgiving at the shelter, as it was a bigger event and required more volunteers than weekly meals.
Volunteering at Missionaries of Charity, BX, NYC with some Amazing Yoga Students.

While many people view thanksgiving as a chance to consume ridiculously large amounts of foods that leave us in a food coma, or nothing more than a mass slaughtering of turkeys, or a celebration of the genocide that took place years ago, it still is a HUGE north American Holiday.  Regardless of what we eat, it is important to take the time to reflect & give thanks.  Truly, giving thanks and celebrating our loved ones should be done on a regular basis for an abundant life and not just annually.   Some folks may say I cannot think of things to be thankful for, so perhaps you should start with a list of 5 things.  Sadly our consumer driven society leaves many people in a feeling of "lack" or "dissatisfaction" when we truly have more than most people in other parts of the world.  If only we take a moment to reflect with gratitude, only then will more blessings out pour.

List for ways to make thanksgiving more than just a annual event of eating.
  1.  Give thanks at every meal, acknowledging mother nature/God, the hands that made the food, and the people you share the meal with.
  2. Adopt a turkey from Farm Sanctuary's Adopt a Turkey Project.
  3. Volunteer at a local shelter to give food to people who otherwise would have nothing or donate canned goods.
  4. Volunteer at a local hospital or animal shelter.
  5. Make your yoga practice, every breath an inhalation of gratitude, every asana an offering of thanks.
  6. Keep a daily meditation practice of gratitude
  7. Keep a daily journal and list all the blessings in your life.
  8. Be Thankful for the people in your life always, and make sure they feel your gratitude and love.
  9. Add some detoxification yoga asana and foods to your life, so that you can be kind to your digestive system.
  10. Smile and Say Thank at every chance you get!

Wishing you all a wonderful day filled with love, peace, joy and thanksgiving! ~ Namaste

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

New Moon in Scorpio and Happy Diwali

Tuesday November 13th at 5pm EST marks the New Moon in Scorpio.  The New Moon is all about new beginnings, and Scorpio is the water sign for transformation, abundance, and elimination.  It is also the sign for passion, financial gain, and prosperity.  This is a powerful time for new romance, or end to relationships that no longer serve you.  Being that Scorpio is a sign associated with passion, it is wonderful to give focus to the Swadhisthana Chakra in our yoga practice, which governs the reproductive system, passion, and creativity.  The Farmers Almanac, ancient civilization all watch the patterns of the new moon to prepare for harvest.  Some suggest to create a list of wishes or affirmations during this powerful period of cleansing as Scorpio is the sign that says "I Desire".  With Mercury in Retrograde a lot of emotions and chaos may stir up in lines of communication and it is a chance for us to better ourselves.  Just remember regardless of your belief, when we let go of anger, grudges and negative thoughts we only make room in our hearts for good things and better health.  
 This incredible New Moon in Scorpio is also falling on a Solar Eclipse, and the start of Diwali or Deepavali (The Festival of Lights).  This festival of lights celebrates Laksmi the Goddess of Love & Abundance, and the lights signify the triumph of Good over Evil.
 This is a time of sweets, celebration and lights to illuminate the hearts of all people.  Oil Lamps, lanterns illuminate the homes of millions of Hindus all over the world.  Wishing all my Hindu friends, brothers and sisters all over the world a Happy Diwali.
Regardless of religious beliefs, we should always embrace the chance to shine light in our heart and dispel darkness, to celebrate life with love and eradicate negative thoughts, to wish for prosperity and joy by sharing prosperity and joy with all the people we encounter.  We will only find this abundance of light and love in our external world when we have it in our own heart ~ Namaste

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

You Can Heal Your Life

Most people who practice yoga can attest to the healing benefits they have experienced with yoga.  People have healed both their body and their mind with yoga.  One of the biggest aspects of this healing is the breath.  Taking the time to connect with the breath, allow the body to flow with deep breaths, and quiet all the clutter/memories in the subconscious mind (chitta).

What I have noticed from true devotees of the practice is the ability to live with compassion, to take responsibility for their own lives, the ability to forgive themselves and others, and most importantly the ability to live with JOY.  When I say "true devotees", I mean the folks who look beyond asana, who look beyond labels and accolades, and really shine with radiant light & compassion in their eyes that light in their eyes which only comes from embracing the 8 Limbed practice of yoga. 

What is the most repeated concept in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali?  Cheerfulness and JOY.  Some would say, how can we have joy when others are so mean, or when we had to endure this trauma, or when this always happens to me?  Sadly some Yoga Enthusiasts may say only when I can perfect that asana, or when I can make it past the Ashtanga Primary Series......Very interesting mantras.

What about changing those mantras to positive affirmations like.... kind and loving people are always attracted to me, I am strong enough to forgive, understand and be grateful for all experiences, and amazing things always happen to me.  What about evolving past perfecting an asana, and embracing the chance to be present with your breath without judgement or expectation, knowing full well that nothing is ever perfect?  What about being fine with making it through Surya Namaskar A & B devoid of the expectation of anything more than connecting to your breath?

From my experience, teaching, studies and observations I have learned we are truly creatures of habit both on and off the yoga mat.  Patterns, unconscious and conscious that have everything to do with the patterns established in our childhood, belief systems.  It is easy to blame someone else, feel apathy, or say it is karma.  While things may well be our destiny or past life karma, our choice and our evolution comes from how we react, how we recognize the things we allow & enable, and how we establish our self worth and most importantly how we forgive and let go.  This comes from an  unbiased analysis of relationship patterns established from our formative years.

The Vedas began hinting at Dharma, Karma, then Yoga Sutras outlined the "handbook" to conscious living towards enlightenment, Jesus enlightened people in the Bible on power of faith & forgiveness, The Buddah asked for us to see how all is one, Transcendental Meditation elaborated or power of silence, and modern western gurus have elaborated with studies of NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming), therapy, hypnosis etc.

Today we have people like Tony Robbins, Louise Hay, Wayne Dyer, Deepak Chopra, Prema Chodron, and many more encouraging people to change their belief systems, or Yoga Teachers elaborating on the Bhagavad Gita & Yoga Sutras to help people take control of their life.  I am one of those teachers who emphasizes the importance of the Yoga Sutras so Yoga can be embraced as a path to enlightenment along with the benefit of a slimmer waist. 

Generally the message of positive affirmations is agreed upon by both ancient Eastern and Modern Western Gurus.  This notion that we create our journey, that everything is our creation, or a reflection of us.  This idea that what makes us mad is actually not the other person, our job, our achievements or lack their of but a deeper pattern behavior or vrittis (misconceptions).  Recognizing that every aspect of this Universe, every relationship is truly a reflection of our deepest belief systems that we control.

But like the phrase goes, when you point one finger - 3 are pointing back.  I recognized that I myself still need to apply some of the precepts of this practice into my own life and yoga practice.  Hence why Yoga is a practice and why in life we repeat lessons, until they are learned.  The Modern Western Guru who I referred to, to help many students worldwide is Louise Hay.  Her story, and her outline of affirmations to change our body, relationships and environment with affirmation, breathe and conscious living, is nothing short of brilliant.  While I love the Holy Bible, the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, and the Bhagavad Gita...I think Louise writes an easy to read, easy to relate text, and modern version to self healing & enlightenment.  

If you are a Yoga Teacher or student this is a book you should invest in for your self healing and to understand behavior patterns to help others.  If you are a person who struggles in relationships, with finances, with health, or anything.....this is the book for you.  If you are a person who thinks you know best, and yet you struggle with physical illness or job issues.....then this is especially the book for you.  Life is too short to waste time with negative energy, so keep your thoughts, environment and heart shinning with love ~ Namaste

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Yogis and Hurricane Sandy

Sending love and light to all my friends and students in NYC after this recent hurricane Sandy shook up the North East.  People all over the world have sent prayers as they watched the floods of 14 feet of water took over Battery Park, Subways become flooded, and estimated 38 deaths, 32 ft tall waves clearing the West Side Highway, and intense winds shaking buildings and witnessing the power of Mother Nature. 

For some yogis, the belief of Lord Shiva being disturbed from his meditation and dancing (Tandava) which brings on destruction to the Universe, and thus brings on the hurricane like winds.  For some people the theory of HAARP (High Frequency Active Auroral Research Program) could have brought on this natural disaster.  For some, the belief that the full moon increased the destructive forces of the tides.  Sadly, for many people there was doubt in the power of mother nature because of the previous Hurricane Irene.  While it is now being called a tropical storm, there is no doubt that a lot of destruction was the result of this disaster. 
Double Rainbow over Manhattan day after Hurricane Sandy

New Yorkers stocked their homes with Emergency lights, candles, food, and bravery.  While Ashtanga Yogis adhered to the rule of no practice on full moon days, hatha/vinyasa yogis enjoyed the extra time to explore their home practice, and non-yogis embraced prayer and love on their path to enlightenment. Some Yogis posted videos on Social media of yoga at home, chanting, candle lit meditation and also the destruction that surrounded their homes.

While prayers worldwide go out to all the people of NYC, NJ and the various counties that were affected by Hurricane Sandy, it is now a time to rebuild.  This may be community yoga classes, Karma Yoga of volunteering to help clean up the city and helping neighbors, or just extending gratitude to all the people who made it a safe experience.  Like in our lives, we go through periods of destruction only so we can be stronger and shine brighter.  Like our yoga practice calls for union of mind-body and spirit, these challenges (both external or internal) are never meant for us to get discouraged, but rather to persevere, breathe, and continue our practice of uniting the mind-body and spirit.  Wishing all the people who were affected by this hurricane peace & love ~ Om Namah Shivaya.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

OMmmmm Donuts

With the dry- cold season of autumn, we are whirling in the Ayurveda Dosha of Vata.  We are dissolving in this season and letting go.  While it is best to eat warm foods that are easy to digest and avoid the Kapha indulgences, sometimes we all may get a craving for something sweet.  As long as we do things in moderation, there is no sense in depriving yourself.  If we all could approach our bodies as a system of science, with the understanding that the foods that we consume are fuel, nourishment and heal our bodies we all will avoid many bumps in the road of health.

So back to the indulgences.  All over North America are coffee shops with an assortment of donuts.  Normally donuts high in sugar, and fried.  What about making our own donuts, only baking them?.....sounds pretty yummy to me.

Nowadays you can purchase muffin trays, and donut trays that have the hole already.  Regardless of what shape you choose to use, here is the recipe.

1 Cup Whole Wheat Flour
3/4 Cup Maple Syrup
1 1/2 Tsp Baking Powder
1/4 Tsp Salt
1 Tbs Unsweetened Cocoa Powder
1/4 Cup Unsweetened Shredded Coconut (optional) *
4 Tbs Vegan Margarine
1 Flaxseed Egg (1Tbs Ground Flaxseed + 3Tbs Water - let it sit out for 4 minutes)
1/2 Cup and 3 Tbs Vanilla Coconut Milk (non dairy milk)
1/2 tsp Apple Cider Vinegar
3/4 tsp Coconut Extract
1/2 tsp Vanilla Extract
1 Cup Love

* If you want them to be Red Velvet Donuts just add 1tsp Red Food Coloring
** If you want to add more fibre to the recipe you can add some flax seeds, and or Beet Pulp from your juicer.

Preheat oven to 350. Lightly spray donut pan with no-stick spray. In a bowl, combine dry ingredients of flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, cocoa powder, and shredded coconut. Stir and combine.

In a different bowl, combine melted margarine, flaxseed egg, non-dairy milk, apple cider vinegar, and extracts. Stir to combine. Add in red food color (optional – see note).

Combine wet and dry ingredients. Stir until just combined. Don’t over mix!

Fill donut pans with batter. Bake at 350 for 10-12 minutes, until cooked through. Remove from pans and let cool.

Once donuts are cooled you can add a frosting, but frost the ones you plan to eat, because frosted donuts do not store very well:
2T non-dairy cream cheese
2T vegan margarine
1C powdered sugar
2-3tsp warm water

* option for cocoa to give chocolatey flavor
* unsweetened coconut flakes for topping

Makes 8-10 donuts depending on your tray.  Serve with a smile and ENJOY!

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Meditation & Mindfullness

Recently I made the decision to cancel all teaching engagements for the remainder of the year.  While I am grateful for all the amazing invitations to teach and I look forward to more opportunities to share the practice of yoga, I wanted to help a dear family member who is transitioning to the next life.  For those who know me, my each day begins with prayer, meditation and yoga, which is usually followed up with more yoga, happiness, healthy eating and adventure.

This was a chance for me to put my practice to the test.  What I learned so far in 3 weeks in a hospice, bedside 24hr, is the power of yoga and meditation.  We all have challenges in life, whether it is job, family, grieving, personal relations, and the intensity of every challenge is only determined with how we focus on it.  Do we give more attention to our complaints, sadness, failures, or do we give attention to our faith, victories and blessings?  Many times we hear that life is our creation, our thoughts determine the days.  I agree 100%.  We enable every aspect of our journey.  We choose what we allow in our story.  So regardless of the challenges, let us look at it as lessons.  Along with that, begin every day with some meditation and prayer.  We have 1,440 minutes in a day so we can spend 10 to 20 minutes with silent prayer, pranayama and meditation.  This is a chance for us to quiet all the noise that we allow to take presedence.  We can breathe in gratitude for life, and exprience the peace within us that exists in all of us.

In the Yoga Sutras, Patanjali highlights 1:3, Tada Drastuh Svarupe Avasthanam.  When fluctuations of consciousness cease, the Drastuh meaning seer or witness swells in his own splendor/nature. 

For many people Meditation and Mindfullness is a daily practice.  Forbes online news journal recommends meditation for busy people:

For some people who say that they cannot meditate, I say if you can sleep, if you can watch tv, if you can breathe..... you can meditate.  The ultimate goal of meditation or Dhyana is to quiet the mind and we can do this with focus/concentration or Dharana.

Five simple meditation techniques include:

1. Sit quiet and reflect on blessings, allowing every breath to be a breath of gratitude.
2. Sit quiet and recite your favorite prayer. mantra, or affirmation.
3. Sit quiet and focus on an object, candle, or deity.
4. Listen to guided meditation music.
5. Place crystals on your body, or in your hand and just breathe. Be mindful of the crystals you choose to use as they have their own specific metaphysical properties.

For those who are interested in embracing a meditation practice feel free to visit my website and contact me.  There are some guided meditations available on my Youtube Channel Ambriali.  I am now offering online meditation certification courses via skype.  The benefits to meditation are endless and some include alleviating stress, bring peace of mind, increase consciousness, deepen faith, increased joy, inner healing, psychic awareness, improved intuition and so much more.

Yoga with the Incredible Renee Diamond

During the summer I was fortunate to be teaching an amazing Zoga Yoga 200Hr Yoga Teacher Training in NYC, and made some time to take a yoga class for myself, with an incredible teacher, Renee Diamond.  For a long time I heard about Renee from another awesome Yogini/Inspiration, Tao Porchon Lynch.  Tao had mentioned numerous times that my energy reminds her of Renee and she was surprised we did not meet.  So finally, I met Renee.
Ambria and Renee Diamond after Diamond Fit Flow Yoga at Equinox

Renee Diamond is a powerhouse lady with a finesse for teaching.  I went to Equinox in Greenwich and Scarsdale to take her class.  The first attempt was not successful as I was late, and she was teaching her diamond cuts class, which was more like group fitness.  I watched from the window as this incredible teacher was smiling, leading, and encouraging people to get into the fun cardio-intense workout, and it reminded me of the Zoga-Laties class I once taught.  She appeared to have awesome energy and gave attention to every student!  The other thing that caught my eye was her funky pants.  Since Tao had mentioned her name a few times, I was hoping that before I leave NYC, I will get the chance to take her class.
Ambria and the AMAZING Tao Porchon Lynch

So I went to Greenwich and made it in time to her yoga class.  The class was packed.  We arrived just on time and she welcomed both my friend and I to take some tennis balls.  I was excited as I love when teachers bring unique things to class.  The class began with her guiding us where to place the balls on the sides of our spine, as we would roll through the most therapeutic floor vinyasa flow/massage I have experienced in a long time.  From there she guided us through more restorative and hip opening yoga asana.  She introduced students to a way to alleviate bodily tension in a cost effective way, because anyone can get a tennis ball and roll on it.  Basically using our own body weight allows us to control, but we also used these little massage balls while flowing through some yoga asana.  We placed the balls aside and went through some more yummy yoga asana.  Renee encourages students to use variations of asana that suit their ability level without pushing and with focus on breath.  The class had such a beautiful energy, and Renee's verbal cues were extremely precise.  From start to finish everything Renee took us through was with purpose/intent to take us out of our own minds, out of the reality of our bodies being in a busy gym, and bring us to the most incredible Savasana ever.  Without question everyone felt safe in her class, knowing that this is a person who has years of experience studying the human body, mind & spirit.  Once again, I was also struck by her awesome funky pants.  After class I thanked her for a wonderful yoga class, and we spoke of Tao, yoga, and she laughed and mentioned she had the same yoga pants as me.  She mentioned that she thought I was a long time yoga practitioner or yoga teacher by my practice, and I said yes to both.  I am so grateful to have finally met Renee and taken her class.  Though I am not a member of Equinox, and moved from NYC to pursue invitations of teaching in India, Europe etc., Renee invited me as her guest anytime I am in NYC, thank you Renee!!! This incredible teacher is someone I had recommended to my students in the past because of the referral from Tao, but now I recommend her because I have had the good fortune to take her awesome class.

Renee was one of the most gracious yoga teachers I have taken class with in a long time.  Her knowledge of the body is inspiring, and her ability to articulate it to a packed class of students is brilliant.  Thank you Renee and Equinox for bringing another incredible experience to my journey.

For more information about this amazing Yogini Renee Diamond, please visit her website:

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Yoga with Rockstar Adam Levine

With amazing billboard hits like "Makes me Wonder", "Payphone" and "Moves like Jagger ft Christina Aguliera" with the bandmates of Maroon 5, (to name a few), the gorgeous Judge/Coach job on NBC's the voice, Adam Levine attributes his incredible physique to Yoga.  Like many people worldwide, celebrities embrace this practice into their daily routine.

Nearly six years ago, Levine embraced the yoga practice to help with back pain and tight hamstrings, and has not returned to a gym since. Adam shares how yoga has helped to ground him, prepare for shows, and keep him relaxed.  He has noticed the physical benefits of the practice and states the best thing about Yoga is that you can practice it anywhere! 
Adam Levine in Half Moon Pose (Ardha Chandrasana) a great pose for balance and hip opening.
Adam Levine in Headstand (Sirsasana) the King of the Poses.
Adam Levine in One Legged Koundinyasana for arm balance strength.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Saucha - Niyama of Cleanliness on and off the Mat

As yoga practitioners we observe the eight limb practice and embrace the First Niyama of Saucha (Purity or cleanliness).  In the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali 2:40, Saucha is defined as "purification results in the abandonment of physicality and the cessation of physical contact with external things".

शौचात् स्वाङ्गजुगुप्सा परैरसंसर्गः ॥४०॥
śaucāt svāṅga-jugupsā parairasaṁsargaḥ ||2: 40||

The entire eight limb practice of yoga is a path of purification.  Naturally by practicing Asana, Kriya (Kappalabhati, Neti, Nauli, Basti,  etc), Pranayama, Yogic Diet the yoga aspirant can evolve in the path of purification.  This Niyama is about observing the practice of purification in body, mind and environment.  When our body becomes clean we will notice improvements in digestion, energy, skin, emotions, overall health and of course our asana practice.  Normally a person who desires a purified body will be very conscious in food choices, knowing that food intake has a direct relation to our overall health.  When we have a Purified mind it leads to a cheerful, optimistic and patient disposition.  The person who embraces this Niyama approaches life with a compassionate heart and always understands that love or a call for love is found in human behavior and therefore necessary in all things.  For those who study subtle body, we know that most physical ailments are a reflection of mental and emotional tendencies which lead to dietary and exercise habits.  Ultimately, purity of body and mind will ultimately allow the yoga aspirant to prepare for meditation.

Long ago yogis would practice in caves with cow dung on walls, ash on their bodies and practice various kriyas for cleansing.  Also keeping an altar with the elements in offering (water, fire, earth, metal, and ether).  Patanjali highlighted how the aspect of giving offering to the altar, practicing aarathi, are part of purification as well, symbolizing how pure we offer ourselves to the Supreme.

While modern day yoga studios may not want to practice all traditional aspects, or even understand many traditional aspects of the yoga practice, we can still practice the Niyama of Saucha.  As a Teacher perhaps arriving early and making sure the space is swept, perhaps lighting incense/candles, burning sage, gridding the room with crystals, setting the vibration of OM to begin and conclude class, possibly doing some meditation, or even embracing chanting after class.  Be the example you wish to witness in your students.

As teachers it is wonderful for us to practice a clean diet, and clean hygiene.  What about the yoga mats?  Some studios have mats to borrow or rent, which means different peoples sweat and possibly fungus can be on the mat.  Therefore, proper mat cleaning is necessary.
  1. Hosing it down with water, soft cloth/sponge and light dish soap
  2. Filling a spray bottle with some water, tea tree oil (anti bacterial/anti fungal) and even some lavender essential oil for a light fragrant smell.  Just spray and wipe.  This is cost effective and students can all do this after class to promote saucha.
  3. Josha wipes, similar to baby wipes with sweet aromatic scents.  These can be sold in yoga studios and seem to be growing in popularity.
The best Saucha to practice is a pure and clean heart.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Kids Yoga Camp with Hamilton Malayalees

While kids are back to school and routines, I am reminded of the amazing summer that flashed before our eyes.  This summer after exploring months of teaching and travels in India, LA, and NYC I was invited to do yoga for the Hamilton Malayalee Samajam Kids Camp.  The Hamilton Malayalee Samjam is the association that joined South Indian families to celebrate traditions and socialize when I was growing up, and it is still going strong today.  It was a few days of awesome fun to share yoga with this group of kids.  The kids ranged in age from 5-10, so I had to make the yoga fun, engaging and inspirational.  We explored Sun Salutations, Warrior Poses, Tree Pose, Partner Yoga, Yoga Games, Yoga Stories, Meditation, and much more.  I have always loved teaching yoga to kids. For me Kids are our greatest teachers, as they have a zest for life, optimism that most adults can learn from, and humility.

Thank you HMS for inviting me to share some yoga with you.

Equinox Yoga

With September 22 2012 fast approaching marking the fall equinox many changes are happening.  Kids are going back to school after summer vacation, warmer clothes are being pulled out of the closets, and harvest time is approaching.  Equinox is a time when night and day are equal.  This is also around the time for the beloved Ganesh Festival.  With autumn harvest in abundance, it is a time for giving thanks.  Many people suggest to begin rituals for manifesting new harvest in their lives.

Recently, after the close of the NYC Zoga Yoga Teacher Training Course, I was invited to explore yoga class at Equinox gym.  This is one of the leading chains of gyms in North America.  I took a Kripalu Yoga class and Yoga 360.  For me, I tend to prefer yoga classes that facilitate a mind-body-spirit experience, meaning classes that weave spiritual concepts through the flow, allowing me to burn through tapas, and clear my mind.  Teachers who have usually done this for me have been found in Ashrams in India, and others like (to name a few) Sri Dharma Mittra, Tao Porchon Lynch, David Swensen, and a few others.

There is always the stigma of "gym yoga".  However, I believe the class is how receptive you are to the practice, so I always like to venture with an open mind.  While like everyone, I may have my preference, each experience will teach me valuable lessons and increase my gratitude.

The Kripalu Yoga teacher brought us through a slow flow, with pigeon pose being the goal.  He gave brilliant adjustments to my friend who is brand new to yoga, and created an awesome energy in the packed sunday morning class.  Since I did not even seem to have a bead of sweat form on my body, I stayed for the next class called Yoga 360.  Basically if you have a round mat, it would be similar to circular or mandala type movements through a vinyasa flow.  Since we did not have round mats, we would use two mats and form them in a shape of a lower case "T".  The catch was, when we were in downward dog, we would jump our feet to the perpendicular mat and continue through the flow.  The teacher eventually brought us to a wide legged plank, which had my abs singing praises of "gym yoga" the next day.  Thank you to both teachers for an awesome experience.

Finally, with the theme of Equinox I want to share the beautiful video by Equinox Yoga Teachers & Yoga's Dynamic Duo: Dice Lida-Klein and Briohny Smyth.  This beautiful couple makes inversions and advanced asana look effortless, and their sweet personalities make it so easy to enjoy taking their classes.  In this video, the beautiful husband and wife team are exploring ACRO Yoga, which is more physics and trust than anything else.  It is so poetic to watch people flow through an Acro Yoga flow.  Thank you Dice & Bri for inspiring people as we approach the fall equinox.

If you have not seen the video yet please click the link below:
The Balancing Act with Dice and Briohny 

Friday, August 31, 2012

Explore Energy with Yoga

With the Zoga Yoga teacher training coming to a close yoga aspirants are left energized and vulnerable.  What to do with all this information.  Will we maintain the same energy? Many yoga students are commonly using the term energy.  Students dive into awareness of Koshas (5 energy bodies or ananmaya - food, pranamaya - life force, manomaya - mind, vijnamaya- mind, and anandamaya - bliss), the Shariras (3 energy bodies/sheaths of Shtula/physical body, Sukshma/subtle body, Karana/causal body) auric energy fields, Purusha (creative shiva shakti consciousness), Prakriti (energy of nature, shakti energy to assess in ayurveda), Kleshas (5 obstacles of Avidya/ignorance, Asmita/ego reliance, Raga/attachment, Dvesha/aversion, Avhinevesha/fear of death), energy of their body, energy of others, energy of crystals, vibrational energy of OM, and with time and practice students become more aware of energy.  Energy is physics and basically breaks down as a force traveling through space or distance.

With kinetic energy we have seen Einstein break it down to: E=Mc2
(the amount of energy is directly proportioned to the mass of body)
E = the rest mass energy
M = the mass
C = the speed of light

The system of Bioenergetics studies energy in the body where the chemical energy of (fats & carbohydrates) metabolises to form chemical waste and heat.

People who have deep meditation practice, really live the 8 Limbs of yoga, and also those who have used psycadelic drugs have experienced the visual dimensions of atoms, molecules, colors, shapes, and particle physics that makes up this world, that show us we and everything in this Universe are all particles in vibration.  But what is this energy they talk about in yoga?  The energy of the subtle body, the energy of prana?  Well Prana being life force energy, when regulated or restained (yama) forms pranayama or regulation of breath.  This breath gives life force energy.

When we send it to all the Chakras (subtle energy vortex's), we get a situation where our Chakras are balanced or stimulated.  This can happen in asana practice, with food, sound vibration, fragrance, mantra.  Again, another chance for the E=Mc2 theory to be put into practice.

A few years ago a group of scientists in Japan put a dying man in a controlled environment.  The man and everything in the room was weighed.  Every possible variable of moisture or oxygen was accounted for.  When he died 28grams were not accounted for.  This is the ounce of life force energy that keeps us alive.  The energy that exists beyond our back pain, or broken heart.  This is the energy of life that evolves in our yoga practice.

This is the Life Force Energy that the Yogis spoke about in the Vedas.  The energy that when taped into we can calm the vrittis (our emotional tendencies or psycho physical propensities), heal our samskaras (the imprints left on the subconscious mind from experience), and find nirodha or nirvana (a place where all suffering ceases). 

When we explore Yoga Sutra 1:2 Chitta Vritti Nirodaha which illuminates the ultimate goal of the practice as "cessation of the mind stuff"

योगश्चित्तवृत्तिनिरोधः ॥२॥
yogaś-citta-vṛtti-nirodhaḥ ||2||
When you are in a state of yoga, all misconceptions (vrittis) 
that can exist in the mutable aspect of human beings (chitta) disappear. ||2||

Next time we step on our yoga mat, see if we can explore our body and feel that energy as it moves through the veins, through the organs, through the bones and through our breath.  Perhaps in meditation, listen to the breath, count the breath until all thoughts unite and only breath exists.  Then when escaping into the dreamless sleep of Savasana, can we calm the mind stuff?  or are we thinking of recipes and laundry?  If so, no judgement just keep practicing.  But if we can calm the mind, still the body doing a scan of 61 points, and without sleeping, witness the stillness of energy, we become a witness to life force.  This is when transformation happens, rebirth, and evolution with the awareness of the power of energy that exists within.

I am so grateful to have been part of this exchange of energy and transformational experience.  Maintain gratitude and allow love and light to be your guide on this journey of energy.  Namaste

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Life is Sweet

Life is sweet when we make it sweet.  When we make conscious choices and active steps to better health and happiness, our world as we know it changes.  In Ayurveda, we explore the importance of dietary habits, eating foods that explore the 6 tastes of sweet, sour, salty, bitter, pungent and astringent.  While we benefit from eating sweet because of its connection to the elements of Water & Earth which help to nourish our blood plasma, muscles, bone marrow, and reproductive fluids, the suggested Ayurveda sweets include milk, fruits, grains, legumes, and veggies but never any mention to refined sugar.

When we suggest sweet, it does not mean sugar, especially refined sugar.  Our body will convert starches into sugar (glucose), our fruits are converted into sugar (fructose), and this acts as fuel for the body.  We have to be careful how we consume our foods as well because certain combinations can cause excess gas or an acidic feeling in the tummy.  With the growing rate of diabetes in North America we have to be mindful of the Sugar consumption that we allow into our dietary habits.  The reality is excess sugar (or the common sugar filled diet of an average American) can lead to many problems in the body including: Diabetes, Obesity, Aching Limbs, Hypertension, Depression, Acne, Skin irritation, headaches, stiff arteries, fatigue, and hyper acidity of the blood which can promote many different diseases including cancer.  According to brain scans Sugar is as addictive as cocaine.

Some Interesting Facts:
  • 1n 1822, in 5 days, the average American consumed 45Grams of Sugar (amount in todays 12oz soda)
  • TODAY, in 5 days, the average American consumes 75Grams of Sugar (amount in 17, 12oz cans of soda)
  • In one year, 130 LBS of Sugar is consumed
  • The average American who consumes a approximately 3LBS of Sugar in 1 Week = 3,550LBS in a lifetime = 1,767,900 skittles candies
A nice we to begin the day is warm cup of water with lemon, this "breaks the fast", alkalizes the tummy, supress the appetite so we don't overeat, and gets us ready to have food.  The latest Zoga Yoga Teacher Training has ayurveda cooking classes and our breakfast is a typical South Indian Favorite called Uppama (Cream of wheat, onions, mustard seeds, raisins, cashews), this was my childhood favorite.  An afternoon smoothie of Banana, Strawberry, Coconut Almond Milk, Cardomom for digestion and some Cacao.  Ayurveda Teas of Fennel & Cinamon, Mixed Spices, Black Tea all designed to detoxify, help metabolism and help digestion.  Often times legumes can add to the gas feeling, so adding a bay leaf, or lemon on top, or ginger can help with the digestion process.   While asana is important in Yoga, the Sister Science of Ayurveda will allow the Yoga Aspirant to better understand their own body, and in future help others and thus allow us to apply the principals of Patanjali's Yoga Sutras into our own life in a healthy, tasty, cheerful way. ~ Om Shanti

References for more information on Sugar in our Diet:

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Should Yoga be in the Olympics?

With today marking the last day of the 2012 Summer Olympics, many people all over the world are watching the Closing Ceremonies and a question has been brought up by a number of people of "Should Yoga be in the Olympics?".  The concept of yoga being in the Olympics is more of an oxymoron than anything.  A few months back I was approached by a international organization, that is deeply associated with Bikram Chowdry, with efforts to make this idea of Yoga being an Olympic event a reality.  When I was asked to be an Ambassador, my initial response was Yoga is not a sport, but a practice intended for spiritual liberation through an 8 Limb Practice.  The reality is, Yoga is an 8 Limb practice, if it is in the Olympics is their any way to determine how much Ahimsa an individual practices? Or will Pranayama be an event?  Obviously it is strictly about Asana, but if they do this, then the point of the practice is lost. 

While they gave me the speech about how it will bring awareness to Indian Culture, to Yoga, and to bring more people to the practice, I still disagreed with this concept. 

I understand that this will bring more awareness to the practice of Yoga.  But is this the right kind of awareness?  The awareness should be self-realization, which is why people find yoga in their lives, when they are meant to, or better yoga finds them.  Could his just be another way to commercialize and demoralize an ancient practice that has nothing to do with competition?

A brilliant Articles that also intrigued me recently was:
YOGA as an OLYMPIC Sport by Alejandra Campos

While valid points of the exerpt from BKS Iyengar's book accounting for when certain Yogis were picked by Krishnamacharya to perform asana in front of the Maharaj.  Perhaps their Guru used judgement and discernment to find the appropriate student for this demonstration, but the Maharaj was not adjudicating their demonstrations.  Did this spark interest in Yoga?  Of course.  But does it mean people (mostly an audience of royalty & politicians) rushed to the shala or nearest ashram? Not necessarily.  Bharatanatyam (traditional Indian Dance) which requires great physical skill was also performed in front of the Maharaj, along with Snake Charming....Should these be Olympic Sports as well?

Is it possible that Yoga could be an Olympic Sport, yes, sadly it is possible.  There are Yoga competitions worldwide already.  Does this mean it is good for the "yoga community"?  Well the reality is, this ever growing Yoga Community is changing this ancient practice in many ways.  We must ask ourselves are we focused on liberating people spiritually through a 8 Limb practice of Purification?  Or is this to suit corporate interests and personal fame agendas?  We all can agree on the benefits of Yoga.  Now, lets be aware that Karma is an inevitable reality people, so lets focus on the goal of Samadhi.  If yoga is a life long practice, how can one prepare for an Olympic Event without practicing a lifetime?

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Where do you get your Protein?

Many people who practice yoga also practice a Vegetarian or Vegan lifestyle.  Some people practice vegetarian/vegan diets to practice Ahimsa अहिंसा (non harming to all living things), some do this because they love animals, some do this because they are anti-meat industry, and some just prefer veggies.  The truth is a plant based diet provides optimal benefits for health and wellness due to the prana प्राण (vital life force energy), the high amounts of oxygen, water and vitamins that are easily absorbed into the body.  While many studies like the China Study, or Gershon Theraphy have brought light to the benefits of plant based diets, which has been the normal lifestyle for many Indians for centuries.  

Yet, still many people question where they get protein.  The reality is our human body does not have the ability to properly break down the proteins in meat, we lack the necessary amount of hydrochloric acid in the stomache, bile in our liver, and it is taxing on our colon.  

Some Yogis in India when brought into the debate of eating meat, the question will be said that our human body is designed to eat meat, and the response is, then go bite a cow.  The hilarious reality is, an animal can go bite into another animal, but we cannot and do not, do that.

I myself have a love for animals, I have extensively researched the benefits of plant based diets, and the dangers of meat based diets.  From a scientific perspective, I am so glad to have lived a vegetarian life with an abundance of energy and stronger immune system.  From a spiritual perspective, I feel a sense of connection to this Universe and a love for animals beyond just petting a puppy.  From a superficial perspective, my hair that is shinny, my nails are strong, my skin is clear, and my body is fit due to a healthy liver, colon, and kidneys as a result of a plant based diet.  Our health on the outside is a reflection of our health on the inside, which is from our dietary habits.  We can see how cancer rates, obesity, and many other diseases can be linked to meat based diets, so why not make the conscious change to better health?  While dark green veggies are the best source of calcium that our human body can absorb, and nuts provide protein and healthy fats, and spirulina is a wonderful amino acid is a list of my top 10 other sources of protein.

Top 10 veggie lovers protein sources.
  1. QUINOA - 1 CUP - 11g of protein
  2. LENTILS - 1 CUP - 18g of protein
  3. SEITAN - 4oz - 30g of protein
  4. TEMPEH - 4oz -25g of protein
  5. BLACK BEANS - 1 CUP - 15g of protein
  6. CHICK PEAS - 1 CUP - 12g of protein
  7. SPINACH - 1 CUP - 5g of protein
  8. MUNG BEANS - 1 CUP - 14g of protein
  9. KIDNEY BEANS - 1 CUP - 14g of protein
  10. SOY BEANS - 1 CUP - 29g of protein

These are just a list of options for people wanting to embrace this lifestyle.  Juicing is also a wonderful addition to daily diet.  I realize that many carnivorous people find this topic annoying, and I understand that people have their own perceptions & beliefs, so perhaps just substituting some plant based options may be the first step. 

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Beat the Heat with Watermelon-Strawberry Pops

This summer has been a sizzling hot & humid summer and many people have enjoyed their Fan or Home Air Conditioner.  Another way to keep cool is to stay hydrated.  Eating foods rich in water, and making refreshing juice is always a bonus.  This weeks juice was a Watermelon-Strawberry Juice.

Watermelon is high in Vitamin A, C and B6, while strawberry is an amazing source for Vitamin C.  Many of you have seen my youtube channel where I make yummy juice recipes, well what about taking your juicing to a whole new level for the SUMMER?  I used the pulp for making Raw Vegan Burgers before, but this time, we made Watermelon-Strawberry Pops.  Pour the left over pulp from the juice into a popsicle tray, add the sticks (in our case spoons because someone threw out the sticks) and wait till they freeze.  After, Voila, and amazing healthy, refreshing summer snack for everyone to enjoy!!!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Life exists in our breath

We live in a world that is constantly moving, where our time is bombarded with so many obligations, distractions, memories, joy, pain, escapes, fantasy that at times we forget to come back to stillness.  Yet, stillness is one of the most natural things for us to be.  The constant marketing tactics of magazines, internet, and corporations, with subtitles of promises and illusions, are all just a distraction from the real title which is YOU.

Ashtanga Yoga

"The sun and moon create time in the form of day 
and night. Sushumna (the central passage along
the spine) is the consumer of time, this is the revealed secret. "

- Hatha Yoga Pradipika 4.17

Many people look to meditation for freedom from these external and internal distractions.  We must accept that any external distraction is one that we internally allowed.  In meditation, we do not need to limit our focus, rather expand our focus to the greater picture that exists in our breath.  Our breath is the most basic function of our daily life.  Have we ever focused on it during yoga asana, while we are preparing a meal, while we are enjoying a beautiful view of nature?  If yes, we understand the bigger picture, and we truly experience time as it is meant to be experienced, we become truly connected.   This experience of becoming one with our breath, allows freedom to take place.  Now we can ask ourselves have we ever become focused on our breath during an argument, during a passionate exchange, during a time in our life when the person we trusted abuses that trust?  This times may be more challenging to focus on our breath, however, if we do we experience the reality of freedom in a magical way. No longer are we limited in our beliefs, no longer do we cling to vicious patterns of behavior, no longer do we feel this awful concept of separateness, instead we become one with our Universe.

"Those who aspire to the state of yoga should seek the Self in inner solitude through meditation" ~ Bhagavad Gita

There will always be moments when we think, analyze, or evaluate an experience or perhaps we just enjoy the natural flow of just being present.  When we allow ourselves to be present, there is no distinct between yesterday and tomorrow, no need to compare, no need to digress, and instead we are one with our reality.  Becoming one with our reality with acceptance is the true essence of meditation.

"I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live" ~ Ezekiel 37:5

In our meditation practice, lets look to become one with our breath.  In Hinduism, breath or prana is life force energy.  For Christians breath is life (Ezekiel 37:5, John 20:22, Genesis 2:7).  If we live our life in a panic state, always short of breath, or holding our breath when stress arises, we are living a limited life.  Despite common views on meditation that we need to clear our mind, instead we need to fill our mind, expand our mind with attention on our breath.

"He breathed on them and said 'receive the Holy Spirit'" ~ John 20:22

Many health care experts like Dr. Oz recommend patients to practice meditation, which is an ancient practice.  Amazing Gurus like Sri Sri Ravi Shankar and Baba Ramdev invite yoga aspirants to experience liberation through Yoga Kriyas and Pranayama.  Scientists like Dr. Gerson who realized the power of healing disease through juicing, for the purpose of providing more oxygenation to the body, cells and blood by the use of prana rich food sources.  

"And the Lord formed man from the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living soul" ~ Genesis 2:7

Discover the secret to living a full life, free of limitations and take some time to breathe deep. ~ Om Shanti

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Ashtanga Yogis explore Anatomy & Ayurveda

Welcome to the new group of 200Hr Certified Ashtanga Yogi's in 2012.  It was such an honor to share in the journey of these wonderful people in Los Angeles.  While the original plan was to be with this group from day one, I was only with them towards the last few weeks.  Big thanks to my friends Deon & Deona that invited me to stay in their beautiful home & borrow their car for my commute to Beverly Hills.  Deon (a phenomenal drummer I have been friends with since meeting at Berklee College of Music) is actually on a juice fast, after self educating himself with films like "Food Matters",  "Food Inc.", "Fresh" and many his own words, he is not anti meat, he is anti meat industry.  In just 9 days, Deon lost 14lbs, feels so energized, and notices the changes in his body....that is right, just with an adjustment to Diet!

The irony of me having to drive in LA traffic daily was amazing for me, as I have enjoyed being a NYC pedestrian/subway commuter for very long, and I have been in multiple car accidents.  This was yet another opportunity for me to face my fears, and in such a beautiful setting.....Los Angeles you are a gorgeous place!

Back to the Ashtanga Yogis....Thank you Caroline for inviting me to be a guest teacher in your Training!  This amazing group of people from all over got together in Beverly Hills for daily Ashtanga Training.  By the time I met them their bodies were ripe with purification, their spirits were open to self exploration, and their minds were eager to learn more.  I was so happy to share with them Anatomy, Chakras, Ayurveda and Yogic Diet.  The funny thing I realize from every experience of teaching is that the student teaches the teacher so much.  This particular group was very receptive, ready with questions and optimistic about sharing this new light with others. 

The responsibility of a Yoga Teacher is one that I feel should always be addressed in any training.  We are not doctors, we are not therapists, we facilitate a compassionate experience for a student to explore their mind, body & spirit through this amazing practice of Yoga.  Without attachment to their reaction (praise or otherwise), we must always be a witness to their experience.  Thank you all for allowing me to share your journey!  I wish you so much Love & Light as you share this ancient practice with others. 

"In the light of dispassion, or non-attachment, the aspirant attains freedom from his desires, whims, ambitions, and anxieties." ~ SWAMI RAMA