Saturday, September 27, 2014

Yoga Nidra Chakra Evolution

While I was in NYC, along with reuniting with beautiful friends, and taking class with my beloved teacher, Sri Dharma Mittra....I also had the chance to teach a Chakra Workshop at Yoga Nidra Studio.  Yoga Nidra Studio is an amazing space that is owned an operated by a student of mine, Stephanie Gianetti.  This place is a labor of love, and she has inspired so many people to the practice of yoga.  The space itself is beautiful, and the positive energy of the people who take regular classes is infectious.  I am so grateful to have been part of Stephanie's journey as a teacher, to witness her transformation during teacher training, and to call her friend.  Regardless of if people take Yoga Teacher Training and use it to open a studio, deepen their practice, or go on to teach at all, it is always amazing to see how the torch gets passed and inspires many others.  Stephanie has so much love in her heart, sprinkled with a dash of a quick wit, so it is no surprise how students are drawn to her center. 
Chakra Evolution @Yoga Nidra... Group Pic

This for me was a Karma Yoga experience, a chance to give back, and the beautiful part was that the entire group of participants also gave back because proceeds went to a local school (The William O'Conner School) that helps provides programs for kids with special needs, specifically autism.

Another big surprise of the day was my lovely friend, and fellow yoga sista Carissa came.  Carissa had already surprised me with one of the most beautiful mala's ever, that she created from her own heart and hands!!  The irony was, during my Yoga Teacher Training, I was silently thinking how it would be beautiful to see Carissa again.  That same day, she came in for Master Class!!!  Also, silently I wishing for an amethyst mala.  There were none for sale at Dharma's and one day I ventured with a friend to a local crystal shop, but they did not have any either.  Carissa never knew that I had a quiet hope to do Japa mala meditation on an amethyst mala, but I guess on a subconscious, cosmic level,....she did.  Thank you Universe, and thank you Carissa.  Another example of how powerful our thoughts are.  I am hoping soon Carissa will be showcasing her creations, so many others can have a crystal japa mala experience. 
Beautiful Mala made by my beautiful friend Carissa

The ladies began to line in the studio, laying out their mats.  I like to learn people's names and very soon, I realized the front row had doubles of the same name.  We laughed as one person suggested all the Kathy's and Maria's put their mats in the same line.  As the room began to fill with more eager bodies, and the aromatic fragrance of Panchavatti dhoop insence was softly spreading in the room, we began.  After Stephanie introduced me as one of her biggest influences, I was quick to say "Not sure if that is good or bad" and the laughter that erupted was so joyful, I knew this was going to be a fun afternoon.  Carissa also got a beautiful shout out, as she was another primary influence on Stephanie's early practice as well. 
More Highlights from a beautiful workshop @ Yoga Nidra
The sound of Aummmmm commenced our Yoga journey, and soon we began with chanting, and I was so touched by how joyfully people shared in the singing!  It was awesome.  While we did our chants to Ganesh, the meaning of surrendering fears and obstacles takes priority in every chant.  With the concept of an offering, we progressed with pranayama, yoga asana, bija mantra for the chakras, and concluded with a short Yoga Nidra.  At the very end, we added in one Kundalini type of Kriya for awakening the chakras.  It was a beautiful afternoon for our subtle body.  Special thanks to all the lovely ladies who shared in this Sangha, to Stephanie for inviting me, to Carissa for that beautiful mala and sharing your awesome energy in the space, and to Anthony for capturing such lovely photos of our day.  For those of you in NYC looking for a beautiful place to deepen your yoga practice, take the D Train to Dyker Heights and lay your mat in Yoga Nidra for class, your mind-body-spirit will thank you!  Om Shanti, Shanti, Shanti

Monday, September 15, 2014

The Sri Dharma Mittra path to Self-Realization

Many years ago I found a brilliant teacher named Sri Dharma Mittra while I lived in NYC.  He taught a Yoga Class that had the authentic spiritual roots that I never seemed to find in any other Yoga Center in the western world.  It was a complete 8 Limb practice, and went beyond the common physical exercises that many would teach as yoga.  As an Indian, I appreciated the authenticity, the wisdom, and I had so many spiritual awakening experiences while in his class.  While I loved taking the Master Class, I also found myself taking Gentle Level Yoga, and Level 1 classes, because I just loved being in the East Side location, surrounded by loving pictures of Spiritual Masters, and around the energy of Sri Dharma Mittra.

Over time, I wanted to take the Dharma Mittra LOAY Yoga Teacher Training Course.  I saved up money to enroll, submit my application, and paid my deposit, but wound up cancelling.  At the time I broke my toe, and a studio where I taught asked that I lead my 200Hr Yoga Teacher Training Course there.  I figured there would be another time for it to happen for me.   In my Riya Yoga Course, (previously called Zoga Yoga), it is a requirement for students to attend Master Class with Sri Dharma Mittra, and I still request this of all students.

I left NYC to embark on traveling the globe and teaching Yoga, Ayurveda, Reiki and Yoga Teacher Trainings, as well as getting certified in Ashtanga Yoga while in India.  It has been an amazing experience, and somehow I missed taking class with Sri Dharma.  He has an incredible way of bringing spirituality into yoga asana classes that would often remind me of my beloved departed mother, who was my first guru.  I had the Maha Sadhana DVD, and on occasion would practice with it, but it was not really the same.  This year after completing my P.h.D. in Alternative Medicine with the focus on Yoga and Ayurveda, I knew I wanted to enroll in another Yoga Course either in India or with Sri Dharma Mittra.  While I love to teach, and share yoga with people, I also love to be a student to the practice itself.  Just as I was considering enrolling in the LOAY program, I traveled to Europe to teach yoga and wound up breaking my toe AGAIN. Same toe, different spot.

"When we understand the laws of Karma, we will see that everything is perfect" ~ Sri Dharma Mittra

I was grateful to only have broken my toe, considering a fell down a flight of stairs, it could have been much worse, but it discouraged me from enrolling in the course.  The healing process was slower, pain was more intense and my yoga practice was on the back burner, while the Belgium chocolates inspired a more cuddle worthy body frame.  When I conjured up the courage to get back on the yoga mat, I decided to enroll in the LOAY course.  I was a late entrant, but I was accepted into the program.  I knew the physical asana would be a challenge and modifications would be necessary.  Since I have nearly broken or fractured every bone in my body, I am accustomed to modifications, and my asana practice is always a moving prayer, which is always encouraged by Sri Dharma Mittra as he often quotes from the Bhagavad Gita and reminds us to make our practice an offering.

"Fix your mind and intelligence on Me alone and ultimately you will come to Me. Of this there is no doubt." ~ Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 12: 8

From September 7-14, I was immersed in the first module of the "Life of a Yogi" experience with 67 other Sadhakas under the guidance of Sri Dharma Mittra and brilliant mentors.  We had beautiful long days with asana classes, pranyama, dhyana, spiritual discourse, anatomy, and practice teaching sessions.  We were drenched in sweat and wrapped in bliss.  We were asked to embrace Mouna (Yogic Silence) during the training, which is something I also require of students who study with me, so I was happy to oblige as best I could.  It is amazing how much inner healing one can find in silence.  Despite choosing to be quiet, the energy of love and unity was resounding in the hearts, eyes, and smiles of my fellow yogis.

With my toe still bandaged, only recently gaining minor mobility, and a cervical spine injury that challenges my inversion practice, I was so grateful to be in the Dharma Mittra center once again.  I was home.  I released all expectations in terms of my asana practice and felt an incredible wave of gratitude.  I would lay my yoga mat in the same corner every day, with Sri Dharma and Hanuman's image on one side, and Lord Shiva on the other.

I decided to go the route of fasting for the week of training, and because the daily asana classes are challenging, I allowed myself to have water, coconut water and an apple during the day.  On 2 occasions I added a vegan health bar to my day, but I wanted to do fasting during the day as much as possible.  One night I was missing the comforting tastes of Indian cuisine, so I opted for a Palak Channa Roti (Spinach and Chick Pea), which somehow was not prepared so well and led to food poisoning the next day.  Nothing beats fever, abdominal pain, and running to the bathroom frequently while immersed in multiple intense asana classes during the day.  This truly was purification.  Every day, my heart was brimming with even more gratitude than I thought possible.

Daily spiritual discourse and Master Class with Sri Dharma Mittra, beautiful Kirtan led by Adam Frei and other Dharma yogis, Anatomy with the beautiful Jessica Crow, and daily pranyama and asana classes under the guidance of Yoshio Hama (Active Meditation), Mark Kan, Andrew Jones,  Kim Jeblick, and Lori Bebber, we were all feeling incredibly blessed with every breath during this week.  We also had a beautiful inversion workshop with Yoshio.
During the week, we spent time in small groups where we had the chance to practice teaching under the guidance of our mentor.   I am very grateful for my mentor, Benjamin Smielowitz and group members that made this first week an incredible experience.  We all learned from each other.

I am not sure what I did in a past life to have been so lucky to learn from Sri Dharma Mittra, but I am overflowing with gratitude.

अथ योगानुशासनम् ॥१॥
atha yoga-anuśāsanam ||1||
Yoga in the here and now: an introduction to the study and practice of yoga ||1|| 

With the first module complete, NOW the Life Of a Yogi path to self-realization begins, as we are required to abide by a Sattvic Diet, daily self practice of asana, meditation, pranayama, required reading and journaling.  We reunite in November, when we will be so fortunate to have a workshop/performance with Kirtan Guru, Krishna Das.  For those interested in deepening their yoga practice or enrolling in a Yoga Teacher Training, the one to learn with is no one other than Sri Dharma Mittra.  

Yoga and Hypnosis

While most of my studies in health and wellness revolve around Yoga and Ayurveda, I have always embraced other teachings of great teachers to see how they can better improve the journey to self realization.  Many modern day teachers like Dr. Emoto and his teachings on thought vibration (Dharana), Louise Hay with her concept of Affirmations (Auto Suggestion/Mantra), and many others have inspired me.  On my path of exploring health and wellness I have also found inspiration in the teachings of Erikson and Ormond McGill (Hypnosis), Richard Bandler (NLP), Maxwell Marltz (Psycho-Cybernetics).  I have found the common link to the modern teachings of hypnosis and affirmation can be easily linked to ancient yogic practices of Pratyhara, Dharana and Dhyana, Yoga Nidra, and Mantra.  Hypnosis has similarities with guided meditation.  For those who associate yoga with only the asana practice (physical exercises), please be informed that it is an 8 Limb practice designed to calm the mental fluctuations of the yoga aspirant.

While many people are skeptical about hypnosis, or associate it with "stage hypnosis", the reality is we are bombarded by hypnotic suggestions in all forms of media on a daily basis.  Hypnosis only works if the participant is willing, and it has been proven the more intelligent the subject is, the easier they are to go into trance state.  Hypnosis involves an induction that puts a person in a more relaxed state, which is when the participant is in a heightened state of suggestibility.  The participant is in full control at all times and can then use the suggestions given by the hypnotist to break through patterns of behavior and improve areas of their life. 

After reading some works by Ormond McGill, I was intrigued about hypnosis even further.  Ormond McGill has written accounts of his travels to India where he learned guided meditation, and incredible mind taming exercises taught by Yogis, and Fakirs.  It correlated to my research in the power of the mind over the body, and I have utilized self hypnosis, affirmation, and meditation in my own journey successfully, so I wanted to gain more insight and guidance with a professional.  I have already witnessed incredible yogis in deep states of meditation, how they can perform incredible tasks, and overcome the mental fluctuations with practice.  Like every synchronicity, a friend found Jo-Anne Eadie of Power of Freedom for me.  I had a session with her that was incredibly transformational.

As positive and optimistic as I am, I am a human being who has been through my own situations, and found freedom with yoga, meditation, and forgiveness.  I could honestly say that Hypnosis was like a deep prayer and instant liberation bath for me, in a shorter time frame.  It allows you to tap into your sub conscious mind, the mind chatter that is usually talking more than we are aware.  Jo-Anne invited me to be a guest speaker at her Dowsing event, and it was a beautiful chance to share yogic concepts for calming the mind and inner peace.  The same friend who suggested Jo-Anne to me later decided to have a session with Jo-Anne Eadie and Heather Masters, which like my experience was successful. This inspired me to enroll in her course this summer.  I am grateful to have more tools to help people on their path to mind-body-spirit health and wellness.

We explored hypnosis, learned how to put people into trance state, and became certified hypnotists with the NGH (National Hypnosis Guild).  I am so grateful for these two ladies (Jo-Anne Eadie and Heather Masters) for their compassionate style of teaching.  I shared this experience with three other beautiful ladies, and together we practiced on each other, and observed incredible sessions of willing participants.  We also explored EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique) which is basically tapping on meridian lines while saying affirmations.  The last week of August I was unable to bend the toe I had broken, and I was very discouraged, but we did EFT and within minutes I was able to bend it for the first time.

Joanne had invited me to be a guest speaker for the Canadian National Hypnosis Conference (CHC), which takes place on October 24th, 25th and 26th.  Incredible teachers will be presenting and sharing liberating techniques for people who are looking to improve their life.  I will be teaching a class on healing with breath (pranayama), and also daily yoga classes.  Since I am a guest speaker for the conference, during the week I was interviewed on Jo-Anne and Heather's online radio show WOW FACTOR - Wizards of Wellness.

While I would recommend a person to approach life with a daily yoga asana practice and a sattvic diet, often times each individual has their own "conditions" or personal challenges, that interfere with that, which makes hypnosis an incredible option.

One of the programs I learned was the famous Virtual Gastric Band, by Sheila Granger.  This program is a four session program.  One gentleman that came in lost 5 lbs in the first week alone.  The best part is the freedom the person obtains when they establish new and healthier habits.  Aside from this, stress and smoking were two other areas we explored. 

Since completing this course, I have practiced on a number of people only to witness how their subconscious mind has created successful changes in their life with the help of hypnosis. 

For those interested in attending the Canadian Hypnosis Conference or listening to the radio interview I did, please click on the highlighted links above.  Be sure to bring your yoga mat and share in some beautiful morning yoga and meditation.