Category Archives: tantra

Spreading Through the Bones – Active Hands and Feet

I blog occasionally for Yoga In The Heights, the studio where I teach in Jersey City Heights. Here’s a post on a topic I am most passionate about, active hands and feet!

Yoga in the Heights

by Lola Rephann

Energetically, the hands and feet are the foundation in most yoga poses. In all the standing poses, our feet are the foundation. In inversions like handstand or arm balances like bakasana (crow), the hands are the foundation. And then there are some poses, such as downward dog, where both hands and feet are on the ground. Think of the foundation of a home. If a home is built on saggy foundation, the entire edifice sags. A strong foundation can survive hurricanes, floods, and all kinds of challenges!

Something I have noticed as a yoga teacher is that students often stop their asanas at the ankle or wrist. Why does this happen, and what experience is lost when students do not engage the muscles, bones, and energy to the very periphery of their bodies?

I would argue that missing out on the hands and feet, which only amount…

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Deepen Your Back Bending Practice Safely – a workshop at Reflections Yoga, NYC

yoga back bends safely

Deepen Your Back Bending Practice Safely, a workshop at Reflections Yoga on Saturday, August 8 from 2-4pm

The intermediate back bends of yoga, like Wheel Pose (urdhva dhanurasana) are some of the earliest “more advanced” poses students meet on their yoga journey. Getting into wheel is often seen as an important turning point in a student’s life. But, in yoga as in life, just because we can doesn’t mean we should.

Being able to get into progressively deeper back bends like wheel does not necessarily mean the student is connected to the process the pose represents. It’s possible to just force your way into the pose, and then grunt, struggle, and push while in it. This is not the spirit of yoga. Yoga is not about pushing, trying hard, or forcing. Yoga teaches us to listen to when our bodies are ready to enter poses, and the way we hone our listening is by progressing from smaller to deeper back bends. Forrest Yoga sequences are designed to warm up and open the body one layer at a time in a progressive fashion.

Something I’ve noticed from taking yoga classes around the world is that wheel pose is often offered at the end of a yoga practice with little warm up specific to the pose. A well sequenced yoga practice focuses on poses that lead to an apex, and prepare the body to blossom into that final pose. The point of the apex is not to “do it” but to take the journey towards it and listen to the body and the breath on the way. If there is an obstacle, be it breath or fear or tightness in the body, we work where we are. The obstacle is not something to move around, ignore, or push through but a teacher who is saying “stay here and work on this lesson a little bit longer. When you are ready, you will get the next lesson.”

Back bends teach me patience, deep listening, breath, and acceptance of where I am. They also teach me that sometimes practice appears not to move forward, and that this is when I need to sharpen my attention even more, because there is a deeper lesson. On Saturday, August 8th, I’m holding a workshop on safely deepening your yoga back bending practice. I hope you will join me.

DEEPEN YOUR BACK BENDING PRACTICE SAFELY: A two-hour workshop on back-bending safely leading to more advanced back bends including wheel, wheel drop backs, and viparita dandasana. Good for intermediate students beginning to explore wheel or those with an existing intermediate back bend practice ready to go to the next level. You will learn how the spine moves into extension (back bending), how to prepare the body for deeper back bends, how to warm down from back bending, common misalignment and habits, and some tips on sequencing for back bending in a home practice. Saturday August 8th from 2-4pm at Reflections Yoga, NYC. Register via, $35 advance, $40 day of.

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Drinking, Shame And Not Beating Yourself Up

Since my Forrest Yoga Foundations Teacher Training I have been sober. My clean date is June 1. Like this writer, I came to the realization that I had no “off switch,” that once I began drinking, even if it was “innocently” out with friends at dinner or at an art gallery opening or a day at the beach, the only thing that would stop me from drinking was passing out, throwing up, or running out of money.

My journey, from wine lover to sober and happy...

I generally write about how good life is as a non-drinker, how much happier and brighter the world appears now that I’m not looking at it through a fogged up lens. I’m incredibly passionate about living a clean existence – more so because I can still recall (with great clarity) the polar opposite: the hangovers, the awful sense of shame on particular mornings, and the secrecy, the double life I seemed to be leading sometimes. I especially remember the kernel of dread that I’d wake up with, a knot of fear in my stomach that I desperately wanted rid of but which routinely took days or even weeks to leave me.


I often read on Soberistas (frequently on Monday mornings) blogs that describe feelings of shame. The people who write them have typically picked up a drink over the weekend, truly believing that they will be able to stop after…

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Happened to find this in the stream of blogs I follow and thought it was worth sharing here. Not only does this spiral happen within our current incarnation, but I also believe our rebirths follow the same incarnational spiral.

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“Grabbing the Cat”

grab the catLast night in the New Moon Shakti Circle at Bija Yoga, we discussed “Goddess Archetypes.” Our facilitator Lisa Kazmer had printed out several pages of pictures we’d uploaded to the Facebook invite for the night, grouped by theme or archetype. We had a page for mother goddesses (Gaia, Oshun, Mother Mary), a page for warrior/chaos/transformation goddesses (Kali, Oya), a page for lunar goddesses, a page for the triple goddess/crone, and so on. We looked at the photos and explored our reactions to each, wrote down keywords or phrases that came up as we discussed each archetype, and talked about how we related to each (or didn’t), and what energy we felt we needed more (or less) of in our lives.

The title of this blog came about in our discussion of the warrior/chaos/destruction/transformation goddesses, namely Kali and Oya. One of the participants (and a friend of mine, and fellow yoga teacher) relayed a funny story about how the intense energy of warrior goddesses can sometimes have unintended consequences.

I’ll her refer to her by her first initial. A., with her trademark awesome sense of humor, told us how her intense energy can sometimes be overwhelming. She “grabs the cat.”

“Whenever I go to my brother’s house, I look for the cat. I just love that cat. But it always tries to get away from me. Maybe it’s because I grab it…and then pet it real hard.” We were all cracking up at the image of this poor cat, being overwhelmed at being grabbed at with A.’s strong desire to show love.

This is a real thing, tho! How many times, in your enthusiasm, have you ever knocked something over, tripped over something, or even hurt someone because you just HAD TO show them how you felt? That’s the energy of Kali or Oya, coming in like a hurricane force and literally tearing sh*t up.

How often have you tried to “grab the cat” in your yoga practice? We weren’t really talking about yoga, per se, but we were mostly yoga teachers in circle last night, so my mind went to how many times I have “grabbed the cat” in my practice and ended up hurting myself. Injury is one of my teachers in the infinite lesson of getting softer, but it’s a lesson I keep repeating as my practice and my awareness gets more subtle.

As above, so below. So when we see our habits and tendencies in our yoga practice, it’s very likely these tendencies come about in our off-the-mat lives too. This is one of the ways to use Goddess archetype work in your yoga practice (and in your off-the-mat life). Where could you use a little more Moon Goddess energy and just receive and reflect? How about the wisdom of the crone or the nurturing energy of the Earth Goddesses?

As women, we have all these energies within us. Some of us are naturally more Kali and others naturally more Gaia. Working with the archetypes helps us identify these primal energy patterns within ourselves and others, and in our life’s unfolding story.


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Crazy Wisdom: Rinpoche Chogyam Trungpa Explored On Film

This weekend, I saw Crazy Wisdom, a documentary about Tibetan lama/Western guru Chogyam Trungpa. Trungpa was and is considered a “bad boy” of Buddhism, a reincarnated lama from Tibet who spread Buddhism’s wisdom to the West in his own, inimitable style.

A smoker, a heavy drinker, and a man known for having intimate relations with many of his students, Chogyam Trungpa was not the stereotypical image of a guru. He was known for having “crazy wisdom,” the kind of insight that could be seen as being entirely, totally free or entirely, totally crazy. And what is the difference, really? So long as one can exist in society, there is room for our eccentricity, our total humanness.

Loved by his followers for being totally, completely human and having no apologies about it, Chogyam Trungpa taught by example. He challenged accepted memes and spoke wisdom in such a way that it forced people to think for themselves. One of his most famous books also contains one of his (still) most controversial ideas: that those on the spiritual path may be reinforcing the ego instead of dismantling it if they become too enamored of their spiritual knowledge or pursuits (I’m referring to Spiritual Materialism, one of Trungpa’s most important books).

Crazy Wisdom has lots of great archival footage of Trungpa as well as of the Vermont meditation center that later became the first building of the growing Shambala spiritual community. There’s some footage of Tibet and Trungpa’s travels around the world, and at the end of the film, Trungpa’s cremation ceremony is shown.

This documentary sheds some light on Trungpa’s life and personality, although there is still a sense of “who was this man?” at the end of the film. And that’s probably just as he would have wanted it.

More on Trungpa from the Shambala website:

Crazy Wisdom Trailer – NEW from Matthew Mecer on Vimeo.

Check out Crazy Wisdom through Saturday, December 3, 2011 at the Ruben Museum of Art in NYC.

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Tantra as path of self-awareness

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Stages of a Twin Flame relationship

This is re-posted from, a website dedicated to Soul Mate, Twin Soul, and Twin Flame relationships.

At one point, I believed I had met my Twin Flame, but I was sad because I was not sure if he recognized me as his Twin Flame. I still believe there is a bond between me & this person, but I am fully in the stage of Surrender, and have moved on. All along, I knew the pain and frustration of this non-consummated union was in service of spiritual growth. Unconditional love was one of the most poignant lessons I learned from this not-quite-relationship, as was listening to my Higher Self, which doesn’t think and analyze, but receives, senses, and knows without knowing.

As human evolution continues to advance, and spiritual growth accelerates for those who are tuned in to such energies on the planet, I believe we will be seeing and hearing a lot more about Twin Flames. I don’t think Twin Flames need to be united in sex or physical love. As tempting as it may be to feel this person is “made for you,” maybe they are made for you as a beacon towards your own spiritual development, which will enable you to love ALL, not just one, with the gift of spiritual, accepting, un-grasping love.


The Stages of a Twin Flame Relationship
  1. Recognition and Temporary Spiritual Awakening
  2. Testing
  3. Crisis
  4. Runner Dynamic
  5. Surrender
  6. Radiance
  7. Harmonizing

**The Key to getting to the final Harmonizing stage with the least amount of suffering is to bypass one’s own Testing, Crisis and Runner stages.  This can be accomplished by staying surrendered to G…od throughout. **

Stage 1:  Recognition and Temporary Spiritual Awakening

Characteristics of Stage 1:
Both Twins recognize one another at the soul level and feel as if they have met before.  Synchronious events surround the union.  The heart chakras open and both souls quickly merge into a third unified energy.  Both Twins experience an acceleration of spiritual understanding.

The purpose of the Recognition and Temporary Spiritual Awakening Stage:
To activate the memory of each soul’s life mission and to help awaken each Twin to higher levels of consciousness.

Stage 2:  Testing

Characteristics of Stage 2:
The initial temporary spiritual awakening (illumination) fades. The ego (“little self”) begins to re-emerge.  One or both Twins may attempt to fit the relationship into the “old model” of Love, couplehood and relationship as it relates to their ego desires and learned belief system.  Inner conflict arises.  Twins ruminate on what they were taught to believe their beloved “should be” and how relationships are supposed to serve them.

Both Twins feel simultaneously inspired and toppled by the power of the union.
Doubts creep in making one or both Twins begin to view their beloved critically or suspiciously.

The purpose of the Testing stage:
To cause outdated mental concepts about relationships to rise to the surface to be cleared.

Stage 3:  Crisis

Characteristics of Stage 3:
The crisis of the Twin is realizing they must reject their egoic beliefs about Love relationships or reject their beloved.  Having to shed “little self” or identity-based beliefs and desires to embrace a higher expression of Love can lead to stubbornness and anxiety.  Fear can take hold, triggering many dysfunctional emotional patterns.  In staying present with the patterns, they can be witnessed and released.

Despite fears, both Twins naturally come together in cycles for bonding, confession, forgiveness and Lovemaking.  These rituals cement higher levels of consciousness into the energy fields of both Twins.

The purpose of the Crisis stage:
To provide opportunities for the healing and maturing of the mental and emotional bodies.

Stage 4:  The Runner Dynamic

Characteristics of Stage 4:
The human ego naturally fears annihilation in the face of the Unified Consciousness encoded inside the Twin Flame Union.  The pain body rises up and old ego survival mechanisms or “bottom of the barrel” emotional and mental patterns like defiance, resistance, manipulation, anger, punishing and judgment arise.

One or both Twins become emotionally and mentally flooded with deep pain from what feels like soul-level rejection and abandonment.  The unbearable soul-level pain leads one or both Twins to withdraw physically and block communication in fear and futility.  One or both Twins may unsuccessfully try to re-create the original unified harmony.

The purpose of the Runner Dynamic:
To propel both individuals towards God for healing and maturation of the spiritual body.

NOTE:  The temptation to engage in ego battle or withdrawal is very seductive and difficult for many to resist, which is why many Twins never reach Surrender, Radiance or Harmony.

Remember, there is no room for judgment in Twin Soul pairings. Each soul learns from much walking its own path and choosing through its own will.  Your non-attached loving thoughts will be felt by your beloved in the subconscious, keeping them strong.

Stage 5:  Surrender

Characteristics of Stage 5: 
The direction and outcome of the relationship is surrendered to God in full faith and trust that the Union is under Divine Protection.  It is accepted that what is best and destined for the final physical harmonizing will transpire in its own time. (Both Twins must reach Illumination in order to harmonize in the physical)

The “Runner” Twin is allowed the space and freedom to choose to evolve at their own pace in their own way.  At this stage, the frequency of compassion returns and maintains itself.  The Surrendered Twin holds a heart space for their beloved while fully exploring life on the way to becoming an Illuminated human.  This may be a time of channeling Unconditional Love into art, music, writing, teaching, active service or some other creative outlet.

Purpose of the Surrender stage:
To help each soul release the ego, develop regular communication with God and demonstrate their full trust in God to do what is best and when.

Stage 6:  Self Realization, Illumination, Radiance

Characteristics of Stage 6: 
The ego or “little self” dies and the God-force energy takes over the body.  This leads to a complete spiritual awakening, arriving at one’s fully awakened divinity. This is the stage of radiating Divine Love rather than seeking romantic Love.

At this stage, the surrendered Twin’s emotional, mental and spiritual bodies arrive at full maturity.  New creativity and healing abilities arise, which are put in service to assist others.
Purpose of the Radiance stage:
To establish an outward flow of Divine Love through one’s body and works, which vibrates at a level that uplifts humanity.
Stage 7:  Harmonizing
Characteristics of Stage 7:
By this stage both Twins have awakened.  They come together in the physical to assimilate their newly evolved energies, flowing into the new dynamic of their Unified Potential.  Both Twins integrate fully into the third energy of Unconditional Love in a way that influences others towards their own heart opening.
Purpose of the Harmonizing stage:
To fulfill the intended mission of the Twin Flame Union.
**Twin Flame relationships come into your life to help mold you to embody the vibration of Unconditional Love.**
Written by a gal named Jenna
Looking for yoga, healing, and wellness coaching? Let me help you develop a wellness plan for your entire life: body, mind, and soul:


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The Spiritual Gifts of Unrequited Love

I came across this article by Michele Knight in my Twitter feed, and as soon as I saw the title, a feeling went off inside me: oh yah, I know alllll about the spiritual gifts of unrequited love. When you are in the midst of an unrequited love infection, you can’t eat, you can’t sleep, the world revolves around the Beloved and what they are or aren’t doing, what they said or didn’t say, how close or far you perceive them to be to you, and your mood lurches around as jarringly as an old wood roller coaster.

There are three typical routes this situation can take. The first one is: oblivion. You and your unrequited love never manifest into a real relationship. You keep holding on, despite every evidence to the contrary, as your heart and soul leak vitality and wholeness with every passing moment. The Beloved holds such power over you, but instead of seeing this situation as your choice and a learning experience you must pass through, you externalize the lesson and make it about him or her. This seldom creates growth. Instead, it sets up a tendency towards self-mutilation, as you examine your personality and being with a fine-tooth comb, seeing only what can be changed, excised, or gained to make yourself desirable to the Beloved. “If only I…” and the thought invariably ends “…then s/he would love me.”

The second route is transmutation: all that stored up energy is released. The Beloved and you come to some sort of agreement. Either you agree to move on or give it a shot or whatever you come up with, but there is a transmutation that both participate in. You both have grown. The lover has learned patience, has followed his intuition, has gone deep into the well of love, has stayed on course with an open mind and heart. The Beloved learns from, and is softened, by the loyalty and constancy of the lover. The Beloved opens and the lover’s ability to trust is healed, and something alchemical happens in the process. I’m not sure if these relationships stay together. Maybe all that resistance was building up to a huge transmutation of energy, and both partners needed one another to release it. The relationship stays together only so long as both need to gather what’s necessary for the next stage of development, but there is always a fond memory ands special acknowledgement of the growth you brought to each other’s lives.

The third way is the way of time and reality. Time, compassion, and open-heartedness are needed to move through this phase or style of connection. In this dynamic, the Beloved never acknowledges your love, and the lover is never quite able to let go of the feelings. Perhaps it is a karmic connection and there is soul material from the past that needs to be worked through. Perhaps this is a Twin Flame vibration and one partner does not recognize the other as a Twin. Whatever the case, the feelings can persist for years and decades, but this is the scenario that holds immense fodder for spiritual and emotional growth.

To recognize it is possible to love someone without needing them to love you back is a huge spiritual lesson. Not an easy lesson, and one that requires constant practice, but to be able to love and not be loved back in the way you desire puts you, as Pema Chodoron says, in the state of soft heart. Soft heart, when our heart is broken and bruised, when tears are just below the surface almost all of the time, when the physical ache of our heart corresponds exactly to the emotional pain we feel at not being able to merge with the Beloved, is a place of great tenderness and openness. Pema says having your heart broken is a gift. She says it awakens boddhichitta.

A book on this subject which affected me deeply is Open To Desire by Mark Epstein. In this book, Epstein uses the Buddha’s lesson of relinquishing attachment as the device to help people see the difference between attachment and desire. Desire often stimulates attachment, and can definitely encourage attachment: humans are creatures of habit and sensually oriented and love things that make them feel better. Such feelings, when externalized onto an object, are temporary. Even within, they can be temporary if not tended to through meditation, introspection, and constant mental training to distinguish the difference between craving and attachment.

Check out Michele Knight’s article, which beautifully expresses the transformative gifts of unrequited love. Remember, everything is a mirror, a reflection. What you see out there is somewhere within you, and it’s especially valuable to check out the stuff reflected back that we don’t like so much.


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The Sensitive Psoas

Click to enlarge

Just over a week ago, a random sequence of events arrived at me confronting an injury that I did not fully understand. I went from having some slight pain and stiffness in the outside of my hip to not being able to sit up, bend down, or walk. I was limping and unbalanced. My gait was completely altered. I was fortunate enough to be seen by the amazing Hellerwork practitioner Anne-Marie Duschene the next day. She works at Reflections Yoga doing bodywork for many of the cast members of Fela! The Musical, amongst others.  I know Anne-Marie from the studio but doing bodywork is a very different way of knowing someone. Especially in the attuned, intuitive presence of a master, this work can allow you to feel the state of your being physically, emotionally, and spiritually. It can be very intense, but in the safety Anne-Marie provides, it’s all good.

At this time, I thought something was wrong with my psoas, a long, deep postural core muscle that can be thought of as the top of the leg (for a far more in-depth look at this concept, this series entitled The Opinionated Psoas is fantastic).  I came to find out it was inflammation in the area around my greater trochanter (more anatomy geekery: the outside knob on the femur/thigh bone where leg muscles attach). Turns out there is a whole diagnosis of this condition: greater trochanteric pain syndrome. Since my psoas was not injured, but was responding to the things around it, I came to find out something about an entirely new part of my body that I would have never known was so complex. I also came to have even more respect for the sensitive psoas.

The psoas is something of a witness: never itself being directly involved, but transmitting information about the body with the expressive range of a violin. This amazing article sees the psoas as an organ of perception, more like a tongue than an anatomical muscle. It calls the psoas “the filet mignon of the human body: juicy, delicate, tender, and very responsive.” There is even a book dedicated to the psoas, outlining the various roles of the muscle, including its connection to childhood conditioning and growth, the fear reflex, and labor and childbirth.

This is not the first time the psoas has literally called out to me by indicating pain or discomfort or an altered gait or something just off in that area. I have a feeling the psoas has some things to teach me. I will let you know what I discover!


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