Tag Archives: healing

Beauty Report: Paramahansa Yogananda Awake Documentary Awakens Me

Paramahansa Yogananda

Paramahansa Yogananda

Last week I went to see AWAKE: The Life of Yogananda, a documentary about the life of Paramahansa Yogananda. Yogananda gave the world Autobiography of a Yogi and dozens of other books, the Self-Realization Fellowship, kriya yoga meditation, and a wealth of teachings on how to live a divine life.

I’d been feeling very disconnected the last few months, over-worked, over-burdened, and tired. I felt my spiritual practice had plateaued. Watching Awake I was reminded of my love for God and how Yogananda, and millions of others, have made the choice to serve God the central theme or purpose of their lives. The fullness of my heart in the closing credits brought tears to my eyes. These were not tears of sadness, but of a longing for God, for the feeling of being one with the Divine, with the energy of creation, with the supreme intelligence that knits together our universe and beyond.

I finished reading Ana Forrest’s Fierce Medicine for the second time for my Forrest Yoga Mentorship homework, and between that book and seeing Awake, I have begun speaking to God as I know him/her/it once again. But, as I approached it this time around, I had to re-think what exactly I do believe. I wondered why my faith wavered so much, why I couldn’t really zero in on a way to STAY connected to God. I knew that part of it was due to my mind and my heart being on opposing sides of the debate.

I have a conflict. My cynical and habitual thinking mind questions the concept of divinity or a positive, loving force in the universe. In my darkest moments, I feel adrift, a boat on a chaotic sea that is totally random in its movements and machinations. Thriving in this random universe is a combination of luck and wits and it is exhausting. But seeing Awake reminded me of how I FEEL, which is knowing I have touched the vastness and beauty of God as manifest in our physical world, in periods of meditation, the practice of yoga, sex, love, being in nature, or playing music.

With this reminder that I do love God and know God, and that I know this through a feeling sense, I was able to return, with faith, to speaking to God, which Yogananda oft repeated to his devotees: in meditation, they should repeat over and over again “reveal thyself!” and to the true disciple, God will. Then I had to find a way to speak to God that felt authentic to me. Drawing from Ana Forrest’s work, I found the way I could commune. Oh Great Spirit That Moves in All Things…

And so began a ritual of prayer, a ritual that I have abandoned in the last strange year of my life, and one that has never really stuck with me as much as I liked the idea of it. The last year has seen me leave 20+ years of corporate life for life as a self-employed yoga teacher; return to an abandoned relationship and the healing and growth therein; review who I am and what I truly need and what I’m here for. In prayer, I ask the Great Spirit to give me the strength to persevere and not fall to the pressures of city living, money, confusion, fatigue, and day-to-day relationship struggles, to infuse me with patience and gratitude, and to have the strength to see the good in my life and to keep going.

It was a Beauty Moment that I took myself to see this documentary. I haven’t really been attending to my needs well, to romancing my spirit, as Ana would say. The last year has been all about working and making sure the bills are paid, about deep inner work in terms of my training as a yoga teacher and within my primary partnership. It has been a more difficult year emotionally than I’ve had in a long time. It was Beauty that I took myself to see this and got a small bit of an answer that I am seeking. A-ho!

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Beauty Report: The return of my personal yoga practice

yogapracticespaceSince completing the Forrest Yoga Foundations Teacher Training, I am so grateful that my personal yoga practice has returned. My strongest intention going into the training was to get my personal practice back on track. While I received far more than this, one of the greatest gifts has been to get back on my mat every day, now for 33 days in a row.

It’s oddly common to hear yoga teachers talking about the loss of their personal practice when they begin teaching professionally. It really doesn’t make much sense: how can you teach something you no longer practice, no matter how many years or decades you did it before? Lack of logic aside, I couldn’t seem to motivate myself to get on the mat. The excuses were legion: I don’t have time (of course I do!) I’m not in the mood (ew!); my apartment isn’t really set up for it (ok, but there’s alternatives and creative solutions to this); I am tired (yoga will help get you untired); and on and on it went. Somehow, I equated the little bit of mat time I got through my various teaching gigs to count as practice. It’s not!

Our personal yoga practice is so much more than simply doing poses. What I’m finding out is that personal practice, especially daily personal practice, is a commitment to myself and a deep care-taking of my self that gets stronger each day I return to my mat. This has been the secret gift of getting back on the mat everyday: that the more days that go by continuously, the less likely I am to let a day slide, the more I actually tremble at the idea of a day going by.

I am healing from a lot of self-abuse. I need to practice regularly. I need to keep the well of my own sense of trust, appreciation, and love for myself topped up. Daily practice is, so far, the best way to do this I have experienced. I am so grateful to Ana Forrest and her amazing assistants for helping me get into the habit of daily yoga practice. This is one habit I definitely don’t want to break.

Here’s a photo of me practicing in my mom’s apartment’s gym space. To me, meeting myself on my mat daily, and letting it be discovered what comes up (am I focused; am I rushing; am I adhering to my intent; am I using my neck in the poses?!; etc) is one of the most beautiful things I can imagine. This is my therapy, my salvation, my healing, my gift to myself.

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Forrest Yoga Classes in New Jersey

I recently completed the 200-hour Forrest Yoga Foundations Teacher Training at Fresh Yoga in New Haven, CT with master teacher Ana Forrest. It was a life-changing experience.

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Some of the many gifts I received from this training are:

  • I got my personal yoga practice back. It’s not unusual to hear yoga teachers bemoaning the loss of their own personal practice. As of today, I have practiced yoga 31 days in a row. And I have no intention of turning back. One of the personal ethics I created for myself during the training was to practice a minimum of 6x/week for at least 30 minutes per day. So far, this ethic is guiding me into health, a sense of wholeness, and a sense of trust in myself that I have not felt for a very long time. My strength is growing by the day.
  • My connection to breath has deepened exponentially. I have always felt a strong connection to breath and had a good intuitive understanding of how to teach breath. But since this training, my application of breath is becoming so much more skillful. I am better able to share this understanding with my students, and teach them in a practical way HOW TO USE BREATH FOR HEALING. This will revolutionize your yoga practice and your life.
  • I realized through this training how I had a plethora of habits that were holding me down and dimming my light, as well as showing up as obstacles to moving forward in life with clarity and conviction. Social drinking and partying (I have been a DJ in the nightlife scene for 10+ years), mindless eating, even social media use suddenly revealed themselves as ways that I would distract myself from what was essential in my life at the moment and choose a behavior that took me away, that numbed me out. Getting clear about the myriad ways I was squandering my life energy made me see that all those things we take for granted as being normal, “let loose” or “have fun” type behaviors are actually hooks that drain our vitality. I have since reformed how and what I eat, and my tendency to casually use “party favors” (drugs & alcohol) in favor of clarity around how these actions keep me from feeling what I need to feel. The pull towards addiction or compulsion is insidious, and our modern culture accepts and even encourages our slavery to various forms of addiction, from shopping to gambling to online porn to recreational drugs to exercise. Getting clear about my tendency to fall into these traps and speak about it to anyone who will listen has been liberating.
  • I have learned how to connect to my spirit by breathing well, finding beauty in the everyday, and speaking my truth from my heart. These concepts sound nice on paper, but applying them is ironically not as easy as it sounds. When our thoughts are poisoned by a steady stream of negative inner dialogue, our spirit is often in hiding or maybe even not in residence. If our spirit is our essential, truest self, the best version of ourselves, why would that best version of yourself hang out for the punishment most of us put it though on a daily basis? In Forrest Yoga, we learned to see ourselves as ENOUGH. I am enough. This is a radical concept because our culture is always telling us we are NOT enough, that we need one more degree, more money, less cellulite, more hair, more boobs, etc. to be worthy. This is the furthest thing from the truth because who we are is ONLY and EVER from our spirit, never from what we do, what we earn, what we learn or accomplish along the way. It is WHO WE ARE at the essential, spiritual level. Developing tools to help us connect with this essence of who we are is one of the most powerful and healing aspects of Forrest Yoga.

These four paragraphs above sum up the four pillars of Forrest Yoga: Breath, Strength, Integrity, and Embodying Spirit.

Forrest Yoga is a healing, therapeutic approach to yoga. It heals at the physical, emotional, and energetic level. I am so grateful that my spirit guided me to Forrest Yoga nearly four years ago. Before I was even ready to begin the healing I’m experiencing now, my spirit guided me in this direction. Healing is a process. We must have patience and put in the time to reap the rewards. The rewards are nothing less than a transformed life, freedom from addictive and compulsive behaviors, clarity about life and what we most want and need, letting go of our rackets (ritualized and rationalized behaviors designed to keep us from being present to what is actually happening in the moment) and life-zapping mental habits.

I am offering Forrest Yoga privately in Jersey City, NJ and New York City. If you are interested in private instruction in Forrest Yoga, or an inter-disciplinary approach utilizing the other styles of yoga that I teach, along with thai massage and shamanic reiki, please contact me.

 

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Shamanic Reiki

Shamanic Reiki blends wisdom from many traditions, including Mayan, Native American, Earth-based wisdom, etc.

Shamanic Reiki blends wisdom from many traditions, including Mayan, Native American, Earth-based wisdom, etc.

I recently completed a Level 2 Shamanic Reiki certification with Stacey “Sky” Gibbons, a Forrest Yoga teacher and Reiki master. I completed Level 1 with Stacey in October 2012. Level 2, as Stacey noted, is a much deeper attunement than the Reiki 1 attunement. But wait. What’s an attunement? A reiki attunement is given by the Reiki  master to the student. An attunement is a series of reiki hand positions, symbols, and breath techniques to transmit the energy of the reiki master, along with his or her lineage of reiki masters, to the student, empowering him or her to give the reiki treatment at that level.

Symbols are used in reiki. These symbols were said to have appeared to Dr. Usui, the founder of the system of reiki that has since been used as a platform to evolve new styles of reiki (in a nutshell, “traditional” vs. “Western” reiki). Symbols are given in level 2 that allow the practitioner to send reiki at a distance, or in other words, to perform distance healing. In the reiki system, “distance” can be interpreted as physical distance or linearly, as in time (sending reiki to events in the past, for instance).

Shamanic Reiki differs from tradition reiki in that shamanic techniques are layered on top of the reiki energy treatment to give, in my opinion, a much more complete and personal healing experience. Some of the shamanic techniques we learned and practiced during this training included shamanic journeying, the use of stones/crystals/plants or other earth elements in the reiki session, and “cutting cords,” or energetically severing ties between people.

As reiki sees “no future, no past, no present,” energetic ties to people from our past can persist to this day. Stacey even told us that women retain energetic ties to any man she has ever been intimate with. It was in this context that we performed the cord cutting ceremony, to allow the energy that woman naturally gives out to come back to her luminous field, aka her light body or energy body. Stacey taught us that feminine polarity is give/receive, symbolized by the void of her vagina/uterus, so the woman continues to draw energy, much in the way the Galactic Center continuously pulls things towards it. She compared this to the masculine polarity which is a more outward-directed/searching energy and is fed by movement, variety, and conquering. This is a blog post in itself, so let me stop here before getting carried away…

Using shamanic techniques before, during, or after reiki treatment brings added insight. Reiki moves energy in a very palpable way for those sensitive to such things. For example, during a treatment I thought for sure the person treating me had her hands on my right hip. It was not the case. She was not touching my right hip, but I felt the most heat, pressure, and sensation in that area. In other scenario, a woman receiving reiki treatment could not stop a tremor in her shoulder, even though reiki hands were not on her shoulder. Reiki students are taught that reiki energy goes where it is needed, so while hands may be on one part of the body, the energy is activated throughout the body. Shamanic techniques add another layer of insight to what is going on in the body, so a student could connect to the areas of greatest sensation and use visualization, for instance, to see his/her energy body as a transparent crystal, then look for “occlusions” in the crystal body. The seeing is done intuitively, and this is an area where Shamanic Reiki shines, for intuition is a major tool of the shaman.

On the first night of our training, after receiving the Reiki 2 symbols, I was exhausted. The same thing was reported by most of my fellow students in the training, due to having loads of energy moved in the work we did that day. On the 2nd day, we felt much revived, and the evening of day 2 I did not feel so wiped out. Stacey told us that over the next 21 days, the energy from the attunement will settle and move within us, and to be alert to changes subtle or overt. Within 24 hours of completing the training, I broke out with pimples and a cold sore! It was like my body was literally erupting and purging. Break outs are not too common for me, and I felt like this was directly tied to energy I was moving via the work. The training did help me bring to the surface a few issues that had been rattling around in my brain, which I did not know needed as much ventilation as they did, but I found out just how much I needed to release these energies by sobbing quietly throughout an entire 30 minute reiki treatment. During this experienced, I observed which hand positions caused tears to well up, and which helped them subside. Placements over the heart center definitely welled up more tears, while positions over the crown chakra helped them dissipate.

Shamanic Reiki both strengthens and reinforces intuitive power, in both the giver and receiver. Shamanism gives a new context in which to practice reiki, and the combined forces are far greater their either on its own. I will write more about my experiences working with reiki energy and shamanism as I continue learning. I am grateful to be part of this lineage of healers, which goes back to my teacher’s teacher, Llyn Roberts.

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Reports from Wind Horse, the first Forrest Yoga conference

Forrest Yoga is about doing stuff like this. Although extremely challenging, it’s not about the pose. The pose is just the vehicle to help you access the stuff.

I wasn’t able to attend this year. Hopefully next year. From everything I’ve seen and read, Wind Horse 2012 looked amazing, and what else could you expect from a gathering of Forrest yogis?

I’ve already expressed my love and admiration for Forrest Yoga in these pages, and my dream to one day certify as a Forrest Yoga teacher. I do study with some amazing Forrest Yoga teachers, including Erica Mather in NYC and Heidi Sormaz whenever I get to New Haven, CT. Here’s some collected blog posts, photos, and other ephemera from 2012’s inaugural (and surely not the last) Forrest Yoga conference.

Top 10 Ana-isms from Wind Horse: One thing I love about the Forrest teachers I’ve studied with so far? Their in-your-face honesty. Emotional and spiritual nakedness even. Ana Forrest  is the grand-mommy bad-ass of them all.

Ana Forrest Fierce Medicine Reading and Workshop at Wind Horse, 2012 (video): Fierce Medicine is an amazing book. Please read it.

New song introduced at Wind Horse 2012 (video): Forrest Yogis sing songs at the beginning of practice. These songs are usually from the Native American medicine traditions. Forrest Yoga has a shamanic/medicine (wo)man thread coursing through it, no doubt inspired by Ana’s earliest experiences working with animals and nature, experiences she chronicles in Fierce Medicine. The songs sung by Forrest Yogis are cherished by the tribe and lend consistency to gatherings that brings yogis together from all parts of the world.

Workshop recaps: A little more detail on some of the workshops offered at Wind Horse 2012, via Forrest Yoga teacher Megan Keane’s blog. Another workshop recap via Grateful Yogi. Monday morning at Wind Horse, via Megan Keane again. Another one from Grateful Yogi.

Some photos, general recaps, and random stuff I found online:

I’m sure there’s lots more I’ve missed or things that will come online after this post goes live. Please leave any updates in the comments. Thanks, and a-ho!

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Crystal of the Day: Green Moonstone

Green Moonstone isn’t a special breed of moonstone; it’s just a green moonstone. Moonstone comes in shades of white, grey, pink, and yellow, sometimes blue, and it has a milky, opaque hue. The colored varieties (due to deposits of certain minerals that give the stone its hue) are usually swirled with white. One day browsing at one of my favorite crystal shops, I found the green variety and it spoke to me, so I took it home and it is now one of my most cherished stones.

Green Moonstone

Moonstone is a feminine stone. It helps to ground and stabilize the emotions, helps regulate a woman’s menstrual cycle and helps ease cramping associated with the moon cycle or pregnancy, is good for fertility (including gardening!), and helps balance the feminine energies within the self. Although moonstone may be a “feminine” stone, it is an ally in self-care, balance, and connection to the intuition, thus it is an important stone for both men and women who are seeking greater integration of the personality and their polarities.

Like with many of my stones, I purchase or acquire a stone and it usually hangs out with my other stones until a need for the stone comes up. Then the stone usually travels with me in my pocket or purse as I work with its energies.

Recently, I have identified how much stress and tension has built up in my body, and have begun seeing a chiropractor. Around this same time, I started working with my green moonstone and quickly developed a bond with it. I find its energy to be very soothing and grounding, and gazing at its milky mint-green color seems to cool me down and remind me to breathe more deeply. I also work with the stone on my abdomen if I am experiencing cramps during my moon cycle and find it to be much more gentle than malachite in this department (Malachite is known as the “midwive’s stone”).

One day, after wearing my green moonstone in my pants pocket, I realized I had lost it! I tried to retrace my movements and I suspected I had lost it inside my house somehow. However, as with all lost objects and especially lost stones, I accepted the loss of the stone as a sign that I had completed my work with it at the time. I believe healing objects, in particular stones, come into our lives when we need them (we are drawn to or attract–in the way of gift or synchronous connection to–the stone we need) and likewise, they leave our lives thru loss or gifting away when we have completed our work with the stone.

Several days later I found the stone and I was so happy! However, I had already grown a lot around the topics green moonstone represents: self-care, emotional balance, feminine balance. While my healing in these areas in not complete, green moonstone helped me a great deal during several recent bouts of stress, over-work, and discomfort during my moon cycle. It has now taken its place with a piece of Angelite on my bedside table, where I look at and touch it every night, my mineral ally in re-balancing myself. Moonstone helps balance the emotions by reminding those who work with it to see the trials in life as cycles. By connecting to the cyclic view of life (moonstone also governs cycles), one is able to stabilize emotions by seeing the big picture, and the need for these emotions and situations within the larger cycle.

Here’s a list of some of green moonstone’s metaphysical properties:

  • stone of the Great Mother Goddess; represents femininity, Earth,
  • helps with balancing the emotions, integrating the emotions, and balancing the feminine aspect of the personality. Moonstone has a reflective, calming energy.
  • soothes stress, anxiety, women’s hormones; enhances intuitive sensitivity via feelings and less overwhelm by personal feelings. Greater flexibility and flow with life.
  • helps all be more comfortable with our feminine/yin receiving side, especially for water signs. Helps one be more conscious of the fact that all things are part of a cycle of constant change. It is a recommended gemstone for farmers and gardeners, artists, dancers and young men.
  • by unblocking the lymphatic system, it can heal and balance the stomach, pancreas, and pituitary gland. It can reduce swelling and excess body fluid. Placed under the pillow it will allow for a more peaceful sleep, and is often used as a cure for insomnia, used along with the amethyst.
  • wear or carry during the menstrual cycle for gentle support from pain and tension; excellent for fertility and childbirth (a birthing chamber would definitely have lots of moonstone in it!)
  • along with moss agate and jade, moonstone is great for gardening and fertility, due to its connections to water, growth, nurturing, cycles, and fertilization. I would guess green moonstone is even more aligned with plants and gardening due to its soft green hue
  • moonstone is a healer’s stone, helping those who feel the need to stuff down their own needs while caring for others take better care of themselves. It is also a stone of compassion, allowing those who care for others to be present and available without becoming burned out. Moonstone supports being emotionally present.
  • Moonstone, because of its connection to the moon, heightens intuition and is a great stone for tarot readers, astrologers, intuitive healers, psychics, etc. Its powers are said to be highest at the full moon. Wear the stone, or place it in the area you conduct intuitive readings.
  • In ancient cultures, used during the waxing of the moon for love charms and during the waning of the moon to foretell the future

Physical:
Women’s hormones/menstrual imbalance, lymph. Regenerates the tissues and organs. Heals reproductive system.

Careers:
Health care:  Doctors, Nurses, Midwives, Doulas, Massage Therapists, and other Health Care workers

Other: Sailors, Coast Guard (for its connection to water; moonstone was often carried as a protective amulet by sailors)

Activities: Gardening, weeding, planting, vacation cruises, swimming, water sports

Magical Properties:
Energy: Receptive
Element: Water
Deities: Diana, Selene, Isis, all lunar goddess
Associated stone: Quartz Crystal
Associated metal: Silver
Powers: Love, divination, sleep, gardening, protection, youth, dieting, psychic abilities.

Zodiac:
Associations: Moon
Mystical Birthstone for the Month of June
Stone of Cancer, Libra and Scorpio
Moonstone has a positive influence on Cancer while a bluish moonstone is more effective for Pisces.

Chakra Classification:
Moonstone is most beneficial on the 2nd, or Sacral/Navel Chakra, for most, but it also connects 2nd, or Sacral/Navel Chakra and 6th, or Third Eye/Brow Chakra for emotional balance and gracefulness.

It is, as well, used to balance the 4th, or Heart Chakra, in helping us discern what we want and what we need…as they do not come from the same place. Moonstone can assist you in absorbing those necessary things in life, while helping you discern what is merely wanted.

Moonstone will help achieve a balance between heart and mind without losing the gentleness and caring needed, yet keep the emotions in check to allow you to function properly.

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The X-Ray Vision of Yoga Teachers

xray vision of hand and arm

Yoga teacher x-ray vision: we seeeeeeeee you

Yoga teachers develop what I like to call “X-ray vision.” How many times have you been in class and the teacher walks near you while teaching, and gives the cue YOU need to feel the pose more clearly in your body? How about when the teacher is on the other side of the room and calls you out by name, asking you to elongate your inner leg or extend from your heart or tilt your gaze down to lengthen the back of the neck?

Yoga teachers develop the art and skill of seeing the body energetically and structurally. Over time, yoga teachers can help you see where the blockage or congestion is in your body, or where energetically you are not connecting, numb, turned off, or simply absent. This is one of the benefits to practicing in group classes or privately with a teacher: someone else is viewing your practice, and can help you see things you might not be able to.

In the last couple of weeks, since I started getting chiropractic treatments at Alive & Well Chiropractic in NYC, the x-ray vision is turning inwards, towards my own body, with the most interesting results.

Most yoga teachers are already aware of their own bodies, just as they are aware of the bodies of others, and our insight grows as we work in different mind-body modalities that deepen and refine our awareness. Through chiropractic, I have learned that the left side of my body is about 100% tighter than the right, as well as which vertebrae have subluxations (distortions of the structural body).

The x-ray vision I normally apply on my students as well as on my own body has become something profound in the last few sessions on my mat. I feel like one of the crew on “Fantastic Voyage.”

I am now able to feel very clearly subtleties I was not able to access before: the two halves of my pelvis and the rotation of each half (is the illium tilting forward or back?); the erector spinae tight around certain thoracic vertebrae, affecting rotation of the spine; even the space between my sacrum and illium (sacroilliac, or SI joint) and the quality of that space. This new x-ray vision is very handy when it comes to feeling the state of my inner body and helping myself find balance in my spine and all the limbs which radiate off of it.

When I’m practicing with this x-ray vision, my asana practice is unconventional. I almost never do standing poses, preferring supine or seated poses, and even the movement is minimal to get into these shapes. The shape is the container in which we explore. The shape (the asana) is not the goal; the asana is the vehicle. Or to not mix metaphors, asana is not the goal, asana is the football we carry down the field on the way to the goal (health, vitality, and self-realization). The football is our body, a leather sack. Don’t be attached to the leather sack, it won’t be with you in the next lifetime anyway!

This increase in my ability to see through the leather sack into the skeletal, energetic, and even emotional patterns that govern the structure of our bodies is something that helps me offer more to students in their own practice. Adjustments from skilled teachers are often an “a-ha!” moment, where suddenly you feel the energetic and structural essence of a pose in a way you  never did before. Exceptional adjustments from exceptional teachers are transformational, truly “before and after” in the way your mind and body approach a particular pose.

X-ray vision is a healing (and diagnostic) ability native to all human beings. It’s just most of us are so far away from ourselves. Yoga and other mind-body modalities can help us reconnect to this intuitive healing gift.

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