by Nicole Becker
Stop thinking and feeling?
This is not exactly the advice you usually get.
This is definitely not what any good therapist would tell you.
Or anyone in the healing professions, for that matter.
Therapists and healers of every stripe encourage us to examine, inquire, think and feel deeply. Many of us have spent countless time and money to uncover all the deepest roots of our psyche and shadow in order to bring our unhealthy patterns to light and finally resolve them.
This is good an important work, BUT
There is a lot more to you (and your mental well being!)
than your thoughts, emotions and stories.
In Yoga we recognize 5 layers of our being (koshas) that require tending:
To tend the body we do our physical practice
To tend the breath/life force we do breathing practice
To tend the mental-emotional layer we rest the senses
To tend the wisdom body we practice inner absorption
5) SPIRITUAL HEART/JOY
To tend to the spiritual heart we practice meditation in presence
So what do I mean when I say, "stop thinking and feeling"?
In Yoga, there is no doubt that as we explore the layers of our being that we are examining, experiencing, inquiring, and feeling deeply!
So what do I mean when I say "stop thinking and feeling"?
What I mean is: stop rehashing your problems, stories, traumas, emotional baggage and suffering. Periodically. As a healing practice.
I am not saying ignore them, bypass them, avoid them or never tend to them.
I'm saying that Yoga practice is about connecting to the part of yourself that needs no improvement!
Maybe you noticed that in #3 in the list above, that tending to the mind/emotions did not involve more thinking/feeling! It involves resting the mind and emotions by going inward.
The great Yogis tell us we are already enlightened!
Time and time again across the ages, the great yogis and sages tell us that we are all already enlightened! We just don't recognize it because we are terribly busy with all our suffering.
Yet most of the time our modern solution to suffering is to think about our suffering and try to think ourselves to the bottom of it.
You cannot think yourself into wisdom or enlightenment.
You can only let go. Let go of the past, the future, the labels, the stories... all the concepts.
It is there - in the quiet and pure aliveness of presence - that the wisdom of your deepest self can come forward! The practice of Yoga is a "trust fall" into the nourishing support of the eternal present moment.
It takes practice. But when you stop over-thinking and feeling you will find the wisdom presence right there. In You. As You. Through You. And All Around You.
This is what real Yoga will help you with.
A chance to uncover your pre-existing condition of enlightenment!
For a supportive journey into your natural wisdom, check out the new "Nourishing Ojas" Online Immersion Program
by Nicole Becker, founder/owner
It was the last straw. I realized I had my mission...
In 2004 I completed a year-long intensive Yoga teacher training. I had been studying and practicing Yoga for 10 years already and was participating in Master Classes just for Yoga teachers. In these mastery sessions we practiced all sorts of intense complicated "advanced" postures.
One session, the teacher had us practicing fore-arm balance (scorpion pose/Vrischikasana). I had trouble doing this pose without the support of the wall and I remember my teacher admonishing me that "If you want to be a teacher you have to be able to do this pose away from the wall".
That sentence was the final straw. I thought to myself, "What a load of crap!" I couldn't have disagreed more! I was fortunate to have had a lot of wise teachers and beautiful examples of real Yogis in my life and the assumptions behind that one sentence infuriated me! Right then the dream of my own Yoga studio began. I wanted to create a place where that type of systemic pressure toward superficial achievement of postures was non-existent.
In my teaching experience hardly anyone can safely do "advanced" postures anyway! Besides which, "advanced" postures do not make you a better person! I've met plenty of jerks who can get their leg behind their head! It is depth of presence in any moment that makes for an advanced practice.
Most people are just normal everyday people with busy lives and lots of aches and pains and only 1 or 2 times a week to dedicate to a movement practice. Most people are interested in feeling better in the body but also want to feel connected to their inner wisdom and deeper truths.
But most popular Yoga is taught with the implicit assumption that how you get better at Yoga is by being able to "do the postures" in a specific way and that everything else is just a modification until you "get it right". This - topped with contradictory platitudes of "just be okay with where you are now" plus "practice hard, find your edge, you can get good at it if you try more" - is a violence to our psyche that I cannot get on board with!
So, I created Ojas Yoga Center as a sanctuary for yoga students who are tired of superficial Yoga. At OYC, we teach Yoga that meets you where you're at and nourishes you body, heart, and soul.
OYC is for students who want to feel like they can show up any day, week or month and not have to be "in shape for Yoga" and they will not feel pressured to perform poses in a way that might hurt them.
OYC is for students who have big hearts and big lives that want to be met with depth and authentic practices that enrich their lives.
On October 23rd, it will be 10 years since Ojas Yoga Center first opened it's doors. Although our doors may not be opened in the physical location for some time to come, our virtual doors and our hearts are wide open to you just as you are. We look forward to practicing with you soon!
To our teachers, our teachers' teachers, our inner teacher, each other, and the whole world family - we bow.
With Love + Ojas,
COMING SOON 'NOURISHING OJAS' 8 WEEK ONLINE COURSE
with Nicole Becker
Cultivate vitality and joy with this 8-week healing journey. Find grace through the struggle and build resilience on every level with this rich series of writings, video practices, and journaling. Click here to learn more
by Nicole Becker
The Powerful Healing Tool that gets Overlooked...
No matter the form of your suffering - physical injury, emotional or mental anguish, or spiritual questions, the first thing to try is REST.
Over the years I've worked with thousands of people on a huge spectrum of issues. And the one thing that people consistently overlook is the therapeutic power of rest.
I've had people come to me with frozen shoulders, sciatica, displaced vertebrae, torn knees, headaches, insomnia, depression, grief, you name it. By the time people are exploring Yoga as therapy, they've been to the doctor, the physical therapist, and the psychologist. None of whom suggested or discussed the possibility of just resting.
Why not REST FIRST?
Few think to try rest first because we are convinced that we must DO SOMETHING in order to FIX the problem. Since rest is technically "DOING NOTHING", we overlook or dismiss the idea entirely.
But my own personal experience with my body/life, and results with countless students is that slowing down, stopping, and resting is exactly the SOMETHING that is required.
REST AS FIRST AID
We all know the drill: Rest, Ice, Compress, Elevate. That is certainly great in an acute first aid situation like a sprained ankle. But I'm talking about after that. How thoroughly are you going to rest that ankle before you get back up on it? How soon are you going to be trying to "get back to normal" - potentially sooner than you should because you have to?
I've helped several people heal from shoulder injuries just with the simple suggestion to put the arm in a sling for as much of the day as possible for 2-3 weeks. The healing was profound and much more significant than the weeks and months of physical therapy they had already tried.
DEEP REST for DEEP WELLNESS
But beyond first aid, our issues are much more deeply ingrained. For mental, emotional and spiritual health, we need a whole spectrum of rest from regular sleep to regular breaks from work, and a lifestyle that supports deep, consistent, regularly scheduled, conscious and complete relaxation. That means yes to the nap, yes to the lounging around, yes to saying no to whatever is taxing you, yes to the vacation!
And this of course means:
Yes to Yoga and Meditation!
All of our Ojas Yoga classes are designed to nourish, rather than deplete you. But the absolutely most restful is Restorative Yoga. This class is the antidote to exhaustion, overwhelm, 2020 malaise and great for anyone who needs some extra TLC! Do you know someone like that? Bring a friend! WEDNESDAYS 8-9 PM (recording sent to all registered).
And be sure to check out this new course!
Ojas is the Sanskrit word for the physicalized essence of vitality and resilience.
On October 23rd I will launch my new 8-week Course:
"Nourishing Ojas: Essential Practices for Vitality and Joy".
This self-paced journey is designed to empower you to reclaim, protect and refine your vitality. Click here to get on the list for updates!
by Nicole Becker
(reposted from our community newsletter 6/7/2020
by Nicole Becker
re-posted from our community newsletter from May 31, 2020
We stand with our black siblings...
We at Ojas Yoga Center stand with our black siblings as one world family.
The Yoga philosophy of nonviolence (ahimsa) does not mean inaction.
On the contrary, we are duty-bound as students of Yoga
to protect life and work to dismantle hatred, greed
and violence within ourselves and the world.
Reverend, Doctor Martin Luther King studied the Yogic philosophy
of satyagraha as taught by Mahatma Ghandi.
Satyagraha means "the force of truth".
A true pacifist is not a pushover.
A true Yogi is a heart-driven warrior
for Liberation for All.
The work of our daily spiritual practice is to both soften us and strengthen us.
We practice in order to soften and open our hearts,
which makes them stronger.
We strengthen our reservoir of health and inner peace
so we can go into the world and serve.
by Nicole Becker 2/6/2020
This past Christmas I spent seven days valley hopping through Death Valley National Park. My boyfriend and I drove mile after bumpy off-road mile into the rocky, shrub-and-cactus-dotted wilderness to find that special quiet you can only get when you are far away from cities, people, wifi and cell phone service.
Each day we explored a new valley or canyon. Around every bend and turn we gasped with delight and surprise at the beauty and immensity of the wilderness. The simplicity of our short winter days and long winter nights were book-ended with frosty mornings and fireside nights. All we did was cook, drive, get our minds boggled with beauty, cook, sleep and do it all again!
The vastness of the desert is matched by a vast stillness and silence that felt like vitamins for my nervous system. It was like super-food for my soul. Usually when I am out in nature I take time to make some type of prayer or offering. But out there in the expanse of it all I completely forgot. At first I thought, 'Oh my gosh, I had better make an offering!'. But when I checked in with myself what I realized was that my rapture and awe was the offering. When I inquired even further into the experience, the answer that I received was that nothing extra was needed in this moment. The sheer power of being present to the expansive natural wonder was totally complete in and of itself. And so was I. Sometimes we think we need to add to something to make an experience more memorable or sacred or special. But what I noticed was that it was the utter simplicity that made it completely sacred. Just pure being. Nothing added.
Could you use an inner peace plan?
Yoga & Sacred Silence Retreat - Northern California
with Nicole Becker June 2020
by Nicole Becker
With the best of intentions we see the new calendar year as a fresh start. Fresh off the tread mill of the holidays we embrace the momentum and make our lists of healthy habits and personal goals. And then, statistically, 3-6 weeks later, we crash and burn.
It's not your fault! There are many reasons resolutions "fail". From the point of view of the Yoga/Ayurveda tradition, the main reason is that January is a terrible time of year to try to start anything new. A least a terrible time to start something "big". Mid-winter is best used as a time of hibernation, incubation, repairing, planning, and dreaming ahead. It's not that we can't take on new tasks - it's just that we must be sparing and judicious with our energy still. If we take on too much we are likely to lose steam quickly.
A healthy and holistic yoga practice will support your energy levels during all seasons and help you meet your other commitments and goals with clarity and kindness! Even one class a week goes a long way to balancing your nervous system.
Check out our newest membership options!
TIPS FOR HOME PRACTICE: Take one practice or posture from class each week and try it each day (or every other day) at home to support yourself between group classes. A small 5 minute home practice goes a long way!
PERSONALIZED YOGA: Or consider signing up for a private yoga session with Ojas founder and yoga therapist, Nicole Becker to get custom-tailored movement and inner tools that transfer to every aspect of your life.
by Nicole Anami Becker
In our hyper-speed world, compressed down to soundbites; conditioned to be impatient; falling prey to the false urgency of #thenextthingonthelist, the ritual art of endings (and beginnings) is something from fairy tales.
Once upon a time we took the time to appreciate and mark sacred the endings and beginnings. Once upon a time we absorbed the timeless wisdom of watching life bloom, grow, mature, die, decompose and renew again.
Once upon a time we ended our days with thanks or prayer and ended our seasons with ceremony. We understood the catharsis of grief and did not hide from death as we do now - neurotically avoiding and sanitizing old age and death.
Once upon a time we began things in a good way, invoking the companionship of seen and unseen forces. We knew the value of setting up a deliberate container for a rite of passage. We knew the evocative power of imbuing meaning and establishing purpose.
Without the punctuation of sacred endings and beginnings, life is like a run-on sentence. It loses direction, lacks meaning, becomes tiresome. Without direction we become impulsive. Without meaning we become apathetic. Without pause, we become irritated.
Check your day for the holy bookends of beginnings and endings. How do you say hello? How do start a meal? How do you leave your house? How do you enter a place? How to you greet a challenge? How do you grieve a lost love?
In Yoga and all of our timeless wisdom traditions, we have been given instructions for every scale of experience. Whether through a simple bow or a remembered exhale; whether through a village-wide ceremony or an "Om Shanti" at the end of personal practice.
On one of these long, dark winter nights... don't turn on electric lights after dark. Pretend the power is out! Turn off your phone and your computer. Fill the house will candles or light the fireplace! Read or take a bath by candlelight. Fall asleep early like when you are camping! Let your worries go in the fire. Awake and go outside to take a fresh breath and appreciate the ground under your feet. Give thanks to whomever or whatever you credit with your ongoing breath.
And if you wish, we welcome you to one of these events with our esteemed wisdom keepers and professional ceremonialists.
Solstice Soundbath and Soul Journey
with Dawn Constantine
Friday, December 20 | 7-9 pm
New Year's Eve Eve: Restorative Yoga & New Year's Blessing Ritual
with Nicole Becker
Monday, December 30 | 7-9 pm
And they lived happily ever after.
guest post by Adrienne Shamszad
In the mornings I like to stay in bed for several minutes after I wake up, spending time to get my soul dressed for the day. I wrap myself up in beautiful garments of prayer, acknowledgments and intentions. I drape my spirit in a dazzling array of colors patterns and fabrics until I feel as radiant as the stars that watched over me through the night. Then I put my feet to the floor and start my day in the world.
It doesn’t take very long to dress my soul, it can happen in a few seconds, but I like to luxuriate in the process in the morning. On the days that I don’t take the time, I have a distinct feeling of being under-dressed throughout the day. “Is my bra showing?!” “Are my shoelaces untied?!” Then I remember, “I forgot to get dressed!” So then I pause what I’m doing and take a moment to dress my soul. In that brief instant, I remember who I am and why I am here. I rinse off my worries in the bubble bath of my heart and put a new outfit on!
Meher Baba called this practice “Sahaj Dhyan” meaning “natural meditation.” He said that remembering our essence can happen in the midst of our lives, at work, in the car, with our kids, wherever, whenever, we can stop for a second and dress our soul with “God” or Love or the higher self. Just the act of trying to decide what that even means will bring our awareness on our breath and our inner beauty.
The yoga classes I offer at Ojas are a 90 minute version of this practice. The postures, sequences and chants we embody and vocalize are like different costumes that sparkle your senses and your sense of self. I call the classes “Sacred Flow” because Yoga is a sacred practice that is made more sacred by our intention. It is a practice that continually teaches me new levels of acceptance of my body, it helps me make peace with being IN a body in the first place and it is a path that enables me to make my body into a prayer. It is my intention to help you open the door to this possibility so that you may also feel the natural sacredness of your life and of your body.
Come sing, stretch and maybe sweat a little with me and let your Sacred, Flow.
Join Adrienne every week for Sacred Flow
Mondays 9:30-11:00 a.m.
Thursdays 6:30-8:00 p.m.
And join her for a special Thanksgiving morning practice: Thursday, November 28, 2019 | 9:00-10:30 a.m. ~ drop in or use your pass/membership!
by Nicole Becker, founder/director Ojas Yoga Center
Ojas Yoga Center took it's first breath on October, 23, 2009. Since then we have been become a beloved sanctuary, offering true opportunities for self-acceptance, expansion of awareness, healing of our conditioned separateness, and a counterpoint to the pop-yoga craze.
As I reflect on my personal mission for the coming year, my intention is to emphasize that a true yoga practice is not about "being peaceful" or "happy" all the time as if when we inevitably lose the "post yoga bliss" that we are somehow failing spiritually. It is my experience that peacefulness with all conditions and experiences is not about a bland homogeneous countenance in the face of any circumstance but rather a "being at peace with" whatever is moving through us or around us at the moment, be it anger, joy, grief... I am interested in teaching about accepting our human-ness.
As I look to the mission for Ojas this coming year, my intention is to emphasize our mission of "helping the helpers". The rich community of students at Ojas is comprised of so many people who are deeply committed to their service roles in our larger community. We have sooooo many school teachers, medical providers (nurses, acupuncturists, massage therapists), artists, community leaders, people who run or work for non-profit organizations, people who are caring for children and/or aging parents, people who are very active in organizing for social equity, justice and a livable future. At Ojas, we help the helpers. We are honored to give you a place to refuel and care for yourself in a very deep an meaningful way so you can continue with your heartfelt contributions to our world.
Thank you for your love and support in all it's forms. May all beings be free of suffering and the causes of suffering.
In Loving Service,
Author, Nicole Becker
Yoga Therapist, Retreat Leader, and Heart of Yoga Teacher, Nicole Becker offers yoga and self-care insights and tips.