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,
by Nicole Becker
HAVE YOU NOTICED?
Mostly when it comes to our health we are very focused on things at the body level like nutrition, sleep, mental/emotional health. This is all very well and good but according the wise Yoga masters no matter how much we care for the physical, if we do not care for the soul we will never really be well. Not to mention, no matter how well we take care of this body it will eventually pass and we will be only soul again! So, which is most important to care for long term?
HOW TO NOURISH ATMABALA
Practices that address our soul/spirit are the subtle practices like meditation and certain inner visualization practices that help us connect with Wholeness, Oneness and Unity.
Aligning ourselves with the deep and powerful currents of nature, time and timelessness we begin to feel our body/life as an expression of a much bigger intelligence than just our own collection of thoughts.
HEALING IS AT YOUR FINGERTIPS
Every culture has developed it's own methods of connecting with the spirit/soul level of reality. Yoga/Tantra being just one of many valid paths. The method of "Pranic Healing" is a yogic form of energy healing where the practitioner directs healing "prana" (chi or life energy) through their hands towards (but not touching) the body of the recipient. Since we all have life energy we can all learn how to use it to direct healing to ourselves and each other. There are many simple pranic self-healing techniques that can be easily learned and applied.
YOU ARE INVITED
To experience the power of Pranic Healing and Atmabala nourishment, you are invited to join Nicole Becker at the first (of hopefully many!) Atmabala evenings where you will learn and practice pranic self-healing as well as receive healing from Nicole as you rest. She will also guide you in powerful inner visualizations and meditations which she usually reserves just for residential retreats. FRIDAY, OCT. 25, 2019 | 7-9 PM. Space is limited so advance registration is appreciated
Sometimes known as "yogic sleep," Yoga Nidra is a practice of conscious relaxation that counters the swirling busy-ness of everyday life and relieves muscular, mental, and emotional tension.
Practiced in a comfortable reclining position - the practice is most often taught as a guided relaxation practices helping you rotate your attention through your body and the various layers of the body/mind/psyche. This heightens awareness and helps you undo habitual patterns of tension, resistance and judgment.
Often we seek rest and rejuvenation through distraction, but true restoration comes with awareness, in a state between sleep and waking, where the senses get a break and the subtle layers increase receptivity.
Think of Yoga Nidra as the Yogi's "power nap"!
Join one of our expert meditation teachers Monday nights 7:00-8:00 PM for your weekly reset!
by Nicole Anami Becker
Perhaps this is a chicken/egg kind of a question and we could also ask... When does healing end? What do we even mean by the word 'healing'?
The word healing comes from Old English and means "to make whole".
In the Tantric Yoga Philosophy of India, Wholeness is the fundamental reality and we as individuals are expressions of that Wholeness. Yet, most of us do not feel as if we are walking around every day feeling particularly Whole. Often our bodies hurt, our minds suffer, our hearts ache, our responsibilities and concerns fill us with busyness and disconnection.
The full range of Yoga practices (movement, breath, awareness, rest, and meditation, and ritual) give us the means to remember, reconnect and participate with our fundamental wholeness.
We may choose to focus on movement that supports our frozen shoulder or aching back but at some point as we connect to the deepest part of ourselves we realize that it is the connection with our depth that is the real healing. This type of healing outlasts even our shoulder and back.
Connection with wholeness is the healing.
The Meaning of Peace
There once was a King who offered a prize to the artist who would paint the best picture of peace. Many artists tried. The King looked at all the pictures, but there were only two he really liked and he had to choose between them.
One picture was of a calm lake. The lake was a perfect mirror for peaceful towering mountains were all around it. Overhead was a blue sky with fluffy white clouds. All who saw this picture thought that it was a perfect picture of peace.
The other picture had mountains too. But these were rugged and bare. Above was an angry sky from which rain fell, and in which lightening played. Down the side of the mountain tumbled a foaming waterfall. This did not look peaceful at all. But when the King looked, he saw behind the waterfall a tiny bush growing in a crack in the rock. In the bush a mother bird had built her nest. There, in the midst of the rush of angry water, sat the mother bird on her nest ........... perfect peace.
Which picture do you think won the prize?
The King chose the second picture. Do you know why?
"Because," explained the King, "peace does not mean to be in a place where there is no noise, trouble, or hard work. Peace means to be in the midst of all those things and still be calm in your heart. That is the real meaning of peace."
- courtesy of Katherine Rowland
Commentary by Nicole Becker:
Ojas Yoga Center is dedicated as a Place of Peace. Nestled in an unsuspecting place on the second floor of a busy shopping center, our beautiful, clean, quiet and sacred sanctuary awaits all who seek a place to rest into themselves. There is no other studio like it in the east bay... it is an unpretentious temple of calm; an unmarked and no-dogma church of kindness.
The majority of yoga studios are just like the outside world: noisy, busy and superficial. Most yoga classes encourage ego while paying lip service to the soul. Most people care only for a cheap and efficient workout in pursuit of the vanishing goal-post of control over the body.
Ojas Yoga Center is a rare gem and welcome respite for holistic people who value a meticulous container for the inner journey and who crave depth and integrity in all aspects of their lives from their movement practice to their relationships. Our teachers and staff are dedicated to supporting your personal path to deep wellness.
reprinted from http://kubik.org/lighter/peace.htm
guest post by Ojas teacher, James Ryder
This triplet of yoga, writing and meditation, while distinct in ways, I see as three notes perceived by the listening body. It’s the common ground that most concerns me here. Hatha yoga at its core offers the yogin “templates of discernment,” as one teacher I currently study with says so eloquently. In the sweep of practice, we contact recurring opportunities, some conscious, some less so, to choose thoughts and actions that are wholesome for ourselves, and for others. You might suspect that when I say “practice,” I am referring to our daily lives, relationships and the invitations we extend to the world. Ultimately, there is nothing outside of practice. That could well frighten you (it does me) or, even better, it may wake you up.
Meditation begins in developing the capacity to gather the attention and steady it where desired. In 2000, I undertook the hero’s journey of an S.N. Goenka retreat: nine and a half days of silence, no eye contact and long days of sitting, receiving instruction and chanting. This was my introduction to Vipassana, or Insight meditation. It was difficult, and a remarkable threshold, akin to many things I now value. While hatha yoga clears and tempers the body, meditation can cast light on the patterns of thinking. The training is to watch the movements of mind with a kind, caring attention and, ultimately, without identification. Finding a margin between habituated thoughts and reactions, we step closer to the possibility of choice. The training calls for us to stay, even when the territory is difficult.
People write for all sorts of reasons. I intend to publish my first book of poetry a year after I graduate (stay tuned!). Part of what’s remarkable about writing is its versatility. Though your intention may not be to be read by others, writing does not surrender its power of recollection and insight; words are always a palette we can call on to dream. There is a natural synthesis generated among writing and meditation and yoga. In each discipline, we are learning to listen; learning to recognize and discard the non-essential; and perhaps most promising, learning to hear the song of our heart’s desire, possibly for the first time.
James has been teaching at Ojas for 6 years, offering Strong Hatha Yoga on Friday mornings from 9:30-11:00 a.m. preceded at 9:00 a.m. by a 20 minute Silent Meditation (by donation).
James Michael Ryder is a dedicated student and teacher of hatha yoga and insight meditation. These potent technologies restore us to native embodied wisdom and an undefended heart. Yoga provides excellent tools (awareness practices, postures, extended breath, cleansing, energetic bonds, concentration and meditation) to refine attention, body and breath and, ultimately, the qualities of mind. As we grow steady, even faced with difficulties, we can begin to recognize the filters that obscure clear seeing of self and the world around us. This freedom, then, is the essential fruit of yoga practice. Come find out for yourself! www.jamesryderyoga.com
Author, Nicole Becker
Yoga Therapist, Retreat Leader, and Heart of Yoga Teacher, Nicole Becker offers yoga and self-care insights and tips.