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
Guest post by Melissa Felsenstein
Many of us have noticed an increased level of ambient stress in our lives whether it be personal or environmental. As the holidays approach this stress is coupled by a busy schedule and family obligations. While we may sleep, we rarely take time to fully rest. Our minds are buzzing with to-do lists and we awake not feeling restored, we wake up feeling tired.
Restorative yoga is the perfect antidote to our frantic pace and busy lifestyle and through quiet, fully supported, long floor poses re-trains the nervous system how to relax again. By its very nature, the restorative yoga practice is the antithesis of the “no-pain-no-gain” mentality. We receive the greatest benefits from our practice not through forcing ourself into a pose, but by releasing and surrendering to it. This mentality helps to cultivate acceptance of your body and its inherent limitations. Further, it strengthens your ability to let go of preconceived notions of your body and how you think it should look or feel, both in and out of a pose.
I personally used restorative yoga to reduce severe anxiety during a hard period of my life when a family member fell mentally ill and as a result my body began to suffer the results of accumulated chronic stress: TMJ, migraines, neck tension, digestive issues, insomnia, etc. Restorative yoga is designed to nurture the parasympathetic or "rest and digest" nervous system though long holds, darkness, quiet music, and a self-connection and became my saving grace as my health depleted. Through restorative yoga and sound therapy, my nervous system rebalanced, the ambient stress was reduced, my health restored, and my ability to self-connect and self-nurture deepened which inspired trust and a new ability to surrender to a situation beyond my control.
Restorative Yoga benefits:
OUR WEEKLY RESTORATIVE CLASSES:
Restorative Yoga & Sound Meditation with Melissa
Wednesdays 6:00-7:30 p.m.
Restorative Yoga for Stress Relief with Nicole Matthiesen
Sundays 7:00-8:15 p.m. (no class on 12/31/2017)
How Ayurveda Changed My Life
by Nicole Becker
25 Years ago I was suffering from chronic sinus infections, chronic digestive problems and systemic candida overgrowth. Western medicine overdosed me on antibiotics and didn't have any answers for me so I started learning everything I could about natural alternatives to heal myself. I dove deep into Western herbology, Traditional Chinese Medicine, and Ayurveda (traditional Indian Medicine) for solutions. Long story short I was able to heal myself completely from all my ailments, and one of the most powerfully healing practices that I first incorporated into my life and gave me the best results, was a simple morning ritual from Ayurveda: Hot lemon water first thing in the morning.
You may have come across this health tip out there in the interwebs... first thing in the morning, before any other food or drink, squeeze half a lemon into a cup of piping hot water and drink up! This practice is great to stimulate the digestive fire or "agni" which improves digestion and, most importantly... elimination (if you catch my drift).
Many popular health trends out there these days are actually time-tested Ayurvedic secrets. The whole turmeric craze for anti-inflammation? Ayurveda. The whole coconut oil scene? Ayurveda (restrictions apply!).
Ayurveda means "the science of life". It is the companion science of Yoga, and looks at each person as a unique make up of 3 basic doshas (constitutions) that each have their specific tendencies, strengths, weaknesses, proclivities, etc.
You know how your body might run hot - you love to have the windows open at night but your partner runs cold and can never have enough blankets or wants the heater on all night? This boils down to a difference of doshas. The person who runs hot is going to also have different dietary, lifestyle and personality needs/preferences than the colder person.
Understanding Ayurveda, so many things finally make sense about my body, my mind, my tendencies, what I gravitate to in my life, what I avoid. I feel so much more compassionate towards myself and others. I also feel empowered with simple strategies to know how to balance any imbalances as they inevitably arise. It helps me to avoid getting pulled into the trap of the latest health trends and instead know what would be beneficial to my personal constitution.
You can learn the basics of Ayurveda and find immediate empowerment in our upcoming: Ayurveda Basics Workshop with Eugenia Park on Saturday, October 7, 2017 from 2-5 p.m. Sign up by Oct. 1st and receive a $15 early bird discount! ($45 by Oct. 1, $60 thereafter)
A Surprising way to release tension... the way (other) animals do!
by Nicole Becker
Stress, tension, and even trauma are nothing new to living a life in an mortal body. Scientific researchers of all stripes have long been interested in the mechanisms involved in how creatures respond to, process and recover from stressful experiences.
As we all know, even though a particular stressor and/or stressful situation is over, our body can cling to the associated tension and fear, even mild over-alertness, long after the event. Our body tends to remember and store tension and trauma in order to be able to better predict and prevent threats to it's survival.
Animal researchers have observed (and you may have too in your pets) that shortly after experiencing a threatening situation, like being chased by a predator, that the prey animal will shiver/shudder for a few seconds/minutes. You may have experienced this yourself if you've ever been in shock and found yourself shivering even if you weren't cold. What's happening here is a very interesting primal version of "shake it off". The nervous system produces a "tremor" or "shiver" which is a rapid tense/release of large muscle groups. This is not just a symptom of shock, but a way for the body to release the muscle tension that was evoked during the stress and to reset back to neutral.
This natural recovery process from "fight or flight" mode has been harnessed and is being taught all over the world to everyone from survivors of war to everyday folks with normal everyday stresses. TRE: Tension/Trauma Relieving Exercises take you through a simple series of 6 standing poses similar to yoga postures that engage the large leg muscles. Afterwards, you rest on the floor in a comfortable but specific position that evokes this gentle "tremor" or "shiver" response in the legs (and sometimes other parts of the body). The first time I did it I was so surprised by the feeling - which was pleasant - of this sort of involuntary tremble of my limbs. It feels in a way like a percussive massage but it's happening from the inside out. At one point I was laughing because it was such an odd sensation. Resting afterward, I felt a little teary for no apparent reason other than I could feel the sweet catharsis of having moved some unknown tension out of my body and the subsequent lightness and freedom was poignant.
Join our upcoming 4-WEEK TRE Series on Wednesday evenings from 6:30-8:00 p.m.
from January 9-30, 2019 with certified TRE provider, Ashley Brown.
Click here for details
Author, Nicole Becker
Yoga Therapist, Retreat Leader, and Heart of Yoga Teacher, Nicole Becker offers yoga and self-care insights and tips.