on the wings of angels

“In every community there is work to be done.  In every nation there are wounds to heal.  In every heart there is the power to do it.” — Marianne Williamson

Three women from the domestic violence shelter came to my home shala this week.  They’ve known me from the shelter since 2004.  But I am only there once a month.  They want more, and since the shelter can’t give them more yoga, they came to see me.  I’ve opened my home to them.  I won’t charge them what I usually charge for private yoga, so I tell them to pay me what they can afford.  I don’t care.

They know what real yoga does, what it’s used for.



That’s what they were seeking.

She called me because she wanted relief from her anxiety attacks.  She wants to be able to sleep.  She had been doing well but took a few steps back.  She went to the doctor because she thought she was having a heart attack.  The doctor ran tests and told her she was fine.   She gave her pills and told her to see a psychiatrist.   But she did not want pills or the psychiatrist, she wanted yoga, so she called me.

We talked a long time, she told me her stories, what she has been dealing with.  I understood completely.  Two steps forward, a few steps back.

I told her how so many people live their lives in fear or anger, sometimes both.  We’re mad at the past, afraid of the future, never right here, right now, just this.  Only this.  She understood, she’s heard me before, she just needed to be reminded of Buddha’s teachings on the two arrows of suffering.  I told her to drop the hot coal.

I give what is needed to heal.  I dose intuitively as any good medicine woman does.  I flow as I am directed.  No asana needed right now, only a heart opening.  I placed a bolster under her to expand the chest, some blankets under the arms and head and asked her only to breath, to make the exhales longer than the inhales.  When you teach someone a healing pranayama, miracles can happen.  I gave her a visualization.

And then they came.

I am also an energy worker, a clairaudient, very sensitive to energy changes.  My yoga room has an ananda vibe, everyone says so.  She said that sometimes new places make her anxious but she felt safe here.  It’s good to feel safe with someone you know but don’t know.

The windows were open and I heard the wind rise, the wind chimes started to ring furiously.  I felt the change, I heard the swoop, and knew we were surrounded.  She was surrounded.  My voice sounded disembodied and I felt pressure on my arms as if someone was touching me.  When I am do energy work my hands heat up and vibrate, but I wasn’t touching her.

I don’t know how long she was on the bolster, I don’t know how long I spoke about healing the heart.

All I knew was that it was just the two of us again.

After she sat up I asked how she felt and before she said anything I told her, “you were surrounded by angels.”   I surprised myself when I said that, but I knew it as strongly as I know my own name.  I said that the concept of angel guides had never resonated with me until I had some powerful energy work myself and then I believed.  I told her to call them what she wanted…angels, light workers, spirit guides,  it doesn’t matter because those are only labels.

She looked changed, lighter, brighter.  Happy.  She said at one point that even though her eyes were closed she saw a ball of white light surrounding her and the peace she felt was extraordinary.  She said she knew now how to reach that place again.

And then she started to cry.

“Healing is not, after all, the same as curing. Healing does not mean going back to the way things were before, but rather of allowing what is now to move us closer to God.” — Ram Dass

“Transformation in Yoga Philosophy” – a lecture by Kausthub Desikachar, 3/7/12


This is the first of four posts on lectures given by Kausthub Desikachar and A.G. Mohan during my two trainings in India during February and March.  I will say, yet again, that I have been blessed beyond belief to have been introduced into the Krishnamacharya lineage as early as I was in my teaching career.  Even after 10 years of teaching, these last two trainings confirmed (again) how vast yoga is, that no matter how many people I have studied with, there is always so much more to learn.  I will never call myself an expert.  It is an honor and a responsibility to be a representative of this lineage.  I hope I can always convey as authentically as possible what I have learned via my trainings in this tradition.

For those who don’t know, Kausthub is the son of T.K.V.  Desikachar, who is the son of Krishnamacharya, the grandfather of modern yoga.


Transformation begins with a serious practice of yoga.  Throughout the lecture Kausthub emphasized a serious practice of yoga — yoga beyond asana, yoga that is more than skin deep.  He said that according to some ancient texts there are four stages of transformation, other texts talk about 7 stages.   In his lecture he dealt with the Upanisads and the Hatha Yoga Pradipika that talk about our personal transformation having four stages.

It is Kausthub’s belief that not even 5% of people practicing yoga today are in the first stage of transformation, i.e , the state where prana begins to move fluidly in the body (prana being the life force, not merely the breath as is frequently taught in modern yoga.)   He said that most yoga practitioners don’t know what prana really is because they only know asana.  This knowledge of prana does not come from a casual yoga practice; it does not come from a practice that is only about the physical.  Transformation begins when your yoga transcends the body.

The first stage of transformation is when prana flows smoothly throughout the body.  Our perception become very sensitive.  Patanjali speaks to this in YS 3.36.  Our senses change, everything heightens, our sensations are beyond memory and all these happenings really can’t be explained in tangible terms.

At this stage it is very common for people to stop their yoga practice because their entity is so different now, it is discomforting, it is out of the norm.  Our perceptions are altered on a deeper level and this changes our relationships with people, with partners, and sometimes people want to change jobs.  However, Kausthub said that this is not the time to make dramatic decisions.

At the second stage of transformation, there is an identity crisis.  We start feeling like crap.  Our internal drums are beating and there is a loud noise inside us that disturbs our structural foundation, the way we have been accustomed to for so many years.  Our mental patterns are challlenged, our outlook changes, but again, try to make no changes….yet.

This is another stage where people leave their practice, we want to continue but we can’t because things are even more discomforting.  This is the time to especially sustain the practice.  Kausthub said that it is at the end of this second stage that collapse often happens and depression can set in.  The ancient yogis said LET IT COLLAPSE.  Just as an old building starts to collapse, no matter how much you try to prop it up, it’s not the same.  Let it collapse and then build a new foundation for a new building.  This is progress.

The third stage is when new patterns start to manifest, the new structures are built.  Let whatever is new come up slowly, don’t grasp.  It is only by not grasping do these patterns sustain themselves.

The fourth stage is freedom, not bound by any patterns, but this is a stage that few people reach.  It is difficult in modern times because we are still attached to so many things.

There was a different teacher-student role in every stage of transformation.  That is the way it was in the olden days as my teacher Ramaswami calls the ancient times which is very different from now.   In the olden days, yoga was taught one-on-one, teachers did not teach to 300 at a yoga conference.  There was absolute trust between teacher and student and the teacher was the platform of support for the student when the student’s structure was changing.

Kausthub believes that model is seriously lacking in modern yoga.  Back in the day this teacher-student model was taken for granted but nowadays it is not consistent because there are too many styles of yoga and many of the giants of yoga who could lead people in these transformations are now dead.  As for yoga teachers nowadays, Kausthub said that if anyone tells you something is absolute, like “this pose will always help X”, “this pose will cure X”, “X pranayama will change this”, know that it’s bullshit because nothing is absolute.  Every mind, every body, every day is different.

  The tools of yoga (asana, pranayama, meditation) don’t have power on their own; their power comes from the way they are practiced.  He gave an example of child’s pose:  it’s called child’s pose because it’s so easy a child can do.  Do it over and over without any emphasis on the breath or mental awareness and it’s just movement.  But taking 15 seconds to do it with emphasis on the breath and mental awareness has power because you are releasing your prana in a totally different way.

Don’t evaluate your yoga by your level of flexibility or your ability to get into a pretzel pose — only evaluate your yoga by the transformative effect it has on you.  When someone asked Kausthub “how do I find a teacher like you are talking about?”, he said “instead of looking for a teacher, ask if YOU are ready to be a student.  Seek to be a student first, then you will you find your teacher.”

Referencing current problems in modern  yoga, Kausthub said the main problem, in his opinion, is that anyone can be a yoga teacher nowadays.  Everyone wants to be a teacher but there is no accountability.  Of course training is important, but being a good teacher is not about how much you know but is about your transformation.  A serious question to ask is:  if someone is going through these stages of transformation, and their teacher just graduated from a 200 hour training, how in the world can a newbie teacher cope with the questions that student will ask if the teacher herself has not experienced those stages yet?  In the olden days, a teacher always needed their own teacher before they could call themselves an ACHARYA, and that practice no longer exists in modern yoga.  Because anyone can call themselves anything nowadays!  Look for a teacher who has a current relationship with a teacher, but focus on the teachings, not the teacher.  Kausthub said his father and grandfather were not perfect men, they were not perfect teachers, but they had a passion for the teachings.  That is what makes a great teacher.  Freedom is not about being perfect, it’s about making friends with your imperfections.

Making a veiled reference to Friendgate, Kausthub said this is not the first time yoga has faced difficulties.  If the spiritual teachings are valid, yoga will sustain; if yoga is merely a fashion, it will not sustain.   The teachings are much larger than any crisis modern yoga is currently experiencing.

because yoga cooks us

Chickpea to Cook
~Jalaluddin Rumi
(translated by Coleman Barks)

A chickpea leaps almost over the rim of the pot
where it’s being boiled.

“Why are you doing this to me?”

The cook knocks him down with the ladle.

“Don’t you try to jump out.
You think I’m torturing you.
I’m giving you flavor,
so you can mix with spices and rice
and be the lovely vitality of a human being.

“Remember when you drank rain in the garden.
That was for this.”

Grace first. Sexual pleasure,
then a boiling new life begins,
and the Friend has something good to eat.

Eventually the chickpea
will say to the cook,
“Boil me some more.
Hit me with the skimming spoon.
I can’t do this by myself.

“I’m like an elephant that dreams of gardens
back in Hindustan and doesn’t pay attention
to his driver. You’re my cook, my driver,
my way into existence. I love your cooking.”

The cook says,
“I was once like you,
fresh from the ground. Then I boiled in time,
and boiled in the body, two fierce boilings.

“My animal soul grew powerful.
I controlled it with practices,
and boiled some more, and boiled
once beyond that,
and became your teacher.”

atha, yoga, anusasanam

change is good

It was high time for a change and the original blog designer was nowhere to be found.

Thanks to Blisschick I learned that Blogger had new templates (where have I been?), and Svasti offered her design expertise. Eventually I figured it all out.

Yes, some of the words are a bit hard to read when they are on top of a bird image, but that is my way of focusing your awareness and concentration. Mindful reading. Frankly I find it much easier to read than blogs with black or very dark backgrounds with small light fonts — they make my eyes cross so I never read them.

Ever since my trip in general and my jump into the Ganges specifically, I have felt things rumbling and tumbling. This new look represents that. Flying birds have always represented freedom to me so they represent my flying to India and flying on my dharmic path. The butterfly in the title represents transformation, all that marinating and cooking. The eyes represent strong purpose.

I surprised myself that I liked all the white space because I love crazy, wild colors, the colors of India. My toenails are always painted hot pink or bright orange. A new me, a new look.

I have felt a need to move away from previous teachings and explore new ones on my next trip to India. I want to apply for the 2011 yoga therapy course at Yoga Vidya Dham. I want to return to the ashram in Haridwar and just BE, soaking everything up like a sponge.

My gut is telling me not to return to teaching in the college in the fall. This semester my friend took over the class for me and the seeds of not wanting to return to it were planted in India. Sometimes when a yoga teacher wants to quit it’s not where or what they teach it’s who they teach to. I feel like I’ve done my time with these kids, it’s time to move on for ME.

I started teaching a new class in a great space on my terms and I’ve caught myself wondering “but what about next year when I want to travel?”, but the next thought is an equal willingness to give everything up, no attachment. Somehow it is a deep knowing that everything happens when it is supposed to happen and I should be open to it, whatever IT is.

No attachments.

I would rather fail at the right things than succeed at things that are not right for me.

Practice-breath-practice-breath and all things are forthcoming.

old beliefs must die for new truths to be revealed

SAMVEGA: Yoga Sutra-s 1.21
“a sense of urgency or immediacy to the will to awaken”

“Know who you really are or you are lost.”
–Bhagavad Gita


considering the transformative experience I had in my training….interesting.

You are The Tower

Ambition, fighting, war, courage. Destruction, danger, fall, ruin.

The Tower represents war, destruction, but also spiritual renewal. Plans are disrupted. Your views and ideas will change as a result.

The Tower is a card about war, a war between the structures of lies and the lightning flash of truth. The Tower stands for “false concepts and institutions that we take for real.” You have been shaken up; blinded by a shocking revelation. It sometimes takes that to see a truth that one refuses to see. Or to bring down beliefs that are so well constructed. What’s most important to remember is that the tearing down of this structure, however painful, makes room for something new to be built.

What Tarot Card are You?
Take the Test to Find Out.

“be who you are and say what you feel, because those who matter don’t mind and those who mind don’t matter.”
–Dr. Seuss

(now who else do you know would quote Patanjali, the Gita, and Dr. Seuss all at the same time?)

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yoga healing, yoga journey

When one goes through a transformative experience, whatever it is, I believe that the shadows of our lives come forward like hungry children staring through a restaurant window, waiting to be acknowledged and given sustenance. I believe these hidden but never forgotten experiences are what cook us, and we can choose to allow them to either teach us or kill us. I will not say yet which yoga therapy training I did (maybe some of you can figure it out) because it is still cooking me, but in all my years of yoga, it was by far the most potent, profound, and transformative experience I’ve had, even compared to my India training, and this was only Level 1.

It confirmed and validated for me what I already knew, but maybe don’t listen to as much as I should: that I am not “just a yoga teacher”, but am a teacher of the dharma and holistic science. I feel like I’ve been energized, that my intuition and energy (my kundalini) has risen exponentially. all day yesterday it felt like there was a little energy engine inside me that was going full blast — I had a vision of a cartoon engine held together with spit and baling wire, pumping pumping pumping almost to the point of exploding, the pistons almost popping out of the top.

the training also confirmed what my personal life Path (other than yoga) should be.

For four days we partnered up and worked on each other, learning certain postures, where to place our hands, etc. and the last session on the last day was the icing on the cake for me. my partner sat back and said “you have a true gift.” he told me how when I placed my hands on his heartspace, front and back, my energy felt like an “electric wire” going through him. he said “you’ve probably heard this all before.” I must say that when I’ve heard talk like that before it always made me deny myself, that maybe I did not deserve to hear things like that.

I will never again deny my truth.

I told him yes, that I’ve heard it all before, but that usually with most people it translates to my just being “weird”, not “healing”. for most of my life many people actually can not handle being in close proximity to me (and it’s not because I don’t take a shower! :)) I’ve been told that my energy enters a room first and it takes a secure, strong person not to be intimidated. after she did my natal chart, my own astrologer told me that 10 years ago she would not have been able to have me as a client, my energy would have overwhelmed her, but her own spiritual path has cooked her to her essence. this is why I stopped doing thai yoga massage. the images that the energy in my hands brought to my mind’s eye were too frightening for me, and I had enough of my own demons — but not any more.

This training again confirmed for me that asana is such a small part of yoga, yet here in this culture yoga has become purely asana based. as yoga teachers we come to our classes with a “fixer” mentality, some teachers enjoying how many adjustments they can give their students instead of allowing them to just “be” and to go inward and feel what is going on (I’m referring to the style of yoga I teach, vinyasa.) in this training, we had to let go of the fixer mentality in order to allow the student/client to heal themselves.

The training also reinforced what I already knew: that a meditation practice is an essential component of an asana practice. speaking only for myself, yoga is not yoga without a meditation practice. the teachings in this training were firmly grounded in Buddha’s Four Foundations of Mindfulness. if we can not master our own minds, how can we master anything?

we don’t do yoga — yoga does us.

I truly feel called to continue with this training, but timing is everything. I don’t think I can do Level 2 in early 2009 so I am planning for June….and Shiva/Buddha/Kali willing I will live for two months in an ashram in South India one year from now studying yoga therapy with a swami. I think that also will be icing on the energy cake for me and will add to my yoga therapy toolbox. half of this training class said they were jumping right in to finish their training as soon as possible, but I will wait to let it all digest, because in March-April 2010 I will return to India for the Kumbh Mela, the largest spiritual gathering in the Universe. there is much to be said for the power of place and Ma India is my healer.

It is said that the only difference between us and the ancient sages and yogi rishis is that we have forgotten we are divine, they did not.

I will never again disavow myself.

“In ancient Egyptian mythology and in myths derived from it, the Phoenix is a female mythical sacred firebird with beautiful gold and red plumage. Said to live for 500 or 1461 years (depending on the source), at the end of its life-cycle the phoenix builds itself a nest of cinnamon twigs that it then ignites; both nest and bird burn fiercely and are reduced to ashes, from which a new, young phoenix arises. The new phoenix embalms the ashes of the old phoenix in an egg made of myrrh and deposits it in Heliopolis (“the city of the sun” in Greek), located in Egypt. The bird was also said to regenerate when hurt or wounded by a foe, thus being almost immortal and invincible – a symbol of fire and divinity.”



The Keys to Your Life

Anything good in your life comes from boldly confronting the darkness.
Illusions are dangerous, and you benefit from seeing the world as it truly is.

Anything bad in your life comes from not being true to yourself.
Trust your instincts and follow them. Only you know what’s best.

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