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Journal Post

A survey of opinions on whether yoga is a religion offers a range of answers to suit any predisposition or bias. Passionate, polarized debates on 'what yoga is' surface time and again in books, on websites, and during awkward discussions with family members or friends trying to understand what it is that has drawn their loved one to this mysterious ancient practice. Is it religion masquerading as exercise? Eastern mysticism? A fitness regimen? Applied Hinduistic theism? A sister tradition to Buddhism? Pantheist philosophy? An atheist doctrine bent on sabotaging Christian beliefs?
Maybe it's an inevitable, vital, phase for anyone who first shows curiosity about starting a meditation practice. Reading a slew of books on how to meditate, attending group meditation classes, experimenting with different ways to still the mind, and listening attentively to teachers guide you through this or that technique. It's marvelous to get exposure to different techniques for sliding into the fertile void of clarity-rich silence so that you can learn what works for you.
Shazzam! Fit Yoga magazine's August 2008 issue has an article on cultivating a freeform yoga practice authored by yours truly. Check it out! If nothing else, it has one of the sweetest photos ever of iHanuman teacher Erich Schiffmann.
Nadi Shodhana Pranayama
alternate-nostril-breathing
This profound technique creates a balance between the right and left sides of the brain.
The right nostril governs the sympathetic nervous system; it is related to teh mathematical, aanalytical, active, left side of the brain, harnessing Ha, or sun energy.  The left nostril governs the parasympathetic nervous system, the creative, free-associative, passive side of the brain, ruled by Tha, or moon energy.
Use the heat of your attention to cleanse your consciousness: KRIYA YOGA
Kriya means "action", or "deed"; Kriya practice is the "divine action" of purifying your consciousness.
We are Pure Consciousness. But in the manifest world, as our consciousness mixes with the senses, it is influenced by the limits of those senses. The more the two mix, the more we begin to identify with and believe we are that limited perception of the world.
In Tantric philosophy, the gunas, rajas, tamas, and sattva are  qualities of nature that come about as matter develops. They then go on to influence our entire lives. Each guna can be identified in us as a certain state of being. When one is rajasic, one tends to be activated, judgmental and heated.  When tamasic one tends to be lethargic, depressed, and lacking in self-confidence. When sattvic one becomes balanced, understanding and compassionate.
When we arrived at our first stop in India, the doctor who oversees the Ayurvedic clinic and spa for the Chennai Taj Hotel was most excited to meet us. He was thrilled that I was a Western teacher who knew about things like Ayurvedic assessments, Marma Adi and more. He gave us a lecture on the importance of daily Abhyanga, including a mini-variation of the technique that's easier and more accessible for many of us. I was so taken with it I'm now incorporating it into the grounding practice after daily meditation.
John is featured in the Yoga Journal Asana Column
When it came to the fitness benefits yoga can or can't provide, yoga teacher John Schumacher had heard it all. A student of B. K. S. Iyengar for 20 years and founder of the Unity Woods studios in the Washington, D.C. area, Schumacher was convinced yoga provides a complete fitness regime. But many people, even some of his own students, disagreed. Yoga might be good for flexibility or relaxation, they'd say, but to be truly fit, you had to combine it with an activity like running or weight lifting.
Schumacher just didn't buy it.
I have mentioned before that I lost my mother at an young age. It was a devastating time to lose her, but from my perspective, any time is devastating. In an ideal world, your mother is the one who is there to pick you up when you fall and tell you that everything is going to be all right. She is your biggest fan and she is always looking out for what is best for you. I know this is the ideal and even those of you whose mother is alive and well, did not have this experience. But what if we could turn this around and treat each other with the kindness of the archetypal mother?
In my yoga classes this Winter, we have been practicing poses to restore our Kidney Energy. The Kidneys govern the Winter Water Element and when water is out of balance, it can become stagnant. This leads energetically to feelings of depression. Interestingly, the poses we practice for the kidneys are backbends, which also lift and open the heart. This lifting of the heart, energetically, has the same effect. It places the Heart in its true energetic seat, as the Emperor. The Emperor rules what is in the best and highest good for the Kingdom as a whole. When we act from what is our truest and highest good, we are benefiting ourselves, our families, our communities and our entire world. Imagine that!
It's not too late to start over! Did you rise on January 1, 2012! with the best of intentions and then life just started to take over and you lost some steam? This is just a reminder that you can start your new year over anytime you want! In fact, it may feel more authentic to you to take this time now between the full moon and the upcoming new moon to reset your intentions. This is when the Chinese New Year is celebrated on the first new moon of the year.
It is that time of year again... Time to come back deeply to ourselves. We shed our autumn skin and now is the time to be with what truly is. Winter, the most Yin time of Year, is Dark, Cold, and Emotional. It is also receptive, feminine, and intuitive.Traditionally this is a time for Retreat. Unfortunately, most of us find ourselves torn between gearing up for the holidays and physiologically slowing down. As we move towards the shortest day of the year, we encounter the Water Element of Winter; a time to nourish our deepest essences, gestating for the weeks leading back towards the light; a time of deep contemplation. What will you contemplate this season?
At this solstice time of year, we just wanted to say Thank You! Thank you from the bottom of our hearts for your support over the last 5 years! It has been challenging to navigate the waters of new media and technology, but your support has made it all worth while. We look forward to serving you through another fantastic year in 2012! Please let us know how we can best be of service to you going forward. 
We Are Under the Hood of the NEW iHanuman Website. We have a little more work to do, but we have DEFINITELY been Out and About recording new Yoga Media! This summer we Dreamed and Grew. Now it's Time to Reap, Harvest and Let Go! The Autumn season reminds us that we CANNOT do EVERYTHING and We CAN let go of our own timeline to open to something BIGGER. We need a little more time to unveil our NEW site, but we hope you will PRACTICE PATIENCE with us.
Summer is the Pitta or Fire Season of the Year. The time to fully blossom and express ourselves. The time when everything seems to be happening at once! Those of us who tend to run hot need to slow down and cool off. Others may use this time of year to purify by heating the body up to perspire and cool down.  Luckily the practice of Yoga Asana (poses) and Pranayama (breath awareness) offer us ample practices to chill. 

Credit: Lululemon Athletica Love is in the air this month. And if it's not, we need to ask ourselves, 'Why not?" There have been many a February in my life where I did not have a significant other and often felt lacking and inferior in the days leading up to Valentine's Day. What I discovered is that sense of lack was usually due to missing self love. I had not learned to love myself, so how could I expect to someone else to love me?
GaneshThe Solar New Year has returned again, not only ringing in a new year, but a new decade! It is a time most of us vow to rid ourselves of the excesses of the holidays in favor of resolutions for our highest expression of ourselves.
GhandiAfter a month of gratitude, it is time to answer the question, What Impact can the practice of Yoga have on the World? In the spirit of giving, we have several Complimentary Pieces of audio for you to help answer this question. Our feature this month is a discussion with Senior Iyengar Yoga Teacher, John Schumacher. John tackles the question, " Can Yoga Save the World?"
I had so much fun with my 30 days of gratitude that I am commencing on another project, 90 days of yoga!�Â�  2011 marks the tenth year of my serious studies as a yoga student. And I will take back the seat of the teacher in the Spring of 2011! I finished my teacher training in 2004 and immediately began teaching. It was something I absolutely loved! But then we started iHanuman which took up a tremendous amount of time and energy and I could feel my energy for teaching begin to wane. I also had some personal healing to attend to.
(Meditating with Asha is an ongoing sharing of my experiences sitting with Asha Greer. For an introduction to Asha and previous stories with her, please see Part 1andPart 2of this series.)   Beautiful Mess
If people walk the eight - limbed path of yoga they do not harm, do not steal, nor do they lie. They are more clean and healthy, more moderate, more content. If the reason we walk this planet is to know God then we cannot see ourselves as separate from. When we see ourselves as separate from, it is easier to want more for our own goals, instead of being content with what is. This is a life long practice and why we return again and again to experience it. So to break free of the cycles of suffering, we practice yoga. This also means we study the scriptures or ancient texts and we seek the community of practitioners.
Last night we had dinner with our friend and musician, Alex Schein, who is currently recording in our studio. Alex uses his music to promote peace and raise awareness of international issues. He is a very uplifting individual. Inevitably, however, our dinner conversation turned toward current events and Alex introduced us to the increasingly common practice of fracking. Needless to say, we all became a little depressed. Alex, ever the orator, continued to be upbeat and encouraged us to get our stories out there.
Attitude of GratitudeNovember is Gratitude Month at iHanuman. Our intention is to make gratitude a daily practice, and in an effort to set that practice in motion we are encouraging you to join us by posting something that you are grateful for every day during the month of November.
Two weeks of gratitude and how do I feel? In a word, Grateful. It has had a profound impact on my overall state of mind. It is like when you go to your mat on those weeks where it feels like going to your mat is the only thing going well. You are just so thankful for your practice or the respite from a busy day. My morning page commitment has been like this. It puts me in a good mood immediately because I know I am eventually going to be grateful. I have also been able to use this practice to help some of my friends who are having a difficult day. I recommend focusing on what is good and precious in their lives instead of the impermanent situation in which they have found themselves.
Yesterday morning I spent 3 hours in a backbend workshop with John Schumacher. I already mentioned to John that I have a sacro-iliac injury that was the impetus for me to start my yoga practice back in college. So when things started to heat up, there were several of us that went to the "Lower Back Pain Corner". The only pose we really practiced differently from everyone else was Chatush Padasana. Instead of grasping our ankles or using a strap to reach our ankles, we placed our upper arms on the floor with our fingers up towards the sky, palms facing one another. This practice helped us to keep from over arching in our lower backs.
Today I am thankful for experience because it is rare and somewhat miraculous to be in the presence of a teacher with more than 40 years experience. You always know an experienced teacher because they are not always trying to provide you with the answer. They often want to know, "What is your experience?" Last night with John Schumacher, we worked on fundamental standing poses, because it was the only class in the workshop that was open to all levels of students. But we addressed the standing poses from a completely different perspective.
I am thankful to be attending a yoga workshop today with one of my teachers. He may not exactly know yet that I consider him to be one of my teachers, because I actually do not see him very often and have only taken a few classes with him. But I am blessed to listen to his live classes on iHanuman.
Photo Credit: J. Glide
Leena Patel, Yoga Teacher and Meditation Practitioner from Las Vegas, Nevada submitted this free audio clip last week. Leena has been a seriously playful student and practitioner of yoga, Buddhism, philosophy and meditation since 1992. Listen to an enticing introduction before beginning your meditation practice. [audio:http://www.ihanuman.com/media/audio/Leena_Patel_The_3_Steps.mp3]
, we were taught how to lead a ceremony. This particular ceremony's intention was to let go of grief from this past year; this could be the loss of a loved one, a job, or anything else which you chose to let go. Three days later on the autumnal equinox our cat died and I found myself holding ceremony for 24 hours which concluded with a full moon circle.
The first attempt at an English translation of Patanjali's Yoga Sutra ("Threads of Yoga") was made by James Robert Ballantyne (1813-1864), a Scottish Orientalist and linguist. From 1846 to 1861 he was the principal of the prestigious Sanskrit College in Benares, established in 1791 by the British East India Company. Ballantyne, an adherent of a movement known as the Scottish Enlightenment (which also claimed as members poet Robert Burns, novelist Walter Scott, philosopher David Hume, and inventor James Watt), was also a prolific translator and writer.
For the past seven months, I have been taking a course with Sacred Plant Traditions. Every month we focus on a different system of the body and relate it the Chinese Medical Philosophy of the 5 elements. This week we enter Autumn and in the Chinese Tradition, this is the season of the Metal Element. The metal element rules the lungs and large intestine. This is one of the reasons why it is beneficial to cleanse during the fall season of the year. It is the time to release that which no longer serves us.
In my last post I wrote about the necessity of intentionally and consistently surrounding yourself with people and activities that feed your Spirit. Over the next couple months I'd like to share with you some short vignettes from something that I do personally that continues to nourish, challenge and inspire me: Meditating with Asha.
About 15 years ago, I became interested in Yoga and Astrology. Not in relation to each other, but it was about that time that my Virgo Sun progressed into Libra. What does this mean? Most people know astrology through their sun sign, ie in what constellation the sun was at the time of your birth. Your sun sign is how you shine in the world. It is how others see you. So I spent the first 20 years of my life as a Virgo. Virgos tend to be well-grounded as Virgo is an Earth sign. Virgo is the sign of service and humanitarian pursuits. Virgos also tend to be very health-conscious. Virgo rules the small intestine and the digestive system, so this is where trouble can set in when we are out of balance.
Typically when eliminating or cutting down on foods from your diet, cleansing will help get you to your ideal weight. Whether this is your intention or not, this is generally what occurs. After almost two weeks of cleansing, I noticed ( and so have others ) that I have become lighter. This can be attributed to being more careful about the amount of food as well as the type of food in the diet. In my cleanse, I have eliminated wheat, soy and dairy. These foods are "damp" in the Chinese Medical Philosophy. They are Kapha as described in the Indian Ayurvedic Philosophy, meaning they are heavy, cold and wet.
I used to feel uncomfortable expressing any acknowledgment of my monthly menstrual cycle to anyone but myself. I know I am not alone in this. Not only do people get squeamish at the thought of blood, but the idea of it coming from "Down There! Good Heavens!" And on top of that we are taught by society to ignore that which makes us part of the Feminine Divine Creative Essence of the Universe. There is immense power in this so we are not encouraged to access it or own it.
The second day of Judith's workshop was equally as informative as the first. The sutra study for the workshop was from Pada II v.16, "Heyam dukham anagatam" or "The suffering that is to come is to be avoided." It is a fascinating concept because everything we do in life is to put our anxiety at rest. We constantly try to control our circumstances to appease our anxiety and avoid suffering.
On day 8 of my cleanse, I was blessed to attend one of two days of a workshop with Judith Hanson Lasater, author of several books including, Relax and Renew: Restful Yoga for Stressful Times,Living Your Yoga: Finding the Spiritual in Everyday Life, and her most recent book which I am dying to read, What We
As much as we all hate to admit it, summer has wound down. However, as I mentioned last month, the late summer season into Fall are my favorite seasons. I say seasons because Ayurveda, the science of Life or sister science to Yoga, claims there are six seasons. The additional seasons are the late summer/early fall and the late winter/early spring.
If you need some inspiration to reinvigorate your daily yoga practice, September is a great month to start.
Seniors age 65 and older represent the fastest-growing sector of the population and, like many Americans, are increasingly drawn to yoga. This presents both an extraordinary opportunity and a serious challenge for yoga instructors who must be both a resource and guardians of safety for this uniquely vulnerable group. A typical class of seniors is likely to represent the most diverse mix of abilities of any age group. While some may be exceedingly healthy, most fit the profile of the average older adult in America, 80% of whom have at least one chronic health condition and 50% of whom have at least two.
AHHH August! August brings the beginning of my favorite season of the year. The summer months are too hot and the winter months are too cold, but the end of summer and early fall are just right. My emotions are more balanced, my physical body feels more comfortable and everything just seems to flow more easily. Being out of balance can be very uncomfortable and unsettling. There are seasons of the year, cycles of the moon, transits in the sky and just periods in our lives that can bring us slightly out of balance. Two of these periods of life are Adolescence and Menopause.
John SchumacherHappy Summer Solstice! Just as we asked you to invoke the goddess last month, the longest day of year begs us to inspire the fire inside that is masculine energy. Yang energy is strong, aggressive and passionate. It is the fiery energy of summer. Spiritually, we can practice tapas or discipline, austerity and consistency. Burn your internal fire to overcome difficulties and purify yourself to cleanse the toxins and feel your personal best level of health and vitality.
I don't typically write reviews for these letters-in fact I've never written one here before-but I have a new book hot off the press that needs and deserves all the hype it can get. Last Fall I was fortunate enough to be invited to a yoga conference at Cavallo Point, just on the Marin side of the Golden Gate Bridge, a beautiful spot (with a great restaurant) if you're ever looking for a retreat location. The gathering was billed as "An Opportunity to Consider an Authentic Voice for Yoga Today" three days of talks on topics like the relationship between yoga and buddhism, yoga and art, and yoga and tantra ... well, what did you expect yoga people to talk about when they get together?
Lately I have been practicing a series of poses recommended by Patricia Walden in Dr. Timothy McCall's book, Yoga as Medicine, which includes another of my favorite yoga poses, Ardha Chandrasana or Half Moon Pose. I love to enter Ardha Chandrasana through Utthita Trikonasana , Triangle Pose, another incredible asana. In case you had not guessed from my last Favorite Yoga Pose post, Anantasana, the external/internal hip rotation poses are a lifelong favorite of mine.
Like many Sanskrit words in the Yoga lexicon, the word guru has both a literal and symbolic meaning. Literally it means "heavy, weighty; heavy in the stomach (as food), difficult to digest; excessive, difficult, hard; important, serious, momentous; valuable, highly prized; venerable, respectable." The guru is the venerable "weighty one," heavy with wisdom, that's both highly prized but at times difficult to digest, often because teaching seems to contradict everything we hold true, or because we're told things about ourselves we don't especially want to hear.
I always heard that people start to get allergies as they age and I all but prided myself on being such a picture of health that I "did not have allergies". But a young healthy woman in her teens and twenties SHOULD be healthy and free from allergies, right? This is the prime of your life. Honestly, if you want better health as you age, you must claim it for Yourself. Health is not something that is handed out to anyone on a Silver Platter.
I spent most of yesterday indulging in the last day of a mini 5 day retreat. Don't get me wrong, I love a good retreat as much as the next lady and I try to take mini retreats every week, but this one was somewhat forced upon me because of an unexpected slide down our studio stairs. I was blissfully day dreaming about starting a women's circle when I carelessly stepped down the stairs and proceeded to bump my left side down the well-worn oak stairs.
Although some are talking about another 40 inches of snow this month, March is the month of the spring equinox and therefore heralds the beginning of spring. Until then, we are still in the water element and the end of the winter.

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