the invitation :

“The life you want waits inside you, the way a flower waits

inside the seed.” ~ Mark Nepo

This is an invitation to join me in practices that will ripen the seed of your being, to support your life flowering in consciousness, intention and love.

Our bodies are our temples. The living, breathing, loving worship of life happens in these temples. These temples of muscle, bone and blood, of pulse, sweat and tears, are where we live. The body is the temple of the soul.

Our bodies hold the record of our greatest hopes and efforts, our dreams and loves and pleasures as well as our pain, our disappointment, our frustrations.

That our bodies are the temples of our souls is at once beautiful and affirming as well as a responsibility. It is our responsibility to take care of this temple, to cleanse, to nourish, to revere and to purify.

Each year, I design a practice for my temple to purify it of the energies of the preceding year. This practice is for both the physical body temple as well as the conscious and subconscious gates to the temple. Body, mind and spirit are purified in this practice. Each year, I also design a practice for myself that will prepare me for the coming year, allow me to vision my coming year and ensure that I have laid down a practice that will enable me to manifest my next level of being in the world.

It has become an annual tradition for me to share my personal practice in 2 workshops. One that closes the year and one that opens the year. These workshops both stand alone in perfect integrity, should you feel called to just one of these aspects but they also work together cohesively to amplify both purification and manifestation.

I would be so very deeply honored to share these practices with you and hope that you will join me.

Purify the Temple will be on Saturday, December 30th from 2:00 – 5:00 pm at Asheville Yoga Center. This practice will be vigorous but accessible to all levels.

Ring in Love will be on Sunday, December 31st from 2:00 – 5:00 pm at Asheville Yoga Center. This workshop is gentle, co-taught with Luna Ray and live music, with a chance to sing your coming year in with love and intention.

 

what matters

“ ... love is the bridge between you and everything ....” rumi

How to make this practice real?

At the heart of our practice is the understanding that everything is connected to everything else. Beginning with our minds and continuing with our bodies, our spirits and expanding through all forms of life, all actions on earth, we are intimately connected.

As Michael Stone says, “because of the sweeping changes of the modern era – including genetic research, the telephone, the Internet, high rates of literacy, swift air travel, two-column accounting systems, and faster and faster life styles – the Iron Age worldview out of which yoga teachings began to be described and refined can only offer us a partial platform, path and set of truths. We begin in this culture at this time, so we must begin now to articulate and reenvision a yoga that is responsive to present circumstances – rooted in tradition yet adaptable and alive in contemporary times.”

To Stone’s acknowledgement of now, I would add that we need to include the travesty of climate change, the oppressive weight of racism in all forms, gender and transgender bias, the shallow and soul killing spread of consumer culture, the ever widening gulf between the “haves” and “have nots” and ecocide.

Stone goes on to say: “For too long, yoga has been mischaracterized as an inner practice without understanding the teleology of the practice. Yoga practices tune us in to reality by waking us up to the inherent transience of earthly life, the freedom that arises when wanting is relinquished, the truth that no thing is “me” or “mine,” and the basic intelligence of the mind, body, and the life that supports us. The term “yoga” connotes the basic unity & interconnectedness of all of life including the elements, the breath, the body, and the mind. The techniques of yoga – including body practices, working with the breath, and discovering the natural ease of the mind – reorient the practitioners to the very deep continuity that runs through every aspect of life until they realize that mind, body, and breath are situated in the world and not apart from worldly life in any way.”

What does it mean to have our practice intertwine with personal, social, and ecological responsibility? Where does the practice of yoga fit into a world on fire? Can we take our practice to the next level – where the fruits of the practice nourish and replenish not only ourselves but our loved ones, our community, our earth?

I think we can. I think that is what yoga is all about. I hope you’ll join me in this exploration and call to practice, not just on our mats but in all the moments of each day, with each breath we take.

This curriculum has been inspired by Michael Stone’s Yoga for a World out of Balance. I offer it knowing that we have the ability, opportunity and moral obligation to bring ourselves and our world back into balance.

Classes open to the public and offered on Mondays at 10:00 am at Asheville Yoga Center, Thursdays at 7:00 pm at Asheville Yoga Center and Fridays at 8:45 am at West Asheville Yoga Studio

9/11, 14 & 15                   The Path Unfolds

9/18, 21, 22                     Restraint in Times of Unrestraint

9/25, 28, 29                    Lack

10/2, 5, 6                        Karma : Causality

10/9, 12, 13                      Ahimsa : Nonviolence

10/16, 19, 20                   Satya : Honesty

10/23, 26, 27                   Asteya : Nonstealing

10/30, 11/2, 3                  Brahmacarya : Wise Use of Sexual Energy

11/6, 9, 10                        Aparigraha : Nonacquisitiveness

11/13, 16, 17                      Nothing is Hidden

11/20                               Jewels Shower Down

11/27, 30, 12/1                  Samadhi

 

Come or don’t come : no need to RSVP : there is always room for you, always space held with love. It is an honor & a privilege to explore this path together.

Always with so much love, Sierra

 

 

 

 

 

what matters2.jpg

Vibrate the Cosmos

 

“Vibrate the cosmos. The Cosmos shall clear the path” is the 5th of 5 sutras that Yogi Bhajan shared with us to give us strength and guidance as we move into the Age of Aquarius. The Aquarian Age is asking us to move beyond the boundaries that are created and generated from ego to a place beyond boundaries, to Infinity. This shift calls upon us to relate to our soul. By relating to our own soul, we have the ability to relate to the soul in all.

The universe seen and perceived as a well-ordered whole, implicit with a sense of harmony and flow, this is the meaning of the word cosmos. We know that the universe is energy, vibration. All of us, at one time or another, have had the experience of being in harmony with and being in disharmony with the world around us.

For us to vibrate the universe is for us to align our deepest selves with the harmony and order of the universe. In this way we will clear the path for our way forward, embodying the higher frequencies of love, compassion and kindness. The time is here and nothing less is demanded of us.

This curriculum will remind us of all that we already have that we need to call upon right now. We will work with body, mind and soul to attune ourselves to our highest destiny, in beauty and truth. Our practice sustains us, lifts us and delivers us to our best selves. Our practice longs to be truly alive, off the mat, ever present, in each breath we take, each gaze we connect to, in our words and actions.

Inspired by all the wisdom ways I have been gifted with so far, I invite you to join me. Using the timeless technology of Kundalini Yoga, the awakened knowledge of my maha teacher, Yogi Bhajan, the insight of poets, mystics, teachers and leaders, we walk together on this heart journey, the way of the true self ~ sharing the fruit of our practice in a world that hungers for the authentic sharing, the compassionate heart and the action of embodied practice.

Now is the time. We are the ones. Let’s rise together.

Offered: Mondays 10:00 am & Thursdays 7:00 pm at Asheville Yoga Center. Fridays 8:45 am at West Asheville Yoga Center.

 

Week 1: 4/24, 27, 28        Breath & Magnetic Field

Week 2: 5/1, 4, 5              Invocation of the Divine

Week 3: 5/8, 11, 12          Field of the Heart

Week 4: 5/15, 18, 19        Apana & Downward Flow

Week 5: 5/22, 25, 26        Pranic Body & Vitality

Week 6: 5/29, 6/1, 2        Forgiveness & Healing

Week 7: 6/5, 8, 9              Ignite

Week 8: 6/12, 15, 16        Goodness all over

Week 9: 6/19, 22, 23        Summer Solstice

Come or don’t come ~ no need to RSVP ~ there is always room for you, always space held with love. It is an honor & a privilege to share these teachings.

Always with so much love, Sierra

 

 

 

awake in the world : stay woke

"To conquer the unknown, you must trust"  ~Yogi Bhajan

From the alchemy of love made visible, the deep exploration of what we have to give, how we can give ~ we move. We move to the understanding that we are in fact awake and the world needs us more than ever before.

How do we stay awake? How do we keep our practice alive, on and off the mat? For our practice is not about time in temples or exotic places, nor is our practice meant to be strictly formal: on mat or cushion only.

Our practice is most alive in the company of others: streets, forests, community meetings, alleys and in action. Our practice is embodied when the nourishment we receive from movement and meditation and self-care becomes the light we shine in the world.

We are living in an incredible time of personal, social, ecological, and economic imbalance. Now is the hard transition, the gaping edge, the time of the rubber meeting the road ~ maybe even the time of do or die.

This flow is about balance in the midst of imbalance, about the essence of yoga: opening the heart ~ our own, and the heart of the world.

This curriculum will nourish, strengthen and restore us, in harmony with the transition of winter to spring. And, every bit as important, this curriculum is about bringing your practice to a deeper level by placing it at the center of your life.

In the same way that all freshwater rivers find the great salty ocean, your yoga longs to be real off the mat, to reach the hearts and souls and minds of the great sea of humanity. Your practice is longing to come alive, to be the gift that it fully is.

Inspired by all the wisdom ways I have been gifted with so far, I invite you to join me. Using the ancient technology of Kundalini Yoga, the deep knowledge of my maha teacher, Yogi Bhajan, the insight of poets, mystics, teachers and leaders, we will continue the journey of the heart, the way of the true self ~ sharing the fruit of our practice in a world that hungers for love & truth & beauty.

Now is the time. We are the ones. Let’s rise & serve in love.

Offered: Mondays 10:00 am & Thursdays 7:00 pm at Asheville Yoga Center & Fridays 8:45 am at West Asheville Yoga Center.

Week 1: 2/6, 9, 10 Stable & flow ~ the polarities

Week 2: 2/13, 16, 17 Reading the Sky

Week 3: 2/20, 23, 24 Breath & Earth

Week 4: 2/27, 3/2, 3 Anger, not closing our eyes

Week 5: 3/6, 9, 10 This is it

Week 6: 3/13, 16, 17 Quality of Flow

Week 7: 3/20, 23, 24 Realization of Intimacy

Week 8: 3/27, 30, 31 Encouragement

Week 9: 4/3, 6, 7 Turnings of the Mind

Week 10: 4/10, 13, 14 Both feet on the ground

Come or don’t come ~ no need to rsvp ~ there is always room for you, always space held with love. It is an honor & a privilege to share these teachings.

Always with so much love, Sierra

Standing Rock is Yoga. This is your invitation to practice.

When I sit and journey to the center of my heart, I find there a deep and absolute love. In this place of deep intimacy—within the stillness and nectar of hiradaya, the Spiritual Heart—the intuition of who we are is said to reside. It is there that we can realize the presence of the ultimate Witness. The limitlessness of the Spiritual Heart is mostly beyond comprehension. It contains totality.

And it is there that I discern that I must stand for Standing Rock. The struggle at Standing Rock has entered my heart in a way undeniable, creating a sharp pain where previously there was peace, and bringing tears as I witness what is happening there. The message is clear: Physically, emotionally and spiritually, I must stand—with resolve for those who protect our water, and for those who unite against oppression, injustice, and greed.

And so, heeding the message of my heart, I traveled to Standing Rock in November.

Standing Rock, North Dakota, is the frontline, opened up by the indigenous youth of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe. What is happening there deserves both your attention and your action. In spite of the Obama administration calling for a halt to all activity in the land that is in dispute, Energy Transfer Partners (ETP)—the company pushing for the pipeline (and standing to profit from its development)—has issued a statement saying they will continue to drill, and that this changes nothing. Standing Rock has been called a protest and a fight, and indeed it is. Far more than that, however, the elders at Standing Rock are standing in nonviolence, asking that all action be grounded in prayer and ceremony. As yogis, we may recognize this as the observance of ahimsa, the principle of nonviolence toward all living things. Standing Rock is a call to those who would protect our water, our earth, and our people against violence.

A Brief Timeline

In May of 2014, the proposed route of the Bakken Pipeline (the name of the entire length of the pipeline that will move millions of barrels of crude oil), was on a trajectory that passed 10 miles north of Bismarck, North Dakota. Due to widespread opposition from Bismarck’s 95% Caucasian population, the Army Corps of Engineers determined that the proximity of the pipeline to municipal wells and protected wetlands and grasslands would pose too great an environmental threat in the event of a spill. The Bismarck route was determined by federal regulators to be a “high consequence area,” and the plan was rejected.

By September of 2014, the Army Corp of Engineers had re-filed their application to cross the Missouri river—with that section of the pipeline, and the portion currently at issue, now known as the Dakota Access Pipeline, or DAPL. ETP kicked off their public relations campaign for the new route with a press release citing their own in-house study that claimed that the DAPL could have positive economic and fiscal impacts across the four-state region of this section of the pipeline.

The rerouting of the pipeline places the water of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe at perilous risk in the event of a spill. The tribe was quick to point this out in their response to a February 2015 letter from the Corps that initiated the permitting process. The tribe also pointed to recently discovered and protected sacred burial grounds that pipeline digging would disturb. The Army Corps of Engineers did not respond to their letter.

By September of 2015, neither independent archaeological study nor the Environmental Impact Study required by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) had been initiated.

Then in December of 2015, the Army Corps hired a non-tribal consultant and published their own “environmental assessment.” The EPA, the Department of the Interior, and the American Council of Historical Preservation all sent letters to the Corps critical of that assessment.

Other tribes then began voicing their own concerns, stating that they had not been appropriately consulted about the presence of traditional cultural properties, sites, or landscapes vital to their identity and spiritual well-being that the pipeline would disturb.

On April 1, 2016, the Standing Rock Sioux established Sacred Stone Camp at the mouth of the Cannonball River, a few miles from where the pipeline proposes to cross the Missouri River. They erected tipis in the snow, and prayed for allies to help them defeat the DAPL.

On April 22, 2016, the Army Corps determined that no historic properties would be affected. In response, young people—native and non-native alike—ran a 500-mile spiritual relay from Cannonball, North Dakota, to the district office of the Army Corps in Omaha, Nebraska, to deliver a unified statement of resistance against the construction of the pipeline. Despite this, in July the Army Corps proceeded to issue the majority of the permits required for the construction of the entire pipeline project, and construction began in all four states. The Standing Rock Sioux immediately filed an injunction against the Army Corps asking for further environmental impact studies and archeological assessment. ETP responded with notification of their intent to begin drilling at Lake Oahe, despite lacking the permits for that particular section.

It is important to note that the American government has a long history of seizing native lands when valuable resources are discovered there. Because the scope of that history is far too great for this article, I urge you to inform yourself about this important part of America’s history. Particularly relevant here is that the land in question was granted by the Treaty of Fort Laramie (ratified in 1851) to the Ogallala, Miniconjou, and Brulee bands of the Lakota people, as well as to the Yanktonai Dakota and the Arapaho Nation.

Fast forward to the present day. Despite a pervasive nationwide media blackout, news of the native struggle against Big Oil’s DAPL has spread—throughout the country and around the world. The Standing Rock Reservation has quickly become the largest gathering of indigenous peoples in the history of our nation, with more than 300 recognized tribes represented—from Hawaii to Alaska and around the world. With non-native participation, including the arrival of more than 2,000 veterans during the weekend of December 4, it is estimated that the population of the camp is now close to 15,000.

Most of these individuals, I would imagine, have looked into their own deepest hearts and heard the call to stand against the violence of both a multinational corporation and our own government. I understand, of course, that those who would perpetrate this travesty need our compassion and our love. It is only because our species has so lost touch with nature that it can do what it does to the earth and to each other.

Standing Rock Tribal Chairman, Dave Archambault II, was asked this month to address why he believes this particular issue at this particular time has attracted attention from all over the world. He responded:

“It’s very basic and very simple. Water gives life to everything that has a soul or a spirit. And if you are standing up for water, there’s a lot of people that will stand beside you. We know that there’s a shortage of clean, fresh water. We see states—California or Nevada—where there are water shortages. We have countries where they do not have clean water. What we are trying to do is protect our water for future generations, and this pipeline poses a threat… so we need to do what we can to protect what is precious to us, and that is the water and the land.”

When he was asked how people could help, Archambault went on to say:

“Follow your heart. If you want to be here, you’re welcome. If you want to pray from home, pray from home. If you want to send a letter of support, send a letter of support. If you want to send a contribution, send a contribution. I would just say whatever you want to do to make you feel like you’re contributing comes from within, that it comes from your heart.”

[Chairman Archambault’s statements come from an interview by Sarah van Gelder published in Yes! Magazine on November 10.]

Perhaps I stand in the minority, but I have always felt that the essence of our practice of yoga, meditation, and contemplation is an invitation to awaken to our deepest and truest nature—an invitation to step onto a path where we walk as the highest embodiment of personal and universal love, kindness, and compassion.  

In discerning what I felt my heart was telling me, I turned to the Yoga Sutra, the Bhagavad Gita, and the Upanishads. What I found there—the imperative of personal and public morality—is also echoed in the Ten Commandments of Judaism, the Five Precepts of Buddhism, and the Eight Beatitudes of Christianity.

The Bhagavad Gita tells us that “Man is made by his belief. As he believes, so he is.” I believe that to refuse to protect the water, and to abandon our Mother Earth and our relations, is to turn away from my own deepest heart and more than 25 years of yoga and meditation.

Standing Rock is yoga. This is your invitation to practice.

 

Photography: Thibault Palomares

Photography: Thibault Palomares

::: Giving : the alchemy of love made visible :::

Giving : the alchemy of love made visible

“By giving from the heart, we elevate our soul and fulfill our destiny”                 ~ Yogi Bhajan

We have arrived to the magical process and place of transformation of self, to the alchemy of love made visible through giving. Every single one of us has an amazing, unfathomable ability to give in countless ways that will only reveal themselves by meeting life head-on and heart-on. And in beauty: we need each other, both to discover our capacity to give and to witness and receive the light we carry.

The wheel is turning and the energy is shifting, from the golden warmth and abundance of autumn to the slowing and contemplative energy of winter. In sync with Nature, we find our ability to be in communion with others deepened and the gold of giving is the light. For many traditions, this time is calling us to a celebration of the presence of spirit and the power of faith and hope that our dreams of unity and harmony will manifest. This time beckons us, in so many ways, to give.

In giving, we empty, allowing the soil of our being to renew, to replenish and to receive anew. In giving, we become the light.

Inspired by all the wisdom ways I have been gifted with so far, I invite you to join me. Using the ancient technology of Kundalini Yoga, the deep knowledge of my maha teacher, Yogi Bhajan, the insight of the poets and the mystics, we will continue the journey of the heart, the way of the true self ~ giving, becoming love made visible, all that is, all that ever was, all that ever will be.

Offered: Mondays 10:00 am & Thursdays 7:00 pm at Asheville Yoga Center & Fridays 8:45 am at West Asheville Yoga Center.

Week 1: 11/28, 12/1, 2          Strength to glow in all directions        

Week 2: 12/5, 8, 9               A container from which to give

Week 3: 12/12, 15, 16           Balance & the sanctity of experience

Week 4: 12/19, 22, 23          Saying yes          

Week 5: 12/26, 29, 30         Hearing the cries of the world

Week 6: 1/2, 5, 6                 Stepping Up                 

Week 7: 1/9, 12, 13               Always Beginning

Week 8: 1/16, 19, 20            If just for a moment      

Week 9: 1/23, 26, 27           The courage to give      

Week 10: 1/30, 2/2, 3          Becoming like angels

 

Come or don’t come ~ no need to rsvp ~ there is always room for you, always space held with love. It is an honor & a privilege to share these teachings.

Always with so much love, Sierra

 

 

 

 

understand through compassion or you misunderstand the times

“Understand through compassion or you misunderstand the times.”

        ~Yogi Bhajan

The sutra above is one of 5 that Yogi Bhajan shared with us to guide us through the Aquarian age. This year, 2016, the global sadhana (practice) is devoted to this sutra, the 4

th

sutra.

Clearly, this sutra is incredibly timely. From the degradation of earth and atmosphere to the unending flow of Syrian refugees, from the debacle of American politics to North Carolina’s recent House Bill 2, compassion is our only way forward.

To be compassionate is to allow our minds to be guided by our hearts, to allow our perspective to be ever informed by love. If it were as easy to practice as it is to write, the world would be a profoundly different place. As it is, the practice of compassion involves serious commitment, a relationship between head and heart and reconciliation between thought and deed.

This sutra is a bridge, a channel from what we have been to what we must be if we are to be the light. Compassion implies a singular relating to a whole, a core way of being, and a constant remembrance. Committing to compassion means that we will bow our head to our heart in any given situation so that our heart may rule.

To live this sutra, to take the guidance of this sutra is to experience oneness. Join me for our next curriculum, a 9 week series to support body, mind and soul in perceiving another way to be, another way to relate, to ourselves, each other and the world.

Offered: Mondays 10:00 am & Thursdays 7:00 pm at Asheville Yoga Center and Fridays 8:45 am at West Asheville Yoga Center.

Week 1: 5/2, 5, 6     Pituitary & the neurobiology of Compassion

Week 2: 5/9, 12, 13         The Sun shines on all of us

Week 3: 5/16, 19, 20       This body is beautiful

Week 4: 5/23, 26, 27       Apana & the art of letting go

Week 5: 5/30, 6/2, 3       Release, no room for fear

Week 6: 6/6, 9, 10           Balance, as Compassion

Week 7: 6/13, 16, 17       Synchronization, as Compassion

Week 8: 6/20, 23, 24       The head & the heart

Week 9: 6/27, 30 7/1      Infinity is a foundation

Come or don’t come ~ no need to RSVP ~ there is always room for you, always space held with love. It is an honor & a privilege to share these teachings.

Always with so much love, Sierra

free the heart

In recognition of love, in hopes of celebrating a love that is accessible to all, I thought I would share one of my favorite meditations. As a child, I did a similar meditation to the one I am sharing- never knowing that it was a meditation and also not knowing that the flower I imagined was a lotus flower. Years later, when I began to practice yoga, one of the many delights was understanding that the flower of my childhood imaginings was a lotus flower and that the lotus is symbolic of our efforts as yoga practitioners. I was pleased to find this much better version of my childhood efforts in Yoga Journal quite a few years ago and just as delighted to find that Shiva Rea was the author. I share this as it originally appeared in 

Yoga Journal

.

Dwelling in the Lotus Heart: A Meditation by Shiva Rea

By visualizing your heart as a lotus flower, you can begin to create a safe, comfortable place for your mind to settle.

In yoga and 

meditation

, the heart can be visualized as a lotus flower unfolding at the center of the chest. Like a lotus that contracts and opens according to the light, our spiritual heart can be awakened through various 

yoga practice

s from asana practice to Pranayama, chanting, and meditation.

The following meditation focuses the awareness on the seat of one’s lotus heart. For some, this will be a very natural sanctum to rest the awareness. Others may observe that the restless nature of the mind does not subside so easily. This meditation serves two purposes: First, to learn to focus the mind on any object as an internal seat, and second, to receive the healing benefits of being connected to the heart as a place of unconditional love.

To begin, find a comfortable posture for meditation (seated on a cushion or blanket, in a chair, or against a wall). You may find it helpful to set a timer for 10, 20, or 30 minutes so you can deepen your meditation without wondering about the time. You may also want to gently ring a bell at the beginning and end of your meditation.

Place your hands on your knees in Jnana Mudra (index and thumb touching), with palms facing up to open your awareness or palms facing down to calm the mind. Scan your body and relax any tension. Let your spine rise from the base of the pelvis. Draw your chin slightly down and let the back of your neck lengthen. Now plant the seeds for meditating on the lotus of the heart.

Meditation Practice

Step 1

Begin by quietly reading this passage from the Upanishads:

“Bright but hidden, the Self dwells in the heart.
Everything that moves, breathes, opens, and closes lives in the Self-the source of love.
Realize the Self hidden in the heart and cut asunder the knot of ignorance here and now.”
—The Upanishads (Translated by Eknath Easwaran, Nilgiri Press, 1987)

Step 2

As you inhale, draw your awareness from the base of the pelvis to the center of the chest. As you exhale, concentrate on the sensations that you feel in your chest. Stay with those sensations and allow your awareness to deepen. Do you feel heat, tingling, lightness, density, tightness? As you inhale, breathe into your heart.

Step 3

Begin to visualize a lotus flower inside your chest that is gently spreading its petals open with each inhalation. And as you exhale, just dwell inside the lotus flower. (

Note

: If visualizing a lotus flower is too poetic for you, an alternative is to focus on a cave in the heart with a flame in the center, or a fire illuminating your heart.)

Step 4

You may choose to stay with visualization of the lotus or you may focus on the sensation of an expanding heart. When feelings arise, allow them to pass through you like the changing light of the day, or imagine them resting on the flower like water on its petals. Dwell inside the lotus of your heart, feeling the qualities of unconditional love emerge.

Step 5

When you are ready, bring your hands together inAnjali Mudra (Salutation Seal)and complete your meditation with a moment of gratitude, reflection, or prayer to integrate the energy of your meditation into your life. You can bring your awareness to your heart anytime throughout the day to come back to the seat of unconditional love.

~And, always there are reminders of how connected we are, how magical this world can be. As I searched for an image of a lotus to illustrate this post, I found another blog with the same image and same offering of Shiva's meditation. Clearly a friend of the heart, you can find more about 

Natalie and her Lotus Flow Movement

 here.

winter solstice remix


Last night, I spent my winter solstice in the Swannanoa Women’s Correctional Facility, sharing the practice of yoga. And while it was different than every other winter solstice celebration of my life so far, it was beautiful and perfect and right where I needed to be.

And because we are all one, because the only way to understand anything is through compassion, I would like to share 10 facts about incarcerated women. I am paraphrasing from an article that was originally authored by Becki Ney, a Principal with the Center for Effective Public Policy (CEPP) and Project Director of the National Resource Center on Justice Involved Women (NRCJIW). If you would like to read the original article please follow this link.

1.  Women pose a lower public safety risk than men, typically entering the criminal justice system for nonviolent crimes that are often drug and/or property related. As well, once in the system, incidents of violence and aggression by women are extremely low and women released from incarceration have lower recidivism rates than men.
2.  Women entering the criminal justice system are much more likely to have experienced poverty, intimate partner violence, sexual abuse, and/or other forms of victimization often linked to their offending behavior. As well, Women are much more likely to have co-occurring disorders- in particular, substance abuse problems interlinked with trauma and/or mental abuse.
3.  Women’s engagement in criminal behavior is often related to their connections with others- relationships are often paramount for women and their exposure to dysfunctional and abusive relationships can elevate their risk for victimization and the perpetration of violence.
4.  Women entering jails and prisons overwhelmingly report histories of victimization and trauma and continue to be vulnerable within correctional settings.
5.  Corrections policies and practices have been developed by managing men, not women.
6.  Jail and prison classification systems can result in unreliable custody designations and over classification of female inmates.
7.  Women have different risk factors than men- including depression, psychotic symptoms, housing safety and parental safety- all related to their criminal behavior.
8.  Women are more likely to respond favorably when correctional staff adheres to evidence-based, gender-responsive principles. Understanding trauma and its effects on women, using trauma informed strategies when interacting and engaging in cognitive problem solving with female inmates has been shown to enhance facility safety and security for staff and inmates alike.
9.  Transition and reentry to the community can be challenging for women. Women are more likely than men to have primary child-rearing responsibilities and are often single parents. Women report greater levels of poverty and less employment history preceding incarceration. Finding safe housing where women can live and support their children is very challenging.
10.             The cost of women in criminal justice is high- given what we know: low risk, parental responsibilities and significant needs- and strategies we can employ to improve outcomes- we can understand that we are failing this population when we understand that 60% of women released are re-arrested. The negative impact of involvement with the criminal justice system has- besides the direct cost of incarceration- a generational impact as the children of female offenders are 5 times more likely to become involved in the criminal justice system.

Quite simply, we can do better than this. Another yoga teacher posted a poem by Margaret Atwood as her caption for a winter solstice themed photo. I share it now as it inspired the practice that I shared last night as well as spoke to me about where we are now, not only with the criminal justice system, but with everything. Personally and collectively- is there a difference?

“This is the solstice, the still point
Of the sun, its cusp and midnight,
The year’s threshold
And unlocking, where the past
Let’s go of and becomes the future;
The place of caught breath.” –Margaret Atwood

Light a Path works to create resilience through connection, showing up for people in communities of need. Light a Path has programs in local correctional facilities as well as local schools, utilizing yoga and other somatic practices as a way to health, healing, self-esteem and positive direction. We would love your support. Visit us online at www.lightapath.org


sharing the practice



I am a body person, meaning, so much of the joy in my life comes from the physical experience of being in my body. Body people tend to be the runners, the yogis, the athletes, the massage therapists and more. It makes perfect sense for a yoga teacher to be a body person. In spite of all my body knowing, it is only in the past few years that I have come to understand that the experience of trauma can drive us out of our bodies. That there are those of us that are as disassociated from our bodies as possible, disconnected because the pain of physical, sexual, mental and verbal abuse that has been received makes it too painful, too dangerous to really inhabit the body anymore. These are some of the kids I do yoga with.

In addition to encountering trauma survivors at the college I teach at, I also have worked with area high schoolers that are deemed “at-risk” by school staff. I spent a year sharing yoga in a rural high school with youth that were designated in this way. The opportunity to share the practice with these kids has been one of the most profound experiences of my life.

There are children in our community that go home to broken homes. Not only broken in the sense of missing parents but quite literally broken: no heat, no food, leaking roofs, no safe shelter. Many of these same homes have adults that are vicious, drug and/or alcohol addicted, mentally unstable or a combination of all. Most of these homes contain an abuser, be it verbal, physical or sexual. Imagine yourself in this situation. Can you?

These are the kids that make me cry at high school graduations. If they even make it to graduation. Because these are the kids that seem to disappear: dropping out, moving away, becoming a teen drug or pregnancy statistic or worse. I think of all the ways in which I support my own children and I know that not even the least of these things are happening for these kids. This is the portion of our population that defines a good day as one in which no one hurts them.

These kids are living the hardest yoga, the yoga of survival, day in and day out. The very least I can do is to show up and share some time on the mat with them each week. I too thought that sharing yoga was a small thing, inconsequential in the long run but my experience taught me otherwise. Yoga can really make a difference in the life of any trauma survivor, of any age.

The latest scientific research confirms what we know in our hearts- that child abuse has a long-term impact on a child’s life. Children who experience abuse develop toxic levels of stress. Consistent high levels of stress not only impact quality of life, they actually damage the developing architecture of a child’s brain. This ultimately results in adults who are rarely able to navigate the world in a positive way.

There are a number of studies that cite the benefits of yoga and meditation to the youth-at-risk population. If you are interested- please- follow this link and this one and this one as well. But what I really want to share with you is not a list of studies, it’s this: these kids go from pretending they don’t care about yoga at the start of the year to shyly sharing that “yoga saved my life” by the end of the year. And in between the start and end of the year, behavior improves, attendance improves, impulse control improves and self-esteem is gained.

I have seen the benefits of sharing yoga and meditation with youth-at-risk in a very real way. I know that yoga is changing these lives for the better. Yet I also understand that I am changed, bettered, uplifted, humbled, broken, made whole by this exchange as well. And I am the one that is shattered by the knowledge that we have to do better. In 2014 more than 128,000 children were referred to local DSS (Department of Social Service) for possible abuse and neglect.  That same year, 25 children died at the hand of their caregivers. These statistics are unacceptable.

Light a Path is working to bring the benefits of yoga and meditation to youth-at-risk. We know that through the consistent shared practice of yoga and meditation, these kids are able to feel safe and supported as they reach for their somatic connection with the physical self. They are able to find peace and a sense of well-being within their bodies again. Everyone deserves that access. And maybe, just maybe, they have the chance to learn that, in spite of what they’ve been told, they are perfect, beautiful, and whole and have every right to be here.

last best book ~



This review originally ran on Yoga City NYC's page . Check out their "Must Read Book Club".


Sierra Hollister: Strand’s book is about our relationship to the dark, to the organic night without artificial lighting. It's about the consequences of not having the dark and how this is impacting not only our health, but also the health of our planet. It's a fairly quick and easy read and I found myself reading out loud, to whomever might be in the room as it was always fascinating enough to share. 

YCNYC: Favorite quote?

SH:  “All time is ancestral time. We stand atop Mothers and Fathers without end. Waking up in the dark helps us to remember that great reality, and helps us to remain connected to it once we do.”

YCNYC: What one person would you recommend this book to?


SH:  Humphry Davy, the creator of the first electric light in 1800.

YCNYC: What moment or part resonates with you the most?

SH: My favorite part of the book might be where he quotes from the Song of Songs- “I sleep, but my heart is awake”. This section of the book is about the time between what Strand refers to as “our two sleeps”. This was the time when we would turn to our beloved and share ourselves or perhaps turn inward and communicate with the divine from our deepest selves. There was no real fear of the dark as the dark was natural, part of the cycle and full of love and the mystical. 

This book is full of eloquent reminders of what our hearts know, what our souls know but what we have lost in our modern, busy lives. Reading this book has been an affirmation, moment after moment of remembering what I know in my deepest self: that the natural world holds the key to our wellness in more ways than we can begin to guess. 

You can purchase Waking Up to the Dark, Ancient Wisdom for a Sleepless Age here.

Have a Must-Read book to recommend? Email us here.

—Interview by Allison Richard


DO YOU KNOW ME?

Asheville Yoga Center runs a sweet little feature on a different teacher each month. This month, it's me. You can check it out

online at their website

 - or, below.

Why do you teach yoga?

It seems to me that we are yoga; that the union of body, mind and spirit is our true state. If we are lucky, the time on our mats is a remembering of a way back to our true selves, a way to experience our infinity, as well as our accord not only with ourselves but with all life. Yoga has been the path to the altar within my own heart- to think that I could illuminate that path in any way, however small, for another person is my reason for teaching.

What is your teaching history?

I began sharing the practice at Ahimsa Ashram in Washington, DC in 1992. We left DC in 1994 adn did some traveling, arriving in Asheville in 1995. I have taught in various studios in Asheville over the years, as well as Warren Wilson College. I have been with Asheville Yoga Center since they opened, in 1996.

What is your favorite pose at the moment?

I give my best effort at loving which ever pose I am in, at any given moment. With that said, I am experiencing a special fondness for inversions lately.

What's your sign? (astrological)

Gemini #AirSign #AirIsLife

What is your most challenging pose?

Kurmasana. I am somewhat resigned to never experiencing this posture in full, along with a few others, due to shoulder injuries.

How long have you been practicing yoga?

Since sometime in the mid-eighties. Then it was quite sporadic and more of a gymnastic mind set for me than the way I've viewed my practice since 1992.

Describe yourself in three words: 

Learning, Loving, Grateful

What is your favorite quote?

Aadil Palkhivala said this and it inspires me every single day: "True yoga is not about the shape of your body but the shape of your life. Yoga is not to be performed; yoga is to be lived. Yoga doesn't care about what you have been; yoga cares about the person you are becoming. Yoga is designed for a vast and profound purpose, and for it to be truly called yoga, its essence must be embodied."

What is your favorite word?

Always changing. Right now it is luminous.

What are you reading right now?

Reading

Love Letter to the Earth

by Thich Nhat Hanh;

An Open Heart- Practicing Compassion in Everyday Life

by the Dalai Lama;

The Radiance Sutras

by Lorin Roche. I've just finished

Waking Up to the Dark: Ancient Wisdom for a Sleepless Age

by Clark Strand and it was an awesome read!

What are some favorite songs on your playlist?

Lean In

and

Rivermouth

both by Rising Appalachia, off their newest release,

Wider Circles. Nectar Drop

 by DJ Drez, and re-appreciating Krishna Das, all songs.

What is your favorite food?

I really love leafy green salads and smoothies with superfood add-ins

What is your favorite movie?

My absolute favorite movie is

I heart Huckabees

What inspires you?

Kindness, Compassion, Authenticity, all efforts to participate in co-creating the more beautiful world that we know in our hearts is possible.

Sierra's classes at Asheville Yoga Center happen:

Mondays 10:15 am & Thursdays 7:00 pm

#Stand4TheArctic


I’ve been asking myself how we became the people who let Shell get into the Arctic. How did that happen? How will we ever justify that to future generations? That Shell has made it this far has been keeping me awake at night. And the bitter truth is that I did not do enough on this issue. Not enough letters, not enough phone calls, not enough discussion. Not enough.

But there is good news: we’ve been given a second chance to protect the Arctic. Obama’s green light for Shell will not stand in court- there is a permitting requirement that prohibits drilling operations in the waters off Alaska to be within 15 miles of each other. Shell has plans for 2 wells this summer, about 9 miles apart.

Earthjustice has filed suit on behalf of a broad group of Alaska native organizations and conservation groups challenging the adequacy of the agency’s environmental impact statement. You can learn more about the groups involved in the suit and the suit itself by  checking out this link .
In the meantime, let’s pull out all the stops- let’s do whatever it takes to not sacrifice the Arctic. Not to Shell and not on our watch. Please call President Obama and tell him “SHELL NO, Arctic drilling is too risky to allow. Our job is to protect the only Arctic we have!” Call Obama at 202-456-1111 and tell him to please rescind the approval for Shell to drill in the Arctic.
Please make the call. The White House comment line looks for brief and succinct comments. If you want to get into deeper talking points, consider taking a look here. In addition to calling (time is of the essence), you can sign a petition with Greenpeace here.

Consider sharing this post, encouraging others to make the call- we’re all in this together. The Arctic belongs to all of us and has far more value undrilled than drilled.


#Stand4TheArctic #SaveTheArctic #ActOnClimate #OpenYourHeart2TheWorld #ChooseLove #OnlyOneArctic #ShellNo

meditation for the embodiment of the 3rd sutra



here you will find support for continuing the practice of the Guru Gaitri Mantra and the meditation to embody the 3rd sutra.

the third sutra is "when the time is on you, start, and the pressure will be off"

a sutra is a thread or knot. sutras are dense, sometimes just a few words, sometimes 2 or 3 short sentances. a sutra is meant to be "unpacked" with a teacher. we sit with the sutra, turn it over in our minds, discuss it & attempt to live it.

the meditation is sweet & simple. take a comfortable seat- perhaps easy pose. spine is straight, eyes are closed, no specific mudra.

chant the mantra: Gobinday, Mukanday, Udaaray, Apaaray, Hariang, Kariang, Nirnaamay, Akaamay. this mantra is considered the 8 names of the divine & can be translated: sustainer, liberator, enlightener, infinite, destroyer, creator, nameless, desireless.

chant & focus on the sound for 11 minutes.

this meditation is said to bring stability to the hemispheres of the brain & works on the heart center to develop compassion, patience, & tolerance, uniting one with the infinite. it is noted for the capacity to break through deep-seated blocks.

follow this link here to watch an instructional video to practice the meditation

follow this link here to purchase an mp3 of the music for meditaion

see if you can practice this meditation for 40 days in a row ~ giving yourself the chance to really take the change in deep

golden milk


Like the recipe for Yogi Tea, I learned this recipe from Yogi Bhajan. Golden Milk is every bit as delicious and nourishing as Yogi Tea. Golden Milk is the beverage to drink that will address those aches and pains in your body. Yogi Bhajan taught that this recipe is good for the spine as well as all the joints in the body.
Be careful working with the turmeric as it can stain materials. Below is the recipe for a cup of Golden Milk as well as the way to make a half a gallon at a time.
For one cup:                1/8 tsp. turmeric (heaping)
                                    ¼ cup of water
                                    8 oz. milk (can be cow or soy or rice or almond)
                                    2 tblspn. Raw almond oil (optional)
                                    Honey to taste
Boil the turmeric in the water for about 8 minutes. You are looking for a thick paste. You can add more water if you need to- the operative word being “paste”. In another pan, gently heat the milk and almond oil. If you are omitting the almond oil then warm just the milk. When the milk comes just under boiling, remove from heat and mix into the turmeric paste. Add the honey to taste. For me, the honey is a key part of the Golden Milk appeal. I am not a fan of the taste of turmeric alone. If it is summer time and you feel resistant to a hot beverage, you can add the honey to the hot turmeric paste and then add the milk at room temperature, stirring well.
To make half a gallon, increase turmeric to a heaping teaspoon, water to 2 cups, milk to 8 cups and almond oil to 16 tablespoons. You can also mix up the paste and then refrigerate it until you would like to use it. The paste will keep in the refrigerator for up to 40 days.
This drink is really quite delicious and I always feel that I am nourishing my bones and body when I drink it. There are many, many studies that verify the health claims made about turmeric. The primary active ingredient in turmeric is curcumin. Recent research has shown that turmeric:
            *addresses the pain and stiffness of arthritis
            *decreases the inflammation caused by arthritis
            *could be an effective tool in the fight against Alzheimer’s disease
            *inhibits the growth of cancer
            *delays liver damage that can lead to cirrhosis
All I know is that I feel a difference in my body and my yoga when I add Golden Milk to my weekly diet. Many of the studies about the health benefits of turmeric are readily accessible online as well as other recipes for enjoying turmeric. Next time you are in the supplement aisle of your local co-op or health food store, scan the labels of supplements- many of them contain turmeric. It is almost always better to boost your health and nutrition through whole foods and whole beverages than supplements.
An overview published in Advanced Experimental Medical Biology in 2007 attributes Turmeric with antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antiviral, antibacterial, antifungal, and anticancer properties. It would seem that a little Golden Milk can go a long way.


Enjoy.