The Path of Ahimsa

THE PATH OF AHIMSA

 By Mahan Khalsa CYA-E-RYT500


As I sit here after my morning meditation, I am contemplating how I, as a devoted yogini of almost 2 decades, can right the imbalances that we as humanity face. Everywhere we look, whether it’s social media, the news or even our own backyards, we are confronted daily with political, social, economic and environmental crisis. So, what is my role? Is it possible for my words, thoughts and deeds to bring balance during these times of mass humanitarian crisis? And, if so, how?


Looking out at the world and finding answers can feel overwhelming, so what about going within and reviewing our own inner landscape? We all know the saying, “let there be peace on Earth and let it begin with me”. What if taking responsibility for our own selves can shift and polarize the negativity we face?


It is here that “ahimsa” arises in my consciousness. In the literal sense, ahimsa means “non-violence” and many have understood it to mean not killing another living or non-living being. Vegetarianism has spread all over the world because of these teachings. Over the years of my practice, I have come to understand ahimsa in its subtler sense. Cultivating universal love and compassion for myself and all beings strengthens a sense of ethical, moral and societal responsibility.


The practice of ahimsa is infused in all aspects of life, from the physical to the mental and emotional. Awareness is the key to shifting our beliefs, habits and patterns from violent to loving ones. Learning to witness ourselves with compassion is the first step in liberating ourselves from the waging war within. With loving acceptance, we begin to see how we perpetrate violence on the planet through believing in our own limiting beliefs, the negative stories we tell ourselves and how we act out our deepest fears and insecurities. How do we expect there to be peace on earth when we are violent towards our own selves? Beginning to notice your own self-talk and forgiving yourself is the first step. Over time, inner peace springs forth like the lotus emerging on the surface of the muddy pond. 

It is said we cannot give to another what we do not have. 


Extending love and compassion to others is a natural evolution of your inner work. My grandmother always said, “sharing is caring”. It feels good for both the giver and the receiver. Remembering that we are all different and unique allows us to cultivate tolerance for others, increasing feelings of connection. This opens our hearts to more positive, healthy emotions and experiences. Taking time to see the other person as you, knowing that we are all human and share this planet as our home, dissolves barriers and borders, shifting us from separation to oneness. 


Practicing ahimsa daily can inspire us to focus on what we have, rather than what we don’t have. Celebrating our victories, rather than wallowing in our sorrows or getting caught up in what’s not working shifts our mindset. Having an attitude of gratitude elevates you and those around you. This is one of the greatest gifts you can give yourself, your friends, family and community. I have a teenage daughter and I see how my yoga practice has affected her mindset and perception of the world. From an early age, I exposed her to different cultures, religions and traditions and educated her through life experiences to understand that we truly are ONE global family. 


Accepting that our decisions and actions affect the next 7 generations to come, means that we have a responsibility to “be the change we wish to see in the world”. Often, we’d rather blame or shame others, making it about them rather than us. Ahimsa is the highest form of yoga, it is a mindset and a way of life. Through a non-violent freedom movement, Gandhi led India to independence and inspired movements for civil rights and freedom around the world. 


Getting angry at what is happening outside ourselves will never bring peace on earth. Like Gandhi, we can practice ahimsa and be an inspiration to others to live non-violently. Learning to breathe deeply, to not become reactive and to hold a loving space shows others what is possible. It is time for us to be living embodiments of kindness, peace, health and happiness. Every moment, we have this opportunity. Sharing inspiring stories, messages and quotes on social media and in-person helps to shine light into the world and counter the mass darkness and destruction present at this time. Together, we are powerful, we can give ourselves and others a break… helping each other live smoothly, lovingly and gracefully even in ungraceful situations and times.


Will you join me? Are you ready to make a commitment to support non-violence and break the silence? Is it your time to shine and inspire others to do the same?


Peace and love to all-beings in all worlds.

Sat nam. 

Mahan Khalsa
Mahan Khalsa

Global Challenges

Global Challenges

By Brett Wade CYA-RYT200


We are all here on earth to help others;
what on earth the others are here for I don't know.
— W. H. Auden


Long before yoga emerged as one of six Hindu darshanas, and even longer before the word “yuj” was entered into the Rig Veda, civilizations have experienced strife, starvation and inequalities. The average life expectancy around the time in which the Rig Veda was compiled (1500-1200 BCE) was approximately twenty-six years. Early Hinduism relied on the rishis (“sages” or “seers”) to share the insights they received during meditations to guide the followers. Later, it became the swamis and the gurus who taught the path to attaining moksha. We live in different times now, and most certainly swamis and gurus still have an important role in not only helping the individual to attain moksha, but also to help make a big impact on global problems. To tackle global problems will require not just those who are well travelled down the pathway to liberation or those who have become enlightened, but also the rest of us are required to tip the scales to make the necessary changes. Some of us may take an active role in teaching the eight limbs of yoga in a class and others may lead by example, by taking their practice “off the mat” and living in accordance the yamas and niyamas.


This essay begins with a discussion about accepting the reality that, while the time in which we live may seem bleak, statistically speaking, this is the best time ever to have lived as a human. I will then examine the core issues facing the world today and how the modern yogi and yogini can help to make positive changes by being becoming aware of the issues, taking action and being an exemplar of living a life that is the embodiment of peace, honesty, respect, fairness and balance; in other words, becoming a “yamic leader.” As the quote by Auden so perfectly states, “We are all here on earth to help others; what on earth the others are here for I don’t know”.


While speaking to the United Nations in 2014, then President, Barak Obama, declared, “This is the best time in human history to be born, for you are more likely than ever before to be literate, to be healthy, and to be free to pursue your dreams". By almost all measures, he was, and still is, correct. Thanks to the development of vaccines and better access to clean drinking water, childhood mortality rates have plummeted all over the world. The childhood mortality rates and average life expectancy in many countries in Africa and other parts of the world, however, are still at unacceptable levels when compared with the rest of the world.


Is there inequality? Yes. Are wars still fought? Yes. Is there disproportional food scarcity? Yes. If you watch the news, it may seem that all measures of health, happiness and safety are lower than ever, but they actually are not. Compare the casualties of the Russian Civil War (1917-1922) and the Chinese Civil War (1927-1949). Each of these conflicts saw losses of life close to ten million people. By contrast, the War on Terror which began after September 11, 2001 has seen losses of approximately 1.2 million lives. Of course, any untimely and unexpected loss of life is unacceptable. Clearly, we still have major problems in the world, and some new ones we have created such as global warming, but in Steven Pinker’s book, Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress, he points out that while the vast majority of people in developed nations report that the world is getting worse, the data simply does not support this assertion. As Pinker puts it, “This bleak assessment of the state of the world is wrong — and not just a little wrong but wrong…wrong, flat-earth wrong”.


Part of the problem is when elected leaders describe the current state of affairs as bleak and scary and implore their citizens to be wary of people who don’t look like them or don’t believe in the same things as them, mass paranoia and pessimism begin to bubble up. Over the last fifty years in the United States and Canada, poverty levels are down, almost all health measures are up, literacy is up and overall violent crimes are down. An article written by Doug Saunders in the Globe and Mail in March 2018 is titled, “Violent crime has faded in our cities, replaced by fear and distrust.” In the article, Saunders provides statistics to show how, in major cities in Canada and the United States, there have been precipitous drops in violent crimes. Curiously, while the stats show improvements, the public perception and attitude does not align. As Saunders puts it, “Yet this has not brought about an era of urban peace and harmony. These same years have seen explosions of fear, anger, mass protest and distrust expressed by urban residents, especially those of minority backgrounds”.


Of course, there are some major problems in the world which can’t be ignored. In spite of most data showing many areas of global improvement, serious problems remain. According to the United Nations website on Global Issues, some of the most pressing issues are: food scarcity, global warming, refugee migration, gender equality, human rights, poverty, peace and security. It is a daunting list of problems and it would be easy to think that the acts of one person or an organized group cannot make change, but as already mentioned in this article, many positive changes have already been made by groups of people. All change begins with having an awareness and then being optimistic about the ability to make change. Through actions of people, according to the United Nations website, “New HIV infections have fallen by 35% since 2000 (by 58% among children) and AIDS-related deaths have fallen by 42% since the peak in 2004”. The same site also states that global poverty rates (those living on less than $1.90 USD per day) have been “cut by half since 2000”. These positive changes started with awareness of the problem and a belief that that they could be ameliorated.  


The problem with awareness can be where we are getting the information. Many news outlets know that sensationalism sells. We must be discerning about the sources of information. Related to this point is the issue of gun-related deaths in the United States and Canada. It may surprise you to know that in spite of the focus on the horrifying mass shootings, most gun violence death is due to suicide (60% according to the Center for Disease Control in the United States). In Canada, the percentage of gun violence deaths related to suicide is 75%. If we are unaware of the fact, we cannot effectively help. Once we have awareness on an issue, we must believe we can make a change. Our minds create reality. If we believe everything is hopeless, we may start leaning towards nihilism and then we are in serious trouble. There are some troubling statistics on rising rates of depression — especially among teenagers — we should be aware of: on average (data from Blue Cross Blue Shield) depression rates have risen 33 percent since 2013 and the largest jump is in the 12-17 year-old group rising 63%. In Canada, similar trends of rising depression rates — especially in teenaged girls — are dramatically on the rise. The World Health Organization (WHO) lists depression as the leading cause of ill health and disability worldwide. The WHO says there are more than 300 million people suffering with depression worldwide.


So, it begs the question, “If the world is a better place, statistically speaking, why the dramatic rise in depression and high rates of suicide?” It is difficult to understand. The causes of depression are complex and may include: genetics, brain chemistry, past trauma, abuse, some medications and addictions. There also appears to be a relationship between depression and feelings of loneliness. A recent survey, conducted with 20,000 people in the United States, found that people who are part of Generation Z, (the post-millennial generation) have the highest rates of loneliness — even higher than that of seniors. In fact, in this same study, the least lonely group were those older than seventy-two. It may seem ironic that the generation who was born connected to the internet and the World Wide Web is the loneliest. Perhaps the fact that we are social beings and the vast majority of communication in the Generation Z group is through texting and social media apps has something to do with it. It has been shown in numerous studies that face-to-face communication is what helps to ward off depression by producing hormones such as oxytocin and dopamine. Later in this essay, I will lay out why I think the greatest area of opportunity for yogis and yoginis is in helping those suffering from depression and anxiety related disorders.


At the source of every problem in the world is a human. Whether it is poverty, starvation, global warming, war, or gender inequality, a person or a group of people are to blame. When you examine the global issues more carefully, you could argue that human qualities of greed, dominance, control, power, lack of empathy and lack of compassion are at the core of the problems with the leadership. If you were to think of a person or a group of people with those qualities you might see that this kind of person has some characteristics of narcissism, antisocial personality disorders or borderline personality disorders. While it might seem like a stretch to say that all global problems are the result of psychopathic leaders; it may not be so crazy. Look at the history of ruthless dictators from Pol Pot to Adolph Hitler to Joseph Stalin. Each of these leaders have been posthumously diagnosed with narcissistic personality disorders – they were psychopaths.


Narcissistic personality disorders are characterized by an exaggerated sense of self-importance and a lack of empathy. People with these types of disorders could partially explain genocides, wars, lack of equality and lack of human rights but what about other human-caused, global issues such as global warming? According to Jon Ronson, author of New York Times bestseller The Psychopath Test: A Journey Through the Madness Industry, while psychopaths make up approximately one percent of the general population, they make-up at least four percent of CEOs and leaders of major industry. A “psychopath” is a diagnosis of a personality disorder characterized by antisocial behavior, lack of empathy and remorse and it is often used interchangeably with narcissist. So, if a psychopath (narcissist) is running a corporation and he/she does not have empathy or remorse and does not care about anything that does not satisfy themselves and shareholders then you can see that concerns about the environment are going to be non-existent.


So, in answer to the question in the title of this essay, “What Can Yoga Offer to Assist the Global Challenges of this Era?” the answer is…a lot. I will now focus on the two main areas I think the modern-day yogi and yogini can make the most profound changes: 1. Participation in peaceful protests against despotic leadership or/and 2. Helping those suffering from depression and anxiety by sharing the practices of yoga. All change must begin from within. We must first become aware of our own short-comings in our own practices. Whether you are working towards enlightenment through Raja Yoga, Hatha Yoga, Bhakti Yoga, Jnana Yoga, Karma Yoga, or Tantric Yoga, if your practice is irregular or inauthentic it will be difficult to inspire change in others. By practicing what the sages, rishis, swamis and gurus laid out as pathways to enlightenment, we can become lights of leadership. This does not necessarily mean that we must lead by assembling masses of people — but it might; leadership can also be a demonstration of what it means to practice all aspects of yoga on a pathway to enlightenment. This kind of leadership might be assisting one person onto the pathway.  


Peaceful Awareness and Action
It is my conjecture that most, if not all, serious global issues are caused by humans who were/are inspired by psychopathic leaders. We must work to replace this kind of leadership with intelligent leaders who embody peace, honesty, respect, fairnes, and balance — a “yamic leadership”. Removing despotic leaders is a challenging thing to do and usually involves conflict but, as history has shown, when masses of people are inspired to rise-up and demonstrate through peaceful actions, change does happen. The suffragette march in 1913 and Martin Luther King’s march in 1963 ‚— both in Washington DC — were peaceful rallies causing massive changes in women’s rights and racial equality. Gandhi’s salt march in 1930 was another example of peaceful protesting which eventually led to India gaining its freedom. A yogi or yogini may identify a problem that is close to them in proximity or close to them in a more heart-centered way. Maybe you have an example of a global problem right in your backyard? In every community in Canada and the United States, and all countries around the world, there are examples of global issues such as poverty, homelessness, inequality, domestic abuse, addictions and food scarcity.


One could start with becoming aware of the global issues in your backyard and then, with a sense of optimism, take steps to make change. You may not be the type of person who will organize a local rally to take to the streets but, if you are, that can be a highly effective tool to spread awareness. We live in an amazing era where we have access to technology that gives us an electronic platform to reach massive numbers of people. Maybe you are better suited to social media campaigns of raising awareness. Once we have awareness about a global issue either in our backyard or in other parts of the world, we have the opportunity to make change — we can take action. Action comes in many forms from invoking democratic rights of election (electing yamic leaders) to fund raising to more hands-on action like construction or making food or sewing. Your skill set will largely determine your awareness campaign and your action. No matter how big or small your campaign, know that you are making a positive change.


Assisting Those Suffering with Depression and Anxiety
As already described in this essay, depression, anxiety and suicide rates are on the rise. I outlined a possible link to social isolation or loneliness and that the most lonely group is the group with highest rates of depression — the youth. While awareness and action campaigns were described above for global issues such as poverty, homelessness, food scarcity, global warming, inequality and domestic abuse, assisting with those suffering from depression and anxiety is something you already have awareness about. Either you have experienced depression and anxiety or you know someone who has. Recall that the WHO says that depression is the leading cause of illness and disability worldwide. The number one reason for suicide is depression. If we are going to make global changes, we need a healthy population to assist with the heavy lifting of change making. In a recent health survey in Canada, 11% of the population between the ages of 15-24 reported suffering from depression requiring medical treatment and the second leading cause of death in this age group was suicide.


Perhaps participating in activism with global issues such as poverty or homelessness did not resonate with you; activism to assist those suffering with depression and anxiety should because if trends continue, we won’t have the healthy masses to make the changes. The good news here is that, since you are reading this article, you likely are already doing something which has been shown to dramatically help with depression and anxiety — yoga. I am not just talking about anecdotal reports. There are reams of studies published in some reputable, peer-reviewed journals showing objective improvements in people suffering from depression and anxiety when practicing yoga. In some of the studies, they actually delineate the different aspects of yoga and whether they studied: asana, pranayama, dhyana or some combination such as Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR). There are improvements over control groups and, in some studies, improvements over pharmaceuticals. We also must not discount some of the intangible benefits of a yoga class such as creating the sense of community and face to face interaction. It seems that the younger generation may need this more than any other generation.


While there does not appear to be any cure or effective treatment for adult psychopathy, there does appear to be effective treatment of juvenile psychopathic tendencies. A meta-analysis of mindfulness techniques (mindful movements, vipassana, mindful meditations) in an article titled, “Mindfulness-Based Interventions for Young Offenders: A Scoping Review” published in the October 2018 edition of Mindfulness concluded, “Studies found some improvement in various measures of mental health, self-regulation, problematic behaviour, substance use, quality of life and criminal propensity”. Perhaps yoga can be a tool to assist our youth in modifying behaviours before they become intractable, adult psychopathic traits.


Conclusion
In this essay I have pointed to research which shows that the world is a better place by almost all markers compared to any point in history. There are however some things that are not better and in fact getting worse — depression, anxiety and suicide rates among the youth. It is my opinion that one of the greatest global problems facing our planet at this time is the dramatic increase in rates of depression, anxiety and suicide in the youth. In addition, I have described how all global problems are human problems and at the source is often leadership with narcissistic traits. Fortunately, as yogis and yoginis we have been shown a path that not only can lead to our personal enlightenment but can, in fact, assist with global problems. I have suggested that activism to replace narcissistic leaders with yamic leadership is important but also to become yamic leaders ourselves and in areas which we identify as problems, create awareness and make change.
Those who have practiced yoga know of the benefits as the body, mind, and spirited become yoked together. We now know through scientific studies that aspects of yoga such as the asana, pranayama, and dhyana have been shown to assist with feelings of loneliness and we also know the mechanisms by which these practices change structures in the brain and affect hormones related to chronic states of stress. We needn’t be zealots but gently lead by example to sensitively assist those suffering from depression and anxiety by showing them a pathway which we know can help ameliorate the biggest problem facing our planet today. 

Brett Wade
Brett Wade

Role of Yoga in the World Today

The Role of Yoga in the World Today

By Liliane Najm, CYA-RYT 300


Benefits of a regular practice of yoga and meditation 

The benefits of a regular and safe practice of yoga and meditation are numerous and include:

  •  Reduction of health problems due to a greater awareness of one’s physical, psychological/emotional and spiritual needs
  • Protection from disease and prevention of illness due to an optimal strengthening of the immune system 
  • Stress management due to a regular practice of Savasana, guided meditation and/or Yoga Nidra 
  • Body-mind-spirit connection leading to improved self-restraint and the ability to build relationships


The United Nations recognized the widespread appeal of yoga as a powerful way of life and proclaimed on December 11, 2014 that June 21 is the International Day of Yoga.

This highlights the role of yoga in connecting people and bringing the world together. 


The International Day of Yoga aims to raise awareness worldwide of the many benefits of practicing yoga. (UN website)


Narendra Modi, the Prime Minister of India, said:

Yoga has the power to bring the entire humankind together! … It embodies unity of mind and body; thought and action; restraint and fulfillment; harmony between man and nature; a holistic approach to health and well-being. It is not about exercise, but to discover the sense of oneness with ourselves, the world and nature. By changing our lifestyle and creating consciousness, it can help in well-being. (Wikipedia)

      

What urgent issues are facing the world today? 

The most urgent issues that the world faces today are climate change and its devastating consequences to all countries; environmental destruction; political upheavals and war; social inequity; and poverty and discrimination.

   

Canadians have seen extreme weather this winter. It seems that extreme weather is going to be the new norm all over the world. The planet's natural ecosystems and renewing capacity are severely damaged, which endangers the ability of the planet to sustain life. (World Centric, a non-profit organization) 


The devastation of wars has amplified political and social upheavals and increased the numbers of refugees to staggering levels. This high number of refugees is putting at risk the countries that host them. Environmental destruction and wars have led to great inequalities. Two-billion people live on less than $2 a day, with no access to necessities like adequate food, water, healthcare, education, housing and hygiene.


Discrimination and poverty go hand in hand. Discrimination brings poverty which results in higher unemployment, long-term unemployment and lower wages. Poverty isolates some people from others most of the time, and poor people risk facing social stigma and discrimination.


How can we yogis contribute to the solution? 

We should be realistic about how much change we yogis could make. There is no perfection in this world, and we must learn to live with “as good as it gets”.


Fully-committed individuals are needed to effectively make a change, but the change starts with each one of us. A regular and safe practice of yoga and meditation allows us to be healthy, in touch with reality, and at our best to help others. This regular practice improves focus and concentration, opens the mind and expands creativity to think outside the box and find creative solutions to these issues.


The practice of yoga frees the body from tiredness and the mind from tension. Meditation allows practitioners to penetrate their inner world where creativity can be found.

Finding solutions to problems requires creativity and a new way of thinking. If problems are or have been created by a certain way of thinking, we cannot expect that way of thinking to solve problems it helped create. For yogis, it is a way of thinking based on yoga’s ethical guide to living – the yamas and niyamas – adapted to the modern world.


Many yogic initiatives around the world have already been implemented by individuals and organizations, but the urgency of the situation requires us all to be part of the solution.


Humans have a symbiotic relationship with earth and nature. We could bring change at subtle and concrete levels. Committed yogis and qualified yoga teachers could work,

without getting paid, with underprivileged communities where they are. We could work together to put in place social initiatives aimed at selflessly helping people all over the world. We could implement customized programs and seminars, in collaboration with various non-profit organizations, on yoga and meditation, diet, health and the like.


This, I believe, summarizes the role of yoga in finding solutions to the problems facing the world today.

Liliane Najm
Liliane Najm

Yoga? What For?

YOGA? WHAT FOR?

 By  Gopala Amir Yaffa CYA-E-RYTGOLD


People practice yoga for many reasons. They want to get flexible and fit; they want to lose weight; they want to cope with life better; they want to relax; or they may want to be spiritually enlightened. So, yoga is not a goal on its own; it is a tool. And, for me, yoga is also a tool for nothing less than world peace.


When I first joined as a monk at the Yoga Ashram in 1994, an inspiring lady from the USA came to stay for a few days on her way to Jordan. We had a few deep and meaningful conversations and I found out that she had just become the private yoga teacher of King Hussein and the Royal Family.


A few months later King Hussein’s attitude toward the Middle East conflicts changed and in a surprising move, he made peace with Israel. Yoga is a powerful tool, even a tool for world peace.


After leaving the Ashram in 2004, I started developing a unique style of yoga called Rainbow Yoga. The idea behind Rainbow Yoga was to bring people together through yoga. I found the more “traditional” yoga to be isolating with its focus on the individual and its philosophy of negating the world, so my new yoga was a rebellion against what I found constricting within that old yoga world.


I was taught in the Ashram that happiness is within, but I discovered that it is not just within, it is also all around us, ready to be experienced and tapped into through all of our senses and through all of our interactions with friends and our fellow beings. Our new paradigm of yoga was to come out of our individual yoga square and join the yoga circle. Our meditation expanded to include everyone in the room and even all beings in the universe rather than contracting into oneself.Doing poses in groups and pairs, interacting and playing together, dancing and massaging — all became tools to feel more connected to oneself and one another in body and heart.


My first yoga studio was in Tel Aviv and was named “Yoga LeShalom” which translates to Yoga for Peace and, continuing with the idea of the Jordanian-Israeli peace, was aimed at bringing peace not just to individuals, but also to couples and families, communities and even countries. Growing and nurturing this vision we started our Rainbow Yoga teacher trainings, first for Kids Yoga, investing in the next generation of peacemakers, and then Rainbow Yoga for adults.


My beautiful and amazing life partner Angel and I travelled with our growing family to almost every part of the world sharing this ecstatic feeling with thousands of people.

Now, with our latest project, the Rainbow Centre, we are attempting to expand and reach farther than ever before using yoga as a tool for social evolution.


The Rainbow Centre is a hub of human interaction bringing people together through vegan food, social yoga, music, dance, tantra and art. Besides an amazing and varied schedule of yoga and more, plus a vegan restaurant, we offer a few events a week aimed at inspiring people to come out of themselves, ignite their inner fire, connect and stand up and make a difference in the world where needed.


What we try to teach in this Centre, more than anything else, is kindness. If we make our choices about what we buy and what we eat and how we interact with the world guided by kindness, we believe that we will heal not just ourselves and our communities, but also the bigger world conflicts and challenges we experience and even our earth with its delicate environment.


Kindness is tricky because it can’t be faked. You can’t force yourself to be kind, but you can relax yourself into be kind. That’s because kindness, empathy, compassion and love are fundamental to our being. Only when we bury ourselves in preconceptions and prejudice do we fail to see our own and each other’s’ basic goodness.


We are pushing the boundaries and breaking through the invisible ideologies we all grew up with. We are educating our community to be free. We are engaging in grassroots activism and a kind of anarchy, a peaceful one. We are taking matters into our own hands, making changes from the bottom up, changes in our families and our communities, changes that will eventually ripple all the way up to government and humanity at large.

From Naked Yoga and Yoga Raves to Doga (yoga with your dog) and Broga (manly yoga for dudes), we are constantly trying new ideas and finding more ways to connect with our community. We present art and music from environmentalists and activists, and movie screenings with panel discussions, to expand people’s horizons. We educate people about what's happening to our beautiful planet and where and how we can help because, when we know better, we can do better.


Many of us feel hopeless about the state of the world, fearful for our future. But what if you did one thing? What if I did one thing? What if we all, every one of us who is able, did one thing that is kinder?


How do we save the world?

The answer is surprisingly simple: Education. Truth. Awareness. 


We are fundamentally good, no matter how stressful and sick things might feel at times. We see suffering and we instinctively want to help. If we don’t want to help, it’s because we have buried our caring beneath a lifetime of hurt. We can heal. We can open. We can be brave. This is our yoga journey. This is our WHY.


Why do you practice yoga and how are you going to make the world a better place with it?

Gopala Amir Yaffa
Gopala Amir Yaffa

Yoga Part Of Activism?

Should Yoga Be a Part of Activism?

By Natalie Forrest CYA-E-RYTGOLD


I’ve spent a lot of time contemplating this. That’s what you’ll find below: weaving threads of contemplation into an in-the-moment” tapestry of understanding. I offer this as a discussion and not as absolute.


The answer depends on the practitioner. This is crucial. Yoga is unique; it doesn’t tell us what to do or think but rather offers us tools, techniques and direction in cultivating insight and eventually presence. To me, this is a sacred aspect of the practice. To me, this is the only thing that should be part of Yoga.


But let’s delve deeper into why activism exists. Activism has arisen because something is broken in our community; there’s a lack of integrity (when I use the word integrity here, I am referencing the original meaning of the word: wholeness*). Activism is the acknowledgment and the actions of trying to bring a whole-ness back to our community.


(To me,) The most integral thing we can do in our personal practice is to contemplate and move ever in the direction of understanding things more fully. To do this we must hold our Truths lightly: we must strive to see them (or perhaps more accurately, see our understanding of them), as growing, evolving dynamic interactions with integrity and not as something static, unbreakable, and unyielding. This is part of our own integrity as practitioners of yoga: to be able to look within and be curious about what’s going on with our mind stuff. You know, the stuff…our assumptions, expectations, beliefs, (mis)understandings about ourselves and others, life, snippets of incomplete or unclear stories that rattle around; all those potentially unnecessary and unidentified mental and emotional things that are taking up space within us, that fill us up within in an encroaching, imposing way. That’s the heart of a yoga practice, those are the things we need to be curious about and question for ever greater clarity and understanding.


Within the insight of experience and a long-term practice, we can start to see bigger patterns within ourselves and our society. We must nurture and grow the skills to be able to be in conflict with ourselves or others and be able to navigate it with compassion, connection, and a true desire to understand the other (or ourselves). The mirror of this is at the heart of activism, a true desire to understand and be understood.


I’d like to circle back to the word “community” for a moment. This word gets thrown around a lot, and its meaning has become a bit like a wind chime; hollow and dangling (off the edges of our mouths) but it sure sounds beautiful**. As our practices grow and our awareness settles into that which is more innate, the layers of our mind dissolve. Peeled back, and accepted, we start to experience Yoga: the oneness (or rather, non-duality) which organically arises in our experiences. With that oneness comes a deeper understanding of connection, of community, and it’s not an easy understanding. Because we are all part of something larger than ourselves, a wholeness that goes beyond just ourselves, we are all in community.


It’s the deep realization that we can, and do, affect each other.


This deep responsibility is both heavy and uplifting as we have to be willing to acknowledge and see the trespasses that we as individuals, and as a larger society, have made against other members of our community. This is a hard reckoning for those who are still entangled in and identified with the mind stuff.

Yoga asks us to come from a place of compassion and connection; not because we fear unearthly consequences but because we have felt the deep responsibility of being a part of the same wholeness — of being in community.


So, in the depths of this understanding and contemplation of wholeness, oneness and unity, if after contemplation one has had the patience to allow the mud of the mind to settle and the “right” action has arisen, and that action is activism, well, therein lies the answer!

  

* an undivided or unbroken completeness or totality with nothing wanting https://www.thefreedictionary.com/integrity

** this is a simile for demonstrative purposes only; I mean no disrespect to wind chimes, nor do I mean to present wind chimes as superficial. I adore wind chimes, but it was handy comparison.

Natalie Forrest
Natalie Forrest

Conversation with Manju Jois

A CONVERSATION WITH MANJU JOIS

By Terrilee Bulger CYA-RYT200


When I received the call for submissions for the newsletter, I was submersed in training with my guru, Manju Jois. My submission is a question and answer format with him. 


TB: In a time when we face many challenges — climate change and environmental destruction, political upheaval and war, social inequity, poverty and discrimination etc. — what can or should a yogi do? 


MJ: When the universe gets imbalanced, the world gets in this state. In Vedas, we talk about prithvi [the earth], vayu [the air], agni [fire] and jala [the water]. We are all made of these elements and these elements also make up the earth. Therefore, when we get imbalanced, we must start to balance our own body. Once we start balancing ourselves, we can start to balance the world. Right now, we can’t find the balance. There is so much ignorance in the world and right now there is more ignorance than intelligence. If you look at what is going on all over the world now, for example, there are leaders who want to start wars or use nuclear weapons. When that happens, the universe will come to an end and it is ignorance that causes that. 


So, in yoga philosophy, at times like this, you go inside of yourself to see what needs to be balanced. Once you start to find the balance there, you can start to balance the universe.

 

TB: “So you start with balancing your own issues?”


MJ: That is right. That is why we don’t judge people. It is not our business to judge. First, we must work on the impurities in our own self. Once someone starts clearing up the impurities, just being around a person who is pure and simple makes you pure. That is very important. So, when you are with certain people, you enjoy their company and you feel comfortable with them. They are not draining your energy from you. They are getting something from you too that you didn’t know you had.


TB: So, what you are saying is that when you balance yourself, other people will become balanced by being around you? 


MJ: Yes


TB: And what about chanting? Does that help?


MJ: It does. Chanting is very powerful. That is why we need more chanting every day. The slow vibration purifies you. If you hear nice chanting, your mind reacts to it positively. The vibration starts in your head and that is what clears up the cloud in your mind. See? Everyone has a cloud sitting there [in their head] so we must help make it disappear. The sun behind the cloud. The chanting brings the sun. It is called ahtnam in Sanskrit — it means your soul and jnana means knowledge — you will see the whole knowledge come out of you. That is enlightenment. And that is what we are trying to discover. It comes with daily action.


TB: It reminds of the quote from the Dalai Lama that is something about if you think you are too small to make a difference, try sleeping in a room with a mosquito.


MJ: Yes, we [yogis] always think that to make a difference, “you” must come first. If someone says, I don’t have time to do this, then you can say, “you are never going to have time; before you know it, your time will be up. If you neglect [yourself] now, then slowly, you will get sick, you are not getting proper exercise, and slowly it will kill you”. So that is why you always have to take care of yourself first.


TB: That makes a lot of sense.


MJ: It is important that people remember “I am everything. I am the creator. I create good things, I create bad things. I am good and I am evil”. You can’t blame someone else like “oh, you did this to me”…no, you did it yourself. You have a choice. So, whatever choice you make, it is entirely up to you. Just when you make that choice, think about it and the impact that it has.


TB: Thanks Manju.

Terrilee with Manju Jois
Terrilee with Manju Jois

Unleashing Shanti

UNLEASHING SHANTI ON THE WORLD

 By Kyrsta Close CYA-RYT200


Prana and Apana — those of us who explore our world from the mat have likely become well versed in this Vedic equivalent of Yin and Yang. The ebb and flow which keeps our goal of “perfect” equilibrium always just a touch elusive...  As an acupuncturist, I have years of studies supporting the theory that “perfect” balance is not maintainable. We can get very close, but typically we simply pass through that golden threshold on our constant journey from one imbalance to our next. The futility of our goal is not an argument for its abandonment. Excellence is not the enemy of perfection, complacency is. The same is true off the mat. Apathy to the destructive imbalances around us will not shield us from their disastrous results. 


Yoga has been a powerful vessel for change across eons, as well as continents. The practice itself wouldn't be thriving around the world if the long-accepted social norm of denying women and foreigners access to our transformative practice hadn't been torn down. Elimination of those long-held “moralistic” views on who met the requirements to partake in the study of yoga has made way for a brilliant present, planting seeds for an even brighter future. 


As a global community, the problems we are facing are not new. Rather, it is this age of information accessibility, which is enabling us to finally see the truly crushing results born of social (racial/gender/economic) inequality, poverty and environmental destruction. These cancerous barriers to our equality and progress are intricately interwoven, each one feeding the next. Geo-social atrocities and egregious international policies are too numerous to count and far too massive a topic to grasp without first dissecting them into manageable pieces. It is ok to not know how or where to begin. It is normal to feel overwhelmed by the sheer weight of the need for change that exists across the globe. Remember, you are not alone in thinking that we could be much closer to the incredible potential that our planet offers. 


The practice of activism can be approached in much the same way as our initial, faltering steps into yoga were. Slow. Tentative. We didn't leap onto our mats for the first time as masters. We found teachers, watched videos, read magazines, experimented and found a style that “clicked” with us. Activism, like yoga, is made up of many branches, each with its own focus. Each working to drag society an inch closer to civility, inclusivity, accessibility and equality.


How to begin: 

  • Find a cause that resonates with your spirit. Animals, environment, social inequality — the list of those waiting for our help is endless.
  • Be open to new ways of thinking. We cannot ask the future of our dreams to try to squeak out its existence among the limitations of our flawed past. This is not to say we won't make mistakes, but let them be new, vibrant mistakes. Let us set down the patterns that we know will lead us toward social structures which serve only to make the most vulnerable among us even more invisible.
  • Research. The responsibility for educating ourselves, families and communities rests on our limber shoulders. There are mountains of data, waiting for the willing reader, compiled by scientists and sociologists over centuries and it would be a mistake of massive proportions to ignore them. 
  • Decide what your activism looks like. It can be as subtle or as blatant as you'd like, but it must be rooted in research. Allow your new practice to integrate into your life peacefully. Extinguish your complacency gently, by defining clearly what you are willing to tolerate. This can mean everything from correcting loved ones who perpetuate the use of demeaning “jokes” to becoming the champion of your cause, and anything in between. 
  • Take the leap. “Someday” is not a day of the week. Start now and the world around you will be a better place for it. It is great to recognize, with deep gratitude, those who have fought before, but the greatest display of our heartfelt appreciation is to pick up where they left off. 


Let's take our “Shanti” off the mat and unleash it on the world. 

Krysta Close
Krysta Close

The Concept of the Matrix of the Universe

The Concept of the Matrix of the Universe

By Maya Machawe CYA-E-RYTGOLD


Since the advent of the universe, mankind has always been interested in the commencement and conclusion of the world as well as in human nature. Their endeavors have been directed toward discovering the conceptual mystery of creation with the help of different rational and philosophical ideologies along with various religious doctrines. 


The ancient Vedic Seers of India have given us a theory of human development. They noted that life on earth is under the rule of vast cosmic forces. They seemed to be aware of infinite time and space. They used to measure time based on the revolutions of the earth, moon and the sun. Their complex calendar used the sun and moon to define the days, months and years. Days and months were defined by the moon and years were defined by the sun. They believed that besides the light from our own sun, we also receive light from the center of the galaxy, the galactic sun with no visible frequencies (Vishnu Nabhi) which has a special influence on human consciousness. Humanity acts in harmony with this cosmic light. This leads to significant periods of advance and decline in human consciousness, giving rise to certain time cycles, each called a yug or era. 


According to ancient Indian Vedic and Puraic texts, the creation and destruction of the universe is a cyclic process. Every cycle starts with creation, has its own time of expansion (the life time of the universe) and destruction. During each time of expansion, life in the universe is divided into four successive eras. These four eras are differentiable based on their qualities. The names of these four eras have been derived from an ancient Vedic game of dice and counters.


The ancient philosophers believed that the world has been expanding in the same way as a matrix or network, the important fabrics of which are mainly made of the four successive eras. The duration of these eras accords to ten units of time that are arranged in the ratio of 4:3:2:1 (i.e. the first era being four times longer than the last one). The duration of the second era is three times and the third era is twice longer than the last era. Thus, the lengths of these four successive eras show a descending trend. This downward tendency of time is accompanied with a descending trend in morality, with each era having its own specific qualities. These Indian eras are comparable to the ancient Greek Golden, Silver, Bronze and Iron Ages, namely:


1. Satya or Kreta Yug: The duration of this era is equal to the Golden Age which is 1,728,000 human years (4 x 432,000).

2. Treta Yug: The duration of this era is equal to the Silver Age which is 1,296,000 human years (3 x 432,000).

3. Dvapara Yug: The duration of this era is equal to the Bronze Age which has a length of 864,000 human years (2 x 432,000).

4. Kali Yug: The duration of this era is equal to the Iron Age which has a length of 432,000 human years (1 x 432, 000).


Satya Yug (Golden Age)

The Satya Yug is called the era of honesty and perfection. It is an age of spiritual enlightenment. Everyone in this duration is pious, devout, a believer in God and overwhelmed with positive virtues such as friendliness, kindness, mercy, justice and happiness. Purity and loyalty are emphasized in each individual’s life. Negative traits such as pride, fear, desire, niggardliness and injustice are very limited. It is said that the Divine Being (Vishnu) announces his presence to human beings four times during this era.

It is also said that in this era people are free from disease and decay. Purana states that human stature in this era is about 21 cubits (each cubit is equal to 18 to 22 inches).

The total ratio of karma performance (i.e. the group performance of mankind) in this era is 19 to 1, meaning that there is only 1 sin against 19 meritorious acts. In ancient literature, the symbol of morality for this period is a dharma cow standing on its four legs. The Satya Yug is also called as the Krita Yug since Krita is the winner in the game of dice and counters.


Treta Yug (Silver Age)

During this age the level of morality declines one fourth due to a decrease of purity. Gradually people show interest in materialistic activities. This era is called the mental age since some mental attitudes such as anger and deceit appear due to discontentment, which leads to quarrel between the followers of purity. The God of the universe announces his presence thrice during this period. The total ratio of karma performance during this era is 15 to 5, meaning that there are 5 sins against 15 meritorious acts. According to ancient literatures, the symbol of morality for this period is shown as a dharma cow standing on three legs.

Treta is the name of the third counter in the game of dice and counters. It is said that disease and decay start from this age. Human stature in this era is about 14 cubits.


Dvapara Yug (Bronze Age) 

In this era mankind experiences a significant decline in spirituality. The level of purity declines, and our merits gradually become pale resulting in the spread of antagonism and immorality. Faithlessness and stealth rise up against faith and purity. This age is also called the energy age. The total ratio of karma performance in this era are equal in measure, meaning that there are 10 meritorious acts against 10 sins. The God of the universe announces his presence twice during the Dvapara Yug. Manuscripts from ancient times show the symbol of morality as a dharma cow standing on two legs during this period.

Dvapara is the name of the double counter of the dice game. Purana states that human stature in this era is about 7 cubits.


Kali Yug (Iron Age)

This era is called the age of darkness as well as the material age. Injustice and darkness dominate everywhere. Only one fourth of our former purity remains among the people. Divine values and morality decline considerably. Kali is the era of voracity, cupidity and jealousy. Famine, adversity and conflict overshadow human lives. The ratio of meritorious acts to sin is 2 to 18 and the God of the universe announces his presence only once in this era. The symbol of morality is shown as a dharma cow standing on one leg during this period. Everyone is at risk, but not everyone is affected equally.

Kali is the loser in the dice game. Purana states that human stature in this era is about 3.5 cubits.

The end of the Kali Yug is the termination of a full cycle of creation. It is said that the end of the Kali Yug will be followed by cataclysmic changes on earth leading to the collapse of civilization. Creation dissolves to put an end to the decline of purity. Floods and storms overwhelm the whole world. While the truth of the human soul is everlasting, being turns to extinction. 


Maha Yug

These four eras altogether constitute a Maha Yug, which means a Great Cycle. The duration of each Maha Yug is 4,320,000 human years.

Traditional Indian scriptures state that after the end of each Kali Yug, divine intervention will restore creation to its pristine state and another Satya Yug will arise. These scriptures describe the age of the universe as a series of repeating Maha Yug cycles.


Some modern scholars like Sri. Yukteshwar and Yogananda present another theory. According to their theory, a complete cycle of Yuga consists of two halves, a descending half arc and an ascending half arc. In one cycle of Maha Yug mankind as a whole descends in spiritual awareness from Satya to Kali Yug and again as a whole rises to increased spiritual awareness in an ascending manner from Kali to Satya Yuga. This theory was first given by Sri. Yukteshwar in his book The Holy Science in 1894. 


Sri. Yukteshwar’s model differs from the traditional one. He explains that instead of always proceeding in the same order, the cycle of Yuga alternate between descending and ascending order. He believed that the original scriptures gave the length of Yuga in ordinary years and not in units of divine years. He wrote that after completing 12,000 years of the descending cycle from Satya Yug to Kali Yug, the sequence reverses itself and an ascending cycle of 12,000 years begins which goes from Kali Yuga to Satya Yug.

The statements of these philosophers symbolize the fact that there are different ways of explaining the length of Yuga or that the ancient seers may have used different type of calendars to describe the length of Yuga. 


After reviewing both the ancient and modern theories, it can be concluded that inherent in both theories is the idea that the whole of mankind or human consciousness passes through predetermined cycles which are fixed chronologically towards decline in spirituality and dharma. 


This conclusion may seem pessimistic to humans. However, on the bright side, a truth seeker might be able to find a Golden Key to salvation from the same ancient scriptures. As individuals with a unique physical, mental and spiritual existence in our cosmic manifestation, our personal development of wisdom and consciousness greatly depends on our own karma (actions). Karma determines each soul’s unique destiny by fixing our lost morality. According to the premise of karma, every action has its own consequence. Therefore, virtuous acts or pious activities (punya) have positive consequences for individuals on the path of developing wisdom, and practice of absolute virtue and spirituality. It is necessary to assure the inner ascending journey of a single soul by our own choices and personally enjoy the quality of Satya Yug. 


The ancient seers introduced the path of yoga for those who aspire for virtue and to regain the state of equilibrium where there is no presence of anger, pride, lust etc. Yoga cultivates strength, awareness, poise, peace, love and truth in our daily lives which are the qualities of Satya Yug. 


A yogi, immersed in inner peace, reflects his feelings towards others, helping them exhibit affection, compassion and sympathy in their behaviors. If yogis —from all over the world — unite together in building stronger communities with a core intention to help humanity, their work would certainly make an immeasurable difference. It could spread the teachings of yoga voluntarily, which would help people stay stress free and help them in being more aware and active both physically and mentally. 


The result would surely lead to considerable decrease in mental, emotional and social stresses making everything simpler. The “Ahimsa consciousness” of yoga can help save the environment and bring ecological balance by inspiring people to plant trees in their neighborhood or respect animals. 


In conclusion, the Nirvana (Liberation) of yoga is not only a mental state achieved through meditation, but a conscious act to fix “lost humanity” and to teach it to be able to endure for future generations. 

Maya Machawe
Maya Machawe

Social and Environmental Advocacy, but Not Activism

Yoga — A Place for Social and Environmental Advocacy, but Not Activism

By Lisa Sullivan CYA-RYT200


Yoga may be perceived, at first glance, as simply a physical exercise class. However, more importantly, the practice of yoga creates space in the mind as well as the body and acts as a catalyst to finding an innate feeling of interconnectedness and belonging, or what I like to call “oneness”, and a realization of purpose. What appears initially as only a fun and lighthearted activity is, in fact, enriching and impactful on a deeper level, bringing people into alignment with their most authentic selves.  


As we slough off the layers of masks and expectations imposed on us by ourselves and the world, we realize that, as Rumi says, “the entire universe is inside of you”.  This sense of oneness brings with it a sense of responsibility to that which we belong and feel connected to. In this moment, yoga shifts from an internal practice to expand to the world around us, where it can reinforce values and bring awareness to social and environmental accountability. So with this connection in mind, what is the role of yoga in the world in terms of its relationship to social and environmental activism? Should the practice of yoga involve activism? Can yoga help bring balance to the challenges that we as a community face today? Where climate change, environmental destruction, political upheaval, war, social inequality, poverty and discrimination are issues that need to be addressed. My belief is, with the growth of a personal practice, self-love transitions into universal love. This love and the space it creates is a natural platform for social and environmental advocacy, however, there should not be any expectations for how that manifests in each individual. Yoga is a unique practice for each individual for the given moment. 


I believe the fundamental role of a yoga teacher is to hold space, which should be both safe and profound. As a teacher, I offer suggestions, with materials such as readings, and physical cues to help bring connection with the mind, body and soul. I want to help my students to listen to their bodies and not push themselves into a posture that brings pain. My aim is to create the space, the calm, the safety, the comfort, the acceptance for my students to do their own growth work wherever they are physically, emotionally or mentally. In this safe environment, it is my hope that students can form connections within themselves and build a practice of self-love and radical self-acceptance. When we are able to practice self-love and are open enough to truly know that everything is connected, practicing self-love becomes loving the universe. When one becomes more centered and aligned, the person begins to vibrate in harmony with the deep underlying tones of the earth and the lifeforce that links all living things together. I believe that, as we experience this, we will begin to act in a more compassionate way towards each other and the earth. As yogis, it is not our job to tell people how to live, but instead to help create space for them to be able to bring themselves into greater alignment with their true self.


The yogic principal of “Ahimsa” means “do no harm”. In practicing this we should strive for an environment where people would not feel fear of discrimination or alienation for not being or doing “enough” socially, politically or environmentally when showing up to a yoga class or in their personal practice. Yoga is the safe space to be, wherever you are in your life journey. During my training, I asked my teacher, how is it that a person can be conscious, while smoking? My teacher did not have an answer to this question, but held no judgment.  As an ex-smoker, I have given that greater thought; I did indulge in a cigarette during a stressful time following my training. Instead of succumbing to guilt, I allowed myself to use what I received from it, the attention to my breath and a sense of calm. While increased consciousness has led me to leave the tobacco use behind, I am aware of its place in my journey. Had I been pressured into leaving the yoga practice due to smoking, my path may have been different. By not passing judgment or creating expectations my teacher practiced ahimsa and allowed that space for growth. This is an essential part of yoga. It’s important for yoga to be an inclusive space, for people to feel that where ever they are in their life journey right now is okay. A person who is under pressure and anxiety should feel accepted in yoga, regardless if they are not capable, in their current state, to reduce consumerism and waste production to further environmental protection. Advocacy can be gentle and will get results, where activism can lead to feelings of separateness and thus disengagement.


In yoga practice, we should continue to strive for dispassion, or what Patanjali referred to as “conscious mastery of desire”, rather than introduce the disordering struggle that can be involved with activism. As our practice grows and we begin to see that part of ourselves resides in everything else and that a part of everything else resides in us, this interconnectedness naturally advocates for social justice and a healthy earth in a gentle manner.  If a person attains a centered place and is in alignment with their truest, most authentic self, and that person feels called to activism, then it may be possible that activism can be practiced in a yogic way, with dispassion, without struggle or too much attachment to the outcome. This is an area that deserves more thought and investigation, however, the fundamental role of yoga in the world should be to create space for each individual to be able to access a centered place within themselves. Yoga should not be directing what that place looks like for each individual or how long it should take for them to get there. The practice of yoga is unique for each individual in each moment.


The role of yoga in the world is to hold space, so people can access the best in themselves. Any more than that, any leaning into activism, risks causing harm and additional stress. We need to start with love, and that love needs to start with ourselves, and that is the work of yoga. When we see the best in ourselves, and love ourselves, we begin to love the world and all the beings in it. We feel love, we give love, we become love, and we cannot knowingly continue to act in an unloving way and retain that beautiful feeling we have found within ourselves. As we begin to see that we are of this world, we naturally take some responsibility for it. That is yoga, and that is how yoga naturally advocates for social justice and environmental protection. We are already doing it.


Namaste (the light in me acknowledges the light in each and every one of you!)

Lisa Sullivan

Lisa Sullivan
Lisa Sullivan

Yoga Is Nothing but to Be!

Yoga Is Nothing but to Be!

By Yves Panneton CYA-E-RYTGOLD


Become who you are. 

— Friedrich Nietzsche


When I saw the theme for the newsletter, I was excited and I could not wait to sit down to write a short article. Once in front of my computer, I just stared at my blank page. Suddenly, I did not know how to approach the topic.


Karma Yoga 

The first thing that came to my mind was Karma Yoga. It seemed the most natural link between yoga and being involved in the world. I was going to say that it is the most accessible yoga yet probably the most difficult. I would have explained that the most important challenge stems from the fact that karma yogis do things for the sake of doing them; they act because their intervention is needed in the here and now; and they intervene notwithstanding what the yogi wants, or may benefit from, or may lose from his/her actions. 


Bhakti Yoga

Then I thought it would not reach those who have a strong faith. So, I considered writing the piece on Bhakti Yoga. I was going to explain that being actively involved in the world is like serving God in the temple. The difference being that instead of making offering to a representation of God in a shrine, the bhakti yogi superimposes God over the world, and all actions in the world are regarded as offerings to God. I would have explained that the bhakti yogi sees himself/herself as the flute Krishna uses to play the music that keeps the Gopis dancing. I would have said that bhakti yogis can opt for various relationships with God. They can see God as a friend like Krishna and Arjuna; as a lover like Krishna and Radha; or as a parent looking after baby Krishna. I would have finished by saying that the main driver for action in Bhakti is love and compassion for others. 


Jnana Yoga

I was afraid to lose those in search of meaning. Then I was thinking of relating the theme to Jnana Yoga or the yoga of knowledge. I would have explained that in this form of yoga, the world is seen as a dynamic expression of Brahman, the Hindu Godhead. I would have said that the universe is in continuous motion; that actions in the world are referred to as sacrifice; and I would have given the example of rain falling from the clouds, which give without worrying if they cause a flood or help flowers to grow. I would have said that our actions are similar because, despite all our good intentions, we cannot be secure in the knowledge that we will achieve the good we had in mind. I would have said that the universe in motion is called Brahman’s Lila or cosmic play. I would have concluded by saying that our purpose in life is solely to partake in Brahman’s Lila. Only our contribution matters and whether we achieve success or not is irrelevant.


Raja Yoga

I then realized I could combine the three forms of yoga in one! So I was about to write about Raja Yoga. I was going to explained that the yamas and niyamas are guidance to properly behave in all the situations we encounter and as such they could relate to Karma Yoga. I would have said that the injunction of surrendering to the divine can be related to Bhakti Yoga and the injunction of studying the scriptures can be related to Jnana Yoga. I was so happy, I felt I was almost there.


Hatha Yoga

Then I thought wait a minute! What about Hatha Yoga? After all, it is the form of yoga we are the most familiar with. I could have explained that the limbs of asana and pranayama in Raja Yoga allude to Hatha Yoga but it would not have linked it with the theme of action in the world. I realized I would have to explain that Hatha Yoga is a tantric practice that rests on the yamas and niyamas — that they are different than the ones in Raja Yoga — and it is within those that the practice of asana and pranayama are to be found. Then I would have explained that the Hatha yogi worships Siva and actions in the world are regarded as offerings to Siva. As such, Hatha Yoga is truly a form of Bhakti Yoga. I felt this would have been tricky to write.


A body made in the fire of Yoga

I was getting sad as I felt I was getting nowhere. Then I thought of the analogy that we are like ships sailing on the ocean of life. I smiled and started to get a bit exited. I was thinking that I could say the practice of yoga is making us healthy and with good health we can accomplish our mission in life.


In the end…

I stalled. Mission? What mission? I looked at philosophers for inspiration. The light turned on! I am sure if we were to ask Nietzsche to explain how a yogi can be in the world, he would say that yoga is to become who we are!

Yoga is about letting our potential bloom. It is not so much about achievements as much as skills. If I want to be a doctor but cannot for one reason or another, I can be a physiotherapist, a personal care attendant or a dedicated parent looking after a sick kid. What matters is to allow my caring nature to bloom. 

All we do — be it consoling a friend or climbing Mount Everest — is yoga. If we invest all our soul, we rejoice and grow. Every achievement and failure is a celebration of life and so, in the end, I decided I would not write an article but wait anxiously to read what others have accomplished.

Yves Panneton
Yves Panneton

Be The Change you want to see in the World!

Be the Change

By Juliana Lavell CYA-E-RYT500


How can we inspire change in humanity?


Begin by inspiring yourself. Take a sober look at all areas of your life and make a choice to clear away what no longer serves and re-calibrate yourself towards what does. Set boundaries and open your heart where needed. We must take inventory of our lives periodically to till the soil and make way for our fresh seeds of intention. Your ability to serve others will depend on your ability to connect with your best self. This takes courage and commitment to embrace the shadow aspects of ourselves and transform those uncomfortable bits with love and compassion. 


Where can we start? With stillness, deep breaths and an open heart to sense the wise voice of your soul. Trust that your soul is mysteriously dancing with the collective soul of humanity and the cosmos, this voice is the sound current of creation — the vibration propagates nature. 


Embrace that there are many ways to effect change. Each person, culture, race, socio-economic standpoint and gender will have their unique perspective and issue to address. I personally feel inspired to end homophobia and racism and to teach women to love their bodies, to make emotions safe for men again, to live in harmony with our planet and respect her as a living and breathing entity. To honour the earth’s vital resources by using them rationally, with reverence and care. To not misuse, rape and abuse the earth or animals for the sake of profit.


It is time to redefine success. To take a fresh look at why we are here and be 100% awake to how we spend our time. To choose work that will expand our hearts and widen our compassion, to live in service to our souls calling and what lights us up.

To serve humanity is to recognize ourselves as part of the whole. Yoga means unity, wholeness, to yolk or come together. 


Our yoga poses are like empty jackets without consciousness weaving through them. It appears that we are separate here but, in terms of our vital life force energy, we are connected to each other and all of creation. Where there is suffering on the planet, we are bound to experience this on some level within ourselves. We may not understand where it is coming from, but the collective depression, anxiety, escapism of addictions and neurotic behaviour (such as body dysmorphia or obsessive-compulsive disorder etc.) are bound to be experienced by the individual, perhaps as a form of pressure or stress. 


When we truly immerse ourselves in the practice of yoga, we become attuned and sensitive to humanity and the planet as a whole. Many are called to serve through karmic actions, realizing that as they serve others through love they are contributing to the equilibrium of wellness and happiness of the whole. To ease the suffering of the individual is to ease the suffering of the collective. 


The unified field is love — Albert Einstein


From an astrological perspective we have transitioned from the Piscean Age and are now in the Aquarian Age. In the Piscean Age, everyone lived in a more selfish way, as if they were isolated individuals. We focused more on our careers, making a name for ourselves, and pursuing security and power. In the Piscean Age, our appearances were more important, so people wore a lot of masks — it was easier to wear one face on the outside but be a completely different person on the inside. Spirituality was sought after in the Piscean Age, but was mainly housed within dogmatic and patriarchal religions.


In the Aquarian Age, we are becoming aware of our interconnection. People can’t hide behind their personas any longer and are tired of wearing masks and trying to connect through their facades. Connections that were fake and inauthentic will fall away. The Aquarian Age has inspired a heart centered connection. 


We cannot dump pollutants into our earth anymore because there are no more hiding places. Our plastic and garbage (all evidence of our over consumption which is fueled by our fear-based need to accumulate stuff or surround everything in plastic). The Aquarian Age makes it obvious that our interior space relates very directly to our exterior space. Our actions affect not only us but also the entire network of human beings and environments around the world. 


The Aquarian Age calls us to develop spiritual vitality, endurance, clarity of character, the capacity to forgive, the ability to process our emotions and the willingness to surrender to do so. We must continue to grow and change through life because it demands it of us; we need flexibility both mentally and physically.


The Aquarian Sutras:

Recognize that the other person is you.

There is a way through every block.

When the time is on you, start, and the pressure will be off.

Understand through compassion or you will misunderstand the times.

Vibrate the Cosmos; the Cosmos shall clear the path.


Be a courageous advocate when you feel inspired to do so. Shed your masks. Surrender your emotions back to the earth regularly. Just as the rain falls we need tears, we need joy radiant like the sun, miraculous like rainbows and even our wrath like raging storms that clear away the old paradigms. 


Gone are the times of dogma — I am right and you are wrong. Cue the era of unity consciousness — we are all in this together, let’s cooperate. Gone are the times of competition; cue the season of collaboration. Gone are the times of pedestal worship. Recognize the guru is in each of us and all of creation. It is time to wake up and listen deep — the great mystery is calling, it whispers in the wind, nudges your soul when the sun lights your face, cleanses you with the rains and leaves you in awe with every passing sunrise, sunset and shooting star. 


We are all just walking each-other home. — Ram Dass


Take radical responsibility for your own divine alignment. Nurture your freedom to act in ways that align you with the infinite field of pure potential that is love. How do we do this? We act in service to love, we forgive so we can be met by the truth that is who we are. 

Recognize that the state of your inner being is more powerful than your actions. Actions made from an aligned inner being are rooted in love consciousness. To love doesn’t mean you are a doormat, it means you set boundaries, like a cup must have walls in order to be filled, in order for it to collect and spill over to others, the boundaries must be set. 

We then trust that there is a greater intelligence working through us and nurture an intimate relationship with it. This greater intelligence is the love we were born from and what we will return to. 

Juliana Lavell
Juliana Lavell

Quiet Action in the World

Quiet Action

By Lisa Vohsemer CYA-RYT200


I started practicing yoga as a way to strengthen my body. The poses had me move in ways that I had not done since I was a child and I loved it — I frequently would spontaneously perform poses throughout the day just because of the sheer joy it brought me, regardless of how strange I might have looked to my work colleagues. I frequently espoused the many benefits of yoga — how it could improve your posture, your health, your life — to anyone who would listen. But as much as I tried to convince others to make the choice to turn to yoga to heal their own body pains, few listened, and even fewer joined me which frustrated me as I just wanted to help.


Then I participated in a workshop on shamanism. The leader introduced us to the concept of victim–villain–hero. He cautioned us that in a situation where we see someone in need, we may want to just rush in to claim the role of hero and end their suffering. Unfortunately, if that person does not seek help, and we impose ourselves upon them, we’ve forced them to be the victim and we become the villain, not the hero. This image has struck with me since that time and allows me to pause and observe whether my fellow companion will be an open and willing participant to new knowledge and change. 


Through discovery of the eight limbs of yoga, the concept of ahimsa or “do no harm” has similarly impacted me. I take great responsibility to follow this on my personal path, and always emphasize this teaching during yoga classes. I believe it is critical for students to be aware and learn to practice it for themselves. 


From the elderly gentleman who pushes himself too much, never takes the lower level poses that he should, causing himself pain and injury, to the person who frequently purchases items rather than spending time with their own thoughts, I have observed that many of us are continually pushing forward towards some uncertain and unattainable goal causing damage to the environment through our continued commercialism, damage to our bodies as they break down from stress, and damage to society as we isolate ourselves from one another, retreating into our houses and moving further online instead of connecting to each other as individuals in the present.


My practice of ahimsa involves not just my body, but the world around me. I try to ensure my lifestyle and menu choices are as environmentally sound as possible. I connect with the outdoors and with every person I meet in my daily activities. This personal activism surely translates to seeing, in a small part, that I create a better world. I am very cognisant that to become evangelical would just fall on deaf ears and may even push people away. Many may benefit from seeing quiet action in place rather than loud activism. Being present and mindful allows me to hear the quiet calls for help which ultimately allow for heroic acts to manifest. 


Many things in the world we cannot control — but we can control our mind and our actions. Individuals becoming mindful, with each and every one practicing ahimsa, may be the best activism we can ask for. 


© 2019 Lisa Vohsemer

Lisa Vohsemer
Lisa Vohsemer

Yoga in a Time of Challenge

A Pebble in the Pond

By Darlene Romanko CYA-RYT200


How does yoga help in times of challenge? One way to look at this question is to look within ourselves. A healthy individual contributes to a healthy community. Healthy communities contribute to healthy countries and so on. My yoga practice contributes to my health and well-being so I can assist others on their journey. 


I remember being in a class where troubling world events, disasters and inequity were discussed. We attempted to focus on how each of us responds to these issues. Working an 8-hr. day, volunteering in the evening and running children to their activities, I wondered how I — one tired mother, daughter and spouse — could possibly make a difference in this world. 


Our minds can create powerful positive and negative influences in ourselves and in others. Do my thoughts, words and deeds create suffering or lessen it? Where do my motivations lie? Would I approach an issue with anger, blame and righteousness? Alternately, would I approach it with compassion, joy and wisdom? I decided on the alternate path. 


The pond was all around me. Accepting that challenging issues are part of the human condition, I decided my path would focus on lessening suffering where and when I saw it. My best attempts are enough. Gathering pebbles and inviting others to gather their pebbles, we toss them into the ponds together, freeing them to sink into the depths while watching the ripple effect grow into waves.

Darlene Romanko good place to show off who’s occupying the corner offices. Write a nice bio about each executive that includes what they do, how long they’ve been at it, and what got them to where they are.

Darlene Romanko
Darlene Romanko

Awareness — A Critical Path

Awareness — A Critical Path to Foundation, Flow & Freedom

 By Helen Maupin CYA-E-RYT500


My yoga practice frees my capacity to write poems, and the poetry, as seen below, reveals my critical path through the continuous cycle of transformation. 


Coming of Age

Another corner rounded, evidenced
by shifting sensations, expressions, 

experiences.
We are not left the same as we once were.


The closing of this well-read chapter
settles the scores of the past, opening
once blocked clear-seeing and creation.

Much was shed in the passing.


Turning a new page provides
the long-awaited blank canvas, soon
to be collaged with each emerging 

experience. With awareness,
we co-create a joyful future.


Joy resides in such effortless spontaneity, 

where celebration is witnessed in playfulness.
Naked, yet at home, in our new old skin.


In its essence, a regular yoga practice reveals to the practitioner where imbalance resides in body, mind and breath. As we become aware of our personal imbalances, we also discover how to transform them into healthier, happier ways of being in the world. It is these positive outward expressions that energetically influence and transform the behaviour of those around us. One cannot exude health and happiness without equally infecting the planet. 


Over my own lifetime, it became clear to me that building and then maintaining a state of wellness requires a whole person perspective. Yoga teaches us that we must first be aware of our five layers of being (see image below) in order to integrate their respective capacities. Thus, our life journey shifts from merely surviving to thriving. And, because we are collective social beings, as well as one in essence, our personal suffering and joy is intimately connected to all people and the planet. Suffice it to say, the sooner we all get active in “being the change we wish to see”, the sooner other people and the planet will respond in like kind. Loving kindness works!


In order to move beyond survival into thriving, we must establish a solid foundation, have the ability to flow with whatever life presents to us, and all the while free our creative spirit. Integrating these three critical elements — foundation, flow and freedom — ensures we are each able to:

  • stand on our own two feet,
  • easily and effortlessly weather the prevailing physical      and emotional storms that cross our path,
  • release our fear and fully express the unique loving creative      potential inherent within us.


My yogi collaborator, Candace Propp, and I agree that self-reliance, self-mastery and self-expression are greatly enhanced by the following four pillars of transformation — awareness, deep-felt experience, deep collaboration and creative expression. In fact, we believe so strongly in their ability to alter the course of one's life and that of the planet that we designed a 12-week online program, which is soon to be released to the public. These four pillars emerged from recognizing our own self-inquiry process. Tried and true, they supported our journey from merely surviving to joyful thriving. They have shown themselves to be equally impactful in consolidating freedom for many others who chose to join us.


Let’s dig deeper into what it means to be aware, which IMHO is at the root of all yoga teachings. Furthermore, it is fundamental to shifting our personal imbalances (physical and mental illness) and global imbalances (climate change, poverty, war, etc.). 


Awareness

Undoubtedly, the wake-up call that snapped me to attention was the following adage — Where attention goes, energy flows. After reading this statement and witnessing my own distracted and impulsive attention span, I recognized my unconscious mind was controlling the show. I was running on autopilot with a lot of "fight-flight" response interjected during times of high stress. In other words, great chunks of my days, life and energy reserves were spent outside of conscious choice. I was not purposefully leading in my own life. And this is only one of the reasons why being aware (purposefully attentive and awake in the present moment of one's sensations, thoughts, words and deeds) is vital to creating a joyful life.


Another equally powerful reason for shoring up our awareness skill is that we are then able to see the whole truth.


Enlightenment is seeing things as they are,
not as we want or perceive them to be.
Wanting and perceiving bring in the past,
which blocks being present to the moment as it is.
Sandra Stuart, Yoga Teacher


Enlightenment has present moment awareness at its essence. In fact, they are one and the same. Every time we learn something new or have an AHA experience, we are becoming more aware, more enlightened. Staying aware in each unfolding moment allows us to access our intuitive wisdom, which is at the root of all worldly creation or innovation. 


Here is a simple awareness experiment you can try right now. You may want to set a timer for 10 or 15 minutes. Now, close your eyes and take your attention/awareness inside your body. With your inner awareness, search out a sensation (pain, tension, numbness, tingling, etc.). There may be several sensations, but choose only one and rest your awareness on it. Just breathe normally, and if your mind wanders or thoughts and emotions arise, keep refocusing your awareness on the chosen sensation.


Once the timer goes off, you may want to journal about your awareness experiment. What did you learn about yourself? That is, what did you become aware of? Did you find it easy or difficult to keep your awareness focussed on the sensation? Did focusing your awareness on an uncomfortable sensation in your body begin to alleviate that discomfort? Did your intuition speak to you about the root cause of the discomfort? If it did, what one action can you take to alleviate your discomfort and, thereby, make the world a better place?


In closing, the ancient adage gracing the Oracle of Delphi — All Knowledge is Self-knowledge — inspired the wisdom seeker in me to continually hone my self-knowledge. Why? Because all knowledge is self-awareness.

Helene Maupin
Helene Maupin

Don't do yoga; be yoga!

Be Yoga

 By Claire Gordon CYA-RYT500


Don’t do yoga, be yoga.

 

These are the words I’ve heard again and again from my mentors. Yoga isn’t just a physical method meant for transcendence. It is a state of being that can benefit not only yourself, but those around you as well. Being yoga is the framework to lift the spirit of the planet. 


Yoga is more than postures, stretches and practices; it is a means to a compassionate, internal revolution. Yoga has the power to transform both on a micro and macro scale. The dynamic landscape of our world is the perfect platform to put this theory into practice. 


Commonly, yoga is misunderstood and misrepresented. Many view yoga as a workout regime or a sequence of stretching techniques. There is validity to this claim, to an extent. It’s true that yoga asana can be challenging and tones and stretches the body. But yoga is so much more than that. The Sanskrit word yoga comes from yuj, which means to join, to yoke, to unite. The purpose of yoga is to unify you to the truth of your being. 


To experience this sort of connection, first balance must be achieved in the mind and body. Internal balance will, in turn, create external balance in your environment by firing up ambition and inspiration. Those who wish to can use yoga as a means to make positive changes in their lives, such as turning the home into a haven or establishing a refuge in the mind. 


Being yoga means striving to live each moment with presence, which can, with practice, result in moving through the world with complete awareness of yourself and your actions. It grants the ability to respond wisely and with purpose. It means being able to listen fully, which leads to understanding. When yoga permeates your being, there is no separation from you and your practice spent on the mat. Each moment is an opportunity to further awaken, to further evolve, and to further expand the mind and the heart. 


Today, we are faced with many challenges that range from confusion between individuals to the urgency of saving our planet. During this time of unrest, yoga is not only a practical option, it is a necessary one. To have the ability to welcome each other, understand one another, and have compassion for others is a necessary ability. It is far too easy to forget the simple things in life: sharing, listening, breathing. But it’s the simplest things that will pave the way for cooperation and good will. 


Anyone, at any age, can become proficient at being yoga. It’s as plain as noticing your breath. It’s as manageable as listening without interrupting, as untroublesome as giving eye contact, as effortless as being right where you are, in this moment. Being yoga means enjoying a sun set and a moon rise, birds singing and the sound of rain. Uncomplicated and straightforward, the act of simply being has the ability to influence not only yourself, but all those that you come into contact with. The virtue of being is a skill that sparks and initiates a shift, first internally, then in our societies and finally globally. 


“Don’t do yoga, be yoga.” These are the words I’ve heard, again and again. Accessible, obvious, and undeniably true. A considerable statement to aim for, and the rewards are tremendous. 

Claire Gordon
Claire Gordon

Change and Growth

Change is Important for Growth

 By Karin Moir CYA-RYT200


"Change is important for growth and growth allows us to change." 


A world in constant change. That is our world and our lives. Acceptance is key.
Through the many imbalances — dark/light, yin/yang, cold/hot, good/bad — there comes balance for, without each of these, one would not know the other. I would not know dark if I didn't have light and I wouldn't know cold if I didn't know hot. Yoga helps us reconcile these imbalances. 


 As a yogi, I get myself to balance all of these imbalances and try to guide others to do the same through a connection to themselves, one that works for them personally. This is done through an open mind and being ready for the incredible change yoga can give your life.


 Through our own examples of being the change we want to see in the world, that is our activism at large. Being the example of peace, kindness and leading from the heart is the best yogi there is.

Karin Moir
Karin Moir

World of Uncertainty

Find Balance in a World of Uncertainty

By Heather Cairns-Hodgson CYA-RYT200


One of my students often becomes deeply emotional about the state of the world. It affects her to the point of tears in class sessions and conversations. She has expressed a sense of helplessness, feeling as though she is unable to effectively contribute toward remedying the many dire issues that permeate our planet at this time. She’s not alone.   

As I hold space for her and others like her, I can't help but contemplate my place as a peer, teacher and guide in my role each day with my yoga classes and yoga health coaching groups and even with myself.


How can we use yoga to ground in and hold space for hope and peace, while not burying our heads in the proverbial sand around important topics? What can WE do? Where does our responsibility to the world end or begin as we step onto our mats? And off our mats?

Can we send prayer and intention? Or fundraise and donate? Perhaps we can become activists supporting the causes and groundswell movements we believe in, to help foster change. Maybe we can choose to use our votes, our signatures, our purchases to affect outcomes with petitions, voting booths and cash registers. The answers will be different for each of us. We all have different strengths, capabilities and capacities for what we can achieve. And, in what we believe.


I feel that the best thing we can do for our communities and our planet is to continually improve on who we are. Not from a place of “not good enough”, but from a place of up-levelling the way we live in how we:


  • Eat — choosing to consume cleaner foods that create smaller footprints. 
  • Purchase materials — choosing ethically sustainable products. 
  • Live in our environments — becoming more energy efficient.
  • Step up for our community and neighbourhoods — with a willingness to participate and volunteer when it’s needed. 
  • Clean up our own yards before judging those of our neighbours — and then maybe offering to pitch in and help with theirs.
  • Show up and live our lives with purpose and conviction, with candour and care. 


As we evolve, we evolve the world around us. When we show up on our mats and do the work of relieving our stresses, deepening our practices, and connecting our thoughts with our bodies — we begin to listen to that inner wisdom which inevitably will rise up. From here, we can become more conscious of how we make our choices to affect the world around us. 


By learning the subtleties of when and where to go deeper into our yoga practice, we can discern alternatives in our outer world. Striving for balance on our mats and on our meditation cushions becomes the practice that brings more clarity in how we may bring balance into our own world. It is said all the answers are within — that we will know what we are to do next if we take the time to listen. 


To find balance within a world of uncertainty, injustice and upheaval, we might ask ourselves, have we have allowed the issues of the world to be a distraction from our own inner world? Taking the form of busy-ness in the art of procrastination. A way to avoid changing the things in our internal ecosystem that need our attention.


I offer that we tune-out the outer world for a few minutes each day so we may actually better serve that same world when we return to it. From a place of grounded awareness and healthy intuition, rather than from a space of mental chaos, overwhelm and reaction. 

When you bring your own being into full balance, in sync with the rhythms of nature and the circadian rhythms, you start to have deeper clarity. And you begin to “know thyself”. This is where you can get clear on your dharma — your life’s purpose and how you specifically can show up in the world. Hearing your inner truth guiding you to which steps you should take, what voice to bring forth.


For me, my dharma is in inspiring and supporting people to become their own self love-up guru. Loving themselves whole by building habits based on ancient yogis and Ayurveda. This is what I teach in my Love-up Habit Evolution program — to eat wisely, rest deeply, move your body for vitality, practice mindfulness & meditation, practice breathe awareness, care for your senses & organs with massage, balance your work/play schedules & your calendars to reflect time for yourself to deeply self-nurture. And to get so clear in your own vessel that you become the best, most radiant, version of you. If we each show up for ourselves in this way, this one shift alone can expand our positive impact on the world around us and within us.

Heather Cairns-Hodgson
Heather Cairns-Hodgson

Yoga is the State of No-mind.

The Role of Yoga in the World

By Gayatri Pathak CYA-RYT200


Yoga has been practiced for over 5000 years and has begun growing immensely all around the world over the last few decades. It has become a modern art form that is practiced to benefit everyone in different ways. As a yoga teacher myself, I get many inquiries about yoga to help both physical and mental problems such as weight loss, anxiety, depression etc... Yoga can help mental healing and physical healing, but it’s not something that can be done in one sitting. Yoga is a “Sadhana”, which means it requires regular practice. To succeed you must have tremendous perseverance and tremendous will. Yoga is a lifestyle. You have to train your mind towards mindfulness in everything you do. By practicing yoga and living a yogic life, you will be going towards minimalism. Your approach towards life or any critical situation will be different. By practicing pranayama, yoga and meditation regularly, you will become focused, calm, healthier, mindful and relaxed. In such a fast paced and stressful world, where we go through a lot politically, socially, mentally and physically on a daily basis, if we bring yogic lifestyle into our lives, our problems will not be solved but we will learn to approach them differently and more positively. When you are not thinking about anything, and in complete silent bliss, you are in yoga; when you are thinking, and your mind is at work, you are not in yoga. Although you may do all the postures, if your mind begins drifting off and thinking, you are not doing yoga. Yoga is the state of no-mind.


Great leaders from the 19th century, such as Gandhi, Swami Vivekananda, or the Indian Prime Minister Mr. Narendra Modi from current times, are all excellent examples of world heroes that have adopted a yogic lifestyle. The yogic lifestyle is their foundation and the ritual at the start of the day. Mr. Modi actually stood up at the UN and advocated for the benefits of yoga for the world. Global leaders applauded his dedication and declared June 21st World Yoga Day. He led by example, using yoga as his foundation, he spread the “yogic lifestyle” to make this world a better place. 

This is how and what a yogi can and should do. 


Yoga provides balance. It starts with balance of one’s body and breathing, and expands to one’s thoughts and lifestyle. It brings calmness and peace. It helps clear and purify our minds. It helps filter the noise in our heads. With less clutter to process in our brains, we can actually think clearly. De-cluttering the mind brings balance to the mind and body.

Yoga’s teachings can be applied in any profession, whether you’re a doctor, lawyer, business professional, nurse, teacher, athlete, firefighter, journalist, political leader, etc. The list can be endless. Everyone on this planet deserves the calmness, peace of mind, focus, drive and motivation to do what they do for their respective livelihoods. Yoga applies to all, as it focuses on balancing your mind, body, heart and soul. If you have any of those four elements out of balance, you will struggle and various coping mechanism start to fail. Yoga pulls these elements together, bringing traction and balance to your life.

Yoga doesn’t require any activism. One can get into the practice of yoga and one can feel the benefits of yoga. It doesn’t require activism, as it is a philosophy for common people. Yoga doesn’t require more than one’s determination to practice yoga. The rest becomes second nature.


In today’s fast paced world, we are surrounded with so many distractions. It’s very easy to “miss” the routine of a yogic life. Making time for yourself shouldn’t be something to “miss”. Yoga is about making time for yourself. A lot of people I know, including myself at the height of my corporate life, don’t have “time” for themselves. Our priorities are centered around family, work, kids, social gatherings, technology etc. One has to decide to break those barriers to find time for one’s self and that’s where one can realize that the possibilities are endless. Rewards can be many.

Gayatri Pathak
Gayatri Pathak

Balance

Finding Balance

By Ashley Bergeron CYA-RYT200


Today’s world has been designed for the consumer. For better or for worse, profit seems to be more important than human life or any life form for that matter. 


Many of us have tried to find the balance within society. But it can be difficult to find discipline in a world that brands everything. And I confess, yoga is no exception. In most cases yoga is used for the greater good. It has helped so many people in ways such as improving physical or mental health. But I fear people are losing sight of what yoga is all about. You don’t need fancy attire or to be really flexible to enjoy the benefits of yoga.


One of the key elements of yoga is discipline. Discipline within and outside the body. Finding contentment where you are and living fully in the present. Not to say asana isn’t important, it plays a huge role, yet a deep back bend does not make or break your yoga practice. To be a yogi is to be present and to honour your body, heart and soul. Balance on the mat is just as important as having balance within.


Start by taking a deep breath in, exhale and let go of anything that does not serve you or our precious planet. Ask yourself, what do you actually “need”, and what do you “want”? What can you live without? Often, a lot of the stuff we think we “need” is not a necessity but a luxury. We may deserve to treat ourselves but to what extent? Are we losing sight of the simple pleasures in life? Are we missing all the miracles we take for granted every day, such as breathing in clean oxygen or feeling the sunlight on our faces? Both are free and, yet, we often take it all for granted. We are constantly searching for happiness outside ourselves when the answer is found within and sometimes on the mat.


You don’t have to be a yogi to help our planet. You can recycle, use glass instead of plastic. Reuse or donate household items. Or you can try cutting back on meat or other animal products. Take time to listen and honour your heart. Find your balance and together we can help restore balance to our beautiful planet. 

Ashley Bergeron
Ashley Bergeron

New Cycles and Understandings

Greetings from the Heart

By Marian McNair CYA-RYT200


Our world is changing on a daily basis. We live inside a body that is shifting and changing all the time. We’ve lived inside youthful bodies and experienced changes with age. Our constant shifts naturally bring about new cycles and understandings. If we look and listen, we know our world is constantly changing and so are our attitudes and perceptions.


Being on a yogic, spiritual path allows us to look more deeply within and try to make sense of a chaotic world. Don’t you think the world has always been this way? Every time we have tried to birth new ideas and bring about changes we have undergone transformation both internally and externally. We are still changing. We are living in shifting sands, wobbling vortexes and troubled times. How do we find a way to help where it is needed?


When we stand on our yoga mat in Tadasana we embody the mountain as strong winds howl around us like chaotic thoughts. We choose to center our mind by allowing the attributes of stability to manifest in our teaching and practice of yoga. We are challenged to make the same postures new in the understanding and execution of each pose. We vitalize our breath and start anew.


Isn’t the breath a wonderful place to start each day? We breath automatically and by consciously bringing our awareness to the breath we can help turn a tumultuous night into a brave new day just by breathing! What a tool and gift to give others who may be experiencing anxiety and depression. Teaching others to honor the breath within is teaching others about the gift of life.


Our world is undergoing serious shifts and changes from weather to politics and everything in between. How do we take this raw energy in our bodies and use it for good? How do we make our practice meaningful for ourselves and others? How can one person doing yoga create change?


My favorite way to change an environment is with the vibrational sounds of crystal bowls and voice. I offer my classes a heart filled sound meditation at the end of each class as well as vibrational healing sound meditation classes for stress reduction. The whole environment changes to a place of harmony. People need peace. Sound offers peace in a wordless and powerful way. Our cells vibrate and our frequency shifts. We change.


Every day we are different than the day before. When we practice mindful walking, breathing and eating, our understandings and perceptions shift. When students walk into our classroom, we can help them with stress. We can enjoy time together and make our environment a focused, safe space. This is a way we can help more people with the craziness of the world. Our classroom becomes an island of understanding and peace.


When we allow ourselves the space to be centered and vitally alive with our breath and attention, we offer the gift of groundless stability to others. Our very presence creates changes and these changes affect others. It’s just like a ripple in a pond of water. 


Movement creates change. Relationships can move and shift. When we bring our intentions in alignment with who we are, and our ability to speak honestly and openly, we become authentic change. Our world needs our strength and authenticity. Our yoga mat can help bring those around us, and in our classes, stability in an ever-changing world.

Marian McNair
Marian McNair