As the year is almost over and trying to feel celebratory during the holiday season, I can’t help but reflect and think of the year and myself. Seems the classes I’ve taught toward the end of the year have kept a similar theme of reflection and given me reminders of my personal Yoga practice, both, on and off the mat. In some of my recent classes I either started or ended the classes by reading a portion of the preface in the Yoga Sutras of Patangali (by Sri Swami Satchidananda). I’m not sure why I initially turned to that particular page as I’m much further along in my reading of the Sutras. Though I’m always reminded of how my reading of the Sutras and The Bhagavad Gita (by Sri Swami Satchidananda) will always be at the beginning stages. Every time I open those books I could take away something new, even if reading the same page I’ve read before. In a sense, I’ll always be a beginner in Yoga. Although that may seem odd, it really is true. The universe, our own Self, is in a constant state of change. Every minute we’re becoming someone new and my Yoga practice is always new with new challenges, whether physically, mentally, or in my heart.

Practice is the most important factor in Yoga.

Let us know that all these ideas and practices are there to help us forget our personal selfishness and broaden our minds more and more…. It’s very simple. Be good and do good and the entire wisdom will be yours.

Every day let us check our progress and see that we grow a little better. Every day should elevate us a little, broaden our attitudes, reduce our selfishness and make us better masters over our own body, senses and mind. This is the kind of Yoga that will really help us.”  -Yoga Sutras of Patangali by Sri Swami Satchidananda)

Christmas is a day away (my family celebrates on the 24th) and this year isn’t as jolly as last year. As the plans we made have changed. Last year my mom and grandma came to visit me and we enjoyed the Christmas lights in the town and went to see the Nutcracker. This year my poor grandma fell a few weeks ago and due to that couldn’t visit during Thanksgiving. She was getting better and was sent home, only to be sent back to the hospital. She is back home again. I arranged subs for my Yoga classes or cancelled them and drove up to see her and my mom. I had gotten a Charlie Brown Christmas tree last weekend, but due to the unforeseen circumstances Charlie is not decorated and I didn’t get the chance to bring my Menorah out during Hanukkah. (I like to celebrate all the holidays.)

As I am now with my mom and grandma, my heart goes out of both of them. My poor grandma is struggling with a failing body, while my mom is struggling balancing work and taking care of my grandmother. I struggle feeling helpless as there isn’t much I can do to help. This entire situation reminds me of many things. It reminds me how important Yoga is for our BODY. A good example of how Yoga helps someone’s body is Tao Porchon-Lynch. She is (now) a 94-year old Yoga Teacher. I met her during a conference earlier this year. She is truly inspirational. She said to wake in the morning and tell yourself IT WILL BE A GOOD DAY and to SMILE a lot and SMILE at others. She never would listen to a doctor when she had an injury and they told her she couldn’t do this or that pose. She would PRACTICE and eventually gained her strength back.

Now that my path has brought me to Yoga, I realize it is vital for me (and anyone) to have some sort of Yoga practice. I’m not saying everyone should do intense asanas. My Yoga Guru, Ranjitha Sandeep, has always taught me, the basic Yoga poses are the most important. I don’t think I totally understood this until recently. Though seems a lot of what I learned during my Yoga Teacher Training with Ranjitha at Yoga Sutra for Life I don’t completely understand until when I experience it or maybe when it is my time to truly understand it. Spending 15 minutes a day doing some basic asanas will strength your body, mind, and heart. It will also loosen up your muscles and body. It will stretch you where you need. It will massage your inner organs and cleanses toxins out. It will open up your mind and heart. I could go on about all the benefits of Yoga, but basically when practicing Yoga you will get out of it what YOU need. And for all of us that NEED could be something different.

Eventually all us, God-willing, will get old. My grandma is now in her mid-80′s and, unfortunately, with a failing body. I can’t help but wonder, if she had a Yoga practice, could her suffering that she is experiencing now have been prevented? Although that question can never be answered, I would like to believe it could have. Yoga helps balance. So it is very possible with better balance she would not have fallen and broken her arm. And maybe she would have recovered better from sitting in a hospital bed for days if her body was stronger before entering the hospital. Although we’ll never know for sure if Yoga would have helped her, I’m sure have a Yoga practice would not have hurt her.

As far as my personal practice, I remember my teacher, Ranjitha, and other teachers warned me to not teach too many classes as it could drain my energy and I may not find time for my personal practice. Well, that started to happen late this year. I love teaching Yoga and sharing what I learned through my Yoga Teacher Training and continue to learn to my amazing students. Though as I reflect on the year I need to be more cautious to not let my personal practice on the mat suffer.

Lately my neck has started bothering me a great deal again. I think it is partially due to sleeping wrong, then partially to pushing myself too much during an intense workshop, partially to not paying as much attention to my body while I teach, and partially due to stress I’m experiencing lately. Stress with my grandma and other personal stress. Yes, there is a TRUTH when people tell you your stress will create physical pain. I always tell my students this. And I know I’ve experienced this before, but now that I am experiencing it again, I am reminded even more how connected our Mind, Body and Heart are. I started acupuncture treatments again and my acupuncturist, Dr. David Karlovich, noticed extreme tightness in my back and shoulders, although I went to him for my neck. Then I had a massage and my massage therapist, Rachel, noticed my shoulders and hips jutting forward. Although I’m sure a lot of this is due to the factors I mentioned above, I realized that maybe a bigger part of my pain and misalignment is due to my emotional stress lately. We hold our emotions in our hips, so it makes sense that my hips are out of place and everything above my hips is getting out of balance too. Hips openers!! Yes, hips openers are something I need to focus on in my personal practice. See how the MIND, BODY, and HEART all are intertwined?!

So this all brings me back to the Yoga Sutras and why PRACTICE IS THE MOST IMPORTANT FACTOR IN YOGA. Constant and consistent practice is necessary and beneficial for my (and your) MIND, BODY, and HEART. Again, you don’t need to do 60-75 minutes of Yoga day if you don’t have time. Maybe just 15 minutes a day of basic Asanas. Strengthen your body to strengthen your mind and heart. Loosen and stretch your body to open your mind and heart. Twist your body to cleanse your mind and heart. What our parents and music teachers told us as kids is true, Practice, Practice, PRACTICE. We may, as I feel I have recently, fall out of the wagon, but simply CATCH YOURSELF and bring yourself back to your Yoga practice. And that practice includes OFF THE MAT, just as much as ON THE MAT. Yoga will bring your MIND, BODY, and HEART back to BALANCE.

I wish you a very happy and peaceful holiday season and a healthy New Year! Set your intentions, but surrender to the outcome.

Namaste,
Karin aka Shanti Om

Dearest Yogi’s, Run/Walk or Dash with you pup to support The Seeing Eye, a wonderful organization where I volunteer that trains guide dogs for the visually impaired.

JOIN MY TEAM or simply DONATE.
Details at: https://fundraising.active.com/fundraiser/SpeedwellDesignCenter-Yoga

RSVP here: https://www.facebook.com/events/159058237563248/

Run 4 The Seeing Eye offers two events to participate in – a 4-mile run and a 1-mile “Doggy Dash” walk/run. These scenic courses will wind through downtown Morristown and Morris Township. Healthy, well-behaved dogs and puppies (6 months of age and older) are permitted to participate in the 1-mile doggy dash only. All canine participants must be up-to-date on vaccinations and must be on leashes no longer than 6’ at all times. Liability waivers must also be completed by owners.
http://www.seeingeye.org/fondo

Also, I’m teaching a lot of group Yoga classes this summer at Onyx Mind Body in Warren, NJ and Prana Yoga in Denville, NJ where you can DROP-IN. Follow me on Facebook to stay informed where I’m teaching: http://www.facebook.com/MelodicYoga/events

I noticed something interesting and amazing the other day when I was at a dog park and how dogs let go of things so effortlessly. If a dog has a negative experience with another dog (growling, showing teeth, snapping or even biting), the negative experience happens and then literally seconds later it is over. (At least in most instances it seems to end quickly.) Then the dogs go back to getting along as though nothing ever happened. They truly DETACH from the past and live in the present. One of the Yamas we should strive for in our Yoga practice is Aparigraha (non-attachment). If only it were as easy for humans as it is for dogs to detach from negative experiences (or any experiences that we obsess about.)

I watched this very thing happen again during a time I took my dog to an agility class and the lab he has puppy playdates with was there. During their puppy playdates they play wonderfully. Well, during this agility class my dog and the lab started getting quite nasty with each other! Me and my friend were shocked! The trainer told us when we leave the agility class to not even think about what happened as the dogs have already forgotten. When we left the class, both, my friend and I couldn’t help but think about the ugly and scary experience. We had to keep talking outloud to ourselves reminding ourselves to pretend the fight between the dogs never happened. Well, sure enough, the dogs truly acted as though nothing happened. They were back to being friends!

Dogs know Yoga better than People

If only us humans could do the same! We as humans ATTACH ourselves to past experiences. We have an extremely difficult time just letting go. That attachment eats away at our minds and drives us CRAZY. I’m sure you’ve had an experience that you keep running through in your head over and over… AND OVER again. You probably felt like you were almost going crazy. Maybe that experience that you kept running through your head now started ruining your day because your attitude surrounding the experience was negative. This happens to all of us! Sad, but true. Wouldn’t it be beautiful if we could let go of past experiences so effortlessly like dogs? Imagine the weight we would lift off of our mind and soul? And once we remove those weights, our physical body will feel better to! When we let thoughts go out of control in our mind, our shoulders, neck, hips and back could start to hurt. Another reminder that our mind, body and soul are truly connected!

Recently, me and a good friend seemed to drift apart. I reached out to that friend to see what, if anything, was wrong. I asked if I did anything to upset her. Turns out she was upset because I was still talking to a mutual friend of ours that she is no longer speaking with. I know it seems so immature and trivial, but this was the answer I received. I think about my friend often and pray for her that she can learn to LET GO. Obviously, a past experience is eating away at her and she is allowing that past experience to dictate how she thinks and acts in the present. She’s allowing that past experience to interfere with a friendship that could be existing now because she is bothered by that past experience. She’s letting that past experience eat away at her mind. I’m not saying that I’m perfect at LETTING GO and DETACHING. Though I am trying to learn to let go and live in the present. I’m trying to LEAVE THE PAST IN THE PAST.

The other thing that saddens me about my friend and how she is letting her past control her present, is that she and this mutual friend are no longer friends. Neither one will talk to and listen to the other and apologize and move on as friends. This made me think that relationships of all kinds (friendships, family, lovers, etc) should not be defined if those two people in the relationship fight or disagree or not, because any two people in any type of relationship WILL FIGHT and DISAGREE. It is inevitable that all persons in all relationships will fight/disagree at some point. We all have different beliefs and personalities and at times those beautiful differences could easily cause a fight/disagreement. I think a relationship should be defined by HOW YOU MAKE UP. I’ve had many fights and disagreements with my closest friends that I have known since I was a child. Those close friends at times have annoyed me as I’m sure I’ve annoyed them. But just as dogs do not focus on the negative and rather focus on the positive, we as humans should do that same. Negative will happen. But positive will happen too. Focus on the positive! Forgive! Apologize! Move on! No relationship is worth losing over a fight. If we learn to let go (detach) and focus on the positive, rather than then negative, so many relationships could be saved.

How sad a life we would live if we didn’t forgive? Beautiful friendships and family relationships would be lost over stupid things that maybe we thought meant something, but in the big picture mean nothing. I, too, made this mistake (not forgiving and leaving the past in the past) and lost a relationship of someone very dear to me. Everyday I work on forgiving myself for this mistake. We all need to speak our minds, forgive and apologize. Even if we feel we truly didn’t do anything wrong, maybe just apologizing (and a hug) is what needs to be done for both parties to move on.

All that said we also need to remember one of the other Yamas, Ahimsa (non-violence). If we are letting our mind get out of control obsessing about some past experience or someone or anything, we’re causing harm to ourselves. We need to practice not only not harming others, but not harming ourselves. We need to surround ourselves with positive people, thoughts and experiences. Remember, you are what you think!

This link is to an article about a boy who’s stepfather hurt him and his mother very severely. The boy forgave his father! It is a inspiring story and a reminder that in order to create peace within ourselves we need to forgive.

Namaste,

Karin aka Shanti Om

Today I took at Yoga class with John Levis at Ananda Yoga in Mendham, New Jersey. He is an Anusara Yoga Teacher. If you have never taken Anusara Yoga, I highly recommend it. It will advance your Yoga poses and help you in learning how to adjust your poses. And it’s just fun to try other styles of Yoga people are passionate about. Even if you find that you still prefer the style you normally do, I’m sure you will learn something from EVERY Yoga class you take.

During the class today, John spoke about (and I will do my best to be as eloquent explaining in my blog as he was explaining in person) how due to technology we are starting to, in a sense, lose connection with the earth or with basic life’s joys. At least that is how I understood what he was saying. He gave the example that he bought a pair of hiking boots that gave all this support, but they gave so much support he didn’t feel the earth and was almost tripping and falling during his hike. Then he tried his barefoot shoes and although they didn’t have all the cool technology and support as the boots, he was able to hike better because he could feel the earth. We have had our own feet since birth and we really are more stable with our natural feet (sometimes) then when wearing all these fancy shoes. Sometimes we think we need this and that and turns out WE JUST NEEDED THE MOST SIMPLEST OF THINGS.

That analogy he described made me think about something my Guru said to me that at least once a day (or week) I should walk barefoot outside. To not think about where I’m stepping because then I will take more notice of the little rocks or twigs giving me pain. If you walk barefoot and don’t think about it, you actually don’t notice the rocks or twigs as much. You’re more just enjoying the walk and nature and you’re inside your own head… which is something we strive for in Yoga, to be inside your mind and be yourself; Your true self. Once we can learn to let go of over thinking where our next step is, we can enjoy everything around us.

I also started to think about all the technology we have in everyday life with blackberry’s, iphones, ipads, laptops and so much else that I don’t even know about. I am a blackberry addict. I am better than I used to be, but still a pretty bad blackberry addict. If you think about how much we do not let our minds REST because we’re constantly staring at some type of computer or on the phone or texting, etc, etc. Way back when we didn’t have all of this technology it seemed people were happier when life was simpler. I think now our minds are moving so much that we are never letting our MINDS REST. It is not healthy to have our mind go go go all the time without letting it rest. We need to learn to force ourselves to let our minds rest. Even if for 5-10 minutes a day. Seems a simple task, but if you try it, I’m sure most of you will have a tough time releasing all the thoughts running through your mind. Basically, I’m talking about meditation. Just sitting quietly and letting go of all thoughts and bringing your focus to your breath and yourself. Maybe try just thinking about ONE happy vision when first trying to meditate.

This is where taking a Yoga class at a studio is beautiful. It forces you to let your MIND REST. You have 60-90 minutes of being selfish and focusing on yourself. Taking Yoga in a studio with others gives you the chance to just focus on your poses and inhales and exhales. You’re sharing energy and generating energy with others. That energy helps you to calm your mind. When you go into Savasanna (corpse pose), your mind is already calm and you can enjoy Savasanna that much more! Did you know in Savasanna you’re really MEDITATING? Some people are scared of meditating because they think they can never do it and end up getting frustrated with themselves. But Savasanna after a series of Yoga poses is meditating! Isn’t that beautiful!? (and kind of sneaky. haha)

I encourage all of you to try to commit to (at least) once a week to going to a Yoga class. Don’t worry about what others in the class are doing or if your poses are “proper”. Just let go and go inside yourself and FOCUS ON YOUR BREATHE. Breathe and envision the positive energy you’re creating during your Yoga practice. Hopefully you can start taking more Yoga classes and/or doing Yoga at home and/or meditating 5-10 minutes a day. (Did you know… it is more beneficial to do Yoga EVERY DAY for 15-30 minutes than once a week for 60-90 minutes?) That said, whatever you can fit into your schedule is better than nothing.

You’ll be pleasantly amazed how much calmer your mind feels and how less stressed or anxious you feel after bringing Yoga into your life. And try to put down the technology for a little each day! Maybe send someone a old-fashioned card or letter. Pick up the phone! Minimize texting and emails. OK, maybe that is too much all at once… Baby steps; do what you can little by little to improve your life.

Namaste

Karin aka Shanti Om

Cherish every moment. Always look for positive, rather than negative, in everything and everyone. Seems so simple, yet most of us tend to first think of the negative before the positive. I recently stayed in a hotel where the rooms were mediocre (at best), and they always ran out of clean beach towels. I found myself immediately thinking negatively and how gross the room was and that the customer service wasn’t great. I had to consciously tell myself to look at the positive! The positives were the hotel was literally on the beach, nice pool and outside bar and live music at night. In addition, I had to remind myself places I stayed when I was a kid with my family were not great. This, I’m sure, was better than hotels my mom could afford for us as kids. And here I was being negative! Luckily I caught myself at what I was doing; and forced myself to change my MIND-set. As soon as I pointed out to myself the positive, my head immediately felt better and I felt calmer and happier. I finally saw the beauty of what was right in front of me.

Yoga Journal - things to try

And all that aside… I’m alive! More and more lately I’m reminded how lucky I am to be alive. Seems so cliché, but so true! Recently I lost a friend of mine in a scuba diving accident, one of my best friends grandmother suddenly got ill and passed away, now that same friend’s mom had a lung cancer scare and another best friend of mine dad died suddenly (without warning) at only 61 years of age in middle of night in sleep due to a mechanical issue with his heart. Then that same other best friend (whose dad died so young), brother died 19 days after the dad at only 31 years of age!! Was also heart related and sudden. I’m having trouble getting my head around all of this! I know there is no sense in trying to make sense of it, but as humans we try to. I’m at a loss for words for my friends (who I have known since we were little kids). I put myself in their shoes and my heart cry’s for them and their families. I don’t know how I would cope. I don’t know how they are coping or how they should cope. I feel so helpless. I so badly want to help my friends, but this is one thing there is nothing I can do to help. I can only pray for them and hug them and keep reminding them I love them.

http://news.yahoo.com/blogs/upshot/paralyzed-bride-marry-one-accident-175440457.html

My one peace is knowing we all have a predetermined path in life; and that everyone I know in this life I have known in a past life and will know in my next life. (Makes me smile every time when I think of that.) The unfortunate thing is we don’t know where our paths will lead. It is sort of like the brick path is only shown to us one brick at a time. There is one fact in life; EVERYTHING CHANGES and EVERYTHING ENDS. We just don’t know when. And those two things that seem to be (for me anyhow) the two most hardest things to deal with, change and endings. But we can’t stop trying to make the best life for our soul in THIS life. It is our duty to our soul to KEEP TRYING, KEEP LIVING.

  USAToday - Older People Make The Most Of Life

Something I wish I learned a long time ago: truly cherish every moment, look at positive in everything and everyone, life’s’ constants are change and endings.

Join me on Thursday, August 18th at 6pm and August 25th at 915am and/or Saturday, August 27th at 10am at Prana Yoga in Denville, NJ. The classes are for beginners and mixed level, so all Yoga levels are welcome! Click Here for details.

If you haven’t taken one of my classes yet, your body and mind will feel challenged, yet you will leave relaxed!

Namaste,

Karin

aka Shanti Om

Just me Saturday morning for a challenging yet relaxing Yoga class (10am at Prana Yoga in Denville, NJ). All levels welcome! Click Here for Details.

This morning I planned to attend an Anusara Yoga class in Mendham, NJ. I arrived and after some time we all realized the instructor was late. After more time passed, we realized the instructor wasn’t coming. My friend informed the class I’m a Yoga instructor. The studio allowed me to teach a Vinyasa class. The class went WONDERFULLY (despite me teaching on a whim and the class expecting a different style). The students were very kind in trying a new style of yoga and turns out they loved it! Many students came to me after class to tell me how awesome and calm they felt. Although I didn’t get my personal class I initially came for, I was BEYOND thrilled how happy the students were.

This was a very good lesson learned for me to always keep an open mind, whether in Yoga class and in all aspects of life. The students were very used to a specific kind of yoga (Anusara) and I felt blessed and honored how open they kept their hearts and minds in trying the yoga I teach, Vinyasa/Hatha. I urge all of you to always keep an OPEN HEART and MIND in all Yoga classes you attend. All the many styles and teachers are wonderful in their own way and all different in some way. Embrace and enjoy the various styles and teachers. You may not “click” with all of them, but at least walk into your classes with an open mind. You never know how the outcome will be; You could end up loving a new style just as these students did this morning.

The other lesson I learned was from a teacher’s perspective; to teach what I know. My guru and other instructors have always told me this, but I don’t think I totally understood till this morning. I could have attempted teaching Anusara as I’ve taken the classes before, but I would not have been successful. Instead I followed my heart and taught what I knew… and the students loved it. As a teacher you may not always appeal to all students, but continue to teach FROM YOUR HEART and the style you know. Students will gravitate to you that are a good fit for your teaching style.

Namaste,

Shanti Om
aka Karin

Had a awesome Vinyasa class this morning at Onyx Mind Body in Warren! A student came up to me after class to tell me how much she enjoyed it. Yey, I love hearing feedback! She hasn’t been doing Yoga for a while, so she felt challenged in some of the poses. She took breaks when needed. Remember when doing your own Yoga practice (whether at home or in a studio) to HONOR YOUR BODY. Do what is best for YOU! Take a break if needed, maybe by doing child’s pose or Tadasana (mountain pose) or Savasana (corpse pose), and/or simply don’t hold the poses as long.

That same student also informed me her knee has been bothering her and she couldn’t hold the balances long. No problem! She did the perfect thing. You can still balance, but not as long. Of course if it hurts too much, maybe best not to balance at all. Balancing can be tough on knees and ankles because all your weight is on one leg.

Always remember your Yoga practice is for YOU! We are all at different levels and have different bone structures, so your pose may look different from your neighbors and you may be able to do different things than your neighbor can or can’t.

Namaste,

Shanti Om

Tomorrow, Friday, 10am at Onyx Mind Body in Warren, NJ. All levels welcome! Join me for a challenging and relaxing (No, it is not an oxymoron) Yoga class.

RSVP Here

Namaste,

Shanti Om (aka Karin)

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