Ganesha

Spiritual Temple Tour of India

Temple tourI can’t wait to return to India for a spiritual temple tour! I have been to India twice now and after each time I returned home, I said to myself, well, I can scratch that off my list of experiences.  But India calls you back to experience that deep stillness in your soul and the feeling of flower petals dropping into your heart.  I know some of you will say, but there are SO many people, limited or nil sanitation, worries about what you will eat (cleanliness), constant loudness of many varying sounds and the hustle and bustle of all who live there.  But within all this chaos, there is this indescribable peace; the Shanti of India.

GaneshaThe first time I went to India was in 2007 with my guru, Namadeva Acharya (Thomas Ashley-Farrand) for the Shree Ashtavinayaka Darshan (pilgrimage) visiting the eight holy shrines of Ganapati in Maharashtra.  Words could never describe all of my experiences, but I will list a few here – Peace pouring down like rain that brought tears to my eyes when meeting the Jagadgurus in Kanchi Math.  At the Rama Krishna Centre in Bangalore, I sat outside on a rock with my feet grounded to the earth.  My meditation was short due to time limitations but very intense.  I could feel all of my chakras vibrating all at the same time.  When I stood up, I could feel all of my energy lodged into the earth and I could not move my feet; possibly an indication that I did not want to leave yet.  Attended an evening puja and when the priest rang his bell, I could feel intense heat and an upward flame burning from my forehead where the marking lines of Vishnu were drawn.  Meditated at a Ganesh temple feeling my heart full, chakras vibrating in my hands with purple lights clouding my vision.  In a meditation in the Himalayas, felt like my hands and feet had separated from my body.  These are just a few of my experiences.  Seven years later in 2014, I returned to India again visiting Rishikesh, Haridwar, Vrindavan, Mathura, Agra and Jaipur with many more wonderful experiences that I will never forget.

Spiritual Temple TourIndia calls again, four years in this upcoming March, when I am leading my own tour (Harmony Spiritual Temple Tour in Tamil Nadu, March 12-27, 2018).  My tour guide is Mina Tilakraj who has worked 30 years in tourism and whom I met in 2014.  I have extensively researched everything for the tour, all planned and ready to go!  I am taking a small group but there is room for you if you wish to experience a dedicated Sadhana practice in India.  Tamil Nadu has 33,000 ancient temples and I have selected very special ones.  We will visit the five temples for the elements (earth, wind, fire, air, ether) and the nine planets (Sun, Moon, Mars, Mercury, Jupiter, Venus, Saturn, Rahu and Ketu) plus visit many other temples for Shiva (including one temple with 468 Lingams), Parvati, Brahma, Saraswati, Vishnu, Lakshmi, Krishna, Rama, Shesha Naga, Sudarshana Chakra, Kali, Narasimba, Durga, Ganesha, Hanuman, Bhuvaneswari, Yama, Mother Gayatri and Dhanvantari.

At each temple there will be a planned Sadhana practice (pranayama, mantra, meditation, mudra and journaling in a tour book I will be providing to all aspirants).  This tour is totally spiritual; our main goal.  Oh yeah, with a little bit of shopping.

Temple Tour

By Helen Mikuska, SOYA, E-RYT500, Lead Trainer for SOYA teacher training in Calgary.

For further information, please visit www.harmonyyogapilatestudio.ca or email info@harmonyyogapilatesstudio.ca.

Woman Dancers

Ayahuasca as Medicine Part 2

In last month’s Newsletter, I talked about the benefits of working with Ayahuasca and Tobacco as a tool for our healing and spiritual growth. I believe that no single practice can take us where we need to go and do.  We need to be open to all the possibilities that are available to us, but only if they speak to us.

It was after my trip to Ecuador in May that Grandmother Doreen Spence came into my life. She is an 80 year old Cree Elder who acts like she is 50 years old. She is a woman of tremendous knowledge and spirituality. In June we did a Traditional Native Teachings course with her in Victoria. It was here that I knew a new path was being laid out for me.

We had a drum journey at this event. In the journey there was a bear and he led me to the top of a mountain. Then an Eagle came by and picked me up and took me across the mountains and landed me in the prairies. Here my journey became a continuation of one my Ayahuasca journeys, and I knew that the prairies held a special significance for me.

View from Writing on Stone of the Milk River.

Mugs and I had our summer all planned out. We had our home up for sale and we were going to travel through the Kootenays and Northern BC looking for property. But Grandmother changed everything. She invited us to a sweatlodge in Cochrane. “Of course!” we said, and our plans had to wait.

The sweat was a great experience – very cleansing and detoxifying. We spent a couple of nights at Grandmother’s home hearing her stories and gleaning her wisdom. She is not a fan of Ayahuasca, but feels it does have a role and she seemed to accept me going to a Shaman in South America.

We left her place without really knowing where we were headed, and at the same time there were areas that intrigued us. We had a summer of

Writing On Stone Provincial Park. Art work by the Blackfoot nation has been dated back 5000 years

following our intuition, looking for the signs and paying attention. We had faith that where ever we ended up was where we were intended to be.  As a BC boy all my life I could not ever see myself living on the prairies, but when one begins the journey there is no stopping it. Grandmother says “there are no coincidences in life”. When you place your trust in your inner and divine knowledge, that is within every being that surrounds us in our day, we can’t go wrong, because everything just is.

Writing on Stone Provincial Park held a special significance for us. Our campsite was full of robins. I never seen so many robins in one spot. I looked up the meaning of the robin and it was “new beginnings”. Our property sold while we were camping there. After we left the park, our plan was to return home and Mugs could catch up on her work. But…….I felt we had to go through Cardston on the way home. The little town was interesting. There was something about it.

After a few days at home, I couldn’t shake the feeling that we had to go back to Cardston. There was a POW WOW in a week. So after telling Mugs she could be home as long as she wanted, I lined up some houses for us to look at and off we went to Cardston.

We weren’t impressed with anything we looked at, but I kept saying to Mugs, “I hope the realtor has something unlisted. Something that a friend has that he is allowed to show.”  Well, after looking at all the houses the realtor had for us, he could see nothing had grabbed our interest. He then said ” I have a friend, who has a house and he told me to bring somebody by.”

We stepped out of the car at this house and we were in love with it. What a manifestation! I said I could live in a two-bedroom house with one bathroom if it had an office, a garage and a yoga space. It had it all and character in spades. This is how a BC guy ends up in the prairies.

My point is, from this year of following our intuition, that the learnings from my lovely wife, Erich Schiffmann, Tantra, Ayahuasca and now Grandmother, all become part of my tool box. I am not just a yogi; I am not just studying Shamanism; I am not just working with Indigenous spirituality. I am the totality of everything I have learned. There are four colours to the medicine wheel, Yellow- (Asian), Red- (Indigenous), Black- (African) and White- (Caucasian). It is said that when the four colours come together there will be peace on earth.

When the fruits of our spiritual practices come together, will we become enlightened?

 It is with great sadness that I had to cancel my Men’s retreat in Ecuador this year. But the journey continues and I still intend to go back and bring men and women with me, as many of you have expressed an interest. I am hoping that this will be the beginning of helping people come and experience what the Plant Medicines have to offer. Please feel free to email me if you are interested. 

Bob McConnell is a RYT500hr yoga teacher and co-owner of SOYA.

Ayahausca healing

Ayahuasca as Medicine

Ayahuasca and Tobacco have been used as medicine by the Shamans in the jungles of the Amazon for many years. As a yoga teacher and fellow yogi I would like to share my experience and my journey in healing this year in Ecuador. Bob McConnell RYT 500hr co-owner of SOYA.

Swami Sivananda said “The paths are many but the Truth is One”. I believe that it may take a few paths to find the Truth, but as long as one path is a platform for the next path, we don’t fall back but we keep going forward to that one Truth, that inner light that is a part of us all.

Through all my yoga training I have had my share of struggles. I didn’t know why. With the Annual SOYA Retreat, the different workshops that Mugs and I have attended. My SOYA 200hr training, the 300hr at the Himalayan institute. I was totally immersed in the practices. I had a personal practice that I was proud of and shifted my sense of consciousness to a different level.

But something was still missing. I never felt completely comfortable in my yoga skin. I felt there was something more. Then we went to Haida Gwaii!

There was a remarkable shift in how we processed our day. Starting at Hazelton we learned to read and understand the totem poles. We began looking at every decision as a moment to pause and see where our intuition would take us.

It was a couple of months after that trip that I had a dream, a “vision”. Usually my dreams are very fragmented and hard to remember. This dream I still remember like it was yesterday. It was about me going to a Shaman for healing and using the plant medicine Ayahuasca. I knew that this was something I had to do. I knew a good friend who was taking part in ceremonies, so I gave him a ring to see if he could introduce me to his group after the winter.

But a funny thing happened. I was talking to a friend in my kitchen down in Mexico, and the first time I verbalized my dream to someone in Mexico a sequence of events unfolded that were unbelievable. After the conversation in my kitchen I went to my acupuncture appointment and out of the blue he asked me if I ever did Ayahuasca. I said no, but I was planning too. Then I came home and the phone rang and it was a friend saying that they are going to Ecuador in January to work with plant medicines, (Ayahuasca). Naturally I said “Where do I sign up?”

It was an amazing time. Being in Ecuador, the birds, the sounds and a beautiful beach to walk on every day. Antonio taking me out on a hike to see monkeys, more birds, dangerous snakes……that whole jungle thing. Along with great food and accommodations, this was a wonderful place to relax, let go and go inward.

Sacred Journeys and YogaWorking with the plant medicines such as Ayahuasca and tobacco is work. It is like any practice in our yoga – the more effort you put into it, the more you get out of it.  It is important to note that Ayahuasca in Ecuador is considered a medicine, and Shamans are legally certified practitioners.  Tania, one of the Shamans, said that tobacco was about this lifetime and Ayahuasca is about healing past lifetimes.

I really took to heart what Tania said about the tobacco and I went through my whole life backwards to the beginning, and back again to present day. It was this process that showed me how situations in life that may not appear to be much in themselves, when all put together can give a lot of clarity to what may be blocking me or holding me back.

With the Ayahuasca, Ed and Tania both said it is about surrender to unconditional love and trust. So I surrendered and put my love and trust in Grandmother Ayahuasca and oh boy, she showed me a few things.

The first Ayahuasca journeys are about cleansing. There is a good chance you will vomit and sometimes have diarrhea later in the night. But it is a good thing. You feel like you are letting go of what is trapped down in the abdomen. This is very similar to the Tantra philosophy, of cleaning and stabilizing the lower chakras to create a foundation for our spiritual practice.

Without going through all the details of my first journeys, the biggest realization is that I had to get back to the earth. I used to be a farmer, and then a landscaper. I was always outside working the earth in some way. It was after this journey that I emailed Mugs and told her we need to make some changes. It was time to sell the place in the Shuswap and find something that will nurture this connection with the earth again. The week in Ecuador flew by and I really felt I returned home a different person. This has stayed with me which doesn’t always happen. Usually I go to a retreat and leave feeling good, but life has a way of grinding you back to reality. This was different, the peace and tranquility stayed through me and continues to this day.

So…….I went back to Ecuador in May. Having done the cleansing aspect back in January I only vomited once and it came from way down deep. I felt like I was getting rid of something that had been stuck inside me for a long, long time. All my journeys were based on past life times. Understanding the good times but also some horrific times, which brought into clarity why I feel the way I do in this life time.

These are tremendous tools that the medicines give you. To understand what has created the “samskaras” for this lifetime brings an amazing amount of peace to my life. But, there was more to come……..stayed tuned for next month

AyahuascaBob is leading a Men’s Yoga and Ayahuasca Retreat in Ecuador, January 6th to 12th. Please go A Shaman and Ayahuasca Retreat For Men, for more information.

Yoga in Latvia

YOGA IN LATVIA – A DOCUMENTARY IN THE MAKING   by Mugs McConnell, SOYA, ERYT500

filming yoga in latviaNext year will be Latvia’s 100th birthday. An inspiring group of yoga enthusiasts in this beautiful country have taken on the project of creating a documentary about the history of Yoga in Latvia. Since my teacher Dr. Harry (Hari) Dickman was very much involved in the unfolding of yoga in Latvia, I have been blessed to be a part of this.

Hari made quite an impact before WWII with his wisdom of yoga, but once the war occurred the people of Latvia had lost track of him. Since I was his last disciple and had noted that fact in my online bio, Dzintars Vilnis Korms from Latvia tracked me down. As his student, I had loads of information of what happened to Hari after the war, so we were able to put together a very nice picture of his life of yoga.

No one knows where Hari was during WWII, but in 1946 letters began to flow to him in “displaced persons” camps in Germany. He wasn’t able to return to Latvia as he would have been killed by the Soviets, so he remained in “DP camps” until 1952 when Paramhansa Yogananda brought him to the USA. He taught yoga in the Brooklyn NY area up until 1976 when he moved to San Rafael, California. Hari taught me from 1977 to 1979, when he died.

I arrived in Latvia Sept 12th and we went to work the next day, filming interviews in the Department of Philosophy at the Latvian University. Dr. Solveiga Krumina Konkova had written a thesis about Hari and the yoga society, so we enjoyed tea while I shared various bits of information about Hari and my time with him. The Latvian people are so proud of their yogic heritage, and Hari was so predominant as a founder of this yoga society. One of the questions that was asked of me was, “What was he like?” It was such a pleasure for me to tell them that he was a kind man and an amazing teacher of yoga, highly regarded my the yoga masters around the world.

There were so many events unfolding over the nine wonderful days I was there. Dzintars and I visited with the faculty at the State University in the Department of Indian Studies and Culture, sharing stories and materials about the Latvian Yoga Society. We were all like kids playing “show and tell”, sharing artifacts we had about this piece of Latvian history.  Dzintars wife Anita took me to where Hari’s flat was in Riga (there is a new place under construction there).  Baiba Jozepa, who is fluent in English, took me around Riga to see the beauty of the city Hari lived in and we imagined him having enjoyed many of the lovely parks. We visited Hari’s home from the 1930s in Tukums, a lovely rural town. We walked in beautiful forests and ate the food that Hari would have loved from traditional restaurants. We watched a beautiful sunset on the beach at the Baltic Sea where Hari had practiced yoga and took photos of his asanas for Swami Sivananda’s book “Hatha Yoga Illustrated”, published in the 1930s.

I taught a two day workshop to some dedicated yogis. Together we practised and  discussed at length the techniques in the book I wrote to honour Hari, “Letters from the Yoga Masters”. These techniques are all drawn from the letters written to Hari over a 50 year span of time from our great yoga masters of the past. One of the highlights was listening to Hari speak about yoga on a recording that was made when I lived with him. It felt as though he was right there with us, along with the spirits of the members of the historical Latvian Yoga Society.

Over the years Dzintars Korns and some other yogis have gathered many historical documents about yoga in Latvia. This documentary will be so exciting for me to watch so I can learn more about Hari’s past and hear what others have to share. Many people have participated, so my role is just a part of the whole. It is also a great opportunity for me to honour Hari and everything that he gave to me. I would never have dreamed my studies with Hari would have taken me on such an amazing journey of life. Honouring his gift of yoga to me by sharing his teachings is the best way to serve him as his student. Stay tuned for the documentary release date! And you can view more photos of Latvia on my facebook page https://www.facebook.com/marion.m.mcconnell .

Mugs will be holding a book talk on Hari and “Letters from the Yoga Masters” at Banyen Books in Vancouver on October 12th.  Perhaps consider joining her in Costa Rica next March for a week! (only 2 rooms left) She hopes to see you there!

For more information on the Latvian Yoga Society, go to  http://tradition.lv/tradition/ljb.htm .

Anusara yoga

What is Anusara Yoga

WHAT THE HECK IS ANUSARA YOGA? By Kamala Wilkie, E-RYT500, SOYA Lead Trainer, Anusara Inspired Teacher
Kamala Wilkie is an extremely dedicated Anusara Inspired yoga teacher. For well over a decade she has been a Lead Trainer for SOYA in the Okanagan, sharing her love of Anusara Yoga and its heart-opening affects. When someone asks her about Anusara yoga her face lights up and you can tell she is living her dharma. Here is how Kamala describes this yoga pathway for her…
With all the different styles of yoga to choose from, I understand when students are confused about what might be a good fit for them. I’d like to shine the light on Anusara Yoga. It’s usually known and loved for its precise alignment guidelines and classes with heart themes. I have been exploring Anusara Yoga for about ten years and I can tell you that the way Anusara aligns the body in poses has brought a lot of needed stability and healing to my body. I’ve kept coming back for the life affirming tantric philosophy that subtly permeates its classes. Even way back in the day when I didn’t understand how to “scoop my tailbone” I knew I felt more connected to others and better about myself after leaving an Anusara class.
Wanting to learn how to facilitate such a class, I started the path of learning & integrating the specific alignment guidelines by attending Anusara Immersions, followed by Anusara teacher trainings then one on one assessments with a mentor. My seven-year path to teaching Anusara Yoga culminated in receiving my Anusara-Inspired ™ designation last winter. Presently, there are only eight of us in Canada who are licensed to teach the Anusara system (which I have been, every Tuesday and Friday at 9am at Purple Lotus for the last few years).
It’s with incredible excitement that I have the opportunity to share Anusara Yoga in the SOYA 200 hour Yoga teacher trainings that I teach. Students coming to immersions this fall at God’s Mountain Estate, or this spring at Sorrento Centre will have an opportunity to dive deeply into the experience of Anusara. I will offer in-depth detail on how to do your asanas from the Anusara perspective, as well as dynamic, intermediate level practices, and an Anusara restoratives practice. Anusara Restoratives are gentle, although they include more alignment and subtle engagement than our usual Restorative classes. Expect all the classes to be therapeutic and heart opening.
If you are already a yoga teacher you may find the SOYA 200 hour training an opportunity to explore more deeply this style of yoga and its sequencing. We dive deeply into incredible depths with the philosophy studies of the Yoga Sutras, Bhagavad Gita, chakras and the creation of class lesson plans. Our daily practices in mantra, meditation, and pranayama will keep your energy up while you immerse yourself in yoga sadhana, and hopefully find the entire retreat a life-changing experience.
200hr Extended Penticton BCKamala Wilkie, E-RYT500, is a lead trainer for the SOYA yoga teacher training, and will be leading the 200 hour training in Penticton and Sorrento. She is the owner of Purple Lotus Yoga studio in Penticton BC, and a passionate yogini with a deeply dedicated practice of yoga.

Chakras

THE CHAKRAS

THE CHAKRAS, A PATH TO THE SELF

By Latika Pierrette Claude, SOYA, RYT500

Who am I? What is my purpose on this earth? These fundamental questions rarely come at a younger age when we feel ourselves immortals, life unfolding in front of our eyes like a never ending path. Unless one is an “old soul”, these questions will pop up at a later stage in life. But one would never be too young to address these queries.

The most fascinating and rewarding thing is to find ourselves on the yoga path. Mysterious at first, unfamiliar language, rituals, philosophy are presented to our curious minds. As we deepen our studies, we soon come across the “chakras”: we are taught their meaning, attributes, location etc. Among the hundreds of them (may be thousands?), we particularly get to study seven in our yogic tradition. Vortexes of prana, we receive what comes our way and give out our own transformed energy.

Recently, I imagined the three lower chakras, with earth, water and fire as their element, forming this vessel, this beautiful ceramic pot, as our container. Once well formed and solidly “baked”, this container is now ready to receive the seed of the heart chakra. With our practices, we feed and nurture that seed and watch it climb up expressing our truth, who we really are, speaking words of love and kindness. The vine keeps climbing up to Ajna chakra, the door to the Mysterious Beyond, the third eye opening to reveal unknown treasures by the ordinary mind. Quiet, in the deep silence, we get to feel, see, hear with unprecedented awareness the richness, the secrets of nature, Prakriti”, the eternal movement of the Life Force we are part of.

And then, may be just for a nanosecond (just like Krishna’s and Arjuna’s encounter on the battle field), we get into Union, into Yoga and finally discover who we really are. Yes I am That, That I am. With practice, this Yoga can be sustained and permeate our whole life.

The chakras, an extraordinary system discovered by ancient sages, are made available to us now by our teachers. Even the electronic world opens this Pandora box to any interested and of curious mind. Listen to your teachers, deeply, hear their message, but mostly, sit in meditation and do your work assiduously. Be alert, without your judgmental mind,  grow the seed within in search of your Higher Self. That is who you really are. And then, use this knowledge to be of service around you, your families, your yogic community, your students. A selfless being, at the service of Self and the world.

Latika is a guest teacher at SOYA Yoga Teacher Trainings in Mexico. She is holding a 5 day yoga retreat Chakras, A Path to Self in Ajijic, Jalisco near Lake Chapala November 10-15, 2017.  For more information email latikayoga@hotmail.com or visit her facebook page https://www.facebook.com/LatikaPierretteClaude/

Ayahausca healing

Spiritual Pathways

Swami Sivananda said “The paths are many but the truth is One”. I believe that it may take a few spiritual pathways to find the truth, but as long as one path is a platform for the next path, we don’t fall back but we keep going forward to that one Truth, that inner light that is a part of us all.

Through all my yoga training I have had my share of struggles. I didn’t know why. This was true with the Annual SOYA Retreat, the different workshops that Mugs and I have attended, my SOYA 200hr training, the 300hr at the Himalayan Institute. I was totally immersed in the practices. I had a personal practice that I was proud of and it shifted my sense of consciousness to a different level.

But something was still missing. I never felt comfortable in my yoga skin. Then we went to Haida Gwaii!

There was a remarkable shift in how we processed our day. Starting at Hazelton we started to read and understand the totem poles. We began looking at every decision as a moment to pause and see where our intuition would take us.

It was a couple of months after that trip that I had a dream, “a vision”. Usually my dreams are very fragmented and hard to remember. This dream I still remember like it was yesterday. It was me going to a Shaman for healing and using the plant medicine Ayahuasca. I knew that this was something I had to do. I knew a good friend who was taking part in ceremonies, so I gave him a ring to see if he would introduce me to his group when I came back from Mexico after the winter.

But a funny thing happened. I was talking to a friend in my kitchen down south and the first time I verbalized my dream to someone down in Mexico a sequence of events unfolded that were unbelievable. After the conversation in my kitchen I went to my acupuncture appointment and out of the blue he asked me if I ever did Ayahuasca. I said no, but I am planning too. Then I came home and the phone rang and it was a friend saying that they are going to Ecuador in January to work with plant medicines, (Ayahuasca). Naturally I said “Where do I sign up?”

It was an amazing time. Being in Ecuador, the birds, the sounds and a beautiful beach to walk on every day. Antonio taking me out on a hike to see Monkey’s, more birds, dangerous snakes……that whole jungle thing. Great food and accommodations. A wonderful place to relax, let go and go inward.

Working with the plant medicines, Ayahuasca and tobacco is work. It is like any practice in our yoga – the more effort put into it, the more you get out of it. It is important to note that Ayahuasca in Ecuador is considered a medicine, and Shamans are legally certified practitioners. Tania, one of the Shamans, said that tobacco was about this lifetime and Ayahuasca is about healing past lifetimes.

I really took to heart what Tania said and I went through my whole life backwards to the beginning and back again to present day. It was this process that showed me those situations in your life that may not appear to be much in themselves, when all put together can give a lot of clarity to what may be holding me back.

With the Ayahuasca, Ed and Tania both said it is about surrender to unconditional love and trust. So I surrendered and put my love and trust in Grandmother Ayahuasca and oh boy, she showed me a few things.

The first Ayahuasca journeys are about cleansing. The first few times there is a good chance you will vomit and sometimes have diarrhea later in the night. But it is a good thing. You feel like you are letting go of what is trapped down in the abdomen. Very similar in the Tantra philosophy, of cleaning and stabilizing the lower chakras to create a foundation for our spiritual practice.

Without going through the details of my journeys, the biggest realization is that I had to get back to the earth. I used to be a farmer, and then a landscaper. I was always outside working the earth in some way. It was after this journey that I emailed Mugs and told her we need to make some changes. It was time to sell the place in the Shuswap and find something that will nurture this connection with the earth again. The week in Ecuador flew by and I really felt I returned home a different person. This stayed with me which doesn’t always happen. Usually I go to a retreat feeling good, but life has a way of grinding you back to reality. This was different.

So…….I went back to Ecuador in May. Having done the cleansing aspect back in January I only vomited once and it came from way down deep. I felt like I was getting rid of something that had been stuck inside me for a long, long time. All my journeys were based on past life times. Understanding the good times but also some horrific times brought into clarity why I feel the way I do in this life time.

These are tremendous tools that the medicines give you. To understand what has created the “samskaras” for this lifetime brings an amazing amount of peace to my life. But, there was more to come.

That was when Grandmother Doreen Spence came into my life. She is an 80 year old Cree Elder who acts like 50 years old. She is a woman of tremendous knowledge and spirituality. In June we did a Traditional Native Teachings course with her in Victoria. It was here that I knew a new path was being laid out for me.

We had a drum journey at this event. There was a bear and he led me to the top of a mountain. Then an Eagle came by and picked me up and took me across the mountains and landed me in the prairies. It was there that my journey became a continuation of one my Ayahuasca journeys and I knew then that the prairies held a special significance for me.

Mugs and I had our summer all planned out. We had our place up for sale, we were going to travel through the Kootenays and Northern BC looking for property. But Grandmother changed everything. She invited us to a sweatlodge in Cochrane. “Of course!” we said, and our plans had to wait.

The sweat was a great experience – so cleansing and detoxifying. We spent a couple of nights at Grandmother’ home hearing her stories and gleaning her wisdom. She is not a fan of Ayahuasca, but feels it does have a role and she seemed to accept that with me going to a Shaman in South America.

We left her place without really knowing where we were headed, and at the same time there were areas that intrigued us. We had a summer of following our intuition, looking for the signs and paying attention. We had faith that where ever we ended up was where we were intended to be.  As a BC boy all my life I could not ever see myself living on the prairies, but when one begins the journey there is no stopping it. When you place your trust in your inner knowledge and the divine knowledge that is within every being that surrounds us in our day, we can’t do anything wrong, because everything just is.

My point is that learning from my lovely wife, Erich Schiffmann, Tantra, Ayahuasca and now Grandmother, everything becomes part of our tool box. I am not just a yogi; I am not just studying Shamanism; I am not just working with Indigenous spirituality. I am the totality of everything I have learned. There are four colours to the medicine wheel, Yellow- (Asian), Red- (Indigenous), Black- (African) and White- (Caucasian) . It is said that when the four colours come together there will be peace on earth.

When the fruits of our spiritual practices come together, will we become enlightened? I guess that could be another article.

Bob McConnellBob McConnell co-owner of SOYA is offering a special retreat for Men in Ecuador January 6th. Come to the jungle and expand the mind. Go to A Shaman and Ayahuasca Retreat for Men.

Friendship: Not Beyond Words

Friendship: Not Beyond Words, by Marion (Mugs) McConnell

Have you ever had a friendship that was always there for you? Maybe they don’t live nearby, maybe they aren’t the same age or generation, but they are the best listeners the minute you reach out to them. Years go by and each time you get together or chat it is as though no time ever passed, you just pick up like you were talking yesterday. Or you don’t need to say anything at all.

A friend that doesn’t judge you about your decisions, but can offer feedback in a positive way that becomes constructive. A friend you can count on. A friend that reaches out and sends birthday or Easter wishes, or sends their love every now and then, just because.

I met my friend almost 40 years ago on a Greyhound bus in 1978, right after I had met my teacher Hari in person. I was on my way to the Sivananda ashram in the Bahamas to do my yoga teacher training. We talked endlessly about our lives even though there were quite different. We parted ways in Salt Lake City, but stayed in touch all these years through letters and rare visits.

Well, I lost my friend this summer. He passed away after a battle with cancer. No matter what we learn about death and afterlife through yoga, it cannot take away the sorrow we must work through when we lose such a good friend. But sometimes other friends know what to share with you at the perfect moment, like my friend Helen, who sent me loving words from Annie Besant of the Theosophical Society. (Thought Power Its Control & Culture by Annie Besant, 1903)

Besant teaches that loving thoughts and conversations with those who have passed are incredibly important and helpful for them to make the transition more quickly to the worlds beyond. She says that if we realised just how helpful our thoughts and words are to them – if we had any idea how much comfort and happiness these provide for their transition, no one would ever be lonely through this process.

Her words bring to light the importance of something we often feel silly about doing – talking to those who have left their body. So I am talking to my friend and sending him good thoughts as often as I can. I want him to know just how much I valued this friendship we shared for so long. I want him to know how much comfort his presence, even from a distance, meant to me. And I wish him the very best for the next phase of his existence, whatever that looks like.  I know it will be a good one, because he certainly touched many hearts over his 79 years on this earth.

Om Namo Narayana, my friend.

friendshipMarion (Mugs) McConnell, E-RYT500, is a founder of SOYA and their yoga teacher training. She is the author of “Letters from the Yoga Masters” andhas been studying yoga for 44 years.

Yoga Benefits

How can we benefit from Yoga?

How can you benefit from Yoga? Offered from Natasha Scott, SOYA lead trainer.

“If only there was something we could do to reduce stress, improve our mental and physical health and just make us feel better!!”
“If only there was an ancient practice, tested and refined over thousands of years that could help us.” Wait, there is. If you haven’t guessed it, I’m talking about yoga.
Natasha Scott from Starlit Yoga in Penticton, answers questions on Yoga for Pharmasave in Summerland, BC.

Yoga does offer strength and flexibility, it also has a calming effect on the nervous system which I believe is one of its greatest gifts. Walking is amazing as well. What is different is the focus on breath and movement, bringing you into the body with purpose on purpose. We spend much of our time in our minds and living just outside our bodies, dragging it from one appointment to the next.
Yoga offers us the gift of the moment.
Yoga is much more than movement. When you bring awareness to the breath, to the body, to the moment, we start seeing things differently.
And although self exploration is a solo mission on your mat, being in a calm healing room guided by a teacher who has walked this path and is cheering you on is much different than a walk.
I will say that if you go for a walk after a yoga class (and I highly recommend you do) you will see the world around so much more vibrantly.
Like you’re seeing it from your heart with presence, instead of being completely distracted by the dialogue of the mind.
Do both!

What is the most unexpected benefit of yoga that may surprise people?
Yoga sneaks up on you! Physically yes with strength and mobility… but personally I have found that it’s the lowered stress levels.
The things that used to floor me with stress just don’t anymore.
Moving to a place of response instead of reaction is a thing of beauty. But its baby steps, you don’t really notice much is shifting, until some big fork in the road comes along and you handle it.., just fine. That’s awesome.

Have you ever seen people improve their menopausal symptoms with yoga (perhaps by improving their overall fitness)?
In the last decade of teaching yoga I have heard the most amazing health benefits happening due to yoga. The relief to menopausal symptoms can be part of overall fitness and to slowing down and loving and nurturing oneself. As women we DO so much and many have a fear of getting old.
If we can learn to love ourselves in all our stages of life that will affect every single system and cell in our bodies. Self care is a huge part of healthcare and learning to be Gentle and compassionate to ourselves is the beginning. Love and Kindness are the foundation of Yoga.

Any tips on how to pick a suitable yoga class?
Really, the stars have to be in alignment!
My advice is try many. It has to be the right style, with a teacher you connect with, on the right day, at the right time for your schedule.
There truly is Yoga for everyone.
So if you try a class and don’t like it, try a different one, don’t be shy.
Once you find your style, teacher, and class it will move you in the most wonderful ways.

Do you have a fascinating story about someone improving their health with yoga?
I have so many. I am trained in Chronic Pain Yoga and run Recharge classes to help calm the nervous system and keep movement.
I have had students write letters about their entire lives changing due to yoga. That their families and friends comment that their attitude to life is different… how huge is that?!
When we can reconnect to happiness again our whole body responds.
I have also taught Prenatal Yoga for the last decade and have seen huge health benefits, the biggest being the space of yoga for moms to be meeting and gaining friendships that last a lifetime.
And also for the last decade I have been teaching Kids Yoga of all ages in the school district. Pretty amazing to have youth tell you about their anxiety and depression and how breath work, movement, and meditation are having a wildly positive effect on them.
It’s the kind of stuff that is “Break your heart open” amazing.
This is a portion of an informational post by www.pharmasavesummerland.com – a compounding pharmacy that make up specialized medications that a “regular” pharmacy can’t. Used with permission from Tim Dryer.

Organic FoodNatasha Scott, SOYA, E-RYT500, is the owner of Starlit Yoga in Penticton. She will be leading the SOYA 200 hour immersion at Gods Mountain this fall with Kamala Wilkie.

Love Teaching Yoga

LOVE TEACHING YOGA

FIVE REASONS WHY I LOVE TEACHING YOGA

By Cindy Szekely, E-RYT500, SOYA

After completing my 500 hour yoga teacher training with SOYA, and gaining my E-RYT500 (experienced Registered Yoga Teacher) in 2009, I was invited by SOYA to co-lead the teacher training program in Prince George.

In this venue I was able to find my own voice to share these teachings with others. Every question a student asked took me deeper into my own understanding of what these philosophical concepts meant to me personally. Every individual student taught me more about how I would adapt an asana for their specific situation. All the techniques and concepts I had been taught were becoming integrated more deeply by being a teacher of teachers. This has been a very rewarding path in my life.

So, here are my 5 top reasons why I love Teaching Yoga for SOYA’s Extended 200 Hour Yoga Teacher Training

  • SOYA’s curriculum takes you way beyond yoga asana or the physical postures. The teachings are rich, thought provoking, and life changing
  • SOYA really does encourage each new teacher to find their authentic self. We give you the tools so that you can make the practice your own.  No two teachers look the same!!
  • Completing the training over 4 months gives you more time to integrate the teachings. Offering the training on weekends makes this training accessible for people who are working and unable to take extended periods of time off.
  • Students complete the training with the ability and confidence to start teaching right away. You will create six lesson plans that you can use to teach a beginner yoga series!!
  • As a lead trainer I continue to learn and grow with each new group as they begin their journey to becoming a competent, unique, yoga teachers. So grateful!!

Love teaching yogaCindy Szekely is SOYA E-RYT500 who has focused on learning Yoga Therapy and deeper studies in Chakras. Her next 200 hour Yoga Teacher Training Program starts September 9th, 2017 in Mackenzie BC. For more information visit 200hr-extended-mackenzie-bc/  .