Chandra Mantras: “Om Chandraya Namaha!”

Chandra is known as the Moon; the cosmic feminine force and the giver of delight.  The Moon represents the feminine, whereas the Sun is the masculine. The feminine is personified through the three goddesses Saraswati, Lakshmi and Kali or Parvati. They portray the three complementary aspects of lunar energy to the masculine energies of Brahma (creative), Vishnu (preservative) and Siva (transformative).

The planetary deity  Chandra is propitiated through increasing mental health and peace of mind. The esoteric result is intuition, spiritual acuity, the understanding of weather phenomena, and dreams.

Chandra rules over our emotions, feelings and creativity.  Since the moon rules over the water element and the soma nectar, physiological associations are fluids in the body such as saliva, perspiration, and other secreting functions, the lymphatic drainage, the sympathetic system, the digestive system, the pancreas, and the female reproductive system. It deals with the elimination and assimilation of nutrition, and the overall protection of the organism.

The moon has many different names relative to her different qualities and actions. If you would like to learn some of these names, join me in a mantra workshop dedicated to Chandra, the Divine feminine.  These mantras help to develop peace, faith, receptivity and surrender.  We will practice the mantras related to the Moon Salutation (Chandra Namaskar), and conclude the class with a Moon Meditation.

By Helen Mikuska, E-RYT500 in Calgary, AB

Friday, February 16th ~ 7:00-9:00 p.m. at Harmony Yoga Pilates Studio, Calgary  $25.00 (incl. gst)

For information please contact Helen at info@harmonyyogapilatesstudio.ca or phone (403) 809-1402.

 200hr immersion Calgary, AlbertaHelen Mikuska is an E-RYT500 and certified mantra teacher is a lead trainer for SOYA yoga teacher training in Calgary, Alberta, July 4-19, 2018. 

Information in this article is summarized from:

Dr. David Frawley; Ayurvedic Astrology: Self-Healing through the Stars.  Twin Lakes, Wisconsin: Lotus Press. (2010). 

Thomas Ashley-Farrand (Namadeva Acharya).  The Ancient Power of Sanskrit Mantra and Ceremony, Second Edition, Volume II.  Pasadena, CA: Saraswati Publications. (2002).

Seasonal Affective Disorder

Yoga and Seasonal Affective Disorder

Early November, I woke up with a sinking feeling and an aversion to participating with life.  My old friend Seasonal Affective Disorder, (S.A.D) was back. It has hit me every year for as long as I can remember. I can’t wake up fully, I withdraw from social activities and basically move through my day with a low level despair. For many years, I set my life up to travel for the winter months but that’s not in the cards this year. As days of grey increased, so did my anxiety about surviving the winter.  My solution is to address it from all angles: light therapy, supplements, affirmation/mantra and S.A.D specific yoga.

Many articles suggest S.A.D has to do with an increased production of melatonin (what makes you sleepy) and a decrease in serotonin (what makes you happy). The pineal gland is involved in the regulation of serotonin and melatonin and the stimulation of the pineal gland will be at the core of my S.A.D specific yoga.  Here are a couple of practices you can include at home if you too are needing some support with your mood this time of year.

Tratak: steady uninterrupted gaze

Sit in front of a candle in a dark room (or stare at a point tip or a black dot) that is approximately 20inches from your eyes. Gaze at it for as long as you can without blinking. When you must, do so, and then start the gaze meditation again. Set a timer for as many minutes as you can sit for. This technique improves memory and concentration and stimulates the pineal gland.

Half Sun Salutation

Synchronizing breath with movement (i.e.: Cat-Cow) regulates the functioning of the entire endocrine system. And is an awesome way to start your day.

  1. Start in Mountain Pose
  2. Inhale, raise your arms overhead
  3. Exhale fold forward towards the floor
  4. Inhale, raise your back level with the floor
  5. Exhale, fold again towards the floor
  6. Inhale, rise to standing and extend your arms overhead
  7. Exhale rest your arms to your sides.

Other poses that may be helpful are Shoulderstand and Fish Pose, spinal twists and Headstand variations (consult an instructor for help with these as they aren’t suitable for everyone’s bodies).

Yoga Nidra or guided visualization

Here’s a simple body scan I recorded that you can use

Gratitude Practice

Keep a gratitude journal. List 5 things in the morning and 5 things before you go to sleep that you are grateful for.

One of the huge gifts of yoga relative to S.A.D is that on the mat, we are encouraged on witness thoughts without engaging in them. We become aware of all the ups and downs internally that show up even in the span of one class. We are invited to observe them and compassionately decide if they are helpful to our well being or not.

And this is exactly what I’ve been doing this past week in the dark mornings and afternoons. Staying vigilant about negative self-talk and devoting a little extra energy to sustaining my sanity through these simple but potent techniques.

May your light stay lit these winter months and should you need extra support, check out my Yoga classes at Purple Lotus Yoga in Penticton, or join me for the SOYA Yoga Teacher Training from March through June.

By Kamala Wilkie, E-RYT500, SOYA lead trainer in Penticton BC

200hr Extended Penticton BCKamala Wilkie is the SOYA lead trainer for the 200 hour and 300 hour Upgrade yoga teacher training programs. She is the owner of the award winning Purple Lotus Yoga studio in Penticton. Have a quick listen to what Kamala has to say about the teacher training!

Puja

Puja Ceremony

The Puja Ceremony by Marion (Mugs) McConnell

There is one invisible, formless spirit called Brahman which manifests itself inside every living thing. Hindus believe in one God, and they worship God through the many forms of gods and goddesses known as deities. The gods and goddesses, with all their gifts and strengths and personalities, help us to understand what God is like. By showing love and respect to the deities, we are showing love and respect to the One that is the Source of all.

For example (and a really simplified one), Lakshmi is the bountiful provider and has gold coins falling from one of her hands. Brahma, the creator, has four heads so he can see oversee all of creation in the four directions. Ganesha is the remover of obstacles along our spiritual path. He has an elephant’s head, representing the power and strength of an elephant to get those obstacles out of our way. These specific qualities represented in the individual deities are all qualities that come from the One God, and are potentially manifested in each and every one of us. We focus on one of these deities in order to tap into that strength within ourselves.

One way to show respect and devotion to God is called puja. Puja is a ceremony that can be performed every day or on special occasions, in a home or in a temple or shrine. One can have pictures or statues of the deities they are honouring in that particular puja. The place for the puja should be clean and comfortable – a place to meditate or pray.

During the puja ceremony many mantras are chanted, which are prayers and verses from the Hindu holy books. These various mantras usually end in “samarpayami,” meaning “I have offered.” Many items are used in the ceremony, such as a bell, a copper pot of water, a diva lamp, and a pot of red kum kum powder. The worshipper then makes a series of offerings to God during the repetition of mantras. The offerings include pushpam (flowers), phalam (fruit), gandham (sandalwood paste), dhupam (incense), deepam (light), naivedyam (food), and jalam (water).

puja tray

Items used in Puja:

Each item used in puja has a special symbolism or meaning. When we understand the meaning then the offering makes more sense and we become more sincere in the process.

Puja thali: This is the tray on which the puja items are placed. Often participants in the puja will place in the tray special items such as rings or mala beads to be blessed during the puja. Water and rice are offered into the tray blessing these items.

The bell is rung to let God know that you have come to worship. You invite God into the home. The bell produces an auspicious sound (and helps drown any inauspicious or irrelevant noises).

The Conch shell is believed to make the purest sound – AUM – which is the sound of creation. Often it is used as a vessel to pour water into the Thali plate.

The diva lamp is lit and moved around clockwise in circles to bring light to the shrine. This light is a symbol of God’s presence within us. It reminds us that even in our darkest hours, there is also light.

The incense stick is lit and moved around the shrine in circles. This cleans the air and brings a lovely smell to the shrine for the gods and as it dissipates into the air, we are reminded that God is everywhere. Incense also represents the desires we possess. We burn these attachments before the Lord.

Water is offered to the deity on a spoon or poured from a conch shell. This is to show respect. It symbolizes offering a drink of water, and also bathing or washing the feet of the deity, as if using the water from the sacred Ganges River.

Rice is revered as a potent symbol of auspiciousness, prosperity and fertility because of its basic life-sustaining qualities. In the puja ritual it represents feeding the deities. Rice also symbolizes steadfastness and dedication and stands for peace.

Kum Kum is a red powder is a symbol of loyalty, devotion and commitment. It symbolizes the emotions of the worshipper. Hindus use this to make a dot on the forehead of the statues or pictures of the gods. This is a sign of respect and devotion to the gods. They will also make a mark on their own forehead (at the ajna chakra) as a sign that God has blessed them. The dot, or bindi, is a means to worship one’s intellect. Worship of the intellect ensures that thoughts, speech, actions, habits and ultimately one’s character becomes pure. The ajna chakra involves balancing the higher and lower selves and trusting inner guidance. Its inner aspect relates to visual consciousness and clarity on an intuitive level. The bindi placed at this position is said to retain and enhance this energy, strengthening one’s concentration. Men generally apply the kum kum with the thumb and women with the ring-finger. Kum kum may also be applied by the priest when a puja is completed at a shrine or temple.

Chandan (sandalwood paste): This is sometimes also placed on the forehead of the deities or participants, at the point of the third eye of wisdom.

Sacred Red thread (kalava) symbolises offering new clothes to the deity after being bathed by the water. It chiefly symbolizes unity, helping to unite the congregation as one symbolic body during worship. The color red symbolizes purity, mastery and bravery.

Flowers represent growth and beauty, and the good that has blossomed in us. Flowers vibrate a certain state of consciousness that represents purity. Flowers represent renouncing ones desires for enlightenment. As flowers are close to our heart, symbolically one is offering the soul or atman to the deity.

Fruit: The offering of fruits signifies our detachment, surrender and self-sacrifice. The tree surrenders its attachment to the fruit, allowing it to release itself. By giving up something sweet we develop our self-control and cultivate inner strength.

Prasad: Worshippers offer food for the gods to bless it, transforming any karma involved in acquiring the food into spiritual mercy. This blessed food is called ‘prashad’. After the food is offered to the deities, it is eaten by the worshippers.

There are many different formats for pujas, including short forms that may only take 15 minutes and those that may last several hours. Every puja is special and sacred. May you be blessed with the opportunity to enjoy participation in this sacred event.

Mugs McConnell will be performing short 15 minute pujas during the Pura Vida Yoga Retreat in Costa Rica along with teachings from her book Letters from the Yoga Masters this coming March 1-8. For more details please go to www.soyayoga.com/events

Essential Oils

EXPLORING ESSENTIAL OILS

EXPLORING ESSENTIAL OILS at the PURA VIDA YOGA RETREAT IN COSTA RICA.
Terri McDermott shares a bit about essential oils…

After 20+ years working within the medical profession as a Certified Medical Assistant, as well as my education and continued studies of Anatomy, Yoga and Ayurveda, I have come to the realization that nature offers us some amazing products for our health.

Essential oils, derived from nature, in conjunction with yoga, pranayama and meditation have been my constant “go to” for stress, anxiety, clearing energy channels, the common cold and boosting the immune system. The benefits of each of these components used individually or in combination with one another can be easily incorporated into our daily routines, assisting the process of healing in so many ways.

When I say essential oils are derived from nature, what I mean is they are natural compounds extracted from various parts of a plant, such as the flowers, leaves, stems, and roots. The oils can be taken topically, aromatically with a diffuser, and in some cases internally. As the oil is concentrated, it is very potent, so not a lot is needed to produce the desired effect.

So what do essential oils do? Researchers continue to study the effects of essential oils. Some studies have shown that lavender helps to reduce anxiety, tee tree oil can help one feel more grounded, and lemon oil can elevate your mood. The oils can be used as a natural deodorant or even a perfume. Some oils have been shown to help with digestion, normal hormone function and inflammation. Headaches have different causes so there are a variety of oils for relieving them. Peppermint oil can be used for sinus headaches, chamomile for stress headaches, and lavender for tension or migraines. These are just a few examples of how these oils from nature can assist us toward a healthier life.

I am excited to share with you at the Pura Vida Yoga Retreat some of what I have learned about essential oils. We can explore a bit each day on the use of the oils, and if you want we can do a bio-impedance test to assist you with determining the essential oils your body is lacking and how they can benefit you! I hope to see you there!

Terri McDermottTerri McDermott is an E-RYT200 from Traverse City, Michigan. She is a passionate yoga teacher who is leading the Pura Vida Yoga Retreat with Mugs McConnell next March 1-8.

Terri will be leading asana classes and a session on essential oils. Mugs will be sharing teachings from her book “Letters from the Yoga Masters” and doing daily pujas, along with all the outdoor adventures we can take in! Read more on Pura Vida Yoga Retreat

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/