Saturday, December 13, 2014


Come down! It’s a party! #punintended #namastehighlanpark (at Namaste Highland Park)
Come down! It’s a party!

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Class Spotlight: Healthy Backs Yoga

  1. It is no secret that yoga in LA means many different things to many different people, and teachers must work to find their voice, what inspires them, and how to be true to their beliefs. We are inspired by the pure intentions of our teachers. Read what Shoshana has to say about the concept of “Aparigraha - non grasping” and how she applies it to her teaching:
    by Shoshana Stolove
    Yoga teacher / Jewelry Designer / Creative Lady
    We are always in transition. I know this is true and yet it is always scary for me when I’m in the midst of a lot of change. The way I move, sit, sleep, practice and teach yoga are all in major transition. I love what I’m learning and yet, it is turning my world upside down.
    I find myself in conflict with what I feel is my evolving yoga path and with wanting to please my students. It is a whole re-education process and only certain people will want to join me on this journey. A great teacher once said, “I’m not here to make friends, I’m here to be a good teacher”. I do love making friends, although my priorities are being a good teacher, to teach what I feel guided to, and let go of people pleasing. This new way of practicing is healing me and my back, and it is information I feel inspired to share.
    Most artists come across this challenge when they change their style and follow new inspiration. Will others respond to the new work? We need to keep growing, listening within, and letting go of the results. That often means shedding the old to make space for the new. But being in the open space - in the unknown - is scary.
    Aparigraha is the fifth Yama (ethical guidelines in yoga philosophy). It’s defined as non-grasping. It’s about not taking more than is needed, which is part of the development of an attitude of detachment. In relation to transformation it is about trusting that what’s ours will come and what’s not will fall away, while finding grace in that process. We learn to shift into an attitude of abundance and of trusting we are being guided every step of the way.
    It can also be applied to the grip we have on our beliefs or on a certain way of living. Opening to a new way can be so liberating. This new way of practicing yoga requires more mindfulness and discipline and a letting go of some advanced postures. I probably wouldn’t have chosen this if the old way didn’t hurt me so much. Sometimes it’s the pain that helps us grow. The road gets narrower. I relate it to caffeine, sugar, or alcohol. I wouldn’t have given them up until I felt they were hurting me, but now, without them (most of the time) I feel so much better and stronger.
    The more I live in line with my true spirit, the stronger I feel. Just like the more I practice yoga with an aligned spine, the stronger my back feels. It’s all a practice of trusting the spirit within and trusting that as we surrender, something even better is coming along.
    “There is something in every one of you that waits and listens for the sound of the genuine in yourself. It is the only true guide you will ever have. And if you cannot hear it, you will, all of your life spend your days on the ends of strings that somebody else pulls.”
    -Howard Thurman

Saturday, December 6, 2014

The Ritual of Art and Yoga

Enjoy what our teacher Hannah has to say about the seamless mixture of art and yoga:

The Ritual of Art and Yoga by Hannah Skye Wenzel

Acting school is a uniquely bizarre experience – especially when you go to acting school in Ithaca, New York, a hippie haven surrounded by waterfalls, vineyards, and (for most of the year) piles and piles of ice and snow. Normal college students complete homework in a library with laptops rather than in a studio with body paint, doing things that often involve nudity, or heavy emotional release.  My college education was four glorious years of nettie pots, mask making, dance leotards, and practicing things like the Bartenieff fundamentals, bio-energetics, rasa-boxes, and Grotowski’s Cat. (If you want to learn about something weird/awesome, look up any of those things.)
I’m not really an actor any more – I’m a yoga teacher.  But I probably wouldn’t be a yogini if I hadn’t spent four years in upstate New York laying bare my soul and turning my body into a story-telling instrument.  We moved, we stretched, we sang – we did a lot of happy babies, sun salutations, and something called Kundalini shaking. 
What does any of this have to do with yoga? Hang tight, I’m getting there.
Because even years later, there is one assignment in particular I find myself thinking back on with regularity.
The class was called “Styles of Acting.”  It was exactly what it sounds like. We learned different styles of acting from different time periods and different cultures, beginning with Greek theater. Greek theater hinges around the idea of ritual.  Our assignment was to create and perform a ritual in front of the class. 
The ritual had to include elements of ceremony, but most importantly, the ritual had to result in some form of change.  This presented somewhat of a problem. Everyone developed an idea for a ritual, a costume, usually some made up language (that was part of the assignment as well, no real words) sometimes dancing…but unless something physical was obviously and tangibly different by the end, the ritual was a failure and received a corresponding grade.
I should say that this assignment was somewhat of a right of passage and there were some famous…or rather infamous rituals that happened during my time at school. One student ran around the theater lighting feather pillows on fire while chanting, “AH BELLY BOOMSADAY!”  (I don’t know what his ritual was about.)
Since actors aren’t usually shy, there was always quite a lot of nudity…A friend of mine created her “change” by smashing bottles of alcohol in the nude to symbolize the end of substance abuse. She was rushed to the health center with bleeding hands and feet from all the broken glass. 
My performance was less sensational, but earned me an A, regardless. I spent a full evening catching white moths from around a porch light and brought them to class with me, trapped in tiny cups and jars. I ceremoniously freed them all into the theater, symbolically exorcising unhappy ghosts/thoughts/energy.
Ritual. Change. Magic.  When you watch a movie or see a play, you are watching a ritual acted out.  It’s not real – but something happens in the world of the performance.  It’s not an imaginary happening, it’s quite tangible, even if it’s not literal.  And if it’s a good performance, the audience member too, is changed. 
That’s what a good yoga practice is, too.
You arrive on your mat in a certain physical, mental, emotional and energetic state. Something happens. 
You move, you breath.
Something changes
Sometimes the change is purely physical, sometimes it’s exclusively internal, and most of the time it’s both.  Sometimes the change is dramatic.  Sometimes it’s subtle.  But consciously or not, we all seek some form of change.
Take the time when you arrive on your mat, to understand what that change represents to you. 
And finally, understand that though the ritual is a vehicle through which we navigate our change, no performance, no yoga practice is ever exactly the same, nor is it ever flawless. 
Because change cannot be forced.
Change can only be invited – and practiced.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Teacher Spotlight: Nora Brank

  1. We love Nora because of the things captured in this photo:
    And we also love Nora’s words about this photo:
    About ten years ago I lost my email password and had to get a new one. The auto generated password I received was “flexibletree” . The next day, I went to a yoga class and my teacher guided us into tree pose and said “The brittle, unmoving tree is more likely to crack and fall. The flexible tree sways and bends with the wind, staying firm and tall.” Needless to say, I kept the auto-generated email password.
    Vrksasana, or tree pose, is such a simple pose, yet encapsulates so many aspects of the yoga practice. It relies on the cultivation of strength, both mental and physical, to stay steady. Once steady, the pose requires a renewed focus and presence of mind to maintain balance. For me, the joy that follows a period of intense and concentrated focus is physically manifested in the final stage of the pose; the glorious “growing of the branches” or arms outstretched overhead, just like a tall and flexible tree.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Thanksgiving Feast: Beyond the Tofurky

  1. by Vanda
    I wanted to share a couple wonderful vegan recipes from our team dinner this past weekend.
    IMAM BAYILDI - Turkish eggplant dish
    Translation of the name means “Imam passed out”. Why? There are two stories: One is that the food was so delicious that he could not take it and passed out. The second story is that he passed out after he realized how much garlic and olive was in the dish and, concerned about the cost - he passed out. 
    TIME: Prep: 10 min. Bake: 1 hour Yield: 4-6 servings.
    • 6 eggplants, 
    • Salt, black pepper
    • 1 teaspoon cumin
    • 6 medium ripe tomatoes
    • 2/3 cup good-quality mild virgin olive oil
    • 3 medium yellow onions, 
    • 12 large garlic cloves, peeled and pressed
    Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
    Slice the eggplants lenghtwise, make two long lengthwise slits on the two sides of each eggplant, careful not to pierce the skin. Lightly salt the flesh and put in the oven cut side down for 25 minutes. Set aside to cool down. 
    Chop up the tomatoes. Peel out the meat from the eggplants leaving the skin/shell intact. Chop up the eggplant meat.  
    Heat 3 tablespoons of the oil. Chop up on the onion, add to the skillet and saute with olive oil over medium heat until soft but not brown, 5 minutes. Add pressed garlic, and ground cumin. Cook for one minute more, until fragrant, add salt and black pepper to aste. Add in the tomatoes, eggplant and simmer until thickened slightly, 10 minutes. 
    Coat a large, shallow ovenproof casserole with olive oil and arrange the eggplant shells on it. fill each shell with tomato eggplant mixture. Cover with foil and bake in the oven for 45 minutes until the sauce has reduced. Allow to sit for 10 minute before serving to cool. Imam Bayildi can served hot, warm or room temperature.  
    • 2.5 cups of fresh cranberries
    • 1 cup apple sauce
    • 1 teaspoon of cloves
    • 1 bay leaf
    • 1 cup water or vegetable broth

    Add 2 cups of fresh cranberries into a saucepan and save ½ cup to a small bowl. Add apple sauce, water, bay leaf and cloves to the pan and cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, until the cranberries pop and are soft, about 15 minutes. Remove bay leaf. Transfer to food processor or mixer and pulse (optional). Return to the sauce to pan, turn heat to low and stir in the reserved cranberries. Add sugar if needed, salt and pepper to taste and cool to room temperature before serving.

    • 2 cups vegetable broth, divided 
    • 1 cup chopped white onion 
    • 8 ounces mushrooms, such as porcini, cremini or shiitake, trimmed and chopped 
    • 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped 
    • 1 tablespoon each finely chopped rosemary, thyme, marjoram
    • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper 

    In a large skillet over medium-high heat, add onion and cook for 3 to 4 minutes or until translucent. Add ¼ cup of the broth to the pan to prevent onion from burning. Add mushrooms and cook for 10 to 12 minutes or until they release their liquid and become tender. Stir in garlic, rosemary and thyme and continue to cook for 1 minute until fragrant. Stir in remaining 2 cups broth and bring to a simmer. Transfer to a food processor, blend. Add pepper and serve gravy hot.
    • 4 sugar pie pumpkins (about 1 pound each)
    • Salt and pepper, to taste
    • 1 ½ cup of vegetable broth
    • 2 large shallots, thinly sliced
    • 8 ounces sliced tempeh
    • 3 clove garlic, minced
    • 1 loaf stale gluten free bread cubed (about 6-7 ounces)
    • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg, thyme, rosemary, marjoram, sage
    • 1/2 cup vegan butter

    Preheat oven to 350ºF.
    Remove the tops from each pumpkin. Scoop out the insides and discard them (or save the seeds for roasting!). Rub salt and pepper on the inside of the pumpkins.  Put the pumpkins on a baking sheet or baking dish sprayed with oil or lined with parchment paper. Bake for 30 minutes.
    Melt the butter in a large skillet. Add the sliced shallots, simmer for 5 minutes, until soft. Add tepmbeh and let the cubes brown. Add the spices and garlic and cook about 5 minutes more, add broth. Remove from heat and season with salt and pepper to taste.
    Transfer the mixture to a large bowl. Add the bread and stir until combined. Divide the the filling into the preached pumpkins, then place the top back onto them.
    Bake the pumpkins for about for 20-30 minutes more, or until the filling is browned and crispy on top and the pumpkins are easily pierced with a knife. Replace caps and serve.
    …and lastly my grandma’s non vegetarian:
    TIME: Prep: 20 min. Bake: 2 hours Yield: 4-6 servings.
    • 1 medium head cabbage
    • 1 onion
    • 1 pound ground pork
    • 1 cup long grain rice
    • 1 egg
    • 1 teaspoon salt
    • 1 teaspoon black pepper
    • 1 tablespoon Hungarian paprika
    • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
    • 16-20 fl.oz tomato juice
    • sour cream and pepper flakes to serve
    Cut about a ½ inch off the bottom of a cabbage head to remove core. Place cabbage head it in a large pot, cover with water. Bring to a boil; boil until outer leaves loosen from head. Lift out cabbage; remove softened leaves. Place hot leaves in a bowl of cold water. Return the cabbage head to boiling water to soften more leaves and repeat until all leaves are removed.  
    Using a sharp knife or a peeler remove tough center stalk from each leaf. Set aside 12 large leaves for rolls; coarsely chop up the balance and place it in the dutch oven or slow cooker. Chop up the onion and add to the dish. 
    In a bowl, combine the pork, rice, salt, paprika, pepper and egg. Mix well. Place about 3 tablespoons of the meat rice mix on each cabbage leaf. Roll up, tucking in sides. Place rolls, seam side down, on the top of onions in the dish. Pour tomato juice over leaves until covered with liquid. 
    Dutch oven: Cover and bake at 325° for 1 hour 45 minutes. 
    Slow cooker: Cook on high for 3.5h.
    Serve topped with sour cream and red pepper flakes.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Thankful Table

Getting ready for the NHP team Thanksgiving dinner! #namastehighlandpark #dinnerparty (at treehouse)
Getting ready for the NHP team Thanksgiving dinner!


NHP Thanksgiving dinner with amazing beautiful souls #namastehighlandpark We missed you @mckoblitz, @itsafeeling @sondrasunodeon and Alissa Stahl! (at treehouse)
NHP Thanksgiving dinner with amazing beautiful souls

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

The Spirit of Our Practice: From Then Until Now

  1. by teacher Matthew Clark
    There is much debate and conjecture about the history of Yoga asana practice.  Very little of the ancient philosophy of Yoga had anything to do with physical exercise.  However to most folks today, the term Yoga itself refers to Yoga asana practice, or the physical exercise of Yoga that we all know from studios, books and videos.  Asanas are the poses we practice in Hatha Yoga, the physical limb of the overarching philosophy of Yoga.  Historically and traditionally, Yoga is a multilayered philosophy and a methodology to transcend the confines of our world, our minds, and our bodies.  With roots in ancient Indian asceticism, Yoga was a path to liberation from the cycle of rebirth.  Much of the practice of Yoga was spent in stillness, in solitary meditation. It’s fascinating to think of how this complex philosophy, which basically preached the withdrawal of the senses, has led us to a format wherein we practice together in a place of business, often with music, with particular attire and gear, have our experience for a set period of time and then return back to life as we knew it before class began. 
    How do we reconcile the historic intent of this practice with our modern reality?  For me the practice of Yoga asana and meditation are tools that go hand in hand.   They are tools for health, sanity, spiritual connection, and composure in an increasingly complex and convoluted world.  I know these tools keep me well, keep energy from stagnating in my body and keep my mind sharp.  They allow me to see a bigger picture and place myself within that context, and help my mind to be relatively still when I so desire. 
    When approached with mindfulness, asana practice can truly be a meditative experience. Spending an hour or more, fully engaged in exercise, undistracted by your phone, your responsibilities and other expectations, you can tune in with what is happening in the body, how the energy moves, how to use breath as a tool, and discover how cumulative emotions are effecting the mind/body/spirit.  Asana practice can be cathartic for processing emotional baggage.  The improved flow of energy in the body manifests with particular prominence in Shivasana, the final resting pose we take to end classes.  A transformation is felt from beginning our practice to that moment.  The meditative nature and profound energetic influence are undeniable.
    As a teacher my main objectives are to keep everyone safe and to give a quality experience of asana practice.  Whether the student aims to reach spiritual heights or simply have a great looking ass, my role is the same.  I’m not seeking to convert anyone to any way of thinking.  I will interject suggestions that could make the asana practice more of a meditative experience and I hope that folks will explore that aspect.  But essentially it is their tool to use and often one expectation yields multiple results.   
    Because it is a potent tool, Yoga holds an important space in my life.  What hooked me initially was the experiential and palpable aspect.  The fact that one can actually feel and experience the sensations described in texts or by instructors totally sold me on Hatha Yoga.  Initially, feeling the movement of energy in the body as a real sensation as a result of a Yoga practice was rewarding and made me curious to see what would come with further practice.  That profound awareness of the mind / body / spirit that arises naturally through our modern incarnation of Yoga ties us to the ancient traditions.  Although our aims are different, the benefits are universal.  A healthy body provides less distraction for the mind and empowers us to explore the profound elements of our spirit.  We may not be concerned with attaining enlightenment or escaping the wheel of Samsara, but all the good that we create in our practice can be used to become more mindful, and of more benefit to the world surrounding us.  It can also make us more productive and effective on our life’s path.  We can find this life changing power in a Yoga class, at a studio, in our homes, with our friends, and within the confines of our weekly schedules and we have an ancient tradition to thank for this gift.

Friday, November 7, 2014


Hands to the sky #namastehighlandpark #nhp #yoga #strength
Hands to the sky