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.