Thursday, February 19, 2015

This Is Why We Chant

by teacher Bethany Eanes

“The words to this song are simple: ‘I am who I am that is that.’ Sing along as you hold this bow pose,” Julie says, matter-of-factly like she always does.
“Is she fucking serious?” I think, like I always do. Then I look around, and everyone is seriously doing it. They’re holding these backbends for minutes at a time, and they are singing along to a song combining the voices of Guru Singh and Seal. Shit, here’s the worst part …
“Joy to the world. Peace on the Earth. God bless the children, how we love them,” Seal sings through the speakers. They all join in.  Fast-forward a few months. My husband arrives from work, briefcase in hand, to find me in a kaftan cooking our dinner with strange music filling the home. “Are you fucking serious?” He laughs, as Seal comes through the speakers. When I first started practicing yoga, I couldn’t believe the shit my teacher would say. She’d say things like, “Hug your anus and genitals in. This is the key to unlocking your full potential.” I couldn’t believe it, but I did it. 

(Photo: Me, pre-yoga, fresh out of the sorority, complete with sear-sucker dress.)

On the surface, I was skeptical, but there was no denying the profound shift happening in my life. That shift tipped a little more after every single yoga class. And if there was singing along, or chanting, that shift tipped big time. I’d float through the remainder of my day, wondering why no one had ever told me that anus and genitals things before. Could it really be that basic?

These days, I have to laugh when I hear myself sometimes at the front of the yoga room. All those things I was once skeptical of, well, they have become part of my every day vernacular and my personal practice. I look out at the mats and wonder, “Who thinks I’m fucking crazy? Who thinks this is awesome? And who kind of thinks both?” I love watching the transformations happen. On the really good days, students tell me how yoga helped them achieve a major transition in their life. On the even better days, they tell me I had some part of it.

On New Year’s Day, we hosted a half-mala and Kirtan chant at Namaste Highland Park. A number of students had very powerful experiences in the room that night. I was thrilled and blown away by the stories that followed that night. I knew we had to do it again.  So, we are! Whether you think it’s crazy, think it’s awesome, or think it’s crazy-awesome, you are invited to join in for community Kirtan. 

(Photo: Me, post-yoga, fresh out of moolabandha exercises, complete with faux hawk. Of course, the surface changes are more obvious, but those beneath the surface are far more profound.)

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Healthy Backs Workshops

by teacher Shoshana Stolove

This workshop is for all those wanting to understand moreabout their spine and how to keep it strong, safe and supported. Sadly back pain and injury is up to 90% in the US. There is a lot of amazing study and research happening as to why this is and how we can heal. This work is my passion as I am one of the 90% that has had spinal injury and back pain. Let’s heal and grow strong together!

We will go over all the basic alignment principals that are used in our healthy backs yoga classes and learn helpful modifications to keep the spine safe and elongated within all yoga classes and in everyday life. By incorporating the basic biomechanical features of our bodies design we begin the journey to becoming genuinely stronger, more flexible and youthful in the body. We will discover how our daily activities and how we move through the world can be our most powerful healing tool. Sitting, standing, walking, sleeping, driving and computing can all be empowering practices. I will share different prop options that can also be very helpful. There will be time for Q & A and for some individualized attention. 

 Check our website for dates and times! 

See you there! - Shoshana

Monday, February 16, 2015

Returning to the Best Coast

an update from teacher Sondra Sun-Odeon
I just returned from NYC at the top of the year, and am very happy to be back in L.A. and especially back at Namaste!  Last August, my friend, poet/musician Jasmine Dreame Wagner, and I left LA to go on tour across the U.S., performing our songs and poetry across the country for 2 weeks.  Highlights of the tour included staying with friends in their geodesic dome home on BLM (Bureau of Land Management) land just outside of Santa Fe. 

Landing back in NYC after tour, I attended an annual yoga retreat held at a Sufi retreat center in the Berkshires with one of my training teachers. I also volunteered at the Basilica Soundscape Festival in upstate NY, seeing some of my favorite artists perform inside a cavernous reclaimed 19th century factory (serious vibrational healing) and played a few intimate shows with dearly-missed and talented friends in Brooklyn. 
I didn’t make new year’s resolutions, but I am trying to hold true to my mantra of the last couple years: to appreciate, be present and not take things for granted. 
Spending time with my parents and establishing a new relationship with them has been a big part of that practice. I left California in my teens for the East Coast and never looked back. I found that, decades later, I was still relating to them from my very angry teenaged mindset. So, it’s been part of my practice to cultivate something different between us; simply showing up is new and different, as is being less attached to how I want things to be. Appreciating what is there instead of focusing on what isn’t is central to that. Reading Pema Chodron sure helps, too. 
Landing back in L.A. after a year that saw 30,000+ miles of touring and travelling, I am really appreciating stillness in my life. I have been nourishing the soul with lots of writing and alone time, as well as feeding my body foods to rebalance my vata dosha (really out of whack from all the traveling and 4 months of NYC!). I am kind of obsessed with bone broth and making raw cacao + fresh young coconut shakes right now. 
Key to rebalancing is: doing less and leaving enough time for myself. Such a challenge for vata dosha.

I’ve been doing L.A. without a car and riding a bike between the studio and home in Mt. Washington, taking the Metro and enjoying carpooling to the grocery with kind friends and neighbors; it’s not so bad. I’ve also been doing laundry in my sink, old-school, with a washboard and drying it in the sun.  I call it laziness and not wanting to haul laundry to a laundromat on my bike–you can call it part of “my new greener lifestyle.”
My favorite meditation lately has been walking around the neighborhood and meeting random people. One day on a walk, two dogs wandered down the street and past me. I tried to catch up to them to see if I could find their owner’s number on their collars, but they eluded me. An elderly gentleman watering his yard nearby said they got out and wandered from their owner’s often, and soon we were deep in conversation about dogs, the neighborhood, and incense. Then we discovered that he had worked for the father of a musician friend of mine! So, wandering dogs on the loose brought together this random stranger and me, and we were connected by one degree. An hour later, Ken gave me a Moody Blues CD to listen to, and I was hugging him goodbye–promising to bring him some music and to return for tea soon. Truly, the world is small and we are more connected to each other than we think. 

Thursday, February 12, 2015

What Makes a Good Yoga Playlist?

    by teacher Chris Reed

    The answer to this question is as varied as the many styles of yoga itself. Some may say that the best soundtrack to any yoga practice is just the breath. And to an extent I do agree. However, the use of music can help deepen the experience or help a teacher touch on a lesson through the many range of emotions that music can make us, as humans, experience. I personally have used music to help deepen my teachings by using key tracks at critical times within a class. 

    For me, the process for building a new playlist beings with what teaching I’m looking to focus on (i.e. patience, letting go, love, growth, etc). Sometimes things such as the changing of seasons or a waning or waxing moon can help influence the selection process as well. And so beings the searching process for the perfect songs to build the perfect playlist.

    Like most things there’s almost a formula for the building process, for example I generally try not to have loud or upbeat music until later in the sequence. Teaching vinyasa style yoga, you want each breath to be linked with a movement. I’ve found that if I’m playing more upbeat music during sun salutes it causes students to move the breath quicker which in turn speeds the entire class up.

    So first thing is first, some mellow yet building tracks for sun salutes. Then during standing and balancing I find you can throw some more upbeat tracks in. Sometimes, if a track causes students to want to dance or move within the standing sequences I will often encourage it. One of the main things with yoga to me is, IF YOU’RE NOT HAVING FUN PRACTICING, CHANCES ARE YOU ARE DOING SOMETHING WRONG. So now we’re done with standing and balance and chances are we are going to work our way down to our bellies for some back bending but first we might try an arm balance or inversion. Its quite fun to play something about being upside-down at this time or even something light hearted to take some of the seriousness out of room. Let’s face it, we are all here practicing yoga and yes at the core we are all searching for enlightenment, no need for our egos to ruin our path towards that by not being able to laugh a little. Embrace the inner child and have a good laugh. After all the laughter and a much needed childs pose it’s time to wind down the energy and our bodies so the music follows. Much like the beginning of class only opposite. I try and find tracks that begin to mellow out to lead towards an ultimate dreamy and enjoyable savasana. Mostly for final relaxation I use the MOST mellow track on the list, one that’s sure to deliver peace and quiet within the body, mind, and breath (little to no lyrics/mostly soundscape/dreamlike). So there you have it, the types of songs and length of the list will vary from teacher to teacher and even from class to class, sometimes I break away from this formula for holidays or just to change things up and have a completely different experience (motown vinyasa, punk rock asana, new wave halloween) however I’ve found this is generally what works best for me.

    Here’s my Valentine’s Day playlist.

    Air - Space Maker
    Bit Funk - The Long Road Ahead
    AlunaGeorge - Your Drums, Your Love
    The Rapture - In the Grace of Your Love (pional remix)
    Giraffage - music sounds better with you
    The High Wire - leave me in love
    Silver Swans - Sean of Love (Grant Cutler Remix)
    Daft Punk - the game of love
    Art of Noise - moments in love
    Tora - Calming Her
    David Newman - Love Belongs to Everyone (Krishna Venkatesh Deep Dub Remix)
    DJ Shadow - I’ve been trying
    Cat Power - Metal Heart
    Black Sabbath - planet caravan

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Sex, Drugs, and Antiques: Namaste’s previous incarnation as The Copper Witch as told by Captain Flash

~ written by Sondra Sun-Odeon, edited by Ani Raya Flores.
On my first day back at the studio this January, I enjoyed a visit from a denizen of Northeast LA’s artistic hippie past, “Captain Flash”.  A multitalented artist, writer, and street performer, Capt. Flash went to Otis in the early 70s and lived in NELA for years after.  In town for the holidays, Capt. Flash was making rounds of the neighborhood, searching for a spot along York Blvd. where he had lived in his hippie heyday, a space then known as The Copper Witch. It had been 23 years since he’d seen the space.

“…then I saw it.  There was a parking space in front.  I pulled in and looked.  It said, ”Namaste –recognize the God within you– Highland Park“.  I was amazed and had to say hello.

Captain Flash in front of the Copper Witch in the 70’s
During his visit, Capt. Flash revealed some fascinating details about **Namaste Highland Park**’s former life as The Copper Witch
“It was a second-hand antiques store run by Ed Dudley and his brother. His brother had half the place and called it Tall Corn. Ed would buy estates, especially oak furniture.  He would dis-assemble the furniture and throw it in a vat full of paint stripper.  There was a bank of four fans to exhaust the fumes out of the space. It was in the shed as you entered from the rear. I think it was totally covered in morning glories. We entered in the back from the post office parking lot…”
Ed Dudley in front of The Copper Witch.
Ed and Capt. Flash were best friends in the 60’s and 70s, bonding over the fact that they were local business owners in Highland Park and Mt. Washington.  Flash and his wife owned a beauty salon on Monte Vista St. called Last Chance.  Said Flash, “Our motto was ‘If you can’t be helped here, you can’t be helped.’ ”
A close-up of the Copper Witch signage, painted by Capt. Flash.​    
Capt. Flash also gave some insight into the architecture and vibe of the space, itself:
“Back then the back wall of the front space [now the Gallery space] was further back.  The door was on the left which I believe led to the open space.  I believe there is a wall now that used to be open to Tall Corn [the adjacent shop now Pernament Records].”
“The sunken place [now the Sanctuary space] was the living room.  It opened onto the open space where Ed grew pot.  It was never a formal place with membership cards and meetings.  Over ten years, players came and went…energy ebbed and flowed. It was very funky but became the center of social gravity for hippies.  There was a lot of sex and drugs happening there.  Much energy.”
“I went to Otis and once out of school (in '72), lived in Highland Park from 1970-1980. Fresh out of art school, I was in my abstract phase.  I had been influenced by subliminals…the effects of colors.  I eventually convinced Ed to let me paint the building orange.  This caused a major power struggle between him and his wife…they almost killed each other over the exact shade. After that was done, I convinced him to let me do the patterns on the wall.”
Detail of Capt Flash’s painted patterns on the Copper Witch exterior.
“Tony Mafia [a noted Native American artist] stayed there occasionally. Ed lived in the back with his wife for a while and later on, became devoted to chanting (in the Nichiren Buddhism tradition). I had a studio on Ave. 52 and Monte Vista St. It was just around the corner from artist Richard Duardo’s studio. I became semi-famous as a street performance artist. I do something called the "Last Hippie”. I dress up like someone who did too much acid in '68.   I have a placard that says:  2 + 2 = 7.  I stand still and pretend I’m a statue til someone gets close then I make a sudden movement and scare them.“
Flash was back in LA this time specifically to see his mentor/painting instructor from his college years, Sam Clayberger. Though now in his 80’s, Sam still holds drawing workshops at his Glassell Park studio every Tuesday evening, as he has for years.
Capt. Flash had a colorful history as a student, hippie, and street performance artist in Los Angeles during the 70s. On Easter Sunday 1976, Flash experienced a moment of what he calls "intuitive Feng Shui”. Leaving his home and ridding himself of all worldly possessions, he purchased a boat on which he lived and travelled for the next 18 years.
“If life is fluid and nothing but change, what better way to live than on a boat, flowing with the waves? I decided to live the pure life of an artist after being a landlord and having lots of stuff. I gave it up and realized the difference between what I need and what I want. Tony Mafia had a quote: Stuff is an anchor on your ass that keeps you from floating.
So it seems the roots of Namaste’s community/artistic connection and spiritual energy run deeper than we ever knew - from its original life as a hippie commune to the space’s incarnation today, as our beloved yoga studio! It must be karma.
Many thanks to Captain Flash for stopping in and taking the time to​ scan these slides and​ share with us his recollections ​and images ​of York Blvd. and the Namaste space during the ​19​70​'s​​!​ Check out Capt. Flash’s blog and artwork.


Thursday, February 5, 2015

Runner's High

- by Ani Raya-Flores

“I took this video last fall. And when I say I took this video, I mean I snuggled my phone into the heel of my running sneaker, pressed record, and hoped for the best. I’d just finished a run around the Silver Lake Reservoir and had the kind of runner’s high that results in a combination of ecstasy (no one can take me down!) and mean hunger (I’ll cut anyone who gets between me and the nearest burrito!). As I was rushing to my car to get said burrito, I noticed a bunch of kids tumbling in the meadow. They were each doing their own thing, but they were all having a damn good time. Just being in their light little mosquito bodies, buzzing every which way, was its own reward.
With the sun almost setting, I decided the burrito could wait (if you know me, you understand the gravity of that statement). I ran to my car, grabbed my mat, plopped it down in the meadow, and practiced. For that last hour of daylight, I just played.

As a teacher, I tend to be focused on alignment and safety. That’s true in my own practice as well. If I feel like I’m not warmed up or not strong enough, I can be a little gun shy about trying something new. While that’s important, it’s also important to let go of your ego, find the reckless kid inside, and just have fun in your body.
It’s worth nothing that just a couple of years ago, I couldn’t even do crow. Not even a little bit. I’m not sure when it first happened, but I’m guessing it was after a trip to the park.”