The Rhythm of Life

The drum master danced around the circle as he directed us — his face expressive, arms waving, hands so fast and furious on his own instrument that the term “smoking drum” came to mind.

I looked around at the gathering. Everyone’s eyes were locked on him as he walked the inner circle. He was the Pied Piper of Hamlin and we were the children, so captivated by the spell of the music that we would follow him anywhere.

An expert conductor, he whipped up the sound to a crescendo and then dulled it to a soft whisper — directing first one, then the other. Collectively we created a wave of sound that filled every inch of the studio. The rhythm was so intense that it not only surrounded us, it went through us. It was us.

Every now and then we would pause while he explained an exercise or shared a story. When the sound ceased in these moments, there was silence — and late into the evening during that suspended hush, he told this story:

He had been working with a group of women inmates. He’d taken pizza and Coca Cola to bribe their interest. They were sassy and full of back-chat but were playing, finding some joy in the rhythms.

One woman played with her head down very close to her drum. A black curtain of hair spilled around her face, creating a shield of sorts. She never looked up and was just tapping her drum quietly with her fingers. Tap, tap, pause. Tap, tap, pause.

In his attempt to include her, he approached, wanting her to be part of the group. Several women stood in front of her, creating a blockade.

“Sit your ass down and leave her alone,” the warrior women said.

So he backed off and left her playing to herself. Tap, tap, pause. Tap, tap, pause. It was almost as if she expected an answer, like the tapping was a question: “Anyone home?”

Gradually, the drumming session came to an end and as the circle broke up and drums were put away, the ribbon of hair was finally thrown back, revealing a tear-stained face.

She hadn’t been playing to herself. The rhythm had made her baby move inside her, a feeling she had not experienced for weeks. She’d been afraid that the baby had died, but the rhythm of the drumming had stirred the little soul and it kicked out a rhythm in response.

The rhythm of a drum, the rhythms of nature, the rhythm of our hearts and our breath … They all carry tremendous power to move our spirit.

Join our next gathering and connect to your own unique rhythm.

 

Image credit: dapple37 via Flickr (CC)

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The Power of 8 Percent

As International Peace Day approaches, I find myself Googling a rather existential question: “Has the world ever been at peace?”

According to this New York Times article, humankind has only succeeded at avoiding conflict for 268 of the last 3,400 years — a mere 8 percent of recorded history. This initially struck me as a grim harbinger of the future. After further consideration, it also inspired hope. After all, many people believe there has never been a time without war.

What would happen, I wonder, if 8 percent of the time I was on the verge of snapping at a loved one, I regained my composure and responded with understanding instead? And what if that person, in turn, maintained their patience with another just 8 percent of the time?

When you consider that every action has a reaction, it becomes possible to imagine that 8 percent rippling outward and growing in magnitude. Perhaps it wouldn’t usher in world peace, but it would certainly diminish a significant degree of our suffering and that of those around us.

Indeed, small changes in the way we think, feel and act in our interpersonal relationships add up to larger shifts with practice. Especially when we see our outcomes improve — who doesn’t want to experience more harmony and understanding in their relationships?

I know of no better way to gain greater awareness and command of our thoughts, feelings and actions than the practice of meditation. Slowing down and creating space between thought, impulse and action offers us a chance to consciously choose peace — the kind of peace that can grow from, say, 8 percent of our lives to a peace that abides.

On International Peace Day, next Thursday, September 21, Yoga Nook teachers will incorporate a short meditation, chant or other offering in their classes to mark the day. By joining countless groups across the globe to practice peace for just a small percentage of the day, we intend to expand our personal, community and global “8 percent” into something much bigger. We hope you will join us.

Image credit: United Nations Photo via Flickr (CC)

 

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Stress Less

For most animals stress is episodic, the short, sharp response to a predator. An array of hormones cascade through the body, increasing blood flow, focusing attention and mobilizing energy systems to prepare for action. This hormone array includes adrenaline, noradrenaline and cortisol and is the organism’s response to an immediate, alarming change in the environment. Once the danger has passed, hormone levels will return to normal and homeostasis will resume.

Sadly, as humans, few of our stressors are episodic. While we are all likely to experience short-term grief and pain, the everyday stressors of life on earth are abundant, chronic and acute. Each time the body/mind perceives stress, hormones are released and the “fight or flight” cycle is activated. Over time the immune system is depleted, and the body’s ability to repair, renew and restore is compromised.

How our brain perceives stress, threats or changes in the environment will have an impact on the release of hormones. Over the last two decades, several studies have linked chronic stress with increased pain, digestive disorders and disease onset.

But what can we do? How do we handle it? These are some of the questions that we will address at this year’s Yoga Source Conference. Stress, it seems, is inevitable but with tools to recognize it and strategies to manage it, we can decrease its effect on our mind and body.

Check out this year’s workshop schedule at yoganook.net and choose your workshops, then register on Eventbrite. See you there!

 

A Poem for the New Year + Candlelight Meditation

New Year.
From my window I watch the horizon
A ribbon of black mountains far to the east
I sip my tea and feel the comfort of its heat
My fingers lacing around the cup
Warming my hands
Calming my anticipation
A clock ticks away the seconds
I await the sun.

New Year’s revelers are long gone
The remnants of their party strewn in the street
They’re sleeping now
Deep oblivion.

An incandescent glow backlights the mountain range
Giving it dimension and shape
For a moment the world is suspended
In utter stillness
Holding its breath.

An owl hoots
Breaking the silence with its mellow tone
Like the ancient pranam Om
The sound is resonant and universal
It calls in warning and celebration
Heralding the new day.

Together the owl and I watch the miracle of dawn
The inexorable turning of the earth
The sun peaks the ridge in a sudden blaze
Abruptly balancing on the tightrope
Between night and day
Then stretching its golden fingers across the desert
Chasing the shadows away.

There is no doubt
This is the beginning
Of a New Year.

For 10 years now we have offered a space for gathering, reflection and meditation at the turn of the new year. It’s a magical evening of candlelight, music, poetry, chanting and silence that aids the transition from the old year into the new. Join us for our annual Candlelight Meditation:

Candlelight Meditation
Friday, January 7, 2017 | 7 p.m.
Yoga Nook @ Fifth
690 D Los Angeles Ave.
Simi Valley, CA 93065

Bring a blanket and bolster (if you have one). Some chairs will be available.

This yoga community gathering is free to anyone who would like to attend. See you there!

 

Image credit: Jeff Turner via Flickr (CC)

October Day Retreat: The Alchemy of Karma Yoga

Today’s guest post comes from Pat VanBuskirk, MA, MFT, RYT 500, our beloved yoga & meditation teacher at the Yoga Nook. Pat is leading our upcoming October Day Retreat: 

The Alchemy of Karma Yoga: Taking Yoga Off the Mat
Saturday, October 22
10:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.
Krishnamurti Center
$125*

*Cash or check (made out to Pat VanBuskirk). You may sign up at either Yoga Nook location. Call Pat at (805) 208-5978 with any questions. 


Retreat (verb): 

  1. to go away from a place or person in order to escape from fighting or danger
  2. an act or process of withdrawing, especially from what is difficult, dangerous or disagreeable
  3. to retire or withdraw, as to seclusion or shelter

Retreat (noun): 

  1. a private and safe place where you can be alone
  2. a period of group withdrawal for prayer, meditation or study

The verb “retreat” means to move away from something that is disagreeable or dangerous, or to still the advance. The noun “retreat” means an actual safe space to reflect and study, alone or with like-minded folks.

A day of retreat offers the opportunity to still the incessant noise of the ego, which can in fact be dangerous — or at the very least, disagreeable. It provides the needed physical space to restore, rejuvenate, repair — and most of all, to remember who YOU are so there is physiological, emotional and mental space for your purpose to come forward.

The Yoga Nook is providing an opportunity for you to retreat and give your deeper Self a chance to be restored. The environment of the retreat is a natural secluded space in Ojai that is dedicated to restoration and reflection: the Krishnamurti Center.

The theme of our retreat is The Alchemy of Karma Yoga. Karma Yoga is the yoga of Selfless Action. What that means for us is our ability to note when the habit patterns of the ego are taking control of our path through life, refrain from those patterns, and walk our life’s path with consciousness and integrity — away from the clutches of the demanding egoic self. Ahhh, freedom!

Karma Yoga, or Selfless Action, is inspirational in its philosophy and transformative in practice. The intentional practice of Karma Yoga can bring us to a place of abiding joy (which is our “true” Self), versus momentary pleasure, which is the ego’s addiction!

When we begin to slow down and intentionally retreat to practice stillness in a group of like-minded people — listening to the philosophy and learning to apply the ancient teachings in our current life situation — we can transform our thoughts, our behavior and our life.

At this retreat, we will:

  • practice asana as a means of unlocking blocks to our true Self, thus remembering our authentic Self;
  • practice silence to notice how the ego self demands attention and may lead us to habit patterns that are not necessarily those we want; and
  • learn about our own relationship with Karma Yoga and the practical application of it, both personally and globally.

I hope to see you at the retreat on Saturday, October 22! If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me at (805) 208-5978.

Many blessings. Namaste.

 

Chakras on the Brain

I have a confession to make. I love brains! In my work as a somatic educator, I work with brains every day, and I’m always amazed at how they problem-solve, create and strategize.

Frequently clients laugh as I help them first recognize, then reeducate a deeply held pattern of movement. Sometimes the brain is so invested in a pattern, it takes awhile before it will let go of the habit. I have often felt emotional when we finally get a breakthrough and the pattern begins to change to make movement more comfortable and functional.

The chakras, taken together, are a philosophical tool to help us understand how we live in the world and how to balance ourselves. Through my research on brain function, I was inspired to investigate where the qualities of the chakras would be located if they were projected onto the brain.

I wondered if we could access those brain areas through visualization, movement and working with partners. Clearly we would need more time than a regular class would allow, so I created a workshop format for this interesting and informative journey, “Chakras on the Brain.”

This workshop is an experiential journey into your brain, helping you connect with different areas that govern emotion, movement, imagination, compassion and proprioception. A short lecture will give you some background about chakras and a comparison between the traditional view and this new and unique approach.

A large portion of the workshop is movement- and breath-oriented, but the pace is easy and gentle like an AIM class. It’s about your personal experience, so it will be very relaxing as well as informative.

I hope you can join me.

Chakras on the Brain Workshop
Saturday, July 23
11am – 4:30pm (30 min. break for lunch)
Yoga Nook @ Fifth
690 D Los Angeles Ave.
Simi Valley, CA 93065
$69

 

Retreat with Us in Ojai!

If you’re like most people, you probably spend much of your time making sure everything in your external world is taken care of — from work projects to family responsibilities, housework and essential errands. But how much time do you dedicate to your inner life?

If your answer is “not enough,” we invite you to retreat with us this Saturday, June 4 in beautiful Ojai, CA. In this fun and relaxing day retreat at Krishnamurti Foundation of America, we’ll go “beyond the poses” to explore and experience the foundations of Yoga.

Beyond the Poses retreat

There are just a few days left to sign up! Register in person at either Yoga Nook studio, email yoganookcalling@gmail.com, or call (805) 390-8175.

What will you discover beyond the poses? 

 

Beyond the Poses: A Day-Long Retreat in Ojai

What comes to mind when you think of a retreat? Most likely you imagine some sort of getaway, perhaps on a pristine beach far from home or in a cozy cabin tucked away in the mountains. Indeed, one definition of retreat is “an act of moving back or withdrawing” — stepping away from your regular routine and withdrawing to a quiet place.

On the other hand, a retreat can also be a catalyst that helps us move forward and step into the qualities or ways of being we want to cultivate, but that we sometimes lose touch with in the midst of our habitual cycles. In doing something different and learning something new, we’re able to see things with a fresh perspective. A seed of growth is planted.

In the words of the philosopher, speaker and writer Jiddu Krishnamurti (1895-1986):

It is essential sometimes to go into retreat, to stop everything that you have been doing, to stop your experiences completely and look at them anew, not keep on repeating them like machines. You would then let fresh air into your mind. Wouldn’t you? This place must be of great beauty with trees, birds, and quietness, for beauty is truth and truth is goodness and love.

In every sense of the word, the Krishnamurti Center in Ojai is an ideal place to retreat. Every year the emerging teachers in the Yoga Nook 200-hour teacher training visit the Krishnamurti Center to explore the library, gardens and educational center — which features talks and interviews with J. Krishnamurti on universal themes like conflict, fear, education, truth and meditation.

Krishnamurti Library
Krishnamurti Library

On Saturday, June 4, Yoga Nook will host Beyond the Poses, a day-long retreat in the Krishnamurti Center’s Pepper Tree Pavilion, overlooking the Ojai Valley and on-site gardens. The teachers in Yoga Nook’s current 300-hour teacher training (Jo, Kim G., Annika, Kim S., Tami and Pati) will lead fun and relaxing workshops with themes surrounding the 8 Limbs of Yoga, or the eight-fold path.

pepper tree pavilion
Pepper Tree Pavilion at the Krishnamurti Center

Net proceeds from the event will benefit The Gentle Barn, a Santa Clarita nonprofit that rescues and rehabilitates severely abused animals, and facilitates interaction with the animals to teach kids about kindness and compassion.

Beyond the Poses: An Exploration of the 8 Limbs of Yoga
Cost: $95*
Saturday, June 4, 2016
10 a.m. – 4 p.m. (registration at 9:30 a.m.)
Krishnamurti Center
1098 McAndrew Rd.
Ojai, CA 93023

*Includes lunch, snacks, beverages and gift bags

Space is limited. Register today in-person at Yoga Nook, email yoganookcalling@gmail.com or call (805) 390-8175 to reserve your spot. You can also RSVP on our Facebook page.

 

Yoga Source Wrap-Up: What Now?

I’m still a little punch-drunk after the whirlwind of Yoga Source. It was an amazing weekend, and I want to send a profound thank you to so many people for making it a success.

I had a huge amount of fun reconnecting with my classmates from the Thomas Hanna Somatic group, watching them work and sharing my work with them. It was inspirational to see our own Yoga Nook teachers pushing the envelope and creating new classes, bringing new ideas and combinations to the floor.

Yoga Source Hanna Somatic Educators
Yoga Source Presenters and Hanna Somatic Educators (L to R): Rick Olderman, Jeni Winterburn, Elise and Thomas McMasters, Caroline Wright  (Photo credit: Kim Galbraith)

All in all, it was a weekend full of creative energy that was invested in our Simi Valley yoga community. Yoga students at both studios are still buzzing from the experience, and everyone has asked about next year.

What now?

Some information from the workshops will be blended into your regular classes, as Yoga Nook teachers integrate their newly acquired knowledge into their own practice and then bring it to you.

Yoga Source Yoga Nook teachers
Yoga Nook teachers Lisa, Yasa and Sarah  (Photo credit: Kim Galbraith)

Some presenters will be making repeat visits to offer individual workshops over the next 10 months. Other teachers are being invited to expand on their subjects, providing you with more detailed information in the form of workshops to improve your yoga experience.

Watch this space because next year will be bigger and better. The Source team has learned a great deal from this first experience and will be bringing you more inspiring classes, amazing presenters and healing arts. Save the dates… March 10, 11 & 12, 2017.

Yoga Nook continues to move forward, bringing creative Yoga to Simi Valley and connecting to the community with open arms and hearts. Thank you for your support — we couldn’t do any of this without you.

 

Yoga Source Presenter Q&A: Elise & Thomas McMasters

There are just a couple days left until our 3-day Yoga Source conference kicks off, and we couldn’t be more excited! If you haven’t already, take a look at the schedule, pick out your workshops and register online to get a head start.

You can also register at Yoga Nook @ Fifth on Friday, March 11 from 4:30-7 p.m. Then, join us for the Welcome Address from 7-8:30 p.m., where you can mingle with the presenters and enjoy music, wine tasting, singing and chanting in a relaxed atmosphere. (First-come basis, free to all attending the conference.)

Our final presenter Q&A is with Elise and Thomas McMasters, Certified Hanna Somatic Educators who not only work with people, but also horses and dogs. They will be presenting a fun workshop on how to help heal and communicate better with our pets:

Healing Touch for Animals 
Saturday, March 12 | 11:30 a.m. – 1:30 p.m.
Yoga Nook on Cochran
(Dogs will be present for this workshop.)
Only a few spots left! Sign up today.


Tell us a little bit more about your background and why you became interested in somatics. 

Our background began in human massage therapies and branched out to include equine and canine massage and bodywork, small and large animal acupuncture, as well as Hanna Somatic Education (HSE) for equine, canine and humans.

Hanna Somatic Education bridges the gap between working on clients and working with clients. The goal of HSE is to teach our clients the exercises necessary to continue their practice at home and in other areas of their lives. HSE continually renews our ability to access and release our muscle potential, allowing us to re-create more efficient and comfortable movement.

Why did you decide to present a workshop on Healing Touch for Animals? What are you looking to offer attendees? 

We are offering a window into the possibilities that Hanna Somatic work brings to our animals, specifically dogs and horses. Somatic Education, massage therapy and acupressure for horse and rider fill a need not addressed by any other type of therapy.

Simple guided release movements allow a horse and rider to experience the renewed ability to access muscle potential, creating a synergy of strength and balance. This results in the possibility of smooth, powerful movement with less effort.

Hanna Somatic work for canines, both athletic (such as agility or working dogs) as well as our at-home companions, offers simple movements that may increase a dog’s well-being, comfort and athletic career.

Working with dogs or horses aids in injury recovery and rehabilitation. Most of all, it is a fabulous preventative therapy for injury, the effects of aging, arthritis or any other conditions that affect or pertain to the muscles and soft tissues.

How have you applied somatics in your line of work? 

Somatic work has given us a greater understanding of how our minds work with our bodies. It is through a willing participation in this mind/body collaboration that we are able to refocus our mind to reach and recover muscle potential that otherwise may be unavailable. We can offer our clients simple, effective techniques to help recover from and prevent injury, achieving results that can be astounding.

If there is one thing you would like attendees to take away from your workshop, what would it be? 

Awareness that there is a simple and phenomenally effective way to help preserve not only our health, well-being, physical/athletic abilities, but also that of our animal companions. Having the ability to maintain health and wellness on a daily basis in a way that is pain-free and easily applied in the privacy and ease of your own home is unprecedented, but thoroughly possible and available.


Image credit: Taro the Shiba Inu via Flickr (CC)