10.24.2006

Updated Class Schedule

Dear friends --

Here is my updated and current class schedule, effective as of 10/30. I've had to cut my schedule back a bit and introduce a little more balance into my own life... it's tough to take my own advice sometimes, but I've finally done it!

Note: all classes are members only except for the Golden Bridge Yoga class on Sunday.

Yoga:
Mondays, 6:00-7:00 a.m., 24Hour Fitness Hollywood
Wednesdays, 8:00-9:00 p.m., 24Hour Fitness West Hollywood
Thursdays, 8:00-9:00 p.m., 24Hour Fitness West Hollywood
Saturdays, 10-11:30 a.m., Gold's Gym Downtown LA
Sundays, 9:30-11:00 a.m., Golden Bridge Yoga

Cycling:
Tuesdays, 6:00-7:00 a.m., 24Hour Fitness La Cienega
Wednesdays, 6:00-7:00 a.m., 24Hour Fitness Hollywood
Wednesdays, 7:00-8:00 p.m., 24Hour Fitness West Hollywood
Thursdays, 6:30-7:30 p.m., 24Hour Fitness West Hollywood
Saturdays, 8:00-9:00 a.m., 24Hour Fitness La Cienega

See you in class!

T.

10.11.2006

Teaching Beginners

I think it's important for anyone who teaches any subject — any teacher — to continually strive to expand one's knowledge and perspective. And in my case, that means I'm often a prominent question-asker in classes and seminars, and in the virtual world, I frequently submit questions to experts. And lucky for me, the Yoga Journal gods smiled upon my most recent question and gave it to Maty Ersatzy (formerly of YogaWorks) to answer. See the full answer here.

A great excerpt:

Students who attend beginning classes have shown up to learn, and to learn in the right way. Therefore don't be afraid to teach all aspects of yoga. This is a good place for you to play with aspects of your teaching that may be harder to deliver in flow classes. These students will likely be willing to go more slowly, and they are happy to receive instructions. They tend to have fewer preconceived ideas.

Right on, Maty. Kind of an obvious point, but such a great reminder. Thanks for the advice.

Lots of love,
Tanja

10.01.2006

Les Photographs


This is my favorite shot from the whole trip. The change of seasons is as dramatic and clear as it possibly could be.

This was from last Sunday afternoon in the Tuileries Gardens in Paris.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Also in the Tuileries, I happened upon this man feeding the birds.


- - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Monday in London, Diana and I went to the Tate Modern, which I enjoyed as much for the art as for the structure itself. The building looks like an old Weimar Germany factory, but it's been modernized in some cool, unexpected ways. This shot captures a great moment on an escalator in the Tate.


- - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Thursday afternoon in London, I went through the British Museum, which has a hugely impressive collection of culturally significant artifacts from all over the world (of course, we could get into a whole other discussion about how the British stole those artifacts during colonialism and whether they should give them back to their respective countries, but I'll save this for another time).

The picture below is a Mayan Sun God, made well before colonialism, or before any visitors had arrived from Europe (and many millenia after anyone from Asia could have come over via land bridge).


What's most striking is the hand position. I looked at it and immediately thought it was a statue of a Bodhisattva, or a Hindu avatar, but it's clearly not. How interesting that completely separate cultures at different times produced religious effigies so strkingly similar.... there must be something to this....

Finding New Appreciation

Hello dear friends --

I'm back! And I have to say, I'm SOOO excited to be back.

London and Paris were beautiful (I will try to post some pictures), and it was wonderful to see my friends over there, especially my dear friend Diana, who lives in London and whom I only get to see every few years.

Going on this trip was definitely taking a step out of my milieu. With the exception of my trip to Berlin to see family two years ago, all of my vacations over the past four or five years have been outdoor activity related (hiking, climbing, skiing), and this was just time to relax a bit (not too much!), and see a lot (and of course eat a lot!).

I'm so glad I went. It gave my mind a little jog every time I tried to cross the street in London and had to think about which way traffic was coming from (yes, I admit that most of the time I just looked both ways, and once I almost got smacked by the bus). And all that French made my brain hurt... though I finally got my French back proficiently, just in time to get on the train back to London.

But what was amazing to me about this trip is how much it made me appreciate everything that I have in my life at home. Staying with friends, experiencing different cities -- of course I felt gratitude for being lucky enough to get to go out and see these things. But I also felt HUGE gratitude for what I have here that I got to come home to.

A simple but comfortable apartment. An amazing boyfriend. Yoga students who challenge and inspire me every single day. Fresh organic produce. SUNSHINE! Smoke-free restaurants. Mountains you see from the city. Free bathrooms. Affordable everything. Strangers who smile. The Pacific. Great friends I'm so fortunate to have found. And lots more.

I am so lucky -- I found exactly the perspective shift that I was looking for. And that shift made me see just how happy I am to be at exactly this point in my life, exactly where I am. It's something I don't think I could have seen if I had never left. I could not have asked for a more wonderful vacation outcome than that.

Regular class schedules resume today (Sunday, October 1), so come see me. I'll be so glad to see you!

Love and gratitude to all,
Tanja

9.20.2006

Quote of the Week

(Making up for lost time today...)

"Thousands of candles can be lighted from a single candle, and the life of the candle will not be shortened. Happiness never decreases by being shared."

- Prince Siddhartha Gautama (Buddha)

Subs While I’m Away

Dear students –

I’ll be away Sept 21-29 (see blog below for more), and will have subs covering my classes. Look for the following teachers during my regularly scheduled classes:

Thursday, Sept 21, 7:30 p.m. at Golden Bridge – Vanessa Hopkins

Saturday, Sept 23, 10:00 a.m. at Gold’s Downtown – TBD by Gold’s

Sunday, Sept 24, 9:30 a.m. at Golden Bridge – TBD

Sunday, Sept 24, 12:00 p.m. at 24Hour Hollywood – Fusako Phares

Monday, Sept 25, 6:00 a.m. at 24Hour Hollywood – Yulia Medovy

Tuesday, Sept 26, 7:30 p.m. at Golden Bridge – Krysta Close

Wednesday, Sept 27, 12:30 p.m. at Golden Bridge – Mesha Kussman

Wednesday, Sept 27, 8:00 p.m. at 24Hour West Hollywood – Debbie Dutch

Thursday, Sept 28, 7:30 p.m. at Golden Bridge – Krysta Close


I’ll return to all scheduled classes on Saturday, September 30.

See you all soon!

Tanja

In search of new perspectives

I’m in a state of total anticipation today, because I leave for London and Paris tomorrow, and I am so excited. I’ll have about eight days in Europe, which I’m sure will seem super short once I’m there, but I think it will be plenty to help me feel rejuvenated, and hopefully inspired in a new way.

Though yoga helps us let go of any wanderlust that we might feel, it also teaches us that it can be useful to change our perspective sometimes. That’s why we practice inverted poses – we literally turn our worlds upside-down and often see things differently, physically and metaphorically.

So I’m thinking of this trip as my headstand times 10.

Sidebar:

Years ago, when my practice was more Ashtanga-based, before I was teaching, I didn’t feel like inspiration was part of a yoga practice at all. I didn’t seem to need it, and I didn’t think about it at all. But when I discovered Vinyasa yoga, with the creative sequencing and ever-changing flows, I discovered a whole new aspect to my practice, one that’s much more in-the-moment and less attached to the sequence, as Ashtanga yogis sometimes become, since the Ashtanga sequence is always the same. Through the practice of Vinyasa, and the surrender that comes from being willing to go anywhere the sequence might take you, I really connected with this idea of inspiration, and it’s something I’ve sought out ever since.

And that inspiration can come from anywhere – great music in class, seeing the way someone else does a pose or sequence, bringing whole-hearted intention into the practice, or observing students while teaching. For me personally, my most memorable “Aha!” moments of inspiration — the real breakthroughs — have come from deliberately changing my perspective by forcing myself out of my comfort zone. Sometimes that’s doing something that I didn’t think I could do, or by trying something that I never thought I would want to do. And even if those challenges haven’t exactly been fun, they always teach me something about myself, and that in turn inspires my practice and my teaching in ways I couldn’t have anticipated.

So, as fun as a trip will certainly be, it’s going to test me in some ways I’m not so accustomed to. I’m going to a party in Paris with all native French-speakers, and that will really give me a good challenge with my now-years-off college French. The party is for a good French friend of mine in LA who is going to Paris for her 30th birthday to be with friends and family. I’m excited just to go to Paris, and also to spend her birthday with her, but this party has had me anxious for weeks. What if I can’t understand anything they’re saying? What if my lack of style garnered from years of donning yoga casualwear makes me stick out? Letting go of these fears and embracing the excitement has already been a great practice for me.

And beyond all that, I think this is a great chance to get out of any ruts I might be stuck in at the moment (even if I don’t realize I’m in them). Remembering to look to the right first instead of the left while crossing the street in London… using different currency… getting around non-native cities… these sound like mundane details I’ll have to work around, but will they yield any perspective-shifting lessons and inspiration? Only one way to find out…

I’ll report back upon my return. Until then…

Yours in yoga,

Tanja

9.13.2006

The Publicity Problem

Not too long ago, I blogged about some great upcoming yoga events around town, and remarked that LA is a great place to be a yogi, because there’s so much going on here.


Well there’s a definite flip side to that.

LA could quite possibly be so overloaded with yoga events, that good ones, maybe even great ones, get lost in the clutter (to use some of my best ad agency lingo). The recent LA Yoga Fest 2006 happened this past weekend, and according to Joni’s account on the Accidental Yogist (one of my must-read blogs), it was quite poorly attended. I saw the flyers for it a few weeks ago and looked at their website, but opted not to go when I saw that they didn’t have a schedule posted just a few weeks before the event. In fact, they were still accepting proposals for workshops for teachers, and that concerned me. Of course, $45 for a day of yoga and food always seems like a good value to me, even if it’s a tad disorganized (and really, as yogis, we can’t ever expect things to be planned down to the last detail… where’s the challenge to go with the flow in that?), so I would have gone if I had gotten a sense that people would be there. But the event just never quite managed to build up the kind of buzz I would have liked to have seen.

But Yoga Fest aside, their troubles are emblematic of the difficulties faced by so many of us in the LA yoga world, and, I imagine, in other large cities with vibrant yoga communities. People are so enthusiastic about their yoga here, and they have so, so many options of teachers, studios, events, everything, that it can be a huge challenge to attract people to any of these things. I’ve been at amazing kirtan concerts with really well-known artists here in town, sitting in an audience of maybe 50 people at most. But then I’ve also been to sold-out Krishna Das shows in huge spaces.

Part of it is whether the word is getting out there, but part of it seems to be that unknowable answer to the question of how to differentiate one teacher, studio or event from another. In a town so saturated, do the endless yoga studios and relatively homogenous styles of teachers just blur together for people? Or is yoga well-established enough now that not many people are in the market for a new teacher or a new studio, but are instead happy to stick with what they know? Or is it something else entirely?

Whatever the answer is, it’s turning a lot of teachers and studios I know into constant self-promoters, an act that I know many of us wish were not a necessity. It seems awfully unyogic to push one’s services constantly (Remember “When the student is ready, the teacher appears”? Now it’s more like, “Hey student! I’m here! So you better be ready!”). I’ll keep thinking about this and revisit the subject. Curious to know your thoughts…

9.12.2006

Quote of the Week

You cannot do yoga. Yoga is your natural state. What you can do are yoga exercises, which may reveal to you where you are resisting your natural state. - Sharon Gannon

Last Batch of Subs for A While…

Hi there. I have one more trip to finish up this summer (rough life, I know), and then I’m excited to say I’ll be around full-time until Thanksgiving and then again until the winter holidays (and hopefully beyond). Yay! But for these classes, please expect to see some of your favorite subs in my place:

Thursday, September 21, 7:30-9 p.m. at Golden Bridge
Saturday, September 23, 10-11:30 a.m. at Downtown Gold’s
Sunday, September 24, 9:30-11 a.m. at Golden Bridge
Sunday, September 24, 12-1 p.m. at 24Hour Fitness Hollywood
Monday, September 25, 6-7 a.m. at 24Hour Fitness Hollywood
Tuesday, September 26, 7:30-9 p.m. at Golden Bridge
Wednesday, September 27, 8-9 p.m. at 24Hour Fitness West Hollywood
Thursday, September 28, 7:30-9 p.m. at Golden Bridge


9.11.2006

Remembering with Loving-kindness

I believe pretty strongly that the rise in the popularity of yoga in the west has virtually everything to do with the rise of our 24-hour, deadline-driven, information-overload society. People love and need to be able to come to their yoga mat and let all of that swirling madness go. It’s about survival, as much as it is about unwinding.

So for the most part, I think it’s important for the teacher to provide in class what people are seeking – a refuge from their daily thoughts and stressors. Having some time and space away from the things that stress us out allows us to learn to cope more effectively with them; when we learn that we can truly remove ourselves from the stressful situations, whatever they may be, we gain a new perspective and learn to address stress more healthily.

But there are certain days when it seems important to remember the world around us, even if doing that might initially cause more stress. Sometimes the news is filled with stories of suffering at home or far away, and sometimes it’s important to remember a significant day or event or that shaped history. And it’s not responsible or true to pretend as though this suffering doesn’t exist, even though we’re seeking refuse from our own sources of suffering, however small they may seem in comparison.

In these cases, we can benefit so much by engaging in a practice of metta (loving-kindness) meditation. Metta is that feeling you send out from your heart when you wish someone else to be safe, to feel well, and to feel loved. Metta is compassion, it’s love, and it’s a wish to heal. We practice it when we wish to aim our own energy toward healing others, but the result is usually that we heal ourselves.

When we take time to remember, with loving-kindness, the suffering of others, we gain the most powerful perspective of all: how fortunate we all our in our own ways. We’re fortunate to have people we love and people who love us, we’re fortunate to be safe and have the basic necessities of life, and fortunate to have things we do that give us pleasure, and most of all, we’re fortunate to be alive. That little spark of gratitude can be so powerful in how we approach our own lives.

So continue allowing your yoga practice to be a refuge to you. It’s something we all need. But those times when a voice inside you says that something bigger than you needs attention, listen to that voice. That’s your spirit’s recognition of its connection to everyone else living in this world. And when you allow your own metta to help heal that suffering, you’ll notice an amazing change yourself.

In peace,
Tanja

9.08.2006

Blogging: The New Yoga?

This week, a mere two weeks into my illustrious career as a blogger, I have found it crazy hard to come up with anything to write. Oftentimes, I can just start writing about one thing, and another thing ends up emerging as the real subject, giving me a big AHA! moment. But no such luck this week.

But finally, just now, it struck me: blogging is just like a spiritual practice (or a “mind-body practice,” if “spiritual” is too strong a word for your tastes).

Blogging is tons of fun when you first start out… you have lots to say… there are so many subjects to cover, so much info to put out there… you feel enthusiastic and want to dive into that enthusiasm headfirst… but over time (maybe even a short time!), the excitement wears off, and it becomes just another obligation.

So many things in life are like this. Think about it in your own life. How many hobbies or interests have you picked up over the years that either lost their sheen after some time and become chores? Or worse, after some time you stopped doing them altogether? Relationships can be just like this too – new friends and lovers can fill us with excitement, but eventually, that shimmer wears off, and the relationships can go in any number of directions. Seeing this habit in ourselves is such a great human moment, and it can even be a breakthrough moment if we allow ourselves to delve deeper into what that means.

Our monkey minds constantly seek stimulation, excitement, adventure. What that means is different for each of us, of course, but the essence is the same. And when we find that *thing* – whatever it may be – we grab a hold of it tightly and we try to keep or repeat the feeling we get from the newness.

Through our yoga practice, we learn to (try to) let go of our attachments, whether that’s our attachment to material things, our attachment to the way things are and the hope that they’ll never change, or our attachment to this need for newness and excitement. But knowing that we need to let go and actually letting go are quite different things, and certainly one of the most difficult yoga precepts to bring into our lives.

And really, if we get attached to the newness of some new hobby, and then it wears off and we drop the habit because we’ve found excitement elsewhere, there’s usually no harm done (the expense incurred in picking up the hobby notwithstanding).

But a spiritual practice is different. To make progress, we can’t practice it like a series of fun, new hobbies. We have to stick with it. And that can be hard as all get-out when it loses its excitement and is just another chore. To continue to stick with it at that point is, I’m convinced, where the real practice begins. When we take time for our own practice – whether that’s a physical asana practice, meditation, going to church, chanting, painting, dancing, or anything else – when the excitement is gone, that’s when we’re really living our yoga.

In his autobiography, It’s Here Now, Are You?, Bhagavan Das writes about exactly this habit, in a very spiritual light: getting really stoked about a spiritual practice in one tradition, staying with it until the excitement wore off, then moving on to the next thing, in his case a spiritual practice in a different tradition. And this pattern went on and on for years, until his quest for excitement took him out of spiritual life altogether… it led him to selling used cars! Eventually he found his way back, but it took many, many years before he truly understood that a spiritual practice had to be a permanent part of his life, and couldn’t be sacrificed or used as a tool to find the next high.

So what does that mean? I think this is a leaving-your-comfort-zone moment. Just as it’s useful to challenge yourself to do *new* things that you think you wouldn’t normally do, I think it’s equally important to challenge yourself to do *old* things that may have lost their appeal but that we know are what we need. It’s the same thing as eating healthily when the junk food looks good, or going to the gym when we’ve been inactive for a while. Think of it as a challenge, and think of it as a new challenge if that helps you. Your new challenge is to revisit the old things in your spiritual life and make them new. Find a way to make them new every day, and you’ll be well on your way finding what life can be.

That’s my goal for today, tomorrow, the day after that… and until the next new thing rears its distracting head.

Lots of September love,
Tanja

8.31.2006

The Yogi’s Façade

There is definitely a certain persona that yoga culture tells us we’re all supposed to emanate as yogis. We should appear happy, tranquil, unshakeable… completely blissed out. Maybe even a little spacey.

And lots of times, practicing yoga or meditation really does make us feel this way. It’s not a façade at all. It’s who we really are.

But other times, it’s all an act. We’re stressed, sleep-deprived, angry, sad, unhappy with ourselves or others, or otherwise in a funk. And what do we do then? We can’t wear these feelings on the outside and still walk into a yoga class (certainly not in a place like Los Angeles where people take their yoga and its feel-good vibes so seriously). So we bring them all inside and hope that the practice of yoga will some how make it all better. Or we skip our yoga practice altogether because it’s so exhausting to play the part of a happy yogi when we’re not feeling happy at that moment.

Maybe you’ve never felt this way. Maybe you feel this way all the time. Whether you fit into either category or somewhere in between, it’s worth thinking about the energy we project into the world.

One of the most amazing lessons I’ve learned not just by practicing yoga, but by teaching it, is that the Buddha was right: There is no way to happiness. Happiness is the way.

Sometimes, just by acting happy – by putting on our yogi’s façade – we can actually be happy.

A yoga teacher always has a responsibility to be a steady, calm presence, and to leave whatever personal issues might be troubling her out of the classroom. Sometimes that’s no problem because we’re feeling good already, but sometimes we have to really work to embody a positive persona. When I prepare to teach a class, I put on my yoga teacher façade – happy, steady, tranquil, connected. Over time, this has become automatic. I become Yoga Teacher Tanja, which is one of my favorite versions of me.

It might sound a little odd to think about a teacher putting on a façade to teach. We want to believe that our teachers are just like the people we see them as in class, 100% of the time. But it’s just not true. It’s not true of the world’s best yoga teacher. It’s not true for the most learned ascetics and monks. And it’s not true for the Dalai Lama. We all have versions of ourselves that appear at different times and express themselves. But as a teacher, we must support our students by projecting the Yoga Teacher version during every moment of class time.

But what’s amazing about this practice is: it doesn’t matter what kind of a mood I was in before class, or what was going on in my mind. If I have truly dedicated myself to teaching from my heart (putting on a masterful performance as Yoga Teacher Tanja), I always feel the same way at the end of class.

Happy.

Perfectly happy. Steady. Tranquil. And connected.

And then, it’s not a façade. It’s not an act. It’s how I truly feel.

Of course, sometime after class, I inevitably get back into my thoughts, zooming ahead to future plans, or getting stuck on something that happened yesterday. And I gradually lose track of that perfect happiness. And it’s not until I sit down for meditation, my own yoga practice, to teach, or get into the zone through some other action that I get another little taste of it.

For those moments, though, when I choose to project something positive and stay totally engaged in that moment, I become the very same positive energy that I’m projecting. And it’s an incredible thing to experience.

There is no way to happiness. Happiness is the way.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

So does that mean we should suppress our emotions and fit ourselves into the perfect model of outward happiness, only to deny who we are at any given moment? Of course it doesn’t.

But I believe it does mean that we can actively choose to influence our emotions with the energy that we send out into the world. And if you’ve paid attention, you’ve already noticed that the energy you send out multiplies itself. If you’re grumpy one day and you act grumpily, those around you are likely to take on a little bit of that grumpiness. But if you’re upbeat and friendly and positive, there’s a good chance you’ll raise the spirits of those around you. And then their good spirits will raise yours, and the cycle continues.

So the next time you feel yourself putting on your yogi’s façade, ask yourself if you can make it more than a façade. Concentrate on the energy you’re working to project and let the rest of your thoughts grow quiet.

And then watch what happens.

8.30.2006

Passage of the Week

From The Wisdom of No Escape by Pema Chodron:

Being satisfied with what we already have is a magical golden key to being alive in a full, unrestricted, and inspired way. One of the major obstacles to what is traditionally called enlightenment is resentment, feeling cheated, holding a grudge about who you are, where you are, what you are. This is why we talk so much about making friends with ourselves, because, for some reason or other, we don’t feel that kind of satisfaction in a full and complete way. Mediation is a process of lightening up, of trusting the basic goodness of what we have and who we are, and of realizing that any wisdom that exists, exists in what we already have. Our wisdom is all mixed up with what we call our neurosis. Our brilliance, our juiciness, our spiciness, is all mixed up with our craziness and our confusion, and therefore it doesn’t do any good to try to get rid of our so-called negative aspects, because in that process we also get rid of our basic wonderfulness. We can lead our life so as to become more awake to who we are and what we’re doing rather than trying to improve or change or get rid of who we are or what we’re doing. The key is to wake up, to become more alert, more inquisitive and curious about ourselves.

Krishna Das Returns to Los Angeles

Yogamates has just announced that everybody’s favorite Kirtan superstar is going to be playing LA, at the Ford Amphitheatre no less, on Saturday, October 21.

The Ford seems a tiny bit big for that kind of experience, but Krishna Das has already outgrown every other space he’s played here. So I’m sure we’ll manage to fill it with love and warm fuzzies, even if it doesn’t seem the obvious choice to host Kirtan.

Tickets are available here.

8.29.2006

“You tell yourself, this is the last sofa I will ever need in my life.”

Though the pages of Yoga Journal and other yoga pubs serve up a contradictory impression (articles espousing a life with minimal possessions, ads and ad dollars telling you about all the new yoga and holistic life products you can’t live without), most yogis intuitively know that accumulating stuff goes against the yogic path.

Plenty of people have written articles about the various ways not to accumulate – Buddhist meditation that will eliminate your desire to acquire, a more charitable outlook that will focus your energy more on giving than receiving, ways to become self-fulfilled so that you don’t feel the need to fulfill yourself with retail therapy… the list goes on. The authors usually write as though they themselves have mastered their own impulses and live lives free from the desire to own anything at all.

I am no such author.

Like most people, I tend to acquire things in a few different yet distinct categories. And for me those are outdoor gear, accessories like earrings and bags, and the occasional item of clothing. But that’s evolved over time – I used to have a wicked propensity for buying housewares and kitchen gadgets, and my shoe collection was once an astonishing sight. Over time, my interests have evolved and minimized, and so have the things I (occasionally) shop for. (And just as a disclaimer, I still believe that I buy a lot less stuff than most women in demographic group… these days, at least.)

So my question is this: if the goal of yoga is ultimately to calm the fluctuations of the mind and connect with the true reality, and all schools of yoga ascribe to the belief that it’s important to be in an environment conducive to ushering in this mind-state, is capitalism aimed at creating just such an environment really a bad thing?

Well, obviously, the answer is still yes. The little pair of earrings that I think nothing of purchasing probably traveled to me by fossil fuel powered truck and ship and were made in sweatshop conditions by underpaid workers in a country with no environmental protections. But let’s suppose that none of those things were true. That the earrings were made and transported in a sustainable, non-polluting way, and gave the makers of them a fair wage.

Earrings are a bad example, of course. What about furniture that makes my home feel welcoming and comfortable, instead of cluttered and uninviting? If my home has an uplifting feel to it, am I not more likely to be inspired to undertake spiritual endeavors like mediation and asana practice? And certainly might not an aesthetically pleasing home entice me to keep less clutter around, thus actually reducing my tendency to accumulate more, and increasing my charitable contributions when I get rid of things that don’t fit the aesthetic?

While clearly this thesis is mostly justification for my life of accumulation, I do believe that, for most people, we need to have things and stuff around to have the potential to live a fulfilled life. An ascetic life is all but impossible, certainly in this day and age, certainly in this country. Imagine trying to raise a family without the necessities needed to provide food and shelter, and the means for intellectual and spiritual growth. Without those things, stress would tear a person apart. But if we can remove that type of stress from our lives, we give ourselves the mental space to start exploring the spiritual realm. Even without a family to raise, if we don’t pursue capitalistic endeavors (i.e. “jobs”), we don’t have access to health care, we don’t have the means to travel or take classes that expand our perspectives, and we are at the mercy of the system for food and shelter.

In other words, it’s only by having the necessities and by pursuing them through capitalism that we can start to let go.

My vision of the Source, the thing that inspires and drives me, is nature. I’m in total communion when I’m out in the mountains, climbing, trekking, whatever it may be. And I can tell you from having slogged many miles with a lot of pounds on my back, I’m thinking a lot more about the nature and a lot less about the weight of my pack when the gear I carry is expensive but ultra-lightweight gear. Climbing can be completely meditative and mindful, or it can be frustrating and exhausting. The difference is often how much I spent on my gear. So more spending equals more mental space, and more clarity.

But of course there is always a line. You can have a perfect yoga practice without an $80 Manduka Mat. You can have a perfect practice with no mat at all. You can have a perfect practice without a single pair of yoga pants (and without a set of perfect abs). And you can live a wonderful fulfilling life without a high-end car, or a single designer clothing item or pair of shoes, or the latest cutting-edge cell phone, or the nicest apartment, or or or….

What’s important, I think, is to create an environment that you love – not for others, but for yourself. An environment that reduces your stress and allows you to express your own spirit. But ask yourself if you’d be devastated if you lost anything you own. Or anything extravagant that you can afford to do. If your answer is yes for anything but the most sentimental treasures, then it’s time to really start letting go.

When the stuff you own starts owning you, it’s time to go back to the mat.

8.28.2006

Osho Fo Sho

As any teacher or guide can tell you, when you spend a lot of your time teaching, it becomes difficult to maintain your own practice. For new teachers, this is a often a tough lesson to learn -- I know it was for me. Back then I went from attending three or four classes a week to attending virtually none in a short span of time because teaching started taking up all my time.

I felt like I'd lost my practice altogether. But the good news was that I learned to really develop my own home practice, and to integrate yoga into more aspects of my life, instead of keeping it sequestered to the yoga mat.

But even though I don't make regular time for class, sometimes I like to explore public classes to open up some new perspectives and freshen up what I bring to my own classes. So for the past week, I've taken quite a few. Since I'm teaching now at Golden Bridge, probably the premier Kundalini studio in the whole country, I've been taking advantage of their vast array of Kundalini classes. For the devout hatha yogi, Kundalini can be a little, well, free-form. But it sure does feel nice to dance for the last quarter of class.

It felt great to throw myself into a little Kundalini again, since it certainly has been a while. But even still, the classes were basically what I expected.

What I was not expecting was what I got when I went to the Sunday 8 am Osho Dynamic Meditation class.

(If you'd like to see for yourself a rundown of what this type of meditation entails, click here.)

I've been trying to figure out how to describe the experience of it as I've recounted the class to friends, and so far I can't quite put it into words. You do it blindfolded and in the dark, there's really loud music on, you breathe with your whole body, you scream and let out all your pent-up emotions, you dance (and if you're coordinated like me, you whack the stucco walls a few times and end up with some good rug burns)... it's an experience for sure.

Chris, the instructor, was great, and helped get us all ready for the whole thing. And I swear I was floating somewhere above my body when it was all over.

Somehow the phrase "blissed out" just doesn't do it justice.

8.26.2006

The Spin on Yoga

It often comes as a surprise to my yoga students that I also teach cycling ("spinning") classes.

It's an obvious surprise -- cycle classes are known to be more like bootcamp than the "honor your body" tone of most yoga classes.

But if you've practiced yoga with good teachers, you've certainly heard them tell you that all of life is really our yoga practice. We might dedicate an hour each day, or maybe even a few minutes here and there, to coming to our mat, focusing on our breath, performing asana, and blocking out the rest of the world for those moments. But when we leave our mats, our yoga practice doesn't end. It travels with us into each moment of our waking lives. It is one of the goals of our continued yoga practice to start to see this fact. When we're new to yoga, we see it as a distinct moment or series of moments. But as we learn more about ourselves and delve deeper into our practice, we make every moment our yoga.

So to me, every moment can be yoga, and more, any moment can be a meditation. Whatever action brings you to a place of total focus, meditation, and release -- that can be your yoga. There's nothing special about warrior pose or tadasana. They have wonderful benefits to our bodies, but so do many postures we don't do in yoga practice. Our asanas, our vinyasas, aren't some mystical secret. We do them in class only because that's what's been passed down to us.

If practiced mindfully, and with positive, non-violent intention, cycling can absolutely be yoga, and that's the attitude I bring to my bike when I'm teaching. And what's amazing is how many of my cycling students have started coming to yoga after cycling with me, and started to view their bodies and their workouts completely differently.

Cycling is yoga to me, and so is rock-climbing. That's my best moving meditation of all.

Maybe for you it's running, or hiking, or playing with your kids, or cooking for your friends or family. Whatever brings you here, to this present moment, through focused action -- that's your asana practice. So take advantage of that! Tune in, go with the flow, and enjoy it.

Much love,
Tanja

8.24.2006

Upcoming Events

Los Angeles is an easy place to be a yogi. The overcrowding, traffic, and smog notwithstanding, there are lots and lots of opportunities to get your yoga groove on in this city. Here are a couple of upcoming events that I will certainly not miss... and you shouldn't either:

Friday, September 8, 8:00-10:00 p.m., Snatam Kaur in concert at Golden Bridge Yoga in Hollywood. I can remember the first time I heard Snatam's voice, and she remains one of my very favorite mellow chanting artists. Up there with Deva Premal.

Saturday, September 9, 8:00-10:00 p.m., Yoga Trance Dance with Shiva Rea at Sacred Movement in Venice. Shiva is one of my biggest inspirations, and I attend her workshops every chance I get. All Vinyasis out there should definitely check her out.

Saturday, September 23, 8:00-10:00 p.m., Kirtan with Dave Stringer at Sacret Movement in Venice. Dave is one of the current pop stars of the kirtan circuit, and lots of fun to chant with. I'll be out of town for this show but thought it was worth posting anyway.

Saturday, November 11, 7:oo p.m., Yoga Trance Dance with Shiva Rea at Golden Bridge Yoga. More Shiva, closer to (my) home.

And the second Bhagavan Das and Krishna Das decide to come back to town, I'll be first in line...

(Sorry for all the props to Golden Bridge and Sacred Movement... they're the ones hosting all the good stuff these days!)

Current Class Schedule

Hi there, dear students --

My schedule has been in flux lately, but here's the real deal...

Yoga:
Mondays, 6:00-7:00 a.m., 24Hour Fitness Hollywood -- members only
Tuesdays, 7:30-9:00 p.m., Golden Bridge Yoga
Wednesdays, 12:30-1:30 p.m., Golden Bridge Yoga
Wednesdays, 8:00-9:00 p.m., 24Hour Fitness West Hollywood -- members only
Thursdays, 7:30-9:00 p.m., Golden Bridge Yoga
Saturdays, 10-11:30 a.m., Gold's Gym Downtown LA -- members only
Sundays, 9:30-11:00 a.m., Golden Bridge Yoga
Sundays, 12:00-1:00 p.m., 24Hour Fitness Hollywood -- members only

Cycling:
Tuesdays, 6:00-7:00 a.m., 24Hour Fitness La Cienega -- members only
Wednesdays, 7:00-8:00 p.m., 24Hour Fitness West Hollywood -- members only
Saturdays, 8:00-9:00 a.m., 24Hour Fitness La Cienega -- members only

Lots of love,
Tanja