Imboloc

February 1st, 2017

Imbolc is the halfway point between Winter Solstice and the Spring equinox. In this time of the dark and cold winter it’s where we sit with uncertainty, where we wonder if we can endure the darkness and despair. Especially with emotions running high right now due to our recent current affairs, it feels as though we are on high alert. There is an uncertainty about if we will even make it as a species, well unless you are on the other end of the spectrum. As women who have given birth, they know this experience. Will the child be born? Maybe they think will I live past the birthing process? These are all things our ancestors would revisit every year. Tending to the fire with whatever resources of light they could keep stoked, I’m sure there was fear of would they survive? Would they have enough food to endure until the Spring when everything becomes alive again.

The truth is…..we just don’t know. This is uncertainty. It’s raw, it’s vulnerable. And right now-we as a collective are giving birth, and it’s effing painful. As Will Farell said in Zoolander, “I feel like I’m taking crazy pills.” This is how I feel after the inauguration. There are so many opinions. There is so much flying around of what is right versus wrong, news and fake news. I will be the first to say I have a strong opinion on one side. I can’t help but cry for humanity, for our planet and all the injustices in the world. I feel pain on such a visceral level that there are moments I don’t want to get out of bed. I just want to pull the covers over my head and tap out.

So, there are moments when I let myself do that, and then I put on the big girl pants on, strap on my boots and get to work. In the Bhagavad Gita, yoga is skill in action. What actions can we take to relieve us from Duhka (suffering)? This is why practice and self-care are so important. Yoga helps us deal with all the adversities that come our way. Personally, I have been enrolled in a couple trainings and am reaching out to community more than ever. We are not alone in our discomfort and our pain. This is why we create community, why we sit in Satsang (in the company of truth or the good.)

As we sit in this uncertain time, I invite you to keep reaching out, keep creating community, and keep doing the inner work. We get one shot at this life as we know it, and I truly believe that this our planet waking up to truth and we are the pioneers of this time. Into the new frontier. By showing up we are saying yes to this life we are living, we are saying yes to welcoming back the light.

Wishing you all blessings on your path and hope to see you in the sweet space soon.

Happy New Year

January 4th, 2017

I hope this is all reaching you in a time where you feel a glimmer of hope for the new year. I think it is safe to say that 2016 has been one the more challenging and darker years to be alive for myself and may others across the planet. The common theme I have heard is good riddance 2016 or F*%# you 2016…and although I have and wanted to jump on that bandwagon, I decided to change my perspective. We lost a lot, but this is what we will continually do until we release this body that is on loan. In fact, life really owes us nothing. We have been gifted this body, we have a certain amount of time in it, and that time is uncertain. So this year I am committed to loving more, making more music, more art, spending time with loved ones, more time in nature, doing things that take me out of my comfort zone, and spending less time on the internet. We as humans, thrive for connection. What we tend to do is separate ourselves from one another. This comes from the mind. We compare, we see ourselves as better or worst than someone else….so then we either put people on a pedestal or we tear them down.

This is why we continually drop into the heart in Bhakti yoga. The heart is where we are the same, underneath all the layers, all the facades, our races, the masks. The Anahata-sound of the unstuck-where all our opposites unite. Our heart beats, and it sends blood to all of our systems, our limbs, it keeps circulating to keep us warm. When we hug, we hug heart to heart. When we encounter someone before the eyes even connect, we are actually able to feel the rhythm of another’s heart. It’s where we love from and how we as humans have persevered. Otherwise, there is mostly war and destruction internally and externally. As we have seen our country in a big divide-there has been this polarization of wrong versus right, good versus bad, red versus blue, black versus white. If we close our eyes, there is no difference. We are all breathing the same air, we all have a basic desire for comfort and to love and be loved. In this time, we have the ability to communicate so quickly and I do believe this is why some of the the world’s issues seem so daunting because our nervous systems are only equipped to deal with what is happening amongst our tribe.

With that said, I invite you to come in and take class and meet your fellow neighbor, create community. This is how we thrive, this is how we connect, this is how we lift each other up. Like Ram Dass says…Love, Serve, Remember. This is why we practice. We remember that we are a spirit having this human experience and we drop all of our costumes, our robes for a moment and we peek into what is and what will always be here. The very essence of you, that is beyond form, that is beyond space, beyond 2017, beyond death. With this wisdom, we can be the beacons of light.

Bowing in reverence to all of you and your great hearts.

How can you slow down?

September 12th, 2016

As summer is wrapping up, we are asked to slow down. The bounty and fun that the light brings starts to dim, drawing us closer to Fall Equinox, and eventually to the most internal season of the year. I have not written in a while, mostly because I have been inside the complexity of life’s unpredictable losses and gains. I gained another year as I turned 40, was asked to teach at my dream studio Harmonia in Sausalito, lost an ex-lover who decided to end his life, had one of the most major illnesses of my life, and became an auntie. Collectively we lost David Bowie and Prince, witnessed the horrendous Orlando shooting, the crisis in Syria, Turkey, and the killings of innocent black men Philando Castille and Alton Sterling. A little gain, but ultimately it feels like so much loss.

Another summer gone, and if you’re anything like me… you wonder, where has the time gone? It seems fleeting. My sister in law told me once “life is like a toiler paper roll, it just speeds up towards the end.”  Having and healing from what I believe to have been walking pnenomia, taught me a lot about my relationship to loss, letting go and time. Time may be forever, but we are not. My symptoms were enduring. No matter how fast I want to feel better, the healing had its own timeline. No amount of pushing would help.  Eventually I had to surrender to the present moment. I had to slow down and really assess my relationship to my life. I became aware of a deep mental conditioning about time, rooted in scarcity . We don’t have enough, it’s fleeting, and it makes us all scurry around like the world is ending. Maybe it is, but these thoughts didn’t help my lungs heal faster.  When we are not fully in the moment and are wishing to be elsewhere, we are often suffering (Duhka). All healing occurs in the present moment. The more I slowed down and accepted the struggle and time-line around my illness, the more relief I had. Layers and layers of grief began to unpack from my lungs, with it were old beliefs. I was not “doing enough,”  I was “getting old”,  “you haven’t found the one” all this rushing around from my conditioned mind. I had to let those go.

Anytime there is a grasping and we are not able to let go of the old, we are suffering. My illness forced me to be present and offer up my old stories that I had been holding onto. It turned out that my sickness was a blessing, it was a rebirth. I emerged new. With clear eyes and so much focus. I went to Shaktifest down in Joshua Tree and had this feeling as though I was dancing on the ashes. This letting go ultimately prepares us for what we will all have to do this lifetime… we will dissolve back into the infinite. We can do this in every exhale, we shed, we let go, we have the dissolution back into source. What are you willing to let go of? An old belief? Your perception of time? An activity? A relationship? A job? The trees are getting ready to do their thing so I encourage you to see what you’re wishing to let go of.

How can you step in with ease?

January 4th, 2016

As we wind down from the holiday season and step into this new year we are officially in winter. For those of us in Northern California we are actually experiencing our first winter in four years. As far as the rest of the planet..well nature is doing her thing. This whole season I personally have been invoking Kali, as it is her time of the year. My last blog was about her, I co-led a special workshop in Santa Cruz devoted to her, and last night a special New Year’s eve class in her honor. To release our karmic tendencies. She is the force that dances wildly and on our planet we can see the destruction that is happening in lieu of us not being fully awake. The way we choose (maybe unconsciously) to live on this earth. Maybe it comes in the way we buy unsustainably, what we choose to eat- is it organic or is it polluting the earth? Do we consume just to fill in the void or do we consciously with purpose know our intention of why we buy what we buy, or what we choose to put in our mouths, or up our nose. For me, I choose the neti-pot these days.

From all the posts that I’ve read on social media, there seems to be a common theme. Everyone has had a challenging year. With each year, it’s interesting because I have a tendency to revisit my past, see what my old life is up to and the dichotomy is real. I get why people are stuck in their patterns, isn’t it easier to just numb out and take a pill from all the devastation and chaos we see and hear in the news? But the more I walk this path, I see no other way. In Buddhism they say that until every being is free, we will not be free. This is why I choose to wake up, this is why I choose to meditate, why I choose to look at my own shadow and heal the parts that want to run and scream and say “fuck it.”  This is why I choose to live from my heart and transmit these teachings that have so graciously been offered to me.

There’s a lot of hype about setting resolutions, getting our body back into shape after we just drank and ate ourselves into a sugar coma. The excuse I like to hear is well, it only happens once a year. I feel like this sets us up for failure. Our culture is so goal oriented, we have to achieve something to inflate the ego. Then we usually do something to self-destruct, whether it be eating poorly or returning to old habits. What if we could trust the season of winter, step back a bit, reflect on the year past. See what you sensed complete, and then within that space, you might find the willingness to make a plan. Finish up what you can, but try not to take on new projects. Our ancestors had to really prepare for winter, its been in our blood forever, but now with all the flashy technology we feel the urgency to go get out there and get things done. My invitation to you is get cozy, go inward, into the dark, recapitulate the past year, write down your ideas, your dreams and then when Spring comes we will be ready to spring with a bounce in our step.

Set a rhythm, something that is sustainable. Maybe it’s meditating 5 minutes a day before you turn on your phone or computer. Go to a yoga class but please don’t approach it like you need to kick your ass and get back into shape. This is a spiritual practice, this isn’t a competition to see who has the best ass. In a couple years, someone will have a better one. It is a way to find liberation and set a rhythm for all those who we walk with, who we suffer with, who we love, and for those who will walk this path when we are no longer here. We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children.

We still have space in our upcoming retreat to Tulum, Mexico. A beautiful way to reset and find a sustainable rhythm to bring home with you.

HAPPY BELTANE!

May 2, 2015

May has always been one of my favorite months. Maybe because I was born in May—although I feel there is a deeper reason. May 1st is Beltane, the halfway point between the Spring Equinox and the Summer Solstice. Traditionally, it was observed in Scotland and Ireland. Rituals were performed to encourage growth and protect livestock, crops, dairy and people from harm. The festival included bonfires, feasts, and decorations of yellow spring flowers. It was known as a “springtime festival of optimism” during which fertility ritual was important to connect with the waxing power of the sun. While I’m not strongly tied to Irish/Scottish culturally, I do feel a connection to Beltane and it’s purposes.

To me, it’s why yoga is so important. It’s an opportunity to keep your own fire lit. In sanskrit we say ‘tapas’. Tapas means purification through burning. We burn through some of our karmic tendencies. You know…like that new relationship with the same type of person (but with a different name) who is not willing to meet your needs. Or tired patterns or habits that don’t serve us anymore. What is the thing you go to in time of discomfort? Do you numb out, eat too much food, drink too much booze, spend most of your day on social media or watching TV? Do you seek approval? Do you look for other people to fill a void?

I get it. I’m a Taurus—ruled by Venus. Born to love. So much that I am able to lose sight of my own fire. Before I embraced this practice, I turned to many things to numb the discomforts of being human. I’ve looked for love in a lot of weird places. What this practice answers for me is: How can you really love you—in every moment, in every breath? The fire will bring in discernment and clarity. Will this relationship, activity, food serve your highest good? If not, then I invite you to set it into the fire….because from the sacred fire becomes pure ash. We become more balanced, more integrated, more whole. While we wish to know and predict what’s next in life, we cannot. And that’s ok. This is the beautiful mystery of it all. One thing is for sure, when you keep burning through whatever doesn’t serve you, you can clearly see through your own muck.

Hope to see you all soon where we keep the fire lit in this practice. Where we blaze and awaken to what is new.

 

HAPPY SPRING!

April 2, 2015

Can you feel this new burst of energy? This winter was intense, not in the terms of weather (can’t tell if it’s just California or climate change) but in terms of spiritual work. For me personally, I spent time nursing my broken heart from a relationship that ended in the fall. I truly believed that this time, I could have found my life partner. Sadly, it ended. And just when I was ready to move on, he resurfaced (isn’t that how it always goes?). As soon as we release our grip, there is life waiting to show up for you. He didn’t show up to be with me, but it was enough to jostle me out of the clear, focused path that I was on, and once again, I lose my balance. I was motivated and ready to take my career in new directions. I wrote my first newsletter, had lead my second retreat—I was starting to get back into the swing of things. This was intense shadow work that I’ve had to dive deep into. How am I willing to sacrifice so much of me for someone else? How do we manage it all: work, love, home?

For me, winter was about retreating and healing. I didn’t go far, it was in the sacred cave of my room here in San Francisco. I sat with my discomfort, I slept a lot, and I practiced a lot of yin and restorative. I realized that I’d spent almost a decade trying to juggle all the many facets of my life and hoping they’d work out simultaneously. Multi-tasking at my best. But it wasn’t working, and it resulted in a major burnout. My adrenals were tapped. I had no energy. I had to let go of two public classes at a studio that I dearly love. But I understood that I if I didn’t take care of my body, I couldn’t take care of my students. With that decision came a resurgence of prana (life force) that I hadn’t felt in years. When we make decisions based on what our body is telling us, then we are really making decisions for the benefit of all beings. The body is always in Satya (Truth). Our mind, however, will trick us by telling us to keep going, push as hard as we can. I often speak of this in class. I realized that I needed to practice about the medicine I was teaching. I keep returning to the heart center this place that represents balance. This place that connects us from earth up into Akasha (ether). What does it tell you? To slow down? To speed up? To love yourself more?

So, at this time of the Equinox, in this place of balance, I ask you: what are willing to shed or let go of that does not bring you into greater and genuine harmony? It’s time to do some cleaning. We can start in our homes and clear out the clutter. Then we can step onto our mat and slough off the heaviness of winter. Maybe try a spring cleanse and rejuvenate all our being on the cellular level. Where in our relationships are we out of balance? Is there an equal give and receive? If not, then I encourage you to find more balance so that we can both offer ourselves with our heart while feeling held at the same time. If it’s not working for you or someone is not meeting you halfway, is it time to walk? In the end, the longest relationship we have is with our self, and if we are not in balance with our self then we will keep attracting people that are not in balance. Everything is a mirror of consciousness—our relationships, our work place and our body. Your body is a sacred temple. How will you take care of it, not just in this time of the Equinox but for the long haul?

 

NAMASTE YOGIS AND YOGINIS!

February 12, 2015

I have wanted to put a newsletter out for a long time, but I’ve been blocked. Would I have anything interesting to say? Would it resonate with anyone? You see, we all have blocks that hinder us from living fully. So, I decided to not live in fear anymore. And here is my first newsletter!

FEAR is False Evidence Appearing Real. I held a belief that whatever I had to say was mundane or not worthy of speaking about. It is easier for me to have intimate connections one-on-one. I am able to truly express myself in person. Contemplating further, yes, sometimes it is excruciatingly painful for me to speak to groups. Yet, I do this 5 out of 7 days a week because I believe in this practice of yoga. So how can I get my message out and connect with you on a deeper level?

When I first began my yoga studies, I had no desire to become an instructor. After 10 years of practice, a teacher planted a seed by asking me if I had ever considered becoming an instructor.  Because of the feelings of healing and relief I experienced through yoga, I decided to go on the journey of teaching others.

On the first night of teacher training, we were asked to pair up and introduce each other to the group. When my turn came, my voice cracked, I turned beet red and I told the group that I was shy. The class laughed. and I felt at ease. What I felt in that moment would change me forever. I learned that your truth is liberating­—whatever that truth is. The healing had begun. I had always been a performer in dance and drama, but when you share from the depths of your soul, it is different. It’s quite vulnerable.

In the beginning, after teaching classes, I often left the class confused and would berate myself. Did I do a good enough job? Did I remember all the left hand sides? (Most likely not). I would tell myself that I am not equipped for this job. I’ve noticed through the years that the first thing to go when I feel stressed or if I’m getting sick is my throat chakra. It locks up. I can’t articulate myself. The words don’t come out right. But the deeper I go into my practice I see that these have all been limiting beliefs. All I really have to do is show up in the present moment. You may have heard that it’s best to not be attached to the outcome. That is exactly right. Now, I can honestly say that I can drop into my heart awareness and speak from that place.

The ego is tricky. We get caught up in how we are doing, am I doing enough? The answer is yes, or perhaps more correctly, we are doing too much. We come from a capitalist society where doing more will get you a pat on the back. As I keep steeping in these practices, I have realized that there is nowhere I have to go to. There is no end destination. Yoga is available for us in any moment. It’s when your mind can soften about the future or past and you can appreciate that you are still here breathing this very breath. When you land in the heart center—the place that connects us to each being, past, present and future and is the place of the collective consciousness—you know you are there because you can simply just be. Your jaw may soften, and you feel held. The striving has lessened, and you feel at ease. From that place you can feel that we are all one. At that place there is no more separation.

Where are you hiding back from becoming the full you? What have you concealed or shied away from because of fear? Where in your being can you release something that feels like it is hindering or blocking you? A good place to start is yoga. It gives us body awareness and gently reminds us to get out of the thinking mind. It takes awhile to undo the habitual thinking and the patterns we have accrued in this lifetime, but we have to start somewhere. There is no time like the present moment, because it is the only moment that will ever exist.

Hope to see you all soon on the mat!

Love,
Erika

 

ISHVARA PRANIDHANA

March 4, 2014

In Yoga Sutra 1.23, Patanjali gives us a sure-fire way to reach the state of yoga. It is a practice called ishvara pranidhana. Ishvara is a Sanskrit word that can be translated to mean supreme, or personal, God. Pranidhana means to dedicate, devote, or surrender. The practice of Ishvara Pranidhana therefore means that if we are able to completely surrender our individual ego identities to God (our own higher self) we will attain the identity of God. If we can dedicate our lives to serving the God that dwells within all other beings, human and non-human alike, we will move beyond all feelings of separateness. If we can say without reservation, “I give You myself: my body, my mind and my heart, to do with as You best see fit,” then we will be freed from the stress, anxiety, self-doubt and negative karma that arises from our reliance upon our egos to determine which actions we take in our lives.

 

APARIGRAHA

May 28, 2013

Aparigraha is the 5th Yama and perhaps the most difficult for me to fully embody. It encompasses non hoarding, non-collecting, non-coveting, and non-greed. Coming from a capitalist society where more is better, beauty is everything, and what my neighbor has is somehow better than what I have, I’ve found that the grass is not always greener.

I recently traveled to India and witnessed how so many beings live with so little. For example, a whole family shares one room with no running water, yet they seem happy. In America we strive for independence, our own car, and our own big house. This keeps us in an endless cycle of wanting more and keeping up with the Jones’s. However, we are often left feeling lonely because we really crave connection and simplicity. My beloved teacher Janet Stone reminds us that suffering comes from wanting something else rather than being content with what life is offering us.

Aparigraha has been a challenging lesson for me when it comes to love. I am a 4 on the enneagram which means that I am a romantic at heart. I pine for the unavailable. If I could show them my worth, it would somehow validate me. I have had to learn how to love myself and treat myself as my best lover. In the end, the longest relationship we have is with our self. So, we might as well get cozy, buy ourselves some flowers, and tell ourselves that we love ourselves. We can examine our self-talk and the ways we can be self loathing, and instead write love letters to ourselves, reminding ourselves of our own brilliance. It’s easy for our minds to go to the things that we don’t have, but what I have experienced and learned is that we live in an abundant universe. When we appreciate all that we do have, it makes the abundance flow more freely.

What do we really need? Where do we feel lack? What are we hanging on to that clutters our lives? We can go through our closets and let go of things to free up space physically and metaphysically to create clarity and a greater sense of Akasha (the ether element). I typically find when I let go of some object, desire, or idea of how it “should” look, then something appears that usually works more in alignment with me.

Aparigraha begins with the trust that we will get our needs met. From that trust is born the confidence to let go of what no longer serves us, knowing that if we need it again later, it will come back to us.  The practice of aparigraha can be as simple as breath awareness. When we exhale completely, allowing ourselves to be empty for a moment, we are affirming our trust that on the other side of the breath, there is a whole ocean of air just waiting to rush into our lungs and fill us with life force. When we inhale completely, we are proclaiming our worthiness to be fully alive, to experience that aliveness, to savor it for a moment and–when it is time–to let it go. We do this over and over again in our yoga practice–retaining exquisite awareness of our life-giving breath, and we feel fulfilled, complete on the very cellular level. The tense places in the body begin to loosen as we move and breathe mindfully, and we directly experience what it means to let go of what is no longer useful so that we have the space to welcome something else–something fresh and lovely and wonderful.