Become an Indestructible Warrior of Love

The majority of my yoga classes take place on a wooden platform jutting out over the shoreline, with a majestic view of the lake and the three volcanoes along the southern shore. (Shout out to Hostel del Lago in San Marcos La Laguna!)

In just about every practice I’ve led this year, I’ve been including pranayama and sound healing before final relaxation. Asana (postures) are important, but there is a depth of inner peace and transformation that is reached when pranayama and chanting are incorporated in daily practice.

Sometimes, we’ll do the consonant or vowel sounds for the crown, heart, and root chakras, in different orders depending on the day. Or, I’ll lead the students through the seed mantras for all seven of the main chakra points.

I always encourage people to join in with their voice if they feel comfortable, or just to listen, because I can clearly remember feeling freaked out by Sanskrit chanting at age 21.

I also love playing with the warrior syllables from Tibetan Buddhism. My beloved friend and yoga teacher, Paola, introduced them to me some months back in a sauna ceremony. They are amazingly powerful and beneficial.

The five warrior syllables are AOmHungRam, and Dza. Each represents a quality of realization.

Seed syllables contain the essence of enlightenment. It is subtle, not grandiose, this uncovering of the thick multitude of layers of conditioning. Yet, it empowers us to connect more and more with our true nature—pure awareness.

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my yoga school dropout story

“Serve. Love. Give. Purify. Meditate. Realize.” ~Swami Sivananda

Ten years ago, I was a devoted yogini, a confused college student and a privileged American consumer. Yoga had been my salvation (on and off) since middle school.

My parents had given me the book, Power Yoga, by Beryl Bender Birch the Christmas before. Sun salutations really threw me for a loop at first. Coordinating my breath with my body movement and jumping through vinyasa flows was complicated and awkward.

I was working part-time at an ad agency in Austin. A couple of coworkers invited me to attend a yoga class with them at the gym. It had never before crossed my mind to attend an actual class, I was so used to practicing on my own with the aid of a book. Immediately, I befriended and interrogated the instructor. Her name was Brenda, and she told me all about how much she’d loved her month-long teacher training at an ashram. I looked into organization online, got the brochure and applied. I didn’t think much about it. I certainly didn’t investigate any other teacher training options.

Throughout the spring and summer, I was slipping slowly into what I didn’t yet know was my first bout with clinical depression. I was nearing the end of my college career, feeling queasy about having chosen of advertising as my major, experiencing joyfear about how deepening my spiritual practice and beginning to teach yoga would affect me, wondering what my true life’s purpose was… all that quarterlife crisis nonsense. I became listless and lethargic. I figured a month of yoga and meditation in the woods would cure me of this funk.

I followed in Brenda’s footsteps. On July 1, 2001, Canada Day, I flew to Montreal and took a bus into the mountains outside Quebec. The great Indian yogi, Swami Sivananda, had built an ashram there with the vision of spreading yoga to the West, generations prior. The trip involved two planes, two buses and a whole lot of waiting. I was only 21. But I kept positive. Thanks be to Shiva, I met two people headed to the ashram at the Montreal bus station. One of them had been before, and when the bus dropped us off on the side of the road at midnight in the middle of nowhere in the rain, she surreally knew just enough French and just what we needed to do.

After sleeping in the lobby for a few hours, I woke up the next morning, enchanted by the beautiful mountains surrounding me. I pitched my tent, a slightly moldy, ocean blue teepee my parents had owned since the seventies.

I was impatient for enlightenment. Continue reading “my yoga school dropout story”

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