Living in Harmony these days

With the US Presidential election upon us our society had been deeply agitated, it has divided people and caused stress and unease in many otherwise calm people.  Personally I have been deeply affected by this election, my first as a US citizen, I have been searching for a way forward both as a citizen and a yogi.

Living in Harmony may seem utopian for a modern diverse society such as the United States, however the great teachers of the East have stated over and over again that humanity’s destiny is to realize this lofty vision,  eventually.  For this to transpire we need personal commitment and courageous leadership.

What is missing in today’s society is effectively a spiritual revolution and a sense of underlying unity in our diversity.  That may sound pie in the sky to some but Yoga philosophy provides a framework for us to move in that direction.   So what on earth can we do to move things in the right direction.

Understanding Dharma – living in harmony through right action.

For every soul that evolves dharmically is akin to a vote placed for a more evolved society, one bound by principles of harmony and sustainability.

As developing yogis and spiritual seekers each one of us has a personal duty to fulfill our dharma, that is to live harmoniously with others, with nature and with the Divine.  Our personal duty is to uplift our consciousness and purify our selves and in doing so this uplifts the collective consciousness, locally, nationally and globally.  It is said there is a tipping point where enough individuals affect the collective to transform itself.

Support each other and find sanctuary in your local community, this can be healthy friendships that transcend politics and form small meditation groups with people you connect with.  In the yoga tradition we call this satsang, a gathering of those committed to truth.   In this way your collective energy acts like a shield to negativity and enhances your inner experiences.

For us at Eastside Yoga it is our hope that our space becomes a sanctuary as well as a practice studio.  There is more to yoga than personal practice, there is fellowship love and support each step of the way.

Being a yogi and a seeker does not mean you turn your back on the world, quite the opposite many Yoga Masters have been outspoken about social change, we can stand up passionately for what we believe in yet have dispassion not to be so attached to our opinions and projection of those opinions onto others.  There are five guiding principles for Yogis that fit well into election season.

The Yamas, restrain negative behavior.

  1. Non-Harming – in thought, word and action. State your opinion without insult
  2. Truthfulness – Search for the truth underlying political differences, we must re-cognize our actions and remove bias.
  3. Non-coveting – avoid trying to coerce others, the more you force, the more they resist.
  4. Non-attachment – see others point of view, they have their reasons.
  5. Resist selfish tendencies – consider things impersonally

Lastly, meditate on unity and celebrate diversity.🙂

Many wise teachers have stated we go round and round in circles trying to force things intellectually and politically but that will not transform society.  A spiritual revolution is needed, yoga gives us the tools for that to transpire one person at a time.

Thanks for reading, know I have my work to do on all of this , we have an uphill battle but one we have to undertake.

This Friday evening ESY holds its first Community practice and Potluck, a chance to have healthy food and healthy conversation with others.

Namaste

Steven

 

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Embarking on the Spiritual Path

What does it mean to be spiritual? What is the spiritual path and where does it lead? What is the end goal of all spiritual striving?

These profound questions have fundamental importance for all human beings yet only a few committed souls dedicate their lives  and take the spiritual path to its final conclusion. The spiritual quest is an arduous one and the chances of success astronomical. According to the Yogic tradition we all must walk the spiritual path at some point, for this is our soul’s sole purpose to finally know who we are and why we exist in the first place. In essence the spiritual path is our soul’s long journey home and Yoga is the vehicle that we can take to hasten the journey.

According to the Yoga tradition, the destination of the spiritual path culminates in high states of consciousness where we realize our true Self. This is not an intellectual quest or merely poetic literature, its literal and achievable for all of us.  In this state of consciousness we know who we, are where we came from and the totality of our existence. It is a supremely  blissful state where we are no longer confined to our little body and conditioned personality, we realize our infinite Being as one with the Cosmos.  The ancient Sages state that our essence is part of the Divine and true realization is liberating beyond belief.  From realizing our own Self identity then we realize the end goal of all spiritual striving which is complete oneness with God as infinite consciousness.

With these lofty goals in mind a daunting and monumental task lies ahead of us, thankfully the saving grace according to Yoga is that within our physical body lies a spiritual subtle body that has an anatomy of its very own. An anatomy that once accessed leads us systematically to our spiritual freedom and limitless bliss acquired through the art and science of Yoga (to unite or absorb in that consciousness).  Take a moment to ponder this breathtaking news……… you have a subtle anatomy that is hardwired for your enlightenment and it lies inside your body. You have within you a literal spiritual pathway that can be accessed through Yoga techniques and it resides in your spine! This pathway leads you from separateness and suffering towards infinite awareness  of peace, love, wisdom and joy. If you choose to take the spiritual path and do the incredibly important work then Yoga gives us a road-map that is universal and non-dogmatic.

The spiritual pathway lies within the physical body in the spinal area, its a subtle energetic channel akin to a hollow tube that runs from the base of the spine to the crown of the head called the sushumna in Sanksrit. This channel exists in all human beings however lies completely dormant unless spiritually activated through Yogic and devotional means. Suffice to say that within this dormant channel there are a number of subtle blockages preventing soul evolution such as sensory outgoings, past habits and karmas from prior incarnations.  These blockages are referred to as energetic knots, bundles of karmic energy that literally block our progress.

Cosmic energy (prana) enters our being at the back of the head at the point of the medulla oblongata that travels downwards to the base of the spine, out through the nervous system and is expended through the five senses, this natural process goes on continuously until we have to recharge either through sleep, food, breath or exercise.

Take a moment to imagine a flowing river then visualize an eddie or whirlpool within that river, see how it takes the water flow and holds all of that water in place preventing the flow going down stream.  Each of these vortices represents one karma blocking the flow of spiritual energy within you.  There may be thousands and thousands of karmas held by the average person maybe millions by some troubled souls!

Don’t despair just yet, the esoteric purpose of Yogic teachings is the re-channel blocked energy with technique and awareness wash away the vortices (vrittis) of past habits and karmas freeing a river of Divine grace to flow freely in the subtle spine and uplifting us to new heights.  Yes, you read correctly, this all happens inside of your body, we are purposely built as living temples to realize our higher Self and Divine consciousness. How amazing and exciting is that?!

The entire process of Yoga is redirecting the downward flow of energy and withdrawing it inwards then back up the spinal channel to the brain where it unites with pure consciousness.  Every upward flow of energy leads us to greater and greater upliftment of consciousness until we feel these ecstatic states.

To achieve these ideals we must combine Yoga techniques and purification of the heart’s feeling through devotion or unconditional love. This is the magic formula for Yogic success the question is will you make the supreme effort in this life to walk the spiritual path?

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in ARTICLES | Leave a comment

Interview with Steven for Texas homes for sale

Quiet the Stress and Find Your Center at Austin’s Eastside Yoga

By Elisha Neubauer

Finding time to unwind is vital to one’s health- both mentally and physically. Studies upon studies show that taking time out of one’s day to meditate, exercise, or practice one of the many forms of yoga can help alleviate tensions and prevent illness. So how does one relax in the bustling cultural center that is Austin, Texas?

Enter Eastside Yoga.

Started in 2009 by husband and wife team Steven and Elsa Ross, Eastside Yoga came to life over a simple conversation outside of the Central Market. Before long, Ross had scribble out a logo and vision statement and allowed the practice to take flight. Before long, Ross had left his corporate job to teach yoga full time, putting all of his time and faith into the business. The couple even sold their house, uprooting and moving into an apartment closer to the neighborhood that Eastside called home.

“Yoga is an integral practice aimed at finding health and harmony in all aspects of life ultimately leading us to our inner self, a greater unity with life, with nature, other people and to the Divine,” explains Steven Ross, co-founder of Eastside Yoga. Ross refers to the art of yoga as a work-in, not a work-out. “The movements release tension/stress, make the body fit without creating more strain,” he details. “More importantly, our self-awareness turns inwards.”He goes on, telling us how physical health impacts the mind and the emotions, leaving you feeling energized and calm after a session.

According to Steven, meditation is the most important part of practicing yoga. “These days, science is studying meditation and the neurological results are literally electrifying for the brain,” he exclaims. “We now know that 20 minutes of meditation daily will rewire the neural pathways of our brain, awaking centers of peace, happiness and feeling connected to others in just a month.” One of the greatest side effects of practicing yoga, he tells us, is that it helps the participant to cope with stress in a new and enlightening way.

“We estimate 75% of people coming to Eastside are here primarily to cope with stress,” Ross states. Considering how stressful our modern society has become, I don’t feel surprised by this statistic at all. “Our reactive behaviors such as anger, frustration, fear, et cetera literally quiet and the brain changes structurally.” He chuckles, adding, “It’s truly amazing and so easy to learn! You just have to make the effort.”

Eastside offers many classes that cover a variety of yoga forms, including Hatha, Gayatri Chanting, Gentle Hatha, Gentle Yin, Mantra Chanting, and more. There is literally something for everyone. The center even caters to mothers- offering everything from Prenatal and Postnatal (Mom & Baby) yoga and Crawlers and Toddlers. Sunrise classes are available and cover both Flow and Raja forms.

“Yoga is all about awareness and the healthy feeling cultivated in class,” says Ross. “Eastside is one of the few yoga centers that offers classes that can support students in all aspects for their lives. Our center is truly a sanctuary for our community.”

– See more at: http://www.texashomesforsale.com/articles/quiet-the-stress-and-find-your-center-at-austin-s-eastside-yoga#sthash.vwlzTDBp.dpuf

Posted in ARTICLES | Leave a comment

Teacher Interview with Jenn Coats

0de1dc8Jenn is a certified E-RYT yoga instructor with over 3000 hours of teaching experience.
Jenn began her yoga practice in 2002 as a way to physically heal her body from multiple injuries. It was during this time she noticed the positive effects yoga had on her mind and emotional wellbeing. Her experience with the profound healing quality of yoga inspired her to become a teacher and share yoga with others.

While Jenn has studied various forms of yoga, her heart and passion lies with the vinyasa tradition in which the breath, body and mind can meld in moving meditation. Jenn’s classes are mindful, slow flow, alignment based, uniquely sequenced, playfully challenging, and specifically tailored to the needs of her students. She encourages her students to explore their possibilities while offering a welcoming environment.

Jenn teaches Sunrise Flow every Monday and Wednesday from 6:30 – 7:45 am. Be sure to drop in one of her classes!

1) Where did you complete your training?

I completed my 200-hour training through YogaWorks’ residential intensive in Bali where I was the teaching assistance.

2) Describe your first experience with yoga.

I remember my first yoga experience vividly. It was one day long ago when my ballet instructor looked at me after class, and with a certain wisdom in her eyes said, “You should come to my yoga class.” I had great respect for this woman, so I did. Looking back, my first yoga class was nothing like the vigorous vinyasa classes we see so abundantly today. It was meditative and calm, but also challenging. I could not get remotely close to full Gomukhasana (I was astounded this was humanly possible) and balancing in Tree Pose was a real struggle. I can’t say I was sold with the whole yoga experience right away, but I could not get over how I felt after class walking back to my car. I was taller, lighter, centered, and at ease. At a time in my life when I was chronically stressed and angry, the calming affects of that first class brought me back, and back again.

3) How would you describe vinyasa yoga to someone who has never taken a class before?

Breath with movement. Meaning the breath comes first, movement secondary. When this happens, breath and body meld in a moving meditation.

4) What is your favorite pose and why?

My favorite pose has shifted over the years. First it was pigeon, then for a long time it I couldn’t get enough of wild thing. At the moment I’m really digging Fish Pose. It’s a great heart opener and a perfect posture this time of year to help keep ailments at bay!

5) What do you like to do when you are not teaching yoga?

I believe in balance. For me, that means learning and growing in multiple ways and enjoying the fullness that life has to offer (as cliche as that may sound). In addition to practicing yoga, I take cello lessons, practice archery, and recently started dancing again. I’m also a foodie and lover of wine (last year I received my level one Sommelier certification), so you can probably catch me around Austin checking out the latest culinary hot spots.

6) What do you like the most about Eastside Yoga?

I love the vibe of Eastside Yoga. It is unlike any other in Austin. ESY is real, authentic, and offers pure yoga without the unnecessary bells and whistles. Because of this, I often leave ESY inspired – by both students and staff – to be a better person.

Posted in Meet the Teachers | Leave a comment

Teacher Interview with Karlie Lemos

Please welcome Karlie Lemos to the EastSide Yoga Community! Karlie first discovered her yoga practice in 1998 and completed her 200 hour Hatha teacher training in 2005. Karlie went on to complete her 500 hour certification at the San Marcos School of Yoga, under the guidance of Christina Sell. Karlie focuses heavily on alignment and form and her classes are strong and challenging as well as balanced and well rounded. She is inspired by the deep well of yoga philosophy teachings and threads these perspectives into her asana classes. Expect to have fun, work hard and learn something new about yourself or the practice!

Karlie teaches Hatha Flow every Monday and Wednesday from 4:30 – 5:45 pm. Be sure to check out her class!

1) Describe your first experience with yoga. 

My first experience with yoga was in 1998 at a YMCA. There was only 1 yoga class on the schedule and I wasn’t certain what yoga was but I was curious. I had a lot of anxiety and some un-diagnosed emotional trauma at that time of my life so sitting still was not my thing! I took the class and enjoyed the movement but the end of class was what really hooked me. There I was sitting in stillness and not eager to jump out of my skin  but on the contrary calm, composed and relaxed. This experience was entirely new to me and I left the class intrigued to know more about this yoga stuff!

2) What is your favorite pose and why? 

Though my favorite pose can sometimes be fluid depending on where I’m at in my practice and what my body needs I usually refer to malasana (the yogi squat) as my favorite asana. I’m an earthy girl so I love being that close to the ground while simultaneously feeling rooted into it through my feet and grounded and stable.

3) Your biography states that you are deeply inspired by yogic philosophy and often incorporate these teachings into your classes. What book do you find yourself returning to frequently? 

Patanjali’s yoga sutras are so deep and so rich I’m always circling back around to them and integrating new insights and memorizing tidbits to share in my classes. I feel one could easily spend a lifetime with that 1 book alone.

One question I’m always asking myself is “How can I live alongside my soul in my daily life?” I’m consistently  working with ways to integrate and not compartmentalize my spiritual practices. Two books I recommend for these kinds of reflections which are more practical (the latter of which offers mediation inquiries) are “Bringing Yoga to Life” by Donna Farhi and “A Path With Heart” by Jack Kornfield.

4) What do you like to do when you are not teaching yoga?

When I’m not teaching or practicing yoga I like to read and journal. I like being outdoors: walking, cycling, or swimming. I like movies and am passionate about music; I don’t play much but I love live music. I like to cook when I have the energy for it and I play and perform in improvised theater (a.k.a. “improv comedy”). I also love to travel when I”m able.

5) What do you like the most about Eastside Yoga?

I’m still relatively new to ESY but what strikes me is the warm feeling of the energy and community. It feels small in a large sized city. I love that Steven is so involved and present. I look forward to getting to know students better but my first impression of students at ESY is that they’re receptive and not interested in practicing from a place of ego. This is lovely!
Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Teacher Interview with Jessica Steinbomer

jessica-bio-headshot

Jessica’s teaching style has a foundation in traditional yogic philosophy mixed with an authentic flavor of modern wisdom. The blending of ancient traditions with western understandings is an interest of hers, and shines through in her classes. In class, you’ll find an emphasis on alignment, safety, and rehabilitation of the body, while holding a space for devotion and mindfulness.

1) Describe your first experience with yoga.

My first yoga experience was a prenatal yoga class.  The instructor was so warm and understanding of my changing body.  I felt a great relief in my body and soul after the class, restful, attentive ease. It felt like I had been to the spa, and that there was someone who knew something about how to care for myself and my growing baby.

2) How would you describe your approach to yoga?

My approach to yoga is an inclusive approach that returns over and over to the 8 Limbs of yoga. The Yamas and Niyamas ( the first two Limbs), give me guidelines for the right action in my life.  Asana is an ever changing experience, and as the 3rd limb, I value movement and postures as a way to prepare my body for a seated meditation practice.  A breath practice is included in every practice as the fourth limb, and is a valuable tool in my own practice to observe the quality of my nervous system in different circumstances.  The other 4 limbs are represented in meditation as a means to self study. I see yoga as a continual ebb an flow, since we all move in and out of states of remembering who we are. There i no place to arrive, but infinite information about the present experience, and the beauty of consciousness experiencing itself.

3) Your classes often emphasize the importance of alignment. Can you describe your process of exploring alignment in your own practice and how that translates when teaching?

My classes offer alignment as a way to soothe the nervous system so that we can go deeper into the current experience.  When my knee is placed correctly, and there is no pain from over efforting in my body, what happens in my mind?  Is there an inner critic that pushes me further or a tamastic tendency that says I can’t do this?  What is the relationship between this shape in my body and the conditioned patterns that often repeat in my mind?  How can I rely steadily on this practice to show me conditioning, and to free energy in my body to be the most useful person I can be?

4) What lessons have you learned through your yogic journey?

I have been exploring this for 14 years and have seen my practice take many shapes and forms.  The most important learning is that we are all always practicing.  When my asana practice falls away, say from an injury or grief, I watch it fade with curiosity.  I have learned to trust myself more deeply, following the intuitive places, the animal places, in me that just know.  When the movement practice returns, I get a new relationship to my body, and feel the postures differently than before.  I have learned to embrace the dynamic nature of practice, meeting the seasons of my life with a wide angle lens.  Meditation has given me the perspective of expanding the container for whatever is arising in real embodied life.

5) What do you like the most about EastSide Yoga?

EastSide Yoga is a sangha of compassionate, and dedicated people.  I have been offered great care and truthfulness in my relationships here.  For example, I just experienced the very tragic and sad loss of my father. As it was a sudden and unexpected event for my family, I needed to take time to work with the practical concerns, as well as to grieve and heal.  Steven, Elsa, and Mary gave me the time off that I needed, covered all of my classes, and helped me through a rough period.  As I return to teaching, I would like to thank the community at ESY,  for their loving and supportive wishes, for the space to grieve, and for the place to return to, to keep going.  We all experience hardship, and no one is without trails.  The grace has been shown to me I hope to extend to others, by giving space, remembering to reach out, sending love, and being a safe place to return to.  Many thanks to all of the teachers, staff, and people on the path at ESY.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The state of Ahimsa – Developing Harmlessness

In Patanjali’s Eight-Fold exposition on the path to enlightenment he succinctly states the stages all seekers must go through to realize the Self, the goal of all Yoga.  The first stage or limb of that journey in yogic development is a series of  psycho-physical self-restraints called the Yamas.  It seems that if we are to truly know the Self, be enlightened, or realize unity with creation, we need to experience a definite change in our own physical and mental attitudes.   The single most important attitude that must be developed in the Yogi is that of Ahimsa, often translated as non-violence or non-harming.

If the Yamas were the building blocks of personal transformation, then ahimsa would be the cornerstone of that foundation.  Ahimsa was popularized by Mahatma Gandhi who practiced it as a penance. He took ahimsa to an extreme and in doing so set an almost unattainable standard for the rest of us to strive towards.  Our world today is a chaotic one where individual drive and self-righteousness easily bring people to blows, our leaders consider war and direct violence an answer to many difficult international situations, and the vast majority of our TV shows and movies are filled with violence and aggression.  As one Yogi stated this world is not conveniently arranged for the practice of ahimsa!

For sure the first step to non-violence is related to our physical actions.  Hopefully everyone reading this article has already established non-violent behavior towards other people!  A cursory glance at the Yoga Sutras and you might think you have cracked it…the pondering student reflects that he has not engaged in any fights this year, so this ahimsa is not so hard after all.  However, for someone to perfect ahimsa, it goes much much deeper than our physical actions: we must conquer the psychological and emotional traits.  The Yoga sutras are notoriously cryptic. The individual sanskrit words are like a technical and logical code to be unpacked and examined by those with intuitive insight.  One thing my own teachers have expressed to me is that with each Yama (restraint) the Yoga Sutras provide a definition of what it means when someone has perfected that state of being. This gives us a clue to what Patanjali really means when he tells us to have ahimsa. The Sutras state that the evidence that one is established in ahimsa is as follows:

Sutra II:35  In the presence of one who is firmly grounded in harmlessness all hostilities cease.

Ponder that statement for a moment……have you ever been in the presence of someone who radiated such inner tranquility that you felt a palpable peace just by being next to them?  The consciousness of someone established in harmlessness would essentially override or transform the state of someone who harbored negative thoughts and emotions toward them.  That’s profound and a highly advanced state of consciousness!

Many Guru devotees like to tell tales or even show pictures of a wild tiger who, on approaching their Guru, becomes as tame as a pussycat.  This is proof to them and to skeptics that ahimsa has been perfected and their Guru is an advanced Yogi.

So there is more to this non-violence than just restraining outward actions and even your inner thoughts. Sure, it’s good work to not get furious when traffic is bad on the way home from work.  This is yogic training but to really advance your practice (yes this is a yoga practice in itself) can you face traffic and not react?   Remain calm and equanimous as you navigate frustration, challenges and crises.  What about when someone criticises or hurts your feelings and your mind plays the game of payback trying to find the ego’s victory in your imagination?

These mental scenarios go on and on. Those of us endeavoring to improve our state of ahimsa are each trying to figure out what is the most appropriate non-harming response in every significant situation.  This causes a lot of reflection and consternation as we have to balance being truthful and standing up for what we believe in.  This interpersonal scenario opens up the most controversial element of ahimsa. How far do we take non-violence even in the face of attack? When do we walk away versus have the courage to stand up for ourselves, perhaps even in the face of abuse, and strike back?  This dilemma has been debated for ages.  For this article, all I will offer is the guidance of Yogis who state there is a Dharmic (righteous) duty to the truth and overcoming negativity. Hence we must take action in the face of such negativity both individually and as a society.  To allow ourselves and even our society to be downtrodden by negative influences is in itself harming to people.  Therefore, it is our duty to stand against negative influences. The big differences are that, as Yogis, we recognize people’s harmful actions as coming not from their true Selves and we act for the good of the whole not just ego based reactivity.

The line of action versus passivity is a fine one between seeking the highest good in each situation and assuring ourselves that our initial reactions are not just our ego trying to win its corner.  Discernment and self-observation need to be developed throughout our lives.  For the purpose of this article I want to remind you of the Yogic tools that can help you develop equal mindset in the face of challenges.

Integrate meditation into your daily yoga routine.  If you have an hour to spend on yoga, I suggest 5-15 minutes of that time spent in sitting meditation.   Even if your meditation abilities are not so great, it still works wonders.   Studies show and yogis describe how our sense of self expands in meditation: we are less concerned with the little things and we feel more compassion and even a direct connection to others. When we meditate daily our reactive mental process quietens.  With compassion, lower reactivity, and expanded sense of self, we literally don’t want to harm other people, animals or our planet because we are connected in our consciousness.   Ahimsa develops naturally with regular meditation.

Develop inner listening and introspection.  This applies to the steady stream of subconscious thoughts flowing through your awareness. We all know about negative thinking, criticism, doubt and despair, however at any moment we can change the thought.  Take charge of your mind and develop new mental habits for your well being.  Ask yourself, does this thought or comment present harm to another or myself?  What would be a more benevolent thought in this situation?

Once inner listening is established and meditation becomes more commonplace, you can take ahimsa practice to the next level, become aware of mental and emotional patterns, and begin to root out the weeds of the heart chakra.

When contemplating any tenent of yoga philosophy especially any of the yamas, mental conditions to be restrained I suggest taking a moment to reflect on the greater goal of yoga that is uniting and absorbing our individual consciousness to spirit or cosmic consciousness.  Much is made of “being one with the Universe” it appears from frontier science that we live in an ocean of consciousness, we are interconnected beings literally so how we think, speak and act has a direct impact on the greater consciousness whether we ignore it or not.  Simply put if we are all One then if I harm another I harm myself. If I strike another the energy created must circle back in the unknown future in the same way a pendulum swings it must swing back.  This is the hidden natural law of cause and effect known in the Yoga tradition as karma.  Could you truly realize a unified at-one state if you harbored harming thoughts?  It’s just not possible.

For yogic development to occur there needs to be a positive flow of energy that works alongside the restraint of negative harming energy.  Each Yama (restraint) can be partnered with a Niyama (observance). We need to redirect the flow of energy.  If we just resist the negative flow, the energy builds up like water at a dam.  Develop purity in your thoughts and your feelings, fill your life with kind people, enjoy uplifting music and film, find beauty in the simple things, and place yourself in others’ shoes so as to know their suffering.  Speak your truth, yet listen to others, and know we are all brothers and sisters in this ocean of consciousness.

May your heart be filled with Peace

May your thoughts be calm and collected

May your words be as sweet as honey

May all hostilities cease

Posted in ARTICLES | Leave a comment