Mindfulness garden for Joslin elementary

If you head out of our neck of the woods in East Austin, and head down to South Austin near Ben White and Machaca Road, you will come to a shady neighborhood where the kids attend Joslin Elementary School. Built in 1950’s, the school is named for Sgt. Jerry Joslin, an APD officer of 11 years to died tragically. If you read the school’s website, you will find that he was honored because he worked closely with school officials and students in organizing and directing safety patrols.

This week, Steven and Finlay and I had the pleasure of meeting Summer McKinnon, the Assistant Principal at Joslin. We were connected by James Buttler, AISD’s Mindfulness Specialist who works with the Social And Emotional Learning (SEL) team to help students cope with other aspects that may affect learning. SEL is a “process for helping children and adults develop fundamental skills for life effectiveness,” so because AISD is a recognized leader in urban education this aspect of taking care to develop the whole child is of utmost importance.

As you may know, Eastside Yoga has partnered with AISD to help provide support for schools who are trying to start a mindulfness program for their students and staff.  You may have even donated a cushion, yoga mat or some volunteer hours in the last six months as we helped bring yoga props and decor to Rodriguez Elementary or helped create the mindfulness room at Andrews Elementary. The first two school projects were quite different from each other: Rodriguez had a large unused portable building that teachers and parents had already remodeled and we just provided some finishing touches. At Andrews, we cleaned out the Assistant Principal’s office in order to make space for the mindulness room, painted the walls with a fresh green coat and made glitter bottles to help the children focus their minds.

There are so many schools who are in the participating in mindfulness in some aspect. It seems our task at Joslin Elementary will be quite different as well. Imagine an outdoor space, probably larger that the square footage of Eastside Yoga! As expected this time of year, there are some mosquitoes and some overgrown shrubs, as well as a smattering of invasive hackberry bushes. There are a few small benches, the start of a stone path/labyrinth and a few raised vegetable beds. There is a soggy area near the downspout of the rain gutter and some tattered picnic benches which could use some loving kindness.

Imagine further a vision put forth by Asst Principal McKinnon and some parents who have a pond shell … picture a pond with a shaded sitting area of benches and tables, some native heat resistance plants and possibly a path that can be used for walking meditation.
At Joslin, their mission is “to ensure that every student will demonstrate individual growth, development and academic success through a balance educational program…” Could this include meditation and mindfulness opportunities in a green space just outside their classrooms? We all hope so!

If you would like to help make this vision come true, please let us know by emailing eastsideyoga@gmail.com or join our Facebook event. Our initial plan is to have a work day in early August before school begins. We will first need to do some trimming of the greenery and cleaning up of the general area, possibly some sanding of the old paint off the picnic tables. We will need to clear the area and designate a location for the pond before identifying a pathway for walking meditation. This process should take several months before completion so your help is appreciated in the long haul : )

volunteers and garden tools/gloves
Equipment: lawn mower, trimmer
lawn and leaf bags
mulch and soil
paver stones
sanding equipment
home depot gift certificates
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Do less to be more. The case against multi-tasking.

Recently I came across a quote, on my “inspirational” calendar. It is attributed to Thich Nhat Hahn, Vietnamese monk, a renowned Zen master, a poet, and a peace activist:

“When you are washing the dishes, washing the dishes must be the most important thing in your life. Just as when you are drinking tea, drinking tea must be the most important thing in your life. Forget about dishes and tea. When was the last time that you fully paid attention to ANYTHING you were doing, as if it had any importance at all? Or, like most of us, were you doing something while thinking about something else? Or doing something, whichdoing something else at the same time?

Just moments ago, as I was finishing up some emails and administrative work, I had mylaptop, I-pad and phone in front of me. I was looking at a text while composing an emailand I didn’t even notice until I realized I was texting on the phone while looking at my computer screen wondering why I couldn’t see what I was typing! Splitting my attention was getting me nowhere. And yet, that is so often what we do.

Think about your day so far. Have there been moments of clarity, when your attentionis solely focused on one thing? Or, has your day passed by in a blur, all of the thingsyou have to do swirling together? Even waking up has become an opportunity to multi-task. My morning alarm is on my phone, so it is very easy for me to hear the alarm, pickup the phone to turn it off, and then immediately begin to scan the news. And with that,I take away the opportunity to actually wake up to myself. Instead I’m waking up to everything around me. And how about conversations you have had? Are you fully engaged, or is your head down as you text, or maybe you are thinking about something that already happened? Do you find you can’t remember what someone just told you?

Your mind was doing something other than listening. We really are being driven to distraction with all of the things that constantly call to our attention. And we build skills that help us take in all of this extraneous information and noise. And then taking in all of that information, and always multi-tasking, becomes a habit. And then we lose the skill of paying attention. We think we are getting more done by doing many things at once. However, when we pay attention to everything, we find we actually pay attention to nothing. Our work suffers, our relationships may suffer,

and we feel anxious and restless. So back to the dishes and tea. What if, the next time you are doing the dishes, or drinking tea, you allow that to be the most important thing in your life? You can try this with anything. My favorite is to eat a meal mindfully. The next meal that you eat alone, try not to do anything else. Pay attention as you prepare your food. Set a place at the table. Sit down on a chair. And eat. No phone, no TV, no work. Just you and your meal. Before you eat, take a moment to think about all that happened for you to have this meal before you. And take a moment of gratitude for that. Now you can eat. One bite at a time. Chewing before you swallow. Noticing tastes and textures and your responses to those. How do you feel as you begin to feel full? And when you feel full, stop eating. Pause for a moment and digest the food and the experience. If you are feeling up to it, then take your dishes to the sink and wash them, letting washing thedishes be the most important thing in your life!

Our Yoga and meditation practices give us the opportunity to cultivate a habit of payingattention. One practitioner and one mat. Free from distractions outside of ourselves, sothat we can look at what is going on inside. Although I must say that in the past few months I have seen students take phones out of their bags and check them during class. Let’s file that under “missing the point”. Once we come to the mat, we inviteourselves into the present moment, often by a focus on our breath. It’s just in thismoment. We do our best not to bring distraction into the moment, but it’s a practice, so we are not perfect at it. The more we practice, the more we might experience thatfeeling that what we are doing is the most important thing in the world. That everymoment is the most important moment in the world.

I invite you to take a break from all the multi-tasking. Make whatever you are doing themost important thing in the world, and watch as you become more present, more balanced, and more you!

During the day do not do one thing while thinking about another. Thought and actionmust be unified-no thought be permitted without reference to action or intended action; and no action be performed without intention. By this practice all day long the mind andbody are taught to act together, without any waste of physical or mental energy. -Ernest Wood

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The People of Eastside Yoga – Barbara Chiles


Barbara joins the 400 Club at ESY

THIS IS OUR FIRST OF MORE TO COME:  stories and thoughts from the people who make Eastside Yoga a living, breathing community, where people of all types are free to practice the tradition of yoga …

My first class at Eastside Yoga was July 4, 2012.   It was gentle yoga, and as it turned out I was the only student and Steven was the teacher.  I tried to convince Steven to cancel the class, since I was the only student, an introvert and didn’t know much about yoga.  He insisted we stay and proceeded to coach me through my only private yoga class.  It’s a good thing we stayed because much to my surprise 17 months later I had achieved 400 classes and was added to the “400 Club” board.

‘I tried to convince Steven to cancel the class, since I was the only student, an introvert and didn’t know much about yoga.’

Eastside Yoga has been like my second home at times.  As life brought stress, the teachers at Eastside helped me breathe through it.  Two years into yoga my chiropractor commented I was energetically a different person.  I attribute a lot of that difference to my work with yoga.  I love the variety of classes.  If I feel like being pushed, a vinyasa class is on the schedule.  If I need to reflect and stretch, Yin is on the schedule.  If I have an injury, Gentle Hatha is the right class.  The teachers fold experience, kindness and compassion into each class.  I love and appreciate each one of the teachers at Eastside Yoga.

I recently convinced a friend who was starting yoga to help with work stress (we are both school teachers) at the yoga studio closest to her house — to come try ESY.  She quickly experienced the community of Eastside Yoga.  She will be to 400 classes before she knows it!

I appreciate ESY’s support of yoga in local schools.  Nine years ago yoga would not have been considered in Austin schools.  Now, it’s becoming an option to consider.  That’s progress!

It has been inspiring watching Steven and Elsa create their dream, a spiritual community where people and come together for support.   Thank you Elsa and Steven.  I’m grateful to have Eastside Yoga in my life.

Barbara Chiles

ESY Member

‘Nine years ago yoga would not have been considered in Austin schools.  Now, it’s becoming an option to consider.  That’s progress!’

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Supporting Yoga and Mindfulness in Austin’s schools

“If every 8 year old in the world is taught meditation, we will eliminate violence from the world within one generation.” Dalai Lama

Did you know that Austin Independent School district is about to launch its first ever dedicated mindfulness and Yoga room at Rodriguez Elementary in south-east Austin?   The teachers and parents gained permission to convert a once dilapidated room and transform it into a haven of peace and calm for their students.

The vision for this space came from Samantha Mallard of AISD, her and her team reached out to Eastside Yoga for help and in doing so really touched our hearts and inspired us to create a service project to get the mindfulness room up and running. With several staff donating items and some late night sowing we delivered props and yoga supplies today. It was so uplifting to witness their vision coming to life.

Teacher Jackie Howard told us “Instead of sending children to the office for “punishment” we will have children use the Mindfulness classroom to practice calming techniques instead.  It will also be used to teach mindfulness tools and be a space for classes or children to use if they need a break.  ”

Delivering yoga supplies to Rodriguez mindfulness room

Delivering yoga supplies to Rodriguez mindfulness room

Today’s experience at Rodriguez elementary really inspired and moved us as to the potential of grassroots community involvement to share mindfulness and yoga to the next generation.  As a yoga center we can do our small part to affect positive change in the well-being, behavior and coping mechanisms of these kids while coming together as a yoga community.

Articles are now appearing on the internet of schools introducing quiet time, here is one of a school that replaced detention with meditation http://www.upworthy.com/this-school-replaced-detention-with-meditation-the-results-are-stunning

The enthusiastic school teachers shared with us how AISD has progressively embraced mindfulness in schools to the point where they have a mindfulness guru on staff!  With a growing number of teachers getting trained as facilitators they hope other schools will eventually have their own dedicated mindfulness room.  We certainly hope that will happen and are reaching out to AISD to facilitate more of these service projects.

If you are involved with an Austin school that might be open to creating a mindfulness room or want to help us create more of these type of service projects please reach out to us.

Happy Holidays

Steven, Elsa and the ESY crew.

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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.






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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?






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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

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