A Practice for Self-Inquiry: Interview with Carolyn Anne Budgell

meditation - interview

In an interview with Carolyn Anne Budgell, we share the benefits of developing a practice of meditation and self-inquiry. 

Honoring the practices and people who assist our spiritual transformation is more important than ever before, considering the pandemic’s lingering trauma. This week, we sat down with fellow yogi and meditation teacher, Carolyn Anne Budgell, to discuss the benefits of mantra, meditation, personal reflection, and slower-paced yoga classes. 

Carolyn’s been teaching yoga and mindfulness practices for over a decade and has co-taught various workshops, retreats, and yoga teacher training with Clara in locations worldwide. Coming from diverse backgrounds and yet arriving at a similar goal, Carolyn and Clara share a passion for self-inquiry; they provide students with a well-rounded practice that asks tough questions to acknowledge the fear and lack of control over events in the world. 

“A question I’m asking right now is, how can I divert my mind from focusing on fear? There’s way more fear and anxiety within us and around us right now, more so than ever before; the fight or flight system is heightened in all of us. I understand how my questions affect my brain and my body, which is why I get more excited about the questions that I’m deciding to focus on.” – Carolyn Anne Budgell.

In the podcast episode, Clara and Carolyn share the questions they’re currently sitting with, how self-reflection impacts the mind and nervous system, and what kind of questions they pose for students. They also expanded on the people and practices who inspire, and what they’re offering their communities in terms of online or retreat-style yoga and meditation classes. 

Highlights from the discussion are below, or you can listen to the full episode.

Introducing, Caroyln Anne Budgell

What’s one of the lessons your daughter has taught you?

CarolynOne of the most recent lessons is how to allow for joy and just allow myself to feel worthy of joy. 

Name a few teachers who’ve inspired your meditation practice. 

CTara Brach would be one because she has a really sweet way of weaving in research and education and speaking to all hearts. 

Michelle St. Pierre used to live on Hornby Island and had a nice space that we would go to. She was one of the first people who inspired me to meditate and to inquire.

My family, all of the members of my family. 

meditation

What's your process for self-inquiry?

CMy question right now is, who am I becoming? That’s one of them. Who am I becoming, and what else is possible?

Another question I’m asking is, how can I divert my mind from focusing on fear? There’s way more fear and anxiety within us and around us right now, more so than ever before. The flight or flight system is really strong right now, and it’s heightened in all of us. I understand how my questions affect my brain and my body, which is why I get more excited about the questions that I’m deciding to focus on. 

I keep asking myself, what could I replace with fear? And what comes up a lot now is wishing others well. What happens for others affects me, so  I feel like if others around me are well, or if at least I wish them well, this has a direct impact on me and how I feel. So I wish others well.

The questions I used to ask started very simple like, how can I love myself more? Now it’s evolved into, what am I becoming? More around the process of self-discovery. I think this is the beauty of almost reaching my forties. I’m really excited for this decade.

ClaraAs a new mom, I’m discovering how what was working before is not working now. I’ve been stepping back and observing because all I was doing and asking before isn’t working anymore. 

My process has been around the inquiry of, can I step back and just watch? Instead of following my first instinct of doing something, can I do nothing and wait and see if the answer arises? 

There’s been a lot of grief and sadness around letting the old part of myself go; there is a part of me that’s dying right now. I’m just witnessing and honoring that. My practice has been stepping back and observing and being with the fear that’s arising within me lately, due to what’s going on in the world and the transition within my life, and doing nothing about it. 

The questions I used to ask had to do a lot more around rage and anger. These very intense energies still move through me, but they don’t drive the bus anymore. My question has always been around managing intense emotions: how can I work with these two very strong energies in a productive versus destructive way?

meditation for compassion
New class: 
Mantra for Compassion (15-mins) Meditation

Create and connect to inner quiet through mantra; join Clara for the simple practice of chanting to feel calm and grounded. This mantra, Om Mani Padme Hum, is a Buddhist chant that translates from Sanskrit as, “Praise to the Jewel in the Lotus.” It’s said that the entire teachings of Buddha are contained in this six-syllable mantra. Ideal for beginners, repeat this phrase to simmer in the sweetness of vibration, clear the mind, and release negative karmas. 

 

How is your practice of self-inquiry reflected in what you offer students?

CROI haven’t been teaching publicly, but I have been shooting content for the Practice with Clara Site. The classes I’m creating are very slow, methodical, and simple. My meditation practice is super simple. I’m not making anything complicated right now.

CInitially, when we were in quarantine, I was teaching live meditations every day. The response and the community that gathered every day was really sweet. I feel that people realize more than ever now that they need more slowness.

We need to do more reflection. This has been the ultimate test, the test of no control, like what you do when you don’t have control over the world you thought you had?

This is the process that we’re all working towards; those slow weeks at the beginning of the pandemic were challenging and awful and devastating, but also important. We need those slow times, which is what’s showing up for me. I’m teaching publicly in studios, and I’m also teaching on Bowen Island, like twice a month now, and host day-long retreats. And it’s interesting because the people who show up want to be in nature. They want to be still and inquire. 

There’s a big shift, and I want to be able to access those who don’t meditate; I want to make meditation more available for everyone.

How would you describe your meditation practice?

CI just recently really started reflecting upon some of the larger issues around appropriation and how it feels bringing Sanskrit into the practice.  I’ve never studied Sanskrit, and it’s not a passion of mine. I’ve never been to India. And I don’t think that I have to go to a certain country to honor and respect the traditions and the language, but I know in my heart that it’s not something that gets me super excited. 

What does get me excited is like talking about neuroses and emotions and conscious parenting. I’d rather focus on what gets me excited than be resentful or harp on the negative, so instead, I’m focusing on what does work for me. When I’m teaching, I want to make it grounding for me as well. So I ask, how can I also make this practice simple for myself, so that after a class, I feel like I’ve had a well-rounded teaching experience and also make it well-rounded for the group.

I want to make things as real and relevant as possible to people who might otherwise be really turned off of yoga because, to some people, yoga seems like only spiritual people can show up to practice. I’ve just been thinking for like two or three years, how can I make this accessible?

I’m not going to make assumptions; I just want to follow my heart. For me, the practice and the offering is meditation in a really simple language. All the things that I’ve practiced and studied over the years have profoundly impacted where I am now in the best way possible. I remember I used to chant at home alone with my Mala beads; at the time, it was such a healing practice for me to do that.

It’s like an interesting time because we want to get as many people to do yoga as possible. So part of me is like, well, whatever brings us to yoga, and whatever gets us excited about yoga is awesome. Whether it’s the physical or chanting, or because you think your teacher is cute. 

I’ve even been wrapping my head around the word, Namaste, and questioning if I really understand the context of what Namaste means? There’s a working definition and in India, there’s a really simple way that people use the word Namaste, but then there’s also a more profound definition.

CROFrom my first yoga class onwards, there was always a mantra. And every class that I went to for like the first five years that I did yoga, we chanted for 20-minutes every single time. That was the standard. I used to sing in a choir, so I really enjoyed being a part of something sharing the voice with a group of seventy people with a harmonium. As Carolyn said, it really fed my soul, and I really needed it at that point. 

When I started teaching,  I dived really deep into it and got into a lot of the more complicated mantras. But I’ll say in the last year or two; it’s shifted again in terms of coming back to simplicity. And I generally only lead mantras that are a few syllables. Sometimes I bring it in longer mantras, but generally, it’s just one line, and it’s more about getting lost in the cadence of sound.

And that’s what I’ve been really exploring in my own practice. When I work with a mantra, I focus on the sound, not necessarily a meaning. And that’s what I’ve always loved about chanting, and Sanskrit is that I don’t have a very personal, intimate relationship with it, so the way that it was taught to me is to just enjoy actually the sounds themselves, the way that it kind of creates and reverberates in the body.

I find, especially if the mantra is only a couple of syllables, it has a tranquil quality to it. Through the sound, there’s an opening. I did the mantra on my own, and then I would sit in meditation because I found it really prepared me to sit. 

Touching on the piece in terms of cultural preparation. It’s a conversation that I’ve been really excited about in the yoga community; instead of receiving something blindly and saying, yes, this is what we’re all going to do, you know, to ask the question of why are we doing it? What does it mean to us and how, what is my relationship with the culture, the practices, or the philosophy? How do I create or make it my own? I think it’s important to observe before you take something in and to ask the question, what is my relationship to this? 

More About Carolyn

Carolyn fell into yoga in 1999, while living the ski bum dream in Whistler. It initially provided agility for her snowboarding, skateboarding, and trail running. Now, as a teacher in Vancouver, she continually learns how to connect with others and feel at home in one’s skin. The magic of yoga surprisingly grows quieter; towards a place where the physical, the internal, the spectacle, and the witness are all one.

Carolyn’s past career was outdoors, in environmental restoration for Environment Canada and BC Wildlife Federation. Since completing her first 200-hour YTT in 2008, she has an extensive CV: as a contributing writer for My Yoga Online and Halfmoon Yoga, filming videos with lululemon and Mala Collective, a presenter at Wanderlust Whistler Festivals, as an educator for international Teacher Training with Lila Vinyasa School of Yoga and Semperviva Yoga, managing yoga studios and guiding students through the mind-blowing practice of just being while in silent meditation intensives. 

Carolyn’s vinyasa classes are chock-full of unique alignment cues, smart sequencing, helpful touch, and lighthearted jokes to which she pays gratitude to Schuyler Grant, Ana Forrest, and Clara Roberts-Oss.  Her passion for silent meditation in forests is thanks to Adyashanti and Michelle St Pierre.   The many years of ‘being on stage’ as a teacher have shown her the importance of stepping back in order to let life happen… to do the work, connect to breath, change the perspective by going upside down, honour the emotions, and then let life continue to happen… and to remember, it’s all okay, it’s all manageable.

Anatomy of Anxiety & Stess: Interview with Erin Moon

anxiety & stress

Managing stress and anxiety has become part of the mainstreamevolving conversations concerning mental health and how to observe how we feel with more conscious awareness. The pandemic and upcoming election, not to mention the onslaught of international riots for human rights, has provoked discussions around trauma and its effects on the body’s nervous system. Studies of the anatomy and neuroscience of stress illustrate the intricate communication process between the brain and body, and the profound feedback loop initiated with every breath. 

“One of the greatest interventions that we have as yoga instructors is breath technique. Breathwork (pranayama) can be both excitatory and calming, like Kapalabhati (skull shining)or Nadi Shodhana(alternate nostril). In yoga pranayama, you’re going through a whole stress cycle; you’re asking the vagus nerve to take the brake off to stimulate the sympathetic nervous system, and then you’re asking it to put the brake back on to shift into the parasympathetic nervous system. With every breath, we can practice taking the brake on and off. Every time you take a breath in, it’s excitatory. Every time you take a breath out, it’s down-regulating.”  – Erin Moon. 

This week on the podcast, we sat down with Erin Moon to talk about the anatomy of anxiety, we shared the importance of meeting yourself where you’re at, polyvagal theory, and simple tactics to manage stress. We interviewed Erin in a previous podcast on the seventh chakra; Sahasrara Chakra and Collective Consciousness. Erin is a restorative yoga and anatomy teacher living in Vancouver, BC, who co-taught a portion of the 300-hour Yoga Teacher Training through Lila Vinyasa School of Yoga. 

Highlights from our discussion are below, or, watch or listen to the full discussion. 



Resources noted by Erin in this episode:

The Body Keeps the Score by Dr. Bessel Van der Kolk – a book about somatic input in recovery from trauma and stress.

Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers by Dr. Sapolsky – a book about the neurobiology of stress.


Regarding the chakras and their alignment with the endocrine system and the subtle body anatomy, which chakra do you intuit and feel most connected to?

ErinI feel the most connected to the heart chakra, Anahata. It’s the most palpable and physical physiological feedback center. It’s easier for me to connect to the heart’s awareness because that physiological center gives a lot of external and internal feedback; you can feel your heart beat faster. 

ClaraMy third chakra, the fire center of Manipura. It’s where the warrior lives, and that’s something that I’d like to work with a lot in archetypes. 

StephanieI would say the third eye because it’s where the imagination resides and how we visualize the landscapes we want to be in and bring stories to life.

What are some of the practices to deregulate?

CThe biggest thing to deregulate is to stop, drop, and roll; stop what you’re doing, come down to the ground, and roll around with your bolster or on your mat. If I were to teach a class using this method, I’d start students standing, and then we’d come down on the ground. In terms of deregulating, I begin with simple movements, just a bit of movement to get people into their bodies before restorative poses. 

Erin’s restorative yoga classes start with movement before coming down to the ground, a moving meditation to connect to the body and breath before you arrive in stillness on your mat. I feel like this is helpful in my own body, to take a moment to move and feel my body and check-in with what I need. 

In terms of restorative poses, I’d hold each pose for several minutes and focus on breathing deep. I’d offer meditation with eyes closed or open and visualization. Picturing something that’s calming like nature is soothing for me, so I’d offer a visualization meditation to complete the practice. 

EI teach with the mindset of people who come for what they want, and they stay for what they need. What someone wants may be to downregulate, but that’s not what they need at that moment, or it’s not possible due to their current state. It’s not where they’re at, so we meet people where they’re at. If I know somebody who’s dealing with quite a bit of anxiety, I’m not going to pop them into a restorative pose right away. They may need to blow through some of the anxiety first and go for a jog or do something a bit more vigorous to then down-regulate to blow off some steam before coming to a more restful state. 

Whenever we’re talking about stress and anxiety, I think the idea is that we have to be calm right away, or we’re going to be peaceful right away. I think you’ve got to meet yourself where you are and do what serves to get into a more restful state of mind and quiet. 

CI feel like it can create more stress and anxiety for a person if they’re asked or trying to become still, and they can’t do it yet, then there’s judgment and all the stuff that arises when we’re not performing the way we ‘should’ be. 

new class:

Arise and Illuminate

This vinyasa yoga class opens with a reading of a poem by John O’Donahue to ease you into the practice with a meditative prayer. A smooth and simple sequence to start your day, you’ll connect to your rhythm of breath as you cycle through several variations of Sun Salutations. A seated spinal twist to wring out the spine, inner thigh, groin, and hamstring stretching from the floor and a passive inversion with legs up the wall in Viparita Karani (dead bug pose) complete the class. 

How does anatomy affect deregulation?

EAnytime we deregulate, we work with polyvagal theory. Stephen Porges is the author of the Polyvagal Theory, whose research revolutionized our understanding of the polyvagal nerve. The polyvagal nerve is the tenth cranial nerve that starts at the brain and speaks to all parts of the body. The polyvagal nerve speaks to your voice box, heart, tummy, guts, and other places. The communication process employed is called the vagal brake; it’s literally as if you’re putting the brake on, asking your brain to speak directly to the things that need to calm down, your heart, your lungs, your belly, or whatever needs just to chillax.

The polyvagal theory essentially puts a brake on the sympathetic nervous system’s fight or flight mode, where we feel distressed or anxious. It can be a momentary stress event or ongoing stress event that tells your body to go into a fight or flight. Your vagus nerve puts a stop to the communication process that keeps you in fight or flight; the vagus nerve is responsible, and we can strengthen our vagal brake the same way we strengthen a muscle. Working with polyvagal break asks the vagus nerve to do its fundamental job; to put on the brake and stop fight or flight to shift the body into the parasympathetic nervous system, aka rest and digest.

Part of how we strengthen the vagal tone, which is the vagus nerve’s ability to put on the brakes really well and really fast, is through breathing techniques.

One of the greatest interventions that we have as yoga instructors is breath technique. Breathwork can be both excitatory and calming, like Kapalabhati breath or Nadi Shodhana. During pranayama, you’re going through a whole stress cycle; you’re asking the vagus nerve to take the brake off to stimulate the sympathetic nervous system, and then you’re asking it to put the brake back on to shift into the parasympathetic nervous system. With every breath, we’re practicing taking the brake on and off. Every time you take a breath in, it’s excitatory. Every time you take a breath out, it’s down-regulating. 

If we train the physiology to know when we request the vagal brake to come on and off, then we’re going to have a better ability to just be in the world and react to stressors. We can respond to the events that occur, but we can come back to neutral. I think a lot of the ideas around mindfulness practices and breath practices is the idea that we’re not going to be reactive. 

What’s powerful about the polyvagal brake is that we can choose to react while being highly stimulated; we have the power to decide how we respond to a stimulus and come back to ourselves. 

CYou’re never going to stop reacting to the world and the events that occur. All we can do is observe what’s happening and work on ourselves.  

The idea of vinyasa yoga specifically is that we put the body under stress for the duration of practice. This process is kind of flexing the vagus nerve to be able to handle stress and then come back to equilibrium, over and over again, so that when we’re out in the world and stress comes our way, we can do what we need to do at that moment in terms of stress. And then, once we are safe again, we can downregulate and come back to a place of homeostasis.

What are some quick, tactile practices to alleviate stress?

CThe first one that I think about is lion’s breath. In my body, I hold a lot of tension in my face and my jaw. So I need to make a sound when I’m feeling a strong emotion like frustration. I need to be loud. So lion’s breath empowers me. 

The other thing I like to do is to shake out my hands and my body. As I shake, I imagine all the negativity leaving my body. I can’t relax if I feel that strongly; I need to literally like make some noise and move very sharply before I come to rest. 

EFirst of all, breathing in and out through your nose makes a huge difference. When we breathe in and out through our mouth, it gives very different feedback to our system. A practice I would recommend is a mantra and a mudra meditation called Sa Ta Na Ma; it’s a Kundalini technique that means, I Am At Peace. You do this meditation by taking your thumbs and touching your thumb to your index finger for Sa, middle finger for Ta, ring finger for Na, and pinky finger for Ma. Repeat this over and over again, tapping the fingertips to the thumb. 

This technique uses mantra, mudra, and breath. You can say the words out loud, or in your head, I Am At Peace. This technique features bilateral stimulation using your hands and your mouth, which means I’m using both of my hands simultaneously. Bilateral stimulation is used in EMDR, which is a part of the recovery for PTSD.

About Our Guest, Erin Moon

Erin Moon IAYT 800, ERYT 500, YACEP. She has been teaching since 2005 and teaching teachers anatomy and more since 2009. She has been a teacher in Vancouver since moving here in 2014 from NYC, where she lived for 13 years via Alberta, born and raised. Erin is the Director and co-creator of the World Spine Care Yoga Project, an international NGO bringing the practices of Yoga to people suffering from spinal and musculoskeletal disorders, pain, and limited mobility, in communities around the world. She also has her Level 2 Reiki, Level 1 Thai Massage, is a C-IAYT 800 Therapist, and has her 200hr certification in Applied Positive Psychology from The Flourishing Center. She is currently teaching intro to advanced anatomy for Lila Vinaysa, Prema Yoga Institute (NYC), and Illumina Yoga (upstate NY). Erin loves learning and knows that part of living well is growing. Whenever possible, she continues to study with PT’s, OT’s, Chiropractors, Researchers, Somatic Psychotherapists, and Neurologists and to pursue her hunger for knowledge through in-depth self-study.

Her focus in public classes is embodiment and curiosity, whether she is teaching Restorative, Yin, Hatha, or Vinyasa, practicing listening to the wisdom that our mind-body connection holds. To do this, Erin believes we must start the conversation through quieting, noticing, and contemplating. This way, we may become more somatically (felt sense of the body) aware, developing greater connections within, which then translate to greater connections in our communities and the divine in all things.

anxiety and stress

Rituals to Start the Day: Morning Yoga

morning yoga

Starting the day with a morning practice—be it yoga, meditation, journaling, (insert activity of preference)—is a wonderful way to create and connect to a positive focus for the day. Morning practice celebrates the birth of the sun and the potential that the day holds; it provides a bit of quiet, reflective space to be with before the day’s busyness begins. As we transition into Autumn and the colder months ahead, establishing a ritual in the morning may bring a little brightness to your day, even as the sun continues to rise later and later.

This week we featured the Morning Practice Series, with classes and content that captures the beauty and benefit of rising early to do your spiritual practice. On the podcast, Clara shared some of the reasons we practice in the morning, what’s included in her morning yoga intensives, and the poses and pranayama to do earlier. 

Highlights are below, listen or watch the full discussion.

The Spiritual History of a Morning Practice

A lot of meditation, yoga, and spiritual practices generally happen between 4-6 AM. It’s said that the veil between what can be seen and what cannot be seen, so that which is divine or spiritual, the veil is very thin in the early morning. So we practice in the morning to connect to the spiritual, or the Divine.

The other reason we practice in the morning is that the events in our day do not bog us down. We’re generally more clear-headed and able to concentrate on the practice and feel the experience in a more embodied way. 

The other thing I love about practicing in the morning is when everyone else is still sleeping; the world is quiet, and we connect to that quiet time. As the sun begins to rise, it’s like we’re connecting to the day’s potential.

In terms of the Hatha Yoga tradition, we do Surya Namaskars first thing in the morning. “Surya” means sun, and “Namaskar” means the day. With Surya Namaskars, we recognize and honor the start of a new day. As the sun rises, we take Surya Namaskars to celebrate the cycle and the beginning of the day. One of my teacher friends says that the sun represents the Divine and the light and possibility in the world, but it also reflects the ball of light inside us. 

The sun is the key or seed that lives inside us that connects us to the divine and provides inspiration. 

morning yoga

new class: 

Sweet Surrender

A yin yoga class featuring six poses opens the heart and upper back, brings ease to the morning or gently unwinds the day. Each pose is supported by props, allowing the body to relax and stretch the deep connective tissues between the muscles to provide better circulation and support to the joints. Chest, shoulder, back, and side waist opening allow spaciousness around the heart to breathe with more ease. As you linger in each pose, elongate your exhales to deepen your state of calm. 

Beneficial Poses for a Morning Practice

Generally, you want to do more back bending in the morning because you’re trying to stimulate yourself to wake up, and backbends stimulate the adrenals. Backbending is very energizing, so if you do backbends in the evening, you want to be mindful of how close it is to bedtime. If you do backbends in the evening practice, add a longer cooldown to allow the body time to settle and ground. 

The other reason I include a lot of back bending in the morning is to open the shoulders and chest. Especially for those who work at desks, drive, or rock children all day, opening the chest in the morning to stretch all the muscles across the front of the chest feels excellent. 

In terms of morning pranayama practices, I would offer Kapalbhati, otherwise known as skull shining breath. Kapalbhati is very stimulating and excitatory; it generates heat, enhances circulation and digestion, and improves the function of the liver and kidneys. 

Introduction to Clara’s Morning Intensives

I’ve been teaching my morning intensives for about fourteen years. The morning intensives have changed over time, but it’s essentially a two-hour practice in the early morning, from 6-8AM, for five days. I include mantra, meditation, and the asana practice to create a well-rounded experience. I also anchor each of the intensives with a book and provide journaling questions for students to chew on post-practice. 

Leaving students with a journaling question provides the opportunity to write and reflect. It takes the practice one step deeper into the philosophical component of yoga practice. Most people come to yoga for the asana, but we (hopefully) begin to ask more significant questions as we do more yoga. The idea with the journaling questions is to get people to go beyond the physical and dig a little deeper into how they feel. Why am I here? What is divinity? How do I connect to other people? 

I love building together, and we don’t get the same progression and feedback in a drop-in studio class. The intensive is a way to drop-in to the physical practice and learn philosophy. The week’s theme builds around the book I’ve chosen, so it’s fun to discuss how each morning went and bits from the book we enjoyed and wish to discuss. 

Launching the morning intensives, I wanted to build more community; it’s an opportunity to be together and learn together and build community. 

The Four Pillars of Indian Philosophy

All Indian philosophy is based on these four aspects of life Kama, Artha, Dharma, and Moksha, to provide the basis for existing in harmony. These are an example of philosophical prompts I bring up in the morning intensives. 

Kama represents pleasure, how you find pleasure in life, and what brings you joy.
Artha is how you make money, wealth, and live in the material world.
Dharma is how you contribute to your community and what you bring to humanity, such as artwork.
Moksha is spiritual liberation, which is what we celebrate in the practice of yoga.

Clara’s Key Learnings Leading an Online YTT

I gave everybody offline homework to do, to go out into the world, and interact with nature or people. I wanted to provide less screen time to counter all the time we spent on Zoom; it’s asking a lot to be online like that all day long. I wanted to be mindful of how much screen time we were having together because we’re not sure of the long term effects of what all the screentime is doing in terms of anxiety and depression. I made the days together a lot shorter and provided more reading and interactive homework that asked students to write poems, call a friend, and dance to their favorite music. 

The biggest piece that I would give in terms of training is to be okay with the silence. Because you ask a question and sometimes it takes up to a few minutes before someone responds. I liked how there was a pause before anyone spoke, like hitting the ‘unmute’ button on Zoom made each of us think; it added an extra step before speaking. I appreciated that piece, and I would invite everyone to get comfortable with those moments of silence, the pause before the next person hits ‘unmute’ to speak. I also highly recommend using Zoom’s breakout because it allows people to talk and interact more than in the larger group. 

When we talk to each other, we’re more invested in what we’re learning; the more we talk, the more we engage within the content and connect with the concepts.



Sahasrara Chakra and Collective Consciousness

sahasrara

We’ve arrived at our final destination in the Chakra Series, the 7th chakra, Sahasrara, at the crown of the head. Sahasrara translates from Sanskrit as the thousand-petaled lotus; it’s where we come into connection with the collective consciousness and with the divine. At the crown chakra, we discover the ability to merge the individual self with the creation of all beings. We discover and create our philosophy and spirituality, examining what it means to be human and the beauty that comes with our fragility.

Sahasrara represents peace, abundance, and profound contentment through a deeper connection with what it means to be alive in every moment. It’s at the crown chakra that we dissolve the ego-self’s desires in pursuit of the greater good for humanity. The crown chakra is where we connect with the divine or God, depending on your philosophy. The word yoga means to unite or to yolk. At the crown chakra, we honor this merger by placing our faith and trust in the universe and elements we may or may not be able to see.

Trust in the universe, and its cycles, connection to the self and one’s unique expression, and faith in the evolution of humanity harmonize at the crown chakra. Sahasrara asks us to go beyond what we can see, hear, touch, feel, and taste; to go beyond the senses and imagine a world where all beings exist in freedom and happiness. Nirvana or liberation is achieved at the crown chakra.

This week’s podcast episode, we had the pleasure of interviewing Erin Moon. Anatomy buff, yogi, reiki practitioner, teacher, actor, and co-founder of the World Spine Yoga Project. Erin brings over a decade of experience and expertise in the anatomical and subtle aspects of yoga. Clara and Erin shared their knowledge on the crown chakra and its themes in this week’s discussion. Highlights from our conversation are below, or you can watch or listen to the full episode.

Check out past articles from the Chakra Series | Muladhara, Svadhisthana, Manipura, Anahata, Vishuddha, Ajna.

Introducing Erin Moon

“My formal education is as an actor, first, with certifications in yoga therapeutics, anatomy trainings, and deep Svadhyaya. I come to you, as you; as a person (a really nerdy person) with a deep interest in human anatomy and embodiment.”  – Erin Moon

Clara: Erin and I go way back to New York City maybe over a decade ago. We’ve been teaching my 200 and 300-hour teacher training for the past six years, with Erin leading the anatomy portion.

Erin is probably one of my favorite people to work with, in that she’s super enthusiastic and makes anatomy fun and interactive.

We wanted to interview Erin today because she has fantastic insight into the body with her background in yoga, therapeutics, anatomy, and reiki. She’s done so much training and reflection in her own life that we thought she’d be an excellent addition to our conversation today on the crown chakra. 

Stephanie: I’d like to ask a few questions for our community to get to know you. First off, where can we find you? 

Erin: I teach with [Clara], and I teach with Prema Yoga Institute, a yoga therapy program out of New York. Moon Yoga Therapeutics is my website

Stephanie:  Would you rather be a Monarch butterfly or a moth? 

Erin: I love to travel, so I lean to lean towards the Monarch butterfly. The monarch butterfly migrates each year, I think, it might be South of Mexico City. They all gather there and cover the trees. So the whole trees are covered in Monarch butterflies. The other thing I like about them is they seem to travel in groups, a mass migration.

Sahasrara: 7th Chakra Themes

You have gone on a journey. You have touched, you have tasted, you have seen, and you have heard, you have loved and lost and loved again. You have learned, you have grown, you have arrived at your destination intact. – Anodea Judith, Wheels of Life.


Erin: The crown chakra is the thousand-petalled lotus flower. It represents different types of intelligence and different types of conscious thinking and consciousness. It’s a consciousness beyond our comprehension, beyond the consciousness we currently have, and beyond what we’re able to wrap our brains around or intellectualize. 

I feel like there’s a lot of digestion that happens at the crown chakra. The digestion aspect being what intelligence is used. We can over-intellectualize things, and we can overanalyze things, and we can become trapped in that place. That’s when you get into issues within the aspects of the crown chakra. Every one of us has different digestion, a different way of processing. Energy needs to be able to flow through our digestive system, and it needs to break its bits apart again, you know, like they break a bit, they break apart, they grow at the root, and then they break apart a little bit, and they become something more. Then they break apart just like the pedals continue to grow. I feel like at the crown chakra, we digest all experience and what does on around us. 

Clara: The crown chakra is the portal between the individual and the collective; the collective consciousness lives outside of us. At the crown chakra, we open up to how we might be able to listen and receive others and listen to what is happening around us.  

When I’m teaching, I realize how connected we are to each other in this river of thought that’s swirling around us. We’re no longer the individual. The practice may serve as a portal to see how we are a part of the collective consciousness. You realize that you’re not the only one going through these experiences.

Being with others and around other people helps you realize that you’re not the only one going through whatever you’re going through. That’s how I would define collective consciousness. Meditation is a big part of crown chakra in terms of practice. Meditation helps to widen the perspective, to step back and see the bigger picture and how we join the collective. 

Erin: The other theme I feel at the crown chakra is the idea of surrender. The same way we surrender in meditation, there is a sense of surrendering to your seat, you have to in some way. And trust, you have to trust in some manner that you don’t have to know everything and that you can’t know everything and you can’t hold everything in your brain.

At the same time, it’s like you’re leaning in the same way you would in a relationship where there are things that you hold that I don’t, and vice versa. I don’t have all of the intelligence, I can’t hold all of it, and that’s fine with me because I can lean to your brain and lean to your soul and lean to your life experience and lean to your philosophizing. And I can lean into those things to expand my opportunity to pontificate or think about something or have somewhere to land. I surrender to the fact that I can’t hold everything, I can’t know everything.

The Anatomy of Sahasrara

Ideally as we progress in our teaching, we find different ways to articulate anatomy, so every student has a greater opportunity to be more embodied. – Erin Moon

Erin: If you think about anatomically where the crown chakra lives, it’s at the top of our head. And if you think of our anatomy in our body and you think of the gross aspects, inside this dome of our skull, there aren’t bones, It’s this big space, a lot of tiny weeny, little neurons with the receptors, and what’s happening up there is so unfathomably awesome. You can Intuit that there’s this space upstairs full of these tiny little bits and pieces that talk to one another, and they can talk really fast or talk really slow, and receive in different ways and give off in different ways.

Connecting to Collective Consciousness

Clara: In terms of the seventh chakra and your experience of connecting to the collective consciousness, you must first understand who you are. Ask yourself, how do you relate to the world around you? There’s also a deep listening and also to watch for, to wait for the signs. Meaning, you put what you want out to the world- through saying it or writing it or some other form- and wait to see what comes back.

You put your intention out to the universe and stay proactive in looking for the signs as they’re coming towards you before deciding to move in that direction. You’re still listening and watching, active; you’re not sitting back and waiting for something to happen. 

Erin: It’s interesting because as soon as something gets brought into your awareness, you see more because you’ve brought it into your consciousness. So, as Clara says about placing it in the world, you put your intention into the world and then follow up with it through meditation or spending time with it. Then perhaps you take action and test it out, tentatively, or you can test it out intensely. The idea is that when you do those actions, you’re putting out more of your conscious awareness. 

Clara: The opposite of paranoia, which means that the universe is out to get you, is pronoia by Rob Brezsny, who is one of my favorite astrologists, and a fantastic writer. Rob has a book called Pronoia

Pronoia is the idea that the universe is out to support you. So, you can be paranoid, or you can be pronoia. It’s up to you because whatever you decide, generally speaking, your mind is naturally going to look for ways of validating your decision. You get to choose how you interact with the world and what events arise from your outlook. 

About Our Guest, Erin Moon

Erin Moon IAYT 800, ERYT 500, YACEP. She has been teaching since 2005 and teaching teachers anatomy and more since 2009. She has been a teacher in Vancouver since moving here in 2014 from NYC where she lived for 13 years via Alberta born and raised. Erin is the Director and co-creator of the World Spine Care Yoga Project, an international NGO bringing the practices of Yoga to people suffering from spinal and musculoskeletal disorders, pain, and limited mobility, in communities around the world. She also has her Level 2 Reiki, Level 1 Thai Massage, is a C-IAYT 800 Therapist, and has her 200hr certification in Applied Positive Psychology from The Flourishing Center. She is currently teaching intro to advanced anatomy for Lila Vinaysa, Prema Yoga Institute (NYC) and Illumina Yoga (upstate NY). Erin loves learning and knows that part of living well is growing. Whenever possible, she continues to study with PT’s, OT’s, Chiropractors, Researchers, Somatic Psychotherapists and Neurologists, and pursuing her hunger for knowledge through deep self-study.

Her focus in public classes is embodiment and curiosity, whether she is teaching Restorative, Yin, Hatha or Vinyasa; practicing listening to the wisdom that our mind-body connection holds. To do this, Erin believes we must start the conversation through quieting, noticing, and contemplating. This way we may become more somatically (felt sense of the body) aware, developing greater connections within, which then translate to greater connections in our communities and the divine in all things.

Vishuddha: Storytelling, Self-Expression, and Sound

When we read stories, we can relate to characters who express similar triumphs and conflicts, giving us a sense of belonging to a greater narrative. Storytelling may diminish feelings of separation, loneliness, and anxiety, when we realize how we are not alone in how we think, feel, or act.  

This week’s theme was Vishuddha, the 5th chakra, and its themes, including expression, truth, authenticity, sound, speech, and communication. Vishuddha means “especially pure” in Sanskrit and is located at the throat. It is captured as a brilliant blue jewel with ether as its element. Ether is the most subtle of all elements and represents the idea of spaciousness. In the book “Wheels of Life” by Anodea Judith, she states that when we reach the 5th chakra, we’re beginning to unite all that we’ve learned in the lower chakras-stability, creativity, purpose, and compassion. At the 5th chakra, we begin to express how we feel, communicate our truths, and bring our voice to the world. 

We sat down with Shiv Derek Oss for a conversation on how myth shapes our reality and builds community, and how to discover your voice, story, and sound through Vishuddha chakra. See the full interview on the #PracticeWithClara platform or listen on Spotify. Highlights from our talk are below.

The Power of Storytelling

Shiv: The biography of Joseph Campbell, it’s the hero’s journey. Joseph Campbell was an American mythologist, and he brings together these themes that are what Carl Jung would call the collective unconscious. What Campbell says is that every society has this with this myth that the soul, the individual, goes through. Campbell uses symbols moving throughout time to track this, this motif moving throughout all time and space. And that absolutely shifted my full understanding of what it means to be alive. And I think this deals with storytelling as well, this essence of ‘once upon a time’. This connects with therapy and the therapeutic notions of the cycle of the AUm, about these elements and forces that are within us. Symbols externalized through the deities, Shiva and Vishnu, and so on. These are external symbols of internal processes. That’s how I got involved in mythology and my journey.

Clara: The book that I’m reading right now is a book by Sarah Wilson, she’s an Australian author who wrote First, We Make the Beast Beautiful: A New Story About Anxiety. It’s a book all about anxiety and she is a woman who’s worked with anxiety since she was 11 or 12 years old.

And she’s been in different kinds of therapy and she’s done all sorts of self-help to medication- anything to kind of help her with anxiety. And she’s been diagnosed with bipolar and she was diagnosed with OCD and a ton of other things. It’s not a medical book. It’s a book of her experience of anxiety. I didn’t realize it until reading this, but I guess I battled with anxiety quite a bit in my teens and early twenties. Then through yoga, I was able to move through it and kind of work with my anxiety. And since giving birth to my baby, I feel like my mind is going in so many directions all the time, and I’ve been feeling really anxious. 

Usually, those who are very anxious are very sensitive people. And the idea of the book is to work with the sensitivities you experience without it becoming overwhelming. And I feel that way about the practice of yoga in general, in terms of like what it’s given me. In my own like emotional landscape is that a lot of my intense emotions used to be beasts that would take over. 

Stephanie: Through someone else’s story, you found solace. The thing with storytelling is it’s not a prescription to living, it’s someone presenting what occurred and you can choose how you relate to it and how you want to adapt it to your way of being. 

Clara: It’s important for us to express because then it builds intimacy with the people around you.

Shiv: This reminds me of a quote by C.S. Lewis, he was an English author and wrote the Chronicles of Narnia. 

One of the things that Lewis says, especially in shadow lenses, we read so that we recognize that we’re not alone. And so storytelling gives us that sense that we’re not alone and, and mythology gives us the sense that universally. 

Sounds to Make Your Heart Swell

Stephanie: What is the sound that you feel reassured by, a sound that lights you up? 

Shiv: When I photograph when I’m doing weddings and things like that, and I want people to come together because they’re all over the place talking. And I’ll try to get people together to focus because we’re going to take a photograph and nobody’s quite interested because they want to do other things. I say, look, this is what we do- we’re going to make one sound. 

In the native tradition when you want to gather people’s attention, you say, ‘Ho!’ and so at these types of events, I’ll say, ok everybody, I want you to go ‘Ho!’ on the count of three. And, all of a sudden, you know, after the third ‘Ho’ everybody’s laughing and focused and we’re all there for the photograph. So that’s my favorite sound.

Clara: The first thing that comes to mind would be Al Gromer Khan and Amelia Cuni, Monsoon Point. It’s probably about 60 minutes long, and it’s essentially just two women making the sound of Aum, and it’s the sound of Aum layered over and over again. I use it to calm and ground. 

Vishuddha Blockages and Imbalances

Clara: The shadow side of Vishuddha is when it’s blocked, and a blockage shows up when you can’t speak. The other side, in an imbalance of Vishuddha chakra, is that you overshare. It goes one of two ways. 

Shiv: A blockage occurred when I was in a boarding school because we were not allowed to speak. And I carry that with me. To balance this, what I’ve done is I’ve learned to sing and I’m thinking of people who stuttered, people who stutter can sing and they typically don’t stutter when they’re singing.

What I do instead of singing, I do images. And what really gets me going is, is how light operates, and how life is dependent on light. I express myself, not through my throat chakra, but through the photographs and vision through light. 

One of the things I recognize as part of my shadow is now my throat is caught, still caught, and I’m working on that. I do this by massaging myself at my throat and I’m conscious of wanting to express myself and share my truth.

Clara: When I feel imbalanced in Vishuddha chakra, this is expressed through a nightmare that I have had most of my life is. In the nightmare, people can’t hear me, I’m trying to speak and it doesn’t come out. I’m trying to scream or yell for help and it doesn’t come out. In the nightmare related to work, I call it a ‘work-mare’ I walk into the yoga studio and nobody listens to me. People are on their cell phones. People are talking really loudly and anytime I speak, nobody hears me. N matter how long or how loud I speak, they just keep doing what they’re doing. And so in that way, an imbalance shows up in my dreams that I’m not heard. 

Anahata Chakra: Healing Through the Heart

The heart can be a source of love and where we can connect to our truth. Love for ourselves is possible when we honor our truth and continue to check-in with what serves us at any given moment. The heart chakra, Anahata, is also where some of us house our pain (ie heart broken). Our physical and emotional ails may be transformed at the heart if we connect to our truth and explore what activities, communities, and relationships bring a sense of lightness and love into our being.  

Anahata is the fourth chakra and is at the center of the seven chakras. It serves as a bridge to connect the lower chakras, which relate to our tangible connection to the earth, with the upper chakras, which relate to our consciousness and immaterial aspects of nature. It is within our hearts that we can create harmony and balance between our internal and external worlds. The heart is where we can discover a state of ease, compassion, and serenity. Themes of the fourth chakra themes include love, forgiveness, sadness, and grief. 

The element for Anahata is air. Our breath is our life force, our vitality, and is one of the key indicator on how we’re feeling emotionally. Tightness or shortness of breath is a sign of stress or can indicate we are holding pain in our chests.. When our breath is smooth, slow, and deep, we are in a state of ease. When we are at ease, we can interact with our environment and other people with more integrity.  

This week on the podcast discussion, we responded to your questions around balancing community with compensation and issues surrounding cultural appropriation. We opened this week’s talk with an overview of the chakras in what they are and why they’re essential to the practice and unpacked the heart chakras themes, blockages, and imbalances. 

Watch the talk on the Practice With Clara Site, or listen on Spotify

Introduction to The Chakras

Clara: A chakra literally translates as a wheel, it’s an intersection of energy lines inside of the body. The energy lines in Chinese medicine are known as meridians in Ayurvedic medicine, which is the sister science to yoga, we call these energy lines nadis. An intersection of nadis is considered a chakra. Why it’s considered a wheel is that the energy lines when they intersect create a vortex of energy. 

We have thousands of chakras in our body, thousands of these intersections. The ones that we focus on as yogis go up to our main energy channel, Sushumna or the spine, which starts at the pelvis and goes through the middle of the spine all the way to the top of the head. The seven chakras are located at Sushumna. The first one, Muladhara, is at the base. The second one, Swadhisthana, is just below the belly button. The third one, Manipura, is at the solar plexus, The fourth one, Anahata at the heart. The fifth one, Vishuddha, goes to the throat. The sixth one, Ajna,  is at the third eye center, which is the middle of the head.

And then the seventh one, Sahasrara, is the top, the head, or just above the head, depending upon who you talk to. 

Why do we focus on the chakras as yogis? It’s said that at the base of our pelvis sits our creative force known as Shakti or Kundalini. This is this dormant creative force that lives inside of the pelvis. As yogis, we want to ignite or awaken that energy to have it rise up from the pelvis to our third eye center where our consciousness lives. When the kundalini energy rises, it’s said that we are awakened or that we receive enlightenment.

When the chakras are all open, the energy flows freely and we are awakened. The asana and pranayama help to move the stagnant energy that day-to-day life can create in the body. Yoga is a way to clear the stagnant energy by observing the themes and blockages of each chakra, and then creating a practice to clear and move the energy. This is why we wanted to focus on the chakras. 

Themes for Anahata

Clara: It’s said that the union is found inside of our hearts, which I love. Themes of the fourth chakra include compassion, love, forgiveness, acceptance, healing. Self-love. Love for others. On the shadow side of the heart chakra, we have grief and sadness.

Anahata means, unstruck, which is the unstruck sound that lives within each of us. It’s the vibration that lives inside of us. It’s the potential. I love this idea, the potential of the sound of vibration. And that is the heart, the potential of connection to all things.

One of the ways we observe if we’re blocked around a specific chakra is to ask, where do I feel tight or where does it feel uncomfortable or sticky? Another way we discover if the heart chakra is blocked is through ideas of sadness of grief.

So now, you would go into the emotional body where you may find constriction or a lack of forgiveness. Forgiveness is a big one that has to do with the heart. So you’re not able to forgive to let go. You can’t surrender, you’re holding on tight. And again, that tightness you generally feel in the chest. Self-care comes into this chakra as well, which is part of self-love. 

Blockages of Anahata

Clara: The most obvious one is tightness in the chest, like a physical tightness in the chest. Or another way is to look at someone’s posture or look at your own posture and if shoulders are rounded forward. With rounded shoulders, there’s this idea of physically protecting your heart. Or if you having any injuries that are happening in the chest or the shoulders that generally tells you that something’s going on in the heart. 

A shallow breath would be the other biggest obvious one. So if you can’t breathe deep, there’s a constriction in the chest. As physical practitioners of yoga, we practice Asana versus meditation and we always come to the body first because the body never lies. One thing I like to do is to take a couple of deep breaths and go into my body and observe how you feel. One of my favorite things to do at the beginning of my own practice is a body scan to see how I feel and where my body needs attention. 

I’ve been doing this so long, living yoga to the best of my ability, that it bleeds into all that I do. Running a business, teaching yoga, parenting; all of it is living yoga. I strive to always come back and connect to myself and my integrity. One of the reasons I wanted to create an online platform was to grow a global community and continue to connect with people. It felt like a very natural progression. You have to follow your instincts, receive, and respond to what comes naturally. For me, shifting my passion into a business was a natural progression from where I was. Integrity 

Community versus Compensation

My experience right now is that there is a very low glass ceiling in this room. Studios where I live and it is more economical for them to hire brand new instructors versus paying an experienced instructor, more money. I see the value in teaching in studios because they serve as a place to practice and the presence of community and meet new students. I feel a struggle about teaching in studios when the pay is so low and I’m being asked to perform lots of other non-yoga tasks. 


Stephanie: I think this is related to heart chakra because we love teaching. And I’ve been in this position where you’re teaching for free or you’re teaching for very little because I get so much out of giving that to others.

Clara: I think the first question that I would ask is what do you want, I want, like, what does this student, or what does this teacher want?

I used to teach 25 classes a week and my Tuesday would start at 7:00 AM. And my last class ended at 8:30 PM and I taught at three different studios. It was crazy but I put in my time because that’s what I believed in, it was what I wanted to do. Through putting in all that time and effort, I started to build a following.

So I would ask: what’s most important to you? Is it most important to you to be part of a community or is it most important to pay your bills? It’s a real thing, to have to pay your bills and be validated as a teacher. Community is one of the main reasons I teach, and in the past, I’ve actually chosen to work for free and donate proceeds to a charity over making an hourly wage that didn’t sit well with me. 

I’ve spent over $10,000 on my education in this field, so anything less than minimum wage  I would rather work for free. I’d happily do Seva, which translates as selfless service towards others. 

If teaching is your main source of income, the other thing you need to think about is your worth.

Honoring the Roots of the Practice

I’m curious about appropriation. I have an interest in interreligious dialogue. There are people who believe yoga cannot coexist with Christianity or Catholicism. How do we successfully respect and incorporate different traditions? 


Clara: So yoga is its own philosophy. Hinduism just means philosophy from India. The biggest thing with yoga is it believes in a higher power. There’s Vedantic yoga, there are all kinds of yoga. You can fit whatever your religion or philosophy is into yoga. There’s a space for it. 

Are we culturally appropriating a philosophy and a way of life, a lifestyle that is not ours? The short answer around this is there is space for everything. In terms of you take what works for you and you leave the rest. But that being said, you honor where it came from. So we honor that it does come from India. We honor that. Traditionally, we talk about the chakras and traditionally we do mantra and meditation and all these things, but the practice should evolve as we evolve.

As we’ve evolved as humans, the practice also evolves. I don’t think it should be rigid or static, and that’s why there are so many different styles of yoga and so many different cultures have taken it on and you’ll talk to most Indian people and they’re thrilled to share the practice of yoga.

It’s a benefit to all of us, because essentially it’s a tool kit, whether or not you’re doing the Asana practice or whether or not you’re doing meditation or mantra. It’s a toolkit to make yourself whole again. My understanding is that the great religions are about connecting to the divinity right inside of us or outside of us, depending upon which religion you’re talking about, but to find wholeness again is to be a part of something greater.

And so yoga fits, I think yoga fits in that. I think it’s really important to honor where it came from. And to know the history of it. 

Manipura Chakra: The Will to Thrive

Welcome to the third week of The Chakra Series. This week we’ve moved up from the root chakra (Muladhara) and the sacral chakra (Svadhisthana) to the third chakra, Manipura where we discover how to interact with the world as individuals and bring a unique sense of presence and purpose. The Chakra Series is an introduction to each of the chakras, the themes and elements associated with each, in addition to the imbalances, blockages, and what the chakras are like in-harmony in body and mind. 

Manipura, known as our power center, is located at the solar plexus. It represents our will, our purpose in life, and our ability to execute our passion. The element is fire, capturing the essence of this chakra with its heat, intensity, and ability to transform. When manipura is in balance, we’re able to assert ourselves without becoming too aggressive or overbearing. There is a sense of fluidity and ease within our power, as we’re able to ride the wave of momentum and opportunities that arise with a sense of pragmatism in how we execute our will. Imbalances in manipura chakra result in digestive issues and discomforts, as well as a feeling of powerlessness and lack of control. Misalignment in this chakra could appear as being overly-ridgid, demanding, egotistical, dogmatic, challenging, or on the other end, needy, clingy, and an utter lack of confidence and self-esteem.

This week, we sat down with Shiv Derek Oss, Clara’s father, to discuss the will to power, passion, and purpose. Shiv is a teacher and photographer whose passion for mythology, mysticism, and music has influenced his discourse and direction in life. Below are the highlights from our discussion where Clara and Shiv give advice on how to harness the power of the third chakra by taking risks, sitting in discomfort, and discovering your gift. Feel free to watch the full episode or listen on Spotify.

Manipura In Action: The Flame and Fluidity

Clara: Purpose is such a big part of the third chakra. The idea is to find and connect to our purpose. In the yoga practice, for the third chakra, manipura, we would do kapalabhati breath, also known as skull shining breath, or Agni Saraj to stimulate the inner fire. Other ways we’d work with the third chakra would be around the solar plexus through  lots of core work.

Shiv: I like thinking of the third chakra as the connecting to our collective unconscious and instinct. And so when you are living in your purpose, you need to connect to that core or that base of the fire, the ember quality, the undercurrent. And then from that undercurrent, the undercurrent supports the turbulence which is the fire and the flame. Above the turbulence you have the blue heat, which is the serenity. So you have all three parts: the embers at the base, the fire turbulence in the middle, and then the blue halo of light which is the serenity. And that’s what I feel power is about: being connected to those three aspects of the self. 

Clara: And also being balanced in all three. When I think of power, it’s something that can be aggressive. So I like to think of all three aspects, with the idea of the blue. I love this imagery of serenity. So when I connect to my power, I also connect to all three aspects versus letting one dominate. 

Shiv: Balance is crucial because that’s the distinction between force and assertion. Force is to impose the self on another, but assertion comes down from the harmony of those three elements, those three levels of awareness that you bring to your purpose. Otherwise you become inflated. 

Clara: And dogmatic. I feel like sometimes within that idea of power there can be rigidity. So I would ask: can I still be fluid in my power? 

Embrace Spontaneity and Idle Time

Clara: So much of the experience like art and the practice and yoga is spontaneous. It’s this idea of this feeling that’s kind of arising through the action of doing Asana or the action of reading poetry or listening to music or looking at art. I feel like any expression if you have the space to play and allow it to be experienced inside of you, then it hasn’t been contained. It isn’t dogmatic in a sense, which I feel is very important. 

Shiv: Then comes in a very interesting dynamic where let’s say you feel that you need to do yoga, but some part of you doesn’t want to, or there’s some part of you that wants to make art, but yet another part says, why don’t we go have a coffee somewhere? So how do you work with that? 

Clara: This is where the idea of tapas or discipline in terms of the spiritual practice. And I would ask, when is it appropriate to let it go to surrender to what’s happening, or when do you dig deep and do what needs to get done?

I’d say it all depends on my intention. If I’m not showing up to shy away from the work and avoid, that’s one thing. Or am I doing it because I need a break and I’m overloaded and I should be naval-gazing and enjoying idle time. 

In doing nothing, we’re healing and we’re reflecting so that when we go back to doing what we need to do, we’re rejuvenated.  

Shiv: Bob Dylan says it in a really interesting way, he says it comes down to how to hold and to release in a Holy way. Meaning wholeness, so you’re entering into a sense of wholeness and you’re coming out of that wholeness.

Now, how do you, because I think yoga has to do with that unity and maintaining that wholeness between those three levels. We were talking about. How do we go about doing that in our daily lives? Because what we’re doing in essence is where we’re using our power upon ourselves. We’re regulating ourselves.

And so where does that come from? You know, where does that, where does that knowing this come from? Is it coming from the discipline? Does it come from the practice itself or where does it come from?

Sit in Discomfort: Advice On How To Persevere

Stephanie: I’m getting the sense that part of honoring the third chakra is to be uncomfortable… 

Shiv: Yes. 

Clara: And the idea of that, is that through the fire, whatever it is that we’re uncomfortable with transforms. It’s not the fire that is uncomfortable. It’s what we’re bringing to the fire that has discomfort.

Stephanie: There’s a lot of risk involved in going alone on your path, which is what both of you have done at some point in your work or art. The ability to follow your purpose and go out on your own, to have the will and confidence to go against the norm, these are all themes of the third chakra. Do you have any advice for people who are struggling to launch their own business or pursue their art, or do whatever it is that takes them to the next level? 

Clara: A lot of it, I feel, is perseverance. 

Shiv: Being an artist, you don’t have a choice after awhile. You know there is no choice because the other way of living is not amicable to your being.

Clara: It’s in really following the momentum. And I think that that’s like in terms of stepping out of the village compound, meaning the nine to five, the typical milestones that we’re supposed to go through in life. Instead, you need to kind of follow your nose and also ride the wave of momentum. So you need to be conscious of what’s happening and what’s coming towards you and moving towards what you think is going to feed you.

I literally stumbled upon working for myself. I was working at a restaurant and I was in university and I stumbled upon doing a yoga teacher training through a friend of mine, and I decided to join her. I thought I would just learn more about yoga, but I followed it and it felt like the right thing to do. And then I realized how I really enjoyed it. And then from there, a friend of mine was working at managing a studio and somebody had just left and so he was offered me all of these classes. And so the key is, you need to follow your nose. Go with instinct and also ride the wave. And they’ll definitely be points of discomfort where you’re like, am I going to be able to make a living? Trust in your gut and what you do, but also be pragmatic. Feel the current is as it’s coming towards you, meaning as opportunities are coming towards you, you want to kind of observe, am I going to ride this opportunity, or am I going to step this one out? In that, in that sense, you know, you’re always like just treading water. You’re just kind of allowing yourself to be there and observing like what’s coming towards me and how is that going to feed me? But the other thing that I love that she has said is, is that you need to be fed by it.

Discover Your Gift and Give It Away

Shiv: This brings me to the notion that we carry gifts, that we are here and we are a gift. We are a gift from creation to creation. And that a lot of what we are for me, meaning is about, is getting in touch with my gift. Now the thing then is who will accept this gift and who will reject it. It’s been my experience that it’s difficult when you come, when you bring your gift, because your gift is unique, each person has a unique gift and that unique uniqueness threatens the status quo. It unsettles people they want to know. 

And then what you do with the gift then is you give the gift away. And only when you give the gift away, that cycle is complete because you pass it on.  

Clara: We talked about this before in terms of when we’re in a relationship or when we’re in dialogue with somebody other than ourselves, and we are triggered by them. We talked about this before in terms of when we’re in a relationship or when we’re in dialogue with somebody other than ourselves, and we are triggered by them. It’s an opportunity. When we feel an agitation, the anger illuminates that there’s something there that we need to work out. The irritation is fodder to chew on and ask, what does this mean for me? How can I grow from this? So you can progress or you can move beyond your irritation and anger, and where you currently are. What we consider the comfort zone of where we are right now, it’s time to go to the next level of whatever that means.

Second Chakra: Svadhisthana Themes and Yoga

You are water, the essence of all forms, yet formless. You are the point from which each direction flows and you are the flow. You were the one that feels. You were the one that moves. You were the one that embraces the other. 
– Anodea Judith,
Wheels of Life.


As humans, we are 70% water. It’s our natural inclination to embrace spontaneity, go with the flow, and adapt to new surroundings. Yet, we may oppose change and go against our natural instinct. This is represented as a blockage in the second chakra, svadhisthana. Located at the sacral area close to the womb and the sex organs, the second chakra embraces themes such as fluidity, creativity, change, relationships with others, and pleasure. As we move up from the root chakra, Muladhara, which connects us to our individual strength, groundedness, and a sense of surrender, we come to the second chakra where we begin to explore how we express ourselves and connect to the world around us. 

Svadhisthana was featured this week as a part of the Chakra Series we launched in June. Balancing duty with desire, relating to others, and going with the flow are some of the central themes of the second chakra that Clara and I discussed in this week’s podcast. We go into a brief introduction of Prana Flow Yoga by Shiva Rea, who was Clara’s teacher in vinyasa and prenatal yoga, to show how Prana Flow helps one heal by connecting with one’s natural state of fluidity. We also discussed prenatal and postnatal yoga; the poses to avoid, the body parts to strengthen, and who else may benefit from these class styles despite not being (or having been) pregnant!

Read the highlights from our talk below or feel free to watch on #PracticeWithClara or listen on Spotify

Svadhisthana, Second Chakra Themes

Clara: The second chakra is Svadhisthana and the element is water. Generally, it deals with our emotions and our sexuality, and our creativity because this is literally where our sexual fluids are. This is the space where we connect to our fluidity, going with the flow. When we work with the second chakra, we’re working with how we relate to others. We would examine the second chakra when we want to work with our relationship, not only to our bodies but to the people in our lives.

The second chakra deals with desire and pleasure, so the question I would ask is, what is your relationship to pleasure? Do you seek it? Do you shy away from it? Do you indulge it? Is there balance between duty, what needs to get done, versus pleasure? Discovering the right balance is important because you need to feed your spirit, you need to feed your soul. if your heart’s not in it, then what’s the point? 

Stephanie: Another theme of this chakra is the idea of the empath in discovering our emotions and how we relate to others, and adapting to fluidity. 

Clara: Yes, and that’s where the whole idea of boundaries.The second chakra is also how we create boundaries in relationships and come together with those around us. 

Stephanie: How does Prana Flow by Shiva Rea help one embrace this idea of fluidity? 

Clara: This is a style of Vinyasa Yoga that my teacher Shiva Rea created and I’ve studied off and on with her since 2003. Prana Flow was born out of her creativity of playing with styles of dance, as well as yoga, and being in her own body. Shiva realized that there was so much power in fluidity. Prana Flow deals with what she calls moving meditation. So you start every single class in the moving meditation, similar to the moving meditations for the rituals for the chakras in the coming weeks.

The idea is to remind ourselves of this flow that is naturally moving through us since we’re made up of at least 70% water. We walk around thinking that we’re mostly solid, even though we’re actually mostly liquid. And so connecting to that liquidity reminds us of our natural state.

And generally, that’s very healing for most people. When I met Shiva in 2003, I felt like I had come home. Because here was a woman that was creating movements that I’d been naturally doing on the dance floor and the nightclubs of New York City.

In Prana Flow, we’re connecting to the natural contraction and release of the breath, but also the fluidity of your body with the breath itself. 

Prenatal Yoga - What Not To Do

Stephanie: Tell us more about what you offer in terms of the prenatal and postnatal series on the #PracticeWithClara site. When you’re expecting, what are some of the poses that you don’t want to be doing in the practice?

Clara: This is a bit of a controversial topic because it actually depends on the school of thought in terms of prenatal. I did my prenatal training Shiva Rea, but I’ve had friends who were also prenatal certified who come from different schools of thought. What I’m saying is only one school of thought and you’ll read all kinds of things on the internet, especially those of us who were expecting. Before I even go into this, the first thing I’ll say is that anybody who is expecting, meaning who is pregnant, should really listen to their body. In terms of prenatal yoga, every pregnancy is so different. Every woman is so different. And the biggest signifier of whether or not something works is your body itself, and your body will tell you pretty strongly. 

A few common things to check and watch for would be nausea and vertigo. Pregnant yogis probably wouldn’t do a lot of deep standing forward bends or downward dog. In the forward bend, I would put my hands or forearms on my thighs and bend my knees, but not so much that my head dips past my heart. For downward dog I would recommend child’s pose, or I just come onto hands and knees so that my head and my heart were on the same level.

When you take a child’s pose when you’re really pregnant, your knees always go out to the sides, and then the bigger you get, the more your knees go out. And then your third trimester for child’s pose, you’d put a bolster or a block underneath your forehead or your forearms, just so your belly is not touching the ground at all and so you’re not putting any pressure on the little one. 

A controversial topic is whether or not to do core work. That’s a big one that comes up for pregnant yogis.

Generally, it’s said that you don’t want to do too intensive core exercises after your first trimester, meaning crunches and things like that, because you don’t want to be crunching the baby. However, you definitely still want to be strengthening your pelvic floor muscles because that’s really going to help with childbirth and it’s also going to help its support holding the baby up as the baby gets bigger and bigger.

So you definitely want to be doing core work, but in terms of the intensity that’s what is going to change.

I include a lot of back strengthening in the classes on the #PracticeWithClara site because as you get bigger on the front, your back needs to be supported? As the pelvis widens to prepare for childbirth the lower back may be compressed. Some women may start to feel sciatica or lower back pain because of that. So the more we can strengthen our backs, the more supported you’re lower back as you get bigger in your pregnancy. In the third trimester we generally drop all core strengthening but would continue back strengthening. 

Backbends are the other controversial family of poses at all when pregnant because you’re essentially opening up the front body and can squish the baby. I come from the school of thought that mild backbends are great because it opens up the chest. If you focus more on opening the chest and not creating a deep arc in your spine, then you generally are not creating too much compression for the baby. The other reason why we generally don’t do very deep backbends is that your rectus abdominals, your core muscles that are in the front known as the six-pack, they separate when most women become pregnant. I’ve definitely known some women who’ve done deep backbends right up until they were giving birth. For me, in my own body, deep backbends stopped feeling good in my second trimester. I did a lot of camel, but very gentle camel, more to focus on opening up the chest. 

The last controversial family of poses I’ll mention is twisting. Twisting is great but you want to have lots of space for your belly which means you would do an open-armed twist. You want to avoid any deep twisting but its fine to twist if you keep your arms spread really wide. 

Postnatal Yoga - What To Strengthen

Stephanie: What do you strengthen in the postnatal series- who else may this type of work be good for? 

Clara: Depending upon how your pregnancy went and how your birth went, your body is in a state of healing.

I’ve been creating a postnatal trimester for a set of five classes to ease back into the practice if, you’re like I was after having Karmen, and you’re not ready for a vinyasa yoga class. The postnatal series could be geared towards those of us who have just given or anyone who wants a slower class. 

I focus on rebuilding the core and the pelvic floor through very, very small core exercises in order to start strengthening the pelvic floor muscles. I also focus a lot on the upper back and shoulder strengthening because holding a baby for six or eight hours a day and rocking her to sleep starts to strain my shoulders and upper back. 

And I also focus on leg strengthening. 

The thing about the postnatal series is that it could work for anyone who is new to yoga. Or those who sit in an office all day. I open the chest, shoulders, and top back in the postnatal series- muscles that are tense from sitting at a desk. I strengthen the core, back, and legs, which anyone might benefit from. 



Root Chakra: Stability and a Sense of Belonging

Your body is the journey and it is where you begin. It is your connection to the physical world, your foundation, the home of your dance. You are the place from which all action and understanding will arise, and to which it will return. You are the testing ground of truth.

– Anodea Judith, Wheels of Life


What we call home is an idea we create within ourselves. Our connection to a physical space, inanimate surroundings, and the people we love undergo the change and flux of the universe. We can’t always control our surroundings or rely on those who support us. By creating a sense of stability and safety from within we learn how to self-soothe and regulate intense emotions. The body is our initial connection to the earth and the yoga practice is a tool we use to shift how we feel. We can always come back to the practice- be it asana, pranayama, or meditation. We might use these as tools to shift states of dis-ease. The practice allows us to come back to a place where we are grounded and feel a sense of belonging.

 

The root chakra, Muladhara, connects us to our inner stability and grounding. When we’re balanced in this chakra, we feel a connection to the earth, to  those around us, and ourselves. When we feel out of balance in this chakra, we may feel overwhelmed, agitated, disconnected, and over-excited. Seeking activities that are slower and closer to the ground, and eating foods that are dense and heavy may quell anxieties that arise. Especially as we shift into the heat of summer and months marked by activities outside, creating rituals and practices that have a grounding effect may help bring the energy downwards so we don’t overexert ourselves and burn out. 

 

This week Clara and I focused on yoga poses that build strength in the legs and abdomen. We talked about a pranayama/breath exercise to do after a long day to slow the heart rate and deepen the breath. We shared our own rituals we do after a busy day or a day of travel. You can listen to the podcast or watch the full talk on the #PracticewithClara site. Highlights from this week’s discussion are below.s

Interview with Clara on the Root Chakra

ClaraWhen we connect to our root chakra, in terms of the yoga practice, we deal a lot with the legs, connecting to the legs, and feeling the connection to the earth itself. If you want to have a more earthbound practice, you would stay low to the ground. You would do things that are very leg heavy, and hold the poses for longer. 

Stephanie: Why is an earth theme and connecting to the root chakra something we want to work with at this time of year? In Vancouver, being in the northern hemisphere, with lots of solar energy and heat from the sun?

Clara: This is usually a time of year that a lot of people get physically burnt out because they’re doing all of their fun, physical activities that they do outside. And to balance that energy we want to create a slower moving, a darker, heavier class to kind of counter the excitement that we’re experiencing outside. 

Stephanie : Talk about some of the elements in the class this week- Stay Low- as themed around the root chakra, and the body parts you would open. For yoga teachers, what kind of things would you include in a class to honor this type of theme? 

Clara: One of two ways I theme with earth classes is with a lot of standing leg poses and warrior poses.I would include  a lot of hip openers. I would have a longer floor series, the lunar part of class, and I would include a lot of forward folds to invite a space for introspection.

With the earth element, you want to create a feeling of staying low to the ground. One of the descriptions of earth is generally dark and heavy. So those elements are two things that we would bring into this class.

Stephanie: Tell me about Anna Forrest  and Forrest Yoga, which you add to your sequences, and what it is Forrest Yoga supports and strengthens? 

Clara: I love Forrest Yoga for the therapeutics that work specifically around the lower back and activating and stretching the psoas, which I think are two things that we don’t pay enough attention to in yoga..

One of the things that Ana Forrest gets people to do is to create a roll by rolling up a mat or a blanket. The roll is rolled-up and placed between the thighs. I sometimes use a block. And the deep core work comes from hugging in at the upper inner thighs around the block. If you’re a member on the site and you’ve done the core work classes, most of that is on Forrest Yoga. It’s very subtle work, it’s really about the deep core muscles activating, the muscles that I call the stabilizers. If you want your stabilizers to work harder versus your, what I call your movers and shakers, then you need to do smaller movements in order to activate the stabilizers. 

Stephanie: Parvati is the Goddess who symbolizes the Earth and is a deity I would associate with the root chakra. Can you talk a bit about Parvati’s relationship to Shiva and what they create together? 

Clara: I call Shiva the  patron Saint of yogis. He’s the meditator and actually quite the rebel. He’s either dancing the Tandava, which is a dance of destruction and transformation, or he’s seated in meditation. What he does is he goes to Mount Kailash and he lives in this cave. He goes up to this cave and he sits there for centuries at a time meditating.

When he’s meditating, he’s connecting to higher consciousness. Parvati, his wife, gets really annoyed and she starts to get bored because her husband is off meditating and not spending time with her. 

So Parvati goes to find Shiva in deep meditation. Nobody can wake Shiva from his meditative state, but Parvati goes to him and she begins to dance and move all around him. She has a particular scent and it’s the scent of her perfume and the dance that pulls him from meditation.

Parvati is the one who brings him back to the physical world out of the ethereal realm. She has a grounding effect on Shiva, and through their connection balance is achieved. 

Parvati symbolizes the earth and she also symbolizes the ultimate partner or the ultimate wife. Parvati is very disciplined and there are stories that share how Parvati started being a spiritual practitioner at the age of three or four. She actually surpasses Shiva in terms of how enlightened she is or connected to the divine, so Shiva is attracted to that aspect of Parvati. She is his equal or a little bit above in terms of her spiritual practice.

Stephanie: What are some rituals that help you ground after a long day? 

Clara: I prefer meditation or putting legs up the wall. Putting legs up the wall is very grounding, it gets you into the parasympathetic nervous system. It allows me to arrive. That’s the thing that I do, usually when I show up to a hotel room or when I’m traveling. Then usually if I’m fortunate enough to have a bath I’ll immerse myself in water. 

We can also come to the mat and have a connection with ourselves. Reconnecting to our spirit. I use my yoga practice now as a tuneup. I’m tuning up parts of my body and therefore tuning up parts of my mind and my spirit.  – Clara Roberts-Oss

Stephanie: What are some pranayamas that have a grounding effect? 

Clara: Nadi-shodhana, alternate nostril breathing, is one. Nadi-shodhana balances the hemispheres of the brain as well as the  lunar and solar side of the body. 

The other pranayama I would recommend would be bhramari breath, or bees breath. I would place my hands on the lower abdomen or hands on thighs, and then hum down into that area. 

The last one would be a moving meditation that’s kind of like a Tai Chi movement. You stand with feet shoulder-width apart, and inhale hands upwards toward the sky and exhale hands back down toward the ground. I would do this standing to feel my feet on the ground and connect to the stability of the earth. 

Fire and Forgiveness in Your Yoga Practice

fire

Fire represents passion and dedication. In tribal communities, there was one person selected to keep the coals burning to ignite the flame. Fire is sacred, it represents our will, power, and the discipline to sustain any practice. In June, we celebrated the summer solstice in the Northern Hemisphere and wrapped up the 30-Opportunities Virtual Yoga Challenge. We celebrated the concept of fire through our commitment to the challenge with the community we created online. 

During the virtual challenge, we connected with the community daily, in the Facebook group. We asked questions, shared highlights from the daily class, and responded to the journaling prompts provided. It was interesting to observe how practitioners adapted the class playlist for the challenge to suit their individual needs. 

Fire and forgiveness are key elements for the yoga practice. We develop the capacity to discern when we need more heat and discipline, and when we need more softening and grounding. The major task of the challenge was to be consistent in showing up for yourself, on your yoga mat, every day of the month. What the practice looked like could be flexible depending on what your body and mind desired on that particular day. Balance is essential, in yoga through developing equal parts of strength and flexibility. But more importantly, in our day-to-day lives as we define what self-care looks like and how we show up for what needs to get done in any given moment.

This week on the #PracticeWithClara podcast, we answered your questions that arose during the 30-days. Clara and I dissected specific yoga poses, discussed stability versus mobility in your body, and where to begin if you’re new to the practice. Highlights from this week’s episode are below. 

Question 1:

I’m really interested in the whole topic of this evolution in your practice. What have you come up with in terms of various postures or practices that you would not recommend that seem to be very popular or vice versa? What did your personal practice reveal about more beneficial elements and something that we could be doing more of?

clara: I don’t actually teach pigeon pose. I think I teach pigeon once every six months in a regular yoga class. I don’t teach it anymore. It’s actually not super healthy for the knees because you’re in deep flexion and external rotation at the same time.

I teach thread the needle or double pigeon or cow face because, in these poses, generally your knee doesn’t go past 90 degrees. So it’s not as deep flexion at the knee. Less is more. Those of us who are flexible are naturally going to want to go deeper because it feels good. It’s our natural range of motion. And because of this, I’ve had almost every injury in the book. If you are working with a lot of mobility, a lot of flexibility in your body, you actually want to be shortening the poses. You want to be hugging in and up, and drawing up specifically in the inner thighs and outer hips. And those of us who have a hyper range of motion in the shoulders want to go smaller in the movements in terms of the arms. This protects the shoulder girdle. Observing the flexibility versus the mobility in bodies, and what is needed, is one of the biggest learnings for me. In my own practice and as a teacher watching students.

stephanie: What advice would you give for teachers when they’re queuing to the two different bodies? 

clara: I have always had this vision that I’d like to have two different yoga classes. One for people who have stability and one for people who have mobility, because the cueing is so different.

The biggest thing is that you look around and then if you see anybody really going forward in a way that doesn’t look stable, you would go and talk to them and give them the why.

I feel like that’s very empowering for the students to know why we are asking them to do something. 

stephanie: Always give the why, so people who are listening know what cues are for them or what isn’t for them. 

clara:  Exactly. Another big learning I’ve had in my own body, as well as teaching, is in the floor series. When I first started teaching my floor series for the lunar part of class, the cool-down would be very extensive.

Classically you go through twists hip openers, forward, an inversion, and then Shavasana, in the practice. What I realized is less is more in everything in life, but specifically in the cool-down series. Now I usually only teach two to five poses in the cool down and hold them for an extended period of time. The reason being that the lunar part of class is to set people up to go into Savasana, to go into deep relaxation. And so you want to take them out of the sympathetic system into the parasympathetic system into what we call rest and digest. And so I think the most effective way of doing that is actually doing less, but holding the poses for a lot longer so that by the time they come into Savasana, they feel very, very relaxed.

stephanie: How do you compliment the body through the solar, active part of class, and the lunar, slower part of the class? Why do you counterpose? 

clara: In the style of yoga I teach, Vinyasa yoga, we generally have a peak pose, meaning a pose that we’re working towards. And everything that happens in the solar part of class, meaning the heating part of class, the warmup is to the peak pose where we open and strengthen the parts of the body that need to be prepared to do this peak pose. What happens in the lunar part of class is that whatever was strengthened, we lengthen in the solar part, in the lunar part of the class. So we counter it. So what we call a counterpose is the things that were lengthened, we then shorten. And the things that were strengthened, we release. 

Question: 2

I would be interested in going further into the journaling question from the perspective of connecting, to giving to myself, rather than it just being a routine. I really want to practice self-care in a way that is nourishing and not just surface level. 

clara: Part of the 30-day challenge is to show up regardless of how you feel and just whatever happens is what happens. The question is bringing up beautifully how there is the shadow side of something becoming a routine.

You’re not thinking about it. This makes me think of The Rig Veda, which is the oldest of the sacred texts of India. There’s one line that says something like, if you just do a mantra for the sake of doing it without any intention behind it, you might as well not do it.

And I feel like this is bringing up the question of how to do something, not just for the sake of doing it, but to have connection through it. How do I stay present when I’m doing whatever it is I’m doing?

Self-care is bringing a sacredness to the mundane. Every action could be an act of self-care, meaning caring for yourself at that moment, regardless of the action. It’s bringing awareness to yourself, and part of the awareness is setting boundaries and being mindful of what’s going on inside of you.

It’s also your intention in doing whatever it is that you’re doing. Self-care can look many different ways. It doesn’t have to be a bubble bath with a glass of wine, it doesn’t have to be a nature walk. Self-care could be lying in bed and sleeping for an extra hour or listening to music or dancing or whatever it is that takes care of yourself.

Question: 3

I’m interested in learning the processes of more traditional practices, chakras, elements, the whole vocabulary. I’m curious if there’s a standard curriculum for yoga or is it varies by type or by region or what your individual process?

clara: There is no curriculum to this practice, which I feel like can be mildly overwhelming. What I found really helpful was to ask my teachers about the books that they read. We have an amazing bookstore here in Vancouver called Banyan Books. It’s beautiful, and one of the coolest New Age bookstores I’ve ever been to in my life.

Peruse and see what speaks to you. My father, who I grew up with always said to follow your nose in terms of what interests you. And there’s no right or wrong way to learn. It’s way more beneficial to move toward the things that move you.

Question: 4

I would like to know more about chanting, how it affects the brain, where it originated, and what mantra is your favorite.

clara: Mantra is of India and the mantra specifically of Sanskrit. With Sanskrit specifically, they thought of how vibration affects the body. So that particular sound, they figured out, affects a particular part of your body. 

A lot of the mantras are almost like a prescription for a particular kind of effect in your body. And so the way that they put these particular sounds together is going to create a particular vibration, which is going to make you feel a particular way.

There was a study by Dr. Masaru Emoto on how vibration affects water. He performed a task where he put water in bottles and then he spoke to them. He sang to them, he played particular music to them. And then he took pictures of the water molecules afterward, like after eight hours or 10 hours of being exposed to the sound. There were some bottles of water that he sang to and said loving things too. and the water molecules looked like snowflakes. And then he did other ones where he cursed at them and was really angry when he spoke to them. And the water molecules looked fractured. 

Vibration really affects the way that we feel on a molecular level because there’s so much water in us. We are 70% water. From an experiential point of view, I’ve definitely had some of, most, my most transcended experiences by doing mantra.

Mantra has been around since the Vedas dating back to 2,500 BC and probably way before that. A few of my favorite mantras are the Gayatri Mantra, the Tryambakam Mantra, and the Asatoma Sadgamaya Mantra. 

Watch the Full Talk