Bernie Clark: The Influence of Mythology in Yoga

bernie clark

The roots of yoga are firmly established in philosophy and myth. Yoga, as we know it today, is vastly different from the origins of the practice. Yoga is meditation, and the method has evolved to accommodate contemporary life, focusing on the asana postures to move the body and encourage physical health. In honoring yoga’s artistry, we need the influence of myth and philosophy to create a well-rounded practice and approach to reality. 

Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras explain the theory and approach to the practice of yoga through philosophy, and The Bhagavad Gita—a beloved text among yogis—shares the popular myth of Arjuna and Krishna to illustrate the concept of fate, devotion, non-harming, and other themes contemplated in the practice of yoga. 

Mythology is a powerful tool of evolution. Through others’ stories, we learn how to accept, integrate, and interact with others. Myth demonstrates a way to live and be in the world; our stories create communities, ecosystems, and the economy. 

This week, we had the pleasure of interviewing the West Coast yin yoga teacher and author of From the Gita to the Grail, Bernie Clark, to talk about the influence of mythology in yoga, the mystery of quantum physics, and how to access a yin mind to balance the yang energy of Western society. 

“When I first started teaching yin yoga, people were horrified because they thought I was exercising joints. Each practice has a different definition of exercise. A yang definition of exercise is a lot of repetitive, rhythmic movement. With yin yoga, we work with long-held static stress. Think of braces: people wear braces for years. That’s yin stress, and that’s what you need to affect the bones.” – Bernie Clark. 

Check out the movie mentioned in the podcast: The God Particle.

You can watch or listen to the full episode or read the highlights below.

Introducing Bernie Clark

If you could choose any era to be born in, what period would you choose, and why?

BCProbably the 22nd or the 23rd century, about a hundred years from now. I’m really curious to see what’s going to be happening then. If we’ve calmed down global warming or developed new forms of energy? I’m going to die before all that happens. I would like to see that. 

What’s your superpower? 

BCI remember reading Herman Hesse when I was a teenager, and in his book Siddartha, the superpower of Siddartha stuck with me. It was the ability to just sit, despite whatever happens around you, to be able to sit and be present and know that this too will pass. That’s the superpower I always tried to work on, just being able to sit and be with what’s happening. 

bernie clark blog

How did you come to yoga?

BCI  took up meditation in my early twenties to deal with stress in the business world. I was not in the high-tech industry selling, and the stress was just getting to me; and I asked my manager’s manager what he did to deal with stress, and he said he meditated.

I dove into Zen meditation when I was about twenty-two, and it wasn’t until twenty years later that I was looking for a Sanga to sit. I found a place that just opened up in Vancouver, and the owner at the time she kept saying, I should try yoga. I didn’t want to try yoga. I was just there for the Zen. I was only there for the meditation three times a week, but she convinced me by saying the magic words, she said, yoga will help your golf game. I thought, well, if it’s going to help my golf game, yeah. I’ll try it. And so I tried it, and she was right. It did help my golf game. 

I realized the point of yoga is to meditate. And so I’ve been doing yoga since my twenties. It wasn’t until my early forties that I added the asana, the physical part, to help my meditation part. So I guess I got into yoga over 40 years ago. But the asana is, I’ve been only doing those for just over 20 years. 

How do you define yin yoga, and what is a yin mindset?

BCOur culture is full of Yangsters, is what I like to say; we are very driven. If you think of New Year’s resolutions, it’s always to change something, and that’s a very yang energy. A yin mindset is more receptive and accepting, whereas the yang mindset is more controlled and directed.

The Ashtanga practice was my favorite, but I needed to balance, or I would have burned out. By the time I hit 50, I was stronger, but it was unrequited. I needed to find a balance. 

I came across yin yoga through the teachings of Sarah Powers. And through Sarah, I met Paul Grilley, and I just fell in love with what they offered. At first, I hated it because it was hard, but it was simple, and I realized I needed to balance my yang activities with more yin activities. Like everything in life, you need balance. 

The difference between yang and yin yoga is for you to think of muscles versus fascia. Muscles are active; I have to make an effort to contract the muscles. Fascia is kind of springy like your Achilles tendon and plantar fascia. Fascial things are elastic, they stretch a little bit, and then they snap back.

You don’t have to will your Achilles tendon to retract. We have active movements. Then we have passive movements, things that we just allow to happen. We’re targeting these more passive tissues, the fascia, the ligaments, and the joint capsules with yin yoga.

When I first started teaching yin yoga, people were horrified because they thought I was exercising joints. You should never exercise joint capsules or stretch ligaments. Each practice has a different definition of exercise. A yang definition of exercise is a lot of repetitive, rhythmic movement.

We don’t apply the same movement in yin yoga as we do in a yang practice; with yin, we work with a long-held static stress. Think of braces: people wear braces for years. They don’t take them out every twenty minutes and put it back in again, that’s yin stress, and that’s what you need to affect the bones.

For our deeper connective tissues, we need a different form of exercise or load or stress. Our health needs both. You need to work the muscles you need that active, rhythmic yang movement. And when you work the deeper tissues, you need the long-held static stresses by tractioning those tissues through yin yoga.

New class

In My Own Ocean

Gentle, fluid, and slow-moving, this Hatha class lengthens the body and creates space through rhythmic flows and moving meditation. This class provides plenty of modifications to accommodate yogis of all levels and yogi mamas in their third trimester. Side waist lengthening, hamstring and inner thigh opening, and gentle twists create space and support the low back. 

What are your key components of physical health? 

BCIn my realization, there are three components to physical health. 

  1. Strength, you need to work on the strength. I’ve found when I first started doing power yoga; I couldn’t believe how hard it was. I remember getting a video of Rod Striker. It was a power yoga thing, and it kicked my ass. It was so hard, but after a year of doing Ashtanga Yoga, I went back, and I tried that video again. I couldn’t believe how easy it was. I found that through practice, I was getting stronger and stronger. But the strength plateaus because I could work with my body weight; that’s all you do in yoga. Today I also swing kettlebells and do other things to enhance my strength. 
  2. Endurance, there’s only so much the heart rate can go up in the yoga practice; it doesn’t provide high-intensity interval training. I will run sprints, or I’ll do stair climbing to get the heart going. 
  3. Mobility, I do a yin practice to keep the joints and everything very mobile. 

Is there a correlation between physics and the mystical? 

BC I always wanted to know why and how we do the things we do. I love studying mythology. I love studying comparative religions. Joseph Campbell, an American mythologist, very much influenced me; he influenced me a lot. I’ve always been fascinated by the mind and how it works. I also want to know how the universe works. 

There’s my interest in physics. I love to build the bridges between East and West because we have certain experiences in the East. You cannot deny an experience. It’s an anecdote, it’s a fact, and somehow we have to describe the scientific models for the maps. If you will, they have to accommodate these experiences. Some of the experiences don’t fit on our maps. It doesn’t mean that the experiences are wrong. That means the maps have to be improved.

I’m always looking at ways to explain what people in the East experienced with our current Western maps. In the West, we invoke things like quantum entanglement and spooky action at a distance that Einstein hated. Einstein spent the rest of his life trying to disprove quantum mechanics. This is one of the most robust findings of physics, this entanglement in the action at a distance. What we know is that it works in a certain way. We don’t understand how it can possibly work that way, but we know it works that way. 

The other side of the coin is a lot of new-age wellness. People have taken the buzzwords from quantum physics and misappropriated them and applied them in ways that quantum physicists have admitted that they don’t understand. Richard Freeman was one of the most brilliant minds in the world, and he didn’t understand it. 

There are things we can’t explain, like dark matter. We have no idea what that is or dark energy. So there’s a lot of God particles still out there. Things we don’t know. Only 5% of the universe is unknown to us, which is crazy. A small percent of the universe is just what we know as electrons, protons, neutrons. The rest of it we don’t know yet.

What are the components of mythology? 

BCJoseph Campbell said that there are four main functions of myth.

  1. The cosmological function explains why we are here, how we came to be, and all cultures that exist. 
  2. There’s the sociological function that serves to put you in your place in society. You are born to do a certain thing; that’s your Dharma. 
  3. Then you have your psychological function. This is going to describe how you deal with the arc of aging. The stories that you do when you’re a child, what you do when you become a teenager, a young adult. How to raise a family, what you do in your grandparent, going to the forest, becoming a guru, all that’s described by their cultures, myths, and how you relate to your life.
  4. And then the biggest, most important thing, is the mystical. What’s it all about? Why are we here? 

Celebrating the Cycles: Interview with Sara Jade

celebrating the cycles SJ

Autumn asks that we turn inward. As we enter the colder months, we might use this time to reflect on the months past and the final months of the year ahead. The outer environment’s darkness provides space to focus on our inner landscape to see how and where we may shift to discover a more profound sense of alignment. Alignment occurs when we come into an agreement within and with the world around us. Alignment is possible when we move from a space of integrity; when we ask questions and examine our lifestyle to see whether or not we’re moving in the direction we intended. Alignment also means receiving change. When we’re open and receptive to the changes in the world around us, we come into harmony with the universe. 

Nature is symbolic of inner transformation. The transition into fall symbolizes a season of harvest and of letting go. Resisting the swift shift into the next phase results in inner turmoil; what we resist, persists. Witnessing the cycles of the seasons is a practice of reception and allows events to sweetly unfold with a sense of surrender and assurance that all things come to pass.

The breath is one way yogis work with the process of letting go; the inhale is the inspiration and creation, while the exhale represents death and surrender. In Indian mythology, the deities represent specific energies that contribute to the cycles of change. The Tridevi and the Trimurti, specifically, express the cycles of Creation, Preservation, and Destruction, which are all necessary to the evolution of the universe.

Clara and I interviewed Sara Jade, or SJ, to discuss how we celebrate nature’s cycles and how to use ritual to create alignment and inner harmony. Sara is a Kundalini teacher and co-owner of The Dharma Temple living in Vancouver, BC. “My life is a spiritual practice. My breath, body emotions, and environment create my sacred space. I hold what I have with deep respect and reverence. I love and nurture through cycles of joy and grief.” – Sara Jade. 

SJ is offering an Inner Harmony Workshop with tools and practices to shift into Autumn. At Practice with Clara, we launched a 30-Day Yoga Challenge, Feed Your Whole Self, for October. Feed Your Whole Self is a ritual to explore the many ways we feed ourselves spiritually, physically, emotionally, and mentally. Ritual, sacred space, and ceremony come in many forms, so we hope to introduce members in the challenge to a wide assortment of tools and practices in hopes that something will align and encourage a state of groundedness as we shift into the darkness.

Read the highlights from our discussion below, or watch/listen to the full talk with Sara Jade.

Introducing Sara Jade and the Inner Harmony Workshop

Inner Harmony is meant to be a supplementary practice for autumn with videos that include breath and movement. I provide simple tools that have worked for me to offer that individuals may choose what they want and practice when and how they want. It’s more of an offering to create your ritual. I share what my practices look like and how to do them, but there’s no set way to do it. I wanted this workshop to be more about exploring the shift of seasons and discovering your intuition, so finding what works for you and making it your own. 

One way I honor the shift into fall, and something that I offer students is to slow down. To allow yourself to turn more inward and notice the stark contrast between the extroverted summer energy and what we’re experiencing now. 

I’ve started to consolidate and revisit some of the things I shelved during summer. My practices have slowed down. As far as breath, I’ve been doing a lot of Nadi shodhana, alternate nostril breathing, and longer exhales. Longer exhales to calm and come into rest and digest. 

This program, overall, really asks the practitioner to honor what serves. Much of my work is a practice of surrender, acknowledging what I can do to ground and stay connected. I wanted to provide a space for others to step into their ceremony of self to rediscover ritual and sacred space.

Follow Sara Jade on Instagram, @radianceandritual

sara jade blog interview

Honoring the cycles in the practice

SJ—Much of what was offered in The Dharma Temple reflects my practices, which use Ayurveda and working with the elements. My approach is reflective of the cycles we see in the seasons and how they shift and change. Inner Harmony embraces the aspect of living with the seasons and aligning with the cycles, the cycles being life and death, and everything in between. 

CROIn terms of Indian philosophy, from the Hindu Pantheon, the cycles of life are presented in the form of deities. There’s the masculine aspect with the Trimurti and the feminine aspect with the Tridevi. In the Trimurti, we have Shiva, Brahma, and Vishnu. In the Tridevi, we have Saraswati, Lakshmi, and Durga. Each of the deities represents a part of the universe; they represent the beginning, middle, and end. 

Brahma and Saraswati represent the creation of the universe, Vishnu and Lakshmi represent the preservation of the universe, and Shiva and Durga represent the destruction of the universe. For the universe to exist, we need all three. 

When we work with the deities in yoga or mindfulness practices, we ignite these different aspects within ourselves. In the creation, we bring in new energy to start new projects or relationships; in the preservation, we develop the ability to sustain whatever it is we’re moving through; and in the destruction, we energetically shed whatever it is that’s holding us back. 

We’re moving from the light into the darkness. This period is a time for introspection and an opportunity to go inside and observe what’s there and what needs to be harvested and what needs to die. 

The other question I like to chew on, is what is my role in all of the chaos?  What is my relationship to what’s going on inside me, and what’s going on globally for us as a collective? We all play a part in the events that occur. There’s so much happening right now; there are so many shifts occurring in the world at large. I’m asking myself what I want my role to be and how I want to create change inside my household and community. 

And then the next question is, what do I want my role to be? And, and how do I want to create 

Space for ceremony and tea as the teacher

SJ—Tea ceremony came into my life about four years ago. The first time I sat, I felt so calm. I love tea ceremony for its simplicity; it serves everyone. If you go into anyone’s home, there’s a chance that you’re going to be served a cup of tea, and it’s this beautiful gesture of generosity from the heart. 

Tea has this innate quality as being the teacher. There is no hierarchy; that’s what I love about tea. There’s no one person on the podium leading the practice. It’s just leaves in a bowl of water that’s served, so we are working with the elements and connecting to nature. That’s a teaching if you know how to sit with it and read it and be receptive to the experience. 

When we opened The Dharma Temple, I had a toddler and was very busy with being a mom and the studio. I had to wear many hats, and sometimes, I wouldn’t make it to my mat or even to meditation. I struggled to balance my inner energies, the masculine and feminine, one being more focused and achievement-based, while the latter is a state of intuition and ease. The way that I began to rebalance these energies within me was through tea. Tea was a powerful instrument for me to slow down and take more time and space for myself; to tune into my receptivity and the softer, feminine space. 

Tea ceremony is similar to a Zen-style meditation. It’s silent, and you do one thing at a time. You pick something up in one hand and pass it to the other hand before setting it down on the table. It’s a very intentional, mindful practice, and also very engaged. It also works with spiral energy as you serve others, you move in circles from the heart coming in and out. So you’re really connecting with your guests in a shared experience. I fell in love with it. It was what I needed and is still a huge piece of my day and who I am. 

Many things take our energy, and we really need to simplify and take a good look at what we’re doing and all we have. I like to ask myself, what am I really grateful for in this space right now? Tea ceremony made me more aware of the spaces around me; it opened me up to healing. Tea is the teacher, and it prompted me to examine how if things are not adding to my life, they’re taking away. So I ask you, where in your life do you feel that things are not adding to what you want to create? 

How we create sacred space

SJ—Ceremony to me is a means to induce a change of state, almost like a marker to reflect the change of state. The process of ceremony is like you come in on one side, and then you’re not the same on the other when the ceremony ends. That’s a yoga class; if you can use the act of stepping onto your mat as a ceremony, and once the class has ended, you’ve changed your present state from how you felt at the beginning of class. 

Sacred space for me, is where you claim it. It’s similar to the space I create for the tea ceremony; it’s all in the intention you bring to the space. Ceremony is sacred as it creates a transition in the day, that moment when we decide that whatever our actions will be, are sacred. It’s as simple as that, really. I don’t think there needs to be incense or bells; it’s about the moment that you create for yourself. The moment is sacred because you’ve carved out the time and space and set the intention. The intention being to transition from the mundane to the sacred. 

CROI feel like it’s a decision, the decision to shift gears. It’s the biggest one for me to shift my mindset, and this generally starts for me with a deep breath. I make the decision, close my eyes, and take a deep breath, and as I exhale, I envision I’m letting go of the mundane and what came before. I focus on letting go to bring myself to the present moment. Sometimes it involves lighting a candle. 

I like to burn something in the room and envision that the smoke is literally clearing away the room’s energy. Before I teach my morning intensives or teach a training, I’ll burn something as a way to clear. I think the way that we start creating sacred spaces is through the decisions we make, through the breath, and then through clearing the space in some way, shape, or form.

SJEnergy sweeping is another way to clear, through physically sweeping the room with a broom or energetically sweeping the body by brushing the arms and legs. This is a way to prepare before stepping into the sacred.

CROSacred space is a decision; I think the biggest takeaway for listeners is that sacred space is a decision you make that you can take with you anywhere. It’s in the way you wash dishes, eat food, or walk down the street. 

The idea of the sacred is to come to the present moment. To arrive here and now, and allow everything else to fall away just for a little while.

On letting go with grace

SJ—By nature, I want to hold on. I love my people. I love my things. I really savor those things.  I can really speak to the letting go and letting go of the physical space of Dharma temple; that’s the largest piece that I had to let go of recently and was a big loss. Dharma Temple represented a creative portal that I poured my energy into for the last four years. It was a container for the community. With the way things shifted and ended due to the pandemic, it was so abrupt; there was so much to let go of all at once. 

When we let things fall, it’s like the leaves fall to the trees being supported by the earth. And I hold onto that image, that the earth is there for you and we are supported. The practice is to let go and have trust, to surrender to the process, and be held for a time. There will be a time to regenerate and create something new, but letting go comes first and we have to rest when it does. Receive the rest and digest represented in the fall and winter; the letting go is expressed in nature’s cycles. 

I feel like I’ve got the sustenance, I’ve got the nourishment that I need to go forward with respect to letting go.

Grief is not linear. Grief needs continuous movement. It comes up at weird times, and I haven’t had the opportunity, like many others, to visit community spaces to share the grief we carry. There’s still a lot of grief around letting go of the Dharma Temple. There’s still more to let go, so I’m continuing to move through that. 

New yoga class

Sweet Hips

Unwind with a hip-focused class to treat the legs and pelvis; this class brings length and ease to the adductors, hamstrings, and glutes. Fluid and slower-paced, this class features rhythmic movement using the arms and legs to stimulate the flow of prana (breath) through the body. Stay low to the ground for a reclined spinal twist flow, hip mandalas, and abdominal crunches. Come up to sit for Janu Sirsasana (head-to-knee forward bend) and a supported variation of Paschimottanasana (forward fold). 

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. 


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.

yoga teachers vancouver

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

yoga for stress and anxiety

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 online

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.  

Learn more about Clara’s 300 hour yoga teacher training OR 200 hour yoga teacher training courses.


Purification Through Air: The Power of Pranayama

Air is soft, spacious, and all-pervading. Air gives us life, it has no boundaries or limitations, and travels beyond what the naked eye can see. Air reminds us of our inner expansiveness, our ability to grow beyond what we think we’re capable of, and represents a lofty intelligence spoken from the heart. Subtle, vulnerable, and asking nothing in return, air creates an environment of belonging by accepting all beings. 

Air is one of the five elements in the body that we discover in the natural world. Each of the elements rely on each other and require balance to restore harmony: fire needs air to thrive as water needs earth to provide a container. The air we breathe also feeds the plants and soil. When we breathe air into our body, cells are revitalized through the deliverance of fresh oxygen to the lungs, blood, organs, and tissues. Energetically, air is a purifier to cleanse the mind and body of hyper-active or static states of energy.

In a previous #PracticeWithClara podcast, Clara shared tips and tools to understand the subtle body, which is profoundly affected by how we breathe. The breath is key to understanding the relationship between the mind and body, as well as our relationship with ourselves and the rest of the world. A teacher of meditation and yoga for over a decade, Clara’s classes on the Practice With Clara Site are peppered with pranayama techniques to open the inner body and develop a stronger connection to the life force within. 

This article captures the symbolic quality of air in our everyday lives and the importance of recognizing the elements in our day-to-day interactions. It also shares a few of the powerful pranayama practices and kundalini kriyas to purify the mind and body to create spaciousness within so you might interact with more compassion and calm. 

Air as Giving and Sustaining Life

Just like we need air to keep our bodies alive, we need compassion to stay connected to each other and the natural environment. Without air, our organs, brain, cells, and tissues die. Without love, we lack the bond of belonging. Air is essential to our physical survival as love is essential to our emotional survival. 

We’re connected to nature and all species through the action of breathing, inhaling and exhaling to sustain and give life to each other. We’ve a reciprocal relationship with nature based on the process of inspiration and respiration: trees absorb air and take in the carbon dioxide, then, with help from the sun, oxygen is released back into the atmosphere. 

Air is symbolic of our relationship to all that is around us, animals and plants, and the people in our communities. Our love has no boundaries, no limitations, like the air we breathe. Separation, judgement, and rejection of others and our love is as unnatural as stopping the flow of breath in the body. We cannot function without the flow of life moving through us, be it air or compassion. 

Air and Anahata Chakra

Our heart center is how we connect to others and live with a sense of lightness and compassion. In a previous post on Anahata Chakra, I shared practices and techniques to bring awareness to the heart space. Air is the element for Anahata. Each of the chakras are associated with an element to tap into the energies of the natural world that are reflected within the body. When we’re out of alignment in our physical body, this affects our mental and emotional states. Practices for the heart to open the shoulders, lengthen the side waist, and strengthen the back body, provide a sense of spaciousness inside that’s reflected in our interactions with others. When we feel space and lightness within, we’re better equipped to interact with these qualities and ways that inspire compassion and love. 

The Power of Pranayama

The fourth limb of Patanjali’s Eight Limbs of Yoga, Pranayama is the mastery of breath-control and recognition of the relationship between the breath, body, and mind. Prana means life force. Pranayama is control or constriction of life force. It’s the energetic current created in the body we control by bringing awareness to the breath. Focused pranayama brings a state of calm to the body and mind, influencing the body’s central nervous system to have an effect on the hormones released, thereby shifting our emotions and how we feel. 

The body is made up of energy lines called nadis, which affect the body’s subtle energy. There are three main nadis in the body: sushumna, ida and pingala. Sushumna is the central channel that travels from the base of the spine to the crown of the head and the source for each of the seven chakras. Ida is the channel that travels along the left side of the body, and pingala is the channel that travels along the right side of the body. The aim of pranayama is to understand the flow of breath by gaining awareness of how the breath lights up the nadis, shifts our subtle energy, and overall transforms how we think and feel. Pranayama is the key to inner transformation and one of the most accessible tools for yoga alchemy. 

Moving Meditation for Purification

In this short Moving Meditation class with Clara, you’ll move through a variety of kriyas to purify the mind and body, pranayama to open and expand the lungs, and meditation to relieve stress and connect to silence. Pranayama and kriyas have the power to shift our energy, from feeling anxious to grounded or stagnant to uplifted, these breathing techniques have the power to transform. 

4-Part Breathing

This pranayama provides a sense of grounding and creates stillness in the body and mind. Great to practice if you have high-energy and want to calm down.
4-part breath is also known as Sama Vritti. In Sanskrit, sama means ‘equal’ and vritti means ‘flow’. This technique balances the breath by breathing in/out and retaining the breath to calm the heart-rate and nervous system.

How To
Inhale for the count of four
Hold at the top for the count of four
Exhale for the count of four
Hold at the bottom for the count of four

Repeat several cycles and then sit in meditation to be in how you feel. 

Kundalini Mudra 

A clearing technique to purge excess energy by sharply exhaling through the mouth. This technique keeps the energy moving and high. Great to practice if you want to stay elevated and awake but still purge any excess stress or tension. 

How To
Inhale sharply through the nose and make a fist with your hands
Exhale sharply through the mouth and sparkle out your fingers

Repeat several cycles speeding up or slowing down as necessary. 

Sufi Grinds

This moving meditation relieves tension in the low back and brings flexion/extension to the spine. Sufi Grinds draws the energy upwards from the root of the spine to the crown of the head. Great to balance any nervous energy and clear away static energy.

How To 
Inhale through the nose and arch the spine as you lean forward
Exhale through the nose and round the back as you shift backward

Stay seated and draw circles with your body by rotating the torso. Create larger and smaller circles and imagine drawing energy upwards from the pelvis to the crown of the head. Root down at the seat to feel grounded as you move. 

Lions Breath

Lion’s Breath connects you to your inner child, creating a space for play to rid the body of amassed stress. It relieves tension, improves circulation, and opens the front of the chest, neck, and throat. 

How To
Exhale sharply out the mouth and stick out your tongue with your fingers anchored on the ground. Add a growl or any sounds, including laughter, as you exhale.

Air: A Reminder to Keep Things Moving

The flow of life is all around us. Nature reminds us that stagnation is not possible. The seasons express the cycles of change we move through and undergo. From the sunflower seed to the strike of thunder, we’re surrounded by signs that capture the eternal connection of creation and destruction. 

Our bodies provide a tangible contact with the world and a means to connect to others as we establish relationships, build community, and feel the flow of love that arises as a result. When we feel the pulse of life in our bodies by bringing awareness to the breath and engaging in physical activity, we break-up any stagnant and/or stuck energy and release anxieties that threaten to dismantle our connection with the universe and inherent love. 

In the new class this week, Keep It Moving, the idea is to move with the flow of your breath, create rhythm with your body, and connect to the environment around you. 

Keep It Moving

Keep It Moving 

Keep it moving with Clara and the students of Lila Vinyasa Yoga in this air-inspired yoga class that stimulates and frees the body with quick and subtle movement. As you move, focus on the ujjayi breath and ask yourself: how does this movement feel and how does my breath correspond? The element air is associated with curiosity, intuition, motion, light, and quick-wittedness; keep this in-mind as you breathe.

* Learn more about Clara’s 300 hour yoga teacher training OR 200 hour yoga teacher training courses. * Interested in more classes from #PracticeWIthClara, check out our vinyasa flow yoga, online yoga classes, or try out the 30 day yoga challenge.

New members receive 7-days free.


online yoga classes healing 108 meaning

The Mystic Meaning of the Number 108

Throughout history, the number 108 has held a multi-dimensional meaning.  In geometric terms it is a natural division of circle (108=36+72=9 X 12). In the Eastern part of the world, different traditions talk about the108 navamsas.  The Shiva malas, or rosaries, both Tantric and Tibetan are composed by 108 beads. The number 108 is also one of great significance inside of the Rosicrucian order, since it exemplifies the time frame of some of their cycles. Interestingly enough, a leap year displays 366 days and 3 x 6 x 6 gives 108.

The number 108 is considered sacred in many Eastern religions and traditions, such as Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, Sikhism and connected yoga and dharma based practices. Even the pre-historic monument Stonehenge is 108 feet in diameter.  108 is a number known to be referring to spiritual completion, and it is no surprise that the early Vedic sages were renowned mathematicians and in fact invented our number system. 108 is a Harshad Number, an integer divisible by the sum of its digits. Harshad in Sanskrit means “joy-giver”. 108 was the number of choice for this simple reason: 108 represent the whole of existence. There are said to be 108 types of meditation. Some say there are 108 paths to God. Indian traditions have 108 dance forms.

Another interesting example, Hindu deities have 108 names, whilst in Gaudiya Vaishnavism, there are 108 gopis of Vrindavan. Recital of these names, often accompanied by the counting of the 108-beaded Mala, is considered sacred and often done during religious ceremonies. The recital is called namajapa. Accordingly, a mala usually has beads for 108 repetitions of a mantra.

In some schools of Buddhism, it is believed that there are 108 defilements. In Japan, at the end of the year, a bell is chimed 108 times in Buddhist temples to finish the old year and welcome the new one. Each ring represents one of 108 earthly temptations a person must overcome to achieve nirvana. Likewise, Zen priests wear juzu, a ring of prayer beads, around their wrists, which consists of 108 beads. The Lankavatara Sutra has a section where the Bodhisattva Mahamati asks Buddha 108 questions.

In modern Gnosticism, through the teachings of Samael Aun Weor, it is believed that  an individual has 108 chances, or lifetimes, to eliminate his egos and transcend the material world before “devolving” and having the egos forcefully removed in the infradimensions. In other words, each one of us carries the reminiscent memory cells of at least 108 previous incarnations, which constitutes the body of our incarnational selves. Inside of this essentially holographic template is stored the repository of the emotional and spiritual involvements that your Soul may have experienced and have retained the impression of, but that needed to be cleansed and  integrated in order to continue the spiritual evolution.

The Buddhism tradition talks about the 108 earthly desires in mortals, 108 lies humans tell and 108 human delusions.

The esoteric presence of the number 108 can be seen in various spiritual practices and theories: In Kriya Yoga, the maximum number of repetitions allowed to be practiced in one sitting is 108. Also, 108 Sun Salutations in yoga practice is often used to honor change, for example the change of seasons, or at a time of tragedy to bring peace, respect and understanding. It is said that if one can be so calm in meditation practicing pranayama to have only 108 breaths a day that enlightenment will come.

Energy Point

There are said to be 108 energy lines, or nadis, converging to form the heart chakra. Marma points are like Chakras, or intersection of energy, with fewer converging energy lines. On Sri Yantra, the Marmas have 54 intersecting energy lines where three lines intersect. Each has feminine, or shakti, and masculine, or shiva, qualities. 54 X 2 = 108. Therefore there are 108 points that define the human body and the Sri Yantra or the Yantra of Creation. The same rule is observed in the Sanskrit language, with its 54 letters, both representing the two genders and they are also called Shiva and Shakti respectively; again, 54 X 2= 108.

Importance in Astronomy and Astrology

The earth cycle is supposed to be of 2160 years = 20 x 108. The distance between the Earth and Sun is 108 times the diameter of the Sun. The diameter of the Sun is 108 times the diameter of the Earth. The distance between the Earth and Moon is 108 times the diameter of the Moon. The universe is made up of 108 elements according to ancient texts. The current periodic table claims a few more than 108.

There are 12 constellation and 9 arc segments. 9 times 12 equal 108. The 9 planets travelling through the 12 signs constitute the whole of existence. 9 x 12 = 108. The 27 nakshatras or lunar constellations spread over the 4 elements – fire, earth, air, water or the 4 directions – north, south, east, and west. This also constitutes the whole of existence. 27 x 4 = 108.


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Yantra Meditation

Yandra meditation

I came across this and wanted to share it with you…


Yantra Meditation

As you look at the yantra, allow your eyes to focus on its center. This dot in the center is called the Bindu, which represents the unity that underlies all the diversity of the physical world.

Now allow your eyes to see the triangle that encloses the bindu. The downward pointing triangle represents the feminine creative power, while the upward facing triangle represents male energy.

Allow your vision to expand to include the circles outside of the triangles. They represent the cycles of cosmic rhythms. The image of the circle embodies the notion that time has no beginning and no end. The farthest region of space and the innermost nucleus of an atom both pulsate with the same rhythmic energy of creation. That rhythm is within you and without you.
Bring your awareness to lotus petals outside the circle. Notice that they are pointing outwards, as if opening. They illustrate the unfolding of our understanding. The lotus also represents the heart, the seat of the Self. When the heart opens, understanding comes.

The square at the outside of the yantra represents the world of form, the material world that our senses show us, the illusion of separateness, of well defined edges and boundaries. At the periphery of the figure are four T-shaped portals, or gateways. Notice that they point toward the interior of the yantra, the inner spaces of life. They represent our earthly passage from the external and material to the internal and sacred.

Now take a moment to gaze into the yantra, letting the different shapes and patterns emerge naturally, allowing your eyes to be held loosely in focus. Gaze at the center of the yantra on the page. Without moving your eyes, gradually begin to expand your field of vision. Continue expanding your vision until you are taking in information from greater than 180 degrees. Notice that all this information was there all along, you just became aware of it. Now slowly reverse the process by re-focusing back to the center of the yantra. Now gently close your eyes. You may still see the yantra in your mind’s eye. The patterns of creativity represented by these primordial shapes express the fundamental forces of nature. They govern the world and they govern you.



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Bhavana mindfulness

In different religions, there are different concepts of how to be closer to the divine power or look into yourself to find your soul and comfort your heart. In Buddhism, the concept of Bhavana is very common. If literally translated, it means development or producing. The aim of Bhavana is to clear your mind and induce calmness inside the body, which reflects in your words, thoughts and actions.

Understanding Bhavana

Most of the times, Bhavana is not used alone but in conjunction with another concept. There is citta-Bhawana which refers to the development of mind. This concept deals with the cultivation of thoughts, positive attitude and ideas in your mind. On the other hand, metta-bhavana is the development of kindness. This concept deals with cultivating love and kindness in your heart. Different parts of your body are doing different things and they can all be developed in the right way to produce positivity and goodness. Panna-bhavana refers to the development of wisdom, which is very important throughout your whole life. Samadhi-bhavana is the development of concentration. You will not be able to excel at anything or understand anything until you develop a certain level of concentration. Kaya-bhavana is the development of the body, which is inevitable and very important. There are different compounds made by different Theravada teachers. Bhavana is the name of spiritual cultivation, whether it is of the heart, mind or the body.

Etymology of Bhavana

Bhavana comes from Bhava which means ‘becoming’. To understand it better, you can think of it as the arousal of the state of mind. According to Glen Wallis, a farmer does Bhavana when he prepares his field for planting seeds. He says that Buddha chose this specific word because of its connection with the earth. While other words like meditation are devoid of a connection, Bhavana is connected to the Earth. It is ordinary and natural, yet serene and earthly in its own way. Bhavana also represents hope. It cultivates a sense of hope in people that no matter how damaged a field is, it is not barren. This means that no matter how damaged your heart or mind is, there is still hope that it can be cultivated and developed. As a result, the end of the season will see a nourishing harvest. One might think of Bhavana as meditation but it is much more than that. It brings attention to detail and makes meditation a calming activity rather than a mechanical one. Claude Marechal explains it perfectly in the article ‘Teachings’.

From the article ‘Teachings’ by CLAUDE MARECHAL.

I thought this was an eloquent way to describe Bhavana.

“Bhavana is a mental attitude, the intention that allows the student to maintain his/her attention during the execution of postures and of pranayama. This psychological orientation stops the practice from becoming mechanical, it amplifies its effects and improves self-knowledge.

Bhavana aims to make the mind very clear, very calm, to improve physical and mental health and to induce a state of meditation or of prayer.”



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While there are many treatments for physical treating your body, you need to meditate to train your mind. Just like you do exercise for your body’s wellness, you have to meditate to keep your brain healthy and well. According to Buddhist traditions, meditation is as important as sports are in the US. Meditation is not just one thing. It is a collection of different activities that are done to train the mind. As a beginner, it would be very difficult for you to sit in one place and keep your mind empty. This is very hard to do since we always have something on our mind, even if it is not relevant. There are a lot of tools for beginners such as beginner meditation DVDs that beginners can use to focus on their breathing and empty their minds.

Concentration is one of the most important aspects of meditation. In this kind of meditation, you have to focus on one point. It could be a single word, image or your own breath. Some people focus on a candle flame while others listen to one song on repeat. No matter what you are doing, your whole focus has to be on one thing. As a beginner, this could be challenging as your brain would drift from that one focal point but this gets better with time. Meditation is a great way to improve your concentration as you let go of any random thoughts and fixate your mind on one thing.

Mindfulness Meditation

Mindfulness meditation makes you more aware of yourself and your thoughts. Instead of getting involved with every thought that comes to your mind, you just have to acknowledge its presence. The aim of this technique is to see the pattern of your thoughts. With time, you will notice how you perceive thoughts and what kind of thoughts commonly drift through your brain. If you continue doing this, you will reach a point where you will be able to balance your thoughts.

Sometimes, different meditation techniques are joint together to have a full-blown effect. For example, concentration and mindfulness can be joined together to create a stillness of mind for scanning through one’s thoughts.

Aim of Meditation

The aim of meditation has been very precisely explained by Chogyan Trungpa who says that meditation is for attaining blissfulness of mind and soul. It is a method for you to become a better person and be more aware of who you are.

‘Meditation is not a matter of trying to achieve ecstasy, spiritual bliss or tranquility, nor is it attempting to become a better person. It is simply the creation of a space in which we are able to expose and undo our neurotic games, our self-deceptions, our hidden fears and hopes. We provide space through the simple discipline of doing nothing…The basic practice is to be present, right here. The goal is also the technique. Precisely being in this moment, neither suppressing nor wildly letting go, but being precisely aware of what you are. Breath, like bodily existence, is a neutral process that has no ‘spiritual’ connotations’.

Chogyam Trungpa, The Myth of Freedom