Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Woot-Woot for the Warriors!

Namaste Everyone!
Tonight I feel especially recharged and more in love with Yoga than most days. I live for days like these. My earliest class began with a regular student of mine "P" who has been absent for over 10 days due to some unfortunate asthma-issues. It was so nice to have her back after so many days away. I realize it's not good for business to truly enjoy group classes that turn out to be more of a one-on-one class, but what can I say? This morning was perfect because with only one student who had several health concerns, it was easy to customize the lesson based on her idiosyncrasies.

The afternoon went smoothly by without a hitch and then the evening brought forth my first semi-problematic class. A regular student of mine brought a delightful friend to class and while practicing one of the longer, and more challenging sequences, this brand-new student--almost guest--seemed to literally be in tears while standing firm in her Warrior 2 pose. I was so worried that she was in pain or even worse that she hated class, but in the end she said she thoroughly enjoyed herself. I was pleasantly surprised.

Immediately following that class, came my last class of the night with four remarkable women. They fought through bouts of giggles and really rocked out some excruciating Asanas. Two of the women were brand-new so I asked them for feedback and mentioned the newbie from the class before. "Her reaction could've had nothing to do with the Yoga or your instruction," one girl said and it was as if a light struck ON in my mind! Being a quintessential Leo I instantly made it about me when reality is, Yoga often strikes a chord with people's emotions and what my guest/new student was genuinely thinking can only be known 100% by her.

With this realization in mind, I was reminded of the time I had my first emotional experience in Yoga. I was laying in Shavasana when IZ's cover of "Somewhere Over The Rainbow" came on...

...I completely lost it. I was sobbing on my mat and reassured to find both Yogi-Bears adjacent to me were also moved to tears.

Today, seeing my brand-new student react with emotion beyond the regular breathing with excitement or frustration, I was happy to recall what makes me stand firm in my Warrior stances. Every time I stand in Warriors One, Two or Three, I try to think of a person who has overcome a huge battle in their life. Channeling the energy of a warrior I greatly admire makes it easy to ignore the pain.

Miss Landmine is a beauty-pagent of the most unusual sort. The goal of this event is to encourage people to, "Question established concepts of physical perfection and to replace the passive term 'Victim' with the active term 'Survivor'." I hope when you see this photograph, you too, will feel inspired to give the next Warrior-Sequence your very best.
With much love & laughter,

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Unusual Song Choice

I normally stick to pretty chill-songs for my own at-home Yoga Practice, but today we actually had a moment of wet snow-fall and I almost lost my mind. I AM SOOOOOOOO READY FOR WARM WEATHER!!!!! Needless to say, the frustration led me to search through my music-stash for a more up-tempo song than I traditionally include on my play-list.

Enter one of my favorite bands from the mid 1990s. Prodigy. The best part about this song is: the vocals are actually from Kula Shaker's frontman Chrispian Mills. I used to listen to his song "Govinda" on repeat (no pun intended) religiously. This one is a tribute to Narayan and I was able to successfully complete 20 rounds of Sun Salutations before I started losing count... my heart-rate was beating out of my chest around Minute 6.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Monday, March 28, 2011

Wheels Are In Motion

Namaste Everyone!!
I'm writing to you all with much enthusiasm this evening. It seems the wheels are finally in motion for this full-length Take Five Yoga DVD I have been trying to work out for the past few months. My good friend and amazing cameraman, Tim, and I wrapped up our latest video shoot for our next youtube vlog which will air sometime this week. Afterwards, over some good ol' down on the farm Bob Evans we discussed the specifics of a possible filming schedule. Woo-HOOOO!! We've had some unexpected set-backs, but it looks like things are really happening. We start filming the weekend of April 15th and by late June/early July you, yes you, will be able to own your very own copy of Take Five Yoga's first ever full-length instructional DVD. Ow owww... this way, no matter where you are, you can always Take Five with yours truly!
For further information on our filming schedule, be sure to visit Tim's site. Also, I do have 95% of the Asanas already prepared, however, if there are any particular body-parts you want me to focus in on (so far I have segments for quads, hamstrings, shoulders, upper/lower back and core) please let me know and I'm sure I can work it in to the final script.
Celebrate good times... this is truly the definition of good times for me.
Much love & laughter,

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Latest Video w/Special Guest: Squeaky

Namaste Everyone!
My friend and camera-man, Tim, has an adorable dog named Squeaky. Since this week's vlog involves the Asanas Downward Facing Dog and Three Legged Dog we figured we should have a special guest-appearance with the li'l Squeakster. Enjoy!!
Much love,

Friday, March 18, 2011

Take Five for only FIVE BUCKS!

Namaste my wonderful Yogi-Bears!
I am so moved by the sunshine and the changing of the seasons. My name, Roshani, literally means "Ray of Light" so it's no wonder that when the sun finally graces us with those wonderful rays of light, I feel like all the Surya Namaskars (Sun Salutations) we do on a daily basis have completely paid off. As many of you already know, I am planning a big move this summer... Take Five Yoga will officially be moving to the birthplace of the original Buddha: Nepal!! Ow owwww!!!!! Can you tell how excited I am?
There are a million and one logistical concerns I have to take care of before my big departure. Consequently, the last official day of classes with Take Five Yoga in Ann Arbor will be Tuesday, April 19th. Obviously from now until then I want to be able to get in as many classes and spread the word about Take Five Yoga to as many people as possible... once in Nepal I will eventually host mini Yoga Treks so the more people I can connect with here, the better the experience in Nepal will be in years to come.
So, starting Friday, April 1st (and no this is not an April Fool's joke as one student already suggested) till Tuesday April 19th you are welcome to take your pick of any five classes for only FIVE BUCKS EACH! This is an insane deal... but what can I say? I'm insanely happy and want to spread the joy as much as possible! Please spread the word to as many people as you know so that we can build a little community of Yogi-Bears for the spring.
With much love, tons of laughter, big hugs and bright smiles,

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

My favorite four-letter word

I used to have a huge problem with profanity. One time it got so bad, I was teaching a classroom full of 12 year olds and I actually said, "Shit," fully projecting in classic Middle-School Teacher fashion. The worst part is, I didn't even notice I said it. It was only after the look of shock and the dead silence that followed the collective gasp of the 43 students that I thought, "What just happened here?" Mentally back-tracking everything I'd just said, I realized I actually said, "I read your essays regarding the graphic novel Persepolis and the shit you all submitted was amazing!"

I'm actually laughing and cringing as I type this. Fortunately for me, the Los Angeles Unified School District was facing too many other major problems when I was on staff in the academic years of 2007/2008 to even notice my blunder. Had this happened in most other schools I'm sure I would've never heard the end of it from parents. The fact of the matter is, I was so excited about the quality of work my students were submitting, I got very carried away with enthusiasm. Clearly. Regarding the use of profanity, Malcolm X once said that people only use it when they don't take the time to think about what they're saying. In my case this was obviously true. Had I just been conscious of the moment, of my audience, of the praise I was trying to convey, I'm sure I could've come up with something better. "I read the essays regarding the graphic novel Persepolis and your submissions astounded me," for example, would've probably gotten a much more favorable response.

Who would've guessed that students in inner-city South Central Los Angeles would foster the kind of environment for me to improve my jargon? Had I not cared about my students, their idealism, and the standards which they held for me, I probably would have continued carrying on in my typical profane ways. Luckily, for all of us, I really loved my students. I loved them so much I often couldn't sleep at night because worries about how one of them might be treated on days where uniforms were optional consumed me in the wee hours. Granted, I am a bit of a worry-wart, nevertheless, that very moment in classroom 206 definitely made me instantly aware of the four-letter words I would use from that day forward.

Yesterday I held a special in-house Kids Yoga class that lasted only 30 minutes and was easily the most fun I've had practicing Yoga. I asked the students to spell out their favorite "four-letter words" knowing that their concept of the expression is unlike the tainted perspective of us adults.
Y-O-G-A responded the eldest student, Age 9.
R-E-A-D responded an adorable girl with perfect curls, Age 7.
L-A-A-F giggled my youngest, Age 3.
and then came a response that honestly floored me. In all my years reading, writing, reciting, and teaching poetry, I never even realized my favorite word of all times also happens to be a four-letter word:

Thursday, March 10, 2011

MC Yogi: Be The Change You Wanna See

Namaste Everyone!
Some of my regulars often comment on the music and I'm always glad to get positive feedback. However, there is one secret I've been holding back for selfish reasons. During my personal practice I tend to listen to tracks that I never play at my studio. I like my practice to feel completely new and different and not so instructional. Unfortunately, this means that some of my all-time favorite artists are ones I never get to share with the people I actually get to practice with the most frequently. So, today, here is my big reveal:

For my private at-home practice, I've created a playlist on youtube that has several Mc Yogi videos. I discovered Mc Yogi during a Heated Power Yoga class I took in early 2010. I was in the middle of an intense sequence involving The Awkward Pose flowing into a weighted Warrior Three when I thought I was just gonna collapse and all of a sudden, Mc Yogi's voice chimed in with his song, "Be The Change." WOW!! I was hooked. It was one of those pivotal moments during my Yoga practice that kept me going and transformed my emotions from utter frustration to sheer joy.
Upon leaving the yoga studio that day, I immediately researched as much as I could about Mc Yogi. Turns out his music isn't the only thing that is inspirational. Raised in New York City group-homes during his high school years, MC Yogi was classified as an "at-risk" youth. He found solace in expressing himself through Graffiti and writing rhymes. Listening to hip hop and aspiring to one day become an emcee, he never guessed that at age 18 when he stumbled into Yoga, his life would turn around completely.

Eventually marrying Amanda Giacomini, a fellow Yoga Instructor and artist, the two have been taking the world by storm with a message of peace and love. I find their story to be spectacular! I hope you all enjoy the music as much as I do!

With much love & laughter,

Monday, March 7, 2011

Eating to Live: food log, day 1

Namaste Everyone!
I've discovered my latest love in the world of food is Almond Butter. Holy cow, (comin' from a Hindu this expression should be taken extra seriously) this stuff is delicious!

I thought Day One of my "Eat to Live" challenge would be extremely difficult. I am not addicted to much in life, but my three vices are definitely: salt, coffee and laughter... maybe not in that order... with the first two completely forbidden for this week I thought I might die. OK, so maybe not DIE, but at least I thought I might start to wilt a little. Thankfully, with the help of my favorite bakery, Ann Arbor's own, Zingerman's Bakehouse, I was able to indulge in delicious Italian Rustic bread with a generous spread of Almond Butter. Topped with slices of banana... Mmmm Mmm! I think I could eat like this everyday.
My other two meals were pretty simple as well: for breakfast I had a bowl of Greek Yogurt with a handful of raspberries and for lunch I had a bowl of whole-wheat cereal with Greek Yogurt... I know, I know, I'm so daring.
For snacks I ate one apple, one clementine and a banana (separate from the one I had with my bread).

I accidentally fell asleep in the sauna for about 45 minutes so I drank about a gallon & half of water... speaking of which... nature calls!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Memo to self: Eat to live.

Namaste Everyone!
My great friends, Jana and Ian, often joke that everyone should go on the "Roshani Diet." Another name for the same regimen, is the "See Food Diet." Basically, if you see food, you eat it. I must confess I am exactly like The Cookie Monster on Sesame Street. I eat any and everything in sight. On weekends, you can find me sprawled out on my parent's couch-- lifeless-- in a complete food coma. It's really quite a pathetic sight.

So, when my good friend, Jonathan, sent me this link, it really functioned as a great reminder of how I really should change my approach with food:

The narrator's words at the very beginning of the clip, "Distinguishing dinner from danger is an essential life skill," really ring true to me. Granted, unlike the Venezuelan boy, Orlando, I do not have to sift through leaves to find the perfect spider to roast, I do think those of us living in America are very much in danger when it comes to our eating habits. All too often we consume "foods" with no expiration dates laced with so much sugar and salt, it's no wonder Heart Disease is the leading killer of women in the United States.

In many ways I am such a foodie at heart, I truly do live to eat. This video has reminded me of the actual purpose of food. In the days to come, I invite you to join me for a week-long challenge: eat to live. Quite simply: if you absolutely don't need to consume something, (i.e sugar-based cookies/deserts/etc.) don't. Let's start this challenge on Monday, March 7th and end it Monday, March 14th.

I will be blogging my "Food Journal" and I invite you to either post your entires in the comments section or e-mail them to me:
t a k e f i v e y o g a @ g m a i l . c o m (omit spaces).

Wishing you all the best!

Friday, March 4, 2011

Very Simple: Be Happy.

1988 marked a year that would forever change the rest of my life. Nothing quite as dramatic as one may guess, nevertheless it was definitely a great shift in my shortly-lived life which at the time was merely 6 years old. Bobby McFerrin released his single, "Don't Worry, Be Happy." My dad, sister and I danced with this song on repeat for hours on end. That same year, we were living in a very homogenous harbor-town in southern England. A lot of our schoolmates were so perplexed by our obvious differences they could think of no other method to deal with their confusion than by bullying us. "Burnt sausages" was the one expression that comes to mind the most. Fortunately for me, either my age or my complete oblivion in life generally, allowed me to look past this and still befriend a handful of friends who remained so for years to come. My sister, on the other hand, was older and has always had a more instant grasp on reality than I have. She was deeply effected--understandably--by the taunts.

Enter Bobby McFerrin. His lyrics taught us an important life-lesson. In life you'll have some trouble, but when you worry you only make it double. What a genius! As an adult, while teaching English in the Czech Republic there was one class in particular that had an overall gloomy attitude. Nothing interested these 20 year old seniors who were looking to leave school and never look back. So like any teacher would, I came up with a torture tactic. The next time I was greeted by a classroom full of frowns, I would play my oldie goldie! For the next three days, we studied every line, every word, every syllable of the song. By the end of the school year, that class had the best attitude and two years later I still exchange snail-mail with many of my students.
On my Yoga mat, it's often easy for me to feel discouraged. There are so many Asanas to learn! Many involve a lot of upper-body strength which I'm still working on acquiring. Since leaving the Czech Republic I completely forgot about my secret weapon. What a wonderful surprise to see an attached Mp3 of the song on an e-mail I received the other day? Perfect timing. Now, when I practice my handstands I think I'll switch my Tibetan Incantations c.d with good ol' Bobby.
Just in case you've never heard the song, here it is:

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Shout Outs To Shiva Ji!

I'm not a religious person by any means. My sister often says I'm the most fickle "believer" she knows. This is probably true. Though science and mythology clashes so much it is sincerely difficult for me to stay constant in one faith, I do value the lessons learned from various deities. As a teacher and a woman, naturally, I am drawn to the Goddess of Knowledge, Saraswati. However, as a lifelong student and human being, I am completely hooked on the great God of Destruction/Transformation Shiva Ji.
Hindus revere Shiva as the great God of Dance (Nataraja), he is known to be a family man. The father of Ganesha (the elephant God who is Remover of all Obstacles) and Murugan (the God of War and Victory, fully equipped with six faces) he is a faithful husband to the wonderful Parvati. The Goddess of Power, Parvati is able to hold the fort down while Shiva meditates upon Mt. Kailash. His rage is apparently so intense--and quick--that it is only through dance and the patience of Parvati that is able to remain calm and collected most times.
The union between Shiva and Parvati is one I've greatly admired for quite some time now. A dynamic duo full of passionate love and contradictions, "The couple jointly symbolise at once both the power of renunciation and asceticism and the blessings of marital felicity." Tonight, in the Indian subcontinent people are celebrating Shiva Ratri in full-force. My friends and family in Nepal are gathering around to fast in honor of Shiva and eventually consume Bhang, a special treat available once a year in abundance and usually at temples like Pashupati Nath.
Here in Michigan Bhang is sadly pretty hard to come by. Not to mention it's illegal. Fortunately, Bhang-like Brownies, though illegal, are a bit easier to obtain in the greater Ann Arbor area. Some friends of mine are gathering tonight to celebrate the legacy of Shiva Ji. We will reflect on how we have destroyed and or transformed our own lives in the past year. Sharing stories about how our relationships can use some guidance from the marriage of Shiva and Parvati, we will also look to the future and see if we can make some changes for the better. Shiva was a master Yogi who sometimes meditated for years at a time. He was proudly celibate, yet a lover and devotee of his wife.

There are many reasons I adore Lord Shiva, but my main reason is he is a multi-dimensional God who contains layers and layers of wonders. The great poet Walt Whitman has a line in his poem, The Song of Myself which speaks volumes to me.
"Do I contradict myself? Very well then I contradict myself. I am large. I contain multitudes."
I admire Shiva Ji with all his contradictions and multitudes. He is a God who leads a life that is very tangible for mere-mortal Yogis/Yoginis like you and I.

Jai Sam Bho!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

For the Love of Yoga!

‎"When you are in Love you can't fall asleep because reality is better than your dreams." - Dr. Seuss

As of late, butterflies have been granted permanent shelter in my belly. Everything is fabulous when you get that feeling. Food tastes delicious, jokes produce the most raucous laughter, the air feels light and breezy, everything is perfect. Naturally, when you feel euphoria you want to spread the love. I express this affection with text messages to my nearest and dearest conveying my fondness for them and their presence in my life. Today, I sent the aforementioned Dr. Seuss quote and received some pretty harsh responses. So, like any person on cloud nine, I laughed. I laughed so hard the sides of my stomach ached and the butterflies deep down had to flutter their wings to smooth out the burning sensation.

I wasn't laughing out of insensitivity to those friends and family members who aren't in my position. I was laughing because there truly is no better medicine. The fact of the matter is, yes, there is a physical person who is held largely responsible for much of my recent giddiness. However, there is so much else out there that is worth falling in love with. Life. I am madly, deeply, insanely in love with life. Life gives birth to the most beautiful creatures! An iridescent beetle, a giggling baby, a spider scaling walls and warding off mosquitoes. Life is beautiful and it is everywhere.

Aside from life, there is also YOGA! Yoga and love, for me, go hand in hand. I am in love with love and I love Yoga. Try saying that ten times fast! On a serious note, there are scientifically proven benefits that Yoga can provide. Below is a list I've taken directly from a website that I found to be extremely helpful:

Gaining Confidence
Practising Yoga helps one lose extra weight. Feeling fit would help you feel more confident, which could make you more attractive for the persons of opposite sex. A fit person, of course, is liked by everybody, for he can usually do thins in a better way than the people who are benefit.

Lessening Tiredness
Yoga makes you feel energetic. So you are in better position to feel the stirrings of arousal. Feeling too tired after returning from office makes you less inclined towards love life. Yoga practices greatly improve sleep quality for chronic insomniacs. It is an exercise which connects the dots of love, and helps bonds to develop.

Improving Intimacy
When you are better physically, you are more aware of the happening around you. You are better equipped to reciprocate the advances of your partner. This automatically translates into better love life. Your emotional awareness gets transported to your inner room. You become more connected and sensitive to your partners.

Yoga enhances the power to feel sensual pleasures. It creates an awareness of your body and helps you feel moments in better way. You learn to feel and adjust to the smallest sensations during yoga practice. It teaches you to savor all the sensation in your body. This sensual awareness benefits you in your daily life and even accompanies in those private moments. Sensual awareness takes your mind away from the thoughts which worry you, thus helping you enjoying your love life.

Stimulation of Life
Yoga stimulates people mentally, emotionally and spiritually, as well as physically. This state increases their sense of self worth, and lessens ways of abusing bodies, like overeating, smoking and drinking. This again results in better physical and mental state, and the cycle begins.

Fall in Love with Yourselves
Thanks to Yoga, you are more aware of your body, which makes you fall in love with yourselves. This helps you get rid of negative things in life like negative self talk, draining relationship, careers without passion and purpose, tension in body, stress in the mind, and unhealthy habits and addictions. This results in better love life with the partner too.

With all these reasons and more, what's not to fall in love with?

Mad About Mastectomies!

“Out of suffering have emerged the strongest souls; the most massive characters are seared with scars.”
~Kahlil Gibran

Less than 24 hours after publishing my latest Newsletter for the month of March I've already gotten some very colorful messages about a special I'm hosting this Friday evening.

"Mad About Mastectomies" is a topless Yoga class I'm having as a celebration of life! I have several clients who have overcome Breast Cancer by undergoing Mastectomies and these women inspire me on a daily basis. In Asheville I attended a Nude Yoga class and I left feeling not just naked, but almost exploited. I felt like everyone in the class was ranking one another... like it were a meat market and not a Yoga class. This is the exact opposite intention of Friday night's class.

People who have undergone Mastectomies might not want to participate because I, myself, have never had Breast Cancer. If that is the case, let me reassure you, there is a reason I quote Kahlil Gibran's statement about scars on a daily basis. When I was 19 years old I went through a life-changing skin-grafting procedure that left my torso looking more like a map than your typical body. I have scars that run deep like the bloodlines of my Warrior Women-kin who have battled the fight of their lives victoriously. I may not know what Breast Cancer feels like, but I understand that weekly trips to the doctor's office, constant injections, loss of appetite, lack of faith, a sense of isolation... overcoming all of these elements are worthy of a triumphant festival in recognition of a life well-lived!

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Being Still Vs. Doing Nothing

As a little girl I was obsessed with martial arts films. One more way of bonding with my dad, I enjoyed watching films like The Karate Kid and Enter The Dragon over and over again. Mr. Miyagi, Bruce Lee and the various Samurai shown in Akira Kurosawa films provided great entertainment for me.
It's no wonder that when the new Karate Kid came out last year, I was too much of a Karate puritan to entertain watching it. This week, however, I was outnumbered when my dad convinced my sister and mom to vote in favor of watching the film. Reluctantly, I sat with a frown on my face and a mug brim-full of piping hot coffee on my lap. Within a few moments I was laughing so hard I spilled coffee on my jeans and listening to my sister's cackle, my dad's boisterous laughter and my mom's pleas for us to all be quiet, I was instantly transported back to the 1980s when life was as simple as the wisdom Mr. Miyagi offered his student Daniel LaRusso.
Jackie Chan (I've been a fan ever since his "Rumble In The Bronx" days) plays Mr. Han, a wise maintenance man who happens to be a Kung Fu master. Though he does not officially teach Kung Fu, he does take Jaden Smith's character, Dre Parker, under his wing. The two spend hours together training for a big Kung Fu competition and along the way there are lifelong lessons that are learned and mastered within a two hour-period in classic Karate Kid fashion. The one part of the film which stuck with me the most is when Mr. Han teaches Dre that, "There is a difference between being still and doing nothing."
During my own Yoga-practice it is really easy for me to slip into the motions. Whether it's an intense Heated Power Yoga class or a chill Hatha Yoga class, I often find I'm breathing and flowing from one Asana to the next, but internally I'm doing nothing. My mind might wander to the next posture or even begin thinking about what my plans are later in the evening. Only when my mind is totally still can I actually focus on each inhalation and exhalation. During these rare moments where my mind is completely still, I am the most open to the world around me.
Perhaps if I had already mastered this I wouldn't have been so foolish as to refuse my dad's suggestion for this film in the first place! Ya live and learn :)

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Relax :-)

Namaste Everyone!
Thanks so much for sending me all your questions about the Valentine's Day video I promised. Even if I haven't responded to your e-mails or FaceBook messages, I have been reading them :) Sadly, though we did actually complete the filming of the Valentine's Day "balance" video, my friend and cameraman is going through some seriously tough times and it will take a while for that video to be complete.
In the meantime, I'm back with my horrible camera-skills and I hope you all can look past the poor quality of the video and still benefit from the instructions.

Monday, February 21, 2011


A lot of people tell me they are way too stressed out. Whether it be workers stuck in cubicles for long hours, or people dealing with personal affairs that take a toll on their physical and mental well-being, I think one Asana (posture) can help everyone relax a little.

I typically practice Savasana (Corpse Pose) for about 3-5 minutes at the end of my daily Yoga Practice. It feels so nice and it helps when you have a nice song to listen to. My go-to song is Krishna Das' Baba Hanuman. Okay, so it's closer to 7 minutes, but hey, you can always fast-forward.

To get all the benefits of Savasana, it's important that you really relax your entire body. As you can see in the picture below, there's a slight difference between being tense and being relaxed:

Lay on your back, spread your legs and your arms. Face your palms up towards the ceiling, relax your toes, close your eyes and just breathe. Breathe deeply and naturally. Relax. Think of really soothing thoughts. Begin relaxing your toes, the soles of your feet, your ankles. Allow the relaxation to move up your legs, your knees, your thighs, into your pelvic area, your stomach, chest and shoulders. Relax. Spread the relaxation down your arms, your wrists, your hands. Allow the relaxation to spread through your palms, your fingers, all the way down your finger-tips, back up your arms, moving all through your neck and into the crown of your head.
Relax. Just breathe. Just be.

Friday, February 18, 2011

The Fs of Life

The facts of life are pretty simple. You're born and like the brilliant contemporary philosopher and comedian Chris Rock says, no matter what your horoscope sign is, eventually, "You're gonna die." Why is it then that death seems like such a big deal?
This morning I awoke to the sound of my alarm and like all mornings I immediately checked my e-mails. There's one person in particular whose e-mails I anticipate with such eagerness some nights I can barely go to sleep wondering what humorous stories will await me at dawn. My inbox becomes the base of my very own daily Christmas tree, opening the e-mails sent by this individual feels like unwrapping presents. My cheeks rise, my eyes light up and I speed-read through the entire e-mail only to re-read, with care, the words as I sip my morning coffee slowly before I begin my daily Yoga practice.

This morning, however, one fleeting comment cast a dark shadow over all the other remarks that typically would make me laugh so hard my phone would plop right on my pillow. An 11 year old child was unintentionally hit by a car and died. I have no idea who the driver is or who the child was, but something about the story just lingered with me throughout the entire day. It's devastating to think that now so many families are being effected by a death that probably, with some additional care on behalf of all parties involved, could have been prevented.

Souza has a quote about life that I try to live by. “Dance as though no one is watching you. Love as though you have never been hurt before. Sing as though no one can hear you. Live as though heaven is on Earth.

For me the facts of life have been less to do with the obvious fact that death awaits us all and more to do with the three Fs I believe that if juggled with great balance can offer the most fulfilling life.

Above is a picture of my, "Ama." My 93 year old grandma who is the rock-solid foundation of my entire family and also my hero.

While in Hangzhou's Lotus Garden in China, I took a picture of these three amazing women. They had each been friends for well over 40 years and every morning they met to take a hike at dawn and practice Tai Chi. Their friendship inspires me till this day.

In Bouddhanath you can find monks who left their families as early as their adolescent years. They perfect their crafts, whether it is painting intricate Thankas, playing instruments used in religious ceremonies or analyzing ancient Tibetan texts, they each live with diligence and faith.

Musician Gerard Way once said, "One day your life will flash before your eyes. Make sure it's worth watching." When it comes to a matter of life and death, I couldn't agree more.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The Force Is With You

Lately I've been doing so much Yoga, going to the gym no longer feels like a chore. I think holding Asanas like the Warrior One for 20 breathes has really strengthened my quads and the Monday morning Guided Meditation sessions have tremendously improved my concentration. The only form of exercise I have ever found painful is running. Not physically painful, but whenever I hit the second or third mile my mind begins asking legitimate, yet impeding questions, "Why are you doing this? What is the point of running on this treadmil?"

Runner's talk about the "Runner's High," and why they are madly in love with running. The only runner's high I've ever felt is after my longest run ever-- 9 miles two years ago--I was elated when the run was finished! Somehow I think there was a disconnect in the definition for me.

Recently, I've been listening to this amazing mix c.d that my good friend, Sab, made for me eight years ago. It's full of up-tempo Soca music and it keeps me motivated while running. Yesterday I couldn't find my ipod or my headphones. I was convinced I was doomed and there would be no way I could last on the treadmil beyond 5 minutes without music. To my surprise, a captivating show on ESPN (I read the captions since I had no headphones) held my attention during my entire run and I was able to make it with no music at all.

The story on ESPN was about a high school kid named Dylan Reboer who was deeply dedicated to his football team. Unfortunately, he was diagnosed with terminal Colon cancer. His belief in his team and himself, however, was so great that eventually his spirits uplifted all the players so much they ended up winning the State Championship title for the first time in 58 years!

As I watched this emotional report including an interview with Dylan's mom, teammates and best friend, I got choked up during my run. A huge knot in my neck formed and a tear streamed down my right cheek unintentionally. All of a sudden, my regular three-mile run was over, as was the program, but out of nowhere I felt a surge of energy. I thought about the fight Dylan had to go through... that so many victims of cancer must face... and I was overwhelmed by a sudden sense of internal power. The power, I realized was not within my ipod, the Soca music, Dylan's story or any other external factor. The force was and is within me. Always.

Arthur Osborne edited a wonderful book entitled The Teachings of Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi in which the Sage of Arunachala states, "The Guru is the Self." I think I finally understand what he meant.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Partner Yoga: a touchy subject.

With Valentine's Day right around the corner, I can't help but think of a better topic for today than the importance of touch. According to Dr. Deborah Moore, "We're all born with a great need for touch. To thrive, newborns must be fed touch as much as food. Studies in orphanages and hospitals repeatedly tell us that infants deprived of skin contact lose weight, become ill and even die." So why is it that the older we become we seem to simply lose touch with, well, the importance of it?

Desmond Morris, the author of several books including The Naked Woman: A Study of the Female Body, Intimate Behaviour, and The Nature of Happiness, says that, "Something special happens when two people touch each other physically, whether it be a handshake, a pat on the back, or a slap on the face." We tend to rely on body language 75% more than we do verbal discourses. It's no wonder that, "Touch establishes communication, and what is transmitted has more meaning than words."

Typically in Yoga classes, students stay on their individual mats avoiding touching their neighbors with much caution. Partner Yoga is completely different in this regards.

Elysabeth Williamson, who developed Principle Based Partner Yoga over the course of 15 years, explains that Partner Yoga is about incorporating, "Themes such as trust, compassion and other universal principles," into one's practice. "Inspiring our human potential for intimacy and connection with others," through touch and the human connection that is inherent in any sort of partnership.

While I spent my summer in 2010 at the Asheville Yoga Center I was fortunate enough to take some Partner Yoga classes. My life's never been the same since. It is remarkable how splendid shifting a typical Yoga Asana (let's say the Boat Pose/Navasana) to fit two or more people (try sitting across from one another and allow soles of both parties feet to touch, clasp hands together) can be.

I understand that not everyone is in a relationship. I'm sure, however, that everyone has at least one friend, family member, co-worker, neighbor, son, daughter, niece or nephew with whom they could practice one Partner Yoga posture. I encourage you to find a partner and, "Keep in touch."

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

The Wonders of Wheel Pose!

Namaste everyone!
I think the "Wheel" pose might be my absolute favorite Asana (posture) of all times. For so long I didn't have the upper-body strength to lift myself up. Once I started lifting weights I finally gained enough strength, but didn't have the faith in myself to lift up entirely. When at last I was capable, it seemed like a huge accomplishment.
Recently, one of my most loyal students, Alison, was able to overcome her fears and ever since, she's been rockin' out the Wheel week after week! Whenever I see her in the wheel pose, my heart genuinely smiles from deep within. Alison runs marathons regularly, she has the most sculpted muscles I've ever seen on a pint-sized woman so she totally has the physical strength, it was all a matter of believing in herself. What a wonderful breakthrough moment? I was honored to be able to witness it for the first time!
For my weekly vlog this week, I've drawn inspiration from Alison and I hope when you watch this at home if you are doubting yourself, you too, can feel a little bit of encouragement.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

The Power of Kindness

Here in Michigan, we're in the middle of a pretty brutal snowstorm. It's the kinda weather that makes you want to curl up under a blanket (preferably a Khasto... people who come to my Yin/Yang Yoga classes know these blankets well) and read a delightful book. I've just completed one written by an Italian philosopher and psychotherapist, Piero Ferrucci. The name of the book is The Power of Kindness. It's only about 250 pages long; a quick & easy read!

Each chapter focuses on different ways to partake in acts of kindness. In no particular order, some of the elements of kindness according to Ferrucci include:
* Patience
* Flexibility
* Gratitude
* Loyalty
* Joy
* Empahty
* Mindfulness
* Honesty
* Humility... the list goes on and on because acts of kindness are not exactly limited to just a few handfull of elements.

Initially, I was so frustrated by the snowstorm. I can't even snowboard as my car is stuck in a pile of snow. Our family dog is so old, he is unable to join me on hikes and I had to cancel all classes due to the weather. Then, as I lay tight in the fetal position and read Ferrucci's words it occurred to me that this snowstorm is a chance for me to be blissfully kind to my body.

Monday's Guided Meditation class was all about the power of patience. I read parts of the "Patience" chapter and shared a fascinating story about a group of American scientists who were working in a rural area of Mexico. They hired a group of Mexican porters to carry all of their scientific equipment. During the long, arduous trek, the porters suddenly stopped walking. Initially, the scientists were confused, then grew frustrated and eventually they were irate. They were in a rush to reach their work-site and furious at the illiterate Mexican porters who clearly didn't understand their situation. Then, abruptly, the porters at once picked up their respective loads and began walking again. When asked by one of the scientists why the porters stopped, one of them replied, "We were walking so fast, we had to rest to allow our souls to catch up to us."

Days like this... when the snow hits hard and unexpectedly... it rocks us to our core: we begin thinking about all the errands we should be running, but are incapable of completing. Maybe it's just Mother Nature's way of providing us with an opportunity to allow our souls to catch up to us.

Book complete, my body rested and my soul all caught up: I think it's time to modify a Sun Salutation (Surya Namaskar) with a Snow Salutation! I'm excited to introduce this during tomorrow night's Heated Power Yoga Class!!

Saturday, January 22, 2011

The Good Life

Before my parents were ever granted American citizenship, they were Nepali. Though I was born in Virginia, I managed to spend a considerable time of my youth in Kathmandu, Nepal. While in my "motherland" I lived in a family compound of sorts. In traditional Nepali culture for any family who can afford to do so, this living arrangement is quite normal. My parents had a home adjacent to my dad's two brothers' respective homes; the three brothers, of course, had their homes directly in front of the home of their greatly-revered parents.
Immediately on the outskirts of the Adhikary family compound lived two other large families. The Dhungels and the Thapas. My dad's closest friends, till this day, are members of the Dhungel and Thapa families. Their children have carried on the tradition and today, my cousins are dear friends with the Dhungel and Thapa children.
Every time I go to Nepal this is one thing that strikes me about Nepali culture: though there is limited electricity, limited water, limited resources, blatantly shady politics and a host of other infuriating issues, the simple things in life like sharing genuine laughter with your loved ones is always available in abundance.
This morning, I'm writing from Michigan where the weather is cold and damp. I was drinking breakfast tea at my parent's place which is just down the road from my own and I happened to notice that our family dog, Sathi, has aged so much the skin around his neck is drooping. It reminded me of my childhood in Nepal. My Ba (grandpa) was so old his neck looked the same as Sathi's does now. Every afternoon, Ba would bask in the sun. Sitting firmly on a plastic lawn chair, he would stay planted on the porch with his wooden stick beside him. He always wore a hairstyle known to Nepali people as the, "Toop-pee."
(Shown in the picture)
My sister and I found great amusement playing with his Tooppee and we often placed our tiny hands on the flesh of his neck and flicked the saggy skin with our index fingers. This brought about a sense of joy that no game of Wii Fitness or Bejweled could ever replace. Ba never got angry, he would just laugh and laugh. We would join in and the most boisterous sessions of Laughter Yoga would take place at it's purest form. No jokes. Definitely no sense of humor--we were too young to have developed a serious sense of anything--just laughter!
As an adult I often hear friends and loved ones talking about success and happiness. I was once asked how much money I would have to earn before I felt, "happy." It seemed such an odd question, but not everyone has had the fortune of always having known the good life... a life that embraces the simple pleasures of family and friends.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Sweet Sattvic Snack

I have a crazy-insane sweet tooth and I've been wanting a giant plate full of brownies and chocolate chip cookies ever since I deprived myself on Christmas. At times like these, I always think of my Canadian sister, Chelsea, who said to satisfy her sweet-tooth she opts for a giant bowl full of pomegranate seeds :) I agree, it is pretty fantastic! Enjoy!!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

So much for Sattvic!

The late great judge William Strong, nominated by the wonderful Yankee, Ulysses S. Grant, had a fantastic saying about failure. "The only time you don't fail is the last time you try anything - and it works."
Last week, as you know, I failed in my Sattvic journey by drinking two cups of coffee and though it seemed like a huge blunder, this week has definitely taken a complete nose-dive for the worst. Thursday night after a great Heated Power Yoga class, I met with a friend at my beloved Sidetracks Bar & Grill. While there, I felt so overwhelmed by hunger I completely forgot about my Sattvic Diet! I ordered and devoured, what else? Their brand new dish, The Yankee Pot Roast. Jeepers.
If that wasn't bad enough, last night I had a mini-reunion with some college friends. One of them ordered Hot Chicken Wings. The mere apple I ate for dinner didn't seem to suffice--as soon as the chicken was placed at the table before me, the aroma of the hot sauce enveloped me.
It wasn't even until this morning, in one of those slap-your-forehead moment-of-clarity moments that I remembered I wasn't supposed to be eating meat. Ay yai yai.
Good thing today is a new day. I will continue to try the Sattvic way and make Judge Strong proud.

If you, too, are having difficulties: remember, STAY STRONG!

Friday, January 14, 2011

Weekly Vlog #2: Back Care Basics

My good friend, Numa, requested I teach her some back-care yoga for her "bad" lower back. The beauty about this whole situation is that she lives in England. I was able to create this video in Michigan and somehow it will help her overseas! The wonders of modern technology and the ancient science of Yoga meeting are simply astounding to me.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Embrace Uncertainty

Yesterday Ann Arbor was hit very hard with a crazy snow storm.

There were cars on the sides of the roads, flashing red and blue lights, beautiful snowflakes all twirling into one another. Each and every one was absolutely different and spectacular. I still had my Heated Power Yoga class and I'm so happy I did! When I first started Take Five Yoga I thought for sure all of my classes would be packed and when they weren't I was a bit disappointed.

After last night, however, I realized I'm exactly where I should be. It's only week 2 and I still had a class to teach because even in the snowstorm I had a student who drove all the way over to my teeny-tiny studio. One of my two Yoga gurus, Stephanie Keach, wrote to me this morning from Asheville, North Carolina. She dropped me a quick e-mail with only three lines that were just enough. The last line was: "Tiny is big."

2010 was a year where nothing went as planned in my life. 2011 has already taught me so many life-lessons I will cherish forever. Mainly, I think it's important to embrace uncertainty. Who knows what can happen in the next hour, day, week or year? We have absolutely no control over most things in our lives. We may as well just surrender and go with the flow in the meantime.

Crazy snowstorm? I say, hit the slopes!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Having trouble sleeping? Turn off your ipad & turn on your Yoga Nidra

My dad recently purchased an ipad and my entire family's gotten completely hooked. Mainly, to Pandora. It's amazing that just by plugging in one artist you're fond of, let's say Manu Chao, the Pandora Gods can somehow find a similair artist like La Vela Puerca and viola! It's musical heaven. I can see how most people might not want to put down their ipad once they buy one. Unfortunately, it seems that a recent CNN study has revealed this problem many ipad owners are experiencing--being unable to put down the pad--is creating a host of other issues. Mainly, a loss of sleep.

The often controversial Medical Doctor and practitioner of Natural Health Remedies, Dr. Joseph Mercola makes the following argument:

"Everything in nature has a rhythm, and that includes your body. The ebb and flow of the ocean's tide, the rising and setting of the sun, and the transition from one season to another all happen with comforting regularity. Your body, too, strives to keep its 24-hour cycle, or circadian rhythm, steady and even.

This is why most of us naturally feel like waking when the sun comes up, and sleeping when it's dark.

Researchers have also shown how your circadian rhythm is involved in everything from sleep, to weight gain, mood disorders, and a variety of diseases.

Unfortunately, modern life throws multiple wrenches into the works, as it were, mainly by artificially extending 'daytime.'"

So the next time you want to log on to your ipad or lap-top try weighing your options: is the momentary satisfaction worth the next day spent groggy and half awake?

Monday, January 10, 2011

Sattvic Meal #6

Ahh, nuthin quite as nice as good ol' basics. Corn on the Cob with some butter and salt :) It's too cold for me to go outside and place my corn on the grill so I just placed it in my oven and hit "broil." I also had some steamed edamame which was lightly salted. For my sweet tooth, a bowl of Michigan cherries.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Sattvic Meal #5

This is a meal I could eat daily for the rest of my life and be perfectly content! It's sooooo simple, it's amazing.
In a little pan heat up some olive oil and chunky pieces of ginger. Add some spinach and drizzle some soy sauce. Pour this over rice and prepare for one of the most delicious Sattvic meals ever!

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Confession #1

The great English author, playwright, poet and just overall artist William Shakespeare once wrote, "To thine own self be true." Ladies and gentlemen, I think it's important to be true to yourself, but also to those around you. Particularly when others hold you to a certain moral standard.
It is officially Day 8 of my month-long Sattvic Diet challenge and I have failed you all by not following through this morning. Though typically I've been meeting friends and just ordering water or warm tea, today I met with a good friend and as we discussed the possibilities of making a yoga DVD, I ended up becoming a little overwhelmed with excitement... in the process of talking business I got a little carried away by future prospects and completely forgot about anything Sattvic (Sentient). My friend and I were at Bob Evan's and I specifically prepared & ate a Sattvic Meal before the meeting, but once there I ended up ordering--dun, dun, DUNNNN--a piping hot mug full of coffee.
My dad, a devout follower of The Great Sage of Arunachala, Ramana Maharshi, explained that yogis of South India typically drank coffee with no qualms and while that was mildly consoling, I do genuinely feel a bit disappointed in myself and I apologize for letting any of you down if you were looking to me for strength during this challenge.
I will resume the Sattvic challenge and carry on for the rest of January because much like my yogic practice on the mat, I believe in life also, there will be many times where I fall and fail temporarily. I just need to get back up, inhale and exhale, deeply planting my feet into the Earth and embrace what may come.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Sattvic Meal #4

Mmmmmm Mmm!!!!! My favorite vegetable in Nepali cooking tastes ABSOLUTELY delicious even when Sattvic :) Isn't life great sometimes? Here's a super simple way to cook Cowliflower:

In a large pan heat up some olive oil. Place cowliflower that's been cut to nice big chunky pieces in the oil. Add a dash of turmeric for a nice, vibrant yellow, some ground cumin and at the very end garnish with my favorite herb--cilantro!

I like to eat this with some steamed brown rice. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do :)

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Sattvic Meal #3

I realize that a cold salad might not be the most appealing meal during wintertime, but this is so delicious & simple I had to share! Boil some barley and set it aside. Cut some Granny apples, get some walnuts, pomegranate seeds and in a little bowl whisk together some honey and freshly squeezed lemon juice.
Mix all the ingredients together and ENJOY a splendidly Sattvic salad :)

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Mad About Meditation!

The latest issue of Om Yoga & Lifestyle Magazine has a great article about the wonders of meditation. Since I've been waking up at 4:30am to lead Guided Meditation classes at 5:30AM every morning this week, I've definitely felt a significant shift in my level of clarity. Needless to say, I'm mad about meditation and I'm happy to share the following excerpt from the aforementioned article:

Scientists at the University of Oregon discovered just eleven hours of learning a meditation technique can induce positive structural changes in brain connectivity.

"The importance of our findings relates to the ability to make structural changes in a brain network related to self-regulation," said University of Oregon psychologist Dr. Michael Posner.

The study focused on a meditation technique known as Integrative Body Mind Training (IBMT). Based on ancient Chinese medicine, IBMT combines posture, mental imagery and body relaxation and breathing techniques.

So, exactly what are you waiting for? It's a brand new year, begin your brand new day tomorrow morning by joining me for an hour of Guided Meditation! I'll have your cushion ready :)

Monday, January 3, 2011

First in a series of a new weekly Vlog: Virabhadrasana/Warrior 1

Before I present to you the instructional video for Warrior One, I'd like to offer a Sattvic Recipe (#2) for breakfast. It's extremely simple:
Oatmeal with milk (for vegans any variation is fine: rice milk, soy milk, etc.) and Cinnamon. Enjoy!!

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Sattvic Meal #1

One of the biggest concerns a lot of people have expressed regarding this Sattvic Diet Challenge is, "What am I supposed to do when I go out to eat?" While I can't speak for any other areas in the country, I do think those of us in the Ann Arbor area are extremely fortunate! Yesterday to ring in the New Year, my good friend and I went to a restaurant on Liberty St. Seva's offers really delicious vegetarian food at a relatively reasonable price.

The entire menu was full of yummy-choices, but everything except for one dish had loads of garlic and onions. The picture above is of the only purely Sattvic meal I was able to find: Basil Pesto with Mozarella cheese and one slice of tomato on whole wheat bread. Since potatoes are considered too starchy for the Sattvic tradition, I opted to order a side of steamed broccoli instead of the standard French Fries.

This is a super simple meal that is easy to re-create in the comfort of your own kitchen! To make the basil pesto sauce simply grind fresh basil leaves (I have basil plants all year round) with olive oil, salt and some pine nuts. You can either grill or toast the whole wheat bread and mozarella and tomatoes should be available all year round at all grocery stores.


Saturday, January 1, 2011


Many people seem to wonder exactly what yogis (people who practice Yoga) eat. Known to some as a Yoga Diet, the Sattvic Diet (Sentient Diet) is, in fact, one that dates back thousands of years ago; it has little to do with weightloss. Sattvic Diets are more about creating a sense of balance between your mind, body and spirit.
Slightly rigid by nature, the Sattvic Diet is known to provide clarity of the mind and offers a myriad of benefits to the body. Usually, it is assumed that while eating foods encouraged in the Sattvic traditions, yoga is practiced simultaneously, hence a strengthened inner-spirit is cultivated as well.

Here are a list of foods and beverages that are OKAY in the Sattvic Diet:
* Fresh, organic fruits
* Fresh, organic dairy
* Unsalted nuts (which have not been overly roasted), seeds and oils
* Organic Vegetables which are mild in nature (for example, Sattvic Diets require that you avoid pungent veggies like peppers or starchy veggies like potatoes)
* Whole grains: rice, oatmeal, barley, etc.
* Legumes like split mung beans, yellow split peas, organic tofu, etc.
* For sweetening dishes use honey

* For spices avoid anything that heats the body up such as Garlic or Onions. Stick, instead to mild spices like Basil, Cardamom, Cinnamon, Cumin, Nutmeg or Corriander

Foods and Beverages one should completely avoid in the Sattvic Diet are:
* All meat products including fish and eggs
* All alcoholic beverages including beer and wine
* All forms of smoking including Cannibus and Tobacco
* Any stimulant such as caffeine or sugar

All right, now that it is absolutely clear what can and cannot be consumed... here is my challenge for you all:
Let's enter 2011 with a purely Sentient Diet for the entire month of January! Who's with me?
I will be posting what I've eaten for breakfast/lunch/dinner so that you all can get some ideas of what to prepare. I hope you either comment on this blog with your own recipes or you e-mail me at: takefiveyoga@gmail.com

I'm SOOOOOOOOO excited about this!!!!!!