The Blog

Bramacharya and Being Present for the Journey Back to Self

After six weeks of training and working with students with limited mobility due to a variety of injuries or illnesses, last night marked the end of my amazing therapeutics apprenticeship with Gabriel Halpern.

During last week’s class, in discussing bramacharya and the importance of not addicting oneself or numbing out to your experience, Gabriel said, “All of yoga is to sensitize yourself to feel more deeply.”

Though that may seem obvious and on some level it’s a large part of the reason I’ve been drawn to yoga for all of these years, I had never articulated it to myself in those terms. Gabriel’s words hit the nail on the head for me and nicely sum up the sometimes-rocky-but-always-rewarding journey I’ve been on in recent years.

Photo courtesy of Petras Barcas Photography |

Photo courtesy of Petras Barcas Photography |

Yoga is a process of coming back to our true selves, and the power of my practice has been profound in guiding me along that path back home in recent years.

Whether in a challenging pose that stretches your body or a difficult personal situation that squeezes your soul, there are so many times in life when it would be much easier to numb out. However, rather than give in to any number of the distractions available to divert our attention away from the present moment, it’s much more powerful to remain where you are with awareness and feel what you’re feeling.

It seems so simple and basic, but when you begin to watch for it, it’s amazing how often we feel compelled to distract our minds with drinks, drugs, food, TV, smart phones and countless other preoccupations. Rather than stay to notice and sit with our discomfort, pain or boredom, we run away and distract ourselves.

It’s not always easy to feel what we’re feeling. If we’ve been masking feelings and distracting ourselves with external filler for too long, it can be extremely difficult to even identify your mental or emotional state from moment to moment. And for those of us lucky enough to still be in touch with and aware of our feelings, experiencing them can still be really uncomfortable at times. Things often come up that we don’t want to feel, and it’s not a walk in the park by any stretch of the imagination.

The practice lies in resisting the urge to brush our feelings under the rug, put on a happy face or otherwise addict ourselves to avoidance.

Rather than constantly trying to fill all the gaps, my practice has taught me to relish space, even (and especially) when it’s unpleasant. By giving myself that room to feel, breathe and be present unconditionally, the mental fog of diversions and distractions has started to lift.

The process of returning to myself and the experience of making choices informed by that connection hasn’t always been easy, comfortable or fun, but it has been real. And at the end of the day, an authentic life lived with with presence and experienced with awareness is the best any of us can hope for anyway.

May 16, 2014 0 Comments

Weekend Yoga Retreat Set for May 30 to June 1 at Stonehouse Farm

My dear friend and fellow teacher, Cynthia Woods, and I will be hosting a weekend workshop—”Your Mat As A Mirror: Cultivating Self-Awareness and Self-Study Through Yoga”—from Friday, May 30 to Sunday, June 1 at Stonehouse Farm west of Chicago in DeKalb County.

Photo courtesy of Petras Barcas Photography |

Photo courtesy of Petras Barcas Photography |

Many students begin yoga for purely physical purposes, but it doesn’t take long to realize that there’s so much more to the practice than its myriad health benefits.

You’ve probably begun to notice the effects of yoga carrying off of your mat and spilling over into other sectors of your life. These changes may initially show up as increased patience or presence throughout your day, while in interactions at work or during time spent with loved ones. So, why is this happening and where do you go from here in the process?

Using nature as our backdrop, we’ll introduce some of the basic and foundational philosophies behind the ancient tradition of yoga (such as segments of the Sutras including the yamas and niyamas) as a way to explore how yoga transcends the physical and can be seen in all aspects of life beyond the mat as well.

Through vinyasa and restorative asana, we’ll use physical practice to observe habits in our bodies and minds that show up elsewhere in our lives. We’ll dig deeper into these patterns through a variety of meditation practices, both seated in stillness as well as incorporating walks in the woods and star-gazing at night.

By cultivating this greater self-awareness, we can begin making conscious shifts to become more authentic and aligned in our reactions and interactions in everyday life.

Photo courtesy of Petras Barcas Photography |

Photo courtesy of Petras Barcas Photography |

Whether you’re a beginning student or advanced practitioner, this workshop will bring more mindfulness to your practice and awareness to ways you can apply the same principles and insights of yoga off of your mat in your day-to-day life.

The workshop starts at $200 for the full weekend with Cynthia and me at Stonehouse Farm, including camping and food (with plentiful vegetarian, gluten-free and dairy-free options). Other accommodations, including small and large yurts, are available for a slightly higher rate.

Opened last year about 70 miles west of Chicago, Stonehouse Farm is a new 40-acre yoga retreat center complete with large pond for swimming, wooded paths for walking, and open space with camping and yurts for sleeping.

For more information about the weekend workshop or to register, click here to visit the event page on Stonehouse Farm’s website.

April 6, 2014 0 Comments