Tag Archives: Higher Consciousness

Yoga Groove: Spanda Flow!

July 23rd is coming up fast- have you been practicing your dance moves in anticipation of Yoga Union’s first ever Yoga Groove?

Chris Calarco will be leading a class set to the powerful sounds of improvised music by DJ HyFi (check him out here: http//www.yogadjhyfi.com)

-Ian traves all around the U.S. bringing with him a fusion of sound and music). These jams will match and inspire the energetic aligned flow of the class, allowing us all to “go deep into our hearts” and rock it out while we stretch it out.

After the 2 hour spanda flow (spanda is a Sanskrit term for the divine vibration, or, the creative pulse of the universe as it manifests into the dynamism of living form), the fun really begins with a hoppin’ dance party and adult beverages including organic Sokol Blosser wines (http://www.sokolblosser.com) and local favorite beers.

It’s also a great opportunity to get to know your fellow yogis you see practicing next to you everyday! And for just 20 bucks, can you really ask for anything else?

Check out http://yogaunion.com for or additional information, or Chris’s own website at http://chriscalarcoyoga.com/

We hope to see you there!

Yoga Groove Spanda Flow with Chris Calarco and DJ Hyfi:

Additional information from:                                              Http://www.spandaflow.com and Http://www.yogajournal.com


Pose of the Month: Setu Bandha Sarvangasana

July brings us a new pose of the month- Setu Bandha Sarvangasana, or, Bridge Pose (setu = dam, dike or bridge, bandha = lock). This is a great pose for yogis in all stages of practice, and the benefits are extensive. Anatomically, Bridge focuses on the neck and shoulders and in women, the uterus. The chest, neck and spine are stretched, while the abdominal organs, lungs and thyroid are stimulated. The pose can also alleviate stress, improve digestion and rejuvenate tired legs. Here are some tips to help you get into Bridge:

  • Lie on your back, and if necessary, use a blanket under your shoulders to support the neck. Bend your knees with your feet on the floor, keeping the heels close to the sitting bones
  • As you exhale, actively press your inner feet and arms into the floor, pull the tailbone up toward the pubic bone, and lift the buttocks until the things are about parallel to the floor. Engage your thighs and inner feet to keep them parallel
  • Keep the knees over the heels and press them forward away from the head, lengthening the tailbone
  • Keep your arms on the floor or clasp the hands below your pelvis and extend, allowing you to rest on the top of the shoulders
  • Lift your chin slightly away from the sternum and firm and broaden the shoulder blades against your back. You should feel the space between them lift up into the torso
  • Stay in the pose anywhere from 30 seconds to 1 minute. Release with an exhalation, rolling the spine slowly down onto the floor.

For an added challenge, try lifting a leg until perpendicular to the torso and repeat on the opposite side. Sliding a block under the sacrum can provided added support and increase the restorative properties of the pose. Use caution if you have a neck injury and if you have any questions, be sure to ask an instructor.

Photo Source: http://yogajournal.com

Inner Spiral -with Chris Calarco

Sunday  was Father’s Day and even though some of us were not able to spend it with our dads, we were lucky enough to set our intentions for them in the Anusara class led by Chris Calarco. The practice felt particularly special that morning- maybe it was because we were getting to share our gratitude for life with a room full of yogis who also have fathers that helped them get to where they are today. Or maybe it was because Chris’s parents were visiting from the East Coast and were in class with us, beaming with obvious pride and love for their son. Or perhaps it was the deeply personal and insightful guidance given by Chris himself. Using the principle of Inner Spiral as a theme, he led us through an inspiring physical practice while sharing his struggles and triumphs with his own Inner Spiral. This principle has had such an effect on Chris he wrote a piece about it and graciously shared some of his writing in class.

(Picture from http://chriscalarcoyoga.com/)

His message has become widely popular (!Go Chris!), and can be read on the Wanderlust Blog page  among others.

So for those who were in Chris’s class yesterday and want to be inspired by the whole article, or those curious about Anusaras 3rd principle of alignment,  please enjoy Chris’s story below 🙂

And take a minute to check out his website (http://chriscalarcoyoga.com/) which has details about the upcoming July 23rd Yoga Groove- a class that unites yoga and music, with a dance party to follow. Mark your calendars, you won’t want to miss this party!


I had been practicing yoga regularly for about 5 years…

I was certified to teach Vinyasa and loved the feeling in body and mind yoga produced. I thought of this feeling as a combination of exhaustion and exhilaration. I sought it out whenever I could fit my practice into life as a child psychotherapist. However, without warning, my motivation to practice fell off the face of the earth as I lost my way. For almost 9 months my whole being shifted and I lost touch with my body, my friends and my practice. Even before yoga came to an abrupt halt I had gradually, and unconsciously, migrated away my first teachers and their studio. I hadn’t found a new studio per se but lived as more of a yoga vagabond, wandering from studio to studio with my head down, practicing hard and then quickly getting out the door. I wasn’t a very social yogi. Around the time I became a nomad, my teacher’s, Annie Adamson and Todd Vogt of Yoga Union in Portland, Oregon, were beginning to integrate Anusara Yoga’s 5 Universal Principles of Alignment into their classes during their process of training.

Upon deep self-reflection, a hefty dose of depression, and a lot of help I finally returned to the mat, making a massively liberating decision to commit myself fully to the practice and teaching of yoga. As I became reacquainted with my body I soon found myself bound and stuck in common poses like Trikonasana (Triangle) and Utthitha Parsvokonasa (Extended Side Angle). I was disappointed that after 5 years, even given the layoff, I remained shallow in my Triangle with bottom hand just below my knee. Athletic but never super flexible I felt a sense of resignation, as if I had reached my edge in asana practice and I would not grow. I knew I could always access the good feeling after a class but deep inside this was not enough, I longed for much more. I wanted access to advanced poses, I wanted to increase my strength and flexibility but most of all I yearned to change my habits of mind and magnify my life from within. I left yoga because of depression and was determined to make a resonant and permanent change.

I scheduled a private lesson with Annie and expressed my frustration with Triangle and Extended Side Angle. Quickly, I found Anusara’s third principle of alignment was going to be my new intimate dance partner. Inner Spiral is an “energy spiral” thought of as a refinement of the body’s alignment in all yoga postures. The spiral begins on the inner edges of the feet and widens as it moves upward toward the pelvis and outer edges of the waistline. Inner Spiral turns the front of the legs and pelvis inward, towards the midline. It moves the inner edges of the feet, legs, and pelvis backward as the inner heels, inner knees, and inner thighs flow back. These actions also broaden the legs and pelvis apart. Inner Spiral’s key words are “In”, “Back”, and “Wide”. Physically, this manifests an increased healthy curve in the lower lumbar spine and the sitting bones press out. Renowned teacher Sianna Sherman often half-jokes that one of Anusara’s secret principals is “when in doubt, stick it out”.

Importantly, Inner Spiral requires the engagement of its partner principle, Muscle Energy (Anusara’s second principle), to be radically transformative. When the muscles of the legs are engaged and we actively make them flow “In”, “Back”, and “Wide” there is integration throughout the entire lower body that creates vibrantly new ripples of freedom in the groins, hamstrings, and lower back. Within the first ten minutes of my private with Annie I looked into the mirror and was astounded. I did not recognize the person in Triangle pose. My stance was wider and more stable, my bottom hand was on the floor (Hallelujah!), and I felt a lusciously deep stretch in my groins and lower back. Now I had to begin working with Inner Spiral and all five principles in every pose! The work had beautifully just begun.

In Anusara’s methodology, each Universal Principle of Alignment is associated with one of earth’s natural elements. Inner Spiral is like water. Just as rivers flow naturally, nurturing the surrounding land, Inner Spiral watered the seed of each asana inside my body. With active engagement, Inner Spiral created a new sense of liquid depth in me and in turn granted access to the freedom and revelation l longed for. I no longer am a yoga vagabond as I have found a home inside my body and with Annie and Todd at Yoga Union. I am expanding my limits, working at my edge, and nailing postures I never imagined. Inner Spiral has literally blasted me open to the new possibilities that are always available if we align heart, body, and mind. For me, the body came first, and the others soon followed suit. Feeling extraordinarily liberated and full of deep gratitude for my fellow yogis, teachers and this system of yoga, the journey continues. Inner Spiral changed my life and it can change yours.


A little about the author….

Chris has been practicing yoga for the past six years and has recently begun teaching in Portland, Oregon. He has been listening to music since Poison overtook his heart at age 12. Yoga and music, yoga and music, yoga and music! Jai!

Prepare Yourself for the Holidays

As you find yourself wanting to relax during this hectic holiday season, then realize you forgot the gift wrap, don’t stress! It happens to the best of us. There are a lot of ways to stay calm during the holidays. Yoga can help free the mind of worrisome with a relaxing meditation.

Learning the art of ‘Relaxation’ during the holiday can greatly reduce stress levels. Sometimes we find that creating a peace with ones self can be difficult when your mind is worried about other things. There are several types of relaxing meditations you can start before moving into yoga postures.
They are quick and can be done in several minutes or longer depending on how comfortable you get. The longer you meditate the more stress you release.

‘It is better to learn the art and skill of directly relaxing than to merely distract the mind.’

It is best to maintain breath awareness as you do the practices. You will come to experience the way in which breath is a manifestation of energy, and how that energy flows throughout your being.

  • First, tense all of the muscles of the face, including forehead, cheeks, mouth, and upper neck. Then release with full awareness. You will notice the relaxation.
  • Gently roll the head from side to side, with awareness of the tightening muscles, and the feeling of release.
  • Tighten the shoulders, pulling them upwards and forwards. Then release.
  • Tense the entire right arm, from the shoulder down through the fingers. Do this without making a fist or lifting your arm off of the floor. Allow your attention to be deep inside the arm, not just on the surface. Then release slowly, with awareness.
  • Tense the left arm in the same way, and observe the release.
  • Gently tense the muscles of the chest and the abdomen, while continuing to breathe without holding the breath. Then release.
  • Tense and release the right hips and the buttocks.
  • Tense and release the right leg, down through the feet and toes in the same way that the right arm was tensed and released.
  • Tense and release the left hips and buttocks.
  • Tense and release the left leg.
  • While no longer tensing any muscles, allow your attention to drift back up through the legs, through the abdomen and chest, through the arms, and back to the face.

This method of relaxation can be repeated depending on how you feel after the first time. It’s best to practice breathing while doing any type of meditation, and when your worried about shopping or food these breathing technics will help you to stay calm and relaxed.

AWESOME ALIGNMENT: Yoga for Healing, Power and Happiness

Aligning your structural body can free you up to truly enjoy your practice and build strength in a functional and lasting way.  Using your practice to align your thoughts and actions with your ethics and all that you find meaniful, valuable and purposeful in your life can bring you greater joy!  In this workshop you will learn about skeletal and muscular alignment and how to fine tune your poses to get the most out of them…the most healing from injuries, the most strength building and the most sweetness.  You will also be guided to become aware of your internal dialogue and how that affects what you experience and create…both in your practice and your life.  Angelina is an anatomy nerd and has a knack for detailing the specifics of how to get more connected and present in your body.  She also has a major passion for lighting the spark of kindness, compassion and acceptance in her students by encouraging them to get honest, (physically, emotionally and spiritually!), so that they may live and act as their Spirit/TrueSelf dictates.
Using Pilates concepts, functional anatomy and an exhilarating Forrest Yoga-inspired sequence, you’ll learn how to align and refine your body and your practice.
This workshop is designed for those with a regular practice.  We will play with inversions, but only to the level you are comfortable with! The room will be heated to 80 degrees to generate a cleansing sweat!
Cost $45

Pranayama प्राणायाम

Pranayama (Sanskrit: प्राणायाम), is at the core of every yoga practice.

Yoga works primarily with the energy in the body, through the science of pranayama, or energy-control. Prana means also ‘breath.’ Yoga teaches how, through breath-control, to still the mind and attain higher states of awareness. The higher teachings of yoga take one beyond techniques, and show the yogi, or yoga practitioner, how to direct his concentration in such a way as not only to harmonize human with divine consciousness, but to merge his consciousness in the Infinite. – Paramahansa Yogananda

As most know, when translated from the original Sanskrit, Prana means “breath, energy, life force” or even “vital air”.  As much as Prana is contained in air, it is not the air. Within the food we eat, the water we drink, the air we breath is an energy that sustains all life, we call this energy Prana.

The second portion of the word is “Ayama” which means control, expansion, length, prolongation and restraint. Prana + Ayama = Pranayama.  In short, one can take more control of their Prana, using it to expand the spirit and embrace the devine. Through the practice of Pranayamas, more Prana is taken in and stored in the body bringing vitality and power to the practitioner.

Yogis believe that the human being is composed of five energetic sheaths, also known as Koshas:

  • the drop of divinity at our core
  • the karmic body – our karma with everyone on the planet
  • the astral body where things like spirituality and creativity originate
  • the mental/emotional body
  • physical body

It is the Prana that ties together our separate “beings”, the astral and the physical. When doing Pranayama you are essentially uniting yourself with yourself.

During breathing for Pranayama inhalation (puraka) stimulates the system and fills the lungs with fresh air; retention (kumbhaka) raises the internal temperature and plays an important part in increasing the absorption of oxygen; exhalation (rechak) causes the diaphragm to return to the original position and air full of toxins and impurities is forced out by the contraction of inter-costal muscles. These are the main components leading to Pranayama which massage the abdominal muscles and tone up the working of various organs of the body. Due to the proper functions of these organs , vital energy flows to all the systems. The success of Pranayama depends on proper ratios being maintained between inhalation, exhalation and retention. -Health and Yoga

Open To A Higher Consciousness

The concept of a higher realm of human consciousness is a common foundation of many spiritual traditions, including Yoga, Hinduism, Sufism, Theosophy, and many others. Higher consciousness, akin to enlightenment, is regarded to be a spiritual evolution bringing about a more developed awareness and understanding of reality and the human experience.

In contrast to higher consciousness, within ordinary consciousness we experience life through a filter or fog of unconscious conditioning that limits our abilities to fully explore our reality. Many teachings compare ordinary consciousness to a “waking sleep” from which we fully awaken when we raise our consciousness towards enlightenment. Buddhist traditions call these lower, ordinary, obscured mental states kilesa, which translates to “defilement” or “poison” and is sometimes compared to clouds covering the sun.

Through the careful development of moral virtues such as patience, kindness, honesty, humility, forgiveness, and lucidity, we can begin to transcend ordinary consciousness and open ourselves to a higher consciousness. As we develop this moral self-discipline, we will also realize our ability to control our own life experiences and personal growth. Instead of projecting responsibility for our human suffering and joy onto the outside world, we will realize that the full power and potential of the human experience lies within our own minds and hearts.

The practice of yoga, specifically Raja Yoga, seeks to continually develop this awareness of our higher consciousness. As we bring our growing mindfulness into the physical practice of yoga, each pose and series of poses becomes a meditative journey; as we continue to open our bodies and mind, we continue to rise above the ordinary and (re)unite with the enlightened and divine within ourselves.