Life is Easy - Art of Living Retreat Center

Exploring Wisdom: Why Life is Easy

By David-Dorian Ross
July 12, 2018

Life is Easy - Art of Living Retreat Center

 

Life is easy.

Don’t get me wrong – I know full well that this is not the experience that people are having. I get that. But the mechanics of life, essentially, are easy.

 

We’re great at making easy things hard

Relationships are basic. We’re human beings, and therefore we must engage in relationships. These relationships become better, deeper, more fruitful, and more powerful as we become more intimate, and that this intimacy requires a certain degree of vulnerability, and vulnerability requires a certain kind of self-confidence. So self-confidence is the key to good relationships. That’s very basic. That’s very straightforward.

 

Health is also very basic. Our bodies run on a couple of different fundamental systems. In Chinese medicine, we call the energy of life “Chi,” and it circulates around the body and is made up of specific components: air, which you receive through breath; food, that you choose to ingest; environment, or the colours, structures, and living things that you surround yourself with. This is basic stuff.

 

Stop resisting your flow

Unfortunately, our lifestyles make all of this basic simplicity hard, because our lifestyles are designed to resist our natural flow. We resist the easy things on an almost unconscious level and for very personal reasons. We each have our own personal history of physical, mental, emotional, and energetic traumas, and those traumas set up stopping points or interruptions fo us. But here’s the thing–when we can identify what those self-interruptions are, we can begin to do something about it.

 

For example, I take it back to the physical with my Tai Chi practice. How does the body resist easy movement? We become confused, we tell ourselves that we can’t perform certain actions. What we’ve got here is not magic. It’s not a mystery. It’s a pattern of resistance.

 

Misdirection and moving from the center

One of the common patterns of resistance is something we call “misdirection”. Misdirection is the tendency to pay more attention to the things that you favour–whatever’s on the surface or periphery of things, and at the same time, avoiding whatever’s at the center of something.

 

In Tai Chi, for example, we have a whole set of principles around moving from the center, finding the center, establishing the center, and remaining in the center. And then we look at people moving, and we see that the focus is not on the center at all, but on the movements that are supposed to be rooted in the center.

 

Focus on what’s important

This is a common pattern. We seem to place our focus on what is less important, and not on what is most important. There’s a reason that we get stuck in this misdirection. It’s because we’re getting rewarded for it on some level. Mentally, emotionally, spiritually, or energetically, there’s a reward that you’re receiving for this misdirection, over and over.

 

This reward is instant gratification. Instant gratification is the thing that is keeping us from making progress on our spiritual path, from approaching that place of happiness and contentment and community. Every one of these resistances gives us instant gratification instead of authentic growth.

 

How to be happy

So next time you find yourself lamenting about the difficulty of life, I encourage you to search for your center, and try to identify what instant gratification you’re reaching for. Choose discomfort and centeredness over movement and gratification, in your physical, spiritual, and emotional lives, and watch happiness become more attainable.

 

Grandmaster David-Dorian Ross has introduced more students to Tai Chi than any other teacher in America. Master Ross has written, produced and starred in more than 150 educational dvds and television programs. He is the founder and CEO of TaijiFit, the creator of the TaijiFit mind-body exercise program, and is the director of the first online Tai Chi academy. Trained in China by championship martial arts coaches, Master Ross has had an illustrious career in competitive Tai Chi, winning eight U.S. gold medals, a world silver medal and two world bronze medals —the highest awards ever given to an American for international Tai Chi performance.

 

Interested in learning more about Ayurveda and the programs at the Art of Living Retreat Center? Check out our annual catalog here!

 

Yoga Retreat Catalog for NC

TAGS: fulfillment , happiness , meditation , mindfulness , tai chi , wellness , wisdom , yoga
Practicing Blessing - Art of Living Retreat Center

In House: Jurian Hughes on Practicing Blessing

By Jurian Hughes
July 1, 2018

Practicing Blessing - Art of Living Retreat Center

 

A few years ago, my beloved David Wallace and I taught a program together for the first time. We spent the week leading up to New Year’s with a tribe of like-minded souls, diving into ‘Practicing Blessing’. And what an incredible blessing it was! Though I confess I had some trepidation about our teaching together – we are soooo different! – it turned out to be, of course, the great gift.

 

While David is a thoughtful scholar, minister, and poet, I’m a body-feeling dancer, chanter, and yogi. Together, with our distinctive/complementary styles, we literally practiced blessing together. For five days, we practiced actively cultivating ways in which to live in the space of embodied connection to spirit. It was, by turns, surprising, humbling, inspiring, delightful, empowering, raw, and beautiful.

 

The blessing of dance prayer

The highlight for me was New Year’s Eve, when we offered what may be the first-ever flash mob dance prayer in the middle of Kripalu Yoga Center’s busy lunchtime dining hall. Amidst hundreds of guests and their chatter, Simon de Voil’s beautiful song “Deep Peace” rang out. A hush came over the room as twenty, thirty, then perhaps forty of us rose from various points throughout the hall, to silently, in a simple dance, bless the throng. People stopped eating to receive our wordless offering. Better yet, some stood, or sat, and joined us. It was one of the most moving events I’ve witnessed in quite some time.

 

I had to try to capture some of that. Sean Nackoul helped me make this video of the dance prayer in the snow, so you can practice it, too…

 

I, too, am a dancer

Dance prayer teaches me something I am always forgetting–the power of simplicity. I am so thankful to my teacher, mentor, and friend, Megha Nancy Buttenheim, creator of Let Your Yoga Dance®, who introduced me to dance prayer over a decade ago and reminds me that ‘less is, so often, more’. My goal at this stage of life is not to perfect my dance technique, but rather to make the beauty, the joy, the sacred practice of dance so simple, so accessible that everyone who comes into the room has the experience of “I, too, am a dancer.”

 

Practicing gratitude

The simplest, most helpful practice I’ve taken on since our ‘Practicing Blessing’ program is to write down daily the blessings of the day. It’s been quite eye-opening to observe my inner landscape as I do this; to witness myself on the days when it’s difficult vs. the days when I could go on forever. It’s teaching me what I value by highlighting the things that show up over and over – David, Smitty, health, friendship, work that feels worthwhile, a momentary connection with a stranger that infuses my day with meaning… This practice of taking time to remember and record the ways in which I have been blessed helps me to feel like I can then, in turn, be a blessing to others. Simple, yes.

Today, may you feel your blessings overflowing, and know that you, too, are worthy and capable of being a blessing in the world.

 

Jurian Hughs, E-RYT 500, MFA, is founder of the Yoga of Voice; co-founder of A Wild Life Sanctuary™; co-creator of The Yoga of Yes; a Let Your Yoga Dance® teacher trainer; voice coach; personal mentor; writer; speaker; and theatre performer known for her passionate, playful, and engaging teaching style. As a senior faculty member of the Kripalu School of Yoga since 2006, Hughes has led thousands of workshops and programs and trained more than 1,000 Kripalu yoga teachers.

 

For more about Jurian, visit jurianhughes.com. Join Jurian for her ten-day Let Your Yoga Dance® Teacher Training at the Art of Living Retreat Center from September 22 – October 2, 2018.


Interested in learning more about Ayurveda and the programs at the Art of Living Retreat Center? Check out our annual catalog here!

 

Yoga Retreat Catalog for NC

TAGS: blessing , dance , gratitude , in house , jurian hughes , yoga

Becoming a Yoga Instructor: The Sri Sri Yoga Teacher Training Course

By Laurie Bishop
June 22, 2018

 

With week one and week two under our belt, we moved into our final week of the Sri Sri Teacher Training Course in the mountains of Boone, North Carolina. During week three, our schedule remained the same, and our growth continued.

 

Tapping into the joys of childhood

At the beginning of the third week, everyone in class began to look younger. It doesn’t make sense, does it? After two weeks of lengthy yoga sessions, unpredictable weather, and long days, we should have looked haggard.

But, we didn’t.

We all have those memories of the unbounded joys of childhood. Remember those? Our class collectively began to tap into those old memories of happiness, and the contentment of self that young children have before life gets rough. Tapping into those feelings of happiness made us feel and look younger. That lost eye twinkle was back!

What could challenge that renewed youthful spirit? Well, I’ll tell you what…EXAMS!

 

Exam time!

The class instructors were very upfront about the upcoming exams. The exams would be difficult.
Panic rippled through the class. What if we spent three weeks learning anatomy, physiology, the endocrine system, ancient yoga knowledge, Sanskrit, perfected our yoga poses only to be told, “Sorry, honey, you failed. You can’t be a yoga instructor.”

Before I started the course, I didn’t even know I wanted to become a yoga instructor, and now I was panicked I would fail. Other classmates verbalized that same fear as we dried dishes during seva, or walked up the hill to class.

During the third week, we had two practicums where we had to perform poses in front of our class and the teachers. The teachers we had grown to love would have clipboards and stern faces and would grade us as they watched us teach, and they weren’t afraid to give failing grades.

We had the tools we needed, knowledge, proper alignment of poses, but could we teach a class? Did we believe in ourselves enough?

Doubt crept back in, and most of us wondered, “Do I know enough to succeed?”

 

Letting go of doubt

One of our teachers said something remarkable when faced with a barrage of questions from nervous classmates (It wasn’t just me!) about the level of difficulty in the exam and practicum. Instructor Bharti said that if we failed, then she failed as a teacher. It was her job to provide us with everything we needed to pass. We had everything we needed. We just needed to calm down and believe in ourselves.

Intention matters. My intention developed and grew, and I wanted to pass the course. I had to believe that I did indeed have everything I needed. I had to let go of the crutches that kept me from succeeding, the what if’s in life that everyone has. What if I couldn’t remember the information. What if I physically couldn’t perform the poses. What if I fail. What if…

 

With a little help from friends…

Our class would study together as we walked to the dining hall for meals. We would quiz each other while we were drying dishes. When one person felt weak about a particular subject, whether it was the name of bones or muscles or how to pronounce words in Sanskrit, collectively we would help that person. As we worked together as a group, and we became stronger as individuals.

Each classmate at one time or another during that last week reached out to help me with some aspect of the exam. I, in turn, reached out to help whoever needed help. We created a song to go with the Sanskrit words for the personal ethics of yoga while working in the kitchen. One classmate created a Jeopardy game that quizzed us on the endocrine system. A classmate reminded us all that we were only as strong as the weakest student. The individual desire to pass became a collective one fueling us through the week.

 

A desire to help others

When it was time for the practicum, I focused on my intention to teach yoga to the best of my ability. I didn’t worry that I wasn’t the most flexible person in the room or that I was in my 50’s. My focus was on my intention, and my intention had grown from accepting a challenge from a friend to strengthening a desire to help others.

Without the three-week immersion into all things yoga, I might have missed that essential element.
I’m not going to tell you that the written exam was easy because I had all that I needed to pass it. It was tough, really tough. I hadn’t taken a college-level exam in a long time (OK, so I’m talking 30 years.). We had 2 ½ hours to complete the exam (which felt like a college-level exam to me), and it took me the entire time. Yes, I remembered nearly all of the information, but I did get confused on some of the questions (what did the mitral valve do…what did that Sanskrit word mean again…argh!).

 

The results

At the end of the week, we found out as a class what our grades were and that we would be getting our 300-hour Sri Sri Yoga Certificate, which would allow us to apply for a 200-hour Yoga Alliance Certificate as well.

As a class, we did pretty well. There were a few As, a few Bs, many Cs, a few Ds, and a few people failed but were allowed to retake the exam. My grade was a B, and I was content with that.
We spent many hours after we got our scores smiling, hugging, laughing, and talking about how we would visit each other’s yoga studios and guest teach. If we make those visits, the trips will take us all over the United States, to Canada and China.

 

A way to give back

I’ve been home from The Sri Sri Teachers Training Course for several months now, and I find myself pausing when my friends say, “How was your yoga trip? It must have been so relaxing to do yoga for three weeks!”

“No. No, it wasn’t relaxing at all.” I reply to them. “It was transformational.”

My life isn’t perfect since I became a yoga instructor, and I’m certainly not happy all the time. Life is hard for everyone, and there is always something that knocks me off my confidence platform. Yoga, though, is a way for me to pick myself back up when I get knocked down. It’s also a way for me to give back to the well of life from which I drink.

I have taught a few yoga classes since I have been home. The best part about teaching is looking at the faces of students after the yoga session and seeing people who are relaxed and happy. It’s a great feeling to know that I am helping others to find their happy through the practice of yoga.

Recently, I’ve learned there is a 500-hour yoga teacher training course. I’m in my 50’s and not very bendy, but in the near future, I’ll be taking that course.

 

This September, you can experience the Sri Sri Yoga Teacher Training for yourself. Click here to learn more and begin your yoga teaching journey! 

 

Interested in learning more about Ayurveda and the programs at the Art of Living Retreat Center? Check out our annual catalog here!

Yoga Retreat Catalog for NC

TAGS: art of living retreat center , experiences , Retreats , teacher training , yoga , yoga instructor training

Can my body survive?: The Sri Sri Yoga Teacher Training Course

By Laurie Bishop
June 15, 2018

 

While taking a three-week course in the mountains of Boone, I spent the first week battling doubt in my abilities. The second week brought many other hurdles. My mind was willing, but could my 50-something-year-old body handle the course?

 

Luckily, sensing the exhaustion of the class, Krishan Verma, the Yogi Master, adjusted the start time from 5:30 am to 6:00 am. Thirty extra minutes. Only thirty extra minutes. I really could have used four extra hours…

 

The weekly pattern

The classes each week followed a similar pattern. We had early morning yoga, the full sequence (40+ poses) followed by breathing exercises and meditation. Then, we would walk to the dining hall for breakfast and seva. After, we would go back to the classroom for more yoga poses and strength training until lunch. Following lunch, we would do seva before walking to the classroom building.

 

The afternoon consisted of lessons on anatomy, physiology, and the endocrine system, more yoga poses, and meditation before dinner. After dinner, we did seva then walked back to Veda II (the classroom building) for satsang. The day ended with yoga theory, and study sessions/homework before hopefully falling asleep before midnight.

 

That’s a demanding schedule for someone like me. Before my car accident, I was training to run a marathon. I was a little more used to a physically disciplined life then, but that was two years ago. By week two, I wasn’t just tired; I was exhausted.

 

Weathering the weather

Not only was the course challenging, but Boone in October brought constant weather changes. There would be eighty-degree days followed by twenty-degree days. The retreat center experienced flooding and sunshine, gale-force winds and gentle breezes, beautiful fall foliage and snow. Part of the physical challenge of the course became figuring out what to wear each day: flip flops or winter boots, t-shirts or thick fuzzy sweaters.

 

However drastic the change in weather might be, the retreat center maintained its awe-inspiring beauty. After the flooding, a double rainbow painted the sky. A bright full moon warmed the frigid night. There was beauty everywhere I looked. It seemed the weather was in celebration of our course.

 

A week of celebrations

The weather wasn’t the only thing celebrating. We also celebrated Diwali, the Festival of Lights. Our class dressed for the occasion and held a celebration after dinner. I was unprepared for the Diwali celebration – I didn’t pack a dress. Sensing my feeling of inadequacy, my class buddy, Sunita, invited me to her room, reached in her suitcase and generously gave me a beautiful dress to wear. Her generosity humbled me.

 

The celebrations continued with two birthdays. Celebrating our Yogi Master’s birthday, we danced, sang and ate cake. For Halloween, we celebrated yet another birthday. We laughed and danced with Jennifer (one of our yoga instructors) and even pranked her by dressing up our anatomy class skeleton with some of her clothes and placing the skeleton on her yoga mat. The nights ended with singing around a campfire eating candy from our Sanskrit teacher.

 

We worked hard each day, but we also celebrated with great joy.

 

A varied team of instructors

We had seven instructors who taught us every aspect of yoga. Andrew, a Sanskrit scholar, demonstrated how to pronounce Sanskrit words correctly. Medha, an expert on Ayurveda, lectured on the importance of diet. Bharti, a medical doctor, guided us through anatomy, physiology, and the endocrine system. Neha, Jennifer, and Neelam taught the morning yoga classes and were always on hand to help. There was so much to the course that I hadn’t anticipated. I knew there would be a Yogi Master, but to have six additional instructors guiding us was fantastic. It increased the intensity of the course because it heightened our growth potential.

 

The course was so much more than learning yoga poses. We were learning to be healthier, happier people from the inside out.

 

Deep cleansing… literally

 

During week two, we literally moved our insides…out. One day we learned how to use the infamous Neti pot. Our entire class, together, cleaned out our sinuses using salt water while hanging our heads over the railing of the dining hall veranda. The saline cleared away the gunk and carried it down the hill to mix with the fallen leaves. On the terrace once more, we learned the practice of Sutra Neti, or nasal flossing, which I was not a big fan of; I’ll leave it at that.

 

Another class exercise was Shankhaprakshalana: a salt water colon cleanse. This time IN the dining hall, our entire class drank salt water, performed eight yoga poses, and ran to the nearby bathroom as the concoction began to work. Then we would grab another cup of the colon cleansing elixir, return to our yoga mats and continue the poses until it was time for another mad dash for the toilets. In a way, it was a lot like the prep for the colonoscopy I had last year except for the classmates and the yoga. I have to add that it didn’t taste as awful as the colonoscopy prep. The Neti pot experience may have brought our class closer, but the Shankhaprakshalana took our bonding to a whole new level.

 

At first, I thought: I will never do this again, but the cleanse left me feeling lighter. I made a mental note to repeat the practice every six months. We were getting rid of trapped physical and emotional waste. Who needs to hold on to all that garbage anyway?

 

The emergency cookies

Two weeks of focusing on yoga created a visible change in me. My clothes hung more loosely, and I was breathing more freely (and not just because of the Neti pot).

 

There was a bag of emergency cookies in my room – Pepperidge Farm Milano. I unpacked the cookies the first day and carefully placed them on the desk. I used to eat 4 or 5 every night. Maybe it was because I thought it gave me control over my day, or possibly just because? After the first week, I found that number being knocked down to one and not every night. Just one cookie every now and then. The entire yoga process was creating a calmer Laurie, a happier me that didn’t really need a cookie before bed.

 

Looseness in the body

Falling asleep at night was no problem at all. In the past, I would have to take Motrin PM to fall asleep, but with the disciplined work came a tired body and a clear mind that had no problem sleeping. Waking up at 5 am became easier and easier. When the weather was good, I loved walking to class alone but for the stars brilliant against the dark sky.

 

With all of the mountain walks combined with endless hours of yoga, I was amazed that I had no soreness. My neck and back are often sore from the car accident I had two years ago. While I was taking the yoga course, I had no stiffness or soreness.

 

An emotional detox

The Yogi Master certainly knew what he was doing. All those poses we were holding were not only strengthening but also detoxing our bodies and emotions. There were times during class when I would notice tears streaming down my face. I wasn’t sad or hurt, yet the tears came, freeing me from trapped emotions. I wasn’t the only person experiencing tears in class. We became experts at knowing where the tissue box was and gently passing it to the person in need. That wasn’t the only release. There were times when bursts of laughter would erupt from the room.

 

During the second week, I began to concentrate on my body’s alignment, and not just during the hours of yoga sessions. While walking, I was more aware of my posture. Did I suck in my stomach? Were my shoulders pulled down and away from my ears? While I sat, was my spine straight?
The stronger my body became, the more I cared about my body alignment, and the less I cared about my flexibility.

 

My mind and body became stronger, allowing my spirit to take center stage. The total immersion into yoga allowed a safe place for me to grow.

 

Mind, body, and spirit

During the second week, our minds were challenged to memorize the sequence of poses, Sanskrit terms, ancient yoga knowledge, anatomy, physiology, and the endocrine system. Our bodies worked to perform the correct alignment for the poses while learning counter poses. Our bodies also had to build up from the cleanses while maintaining a tight daily schedule. Eventually, our spirits were challenged as locked-in emotions were set free allowing for growth.

 

My fear of not being able to complete the course physically was unfounded. The second week taught me that when led in the right direction, my body can keep up just fine. It even had energy left over to celebrate happy events. I began to feel thinner, stronger, and more comfortable in my skin. I felt my spirit grow as week two ended and week three started.

 

Two weeks down and one to go. Easy, right? Not really. The class as a whole was stronger and happier, but that didn’t make week three easier. No, it wasn’t easy at all. While the hours spent in class had become more routine, and the poses an enjoyable challenge, week three brought with it challenges that made me question if my spirit was going to be strong enough to help me pass the course.

 

To Be Continued…

 

Interested in learning more about Ayurveda and the programs at the Art of Living Retreat Center? Check out our annual catalog here!

Yoga Retreat Catalog for NC

TAGS: art of living retreat center , Ayurveda , experiences , seva , yoga , yoga teacher training
A Mountaintop retreat in Boone, NC

An Unlikely Candidate: The Sri Sri Yoga Teacher Training Course

By Laurie Bishop
June 12, 2018

A Mountaintop retreat in Boone, NC

Last summer, a friend of mine, Sejal, suggested I take a three-week course in the mountains of Boone, North Carolina to become a yoga instructor. At first, of course, I said no.

 

I’m in my 50’s and not very bendy. Except for taking Sejal’s yoga class at the Art of Living Retreat Center, the only yoga I had taken was a class here and there at the YMCA and a few other fitness centers. Those classes were more feats of calisthenics than true yoga, and left me sore and feeling inadequate.

 

Sejal persisted, which made me wonder, “Why?” Why should a woman in her fifties with minimal experience in yoga become a yoga teacher?

 

“You don’t have to be bendy,” Sejal insisted. She went on to say that this is about a lifestyle, a chance to make life better.

 

Suddenly, and surprisingly to me, my “Why should I?” turned into “Why not?,” and I headed to the mountains of Boone with my car packed full of clothes and emergency cookies.

 

Arriving at the Center

Upon reaching the Art of Living Retreat Center, I immediately felt a sense of calm, as though I was home. I checked into my dormitory-styled room, heaving my overstuffed luggage up the stairs. My room consisted of a bed, a nightstand, a desk, and a chair. I opened the windows and let the fresh mountain air fill the room before walking to class.

 

The view from the front of the building was gorgeous as I stopped by the benches placed for people to sit and breathe in the mountain view. It was October 14th, and the leaves were changing color.

 

I walked up the hill to one of the buildings below the main ashram. The crisp air, the view of the rolling mountains, and the overall stillness of retreat center made life feel simpler as I walked towards Veda II, the building I would be taking classes in for the next three weeks.

 

The first class

The building was intimate, yet had plenty of room for our class of 24 to spread out. I sat in the front row facing a small stage. On a yoga mat next to me sat Sunita, who soon became my buddy. She is 72. Yes, 72. It wasn’t long before she told me about her double knee replacement surgeries and how yoga helped in her recovery. Here I was worried about not being very bendy and in my 50’s…

 

While sitting on our yoga mats, the class had a short introductory session before we broke for dinner. It’s a steep hill up to the dining hall, one we would walk up and down many times over the three-week course.

 

Nourishing food and community

The dining hall for the Art of Living Retreat Center is entirely vegan, and meals are served buffet-style. There were so many choices of food that I found my plate piled high each meal because I wanted to try everything. Chef Mel was fabulous at providing unique meals and only repeating dishes when asked – his tomato and pepper bisque was a welcome repeat.

 

Windows lined the dining hall wall and displayed a view of the rolling mountains painted with the changing fall leaves. That first night, I sat and ate dinner amongst strangers not fully aware that after three weeks these people would become my family.

 

Serene mornings

The first full day set the tone for how physically and mentally demanding the course would be. I set out for the day at 5:05 am, meeting Sunita and Daisy (another classmate) for the 15-minute walk up the hill to class.

 

At 5:05 am, the stars shone very brightly in the night sky. The brisk morning air stung my cheeks. I planned on bringing with me to Boone a mini Keurig so I could continue having my morning coffee, but my teenage daughter would not allow me to bring one. “Mom,” she said with great exasperation, “It’s like bringing beer to rehab. You are not bringing a coffee machine to learn yoga.” She was right, and the coffee-free brisk morning walk helped to wake me up for the 5:30 am class.

 

The early morning class began with yoga, breathing exercises including Sudarshan Kriya (rhythmic breathing developed by Sri Sri Ravi Shankar), and Sahaj Samadhi meditation until 8:30 am. Then it was time for breakfast.

   

The hidden blessing of seva

One of the essential aspects of Sri Sri Yoga is seva (selfless service). We were all assigned a seva, and my seva was working in the kitchen after each meal.

 

Usually, I would not be excited about working in a kitchen. Truth-be-known, I am never enthusiastic about working in my kitchen at home. It made a huge difference that this kitchen was not my kitchen. It was a commercial kitchen filled with happy people whose intent was to help others. I would dry dishes and put them out on the counter, or stack dirty dishes bound for the large industrial dishwasher. This dishwasher had a conveyor belt system. Every time I pushed a tray into the machine, it reminded me of how people get on rides at Disney.

 

I scrubbed pots and pans, and I wrapped fruit. Whichever task I did, I did with contentment. It’s amazing how being around like-minded happy people can make even the most menial tasks enjoyable.

 

Jim managed the kitchen. This job was his retirement job, and he always had a pep in his step and a sparkle in his eyes.

 

Other classmates worked in the kitchen with me. We would talk about our families and lives back home as we dried dishes, or whatever chore we were doing. Seva was a very grounding and comforting experience.

 

Sinking into yoga

After breakfast, it was back to Veda for more yoga. The Yogi Master, Krishan Verma, would have us hold specific yoga poses or asanas, and I would think, “Wow, I am awful at this,” or “I’m not going to be able to stand up and walk again after holding this pose for so long.” After a session, I would stand up and walk just fine without any pain. Yes, I would be exhausted, but I would not feel pain, which amazed me.

 

There were many times that first week when I kept looking into Krishan and his wife Bharti’s eyes thinking they were going to shake their heads at me with an awkward look of annoyance and point towards the door saying, “This really isn’t working. It’s time for you to leave.” Of course, that never happened – it was just doubt overwhelming my mind.

 

I doubted whether I would be able to do all the poses. My body is still recovering from a car accident I was in two years ago. It was a significant accident. I had neck problems and mild traumatic brain injury from the wreck that affected my speech and short-term memory. I would think about that as I was sitting crossed legged listening to Krishan teach the class. Maybe Sejal was wrong? Maybe I wouldn’t be able to do this.

 

So much doubt!

 

Working through mental and physical blocks

Several years before the car accident, I blew out my Achilles tendon while training for a marathon and had to learn to walk again after having a new tendon created. Maybe I just couldn’t do yoga because of that, never mind the car accident…

 

I kept doing all the poses to the best of my ability, taking the meditations seriously, committing to the breathing exercises, arriving to class early, and listening to what the teachers were instructing. At some point during the first week the doubt I was carrying became unimportant. It was still there. At times, it would wash over me in waves, but I found it best to acknowledge it and move on.

 

Maybe it was the fact that I was constantly busy? Perhaps the yoga poses, breathing exercises and meditations were giving me the strength I needed to ignore the persistent nagging doubt? Maybe I was just too exhausted? I don’t know, but I stopped listening to that voice in my head that said, “You can’t do this because of…” I began to concentrate on one step at a time.

 

We would break for lunch between 1 and 1:30, walk up the steep hill, eat lunch, and I would work in the kitchen again. That first week, as I got to know my classmates better, I began to notice that we all had voices of doubt to overcome. Life is difficult for everyone. It doesn’t matter what kind of doubt someone carries. Doubt is doubt, and for every individual, it can stop progress.

 

Finding a rhythm

Some days, my classmates and I would talk a lot while doing seva. There were days when we wouldn’t talk at all. Then there were days where we would laugh and sing. It all depended on what we were working through that day. Our struggles might have been different, but our paths were similar.

 

By the end of week one, we had learned all the Sri Sri Yoga poses, and we began learning anatomy and ancient yoga knowledge. Class started at 5:30 am and ended at 10 pm, followed by a daily written homework assignment and studying. After week one, the battle between myself and my mind had quieted. Now I wondered, can my body withstand the course?

 

To Be Continued…

 

Interested in learning more about Ayurveda and the programs at the Art of Living Retreat Center? Check out our annual catalog here!

Yoga Retreat Catalog for NC

TAGS: art of living retreat center , experiences , Retreats , seva , teacher training , yoga
Addiction - Art of Living Retreat Center

Exploring Wisdom: The Role of Yoga in Addiction Recovery

By Tommy Rosen
June 10, 2018

Addiction - Art of Living Retreat Center

 

By definition, addiction is disconnection. T.S. Elliot once wrote that “Hell is the place where nothing connects.” That’s addiction. Nothing is connected. One feels separate from everything. There is no cohesion between mind, body, spirit; between self, other, and the relationship with the Divine. All of this is skewed and confused and difficult and muddled.

 

From disconnection to connection

The classical philosophy of yoga is union, oneness, wholeness, and coherence. The path from disconnection to connection, is, by definition, the path of yoga. Yoga is the antidote to addiction. The asana practice of yoga helps to move energy, cultivate Prana, create vitality, and rebalance the nervous system and the endocrine system. It helps heal the tissues and the cells in the brain.

 

How yoga works to heal addiction

Yoga helps you get the issues out of your tissues. It helps you squeeze and process emotional residue from the past out of the tissues of the body, so that you can be more comfortable, more present, more free. Energetically speaking, yoga allows us to develop a greater sensitivity to the subtle.

 

Addiction is the very grossest of experiences. It’s a physical anxiety, a deep and overwhelming craving. When we practice yoga, we’re moving towards the subtle, the experience of quieter things. That is what spirituality is. Yoga is the study of moving towards spirit, towards essence. It’s sensitivity training.

 

Reconnecting with mind, body, and spirit

From the pranayama standpoint, control of the breath allows us to move beyond some of our confusion to develop an even deeper sense of presence and remove some of our blockages. The state of yoga allows us to be in the state of absorption, of meditation, where we have the ability to master the mind.

 

Addiction hits us at the level of mind, body, and spirit. Yoga is about calming the mind, healing the body, and reconnecting us with spirit. It’s the perfect practice as an antidote to addiction.

 

Tommy Rosen is a yoga teacher and addiction recovery expert who has spent the last two decades immersed in recovery and wellness. He holds certifications in both kundalini and hatha yoga and has 25 years of continuous recovery from drug addiction.Tommy is one of the pioneers in the field of yoga and recovery assisting others to holistically transcend addictions of all kinds. Tommy is the founder of the Recovery 2.0 Global Community, the Recovery 2.0 Online Conference series and the Recovery 2.0 Group Coaching Program. He leads Recovery 2.0 retreats and workshops internationally and presents regularly at yoga conferences and festivals. His first book, Recovery 2.0: Move Beyond Addiction and Upgrade Your Life, was published by Hay House in 2014.

 

Join Tommy Rosen for his Recovery 2.0 Immersion workshop at the Art of Living Retreat Center from June 29th – July 6th, 2018, and change your life from the inside out.

 

Interested in learning more about Ayurveda and the programs at the Art of Living Retreat Center? Check out our annual catalog here!

 

Yoga Retreat Catalog for NC

TAGS: addiction , meditation , pranayama , recovery , tommy rosen , yoga
Addiction - The Art of Living Retreat Center

Exploring Wisdom: The Nature of Addiction

By Tommy Rosen
June 4, 2018

Addiction - The Art of Living Retreat Center

 

When most people hear the word addiction, they think about drugs and alcohol. We have these ideas in our mind about what addicts look like and how they behave, but addiction is actually an underlying condition, and we are compelled to try to fix that condition by reaching outside of ourselves for some kind of medicine.

 

Trying to find comfort is a noble pursuit. There is nothing wrong with it. It just so happens that this underlying condition of addiction causes us to reach for what’s easy, what’s right in front of us,and these things commonly fall into six categories.

Drugs and alcohol are the most recognizable two of these six.

 

Addiction to food

Food is a core issue for many people, whether you’re dealing with bulimia, anorexia, binge eating, or emotional eating. There are so many who have always wanted to gain control over their relationship with food but have never been able to do it.

 

Addiction to people

There are also relationship addictions. Codependency could be thought of as the disease of the lost self, when you don’t have a sense of who you are. You crave to look at yourself through someone else, you crave comfort and ease and to be fixed and found. Relationship addictions are unbelievably painful.

 

Addiction to sex

Of course, there are also sex addictions. This is the addiction that carries perhaps the most shame, that nobody really wants to talk about. This addiction is just a physical sexual act being used to fix an inside problem that can never be fixed in that way.

 

Addiction to greed

Another addiction is greed–money, gambling, debt, shopping, buying things that you don’t need because you’re trying to feel better. For a short period of time, greed gives you a sense of empowerment, but then there’s a feeling of remorse afterwards.

 

Addiction to technology

The sixth addiction is technology. There are wonderful ways to use technology, of course, but then there is using technology as a distraction, to avoid aspects of your life that you perceive as intolerable.

 

The four aggravations

In addition to this six core addictions, we also deal with four aggravations. The four aggravations are negative thinking, self-doubt, procrastination, and resentment. Now people will say, “Tommy, wait a minute. Those are not addictions. I don’t crave those things.” Of course that’s true — we don’t crave negative thinking, procrastination, resentment. We don’t crave self-doubt. But they do fit my definition of addiction, as any behavior you continue to do despite the fact that it brings negative consequences into your life.

 

Thought addictions vs behavioral addictions

Those thought addictions are different than behavioral addictions. Even though they don’t bring a phenomenon of craving, they still fit the definition. It’s still a medicine, even if it doesn’t serve us. To sum it all up, we’re all addicted to avoiding the present moment.

 

The irony and tragedy of this is that it’s only in the present moment that we get to live, to heal, to connect, to love. Those things can only happen in the here and now, and yet it’s such a terrifying proposition for us to sit still long enough to develop a relationship with our selfhood in the present moment. It’s so ingrained to distract ourselves that we have lost the ability to just sit still and to be free. To witness the mind rather than being dragged into it.

 

This avoidance comes from trauma. I define trauma as undigested emotional material from the past. You could look at is as a sort of Karma–it’s unfinished business. At some point, we felt pain and discomfort, and in that moment we didn’t know what to do with it. So we began a pattern of avoidance, trying to fix it or move away from it, anything but sitting and facing it. Action by action, thought by thought, breath by breath, day by day for the rest of our lives, we began a pattern of looking away.

 

Even if we can’t remember that original trauma, it has driven us, our entire life, to repeat this behavior of looking away, which is why I say addiction is the human condition. Everybody is an addict on some level.

 

When the seed breaks open

At some point, the individual comes to a point where change needs to take place. Every individual, at some point in their evolution, will come to the point where they recognize “I can no longer continue the way that I am, although I don’t know how else I could be.” And that’s the moment when the seed breaks open.

 

It’s at that moment when a person often finds that a bit of magic happens – maybe they pick up a random book off the shelf, or turn the corner and bump into a spiritual leader, or speak to a therapist, and that therapist has just a little seed, a little nugget of wisdom that causes them to go forward down that path. If you don’t have a desire to learn and grow, you won’t. But the minute that thirst begins, all of a sudden the universe will take note of it – “Oh! We’ve got a live one! Let’s send lessons down to this person!”

 

Unfortunately, there is a lot of shame and guilt that can trip us up in the process of recovery. As my teacher would say, “Giving energy to the fantasy of your shame will take you places you don’t want to go.”

 

The path of discovery

People recovering from addiction are in a process of becoming, just like everyone else. Everybody is in this together. Instead of saying “Are you on the path of recovery from addiction?” I say “Are you on a path of discovery in life?” We are always discovering. That’s what life is.

 

Tommy Rosen is a yoga teacher and addiction recovery expert who has spent the last two decades immersed in recovery and wellness. He holds certifications in both kundalini and hatha yoga and has 25 years of continuous recovery from drug addiction.Tommy is one of the pioneers in the field of yoga and recovery assisting others to holistically transcend addictions of all kinds. Tommy is the founder of the Recovery 2.0 Global Community, the Recovery 2.0 Online Conference series and the Recovery 2.0 Group Coaching Program. He leads Recovery 2.0 retreats and workshops internationally and presents regularly at yoga conferences and festivals. His first book, Recovery 2.0: Move Beyond Addiction and Upgrade Your Life, was published by Hay House in 2014.

 

Join Tommy Rosen for his Recovery 2.0 Immersion workshop at the Art of Living Retreat Center from June 29th – July 6th, 2018, and change your life from the inside out.

     

Interested in learning more about Ayurveda and the programs at the Art of Living Retreat Center? Check out our annual catalog here!

 

Yoga Retreat Catalog for NC

TAGS: addiction , food , greed , meditation , recovery , sex , technology , tommy rosen , yoga
Art of Living Retreat Center - Living Yoga

In House: Jurian Hughs on Living Yoga

By Jurian Hughes
June 1, 2018

Art of Living Retreat Center - Living Yoga

 

Thirteen years ago, on a July 4th weekend, I was desperate to get out of New York City, where life was stressful and not heading where I wanted it to. I’d spent most of my life up until that time as a theatre actress (Broadway, off-Broadway, regional theatres around the country, and a little film and TV), but that career felt complete, and I’d fallen into producing corporate events, which didn’t seem to suit me at all. Despite the fact that I was making more money than I’d ever made in my life, I was irritable, depressed, tired, and lost.

 

What even happens at a yoga retreat?

The idea of a yoga retreat center was exotic and strange, and it filled me with more than a little angst: “What did one do there? What did one wear? You mean I can show up on my own and not feel like a freak?”

My angst disappeared quickly. I’d chosen to stay in a simple room for two. I’d been paired with a lovely woman whose name I’m sad to say I can’t recall now, but whose being I remember well otherwise–how welcoming she was; how we sat on our beds and talked at length like old friends; how she made sharing a small room with a stranger feel like the most normal thing in the world.

Figuring out the dining hall etiquette helped set me at ease as well: Sit down and join others without waiting for an invitation, or simply enjoy eating alone without feeling like an outcast. What a novelty.

 

More tears, more laughter, more freedom

With my sleeping and eating concerns taken care of, I threw myself into yoga and dance classes, workshops, hikes, massage. I recall crying that weekend. A lot. And I remember what a great relief it was to be in a place where no one seemed to think me odd for that. And so, I let go more. More tears, more laughter, more of myself free to let go of things I didn’t even know I was holding onto.

The highlight of that visit was a noon Let Your Yoga Dance® class with LYYD founder Megha Nancy Buttenheim. I didn’t know what magic this woman was working, but it made me feel giddy and powerful and childlike and so alive! I couldn’t possibly dream then that this woman would become not only a mentor and colleague, but also, finally, a cherished friend and business partner. I had no idea that this ‘dance of the chakras’ would change my life forever. After that weekend I went home, signed up for the training, somewhere along the way quit my job, and eventually moved to the retreat and never looked back.

 

Living yoga off the mat

The next couple of years were some of the happiest I’ve had. As a  Yoga Intern I worked–and laughed a lot!–alongside amazingly creative and talented teachers; generous and courageous souls who taught me so much about passion and service, the yoga of asana, and — more importantly –the yoga of relationship. I was–and still am–so proud to have joined the long lineage of yoga teachers. Observing, learning from, and ultimately teaching beside my mentors was life-changing.

 

In all of my teachers I saw a dedication to truth, a passion to keep growing, a generosity of spirit that extended to me and to every person that walked in the room, and an intense determination to live yoga off the mat.

 

The yoga of life

This is the yoga that excites me the most now. Though I still love, teach and practice hatha yoga–asana and pranayama–it’s the yoga of life that intrigues me the most now. The yoga that moves off the mat and into the living room, the grocery aisle, behind the wheel of my car. I want the yoga practices of compassion, contentment, truth, surrender to be so ingrained in me that they follow me through every part of my day. I may not do them perfectly–oooo, not by a long shot sometimes!–but I endeavor to
be yoga to the best of my ability at any given moment. I dare say that I like who I am as a human being more because of it. That my livelihood as a teacher of these practices now gives me the opportunity to pass on some of that to someone else is inspiring, sometimes daunting–and never short of amazing.

 

Jurian Hughs, E-RYT 500, MFA, is founder of the Yoga of Voice; co-founder of A Wild Life Sanctuary™; co-creator of The Yoga of Yes; a Let Your Yoga Dance® teacher trainer; voice coach; personal mentor; writer; speaker; and theatre performer known for her passionate, playful, and engaging teaching style. As a senior faculty member of the Kripalu School of Yoga since 2006, Hughes has led thousands of workshops and programs and trained more than 1,000 Kripalu yoga teachers.

 

For more about Jurian, visit jurianhughes.com. Join Jurian for her ten-day Let Your Yoga Dance® Teacher Training at the Art of Living Retreat Center from September 22 – October 2, 2018.


Interested in learning more about Ayurveda and the programs at the Art of Living Retreat Center? Check out our annual catalog here!

 

Yoga Retreat Catalog for NC

TAGS: Jurian Hughs , knowledge , kripalu , Let Your Yoga Dance , living yoga , stories , wisdom , yoga
Belly Love

The Practice: Belly Love

By Wendy Swanson
May 17, 2018

Belly Love

 

Our belly, my belly, your belly, women’s bellies, men’s bellies “should” be flat, flat, flat. I have met very few people that are not on a quest for a flatter abdomen. I, too, have striven for this perfection as the message I heard growing up from my misguided but well-intentioned mom was “you can never be too thin (or too blonde)”. I wonder, though, if in our quest for perfection we are sacrificing our wellbeing.

 

A strong core and firm abdominal muscles do indeed help stabilize our low back and lumbar spine. We do need strength in our body, and in particular in our abdomen, to hold ourselves upright and to move through our day with integrity.

 

The beauty of a Buddha belly

Belly LoveA strong belly does not necessarily equal a flat as a board, six pack belly. In the practice of Chinese Medicine, a healthy belly is one that actually has some softness that resembles a slightly rounded “Buddha belly”. The softness indicates that tension is not being stored in the abdomen and that the breath is freely moving through the belly, diaphragm and chest. I’ve noticed that when I feel most relaxed my breath moves and when I feel stressed my breath hangs out in my chest and is quite shallow. I could go on and on about body image and societal pressure to be thin, but today I want to offer a few tools to simply help us get to know our belly and possibly even love our belly AND let you know that a soft, slightly rounded belly is normal, healthy, and dare I say even beautiful.

 

Ways to love your belly

Abdominal massage is a great way to love your belly and has the added benefit to help with constipation. Rub your hands together to warm them before placing them at 12 o’clock above your belly button. Allow your fingers to sink into your belly but not too much that you feel pain. Move your hands around your belly button in a clockwise motion. You can use some coconut oil or sesame oil to help your hands move smoothly around your belly.

Sit or lie down and place your hands gently on top of your belly. See if you can bring your breath all the way to your belly enough so that you can visibly see the rise and fall of your hands.

Find movement that makes you feel great and beautiful. One of my favorite things is to put on music, turn up the volume and simply move and dance with no particular purpose and with no one watching. It helps me to feel free and connected to my body and my belly.

Practice speaking kindly to yourself. Write yourself a love note. Be kind to yourself.

 

Wendy Swanson, L.Ac, E-RYT 200, is a healer, transformational leader, yoga teacher and licensed acupuncturist. Wendy has been leading groups for over 15 years both domestically and internationally. She is an open hearted yoga instructor who is currently studying at Kripalu to obtain her 500 hour yoga certification. As a licensed acupuncturist for over ten years, Wendy’s strives to help people live a life filled with greater ease, joy, well-being and balance. Wendy owns Be Yoga & Wellness in Charlotte, NC.

 

Join Wendy at the Art of Living Retreat Center for The Art of Being You from June 15-17, the Joyful Yoga Conference from August 10-12, and Celebrate Being through Yoga from September 27-30.

     

Interested in learning more about Ayurveda and the programs at the Art of Living Retreat Center? Check out our annual catalog here!

 

Yoga Retreat Catalog for NC

TAGS: abdomen , belly , Body Image , Love , self-care , yoga
Niyamas on the Mat - Art of Living Retreat Center

The Practice: Niyamas on the Mat

By Dr. Bharti Verma, MD
May 10, 2018

Niyamas on the Mat - Art of Living Retreat Center

Last month, we delved into how to practice Yamas on the mat. Today, we’ll be looking into Niyamas. The Yamas are a social code of conduct, and the Niyamas are a standard of personal ethics an individual strives to follow on the spiritual sojourn of Yoga.

 

Shaucha (purity)

Cleanliness and tidiness in the outer environment and your own personal cleanliness keeps the mind from becoming cluttered and irritable. On the mat, if your mind becomes disturbed, then your body cannot focus on doing asana, and the whole practice becomes disturbed.

Deeper understanding of Shaucha is to understand that your body and mind influence each other both on the mat and off the mat. Taking care of each is important to achieve a steady and comfortable asana. Balance and symmetry can only be achieved if the mind is calm and the body flows with the breath.

Shaucha on the mat means personal and environmental cleanliness, together with calmness of the mind.

 

Santosha (contentment)

Santosha on the mat means your asana practice is happening with a relaxed attitude of the body and mind.

Accepting the body as it is in that moment without complaint, and having a mindful attitude toward the practice of asana. When the mind and body are both relaxed, then every movement is joyful and becomes an expression of happiness.

 

Santosha on the mat is a tension-free body and a joyful mind, both flowing in harmony with the breath. 

 

Tapas (penance)

Tapas means willingly accepting adverse conditions without complaining, and this extends to your asana practice on the mat being met with a sincere attitude. Having patience and willingness to give the practice your sincere effort. This type of practice will develop endurance and stamina on the mat and build capacity for endurance off the mat.

 

Tapas on the mat is accepting the challenge of practice with a sincere attitude.

 

Swadhyaya (self-study)

Self-study on the mat means observing one’s attitude, balance, symmetry, and sincerity, and from these observations, learning to improve your own practice at your own pace.

Swadhyaya on the mat means learning from Self-reflection.

 

Ishwar pranidhana (surrendering to a higher power)

Ishwar pranidhana is invited to your practice by 100% just letting go of any anxiety on the mat. Once your sincere effort has been given to achieving symmetry and balance on the mat, let the mind and body totally relax.

This attitude drops any feverishness. It allows you to transcend the body into stillness and the mind into a deep silence. This allows the divinity within to prevail.

Or as Patanjali explains, “Prayatna Shaithalya vAnant Samapatti bhyam!”

Ishwar Pranidhana on the mat is letting the divinity within be your guide into the practice and allowing the divinity to prevail: It is the journey and the destination!

 

In fact, one needs to follow only one of the Yamas or Niyamas and all other Yamas and Niyamas will start to manifest. Not just on the mat, but also in life. Each Yama or Niyama holds a secret to leading one to the truth, and like all rivers merge in the ocean, each of the Yamas and Niyamas bring one to the depth of True Consciousness.

Asatoma sat gamay…

 

Dr. Bharti Verma, MA, MD, MCFP,  combines an established medical perspective with a seasoned background in yoga. As a senior teacher with the Foundation, Bharti teaches advanced level yoga and meditation programs internationally. She is an avid yoga practitioner and instructor with 500 h E-RYT Yoga Alliance certification. She brings yoga to her clinical practice and provides yoga and meditation instruction to many of her patients on a weekly basis.

 

Join Dr. Verma and some of the most influential and engaging yoga teachers in the south east for the Joyful Yoga Conference from August 10th-12th, 2018 at the Art of Living Retreat Center.


Interested in learning more about Ayurveda and the programs at the Art of Living Retreat Center? Check out our annual catalog here!

 

Yoga Retreat Catalog for NC

TAGS: alignment , niyamas , spirituality , the Practice , yoga

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