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Cultivating an Attitude of Gratitude is a Step on the Path Toward Wisdom

It’s November and talk of gratitude is in the air. We can hardly open our eyes in the morning without being bombarded by seasonal messages about being grateful for the bounty that we enjoy. But what if you’re not feeling all that bounty? Can you still practice gratitude? Yes!

When I contemplate gratitude, I often find myself also contemplating Patanjali’s sutras and the five kleshas (obstacles or afflictions), particularly avidya (ignorance). By now, you might be asking yourself, “What’s Todd talking about? What on earth do obstacles and ignorance have to do with a full practice of gratitude?” Here’s the answer:
When life is easy, so is gratitude. But the wise yogi is able to access feelings of gratitude even when life is hard.
Patanjali tells us that ignorance is mistaking the impermanent for the permanent, the impure for the pure, pleasure for pain, and the non-self for the Self. We are ignorant when we blame ourselves for our pain. We are ignorant when we believe that our misery is immutable – that it will never stop. It will! But it’s not when our circumstances change that our life changes, but rather when our reaction shifts. We can learn to be content and grateful even when circumstances are difficult.
Wisdom is knowing that every experience enriches our lives and helps us get closer to the Divine within.
Sometimes life is hard. Money is tight. Love is scarce. Pain abounds. The yogi knows that it is possible to be grateful for it all.  When we cultivate an attitude of gratitude, even toward the moments and the people who add challenge to our lives, we are able to use those experiences to grow and become the people we are meant to […]

By |November 10th, 2019|Ashaya Yoga|0 Comments|

Halloween Tantra: The Joy of Masking and Unmasking Yourself

Halloween was my favorite holiday as a kid. I really loved getting dressed up in a costume and walking to school. I only lived a block from Breton Downs Elementary in East Grand Rapids, MI. I was thrilled by the idea of concealing my identity. On the outside, I could be anyone I wanted to be, while hiding who I really was on the inside. It was my secret.

My favorite costume was dressing up as a monster, the more gruesome the better, with a distorted rubber mask over my head, a hunchback covered by an oversized trench coat, and huge green, reptilian, rubber hands with wrinkled skin, large veins, crooked fingers (that I now recognize as severe arthritis), and long black fingernails. I was a scary sight for sure.

Once at school, all of the kids would parade around the halls single file to observe the creative costumes. Even the teachers dressed up in costumes. Then back in our homerooms we would have the big “reveal.” There was something about this that was so exciting and joyous – to come out from behind the mask and be yourself in the presence of others. As I look back, I loved the attention, appreciation, and expressions of surprise on people’s faces when they discovered who was really behind the mask – a moment of truth, a moment of seeing and being seen.
Concealment with the joy of revelation is one of the most fascinating teachings in Tantra.
The term Rahasya means a secret and refers to the nature of the universe. The universe reveals itself by secreting itself. The infinite releases finitude by concealing unity. In other words, the uni-verse, or the one song, conceals its oneness by becoming […]

By |October 29th, 2019|Ashaya Yoga|0 Comments|

My Bluebirds of Happiness

For thousands of years – from ancient China and Native American folklore up through 20th century Disney movies and even rock lyrics, bluebirds have been symbols of human happiness. I had been aware of this for years, but always thought of this as no more than a myth. Birds come and go, I thought, flying by my windows. I didn’t take much notice of them.
My own happiness couldn’t possibly be linked to something as small and inconsequential as a bird, could it?
And then a pair of bluebirds built a nest in the bird box I mounted in my backyard. I noticed with great interest, and perhaps a bit of attachment to the territory I had staked out as my own, as the male and female moved in, sharing my home without invitation or permission. Soon though, I backed off my feelings of possession. Our worlds became one as I watched the pair lay eggs in their nest. They sat on the eggs to keep them warm and, soon enough, babies were born. Sadly, the babies died but the parents returned to the nest and tried again.

This time, when the brood hatched, I helped the babies by checking them for blowfly larvae when they were just born and still featherless. I would take the hatchlings one at a time out of the nest and check their tiny bodies for parasites, placing them temporarily in a plastic bowl. They were so identical that, if I put them back in the nest, they all looked the same and I couldn’t tell which baby I’d already checked. I got to know the birds and they came to know me. I checked on the nest every couple of days […]

By |October 14th, 2019|Ashaya Yoga|0 Comments|

Twist to Tranquility

Although underrated, twists are powerful poses and have many benefits. They open the primordial channel of energy along the spine – the Sushumna Nadi (channel of grace), which puts you in touch with the universal energy within you. In addition, twists purify the internal organs and are the “tonic” for the spine. Given that the spinal column is the home of the central nervous system which carries “biologic wires” of communication to every part of the body, twists work with the nerves and emotions. When anxious, twists will calm you down. When exhausted, twists rejuvenate and restore you.

At the recent Love Yoga Festival in Falmouth, I taught a class on spinal twists and I began the class with Tantric teachings. You can hear a recording of this talk below. Tranquility is our true nature and is the goal and driver of all yoga paths. We want to find the calm within the chaos, the eye of the hurricane. Tranquility is one of the qualities of the great Absolute that resides within.

But most of us have forgotten how to access tranquility. In the speed of today’s technological world, we’ve lost the patience and perseverance that it takes to cultivate true serenity. We habitually try to find serenity in all of the wrong places through addiction to substances, food, sex, money, etc. At best, these superficial outlets can only bring temporary peace but often lead to more pain, suffering, complications, and chaos – the opposite of serenity.
Life’s path is full of surprises. It twists and turns. The journey of the heart is never a straight line.
We can’t stop this from happening but we can choose how to respond to it. You can either turn away from […]

Finding the Teacher Within

If you were to make a list of all the teachers who have had an impact on your life, who would be on it? The fifth grade teacher who taught you to work hard? The high school biology teacher who taught you to take notes effectively? A music or dance teacher? Your first yoga teacher?
What about you? Are you on your own list of teachers?
We learn from everything we do and every person we meet, whether easy or hard, joyful or painful. No moment that we survive leaves us unchanged. But who helps us learn our lessons from these experiences and relationships? That’s the teacher within.
Everybody has an inner teacher…even you.
Your inner teacher appears when you discover something you’re excited about or you find something that really worked for you. It’s hard not to share it with a friend. We are all hard-wired to share with others what works for us. Whether you do it in a classroom, on a yoga mat, or over coffee, sharing something from your heart is teaching. This skill can be studied and can be developed and refined to such a degree that simply by your sharing from your heart you transform the lives of others. This is what you’ll learn at the Ashaya Yoga In-Depth Study/200-Hour Teacher Training.
The physical, mental, and emotional transformation that you will undergo by participating in this program will be profound.
Many people complete the program and go on to teach yoga classes, workshops, and trainings. You might be one of them; you might not. Regardless, a new light will shine forth. Whether or not you choose to teach in a formal setting, you will touch the lives of friends, loved ones, and even strangers […]

By |September 14th, 2019|Ashaya Yoga|0 Comments|