Bhakti Yoga: Keep Practicing Until Your Knee-jerk Reaction is Love

by Anandra George

Sustained, embodied LOVE.

The great masters have always said that there is nothing wrong with the world. The only problem is with our perception. When we are pure, we see everything and everyone as pure.

That state is not far-fetched, it’s tantalizingly close!

I could beat around the bush, but in truth, the methods of sound-based yoga as we teach them in the  Heart of Sound training bring us swiftly to the empowerment of that choice. And that is the real reason we developed the training. We want you to live in love.

With consistent practice, we discover with delight that the underlying mind-state becomes harmonized and even our knee-jerk reactions to crazy-bad situations are suffused with love!

You may be thinking, “I’ve been chanting for 20 years, why am I not ‘there’ already?”

If you’re already on the sound path, you probably know that there are some common obstacles to full integration:
1. Dull, rote chanting without full feeling.
2. Regular discrepancies between thoughts and words and actions.
3. Mechanical hindrances to experiencing the full resonance, such as postural tension.
4. Mushy pronunciation that misses the special nerve centers that Sanskrit was designed to activate. (It’s impossible to fully feel the full potential of the bliss of chanting if you’re not hitting the right spot. You can imagine it and aspire to it, but when the mechanics are just right, the full sensory bliss experience takes care of itself.)
5. More “doing” than deep listening and presence.
6. And if you think about it, you can probably name many more obstacles!

When we pay close attention to these and other subtle (and not-so-subtle) obstacles, we can refine our practice and our natural essence shines through more easily. Then, we can truly be of service to our communities! We can shine like a person in love (with love itself, not just a temporary person/place/thing)!

With LOVE,

Let It Go

:the yoga lesson of Disney’s “Frozen”


by Stephanie Keiko Kong


If you know the song, you’re singing it in your head right now.


There’s a lesson for yoga practice in there. Yeah. I didn’t know either. The lesson is this: If you look perfect in practice, yer doin’ it wrong.


I was actually sick of “the Frozen song” until a new favorite yoga teacher used it to teach this badass lesson.


Let that image shit go.


I was traveling through San Francisco one autumn, desperately seeking yoga. I was sore and lethargic from sitting on airplanes and eating irregularly and not moving my body.


The only class I could fit in was an advanced level hot vinyasa flow. Right away, I was like “ugh, not my style.” I mean, I love practicing challenging poses at home, but this would be in public. In a heated room. With a teacher I didn’t know. At a strange studio. In a city far from home.


I felt really, really self-conscious.


I worried that I’d fall on my face and embarrass myself, so I kinda wanted to hide. I worried that the teacher wouldn’t immediately recognize that I’m a teacher, so I kinda wanted to stand out.


But I was desperate for a class.


“I can handle this,” I told myself. “I’m good at yoga!”


Ego can be a bitch.


I walked up ten minutes before class, and there was a line of people waiting to check in. When I got into the huge room, the only spots left were near the very back or way up front. I took a spot in front, hoping that this clearly very popular teacher was one of those ignore-the-front-row types.


He bounced in radiating “lessss goooo!” energy. He bopped over to the sound system plugin. There was no pretense, no yoga voice, nothing but genuine enthusiasm. What happened next endeared Buddy Macuha to me forever.


The music started, “Snow glows white on the mountain tonight, not a footprint to be seen…”


I thought, “No. This is a joke. He’s going to turn this crap off any second now.”


He didn’t.


Buddy said, “I love this song. It’s teaching me. Listen!” And he mimed belting the chorus into a microphone as Idina Menzel’s voice filled the room, “Let it go. Let it go. Can’t hold it back anymore.”


Buddy presented the theme of the practice this way. He encouraged us to let go, to push a little past where we felt comfortable and just practice. To try something that’s “too hard.”


“We’re an advanced class here,” Buddy explained, “You know how to keep yourself physically safe. Just don’t play it safe.”


If we felt like transitioning through a handstand, great. If we fell on our faces, great.


“Is there a pose you’re afraid of? Let’s do it! Time to let go of that fear,” he said.


The word fear landed like a brick in my stomach — I was afraid. My throat got heavy as my eyes started to burn with tears. My mind tightened. Maybe I shouldn’t be here. Maybe I have no business coming to an advanced class. Maybe I’m not good at yoga. Maybe I’m not a good yoga teacher. Maybe I’m a fraud.


I pictured myself standing, rolling up my mat and suffering the awkwardness of leaving class before it even started. “Better than staying and crying, for God’s sake,” I thought. I was already way out of my comfort zone, and Buddy (and the Frozen song) were telling me to go further.


I took a deep breath, ready to get up… and that’s when Buddy stood right next to me.




In a panic, I did the only other thing I could think of: I stayed. At least until he walked away.


“Take a deep breath,” he said, still right beside me. “And let.. it.. go.”


And I did.


Watery-eyed, I sang the opening AUṀ with abandon, letting my ragged voice ring out. Buddy smiled at me. I shakily smiled back.


We were up and moving within seconds, no time to hesitate. Buddy called out the poses in majorette cadence, snapping his fingers in a Z formation.


“Down Dog!” Snap snap.

“Chaturanga!” Snap snap.

“Up Dog!” Snap snap.


I smiled bigger in the privacy of Down Dog. “This guy is out there!” I thought. “There’s no way I could be the weirdest person in the room even if I tried.”


My mind-shackles loosened. I tried poses that made me nervous. I fell over and wanted to melt into the floor with embarrassment. I got up. I fell over again. I laughed. I left my self-consciousness in a sweaty puddle under my feet. I nailed some poses I didn’t think possible, trembling with effort and triumph. And I had an amazing, no-holds-barred, utterly joyous practice.


These lyrics from the second verse still ring in my memory:

It’s funny how some distance makes everything seem small 

And the fears that once controlled me can’t get to me at all


What are you afraid of?


Falling over?

Embarrassing yourself?

Not knowing everything there is to know about yoga?

Getting called a fraud?

Being laughed at?


In the words of Disney’s Frozen, and the amazing Buddy Macuha: “Let it go.”


Push yourself. Find your edge by actually visiting it. Peek over the edge, even. Scary things are not so scary when you look at them in the light of your own strength.



The Love Inside

by LauraLynn Jansen


I firmly feel, and believe, there is a true and sustainable love living inside each of us. Feels, to me, like the same love encouraging the birds to sing each morning. This omnipresent love pulls the tides and moves the moon. It offers us our every breath. I imagine it like an internal flame, a bit like a flickering firefly, sometimes shining brightly, and sometimes-quite dim, and in some rather sadder times it is invisible.

Currently, I feel this inner flame in me burning at a high intensity. A different type of engagement in my daily Yoga practice, known as Bhakti Yoga is stoking the fire. I attribute it to the profound resonance coming from a more precise and detailed mantra recitation. Though my first introduction to Sanskrit mantras was over twenty years ago, I’ve never known the details of this Yogic practice. Now an informed tongue knows where to place itself in the mouth, sounds elongate at certain moments, intonation occurs, and a deeper understanding (through the mind and the body) is being obtained. These words written in this ancient language of Sanskrit lend to a new experience of words of invocation and reverence. Alongside these chants is time dedicated to sargam (a traditional Hindustani music) practice and āsana, which I use to take out the cricks in the body before sitting to engage everything else. Pretty much every day I begin with these practices and collectively call all of them my Yoga practice. They stoke the inner flame of light, no matter how dim I felt it the night before or upon awakening.


I’ve been cultivating this new sensation and understanding for almost three years now. It carries through the day, assisting my ability to keep my mind toward the warmer and more positive aspects of life in the modern world. Its’ beauty endlessly astonishes me. Often I sit in awe of how it manifests. I end each practice with a mantra historically known to invoke a deep sentiment for every person and being toward a place of peace. Often I visualize folks in my life who I know struggle to keep their inner flame lit. During this season of romantic love I pray these folks find a love of Self (versus love outside of self). A love so deep it lifts up the flame from within them.


If you are someone who craves to a dip into (or dip deeper into) the Self-love flame here is an open offering. The teacher, from whom I am learning about these ancient practices, and several other students (who study with her) compiled this offering to increase your understanding of this mantra and mantra practices. They give it freely. May it assist you in deepening your understanding and experience of the love living inside us all.



Resolve to Evolve

by LauraLynn Jansen


Resolving to evolve is to consciously seek change for oneself. Outside influences play no role in a true inner revolution. It is a change motivated by an inner honing in on what no longer serves us, and aims us toward moving beyond habit into intention.

Yoga traditions associate the patterns we create with the Sanskrit word samskara. Breaking down the word we learn – sam means joined together or complete & kara, refers to action or cause. Engrained in each of us are patterns/samskaras, both of a positive and not so positive nature. Some of these patterns we cherish and would never give up; while others can be negative and underlie low self-esteem and self-destructive relationships. The negative samskaras are what hinder our positive evolution. When we repeat samskaras it reinforces them, creating a groove that is difficult to resist. The deeper they become the pull on our lives becomes harder to sustain.

Many, many years ago I started on a path. I didn’t know I even needed to be on it. I had no clue what it was named or where it would lead me; or if I would even keep a commitment to what I was discovering. I was completely unconscious to what lay beneath the surface of my skin. The patterns I had created in my life were pushing on me hard.

Now, almost 30 years later, words of gratitude can’t even touch how happy I am to have decided to dive deeply into this path, the path of living Yoga. Over the years my commitment to it, though wavering in depth at times, continues to join me with the deepest aspects of mySelf. I now realize that each decade of study guides me into a new aspect of this ancient tradition. It drives me to face samskara tracks I continuously lay within myself. Each confrontation leads to an evolution. And each evolution leads me to a deeper aspect of comprehending Self.

The first decade of discernment, ages 20-30, concentrated on the mind’s power. I was stuck in a deep samskara, a belief that I could only do one thing in my life, be pretty. Prior to this time I truly believed the only way I could make it in the world was by being attractive. So much so I packed all I owned and moved myself, at the age of 19, from central Wisconsin to Los Angeles to chase my one and only career option (or so I thought) to be a model. Within a year, cancer hit me full force. It forced me confront the  engrained beauty belief driving my every thought. It took the hair off my head and left permanent bald patches. It pushed my pain threshold on a regular basis and left scars all over my body as proof. While going through a year of treatments many hours were spent in silent contemplation and reading texts of mystics in a wide-range of philosophical and religious traditions alongside relentless puking. All of their words and promptings lead me to the stillest parts of Self. Taking action was truly my only choice. It literally felt like a do it or die situation. These inner churnings turned the total notion of what life is meant to be in a completely different direction. This go-round I truly realized I possessed far more than just an outer beauty. Deep samskara cracked wide open.

The second decade focused on the body with the mind playing second string. I immersed myself into the study of Yogāsana (the postures). A new layer of mistrust (of Self) kept me questioning my physical ability again and again. Lungs weakened and constrained by the scars of radiation prematurely halted my breath every time I attempted something requiring vigorous deep breath. I engaged in every pranayama practice appearing to be a possible break through in this physical limitation. Year after year I ventured to my favorite place, Lake Tahoe. Each time I paused, while kayaking the beautiful lake water, to gaze up at the tremendous mountains surrounding us. I felt deeply dwarfed by their massiveness. There is no way I will ever be able to hike to those elevations, no way. Impossible. My breath will never allow it. This samskara had me on lock me down, convinced I would never be able to trek into the wilderness of these majestic mountains. Then one day someone very dear to me said let’s try a short hike up the path along Echo Lake. I looked at her in total shock. Did she not know my limitations? I was wrong. It was slow, however step-by-step the elevation rose bit-by-bit. There is a moment forever in my heart. I stepped out of the forest and into an alpine meadow. The sight of the vibrant green grass peppered with the brilliant colors of poppies, lupine, daisies and a whole slue of wildflowers freshly bursting after the spring’s snowmelt. A tear of joy rolled off my cheek hitting the dirt next to my boot and then another and another. Another false self-story (a.k.a. samskara) now destroyed. [FYI: I later climbed the tallest freestanding mountain in the world, Mt. Kiliminjaro.]

Now I enter my fifties with a deep awareness of the next samskara I am chasing down. It is an elusive and tricky one. I’ve seen it for some time playing on the fringes of my consciousness. Though it keeps trying to disguise itself, I am confident I will find a way to loosen its’ grip on me. Facing it fully is/will be a venture of the greatest courage ever, for me. My game plan? To love the heck out of it.

Persistence and Energy on the Yogic Path

By Douglas S. Files, M.D.

A well-known myth states that British Prime Minister Winston Churchill once spoke at his old school, Harrow. The story goes that his entire speech consisted of him telling the young audience to, “Never give up…never, never, never, never.” In reality the speech was much longer, but the legend has passed down to the present day because of the strength of its point: persistence is critical to success.

For three years I have served as president of the board of directors of the yoga non-profit theYoke. When I began I was seeking charitable work as a way to contribute and keep busy. My friend LauraLynn Jansen mentioned forming a Yoga-based non-profit organization. Its’ mission to unite and serve yoga folk intrigued me. I also relished the challenge of establishing a new charity. Despite my lack of Yoga expertise, I was familiar with administrative tasks from running a small business. In addition, my passion for education was piqued by one aspect of the organization’s mission to assist in educating the general public about the full spectrum of Yoga via a blog, podcasts, courses and so much more. Naturally I offered to help.

Recently our founder and executive director, LauraLynn Jansen, asked me how I have changed since becoming affiliated with a Yoga non-profit. For one thing, the experience has taught me more about the full range of Yoga; how it involves far more than asana. I deeply enjoy our explorations in the Yoga Folk Book Club. Learning about the philosophical underpinnings of Yoga, for example the jnana Yoga path (union through true knowledge).

has made me think differently about my life. One book mentioned that we may make up to 10,000 value judgments a day. This lesson came into focus for me as part of our readings on dukkhas. The Sanskrit roots of dus refers to bad and kha originally meant hole. According to Yogapedia this refers to the hole for an axle. “ A poor-fitting axle would lead to discomfort; hence, suffering and dukkha.” Modern translations simply give it as suffering. The impact of this understanding has brought me to spend more time focusing on the value of each moment. I concentrate more on the flow and just moving through a difficult situation versus labeling it good or bad. As a teacher of doctors, receiving criticism and being able to move through moments without self-critiquing sharpens my focus. This assists me in passing through my day smoothly versus getting stuck on petty moments or wallowing in one comment or situation. This awareness impacts my overall life and lets me approach moments from a more meta-level. I carry the benefits of this with me and it is also a form of Yoga.


“The spark of life is not gain. Nor is it luxury. The spark of life is movement. Color. Love. And furthermore…if you really want to enjoy life, you must work quietly and humbly to realize your delusions of grandeur.”
Mark Helprin, A Soldier of the Great War

An Attitude of Gratitude

by LauraLynn Jansen


Every year around this time I automatically pause for reflection. It isn’t prompted by a holiday or even the change of season. This time of year holds a deeply personal marker in time for me. It is the anniversary of an event that changed the total trajectory of my life, and for this I am forever grateful.

It shifted my worldview 180 degrees toward a way of life I knew nothing of, the many depths of Yoga as a way of life, and wasn’t even remotely heading towards. Recognizing and remembering the path from then to the present always conjures up gratitude, and a bit of awe.

This pause for reflection was heightened this year when I heard a friend, who struggled for many years and at one point thought she had even beat the disease, has ultimately succumbed to the cancer. This news impacts me on a multitude of levels from a feeling of sadness to being pissed off. A little survivor’s guilt tries to creep in as well. [In case you are unfamiliar with survivor’s guilt, it is a feeling of guilt for still being alive or well. It can surface within a survivor of a disease or a tragedy. Often this happens upon hearing or recounting the story of someone who has gone through a similar situation and is still deeply struggling, or has died.]

All of these emotions can create an intensely slippery surface where I can easily slide from one edge of the emotional range to the other. Daily practices along the whole spectrum of Yoga (āsana to dharana to prāṇāyāma to nādā) always assist me in keeping grounded in the here and now. These ancient practices consistently guide me to the heart, where I can focus with the best of intentions. Still, pulling in a deep sense of gratitude for what is real and true right now in this moment without any outside influence is an edgy gratitude practice for me.



Think of someone you know who struggles with something (exercise, eating well, mental well-being, etc.). Really challenge yourself by picking something that comes fairly easy to you. Acknowledging this awareness of them and you is an opening to observe gratitude (for this aspect of your life). If you feel yourself pulled to some other aspect in this observation – a feeling of pity for them, a sense of being better than the other person, or some other ego based response – see if you can find your way back to the part of you humming with gratitude. Try to vibrate there whenever your awareness allows.


Developing an attitude of gratitude is about awareness… being aware of how we respond to a moment in time. Being able to recognize how fortunate we are now. How past experiences helped us be who we are now. How we are fortunate to have a direction forward into the future. How wonderful it is to have a heart that recognizes gratitude.

May the force of gratitude always be with you.



Building the Yoga Soul of Community

This month Kirsten Holmson, of Community Soul Yoga (in Wausau WI), shares her journey in creating community in a place where the word “Yoga” raised many questions of uncertainty back in the day.


LL: Thank you for taking time to share with us your journey in creating Yoga space and awareness in a place newer to it. Would you describe your journey of opening Community Soul Yoga?


KH: I saw a need for greater access to yoga in our area and more visibility. When I came to town, in 2010, there were many teachers teaching yoga—but they were hard to find. No one was really “advertising”, there were no established studios, and the yoga that I found (at the YMCA) felt very much like a gym environment.


There wasn’t a yoga community like what I had found while living in the Chicago suburbs. One of my main objectives in teaching was to bring yoga to more people and to help people understand that there are many different styles of yoga. I began teaching at the YMCA; it wasn’t a good fit. So, when I left I had to figure out how I was going to expose more people to yoga, gain teaching experience, and start building relationships within this community. It is hard to be the outsider and “break in” to a smaller community where so many folks have grown up here (and have stayed here). I began teaching at the Unitarian Universalist Church twice a week. I offered my classes free of charge in return for use of the space. In less than 6 months I was filling classes. At that time it seemed appropriate to continue offering yoga to this community, but to find a way to get paid as well so that I could further my studies and provide an additional income stream for our family.


It felt a bit risky stepping out into the world of studio ownership. I wasn’t sure how I would be received. I opened the studio as a bare bones neighborhood studio where I was the only teacher in May of 2011. I vowed that I wouldn’t take out any loans and that the studio would grow as the community grew. I also let it be known that my family always came first. My children were at the studio often during those early days as they were too young to stay home alone. I was the only teacher for almost the first two years. I taught a lot, had plenty of classes with low to no attendance, and continued to work on building relationships—that was key.


LL: Such courage! You are truly a pioneer sharing this ancient practice (in its full scope) in this town in the middle of Wisconsin. As someone who grew up in Wausau I totally understand the risk you took. I, personally, was deeply grateful when I saw Community Soul’s existence on one of my yearly visit to see my mother. How have you kept the doors open and thrived as a studio?


KH: I think I’ve been able to keep the doors open because I listen to the needs of our community, our students, and our teachers. We are a studio committed to community and service, and people often comment that the studio is their “sanctuary” and a place of belonging. I’ve made some changes to the schedule based on feedback, I’ve given teachers room and time to grow their classes and find their unique voice (they are all independent contractors).


I’ve kept overhead very low, the studio is very basic and doesn’t have the “bells and whistles” of some, and I don’t offer retail—we simply teach yoga. I supplement revenue streams with workshops and events, and perhaps most importantly, I run the studio as a business. That’s where I see some of the smaller/local studios running into trouble. The approach is more of owning the studio as a “hobby” or an idea that “it can’t be all that hard to run a yoga studio”. When I teach, I give 100% to my students. I am there to serve them. When I am working on the business, I am working (budget, marketing, networking, etc.).

LL: Makes sense, I can feel how your heart (and a bit of soul I’m sure) is dedicated to the time with the students. So there other bit of soul and brain power are for business stuff. Could you share some business practices that have been key to your survival?


KH:  I spend a fair amount of time building relationships with teachers, students, and other business owners in town. I regularly assess what’s working at the studio and constantly ask students and teachers for feedback. I stay up-to-date on what’s happening in our area  and nationwide in regards to yoga, and look outside of our industry for information to. I studied the areas of business that I’m not as familiar with and ask a lot of questions.



LL: On a more philosophical note – how you have developed the soul of the community at the studio? How has it evolved?


KH: I think the soul of the community has grown out of genuine love and care for one another. There is an understanding that we’re all in this together, and that it takes all of us to keep the studio thriving. There is a culture of service that underlies much of what we do and I think that folks are grateful to be a part of something “bigger”. We have created a space of belonging and attract students from all walks of life. There isn’t an emphasis on current yoga “trends.” This community is a space where folks can simply be themselves. No one is more important that then next. We don’t emphasize separateness, which I see happening more and more in the yoga world (“our tribe”, “our people”, etc.) or emphasis on things like yoga challenges or the latest yoga styles.


LL: It feels like you really have stuck to the roots of Yoga. I imagine this approach translates to the folks in your community in the simplest and most forthright way. Just lovely. Makes me smile to think of Yoga’s intent in its purest form in a town I grew up and struggled so much. It is a comfort to know you have created a haven there for others. Thank you for being one of the first to light the path there.


You can find Kirsten on Instagram -or- Kirsten’s website

Her studio is at :

Om vs. Auṁ

by Anandra George

One of the most common questions I get in mantra workshops and mantra teacher trainings is about Om vs. Auṁ. Which is correct? Does it matter how we spell it, and how we say it? There are several different ways to answer this question

The short, practical answer:
OM is usually for short chanting. It is chanted as one beat in a rhythmic repetition, usually at the beginning of a longer mantra, like Oṁ Gaṁ Gaṇapataye Namaḥ.

AUM is usually for extended chanting. If you’re chanting AUM as a mantra meditation on its own, it will take you 3 to 10 seconds or more to pronounce each unique vowel sound, and then allow the M sound to slowly internalize the sound back into silence. (*See the free mantra e-book for detailed chanting instructions for beginners.)

Sometimes, in properly transliterated mantra material, you’ll also see a dot above the M, as in Oṁ or Auṁ, to indicate a special Sanskrit pronunciation called “anusvara,” sometimes translated as “the after-sound.” This dot indicates that the sound dissolves into a single point before being absorbed back into silence.

The nerdy tantric Sanskrit answer:
The vowel sound O in OM is made up equal parts A and U. It is a perfect blend of the first position (guttural) and the fifth position (labial).

The vowel sound AU in AUM is made up of two parts A and one part U. It emphasizes the first position (guttural) more than the 5th position (labial).

Because there is more A sound, and A represents infinite consciousness (cid śakti) and the A sound itself has a direct heart-opening power, it could be considered to be more powerful than the blended O sound.

The infinitely esoteric answer:
Actually, it really doesn’t matter how you spell OM, or how you chant it, because the audible OM is an only an echo of the inaudible sound. The true OM cannot be perceived by the ordinary senses; the ability to hear it is available only through the internal, spiritual, subtle senses. It also cannot be expressed in such a limited sense by one person’s voice, because in fact, the true expression of OM is pulsing in all life itself.

If you listen to any sound deeply enough, and trace it back to its source in silence, you can hear OM within that sound, whether it be the wind in the trees, a rushing river, a speeding train, or dinner conversation in a restaurant.

We chant OM as a mantra meditation practice not to “make the perfect OM sound,” but to focus our minds, experience the power of sound vibrations internally, and tune ourselves into the listening for the inaudible sound.

The final answer:
In my view, you’re chanting OM correctly (regardless of how you spell it and how protracted each sound is) if by the mere thought of OM, without even opening your mouth, you become absorbed in the bliss of fullness and love. If chanting audibly is required in that moment, either to serve your own internal focus during your own meditation, or to serve an audience of listeners to join you in chanting, the sound will be saturated with that love. It should come from the heart of sound, and touch the hearts of all around you.

Just like love, the experience of OM is beyond words.


“Let Om be the bow, mind the arrow, and Higher Consciousness the target.
Those who want enlightenment should reflect on the sound and the meaning of Om. When the arrow is released from the bow it goes straight to the target.”
Dhyāna Bindu Upaniṣad

Being Popular

by LauraLynn Jansen

Change is inevitable they say. The world revolving around this word, Yoga, demonstrates how even something so ancient can evolve and change thousands of years later. It is an evolution I’ve personally been a witness to, and the variety emerging truly amazes me! My closeted yoga self, of several decades ago, could never have imagined the fringe practices I read of and tried to reenact (in the little old pottery studio I was living in) would one day enter the mainstream. At that time the use of meditation, asana, visualization, mantra were all curiosities in my pursuit of finding peace (and maybe some physical relief) amongst a slue of treatments to defeat the cancer throughout the upper portion of my body.


Now many, many years later I wonder what gives Yoga (everything from asana to mind-centering practices) such staying power? Maybe it is the sensation, many students have shared they experience, of feeling lighter and freer through the body. Or could it be the self-growth one may experience when engaging in the various principles associated with a Yoga based practice? Recently a great new video, by Uplift, on the science of Yoga was released. It links this ancient knowledge with modern science. It highlights how the self correcting mechanism of the body, homeostasis, is righted through Yogic practices. This innate ability to heal is in each of us, and is the antidote to the ever-present stresses of this modern world. When engaging in asana or meditation or mantra we allow time to hold both suffering and joy, unhappiness and self love, flow and fighting it, or letting go and being human. So whether balance is being invoked through the physical actions of asana or the vibration of a mantra practice this ancient science works. The Big Bonus is by engaging in Yogic actions we tend to be reminded of how to connect to other and relate to the Divine of selves we are! We are taking time to feel the essence of who we are, and I am guessing this aspect alone is a deep draw to this thing called Yoga.

This organization, theYoke, is one way I’ve committed to sharing and keeping the many pieces composing Yoga alive and understood. We built this organization based on the aspects of seva, sustainability and unity. It is an organization created to grow with the times and to be sure we do that we are currently taking the pulse of Yoga folk. We would love your input. We are deeply curious what you see and feel about the Yoga world around you.

Yogic Action is…

by Elle Potter (founder of Yoga Buzz)


There is a lot going on in the world right now – although you probably don’t need me to tell you that.  For some, you may know exactly what to do in response.  But for those of us who may feel lost, what do you do when you don’t know what to do?

There are many different ways to practice yoga. The yoga we participate in through Yoga Buzz is called Karma Yoga. Karma is often interpreted in a number of different ways, but in this particular example, Karma simply means Action. Thus, I am a yogi who takes action to engage with the world around me, specifically to create change.

In taking action, it is natural to move forward onto the path of activism – after all, taking action means you are being active.

Let’s take a quick look at one definition of an activist:

Activist: an especially active, vigorous advocate of a cause

Ipso facto, a yogi who is an especially active, vigorous advocate of a cause is an activist.

Now, you may feel totally at home with the term “activist.” But if you’re not so comfortable with that term, I’ll be honest – the first time someone invited me into the conversation of activism, I also struggled with the idea. It felt overwhelming, like shoes I could never possibly fill. Images of angry activists filled my mind, people chaining themselves to trees, protesting endlessly – none of it felt like me.

Over time, my perspective of activism shifted, as I began to apply yogic philosophy to the idea of being active and vigorous in advocating change. And so, for my friends and fellow yogis out there who might be struggling to find a way forward in an ever-changing, tumultuous world, I offer this to you as an invitation into Karma Yoga, into activism.

These five thoughts are brought by the first limb of the Eight-Limbed Path of Yoga. This comes from the Yoga Sutras, an ancient text describing yoga, and one of the most studied yogic philosophical texts. The first limb is called the Yamas, which are guidelines for engaging with the external world. There are five Yamas, which are interpreted in a myriad of ways. Let’s look at them as a practical application of the modern activist.

Ahimsa – Non-Violence. Non-violence goes beyond the physical, and into the realms of emotional and psychological. The words you choose make an impact on those around you. Our modern society has created a world where we send emails, messages, and comments quickly, oftentimes without truly considering the impact our words may have on one another. Think about the time you spent scrolling down on your social media feed. When you come across someone posting an opinion that differs from yours, do you react? Or do you take time to think, and then choose how to act What I have noticed is when people react, ignited with anger and frustration, and the response is more anger and frustration. It escalates, all with rarely a constructive conversation and definitely no opportunity to actually listen to what the other person is saying.

Ahimsa teaches us to take a deep breath, consider what we are trying to say, weighing the impact of our words, and then making a choice of how to move forward. It may mean you step into a challenging and uncomfortable conversation, or it may mean that you choose to not engage – but either way, you come to that decision with intention.

Satya – TruthSatya is a perfect complement to Ahimsa in consideration of non-violent communication. When you are in conversation, are you actively listening to what the other person has to say, or are you formulating your next response while they are talking? Satyameans listening with intention, and honoring that another person’s perspective on the world is based on what they experience to be true. While you may not experience the same injustices, acknowledging that they are very real for the person who does – this is not only a practice of Satya, but of Ahimsa as well.

Asteya – Non-StealingAsteya is not taking that which is not freely given. Asteya is exactly the opposite of oppression or exploitation, which intentionally takes away the civil and human rights of one group in a way that benefits another. Building on from Satya, when you refuse to acknowledge the truth of a group that has been marginalized, oppressed, or exploited, you are stealing away their right to be heard. When looking at the issues in the world that impact you personally, do not forget to look outside of your own experience. Speak up for (or, better yet, hand the microphone over to) those who are voiceless in a world that has implicit biases for certain issues.

Want an example of a way to shift your world view?  Some women of color from our St. Louis area yoga community have put together this compilation of resources to move beyond the perspective of mainstream feminism to include women of color.  Deep gratitude to these women for sharing this offering.

Brahmacharya – Energy Management. You cannot pour from an empty cup. As much as you engage with the world, you must take time to step back and unplug. Taking time to recharge yourself is imperative to being effective; burn out is all-too-real in the world of activism. For those of us who struggle with anxiety and depression, the work we do can exacerbate our illness. Make a list of the things that nourish you, and make a plan to implement those practices on a regular basis – whether it’s meditating, unrolling your yoga mat, taking a walk with a friend, or turning off your phone.

Aparigraha – Non-Possessiveness. Take stock of your resources – do you have abundance you can share, whether through donations of money, goods, or volunteering your time? Find existing organizations that take action for causes you are passionate about, and look into ways you can contribute. It doesn’t have to be your entire paycheck, but maybe it’s curtailing your morning latte and investing that money in providing free legal advice for immigrants in your community, or instead of binge-watching Netflix over the entire weekend, you invite friends over to knit scarves and hats for children in the foster care system. If you have privilege, share it.

Much like the physical practice of yoga, the practice of yoga off the mat means we must step into situations that make us slightly uncomfortable, practice taking deep breaths anyway, explore ways to find alignment, and understand that in order to grow and become stronger, we must be willing to listen not only to our own heart, but to the voices of others.