Category Archives: yoga

Celebrating the maternal on Mother’s Day – Don’t forget Mother Earth

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Today being Mother’s Day we celebrate the best women in the world, our mothers! That being said, today should be a day to celebrate that which is maternal to us. The Hebrew bible refers to the term “rachamim,” which can essentially be defined as: “mercy, compassion; based on the word “rechem,” womb, linking the emotion fundamentally to the mother.” So while we celebrate the most amazing people in our lives, let us celebrate and cherish that which is maternal to us. Can we be compassionate to another person, or to the mother we all have in common, Mother Earth?
Mahatma Gandhi once said: “Service is not possible unless it is rooted in love and compassion. The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” Today, I saw a quote that stayed with me and is relevant to the concept of celebrating and giving back to the mother that we all, have in common, walk on, get water and food from and love. “Be the change that you want to see in the world.” In order to be this change, we must remember that the only way to change the world is one small step at a time. If we do nothing and simply take what Mother Earth has to give, we will deplete her resources in no time. A mother never forgets her son or daughter, and therefore today, we must celebrate our mother, whether we celebrate the person to whom we owe our existence or simply want to celebrate the earth where we all live. The earth is our planet and our mother. We must love her and celebrate her, what better time to do so than today?
It has become an important part of my life to give back to the earth. This is a concept comes from karma yoga and suggests that we give to the world and others without an expectation to get anything back. Even less superficial is the concept of ahimsa or non-harming to oneself or another. Ahimsa is one of the five Yamas – or ‘restrictions’ in the eight limed yogic path set by Pantajali. In order to be kind and give back, truthfully we must remember that to celebrate our planet, we need to avoid its destruction and prevent depletion of its resources. I will doing a mala, or 108 sun salutations in an effort to raise money for reforestation of the rain forest in Ecuador. This effort lead by “off the mat, into the world,” an organization bringing principles of yoga into the world. In following ahimsa – I personally believe that unless something is done, we are being selfish and not preventing the hurt to our planet.
Happy Mother’s Day! Lets celebrate the source of all our lives!

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My Priorities have changed! – Confessions of a yoga teacher trainee

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My Priorities Have Changed
Confessions of a yoga teacher trainee

The courage that it took to put the title of this entry on paper would be akin to punching a concrete wall. Anyone that has tried punching a concrete wall knows that it hurts and is almost impossible to do. Well, there it is again, my priorities have changed.
Until the beginning of 2013 my priorities were simply “make as much money as possible at whatever cost, because money and nothing else equals being happy.” That was the mantra by which I lived, yes, I helped people in my law practice, some were grateful, most were not but at what cost? Simply put at the expense of my own happiness. It seemed that I had to be at every person’s beck and call no matter the time of day or condition I was in. My priorities are now “provide for my family while appreciating them, enjoying my children, and making myself happy.”
“Be careful what you water your dreams with. Water them with worry and fear and you will produce weeds that choke the life from your dream. Water them with optimism and solutions and you will cultivate success” Lao Tzu
Tonight my dreams are being watered by the thought that I will spread the light of yoga by teaching it and guiding others in its path. More importantly, I have obtained the support of someone who has guided me through life and didn’t support my decision to teach yoga before. People would ask me if my goal in yoga teacher training was to teach or to enrich my life. My answer would be hesitant,”well…maybe one day I will teach.. blah blah blah.” Now I say it, I WANT TO TEACH YOGA AND IGNITE THE LIGHT OF YOGA IN OTHERS. Yes, self enrichment is cool, but i could invest in workshops and books if thats all I wanted. My priority has changed!
In the words of the Buddha, “Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone; you are the one who gets burned.” Going a step further, holding on to peace and light that you can share with others will burn a hole in your heart that will leave you empty and sad if you don’t share them.
I am happy, my priorities have changed… I am no longer hiding the fact that, I want to teach yoga, I want to enlighten others, I want to make others happy. we live in a time where depression anxiety and the lack of self image are prominent ways of being. my priorities are to help these souls who need the light of the union of all beings, the light of yoga. I am happy… my priorities have changed. I WANT TO TEACH! – Namaste!

Understanding my desire to become a yoga teacher while reading “Cinderella” to my child.

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As the parent of a very intelligent three year old girl, bed time has become a strict routine involving counting five blankets as I tuck her in, sitting beside her, and reading Cinderella. while reading the same story over and over became repetitive, I took to heart the words of the ending “if you truly believe in a dream, it is bound to come true.”

I started thinking about those words and the story helped me rationalize my recent decision to attend my first 200 hour yoga teacher training. This decision, having been an extremely difficult one, started resonating in my reading of Cinderella. I really want to be a yoga teacher, but getting my family’s approval seemed to be as far fetched as Cinderella attending the king’s ball at the palace.

By way of background, I am an attorney who began attending yoga classes as a means of improving running marathons. Discovering yoga felt like Cinderella discovering her magic fairy godmother, who appeared out of nowhere and changed her life for the better. Yoga became spiritual and is now a way of life for me. Explaining this to my family could have been the same as describing a fairy godmother appearing and saying the magic words bibbidy bibbidy bop thus instantly placing me in tripod headstand. Practicing or teaching yoga is more than a doing a physical activity such as aerobics. The third limb of yoga out of 8, describes physical postures or asanas, which is what many believe, is yoga in its entirety.

After reading many articles and discussing my desire with others it seemed like an uphill climb. For Cinderella, her stepmother and stepsisters kept barking commands failing to see or care about cinderella’s desire to become someone other than a servant. The only ones to support her were her animal friends, who encouraged her a and did whatever they could to help. This is because her animal friends understood that cinderella, being an unlikely candidate, could make her dreams come true. All my yogi friends have been supportive and positive to my yogic dream of teaching.

My family’s opinion and support have always been important, through law school, jobs, and opening my own law practice. Naturally their support is essential to my decision to become a certified yoga instructor. I explained to my family that if the opportunity to fulfill one’s dream presents itself at their front door, one should take that opportunity. Especially if that something makes you happy. The glass slipper may not fit anyone of my family members just yet, but for me, as is practicing and being involved in yoga, it is a perfect fit. And just like that, by explaining that I just wanted to give others what my yoga teachers gave me, a new more meaningful life, I gained my family’s support.

As Cinderella said, “if you believe strongly enough, any dream can come true.” In this case, I start teacher training the second week of April, 2013. As my daughter falls asleep, and the story has a happy ending, I gain my family’s support. Yes, it is a big commitment, but a commitment in an ancient practice that I love and that one day I may even teach to my children. One way or another, we only get one chance to fulfill our dreams in this world, Cinderella teaches us that it can be done, and it is also a nice story with a happy ending. Why not? Namaste!

My Sadana Kundalini Yoga Experience

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Kundalini is something that I have been looking into but has always seemed mysterious or strange to me. I took a yoga class that incorporated kundalini yoga in it, all as part of a yoga challenge that I am a part of, and have challenged myself to practice yoga every day in January.

Kundalini Yoga is a physical, mental and spiritual discipline for developing strength, awareness, character, and consciousness. Practitioners call Kundalini Yoga the yoga of awareness because it focuses on the expansion of sensory awareness and intuition in order to raise individual consciousness and merge it with the Infinite consciousness of God. As a form of yoga and meditation, Kundalini’s purpose is to cultivate the creative spiritual potential of a human to uphold values, speak truth, and focus on the compassion and consciousness needed to serve and heal others. 1

The yoga studio I attend offers a sadana kundalini yoga class every Saturday, it begins at 4:30 a.m. and concludes at 7:30 a.m. This is something I have always wanted to explore, and this Saturday I actually did. My alarm clock went off at 4 and despite the fact that my wife told me I was crazy, I felt she was right, but I climbed out of bed and drove to the studio. I felt i was going to do something special, esoterical, even mystical. I wore my Lululemon yoga pants and shirt, both which were grey and great to run in and practice yoga in. The first thing I noticed was that I was wearing the wrong color, everyone there, was wearing white, so I stood out as the novice. Despite that, I was welcomed by the teacher whom I met at the class I mentioned above, ad was told to set up, get comfortable, and meditate. When I asked the teacher about the white outfit, he simply told me it helps a positive Ora – not required but has to do with energy and how it travels through and up he body.

According to yogic philosophy, kundalini is a spiritual energy or life force located at the base of the spine. It is conceptualized as a coiled up serpent. Literally, kundalini or kundala is that which is coiled (Sanskrit kund, to burn; kunda, to coil or to spiral). It is believed that Kundalini yoga is that which arouses the sleeping Kundalini Shakti from its coiled base through the 6 chakras, and penetrate the 7th chakra, or crown. This energy is said to travel along the ida (left), pingala (right) and central, or sushumna nadi – the main channels of pranic energy in the body. 2

The first part of class included 30 minutes of mantra meditation, and although I was nervous, because it seemed very foreign to me, I adapted. Next was an hour of physical kundalini yoga practice, which focused on fire breath and on activating the spine. As the point is to unravel the coil within the spine, the exercises and breathing definitely sent energy up my spine and through my body. This is something I have never experienced before, it was extremely energizing.

The practice of kriyas and meditations in Kundalini Yoga are designed to raise complete body awareness to prepare the body, nervous system, and mind to handle the energy of Kundalini rising. The majority of the physical postures focus on navel activity, activity of the spine, and selective pressurization of body points and meridians. Breath work and the application of bhandas (3 yogic locks) aid to release, direct and control the flow of Kundalini energy from the lower centers to the higher energetic centers. 3

Next was a savasana – or corpse pose that lasted for about 45 minutes or so.while I laid on my mat, eyes closed, my palms facing up, I took in the vibration of the gong and other percussion instruments played. The energy kept flowing from my feet through my spine and beyond my head. I am simply recounting my experience, if you do not believe me, I would suggest trying it.

Following savasana was chanting mantas and songs of peace and meditation. By the time 7:30 came around, the energy flow was evident. I felt a complete flow of energy. It has changed my outlook this week and has given me the power to discern important from nonsensical aspects of my life. I really mean that, I have focused on what matters – my family, my health and well being.

Yoga in general has changed my outlook on life, but uncoiling the energy up my spine was an experience I will not forget, and waking up at 4 am on a Saturday is worth it. I will do it again, maybe Saturday.

P.s. the practice is done prior to the rising of the sun and celebrates light over darkness.

1. Swami Sivananda Radha, Kundalini Yoga for the West, timeless, 2004, pages 13, 15
2. Swami Sivananda, Kundalini Yoga, The Divine Life Society, 2007, page 12
3. Yogi Bhajan, The Aquarian Teacher, KRI International Teacher Training in Kundalini Yoga as taught by Yogi Bhajan, Kundalini Research Institute, 4th Edition, 2007, page 177

Happy 2013

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To all readers of my blog, may 2013 be a healthy happy year and may all your wishes come true. I started my year with a 13 mile run in honor of 2013. Boy did it feel nice, and even at 17 degrees, the wind was not blowing hard and the sun was shinning! I crossed a bridge in the trail that I could not resist taking a photo of. I am fond of bridges just as in Japanese culture they are symbolic of connection and being able to advance.

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Also, I am on my countdown to the Miami marathon, which is only 26 days away now. 2013 has three full marathons in my schedule, being Miami, the Wisconsin marathon, and the Chicago marathon in October. I also. Have 2 half marathons planned and maybe a few 10ks along the way. I plan do do a lot of running this year! I look forward to sharing my experiences and training on my blog.
Also, I accepted yoga teacher Rachel Brathen’s 2013 yoga challenge, for which I committed to practice yoga at least once every darn day of January! Check it out, I think it is neat and a great motivator. I practiced a home 30 minute flow session before my run and ended with a headless headstand.

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I wish you all a happy and very healthy 2013. Lets keep on running and practicing yoga for a great life!
Bernie