Saturday, December 31, 2011

What's Your Resolution?

What a difference a day makes! I have heard several people this last couple weeks of 2011 state that they can't wait for this year to be if all will magically become puppies and rainbows come January 1st. Well, as that may not be true (if it is-lucky you!!), the new year does bring us a chance to hit the reset button on our goals and wishes-giving us a new determination to accomplish these things.

I used to tell people that I didn't set resolutions at the new year, but, of course, I secretly did. I didn't want people to know if I had failed to stick to my resolutions...especially after only 2 weeks!

But, in an effort to be more truthful to myself and others (one of my resolutions in 2012), I will publicly open up my resolutions for 2012:
  1. Patanjali's Sutra 1.7: In a state of yoga, comprehension is different from comprehension at other times. It is closer to the true nature of the object. In an attempt to listen to this sutra, I will try to to get closer to my true Self. Which will allow me to be more true not only to myself, but to others that I meet and see in my daily life.
  2. Deepen my asana practice and stop being afraid of those lingering poses that my mind is blocking me from achieving. I know I have the strength~now just do it.
  3. Teach & live with an open heart and mind in EVERY class.
  4. Find some balance in my mind, body & heart. That reminds me, #5 better be to meditate more...
  5. Meditate more.
  6. Teach more workshops.
  7. Reach more people.
  8. To remain in love with life & all living it!
Good luck with all of your resolutions for 2012 (if you make them that is...even secretly). Open your heart and your mind and surely you will find success.
Or as George Clinton says, "Free Your Mind, and Your *ss Will Follow."

Happy New Year all!


Thursday, December 29, 2011

Simply You

“Be yourself. Above all, let who you are, what you are, what you believe, shine through every sentence you write, every piece you finish.” ~John Jakes

It's easy to allow those we care about sway our thought process. Allowing their fears and anxieties come through and carry over to our own lives. But the truth is, on the road to happiness, you must take care of yourself first.
Some may say this is a "selfish" or "greedy" idea to have, but this is not the suggestion you see yourself better than those around you. No, it is a statement that if you don't stand your ground about the things that are the essence of you - you will never be the person you were born to be.


The simplest mantra. The perfect sound. OM has not specific meaning, yet it means everything thing. It speaks of God, it speaks of you, it cleanses the air - it is the perfect mantra to clear away the cobwebs and clutter around our true self.

Pronounced A-U-M, each letter sung out through and through. It begins and ends most other mantras. It is many parts - yet still a whole, just like you. According to Sharon Gannon and David Life - the founders of Jivamukti, "The word OM beautifully expresses the four states of consciousness; jagrat (waking), swapna (dreaming), sushupti (deep sleep) and turiya (samadhi)... Each part of the symbol for OM represents a different state of consciousness."

That is why the very essence of OM is here to help you on your path. It is everything, just like you.

Anjali Mudra

Placing your hands together, at your heart and pressing your thumbs into your sternum - Anjali Mudra is synonymous with Indian Culture. Used to greet people hello and good-bye and it is the most common mudra used in meditation and most often accompanied with a bowed head.

In simplicity we will find freedom. The freedom to live, love and learn and the freedom to be ourselves.

Easy pose - Sukhasana - is when you come to sit in a simple crossed legged style. This pose has many benefits from stretching your legs and knees to helping you ground yourself. Finding easy pose may not be that easy, but once you find yourself centered - perhaps sitting on a blanket or a block. Pressing your hands together at your heart, allowing your eyes fall to close and inhaling deeply then releasing OM from the debts of your being.

Let go of the tensions of life.
Let go of the expectations of others.
Find your inner guru and just be.


Monday, December 26, 2011

Fear = Transition

I didn't fail the test, I just found 100 ways to do it wrong - Benjamin Franklin

The biggest fear that ruins life is that our dreams will end in failure. We move away from scary situations, clinging onto comfort and the illusion of stability instead of reaching for our dreams assuming that bravery is lined with ease, but not understanding that failure is just a lesson brought on to teach us what we are truly capable of.

The only true way to fail is to give up completely - if you have a dream or a goal and you keep working towards it, one day you will reach that goal. It may take hours, it may take years - but nothing worth having has ever been easy to obtain.

Bravery is pushing past your fears, it is to keep moving even when you're afraid. Strength is knowing that our imagination holds the trailers to our future and this moment is the future we were worried about yesterday.


It is said if you repeat this mantra 1008 times it will bring you strength and healing. It will help when things aren't working either on a personal or universal level. Locally or internationally, this mantra - and Ganesha - is here for you when our minds drift off to bad places; become negative; depressed; or we feel simply discouraged by every day life. Turning towards Ganesha will help you move back to the brighter path in your life.

Abhaya "Fearless" & Varada "Giving or Welcome" Mudras

Abhaya "Fearless" symbolized protection, peace and dispelling fear. The Right hand is held at shoulder height with your palm facing outward. "I come in peace" it is a gesture that shows the hand is empty of weapons and a sign of friendship and peace.

According to Buddhist History, the Buddha made this gesture right after receiving enlightenment.

Varada "Giving" or "Welcome" mudra symbolises charity and compassion. It is the mudra of accomplishment of the wish to devote oneself to Human Salvation. Almost always made with the left hand, it can be made with the arm hanging neutral or your palm sitting up and open on your knee.

The five fingers symbolize: Generosity, Morality, Patience, Effort and Meditative Concentration. This mudra is rarely used alone.

Crow - "Bakasana"

Crow, or Bakasana, helps to strengthen wrist, forearms, and abdomen. It improves your balance - yet crow can be a rather scary pose. Balancing all of your weight onto your two hands, with your face inches away from the floor can feel daunting and like a recipe for disaster - but crow teaches us how to let go, to be free and to fly. When you are properly aligned there is nothing to fear.

Place your hands on your mat, this is your foundation. Fingers wide and creases of your writs facing forward, walk your knees onto your upper arms - but before you begin to lift your legs be sure that your arms are aligned above your writs and that you are engaging your core. Then try to lift one foot at a time, taking your gaze forward and then organically moving into the pose.

Fear is the moment we realize that what we want is worth being brave for, and it is the moment we understand that what we were is not the only thing we were meant to be. All great things come out of conflict, transition and they push past fear.

Now go find your crow and fly.

Friday, December 23, 2011

This yogi's holiday reflections...

As the holidays are upon us, like many others, I find myself pausing to reflect on the events of the past year. Not only what has happened in my life, but also in the lives of my family and my friends. There have been births and deaths, sickness and triathlons, weddings, separations, graduations, anniversaries, jobs lost and new careers found, moves all over this country (and out of this country) and lots of laughter, tears, stress and love.

This fall found me transforming into a full time yoga teacher rather than continuing to run myself ragged working in an office full time and teaching almost every night and weekend. Transforming from the "frazzled yoga teacher" to the broke, but blissed out yoga teacher who actually gets to practice yoga herself!

This fall also found my family coming together as my father underwent quintuple bypass surgery and my friends enveloping me with love and support as my dog, George, underwent surgery to remove his cancerous tumors.

Two difficult things back to back. If these things had occurred earlier in the year, I can't say how I would have reacted. I was definitely flying off the handle more back then, just a few months earlier. No matter how hard it was, I felt a calm during the sadness, concern and stress that I felt during those weeks. Don't get me wrong, I was upset, but it felt different. I do firmly believe that it was getting my own yoga practice back during that time that really helped me get through it.
My father is doing great and well, George, he has another tumor that has already grown back in, but I know that I can handle that and take care of him.

Yoga means union. Really it is your union with the Divine, whatever you believe the Divine to be. I'm not a particularly religious person. Yes, yoga has made me tap more into my spiritual side, but when it comes to organized religion, I am not really a "believer". My spiritual journey is definitely still growing and I may never figure it out what I truly, deep in my heart believe.
I may not know yet what my Divine is, but I do know that I believe there is something out there bigger than myself...than all of us. I know that yoga has gotten me closer to figuring it out. I also know that in all of those good times and hard times this year, somehow I still feel bliss. I feel so blessed for all of the people that are in my life. You are all amazing.
I wish you all happiness and health in this great celebration called life. Enjoy this time spent with your family, friends and fellow man. Hear their laughter, feel the warmth of their hearts. Have a wonderful holiday.

Shanti Om~Marcia

Thursday, December 22, 2011


When you decided to add a mantra to your meditation practice it's easy to begin a quest trying to seek out the mantra that is right for you. By surfing the internet, reading books like "Mantras: Words of Power" by Swami Sivananda Radha, then you may feel overwhelmed by the amount of mantras out there for the taking.

Should it be in Sanskrit?
Should it be Buddhist?
Should it refer to the doctrine I was raised under?

This task can become daunting and that pressure may lead you to just give up all together. So simplicity is key. Just like all things in the Universe, when we are meant to have something - it will come to us. The Buddha stated that "Money is like water, try to grab it and it flows away, open your hands and it will move towards you." This is true with everything in life, not just money. The riches of love, happiness, companionship - patience is the key.

When you are seeking out your mantra and you are met with the myriad of questions from "Who is Lakshmi?" to what the intent is, is it the same as yours?

Just wait.

I find that when I feel it's time to find a new mantra, after looking and reading and researching - somewhere in the middle of my day I'll find it rolling around in my head, my own voice chanting the words.

In Catholic Doctrine they list 52 attributes known as virtues that range from Assertiveness to Unity, but while all of them server an important purpose in life - patience should always float to the top.

If we pause
If we breathe
If we wait

What we need will come to us, no, maybe not in the form we though it would - but it will be there, I can tell you that much.

Shuni Mudra "The Seal of Patience"

Formed by placing the thumb against the tip of the middle finger, the Shuni Mudra is said to prompt patience.
Shuni is translated to "Saturn" just as the middle finger is representation of the same planet, and Saturn is known as the Task Master. In charge of the Law of Karma, taking hold of responsibility, courage, duty. Saturn helps you to be disciplined. This mudra holds the ability to give you stability and strength.

Eka Pada Rajakapotasana "One Legged King Pigeon Pose"

This pose stretched out the thighs, groin, psoas, abdominal, chest, shoulders and neck. The first in a series of pigeon poses, beginning on the right with your shin parallel with the top of your mat and your left leg stretched out behind you - making sure your left foot is lying straight and not leaning to the right or left side. Breathing in and elongating the side bodies then folding over the front leg. Holding this pose on each side for a minute each.
Breathing into your groin and the psoas and letting go.
"We find that patience is the best means we have of defending ourselves internally from anger's destructive effects"
~ The Dalai Lama
May you have a beautiful week

Monday, December 19, 2011

Why we meditate

What wise man is eaten up with doubts about happiness in this life and the next? Intelligent men make meditation the essential thing.
~ Atisa Dipankara Shrijnana

When we meditate we are taking a moment to clear out the mind, by silencing the voices in our head we open ourselves up to a whole new universe of possibilities and ideas. Yes, I'm sure you've heard this all before, and yes, it can be hard to take that time to get to a point where the clutter and clamoring noised in our heads cease - but once this has been accomplished... there is just so much more to come.

Meditation is an ancient practice that over time is still as relevant and important as it was when Siddhartha sat under the bodhi tree, and just as Siddhartha obtained enlightenment and became the "Buddha" ("Awakened One"), we can sit and take the path to enlighten even if we live in a one room apartment in the middle of an industrialized city.

Peace and understand is available for all.

Why do we meditate? Because it allows us to see what is around us, removing the distractions and obstacles we place in our own path, bringing us one step closer to peace of mind and relaxation.

Some disregard meditation as something only little men in orange robes sitting deep inside a damp cave somewhere in India or Tebet, but that is a fallacy brought on by miss communication and elitist attempting to keep to themselves. You can learn to meditate by sitting with a pet and merely petting them or cooking your favorite dish for the people you love.

The secret is this - breath and let go.

When I speak of mantras and mudras - these are things that fascinate me and that fascination and love drives me to share them with you - but you do not need to memorized the 216 verses of the Gurugita in order to let go and meditate. You're mantra can simply be, "Let go" or "Who am I?" or even "Today I will just be." And your mudra can be your hands placed at your heart, fingers buried in dirt as you weed your garden or brushing against the hair of your beloved cat/dog.

This week take 10 minutes for yourself and do something that you love. Whatever it may be remember to breath, to let go and to smile.

You're mantra for this week is: WHO AM I?
You're mudra is what ever feels right

and your asana is: FULL WHEEL


Thursday, December 15, 2011

The Paradox that is Life

Actions are always more complex and nuanced than they seem. We have to be willing to wrestle with paradox in pursuing understanding.
 - Harold Evans

Sometimes living a paradoxical life is what we all do best. Saying one thing and doing another will always be one of the trials of our lives, because more times than not we believe both ideas to be truth and this can lead us to confusion.

We we choose to follow our own heart, rather than sleep walking through our lives - dancing to the beat of another man's drum - we have to accept the fact it will be paradoxical.
This is not an excuse to live in contradiction.

It is a simple fact that human nature is much more complex than we allow ourselves to believe. By taking notice and accepting the paradoxes we find in life, we can begin to walk a life filled with less confusion.

The Acceptance Mudra

The index finger is folded into the space between thumb and this finger, so that the nail touches the fold. The outer lower corner of the thumb's nail touches the inner lower corner of the pinky finger's nail.

This mudra is used to over come the unnecessary resistances in our lives, helping us find acceptance of ourselves.

Mantra: Om Mani Padme Hum

A mantra used by Tibetan Buddhists closest to the Dali Lama. Many stories are told of this mantra and how a disciple had been chanting it wrong only to show that it's the intent of the mantra and not the actual words.

The simplest translation is "Jewel of the Lotus" (Manipadme in Sanskrit). In a more deep translation it states that each part of the mantra will help you identify with yourself and then break down the walls of your life. Helping you achieve purity and wisdom, leading you to the path that is your truth.
Rabbit Pose

Rabbit Pose stretches out your back, neck and arms. It helps maintain a healthy balance of hormones, relieve insomnia and depression. As we curl into ourselves we release the tensions of our day in our back allowing us to see past the many nuances of our days and our lives.

May your week be filled with blessings and I hope to one day see you on the mat.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Your Path

I took the road less traveled, that has made all the difference.
~ Robert Frost

Any path traveled can be difficult, but the one less traveled is the hardest one yet. Alone, as you make your mark sometimes its easy to feel lost and lonely - but you never truly are. If the path less traveled were the easy path, everyone would take it - and if everyone took that path all the miracles of humanity would cease to exist.

When we wake up and realize there is more, we are more, there are things to be done and changes to make - that is the first step towards finding the true Self that you are. This path is littered with pitfalls, cliffs, seemingly difficult ridges and sink holes that giving up can sound like a vacation in Aruba, but those obstacles will only make you strong.

For it isn't the one who falls that is a failure, it's the one that stays on the ground.
As Frank Sinatra cooed to us in "Pick yourself up" - "You have to pick yourself up, dust yourself off and start all over again."
Ganesh Mudra

Hold your left hand in front of your chest with your palm facing your heart with the thumb facing up and your right hand in front of the left with the thumb facing down. Hooking your fingers together. Taking a deep breath in and on your exhale pull the hands in opposite direction firmly, like the links of a chain. Inhale releasing the tension. Repeat this 4 - 6 times. On each inhalation firmly pull the hands apart, hooking the fingers and release on the exhalation.

With that we will chant the Gayatri Mantra - the most sacred hindu mantra.
The Gayatri Mantra with english translation
"Om Bhur Bhava Swaha"


The path less traveled can be hard, but when times are hard we find that we enjoy the destination so much more. Easiness isn't always the way - take a moment to stop and look around you and ask yourself, Is this right for me? Can I do a better job? Is this my path?

And then listen to your heart

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Bhumisparsha Mudra & Letting Go

Normally, we limit the meaning of perceptions. Food reminds us of eating; dirt reminds us to clean the house; snow reminds us that we have to clean off the car to get to work; a face remind us of our love or fortable or familiar scheme. We shut any vastness or possibilities of deeper perception out of our hearts by fixating on our own interpretation of phenomena. But it is possible to go beyond personal interpretation, to let vastness into our hearts through the medium of perception. We always have a choice, we can limit our perception so that we close off vastness, or we can allow vastness to touch us.
~Chogyam Trungpa
Chogyam Trungpa speaks of how to find magic, and in doing so he shows us how we limit the magic around us through perception. We wake up every day ready to walk our own path but are quickly discouraged by our own perception of what life is or what life should be.

Life shouldn't be anything - it just is.

He continues to explain that when we learn to see all sides of the situation, the reality of this world, we can then just be. We are no longer fighting the world we have arrived.

Bhumisparsha Mudra
"touching the Earth"

More commonly known as the Earth Witness Mudra you come to sit with your legs folded, straight spine, placing your left hand on your left knee, fingers pointed towards the ground (or touching as shown in the above [inverted] image), palm inward towards your body. Your right hand is placed on your right knee with the palm facing up and open like a bowl or a cup.

It is said that the Buddha held his hands like this to summoned the Earth as a witness to his transformation from Siddhartha to becoming the Buddha.

A grounding mudra, one hand connect to the Earth, which is connected to everything and the other begging to the world. Showing the world that it is easier to give and to receive when you're hand is open and willing to help and be helped.

When we become grounded and connected with the Earth and the world we can begin to see other perceptions of situations we may normally only have one idea about - like love.
With red colored hearts and babies dressed with bows and arrows, falling in love is an adventure in itself, but quickly we come to learn what love really is. So many say they love "unconditionally" but then follow-up the statement with comments that place conditions on that love.

'If my grades are better my parents will love me more.'
'If I dress a certain way, my boy/girlfriend will love me more.'
'If  make more money...'

Our perception of what love should be opposed to what love is can be a hard pill to swallow. Understanding to love someone or something may mean loving things that are difficult and trying. By grounding ourselves we learn to head toward enlightenment, to see past our preconceived notions and our limited perception, connecting with the earth to extend out past the small real we preside in.
Take ten minutes to find a quiet corner coming to sit in meditation in the Bhumisparsha Mudra. Once you have found a comfortable position, soften your eyes and your belly, breathing in the world around you, and exhaling your doubts and fears. Using a simple mantra of "Let go":
On your inhalation "Let"
On your exhalation "Go"
By learning to let go, to be grounded, to be connected and willing to give and receive the things you need in life you will alter your perception bringing you closer to finding you and unconditionally loving you.
Your pose of the week: Child's Pose
Placing your arms extended on the mat out in front of you, with your forehead touching your mat, child's pose is a welcome pose in any practice. It's merely one breath away waiting for you to find your breath, help ground you and most of all help you to let go.
Allow yourself to be the person you are inside and not a perception of something less than that.  Honor yourself. Love yourself.
I can't wait to see you on the mat.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Mantras & Mudras

Life tends to move pretty fast. Before we even realize what's happening our weeks have turned into months and years, we find ourselves drifting out to sea - guideless - wish we could change the past but knowing we never can.
Each month I like to pick a theme for my yoga classes. I began with fear two months ago, then I moved on to the Self. This month, the month of July (and I'm beginning to think it will also be the theme for August) is "Mantra's and Mudras" two of my very favorite things about yoga, meditation and finding peace.
This week I would like to introduce to you the Lotus Mudra.
The gesture of the Lotus Mudra is to cup your hands together, having the heel of your palms, the edges of the pinkies and thumbs touch with the rest of the fingers opening wide in the shape of a Lotus Flower.
The mudra is to be held in front of the heart, as it's meant to work with the heart chakra - Anahata Chakra. With the Lotus Mudra you are to begin with the "petals" of your Lotus flower open, fingers spread wide. Take 4 deep inhalations and 4 deep exhalations. After the last exhalation draw the tips of your fingers together, touching, forming your hand into a Lotus Blossom.
Lower your blossom down towards your navel for a moment, the let it rise back towards your heart - and the petals open again.
Repeat this motion several times (carry it through your entire meditation).
The Mantra of the Heart Chakra is YAM, please feel free to change this mantra in correlation with the use of the Lotus Mudra, but that is not our Mantra for this week.
The Goddess Lakshmi is the Hindu Goddess of Wealth and Beauty of both physical and spiritual achievements.  The word "Lakshmi" is derived from the Sanskrit word "Laksme" which mean goal. So Goddess Lakshmi represents the "Goal of Life."
That is why I chose the Lotus Mudra - so you can cup your goal of life by your heart as you chant to the Goddess Lakshmi.
The balance of your heart and your hearts desires will help you bring forth balance in every aspect of your life. When you are opened to what you really want and who you really choose to be you can accomplish anything.
Finding the right yoga practice, meditation, mantra and mudra for your own life is a blissful way to help realize that balance.
Once you have sat with your Lotus Mudra, cupping your dreams at your heart as you listen and feel the words OH SHRIM MAHA LAKSHMIYEI SWAHA pour through your being - peace will fill you.
And once you have found peace I give you our pose of the week - Ardha Chandrasana (half moon pose)
Be happy.
Be free.
Be kind to yourself and others.
And most of all be the change you want to see in the world.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Detach from your ego at the door...

Recently I was subbing for a very popular teacher in the area. Everyone who entered the room asked where she was and acted disappointed when I told them that she needed the morning off. Usually when I sub for someone, the students shrug off the absence of their favorite teacher and accept the opportunity to experience a new (to them) teacher.

Not this morning.

With all of their looks of disappointment and concern, I started to get really nervous. Honestly, I always feel a little nervous before class, but in a good way, like stage fright, get the adrenaline pumping way. But, this was different. It was a "there's no way I can live up to these people's expectations" kind of way. It felt bad.

I could feel myself almost resenting the students for making me feel this way. Why can't they practice non-attachment. Obviously, this teacher trusts me enough to fill in for her, why couldn't they just open their hearts and minds to me?!

I tried to calm down teaching samavritti pranayama (equal breath breathing) to start, but as I led into the surya namaskars, I was still shaky and even stumbled through them! The sun salutations?! The thing that I actually teach more than any other sequence! This isn't happening.

As I finally started to listen to my own words and let go of what I was holding onto, the class managed to smooth out. After class, most of the students were smiling and gracious as they gathered their things and left.

But there was one student who was just as tense and unhappy looking as in the beginning. Sure, I'm human and my ego was hurt that I couldn't transform her into the giant puddle of mellow mush to my (or her) satisfaction, but the more I thought about it, I realized that that was her hang up, not mine. I tried. I did what I could. Perhaps someday she will learn the practice of aparigraha a.k.a. non-attachment and let go if her favorite teacher isn't at class that morning.

Perhaps someday I will learn the practice of aparigraha, and not let my ego get in the way of my teaching or my feelings towards my students whether they like me or not.

It was also a lesson in aparigraha from attaching to what I think other's perceptions are of me. Whether it is real or not.

Besides, aren't we all supposed to be one, interconnected...obviously what I didn't like in their attitude was something I didn't like in myself? BUT, that is a lesson for another day.

All that I can say is, be kind to your substitutes. They are just trying to help out the teacher you adore so much. And try out all different teachers and styles of classes, you may find more that you love.