Blog

Supporting “Yoga Gives Back”

Yoga has changed our lives. Not a day passes, that I am not grateful for the practice of yoga. When I learned about the nonprofit organization “Yoga Gives Back”, it was a no-brainer to sign up for their monthly donations. Their mission statement says:

Our mission is to express our gratitude for the gift of yoga by mobilizing the global yoga community to empower women and children in India to build sustainable livelihoods.

ygb_pr_card

Partially, the donations come from a group of friends who regularly find their way to the OM Home for our meditations. Yoga Gives Back began supporting micro credit programs in 2007. They lend small loans to women who are otherwise excluded from the conventional banking and financial systems. Today, YGB funds nearly 900 mothers and children with micro loan programseducation funds and scholarships for higher education in Karnataka and West Bengal. To learn more about Yoga Gives Back, check out their website.

Love, Uta

A Time to Retreat

With the holiday season quickly coming to a close it’s probable that many of us are feeling worked. It seems that all around me there’s a mounting energy waiting to burst at the stroke of midnight New Years eve, when the entire world will collectively breathe a sigh of relief as 2016 rings in and grants us a few brief moments of respite.

This season can certainly feel like a battle at times. Behind the pressure to be happy, grateful, joyous or celebratory, the last few weeks of the year triggers some deep suffering for many people. It’s in these times that our practice is so important. But if your life even mildly resembles mine, you’ve definitely had to surrender to daily duties and skip practice on several occasions. So how do we come out victorious on the other end of this? Retreat. Retreat deep into your own experience and discover the true resilience of your soul.

Troy Samakonasana

The Bheemashakti Yoga School has two upcoming events on the calendar that can help to go deep into your practice, both with a slightly different flavor:

On January 2, 2016 we are hosting a 21 Day New Year Transformation, an intensive program that will help to stoke the fire of practice and clear out the stagnation of the holidays. It includes 2 hours of yoga daily, combining pranayama, meditation, and physical practice. This rhythm can help to generate some deep transformative benefits in addition to solidifying a strong habit.

Additionally we look forward to our annual Spring Detox on the North shore of Kauai from April 23-30. Over the course of this eight day, seven night retreat, we will dive deep into twice daily Bheemashakti Yoga practice and tap into the ancient magic of the Hawaiian islands.

Both of these opportunities are a great way to reset your year and get into some healthy rhythms, but if you’re not able to get away don’t worry! Daily practice is king and even small improvements on a consistent basis will make great changes. You just have to be ready to redirect your attention and find that the battle is not something you can conquer outside of yourself, it’s something you win on the inside.

 

 

Mudras for Strength and Balance

It’s Holiday season, stores are overflowing, people are in a hurry to get all the food items or gifts they want to give to their loved ones. Some simple hand mudras (hand gestures) can help us in stressful situations. During a recent visit to Germany, I attended Satsang (a gathering) with Dechen Thurman at Jivamukti Yoga Berlin. He shared with us some stories about Sir Francis of Assisi, particularly from his book The Little Flowers of St. Francis, and we spent some time sitting in meditation with these two hand gestures, or “Mudras”.IMG_5207

Pran Mudra (Life Mudra)

You can see me holding the stabilizing and calming Pran Mudra. In her book Mudras: Yoga in Your Hands, Gertrud Hirschi says: “The Pran Mudra generally increases vitality, reduces fatigue and nervousness, and improves vision. It is also used against eye diseases. On the mental emotional level, it increases our staying power and assertiveness, healthy self-confidence, gives us the courage to start something new, and the strength to see things through.”

Simply place the tips of thumb, ring finger and little finger together while keeping the other fingers extended. Hold for 5 to 30 Minutes as needed.

Kubera Mudra (Dedicated to Kubera, god of wealth)

Dechen is holding the Kubera Mudra, which will give inner repose, confidence and serenity. It is used to “put more force behind … plans for the future. It always involves goals that people want to reach, or wishes that they would like to have fulfilled.” It can be used when looking for a free parking space, the right gift, or necessary information.
This mudra also decongests the frontal sinuses, which can come in handy during winter time. The tip of your thumb, index and middle finger are placed together, while the other two fingers are bent.

If you are curious, I highly recommend Gertrud Hirschi’s Book Mudras: Yoga in Your Hands. Maybe it’s that Christmas gift, you were looking for…

Love, Uta

First OM Home retreat to Bhakti Fest

Yvonne, Troy & Uta at Bhakti Fest 2015

Yvonne, Troy & Uta at Bhakti Fest 2015

For the past five years I have been attending both Bhakti Fest in September and Shakti Fest in Spring. It has been my dream to share this extraordinary experience with people. For the first time, Troy was able to join me to the festival, and our friend Yvonne made her way to California from Germany, to join us on our ventures to the California desert.

Relaxing between yoga classes at main stage

Relaxing between yoga classes at main stage

 

Over the years, I have had the opportunity to take classes with most of the yoga teachers at the event, so this time I decided to dedicate most of my time to listening to Kirtan and chanting along. Yvonne and Troy explored some yoga classes with teachers they hadn’t met, such as a Kundalini class with Kia Miller and various workshops.

 

 

Chanting the Hanuman Chalisa with Tim Miller

Chanting the Hanuman Chalisa with Tim Miller

It was a privilege for me to assist in Tim Miller’s classes on Saturday and Sunday. Quite a big crowd of curious students found their way to the Ashtanga classes, although they most likely were the most challenging option on the schedule. In honor of Hanuman’s weekday Saturday, we chanted the Hanuman Chalisa together with the whole group of students. Message us to join us to one of the festivals in 2016!

Love, Uta

 

 

 

 

Heart Beats Complete: The Greatest Gift

“A gift is pure when it is given from the heart to the right person at the right time and at the right place, and when we expect nothing in return.” Bhagavad Gita 17:20

I’ve never considered myself to be a particularly “heart-centered” individual. Quite often I have questioned if was even capable of love. “What does that even mean anyway?” Living in a selfie-centered society that breeds fixation and co-dependency, I never understood what it meant to truly love without condition, without some weight of debt or to surrender to dharma- Not until my teacher died.

Jonathan, meditating.

Jonathan, meditating.

It’s been just a year now and I remember the striking effect the news of his passing had on my heart. It felt raw. I was confused. Prior to this point my yoga practice tended to be intellectual and practical. The thought of Bhakti made me nervous and I was skeptical of blissed-out hippies (still sort of am). But something magical happened on the day of Jonathan’s death. When I asked his wife, Angela, “what do you need?” and she replied, “I need you to come back to San Diego and teach all of (his) classes,” a strength and confidence emerged from within me that I can only describe as unconditional love. It was a bravery I had never before experienced. For the first time in my life I felt an absolute sense of duty.

The maneuvering which was required to leave San Francisco on such short notice, to face trying to rebuild my life once again in San Diego was massive. But somehow I wasn’t afraid. The deep respect and admiration I have for Jonathan, and the desire to be there for his family, for his students was the fuel to forge ahead with no questions asked.

Since this transition, life has begun to blossom in ways I could have never imagined. It seems that all aspects of my being have grown, evolved, matured. I’ve resigned a part of my own identity to play the instrumental role of carrying out Jonathan’s work with the Bheemashakti Yoga School and it feels great. This devotion to serving my teacher connects me the essence of God that threads through the entirety of existence. Surrendering to this is absolute freedom.

Jonathan assisting Troy

Jonathan assisting Troy

The discussions Jonathan and I had over the years really shaped the way I saw yoga, spirituality and life. He never told me what to think or believe, but instead pointed me in the direction of the answers I was looking for. He truly felt that a student should have their own experiences in order to gain insight and develop wisdom. This is a concept that has been proven valuable in my experience. And in looking back at how much has changed since the day I received the call, I realize that my heart was due for a major tune-up.

The greatest gift my teacher ever gave me was the spark of devotion. Now I understand what it means to be selfless and to serve with love. And through this concentrated energy emerging from my heart, the world around me continues to transform. No path of yoga is complete without knowledge, service, self-control and divine love.

-Troy

Enchanting weekend with Krishna Das, Tulku Sherdor and Tim Miller

 

1782304_10152640863016879_6142526619303907696_o

Tulku Sherdor teaching Buddhist Chants at the Garrison Institute

Kirtan with Krishna Das

Kirtan with Krishna Das

Barely returned from our trip to Hawaii, I packed my bags again to head to the Garrison Institute in Upstate New York for the Heart of Devotion retreat. The lineup was phenomenal: morning yoga classes with Tim Miller (Timji), afternoon sessions on Buddhist chanting with Tulku Sherdor, Hanuman Chalisa’s with Nina Rao, and stories and chanting with Krishna Das, aka KD. The evenings were reserved for Kirtan. I took this picture when KD was chanting during the first night – check out the beam of light shining down on his harmonium!

 

It was an absolute honor and delight to be assisting Timji during the yoga classes in the morning. Not everyone who attended was an Ashtanga practitioner, and especially to someone new, this practice can be intimidating. I absolutely enjoy assisting people in their practice – especially beginners – and offering modifications to make the poses more accessible. Krishna Das had joked he would attend the Sunday morning class, so we had saved him a spot right in front. As you can see in the picture, the spot stayed empty 😉

FullSizeRender

Intro to Ashtanga Class

Leslie, Uta & Timji

Leslie, Uta & Timji

Tulku Sherdor gave a very special workshop on devotional tibetan chanting (picture at top of post). You can watch the full workshop here.

Another highlight of the weekend was to meet Leslie Kaminoff, who stopped by to catch up with his friends KD and Tim Miller.

Krishna Das will be taking a sabbatical next year, let’s hope for a repeat of this lineup, soon!

Love, Uta

Eating Out: Ayurvedic Deli in Berlin

thumb_IMG_5387_1024

After our last visit to Berlin, Troy found out about the ayurvedic deli Dabbawalla in Berlin Schöneberg. Today I had a delicious meal there. My friend and I shared a most delicious red lentil soup and their Thali of the day. A Thali is an Indian meal served on a round platter and comprised of a selection of dishes. Ayurvedic thought is to offer a balanced variety of all the different flavors in one meal: sweet, salty, bitter, sour, astringent and spicy. Today’s meal was made up of millet with amaranth, mixed veggies with leek, Dal with yellow lentils, grape/apple chutney, red pepper chutney, hemp seed raita, a light salad and bread. Very tasty, very healthy, and definitely worth a visit while in Berlin.

Yum, Uta

Wednesday Night Meditation supports Childrens Home in Nepal

On Wednesday nights, The OM Home has been hosting a meditation, when travel schedules permit. It’s always free of charge for anyone to come and sit with us. Whoever feels inspired is encouraged to donate a few dollars. Over the last few sits we have been collecting donations for a Children’s home in Nepal. Our friend Yvonne visited the this home during her last visit to Nepal. Here is some information from their website about their cause:

Spark Children Home, established in the year 2008 has been running with the number of 13 children. Majority of the children are victims during civil war and the remaining are the children left by family due to limited household income. These children range from 5-16 years old. These children started living in Spark Children Home when they were around 5-11 years old. They were originally brought up by a person from village. The person was not able to take care of these kids. Hirakaji Maharjan, living in Lalitpur, Nepal took care of these Children by providing home and basic needs. However, in the long term he was financially unable to obtain such relief. Soon, a Nepali non-profit organization was founded and officially recognized the project as a children’s home by the government. Hence, the “Spark Children Home” was born. All children are in school and the oldest are in vocational orientation.

Screen Shot 2015-10-04 at 1.36.50 PM

The OM Home just donated $50 to the home. Join us on Wednesday nights at The OM Home to sit, to practice calming our minds and to do some good for people who are less fortunate than us. Our next donation will support refugees in Germany.

Thank you! Uta & Troy

Finding abundance in the desert – Shakti Fest 2015

 

Karnamrita Dasi on stage

Karnamrita Dasi on stage

The Joshua Tree Retreat Center was filled with smiling faces who had ventured out to Shakti Fest in the High Desert last weekend to enjoy yoga, kirtan, workshops, healthy foods, and fabulous vendors. Shakti Fest is the springtime version of Bhakti Fest, which will take place in September. In the picture above, one of my favorite Kirtan artists, Karnamrita Dasi is teaching us some beautiful chants. Her magical voice always carries me to a higher realm. Check out her amazing album DASI Prayers by Women. I’m hoping for her new CD to be out, soon.

Shakti 2015 Uta & Sri

Uta with Sridhar Silberfein, Founder and Producer of Bhakti Fest

Here is a shot with the founder and producer of Bhakti Fest and Shakti Fest – Sridhar Silberfein, as we were enjoying the passionate music of a group of talented musicians who had gathered for a spontaneous kirtan. Thank you, Sridhar, for making these events happen! It was through Sridhar’s inspiration that I learned about Ram Dass and his brilliant works on life and spirituality. I will write more about my encounter with Ram Dass and his Guru in another post. Make sure you get a copy of Conversations with Ram Dass: Interviewed by Sridhar Silberfein. His insights into life that are revealed in the book are very inspirational – to say the least.

 

Shakti 2015 Uta & Mark Whitwell

Uta with Mark Whitwell

Mark Whitwell taught a lovely class, reminding us of the basics of any yoga practice – the combination of breath and movement. I highly recommend his book Yoga of Heart: The Healing Power of Intimate Connection.

You don’t want to miss Bhakti Fest in September – featuring headliners such as Krishna Das, Jai Uttal, DJ Drez, MC Yogi, Karnamrita Dasi and many other great artists. There will be fabulous yoga teachers such as Tim Miller, Shiva Rea and Mark Whitwell. Workshops with Radanath Swami, Krishna Das or Swami Chitananda might blow your mind. If you are traveling from afar, join The OM Home retreat surrounding the festival. Spend some time with Troy and me before and after the festival for yoga and an exploration of spiritual sites in San Diego and Encinitas. Space is limited, so be sure to reserve your spot. For more information click here or email us at info@theomhome.com.

Love, Uta

Yoga in Amsterdam – What Else?

In continuation of Troy’s last post I can tell you this much – he eventually made it to Germany and we had a lovely time visiting with family and friends. To make his return trip as smooth as possible, we had booked his ticket from Amsterdam, with high chances of making it on a flight for the U.S. We embarked on an eight hour train ride across Germany to reach the capital of the Netherlands. We arrived on a Tuesday afternoon, which would give us some time to explore the city before our departure on Thursday morning.

Since I was busy working, I had asked Troy to do some research on what to do, where to stay, and of course, where to practice yoga. He found a very nice Airbnb accommodation for us with a couple that was also practicing and teaching yoga. The Nataraja statue in the pictures on their site quickly convinced us that it was our kinda place. And of course the hosts were very pleasant and made us feel right at home with freshly made smoothies.

After our train ride we were ready for a yoga class. Among the many offerings, Troy had picked out Svaha Yoga in Jordaan for us to visit – mainly because their schedule announced the chanting of the Hanuman Chalisa on Tuesday evening after practice. I love the Chalisa and frequently chant it, and usually carry a pendant of Hanuman and Neem Karoli Baba around my neck.

2015 04 Svaha Yoga

When we arrived, I noticed the sign on the door to remove shoes – as usual in yoga studios – and decided to take of my shoes before entering from the street. It was to the utter surprise of Patrick, the director of the studio, who immediately asked if we had been to India since nobody ever actually removed their shoes until after they had entered. At the front desk we received the most friendly welcome I have ever received at a yoga studio. I noticed all the familiar images of saints and deities I like to hang out with around the studio. Class started, and Patrick led us through a sweet, yet no less invigorating practice. While we were resting in Shavasana he walked around and gave some of us a little adjustment. He noticed my necklace and after ending the class pointed out to me that he was wearing the same one. Hanuman – in the form of Troy – had once again led me just to the right place.

After chanting the Hanuman Chalisa with Patrick, Gösta and a small group of practitioners, we managed to convince the two directors of Svaha Yoga to pose for a picture with us. It was a lovely experience and we will be sure to visit again when back in Amsterdam. Or maybe at their new retreat center in Suriname, South America…

2015 04 Svaha Yoga 2

Upon Patrick’s invitation we returned for a practice the following morning and then made our way to the van Gogh museum to marvel at this tormented genius’s art. Our visit came to a close with a delicious home made vegetarian soup from our Airbnb host Bastian.

Bye voor nu!

Uta