Blog

Road Block (Part 1)

March 27, 2015

As I write this I am sitting at the JFK airport working on hour 36 of trying to catch a standby flight to Europe. The first few hours were smooth, but as time passes the difficulty of sitting and waiting grows. In situations like this the images and ideas of who am I and how I react to situations is challenged. Severely.

For someone who maintains a rigorous daily yoga practice and teaches several groups of students a week this should be easy, right? So much of what I teach my students and learn from my own practice is to cultivate a quiet gentleness in tight situations- “Don’t take it too seriously. It will pass in 5 breaths (300-100 in the Bheemashakti world).” So why is it so difficult to practice this when I’m away from the studio, sitting in a crowded airport?

The truth is that yoga is tough. Forget about binding Marichyasana D. What about keeping cool when all you want is to cash in a friend’s airline benefit and squeeze on an already crowded flight to meet up with your soul mate so you celebrate your 30th birthday in your favorite country (to date), but every single flight is oversold? How many breaths have passed in this last 36 hours? Guaranteed, some of them are going to be shallow, laborious, or even missing. And when my default reaction to life is to run away for a few hours and wiggle my way through some asana, there seems nowhere to run when I’m on the road. Sure I could roll out my mat and take a few Surya Namaskara, but I have a feeling that this isn’t the solution. Especially when I face a 7 hour flight packed in a tight middle row.

When I told Uta I was popping a Xanax yesterday she said, “what about some pranayama and meditation?” Ah yes, of course! But did it happen? No. I tried. Not that hard. But I could barely hear over all of the noisy, chattering thoughts in my head. At this point my adrenals are taxed from the rise and fall of anticipation every time the gate agents are ready to clear standby passengers.

Well last night I made it to New York from San Diego. I believe I am halfway to Germany. In lieu of fighting to wiggle on a flight to London and purchasing a $300 ticket to Frankfurt I decided to spend the night in a cheap New York city hotel and try again today. I certainly felt defeated at first but after some sleep and a nice day in the city I feel quite hopeful. In the time it took me to be beaten down by this whole experience and realize I AM NOT IN CONTROL, I have taken to reading “Loving Ganesh” (how I came across it is another story). In this text about all things related to the full figured elephant deity I felt it was time to abandon my own desires and put it all in His hands.

You see Ganesh resides in the Muladhara (root) chakra, home of all basic wants and desires. As I have learned from many yogic texts, podcasts, lectures, and my time at Vipassana, if we live in our desires, following the ebb and flow of craving and aversion we are taking a surefire route to suffering. After hour 18, suffering seems like a nice word. But is that where I am? Not being able to accept and sit in peace where I am at this very moment? So hey if there’s nothing else I can do but sit and wait, at least I can try to give Ganesh a call and see if He can pull any strings on my behalf.

As the remover of obstacles, Ganesh can also create obstacles to steer a devotee on the right path. So if jumping into a pool of sharks is what you want, Ganesh may crush your dreams and steer you toward a much safer option. And because we do not always understand the looming danger or karmic stirring on the other side of our desires, we can feel absolutely crushed when we are denied or restricted. I’m tired of feeling crushed and beaten. I just want to enjoy this trip so I’m leaving it up Him.

A benefit of spending the night in New York was that I was able to take a field trip to the Jivamukti Yoga School. I decided to take class, have some delicious food and wait until the next flight. After I paid and made may way into the classroom, behold!

Ganesh Ganesh

This could be coincidence but with all the contact I’ve tried to make with my new friend, I feel like I’ve been heard- loud and clear. More interesting was that the class itself was small- 3 students including myself. At first I thought, “wow this teacher must be new or not very good” but as the practice kicked in I realized this is exactly what I needed after being surrounded by cranky irritable people like myself- a refuge and a sanctuary away from all the craziness. And sequence of asana was exactly what I needed to decompress my spine, soften the shoulders and remember how to breathe.

At this point I still don’t know if I will make it onto this flight, but I’ve given Ganesh the keys and asked him to drive. Whatever happens I know that at least I am safe, have access to food, water, and a bathroom. And with a little faith and determination I look to the One-Tusked Wonder to pave a golden path to wherever it is that I am headed.

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Yoga Ventures in Kauai 

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Uta & Troy with Taro Fields

Who wouldn’t want to spend a week in Hawaii? Not only did we visit one of the most beautiful islands of this world, we got to share the experience with a lovely group of people who came together for a week of yoga practice twice daily. Our friend Nicole spoiled us with her excellent vegan and vegetarian cooking skills. Check out her website Blissfully Conscious if you are looking for delicious vegan catering.

 

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Afternoon yoga practice with Angela

In his post Steady Rhythm, Deep Roots, Troy gave some insights into the routine of the retreat. Mornings and afternoons were filled with bheemashakti yoga and practice and meditation. During the days we had some time to explore the island. Kauai’s nature is breathtaking. Frequent rainfalls create a lush vegetation – and magical rainbows…

Since Hawaii is Troy’s birthplace, it was extra special to explore the island with him. He introduced me to delicious local foods and a visit to the Kauai Museum revealed some fascinating stories of Hawaiian history and culture.

 

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Uta, Ganesha & Troy in the Rudraksha Forest

The highlight of our excursions was a trip to the local Hindu monastery. We attended their Shiva Puja on the full moon. As Troy and I were sitting in meditation after the ceremony, the temple priest walked up to us and engaged us in an inspiring and insightful conversation about yoga and spirituality. We left with our hearts open and our eyes sparkling. On our way back to the retreat site, we paid a visit to the Rudraksha Forest. The seeds of these trees are auspicious in Hindu tradition. It is said the Rudraksha tree grew from a tear of Lord Shiva, and the beads are now used in malas (108 beads) for japa meditation (recitation of mantra or names of deities).

It was obvious – this won’t be our last visit to the islands. Message us, if you want to join one of our upcoming retreats to Hawaii!

Mahalo, Uta & Troy

Steady Rhythm, Deep Roots

Along the path of yoga there comes a time for many of us when it seems like life’s patterning just doesn’t fit our practice. There are many excuses we can make about why we can’t sit in meditation, why we can’t fit in an hour of asana, how there just isn’t enough time in the day, especially through The Holidays and New Year. With so many distractions happening in daily life and so many desires we wish to fulfill, it is not a surprise that the yoga practice can suffer.

Fortunately, this not a modern dilemma. The ancient sages knew that the Yoga Road was rocky and mapped it out for us. Patanjali’s yoga sutras outlines nine distinct distractions that become obstacles as one journeys further down the path of yoga:

1.30 Nine kinds of distractions come that are obstacles naturally encountered on the path, and are physical illness, tendency of the mind to not work efficiently, doubt or indecision, lack of attention to pursuing the means of samadhi, laziness in mind and body, failure to regulate the desire for worldly objects, incorrect assumptions or thinking, failing to attain stages of the practice, and instability in maintaining a level of practice once attained. (Swami J)
(vyadhi styana samshaya pramada alasya avirati bhranti-darshana alabdha-bhumikatva anavasthitatva chitta vikshepa te antarayah)”

Fortunately there is a solution that has been prescribed by Patanjali to overcome these obstacles and it, in essence, is quite simple:

1.32 To prevent or deal with these nine obstacles and their four consequences, the recommendation is to make the mind one-pointed, training it how to focus on a single principle or object. (Swami J.)
(tat pratisedha artham eka tattva abhyasah)”

Although the solution to overcoming these obstacles is simple, that doesn’t necessarily make it easy. As we know, the mind is quite strong in its resistance to becoming still but the path of yoga is equipped with many tools that enable us to work through this even if just for a few breaths. In fact many spiritual and religious practices work in just this way- japa mala, rosary prayer, sigils, meditation, vision boards, etc- The key to all of this being the repeated attention to a single point. This is perhaps why so many of these traditions have renunciates (monks, nuns, sadhus, and so forth), spiritual aspirants who give up the motions of the mundane world to pursue their spiritual awakening.

So how can I practice this repeated single pointed attention to firmly establish a strong yoga practice as a house holder, someone who is fully immersed in the throes of the modern world? One option is Renunciation in the form of a retreat.

By taking an extended period of time away from home, beyond the scope of daily ritual we have an opportunity to replace our habits and excuses with disciplined practice. Think about it, with 24 hours in a day, away from the distractions of work, home responsibilities, socializing, there turns out to be plenty of time to dedicate to practice. And under the correct guidance, the retreat can be a great opportunity to feel the effects of a rooted yoga practice develop. That doesn’t necessarily mean that by the end of the week we will have developed great universal knowledge. But if for just a moment you feel what it is to step into a rhythm of Sadhana, the roots of sustained practice begin to grow.

Bheemashakti Yoga Kauai 2015 retreat.

Bheemashakti Yoga Kauai 2015 retreat.

At the Bheemashakti Yoga 2015 Kauai Retreat we will take 8 days and 7 nights to focus on twice daily practice as taught by my teacher Jonathan Patriarca. The morning will be marked by one hour of Ashtanga Pranayama and meditation followed by two hours of Dimensional Practice. After a plant based macrobiotic breakfast there will be time for contemplation, relaxation and exploration. The afternoon will begin our second session of Pranayama and Meditation accented by Asana Practice. Another plant based dinner will conclude the activities for the day. This sequence of practice has been designed to prepare the student to develop a deeper understanding of their yoga practice through repetition. As Jonathan would say “you can have an experience,” which he believed to be the strongest form of wisdom.

Through this spring time ritual you can plant seeds of inspired consistency to firmly ground your practice. Develop a deep rooted ceremony for yourself and grow strong in your pursuits of Self discovery.

Check out the details here: www.bheemashakti.org

See you there, Troy

A Well Oiled Machine

Black Friday- a day that instills fear in some and excitement in others. It’s the day after Thanksgiving when many of us feel weighed down by the many feasts we’ve had building up to this day. For some of us this madness will continue until the New Year. During this season it can be easy to abuse ourselves by overeating, drinking, and running around getting ready for the approaching holidays.

This morning I woke up with the need to give my body some love. Between teaching yoga all week, maintaining my twice daily practice, and riding my bike around San Diego, my body has had it. That’s why I decided to take 30 minutes to really give this machine that carries me through life a much needed dose of care by greasing up with Castor Oil Bath. It’s a detoxifying ritual that is talked about often in the yoga community and one that I haven’t given much attention to until recently. It’s a fairly simple procedure that involves massaging castor oil into the muscles and joints in the body starting from the head and working your way down. Castor oil baths are a great way to loosen the tightness in the body and relieve the excess heat that builds up during a rigorous yoga practice.


Some key tips I would suggest are:

1. Sit on an old towel on the bathtub floor to keep from slipping.

2. Listen to some great, relaxing music.

3. Keep a strong soap or body wash on hand as the castor oil is quite sticky and difficult to remove (Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps Pure-Castile Soap, 18-in-1 Hemp Lavender, 32-Ounce
seems to work well for me).

Also be sure not to engage in any heavy athletic activity for the next 24 hours. It’s your time to take a rest and let the body find a more relaxed state. I guarantee just 15-30 minutes of this routine will help to ease the holiday stress and set you up for a fantastic season.

Uta 5.0 released

 

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California Vipassana Center North Fork

Some bugs are fixed, processor upgraded, memory improved. I have just come out with an upgrade. Over the last ten days I spent most of my waking hours in a dark cell just about the size of a yoga mat, practicing meditation. Some of my friends call me crazy and wonder why I do it. This was my fifth course over the last two years and I have observed a big change in my life since I started practicing Vipassana. Although I have always been of a calm nature, I feel even calmer, less reactive, more at peace. Every day. After each course, I feel like I have shed tons of baggage that I didn’t even know I was carrying. Everything becomes clearer. The mind is more focused and works at 200 percent.

The fact that there is no communication with anyone, no contact to the outside world, no reading, no phones, meditation from 4:30 am to 9 pm and no meals after noon make most people believe, they could not do it. But these rules are set up to aid the concentration and are actually easy to follow, compared to the internal work one does. Our mind is a beast and it takes tremendous effort to tame it. In a way, the courses are like bootcamp for the mind. An effort, to tame the beast. Want to know more, where to do it, how to prepare? Send me an email to info@theomhome.com or comment below.

North Fork Pagoda

Pagoda with meditation cells

Love, Uta

From Communism to free Spirit

Twenty five years ago, the Berlin Wall fell. At the time, I was living in the GDR and my dreams of traveling and seeing the world seemed as likely as visiting the moon. Studying yogic philosophy in a form of government, where access to any form of information is strictly monitored, must be challenging. Unfortunately, it is still a reality for some places in the world.

Today, I am flooded with gratitude. This auspicious turn in world history has not only allowed me to travel the world, but also to go on a journey, that may not have been possible in the setting of communist East Germany. A journey inward. Life has brought me to San Diego and has opened many doors for me to discover not only the beauty of the outside world, but also uncover the mysteries of our inside world. I feel immensely grateful for the opportunities that continue to present themselves.

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Professor Nagaraja Rao on the Upanishads

Just this past week I enjoyed the opportunity to study with a visiting Sanskrit scholar from Mysore, India. Professor Nagaraja Rao discussed with a small group of students the yogic texts Bhagavad Gita and Upanishads. Upanishad actually means to sit down near a teacher. It refers to the fact that knowledge is transferred to the student who sits close to the teacher, and thus receives the teachings directly. The Upanishads are also called Vedanta, since they are the closing part of the Vedas, some of the oldest Sanskrit scriptures. There are four vedas, the Rigveda, the Vajurveda, the Samaveda and the Atharvaveda. However, there are over 108 Upanishads, since the four vedas have many branches. I learned that the four parts of the Mantra Om relate to the Vedas. When pronounced, Om is split up into A, U, M and a resonance of the M. The “A” corresponds to the Rigveda and to our waking state. The “U” is the Vajurveda and our dream state. The letter “M” is the deep sleep state or the Samaveda, and finally the resonance embodies Samadhi or the Atharvaveda. These states as well as the Vedas comprise our whole life.

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Indian Lunch with Professor Rao

The lectures ended today with a delicious Indian lunch. Contemplating ancient Indian scriptures on the anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall – what better way to celebrate.

Om Asato Maa Sad Gamaya
Tamaso Maa Jyotir Gamaya
Mrtyor Maa Amritam Gamaya
Om Shanti Shanti Shanti*

Lead me from the non-existent to the existent
Lead me from darkness to light
Lead me from death to immortality
Om Peace Peace Peace

* Mantra from the Upanishads

Love, Uta

GPS for the Soul

Jonathan Patriarca, Bheemashakti Yoga

Jonathan Patriarca (1970-2014), Bheemashakti Yoga

This has been a week of remembrance as I honor and make peace with the passing of my friend and teacher Jonathan Patriarca. He was the first man I met on my journey into the world of yoga who actually taught me about yoga. He introduced me to Bheemashakti Yoga, a unique approach to yoga that has shaped much of how I practice and teach to this day. As a devoted student it has been difficult to come to terms that Jonathan is no longer around to share his insights. At times it has been terrifying.

Accepting the loss of a teacher feels a lot like being lost inside of a department store when I was a kid. I don’t know who to ask for help and I wonder if I will ever find my way. But as the reality of Jonathan’s departure settles in I find myself turning inward, touching the impressions he made on my heart and mind. These imprints are a deep, corrugated network of memories, wisdom, and guidance. And as I trace my awareness along the veiny channels of my subconscious, in that place where Jonathan’s influence lives on, what I find is a beautiful recording of his teachings that I can play over and over again. So although the physical embodiment of a master is absent, what remains is a complex map drawn by the years we spent learning from and teaching one another. With this map, this music, I feel comforted in knowing that Jonathan left behind a rich resource in each and every one of his students.

Perhaps we can never recreate his laugh or his stories about his time with his Master in India, but we have something of our very own. What we have is the opportunity to nurture the seeds he planted within us, to grow our very own gardens in tribute to this man we all called teacher. Inside all of those seeds everything we need continue our work. And if we listen, if we pay attention, Jonathan continues to guide us from the seat of our inner teacher- the ultimate guide on this path to freedom.

In Loving Memory.

-Troy

Bhakti Fest 2014

Bhakti Fest 2014 in Joshua Tree, California was another once in a lifetime event. The beautiful high desert hosted yogis and chanting fans for six days and offered non stop workshops, yoga classes, Kirtan on two stages, fantastic vendors and a wholesome vegetarian and vegan food court. The experience can not be expressed in words or with images, I hope you can join us to one of the following festivals and feel it for yourself. We are happy to guide you through the experience. Check our events page for upcoming festivals.

My personal highlights:

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Workshop with renowned Yoga teacher Dharma Mittra

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Ashtanga yoga classes and chanting with my teacher Tim Miller

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Workshop with Krishna Das

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Beautiful scenery

Love, Uta