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5 Reasons to Teach Yoga for Free

Cover Photo: Shaunte Ditmar Photography

The new year is in full force and instead of adding any more weight to the unpredictable future, maybe introducing a softer approach to our world view could create some lasting ripple effects.

As the world seems to be getting smaller, faster, and cloudier, at the same time, more dreams are coming true; love is forever being found, and the possibilities of a change in consciousness on a global scale is becoming a reality — Instead of focusing on things that separate, we must look outside of the norm, think for ourselves, and strive for a different set of values if we are going to be able to come out of this era of uncertainty and thrive.

Simply put, to teach yoga for free is GOOD. To do anything for free is good. But as a viable construct of our society it becomes a commodity and therefore;

1) To teach yoga for free or within an exchange system is a little piece of CHANGE in SOCIETY that we’ve got our hands on.

A healthy wide-spread yoga practice is a veritable KEY to opening the door to less reliance on the systems that separate and discourage people. You scratch my back I scratch yours. The more we incorporate this into our communities the more networking we can have outside of stereotypes and economic standing. Going against the grain and being a free thinking individual will help bridge the gap in ways unimaginable.

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2) Teaching a free class, or pushing our own boundaries and maybe traveling to a different country to teach yoga, we consciously OPEN ourselves up to an abundance of new possibilities.

You teach, you travel, you learn; and the whole world becomes your oyster. The pearl of who you want to be emerges. Stepping into the direction of service, you ultimately free yourself from value restrictions and the flow of goodness cascades into all corners of your life. You never know who might enter your class, or what opportunities may arise.

The universe always provides…

3) Teaching yoga classes literally ADDS PEACE to the world–teaching classes for free reaches the many individuals who haven’t tried yoga yet or aren’t willing to pay for a class.

You don’t need to watch the news or read the paper to know that (even in regards to your own mind), peace is needed.

Pranic breathing, literally increases your AWARENESS of yourself, and your own personal awareness is where peace resides. To share the possibility of awareness for others in a group setting is the seed to growing the PEACE in the world.

4) Teaching a free class a week (even just once in your life) or taking a trip to somewhere through a yoga teaching exchange network is a way to LEARN and expand in new ways.

Being a teacher doesn’t take away the fact that you are forever a student in the classroom of the world, and in every direction we have a lesson to learn. To accept and give freely in an exchange outside of monetary currency allows a free form energy circulation, softly opening yourself up to new patterns, new traction; humility. You discover the strength of SERVICE which as a tenet of yoga philosophy, takes your tangible yoga practice to a higher level.

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5) Free yoga and exchanging classes can CREATE a NETWORK of other wellness practices that are not reliant on the monetary exchange.

If, as a community, we collectively are able to rely on our knowledge and bring our talents to the table, we are diversifying and enriching our ability to prevent illness and stimulate the effectiveness of alternative medicines. Through herbalism, chiropractic adjustments, massage, home services and even home-grown goods, the possibilities through bartering is unlimited.

These ideas are not farfetched or utopian. We are justly apt to creatively bend deeper into characteristics that we want to see emulated in society. The more we work together in a constructive way the more we can actually see changes in the world. The horrors of greed need not reach your inner sanctuary of well-being. Peace and tranquility are knocking at the entire neighborhood’s doorsteps and our limitless existence is unfolding right before our very eyes. Humans as a whole are no-doubt evolving, let the evolution include your dreams and may your dreams become reality.

Let the broken systems of society be mended by the strength of the systems that we know have worked for thousands of years.

 

 

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Abigail Tirabassi: writer, dreamer, believer, artist, ocean lover, finding joy daily.

IG: @scrambby

Svadhyaya: Understand Yourself, Understand Your World

“You should sit in meditation for twenty minutes every day – unless you’re too busy; then you should sit for an hour.”  – Zen proverb

This quote is one that I often refer to. It’s one that I come back to again and again when I feel like I am too busy, too tired, too caught up in life to put aside those twenty minutes per day on my meditation cushion. But it also came to mind quite forcefully the other day, when I was encouraging a friend to at least consider the idea that regular yoga classes might be good for him and his bad back. With a laugh, he replied, “I don’t have time for navel gazing.”

Since when has taking care of ourselves, and getting to know ourselves, become “navel gazing?”

And, come to that, since when has “navel gazing” been such a bad thing?

In our Western culture, we’re taught to constantly look outside of ourselves for fulfillment, happiness, success. We are conditioned to believe that material things will bring us happiness, that money is one of the most important measures of success, and that other people – our friends, families, lovers – will fulfill us.

We forget our own responsibility to ourselves.

Taking time to know and care for ourselves – rather than our jobs, our bank balances and all the other people in our lives – is too often seen as selfish, indulgent, even immature. And yet how can we expect to be able to relate to the world around us, if we don’t know ourselves? How can we expect others to understand us and know how to treat us, if we don’t understand ourselves and treat ourselves well? How can we expect our bodies to keep functioning properly if we don’t take care of them?

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I’ve recently returned to the UK from two months at an ashram in the Bahamas, where I was participating in a Karma Yoga program. It was possibly the ultimate exercise in navel gazing. For sixty days, I meditated, practiced asanas, participated in twice-daily satsangs, journaled, and read. I served too, of course, and taught yoga classes. But along the way, the primary lesson was that yoga is the ultimate tool to learn about that elusive person called “me”.

When we first come to the mat, we are drawn into the wonderful world of our own bodies. We feel muscles that we never knew existed. We twist and bend and stretch in ways that we never thought were possible and, gradually, we develop a deep respect (and perhaps even love?) for the body that carries us and serves us and makes our life on this Earth possible. We breathe more deeply, we feel more energy and, in a wonderful circle, we start to feel that sense of being physically alive which brings us back to the mat for more.

Becoming more aware of our bodies naturally leads us into becoming more aware of our minds. If we stick with the practice for long enough, sooner or later we start to really feel our emotions. We cry in Savasana, and we don’t know why. Stretching out the hips in Pigeon Pose brings up all sorts of memories and feelings that we thought were dead and buried. We feel more conscious of when we are angry, sad, joyful, content and we want to learn more. We want to understand what it is that brings us to those places, so that we can either avoid the triggers or cultivate them and, as our understanding of ourselves increases, so does our understanding of those around us. Perhaps we become more compassionate, more kind, more open, more understanding. We recognize that we get angry when someone cuts in front in line, and so we get it when other people do the same. We’re able to recognize when we’re being unfair, or judgmental, or hypocritical, and we’re able to call ourselves on it – and we’re able to point it out to others too. And in this process of learning about ourselves – the process of Svadhyaya, or self-study, that is one of the observances of yoga – our way of dealing with the world and all its turmoil changes.

It’s not easy. But when we understand, care for, and love ourselves, we open the door not only for other people to be able to truly love us in return, but for us to truly love, care for and respect our world and other people. And that – rather than being selfish, immature, or indulgent – is one of the most selfless, courageous, and vital things we will ever do.

So go ahead and navel gaze, for twenty minutes a day. And if you feel like you don’t have time, do it for an hour. It will change your world.

 

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Ali Shevlin is a yoga instructor, freelance proofreader / editor, writer and traveller. She runs Natural Energy Yoga in North East England and, when not on the mat, can usually be found reading, writing, or planning the next adventure.

Karma Yoga in Practice

Oh the Floors I’ve Swept…Karma Yoga in Practice…

“The success of yoga does not lie in the ability to perform postures, but in how it positively changes the way we live our life and our relationships.” – T.K.V. Desikachar

Sometimes as modern day yogis we loose sight of what we’re really doing here in our yoga practice. Asana classes have become so popular and trendy that many people – even some who have been taking yoga classes for years – associate lynn2yoga solely with postures and physical movement. But why do we really practice? Why go to a studio and stretch and strain and breathe deeply? I think the most basic and one true answer to what motivates us as modern yogis is our desire to be happier, healthier human beings. To feel alive and connected, to ourselves and something bigger. But where does this connection come from, and how does it transform from our intentions in yoga to our everyday lives?

When I travelled to India for an Ashtanga Yoga teacher training I learned a lot about asana practice, and even more about the wholistic lifelong practice of yoga. In India, the birthplace of this ancient path, I discovered that the majority of modern Indian yogis do not practice yoga asana (postures linked with breath and vinyasa) at all. Their practices are far more spiritual and ritualistic. Bhakti yoga (the practice of unconditional love and devotion) and Karma yoga (service to others) are much more common. Every morning, as we rose at 5am for meditation and asana practice, steady chanting drifted across the backwaters of Kerala from local temples. Their prayers were many. Ritual chants declaring unconditional love for the Hindu gods and devotion to the service of humanity. People choosing to put love at the forefront of their intentions and daily duties without ever asking ‘what’s in it for me?’.

“Love is the coal that makes this train roll…” – The Black Keys, Everlasting Light

When I lived in Toronto, Canada I spent 3 years doing an energy exchange at a yoga studio. I worked one shift per week and received a class pass at the studio. The tasks I performed were less than glamorous. Sweeping, laundry, changinglynn4 garbages, cleaning the showers and spraying sweaty yoga mats after class. During this time I also worked a busy job managing a restaurant. I barely had time for asana practice at all, sometimes only attending one class per week and was often so exhausted from working that I would just lay in Savasana and rest. But I stuck with the EE. I mopped the studio and folded towels and loved every second of it. It kept me in the yoga community, and was my karmic yoga to that community. When I finally began to crack and crumble from mental, physical and emotional exhaustion that inevitably comes from over work and stress without balance, that community was there. They cared, showed me compassion, supported and inspired me to keep going and take the next step on my path.

Now, years later I can see how cultivating love, devotion and a practice of karma yoga deeply penetrates and translates to infinite joy in everyday life.

Many of us lead busy lives, we have jobs, families and communities to attend to everyday. Finding time for physical asana practice is tough, damn near impossible sometimes. But instead of resenting our responsibilities and mundane daily chores that keep us too  busy to attend yoga classes, what if we shifted our perspective? What if we performed every action, every task and approached every situation with love. Know that by doing this, or even simply by setting this intention you are doing a service of karma yoga to your family, your community and the wider world.

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Lynn Alexander is a modern day yogi living her karma yoga. Her philosophy on practice and life is to do what you can every day – love and all is coming. Follow her on Instagram @modernday_yoga