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Scott Nanamura: Diamond Heart Yoga

I first met Scott Nanamura in 2006 in South Lake Tahoe, California when I started going to his yoga classes at what at that time was ‘Mountain Yoga’. His intelligently sequenced classes both physically and mentally challenged me (in a good way) and were filled with intriguing philosophical insights. He captured my attention as a teacher. His teachings have definitely been pivotal for me on the path of yoga. In 2015, my beloved friends and Yoga Trade partners Pat and Christie visited Tahoe during a road trip. It was then they mentioned that they wanted to host a Yoga Teacher Training at the sustainable living center in Costa Rica they manage, and were looking for a teacher that would be a good fit. It just so happened that Scott was staying in his RV / mobile acupuncture office in the driveway at the house I was living in at the time! It was that summer that Pat & Christie met Scott and a synergistic relationship began. The following year Scott traveled to Central America to facilitate his first international Teacher Training and has been on a roll ever since! If you are looking to practice with a wise, grounded, focused, extremely knowledgeable yoga teacher with a background in Traditional Chinese Medicine, check out Scott and his offerings around the world! Here, we catch up with him to learn more of his story. Thank you for sharing the teachings and your light Scott! 

Can you tell us a little bit about your yoga background?

I actually took my first yoga class 44 years ago, in a small college town in a college course. I didn’t stick with it at the time, but it planted a seed of curiosity. A year and a half later when I moved to Lake Tahoe, I met a yoga teacher and started studying with him, his name was Doug Swenson. At the time, he had written one of the earlier books in English on yoga, and he was a very well know Ashtanga Yoga Teacher.

My yoga path continued and it waxed and waned for many years taking classes from many teachers, many different styles, until I took a class with some friends of mine, and they taught a style called Tibetan Heart Yoga. THY (Tibetan Heart Yoga) very strongly brought back the component of the wisdom teachings and subtle body teachings with the asana practice. All of the previous classes I had taken hadn’t done that. It was all a separate component. The Tibetan Heart Yoga really connected with my heart in a deep way and it spurred me onto really wanting to study its system and style much deeper. For the next 5 years I dove into more of the TBY system, studied Master Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras and deepened my knowledge of Hatha Yoga at the same time.

What allowed you to take the leap of faith and start an international yoga teacher school?

I had been teaching yoga for 10 years and I also had a private acupuncture practice. All the while teaching Tai Chi and buddhist philosophy at a local college, and I wanted to combine all these methodologies ,so I could teach these all in one place at one time. This is when I had the thought of combining modalities into a Teacher Training. I gravitated towards the teachings of Buddhism and used it in the yogic philosophy, because of the way Buddhism explains the ideas and concepts, it made it easier to understand the yoga teachings. I also had a lot of teachers come up to me in the past asking for week retreats, intensives & workshops to go deeper into the subjects that were lacking in their trainings, which is what inspired me to start Diamond Heart Yoga.

In a sometimes saturated yoga world, what makes your trainings stand out from the rest?

In these trainings and retreats I draw from a deep experience of extensive training from a masters degree in TCM, Traditional Tibetan Buddhism and Yoga philosophy. With my many years of training in TCM, Tai Chi and yoga, comes a rich background in Anatomy and Functional Anatomy. Over the years of taking classes, teaching classes & leading teacher trainings all over the world, I’ve noticed that the Anatomy, Functional Anatomy & philosophy is a missing component in many trainings, and these components are key to further a teacher’s knowledge to be able to inspire their students to have a richer & transformative experience in class.

What have you learned from your travels over the last few years?

I think everyone should travel in their lifetime, it allows you to see how other people live around the world. When you live in an industrialized country, it’s easy to forget how grateful to be for everything you have. Many of the people around the world don’t have those things. So everywhere I travel, it allows me to be grateful for everything we have and to stop complaining about the little things.

What are some of the challenges you face as a yoga teacher trainer?

I think one of the biggest challenges is having students coming into the trainings with a full cup. These are the ones that learn the least and come in with the biggest egos. I guide them to become good students again by emptying their cup and becoming a sponge as they learn away of thinking that comes from a completely different culture that’s been passed down from teacher to student for thousands of years.

Where does the name ‘Diamond Heart’ come from?

The Diamond in your heart center represents wisdom, combined with the idea of the lotus that represents compassion. Wisdom and compassion are like 2 wings of a bird. They go hand in hand together, which understands the ultimate truth to purify any negative energy that may arise. Allowing us to create the kind of world we want to see in the future, by dedicating our lives to serving others.

What upcoming trainings are you most excited about?

We are very excited to reconnect with the Balinese culture and lifestyle in July & August, but all the other venues we have chosen are also magical locations around the world. After Bali, we have Morocco, Spain, Sri Lanka and then back to Bali to end 2019. On the calendar for 2020, we have Costa Rica, Mexico, Nicaragua and more to announce. Every location has its own kind of magic and we are excited for each and every one, but in the end, the students are the ones that make the trainings!

How do you see modern day yoga evolving over the next 10 years?

I would like to see more of the lifestyle and philosophy components return to the forefront in the studios & trainings. As a teacher trainer that travels the world doing trainings, I have seen the monetization of this ancient practice morph into the business of making money as a yoga teacher. Over the next 10 years I see this process growing, where the business of yoga will grow just as any other business, It has become a form of commerce. For some people, yoga studios have become something sacred to them, and it has become their church and as more people learn about the philosophy, more people will turn to this ancient form of wisdom.

Who have been some of your greatest teachers?

Some of my greatest teachers are Geshe Michael Roach, Lama Christie McNally, Lama Sumati Marut, Lama David Fishman, Lama Brandy Davis, Doug Swenson and all of my students including my son Aki’o.

Do you have a favorite mantra to live by?

I have a few…
Om Thank You Ah Hung
Om It’s like this now Ah Hung

Anything else you’d like to share?

Using the wisdom from Master Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, we can start to identify our limited belief system and move towards a more conscious belief system that opens your heart to connect with others, leading a more selfless altruistic lifestyle, creating the ultimate happiness that everyone yearns for deep inside their heart.

 

 

Scott Nanamura: My background includes a Masters Degree in Traditional Chinese Medicine which includes, Acupuncture, Herbology, Nutrition, Exercise Therapy (Tai Chi Chuan and Qi Gong), and Remedial Therapy (massage, Tui Na). I have additionally completed Tibetan Buddhism courses, been practicing yoga for 40 years and teaching for 15. I have worked to cultivate the unique ability to bring ancient teachings into a modern setting, to touch the human heart. I work to inspire students to practice with awareness and intention on the mat, and to use the teachings off the mat in everyday life situations. My goal when teaching is to converge compassion and wisdom, art and yoga.

Connect:

diamondheart.yoga

FB: @diamondheartyoga

IG: @diamondheartyoga

 

Practice With Consistency

Patanjali tells us that practice becomes grounded when it is pursued consistently, with earnestness, over a long period of time. For many of us, we feel as if this is almost impossible. We may have a busy work and/or school schedule, or maybe kids, family and pets that demand attention. So how are we able to maintain our daily practice consistently despite our daily lives? Now this is where Sutra 1.12 comes in- abhyasa and vairagya. Effort and non-attachment.


In order to create or maintain a practice with consistency, we first must make sacrifices. We need to practice vairagya, non-attachment. Letting go of expectations. If you believe that your practice is only your practice if you have a full hour to move through a flow or have a lengthy warm up, cool down and 10 minute Savasana, this is one of the first sacrifices we need to make. This expectation needs to be released. Some days we may only have ten minutes of free time; so we step on our mat, do one round of Sun Salutations and we’re out the door. Or maybe we only have time after a long day at work when your energy seems to be spent, so it’s legs up the wall and supine twists before you’re off to bed.


If you have children or pets that want your attention, work them into your practice. Instead of disturbing your peace by shooing them away, let them be. Even try to include them if you can. For me, I know my home practice isn’t complete without a cat laying on me and joining my Savasana.


Or maybe distractions aren’t your problem, the only time you have free is after a long and grueling day at work. Is the first thing you want to do when you get home from a busy day to jump onto your mat, flow through vinyasas or power through standing poses and inversions? Well, maybe. But for most people, that’s not the reality. You’re drained, unmotivated and tired. You just want to lay down. So what do you do? Work this into your practice! Take any last drop of abhyasa (effort) you have left. Practice vairagya (non-attachment) by letting go of the belief that a practice only counts if you flow through vinyasas and inversions. Sit your legs up the wall, stretch out the day, then head to Savasana. Is this any less “yoga” than going to class and breaking a sweat or handstands? Nope, it’s not. Sorry to break it to you, but Yoga isn’t simply a workout routine. Yoga isn’t something that fits into a box or category and it sure isn’t something that is the same for everyone. “The restraint of the modifications of the mind-stuff is Yoga.” (Sutra 1.2)

Yoga is simply taking the time to tend to your body, release that which no longer serves you and slow (if not stop) your racing thoughts. So whether to you this means flowing through a well rounded routine or taking ten minutes at the end of the day to surrender, any cultivation of mindfulness and release of “the mind-stuff” is Yoga. Any practice is still a practice no matter how small, and consistency is still achievable even with only ten minutes to spare. Remember that.


In conclusion, the biggest key to consistency is practicing with non-attachment. Letting go of the expectation that you need a full hour or rounded flow to practice. Let go of the expectation that you need complete silence or solitude to practice, and begin working with what you have; whether it be pets, kids, or a busy schedule. Adjust your practice to your own needs, and treat yourself gently when your energy is spent elsewhere. Approach your mat with an open mind, adjust your practice to your own needs, and peace will soon follow.

 

 

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After her battle with anxiety and depression led her to seek alternatives, Maddy has been practicing yoga daily for three years. Now she is training to become a certified instructor and shares her journey through YouTube: Sacred Synchronicities and on Instagram: @sacredsynchronicities.

11 Things You Didn’t Know About the History of Yoga

I’ve spent the last year fine-tuning and teaching a History of Yoga workshop curriculum. It’s meant listening to endless history podcasts, combing through interviews with senior teachers like Judith Hanson Lasater and Richard Rosen, reading arresting new scholarship from academics like Mark Singleton and James Mallinson, and thumbing through primary texts like Light on Yoga and the Bhagavad Gita.

You know that old cliché about how if you really want to learn something, you should teach it? It’s true. I’ll never look at my yoga practice the same way again. And after reading this, you may not, either.

Here are a few unexpected revelations:

1. Yoga history is a total mash-up.

It’s quintessentially postmodern. (That’s a big word that basically means questioning long-standing truth narratives and lifting up identity politics and personal narrative as sources of insight and wisdom. Whew, right?) Postmodernism reminds us to think critically and take every perceived notion of “truth” with a grain of salt. It’s personified by creative artists like animator Sanjay Patel and hip-hop musician MC Yogi, both of whom blend ancient and contemporary Hindu traditions in electric cultural mash-ups of their own.

Postmodernism reminds us that our job as yoga historians is to ask: who preserved yoga history in this particular way? What purpose or agenda did that preservation serve? And whose voices are missing here?

2. Patanjali probably wasn’t just one dude.

That guy most of us know as the granddaddy of yoga philosophy, the scholar-priest who codified the Yoga Sutra for the first time? The one who likely lived sometime in the 2nd or 3rd century? Yeah, no. He very possibly didn’t exist. The compilation of the Yoga Sutra that historians have long attributed to him was likely the work of many priestly men. (But, then again, who really knows for sure?)

3. Yogis weren’t always mainstream.

In fact, as recently as the early 20th century, yogis were often perceived as wild renegades, dangerous rogues, and unruly highwaymen rife with black magic. No reasonable, respectable person wanted to be around them.

Those sadhus who stood on one leg in the middle of a river for two years straight? The same ones who practiced expelling their semen and then recalling it (yes, really)? They’re a world apart from the pastel-clad soccer moms and the lithe former ballet dancers you see now splashed on yoga magazine covers.

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When Swami Vivekananda came to speak at the 1893 World Parliament of Religions in Chicago — the moment that’s often recognized as the birthplace of yoga in America — he hesitated to speak of any postural (or hatha) yoga, focusing mainly on meditation and pranayama, for fear of alienating Westerners. That’s how unpopular and renegade most yogis were.

Even 40 years ago, many yogis were often still perceived as countercultural hippies. It’s only been within the last two decades or so that they’ve really found their place in bourgeois mainstream America. And now, of course, they’re at the center of a mass cultural phenomenon.

 

4. Asana itself is quite new.

Most of the poses you know so well from class — like Downward Dog or Triangle — are relatively contemporary creations. (As in, maybe a hundred or so years old.) Truth be told, the body didn’t even really get involved in yoga until maybe the 13th or 14th centuries. Prior to that, any asanas were probably seated poses like Ardha Padmasana (Half Lotus) or Virasana (Hero), the kind designed for ease of pranayama and meditation.

Hatha yoga poses developed sometime in the Middle Ages, right around the writing of the Hatha Yoga Pradipika, when an explosion of Tantric philosophy finally brought the body into the picture. (And yes, Tantra is about so much more than sex, in spite of notorious stereotypes that’ve arisen over the years.) Even those poses were still fairly simple, though they did much to challenge the sacred/profane binary that had previously denigrated the body as less holy than the spirit. Once Tantra emerged, the body finally became a locus for the sacred; literally, a temple for the divine.

Most of the standing poses we practice now, though? They’ve only been around a few hundred years at most. And many of them are much newer than that.

5. The practice as we know it is a total hybrid.

British military exercises. Scandinavian gymnastics. European curative medicine. Indian nationalist bodybuilding techniques. Freudian and Jungian somaticization of the emotions. Toss in New Age spirituality and a pop cultural emphasis on positive thinking, and you’ve got a diverse practice that spans the globe.

If you’ve ever heard your teacher wax poetic about how early yogis were doing sun salutations on the banks of the Ganges River 5000 years ago, now you know: they’re full of crap. Nobody was doing Surya Namaskara A 5000 years ago.

Whenever I teach sun salutations now, I point out that Mark Singleton and his fellow academics have doggedly uncovered the reality that Surya Namaskara A and B are maybe a hundred years old at best. (Check out Singleton’s book, “Yoga Body: The Origins Of Modern Posture Practice,” for the ultimate in recent scholarship on the history of contemporary asana.)

Mind. Blown.

6. Women are often invisible in yoga history.

And it’s the job of contemporary historians to bring them back into the picture.

Michelle Goldberg’s 2015 biography of Indra Devi, “The Goddess Pose: The Audacious Life of Indra Devi, the Woman Who Helped Bring Yoga to the West,” was a crucial first step into reclaiming the feminine side of yoga history. Goldberg is more often known as a writer of politics and religion, so she brings a particularly sharp cultural lens to excavating the “woman factor” here.

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Turns out Devi, née Eugenie Peterson, the Russian-aristocrat-turned-world-traveller, fought to study with Krishnamacharya, only to be turned away because she was a woman. The reason she was finally allowed to stay was that the Maharaj of Mysore stood up for her. Devi was one of Krishnamacharya’s key disciples, right up there with BKS Iyengar, Pattabhi Jois, and TKV Desikachar, though she isn’t often included in that nexus of primary teachers responsible for spreading yoga across the West.

Dive into Goldberg’s book for more dishy history, like how Devi opened the first yoga studio in Hollywood in 1947, taught starlets like Greta Garbo and Gloria Swanson, and later ended up moving to Mexico and Buenos Aires.

7. Context is everything.

Your understanding of yoga history depends so much on your cultural context, your moment in time, and your teacher’s perspective. When you learn yoga history from me (as a white, cisgendered, upper-middle-class woman in the world), you’ll get a mish-mash of self-consciously postmodern, progressive, queer, countercultural, intersectional perspectives. If you’d studied with premier German yoga historian Georg Feuerstein 30 years ago, you’d have gotten a whole different (incredible) vault of knowledge. Neither is right or wrong. Both are useful. That’s why we need to continue seeking out new teachers and new sources. Always. Don’t get complacent. Curiosity is key.

8. “Yoga is about half-Indian and half-Californian.”

I overheard this tongue-in-cheek quip some time ago on a podcast by Lucas Rockwell, listening to an interview while I did my home practice, and laughed out loud. No truer words have been spoken. One thing we know for sure is that yoga originated in India. That’s undeniable. But, as for the spread of yoga in the West? California has been hugely influential: a fertile soil for New Age thinking, body insecurity (hello, Hollywood), and health fads, all of which exploded across the country thanks to the power of celebrity. You can think of the evolution of yoga in America less as a movement from East to West and more as an ongoing dialogue, a cultural conversation between the two.

9. There is no “one true yoga.”

There are only variations on a theme, ever-evolving.

If old-school yogis from the 4th century walked into your Monday happy hour Power Vinyasa class, they’d have zero idea what the heck you were doing jumping around doing push-ups. They certainly wouldn’t recognize it as yoga. Just as, for most contemporary gym rats, sitting around meditating for hours at a time and living the ascetic, celibate life of a wandering yogi doesn’t sound much like the $16 drop-in class we’d willingly toss on our credit cards.

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So if somebody says their yoga is “right” and yours is “wrong,” or that that Vino & Vinyasa event or your Dog Yoga class or the brewery-hosted Yin workshop isn’t legit, have no fear. Yoga is in constant co-creation. It will continue to evolve. There is no one right way.

10. The history of yoga is a history of scandal.

I know, I know; it seems incongruent, given the fact that yoga, at its heart, is an ethical system for being clear-mindedly in the world, for lending ease and peace to all sentient beings, and for causing as little suffering as possible. But, as with all institutions and systems like the church or the government, when there are patriarchal guru relationships ensconced in sometimes-unhealthy power dynamics, shit happens.

The deeper you dig, the more you realize the history of yoga is rampant with sexual assault, abuse, harassment, and impropriety. A quick rundown of even the last 75 years reveals sordid sexual scandals, substance abuse, frozen pensions, adultery, exploitation, an epidemic of narcissistic gurus, and more.

I hesitated to include those scandals the first few times I taught new teacher trainees. I didn’t want to cast a shadow on the history of a beloved practice. This last time around, though, in light of the current events unfolding in the Presidential election, I realized it was essential to include the shadow side along with the light. The burgeoning teachers and I had a fascinating, sobering conversation about sex, power, ethics, and what it means to be a teacher of integrity. It was immensely rewarding.

You can’t leave this ugly stuff out because it feels uncomfortable. It’s just as much a part of the practice — and its legacy — as any of the good.

 

11. There are so many reasons to be hopeful.

Look at all the incredible spin-offs coming out of the yoga tradition right now. Yoga for veterans! Trauma-informed yoga! Yoga Trade! Political activist organizations like CTZNWELL and Off The Mat, Into The World. Yoga in prisons and senior centers and elementary schools. Decolonizing Yoga. The Yoga and Body Image Coalition. Transgender and queer-informed yoga philosophy. Weekly yoga classes at Grace Cathedral in San Francisco that attract some 700 people of all faiths, living, breathing, stretching together in sacred stillness.

There are great things happening in the name of yoga everywhere you turn. Keep learning. You’re as much a part of it as Patanjali and his priestly cohort. Maybe even moreso.

Rachel-Meyer-Headshot

Rachel Meyer is a Portland, Oregon-based writer and yoga teacher. Her work has appeared in The Washington Post, On Being, Yoga Journal, Yoga International, Tricycle, HuffPost, and more. You can find her at www.rachelmeyeryoga.com or @rachelmeyeryoga

Get Lost, Start Over: Why Yoga Starts When Things Fall Apart

It’s a cool, grey Saturday morning in Portland.

7:45am.

I’m on the road, cruising along about 45 mph, pleasantly caffeinated, smoothie in hand, headed to teach my 8:15am class.

Life is calm and quiet and good. (The caffeine helps).

Good, that is, until, out of nowhere, smack in the middle of the road, surrounded by other metal deathboxes zooming along at 45 mph, my car just dies.

Shuts off. Loses all power. Sayonara, baby.

The dashboard lights flash once, ominously, and then they die, too. All of them.

Holy shit. What’s going on?! What am I gonna do?!

I shift the weirdly-energyless car into neutral. There’s a parking lot just a few hundred feet ahead to my right, if I can just manage to get there. Deliberately, clenchedly, I steer that lifeless monstrosity of glass and leather and steel into the parking lot, shove it awkwardly into Park, sit for a breathless moment hoping nothing explodes, and turn the ignition off.

Exhaling, I think to myself:

This is why we do yoga.

*

I’m a vinyasa teacher these days, but long before I’d ever stepped foot in a Flow class, I spent six years practicing Bikram-style hot yoga daily. It was my balm and my sanctuary, a delicious, addictive torture that cracked me open and slowed me down.

The first time I took a hot yoga class was in September 2003.

Age 24. I’d just moved to San Francisco, and my sweet Japanese roommate of two weeks, Hitomi, told me I just had to try this yoga thing. I’d been running the City’s hills to tackle the anxiety of trying to find a job, so my shin splints were screaming and my hamstrings tightening by the day. There was a studio just down the street, so one evening I went with her.

I’d resisted yoga for years, even after folks I respected had recommended it, figuring it would just be a bunch of middle-aged ladies stretching to hippie flute music. Not my jam.

Tim was my teacher; Tim, who all these years later, is now a dear colleague and friend. Tim, who was sweet and light-hearted and called Locust Pose “Superfriends Pose.” He led us confidently through the 26 poses, and there, in that sweltering, airless 105F degree room, I felt refreshingly at home.

The studio quickly became a refuge. There, I was allowed to be quiet. I was required to be quiet. I could roll in with messy hair and no makeup and ratty old sweats and stand in the back corner and be invisible. I could disappear into the breath, the silence, the rhythm of the practice, sweating and twisting and stretching out everything in me that was frantic or frazzled or stagnant or uncertain, balancing precariously on that sweat-soaked berber carpet.

The practice pushed me to no end. It was so hard to stay alive! So hard to keep breathing! So hard to not freak out or swear at the teacher or throw my arms up in frustration and stomp out of the room! So hard to fall out of Standing Bow Pose and just get back in, 100 times, without reacting, without making a face, without feeling like the most pathetic yogi that ever was.

Get lost. Start over.
Get lost. Start over.
Get lost. Start over.
Get lost. Start over.

This is yoga. This is meditation. This is parenting. This is intimacy. This is art.

This is that moment in the middle of the freeway when you’re lucky to be alive, and 17you’re not sure what to do, because your car just shut down, so you take a deep breath, and remember how back in the day you used to breathe through Half Moon even though it was exhausting and frustrating and impossible, and you take that same deep breath and steer the car over to the side of the road and call your husband to tell him to call AAA and he does and call the studio owner to pick you up and he does and you get to class with 10 minutes to spare while AAA tows your car and you step into that studio and feel calm and present and perfectly wonderfully fine (because it all is, of course).

We don’t come to the mat because life is peachy. Most of us come because of an ache in our hearts or our bones or a mind that won’t quite stop racing. We come and we just practice staying; staying and not reacting, staying and realizing the chaos is not us, staying and realizing we are clear blue sky.

Everything else? Just the weather.

(Thanks to Pema Chodron for that one.)

*

There’s a reason we call it practice. For a long time I felt cheesy about using that word.

“So, how long have you been, erm, practicing?”

It felt so pretentious. Precious. Silly.

But the more I showed up on my mat, the more I realized how perfect that word really is. We aren’t performing (that’s for damn sure). We aren’t exercising. We aren’t doing.

We are practicing.

We are practicing for all of those moments when shit falls apart, and the flight gets cancelled, and the package gets lost, and the heart breaks, and the car stops, so that when those moments come (and they will), we already know how to take a step back, watch our reactions, slow down, and choose how to respond, realizing that as long as we stay right here in this very moment, without letting our minds run off to some story about what might be or what should’ve been, we’ll be fine.

Patanjali outlines this mental training in the second yoga sutra, wherein he defines yoga as “Citta Vritti Nirodha.” In other words, “Yoga is the cessation of the misidentification with the fluctuations of the mind.”

Come again?

Put simply: yoga is realizing you are not your thoughts.

*

Steve Ross’s book, Happy Yoga: 7 Reasons Why There’s Nothing To Worry About, was the first legit yoga philosophy text I ever found.

One afternoon shortly after taking that first class I wandered into the New Age section of a bookstore down by the Embarcadero. The yoga pickings were slim at the time, but Steve Ross’s book caught my eye. Its corny title grated me. But the content hooked my heart and my mind, all at once.

I sat on the floor and read the whole thing in one take.

In down-to-earth, relatable language, Ross laid out the basics of meditation, asana, and a yogic lifestyle. His simple, self-deprecating words changed my life.

Describing how to train your mind, Ross offers the example of what happens when you get a flat tire on a sketchy road at night. Your cell phone is dead and you can’t call or text anyone. (I’m adding this detail because the 2003 version didn’t assume that everyone had smart phones). In that moment, you can do one of two things: 1) Freak out immediately and hyperventilate and assume an axe-murderer is lurking just outside your passenger door waiting for you to walk out, or 2) Take a deep breath, keep your mind yoked to every step you’re taking, walk to the gas station a half-mile down the road, and call a friend. Then, sit down and wait and read the newspaper until he comes to pick you up.

No big deal. Problem solved.

The key moment here is when you make the choice to keep your mind from running off the rails like a runaway train. That crucial breath when you avoid getting sucked into the worst-case scenario and just bring your attention right back to what is.

*

Last weekend I led a yoga and hiking retreat in Point Reyes, California. This quiet little hamlet about an hour north of San Francisco is rich with local blue cheese and Tomales Bay oysters and the kind of thick coastal fog that rolls in about 5:30pm. The hikes that meander throughout Point Reyes National Seashore are rustic and lush, with killer blue-skied views of the Bay and the Pacific Ocean beyond.

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I’ve led a few of these retreats in the last year or so, and it’s always a joy. There’s this particularly magical hike that winds up Inverness Ridge to the top of Mount Vision and back down again. Locals know it, but otherwise it’s pretty much off the tourist radar. My husband and I used to hike a portion of it daily when we lived in Inverness and I was pregnant with our son.

But the last time we did it, I got our group of 30 people lost several times and we had to backtrack to the trailhead instead of finishing out the full loop.

I was so embarrassed. Felt like an idiot.

This time, I was determined to redeem myself. Two days before the retreat, I hauled my ass to the trail for a test hike. With a fire in my belly, I started from the end and hiked backwards, determined to find the missing connection.

Got to the top, and BOOM.

Turns out, last time we were actually totally on the right path. Had we only walked ¼ mile further — and had I trusted my intuition — we would’ve stumbled right onto the rest of the loop and hiked back down to complete the circle.

Lesson learned: You are on the right path, even if it doesn’t feel that way. Trust your gut. Your body knows more than your mind will often give it credit for.

Get lost. Start over.
Get lost. Start over.
Get lost. Start over.
Get lost. Start over.

*

I don’t practice much hot yoga anymore these days, but I’ll always be grateful for the way it changed my life: how it taught me to stay with discomfort, to keep breathing, and to trust that the difficult moments would pass. Sweating there in Trikonasana, my mind couldn’t get lost in aimless worries about my career or my love life or my bank account. I had to be right there, struggling, exhaling, trying not to fall over.

This is yoga. This is why we practice. So that when we’re in the most awkward, sweaty, challenging moments of our lives, we can be there, and be ok. Not freak out. Not run out of the room. Not get lost in unhelpful stories.

We yoke the mind to the breath the same way you’d yoke a wild horse to a wagon. Keeping it steady. Keeping it focused. Keeping it centered on that drishti. And before we know it, the difficult moment has passed.

And there we are.

Clear blue sky.

 

Rachel-Meyer-Headshot

 

 

Rachel Meyer is a Portland, Oregon-based writer and yoga teacher. Her work has appeared in Yoga Journal, The Washington Post, On Being, The Huffington Post, Yoga International, and more. You can find her at www.rachelmeyeryoga.com.