Arm Balances are Fun!

Arm balances are fun!  A good starting arm balance is crow pose (bakasana).  To set this up, place the hands flat on the ground shoulder width with the knees high up near the armpits.  From there look about a foot in front of your hands and keep the eyes there.  Begin to bend the elbows and everything will start to come forward.  From there, lift one foot off the ground at a time.  Starting in this shape, the knees may be on the triceps but eventually, they will be in free air with the strength of the core holding the posture.  This posture requires a lot of core strength for the balance and the quads need to be stretched and warmed as they tend to cramp if not warmed up.  Build core strength by planking and leg lifting as we routinely teach at the studio!

In Unity and Love,

Sarvesh (Gary)

* – Photo taken at the University St steps, Seattle, WA

Maximize Your Assets

Republish from Mindful Studio Magazine, by Sarvesh Naagari.

In corporate finance, there is a measure that shows how well a company is utilizing its assets. It’s a simple calculation called ROA, which stands for Return on Assets. It’s calculated by taking net income by the average assets that a company has.

For a yoga studio, this may be tricky, especially if the building is not owned. The real assets of a yoga studio are its teachings and teachers. However, there are ways that we can measure the utilization of the space that we rent similar to a return on assets. For most leased studios, the space itself has a utilization rate that can be calculated by the total amount of class time divided by the total hours that the space is available for space utilization.

For example, if a studio has four 1-hour classes per day and has 16 hours available for class time (6:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m., we exclude overnight), then the space has a 25 percent utilization rate. We could also take net income for any given month and divide that by the cost of the space for a return on the asset itself, the asset being the space.

These measurements provide us two key components, the first of which is the overall utilization of the space available and then the utilization of the space when used. Tracking this month over month provides key insight into the business. Maybe if the utilization rate is low, we add classes and then find that the utilization increases, but profitability doesn’t. Maybe the utilization is high, but the profitability is low, and we need to cut out some classes. Maybe we consider adding ancillary services such as massage, reiki or other fitness classes to increase utilization and profitability.

There are many levers to pull to increase the success of our studios, but independent of the levers that we pull, we should understand the effects on the success or failure of the business as we make the decisions. This is why it is always recommended that we measure our businesses.

Introduction to Pranayama

Yoga Practice and Philosophy – Pranayama

Pranayama is the 4th limb of the 8 limbs of Yoga and means Breath/Energy Control.  The topic is broad and deep so a good starting point is an introduction!  In the Yoga Sutras, Patanjali tells us that we can regulate the breath by location, season and number; and then into a fourth state of transcendence.  We must remember that the breath is tied directly to the emotions (nervous system) and the mind.  Often in our Pranayama practices we stir up some very uncomfortable feelings.  This is not a reason to stop practice, but to push on!  Our Pranayama practice destroys the shroud to our inner effulgence and shows us our inner light.While we can teach about 100 Pranayama techniques at Ripple Yoga, we limit them to what the students is ready and prepared to practice.  When the student is ready, the teacher and the practice will appear!

In Unity and Love,

Sarvesh (Gary)

* – Photo taken at Ananda Ashram, Pondicherry, India

Yoga Therapy – Foot Problems

Yoga Therapy – Foot Problems

If your feet are tight and sore or suffer from afflictions such as Plantar Fasciitis, these postures are for you.  Veera Vajrasana (Shown in the picture) has been known to correct this condition.  This also helps alleviate foot cramps and tightness from shoes, especially high heels.  Keeping the feet healthy is important for physical and nervous system (energetic) reasons.  The feet are the terminus points for nerve endings of the organs and the spine and we have to walk on them for the rest of our lives!  Other postures that help with the feet are sitting hips to heels (Vajrasana) and sitting with the shoelace of one foot in the arch of the other hips to heels (Ekakin Vajrasana).  The latter is particularly helpful for organ cleansing and rejuvenation.  Sitting in hips to heels is also good for preventing and correcting circulation problems in the legs below the knees and stretching out the ankles, which can get quite stiff.  So remember, healthy feet, happy life!In Unity and Love,

Sarvesh (Gary)

* – Photo taken at Niagara Falls, NY

Yoga Tips – The 8 Limbs

Yoga Philosophy – The 8 Limbs
We often hear Yoga teachers talking about the 8 limbs of Yoga.  What are these anyway?  Maharishi Patanjali outlined the 8 limbs of Yoga in the Yoga Sutras about 2,500 years ago.  The 8 limbs are the stepping stones to enlightenment, or as he puts it Moksha.  While they are generally spoken and taught in a linear manner, they are non-linear.  They are:
  • Yama – The restraint of animal instincts
  • Niyama – Embracing our human nature
  • Asana – Physical practice
  • Pranayama – Breath control
  • Pratyahara – Sensory control/fulfillment
  • Dharana – Concentration/focus of the mind
  • Dhyana – Absorption/meditation
  • Samadhi – Cosmic consciousness
While the 8 limbs are usually taught in a linear fashion they are anything but.  We are ususally practicing more than one limb at a time even if we are unaware of doing so!

Yoga and Politics – Republished

This article was written for Mindful Studio Magazine and is written towards studio owners but is relevant for teachers and students.

Yoga and Politics

We live in contentious times. Historians say the recent election and its results have polarized the nation to a degree not seen since the Civil War. As yoga studio owners, it may often seem difficult to navigate the political landscape as fear and despair or hope and happiness is gripping the emotional balance of our students. In either case, emotionalism runs high and we have to decide how we can best serve our communities.

In this case, it is recommended that we lean on the teachings of yoga as outlined by Patanjali in the Yoga Sutras. Yoga is the ultimate union and unity. Yoga views all beings as divine souls that in our very essence are identical. Yoga is apolitical and does not take sides. Politics, and this means all politics, creates duality. And as soon as duality has been created, yoga ceases to exist.

As studio owners, we cannot afford to take sides in the political debate despite any beliefs that we have personally because we will alienate a portion of our students. It is shortsighted and misguided to assume that everyone believes as we believe, and judgmental and wrong to dismiss anyone that believes differently.

When students visit Ripple Yoga and express anxiety regarding the election, we remind them of the teachings of yoga and that true unity, not so-called political unity, is the answer. The reality is that the further we are away from someone in our argument or beliefs, the closer we are to actually being them.

We also remind students to have compassion for the self and to project that compassion to others. Speaking in hate and pointing out the identity of another human being by race, gender, sexual preference or religion is racism. Yoga teaches that human beings are human beings — no identity tags required. Only then do we begin to see and feel the unity of yoga. When we teach these things, the student will move out of the emotional part of the brain and be relieved of any stress and anxiety, and they will be grateful.

It is recommended that all teachers adhere to a policy of no politics within the business for the health of the studio and the happiness of the community. It is important that all teachers are in line with and understand these principles.

Yoga is unity. Let’s allow yoga and our studios to be the voice of reason in these difficult times, and change the way in which we communicate. By doing so, we can be the inspiration for others to do the same.

Yoga Tips – Chatarunga

Asana Practice – Proper Chaturunga

During Vinyasa Flow practice we often move from high plank to Chaturunga (low plank) and then to upward facing dog.  In this flow, it is important that we perform the transition from high plank to low plank properly so as to keep the shoulders, wrists and elbows healthy while maximizing the benefit of the shape.  From high plank externally rotate the forearms.  This will move the shoulders down the spine and allow the elbows to pin to the sides of the body rather than stick out away from the body.  Come down 90 degrees at the elbows.  (See picture of Kim above).  There should be a straight line of energy from the heels to the crown of the head.  Then lift into upward facing dog!  It is really that simple.  To modify, drop the knees.  See you on the mat!

Seattle, seattle yoga, yoga, yin yoga, vinyasa yoga, hatha yoga

Somebody Has to Yin

Here is a beautiful article that was written in Mindful Studio Magazine where I was interviewed on Yin Yoga.

In unity and love,

Sarvesh

 

Election Day 2016: Somebody Has to YinMindful Studio Magazine

Seattle Yoga News – Part Three – Deep Breather

This is the third in a six-part series about the experiences of Sarvesh Naagari while he lived in a Yoga ashram in southern India for 6 months in a 2,000 hour teacher training program. The series focuses on what it was like to practice Yoga in a Gurukula environment and to learn about and experience one of the oldest and most respected lineages in the Yoga world, Gitananda Yoga. Sarvesh is the owner of Ripple Yoga in Seattle, WA and the author of the newly released novel, 20,000 Oms and a Cup of Chai, an inspirational true story of the spirit that follows Sarvesh on his journey in India while recounting his near death experience 7 years ago and the courage of the spirit to come back to life and flourish. Sarvesh was in India from October 2015 through the end of March 2016.

Expansion and the Lost Art of Pranayama

“You are a shallow breather; in fact, you are all shallow breathers.” Our teacher said this to us during our first week at the ashram in her thick Eastern European accent. I didn’t really know what to make of this statement. Am I a shallow breather physically? Physiologically? It turned out both. It was explained to us that through our social conditioning and basic physiological functioning of the body, we as a race of humans are shallow breathers. To put it another way, we breathe only enough to stay alive. This is because the old animal part of the brain that controls our breathing is not interested in anything beyond Abhinivesha, or the survival instinct. We only take in as much oxygen in each breath that we need in that moment.

My immediate thought upon hearing that I was a shallow breather was one of defiance. I am an athlete! I play ice hockey! I practice a lot of yoga! I teach yoga! How can I be a shallow breather? It turns out that even with athletics, yoga practice and prior teacher training, I was still a shallow breather. Tape measures do not lie, and as we had our lungs measured, I only had 2 inches of expansion in the low, middle and high parts of my lungs. Some of the fellow students had less. Learning that we have three parts to our lungs and that we can control them independently of one another was both beautiful and surprising. The only cure for shallow breathing is conscious breathing, or the practice of Pranayama and techniques that are designed, sometimes in combination with certain Asana, to expand the lung capacity.

The continued practice of these Pranayama techniques allows us to move beyond our breath and the conscious breathing eventually becomes the subconscious breath pattern. As I looked back at my experience with western Yoga, I was never taught Pranayama in any form in a class or in teacher training, with the exception of a teacher telling me to breath across the back of my throat and calling it Ujjayi breath, both the technique and the purpose being stated incorrectly. Pranayama is not part of the western practices except in very rare occasions. This is through no fault of anyone other than the evolution of western Yoga, which is almost primarily based in Asana. That is where the profit lies for Yoga as a business and it is a reality of our society, so that is what is taught.

Our culture is not yet ready for Pranayama except in small numbers because it requires the student to sit quietly for periods of time when our social conditioning is to do just the opposite. We as a society are conditioned to minute attention spans. In order to practice effective and useful Pranayama, we must first overcome both our social conditioning and shallow breathing.

As we practiced Pranayama daily and the lung expanding Asana practice, I could feel more space in my chest and developed independent awareness of the movement of the diaphragm, intercostals and accessory muscles that ultimately control the respiratory system and the space the lungs need to expand. My breath moved from shallow and mostly subconscious to long periods of conscious deep breathing. The benefits to my practice were astounding. I noticed an immediate change in metabolism and efficiency in digestion and lost 30 pounds of excess fat from my body, and more importantly kept that unhealthy fat off. I noticed that the mind was calmer and that there was less reaction to circumstances and more ability to respond. I noticed an amazing opening of the joints as they detoxified from the greater ability to exhale toxins from the body.

Most importantly, I took out a health insurance policy without the expensive premiums. By deep breathing, we are building in disease prevention and also preventing the atrophy of the lungs as we age. The primary cause of well over 90% of human disease is from acidosis, which is a carbon dioxide imbalance in the bloodstream which can effect anything that the bloodstream supplies. By supplying more oxygen to the body and expelling more toxins through expanded respiration, we are able to significantly decrease the occurrence of acidosis. Our respiratory system accounts for over 80% of our metabolic energy on the inhale and over 80% of the body’s purification on the exhale. And along the way we learned about 100 Pranayama techniques that have been handed down from Guru to student for hundreds and hundreds of years. These techniques range from lung expansion and physical, emotional and mental cleansing (Sauca) to Samyama (Dharana, Dyana and Samadhi) to higher level techniques used in Chakra and Kundalini management.

By the third month of lung measurements, my lungs had increased from 2” in capacity to almost 5” in capacity. What this means is that I was breathing about 250% more efficiently, taking in almost 3 liters of additional air with each breath. My rate of breath moved from 12-15 breaths per minute down to 6-8, resulting in a more relaxed body, mind and nervous system.

I became a deep breather!

If you would like to learn any of the practices outlined in this article, please stop by Ripple Yoga where Sarvesh teaches what he learned and practiced in India. Sarvesh is also the author of 20,000 Oms and a Cup of Chai, an uplifting true story of inspiration that follows Sarvesh through his 6 month journey in India and recounts his past brush with death and how his spirit found the will to live. Sarvesh is also a life coach helping people to reduce stress, anxiety and other negative emotions that tear at the fabric of our health and happiness. His proven methodology utilizes actions to change perception.

Seattle Yoga News – Part Two of Six

Hello Ripple Community!  Here is part two of the six part series for Seattle Yoga News – I hope you enjoy.  Here is the original link – Seattle Yoga News

This is the second in a six- part series about the experiences of Sarvesh Naagari while he lived in a Yoga ashram in southern India for 6 months in a 2,000 hour teacher training program. The series focuses on what it was like to practice Yoga in a Gurukula environment and to learn about and experience one of the oldest and most respected lineages in the Yoga world, Gitananda Yoga. Sarvesh is the owner of Ripple Yoga in Seattle, WA and the author of the newly released novel, 20,000 Oms and a Cup of Chai, an inspirational true story of the spirit that follows Sarvesh on his journey in India while recounting his near death experience 7 years ago and the courage of the spirit to come back to life and flourish. Sarvesh was in India from October 2015 through the end of March 2016.

Part II: It’s a Lab!

I think that we as human beings like to experiment and think that a lab is fun place. On a macro level, I have often thought that the Earth was a lab experiment for human beings, and as a microcosm always remember hoping in high school chemistry that I would be the one who blew up a small part of the lab by mixing the wrong chemicals! That fun seems to take on a different perspective when we find out that we are the experiment, and not the scientists.

Living in the ashram for 6 months in Pondicherry, India had that feel. I asked one of the other students at 5:15 one morning, when we were supposed to be practicing Mauna (silence) if he had ever seen the movie Groundhog Day and if he knew that we were secretly re-filming it. Our schedule was a rigorous form of Tapas (discipline) which we practiced daily except Thursday and Sunday.

The ashram is a true Gurukula environment, where the students live with the Guru and their family. The students were asked to live with each other for 6 months in close living quarters. We were forced to bond, to serve each other food, to work together in Karma Yoga (service to others without expectation of anything in return, and is one of the paths to enlightenment identified in the Bhagavad Gita) for the love and respect of the ashram and ourselves, to practice together and most importantly to hold the mirror of life up to each other and be kind, respectful and supportive in the process. There were 7 of us in total. If it is in one’s human nature to put on airs or to behave in a certain manner to try to impress others, that inauthenticity is eventually exposed in this environment. It is not possible to uphold such behavior for a length of time without reverting to who we truly are. That is one aspect of the many faceted mirror that is ashram life. We become exposed to who we are and we must either accept it or change. This is something that happens all the time in real life. We enter into relationships, put forth our best behaviors but eventually the real “us” comes to the surface. What usually happens is we end that relationship blaming the other person for what went wrong. And as criminal as that is, what is worse is that we don’t change and we don’t grow from the experience and move on to the next relationship and repeat the same mistake. The ashram environment breaks that pattern; it takes us out of our own personal groundhog day. It forces us to evolve with Swadiyaya (self-analysis) whether we want to or not, and it ensures that there are other people in place to assist in the process, whether they want to or not! The beauty of this experience and the gratitude that I have for living it is profound. I was able to see things in myself and either decide to accept them or change them that it would have taken me another 5 lifetimes to figure out. And if the ashram is a lab, then the name of the lab is Yama-Niyama. Part of the beauty of the learning process in the ashram as it can take a student with little to no awareness of Yama-Niyama and bring them both a level of awareness and knowledge through experience in just a couple of short months without the student even realizing they were practicing them. Yama and Niyama is taught in detail two months into the program after the cleansing phase and the student realizes that they have been practicing these principles since the day they set foot in the door. For students already aware of Yama-Niyama, it is apparent when signing up for the course, but even with that basic understanding, the depth of the practice at the ashram is astounding because of the lack of true understanding of Yama Niyama by most western students.

Yamas are the restraint of our animal natures and tendencies and is a way to consciously overcome the animal parts of our brain. They are Ahimsa (non-violence), Satya (reality), Asteya (non-stealing),Brahmacharya (correct use of creative energy) and Aparigrahah (non-greed).

Niyamas are the evolution of our human selves and is the action of using the neo-cortex, or frontal lobes of our brain. This is the human part or more highly evolved part of the brain. They are Saucha (purity),Samtosha (contentment), Tapas (discipline), Swadiyaya (self-examination) and Isvara Pranidana (turning the will over to the greatest good within us).

In my teachings at Ripple Yoga, I like to use the example of Asteya, which when translated from the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, means non-stealing. Sutra 2-37 states asteyapratisthayam – sarvaratna – upasthanam. When we are established in non-stealing, we get everything we need. What this means is that until we can be trusted with things, the universe will not allow us to have them by moral or ethical means. Note that this says needs, not wants. We must also understand that the Yamas and Niyamas move from gross to subtle. Most often we think that we are practicing Asteya simply because we don’t rob banks or shoplift, which is true, but it is at the grossest level. We should ask ourselves how much time we steal from others by being chronically late. Or we should ask ourselves how much respect we steal from others by ignoring or shunning them based on our own fears. These are more subtle levels of Asteya but just as potent in practical terms.

Ashram life taught us these lessons in a real life daily experience, and through not only learning the deeper meaning of these principals but living them in an intense manner for six months, I was able to have profound growth over the six month teacher training course. Our guru flatly states that the intensity of the six month course is the same as studying Yoga for 8 years outside of the ashram environment. I was hesitant to believe this when I first heard it expressed and am now a believer. In all its beauty, difficulty, challenge and reward, it has made me a better person and a better teacher. Yama and Niyama are not only the foundation of Yoga and something that is rarely taught in the West, it is the foundation of life. To be a true Yogi, we must practice Yoga in our life, not just on the mat, and Yama and Niyama are the keys to that kingdom. Through the doors of Yama and Niyama unlocked and practiced, is the kingdom of happiness and the end of groundhog day, because we learn the lessons we are supposed to learn with these beautiful tools.

The ashram was the lab and the safe haven for us to study self, and to study the conscious evolution of the beauty of our souls, to become awakened and to realize the loving and divine energies that exist within all of us. And while our initial perception may have been that we were part of a science experiment, we eventually became one with it in a union of beauty, growth and spiritual stimulation that moved us closer to unity with our highest self.

It’s a lab!

If you would like to learn any of the practices outlined in this article, please stop by Ripple Yoga whereSarvesh teaches what he learned and practiced in India. Sarvesh is also the author of 20,000 Oms and a Cup of Chai, an uplifting true story of inspiration that follows Sarvesh through his 6 month journey in India and recounts his past brush with death and how his spirit found the will to live. Sarvesh is also a life coach helping people to reduce stress, anxiety and other negative emotions that tear at the fabric of our health and happiness. His proven methodology utilizes actions to change perception.