A radiant and majestic muse, Angela Farmer guides 72 women in a week-long retreat of yoga and healing arts at Harbin Hot Springs, north of Napa, September, 2007.
This year marks the ninth such retreat since 1992, of a group who has cultivated a sense of sisterhood in the fluid coming together of yoga teachers, bodyworkers, doulas, writers, therapists and athletes. It is a reunion as many of them have returned from previous retreats.
An air of community and sisterhood arises in Harbin’s enclaves nestled beneath tall pines. They bring with them their arts, and healing skills along with their breath, body and spirit to share with other women on the retreat during afternoons. On two afternoons, the women create a market of art, books, jewelry and clothing.
More than 2,500 years ago, the historical Buddha predicted the time we now live in would be a time of aggravated vata (air and ether elements). The world would be in turmoil both in terms of our environment and ways of living and being. The results he foresaw were increases in chronic degenerative diseases and mental stress and illness.
Gone are the days when the average person travels no more than five miles from where they were born. If we do live a secluded life where we grow our own food and remain wholly self-sustaining, it is rare to not be connected to more distant parts of the globe via radio, television, phone or internet. Nowadays, we are either on the move physically, encountering new environments, or through our eyes and ears, hearing about and seeing images that leave impressions on our mind and emotions.
Maharishi Mahesh Yogi entered Mahasamadhi (final enlightenment), on February 5, 2008, at the approximate age of 91. He transitioned only weeks after retiring, on January 11 of this year, after more than fifty years of serving as a gifted teacher and as the head of the worldwide organization he founded. When his Mahasamadhi (final enlightenment) was announced, centers and Peace Palaces worldwide began pujas (worship services) to celebrate and acknowledge his life.
Like many L.A. yogis, I’m not just a free spirit, I’m a Type A free spirit: always working very hard to let the wind blow me where it will.
Of course that extends into over-efforting in my yoga practice. For instance one of my teachers, Dennis, has us do a final lying-down twist in which he adjusts you by lifting you up then laying you down deeper into your pose. “Ahhhh,” I hear all around me. But it just never goes well on my mat.
“Grab on,” he says, offering me his hand. I do.
“Let go,” he says. Then, apparently, I don’t. Because he says it again more sternly, and then we laugh.
“Trust issues?” he asks one day. Sure, I thought. I live in Hollywood, don’t I?
“Let go,” he reminds me.
“I’m trying,” I say.
Of course, trying is the opposite of letting go. Trying is willful. Letting go is willing. Sometimes I feel like I have spent my whole life learning to change one syllable.
In the early morning hours of October 11, 2007, at the age of 76, Spiritual Master Sri Chinmoy entered Mahasamadhi (the final stage of enlightenment and leaving the earthly body behind). Sri Chinmoy dedicated his life to world harmony and helping individuals discover their true potential. He established over 300 meditation centers worldwide and was a spiritual teacher to more than 7,000 students. He was also an athlete, poet, artist and musician.
The planetary grid was a concept that eluded me initially. I heard about it from a woman named Tiara Kumara on a trip to Peru a few years back who is the founding visionary and catalyst for the Planetary Grid Project. Since then, I haven’t stopped thinking about this mystical global group meditation she described. I’m not the only one; thousands have aligned with Kumara’s vision and mission, propelling its momentum.
Ayurveda has been practiced in the U.S. for only about 30 years, yet it is the 5000 year old Indian system of medicine and yoga's sister science.
Q: I have had Bell’s palsy for a year and the affected (left) side of my face has tightened up, so much so that the normal side of my face seems atrophied and (in pictures, especially), the asymmetry and rippled tightness in certain areas has really affected my spirit. I am immuno-supressed (as I am a kidney transplant patient, almost 3 years out). I have extreme anxiety and have for years and I am hoping to find some redemption through Ayurveda (and anything you suggest). I’ve been actively trying to heal this stubborn Bell’s palsy since the day I got it with acupuncture, juicing, taking supplements and learning to meditate and I am losing motivation. I’m not ready to give up, but I am desperately in need of some encouraging words and a little time to find out what’s really going on in my body.
A: Many cases of Bell’s palsy or facial paralysis have been successfully treated with Ayurveda. The Ayurvedic system of medicine strongly believes in the universal potential of the innate power of healing that lies within each and every one of us. Ayurveda not only looks into superficial symptoms but deals with root-causes of all the imbalances.
Eddie Ellner wears his journey through yoga like the baggy t-shirts that hang on him when he walks into class: as if it’s a part of him, well-worn, comfortable and an old friend.
In some ways, the journey that now involves a stint as a studio owner and full-time teacher may seem unlikely for someone who wrote about the world of pro wrestling when he entered his first yoga class. While rumors abound that Ellner himself was a professional wrester, he quickly dispels the myth. He worked in New York as a writer for Wrestling and Boxing magazines.
There may be more similarities between wrestling and yoga than one would suspect at first glance. Ellner is well aware of the irony of writing seriously about the persona of a professional wrestler — in many ways, its not unlike the personas we all try on, or pull over our head like the clothes we don as we start our day. Playing with personas is a practice he engaged in as a writer: “I wrote under different personas, I liked being the voice of the strong heroine who wins out over evil male dominance.”
Traveling can be both a joy ride and source of stress. When traveling by plane we may spend hours or even days racing at high altitudes often landing in unfamiliar environments. This experience alone (not to mention the security checkpoints, processed food, recycled air, noise and vibrations) may be interpreted by the nervous system as an impetus to operate at high alert. Accumulated anxiety about unfinished business, anticipatory fear of the future and immediate physical discomfort may further stimulate the body’s stress response and interfere with our ability to sleep, digest and even remain comfortable in a cramped seat.
Viajar puede ser a la vez placentero y estresante. Cuando viajamos en avión pasamos horas y a veces días en alta altitud para luego aterrizar en ambientes desconocidos. Esta experiencia por si sola (sin mencionar las medidas de seguridad, la comida procesada, el aire reciclado, el ruido y las vibraciones) puede ser interpretada por el sistema nervioso como un estímulo para operar en estado de alta alerta. La ansiedad acumulada por asuntos irresueltas, miedo del futuro y la incomodidad física pueden aumentar la respuesta corporal relacionada con stress, interfiriendo con el sueño, la digestión y hasta la posibilidad de sentirse cómodo en un asiento pequeño.
Finally, I was embarking on a journey to give my body, mind, spirit, yoga mat and surfboard the attention they deserved. In testing the waters of Costa Rica, I followed a few simple rules: turn off my laptop, television and cell phone, unplug and unwind.
My dream: to find the pura vida (pure life); I longed to leave my worries and wetsuit behind. I had visions of toting my surfboard beneath lush greenery filled with monkeys, toucans and iguanas. I dreamt of balmy tropical air and warm surf.
My mission: visit the Nosara Yoga Institute and surf, surf, surf. My mother and brother accompanied me. My brother, a motocross rider, assumed the role of bodyguard and driver (taking full pleasure in attacking the uneven dusty roads).
The truest kind of travel is always inward; when we want to be moved or transported, we’re really talking about our heart, our senses or our imagination, more than our bodies. So when we take a holiday, what we’re looking for, in my experience, is not so much a break from our homes as from our habits. Go to Tibet, and suddenly you see your life in Glendale in a different light; even take a day off and go to a local spa, and what you bring back is not just the scent of sandalwood and healing oils, but a fresh and renewed perspective on your life. The true voyage of discovery, as Proust famously wrote, consists not in seeing new landscapes, but in seeing the old landscapes with new eyes.
I sometimes think that’s why many of us, when we have free time, travel not to experience more diversion, amusement and color, but to have less: what we really want is the luxury of stillness, of quietude, of not being bombarded by a world in which there are more than 4,820,000 listings on Google just for the phrase “information overload.” People will always travel to Hawaii and the Himalayas for a reminder of what the natural and the man-made world can offer, for a repletion of wonder. But just as many – and more and more – will go to a retreat center, or a yoga studio, to a spa that offers silence as a way to propel themselves into all the unexpected universes that lie within. This is travel not just as transport, but as transformation.
I’m hiding on a densely forested trail in the Bolivian Amazon, trying to spot a pack of peccaries that are rustling in the bushes a few feet away. It’s the summer of 2003, and like the rest of the American tourists in my group, I’m listening intently to our guide, who grew up in an isolated village an hour’s walk from here. As the beasts snort and scamper, he’s recounting to us in whispered tones about the time the pig-like creatures chased his relatives up a tree. We’re simultaneously excited and terrified as he urges us to consider escape routes if the peccaries charge.
Though we eventually see little more than flashes of fur as the peccaries catch our scent and disappear into the endless jungle, the experience enlivens us for hours – at least until we hear from another group who saw a jaguar, or those who took a canoe ride in the morning and spotted a rare female tapir and her baby, sipping dawn drinks near floating caimans. And that’s not to speak of the capybaras we spotted on our two-hour canoe ride upriver to reach our location, the monkeys who taunt us from behind the kitchen when we first arrive, or the swarms of cantaloupe-sized blue butterflies that suck the salt from our hiking boots after a day’s walk.