Sunday, November 30, 2014

New Moon Goddess Circle - Sagittarius

I lead an activity at Yogi Tree's New Moon Goddess Circle - Sagitarius. It was a Group Yantra for Courage and Confidence.   

New Moon Goddess: Questions for Self-Confidence and Courage Yantra

Use the answers to the questions below to help fill in the group Yantra. You can have many answers to each question.  Some questions may have the same answer.  Don’t worry about anything, this is your chance to explore and play!!!

What do I like about who I am?


What am I good at: skills and talents?


What positive characteristics do I have?


What have I achieved in my life: accomplishments? What are my successes in life?


What are some challenges I have overcome?


What do others say they like about me?



What are some attributes I like in others that I also share with them?


What risks am I afraid to take?


What am I dreaming about doing but I am scared to do?


What do I want that I can start visualizing achieving?


What is my large vision for my life?


People used these questions to make group Yantras:

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Gratitude Yantras for Thanksgiving

I led an Art/Yoga Fusion Workshop last weekend titled "Gratitude Yantra for Thanksgiving."

We began with a yoga practice for gratitude. Lots of forward Bends. Poses with hands in prayer/anjali mudra/namaste. Poses like modified Sun Salutations, Pyramid, Warrior 2, Humble Warrior, Revolved Side Angle, Prayer Twist, Forward Fold with Arms in Reverse Prayer, etc...

I then led a guided meditation based on one from the Chopra Center.

I set up the meditation with tools I learned in Yoga Nidra training like Internalization and Breathing and then moved to this Chopra Center meditation.  I had people say mentally "I am grateful"

Positions for Gratitude Meditation: Shavasana – if this is not comfortable pillow under head or or back hurts bend knees or put pillow or blanket under knees, lying on side if you are pregnant, Sitting in a chair, on the floor back to the wall. You might want a blanket because the body temperature tends to drop in Yoga Nidra. Also put a blanket under any area that is sensitive. Try to be aligned, symmetrical from feet to head. Feel your spine aligned. In shavansasana, arms away from sides palm up or down.  If anything is on you tight like glasses or a wrist watch you can take it off.  Eyes should be closed to avoid visual distraction. .  Say to yourself mentally “I am grateful”

(Relaxation): Take a full breath in with the exhalation think "thank you". Do this 2 more times…. Become aware of your body lying on the floor, on the chair or against the wall. Feel supported across the whole body. Feel the feet supported, Feel arms and hands supported, feel the legs supported, feel the shoulders and head supported. Feel every place where your body is supported to allow yourself to release more deeply into Gratitude.  Let go of all effort of holding the body.  

For a short time notice the rhythm of the breath. Now, extend the awareness outward listening for sounds in all directions.

Be aware of distant sounds.  . . sounds outside the room . . . sounds inside the room . .. sounds of the body… Become aware of the sound of your breath. In this meditation, it is best if the body remains still.  If you become uncomfortable you may move but come back to stillness as soon as you can.  Say to yourself mentally “I am practicing Gratitude."

Think about something in your life you are very grateful for, think about where you can feel that in your body

Bring awareness to things in your life that you are worthy of Gratitude.

Let thankfulness flow through the whole body.

And as it does sink into the feeling of Gratitude.

Surrender to it.

Notice how gratitude feels in the body.

Invite the sensation of Thanksgiving throughout the entire body.

Scan through all the aspects of life and feel appreciation.

Firstly bring your awareness to the breath, inhale and exhale and the fact that each of these breaths gives you life.

Be aware of the heart beating.  The pulsing.

The heart is filled with love and compassion.

Bring awareness to the eyes.

Eyes that see colors, faces, smiles, nature, the sunrise, the sunset, the rainbow, the moon and the stars, yourself in the mirror.

Bring awareness to the ears,
Ears that beam in sound, music, laughter, the voices of those you love, the silence, the beautiful sounds of life.

Bring awareness to the nose,
The Nose that smells the ocean breeze, the aroma of sweet perfume, the
flowers, the trees, newly cut grass, the wafting smells that come from the kitchen, like a turkey baking or cranberries on the stove.

Bring awareness to the lips and mouth, that tastes and savours and nourishes, kisses and speaks, that whispers, and sings.

Bring  awareness to the hands that hold and touch, and caress, and open and close, and applaud, and squeeze, the arms and shoulders that carry and hug and lift and stretch.

Bring awareness to the feet, the toes, the gift to wiggle them, transport you, walk, run, dangle, dance, kick, fold, leap and point.

Remember the tears, and the sorrows,

Remember the strength that you seem to be able to muster, to make it through each day.

Bring awareness to  abundance,  expansion, evolution, perspective shifts, affluence and flow and empathy and love and light, and the ability to see growth, and potential in every moment.

Breathe and feel more grace, and ease

Experience the warmth, love and compassion that gratitude brings into your heart.

Bring awareness to nurturing relationships in the life, the new ones and the older ones.

Material things that came unexpectedly, things that flow to with great effort and commitment, hard work.

Think of love in life, and the connection to those things that are sweet, and loving and honorable, and just feel right.

Let go of the ego.

No longer take anything in life for granted, become grateful for everything!!!

Breathe and feel this flow.

Externalization: Become aware of your own breathing. Be grateful how the breath sustains us.

Listen for sounds in this room, sounds outside this room. Find the furthest sound that you can hear. Start to remember this room: the walls… the ceiling… the floor.  Remember your place in this room.  Remember what’s in this room with you…  Become aware of your body lying on the floor, (or sitting on the chair, or against the wall)… Notice the weight of your body and all the points where your body is supported…. Extend your attention through your entire body…  Become aware of your entire body from you head to your finger tips…. Become aware of your body extending from your head to your toes…  Be aware of your breath… Become aware of the entire physically body and the breath inside your body…. Consciously make your breath deeper and full… Make your breath deeper. 
… Inhaling and Exhaling deeply… Make your breath very full…. Keep your eyes closed. 

Ask yourself the following questions.

What do I take for granted?
What relationships do I have that I cherish (person, pet, etc.)?
Is there a relationship that fills me that I feel lucky to have?
What freedoms, unique gifts, opportunities do I have that are truly unique to me?
What divine talents have been bestowed on me by the universe?
What advantages have I been given in life?

Who are my backers in life? Who is routing for me? Who are my champions, defenders, supporters, comrades in arms?

Say to yourself "This Gratitude Meditation is Now Complete."

Start moving your body and stretching. Making your movements larger and larger. Inhale your arms over your head. Remembering to be mindful of what’s near you.  Stretch (3) Yawn. Gently roll to a side. (long pause) Open your eyes. Slowly push up to a seated position fully alert and ready to go on with the rest of the workshop.

After we came out of meditation I gave the participants a paper with the same questions on it and asked them to write down the answers.  After they finished I ask them to use the questions in creating their own personal yantra around the issues of gratitude.

Here are some of the Yantras that were made. Some people didn't want me to take pictures.
Linda's Yantra

Danielle's Yantra
Danielle finished her Yantra at home

Angel's Yantra

Ludmila's Yantra

Ninna's Yantra

Rachel's Yantra

Vincelle's Yantra

Bernie's Yantra

I did this at home on Thanksgiving.  I didn't have time at the workshop.

I closed with this meditation, I didn't script it so it went something like but not exactly:

Be grateful for the breath - that breathes us without asking for anything,  Inhaling and Exhaling.

Be thankful for this body that got you up the stairs and into this room for this workshop.

Be appreciative of this community, this sangha that you have practiced gratitude with today.

Be glad for this city, the city of Angels, with its beaches and palms trees, valleys, winding freeways that sometimes don't move.

Thank this country, the United States and this continent North America with its diverse peoples, languages and cultures.

Be in awe of this planet we live on, the big blue marble, the third rock of from the sun.  With its perfect balance of hydrogen, nitrogen and oxygen to support life.

Practice an internal Thanksgiving for this solar system and this galaxy filled with twinkling stars,

Be humbled by this universe that contracts and expands like the breath.

Mentally say thank you, thank you, thank you.


Yin Yoga - Dragonfly Pose


The ultimate message of Dragonfly pose is as Paulo Coelho says on p.23 of the Alchemist
". . . people are capable, at any time in their lives, of doing what the dream of"

Dragonflies are insects with large multifaceted eyes, two pairs of strong transparent wings, an elongated body and six legs.  Dragonflies are among the fastest flying insects in the world. They amazing feats include flying backwards, change direction in mid-air and hovering for up to a minute.

They are found around marshes, lakes, ponds, streams, and wetlands because their eggs hatch into aquatic larvae, known as "nymphs.”   Most of a dragonfly's life is spent as a naiad (nymph), beneath the water.

The larval stage of dragonfly’s life may last from two months to five years depending on the species. When the naiad is ready to metamorphosis into an adult, it climbs an emergent plant and the exposure to air causes it to breathe. With the exposure and breath, the skin splits open at a weak spot and the adult dragonfly crawls out of its larva.

In flight, the dragonfly can fly in six directions; upward, downward, forward, back, and side to side. The adult life of a dragonfly can last up to six months.  The dragonfly is best known for its beautiful colors and the sparkling properties of its body and wings.

In China, the dragonfly is associated with prosperity, harmony and as a good luck. The dragonfly represents the Confucian ideal of pureness of character.    In Japan, dragonflies are symbols of courage, strength, and happiness, and they often appear in art and literature, especially haiku.

Samurai have used them as a symbols of power, agility and victory. For the Navajo, it is the symbol of pure water. For the Mayan, the dragonfly is the emblematic animal of the goddess of creativity, Ix Chel. It is said that the dragonfly’s wings and magical songs revived her after she almost got killed. In Yin

Yoga, the dragonfly pose combines the water and fire elements.

By holding dragonfly pose, we open to the energy of transformation and self-evolution. The dragonfly inspires us to bring out the changes that we need to make in life to reach our potential.  It also calls us to except the aging process and mature and stay open and adaptable in our personal journey.  The dragonfly reminds us to bring lightness and joy into our lives.

You can call on the dragonfly’s power when you’re stuck in a situation and need assistance to gain a new perspective. The solution might lay in your ability to adapt and tackle the issue from a different angle

Dragonfly's show us how we can make changes later in life. There is always time to transform!!!!


Self-Realization - The dragonfly uses its power to elegantly control its movements.  Throughout its life it changes and evolves.  The dragonfly is able to be comfortable on water, land, and in the air. –

Lightness- The dragonfly is known for its fast flight and their dazzling aerial feats, as if imitating how light itself can be moved and directed. 

Metamorphosis, Change and transformation -  The dragonfly represents transformation embodied in its life story. The first year of so of a dragonfly’s life is lives in water as a nymph.  Then it metamorphoses into a flying creature.  As it matures the dragonfly also changes colors.

Adaptability – Dragonflies twist, turn, change directions in an instant, hover, move up or down, and even fly backwards.

Joy, lightness of being

Vision/Limitlessness - 80% of the insect’s brain power is dedicated to its sight.  It can see in all 360 degrees.  This vision symbolizes the uninhibited potential of the mind and the ability to see beyond the limitations of the human self.

Pure Water

Transformation- Dragonfly is one of nature's shape shifters. The dragonfly inhabits two realms, air and water.

Being in the Moment - The dragonfly lives most of its life in water as a nymph. It flies only for a fraction of its life.

Introspection/Self-Reflection - Dragonfly has the ability to reflect and refract light. The number 2 is significant to Dragonfly, so think in terms of two-year periods when you begin a change.

Self-Discovery -   Dragonfly’s metamorphosis from sea insect to flying insects. As water represents the emotional body and air represents the mental, those with this power animal will frequently find themselves trying to maintain balance between their thoughts and emotions.

Illusion - Just as light can bend and shift and be adapted in a different ways, so can the archetypal forces associated with dragonfly. Dragonfly yields the message that life is never what it appears to be. When we have made ourselves believe that the limitations of physical existence prevent us from changing and growing. Dragonfly can cause us to question the illusion which we call reality, particularly that part of our realities which hinders our ability to grow and create transformation/change in our lives. Dragonfly conveys knowledge about greater dimensions of reality, and helps us travel to a realm of light and color in which spiritual expansion is possible

Fantasy/Magic/Mysticism - With their shimmering wings and delicate form, they appear to come directly from the land of Faerie. Their rainbow wings remind us we live in a world of magic.

Maturity - As the dragonfly moves from nymph to flying insect it’s live because more exciting an active. Their spectacular colors shine with iridescence in the sunlight also take time to develop, giving the idea that with maturity our own true colors come forth.

Swiftness- Dragonflies can reach speeds of up to 30 miles per hour when flying. They can spot movement forty feet away. Flying around and into things from different angles, they challenge rigid awareness and prompt the energy of change

Changeability/Maneuverability - Neither insects or birds have the flight maneuverability of the dragonfly. They can twist, turn, move up or down, change directions in an instant, hover and even fly backwards. Dragonflies are masters at what they do, and they do it relentlessly.

Openness - his power animal is especially helpful for those who feel stuck, or are unable to grow spiritually and for those who feel blocked in their creativity. Dragonfly helps us remember that 'ordinary, everyday physical reality isn't all that is available to us

Benefits of the Dragonfly Pose -

Stretches the hamstrings

Opens the hips and groin

Helps blood circulation in the pelvic region

Provides a gentle opening to the inner knees

Stimulates the ovaries

Controls and regulates the menstral flow

Prevents hernias and helps with mild hernias

Can relieve sciatica pain


Can aggravate sciatica. If you have this condition, elevate the hips. Beware of hips rotating backward while seated; we want them to rotate forward.

If you have any lower back disorders which do not allow flexion of the spine, then do not allow the spine to round: keep the back as straight as you can.

If you have any inner knee trauma or issues, bring the legs closer together or tighten the top of the legs (the quadriceps) to engage the kneecaps.

Getting Into the Pose:

From a sitting position, spread your legs apart until they won't go any further. Sitting on a cushion will help tilt your hips. Fold forward, resting your weight into your hands with your arms locked straight, or rest your elbows onto a block or a chair


Use bolster or block to raise hips.

Can keep hands behind the back, or rest elbows on a bolster.

Folding over one leg increases spinal and hamstring stretch.

If the knees feel bothered, tighten the quadriceps to close the knee joint or bring legs closer together.
If hamstrings feel too tight, bend the knee(s) and place a bolster or blanket under the thigh(s).

Legs can be 90 degrees apart to 120 degrees for advanced students. The full splits of 180 degrees is not necessary, but if you can do it, go for it.

If you're advanced, fold right down onto your stomach and rest your arms to the sides.

Use a bolster or blanket under the chest

If head is too heavy for the neck, support the head in hands or a block or a chair.

If you are stiff, bend the knees a lot! It is also okay to place the feet flat on the floor. When the knees are bent, and while sitting on a cushion, you can bend forward more easily and allow gravity to do the work.

Pose Variations

Bend arms and put backs of hands on the back of the rib cage and flap the wings.  If you are flexible you can bend forward in this position

Toe Bends in Dragonfly

Ankle Rolls in Dragonfly

Side Stretch on Both Sides

Shoulder Rolls in Dragonfly

Finger Bending in Dragonfly

Wrist Rolls in Dragonfly

Side bend – both sides

Forward bend – both sides

Half dragonfly, with forward bend or side stretch

With a partner

Neck rolls

Lift the Legs in the air in this position with hands around sides of feet or toes

Do the pose with back on the ground and legs on the wall

Do the pose as a variation of snail (hatha plough pose)

Do a variation of this pose after happy baby with back on the ground

Twist side to side bringing alternate finger tips to toes

Coming Out of the Pose:

Use your hands to push the floor away and slowly roll up.  Engage the abs, can also tighten the thighs
Once you are up, lean back on your hands to release the hips, tighten the leg muscles, and drag or lift your legs to bring them together. Bounce or shake out the legs.

Counter poses:

Windshield Wipers the legs

 Do a cross-legged, seated backbend

Meridians & Organs Affected:

Urinary Bladder on back of legs and on the back, and the Liver and Kidney lines through the groin and the Spleen through the inner knees.

The twisting version will stimulate the Gall Bladder along the side of the torso.

Joints Affected:

Hips, lower back, and knees.

Recommended Hold Times:

Three to ten minutes;

Related Hatha Poses

Upavistha Konasana.

Other Names:


Other Notes:

This pose can be very frustrating for beginners because the adductor muscles tug on the sitting bones, just like the hamstrings do, which causes the top of the hips to tilt backward.  This will open over time. 

Use props.

Keep weight forward on the sitting bones; even tug the flesh away from the buttocks before folding forward.

Often it is nice to spend half of the time in one variation and then add a twist for the last half of the pose.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Tara Everywhere

Friday I listened to the voice thread on Tara. I was distracted when I listened. Checking emails and then cleaning the kitchen.  I knew I would get back to it and listen to it atleast one or two more times with full attention.  But I couldn't get myself together on Friday.

That evening, I was a co-host at my yoga studio's New Moon Goddess Circle.  Around 10pm, my partner in the studio, Jennifer pulled out a deck of tarot cards and started doing goddess readings.  I was busy helping people with the group Yantra we were creating. Around 11pm Jennifer asked me, "Nya, do you want a goddess reading."  I said yes even though I really just wanted to clean up the art supplies and go to bed.  The card I picked was white Tara.  The card described White Tārā something like this she is known for compassion, long life, healing and serenity; also known as The Wish-fulfilling Wheel.  I thought. . . hmmm, interesting.  I was learning about Tara today.  But Tara wasn't finsihed with me.

I woke up tired from an incredibly long week on Saturday morning and opened my emails and I had an interesting one from Trudy Goodman at Insight LA

It read
"In the Tibetan Buddhist tradition, Tara is the embodiment of our innate great capacity for compassion. She is lovely, sitting gracefully in her meditation with one leg down, ready to stand and help any suffering heart calling out to her. Tara extends a limitless invitation to us to come experience her ease and joy, right in the midst of life’s challenges.
Mindfulness, too, is a limitless invitation. Wherever you are in your busy life, meditation invites you in — maybe for a few minutes, a few breaths or a pause to look at the sky. Like Tara, InsightLA invites you to experience this in your own life. You can learn how to sit still, and to take the insights that arise from your moments of stillness and embody them in your life in a good way.

Here is part of a song to silence by the great poet Pablo Neruda, called I LIKE FOR YOU TO BE STILL:
I like for you to be still,
…Let me come to be still in your silence.
And let me talk to you with your silence
That is bright as a lamp
Simple, as a ring
You are like the night
With its stillness and constellations
Sometimes I long to slide into silence like slipping into the ocean. When we’re moving fast, it can feel hard to find any quiet inside; things are always changing, we feel up and then down, and then up again. And yet, like the stars in daylight, the stillness is always here, even when we don’t feel connected to it at all.
My deep wish for all of us is to have the courage to trust the silence. In moments of stillness so much can open to us – intuition, intimacy, a vast intelligence, the infinite tenderness of the universe. May we be fully present for our life and the life beckoning all around us, extending a limitless invitation -- to show up, to help out, to listen and be still.
I looked up the poem and for me it's better in it's entirety. He mentions the star which is Tara.  There is also a lot of butterfly imagery which is related to the sacred feminine and the goddess.

I like for you to be still
It is as though you are absent
And you hear me from far away
And my voice does not touch you
It seems as though your eyes had flown away
And it seems that a kiss had sealed your mouth
As all things are filled with my soul
You emerge from the things
Filled with my soul
You are like my soul
A butterfly of dream
And you are like the word: Melancholy

I like for you to be still
And you seem far away
It sounds as though you are lamenting
A butterfly cooing like a dove
And you hear me from far away
And my voice does not reach you
Let me come to be still in your silence
And let me talk to you with your silence
That is bright as a lamp
Simple, as a ring
You are like the night
With its stillness and constellations
Your silence is that of a star
As remote and candid

I like for you to be still
It is as though you are absent
Distant and full of sorrow
So you would’ve died
One word then, One smile is enough
And I’m happy;
Happy that it’s not true

Anyway that's my experience with Tara.  Maybe not so much the Shakta Tara more the Buddhist one.

I realizing I have been going through some difficult things and I think Tara is showing up to tell me to have some self-compassion and guide me out of that difficult messy phase into a new phase of my life. The guiding star.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Kali and I

As a black woman, or a dark woman or a mixed/mulatto woman or whatever I am,  I feel both affinity, repulsion, jealousy and love towards Kali.  Raised to only know the goddesses of the greek myths they always seem to have blonde or brown hair and milky white skin.

 They didn't represent me. They had their little indiscretions, their vanities, but ferocious, I don't know, maybe only Hera (and that because of an unfaithful husband).

But, now I have met Kali.  I've seen her before but I didn't pay much attention to her.  I remember being at the Huntington Museum in the basement with all the India Art around me with my friend Kathleen, years ago, before my love affair began with yoga. We both agreed that this India stuff was complicated and the gods and goddesses seemed ferocious.And now, what?  I love Kali, her tongue wagging out aka Michael Jordan with his "try to mess with me" expression.

I have experienced my father's death and understand an attraction to the cremation grounds. I could easily take his jar of ashes and throw them all over me in wild sadness.

Her unruly hair is like mine, an old friend  said my crazy curly hair was an expression of all the mad ideas in my mind. But, I still I do try to tame my hair to fit in more with society.  I hold back my rage and my dissatisfaction with this racist classist sexist society.  Kali doesn't do that.  I try to smoothe the hair down and lower my voice, and put make up on, and try to be pretty,  and try not make too many waves.

She is unconcerned about all those things. She could care less!

She stands on her lover making sure everyone knows she has the power. Not worrying about if people will think he is pussy whipped. Not worrying that she is in charge.

What I am so jealous of is that she is so unapologetic.  She doesn't try to hold herself back or make herself smaller as I do because I don't want to stand out too much.  She is not worried about being called an "angry black woman." She is not trying to assimilate as I have for years.  She doesn't hear a voice that says "If I act right, maybe no one will notice that I am different."

So Kali, love, jealous, affinity, repulsion are my gifts to you.