Yoga Under a Big Blue Sky

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Photo: J.T. Liss (Photography for Social Change)

Sun Salutations in the late-afternoon sun. Hawks soaring high above. A light breeze cooling down the day while gentle drumming keeps the tempo. Around me, 60 yogis, woman and men, arch into Up Dog, faces radiant as they gaze skyward.

Such was the idyllic scene at the recent Mind, Body, Spirit and Wine event at Wente Vineyards in Livermore, California. Leading us through the practice was the lovely Suzanna Spring from Cosmic Dog Yoga studios. And co-teaching on this perfect autumn day was Yogadork, the delightful and prolific New York yoga blogger and teacher.

The event marked the confluence of passions for yogin-winemaker Karl Wente, whose love of the practice is something of local legend. Around the winery, Wente is known for his spontaneous expressions of asana, busting out an arm balance to make a point or kicking into headstand when too-long tasting sessions start to dull his senses. Yoga, he says, makes him a better winemaker, helping to cultivate the Beginner’s Mind that allows him to approach each wine anew, fully experiencing every nuance. Watch Wente discuss his yoga-and-winemaking philosophy here.

Pairing yoga with wine is a relatively new trend that stirs some debate in yoga circles. But on this day, yogis flush from fresh air and asana happily sampled the Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Syrah Wente had chosen for a post-class tasting.

Whether or not you agree with mixing your yoga with wine, it’s hard not to like outdoor yoga. Your inhalations feel deeper; the exhales extend further. Reach for the sky; bow to the earth. No walls, no boundaries. Practicing under an autumn-blue sky, surrounded by grapevines? A votre sante!

 

 

 

 

White House Easter Yoga

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Let’s roll some eggs and do some yoga!” exclaimed First Lady Michelle Obama, from the White House balcony on Monday morning.

The theme for this year’s annual White House Easter Egg Roll
was “Get Up and Go!” a reflection of the First Lady’s nationwide campaign
against childhood obesity through exercise and healthy eating.

So get up and go they did. Yoga instructors from around the country
led children through modified poses like Peaceful Warrior, Cow, and Butterfly. Sessions ended with a gratitude circle followed by a Downward Dog Tunnel for the
kids to crawl through, which one little boy proclaimed, “The best ride of all!”
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This is the third year that the Yoga Garden has been included in
the Easter holiday celebration. Leah
Cullis, the program’s organizer, was thrilled to have the chance to share yoga once again in America’s backyard: We are all excited and honored to be in the nation’s capitol to share the
many benefits of practicing yoga and an empowering message to our country’s
youth.”

Perhaps unsurprisingly, this was not the first time on a
yoga mat for many of the children. “I like to do stretching and
bending in my yoga class,” said Oliva, age five, whose mom and sister also
practice yoga.

Near the end of the day, the yogis got a special nod as Mrs.
Obama (perhaps a yogi herself?) paused at the Yoga Garden, and with palms
together and head bowed, acknowledged everyone there with a quick “Namaste.”

Watch a video of the day here.

-Guest Blogger Peg Mulqueen

Photo credits: Drew Xeron

In Every Woman – There is Something Big

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Guest post by Peg Mulqueen:

“Do you care?”

It was 6:30 a.m. Wednesday morning. I was lying on my back, working through a
beginning hip sequence in my early morning yoga class, along with about seventy-five other women in hotel
conference room. 

Seane Corn, a founder of Off the Mat and Into the World
and my teacher for the class, made me feel like I could change the world in
just the first few sun salutations she powerfully led us through.

But first, she asked this one simple question: Do I care?

Sure I care … I mean, of course I care.

“Then do something.  Make a
commitment and engage in action!”

And thus began a day celebrating the 100th
anniversary of International Women’s Day at the 65th annual CARE conference in Washington,
D.C. CARE is a leading humanitarian organization, founded in 1945 to provide relief to survivors of World War II,
and now devotes its resources to fighting global poverty with a special focus
on empowering women. 

In a two-day event kicked off with uplifting performances by
Michael Franti and Indi.Arie, some 1,100 people gathered from all across the
world. Each came emblazoned with a
passion and firm commitment to work towards a day when every girl and every
woman can be recognized for the power and potential she each possesses.

But by lunchtime,
guest speaker Melinda Gates, co-founder of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation,
hit us with the more somber reality facing women who live in poor and
developing countries – where girls are uneducated and often brutally
mistreated. Where a young girl’s future
can be so bleak that Gates says her chances of dying are greater than that of
her being left-handed. Mothers
desperately save every penny they can to get their children into school, knowing it is perhaps their only
chance for survival.

As the mother of a daughter in college, Girl Effect
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hit me in the heart. Sure, I worry about her. I worry
that she’s not getting enough sleep. I
worry she has enough spending money. I
worry when she gets a cold and I’m not there to take care of her.

But as countless speakers, including Helene Gayle, CARE’s
president and CEO reminded us – right now, there is a mother in rural Niger who
is not sure she can feed her child at the end of the day. And a mother in Uganda who is watching her
child suffer from pneumonia, one of the leading causes of death among children,
fighting for each breath – knowing her little one is literally dying before her
eyes. 

Can you even imagine?

“Change comes when people stand
up, speak out,

and refuse to accept things the
way they are today.”

Helene Gayle, CARE President and CEO

I felt the tears well up as I felt the sorrows of these
mothers, and in that moment, I felt helpless.
But then I looked around the room and felt the collective power of a
people gathered unified in a singular belief that all life has equal
value. 

And for the rest of the day, the CARE conference attendees
learned how to put that belief and their passion into action.  Just as women led the march a hundred years
ago to fight for the right to vote, to hold elected office, and to be paid fair
and equal wages – now we live that legacy of strength and courage to become the
voice for those women today whose voice is weakened by poverty and stolen
through injustice.  

On Thursday, this powerful group marched that voice of
mighty compassion to representatives in Congress and let them know – a life
is not a line item in a budget
.

“We are here to move mountains!”

Michael Franti, musician and yogi

As yogis, we can play a special role. Karma is a term we are most familiar with as
the energy associated with our individual actions. But there is another kind of karma – collective karma. This is the idea that a collective action
can actually work towards shifting the energy of the universe. 

Tomorrow, thousands of yogis in over 20 countries and from
countless yoga studios are putting this in action as they roll out their mats
in a worldwide yoga event, Yoga Stops Traffick, to raise
awareness and support in the fight against the exploitation of women and
children in India.

My few sun salutations may seem like a drop in the
bucket – but as Helen Keller once said, “I may be one, but still I am one … and
I will not refuse to do the something that I can do.”

Sitting at the airport and waiting for my
daughter to arrive home from college, I can’t help but count blessings. But I know I must do more than that -
because intention without action is useless.
As Melinda Gates so aptly said, “We
already know what to do and how to do it.
So it’s not a matter of can we … it’s a question, will we?

Erica Rodefer Winters is a writer and yoga teacher in Charleston, South Carolina. Visit her blog, Spoiledyogi.com, follow her on Twitter, or like her on Facebook

Naked Truths

Opinions run hot about nudity in advertising and Yoga Journal’s role in contemporary yoga culture.

In the September issue, we published a letter written by the esteemed yoga teacher and Yoga Journal co-founder Judith Hanson Lasater, which expressed her disapproval of advertisements featuring naked women. It’s been a hot topic ever since, and it seems appropriate to offer a few thoughts.

First, I greatly respect Judith and her concerns. Over the years, we’ve had conversations about the magazine, the business, the community. More than once, she has called me to share an opinion, in her trademark direct style, and we talked about her September letter before I published it. I appreciate her frankness.

I interpreted Judith’s formal note about ads that she feels “exploit the sexuality of young women in order to sell products” to be a message both to the folks at Yoga Journal who make advertising decisions,  (I am responsible for editorial direction only, I have no authority over advertising)–and to the larger community, including the creators of the ads.

Clearly Judith’s letter struck a chord, and I’ve read the opinions of many people who agree with her views. Others have written specifically in support of what they see as the artistic beauty of the ToeSox ads,  in particular, which feature the talented yoga teacher and frequent Yoga Journal contributor Kathryn Budig demonstrating poses in the buff.

The diversity of reader opinion isn’t surprising, given the diversity of the yoga community today and the highly subjective nature of the matter at hand. But somewhere in all the heated blog posts about whether nudity equals exploitation and about what Yoga Journal‘s advertising policies should be, I’ve seen a fair bit of frustration and misunderstanding about Yoga Journal’s role in the community.

Over the past 35 years, Yoga Journal has evolved from a nonprofit publication aimed at yoga teachers to a popular magazine read by more than 2 million Americans and supported by national advertising. Perhaps the biggest difference between the magazine Judith founded and the one I edit today is that while Yoga Journal continues to be a source of instruction and insight on yogic practices, it is now also a chronicle of the ever-evolving yoga scene–a scene that didn’t exist 35 years ago and one that some old-time practitioners would, quite frankly, find un-yogic.

Yoga Journal doesn’t intend to be a textbook of ancient practices, nor an arbiter of yogic morality. It’s a magazine that introduces people to a world of ideas–sometimes profound, life-changing ideas that they might not otherwise be exposed to.

It’s a messy time to be in the business of covering yoga. Some yoga publications that offered a purist’s view of the practice are no longer in print, while “workout yoga” is popular on the newsstand. Yoga Journal remains devoted to bringing a full spectrum of teachings to a wide audience, and it does so while walking the age-old line of art and commerce.

Spiritual teachers often say that while monkhood requires practicing austerities, it is actually easier to live in a cave than to practice yoga while living in the world; it’s tough to maintain a quiet mind when deadlines loom, when the kids meltdown, when all kinds of distractions beg for your attention. Yoga Journal lives out in that world–tackling real-life issues of finances, politics (yes, politics in the world of yoga!), and the sometimes-clashing ideals of the yoga community. I’m proud that amid all the chaos, the magazine continues to focus on delivering wise teachings and practical tools for bringing the essence of yoga into our daily lives.

We are grateful to have the support of the teaching community, including Judith and the many other dedicated teachers who share the depth of their knowledge through our pages, and the support of our advertisers, which enables us to continue offering world-class instruction, insight, and inspiration for practice. As always, we hope that the magazine we work so hard to bring to you, serves you well.

–Kaitlin Quistgaard
Editor in Chief, Yoga Journal