South Bay Yoga Conference is this weekend!

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I taught last year at the 1st South Bay Yoga Conference in Redondo Beach, California and I’m super excited to be coming back to teach again this year!

A group of us from San Diego are all heading up this Sunday to enjoy a full day of yoga! I will be teaching a lecture titled: “Why the World Needs You In It: Intro to Tantra Hatha Yoga Philosophy” at 11am and an asana practice: “Intro to Tantric Hatha Yoga” at 4:20pm.

For more information about the South Bay Yoga Conference, follow the link!

http://www.southbayyogaconference.com/

 

On it goes!

This last week we eliminated breakfast and added another cleansing shake (consisting of psyllium, bentonite and charcoal) in the morning to replace our first meal. The original plan was to do an enema and liver flush this past week, but as we were quite busy looking for a new place to live, we didn’t work it into our schedule. This week is the week though, and we plan on doing at least one full day of a fast, along with the liver flush and enema. Kristi has never fasted before, and it’s been since before we met (more than two years now) that I have done a fast as well, so after three weeks plus of cleansing, adding in a single day fast followed by an enema and liver flush is a good introduction back into it all. Perhaps this summer we’ll do a shorter, but more intense cleanse.

My energy levels have been MUCH higher since cutting out coffee and throughout the cleanse. We’ve had some pretty intensely busy weeks recently as well, so it’s been nice to be super clear and present during these times. I also haven’t been on such a strictly vegetarian diet in at least a few years as well, so my body has been feeling light and lean. I’ve been eliminating feces (POOPING!) four to five times a day. They are all large, full and fantastic, with a great consistency (not too watery, not to dry).

I had hoped to be blogging a little more throughout this process, but with everything that has been going on with our upcoming move (we signed our lease two days ago, and move in to our place in two weeks!), as well as organizing homes from multiple upcoming yoga trainings, I’ve had an even fuller plate than normal. I’ll post all the news about all the upcoming courses in another blog! 🙂

The Cleansing Continues!

So, this week’s cleanse has progressed along nicely. We’ve followed our routine of a morning shot of Aloe and tall glass of water, but I’ve also added Oil Pulling to that routine the moment I wake up. Today was the first day that I noticed my teeth actually getting whiter from it. Had a similar diet these last few days mostly with Flax Flakes in the morning with either almond milk or yogurt. A salad of some sort for lunch, and a veggie dish for dinner (last night I made a Sweet Potato and Lentil soup with a whole lotta turmeric and other spices with some yummy bread). And each day we’ve either had a green smoothy or fresh juice around one of our meals. Then we take our psyllium and bentonite shakes and one capsule of charcoal in the evening. Last night I also upped the dosage to 2 tablespoons of bentonite. We’ve started to take magnesium as our downward purger to help things move through our intestines.

Yesterday I had some “Cleanse and Detox Tea” from Gaia Herbs, and wholly moley… I was peeing and pooing all day. I almost exploded with pee while Sequoia was napping on me. I didn’t want to get up and wake her, so I was holding it… and I seriously almost peed myself! I had five solid poops yesterday and I peed I don’t know HOW many times… About to, reluctantly, have some more of that tea this morning.

Minus a poor night’s sleep by all of us last night, in general my energy levels  have been great, and I’ve been feeling wonderful! My skin has been clearing up, and now that it’s been more than a week since being off coffee, I don’t have the afternoon “crash” that had become such the norm over these past few months.

This is also the longest I’ve been off any kind of meat since being on an Ayahuasca diet years ago in the Amazon. I used to take a lot more time away from meet when I was doing heavy Kriya and Kundalini Yoga practices, but it’s been quite a while since I’ve done that. While my eastern European background loves me some meet, I’m quite happy to give it a rest right now.

Next week, we’ll up the shakes to twice a day, and later in the week do a liver flush. I also plan on doing an enema next week (woo hoo!).

If anyone is currently cleansing too, I’d love to hear from you! You can always email me at ashton@virajati.com or find me on Facebook!

 

–Ashton

First official day of our spring cleanse….

cleanse

It has begun!  I tend to be a fan of a more gradual cleanse, so we’re starting off relatively mild to begin and will progressively intensify our cleanse over the next few weeks. As crazy as it even sounds to say, I can’t even think of a single day since being back in the US (11 months now) where we didn’t eat some sort of meat in at least one of our meals in a day. As such, this first week we might give ourselves one fish meal, but other than that we are removing meat and cheese from our diets (cheese will be easy for me, but that’s a killer for Kristi!). We’ll be drinking daily psyllium and bentonite shakes, making fresh juice daily, and start every morning off with a shot of aloe juice and a full glass of water the moment we wake up. We’ll also be supplementing with extra activated Charcoal, and some support for liver detoxification (although we’ll begin a proper liver flush sometime next week). We also cut out all coffee from our diet five days ago (we had been on an intense trend of daily drinking for a number of months now… parenthood… wow. Can’t even remember the last time I slept a whole night through…)

Today’s diet was pretty simple. First thing in the morning we began with a shot of Aloe juice and a glass of room temperature water. Then, we had flax flakes with raisins and a banana for breakfast, a Spinach Salad with walnuts, cranberries and carrots for lunch, and stuffed Bell Peppers (with wild rice, onions, garlic, mushrooms and tomatoes inside) for dinner. We also each had a 2oz shot of wheat grass this afternoon, along with about 16oz each of fresh juice (kale, celery, apple, orange, grape).

Tonight we’ve had our Psyllium and Bentonite shake, and the liver support (separated by about 45 minutes each, otherwise the Bentonite will absorb much of the herbs before they go into the blood stream).

This program will likely continue for the next few days with little change in our diet. Next week we’ll probably drop down to two meals a day and start taking an extra psyllium and bentonite shake, a downward purger of some sort (to help move the bowels), and do a liver flush.

I’m debating trying oil pulling tomorrow. Oil pulling is an ancient ayurvedic technique where you swirl around oil in your mouth for 15 to 20 minutes first thing in the morning. The oil draws out many of the toxins and bacteria in your mouth, and it’s said to help will all sorts of oral hygiene and health issues, as well as claims of other health issues. I have pretty sensitive gums, and being a big coffee drinker these past few years, my teeth have definitely seen whiter days. Oil pulling is said to help with both of those. In the early stages of any type of detox and cleanse, people often notice that their breath get’s pretty scary… OP is said to help with that as well 🙂

(If you’re interested, you can find out more about Oil Pulling here: Oiling Pulling,comErin Huggin’s Blog and Oil Pulling.org)

Thanks for reading, and I’ll continue to post regular updates about how the cleanse is going. Feel free to email me at ashton@virajati.com if you have any questions or comments.

February’s Reading List

It was a busy month, and I didn’t get as many chances to read as I would have liked, but here are the books from February.

 

February reading list

A Hidden Wholeness by Parker J. Palmer

Another great book by Parker Palmer. If you are a teacher of any sort, I highly recommend reading his books. They are filled with inspiration and quotes, and helpful ideas and tips.  The particular book has a lot to do with how to hold space in community circles and gathers, but applies even to our one on one conversations with people. Great read.

Awakening Shakti by Sally Kempton

Not as much of a cover to cover type read (although it could be, I guess) as it’s very information dense, it also covers a lot of areas that one might not be putting into place in the moment (mantras, visualizations, etc). Amazing content, though. If you want to learn about the goddesses of the tantric tradition, look no further than this book. It’s illustrated by Ekabhumi Ellik, who also did the logo for our yoga school (www.virajati.com), his images always blow me away with their beauty and clarity.

The Anatomy of Exercise and Movement: for the Study of Dance, Pilates, Sports and Yoga by Jo Ann Staugaard-Jones

While I don’t agree with everything put forth in this book, I still highly recommend it. It’s accessible yet thorough. Packed with useful information. I’m even considering using it as an anatomy manual for yoga teacher trainings. It’s clearly illustrated, and you don’t need a PhD to understand it. Definitely recommend it if you are a yoga teacher or on the path to become one.

Figured out this whole video thing!

Ok, so I’ve seemingly finally figured out the whole video “thing”. That is, the process of recording, editing, and getting videos up onto the web and YouTube. Which means you’ll finally start to see tutorial and other types of videos getting posted more regularly on this site. I’ll be filming some more tomorrow!

This is a high speed video of one of my Yoga for Surfers classes. Enjoy! And I hope to see you in class some time 🙂

 

January’s Reading List…

Jnana Yoda....

So it’s no secret that I love to read. I talk about books that I’m reading all the time in my classes and a lot of classes are themed from things I’m currently reading. Students have asked me about these books and often ask me for book recommendations as well, so I’ve decided to start posting the books that I read each month with a few words on each.

Here is my reading list from January:

Dancing in the Flames – Marion Woodman
This book rocked my world! One of those books that came in right at the perfect time. Marion Woodman is a Jungian psychiatrist and this book is all about images of the goddess in our lives and in our dreams and what it means to accept the energy of the goddess into our life.

Daring Greatly – Brene Brown
A great book all about vulnerability and daring greatly. I recommend everyone read this book, and check out Brene Brown’s TED talks. They will change your life 🙂

Paths to God – Ram Dass
Wasn’t actually what I was expecting, but I still really enjoyed it.

The Courage to Teach & Teaching Guide – Parker Palmer
Great books even if you don’t teach. Tons of great motivational material for teachers. The books really tap into what it means to be a teacher and the role we serve to our students.

Cool Yoga Tricks – Miriam Austin
Actually a really bad name for the book, as there is some great info in here. Well illustrated and some great prop suggestions and pose variations.

January Reading List

Silence on the Western Front…

Hi Everyone!

 

Sorry things have been so quiet around here recently. Things have been pretty crazy around here in this new year. The whole family got sick at the New Year, and I’ve been working on all sorts of projects recently. The good news is that there are all SORTS of amazing things I have to announce coming up here in the near future. There a few  more things getting formalized, so I’m going to wait to announce them all, but it will be well worth the wait. Workshops, Live Music and Yoga Events, Charity Events, Online Courses, Collaborations, and more! Super exciting stuff! Thank you for your patience, and I promise to get more regular with the blog posts and announcements again.

 

I’ll be typing to you all again soon. Until then, you can always get regular updates from me on Facebook! Thank you all for your support!

 

–Ashton

Living Yoga Series

Living Yoga Series

with Ashton Szabo

Coming in March 2013!

Starting in the month of March, I will be beginning a series of talks that focus on what some of the great stories and texts of the yoga tradition have to say about living our yoga. With a large portion of the yoga philosophy that westerners are exposed to, people often thing that as yoga progresses, one moves further and further away from the world and into solitude. In these talks, we look at stories and traditions that encourage us into a deeper relationship into life and bring us more fully into the world. What does yoga have to say about living a full life? About happiness? About suffering? About social action? These are all ideas we will explore in these talks.

The talks will be offered live at Black Sheep Yoga Studio in Oceanside for those that can attend in person. They will also be offered online for a small fee for those that can’t attend the talks physically. The specific dates will be announced this week.

Why the World Needs You In It: Intro to the Bhagavad Gita

In this talk we will explore what it means to live in the world and how important your involvement in the world actually is. We will introduce one of India’s most sacred and well known texts, the Bhagavad Gita (‘Song of the Divine’), a spiritual text that invites us into a deeper relationship with the world. This book has effected millions and it profoundly effected people such as Ludwig van Beethoven, Henry David Thoreau, Walt Whitman and Mohandas K. Gandhi. In this talk we will explore the necessity of social engagement and action in life, and how important our role in the world is, especially during these challenging times that we currently find ourselves in. We will explore Dharma and what it means to be living your truth, and how you can more fully offer your unique gifts to the world.

The Heroes Journey: Revealing the Meaning in Every Day Life

What does it mean to embark on the Heroes Journey? How do we find a balance between spirit and matter? The transcendent and immanent? We’ll follow the journey of Viveka, in this old Indian tale, as we discuss our own journey in life. We follow models explained by the late Joseph Campbell with his insights into myths and stories and what they say about the human psyche and the experience of embodied human life. We will explore basic archetypes of the hero and heroine and find what they can teach us about ourselves. We’ll  uncover our own heroes journey within our life, and see what myths and stories have to say about our possible obstacles and failings, as well as the tools for fulfillment in our journey.

Life as Service: An Introduction to the Stories of Hanuman

In the stories of Hanuman, we have an example of living a life of service. When we feel separate from others, from the divine, when we feel alone, how do we reconnect with a feeling of Oneness? We will follow the story of Hanuman, as we explore the dynamics of what happens when the Ego (Ravana) comes between our true Self (Rama) and our embodied self (Sita), and how the energy of Service (Hanuman) can overcome the Ego and unite the true Self and self.

Life as Play: An Introduction to the Stories of Shiva

In these talks we will explore a number of different stories about Shiva, in particular Nataraja Shiva. Shiva as the dancer. Shiva as living in the fires of embodiment. We’ll look at the perspective of life as lila (play) and what that means in our every day life. In contrast to the rules of dharma, lila comes to show us that sometimes things happen in life that cannot be explained in any sort of rational way. Learning to embrace this inherent spontaneity of life opens up new doors of fulfillment  in our lives. We’ll learn about the value of approaching life as play, and how it can bring us into a more accepting and joyous place in our life and relationships.

Stay tuned for dates and more information on these talks!

The Face of Glory

The Face of Glory

I’ve been getting a lot of reminders in life and in my practice lately, as well as in the life of many of my students, of the importance of accepting life as it is and of actively cultivating a capacity for equanimity. Most of us are drawn to practice because we believe something is wrong or we are suffering somehow. Our hamstrings aren’t flexible enough; we’re not strong enough; our mind is too scattered; we’re too stressed, and on and on. If we come into our practice simply looking to overcome these things, then we are at risk of creating more suffering through our practice, because if our practice doesn’t meet our expectations, then we suffer. Even if it does meet our expectations, then the mind is drawn into a new cycle of striving to get to the next goal, the next place, the next pose.

When our practice becomes an exploration of what is, of where our capacities lie in the moment, rather than where we think we should be or where we would like to get to, then we open up to an entirely new realm of practice. We’re not seeking to get somewhere in a pose, but rather to explore where we are, while we place our body in all these different positions. I often use the analogy of the breath in this situation. When we bring attention to our breath, our breath naturally deepens. It doesn’t require us to forcefully deepen our breath. The simple act of attention deepens our experience and fullness of breath. The same is true of every asana (posture). By simply bringing more attention to ourselves in the pose, we have a deeper experience of the pose, without striving, without pushing…  Now of course, we must also, in this space of clear vision of what is, cultivate a space of equanimity. If we only cultivate our awareness, our ability to see, in our practice, then we are at risk of creating more suffering because what we see might not meet our expectations, or we might resist what arises in our practice. And so it is with all of this in mind that I want to share a short story about Shiva.

One day, Shiva is approached by the demon Rahu who says to Shiva, “I want your wife, Shakti, as my mistress.” Rahu is the demon who consumes the sun in the time of solar eclipses. While he represents many things in Indian theology, one of the things he represents is that force of the dark unconscious consuming the light of consciousness. This is the force of the unconscious looking to consume and take for himself Shiva’s consort Shakti, who represents all of our experience of embodied life and indeed, life itself.

Shiva is obviously insulted by this request. And in his anger he opens his third eye and a thunderbolt crashes to the earth with an explosive BANG! Once the dust settles from this massive explosion, a ravenous, starving monster appears who is created to devour the monster Rahu. Rahu sees this demon and instantly becomes afraid. He throws himself at Shiva’s feet and begs for his mercy. Now, an unspoken rule of the gods is that if someone throws him or herself on that god’s mercy, the god must grant it.

So Shiva turns to Rahu and says, “Ok, I grant you mercy.” He turns to the second monster and tells him, “You heard me grant Rahu mercy, don’t eat him.”

“Well,” says the second monster, “I’m hungry… and I don’t see anything else to eat.”

“I do,” says Shiva. “I see you. Why don’t you eat yourself?”

So the monster starts eating himself. Starting with his feet, he continues to gobble up his entire body, even his lower jaw, until nothing is left but his upper face. This image is the perfect image of the nature of life, the nature of which is to consume and eat itself. This is the image of the ferocity of life itself.

Shiva is so pleased when he sees this, he says, “You are wonderful! I will name you Kirtimukha, the Face of Glory, and I will place you over my shrines. No one who does not say, ‘Yes’ to you is worthy to come to me.” This same figure is used in Buddhist shrines to represent the whole realm of the world and its consumption of itself. One must move through this threshold to enter the realm of transcendence. This signifies absolute affirmation of the world as it is. The invitation of Shiva and of Tantra is to put yourself into accord with the world as it is, not as you think it ought to be. If you cannot accept that life consumes itself, that life is transient, messy, confusing, mysterious and ferocious, then you will not be able to enter the realm of Shiva, of supreme consciousness.

One is not able to truly see with the vision of Shiva, of transcendent consciousness, unless one can fully accept the experience of life as it is. Cultivating our capacity for equanimity is just as important in the practice of yoga (and indeed the experience of life) as our ability to see into the very nature of life itself.  This can often lie in stark contrast to how you see yoga being practiced in the West. People look to control their bodies, control their minds, impose their own will on themselves and the world to manifest and create the world the way they think it should be. It comes from a basic rejection of the way the world is. People are disturbed by the way their bodies are, the way their mind is, the way the world is.

We return to the idea of Rahu, the demon, as the force of the unconscious, seeking to take life, Shakti, for himself. It’s the power of fully accepting life that allows the light to come into our lives. If we don’t accept the intensity of life, with all of its challenges, contradictions, ups and downs, pains and pleasures, then we will never actually see the world as it is and we will be stuck seeing it only as we’d like it to be. Every time the world we see is out of alignment with how we think it ought to be, we will suffer.  It’s through our capacity to be equanimous in every situation in life that allows us to enter the realm of Shiva and move beyond suffering.

So next time you engage your practice, remember Kirtimukha, and remember the importance of accepting life as it is, of cultivating a capacity of equanimity, acceptance, evenness and compassion in your practice, otherwise you’ll never truly be able to enter into the realm of ultimate sight, of ultimate consciousness. You can never truly be free.

 

 

(Image of Kirtimukha created by Ekabhumi Ellik, www.oneearthsacredarts.com)

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