Those of you who regularly attend my classes know that Ayurveda, the lunar cycle, and in general, what’s happening in nature, informs how I teach the practice of yoga. Ayurveda is the traditional system of nutrition and medicine in India, and is at least 5,000 years old. Ayurveda is a model of understanding the human body and mind, and looks to the forces and elements of nature as symbolic representations of reality. It’s a structured way to wrap our minds around the complexities of life.Read More
Over this past summer, I really enjoyed watching the PBS special commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Apollo moon landing. Although as dramatic as it was to watch that first moon walk, there was another moment that really captured my heart. It was hearing the awe expressed by the Apollo 8 astronauts when they first saw the earth rise in the sky from their vantage point in space:
William Anders: Oh my God! Look at that picture over there! There's the Earth coming up. Wow, that's just………. that’s so pretty.
James Lovell: Oh man, that's great!
How long have you been a part of the Yoga Bhoga family and how did that relationship begin for you?
I have been a part of the Yoga Bhoga since 2012 (or 2013?). I met Shannon Kleuver when she was teaching at Reed College, and she got me interested in yoga. I had only ever practiced as a way to maintain my fading gymnastics skills, but she illuminated the spiritual benefits of yoga for me. At the time, she was also teaching at Yoga Bhoga, so that summer break I started going to her classes at the studio, then starting exploring other teachers’ classes—I entered a pretty big Scott align-and-refine do-the-crazy-arm-balance phase at that point, followed by a Meghan hold-warrior-one-for-10-breaths phase…and so it began!
What is your most memorable moment of Yoga Bhoga teacher training or teaching experience?
The most memorable teacher training moment for me was the Breitenbush retreat. Spending multiple days immersed in yoga, meditation, philosophy, community, (and of course soaking in beautiful hot springs) integrated the program for me in such an important way, and I’ll cherish those memories forever. I learned so much on that retreat.
My most memorable teaching experience was when I was talking to one of my students about moving away, and she teared up, saying that she has had a difficult time finding teachers that cultivate an environment that is cozy and non-judgmental, and that she found that in my teaching, and in Yoga Bhoga as a studio. It made me proud of my teaching, and proud of our teaching community, to hear that she felt safe and supported in her practice here.
What is your funniest memory of either Meghan or Scott as teacher trainers?
Hmmm, without going into any details, our last day of training after-party at the Slammer got pretty funny. Besides that, all the yoga puns. Those two are full of yoga puns.
This August you will be leaving Portland to pursue your Maters at Harvard, Yoga Bhoga is so sad to see you leave but thrilled to see you pursue you academic dream. What will you miss most about Portland? or Yoga Bhoga? What are you most excited for in Boston?
I’ll be pursuing a Master’s degree in public health, with an emphasis on social epidemiology. I’ll miss my friends, family, and partner most. I’ll miss all the delicious, accessible food, and the fact that I’m always within biking distance of a bar or restaurant with a bangin’ natural wine list (I’m sure my wallet will thank me for moving away). I’ll miss being at home at Yoga Bhoga—I think we all know how hard it is to find a new studio that feels like home. I’ve gotten so used to Yoga Bhoga’s emphasis on yoga philosophy, community, and the attitude that we are all continually learning together. I hope I can find a community as welcoming in Boston!
In Boston, I’m most excited for the amount of opportunities I’ll have—for instance, my academic adviser literally wrote the book on social epidemiology. I’ll be learning from people who are incredibly smart, incredibly well connected, and I hope that grows into a career in public health where I can make meaningful change.
Do you think Yoga has influenced you career and educational path? If so how? What is the culture of your work? Does being a ‘yogi” help you navigate those differences?
Ohhhh yes. 100% yes. Yoga helped me ask myself the hard questions, like what do you actually want to do with your life? What are your values? These were Big Scary Questions that I managed to push aside for a really, really long time. Yoga has been a process of opening up to myself with honesty, and a process of being patient with myself and learning that everything is always in flux. Without yoga, I am fairly certain I’d still be working jobs that I was unsatisfied with without knowing why, spending my energy on people that didn’t share my values, and berating myself for not making the changes I knew were necessary. Seriously, thank god(dess) for yoga. It has been the single most important tool for self-discovery in my life.
To answer the second question, I’ll just say, perhaps vaguely, that yoga has given me courage to name and stick to my values. I was on the path to a career in bench science (pharmaceutical chemistry), and yoga helped me understand that while bench science was great for my curious mind, my number one goal is raising collective consciousness for a more equitable world. By naming that, I gathered the courage to quit my job, change my future plans, and start on a path toward a career and community more in line with what’s important to me.
Also, side note, yoga has taught me patience. I’ve always gotten flack for being the least patient person in the world—trust me, I’m a lot easier to work with, learn with, and be friends with (or related to) now than I was before yoga became a regular part of my life.
Where do you see yourself after you graduate? Do you think Yoga will be with you throughout this next journey? Do you think you will continue teaching?
After I graduate, I imagine I’ll continue living on the east coast to pursue further education in epidemiology or working in public health research or policy (vague, I know, that’s why I applied for a master’s and not a PhD…). I can’t imagine myself staying away from teaching for long. Even though I might not have time to teach regularly in a studio, I hope to at least continue teaching on a volunteer basis.
For the last year, in addition to teaching at Yoga Bhoga, I’ve been teaching a monthly class at an inpatient recovery center in Vancouver through a nonprofit called Living Yoga. Living Yoga provides free yoga classes in prisons, recovery centers, and community centers in Portland and the surrounding area. Volunteering with them has been such a rewarding experience. Providing access to yoga with people who are especially alienated from their bodies due to addiction or trauma has reinforced what I know to be true—mindfulness will change the world!
Shameless plug—even if you’re not a certified yoga teacher, if you’re a regular yoga practitioner that wants to share the benefits of yoga and learn more about how yoga and mindfulness can help bodies and minds heal from trauma, look into volunteering with Living Yoga!! They are a fantastic organization and can be found at https://living-yoga.org/
Ok, Now for one word quick responses (some are super yoga so my apologies)
What chakra calls for your attention most? Manipura
What is your most considered or contemplated yama or niyama? Santosha
What is your primary ayurvedic dosha? Vata
Favorite moment of a yoga class (in one word!)? Savasana 😊
Best word for how the word the phrase “namaste" makes you feel? Sometimes, uncomfortable. Yoga in the West has been a process of cultural appropriation that has gone awry in so many ways. In the best situations, though, “namaste” or another expression of gratitude at the end of class makes me feel welcomed, acknowledged, and seen.
What word would you use to describe your experience in headstand? Serene
What is the bst word to describe your teaching personality? Approachable (when I asked my friend and regular student to answer this, he said “punk”)
What is the best word to describe your entire yogic journey? Homecoming
What is the best word to describe what yoga bhoga means to you? Yoga family!
Have you ever wanted to be a fly on the wall during your yoga teachers phone call??? With a call recording app, Krista was able to capture Marcus and her talking about his move back to his hometown Baltimore to teach yoga. They discuss teaching at studying and then teaching at Yoga Bhoga, learning yoga from Meghan Maris and Scott Lennartz as well as real world life experiences, and what its like being a black yoga teacher in Portland Oregon. Listen to why he decided to pursue teaching in a new community and pay attention to his promise that he will be back! Click on the link to listen to our “high end” way of sharing this recording with a public google file.
An ecosystem is forever in process, and constantly changing. There is no beginning or end. The life cycle of a plant is much like processes that we go through all of the time. In big and small ways, we experience birth, growth, expansion, decay, death, and rebirth, every day. The practice of yoga invites us to witness, as these cyclical processes unfold, time and time again - in plants and in ourselves. The practice of yoga asks us to witness the changing nature of our experience as humans in bodies on planet Earth, so that we can see more clearly, become more resilient in the face of hardship, and connect with ourselves and each other in more intimate and meaningful ways.Read More
In the ancient Chinese Medicine text, Huang Di Nei Jing, summer is referred to as the time of luxuriant flowering. For me that description calls to mind an image of relaxing on a chaise lounge with the scent of jasmine wafting in the air.
“A person is what one’s desire is. It is our deepest desire in this life that shapes the life to come. So let us direct our deepest desires to know the self that is born of cosmic silence.” ~ Chandogya UpanishadRead More
Chinese Medicine describes springtime as being dominated by the element of “wood” which we observe in nature as the force that pushes new growth up from the ground. Wood energy propels that which has been hidden out into the light of visibility.Read More
Long life, heightened memory and intellect, freedom from disease,
youthfulness, excellence of complexion, luster, and of voice;
optimum strength of the physical body and the senses;
fulfillment of whatever is spoken; reverence of all people—
all this does one obtain by the proper use of rasayanas.
These rasayanas are so called because they replenish the vital fluids of the body.
(from the Ayurvedic text: Charka Samhita, Chikitsasthanam I/7-8)
Rasayana which means, “that which destroys old age and disease,” is a therapeutic process of offering deep nourishment to the cells, tissues, and organs of the body in support of their healing, renewal, and regeneration.
The sanskrit word rasa means juice, fluid or essence. In the context of Āyurveda, rasa specifically means the preservation, transformation, and replenishment of energy. The word ayana means “to increase” or “to circulate”. Thus, rasayana is something that promotes the circulation of the vital essence or juices of life, or more simply, a way to restore and maintain the fluids or juiciness in our bodies.
Rasayana is one of the eight specialized branches of the practice of Ayurveda. In Ayurveda, rasayana refers to both the science of promoting longevity and the herbal & behavioral remedies used to maintain optimal health as well as to reverse the effects of aging. A Rasayana therapy is any herb, food, treatment or practice that promotes a youthful state of physical and mental health, heals imbalance and sustains clarity and happiness. One might engage in a rasayana therapy protocol for a specific time period (often a month - depending on need) to repair and restore one's system But many of these practices can be incorporated into one’s daily routine to maintain a healthy and balanced lifestyle.
Rasayana therapy can take different forms such as:
Going on a retreat to receive special treatments with oils, herbs and foods.
A dedicated time for healing and rejuvenating the body/mind.
an ongoing practice in adopting an Ayurvedic lifestyle.
Rasayana therapy might be indicated in a number of different situations such as after a deep cleansing process, when one is mentally and physically depleted from stress & overwork, or after intense physical exertion. These techniques can be particularly helpful in the late fall and winter (Vata season) to ease the transition to the colder, dryer time of the year when it is more likely for the body and mind to become out of balance.
Engaging in Rasayana practices can help:
Improve strength, energy, vitality and stamina
Promote courage, confidence, and success
Slow the aging process and increase longevity
Promote cellular intelligence and
Bring balance, awareness, joy, and clarity into one’s life and relationships
The Rasayana Process is holistic and incorporates many elements including:
dietary modifications (nourishing fresh cooked foods)
gentle, grounding yoga practice
pranayama - focusing on relaxation of the nervous system
meditation or quiet reflection (especially at dawn)
specific ayurvedic techniques such as abhyanga (warm oil massage) & nasya (oil application in nostrils).
Lifestyle adjustments (both temporary and long-term) are key to maximizing the healing process and include such things as:
Getting sufficient amounts of quality sleep,
Maintaining positive relationships.
Avoiding unfamiliar places or situations that might incite anxiety, fear, or loneliness.
Wearing enough clothes to avoid getting chilled, especially in cool, windy weather.
Undertaking a period of celibacy to preserve your vital life energy.
Maximizing emotions & behaviors that enhance healing such as:
love, compassion, uplifting speech, cleanliness, charity, piety, respect toward teachers and elders, positive outlook, moderation and self-control, especially with regard to alcohol and sex, simplicity, routine/regularity.
Avoiding emotions and behaviors that are toxic to health:
anger, violence, harsh or hurtful speech, conceit, speaking ill of others behind their back, egotism, dishonesty, coveting another's spouse or wealth.
The word “core” gets tossed around a lot in yoga, but, in most cases, it’s used relatively
ambiguously. Do you know what the intrinsic core muscles of the body are? These are the
muscles that come on board when we lose our balance. The ability to return to a place of
stability is important, not only on your mat, but it’s essential in every movement. For a moment
in time, with each step we take, we’re balancing on one leg. This requires that we engage these
deep core muscles. When we’ve learned to optimally tone the muscles of the pelvic floor,
respiratory diaphragm, the transverse abdominis and the multifidi, we can move with more
ease and grace.Read More