Last Friday, my husband and I attended a Kirtan with Ambika Cooper and Nina Rao hosted by Laughing Lotus Yoga Center. This was my second Kirtan (read about my first experience and Kirtan 101 here) and my husband’s first.
This time I was more relaxed and knew what to expect. As a visual learner, I also appreciated that they handled out lyrics to all of the mantras/chants beforehand. Ambika and Nina are beautiful singers while the drumming spoke to my soul (I’m partial to drums). The crowd was more lively this time – one woman was dancing in the corner, most swayed to the melodies.
My favorite mantra continues to be the Maha Mantra (Hare Krishna). It starts slow, building the energy. Then speeds up as if the song and singers are overflowing with prana (life force).
Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare
“Hare” is an address to God’s energy, known as Radha, and “Krishna” is name of God meaning “He who is attractive to everyone.” “Rama” means “one who gives pleasure and enjoys life.” When chanted the maha-mantra is a petition to God: “O Krishna, O energy of Krishna, please engage me in Your service.” ~Bhaktivedanta Book Trust
Less than two weeks until my yoga teacher training course begins at Laughing Lotus! I’ve been chipping away at the pre-reading assignments for the course (various chapters from the five required texts). So far I am in love with part I from Light on Yoga by BKS Iyengar. This book is often called the “Bible of modern Yoga” and now I understand why. In 2008 a friend gave me his copy to borrow but I could not get into it. I had skipped the first 55 pages of the introduction and went straight to the poses – VITAL MISTAKE. Part I contains so many gems and beautiful explanations on everything in the “what is yoga?” category. I found myself pausing to reflect and highlight something on every page, * * * * * (5 out of 5 stars). I’m beginning to understand why there’s a campaign to nominate BKS Iyengar for a Nobel Peace Prize.
Yoga is “chitta vritti nirodhah” (Yoga Sutra 1.2, Patanjali): A method by which the restless mind is calmed and the energy directed into constructive channels. ~ BKS Iyengar
My favorite BKS Iyengar quotes from Light on Yoga:
- [The Yogi] starts to realize that all creation is meant for bhakti (devotion/adoration) rather than for bhoga (enjoyment)”
- The Yogi conquers the body and renders it a fit vehicle for the soul
- To win a battle, a general surveys the terrain and the enemy and plans counter measures. In a similar way the Yogi plans the conquest of the Self.
- The Yogi shares his strength with the weak until they become strong.
- The impurities of the mind are washed off in the waters of bhakti (devotion)
- [Food] should be eaten with the feeling that with each morsel one can gain strength to serve the Lord
- Yoga is not a religion by itself. It is the science of religions
- The sacred books of the world are for all to read. They are not meant for the members of one particular faith alone. As bees savour the nectar in various flowers, so the sadhaka (seeker) absorbs things in other faiths which will enable him to appreciate his own faith better.
- Emptying the mind of the whole of its illusion is the true rechaka (exhalation). The realization that “I am Atma (spirit)” is the true puraka (inhalation). And the steady sustenance of the mind on this conviction is the true kumbhaka (rentention).
- A Path with Heart, by Jack Kornfield
- The Heart of Yoga, by TKV Desikachar
- Light on Yoga, by BKS Iyengar
- Healing Mantras, by Thomas-Ashley Farrand
- The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, by Swami Satchidanada
It’s official!!!!!! After a 3-month tour of yoga studios in NYC, having coffee meetings with instructors, emailing past trainees and general online research….then doing some soul searching/praying/reflecting on what I truly wanted to gain from the training….. then filling out a fairly long and therapy like application….. I’m officially enrolled in Laughing Lotus’ Yoga Teacher Training Program! Classes start Feb 7.
It took me so long to make a final decision because there are lots of great programs in NYC. In the end, Laughing Lotus was the only YTTP that met all the items on my “wish list” – a “be yourself” / “find your own voice” vibe, good nationwide/global reputation, rigor of training, emphasis on alignment, allows for authentic exploration of the Yoga Sutras, incorporates Ayurveda and Kirtan, yoga studios in more than 1 state, community classes (where recent 200-hour graduates can teach a full yoga class), assigned senior teacher mentor and Yoga Alliance certified.
I spent the last day of 2013 doing all of my favorite things: I took a great class at Laughing Lotus Yoga, snuggled up with a book and the pups, spent time with my husband, prayed/reflected then ran a 5K just before midnight.
The class I took at Laughing Lotus Yoga was PACKED. As to be expected since owner Dana Flynn was teaching. There is something very powerful and beautiful about 70+ people chanting OM at the same time… I think our OMs reverberated the entire Flatiron district. Plus, we were lucky to practice our asana along with live kirtan/mantra music performed by Calia Marshall and Jim Beckwith.
Later my husband and I ran Brooklyn’s New Years Eve 5K Run in Prospect Park. It was FREEZING at 11:25 pm when the race began. So cold I couldn’t feel my feet or hands until the last mile. But we had fun running in the dark with a few hundred other runners all wearing glow sticks and blinking lights. We crossed the finish line minutes before midnight, just enough time to grab some complimentary hot chocolate to toast the New Year. We stayed for a bit to watch the fireworks then fled the cold for the warmth of our apartment.
All in all my idea of a perfect NYE. So excited for the many and dramatic changes/new beginnings 2014 has in store for us 🙂