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This year, 2013, has been a year of change. Circumstances, people, jobs, ideas, all have been transforming in my life. It is the nature of the world we live in, as we (don’t) understand. One important aspect of change is my age, others say experience. This has affected and is constantly affecting my perspective of life.

As many of you may know, there have been many things that have changed around my life and the yoga center. There have been many new and wonderful people coming through our doors, touching our lives. I have seen many people affected, process, and grow, many times in unexplainable ways during their yoga practice. The magic of yoga, this center, and the intentions you put in them is what makes it all possible. The chanting and the satsang going on every week have been, I believe, a powerful way to recharge and be able to offer the best we have of ourselves, Jerry and I. This is truly a gift of grace from beloved teacher.

We have had beautiful additions to our center. Balaka and Eileen are very special souls that understand and offer the most humble loving teachings in yoga. We have had so many more wonderful instructors subbing and offering their heart through their practice, as much as experiencing, what our yoga center also has to offer from the special ones that attend our center. I have seen people healing their bodies with patience and constancy. I have noticed people growing emotionally and spiritually with us, as we all experience the softening of our heart.

Our center feels, because it does not matter what it looks like, or whatever happens right outside our doors; it feels more and more a true place of grace. Knowingly or unknowingly, we all receive the grace, that something special, by being there. We might fight it intellectually many times. We might fight it with fear, many times. We might be shocked by the unexpected je nais sais quoi, and ignore. But, it is the seed of change, the change in our hearts. I feel it, and I want to share that with as many people as I can!

I really love what we do. I really hope all of us, a deeper experience, through this body. I know that all of us, in our yoga center, are fulfilling the original intent of this place not being a center for exercise of the body, but an exercise of the heart; the loving heart.

As much as we understand love, with that, we offer all we have every time. I know I speak for Yogesh, Jerry, Balaka, and Eileen, with all our faults, we offer our love in every class. And we are so grateful to feel your love back. May we have more moments together.

On the edge of my bed, in the midst of serenity. How can I even start to explain what life in an ashram may mean or is doing to my life… especially, my spiritual life, how can I begin… My intention is reach you and share with you the hopeful possibilities of life.

I have, like many of us, gone through some difficult times in my life, and I know they will happen again. It is not the things that happen to us, bow we perceive them. Like in our yoga practice, it is the intention and the action, not the reaction from the actions where we concentrate our efforts. So, it is not without effort that I take the body to a spiritual retreat. It is then the mind that reacts. Although I may physically be here, in the midst of an ashram with mantras and chanting embracing me, if my mind is is not here then, there is no intention. We all have the experience of sitting in a math class where our body is there, but our mind is everywhere else. The mind’s purpose, I have learned, is to bring happiness to the atman (soul). Unfortunately, we confuse the source of permanent happiness – and we look everywhere, only finding bits and droplets.

I only understand what happens in my heart…as I sit, listen, meditate in God, in all those beautiful qualities that we truly know inside,  then tears of joy come to me eyes. It is joy that I have felt before but different. This is beyond my intellect and beyond my simple understanding.

I have know enough times despair and sadness. I know I might feel them again. Now, however, I know, that this sensation I can always reach for, if I sit and practice devotion to Divine Love, true yog (connection).

I could not think of a different place I would rather be receiving the New Year. I wish you, the same…

We are always immersed in thought when the end of the year comes. For some it is the end of the world as we know it (but, isn’t every minute the end…a new beginning?). It is always a great time to be grateful.

We are so grateful to have been part of your life and you of ours. As we always remind ourselves, this Yoga Center, in its uniqueness would not be here if it were not for you, specifically you! We never claim to be perfect or the best. We never aspire to be competitive with others, or even think of ourselves in comparison with others. We humbly want to be the center that is truest to our mission. Our mission is to bring the most honest practice of yoga, in what it means to us, and share it with you.

Our commitment is to be there, as humbly and honestly as we can every time you come. Because in that vulnerability and that “real” experience is where we all get to experience life, together.

It is, as you know, never about the money, or the fame, or the flashiness. It is always our intention to be about the intent, to be an experience of Peacefulness, Harmony, Truthfulness, and most importantly our intention of Divine Love. Some may argue, it is a little about sweat too… 🙂

We are grateful that you are coming. We are grateful that you have come. We are grateful that you thought in coming more often…

In all ways, we are grateful, because every time we, you and us, are there, we are “more” alive and hopeful that we are practicing remembering who we truly are, part of that Divine Love.

We humbly and sincerely wish you wonderful truly Holy Days!

It is like walking in a fog of uncertainty and doubt. It is like jumping in a river with murky water. It is like being suffocated with the smell of a cheap perfume. We have an incredible capacity to adapt and get used to new conditions. We live in this world bombarded with circumstances, conditions, distractions – and we go through them. We all make it. We all survive. But survival many times is not enough. We want more – I know I do.

When do we stop to take a step back and look at the reasons why we are where we are. Why are we walking, swimming, breathing? Where are going? What are we looking for? Did we forget?

It seems I am waiting for that next goal, to reach that number, to obtain that title, to have an epiphany. I am waiting for that magical heavenly event, parting of the clouds. I am waiting for happiness to find me. Indeed I believe happiness is a gift, and is gracefully given to us. I believe it is not because I deserve it. It is not because I do not deserve it. But I realize it is simply not found in all those places I keep looking. It cannot be found in the most delicious food, or in the most beautiful car. I know I cannot find happiness in that expensive pair of shoes! Happiness is ever increasing, permanent, everlasting – food is not; my car lasts for a few years; my shoes go out of style! Happiness cannot be there…

The more I discover love for permanent, unchanging, Divine matters, then happiness starts sneaking into my heart. All of the sudden a smile, a flower, a sunset, a meditation reminds me of all that is beyond. My eyes fill with tears. The sound of a chant makes my heart skip a beat. And I want the entire world to sign with me, to fill it with me.

I believe we all do. I believe we all have that deep core memory and wisdom of what is peaceful, harmonious, true. I believe we all are craving and searching for that. I believe that we all hanker for Love, Divine. We know what it is. We simply forget.

Let’s purify, rub our eyes, take a deep breath, and reinvigorate our desire to keep looking in the right place – to turn our attention to the permanence of Divine Love. Let’s remember. Let’s not forget.

As I wake up this morning, there are all these emotions and thoughts and ideas… where do I start to be able to even

Prem Mandir, Vrindavan, India

convey these feelings. In only a few days, we are, once again, on our way to the mystical spiritual lands of India. It just hit me last night, after our satsang (group mediation)that we are visiting the inauguration of Prem Mandir(The Temple of Love) in Vrindavan, India.

I remember at the age of 6 or so, I ran downstairs, with the curiosity and determination a child can have, I walked into my loving father’s study, where he was buried in books and the reading of philosophy and positive thinking. With the deepest of desperations, I asked, “Dad, what is Love?”. I do not remember his answer; I do remember and do know, however, my search since. There has been plenty of moments of pain and deceit, many moments of crying myself to sleep. There have been deep moments of suffering. I have looked in many places for love and happiness, even in the most unlikely places. I did find moments, sparks, glimpses of what that means; none lasting or really satisfactory – I always knew there had to be more. The disappointments led to deeper discouragement and frustration, maybe anger. I gave up many times.

I was hearing of a student’s reflection on how difficult the practice of hatha yoga has become. At the beginning yoga was (arguably) an easy, fun, enjoyable “light” work out. But to many of us the more we become present and stay in asana, the deeper we connect. Is that something I am prepared to do? Yoga is indeed simple, though not an easy task. The more we pay attention, we find loads of thoughts and emotions. For many of us it is easier to stop, avoid, and/or look away. It is a very common reaction. I do it all the time, I do know! Through my many years of practice, I realize now it has nothing to do with that movement, that physical pain and discomfort, or frustration. It has little to do with my hips or my shoulder, or my knee. The physical body, as we have heard many times, is more than a structure of movement. The hands are to hold things, but also to let them go. The chest is to protect, but also to open up the heart and emotions. The legs and hips are the means of motion, movement in our lives, or to simply stand in place, grounded.

So, our physical yoga practice is exactly that, a practice of rediscovery, re-membering of who we are. The process of discovery is never easy. The path is full of ups and downs. We have given up uncountable times, as the yoga philosophy teaches, for uncountable (truly uncountable!) lifetimes. How are we to change in one class, or one posture, or in one month, or one year, or a lifetime? We do change, but maybe in ways we do not realize or expect now. Every breath done in consciousness changes something inside of us, every time. The questions is, are we able to sustain it? Are we able to persevere and find encouragement? Are we able to maintain focus? The is not a right or wrong answer, simple our sadhana (practice) is what matters. Some days are better than others. Some (many) days not so good. That is the nature of our imperfection, though we may choose to place blame outwardly.

So, what is the loving thing to do? What is Love? Where am I today in my trying to understand the incomprehensible? I do not understand intellectually anything more than when I was 6 in my dad’s study. Although, I know my heart has experience the incomprehensible through practice and perseverance. My heart has been graced with experiences of Love, as I know we all have. To keep those loving feelings present it takes perseverance, patience, discipline, remembrance, and know there is not an only way or only one time. It took me 40 years of experiences to view Love as a daily action, rather than the misconceived romantic ideal.

Yoga means connection, is the path of search for the purpose of our physical experience, our body as a temple of our spirit, the temple or instrument to find Love, Divine Love.

Organic is Better!

 Although eating conventionally grown fruits and vegetables is better than skipping fruits and vegetables altogether, it is important to minimize your exposure to the pesticides contained in conventionally grown foods as much as possible for good health. Pesticides pose various health dangers and have been linked to nervous system toxicity, cancer, hormone system effects, and skin, eye and lung irritation. Conventional farming methods are also damaging to our environment and local economies. By consuming organic fruits and vegetables, you improve your health and support more sustainable farming practices.

 How to Obtain Organic Produce

 There are several ways to obtain organic produce. You can of course continue shopping at your  grocery store or go

“When we support organic farming, our dollar supports a cause that is sustainable, healthy, and loving.”

 to Whole Foods and purchase organic foods there, but perhaps the price tags scare you away. The Environmental Working Group has created a guide that currently lists 49 items ranked from least contaminated to most contaminated. Simply by eating the least contaminated conventional produce and avoiding the twelve most contaminated fruits and vegetables or replacing them with the organic option, you can lower your pesticide consumption by nearly 80% and hopefully keep your grocery bill in check.  The twelve most contaminated conventionally grown items to be avoided from most to least contaminated are: 

  • Celery
  • Peaches
  • Strawberries
  • Apples
  • Blueberries (Domestic)
  • Nectarines
  • Sweet bell peppers
  • Spinach
  • Cherries
  • Kale/collard greens
  • Potatoes
  • Grapes (Imported)

 You can access the full list here: http://www.foodnews.org/fulllist.php.

 Another option is to grow some of your own produce. If you’ve got the space and enjoy gardening, this could be a good way to go. However, it will require some research and materials and an upfront cost to get started. Of course, you’d be saving quite a bit over the long run as a packet of seeds costs about two dollars and will yield more than the one pound you’ll get at the store for the same price.

 A co-operative, on the other hand, leaves the farming to others while you sit back and enjoy abundant amounts of organic produce. A co-operative is a community effort that supplies local and organic produce at wholesale prices. Rawfully Organic Co-op, a non-profit, is one such example. Rawfully Organic Co-op “[supports] a raw food lifestyle, our local farmers, and our local economy!” By purchasing either a half-share ($47) or a full-share ($87) on their website, you receive a huge enough amount to last you and your household at least a week, depending on your consumption and size of household.

 Another co-op in Houston is Central City Co-op. This co-op offers a variety in sizes of produce shares  that are less expensive than Rawfully Organic; however, membership is required (there are different levels of membership, some costing more than others, and you can also volunteer in exchange for membership). I recommend asking around and doing some research on the co-ops in your area.

Conclusion

 Yes, please skip the chocolate sprinkle donut and extra-butter microwave popcorn (I don’t care if it’s whole grain) for the conventional apple if you need to, but hopefully you can start introducing more and more organic foods into your diet using the methods discussed above.

As stated by Rawfully Organic Co-op, “When we support organic farming, our dollar supports a cause that is sustainable, healthy, and loving.” Go organic and achieve good health while being kind to the environment.

– Roma Singh

Sources:

http://www.foodnews.org/

http://rawfullyorganic.com/index.php

http://www.centralcityco-op.com/

From murky waters, not of murky waters

The Lotus flower is the national flower of India, as mystical as it is beautiful. Many consider this flower to be sacred, however, beyond sacred it is a powerful metaphor. The lotus can be a symbol of beauty and purity, and Divine Energy, with mesmerizing presence, anyone gets absorbed by it.

It is impossible not to evoke emotions of softness and peacefulness when looking at a lotus flower. The flower grows usually in murky ponds. One of the unique characteristics of this flower making it different from the water lilies, is that the lotus leaves grows above the water surface. The leaves of the lotus are called emergent leaves. Truly a lesson in itself.

We constantly talk in yoga about the invasion of the world around us into the world inside of us. Many times, I know I struggle with the pull and the “distractions” of the senses. It is not easy for me to maintain that constant focus in my internal remembrance of the Divine Love. Yoga also teaches us that we have seven centers of energy called chakras. These start from the tailbone area, go through the heart, the middle chakra, and finish with the crown chakra at the top of our head. The crown chakra is symbolized a lotus flower of one thousand petals.

It is comforting to think of the lotus flower to help find and maintain that balance in our lives. The flower grows, emerges, feeds, and lives of the murky water. Eventually, a beautiful delicate water emerges, with such splendor, and from an unsuspected origin. In the same way, our energy rises up, through our spine, from the lower chakras to the higher chakras, ending in the crown chakra, with the desire of the ultimate realization, God Realization.

The lesson seems simple, though no easy. We have a body, the senses, the external world, to help us. it is our job to emerge, and rise above. Our intent might be to live like the lotus flower, coming from the world, but not of the world. Our meditations may be guided by the image of a lotus flower. The soft colors, the beautiful petals, the impressive flower that opens searching, looking upwards, for that Divine Love. Its beauty does not come from the flower itself, but from its intent – reach above, humbly.

Inspiration by the kindness of her heart!We seldom take the time to celebrate our successes. We mostly are concerned with our challenges and difficulties. Indeed our challenges are the experiences that make us grow; however, there is always to time to celebrate.

This time we are celebrating our dear yogini friend, Evalyn. She and her company have been featured in the front page of the Houston Business Journal (read entire article). Our dear Evalyn’s sacrifice and effort in her company and capacity to motivate her staff has paid off. She has been nominated for the third year in one of the fastest growing businesses in Houston. This year she and her company are within the 81 fastest growing companies in Houston for 2010.

We do have the responsibility to live in compassion of each other. We seldom stop and think how the pain, the suffering of one is the suffering of all.  Even more rare is the ocassion when we think about the happiness of one is the happiness of all. This is truly how we feel about Evalyn. She is such a special individual who shows that capacity and focus in the depth but softness of her yoga practice. Evalyn brings so much love and sincerity to her yoga practice that is inspiring to all of us!

We do celebrate Evalyn successes as they are also ours!

Congratulations Evalyn!

This is a post that was meant to happen a long time ago. The Devanand Yoga Center, although you might be tired of hearing about how wonderful it is, well, it is more than that – it is magical. It is magical because it brings so many people, ideas, hearts, souls together – in a constant act of giving.

There is no secret that economic times are affecting us all, and the yoga world is no exception. When encounter with this challenges in the almost 2 decades of existence in Houston, the yoga center has always found its way. However, the circumstances are not less magical every time. There have been many incredible people that believe in us and what we do.  Our members have reacted in some incredible ways, in all different expresions of support.

There have been immediate reactions of people providing their payments on our automatic paypal account. Many of you, regardless of the frequency of attendance, have decided to pay their monthly fee. Others, knowing that our rent increased, immediately offered to add on to their monthly fee the difference to cover the increase. Furthermore, one dear friend of the center offered to place the electric bill of the center in her credit card, thus alleviating the burden of this bill.

And it is not all monetarily. Many volunteer to input data in our database, bring water bottles as a donation. Others choose to bring votive candles and incense. There are members that offer their time and effort to recycle. Of course, I have to mention the ones that come to vacuum and clean the center so it is neat and organized in time for class. Most just come and are practice what they learn, to undertand that the happiness of one is the happiness of all. 

It is the loving actions of our members that makes this place so incredibly special. It is truly not about one person, or one or two people, it is all of us that makes this place a solace for the soul. It is the energy of the individuals and desire to open their hearts that makes our center so unique. It is you, that makes the difference in everyone’s lives.

The Devanand Yoga Center could not exist if we did not have that special spiritual energy that unites us. It is through us that we make it manifest.

Namaste!

We want to promote healthy and conscious eating. In our last vegetarian class many of us contributed with some recipe. This was Sabrina’s raw food contribution.

As you know, the moment we cooked foods, they lose their very sensitive enzymes and many times nutrients. So they more alive these foods are, the higher their nutritional value and energy.

 This is all about bringing the highest energy into our diets. Enjoy something fresh for the warm days are coming…!

Ingredients

4 broccoli stems, washed and peeled

6 inch long piece of daikon radish, peeled

2 kiwis, peeled and dicedbroccoli-slaw

2 large carrots, peeled

2 cloves garlic, minced

½ bunch green onions, chopped

2 tbsp pine nuts, toasted

¼ tsp. ground black pepper

2 tbsp water

Black sesame seeds

 Directions: Coarsely grate broccoli stems, daikon radish, and carrots and put in a bowl. Add green onions, kiwis, pine nuts, garlic, salt, pepper, and water to bowl and toss together. Adjust seasoning to taste, and transfer to serving bowl. Garnish with black sesame seeds.

Today’s Classes
  • 6:30 pm - Mantra Chanting
  • 7:00 pm - Hatha Yoga
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