Thursday, October 28, 2010

Full Autumn Splendor: meditation

Breathe deeply, be outside as much as you can. Close your eyes, let go of expectations & time & FEEL each breath. Let go of bodily & mental tension, feel the aliveness in your body & in all things. When you are present & free of the constraints of physcological time, you are fully alive and one with all life.
Breathe deeply, smile gently from your heart.

Monday, October 25, 2010

the amazing process of Hatha Yoga

Hatha yoga is the beginning of yoga. The practice of hatha yoga techniques purify, prepare and transform the mind & body for the deeper spiritual journey to enlightenment.
These practices are physical and spiritual, but not religious. They are universal and meant to serve all people, everywhere on their path to manifesting their highest and deepest potential as human beings.
It is said that it takes 12 years of very regular hatha yoga practice to fully cleanse, balance & prepare the mind and body for deeper meditation and a vast expansion of the awareness.
Scientists say that we use 10% of our brains. The other 90% remains dormant. It is alongs these lines that we refer to as "reaching our highest potential", awakening & utilizing the 90% of our mind that lies dormant.
The practice of yoga asanas (poses) is the most common hatha technique taught and practiced outside of India. Other important practices are shatkarmas (cleansing actions), pranayama (breathing techniques to control prana or lifeforce), bandhas (muscular locks or contractions) and mudras (gestures).
Hatha yoga is not like taking an aerobics class, where it has little to nothing to do with the rest of your life. Hatha yoga is a lifestyle practice. It is a conscious journey through life. There is a goal, but each moment is equally important. The journey itself is the goal.
Since to practice hatha yoga is a cleansing process, it is prescribed that one that takes spiritual progress seriously must eat only a pure diet. The way that is interpreted in natural yoga is as a whole food, herbiverous diet. Traditionally it is a simple, plain vegetarian diet that includes dairy. It is important in our times to omit all animal product. Literally billions of animals suffer, and 1X billion are killed every year for American consumption. Egg laying hens & dairy cows in factory farms suffer egregiously, and their male offspring suffer particularly heinous treatment. Supporting that suffering with patronage and ingesting the products from that evil industry creates negative energy, bad karma, and adds more toxins to the body. It inhibits spiritual progress.
Besides a cleansing diet, shatkarmas, or cleansing exercises are recommended. Particulary, jala neti & kapalabhati are well-suited to Americans, and are recomended as part of natural yoga.
Jala neti is becoming more mainstream nowadays. It is an ancient practice of nasal irrigation with salt water. A small ceramic (or plastic) pot, called a neti pot, is used. These can be found at most healthfood stores & some pharmacies.
Kapalabhati is one of the shatkarmas, but it is also a breathing technique for the control of energy (pranayama). It is a cleansing, stimulating breathing technique. It uses alternating rounds of breath retention and forceful exhalation. It is one of the breathing techniques regularly offered in natural yoga.
Other pranayamas exist, in fact there are numerous yogic breathing techniques. Most used in natural yoga are alternate nostril breathing (anuloma viloma & nadi shodhana) and kapalabhati. In addition, and perhaps most importantly, deep rhythmic diaphramic breathing is utilized throughout classes. The slow & even inhalations & exhalations are harmonizing, and physiologically relaxing.
Asana practice at the right exertion is crucial. It cleanses, harmonizes, strengthens, and makes the body flexible. It tones muscles, organs and glands, increasing health. It helps to calm the mind as well, by relaxing the body. Some people are very tense & active and thus need very gentle releasing practices. Some people are very active and need to exert themselves deeply before they can relax. Moderate practice serves both active and placid people. All of the various poses have individual and sequential benefits.
A daily full practice of an hour is most beneficial, although any practice is better than none. Doing one to two classes each week is highly recommended, and adding 15-90 minute home practices on the other days is ideal. Asanas are amazing for really calming the mind while bringing the body into a state of deep wellness. They uncover inner peace and help the yogi to reflect it outwardly.
Bandhas, or locks, are used to direct & hold energy. We mainly emphasize uddhiyana bandha, the drawing of the navel inward towards he spine. It is crucial in stabilizing and realigning the spine and to increase vital energy.
Mudras are used in natural yoga classes less so, but in a few key places. The palms together (anjali mudra/prayer position) symbolizes yoga (union), equanimity. Whenever we bring the thumb & index fingertips together, it symbolizes the union of our individual energy with the whole of the universe. We are never seperate from the universe, but we tend to act like we are, causing ourself & others to suffer. Jnana mudra reminds us of that powerful truth.
It is quite a comitment to embrace a true hatha yoga practice. Yet the transformative & inspirational results are amazing. It is said that a yogi should keep his or her realizations & experiences secret. That is because they are deep and personal peak experiences to which words can do no justice. Yoga truly does unlock a level of awareness in us that frees us to go deeper & deeper into each moment in life.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

The Real Meaning of Yoga

Yoga is a deep and winding topic. It is a science of reaching the fullest potential and meaning of life. Along that path, the body & mind are both transformed into ideal health and harmony.
In America, the mainstream focus is purely on the effect of yoga on the body for exercise, flexibility & relaxation. The deeper meaning doesn't penetrate the thick shell of our hallow material culture.
There are many modern & traditional schools of yoga. There are lots of terms that are becoming yoga jargon that is widely used and not always clearly understood.
First of all, yoga is not meant to be used as an occaisional workout, a one hour break from a harmful lifestyle, or conforming to a particular image to identify oneself.
Yoga classes can be used for the myriad health benefits they provide. This is part of a much deep and more longterm practice.
Yoga classes in America fall under the heading of "hatha yoga". Hatha means sun and moon, & it implies the goal of union (yoga) and harmonizing of opposite energies. It is a practice of yoga designed to balance, purify and prepare the mind & body for the higher vibrational energies unleashed in more advanced yoga practices. This preparation is said to take twelve years.
Hatha techniques include poses, breathing techniques, locks, gestures, cleansing exercises & pure eating habits. In American yoga, only poses are offered widespread. Some teachers do offer a more rich sampling of breathing practices, gestures, and locks too. Although these practices are clearly meant to be part of a lifestyle and not random or intermittant practices, that is generally how they are offered & received.
After 12 or so years of hatha yoga practice, the aspirant is said to be ready to practice a "higher" path of yoga- a path that takes one deeper inside to explore the ground & meaning of life through firsthand experience. These paths traditionally are raja (scientific path) or jnana (scriptural study & meditation) yoga, but could be deep exploration of the true meaning of one's own religion as well. It could be an open, spiritual surrender to the present moment. It could be deep practice of ecstatic devotion to the divine (bhakti yoga). It could be serving the divine by serving others, seeing the Source of life everywhere and in everyone & everything (karma yoga). Truly there as many paths as there are beings on earth.
The ultimate goal of yoga is the realization of our fullest potential- full liberation from subjectivity, full union with each Present Moment, true reflection of the nature of our Source (love, truth, generosity, compassion). It is the activation of the other 90% of our brain (scientists say that we only actually use 10% of our brain capacity). It is creative, wise, knowingly interconnected humanity. That is enlightenment. It is the cessation of the false-self/ego and the mistaken mirage of separation. We life from a state of yoga, oneness with all life.
That is the ultimate goal of yoga.
The heathy, toned, flexible, youthful, disease-free body is a side-effect of the practices leading to that goal. The relaxation, inner peace, creativity, focus and mental clarity too are just benefits of the path to union.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

The future of our yoga community is very bright...

I am delighted to share with you all my vision of the future for our little yoga studio! It is bigger & more beautiful then I would have ever envisioned four years ago at its start. The ultimate unfolding of this plan will be subject to the evolution of the universe, as are all things.

We are going to acquire one of Amsterdam's empty homes, and bring it back to life through volunteer service. If we become a non-profit as I am almost positive we will, then all of the donated time, labor & materials will be tax deductale, as allowed by law.

The result will be a clean, simple, spacious sanctuary. The total contents are subject to the actual building we acquire, but the fundamental layout will contain: a large main studio, a children's studio, a small reception area, and a lounge area for reading, studying & relaxing. I intend on allowing use of the kitchen for folks to fix themselves a cup of tea, etc.

Besides offering an expanded schedule of yoga classes, I aim to offer a children's yoga program, art & music classes. I also want to build a strong sense of community. We will achieve this through hosting various groups or clubs ( a universal spiritual meditation group, a vegan group, a hiking club, a women's empowerment group...) and offering a large bulletin board space listing local opportunities for service, offerings of services such as tutoring, service travel opportunities worldwide and various workshops & studies for personal growth.

Our mission would be to share enlightening services with children & adults regardless of income, helping to share the power of present moment awareness through yoga, meditation, nature, art, music, learning, listening, movement & community service.

We would create positive, open-minded & compassionate community through our offerings, by hosting groups & by helping people to make friends through coming together for service, learning & sharing.

Other ideas would include the possibility of bedrooms for retreats & a special small space for private lessons. We may sell some basic eco-friendly and yoga products. It would be a dream down the road to offer a small vegan cafe as well! From the start I'd like to offer a weekly vegan soup kitchen or at least a once-monthly community vegan meal.

We will keep things simple staff wise, but we may in time employ 2 part-time receptionists, a person in charge of maintanence, and if the vegan cafe manifests, 4 or so cafe employees (at about 32 hrs each every week). This is not to mention myself, and 2-4 'independent contractors' to teach the children's classes & full schedule of yoga & meditation classes.

If you've read this much, I hope you are really excited! Please let me know your feelings, feedback, suggestions & requests! Also, I offer you the chance to help name this yoga, community & children's center.

Name ideas we like so far:

yoga, community & children's center

namaste center for mindfulness

one breath
yoga, community & children's center

one sky
yoga, community & children's center

the giving tree
yoga, community & children's center
(if I can get permission to use that name, I really love it & its a beautiful children's book by Shel Silverstein)

blissful nature
yoga, community & children's center

As always, your feedback is so valuable. This won't be a community center without community!

Be excited, and work towards future goals, but stay present as you do... That is our mindset.

If you have any services that you can add to this idea and you want to be a part of our community in that capacity, let me know!

If you know any yoga teachers that may want to be part of a growing studio, let them know!

Suggest that your friends Like us on facebook.

Commit to one class each week, maybe with a group of friends.

Let's not let habitual pessimism about what "can or can't exist in Amsterdam" get in our way. I believe it is up to each of us to create the kind of community we wish to see, here & now. We need to manifest it, not just imagine it. Join us as we embark on the next leg of our journey!


Friday, October 15, 2010

Vegan Autumn Treats- Family Favorites ;) (c/o

Sticky popcorn balls and gooey caramel apples: two classic treats that declare fall and Halloween are here. Typically, these delights are loaded with corn syrup, sugar, and/or butter. For a healthier alternative with a similar taste, experiment with the following recipes.
Vegan Popcorn Balls
Yields 12 balls
1/2 cup organic popcorn kernels
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 cup organic maple syrup
1/2 cup barley malt syrup
1 cup cold water, to prevent sticky hands
1. Pop popcorn, per instructions on package and place in a large bowl.
2. Mix maple and barley malt syrups in a small sauce pan, and bring to a boil.
3. Lower heat to medium-low, and stir constantly for 5-6 minutes.
4. Pour the hot syrup over the popcorn and mix thoroughly.
5. Slightly moisten your hands with cold water, and form balls by firmly packing the mixture in your hands. Be sure to moisten your hands before making each ball.
6. Place balls in a covered container or wrap in wax paper, then freeze until the syrup hardens.
Vegan Caramel Sauce with Apples
Yields 1 cup of sauce
1 cup of vanilla soy milk
3/4 cup brown rice syrup
1/3 cup maple syrup
3 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons arrowroot powder
1 tablespoon vegan margarine (A brand like Earth Balance has no hydrogenated oils, contains no GMO’s, and is gluten-free.)
2 tsp vanilla extract
Sliced apples
1. Combine soy milk, brown rice and maple syrups in a saucepan over medium heat until boiling (about 10 minutes.) Whisk continuously to prevent sticking.
2. Mix water and arrowroot in a small bowl.
3. When the boiling mixture lightly coats the back of a spoon, add the mixed water and arrowroot. Cook for 2 more minutes, whisking continuously.
4. Remove from heat and stir in vegan margarine and vanilla extract.
5. Cool and drizzle over apple slices.

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Thursday, October 7, 2010

New York Celebration FOR the Turkeys

Celebration FOR the Turkeys

New York Shelter ∙ Watkins Glen, NY ∙ November 20, 2010

Join us for the
Celebration FOR the Turkeys
A compassionate holiday benefit for our feathered friends

Begin your day at Farm Sanctuary’s New York Shelter in Watkins Glen with our beloved Feeding of the Turkeys Ceremony, where you can help feed our turkey friends all their fall favorites: stuffed squash, cranberries and pumpkin pie! You can also visit the other sanctuary residents at the New York Shelter, including the cows, pigs, sheep, and goats.

After shelter time, you and our other guests will gather at the beautiful Harbor Hotel overlooking Seneca Lake in downtown Watkins Glen for the evening portion of our program. Here, you can enjoy a delicious vegan feast, browse the silent auction and hear inspirational talks.

Farm Sanctuary’s charismatic National Shelter Director Susie Coston will delight us all with stories about the sanctuary residents. Check back soon for additional event speakers.

The New York Celebration costs $50 per person and includes the catered holiday feast. Reserve your spot today! You can also make a reservation by calling 607-583-2225 ext. 221.

If you are unable to attend the entire event, you are still welcome to attend farm time and the Feeding of the Turkeys Ceremony. Farm Time begins at 1:30 p.m. and the Turkey Feeding Ceremony begins at 2:30 p.m. Cost is $5 for adults and $3 for children 12 and under. Please check in at the People Barn upon arrival.

New York Celebration FOR the Turkeys

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Yoga Birthday Parties!!!!!

Introducing a fun, healthy way to celebrate your little yogi's birthday! And a great way to make it simple for you! Check out the details on our "children" page, on the left sidebar!

T-shirts, nail clippings, pencil shavings, + dryer lint: 75 Things You didn't Know You Could Compost (c/o

By Colleen Vanderlinden, Planet Green
The basics of composting are simple. Most people know they can compost fruit and vegetable peels, leaves, and grass clippings. But what about that tea bag you used this morning? Or the fur that collects in the brush when you groom your cat?
The following list is meant to get you thinking about your compost possibilities. Not every item on the list is for everyone, and that’s fine. Imagine how much trash we could prevent from going into the landfills if each of us just decided to compost a few more things. Here are 75 ideas to get you started.

From the Kitchen

  1. Coffee grounds and filters
  2. Tea bags
  3. Used paper napkins
  4. Pizza boxes, ripped into smaller pieces
  5. Paper bags, either ripped or balled up
  6. The crumbs you sweep off of the counters and floors
  7. Plain cooked pasta
  8. Plain cooked rice
  9. Stale bread
  10. Paper towel rolls
  11. Stale saltine crackers
  12. Stale cereal
  13. Used paper plates (as long as they don’t have a waxy coating)
  14. Cellophane bags (be sure it’s really Cellophane and not just clear plastic—there’s a difference.)
  15. Nut shells (except for walnut shells, which can be toxic to plants)
  16. Old herbs and spices
  17. Stale pretzels
  18. Pizza crusts
  19. Cereal boxes (tear them into smaller pieces first)
  20. Wine corks
  21. Moldy cheese
  22. Melted ice cream
  23. Old jelly, jam, or preserves
  24. Stale beer and wine
  25. Paper egg cartons
  26. Toothpicks
  27. Bamboo skewers
  28. Paper cupcake or muffin cups

From the Bathroom

  1. Used facial tissues
  2. Hair from your hairbrush
  3. Toilet paper rolls
  4. Old loofahs
  5. Nail clippings
  6. Urine
  7. 100% cotton cotton balls
  8. Cotton swabs made from 100% cotton and cardboard (not plastic) sticks

Personal Items

It might be a good idea to bury these items in your pile. Just sayin’.
  1. Cardboard tampon applicators
  2. Latex condoms

From the Laundry Room

  1. Dryer lint
  2. Old/stained cotton clothing—rip or cut it into smaller pieces
  3. Old wool clothing—rip or cut it into smaller pieces

From the Office

  1. Bills and other documents you’ve shredded
  2. Envelopes (minus the plastic window)
  3. Pencil shavings
  4. Sticky notes
  5. Business cards (as long as they’re not glossy)
  6. Receipts

Around the House

  1. Contents of your vacuum cleaner bag or canister
  2. Newspapers (shredded or torn into smaller pieces)
  3. Subscription cards from magazines
  4. Leaves trimmed from houseplants
  5. Dead houseplants and their soil
  6. Flowers from floral arrangements
  7. Natural potpourri
  8. Used matches
  9. Ashes from the fireplace, barbecue grill, or outdoor fire pit

Party and Holiday Supplies

  1. Wrapping paper rolls
  2. Paper table cloths
  3. Crepe paper streamers
  4. Latex balloons
  5. Raffia
  6. Excelsior
  7. Jack o’ Lanterns
  8. Those hay bales you used as part of your outdoor fall decor
  9. Natural holiday wreaths
  10. Your Christmas tree. Chop it up with some pruners first (or use a wood chipper, if you have one…)
  11. Evergreen garlands


  1. Fur from the dog or cat brush
  2. Droppings and bedding from your rabbit/gerbil/hamsters, etc.
  3. Newspaper/droppings from the bottom of the bird cage
  4. Feathers
  5. Alfalfa hay or pellets (usually fed to rabbits)
  6. Rawhide dog chews
  7. Fish food
  8. Dry dog or cat food
I know that the longer I’ve had a compost pile, the more likely I’ve been to take a second look at something I was preparing to throw in the trash. “Hmm. Can I compost this?” is a frequent question in my house. And, as you can see, it’s surprising how often you can answer “Yes!”

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Saturday, October 2, 2010


Celebrating our 5th Walk For Farm Animals + 4th anniversary, we are offering you a challenge...
A challenge is an opportunity for growth. This challenge is an opportunity to detoxify your body & mind, to lose weight, heal your body, spare animals from terrible suffering and maybe change your life!
Our Compassion Challenge is to go vegan for 1 month. You could go vegan for one day, one meal, or one week too. But after 2 weeks, you'll crave less junk, you'll begin to cleanse, lose unwanted weight, feel lighter and healthier. One month will give you a fresh start in life. Why go back to a diet of unhealthy, addictive, toxin-filled, cruelty-ridden food?
There is a resource on our website to help you understand why, what & how to eat a whole-food plant-based diet and feel great- mind, body & heart. Visit it at .

We'd love to hear your stories, how you feel, what you experience during the challenge. Reading "The China Study" by T. Colin Campbell will help inspire you! Let this month be a spiritual journey into deeper truth & compassion. View Earthlings or read Meat Market by Erik Marcus to understand the truth of what we support when we buy meat, milk, eggs (& wool, leather..).
I deeply hope that you'll rise to the challenge. Let it open your heart, improve your health & deepen your peace!