Sunday, December 23, 2012

Let Your Yoga Dance!

If you have ever visited the Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health in the Berkshires, you know how fabulous and fun their movement classes are. Even if you have not actually participated in any of their world-renown dance classes, you have no doubt heard lots of wild hootin' and hollerin' and funky, evocative music wafting down the hallways from the main chapel every day at the noon hour. These classes have been a tradition at Kripalu for a decades. Originally called Dance Kinetics, these movement experiences were started by Megha Nancy Buttenheim, one of Kripalu's senior yoga instructors and a professional dancer. In later years, the name of the program was changed to Kripalu Yoga Dance. Eventually, other teachers began trademarking their own version of these dance classes--Journey Dance, Shake Your Soul, and more. In 2010 Megha trademarked the name "Let Your Yoga Dance" and has been training teachers all over the world to teach this uplifting and inspirational movement modality.

I recently completed my Let Your Yoga Dance teacher training, and I am very excited to beginning offering classes right here in Ithaca, New York! For the months of January and February I will be leading Let Your Yoga Dance at Island Fitness Community Corners, on alternate Thursdays, 11:15-12:15. It is FREE for members, and non members are welcome with an $11 day pass ($5.50 for downtown IHF members)

Let Your Yoga Dance® is a joy-filled fusion of gentle Kripalu yoga and user-friendly dance that is appropriate for all levels of fitness. In this inspiring and uplifting journey through the 7 chakras, or energy centers, we use breath, movement, and eclectic music to explore the multi-dimensional self. You do NOT need any previous yoga or dance experience to participate in this class. You only have to enjoy moving your body to great music from around the world, for fun, exercise, healing, and self-expression. Let Your Yoga Dance® is a total conditioning of body, heart, and soul!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

One Billion OMs for Peace

Any of us who’ve been around for a few decades have been told about special moments in time when the Earth is believed to be experiencing a powerful shift, creating a collective raising in consciousness, an awakening of humanity, or perhaps an apocalyptic prophesy. In the 60’s we heard about the dawning of the Age of Aquarius. In the 80’s there was the Harmonic Convergence. In 2000 we had the foreboding Y2K.

Now we are approaching the end of the Mayan Calendar, which will happen on this coming winter solstice, December 21, 2012.  Many are seeing this as the ending of life on the planet as we know it, and at the same time, the birth of a new era of consciousness.

Whether you believe this is true or new age hogwash, 12/21/12 gives us an opportunity to reflect upon what we want to let go of, and what we want to give birth to in ourselves.  Think about it as New Year’s Day expanded to exponential power, or like all your birthdays all rolled into one! Winter solstice on steroids!

But, even if December 22nd ends up being like every other day, we can usher in a shift in ourselves. As Mahatma Ghandi reminded us, it is our responsibility to be the change we want to see in the world. So we begin by setting intentions and making it a personal practice to live into them, one day at a time. The shift begins within.

I heard the following joke the other day:

Q: What will happen on Dec 22nd 2012?
A: There’ll be a bunch of Mayans frantically running around doing their Christmas shopping.

Okay, forgive me for digressing…

As part of a global movement honoring this auspicious time, you are invited to participate in OneBillion OMs for Peace, on December 22nd, at 12PM India Standard Time (that’s 1:30 AM Eastern Standard Time) for three minutes of continuous chanting this powerful mantra.  Imagine the power of one billion people (that’s one seventh of the earth’s population!) joining hearts, minds and voices simultaneously, with shared intention for peace and healing for our planet.

Even if it ends up being just a smattering of individuals in around the globe, it’s a beautiful and simple way to affirm your own intentions for this new era, and to proclaim your commitment to “being the change.” For three minutes, let’s raise the vibration of ourselves and our planet, and see what happens!

To learn more about why we chant OM, click here. To find out more about One Billion OMs, visit

Thursday, October 11, 2012

The Healing Power of Yoga

I wanted to share with you a letter that came from a colleague of mine. Lindsay is a Kripalu Yoga teacher from Ontario, Canada. She recently suffered a serious injury, and she has written a moving account of how she is using her yoga to help move through the trauma. Her letter below describes how she is living her yoga beyond the mat and tapping into its immense power to heal. Here's her account of her healing journey:

Hello my dear yogis,

I wanted to reach out to you all and share a story that I hope will inspire you and remind you about the importance of yoga in our lives. I have been putting off writing this until I had more information and until I was able to come to terms with the fact that “I am where I am” and  “It is what it is”. Two of my favourite mantras.

Last Sunday night I was rushed to the hospital after the bottom of a hot water bottle gave out and spilled boiling water over my leg, hip, thigh and groin area. I have a combination of second and third degree burns that are extremely painful and will take some time to heal. By far the most excruciating pain I have ever experienced. I just screamed and screamed until I got to the hospital and was put on morphine. It felt like my leg was boiling and bubbling and felt like it was going to melt off, it looked like melted plastic was poured over it and within minutes it was all blistered. The human body is SO amazing though how it just knows what to do to respond and protect.

I am unable to walk or move unassisted and I have been back and forth from the hospital every day so that the doctors can monitor the burn and change the dressing. It is pretty bad. The good news is that they say I should heal nicely with minimal scarring or nerve damage but the bad news is that they told me “no yoga” for a few months.

When I heard “no yoga” I was devastated! The thought of not being able to practice yoga or teach yoga for months was just heartbreaking. Immediately my inner drama queen came out to react to those words “No Yoga!” Gasp! (Throws forearm to forehead)  But then I took a deep breath and realized how ridiculous that statement was. “No yoga”, hah! Yeah sure…

I have been practicing yoga every day since the accident against the doctors orders.

If it weren’t for deep Dirgha and Ujjayi breathing I probably wouldn’t have made it to the hospital without hyperventilating and passing out from the intense pain and shock. My Pranayama practice is not only what helped me stay relaxed and calm when I was trying to explain to the doctors and nurses what happened that night but it has been helping me with managing my pain on a daily basis as I use my breath to channel healing energy in my body and remain relaxed, calm, centered and present.  With every exhalation I try my best to let go of what happened, accept what is and just be in the here and now.

It isn’t easy staying positive when something like this happens. Especially when I am unable to move, I'm stuck on the couch and have lots of time to replay the scene over and over in my head. I cannot stop looking at the pictures I took of my wound either, it is as if I want to go back and re-live that horrible event. Why?!?! I do not recognize my own leg... I just stare at the pictures and ask myself "WHAT IS IT!?!?!"( lol ), doing Samyama* meditation on a wound like that is by far the most interesting and amazing thing, after all, I am the most interesting and amazing person I have ever met. ;)

 It is very easy to sink into a space of depression and have “pity parties” for myself every day. And since I do not want to be the only one at my pity party I try to invite all my family and friends! Trust me, I have been there this week! But when I stop, breathe and take the seat of the witness consciousness and just observe myself from a place of love and compassion and understanding and non-judgment, I give myself permission to fully feel every emotion that arises and be fully present with all of it (thank you Kripalu yoga!). I allow myself to feel sad or sorry for a little while, and then I allow myself to feel joy and gratitude. There is so much to be grateful for. I am surrounded by friends and family, love and support, flowers and cards and can just feel the love all around me.

 As I surf through this experience and ride the waves of emotion I know that this experience, just like this life, is going to be full of ups and downs and these ups and downs always have a lesson and a bigger divine reason. 

If you have ever been to my class before you most likely have heard me talking about yoga being like life. There will be situations or times in life that are hard, painful, unpleasant and challenging, and there will be times in life that are joyful, pleasant, easy and fun.  Just like in an asana class there will be postures that are easy to be in and sustain and postures that are really challenging. It is all about how you choose respond to the situation that will determine whether or not you will suffer through the experience or grow from the experience. I choose to learn and grow. What a beautiful opportunity for me to practice yoga off the mat. After all, life IS our yoga mat.

My meditation and pranayama practice has helped me stay positive this week and will continue to help me stay positive through the healing process.

I am not positive 100% of the time, I am human, but for the most part practicing meditation has helped me calm my mind, clear away the clutter, the drama and the stories that want to build up. It is helping me dive inward so I can become aware of what my body is telling me and really take care of myself so I can heal.  The pain medication the doctors gave me has been making me extremely nauseous so deciding whether or not I want to feel the pain or be sick are not fun choices to make.  When I get quiet and listen to my body, I learn that Nadi Shodhana (alternate nostril breathing) helps to relieve feelings of nausea and that visualizing healing white light moving through my body, especially around my leg makes my skin feel like it is healing and brings me peace. Meditations on gratitude remind me that I am surrounded by love and support and that I already have everything that I need. In this moment I am exactly where I need to be and I trust the process. I am okay.

So no, I am not doing downward dog or cobra pose, and I am definitely not sweating in a power flow class but I am absolutely practicing yoga.  When I try to do something as simple as putting on my slippers or sitting down on the couch, it might take me 10 minutes to do, I explore micro-movements, the use of props and posture variations until I settle into a position that is comfortable for me. I am practicing yoga. I am taking my time and breathing as I carefully explore movement. There is absolutely no space for ego or self-judgment,  as this is a very personal practice. I am re-learning how my body moves, I am discovering my limitations and my strengths.  I am being SO curious about who I am because the body I am living in now is not the same body that taught the power vinyasa class last Sunday morning before the accident.  I have had experiences, trauma and emotional turbulence that have imprinted me. Changed me. How interesting! Let me explore that.

I walk with a limp and need a cane to get around. I have trouble sitting down and standing up on my own and basic self care routines take me 5 times as long as they once did. I feel excruciating pain every time my leg is touched or my bandages are changed and I am going to need to practice patience as I take time to heal.

I will not be able to physically teach yoga classes for a while and I will not be getting into downward dog pose any time soon but I am practicing yoga off the mat and through this beautiful practice of connecting mind and body I will heal.

Although I am in a lot of pain, I am staying positive and trusting the healing process. I just have to be patient. I know that there is definitely a reason this happened and a massive universal message being sent. I think I am getting it.  I have been blessed with this beautiful opportunity to practice all that I preach and teach and I am really understanding what it means to embody the yogic lifestyle and mindset. Aside from the physical limb* of yoga, having an actual "limb" out of commission has me exploring the practice of yoga on levels that I have not yet found words to describe. After years of exploring my body and developing my self awareness, it as if everything I knew has been wiped away and I am rediscovering myself on whole new levels. Before last Sunday I used to challenge myself physically all the time, but now I am being challenged mentally, emotionally and spiritually and from this experience I know that I will be a better yoga teacher and a stronger person.

Love and light,

*samyama: joining together the practices of concentration, meditation, and absorption,  focusing unwavering attention on an object or quality of being.

*a reference to Patajali’s 8 limbs of yoga, which include codes of conduct, postures, breathing exercises, and meditative practices.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Krishna Das is coming to Ithaca!

If you want to delve into the deeper practices of yoga, beyond postures on the mat, I highly recommend attending the Heart of Devotion workshop  with Krishna Das this fall (October 12-14th at the Hangar Theater). KD  is a world-renowned chant leader, and also shares fascinating stories about his travels in India and his life-transforming relationship with his Guru, Neem Karoli Baba.  Born Jeffrey Kagel, a Jewish kid from Long Island, he went to India after meeting Ram Das (another famous devotee of Neem Karoli Baba).

This weekend "in-city retreat" is an opportunity to experience the power of Bhakti Yoga, the yoga of love and devotion. KD explains the practice in this way:

"The words of these chants are called the divine names and they come from a place that's deeper than our hearts and our thoughts, deeper than the mind. And so as we sing them they turn us towards ourselves, into ourselves. They bring us in, and as we offer ourselves into the experience, the experience changes us. These chants have no meaning other than the experience that we have by doing them. They come from the Hindu tradition, but it's not about being a Hindu, or believing anything in advance. It's just about doing it, and experiencing. Nothing to join, you just sit down and sing."

For more information about the workshop and to purchase tickets, Click here .  This event is a partial benefit for Village at Ithaca,  whose mission is to advocate for excellence and equity in Ithaca's public schools, with particular concern for the needs of minority and low income students.

Many thanks to Lynne Jackier for organizing this event!

Friday, June 29, 2012

Monday, June 25, 2012

I Envision A Life...

Hello Dear Ones,

Today is my birthday! I feel deeply blessed in so many ways, grateful for my life, for every breath and heartbeat that has brought me to this moment, and for each of the 55 circles around the sun I've turned. It's been a wild ride!

For the past five years I've enjoyed a birthday ritual of reading the vision statement that I created when I turned 50. It was a manifesto of sorts, consisting of affirmations proclaiming what I want the "second half "of my life to be about. Whereas second "half" may be mathematically incorrect, I think the sentiment still holds. I am in a beautifully different phase of life than I was in my youth, and I am committed to living whatever years I have left powerfully, gratefully, and joyfully.

Here is the vision I created that calls me into my wise-woman years. Whatever stage of life you may be in, may it inspire you to embrace your power and your dreams!

I Envision A Life

I envision a life where joy prevails, the joy that is the inherent delight in being alive; the joy that is the natural state of a wide-open heart, independent of outer circumstances.

I envision a life of connection, support, and caring, a life where I am encircled by a community of friends, neighbors, family and pets; a life where there is plenty of time and attention for each another.

I envision a life where, in my most vulnerable, fearful moments, I courageously choose love.

I envision a life joined in a loving spiritual partnership that continues to deepen; a juicy connection that brings out the very best in one another.

I envision a life of beauty, and of standing in awe of that beauty; of living in continual amazement toward this earth and all of Creation.

I envision a life where I am continually falling in Love.

I envision a life where I give myself one hundred percent permission to enjoy myself.

I envision a life filled with work that I love; creativity, authenticity, purpose; a life where I am being a conduit for God’s love.

I envision a life of simplicity, balance, & Presence, where, in the face of distraction and overwhelm, wisdom continually brings me back to What Really Matters.

I envision a life of gratitude, where that gratitude becomes the vessel that holds the mixture of my life, the bitterness and the sweetness; and where my heart’s cup is continually overflowing.

I envision a life filled with inspiration, from music, poetry, Dharma, nature and amazing people; a life where I find my teachers everywhere.

I envision a life surrendered to a power greater than myself.

I envision a life that is a living, breathing prayer.

I envision a life that is comfortable with mystery, a life of taking on the unknown as an adventure, a life where not knowing invites me into the sacred; where the Don’t Know is a juicy place to be; where growth and aliveness comes from stepping out of the comfort zone of having it all figured out.

I envision a life where changes of the body and mind are accepted with grace and dignity, where growing older is welcomed with fascination and wonder; where the inevitable losses and impermanences are met with the deep knowing that who I am is much bigger than all of that.

I envision a life of enoughness, where I see that I have enough, I do enough, and I am enough, and that’s good enough.

I envision a life where there is no longer a use for guilt or shame, toward myself or anyone else; where self-doubt clearly serves no purpose and therefore melts away. The words should, shouldn’t, & shoulda  are gently dropped from my vocabulary and my thinking.

I envision a life of lightness & laughter, where nothing is taken so seriously that I can’t stand in the face of whatever it is and shout WHOOHOO!

I envision a life that is about serving others and about making a difference, so that the footprint I leave on this earth will be just a little more love.

Written June 2007, for my 50th birthday
© 2007 Jody Kessler 

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

The Three Stages of Kripalu Yoga

A student recently wrote to me and expressed how she hopes that her practice, with time, could become less of an attempt to "do" the asanas, and evolve into more of a "complete meshing" of spiritual inquiry and physical expression. Ultimately, our practice has the ability to become that for each of us--through breath, mindfulness, and movement, 

Kripalu Yoga offers a framework of three stages of practice. They are described here as discrete levels, but actually can happen simultanously. Beginners are typically focused on the first stage, while more advanced yogis can integrate all three.

In stage one, we focus on getting the postures into our body--where to put the feet, what muscles to engage, remembering all the alignment cues. We learn how to deepen the breath and coordinate our breathing with movement.  In this stage, it is more of a willful act on the part of the practitioner--"you do yoga." 

In stage two, we begin to connect with imagery and mental awareness that helps us deepen into the practice. We begin to sense the energetic and emotional benefits of the poses. We practice holding the poses for longer periods of time, and in doing so we begin to connect with the various layers of our being, known as the koshas ( which, in brief, include body, breath, mental/emotional, witness consciousness, and bliss). Sustained holding of poses also can facilitate the releasing of long-held emotional blocks that are stored in the body. In this stage, We practice both willfulness and surrender-- "you do yoga and yoga does you."

In stage 3, our yoga practice becomes a moving meditation. We open ourselves up to the flow of prana and let it move us through the postures. We become an open conduit. The asanas become prayer-in-motion, as Spirit's grace is channeled through us. In this stage, we cultivate a sense of surrender -- "yoga does you."

Like most yoga styles and traditions, Kripalu Yoga integrates classic asanas (postures),  pranayama (breathwork), meditative focus, and deep relaxation. What defines Kripalu Yoga is its emphasis: following the flow of prana (life-force energy), practicing compassionate self-acceptance, developing witness consciousness (observing the activity of the mind without judgment), and taking what is learned “off the mat” and into daily life.  

With Kripalu Yoga, students are invited to bring the fruits of practice-concentration, focus, awareness, compassion, intention, clarity, and inner peace-into all aspects of everyday life. Consistent practice creates thriving and the opportunity for extraordinary living.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Yoganonymous Class Time Shift

Hello Dear Yogis,

I've decided to shift the time of our Yoganonymous class to 5:45, ending at 7:00 PM. This slight time change will allow for more people to leave work and make it to class on time. Please note our new flyer!

Friday, March 16, 2012

Asotoma Mantra

Asotoma Sat Gamaya
Tamasoma Jyotir Gamaya
Mrityorma Amritam Gamaya
OM Shanti, Shanti, Shanti

(Brhadaranyaka Upanishad — I.iii.28)

Lead me from the unreal to the real
Lead me from darkness into light
Lead me from the illusion of death, to immortality
May all beings everywhere be at peace.

In my classes at Island and EVI this past week, we opened with this beautiful mantra from the Upanishads. Below is an interpretation of the mantra, with some commentary that I found and edited from the website of Sri Mata Amritanandamayi Devi (aka Amma).

If you want to hear this mantra chanted, singer Deva Premal has several lovely versions, recorded on various CDs, available on iTunes. 

This Vedic prayer is actually three distinct mantras, each of them setting a powerful intention. The final line, OM shanti, shanti shanti, is an affirmation of peace that is often used as a benediction.

In the first mantra, Asotoma Sat Gamaya, the word Sat is often translated as "truth," "existence", or "reality." We often speak of religion or philosophy as a search for Truth. But in India’s philosophy of Advaita Vedanta,  the concept of "truth" has been meticulously and successfully dissected. According to Advaita, for something to be considered true in the ultimate sense, it must be true not just at one given moment, but always be true—true in all three periods of time: the past, present and future. In fact, Advaita goes one step further. It says if something does not exist in all three periods of time that it does not truly exist, it is not ultimately real. Thus, truth, existence and reality are one and the same. That reality, Vedanta says, is what we call God.  Sat is our True Self—the blissful consciousness that ever was, is and ever will be. 

The second mantra—Tamaso Ma Jyotir Gamaya—means "Lead me from darkness to light." When the Vedas refer to darkness and light, they mean ignorance and knowledge, respectfully. This is so because ignorance, like darkness, obscures true understanding. And in the same way that the only remedy for darkness is light, the only remedy for ignorance is knowledge. The knowledge spoken of here is again the knowledge of one’s true nature.

The final mantra—Mrityorma Amritam Gamaya—means: "Lead me from death to immortality." This should not be taken as a prayer to live endless years in heaven or on earth. It is a prayer for assistance in realizing the truth that "I was never born, nor can ever die, as I am not the body, mind and intellect, but the eternal, blissful consciousness that serves as the substratum of all creation."

Friday, March 9, 2012

Spaciousness, Emptiness, & Transcendence

Hello Dear Yogis,

Our classes this past week were inspired by one of my favorite poems by the 13th century Sufi Poet Jelaludin Rumi:

Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing,
there is a field. I'll meet you there.

When the soul lies down in that grass,
the world is too full to talk about.
Ideas, language, even the phrase "each other" doesn't make any sense.

His beautiful words invite us to transcend dualistic thought, beyond our egoic sense of separate self, into the field of spacious awareness. Our lives play out within that expansive, boundaryless field. When we become aware of the field, then all the comings and goings, expansions and contractions, and joys and sorrows of our lives are held in perspective. All the vicissitudes of our lives are recognized, by a spacious mind and heart, as waves upon the vast Ocean of Being.

And, in keeping with that theme of transcendence, we chanted the Prajnaparamita Mantra, which invites us to "cross to the other shore" into Awakening. 

Although the prajnaparamita mantra is a Buddhist mantra and not specifically from the yoga tradition, I find that the teachings of Buddhism and Hinduism, as well as wisdom from the Taoists, Sufis, and more, can complement and enrich the practice of yoga. The great 14th century Christian Mystic Meister Eckhart spoke of God as "a great underground river that cannot be dammed up. " The world's spiritual traditions are wells which all tap into that Source.

May we each access that ever-flowing Divine River and drink deeply of it's power and peace.

The Prajnaparamita Mantra:


 Because Sanskrit is a vibrational language with many layers of meaning, the interpretations of this mantra are wonderfully varied. Here are just a few:

~Gone, gone, gone beyond, gone altogether beyond. Oh what an awakening! All hail!
~ Gone, gone, gone beyond altogether beyond, Awakening, fulfilled!
~ Gone, gone, gone to the Other Shore, attained the Other Shore having never left.
~ Gone, gone, totally gone, totally completely gone, enlightened, so be it.
~"Oh, you have done! You have done! You have completely crossed the margin. This is Enlightenment! 
~Gone, gone, gone beyond, gone completely beyond, enlightenment, wow!

The prajnaparamita mantra comes from the Heart Sutra, which is regarded as the essence of Buddhist teaching.  Prajnaparamita means "perfect understanding. "
In the Heart Sutra, the Bodhisattva Avalokita is speaking to a disciple, Shariputra. He proclaims:

"Listen, Shariputra, form is emptiness, emptiness is form, form does not differ from emptiness, emptiness does not differ from form. The same is true with feelings, perceptions, mental formations, and consciousness."

One of the clearest commentaries on this passage was written by the Buddhist Master Thich Nhat Hanh:

Because form is emptiness, form is possible. In form we find everything else--feelings, perceptions, mental formations, and consciousness. "Emptiness means empty of a separate self. it is full of everything, full of life...To be empty does not mean non-existent. ..The cup, in order to be empty, has to be there...Emptiness is the ground of everything. 

If we are not empty, we become a block of matter. We cannot breathe, we cannot think. To be empty means to be alive, to breathe in and to breathe out...Emptiness is impermanence, it is change...without impermanence, nothing is possible.

In the sutra, Avalokita goes on to speak about how when one understands that all forms are essentially empty and impermanent, and that all forms are interdependent and do not exist unto themselves, one reaches a state of liberation from suffering. The Sutra concludes with:

Therefore, one should know that Perfect Understanding is a great mantra, is the highest mantra, is the unequalled mantra, the destroyer of all suffering, the incorruptible truth. This is the mantra:


Avalokita saw the nature of reality and overcame all pain, attaining complete liberation. It was in that state of deep concentration, of joy, of freedom, that he uttered those words, and that is why this utterance has become such a powerful mantra. 

May this mantra be a compass that guides your way on your path toward  toward Perfect Understanding, freedom, and joy.

Thursday, March 1, 2012


In this past week’s classes we focused on the Sanskrit mantra OM Mani Padme Hum. Because our limited class time does not allow us to discuss the meaning of a mantra in depth, I am offering some more information here. It is my hope that it will enrich your practice.

The Mani mantra is a central prayer among Tibetan Buddhists, and is perhaps the most widely used of all Buddhist mantras.  It is open to anyone who feels inspired to practice it -- it does not require prior initiation by a lama (meditation master).

Since Sanskrit is a vibrational language and has many layers of meaning, it can’t be translated literally. The generally-accepted meaning is “Hail to the jewel in the lotus” or “Behold the jewel in the lotus.”

The lotus flower is a prevalent image that is found across Eastern traditions. It symbolizes purity, Divine wisdom, and represents our awakening into higher consciousness. Many Hindu gods and goddesses are depicted seated on a thousand-petaled lotus. In the yogic anatomy of the energy body, the crown chakra is imaged as a great lotus flower with a thousand petals, representing full spiritual realization.

A lotus flower grows out of the muck at the bottom of a pond. It rises up above the surface of the water and blooms into a magnificent flower.  Spiritual practice invites us to rise up out of the muck of our conditioning and habitual egoic mind states such as fear, judgment of self and others, self-doubt, greed, and resentment.  The blossoming lotus is our own natural compassion and love that wants to unfold in the light of awareness.  In the center dwells the shining jewel, the radiance that lives at the core of our being.  Eastern traditions teach that our true nature is compassionate and open-hearted. The practice of yoga opens the petals of our being and uncovers our radiant, divine essence.

The mani mantra is chanted for purification. Each syllable in the mantra is associated with a different positive quality, as well as a limiting mind-state to be purified.

The six syllables may be pronounced as:
The vowel in the sylable Hu is pronounced as in the English word 'book'.
(Note that many Tibetans use a slightly different pronunciation: Om Mani Peme Hung )

OM: cultivates generosity, purifies ego /pride
MA: cultivates ethics, purifies jealousy and lust for entertainment
NI: cultivates patience, purifies passion/desire
PAD: cultivates diligence, purifies ignorance/prejudice
ME: cultivates renunciation, purifies poverty/possessiveness
HUM: cultivates wisdom, purifies aggression/hatred

Many Tibetans recite the mantra thousands of times as part of their daily prayer practice. It is also printed on prayer flags that blow the prayer to the winds, carved on stones, and written on papers inserted into holy statues and prayer wheels.

The Mani mantra is associated with Chenrezig, the bodhisattva of compassion (known in other Buddhist cultures as Avalokiteshvara and Kwan Yin). Chenrezig is a highly-revered figure in Tibetan Buddhism who inspires us to awaken to our own natural compassion and goodness.

Whenever we are compassionate, or feel love for anyone, or for an animal or some part of the natural world, we experience a taste of our own natural connection with Chenrezig. Although we may not be as consistently compassionate as some of the great meditation masters, Tibetan Buddhists believe that we all share, in our basic nature, unconditional compassion and wisdom that is no different from what we see in Chenrezig and in these lamas. 

We might have trouble believing that we are no different than Chenrezig -- but learning about the nature of compassion, and learning about Chenrezig, repeating his mantra Om Mani Padme Hum and imagining that we would like to be like Chenrezig, pretending that we really are just like Chenrezig, we actually can become aware of increasing compassion in our lives, and ultimately, the lamas tell us, awaken as completely wise and compassionate buddhas.

~gratefully borrowed from


In class this week, each student received a small. clear “jewel” to keep as a reminder of the magnificence that dwells within.  May we be compassionate with ourselves, on and off the mat, and may our lives be a blossoming that reveals the radiance that we truly are.

Hindu Goddess Lakshmi

Tuesday, February 21, 2012


We're taking a hiatus from offering the Body Bliss class for a while, and plan to restart again in the near future. Right now we are exploring possibilities for a new venue and a different day of the week. We have absolutely loved doing this unique and fun class--yoga with live improvisational music can't be beat!

We have also taken Body Bliss on the road and offered it as a special workshop at various yoga studios. We typically hold the workshop in the early evening, followed by a kirtan by ONE LOVE. If you know of a studio that you think would enjoy hosting such an event, please email Jody at  Thanks!

Here are some pictures from a recent Body Bliss class:

From left: Doug Shire, Ray Eldridge, Joe Smellow 

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Yoganonymous Article

Our first Yoganonymous class was a great success! I loved the creative challenge of transforming an ordinary meeting room, with its flourescent, interrogation room-like lights, into a sanctuary with candles and soft twinkle lights around the periphery of the space. We had music and a roomful of yogis, and it was truly a sweet class.

I was delighted to see that the Ithaca Times ran an article about this new endeavor, and hopefully that will help spread the word to people in recovery all over the region. The article is below. One correction to note: the class starts at 5:30 and goes until 6:45. An optional 15 minute meditation goes until 7.

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