Eka pada rajakapotasana, natarajasana. They are almost the same.
The thought manifests as the word
The word manifests as the deed
The deed develops into habit
The habit hardens into character
So watch the thought, the word and its ways with care
And let it spring from love
Born out of the concern for all beings
As the shadow follows the body
As we think and speak so we become
From the Dhammapada, the sayings of Buddha
And also this from Mahatma Gandhi
Be the change you want to see in the world.
They are about the same.
The bliss of Consciousness is attained through expansion of the center.
Pratyabhijna Hrdayam, Tantric text on science of the soul
Style of yoga
I’ve been practicing yoga near over 40 years, before there were styles. My practice includes meditation, pranayama, study of almost all texts, and intense asana. I’ve studied many ‘styles’ and found it’s all yoga.
What brought you to yoga?
Karma and grace.
How was your first experience?
Fantastic. I loved the wooden floor, the scent of incense, the bhav in the room that my teacher set for us.
How did that influence your yoga journey?
It set very high standards for me. I could not afford to be dishonest.
When did you know you wanted to teach?
When the person whom I respected the most, my teacher, Dona Holleman, said I could.
How has your idea around aging been changed by yoga?
I used to think I was limited by my body changing to an older woman, joints, memory, etc. And my skin was getting wrinkly. Happily, through my practice, I ‘m experiencing that discrimination, acceptance, what’s called wisdom, has shown me that I’m full and fulfilled in a way that I was never as a young woman. I’d like to have my skin less wrinkly, but I’m happy in it.
How has your personal practice evolved?
It certainly started off about the postures. The more demanding the posture, the more I strived to possess it. So, I was very strong physically in general and could do almost all the asanas. But it wasn’t coming from a mind of softness and fullness all the time. I had to study texts and scriptures to remember not to be so hard, or my asana became rigid and brittle. As the grace descended over me during all those years, I grasped the understanding that it is about my heart. And the heart is the center of everything. And it was an understanding that I was the only one who could let go of things, thoughts, beliefs, perceptions, that did not foster growth. Again, it was discrimination and it came from meditation. So, funny enough, the postures are more available to me now. I still can’t do them like the youngsters. But I have a beautiful and full time practicing. And because of the evolution of this practice, I can say, I am a better person.
What events in your life have yoga helped you make it through? Can you explain why?
The events of life — being a companion, wife, mother and support to those in need. Life challenges you to live it well. So how do you handle the challenges in a way that is beneficial to you, and those around you? Especially those you love. Are your choices creating a compassionate and fertile place to be the best you can be, and set the ground to nurture the world around you?
Has your path to teach yoga always been clear?
No. I was lucky enough to be in the presence of such an extraordinary teacher and friend, Dona Holleman. Growing is not always easeful. She held a light for me in a time of dark. And she taught me how to practice. The rest was up to me. Later I just held the conviction that I could and should share this light with those in need.
Do you experience limitations? In asana? In your spiritual practice…Explain?
At my age, my body has changed. Inflexibility of body and mind has always been my challenge. Meditation and asana have sculpted me to be as present as possible, self-accepting as I am currently able with these resources. But it doesn’t mean I don’t lust after a pose like natarajasana, gandha bherundasana. I still practice those poses, whether I can do them perfectly or not. I experience the physical limitations of tighter hips, and hamstrings not as long as I might like…. In my spiritual practice I wrestle every day with what I know is a healthy, loving way to live, and my own vicissitudes, where I judge and criticize myself. On the positive side I try not to delude or defeat myself. If aware, those challenges are what lead us towards growth, and acceptance, of what is. I am 100% responsible for the choices I make and who I am. So the limitation is always what we perceive it to be, what we allow it to be.
What no longer inhibits you?
Fear. Ignorance. I mean I have a healthy understanding of fear. But it doesn’t originate from such a limited ego form.
I am finding that women after 40 today feel like life was over. They are lost and confused single or married or divorced they feel like their purpose is unknown and that they aren’t sure how to bring meaning to their life after so and so or blah blah. How would yoga help?
It centers you. Hatha Yoga is about the body, both subtle and gross. Hatha Yoga develops and recognizes the body, mind, emotions – all experience – as divine. We, humans, are a contracted, limited form of the Divine, which means even in our limitation, we hold the fullness of the Divine, and can therefore expand back into that original form. The practice of yoga creates expansion in all parts of us, which allows the mind (also limited), and body, to recognize its own divinity. The practice of yoga, meditation, awareness, brings you face to face with who and what you are, cultivating clear perception, love and light. It challenges you to step up and gives you the opportunity to choose to be the best you can be.
Its true, as women, we are expected to look and act a certain way, perhaps be sexual, have careers, marry, bear and raise children. In our limitation, as we get older, it seems things aren’t quite as exciting as when we were running around, being led by our hormones, egos, and ambitions. Yet, this is the time to cultivate wisdom and strength. And we do this when we move inward toward the spirit. Life is just beginning!!
What would you say to these women who are too intimidated to try?
What do you do in your class room to make them feel empowered and comfortable? Forget about the postures. Let’s expand the center, and the mind. Let’s become more sensitive and listen to what the body has to say. Who are you? Practice teaches self-acceptance. That’s comfortable. It teaches we create ourselves, our world. That’s empowering. You can accomplish, be, live, whatever you place in your heart. Shraddha. I try to set the example, to hold the light, hold the space, and invite them inward.
How does your style of teaching in your opinion draw that focus for women and all yogis?
I try to focus on self-awareness.
Are you who you want to be, and if you aren’t, what do you need to do to be that. How much do you want it?
I emphasize self-love and self-acceptance, because from here, all else flows.
What would you tell the many women studying to be teachers about a career path as a yoga teacher?
You must walk the walk. It’s hard to pay the rent on that salary. And it’s a noble path.
What does it mean to be a yogi to you?
It means I don’t make a lot of money. I can go to work barefoot and lie on the floor. It means there is no one but me responsible for my life.
How do you live your yoga? Morning rituals, diet, meditation?
I try to be fair, honest and kind from the moment I swing my legs over the side of the bed every morning. And when I’m not, I try not to beat myself up. I have a caffe latte while I do my simple yoga movements to open my hips. Then I get my house tidy and do what I have to do to keep my family and home safe and nurtured, and nurturing. Between my duties to home, family and teaching, I practice more intense asana. Then I sit in the garden and hope I got it right. Right looks like harmony in my body and my relationships.
What is sacred mean to you?
Sacred is what we hold to be true, clear and right. Life, and everything in it, is sacred.
What are three of the most important postures for women over 40?
Tough and interesting question. I will say three postures that can be modified to suit either a fit or not so fit person. Down dog – for lengthening and strengthening the spine as well as opening the shoulders and hips (modified done with hands on wall or table). Up dog – for same reasons, as well as opening the heart (modified can be done with hands on wall, table, or in chair); and pigeon pose – a hip opener, and depending on the position, strengthens back muscles (modified done standing with leg on table, or lying down, one leg bent, foot on floor, second leg bent and externally rotated with ankle on opposite leg (hard to explain this one!! Have to show it)),
What is your favorite restorative?
Sleeping 9 hours.
Who has influenced your journey…ie teachers?
To these teachers, I will ever be grateful: Eric Small, Dona Holleman, Mukunda Stiles, John Friend, and Sally Kempton.
What’s the best part about being a mature woman who does yoga?
Everybody says you look great! And I just feel fantastic and oh so very grateful.
Our lovely friend and UDAYA musician, Spring Groove – has opened up a vocal training and meditation studio- Bhakti Bungalow. Spring leads her students through mantra, meditation, and vocal technique- to empower themselves, tap into their inner peace, and create vocal confidence.
Bhakti Bungalow is a space for cultivating your vocal skills, incorporating yoga and spiritual practice… is that a good summation?
Yes it is. At the Bhakti Bungalow I am fusing my training as a Broadway singer with my Yoga Teacher Training. I get to help people step into the power of their voice by using vocal exercises as well as meditation & breath work.
What else could you tell us about your studio and what we could expect?
I always try to meet people where they are at. Some professional musicians come to the bungalow looking for coaching on the material they are working on. They’re also curious and want to incorporate meditation and/or mantra into their lives. The Bhakti Bungalow is proving to be a safe space to offer and customize these new practices. It’s beautiful to see how the musicians expand as a result. Others arrive with a meditation practice but want to dive deeper. Here we explore many more options from pranayama to guided meditation to kirtan.
The Bhakti Bungalow also offers seniors, who are not able to travel to my studio, Bhakti Therapy- calm, playful practices for growing gracefully. I am doing this work for groups in senior centers, as well as in private homes all around L.A. These practices include movement (chair yoga), music, mediation, and working with mudras and mandalas. These sessions are so potent. I can’t recommend them enough. So much light is cultivated. It’s a gift for both the seniors as well as myself and I am just loving it. http://springgroove.com/bhakti-seniors
How has yoga, mantra and meditation affected your vocal & musical experience? Has it all become one for you?
Yoga, Mantra, & Mediation has expanded my musical experience. I see my music
now more as a service than a performance. This is far greater than me. It’s about connection. It’s about cultivating positive contagious energy.
Much of the music I am writing now has both sanskrit mantra and english lyrics within it, so I guess you can say that it has become ONE. The idea, however, that we are all ONE is in fact what is fueling my creative process.
What music, spiritual guides or yoga teachers are currently inspiring you?
I’ve been a bit obsessed with Deva Premal for a while now. I pretty much listen to her daily. Its like a great drug for me that keeps me calm in a far too busy world. I simply love how much space her music creates, which in turn allows me to breathe deeper.
I also own many of the Deepak Chopra meditation series, and am also doing these daily. They are a bit addictive, because they are so practical and easy to incorporate into your life, making the day brighter and lighter. Who doesn’t want that?
As a teacher, I now know how important it is to also stay a student. Then it just becomes a process of sharing experience. Someone teaches me something that really resonates with me, and I can then pass that excitement along.
Denise Kaufman- an incredible, inspiring musician and yogini, taught me three great physical movements if you’ve only got time for three. I think of her often as I share these three with my senior friends weekly. They are: 1. Hip circles 2. Forward bend, drop, hang & breathe 3. The squat.
You’ve had a busy 2017- are there any favorite events/workshops you’ve been a part of?
It’s been non-stop and is still going, with December featuring London, Austria, Slovenia and the English Countryside. August was a pretty big highlight for me; first came the chance to reunite with the Udaya Community and alternate between teaching, practicing, singing and sitting in multiple saunas. Then fellow Udaya teacher, Emma Henry, and I flew straight to a luxury Italian estate to host the most magical of retreats. Beyond the different countries and amazing events, what a pleasure it was to be able to assist my teacher, the globally respected Jason Crandell on his advance teacher training in London; exactly 3 minutes walk from my front door!
We notice you like to focus classes on strengthening the body toward those challenging, frequented poses like chaturanga. Has your personal yoga path been a steady progress or were there ever any injuries or difficulty you had to learn form to move forward?
From a physical perspective, my view is that a yoga asana practice should be as much about strength as it is about flexibility. We need to get stable in the loose bits and more open in the tight spots. We also need to take care to adapt our practice when injuries inevitably hit. In this blog post I talk about all the ‘punches’ that early 2017 threw at me, including a badly broken foot, and how to be a yoga teacher through it all! The big injury was certainly humbling and I’m now working very hard to stabilize all the muscles in my right leg to counteract the detached Lisfranc ligament in my foot! I’ve just built the strength and confidence to revisit and take on ‘float back to chaturanga’, without being scared my foot will fall apart.
As modern yogis we often love to throw our legs around, take them as high as possible and generally follow the route of least resistance in our practice. This is great for making pretty shapes, but not necessarily the best thing for your body, especially in the long term.
In this workshop, our attention will be drawn to the concept of mobility: a combination of flexibility and strength, in a context where strength means control. Through a controlled vinyasa practice, we’ll be exploring the anatomical subtleties of more traditional asana and brining in dynamic movements to find depth and strength around our legs and hips. You might be great at using your arms, or a teacher’s help to get your legs into ‘deep poses’, but how are you at moving your legs into deep positions, solely with the muscles designed to move your legs? In this workshop people will find an answer to that and more.
Any favorite yoga instructor/s you might be learning a lot from currently. Books or music that are currently influencing your practice?
Beyond my regular teachers I’m actually being inspired and intellectually stimulated by my physio. I’ve been lucky enough to be treated at one of the UK’s top centres for athletes (Isokinetic) and the team there know their stuff. I’m forever picking their brains on their point of views on certain movements or postures that are common in an asana practice, researching some of what they have said, and then apply it too my teaching. If you are lucky enough to work with a professional that works with the body, treat the opportunity as a training! And an education!
Top tip book recommendation is Yoga FAQ, by Richard Rosen, one of the most intelligent western minds in yoga.
Looking toward the new year, any big projects on the horizon? Things you’re excited for or any yoga related resolutions?
The year 2018 is already looking rather full, and after an eventful 2017, I’m looking for a smoother ride this year, but still full of excitement and plane journeys! Keep an eye out on my website for new retreats and workshops dates, which should be in the public domain in the first month of the year. See you at Udaya 2018!
Andrea Marcum is releasing her new book, Close to Om on December 26th, available for pre-order here.
– Your book, Close to Om, seems to be about making that connection from who you are in your practice to the person you are in your day-to-day. Was there a particular moment in your yogi journey where you made that connection?
I stumbled into my first class at Crunch gym pretty convinced it wasn’t going to burn enough calories to be worthwhile. But even in that initial downward dog, I could feel yoga introducing me to a part of me I’d not yet met.
Yoga was confrontational and honest in the most uncomfortable and incredible ways. It made me stop and take an internal look around… something I was going to great lengths to avoid in my life off my mat.
The tactile experience of how tangled up I was in my body and mind on my mat was immediately impactful. I went back to class the very next day… and the next, and as I did I could see that my tendencies and habits on my mat were a mirror of what I was doing off my mat. From day one I sensed that how we do our yoga is how we do our life.
– As a yogi, I find that I have moments where I either get bored in my practice or otherwise lose track of it. Do you have moments like this, and when you do, what brings you back? What keeps you engaged in your practice?
I think we have to decide what we mean by “yoga.” Is it simply a routine of postures that has you bored and losing track?
I see postures as the gateway drug… they’re what bring us TO the yoga. Limiting yoga to a series of poses would for sure get a bit dull, but allowing those poses to be an integral part of a deeper dive into who we really are and what we’re doing here is inspiring in an ongoing way.
Infusing our practice with the philosophical and psychological tenets yoga has to offer turns routine choreography into a living laboratory and repetition into ritual. Yoga informs EVERYTHING once we start to appreciate it through a wider lens. Like I said, “how we do our yoga is how we do our life.”
– Sharing your experiences obviously becomes a part of the journey as a yoga instructor. What pressed you to write this book in particular?
When I was working on the proposal for this book, my agent said to me “Andy, this is not a book about you.” I felt like she was my guru handing me the most important mantra ever! What she meant is that the stories I tell in the book, though personal, are ultimately universal.
What pressed me to write this book is the same thing that inspires me to lead retreats, to have opened a studio and run it for nine years, and to teach for past seventeen years.
I love that it’s “not a book about me.”
My studio was named U Studio for the Unity and commUnity that built it and when we closed I knew in my gut that Close to OM was our next step. In essence my book brings you to U – it blows the walls off the studio and invites us all to the party. I believe passionately that yoga’s Uniting force is our collective compass. You might say Close to OM is a book about U.
– I like to ask everyone- are there any particular teachers right now that are really inspiring you? Any music? Art, or non-yoga-specific things that are inspiring your yoga practice?
Wow – this is a tall order. I am blessed with such incredible teachers. There are those who have actually been instructors and mentors, and then there are those who are students, friends, family, animals, challenging encounters, things I wished weren’t happening, injuries, fantastic surprises, museums, poems, photographs, nature, beauty… you name it.
I’m particularly drawn to opportunities for learning, adventuring and finding ways to create positive impact. I like to say that our yoga mats are magic carpets to look into our lives and to see the world. Living into that is what 100% lights me up.
– What can we expect from you this coming year? Any events you’re excited about as a teacher, or student?
The launch of Close to OM: Stretching Yoga From Your Mat to Your Life is pretty top of the list for me for the year to come. I have book-related classes and workshops throughout the year and more and more developing. You can find out more about them at www.andreamarcum.com/events/. I absolutely cannot wait to be in Bulgaria with Udaya this August. And I’m figuring out my retreat schedule for 2018 as we speak.
– As a yoga student, what books influenced your practice?
Beryl Bender Birch had a HUGE influence on me from the very beginning of my yoga journey. I loved that she was such a pioneer in the early days of rigorous, male-dominated yoga. I actually flew across the country to a conference she was teaching at right after reading her book Power Yoga for the first time almost twenty years ago just so that I could meet her.
Judith Lasater is another groundbreaker who has had on effect me. I’ve owned more copies of her Relax Deeply book than I can even count. It’s a bit of a Bible to me.
More recently Steven Cope’s The Best Work Of Your Life: The Yoga of the Bhagavad Gita and Yoga Body by Mark Singleton have been books I return to again and again.
I think it’s important to visit the canon regularly, as well as step outside of it. Certainly Patanjali’s Sutras the Bhagavad Gita, Siddhartha, Hatha Yoga Pradipika, Iyengar’s books and others are important (all of em). But so is reading really amazing prose, learning about new discoveries in anatomy, biomechanics, kinesiology, psychology, trauma, personal development, world studies – I mean it’s endless and fascinating, and to me it is all yoga.
If you live in Los Angeles like me, you are no stranger to the freeway – the 10 to the 405 to the 101 can get you to your favorite yoga class across town… in over or under an hour depending on traffic. Driving is a part of most people’s lives in the city and at times practicing yoga, feeling blissed out then having to get into your car and navigate your way through the masses can feel a bit counterproductive to the wonderful yoga high you just treated yourself to. Let’s consider the benefits to a home yoga practice and The Udaya Yoga Commute – how long does it really take?
Benefit #1: Pants are Optional
When you begin to cultivate a morning yoga ritual at home you start to experience the time saving benefits right away. Yoga pants and other clothing items are completely optional, saving you lots of time trying to pick the perfect outfit for class.
Benefit #2: Anytime is Tea Time
While making the Udaya Commute from your bedroom to your living room, you can pass through the kitchen and steep your favorite tea. No long lines and no one telling you:
Benefit #3: Take a Scenic Detour
Sip your tea as you swing by your window to see what the weather is like, without actually having to be in it. Take in the beauty of your neighborhood and have a moment of gratitude for where you live, your health and your loved ones.
Benefit #4: Create your own schedule.
You’ve made it to the living room, but you’re not quite finished with your cup of tea. No problem. With Udaya classes, there is no teacher telling you to step to the front of your mat right at 8:00am. You get to press play at 8:12am or whenever you’re done reading your favorite passage from the book you keep by the couch.
Benefit #5: Your practice is your own.
There’s something special about the fact that you’ve chosen to practice yoga today. You do it because it helps you feel great in your body and calms your mind. You commuted all this way to take your favorite teacher’s class and you receive the gifts of your decision.
Benefit #6: Your favorite breakfast spot is in the next room.
Let’s face it. When you cook at home you have so much more control about what ingredients you put in your body, especially the levels of sugar and salt, which can greatly impact our cravings and overall health. A home based yoga practice can also support you in preparing more of your own scrumptious food at home.
Benefit #7: Self-care is key
When flying they remind you to put your oxygen mask on first so you can help others. It’s the same with self-care. When we recharge our own batteries, we have more to give to others. Save yourself the regular commute across town and choose the Udaya Commute today. See how much time you save and how much unnecessary stress you avoid. You deserve to feel great.