Blog post written by Eliza Skye

Action only happens in the present, because it is an expression of the body, which can only exist in the here and now. But the mind is like a phantom that lives only in the past and the future. Its only power over you is to draw your attention out of the present.
— Dan Millman

Many of us come to yoga to practice staying present. Teachers help facilitate this by offering continuous reminders to return to the present moment. Where are we returning from, and why do we go there so often? It is so simple to fall into the mental state of dwelling on past actions, analyzing them with ferocity and finding new interpretations of what was said or done. The mind has an equal draw to living in the future, imagining conversations that may happen or how an event has the potential to go wrong. Between the past and the future is the very fleeting present moment. As soon as we identify what is present, it has already become the past, and that is the paradox we must learn to accept. 

To live in a way that is fully grounded in the present moment, we must learn to face discomfort when it arises. It may be tempting to flee from what we don’t necessarily see as a pleasant person, conversation or life experience. However, after practice, you may begin to notice that events no longer fit into tidy categories of “pleasant” and “unpleasant”. Addressing work as it arises become a part of the moment, and with perspective, it is easier to accept challenges as a necessary part of the path that serves you most.

Living with presence means absorbing the world around you with a wide open heart. It means seeing exactly what is in front of you with clarity and non-judgement. To judge means that you are inherently comparing with the past or the future. Presence is fullness – beyond good and bad, beyond right and wrong. Presence is acceptance that all of what we experience simply is. Sometimes, this is beyond comprehension when we have so many expectations and preconceptions that we carry with us at all times. It takes constant, steady practice to overcome this conditioning and simply be with whatever life brings. 

Virabhadrasana II (Warrior II)

The battle of the spiritual warrior is one that takes place far beyond the physical realm. The warrior does not have to be an archetype of violence. The warrior does not have to hurt anybody in order to accomplish what she has set out for in this lifetime. The weapon of the spiritual warrior is discernment, or viveka in Sanskrit. The warrior must use this discernment decide what is based in reality and what is an illusion of the ego. Living with presence allows the warrior to see what is truth and what is a creation of the mind and its many desires. The mind wants to thrive, and its fuel is analysis of the past or fantasies of what may come.

Mindfulness practices, such as meditation and yoga, help tame this wild nature of the mind. With enough practice, the warrior learns how to use the mind to cultivate viveka. When we learn to live with full presence, the True Self is revealed to us. Warrior II honors the spiritual warrior who lives within all of us. It is a greatly strengthening pose, with the practitioner firmly grounded on both feet, arms extended in both directions. It opens the hips and shoulders, while strengthening the core, arms and legs. Gazing forward, one can visualize the many illusions of the mind that she must pierce through so she may live with intention and presence. 

Hakini Mudra

This is also known as the Brain Power Mudra, as it greatly enhances the ability of the brain. The Sanksrit word hakini means “power” or “rule”. Due to the positioning of the hands, this mudra helps to balance the left and right sides of the brain. This balancing of the hemispheres of the brain is especially helpful if you have something in mind that you would like to bring more presence and concentration toward. To practice this mudra, bring both hands in front of the third eye and join all of the fingertips very lightly together. The thumbs can point downward, while the rest of the fingers extend upward. You can further enhance presence by incorporating breathing into the practice of this mudra. While inhaling, press the tongue against the roof of the mouth, and then soften the tongue on the exhale. In addition to the balancing effects, Hakini Mudra also helps to improve concentration and memory, and create a sense of calmness, which helps promote clear thinking. Focusing the mind, bring your awareness to the present and allow all of the information that you gather permeate your being. 


Blog Post written by Eliza Skye

Sometimes to change a situation you are in requires you to take a giant leap. But, you won’t be able to fly unless you are willing to transform
— Suzy Kassem

Metamorphosis is a complete and profound change in the form, structure or substance of a being. We see metamorphosis take place in the life cycle of butterflies, which start out as caterpillars, consuming resources and amassing abundance until they build and enter a cocoon. When butterflies enter this chrysalis, they are unable to move and dissolve into a liquid material. This process occurs through the mysterious presence of imaginal cells. One of the most interesting aspects to this transformation is that the caterpillar and butterfly share no structural similarities. We can look at this profound miracle of nature and relate it to our own lives. Caterpillars begin their shift from a place of abundance and fullness, which is a difficult place to let go of. As creatures who seek comfort, we want to hold onto this place. But, for various personal reasons, transformation must occur, so we build our cocoons. This is where we have a choice - we can feel stifled in the chrysalis, unable to move, whether it’s forward or back. We can also follow the example of the butterfly and choose to become absolutely liquid, surrendering to whatever forces are present in our lives and allow ourselves to listen to the inner wisdom that can guide us to the path of higher meaning. We will always emerge, but it is our process through metamorphosis that determines how this emergence looks. Will we remain crippled caterpillars, crawling on the ground, or will we soar as butterflies?

Baddha Konasana (Butterfly Pose)

Many of us are familiar with Butterfly Pose from our early childhood physical education classes. The signature shape of the legs brings this pose to a place of deep external hip rotation. This means we usually fall into one of two groups - people who love this pose and those who cannot stand it. Some of this has to do with body mechanics - external rotation can be a huge challenge for us, depending on the shapes of our femurs and hip sockets. Baddha Konasana is an extremely versatile pose. You can practice it sitting upright, leaning forward, or reclined. Even among those options, there are many ways to use props to facilitate deeper opening. The knees should never be forced in this pose, and anyone with a history of knee discomfort or injury should be extremely cautious. When the knees are forced closer to the ground, this actually causes the lower back to tense, which means the hips no longer ease open. Instead, you can push the soles of the feet together in a dynamic movement that encourages the groin to open. Many sources claim that this pose alleviates depression, anxiety and fatigue, so I encourage you to observe any changes in your mental well being as you practice Baddha Konasana this month. 

Shuni Mudra

This mudra is known as the seal of patience. When big transformations begin to take place in our lives, the change can bring about feelings of discomfort, as we must learn how to let go of preexisting ideas about who we are and how we show up in life. Shuni Mudra helps us learn how to stay present, which will keep us from looking into the future with fixed expectations. When we learn to stay present with changes, we are more open to the many options that reveal themselves to us, and we can step into growth with a clear mind. Shuni Mudra is said to facilitate discernment, or “viveka”, which is the first of the four qualities necessary for attaining spiritual liberation. We have many opportunities to practice Shuni Mudra, and I recommend trying it when you feel impatience rising in your being. 


Blog Post written by Eliza Skye

Life doesn’t get easier or more forgiving, we get stronger and more resilient.
— Steve Maraboli

Resilience is the ability to recover from situations that challenge us. Challenges are a part of life’s changing nature, and no matter how we carry ourselves, we will occasionally run into these trials. We can choose to meet difficulties in a number of ways, but resilience will allow us to emerge from them in a more powerful place. Resilience is not a trait that people either do or do not have. To be human is to be resilient. We cultivate resilience by developing specific behaviors, thoughts and actions that any human being is capable of. This does not mean that the path will be easy. In fact, the path of resilience is often riddled with obstacles and distress. However, we flourish when we choose to learn from those obstacles and not let the distress overcome our innate sense of joy. Meditation and spiritual practices, which we nurture in yoga classes, help improve the ease with which we can cultivate the trust that resilience requires from us. Spirituality relies on a deep trust in a higher meaning, especially as we witness suffering. A regular yoga practice teaches us how to control the body and the mind. We learn to be present with uncomfortable thoughts and physical sensations in the body. We also learn how to rise above them, into a place of the contented witness. These practices can facilitate a more holistic view of the world, the future, and the power we have in creating our own happiness.

Dhanurasana (Bow Pose)

Dhanurasana is named Bow Pose because the body looks like an archer’s bow, with the arms mirroring the strings. The reason dhanurasana can be such an intense pose is that it is a back bend that works against gravity. Instead of dropping into the pose, you must lift and engage the entire body to hold yourself upright. All backbends activate the Sympathetic Nervous System, which is known as the Stress Response. While chronic stress is never beneficial, putting the body into a stressful pose and mindfully breathing through it can be a very healthy practice. It teaches us about our physical resilience. All backbends are heart and chest openers, which helps undo the regular forward-reaching shapes we take in our daily lives. Other benefits include a deep stretch to the thighs and psoas, strengthening in the back muscles, and a gentle massage on the internal organs. Remember that you are ultimately in charge of how intense dhanurasana can become, so only go to your own edge in this pose and take breaks whenever you need to.

Shivalinga Mudra

Shivalinga Mudra is also called the Mudra of Resilience. The shape the hands create is similar to a mortar and pestle. The left hand is the mortar, with the fingers cupped together in front of the abdomen. The right hand rests in the bowl that the left hand makes, with the right thumb extended toward the sky. After finding this shape, call to mind a situation that tests the strength of your resilience and mentally place it into the left hand. Slowly begin to circle the right hand, “grinding” that thing away. You can even blow away the imaginary dust that is left behind in your left hand bowl. The right hand also represents the masculine and destructive force of Shiva. Destruction is an aspect of change, however unpleasant the word feels to us. In order to enact a conscious change, we can choose to take charge of what we would like to destroy. In addition to cultivating resilience, this mudra helps alleviate depression and increase energy. You can do it as often as you like, though it is recommended to practice Shivalinga Mudra twice a day for four minutes.


Blog Post by Eliza Skye

We are birthed into sangha, into sacred community. It is called the world.
— Adyashanti

As we move into a new year, the unknown can be exciting but it also has the potential to be daunting. This year, especially, contains many mysteries, as we will soon be under new leadership as a nation. It is in these times of potential adversity that we may call upon our sangha, the spiritual community around us, for strength and support. Our yoga studio is a sangha, whether we realize it or not. When you spend a few moments after class exchanging kind words with other students, you are contributing to the strength of the sangha. Most of us have various communities, such as dance communities, art communities, even online communities. They are all valid sanghas, for they help us grow on our own unique spiritual paths. Whenever you need to draw strength from your sangha at Santa Fe Community Yoga, know that we are always open to supporting your needs. 

Shanti Virabhadrasana (Peaceful Warrior)

Warriors do not have to cause injury to protect the causes or the people they believe in. The Peaceful Warrior is firm in her ground, yet humble in her approach. The weapon she wields is her own spiritual resolve and strength, which she cultivates in her daily practices. Shanti Virabhadrasana reflects this energy in its movement. It is a strong lunge with a graceful backbend. We often use it as a transition or to link other poses together in our vinyasa practice. Shanti Virabhadrasana improves back flexibility, strengthens the legs, feet and abdominal muscles, opens the hips, lengthens the arms, torso and spine. If practiced mindfully, it can also help alleviate back pain. As Dan Millman writes in his novel The Way of the Peaceful Warrior: “A warrior does not give up what he loves, he finds the love in what he does.”

Gyan Mudra

Gyan Mudra is one of the most intuitive mudras, in which the thumb and tip of the forefinger meet. You have likely been practicing this mudra for a very long time. Gyan Mudra is known for strengthening the mula chakra, or the root chakra. It is also known as the “Mudra of Knowledge” and helps to invoke the highest version of the self when practiced. If you are having a difficult conversation, try holding Gyan Mudra as a way of channelling the most expansive version of yourself. Some say when you practice it, you can flow through your life lessons with ease and calm. One of the many benefits of this mudra is that it helps develop the virtue of fearlessness. Practicing Gyan Mudra with our pose of the month has the potential to be a very powerful combination. You can be fearless and strong, yet carry the lightness of your highest self. 


Blog post by Eliza Skye

Time is a created thing. To say ‘I don’t have time,’ is like saying, ‘I don’t want to.
— Lao Tzu

There is no scientific explanation for time, yet it is the one common thread for all of humanity. Time passes for us at seemingly the same speed - we all have watches, phones and clocks that tell us so. However, we have all experienced hours that drag by and hours that feel like minutes. In the end, time can only be categorized in three different ways: the past, present and future and can only exist inside of that moment we call “now”. All events, memories and emotions from the past as well as every potential for the future are bundled together in the present moment. In Hinduism, time is known as kala, which is also the name for death. Time and death are grouped together because the amount of time we have to experience the planet is determined by when death happens. Time exists when we are living in this world of duality, but it disappears when we are in a higher state of meditation. Have you ever noticed a moment in which time seemingly ceases to exist? Some call it the zone, the flow and in the yoga world, we call it samadhi. They are all different names for the same thing - the mind is fully focused on the present moment. Past and future no longer enter the mind, and therefore time is irrelevant. There is no need to measure time when you are immersed in the now. It is the only thing that is real. The more we can find those moments, the more we can enjoy the gift of life.

Pose: Utkata Konasana (Goddess Pose)

The literal translation of Utkata Konasana is Powerful Angle Pose or Fierce Angle Pose. It is an intense squat, opening the hips, groins and chest. Goddess Pose strengthens the core muscles, quadriceps and inner thighs, as well as the shoulders, arms and upper back. Due to the intensity of the squat, it helps promote stronger circulation in the body and increases the heart rate. As with all standing poses, Utkata Konasana improves balance, focus and clarity. Different arm variations, such as eagle arms and dynamic movement, can add more elements of finding stillness. Energetically, this can be a very grounding pose, with the base of the spine reaching toward the earth below and both feet rooted into the mat. Be mindful of the knees and hips when exploring this pose, and be sure to take breaks when needed.

Mudra: Kalesvara Mudra

Kalesvara Mudra is dedicated to the lord of time and is used for overcoming character traits and habits that no longer serve us. It helps us step back and observe our behavior, so we may evaluate areas where we have a need for growth. Because it is such a cleansing mudra, it aids the body in cleansing toxins, or cells that no longer serve us. This means the mudra can stimulate the systems of digestion, perspiration, urination and elimination. An effect of all this cleansing and releasing is decreased anxiety and more clarity in the present moment. To practice this mudra, bring the tips of the thumbs and middle finger together, while the rest of the fingers fold inward so knuckles are together. It is most effective when practiced for twenty minutes each day.