The Four Agreements - Toltec wisdom

1.  Be impeccable with your word. Speak with integrity.  Say only what you mean.  Avoid using the word to speak against yourself or to gossip about others.  Use the power of your word in the direction of truth and love. 
2.  Don't take anything personally.  Nothing people do is because of you.  What others say and do is a projection of their own reality, their own dream (life is a dream).  When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won't be the victim of needless suffering.
3.  Don't make assumptions.  Find the courage to ask questions and to express what you really want.  Communicate with others as clearly as you can to avoid misunderstandings, sadness, and drama.  With just this one agreement, you can completely transform your life.
4.  Always do your best.  Your best is going to change moment to moment; it will be different when you are healthy as opposed to sick.  Under any circumstance, simply do your best, and you will avoid self-judgment, self-abuse and regret. 

By, Don Miguel Ruiz


4 Ways to Cultivate Your Innate Personal Power

This week I've been re-reading one of my favorite books, Anatomy of the Spirit by Caroline Myss. It has been wonderful to refresh my understanding of how our emotional and spiritual energy impacts our physical well-being. It's also reminded me of the importance of cultivating our inner strength.
Myss refers to this innate strength as our 'personal power'. We tap into our power and reinforce it when we honor who we are and develop a deep, trusting relationship with our self. Cultivating personal power does not make our problems disappear, but allows us to handle difficult situations with greater resilience, and gives us courage to make choices based on our own truth.
Many times in my own life, I've striven to get all the external factors right to improve my health. This included eating the right foods, taking health supplements, getting the right exercise, and so forth, all while paying little attention to the state of my inner wellbeing. Truthfully, in those times, my emotional resilience and personal power was weak. I did not have a deep, connected relationship with myself to create the platform for lasting healing to occur.
We can strengthen our relationship with ourselves and deepen our personal power through:
  1. Loving and accepting who we are and what we experience
  2. Taking full responsibility for every aspect of our lives
  3. Honoring our own self care, personal needs and desires
  4. Trusting ourselves and having the courage to act on our intuition.
As Myss describes, personal power is an innate resource we can draw upon and use as an inner guide to know what is right for us in any situation. We are also empowered when we use our courage to take action on that guidance.
By connecting more fully with who we are, we develop an honest, trusting and respectful relationship with our self. As a result, we build up our personal power and create a foundation to heal, giving us the strength to move through life's challenges with greater ease. 

Published November 30, 2011 at 4:30 PM

About Marissa Håkansson

Marissa Håkansson is a lifestyle strategist who educates and inspires others to reconnect to their body and self, so they can cultivate natural calm, awaken a deep-sense of inner wellbeing, and create space in their life to be who they truly are. As a writer, speaker, mentor, and coach, Marissa loves exploring what it takes to lead our lives in a way that is authentic, nourishing, and truly sustainable.


11 Qualities of the Ultimate Yoga Instructor

by, Jason Wachob


I'm not a yogi. In fact, I'm far from it. But in the past year, I've been fortunate enough to have practiced with some of the best teachers in the world. So what makes a yoga instructor great? Who is the best?  Well, I don't think you could ever pick the "best" because there are so many incredible ones, each unique in their only special way. But I've noticed a few qualities that seem to be present in all of the greats, and if I had to create a composite of the best, describing the qualities that make for a the 'ultimate' yogi, this would be it:

1. Presence - This is one of those indescribable qualities that you can feel when a great yogi walks into the room -- their presence commands attention. Their energy can pick you up, it can make you feel at ease, it can make you feel welcome, and it can make you want to practice yoga even when you're not feeling so hot. Even if only for one class, they'll help you leave whatever baggage you might have right at the door. Seane Corn brings her spiritual energy into class, which lifts you up and provides a sense of purpose while you're on that mat. And if you've ever been to Dana Flynn's class, you can't help but feel her infectious, playful presence -- and when it comes out you're in for a treat.

2. Physical Skills - Though you don't have to be the most gifted physically practitioner to be a great instructor, you do need a minimum skill level to teach at a high level. But sometimes there's no better way to lead than by example. I've never seen anyone move better than Michael Taylor. The best way to describe his movement is tiger-like: slow, methodical, and precise. Some make it look easy because they have ballerina-like agility, gymnast-like bodies, or pure brute-strength. But Michael's practice is different -- it's as if every movement is the result of an intentional thought, knowing exactly where every body part is supposed to be. Just watching him move helps your practice -- it has definitely helped me. I'll add that his step-back is something out of The Matrix.

3. Versatility - Just like a great basketball coach is flexible enough to adjust their game plan at any minute, a great yogi spots his or her students needs or abilities and can adjust on the fly. They can do this because they're in tune, and because their teaching has the depth to go any which way. A great teacher can react without compromising their class theme or focus and go with more flow, alignment, or spirituality depending on whatever they might need. Kathryn Budig strikes the perfect balance of all three -- so when the class needs to wake-up with a little more core work, or maybe some words of encouragement to lift their spirits, or even back-to-the-basics adjustments are in order -- whatever they need, she'll stand and deliver.

4. Personalization - You can spot a Wes Anderson film just by glancing at one of the character's outfits or deadpan witty dialogue. So it goes with yoga instruction. Every great yogi should also have a trademark -- a signature sequence, closing, or even a signature use of a phrase. It can be anything, but it's gotta be unique, authentic, and the yogi has got to own it. Tara Stiles is the best I've ever seen at this because she's taken something much bigger than a pose, an idea, like 'yoga for everyone' and completely personalized it. When you take something seen as complex (for many people, yoga is still esoteric), break it down and make it accessible, yet doing so in a way that's 100% unique and authentic to you, well, that's pretty amazing -- and that what Tara has done.

5. Work & Feel the Room
- Great leaders can work the room and make every person they come in contact with feel special, if just for a few moments. It's as if they can effortlessly feel their way a way around a room. Great yogis have this gift, too. Whether it's a subtle touch, a name call-out, or even just a glance that lasts a nanosecond, connecting with students creates a personal touch. Just a subtle touch or call-out from Elena Brower as she works the room can make anyone feel better. She even has a bit of a sixth-sense when it comes to tuning in to even complete strangers in her class, who needed just what the yogi ordered. Once she placed a blanket carefully under a student (a total stranger, who happens to be a friend of mine) who was was going through a breakup. And yes, that story is true.

6. Adjustments - Simple and subtle touches or aggressive "get in there and move the kitchen sink"-type adjustments will do. From a health perspective, bad habits can easily be developed and bad habits can often lead to injury, which leads to a newbie never coming back to yoga (not a good thing). Adjustments are also an extension of "working the room" -- letting a student know 'I'm watching and paying attention and I'm here to help your practice.' Lady Ruth will gently nudge you, Dechen Thurman will go person-to-person, row-by-row, Alex Auder will get in there and adjust you up and down, and Nikki Vilella will take the kitchen sink approach -- all four ways extremely effective -- exactly what you needed at that precise moment and getting that pose and your practice right where it needed to be.

7. Details - God is in the details, especially when it comes to the subtleties of one's yoga. When you practice for a while, it's the details that take you to new places in your practice, places that you never thought you could get to before. And when yogis want to take it up a notch, they take it to Schuyler Grant, the yogi's yogi. Get her talking about the bandhas -- they are interior body locks and there are three of them: Mula, Uddiyana, and Jalandhara (Uddiyana bandha being her favorite bandha child) -- and you're going to come away with an expanded worldview of the power of breath, making you a more efficient practitioner, taking your practice to another level.

8. Warmth - Walking into a new yoga class as a seasoned yogi or a first-timer isn't always easy. In fact, it can be quite difficult. However, if you're a first-timer in Tara Stiles' class you can bet that she'll spot you and go out of her way to make you feel comfortable. We often forget the power of a smile, but not Tara Stiles. It's the first thing you'll get when you walk in to her class. And if you're a newbie who's self-conscious, she'll offer up an "it's no big deal" if she senses any struggling or falling out of a pose -- or even a high-five to someone who probably prefers it. And if you're in Eoin Finn's Blissology class, you'll probably even get a hug.

9. Fun - Sometimes we can get too serious about yoga and get caught up in the competitive aspect of our own practice and miss the part that's pretty important -- the fun. And when it comes to fun, Dave Romanelli knows how to shake the seriousness out of us with his hilarious personal anecdotes, while still conveying deeper messages and movement amidst the smiles, or in some cases, laughter. Or maybe you want to get in to Crow and Kathryn Budig will say "roll your back like spaghetti" -- funny, yet gets the point across and gets you into Crow.

10. Music - I'll never forget what one of my favorite professors at Columbia, the famous film critic Andrew Sarris, said about the role of music in the classic film The Graduate -- how the music by Simon & Garfunkel was a character in and of itself. The same goes for yoga as great music should go hand-in-hand with each sequence and play a role in getting you to where you need to go in your practice that particular day. You'll do no better than the global beats of Derek Beres and his Earthrise Yoga. And Dana Flynn's eclectic mix of, well, everything, will always have you asking, 'What was that song?'

11. Language - A great teacher doesn't just talk for the sake of talking, they make every. word. count. And when it comes to mixing words with movement, Alex Auder uses such deliberate fast-paced diction, detailing every movement in such a way that's so fluid and accurate it's remarkable. And when it comes to delivering words, sometimes through silence punctuated with a meaningful take on life, then Elena Brower is a master at this, pouring out authentic musings which in and of itself are worth the price of admission.

Yes, there's a lot here and it's difficult to get all of this right in one class, especially when you're teaching multiple times a day, seven days a week, and perhaps even flying all over the world. To compare the task of the modern yoga instructor to another popular national pastime: Michael Jordan had 82 regular season games and 20-30 post-season games in a year and he's considered to be the most dominant and most consistent performer in the history of sports. Compare that to the fact that some yogis teach over 1,000 classes a year. I can't even imagine how difficult that must be. And Michael Jordan isn't available to teach you how to develop a fade-away jump shot in an intimate setting, whereas all the great yogis are accessible, at less than $25 for a courtside seat.
So these are just some of the many great yogis that I've had the pleasure of taking class with. There are many, many more that I hope to experience in the coming year: Vinnie, Shiva, John, Sharon, David, Ashley, Faith, Janet, Bryan, Rusty, Jennifer, Rodney, Rainbeau, Brock/Krista, Noah, Ashleigh, Baron, Ally...  I could go on-and-on, as the list is never-ending and so is the yogic journey --  which is the beauty of it anyway, right?

What qualities and teachers are on your list?

Published March 22, 2011 at 3:00 PM

About Jason Wachob

As Curator and one of the founders of MindBodyGreen, Jason's goal is to make wellness and yoga accessible. After years of successfully trading equities on Wall Street, and traveling around the country running a national organic cookie company, Jason was told that he required back surgery. He opted for yoga instead of surgery and is now completely healed.

Jason is a contributor to The Huffington Post and has been featured in the The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times. He has a BA in History from Columbia University, where he played Varsity Basketball for four years. Jason lives in Brooklyn, NY with his wife.


Salutations in the Sun Retreat: Oct 1-8, 2011!

For all the info....please look here.  Union Yoga's owner, Martin Scott and I are very much looking forward to teaching this retreat together!  October is around the corner so let me know if you have any questions!  Namaste!


Students and Teachers

Students and Teachers (via Stephanie Snyder Yoga)

To always view authority with suspicion, to believe it's unhealthy to ever submit to another, to see yourself as wholly independent, to believe you are completely free- this is delusion. And this delusion prevents true learning on the spiritual path. But neither can we place spiritual teachers on pedestals, imagining them saintly, finished, above the travails of our daily world. This delusion that the teacher is perfect arises out of the childish mind that still wants to be saved. But spiritual teachers aren't perfect; they too are ongoing processes. In fact, unless teachers continue to work at their own edge, with their own fears and difficulties, they can no longer be effective teachers, because they are no longer connected with others.

-Ezra Bayda