Preserving Summer

(Yoga Journal, June 2011)

Yoga is often defined as the union of sun and moon elements, a balance between opposites in a marriage of seemingly disparate realities. A yoga practice can bring stillness and sanctuary to scattered urban lives, bridging the gap between cosmopolitan and rural, modern and traditional. Kitchen crafts like making jam can be another way of bringing together what has been separated, honoring natural cycles in the preservation of a season, and reconnecting you with your food through the work of your own hands.

Activities like canning and pickling encourage living simply and sustainably, finding a balance between excess and adequacy. They can be a reminder to practice aparigraha (nongrasping) by encouraging an appreciation for the seasons and a bittersweet respect for the coming and going, the growing and dying, the blooming and fading that are part of being alive in the world. Just as yoga encourages us to pay attention, so urban homesteading teaches us to see the resources that surround us with new eyes.

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The Joy of Baking

(Yoga Journal, December 2009)

As an adult, I rediscovered the practice of baking heartfelt gifts in my new community in San Francisco. At one point, I decided to devote a year to baking cakes as offerings. Every Saturday morning I’d roll out of bed bleary-eyed, fill an empty bundt cake pan with batter, and give the resulting cake to someone in need of comfort or a little celebration. As I listened to the city wake up, I counted and chopped, mixed and measured. And in the process, my mind became still, my breath slowed, my body felt balanced and at peace. What I experienced was more than mixing butter and eggs — it was a practice in baking and giving from the heart.

Some 60 cakes later, I see now how my “bundt cake Saturdays” have given me a creative outlet that, among other things, reminds me that compassion can transcend urban boundaries. Strangers on the street soften at the sight of my cake caddy, asking if that’s a cat I have hiding in there. Even the bus driver will wait patiently for “the cake lady,” going out of his way to drop me off at work, where my colleagues light up like children at the prospect of a new flavor to sample.

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Beyond Hunger

I’m so excited to be partnering with San Rafael-based non-profit Beyond Hunger for an evening of sweet vinyasa, cameraderie and conversation.

Please join us for:

Beyond Hunger: a special donation-based benefit class

Saturday
March 31st, 2012
7-9pm
Flying Yoga Shala
4308 Telegraph Avenue.
Temescal Area, Oakland, CA
— open to all, no matter how much or you little you can give!

The evening will begin with a brief informal introduction to the mission and the heart of Beyond Hunger, a non-profit whose work in eating disorder recovery encourages intuitive eating, mindfulness, and listening to the body. Rachel will then guide us through a lyrical all-levels vinyasa class from 7:30-8:30, and we’ll finish the evening with easy fellowship and light snacks.

Yoga teaches us beautifully powerful ways to better inhabit our bodies for the brief flash of time that we’re blessed to call them ours. So come breathe space and light into every corner of your life, on and off the mat. Join in community with other folks who are interested in what it looks like to live well in a body. All studio proceeds benefit Beyond Hunger.

Beyond Hunger is a non-profit organization dedicated to helping individuals overcome the obsession with food and weight and find a natural, loving and peaceful relationship with their food, weight, and selves. We provide support groups, workshops and education for adults and adolescents with eating disorders. Beyond Hunger uses a non-diet approach to explore body hatred and the psychological, cultural and spiritual issues underlying disorder eating.

Here’s a sweet blurb on Beyond Hunger’s philosophy. They do such important work. I am so excited to send a little collective support their way.

Bring a friend or six! See you on the 31st.

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The Yoga of Fight Club

I’m so excited to invite you to The Yoga of Fight Club.

Yep, you heard that right. You, me, Tyler Durden, and Marla Singer, baby. We’re gonna get our yoga on.

For over a decade now, I’ve been smitten with the complicated, smart, countercultural spirit of Chuck Palahniuk’s debut novel. His 1996 Fight Club made a splash onscreen in David Fincher’s 1999 film of the same name, and though it garnered controversy, the movie starring Brad Pitt, Edward Norton and Helena Bonham Carter has gone on to enjoy a certain cult popularity in the years since.

I love this book (and Fincher’s stylish film) for its complexity, its sexiness, its embodiment, its grit, its willingness to dive into tough questions, and its fundamental theological richness. You can come at Palahniuk’s stuff from any angle: yogic, Christian, Buddhist, Taoist, Hindu, capitalist, culture-jamming, gendered, queer, anti-consumerist, postmodern, sexualized — and find in it a screed, an inspiration, a challenge.

(Here’s an example. Hot stuff.)

So join me for for a chill evening at Flying Yoga. We’ll screen a few clips, and read a few blurbs. Tyler, Marla and I will knock out a few rounds of philosophy with you. We’ll dig into the hows and the whys of yoga philosophy, embodiment theology, and Adbusters-style culture-jamming, and consider what the hell those things might have to do with this ostensibly violent, angry, sexist film — and in so doing, argue that perhaps, in fact, that violence, that anger, that sexism, might in fact have deeper roots that might be kind of life-giving and progressive and radical (and yogic!) after all.

The Yoga of Fight Club

Saturday, April 28th. 
We break it down.
Flying Yoga Shala
4308 Telegraph Ave
7-9pm
Recommended donation: $15

But, seriously? Just pay what you can. I’d rather you be there than worry about cost. It’s not about the money. It’s about the conversation, and the company, and the bodies, and the breath. Oh, and the sexy, and the smart, too.

Page 149:

The mechanic starts talking and it’s pure Tyler Durden.

“I see the strongest and the smartest men who have ever lived, ” he says, his face outlined against the stars in the driver’s window, “and these men are pumping gas and waiting tables.”

The drop of his forehead, his brow, the slope of his nose, his eyelashes and the curve of his eyes, the plastic profile of his mouth, talking, these are all outlined in black against the stars. ….

“You have a class of young strong men and women, and they want to give their lives to something. Advertising has these people chasing cars and clothes they don’t need. Generations have been working in jobs they hate, just so they can buy what they don’t really need.

We don’t have a great war in our generation, or a great depression, but we do, we have a great war of the spirit. We have a great revolution against the culture. The great depression is our lives. We have a spiritual depression.

join us!

Bhakti in Bloom: Sierra Hot Springs Yoga Retreat

Oh, baby! I’m so excited to invite you to join me and Solyoga Trips for Bhakti In Bloom, a weekend eco-yoga adventure at gorgeous Sierra Hot Springs, this April 20-22nd. We’ll soak in ancient hot springs, rock out some killer vinyasa, and drink a little vino under the stars. Just say YES. Full retreat invitation here.

Escape the urban grind for a weekend of yoga, fresh air, and mountain blooms. Join bhakti flow yoga teacher Rachel Meyer and Solyoga Trips for a rustic, heart-filled, revitalizing springtime getaway melding music, vinyasa and philosophy amidst some of the most beautiful scenery in Northern California.

This is not your usual chi-chi yoga retreat. You can leave your fancy-pants at home. This one’s all about keeping it real, kids.

Gather with a crew of like-minded folks who just wanna get their bhakti on. We’ll sweat, we’ll chant, we’ll hike, we’ll soak our sore muscles in the ancient hot springs that have been revered as sacred for hundreds of years. Join Rachel for an unpretentious, rockin’, Bhakti Flow yoga-filled, back-to-nature weekend under the stars — the kind of retreat meant for real people who wanna get their yoga and their nature and their big sky on, all at once. Sierra Hot Springs is based at the cusp of a lush national forest and a beautiful alpine valley, blanketed with wildflowers. Leave your cell phone at home and get lost on the edge of 700 acres of enchanted forest. Trade your soul-sucking commute for a midnight soak in 24-hour plunge pools under star-studded skies, or rise with the sun for a daybreak hike before getting your asana on in the fresh air. Any way you look at it, here’s your chance to bloom.

We’ll do our part to keep things grounded and authentic and rich and real, offering four badass yoga practices rich with music and philosophy; delicious, lovingly-prepared meals; and even a chance to “book club” it up with a little vino, lots of irreverence, and Neal Pollack’s Stretch: The Unlikely Making of a Yoga Dude — but also giving you plenty of time on your own to get lost, to slow down, to unplug, to breathe, and to really soak up the hiking and the sunshine and the hot springs in their full springtime glow.

More on Bhakti in Bloom and the Hot Springs.

Retreat Schedule

Friday, April 20th:
You are welcome to arrive anytime after 3pm on Friday.
5:30-7pm — Rockin’ vinyasa, followed by dinner

Saturday, April 21st:
8:30-10:30am — Rockin’ vinyasa, followed by brunch
Afternoon free for hiking, hot springs, and more
5-6:30 pm — Mellow vinyasa, followed by dinner
8:30pm — Book club & vino gathering (optional)

Sunday, April 22nd:
8:30-10:30am – Rockin’ vinyasa, followed by brunch
The retreat ends with brunch on Sunday, but you are welcome
to stay on the grounds until 5pm.

join us!

Open Your Heart with Rachel

All You Need is Love

“The heart that breaks open can contain the whole universe. Your heart is that large: trust it. Keep breathing.”
Buddhist scholar Joanna Macy

Crack your heart open with Rachel in this special Valentine’s Day weekend workshop. Whether your heart feels rich with love or raw with regret, bring yourself — your whole self, your broken-hearted self, your questioning self, your most-hopeful self — to the mat for an afternoon of sweet heart openers, rich bhakti philosophy, heart-swelling melodies, and a whole lotta love. Rachel will guide you through a strong flow designed to breathe space and light into all the parts of your heart that might have shut down, tightened up, or closed off a bit over the years. Come for the sweat and the song; stay for the homemade heart-shaped bundt cake to follow.

Because it’s never too late to fall in love: with yourself, with one another, and with the world.

Join us for this cozy Sunday afternoon at Glow Yoga & Wellness in San Francisco’s iconic North Beach.

Open Your Heart with Rachel

Sunday
February 12, 2012
2-4pm

GLOW Yoga & Wellness
1548 Stockton Street
North beach/Telegraph Hill
San Francisco, CA 94133
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Nebraska Flow

This California girl is braving a prairie winter!!
It’s so much my pleasure to announce two upcoming vinyasa workshops in, yup, my old Great Plains stomping grounds. January on the prairie is the perfect time to build a little heat with a strong power vinyasa. Please join Rachel Meyer Yoga for a little Bhakti Flow, Nebraska-Style in Omaha:

Guest teacher Rachel Meyer offers a music-infused blend of athleticism, dance, and spirit. She crafts an intense flow-based practice rich in yoga philosophy and sweaty goodness.

January 22, 2012
2-4pm

One Tree Yoga West
2420 South 156th Circle
Omaha, NE 68130
(402) 333-2420
$25 workshop fee
www.onetreeyoga.com
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January.

light

We look to the light.

Yesterday morning I breezed through the tunnel under the Bay on my way to teach in Oakland, and the sun broke clear and radiant across the urban skyline. It left me singing the Gayatri mantra for the rest of the day. I downloaded Deva Premal’s stunning version and it lulled us into the meditative rhythm of Surya Namaskar A as that same sun set over North Beach last night.

We look to the light. In spite of all shadows, in spite of all uncertainty, in spite of all difficulty or tumult; we look to the light. This is what the Gayatri mantra so beautifully reminds us; this is what yoga teaches us; this is what January brings to us, that reminder that, in spite of all sorrow, we always have the chance to begin again, over and over, brand new in every breath, every practice, every moment.

And if that ain’t radically gorgeous, I don’t know what is.

All things arise, Suffer change, And pass away. This is their nature. When you know this ...you become still. It is easy.
—the Ashtavakra Gita

Speaking of radical…we had a most incredible donation-based New Year’s Eve jam session at Flying Yoga. Still swimming in gratitude for the over-capacity crowd that turned up at sunset to do a little yoga to benefit the Bay Area Girls Rock Camp along the way. Thanks to y’all for showing up, and for being willing to pair your asana practice with a little Lenny Kravitz, a little Bell Biv Devoe, and a whola lotta love. We could’ve filled two classes that night. I’m already looking forward to next year.

The new year brings with it all kinds of fab artistic, life-giving projects. I am blessed by the sometimes-overwhelming opportunities to serve.

First off, did you notice that the ol’ blog got a facelift? Raw Rach is and always has been my beloved literary practice mat, but she was waaaay overdue for a makeover. Check her out when you’ve got a few minutes to kill at work.

Secondly, I’m proud to announce a very exciting new undertaking. I’ve been blessed to know my dear old friend and colleague Jennifer Kartiganer since we first met as fellow yoga philosophers some three years ago. She’s a remarkable creature, a true Renaissance woman, and I am over the moon that she has asked me to join her and several other most-incredible teacher-friends in launching a hot new studio in South Beach. OMpower will be based at 64-66 Townsend St., just down by the ballpark, near and dear to many folks I love. It’s a charmed space with radiant two-story ceilings and lots of light. We spent the holidays knee-deep in preparation, and I can’t wait for you to be a part of it, too. Stay tuned for more on that to come!

Sunyata
Yoga Philosophy 101
Sunyata

Sanskrit for emptiness, nothingness, the void. That great absence that lends to fullness, as evidenced by the vast undulating ocean, the shadowy depths that are rich with grace, the big rolling empty sky of the prairie. Sunyata, all.

Finally, the month will bring with it a sweet return to the prairie. Nebraskans, I’ll be teaching workshops in Omaha and Lincoln the weekend of Jan. 20th-22nd. Please join me at one of three studios for a few hours’ of hip music, powerful vinyasa, and a lot of laughter. I’m looking forward to sharing the practice with you all in that desolate (and much-beloved) tundra that is the prairie in January.

In the meantime, please continue to join me at Urban Flow on Tuesdays and Thursdays 4:30-6pm. It’s such a beautiful space, resonant with sweat, breath, and song, and it has been so much my pleasure to share a few chants with you all there. Full teaching schedule here.

I look forward to seeing you on the mat soon.  Until then, so much love your way.  Tasmai Shri Gurave Namah.
Love,
R

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Why Yoga’s Not a Workout

(elephantjournal)

As a teacher, am I shepherding those students well, am I really doing my job — ahimsa, baby — if I pummel them with some robotic core workout routine that’s devoid of purpose beyond sculpting a six-pack, that fails to connect the breath or slow their minds or bring them more deeply into their bodies?

Because, guess what? Your six-pack will pass. One day it’ll be there. The next day, it won’t. Things change. Bodies change. You’ll eat Cheetos. You’ll find a new lover and stay in bed and skip yoga. You’ll have a baby. You’ll get old — if you’re lucky.

Skin stretches. Skin roughens. Skin slips away.

This body will be a corpse.

Your breath stays. Your breath rises. It falls. That’s yoga. Nothing else.

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