I am a writer of songs and poetry. I would like to share this poem with my readers:
Imagine this world
Different time, same place
Where no one was judged
By the color of their face
Where wars didn’t wage
And innocents didn’t die
Where children weren’t sold
To the men who would buy
Where no one was homeless
Because we cared for each other
All the world, one big family
I’m your sister, you’re my brother
No child would go hungry
While others would feast
Where greed didn’t exist
And no one was least
Where everyone mattered
And each knew their worth
Showered with love
From their moment of birth
Free to love whom we choose
No judgment, no hate
Being bashed to death
Would be no one’s fate
Where beauty was seen
In the spirit and mind
Elders were cherished
And not left behind
No violence, no abuse
No addiction, no crime
A kinder, gentler place
How I long for this time
Last night as I was rushing into the gym to teach a yoga class, I noticed a homeless man sitting on a stone wall nearby. His slumped-over posture and low hanging head told me his spirit was broken and he was not physically well. I stopped quickly and asked “are you ok?” He barely lifted his head and no words came out. In hindsight, that was a poor choice of words. Of course he is not ok! He seemed so lifeless and he didn’t even have the energy or life-force to answer me. Seeing this man was very upsetting to me. I had heard from students that there were homeless people living in the woods behind the gym, but I had never seen any of them before. This encounter was very upsetting to me. No one should have to live like this. I felt sickened and full of sadness. By the time I got to my class I was fighting back tears. This was on my mind for the rest of the evening and I did not sleep well.
Homelessness has always bothered me and I have always felt so helpless to solve such a huge problem. There are so many homeless people and families. Unfortunately, there are also scammers who pan-handle for a living while living very comfortable lives. I’ve witnessed a few over the years and it makes it much easier to just look the other way than to take the time and assess each situation. The man I saw last night was not a scammer. He asked for nothing.
It does not matter how a person or family ends up homeless. It matters that they be offered HOPE, HELP, and DIRECTION. This is what we give to someone who has nothing.
Give RESPECT – look them in the eyes – SEE THEM – let them know they are not invisible.
Show KINDNESS – ask them if they want help and LISTEN to their reply – everyone needs to be heard, and then offer whatever assistance is within your means.
If you offer respect and kindness, you are also giving HOPE. Without HOPE there is only the barest of physical existence. Let these unfortunate souls know that there are people who care and want to help them.
Giving money or things is life-support and these are desperately needed. Giving care, kindness, love, and respect – these are soul-support and will help heal what is broken.
So you may be wondering, “What does this have to do with yoga?” – EVERYTHING! The Yoga Sutras teach us to give unselfishly and without expectations. They teach us to detach from worldly things, as do religious teachings – Matthew 6:19 “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth” and Isaiah 58:7 “…deal thy bread to the hungry and that thou bring the poor that are cast out to thy house…”
I shared this in hopes that maybe the next time you or I see a homeless person, we can be better prepared to help.
Love and Light to all. Namaste.
I was invited to write a blog about how practicing yoga has impacted my health. I will start off with the aspect of yoga that I believe most people think of when the topic of yoga is discussed – asana practice, (yoga postures or poses). As many people do, I procrastinated on getting to my first yoga class for a list of reasons. My thoughts were “I’m too old for this”, “I’m not flexible anymore”, “I have way too many physical issues and limitations with my body”, “I have become too weak”, “this is going to be embarrassing”, and, my last and most important thought, “well, I will just go and that way I will have given it an honest try”. That first class was the beginning of something truly wonderful and transforming. I left feeling great and wanting more. The physical effects that asana practice has had on my body are numerous. I have become so much stronger and my flexibility has increased. My balance and coordination have improved. It has helped reverse some of the undesirable posture imbalances that I had and are so common in this day and age, when so many people spend their days sitting at a desk, oftentimes slouching in a chair or hunched over with forward or rounded shoulders and/or a forward head and neck posture. Practicing yoga has also helped keep my arthritic joints mobile. It has helped me to improve my focus and memory. It has made me aware of my breathing and helped me understand the importance of the breath. My practice is still evolving and as my body changes and will continue to change with it. It has brought my awareness to issues of muscle imbalance, weaknesses, and instabilities that I was not aware of before, but am now working on correcting. It is a journey into yourself, without a map, and the guidance you receive is by listening to your own body and tuning into what is happening within your body and how it feels as you practice – being completely present and aware in the current moment.
On the emotional level, practicing yoga has had such positive effects on my emotional well-being. For me, practicing yoga is like drinking a glass of happiness and tranquility. This is the part of yoga that I tell people is something that you have to experience to understand. Trying to find words to describe the ways yoga makes me feel is much like trying to describe colors to a blind person or sound to a deaf person. It’s an experience unique to each individual and I feel that trying to relate this experience through words cannot rightfully express or convey what it is like for me and certainly cannot predict what it will be like for anyone else. Part of the yoga experience is finding a teacher that you connect with. I got lucky and my first teacher was a wonderful teacher with a kind and gentle spirit. Her classes were just what I needed at that time. When someone comes to one of my classes for the first time, at the end of class, after sharing “Namaste”, when I am telling everyone to have a good week until I see them again, I address the new person and say “if I do not see you again, have a great life and good luck on your journey”. I understand my classes will not be for everyone and I do not get insulted or take it personally when a person does not return. Each of us needs to find our own way and seek out that place where we feel most comfortable, where we can breathe, be ourselves, and where we feel we are being nourished in the ways we need, be it physically, emotionally, and/or spiritually. I am happy that people are finding their way to yoga, if not with me, then with another teacher of their choosing.
I have been very drawn to the philosophical teachings of yoga. It is not a religion as many people believe, but more a collection of teachings that will guide you to lead a life that not only nourishes your body, mind, and spirit, but also leads to freedom from suffering. These words of wisdom teach us to be not just tolerant of others, but to be charitable, kind, and accepting of others. It teaches us to let go of behaviors and beliefs that do not support our well-being and to challenge our own perceptions and labels which we have placed not only upon ourselves, but also on those around us. It is a guide on the path inward and offers valuable support as you get to know who you really are and why you are here at this time. It helps you sort through your long held beliefs and learned behaviors and habits and question the “why” of them. I believe spirituality is a very personal subject and the great thing about yoga philosophy is that it complements any belief system. Even those that do not believe in anything beyond the here and now can still benefit and enrich their life and the lives of others through knowledge gained from studying the yoga philosophy. In my personal experience these teachings have helped me tremendously in so many different ways. It is not something that I can sum up in a short sentence or two. In this age of ego-driven consumerism and moral iniquity where many have adopted an “anything goes, if it feels good, do it” mentality, where the love of power is valued more than the power of love, and even while living in excess, there is never enough and the separation of classes flourishes while racism still rears its ugly head, yoga teachings offer an alternative path that sheds light on the ripple effects of actions on others and society as a whole, offering solid moral guidance which leads to healing not only ourselves, but our community.
A hurting heart is heavy, but wisdom gained through higher consciousness teaches us to look within for answers as to why we are having this experience, to embrace the understanding of the lesson behind the experience, and to let go of the hurt. The reason we keep experiencing the same unpleasant events over and over is because we do not recognize the intended lesson or we ignore it. When we reach a level of maturity where we can see beyond our emotions and seek the truth, we will find that there is something to be learned from the situation. We will not only seek the truth, we will be able to accept it, and through acceptance and understanding, acknowledge the toxic emotions of that heavy heart and release them. They will no longer be part of who we are. Through this transformation to a heightened level of enlightenment in thought and action, we will experience a spiritual lightness and freedom from all that threatens to weigh us down and hold us back from evolving into a spirit of light, love and peace.
© Ananta Jyoti Yoga with Lisa Votta
One of the best pieces of advice I can offer to any student is to leave your worries, anxieties, fears, burdens, and to-do lists at the door before you enter class. Let them go for the short time you will be practicing - they will still be there when you are done if you wish to pick them up when you leave, or you may choose to leave without them. Even if you don't feel like it, wear a smile. The physical act of smiling tells your brain that you are happy, even if you're not really feeling it at that time. You might be surprised to find out that acting "as if" can manifest into reality. Instead of sharing and rehashing all that is not right in your life, either with someone else or inside your own head, focus on what is right and all that you have to be grateful for. Don't feed the negative thoughts and emotions. Instead, starve them out and it will make room for more positive ones to take root.
Focus on your breath during asana practice, keeping it smooth and even. Focus on how the postures feel in your body, trying not to judge your perceived level of proficiency. While you may think "I'm not flexible", it's important to understand that every body is different and every body experiences asana practice uniquely. Asana practice is not just about getting into postures and flexibility, but learning to recognize in your own body, the difference between when you can, over time, increase a stretch and when you have reached your personal limit due to the way your body is structured or as a result of a trauma suffered from something such as surgery or an accident. It's important to accept your body's limits and not push yourself beyond them because lack of awareness and an overzealous ego can compromise the health of other joints that will end up compensating for the ones you are ignoring. This is where the ego can wreak havoc on your practice. There is great freedom in accepting your physical limitations and practicing within your own safe zone. There is not one perfect way to practice a posture, but for each of us there is a way to practice where we will get the maximum benefit from the posture. This is why it's important to understand why it is you are doing a particular asana. If you have to modify a posture to accommodate your body's needs then that is the best way for you to do that posture. Yoga is not competitive, so you should make a conscious effort to not compare the way you look in any given posture with the way someone else looks. Be aware of the self-talk in your mind during your practice and try to refrain from judging yourself or others in anyway during practice.
Ahimsa, a Sanskrit word meaning non-violence, in the yoga sutras refers to not harming yourself or anyone else. Practice with this in mind, by being kind and taking care of yourself. Asana practice has many benefits. It stretches and strengthens the body and prepares you for pranayama (manipulating the breath to feel the flow of prana - lifeforce or energy), and meditation. Asana practice is just one part of yoga. There is so much more for those that seek to learn ways to connect to a higher consciousness and to find freedom from the bondage of being stuck in behavioral and thought patterns that either no longer serve you or were never beneficial in the first place.
Sew seeds of peace and love in a positive light and watch them grow!
Until the next time, I wish you love, light and much happiness.
Namaste my friends.
© Ananta Jyoti Yoga with Lisa Votta
I work to live. I don't live to work. I am fortunate that the "work" I do now, teaching yoga, is something I enjoy doing. I love practicing yoga and I look forward to sharing it each time I teach. It's not just about practicing asanas (postures) for a healthy body, but also practicing breath awareness, learning to focus on the breath which delivers our most vital life force - Prana. Yoga teaches us to be present in our bodies, in this moment, wherever we are and whomever we are with. Yoga is also about working on the inside - your inner being as well as the physical body. It teaches us to discover who we are, what we want, and how to get there from where we are right now. The physical body is our vehicle to get us where we are going, so of course we want to keep it running smoothly and at maximum efficiency and wellness and asana practice helps us with this. Our inner being is who we really are and the part of us that can most affect the people and the world around us. Our body is just a means to get us where we are going.
At the end of our human experience the thing people will remember most about us is how we made them feel. They will smile and remember our inner light, our ability to inspire spiritual growth, peace, compassion, kindness, and love for one another. At the end of our days here on this earth, it will not matter what our jobs were, our position, title, or paycheck, but how we used our gifts to help others through whatever job/career we were in at any given time. The size of our homes and bank accounts and how perfect or imperfect our bodies were will not be remembered with the warmth of a smile. When people reflect on the memory of you they will think about how they felt while they were with you and how you impacted their lives.
So many people are caught up in a race to accumulate wealth, achieve the perfect physique, and attain what has been programmed into their minds as the "American Dream". I believe there is a movement of people who are beginning to redefine the American Dream. As they look inward and raise their consciousness they are moving away from materialism and beginning to work towards leaving the world a better place for all. They are realizing that the things we work so hard to accumulate are things we cannot take with us. It's all just stuff and so much of it we really just don't even need. The only thing we came into this world with is the love of our creator. What we leave this world with will be that same love and the love we have gained while here through our personal connections to others.
It is my greatest desire to leave this world a better, brighter, happier, loving, more peaceful place where everyone is accepted and loved and no one is left out because they are different, as we are all different, and to inspire others to do the same. I hope when this earthly part of my journey ends that people will remember me as a loving, caring messenger of peace and hope and that they smile because I made a positive impact in their lives.
To anyone who may read this, I wish you peace, love, and light. To those who have not experienced it yet, I wish you the spiritual awakening that changes everything and puts you on the path towards enlightenment and if you are already on that path I wish you a successful journey.
Much Love to All.
© Ananta Jyoti Yoga with Lisa Votta
Each day we wake up is an opportunity for our spirit to
awaken. We are given another day to change our circumstances and if we can't change them, then to change our
reaction to them. We can choose to live in gratitude for all the blessings we have been given, enjoy the present moment instead of ruminating on the past, embrace peace over chaos, walk in the light and away from darkness, carry hope in our hearts instead of fear, and make a difference in the world by being a blessing to others. Every day is a new beginning. It's never too late for the spirit to awaken.
© Ananta Jyoti Yoga with Lisa Votta
I was recently asked to give an answer to the question - in my experience, what is the essence of yoga. I would like to share my reply:
The essence of yoga to me is an awakening of the spirit, strengthening of the body, and quieting the mind.
It's a window which allows us to look inward at ourselves and aids us in unraveling the answers to our most personal questions of who we are, why are we here and how are we connected.
It's an unending path which leads us not only to our true selves, but also to a higher consciousness.
It is also a very strong medicine that helps heal injured bodies, broken spirits, and troubled minds.
It is a gift of love and peace to yourself and to be shared with others.
This is why yoga is so important in my life and why I want to share it with those who wish to practice with me.
I wish you all love, light, and happiness.
© Ananta Jyoti Yoga with Lisa Votta
Ananta Jyoti are the sanskrit words for Infinite Light. I would like to share with you the reason I chose this name for my yoga business. When I think about yoga and what it means to me, one of the first things that comes to my mind is the feeling of sharing peace, love, and light. When I say light, I am referring to the light within each one of us. It is my belief that our inner light never dies, even after our bodies perish, and that it is this light which connects us to each other and our creator. I believe it is fueled by love. I think when our lives are in balance and we are feeling peace and love that our lights shine the brightest. I think sometimes when our lives are chaotic, in upheaval, and out of balance our circumstances and our reactions to them can block our light and make it hard for us to see clearly. During our darkest moments when we struggle to find a ray of light is when it's most important to be around others who love us and support us and will shine their light for us while we find our way. If we strive to remove negativity and fill our lives with positive possibilities, gratitude, and generosity we move towards greater balance and clarity and we can use our light to help others achieve balance. This is what I hope to achieve through sharing yoga with others. I have been so blessed to experience all that I have experienced through my practice of yoga. I look forward to continuing along this path that I have chosen and it is my hope that I will be a blessing to others.
Wishing you all love, light, and happiness.
© Ananta Jyoti Yoga with Lisa Votta