{Self Care} Curvy Voices

For some time, it was challenging to connect with my yoga practice beyond the poses and postures.  I kept hearing all of these wonderful stories about emotional breakthroughs and personal development that made me want that type of practice for myself.  One day I read a quote from B.K.S. Iyengar that pointed the way.

“Your guru is your practice.” – B.K.S. Iyengar

From that moment, I began to focus more on myself and where I was than what I hoped to achieved.  Through my practice, I began to know myself physically which helped me to understand myself emotionally and spiritually.  By knowing myself, I found all the love, acceptance and gratitude I needed to inspire a deeper, more meaningful yoga practice.

When Anna Guest-Jelley, founder of Curvy Yoga here in Nashville, shared a project she was working on, I knew I had been given an outlet to share how yoga took me from appreciation to acceptance.  In Curvy Voices, Anna pulled together a community of curvy yogis who have learned to embrace their body though a committed yoga practice.   Here is a small piece of a huge lesson I shared in Curvy Voices:

“As I continue to deepen my practice and teach others, I am continually reminded that my practice is always about where I am at the moment.  Honoring where I am while committing to what I want creates a space of peace and understanding that allows me to accept myself as I am.”  – Ashiya Swan, Curvy Voices (p. 90)

Although I learned that lesson on my yoga mat, it is a lesson that I continually apply as I build my life personally and professionally.  And with that, I learned to practice yoga on and off the mat.

To read my entire story, download your free copy of Curvy Voices by clicking below.

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{Know Thyself} If The Creator Is Everywhere Then Where Are We?

“This view of God as separate from ourselves is contradictory to the belief that most believers hold that God is omnipresent, which means that the Creator is everywhere. If the Creator is everywhere then where are we? Are we not in the presence of God?  Is not the omnipresent God inside of us and all around us and in all things at once?  From this perspective, meditation thus ceases to be a method of becoming connected to God, but is a method of becoming aware of a state of being that already exists.”

-Yirser Ra Hotep (www.yogaskills.com)

Meditation: Journey to Amenta

{Master Teachers} My Beloved Black Swan

Yes, Swan is really my last name. S-W-A-N. Just like the bird. I’m not one for fairy tales, but “The Ugly Duckling” by Hans Christian Andersen gained new meaning for me when I fell in love and changed my name. As we continue to learn, grow and create the life we want to live, the lessons I’ve learned from building with My Beloved Swan have inspired me more than any other relationship in my life.

In honor of My Beloved Swan’s debut here on Earth, here are three lessons I’ve learned by sharing my life with him.

1). The Ugly Duckling really was always a Beautiful Swan. My Beloved Swan helped me to see that I was hiding the best parts of myself from others simply because it wasn’t what they expected of me. Revealing my authentic self to him and being loved for exactly who I am opened my eyes to the truth of relationships. As long as I work to reach my highest potential, I am perfect and those who appreciate who I am will be drawn to me with ease. After all, that is how I met the love of my life.


2). Swans are vicious. Although Swans are graceful, beautiful animals, they can also be quite vicious. My Beloved Swan is a gentle, grounding soul, but do not anger or threaten him. He will attack. Swans have strong, powerful wings that can cause injury to any predator or threat. And that strength allows them to fly. My Beloved Swan taught me to honor my truth, speak my mind and fight for what is important to me. Internalizing that lesson over the last year has brought me to a place I never expected to be, yet I’m happier than I have ever been. And I WILL fight to stay on this path.


3). Swans Mate for life. At our marriage celebration, our Swan Dad shared with us two wooden swans that connect at the neck as a beautiful reminder of the deep devotion between the birds. Our Swan Parents have been married for 40 years and his Father still looks at his Mother like they are newlyweds. Likewise, when swans couple in nature, they mate for life. Having known my husband for more than 10 years before we were married, I have no doubt that this is true. Being raised in such a loving environment is a perfect reflection of My Beloved Swan. His patient, gentle, loving nature taught me how to allow myself to be loved and cared for genuinely. Allowing him to love me completely has made me more loving in return.

My Beloved Swan, Thank you for being my reflection of Love and Light. Thank you for receiving me with open arms and loving me unconditionally. Thank you for allowing me to borrow from your strength and to become a part of your legacy. I am honored that you love me. I couldn’t ask for anything more in a lover and a friend. I feel like I’ve known you forever, yet this feels like the beginning. Here’s to your best year yet! Happy Birthday, My Love!

{Self-Care} 2012: The Love & Beauty Journey with Akua Auset

Have you lost interest in your “New Year’s Resolution” yet? Are you already burned out with the changes you had hoped to make?  Breathe new life into your goals by joining me for 2012: The Love & Beauty Rebirth Journey created and hosted by Akua Auset. For details on the 365 day journey, visit www.lovebeautyrebirth.com

akua-auset.com  |  Holistic Beauty Advisor & Author Akua Auset develops magnetic beauties worldwide through wellness.  She is the creator of 9 1/2 Weeks: The METAMOORPHOSE Project ™ an epic journey of transformation. Akua has worked intimately with the planet’s most famous and talented celebrities. She is the author of SUPERWOMEN & GODDESSES: Workin’ Your Power & Magic and The Eight Elements of The Most Beautiful & Magnetic People On The Planet.

{YogaSkills} Briohny’s Got Skills

When I first began to practice Yoga, I was only concerned with how fast I could master the poses and check them off of my ‘to-do’ list. The first time I attempted the Spider Pose (Urdhva Dhanurasana or Wheel Pose in Hatha Yoga) I came face to face with my Ego and realized that the beauty of Yoga was in practice. Each attempt inspired the next. I was closer to that perfect form that I had seen so many times, so I slowed my pace and began to enjoy the journey.

The biggest lesson I gained from working on the Spider Pose was the daily commitment. I had to make my Yoga practice a part of my life if I wanted to gain control of my body. Because my goal was to develop my internal power and mental capacity, I understood that Yoga was not a fitness class that I attended weekly or when I had extra time. Yoga had to be my coffee in the morning and my night cap before bed. As I began to master the pose, I gained a new command of my mind, body and spirit, which I can translate to any area of my life now.

As I continue to meet new poses to master, I am always looking for inspiration. While chatting about Yoga with a friend this week, she urged me to watch the Yoga by Equinox video of L.A. based Yoga Instructor, Briohny Smith. I watched the video three times in the first sitting. I was amazed by the grace and command of Briohny’s flow and knew that it would serve as inspiration for me for years to come.

I watched the video every morning for a few days before I learned of the “controversy” surrounding it. It left some people asking, “Is Yoga becoming too sexy?” which left me laughing. I think the point of Briohny practicing in such attire is to show that Yoga is her lifestyle. When she wakes, this is what she flows into. She takes a moment for herself to become in tune with her body and mind before she offers herself to her Beloved, her family or her students. I saw complete control and mastery of the Self in this video and am inspired to create the same through my daily practice.

Life is all about perception. For those who feel the video is too sexy, perhaps a little more time on the mat will highlight the commitment and focus that it takes to control the body and make it appear effortless. And if you happen to look good while you do it, consider that an added bonus.

{Master Teachers} Yirser Ra Hotep

Deciding to become a Yoga teacher was easy. Finding the right teacher training program proved to be more difficult. In a world filled with gurus and masters, I grew weary with programs that made me feel like supporting the guru was more important than my own development. After looking a year of looking at different training programs across the country, I finally found the right fit when a friend suggested I train with Yirser Ra Hotep of YogaSkills. While Yirser is definitely a Master Teacher, it is not because he wants to be known as such. Yirser is a Master Teacher because he has devoted himself to his own practice for 30 years and has found a way to inspire his students to the same level of commitment. In just a few short months of working with Yirser, I can see how Yoga integrates into my personal and professional life. He has taught me not to become a Yoga teacher, but a practitioner who happens to teach Yoga. His life is his classroom and learning from him is effortless. He is my teacher, but more than that, my friend and my brother.

I was honored to speak with Yirser about his own practice and how it has grown over the years. If you’re new to Yoga, read below as Yirser shared how he began his practice over 30 years ago.

After 30 years of practice, some may see your ability to engage complex postures and poses as intimidating.  What poses did you find especially challenging as you became more proficient in your practice?

I initially found all of the practices challenging.  The only pose I could do rather easily was the head stand, but my flexibility was very limited.  However, I never felt really intimidated by anything.  My teacher, who had a similar upbringing as mine, stated that he had many problems with his the structure of his body prior to Yoga and was able to correct them.  My attitude was that if he can do it, then I can do it.  At the same time I understood that the ultimate aim of the practice was not to see how many postures I can do but to move energy with breath control and concentration.  Though I did strive to master the movements and postures, I understood that there would be many that I would never master and that is okay, too.  When people who practice Yoga attempt to judge themselves or others by how many postures they can master or how flexible they can be, they actually violate a basic precept of Yoga, which is to dissolve the ego.  We should not strive to master postures but to master ourselves.  To master ourselves means to master and dissolve the ego and the need to compete with the self by “winning” or mastering the pose.  I master the pose as a means of mastering the self, becoming in tune with the divine universal self and to dissolve the ego.

 

What was your first yoga class like   physically?  Mentally?  Spirituay?

The first time I practiced Yoga I was not able to do many of the postures well from a physical perspective, but I felt good just attempting them.  I could feel the stretch of the muscles and the release of tension.  Mentally, I felt that I had a lot to remember, but that I would take my time and be committed for the long run.  After my first class, I was hooked.  I knew that my body wasn’t where I wanted it be flexibility wise and in other ways, but I knew that I was going to invest my time and energy into engaging in the process and that it would take time.  It was funny, but I was very clear about this after the first class.  Prior to taking my first Yoga class I had been practicing fasting, fruitarianism, some meditation and astral projection as well as long distance running and working out.  I was also exploring spirituality and doing lots of reading and reflection on myself and who I am.  So, Yoga was something I just flowed into very easily although I couldn’t do the postures well initially.   

I can relate to that. I feel like I connected to the principles of yoga long before I began to work through the poses and postures. Personally speaking, what drives you to practice with such consistency?  What role does yoga serve in your daily life?

My practice is driven by addiction.  I am addicted to Yoga, eating for wellness and simply developing myself.  By addiction I mean that I feel good when I practice and do all the other things that I do to become and remain centered.  When I don’t practice I feel negative, my days don’t go as well and I am not as productive. Bad things are more likely to happen because I am not using all of my psychic senses to navigate through the nuances of my day.  Many years ago I consumed various substances in order to feel good, but the side effects were extremely negative and in the long run reduce effectiveness.  In my opinion, we are all addicted. 

We are addicted to good things or to bad things in our life.  We have to choose the positive addiction just like making the choice between the blue pill and the red pill.  I understood early on in my practice, which I started when I was around 22 years old, that I was making an investment that would pay off with high dividends when I reach into my 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s and beyond.  I was investing in a youthful and healthy future for when I became an elder.  I wanted to have the body and wellness associated with a 25 year old when I am 80 years old.  I was considered a master of Yoga by the time I was 28 years old.  At the age of 58, I retain much of my ability and all that I don’t have right now, I can get it back within a couple of weeks of more intensive practice and training.

You’ve traveled to Ancient Egypt on several occasions to discover the pyramids for yourself and to practice Kemetic yoga.  What is it like to practice such an ancient art form in one of the most mystical places on Earth?

I’ve been to Egypt about 12 times since 1995.  Each time I go there I discover something new about the ancient past and about myself.  I’ve had many mystical experiences in Kemet.   Among the most significant was the discovery of the Yoga practice I call Ma’at Ka.  I was in the city of Luxor in central Egypt practicing Yoga on the bank of the Nile River and as I practiced, my body started to go through this series of postures almost by itself.  When I got back home, I perfected the practices and started to teach it to various people and students. The feedback I received was that it was very beneficial for spinal problems and opened the energy channels in the body.  In 1995 on my first visit to Egypt, I was able to be alone in the King’s Chamber of the Great Pyramid and meditate for over an hour.  I experienced being transported through time into the past and then into the future.  I was able to experience the entire history of Black people from the most ancient of time and into the far future.  This experience was traumatic at some points as I experienced past, but I learned that we should not fear the future and I am optimistic about it.  Through my practice in Kemet, I’ve been able to discover that the sacred places (pyramids, temples, tombs) are placed on energy vortexes that amplify our internal energy and psycho-spiritual abilities.   I am able to perceive the energy that is present at these locations.  The energy at the pyramid of Sakhara is particularly strong.  Sakhara is the first known pyramid built by Imhotep.  The impressions I pick up from being in Kemet is that pyramids and temples are built on top of sites that previously contained spiritual structures 10s of thousands of years ago.

I love to hear about your travels to Egypt! I can’t wait to join you this summer and experience the energy for myself. One of the things I appreciate about Kemetic Yoga is the simplicity and ease that encourages practice at any level.  I’ve experienced a deep sense of bliss and balance after incorporating Ma’at Ka into my practice.  As more students discover the benefits of Ma’at Ka, I am sure that it will become part of your legacy with YogaSkills. What would you like for your legacy to be?

I don’t know what I want my legacy to be. I definitely want to be considered a father and grandfather by my children and grandchildren. I also want to be known as a good son, brother, cousin and uncle. I want to be known as having been a teacher who was dedicated to helping others through the Kemetic and holistic way of Yoga and living in general.  I’d like to also be known as someone who didn’t accept things as they are but who tried to change them and to pursue truth. Finally, I’d like to be known as a scientist of the art of Kemetic Yoga who fostered innovation and maintained high standards of excellence.

Being your student and having met two of your children, I can say you have accomplished that and much more. I truly enjoy learning from you and am glad that I followed my intuition to train with you. Hotep!

 

Yirser will be conducting a 200 and 500 hour Yoga Teacher Training in Montego Bay, Jamaica February 4 – February 14, 2012 and the annual YogaSkills Land of the Pharaoh’s Tour of Ancient Egypt July 24 – August 4, 2012. He will also have additional workshops and teacher trainings/certifications in Houston, Virginia, LA, Chicago, Atlanta, Nashville & New York in 2012. For more info, please visit www.YogaSkills.com or email Yirser at Yirser@YogaSkills.com.

{Master Teachers} You Are Perfect.

“In this moment, you are perfect.  It is your perception that is imperfect.” –Akua Auset

On one level, it is understood that we are all perfect. While our actions and words may not always reflect it, we are indeed perfect.  When we contradict our true nature, perhaps it is because we chase perfection instead of authenticity.  Honoring our innate gifts and sharing them in our world aligns us with our purpose and the perfection that created us.

As the New Year approaches and we make new plans, it is certain our minds will drift to the goals that have made our list more than once.  If a goal was set but not achieved, we have to ask ourselves if it is something we really want. If the goal is authentic, the work begins now.  The past is of no consequence.  Who we want to be is happening now.  It is up to us to honor our gift and follow it to our highest potential.

As we settle into the energy of new beginnings, we have to ask ourselves if we will resolve to make a change or revolt against the things that no longer serve us.  By releasing those things that are outside of our authentic self, we make room for our goals to manifest.  And that is perfection.