Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

on spirituality vs religion

In Uncategorized on April 23, 2012 at 9:36 pm
photo copyright of Lorenzo Tugnoli

photo courtesy of Lorenzo Tugnoli

I a Jewish, but I do not lead an observant religious life. I though practice, teach and live a very spiritual life. Many would define me as a “yogi,” but I could, just as easily, be called a “person who learnt how to know her-self, so now she does know how to avoid altering her equilibrium to cause the minimum suffering.” Yes, I have learnt this through yoga, not religion. And I am not ashamed to say so even if I consider myself a Jew 100%.
My religious belief have not lead me to the same self-understanding I gained through asana, breathing and meditation practice and through limiting myself in what I could eat, drink and think for a while. I discovered the “I” beneath my own skin feeling for it through my own body and overstepping the “mind games” I had played for many years before. No religious book tell you how to conquer the “monkey mind,” they may suggest you live with certain values and respect for each other, but they do not spell out for you that if you use breath retainment and you do lots of back-bending, your heart rate will decrease and you will feel less
stressed…so,here you have it:

Yoga is yoga and religion is religion.
Two, very spiritual practices, but not the same thing!

My “yogic life” showed me the way to the “most real self I could find below the five senses,” but this does not mean I stopped being attached to my Judaism roots, the same ones my ancestors lived by over 2,000 years ago. I lead an ordinary life where the secular values I respect within the realms of my yoga reality are the same ones I have always known when raised as an Italian Jew in Rome.

Yet, I do realize for many who have not gotten through a similar “path of self-awarness” trying to define yoga without the world creed, religion, belief or spirituality is not so easy. As an example, the other day after a yoga class, I overheard one of my student saying he does yoga only for the physical benefit and he did not like to chant the “OM” before and at the end of class because he does not want to be converted to the “yoga faith.”

Now, according to my teacher Sri Dharma Mittra: “Yoga is a discipline of self-knowledge” that has nothing to do with religion. It has rules and regulations that one should respect for a better understanding of him/herself, but there is no “yoga bible,” there is not yogi as followers of a particular religious creed, but just yogi as followers of a teacher who will show them what he did to understand himself best and encourage them to do the same. Being called a Yogi is simply the definition of those who have “reached the yoking of their minds and bodies,” those who have paid their dues understanding that these two entities work on their own and that the whole goal of life is to make them work in accordance with one another to avoid pain and suffering.

Religion is belonging to a tribe, a group of people with similar beliefs, Yoga is a selfish, individualists search for the meaning of our own self on this Earth. Yoga is a combination of physical exercise with breath, meditation and respect of the ethical rules *(which if you read them properly could remind you of what your parents told you when you were little, or what you would hear your grandmother yelling at you when you were playing with your friends in the backyard!). There is not religion that requires you to twist and turn like a gummy bear,neither to breath through your nose after holding the breath for 12 counts for physical benefits!

Some could argue that yoga practice can become very spiritual and lose some of its “exercise-only” traits especially when one speaks of Kirtan and chanting to the images of “personified god and goddess.” Yet again, Krishna, Ganesh and company are nothing, but the personification of a “stronger force” called “the Divine Self,” or “our own pure essence” that co-exist within ourselves unrelated to the religious back-ground we may have.

yoga is the stage of needing nothing

In Uncategorized on April 4, 2012 at 3:18 pm

You know that feeling you get at the end of a yoga class as if you just drank a big glass of wine on an empty stomach?
you know that wonderful feeling of needing and wanting nothing more than just be on your mat just one more second in shavasana because life is just so much sweeter that way?

You also know that feeling of walking out the yoga room and being assaulted by phone calls, assignments, contracts, people talking…the world just wants to get back in touch with you, but you are all about avoiding contact. All you want to do is to shut them all up and walk home in silence where you can continue that same mantra.

Well, that feeling can and will stay with you forever if you choose to.
Yoga is the stage of needing nothing. So, once you do Yoga enough, you will realize that nothing more than that feeling is exactly what you need in life to move forward and achieve just about anything you put your mind forth.

Use Yoga as your measuring cup for what you think you need and what instead you are going to obtain if you have no expectations of what life will bring.
There is nothing more you will need than the fulfillment of pushing yourself toward the limit of a pose and getting there after hours of exercise. Kicking up into that forearm balance after many tries will serve you more than earning a big chunk of cash for a photography gig. Self-satisfaction goes beyond money and fame. Yoga teaches you just that and then fun side of it is that you can take if off your mat any time you want. And even play with it on a lonesome pear in the middle of Williamsburg in a cold night in December.

And the Yoga train keeps on going…

if you follow the ‘law of attraction’ there is always light at the end of a tunnel

In Uncategorized on February 2, 2012 at 2:42 am

Have you ever noticed that if you walk down the street and you crack a smile at somebody, you often get a bright, sunny smile right back at you? Well, isn’t that just a boost of energy?
I think so. And that is why I try doing it all the time, even when I am having an awful, awful day like today, for example, where every red light I had to cross was red and every line I had to stand in never ended, or that I did not accomplish anything worth talking about because I wasted the entire day doing one, annoying thing, with no end results whats-o-ever!

But, those are exactly the days we should exercise what many people call the “Law of Attraction.” Those are the days we are put to a challenge and we must see if we can indeed stand up to it. If “same attracts same,” and we decide to smile and someone will smile back at us then we initiate a chain of command that like a domino stack will only fall if brought out of balance. But if not, will only brings us back more and more smiles every day.

If you always put out a good vibe, the universe will respond to you with a similar, if not stronger, positive energy.

In my 28 years of life, I have wondered and got lost. I have tasted the bitter mud of failure and then rolled back the other side to come-up stronger, I have loved and hated, I have disrespected and dishonored the beautiful soul that I am, but could not see before… I have done WRONG, I have done BAD, I haven’t done ENOUGH…

Then one day it all stopped! And my thoughts started to change.

I had it all RIGHT from the beginning, I just did NOT see it. I am HAPPY with who I am and HONORED to be carrying along this path. I am not kidding, it really happened! And, consequently, so many other things around me started to change as well.
I chose my attitude toward the world so I automatically chose the way I felt all the time in every situation, sad, lonely, aggravating whatever.

That was the day in which I forever committed to only show my BEST so that I would only attract those same people along my path.
This has been given me more knowledge of myself and others around me, not to mention, it has given me perspective over who I may chose now as my life partner.

Enjoy the quote from connoisseur of the “Law Of Attraction,” Braham-Hick.

“You will notice that those who speak most of prosperity, have it. Those who speak most of health, have it. Those who speak most of sickness, have it. Those who speak most of poverty, have it. It is Law. It can be no other way…The way you feel is your point of attraction, and so, the Law of Attraction is most understood when you see yourself as a magnet getting more and more of the way you feel. When you feel lonely, you attract more loneliness. When you feel poor, you attract more poverty. When you feel sick, you attract more sickness. When you feel unhappy, you attract more unhappiness. When you feel healthy and vital and alive and prosperous—you attract more of all of those things.”

the whys of olive oil

In Uncategorized on January 17, 2012 at 7:02 pm

There is nothing better than a good old slice of pane casareccio with some fresh, home-made extra virgin olive oil to begin your morning in the country side of Italy *(or where ever else you may be to remind you of whichever country side far away!) And no, coffee is not a requirement and neither is orange juice, GOOD olive oil is the only “secret ingredient.”

I remember my grandmother always made me eat bread with olive oil when I was a little girl and I insisted I wanted to savor some sweet croissant with butter and marmalade instead…Ohhhhh, little did I know that the simpler the ingredients, the better the receipt! I learnt to appreciate it all way too late.

There are always great ways to be creative in the kitchen with just about nothing as an ingredient, but olive oil MUST always be present *(used before, during and after the meal is ready!) I used olive oil even in Asian Foods and I am pretty sure they have never had olives, let alone “frantoi” to crush the olives in oil. But hey, guess what? I love the texture and the smell and, that, almost bitter-sweet taste it has when it’s absolutely as much extra virgin as possible.

Olive Oil is just one of those giant foods one cannot ever go wrong with…even when you are not Italian, you can sprinkle it anywhere from salads, to brown rice, to pasta, to use it as moisturizer for your dry skin. Seriously though, if you try it on toasted bread with maybe some garlic and rosemary, you will feel the bliss and you will taste nature and it’s earthy flavors in one go.

So, I do not feel much of a stranger when I go places with my home-prepared meal and I have a little jar with extra virgin olive oil with me that I pull our and poor over just about any food I made that day. And yet, it had calories, but com`on…they are the best fat calories you can ever imagine, plus it makes even the worst food taste better.
I am indeed an olive oil fanatic, but that’s ok with me, as far as I do find myself drinking off the bottle on day. That maybe slightly inappropriate!

welcome to paradise

In Uncategorized on January 5, 2012 at 10:45 pm

So I am back in Italy for a few weeks and I decided to go to my house in Tuscany and start setting up the foundation for the Brunisola Retreat in July in Porto Santo Stefano. I was inspired already, but after I saw Isola del Giglio at sunset, I could not but take this photo and get even more excited about it all.
So, prepare yourself to have your socked knocked off. We will have such a wonderful time meditating and practicing on my beach house’s big terrace as well as hiking and mountain biking all over Monte Argentario.
Not to mention eating fresh food prepared daily and enjoying some wonderful time at the Cala Grande private rocky beach beneath my house.
The retreat will be the second week in July *(July 10-18). Make sure to schedule your trip soon because we only have 11 spots.
Can’t wait to start this wonderful adventure…

Om Shanti, Shanti, Shanti…

do not let friends stand in the way of your spiritual path

In Uncategorized on November 28, 2011 at 3:10 pm

“The man of today does not need to practice hatha yoga for hours and hours together. He is dynamic and needs to express himself through action and various interrelationships with people. Yoga must meet the various elements of his personality, and for this reason he needs a balanced combination of Hatha Yoga, Karma Yoga, Bahkti Yoga and Jana Yoga,” from the Hatha Yoga Pradipika.

Well, I guess since I do not strive to be a monk living in a Buddhist temple in the Tibetan mountains *(although I may end-up there in another life), I have to work on keeping balance with my other live duties alive daily. This will be my biggest challenge for the rest of the Dharma Yoga 500 hours training and for the rest of my life since I keep on struggling with the definition of who am I a Yogi, a photographer, a runner or else…
But, yet again, this uncertainty and this plentitude of titles to give myself, it’s ultimately the biggest blessing of it all.
Again, though, one biggest challenge to the concept of a “modern yogi” is the bad company, the one the Hatha Yoga Pradipika speaks about; “those who live an anti-spiritual life or who think negatively. People without any purpose in life, who are unaware of the importance of spiritual evolution do not enlighten one’s soul and should be avoided by a sadhaka.”
How do you push them away from your life, though? It is not their fault if they were not meant to be as spiritual? I sometimes feel strongly about this concept and other times I think it is not in my place to push friends and family members away because they are not on my same self-awarness path. I rather teach them if they wish to learn some than pushing them away. Now, if they, somehow get in my way, I will have to just be stronger with myself, not with them. I am the one who has decided to change her life around to be more spiritual and more in touch with herself, not them. It’s my karma, not theirs especially if they may not be willing to be taught. They will have to move on that path on their own, with their own two feet in the understanding of what they are willing to do and why, as I did.
Yet, on the other hand, living next to them, being around them, does feel sickening at times. It feels wrong and depriving, as if their energy and mine cannot match, they just can’t coexist in the same space and time.
For example, I live with my little sister who is not a Yogi, she practice, but she does not agree with most of the things I have been doing. She respects them because she things they are benefitting me, but she sometimes steps in the way of my self-realization putting me on the spot about how much I have changed, and how much she does not recognize me because I am different and calmer and she cannot relate to me anymore.
This pains me immensely. I know I should let it be and I am working on it, but it just makes me feel upset and annoyed. I am working so hard on ameliorating myself and becoming more self-aware and a better human being in general and the one person I love the most in the world is rebelling against me. But, then again, I think she is still young and has to see a thing or two about herself still…so I am serving as her example one way or another and, as if do to so I have to take her criticism daily, so be it, as far as I can keep my mind still and calm and not get affect it by it. I am happy to help her discover she may need to learn to meditate too one of these days!

we are one

In Uncategorized on November 24, 2011 at 5:06 am

I have never been to India, I have never washed myself in the holy waters of the Ganges, I never took classes with Pattabhi Joyce at Mysore, and I have never, ever in a million years thought I would become vegan, would meditate daily and would go out on a Friday night for Kirtan instead than for red wine. But life is unpredictably weird that way and so here I am, three months into this life-long commitment to my spiritual guidance, Sri Dharma Mittra, and so happy to be part of “his loving army of saving souls” as an almost-graduated Dharma Yoga teacher.

And no, this is not a commercial to promote some super-power Dharma yoga teachers may have, it’s just a way to explain that teaching yoga is far from teaching aerobics or steps. Practicing and teaching yoga can change you from the inside out making you so much more aware of your true, natural being. With the study of yoga, your soul it’s revealed to you and it becomes a mirror for others. Once a mirror is created, many more can come from that and so the army of “soul saving soldiers” is molded one after another with the belief that we are all one, made of the same “divine material

The physical part of yoga it’s the first step to “soul clean-up,” the grosser one of them all. But when that’s done…one goes deeper into the inner self, below the dirt and the multiple masks put upon from years of lies and “pretending happiness” and gets to the core of it all, the Supreme Self, the drop of God that resides in every living being’s heart. Once you get to know that part of yourself, everything else is easy to understand, because everything else is just a mere illusion compared to the reality of what lies beneath it all.

Before one becomes a yoga teacher one has to experience it all on her own skin *(the strict diet, the demanding meditation, the ethical rules, the devotion and respect toward your Guru, the tapas to continue practicing even when there seems to be no more strength left, the reading of tedious scriptures and the faith in the belief of something intangible and inexplicable). Then, one can even began thinking of teaching such learnings to someone else.

“A teacher instills into the disciple a great spiritual power that within time will allow the disciple to have spiritual emancipation,” from the Anaduta Gita, a sacred Yoga text Dharma’s Swami used to read to them when he was in the Ashram in the early ’60s. “No matter how distant a teacher and a disciple are, they share a psychic connection, the obidient and reveret student automatically becomes part of the guru’s aura,” added Sri Dharma Mittra in his spiritual discourse on Nov. 15, 2011.

Dharma is a living proof of what it means to know yourself to the deepest level. He is the most self-controlled human being I have ever met and his balance of mind and spirit it’s just remarkable and it seems almost as if he has not knowledge of how calm and serene he looks and feels to everyone around him. Being in his presence it’s both inspiring and humbling. He is a spiritual guidance for all who are seeking to see past their physical bodies and go deeper to get to know that other part of “us,” the spiritual voice inside that wants to come out, but does not know how. Dharma is the light to show you how to get there. But words cannot even begin to explain…you must meet him in person

Part of the main problem in the western world, though, it’s that yoga asana *(poses) has become a commodity for many and, since the beginning it has been advertised as more of a physical exercise than a philosophy to self-knowledge. Yoga poses are just stretches for the body and there is little to no knowledge at all to the true benefit each posture has not only on the physical body parts, but also on a more spiritual level…so people do not often get the full benefit of yoga, which is indeed better than any therapy you may have tried.

Words can only in part describe what it feels to be one with body and mind without doubts on who we truly are and to bring this belief about to your everyday life outside of the yoga mat and make you realize that you can really transform everything to yoga. From the act of offering help to a friend, to avoid being so needy all the time, to the welcoming of changes in your life *(positive or negative ones) with an ever-changing attitude of steel. Yes, it’s indeed possible to see life from different sunglasses, with some diverse UVA filtered lenses and control our reactions to what we see and how we see it without getting thrown off our balance every time, it just takes some practice. And yoga, for me at least, it’s step 1, 2, 3…9 and 10.

I am ready to share this knowledge that brought me up to here…who is in for some learning!

tip toeing in…Italy summer retreats

In Uncategorized on September 3, 2011 at 3:32 pm

…good morning Yogis and welcome to Yogaville. My name is Federica, I live in Brooklyn where I teach Yoga and I work as a freelance photographer for several magazine both in English and Italian.

Cala Grande, Porto Santo Stefano, Tuscany

I am a 28 years old Italian who has immigrated in the United States 10 years ago, but who has never lost her love for her home country and likes to go back  & teach Yoga in Italy quite often.So, this year I have decided to join the Italian Yoga world providing my own Yoga Retreats Series in 3 of my favorite places of all time.  This is how Yogaville began: The retreat series will start on the spring of 2012 ant its 3 main stops will be:  The Brunisola Yoga Retreat , in Porto Santo Stefano on the costal side of Tuscany  and Monaciano Yoga Retreat  in the country side of Tuscany.

How is my workshop series different from the other ones you see online?

Imagine waking-up to the smell of  freshly grown rosemary, basil and parsley and to the sound of summer crickets, not to mention the quite surrounding of a beach or country house in the land of history, food and wine. Imagine doing your first morning meditation and Sun Salutation either on a big terrace overlooking the Mediterranean sea or on the green grass of a resort in the middle of the Tuscan Hills or in the Marche region where all you will be able to hear will be my voice, your own breath and few more students practicing along side you.

Imagine freshly made coffee, Italian peaches and other fresh fruits and croissants for breakfast. Imagine daily beach immersion, biking, hiking, or cultural trips to the nearest town (Porto Santo Stefano, Siena, Ascoli Piceno, San Benedetto…etc, depending on which workshop series you choose). Imagine the Yoga readings and Dharma teachings done under the shade of a pear tree. Imagine night barbecuing or outdoor dining in the town’s Sagre *(summer outing of regional hand-made food that varies depending on the Italian region your are in). Imagine a deep tissue or a thai massage at the end of it all before you melt in your bed.

Vineyards in Tuscany

Here is what I offer you. Why? Because teaching Yoga is what gives me the most peaceful feeling in the whole world. Nothing else is more rewarding than helping others discovering that life does not need to be so demanding and stressful all the time. I have learned it the hard way myself *(with panic attacks and depression), but Yoga taught me how to deal with it and I want to share my learnings with as many people as I can in my mortal life.

You have probably heard it all before: I will teach you this and that. You will know yourself better. You will feel the ‘yoga high.’ This workshop will change your life. You will never be the same again. The truth is that what Yoga does or does not do for you cannot be described in words. You have to experience the asana, the meditation, the respect of the Yogic principles (Yamas and Nyamas) to understand why living a Yogic life is a life-changing choice and not just daily exercise. With Yoga you get to know yourself to a deeper level and you learn how to go against your fears and overcome them.

Doing such self-search alongside the Tuscan beach or hill-top in Italy  maybe a more adventurous and more enjoyable experience than doing it in a Yoga room. Yes, of course, a bit less economical as well, but worth every penny.

Following a Yogic life is no easy task. Everything must happen gradually and you must have patience with yourself because the self-discovery takes time, patience and dedication. In this workshop I will share with you what brought me to Yoga and what has kept me on my mat for the past 7 years.

Sunset in Tuscany

I will provide you with the tools to enter the gate of self-knowledge and I will bid you enter them, but ultimately it’s your choice how and when you will do so. As clique’ as all of this may sound, my experience with Yoga has always gone beyond the breathing exercise and poses, once you learn to respect the principles of non-violence, respect for yourself, truthfulness and honesty with everyone that crosses your path and non-attachment to material goods, you free yourself and find peace at every step along the way.

The Yoga life challenges me to be a better version of myself: The Asana keeps me in flexible shape, meditation and chakra balance, helps me control my thinking and the respect of the Yamas and the Nyamas allows me to gain awareness of my true self (that drop of God inside oneself called soul) and this way I can share my knowledge with the rest of my students. Quite the perfect combination!

If you come to this retreat series, I will teach you that happiness is already hidden inside yourself; you just need to unleash it by dropping the struggle of being someone else. With Yoga asana, meditation practice and Dharma teachings I will help you reach truthfulness for yourself and consequently bring that same desire to be truthful with your words and your actions off your Yoga mat to every other human being that you will encounter on your path.

In this workshop I will speak from experience, and by the end of it, you too will be speaking loud and clear!

See more photos under the photo tab or visit the Web sites suggested above.
Om Shanti 🙂