Monday, September 14, 2015

Teachers

By Adrian Molina


One of the great things about teaching many yoga classes every week in a city like New York is that you get to meet a diverse and wide range of professionals—doctors, lawyers, CEOs, celebrities, Ph.D.’s, scientists, teachers and professors. 

I've been blessed to have in my classes professionals of every possible field. One of my favorites to have in class are teachers. Because they know the importance of learning, and they understand and appreciate the role of the teacher. And I learn a lot from them.

I have pre-K teachers, elementary and high school teachers, NYU professors, published teachers who travel to symposiums and congresses, decorated with awards and recognition. Some of them have newspaper or magazine columns or segments on TV, or even their own TED talks. When I see them in my newsfeed teaching and speaking in such prestigious venues I feel humbled that they choose to share some of their time with me.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Say "Thank You!"

by Dennis Hunter

There is a moment at the beginning of Wayne Dyer’s film “The Shift,” in which he demonstrates how he would wake up each morning at around 3:30am. Rolling to the side of his bed, placing his feet on the floor, he lifts his gaze slightly, takes in a deep breath, pauses to appreciate the miracle of being alive, and whispers: “Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.”

If you’re anything like me, that’s a far cry from how you usually wake up. You, too, might utter phrases and perhaps even invoke the creator, but it’s not in gratitude for another day lived. It’s probably more like:

“Oh God! I hate getting up this early.”

“Oh God! I wish I didn’t have to go to work today.”

“Oh God! I feel like a truck ran over me.”

“Oh God! I don’t want to go to that meeting / teach that class / cook breakfast / etc…”

“Oh God! My back aches / my head hurts / my allergies / etc…”

The writer Ben Okri once said: “Beware the stories you read or tell; subtly, at night, beneath the waters of consciousness, they are altering your world.” But this happens all the time, not only at night. It happens from the very first moment you wake up. We must always be vigilant about the stories we tell ourselves, and how they alter our world.

What is the first story you tell yourself upon awakening, when you first open your eyes and set your feet on the floor? Is it a story about how much your day is going to suck? Then guess what? Your day is going to suck. You’ve pretty much willed that perception into existence.

But what if you could wake up and tell yourself, instead, a quick little story about what a marvel it is to be granted one more day of life? How would it change the narrative — and how would the narrative change your experience? — if the first thing you articulate in your mind is not a complaint about your day but an expression of gratitude for it?

And when you come home at the end of the day, and you drop your bag and take off your shoes, examine the tone in which you exclaim: “Oh God! What a day!” Are you bitching about it? Or expressing wonder and appreciation for the fact that you were lucky enough to have another one?

Someday soon you will run out of days, and then you will see that each day of your life, beneath the waters of consciousness, the stories you told yourself were, in fact, altering your world. You can’t always alter the circumstances of your life, but you can always alter the story you tell yourself today. Start now.

Say “Thank you.” Say it three times, when you first wake up, before doing anything else. It may feel phony at first. You might even feel like a new age Pollyanna. Try it anyway. And see if that story doesn’t alter your world for the better — just a little bit.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Come to Cuba with Us!

February 6-11, 2016.

This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to explore yoga and meditation while immersing yourself in the unique culture of Cuba. This is not your average yoga retreat, and Cuba is unlike any other destination. Organized by Pure Yoga, the retreat will include daily yoga and meditation with Adrian and Dennis while you explore the heart of old Havana and the stunning beauty of the Viñales region of the island.

Spaces on this retreat are limited and it’s expected to fill up very quickly.

Click here for more information and itinerary, and email Laina Jacobs at Pure Yoga (laina.jacobs@pureyoga.com) to arrange your deposit.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Civilization and Its Discontents

by Dennis Hunter

"People who are really happy with themselves are f***ing boring. The worst word in the world is content." — actor Kevin Spacey, who turned 56 last week

I think maybe I understand what Kevin Spacey meant by that statement. Drive and personal ambition are important American values. Always aiming higher, not settling for less. More, better, stronger, faster. Perhaps it’s no coincidence that Spacey plays (so very, very well) one of the most evil, Machiavellian, greedy, power-obsessed characters on television, in the disturbingly good Netflix series “House of Cards,” which provides a devastating and hair-raising glimpse into American national politics.

But I disagree with Spacey’s statement. Because I think it’s actually incredibly, incredibly rare for human beings to experience true contentment. And contentment is one of the secret, neglected keys to spiritual awakening and self-realization.

Most of us live our lives chronically caught up in a pervasive feeling of what ancient yogis and Buddhists referred to as “dukkha,” a Sanskrit word that (unfortunately) is often translated as “suffering” but could be (more accurately) rendered as discontentment, dis-ease, imbalance, a sense of lack and insufficiency that plagues us and leaves us—no matter how much good stuff we get—always wanting more.

The ancient yogis and Buddhists said that on the flip side of this coin that is our human experience is the opposite of dukkha: sukha. Sukha, (again, unfortunately) is most often translated into English as “bliss,” which sounds like some kind of fuzzy, pleasurable state that is assumed to be the opposite of suffering. (By that definition, a junkie strung out on heroin could be experiencing sukha.) But there are much better choices for rendering “sukha” into English: contentment, for one, or a sense of ease and well-being, balance, things working smoothly and harmoniously according to the natural order.

Contentment is one of the magical, golden keys to a life well-lived. Without cultivating a basic sense of contentment and gratitude for what we have, we cannot unlock the doors that keep us trapped in our self-made prisons of resentment, jealousy, greed, and all the other afflictive emotional patterns that diminish and discolor our human experience. We don’t have to rest on our laurels and become doormats, but developing a greater sense of contentment and appreciation for what we already have is a really good place to start.

— Hunter


“Because one believes in oneself, one doesn't try to convince others.
Because one is content with oneself, one doesn't need others' approval.
Because one accepts oneself, the whole world accepts him or her.”
― Lao Tzu

“Be content with what you have;
rejoice in the way things are.
When you realize there is nothing lacking,
the whole world belongs to you.”
― Lao Tzu

“He who is not contented with what he has, would not be contented with what he would like to have.”
― Socrates

Monday, July 6, 2015

Freedom's Just Another Word

by Dennis Hunter

This weekend, as a nation, we celebrated Independence Day. This got me thinking about the notion of freedom, which was the theme of my meditation class last night.

Ordinarily when we talk about freedom we’re talking about something that comes from outside. It’s given to us, or we fight for it, or we earn it somehow. We often think of freedom as the right to do whatever we want (within reasonable limits imposed by law and society).

But the kind of freedom we talk about on the spiritual path doesn’t come from outside. It isn’t given to us by anyone else, and it doesn’t even really depend all that much on external circumstances. Freedom in a spiritual sense is an inside job. It’s less about being free to do what we want and more about setting ourselves free from all the forms of internal conditioning that keep us imprisoned in psychological and emotional suffering.

The spiritual teacher Adyashanti writes:

“Human beings have a drive for security and safety, which is often what fuels the spiritual search. This very drive for security and safety is what causes so much misery and confusion. Freedom is a state of complete and absolute insecurity and not knowing. So, in seeking security and safety, you actually distance yourself from the freedom you want. There is no security in freedom, at least not in the sense that we normally think of security. This is, of course, why it is so free: there's nothing there to grab hold of.

The Unknown is more vast, more open, more peaceful, and more freeing than you ever imagined it would be. If you don't experience it that way, it means you're not resting there; you're still trying to know. That will cause you to suffer because you're choosing security over Freedom. When you rest deeply in the Unknown without trying to escape, your experience becomes very vast.”

What happens when we drop down beneath our habitual drive for security and safety? We touch in with the vast, open Mystery that was always there, and in that Mystery there is a freedom that surpasses understanding. Imagine what this very moment would feel like if we could suddenly drop beneath our protective shell and taste that freedom right here, right now.

Imagine experiencing this very moment free from the mind’s obsessive thinking. What if we could drop into a natural stillness and silence in which the mind is aware and relaxed, without chatter, without commentary?

What about freedom from troubling emotions — greed, anger, jealousy, hatred, and so on? What would this moment feel like if the waters of the mind were not whipped into a frenzy of emotion?

Freedom from judgment — that’s a big one. Look at how we constantly judge and evaluate ourselves and others. What if, for one moment, we could just drop our compulsive need to be the judge of everything?

And can we even imagine being free from caring what other people think? How much time do we spend trapped in worrying about other people’s opinions of us, and trying to manipulate perceptions to make a good impression? We don’t have to let ourselves go to seed and become the Crazy Cat Lady, but wouldn’t it be sort of glorious to experience, if only for this moment, the freedom of not being quite so concerned with everyone else’s opinions of us?

And our own opinions! How heavy are they? We seem to have opinions about everything under the sun, and we take our opinions so seriously, as if each one is the gospel truth. When we relate openly to the Mystery that underlies our experience, we start to see our own cloud of opinions as a cloud of biting insects, an irritating drain on our attention and a veil that obscures reality.


Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Lost in Translation

by Dennis Hunter

Yoga and meditation have taken American society by storm. Starting from a few transplanted Indian teachers and their ashrams, countless styles and schools of yoga have evolved to address every niche market and demographic: bootcamp-style hot power vinyasa classes; body-image oriented yoga for glutes and abs; traditional Bhakti devotional yoga done in front of murals and statues of Hindu deities with chanting and incense, wearing white clothing; corporate yoga done in front of computer screens or at office desks, wearing suits and dress socks; yoga for children; yoga for the elderly; yoga for overweight people; yoga for women; yoga for men; prenatal yoga; postnatal yoga; alignment-based yoga; Christian yoga; dance-based yoga; pilates-based yoga; yoga for sleep; yoga for sex; martial arts-based yoga; acro-yoga; aerial yoga; and, yes, even hot nude yoga.

In the realm of meditation, something similar is now taking place. Starting from a few Buddhist meditation centers established by teachers transplanted from various Asian countries, “mindfulness” (and a host of related practices) has grown into a cottage industry and a household word in mainstream society. Mindfulness is taught at Google and in Wall Street banks to help employees be less stressed and more productive; it’s taught in hospitals to help patients cope with pain and illness; it’s taught in classrooms to help students concentrate and perform better on tests; it’s taught in church basements to help addicts in recovery and in therapists’ offices to help patients regulate mood disorders; it’s taught in temples to help spiritual aspirants reach towards enlightenment and in boutique meditation centers to help busy urban professionals find a time to slow down and relax; it’s taught by the military to help soldiers cope with the stresses of warfare.

With yoga and meditation finding their way into so many corners of American society, and taking on so many new — and frequently materialistic — manifestations, it may be time to take a step back and assess whether something essential is being lost in the translation of these ancient Eastern traditions into American culture. 

Friday, May 22, 2015

Self-Care

by Adrian Molina

The pace of the city keeps you on your toes, from dawn to sunset and even late at night. We are so driven to accomplish things, always striving to build a future. A reputation. A name. A family. An identity. But sometimes, in the city that never sleeps, we forget the importance of self-care.

When the scale has been tilted too much and too long to one side, it is difficult to come back to a state of balance and bring things into perspective. A life of constant doing and activity becomes a vicious cycle that can be hard for even the most advanced yogi or meditator to break.

Often, I see my students struggling to bring some sense of balance to their lives. They come straight from the airport to take a class. They use their lunch hour to practice. They secretly hope for a scheduled meeting to be canceled so they can find some space to do yoga. I see them taking off high heels right outside the studio and switching from mind to body in a blink of an eye.

I see my fellow teachers struggling with this too. Always teaching, teaching, teaching...always giving. Perhaps the ultimate oxymoron is being stressed out from teaching too much yoga.

I struggle with this myself. Juggling and planning classes, private clients, projects, recordings, teacher trainings, planning retreats. Always trying to squeeze more juice out of my 24-hour day. Perhaps it's ironic—but telling—that I'm drafting this article on a crowded train during rush hour and in-between classes.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

The Teacher Who Forgot to Be a Student

by Adrian Molina

Over the last few months I’ve been puzzling over this....
What is the best way to handle it when other yoga teachers come to your class and decide to put extra scoops of protein and spirulina into every single posture or flow you offer?
They go for the large size fries even if you offer only the small. They go for Venti even if you offer only Tall. They add extra shrimp even when the plate only comes with veggies.
What's the highest road to take? Should you say something when a colleague takes your class and decides to showcase their entire portfolio, in every single posture you offer, to the point where it becomes a distraction to students and even to you as a teacher?
A few months ago, I approached a colleague who was taking my class and very gently asked him to stop making a wet noodle out of every posture I was offering, and I suggested he might want to move his mat to the back of the room so he would be less of a solo act and more of a choir member. But it left me with a bittersweet taste. Who am I, after all, to say anything?

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

The Power of Meditation: Voices of Students (Part Nine)

Over the past several weeks I’ve been working with students in a 200-hour Yoga Teacher Training and helping them develop a daily meditation practice. I asked each student to explain, in their own words, their personal motivation for meditating. I’m sharing one student’s response per day. To read the introduction to this series, click here.


STUDENT 9:  “ I never thought meditation could be so powerful...”

STUDENT 9 took an interesting approach by journaling her experience after meditation on three separate occasions. In the process, not only did she gain insights into herself and her past, but she recorded how her own views of meditation and experiences with it radically shifted over the course of a few weeks.

March 18, 2015
Honestly, I do not meditate in the traditional sense. I sometimes feel I am meditating while I am baking but clearly I am not still nor is my mind clear because I know I have to take the cookies out of the oven in ten minutes so I’ll wash the dishes in the meantime. However, baking comes easily to me and is practically a routine, I am quite relaxed even though I am very conscious of time.

My very first experience meditating was at the age of 8 when my parents dropped me off at our Buddhist Taoist temple after school to keep the elder company. Pastor Chiang had a practice of meditating daily. The only guidance she gave was to sit on this chair with my hands on my knees, eyes closed and to be quiet. I think we sat for an hour.  Of course, I opened my eyes from time to time to look at her to see if she had her eyes closed, but also to look around the room. I remember waiting to see what would happen – maybe the room would change, maybe she would change – I was not scared, just curious.  I cannot remember much more from that experience, however, whenever I think of meditation, I cannot help but to relate this to Pastor Chiang.

Unfortunately, when Pastor Chiang comes to my mind, I can’t help but also think of all the pain she caused my family. But I have grown and do not associate meditation and Pastor Chiang together. However, I have kept my distance from stepping foot into any temple and meditating since my father passed. My father devoted his life to that temple and helping Pastor Chiang but all she did was cause us tremendous pain, especially to my mother.

I am a busy body and feel like I have to make use of all 24 hours in a day so I spend every minute accomplishing something. While I have not practiced meditation because I have not looked at it as an act of accomplishment, I am willing to do my homework and try to meditate daily for 10 minutes and see where it takes me.

March 19, 2015
Wow. I did my first 10 minute meditation last night. I realized that I had associated meditating to not just Mrs. Chiang but more so to all the hurt she caused my family and that I don’t think I have forgiven her for this. Taking the time to clear my mind allowed me to think more clearly afterwards. I realized I had suppressed these feelings of anger.

April 8, 2015
I can finally say I have meditated for 4 days in a row now – my longest stretch since Yoga Teacher Training started. And I find 10 minutes is not long enough. Usually, the monkey mind is still wild the first 5 minutes or I am still getting myself into a comfortable seated position. So out of the 10 minutes, I’ve only had 5 minutes of quality meditation. So last night, I upped it to 15 minutes.

“Alert! Alert! Yet, relax! Relax!” This is so on-point as to how I feel after I have meditated. Four weeks ago, my attitude was I’m so tired at the end of the day, I don’t have time to meditate. I have so much to do and I need to get some sleep - I don’t want to spend 10 minutes of time not being productive. What I have come to realize is that because not only is my mind so active with planning and reminding myself of all the tasks I need to do each day and actually doing all that I do each day, it actually is very productive to force my body and mind to stop and rest. Even more surprising is how relaxed and energetic I feel after I meditate. It’s like we all need a break from training. When training for a marathon, you need to build up the miles gradually, incorporate speed work but also take rest days and let the body and muscles recuperate. My mind is working every waking moment that it also needs to take a rest break. Before meditating, sometimes I have to reread the same paragraph two or three times to really grasp the meaning of the words. I think this is because my mind is so tired or cluttered with so many thoughts it cannot concentrate as well. But after meditating, my mind is clearer and more focused - I understand it the first time around. I have always believed in quality versus quantity but never thought this applied to my mind as well. After meditating, I benefitted from both quantity and quality with my reading.

I have also found myself to be a calmer person after meditating. The past three weeks have been quite challenging with issues I’ve encountered at work. I find myself quite angry in my work environment and have decided I need to leave this environment. I will never be happy here and should not subject myself to this harmful environment but am better able to deal with the situation until it changes. Meditation has helped me see that my personality just will not jive with my coworkers. And my supportive husband has helped me to meditate each day because he feels he needs to get back at me for always nagging him. After I tell him about yet another bad day at work, he immediately tells me to meditate.

Wow, I never thought meditation could be so powerful.

_________________________________


Dennis Hunter is a writer, yogi and meditation teacher living in New York City. He is the author of You Are Buddha: A Guide to Becoming What You Are. He is a co-founder of Warrior Flow™ with his husband Adrian Molina.

Monday, May 11, 2015

The Power of Meditation: Voices of Students (Part Eight)

Over the past several weeks I’ve been working with students in a 200-hour Yoga Teacher Training and helping them develop a daily meditation practice. I asked each student to explain, in their own words, their personal motivation for meditating. I’m sharing one student’s response per day. To read the introduction to this series, click here.


STUDENT 8:  “ Regaining focus and clarity...”

The main benefit of mediation for me is to regain focus and clarity of the mind. In the world we currently live in, clarity and focus seem like “old school” concepts because it’s virtually impossible to stay away from screens (iPhones, computers, T.V’s). There are not many opportunities for us to stay focused on one thing for a long period of time or to just look around you and appreciate what goes on. Even for a minute. Just an example of a few distractions that happen daily and within minutes: you are at work writing an email, the phone rings, you get on the call and hang up, back to regain focus on writing that email, another email pops up, and you read the first few lines and you already think of what your response should be, then back to finish the first email, you get a text and you decide to respond to it later but then… what if I forget? ok let me respond to this, back to the email and now the boss is telling you what needs to be done. You see where I am getting at? Not to mention, after 8 hours of all this, you get home and what is the thing you turn on when home to fill that constant clutter/noise of the mind? The T.V. After the long commute home which is spent on the phone checking still more emails or on Facebook. Luckily, I am not so much like this anymore. I am usually the one in the bus or train looking around seeing the horrible sight of people only looking at their phones. But it makes me so sad and depressed when I do that.

Fortunately with the help of yoga/meditation and having moved to a bigger apartment, I am very proud to say I have rarely turned the T.V on or been on my computer at home for the past 8-9 months; which is also when I started to meditate. Having just a bit more room in the apartment made wonders to our lives; we have an extra room for meditation, home office and yoga. We even have a bigger couch now so we can both be comfortable when reading. Before we would go to work, go to the gym and then eat in front of the T.V. The apartment was so small that you couldn’t do anything else other than sit down and look at the T.V. What a trap life can be when you just do what you are supposed to do and don’t question the status-quo. This society feels like a well-run machine in which focus and clarity are hidden away from you. Unless you are smart enough to realize there is much more than this mundane daily routine of capitalist activities. But unless you do things like yoga and meditation or travel, you can’t quite realize that there are more things in life other than work, T.V, mindless shopping, stuffing your face with alcohol, food, etc. So many people are like this that it’s almost impossible to not be somewhat depressed about the world....

From doing meditation I can already see that I regained some of that clarity and focus I lost along the way. I cannot tell if it’s because of the yoga/meditation combination or meditation only. It’s most probably the combination of both. Regardless, this is a very small fraction of all the benefits that are still to come. It’s a long process, as anything else that has value in life.

_________________________________


Dennis Hunter is a writer, yogi and meditation teacher living in New York City. He is the author of You Are Buddha: A Guide to Becoming What You Are. He is a co-founder of Warrior Flow™ with his husband Adrian Molina.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

The Power of Meditation: Voices of Students (Part Seven)

Over the past several weeks I’ve been working with students in a 200-hour Yoga Teacher Training and helping them develop a daily meditation practice. I asked each student to explain, in their own words, their personal motivation for meditating. I’m sharing one student’s response per day. To read the introduction to this series, click here.


STUDENT 7:  “ Breathe now, think later...”

Before I developed a regular meditation practice, I often thought meditating meant…to take a time out, to chill, to sit still, to escape, to breathe, to relax…all those things we often associate with the practice of meditation.

The more I practice meditation, the more layers and more nooks and crannies I find within the practice.  It is so cool!

Sometimes when I meditate, I feel as if I am playing a game of tug of war.  My mind wants to think and problem solve, and I have to say, “breathe now, think later.”  I repeat and use that as my mantra.

Sometimes when I meditate I watch the thoughts and use the practice as a gathering of information.  What are these thoughts about? Are they random silly things? To do list things? Big life things?  A combination?  Sometimes I use  meditation as an investigative tool and barometer to see what’s going on.

Other times when I meditate, I play the pranayama breathing game.  How many breathing sequences can I initiate and complete in a 10 minute session.  I just focus on breathing, alignment and posture.

Sometimes I listen and identify all the sounds in the room and how they come together.  This morning was, the cat grooming herself, the dishwasher cycling, the drilling outside and the heater, all at once.  I thought how fortunate am I to be in this present moment which will never exist again.

As I meditate more, the practice is unfolding.  Meditation means so much more to me now than my initial impressions which were to chill, to sit still, to escape, to breathe, to take a time out. Presently, meditation is all that and much much more.  Each and every time I sit, I get to go a little deeper, make up a few more games, see a new level and become more inspired.

_________________________________


Dennis Hunter is a writer, yogi and meditation teacher living in New York City. He is the author of You Are Buddha: A Guide to Becoming What You Are. He is a co-founder of Warrior Flow™ with his husband Adrian Molina.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

The Power of Meditation: Voices of Students (Part Six)

Over the past several weeks I’ve been working with students in a 200-hour Yoga Teacher Training and helping them develop a daily meditation practice. I asked each student to explain, in their own words, their personal motivation for meditating. I’m sharing one student’s response per day. To read the introduction to this series, click here.


STUDENT 6:  “ Listening…like a reverse prayer…”

Meditation for me is a time set apart from the everyday tasks; it’s a time out to tune in, to explore, listen, become aware, feel, pray, look, observe, think, relax the thoughts, try not to think to much and simply be with myself, breathe in quiet contemplation and sit with whatever comes up. Each time is different.

When I meditate I feel like I’m diving into the ocean; its vastness can never be known – just as the vastness of my own mind; and I’m learning to appreciate the process. Sometimes it’s fun to watch thoughts — like oh, where did that thought come from? — and then watch them float away.  I feel a little lighter after meditation as if part of the dense fog in my mind has lifted and I can see a little more clearly and relate to myself and others a bit more wholeheartedly.

Sometimes when I meditate I have the purpose of listening – like a reverse prayer – I don’t ask for anything, I just want to listen and feel my heart beating. Other times during meditation, my mind is a torrent of thoughts and emotion and it feels overwhelming, my breathing becomes more like hyperventilation and it’s in these moments that I become very aware of just how I want to move away from these moments, because they feel like I’m in the middle of storm in the ocean! But, when I allow myself to stay, with tissue box by my side, to hold to my seat and “ride the waves” so to speak, well then I become amazed because at some point I calm.

Meditation helps me to connect to my joy as well as my pain. It offers me the opportunity to find appreciation for life’s ups & downs and helps me to cultivate compassion for myself and for others.

_________________________________


Dennis Hunter is a writer, yogi and meditation teacher living in New York City. He is the author of You Are Buddha: A Guide to Becoming What You Are. He is a co-founder of Warrior Flow™ with his husband Adrian Molina.

Me, Myself and I

by Adrian Molina

I remember when I was new to yoga, I took a couple of classes a week. I was (and still am at times) a bit of a control freak. I used to arrive to classes 30 minutes early just to get my favorite spot. Second row, right side, next to the wall. Super convenient and very strategic. I had a good view of my teacher. I was close enough to the windows to feel the (Miami) ocean breeze in Shavasana, and I had a wall next to me — not for inversions but as a protective device. I preferred back then to have a wall next to me rather than a person. I wasn't exactly very social back then.

The 30-minute early arrival plan worked for a few months, but one day someone had arrived at the studio earlier than me and usurped my chosen spot.

I was devastated. I felt like having a meltdown.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

The Power of Meditation: Voice of Students (Part Five)

Over the past several weeks I’ve been working with students in a 200-hour Yoga Teacher Training and helping them develop a daily meditation practice. I asked each student to explain, in their own words, their personal motivation for meditating. I’m sharing one student’s response per day. To read the introduction to this series, click here.


STUDENT 5:  “ Nothing to grasp, nothing to measure…”

Let meditation be what enables us to put the cart before the horse. Let us believe; let us put our faith in the unseen; let us trust the universe to guide us. Let the child in all of us emerge through our practice – the child, for whom imagination is everything. Let our imaginations not be limited by our experiences, for our experiences are simply one version – one manifestation of reality in a universe of infinite possibility. Let our eyes not limit what we see.

I have a history of OCD that simply means my mind is always trying to quantify, compartmentalize, control. Meditation allows me to tap into something that I cannot prove, cannot make sense of, cannot logically explain. And yet I feel it, feel the way it stirs me in ways I never thought possible. Not even my OCD can compete with that.

I believe that meditation is more real than anything I’ve ever experienced. I believe in the way it empowers as it teaches humility. I believe that if we believe, then we allow our faith to transform us. The magic of life becomes something tangible, something that becomes a part of our soul. That magic belongs to no one just as much as it belongs to everyone – it belongs to the universe, and as humans we embody it just long enough to realize that life is love. And if we allow that love to radiate through our souls, we begin to connect to one another, to help one another, to exist as one.

In this world that we live in, there's so much instant gratification available. We are almost conditioned towards a sense of entitlement; maybe that means being annoyed when the train is running late, or when the wrong food is delivered, or when you have to wait in line for soup at lunch. Everything is SO available to us. And it gives us a false sense of control.

I know that for me, my OCD has really flared up since being in New York despite the fact that I had it under control (for the first time in 9 years) just 8 months ago. Because there's so much for it to feed on, in a way.

And yet I've realized recently that I really feel different when I'm meditating daily. The ups and downs can be observed and detached from in a way, since there's an understanding that the highs and lows are proof of our existence. That doesn't make sense to the OCD part of my mind - the OCD part of my mind likes to associate emotions and feelings with things that I can control and thereby increase or decrease the prevalence of those behaviors to affect my happiness and well being. Last night, after I finished, it really struck me how this practice is the only thing that my OCD can't wrap it's tentacles around. Because there isn't quite anything to grasp, nothing concrete or measurable about it. It's just there. My mind yearns to attach numbers to everything, and yet my meditation practice is untouchable. I didn't realize it until last night, but that's the power of meditation to me, right here, right now. And I also realize that that won't always be how my practice serves me, because everything is fluid and always changing. So it's important (for me) to not get attached to a certain set of benefits because then I limit future possibilities.

And most importantly, I hope that meditation will help me become the best version of myself so that I can serve others with love and compassion.

_________________________________


Dennis Hunter is a writer, yogi and meditation teacher living in New York City. He is the author of You Are Buddha: A Guide to Becoming What You Are. He is a co-founder of Warrior Flow™ with his husband Adrian Molina.

The Relaxation Response

by Adrian Molina

You almost can feel it in the dawn air when you are about to have a bad morning. As usual, I left home for my morning classes about an hour before start time. That is plenty of time for me to have an uneventful commute. A relaxed walk to the train station. And the freedom of missing one train or two and still making it on time. Also included in this timeline is the 15-block walk from the train to my first class, time to enjoy the spring flowers, birds and trees along the way. It is all part of a plan meticulously designed to perfection. Today, I even had a new book to start reading on the train: "The Relaxation Response" by Herbert Benson. (Wait, the irony will be revealed...) But karma had a special surprise in store for me this morning. A train ride that usually takes 9 minutes and 45 seconds turned out to be a 50-minute stress-inducing nightmare. I was stuck in one train station for over 30 minutes. When the train moved at all, it moved at the speed of shavasana. Of course I didn't read. The only relaxation response I had was a big mental "F" word, in italics, bold, highlighted, font size 64, perfectly centered in my mind. Once you realize that there is no possible way that you will make it, and it's out of your hands, acceptance comes.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

The Power of Meditation: Voices of Students (Part Four)

Over the past several weeks I’ve been working with students in a 200-hour Yoga Teacher Training and helping them develop a daily meditation practice. I asked each student to explain, in their own words, their personal motivation for meditating. I’m sharing one student’s response per day. To read the introduction to this series, click here.


STUDENT 4:  “Doing just one thing…”


The first benefit I’ve observed is that it allows you to give your mind some time to rest and recharge.  These days everyone is busy – in my case I attribute it to work, meetings, to-do lists, surviving in NYC and trying to squeeze a little time in here and there to catch up with friends and family.  But even my 60-something parents, retirees living in a Midwestern suburb, are perpetually busy (in a very Seinfeld-esque way).  Whenever I call they are wrapping up breakfast, heading to the library, walking the dog, going to the store, or doing something else that most would consider unimportant but keeps them busy nonetheless (and always seems to give them lots to talk about on the phone)!  Regardless of how we define “busy”, we need to find time to rest the physical body every so often by sleeping at night or even just taking a quick nap during the day. It would make sense that the same holds true for the mind – we need to rest it periodically in order to operate at peak performance.  However, when we are recharging physically (i.e. sleeping) our mind is often busy at work as evidenced by our dreams.  I often have very vivid dreams, waking up disoriented and/or stressed out from being so completely engaged in them, that I feel meditation is probably more restful to my mind than actual sleep!

The other key benefit I’ve observed from my meditation practice is that through meditation, you can work to improve your ability to focus.  Again with our society’s emphasis on multi-tasking, we rarely take time to do just one thing as that may be thought of as “inefficient” in some bizarre way.  That makes meditation practice difficult in that it takes a different type of concentration than we are used to, and forces us to actively try to clear a mind that has been conditioned to instead do as many things at once as humanly possible.  This act of meditation as “going against the grain” results in us often letting thoughts creep in at some point, which then allows us to be compassionate with ourselves, re-engage in our meditation, and once again accept and be thankful for where we are at this point in time, not analyzing the path we took to get here or what might/might not come to be in the future.

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Dennis Hunter is a writer, yogi and meditation teacher living in New York City. He is the author of You Are Buddha: A Guide to Becoming What You Are. He is a co-founder of Warrior Flow™ with his husband Adrian Molina.

Monday, May 4, 2015

The Power of Meditation: Voices of Students (Part Three)

Over the past several weeks I’ve been working with students in a 200-hour Yoga Teacher Training and helping them develop a daily meditation practice. I asked each student to explain, in their own words, their personal motivation for meditating. I’m sharing one student’s response per day. To read the introduction to this series, click here.


STUDENT 3:  “A chance to sit with God and just be still…”

Meditation is calming the busy-ness of our minds. It’s rooting ourselves. It’s finding a time each day to recognize how small we are and how large the universe is. It’s remembering to be humble and reminding ourselves that we are not the centers of the universe, but rather part of everything in the universe. When we meditate, we clear the jungles of our minds and make room for peace and wisdom and insight.

Meditation is hard. It is a practice and a discipline. Sometimes sitting with our own minds makes us uncomfortable. Sometimes the easiest thing to do would be to run away. The beauty of meditation, however, is in its consistency. The more one meditates, the more peace and calm he or she will find. The paradox is that often when our lives seem most turbulent, when we most need meditation, we tend to run away from it. That is where the practice comes in. It must be consistent. It must be a ritual.

As a practicing Catholic, I also believe meditation is a practice that transcends religious affiliation. If one believes in a higher divinity in the way that I do, meditation only serves to compliment and enhance his/her beliefs. Meditation provides me with a chance to sit with God and just be still. I believe others might have a similar experience sitting with whatever power they believe in. I believe we can do this together, no matter what we believe or don’t believe. 

Though I have dabbled with meditation in the past, this is the first time I have made a more consistent, solid effort to develop a practice. I almost find myself too much of a neophyte to really be able to describe meditation at all, yet here I am offering my humble thoughts. I am sure that my own definition of meditation will continually transform as my practice continues to develop. I am excited to see how my own definition of meditation will change.

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Dennis Hunter is a writer, yogi and meditation teacher living in New York City. He is the author of You Are Buddha: A Guide to Becoming What You Are. He is a co-founder of Warrior Flow™ with his husband Adrian Molina.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Backbends: Opening the ❤️

It's one thing to do backbends. Another thing is to “feel” backbends. And a completely different thing is to teach the subtleties of backbends to future teachers. That was the focus in our yoga teacher training last Friday.

When I think of backbends I always think of heart openers. The heart center. I also think of deep-slow breaths. I think of releasing tension, creating space, expanding, opening. Overcoming challenges. And I also think of surrendering. I think of the qualities of the heart, kindness, compassion, and love being expanded, being shared. Getting out of my head and opening to something greater. For me, all of these qualities are symbolized and embodied in backbends, when they're done properly.

Backbends are not all about flexibility and being open, but also about being strong, rooted. After we did our backbends “intro” last Friday and we went for dinner with some friends and students, we all noticed how our postures were more upright and lengthened. And our chests were fully open. That’s another great benefit of doing backbends correctly: they improve your posture.

The Power of Meditation: Voices of Students (Part Two)

Over the past several weeks I’ve been working with students in a 200-hour Yoga Teacher Training and helping them develop a daily meditation practice. I asked each student to explain, in their own words, their personal motivation for meditating. I’m sharing one student’s response per day. To read the introduction to this series, click here.


STUDENT 2:  “I thought it would be easy…”

Why Meditate?

Because it’s hard. Because I know if my mind was at the place I want it to be, it wouldn’t be this hard. For me, meditation has so far been about quieting my mind to a place where meditation is no longer so difficult.

I thought it would be easy for me. I was wrong.

I don’t know if the path of awakening has a definitive end point, but I’ll know I’ve come a lot closer when the thought of sitting quietly by myself for 10 minutes no longer terrifies me.

It was never supposed to be this hard. But, then again, I guess I never knew I needed it this much.

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Dennis Hunter is a writer, yogi and meditation teacher living in New York City. He is the author of You Are Buddha: A Guide to Becoming What You Are. He is a co-founder of Warrior Flow™ with his husband Adrian Molina.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

The Power of Meditation: Voices of Students (Part One)

by Dennis Hunter

I teach many groups of meditation students but they’re usually drop-in classes. People come and go, and there’s often not a lot of interaction outside of class. It’s hard to know whether they are practicing at all in their daily lives, and even harder to gauge the effects that meditation might be having outside the classroom or yoga studio.

I’m currently teaching meditation in a 200-hour Yoga Teacher Training, which is quite a different experience. Developing a daily meditation practice has been part of the students’ homework. With guided meditations during our group sessions, assigned readings from my book You Are Buddha, regular check-ins, and a short writing assignment, it has been amazing to see how meditation is opening the trainees’ hearts and minds.

Often, students who come to a Yoga Teacher Training already have a strong physical practice of yoga, but they might have little or no previous experience with meditation. Meditating in a sustained way for several weeks, for as little as 10 minutes a day, has been a life-altering experience for many of them.

One of the major themes that has emerged clearly is how meditation puts us in touch with our vulnerability, our soft spot, what Chogyam Trungpa called the “genuine heart of sadness.” It’s the source of our innate tenderness and compassion, which normally lies hidden and shielded beneath the tough, carefully crafted persona we project to the outside world. Meditation slowly peels away our outer shield and leaves us feeling more exposed but more honest about who we really are.

One student after another has approached me during the past several weeks to share that they have found themselves crying during or after meditation. Sometimes just talking about this experience brings them to tears while we’re talking. Each time, they look at me with surprise and a smile when I tell them: “That’s fantastic.” “You’re doing really great.” Through meditation, they are getting in touch with something that wants to be seen, wants to be felt — something that might have been stuck for years in the shadows, waiting for its chance to be acknowledged.


Thursday, April 9, 2015

Roller Coaster

Yesterday I received a happy email that made the “little me” jump up and down with joy. It is always a pleasure to hear the experiences that your students go through as they develop their practice.

Then, not five minutes later, I received a second message from my cousin telling me that my dad had fainted once again over the weekend, which has been happening periodically for the last few months. Luckily with this latest fall he didn't injure himself and it was only a short visit to the hospital that didn't require him to stay long.

In those first few minutes after receiving such news, you question every single decision about your life — why you left, how you dare to miss important life moments of your family (all my family is in Buenos Aires), and so on. It was like drinking a gallon of diluted guilt. And realizing how small we are in the grand scheme of things and events.

It takes a while to put things back in perspective and remind yourself of all the wonderful things that have happened to you: a new home in a new land, your pets, your career, your husband, and so on.

You take a breath and find your center and remind yourself that love is not measured by miles and that none of us is really in control of anything.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

An Acquired Taste


"For those who have an intense urge for Spirit and wisdom, it sits near them, waiting." ~Patanjali~

I see contemporary yoga as we know it as a doorway into a broader field. Many of my colleagues are not very optimistic about where yoga is heading these days, especially in America. But I am optimistic.
In the last few weeks, I decided to cut down the time devoted in my classes to inversions and arm balances, and to focus instead on basic flows and approachable postures for all levels. I began, at the end of my classes, to sneak in a few minutes of seated meditation practice, which required making my shavasana slightly shorter than the expected five minutes. I am happy to say that nobody left or complained or checked their phones while "meditating."

On the contrary, everyone has been very open and receptive to adding a few minutes of mindfulness practice to our asana practice.

That confirms three things for me:

Saturday, February 28, 2015

The Sacredness Underneath it All

An important aspiration in my practice the last few weeks has been to perform my duties, pay my bills and live my life while remaining unattached to results and firm against adversity.

That was the theory, at least.

In practice, I became a tornado of emotions.

I sometimes felt like I was bouncing from drama to drama without being able to catch my breath. Like Pac-Man being chased by a troop of ghosts.

It's too easy blame it on people, astrological events, the cold weather. Even on myself. Or all of the above.

But the magic trick that finally changed my mindset after trial and error was to really look into people's eyes. Into their humanity.

Into people's darkness at times. Including (or especially) my own.

I've been making a real effort and commitment to try to see people's humanity even when I perceive a situation as wrong and unfair. To see the good in people instead everything that I perceive as screwed up and twisted. Inserting small doses of patience and kindness into circumstances and events that were bugging me.

What purpose does all this yoga and meditation serve, after all, if I can't look eye to eye at another human being and see at least a little bit of hope? What purpose does all this reading and mindful living make, if when something triggers me the first thing to go out the window is compassion?

Life is so much better when we make ourselves available to see the sacredness underneath it all. Even the messy parts. Especially the messy parts.





Adrian Molina is a yoga teacher, writer and meditation practitioner living in New York City. He developed the Warrior Flow style of yoga and teaches at Equinox fitness centers, in private sessions, and at retreats. He shares inspiration and teachings frequently on his web site Warrior Flow, his Facebook page, and his Twitter feed.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Schedule Changes

Hello from warm and sunny NYC. Ha!

I wanted to let you know about a few class schedule changes:

- Starting in March, I will no longer be teaching Tuesdays or Thursdays @ 54th Street  7.00am.  :-(

- Also starting in March, I will no longer be teaching the Sunday 1pm class @ 74th Street. :-(  My other three Sunday morning classes remain unchanged, so there is still plenty of time for #yogachurch.  :-)

- New Class Time:  Starting March 3, my Tuesday evening class at Equinox Sports Club on 61st Street will start 30 minutes earlier. Instead of 7.30pm, we will start at 7.00pm. I am excited about this change, as it seems to fit more students' schedules.  :-))

I may be announcing some new classes with Equinox in the next few days. Stay tuned. :-))

Finally… I am taking a few days off for vacation in Miami from Sunday March 8th through Friday March 13th.

I deeply appreciate all my students for supporting my classes. It is always such a gift to be able to practice with you. Much love. Namaste.


Adrian

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Take Me on Vacation with You!

Guess what? Now I can go on vacation with you wherever you go. You can even take me on business trips. I don't discriminate. Warm weather, cold weather, northern hemisphere, southern hemisphere -- I'll happily go with you, no complaints. I fit perfectly on your mobile phone, iPad or laptop, and you can stop me if I talk too much!

Joking aside, my students have been requesting a recorded Warrior Flow audio class for YEARS. I finally have one available for download at iTunes and Amazon. Check the links below. (Download on a Wi-Fi connection since it's a 70-minute audio file.)

A big thank you to my producer Robert Gerding and my business partner and husband Dennis Hunter for making this happen. (Music "Sandcastles" and "Shimmer" by S. McCleery licensed by Ambient Music Garden. Music for healing, and background music.)

iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/flow-strength-balance/id962208611?i=962208615

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Flow-Strength-Balance-Adrian-Molina/dp/B00SVSIZZK

More to come soon!

Namaste,
Adrian

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Thank God for Yoga!

As I embark upon the adventure of teaching my first 200-hour Yoga Teacher Training in March, I can't help but recall the days when yoga was a foreign word to me. When the idea of being in front of people teaching yoga caused me to withdraw into my turtle shell and hide.

I wanted to learn yoga. I wanted to immerse myself fully into learning more about that sequence of postures that, in some way I didn't understand, was making my life more meaningful. I never intended to become a teacher to teach. But life had plans for me that I couldn't foresee at that time.

In early 2003 I was coming out of a relationship that had left me feeling devastated. I was going through the heartbreak and healing process. I remember at the end of that year saying to myself...

"Well Adrian, looking back at this year, Yoga—not people, not places, not money—seems to be the only thing that has brought some sense of comfort and peace and tranquility to your life. I guess you owe it to yourself to learn more yoga, then."

So I signed up to a teacher training program with no freaking clue of who Patanjali was, what the Vedas were, or the Bhagavad Gita was. I had no idea I have chakras inside of me. I barely spoke English and yet I was about to learn Sanskrit!

I honestly I didn't know the depths or the transformational potential of Yoga.

Like most people who practice Yoga these days I thought of doing yoga as a way of keeping my body healthy and strong. And feeling happier and learning how to relax. Which are fine goals in and of themselves. But I understand today that they are only a small facet of what Yoga has to offer.

Those three months were not a “Teacher Training." They were a life makeover.

It was during my training that I began to discover the possibility of a life with less suffering. I didn't realize at the time that I was becoming a seeker, a person searching for liberation, transcendence, self transformation—in a word, a yogi.

Those three months were the first time in my life where I actually spent time with me.
Looking back, learning yoga brought meaning and direction into my life at a time when I felt hopeless and lost.

Of course I kept stumbling with my ego in the years to come, but I regard my Yoga Teacher Training experience as one of the most important decisions I ever made.

As I go over old handwritten notes from that time, and dust off some of my old-time favorite yoga texts, I can’t help but feel a deep respect and gratitude for so many yogis, sages, gurus, disciples, and students who have paved the way for what Yoga is today.

Thank God for Yoga!





Adrian Molina is a yoga teacher, writer and meditation practitioner living in New York City. He developed the Warrior Flow style of yoga and teaches at Equinox fitness centers, in private sessions, and at retreats. He shares inspiration and teachings frequently on his web site Warrior Flow, his Facebook page, and his Twitter feed.  

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

200hr Yoga Teacher Training

This announcement has been years in the making. But finally the time seems right.


I'm happy to announce that starting in mid-March I’ll be leading a 200hr Yoga Teacher Training at Earth Yoga with my colleagues Yanti Amos and Will Schneider.

Our supporting faculty will be composed of some of the finest teachers in our community, providing a unique, authentic, honest, and compassionate space.

It gets even better knowing that Dennis Hunter will be part of the Faculty, bringing to the table his vast knowledge in mindfulness and meditation.

If you know me... You know I don’t make decisions like this lightly. This 200hr Teacher Training will be a labor of love and a life-changing experience for all the participants.

When I did my 200hr Teacher Training many years ago, it helped me to define the kind of person I wanted to be. To this day it remains one of the smartest decisions I’ve ever made.
I want to give back what I have learned over the years for the benefit of whoever needs it at this moment.

To my students, friends, colleagues, FB acquaintances… We will need your help, your likes, your shares, and most importantly your loving thoughts to support us in this exciting endeavor.
In good spirit,

Adrian

Friday, January 9, 2015

Mind Games.

Someone approached me on the train station very early this morning.

My first uplifting thought was:
-Oh no I am getting robbed.

My second awakening thought was:
-Oh no I’ll be late for class (after I am robbed)

The reality was that this person was looking for directions.

Interestingly, my mind needed as much direction as him.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Practicing for the Long Haul

The worst part about experiencing pain or injury in yoga is not knowing. Not knowing where the pain comes from, what is aggravating it, what to do or not to do, whether you should stop practicing or keep pushing through it.

If you keep practicing with the hope that your hamstring miraculously will heal overnight, or that the pain in your shoulder or chest will dissipate by skipping a push up or two, your ego may be driving your yoga practice. That’s not a good thing in the long run.

Often this just makes it worse and bites you in the rear.

Been there. Done that. Stubborn Capricorn I am. It’s not worth it. Don’t do it.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Why Do You Practice?

The more I practice, the more I understand that the effects of the practice of yoga are too many to name. Whatever your personal reasons are for practicing, I believe that you will always benefit from it. You will always do better with it than without it.

For me, the main interest is longevity, aging with grace, acknowledging my limitations, and ultimately understanding that the practice itself is not an end, but a means, a way, a door leading to a more enlarged perspective of what life is — to self-realization.

Slowing down and learning to live in one breath seems to be the teaching that most masters and yogis of our time are trying to highlight.

Slowing down and becoming more aware of the subtleties of mind, body and breath with less interest in the competitive display of majestic postures and killer flows.

SRF Annual Convocation - 2017

I spent last week immersed in meditation. I came to Los Angeles for the week-long annual convocation of Self Realization Fellowship. SRF is...