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Hare Krishna! Go Vegan!

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I am writing this instead of sitting in meditation. Maybe I should have sat in meditation.

If you are a cow milk drinker and/or a Krishna devotee, you may or may not want to read this, but I would love to hear from you if you do. Please read with an open mind, then please do contact me and point out the errors in my own thinking. How else can we evolve?

Disclosure: I declared myself vegetarian around the age of 10 because I thought that a lot of animal “meat” tasted gross. I did like the taste of a few things: microwavable breakfast sausages drenched in maple syrup, scrambled eggs with fried onions and salty ketchup, raw salmon with capers and cream cheese. Looking back, I’m sure I liked the taste of the “accoutrements” that accompanied the animal meat more than I liked the actual “meat”.  Maple syrup, ketchup, fried onions, cream cheese… sugar, salt, oil, fat, yum!

A cousin also opened my eyes at a young age to the violent reality of factory farming: animals being enslaved, tortured, objectified, and treated abominably for human consumption. He opened my eyes a little bit as well to the damaging environmental impact that this consumer behavior was inflicting on our planet. Not to mention the many ill effects on human health. These considerations made my resolution to renounce animal meat even stronger but some doctors tried to dissuade me. I felt a little bullied by their “authority”. They thought animal protein was “necessary” for my growth. I had not yet heard of Doctor T. Colin Campbell and The China Study, and apparently, neither had they. So I compromised with eating some dairy, fish, and eggs every now and then. I was ambiguous about fish. Were they also living beings suffering the pain and environmental degradation of factory farming? What about eating eggs? Until I started thinking of eggs like chicken menstruation, they didn’t seem so bad – I didn’t know about the nightmarish living conditions for so many farmed chickens. I was clueless that mainstream cow’s milk had become a despicably cruel and unhealthy industry. I loved those “Got Milk” commercials! I even wanted my own milk mustache commercial, darn it. I wasn’t yet clear enough to trust my own resolve and intuition.

Flash forward: in my late 20s, I was traveling in India – the country with the highest number of vegetarians in the world, and arguably the most tasty and versatile cuisine for herbivores! By then, I had adopted a very Indian inspired vegetarian diet. Lacto-vegetarian. My ex-boyfriend was Rajasthani and an excellent cook. I learned a lot of Indian style vegetarian cooking from him. I still drank milk – especially in my spicy Indian chai, which I enjoyed – and I still loved yogurt and cheese, also known as “paneer”, as well as “ghee”, or clarified butter (often recommended in Ayurvedic recipes). I was not yet contemplating the hellish reality that cows endured to produce these products for human consumption in our contemporary culture (very different from ancient India). 

On this particular trip to India, I was traveling on my own, doing research and recordings for a documentary film project about Indian Classical Music (title: JHAPTAL). I was visiting different friends in several different cities. During my stay with friends in Mumbai, it turned out that their guest room had been infested with bed bugs just before I arrived. After two days, I was massacred by bed bugs and I had a horrible blanket of bites all over my skin. The itching was very painful. So I had to find alternative accommodations while my friends cleaned their room and took care of the infestation.

The International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) ashram was just down the road from their house. My friends were ISKCON members. The ISCKON ashram in Mumbai has a big, beautiful guesthouse. There were rooms available. The rooms were spacious, clean, and affordable, with gorgeous balconies overlooking the temple. So I moved there.

While staying at the ISKCON ashram guesthouse, I woke up in the dark hours of morning, naked and screaming with a man moving on top of me. An unknown man had broken into my room and mounted me without me knowing. I was semi-conscious. I later came to reason that I had been drugged by the chai that I had ordered from room service the night before, after which I had completely blacked out. This man clearly did not expect me to wake up, nor to make so much noise upon doing so. He couldn’t shut me up. He ran away for fear of getting caught. I could not run fast enough after him. He escaped. I have told this story before. Please read my earlier post for further details.

The point that I want to make here is that I had a very visceral experience of extreme violence and violation. The “private” parts of my body had been trespassed, bruised, and I had finger nail scratches across my breasts. My body and my mind had been violently touched and tampered with by someone for whom I had given no consent to do so.  I felt that I could have died while fighting that man off of me, but I survived. All this while I was in an ashram dedicated to Lord Krishna. 

One of the Krishna devotees who came to my side when the police and doctor arrived said something to me that I have reflected on ever since – and my interpretation of it has varied over time. She said something along the lines of: “You are blessed that this happened in Lord Krishna’s home. Your karma ripened here for a reason. You could have died if it had happened elsewhere. He protected you.” 

At that time, I really didn’t know what to think. Isn’t the whole world Lord Krishna’s home? Why wouldn’t he protect me anywhere? Why here?

For years, I struggled to work through the trauma. I didn’t consider it as a calling to Lord Krishna, specifically. I found a lot more help from the teachings of the Buddha. I even changed my name to a name given to me by a Tibetan Buddhist lama. I kept that name as my official name for one whole year. I stopped working on my documentary and all my film/video creative work.  I started to practice yoga like never before. I became a vegan.

Overall, the trajectory of healing from this trauma has been transformative in a way that I feel much better about who I am now than I remember feeling about who I was before: clearer, calmer, and at greater peace with myself.  Going vegan has been a real part of that. It’s a way to clear confusion, vagueness, and ambiguity about aspirations towards non-violence. Ahimsa. 

It has taken me 10 years to put this life changing event into a positive perspective on many levels. I no longer doubt the meaning of being raped in an ashram dedicated to Lord Krishna. Krishna is also known as Govind or Gopal: the protector of cows.

Yes, spiritually speaking, the whole world is actually Krishna’s home – but different parts of the world call Krishna by different names. In this particular part of the world where I was, where my trauma occurred, the ISKCON Guesthouse in Mumbai, the name of the divine is called: Krishna. Krishna is a protector of cows.

At the moment between life and death, I was in some way protected in Krishna’s home. I survived. What is my debt to Krishna? My debt is to help protect cows.

The choice to go vegan was one of the most clear consequences of my experience of rape because I had so dramatically felt what it might be like to be a cow and experience such a degree of VIOLATION. 

Buying “organic” milk was no longer enough of a reassurance for me that the cows were comfortable with constant human interference on their “private” parts. For the first time, it felt undeniable that the dairy industry is an industry of sanctioned sexual assault. No thank you.

Cows cannot argue for their own rights. Humans must give them a voice.

May ALL cows be protected. Hare Krishna! Go Vegan!

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photo thanks – www.thehindu.com
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BAE YOGA & the Pancha Maha Bhoota

pexels-photo-148275.jpegAfter 6 years of teaching yoga and 15 years of studying yoga, I’m excited to now be connecting some of my time and activity on the mat with some of the time and activities that I want to be more involved with off the mat, especially: activism for animal rights and environmental protection.

BAE (Boulder Animals & Environment) YOGA is a project to support organizations fighting for a compassionate and sustainable planet. We connect the practice of yoga and meditation with activism, and we connect activists with the practice of yoga and meditation.

BAE YOGA Sundays Yoga Intentions Final Flyer

Connect with the BAE YOGA group online via meetupfacebookinstagram, and reserve your spot for our upcoming Sunday classes now through eventbrite!

We cannot really take care of ourselves if we are not taking care of our environment, and we cannot really take care of our environment if we are not taking care of ourselves!

Yoga and Activism go hand in hand and that is our mission, to go (go go go, go beyond, go thoroughly beyond – Heart Sutra), hand in hand, together.

Animals, wild and domestic, have an essential presence in our environments, in our homes, in our hearts, in the circle of all our relations. When we cultivate respect and love for animals, we cultivate respect and love at the very depths of our human nature.

The practice of yoga is ultimately a practice of exploring this nature, of choosing how we relate with what is. How do we more skillfully and compassionately relate with our changing bodies-minds and with those of all other beings?

According to Yoga and Ayurveda philosophy, we are all already united by the same 5 elements (the Pancha Maha Bhoota पञ्चमहाभूत : Earth (Prithvi पृथ्वी ), Water (Apas/Varuna/Jal अप् ), Fire (Agni अग्नि ), Air (Vayu वायु ), Space (Akash आकाश ).

May we cherish these elements (in all their forms) inside and out!

We are all already united.

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actually, it’s ours: in this together

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Yoga practice can transport us out of the suffering of conventional reality and reveal to us a kind of indestructible personal universe, a playful spaciousness within our own mind & body – but – that – is – really – only – a – beneficial – experience – if – the yoga practice also calls us to return to the conventional, collective, shared experience of suffering, the daily realities of this planet. We have to face all the HALAHALA! In yoga mythology, halahala हलाहल is the poison that arises from the churning of the ocean of samsara in the battle between the gods and demigods (perhaps a battle of our own intentions) for Amrita, the nectar of immortality. We seek the way out of the suffering in order to get back into it, we practice and non-attach, not to escape nor disconnect from the world, but to re-turn and re-connect with greater contentment, compassion, calmness, courage, purpose. ✌️💕🚀 Music: That Day Musician: Jef 🎶 #yogawithsandi

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unleash your inner unicorn

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semideaf: ashtanga updates from #yogawithsandi

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May we balance the levity of change with the gravity of promise. Life is unpredictable. Death is certain. Our power in between is to navigate this ocean with purpose. 2019 feels like a pivotal year already! I’m listening to a book right now called, Staying With The Trouble by Donna Haraway. She talks about the urgent need to conjugate and yoke with each other, with our environment, with our intentions. May we do so this year – with our most creative inspiration, our power to create, to create more than babies, to create kin. Love for 2019 and beyond. 🐢💖🐢 #yogawithsandi #stayingwiththetrouble #donnaharaway #feminism #fabulism #writing #creativity #plantbased #yoga #kindredspirits #2019aspirations

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In Hindu iconography, the Tiger is the vahana ( वाहन ) – the animal mount, vehicle, transport, energy – that carries goddess #Durga in her most ferocious form. In Tibetan Buddhist iconography, the Tiger can also be seen carrying #Mahakala, the wrathful dharma protector. The many Hindu and Tantric deities have different vahanas that can vary according to the time and place of their depiction. The vahana can remind us of the qualities/energies/propensities that the particular deity harnesses, whether by enhancing or restraining them as needed for the preservation of dharma, of balance. 🐯 Music: Libre Musician: @iksonofficial 🐅 #yogawithsandi #durgama #kalima #dharmaprotectors #hinduism #buddhism #tantra #ashtanga #yoga #tiger #vahana #kapotasana #mysore #ashtangayoga #meditation #yogadaily #selfpractice #8limbs #plantpowered #vegan #veganflexy #veganstrong #pbwf #healthandwellness #shiva #shakti #om

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Maybe I have always been “half-deaf,” meaning, half completely tuned in to the sound of my own thoughts, my own brain (and our brains do make noise believe it or not), at the expense of really hearing others. “Hey, I’m half deaf, so I can’t necessarily hear you” is what I’ve been having to say to people these past two weeks and it has felt so very true, on a level even beyond the physical. The physical experience of being half-deaf, which is what I am still experiencing after an ear infection crisis on Christmas, is humbly reminding me that we are all potentially experiencing a very different reality. We each have a different set of (changeable) limits, biases, injuries, handicaps, etc. that frame the perception of our reality. Sometimes we are not even aware of that framework. The upside of injury – perhaps even its raison d’être – is that it draws our attention to what we previously took for granted. This is insight, and all insight is a new vista. 🖼👂✨ #ardhamatsyendrasana #yogawithsandi #insight #hearing #perception #newparadigms #twist #ashtanga #vinyasa #yoga #yogadaily #cacboulder #boulderyoga #8limbs #poweryoga #vegan #plantpowered #meditation #contemplation

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What is Liberation if not the freedom to choose? How long should we practice on our mats -or- how long should we not practice/i.e. take rest? How long should we meditate -or- not meditate/i.e. do something other than sitting and concentrating on our breath? I feel we should do so for as long as we feel it is a choice to continue or not to continue. If what we are doing is not a choice it seems unlikely to lead to liberation. What is Liberation if not the freedom to choose? 💜 1st 🦂 since my ear infection, still healing, still learning, still seeking liberation… Xo s Music: Alive Musician: @iksonofficial #yogawithsandi #vrischikasanA #mysore #ashtanga #yoga #vinyasa #asana #inversions #handstands #backbends #peace #joy #healthandwellness #choice #agency #action #liberation #gobuffs #gogogobeyond #gategateparagateparasamgatebodhisvaha

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If you’re gonna kick, kick with joy. 😉🏊‍♀️🌊 Saw my new doctor today and she said I can handstand away – no need to fear inversions for my ear because it is healing well, even though post-infection, the not-hearing and ringing-in-the-ear can be expected for, potentially, even a few weeks. She advised that I don’t get underwater again for another week. So I taught my Aqua Yoga Play class tonight from pool-side, which I haven’t done in a while and appreciated the difference – mainly being able to see everybody from a wider perspective. Thank you water spirits. Don’t forget to love and care for your ears! Xx S 🙏💕👂✨ Music: Other Rivers II Site: https://icons8.com/music/ #yogawithsandi #aquayogaplay #fortheloveofwater #earinfections #healing #yoga #play #handstands #joy #healthandwellness

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“Growth is painful. Change is painful. But, nothing is as painful as staying stuck where you do not belong.” N. R. Narayana Murthy Perhaps finding our sense of Belonging, in any walk of life, is similar to finding the state of Asana: sthira & sukham, steadiness and sweetness, or ease. Asana is a practice. Belonging is a practice. Normally I would fold forward in this asana, #ardhabaddhapadmottanasana , bringing my hand to the floor beside my foot, but today I was being cautious about bending and inverting due to a severe ear infection. And instead, I found it refreshing to focus on reaching up through the raised arm, which equally implies grounding down through the standing leg. Asana, Belonging, both are also a changing reality, a constant discovery. 👌 #yogawithsandi #sthirasukhamasanam #growth #pain #change #belonging #asana #yoga

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“What if I were in your condition?“ Sometimes I wonder whether the origin of all yoga asanas rests somewhere in this question…. We have so many asanas named after animals and insects and gods and sages: was it through the observation and contemplation of all these other beings that the first yogis developed these poses, these asanas, this whole science of the malleability of the human condition – our form, our consciousness, our realities – in order to more clearly connect and relate will all other beings? Putting ourselves physically – as we do in yoga – into different poses/conditions can palpably help us to contemplate different realities – to recognize that there are so many other states of being. These other realities are ever in flux all around us. It is this very knowledge of other experiences occurring in the same space-time continuum that expands our consciousness. This awareness can also beneficially render us more compassionate towards the realities/forms/conditions of others. On the other hand, it can also detrimentally affect the integrity of our own – the boundaries by which we understand our own experience – because suddenly we are able to perceive that our own “I” could be any other “I” – that we could be any one of these other experiences. This is a powerful realization. The downside is that suddenly everyone else’s problems feel like our problems. HOWEVER: just as we cannot do every asana at the same time, we cannot be in every other condition at the same time. We have to be in our own in the time that it is what it is. Nevertheless, contemplating other forms/realities is helpful so that we can create better relationships. Circumstances can be blown away by the wind but relationships can root deep into the ground of our being. As the wheel of samsara turns (which is its nature) and as we inevitably change realities/forms, practice helps us to remain calm. Calmness can be the kindest compassion, towards ourselves and all others.✨☸️✨abhyasa vairagyam tat nirodhaha✨practice and non-attachment settle the fluctuations of the mind✨🐍 p.y.s 1.12 #yogawithsandi #yogasutras #patanjali #yoga #backbends #compassion #samsara #vegan #empaths #heart

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3k happy joy: ashtanga updates from #yogawithsandi

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3K happy joy (that was the auto spell correct for “Sri K Pattabhi Jois” when speaking his name into my phone here 😂), Sri K. Pattabhi Jois, the great and in some cases controversial guru of the Ashtanga Vinyasa practice, often considered “the original power yoga”, is said to have said that he really did not like to use the term “Power Yoga“ because Power is related to the human ego, where as Yoga is meant to take us beyond the Ego to union with God or the divine, or the supreme energy of the universe – however you understand this to be. It is indeed empowering to cultivate strength and flexibility through yoga practice, and with that, a greater sense of control and deliberation with our bodies, minds, lives, but perhaps there is a further step in this process: to surrender the effort, the fruit, the whole process, to dedicate all one’s experience to that which is greater than one’s self. What does that mean to you? 🙏🔥 Heated power Yoga with me today at Colorado Athletic Club Boulder @cacboulder 🔥✨ #yogawithsandi #cacboulder #3khappyjoy #srikpattabhijois #poweryoga #ashtanga #vinyasa #yoga #strength #flexibility #wellness #liberation #backbends #empowerment #surrender #ishvarapranidhana #8limbs #vegan #plantpowered #gogogobeyond

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Shortly after returning from studying with Sharath Jois in Mysore, India in 2016, I moved from NYC to an area in NJ where there was no Mysore studio within a 45 min drive. 🔹 My time in Mysore, and the years of practice in NYC before that, nevertheless empowered me to continue practicing the sadhana on my own – and to share the practice. 🔹 I’ve maintained a regular self-practice for over 2 years (including intensive Ashtanga workshops and week/weekend classes with Sharath and Saraswathi) and I’ve discovered in this time how valuable it is to have the self-practice/ home-practice that the Ashtanga sadhana empowers us with. 🔹 That said, I’ve also come to see how valuable and of great merit it can be to connect with a community and a teacher to practice with and to continue learning from! 🔹 It can be challenging to show up, whether to oneself or to a group, but ultimately we can only understand so much on our own. And it’s awesome to be a yoga student, especially if we consider ourselves to be yoga teachers too! 🔹 Big thanks to @tylandrumyoga and the @yogaworkshop for the community and learning here in Boulder. 🔹 Just a few days ago in practice I was saying that “it’s impossible for me to go into handstand with straight legs” and thanks to Ty’s encouragement and guidance, I am starting to do so. 🔹 Join me for a taste of this transformative practice tomorrow morning 6am-8am at CAC Boulder @cacboulder 🔹 #mysore #ashtanga #vinyasa #yoga #shanti #yogasadhana #health #wellness #liberation #tictocs #handstands #backbends #vegan #veganflexy #veganstrong #plantpowered #8limbs #yogaworkshop #cacboulder #yogawithsandi

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Open House at Playful Yogi Space

Free classes this weekend at Playful Yogi Space!

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Join me on Saturday for a free Ashtanga Led 1/2 Primary Series class from 11am-12:30pm. Stay for Animal Flow with Naomi from 1pm-2pm, followed by an Indian Bazaar, Kirtan, and Playtime from 2:30pm-5pm. 

Get to know the PYS team of instructors, enjoy healthy refreshments, check out some cool items for sale, join in open chanting/kirtan and connect with community. Kids welcome!

Full Schedule & Register Here! 

Address: 103 S. Greenbush Road in Orangeburg, NY (Map)