is a growing yoga community that consists of yoga studios in Forest Hills, Queens; Englewood, NJ, Palisades Park, NJ, Nyack, NY and Baltimore, MD. We offer classes in Hatha Raja Vinyasa yoga, belly dance, kids yoga, and tai chi.
By Nina Rabinowitz, BambooMoves Instructor & Teacher Trainer
People love sex. Even people that are completely celibate love sex. For most people, this desire is extremely intense. For others, the desire for sex will come as a result of some thought, but can disappear easily enough through watching the mind. Fewer, still, have developed a true dispassion for sex. For these people, the practice of celibacy is not a choice of suppressing urges, but a natural restraint to abide by. However, for the rest of us, to practice celibacy just by suppressing these urges will only make the desire even stronger. So, to practice brahmacharya in this way would be counterproductive.
What, then, can one gain from brahmacharya? The purpose of brahmacharya is twofold. The primary goal is to refrain from doing harm to others through sexual activity. While this may sound easy, I urge you to look at the ways that people use sex. Many people look at their sexual partners as people that are there just to help them scratch their itch, so to speak. Others use sex to feel a sense of power or control over others or to relieve themselves of feeling this sense of control. Others, still, may look at a sexual partner as someone to fill an emotional void. This too causes harm to the sexual partner. Next time you are intimate with another person, try to focus on that person as a unique individual, one who’s existence is no cosmic accident, but rather someone who has her own needs and purposes to fulfill. You can focus on this person as a partner in what many consider to be the most divine creative act human beings can partake in. This is no small feat, but sex is not to be taken lightly.
The second reason for brahmacharya is to maintain and accumulate creative energy. According to Ayurvedic science, it takes 35 days after the ingestion of nutrients for reproductive tissue to be formed. The by-product of this tissue production is ojas, the substance of vitality. When a man ejaculates, he loses thousands of sperm, whereas sperm in the body is transformed into neuro-electricity. Therefore, if a person observes celibacy for one month, he will gain supreme intelligence, while a person who engages in sex ten times a week, for example, depletes his bodily fluids, loses energy, and decreases his memory, intelligence and ability to concentrate.
Furthermore, appropriate frequency of sexual activity will vary from person to person and season to season. Some people (e.g. people of vata constitution in the autumn months) can only have sex once a month before they start depleting their energy, while others (e.g. kapha people in winter) can handle having sex up to once a day before their energy is depleted.
As with the other yamas, much of the work of this principle is about overcoming desire. One such way to overcome this desire is by watching what you eat. Avoid overly stimulating foods, such as garlic, liquor, coffee, meat, or excess sugar. These can create a lot of heat in the body, resulting in increased desire and sexual dysfunctions. Avoiding all kinds of self-abuse, such as overeating, angry outbursts and sexual excess will help keep your body and mind strong, healthy, and calm.
by Jennifer Bowen, 500hr RYT BambooMoves Teacher
“When one is established in refrainment from stealing, all jewel manifest.” (The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, translation by Edwin F. Bryant).
In Bryant’s translation of the Sutras, he explains ‘asteya’, or non-stealing, as “not taking things from others and not even harboring the desire to do so….Since action is initiated in the mind – the more one desires something, the more inclined one becomes to acquire it…. Thoughts of stealing cannot exist in those free of desire.”
A clear-minded, non-covetous person attracts the trust and generosity of others, both emotionally and materially. Such a person also has the benefit of contentment in being happy as he is, with what he has, and in the moment.
A very important aspect of non-stealing is also manifested in the element of non-hoarding. If we are hoarding anything, from unused belongings that may well benefit another to usurping more than our share of someone else’s time in a self-serving manner, then these actions may well be considered an act of stealing since that time or those belongings could have been well used by someone else.
In our non-human relationships, non-stealing is discussed within the context of our own life decisions. Sharon Gannon connects the non-consumption of animal products as a form of adhering to this sutra. She describes animal product consumption as being a form of stealing, both an animal’s life and its milk which is meant for its young.
By referencing these interpretations, we are able to see how the sutras allow for us to apply self-reflection and self-regulation in a way that benefits our own live as well as the lives of others. Studying asteya provides us with infinite possibilities to refine our own evolution in that it requires us to questions how we address our own flow of give and take within our relationship with other beings, our environment, and ourselves.
It also enables us to develop pragmatic day-to-day happiness. For example, do we provide so much information to another that we rob them of the chance to find their own resources? If so, we are stealing their opportunity for growth in order to feed own ego. Conversely, do we allow someone to take up so much of our time that we feel depleted afterward? This is enabling others to steal our time from us. Can we find this as an opportunity to finely tune our own sense of discernment in contemplating asteya.
I would like to leave you with a brief illustration of non-stealing that for me, beautifully describes its essence. Not long ago, my brother lost a very dear friend . During their many years of friendship, a running joke between the two was to sneak an object into each other’s homes until the other one found it at which point that person had to sneak it back into the opposite house. Quite the reverse of stealing, this joke was based upon giving. When this beloved friend passed, my brother made sure to sneak that very same object snuggled with his friend as he was being buried — a little joke that he was sure would keep his long time, but now passed over, friend laughing into eternity as an infinite gift.
By Allison Egan Datwani, BambooMoves Yoga Teacher
‘Satya’ is a Sanskrit word that means truthfulness. It is the 2nd universal vow, or ‘yama’, of the 8-limbed system of yoga .
There are many universal truths; the sun rises and sets, what comes up must fall down, love is the cement that holds everything together, and to let go is to set yourself free. There are many more truths that we’ve heard over and over again, and yet realizing them with our thoughts, words and actions can be a challenge.
Spending time with a spiritual teacher can help you embody all-embracing truths. Reading spiritually uplifting books can also help, as well as listening to inspiring audios or watching inspiring videos. As you retreat within via practicing yoga, meditation, chanting, spending time in nature or any other way that gets you to connect, you discover yourself and your personal truth becomes more obvious to you.
As you shift into your true self, those who knew you when you used to (insert old habit here) may get upset with you as you express your truth and no longer act like your old self. An inner mantra that has helped me a great deal in living and speaking my truth while not hurting others is “Say and do what you mean without being mean”. In other words, have tact.
Another phase in living your personal truth is figuring out what your truth is versus doing what is expected of you. A technique you can practice to help access your truth is to put your right hand on your belly and your left hand on your heart. Feel if what you are thinking of doing is a ‘yes’ or a ‘no’. If you feel a squeal in your stomach or tightness in your chest, chances are you’re experiencing a “No, not now. This is not my truth.” Whereas feeling ease in your belly and joy in your heart is a loud, resounding “yes!”.
Manifesting truth, be it personal or universal truth, requires mindful practice as well as trust in the process. Be easy on yourself and others as you recognize, reveal and move forward in Truth.
by Nina Rabinowitz, Bamboomoves Teacher
Many years ago, on the Indian subcontinent, there lived a man named Patanjali. Patanjali was an internal scientist. That is, his goal was to research how to go inward to find what the yogi calls the ‘True Self’. So he traveled around the Indian subcontinent, learning about the different methods that people used to go inward. He then compiled what he learned into a series of short aphorisms which came to be known as The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. This text outlined the method of yoga known as Raja yoga.
Now these short aphorisms needed to have a lot of knowledge packed into a small number of words so people would be able to memorize them. (Remember, these were the days before the printing press or google were invented, so all knowledge needed to be memorized.) One of the ways that Patanjali made this wisdom memorizable was through the use of lists. And in this tradition of passing on knowledge this way, the first item on the list is always the most important.
The method of Raja yoga follows a series of 8 steps. The first of these 8 steps is called yama, or interpersonal restraint. This refers to how a yogi must refrain from acting towards other people. There are 5 of these restraints, and the first of them is ahimsa, non-harming. So being the first item on the list of the first item of the list, means that ahimsa is of utmost importance to this method of yoga. An aspiring yogi, then, must make conscientious choices which will not harm others. Otherwise, according to Patanjali, the path is futile.
But why would Patanjali make not harming others of central importance to the inward journey to realize the True Self?
To answer this question, one must look to the words of the sages, “I Am That”. That is, you and I are both made of the same manifestation of Supreme Consciousness. And, actually the entire purpose of going inward to find the True Self is to connect with that divine nature that is inherent in all of us.
Therefore, if an aspirant doesn’t understand this critical point, their entire journey will be fruitless. This is why ahimsa is the single most important part of the practice of Raja yoga.
The traditional analogy that is given is that of the ocean and the wave. Essentially, they are one and the same. It is only the wave, or the foolish individual, who thinks himself to be separate. But if the wave becomes curious about its own True Nature, it would see that it is really the ocean.
Understanding this is so important because in order to act with compassion, one must first think with compassion. And in order to think with compassion, one must understand that serving others is the same thing as serving oneself.
by Lara Szlamkowicz, BambooMoves Yoga Teacher
For so many of us, there are certain people out there who instantly flip a switch inside of us, releasing the deepest, crudest, most annoyed reactions we didn’t even know we were capable of. (Come on, you know what I mean!). It could be anything, from the pitch of a voice, an attention seeking behavior, a stare, an expectation, or anything that for some reason or other gets under your skin. But have you ever labored over exactly why this type of reaction was triggered? if you’ve contemplated this long enough, you might have realized that it’s probably something about your own self that you’re seeing reflected in this other person. And maybe, if you’ve really done a great deal of searching, you might recognize that this very person who stirs this strong emotion within you, is a perfect guru, sent just for you, just at that right moment. Unfortunately, most of the time we simply react with a judgement or expression of that dark feeling. Of course, doing that often only creates more anger, and so the cycle continues.
What if everyone were to carry a sign with them at all times, stating the circumstances which created each chain reaction, preceding the very moment of your contact? Some would say, “I’ve lost my job,” “I was abused,” “I’ve been traumatized,” “I just fell in love,” “I have a sick child,” “I have food poisoning,”…etc, etc. In that very moment of contact they might very well be bursting with very real, strong emotions, which quite possibly, even they are unaware are spilling out for the world to experience, or maybe they simply don’t know what to do with their exploding hearts. If you had a sign around your neck, what would it say? Wouldn’t you wish for everyone to know that when you carry yourself in a less-than-graceful fashion, it’s because you’re in the midst of some deep inner mechanical breakdown? Isn’t it so difficult in those moments, to stop and realize that these things are really just manifestations of the ego?
Of course, the more we practice Yoga, the more we become in tune with our true self, which is divine light and love. Yoga teaches us how to pause in those moments that stir up strong emotions, and to use the breath to stretch the moment long enough to learn its divine lessons. At our very core, there lies a pure soul, which yearns to feel love. The Dalai Lama says that, “The true essence of humankind is kindness.” What does it mean to be kind? One simple way to think about it is by the very definition of the word. A preliminary word search gives, “A group of people or things having similar characteristics.” In this light, kind means the same. So too, being kind invariably means recognizing that we are at our core, all the same. As living creatures, we are each and all innately the same. To be kind is to recognize this so profoundly, that in doing so, we ignite the spark of divinity that is within each of us. Being kind means looking past behaviors or qualities in others that otherwise might elicit a negative response. It means practicing deep compassion for others, and understanding that like you, they have a story to tell, and quite possibly haven’t been as fortunate as yourself to cultivate enough self awareness to go beyond their emotions in that moment. This is no easy task, however, given the chance to rest at the forefront of your consciousness for some time, you allow yourself to express more and more of your own true nature.
Perhaps you will try to make eye contact with a passerby, smile and wish them a good day. Or better yet, the next time you encounter a person who gets your goat, you can pause, take a deep breath, and remember that they too have a vast history that brought them to meet you at that very moment, and that God has orchestrated that very moment for your Self realization.
by Nina Rabinowitz
Recently, one of my students posed the following question to me: “If I’m not my body and I’m not my mind, then who am I?” The answer to this question is the crux of yoga, so let’s start at the beginning.
Since the beginning of time, philosophers and scientists asked themselves the very same question. In their quest for an answer, they learned that they were able to break everything in the universe down into two basic “substances”. They called these two “substances” purusha, or pure consciousness, and prakriti, a.k.a. matter. From prakriti emerges all the sub-atomic and atomic particles we know of. (You can think of the periodic table of the elements as symbolizing the different iterations of prakriti.) It only takes a few moments for one to realize that the human body is made up completely of prakriti, since we can break it down into the most elemental material particles. The interesting aspect of this theory, however, is that these ancient spiritual scientists understood that the mind, senses, and intellectual faculties are also manifestations of prakriti.
The process through which the basic prakritic elements become other parts of the material world is sometimes compared to what happens when one churns milk. Depending on the catalyst with which the milk is churned, something different (i.e. yogurt, cottage cheese, or butter) emerges. These products can then become other products, depending on how they are manipulated. Similarly, when we “churn” prakriti, the first substance we get is the intellect. From there, the intellect then is churned into another substance called ego, which is then churned into the mind. With further churning and mixing, we get any of the other substances from which the elemental universe is created.
This is Yogic metaphysics in a nutshell.
Now back to the question at hand. When we talk about our small self, we are talking about the aspects of our being which are made up of the different forms of prakriti, namely the intellect, ego, senses, and other parts of the physical body, however gross or subtle. This is the individual person; the part of us that we work to move away from identifying with through the practice of yoga. When we talk about our True Self we are talking about the purusha, also known as the soul, or any other number of names. This is the part of us that is pure consciousness; the part of us that animates our dead material nature with life.
In the same way that we typically walk around in clothing, so too does the Purusha/Soul/True Self spend It’s time “wearing” prakriti, or the material body. Whether you choose to wear clothes for the purpose of fashion or not, it would be silly for you to associate your entire self with the clothes you happen to be wearing on one particular day. The goal of Yoga, therefore, is to help us come to a place where we are identifying with the True Self, instead of with the clothes we are wearing.
This Quinoa salad combination is one of my favorites. I am always adding or subtracting items, depending on what is in my fridge or pantry. Feel free to experiment with what you like to eat.
Feeds 2-3 people
1 cup cooked Quinoa
2 cups Spinach
½ cup of craisins
1 cup Walnuts or Pecans
½ cup Gorgonzola Cheese or Brie
1 ½ tablespoon Brown Sugar
1 tablespoon Butter
Directions: Begin by cooking your quinoa. I season the water with a little bit of salt and pepper and a bay leaf. If you like more flavor to your quinoa add Vegetable stock. This should take about 20-25 minutes. In a small sauté pan on low heat, melt butter, brown sugar, and a pinch of salt together. Add your nuts of choice and let them get to know each other for about 2-4 minutes. Wash your spinach and place in a large mixing bowl. Add craisins, pears and lemon juice. Pour the nut mixture over the spinach, I make sure to get every last drop of deliciousness out of my pan. When quinoa is finished cooking, add to salad. I like adding warm quinoa to my salad because I like my spinach a little wilted, if you don’t, let your quinoa cool first before adding it to your salad. Lastly, add your cheese. I find that pecans and brie, and walnuts and gorgonzola are nice pairings. Find what works for you. I usually make this salad the night before and bring it with me for lunch the next day. If you haven’t already started to eat your salad, begin cleaning meditation.
Cook, Bless, Enjoy! Namaste ~Erin
by Nina Rabinowitz, BambooMoves Teacher
My father is a devoutly religious Orthodox Jew. Recently, he and I were comparing notes on the differences between the two spiritual traditions of yoga and Judaism. While the content of what we discussed was extremely interesting, I would like to highlight one issue that kept coming up. My father wanted to understand how it is that when we chant different names of God, for example, it is still not considered polytheism. (If you’re interested in the answer to this question, please let me know and I will be glad to answer. For now, however, I am just using his question as an illustration of the point I am about to make.) No matter how much I explained to him the difference between dualism and non-dualism, the difference between materialism and monistic idealism, or the weakness of the mind-body problem, he still could not resolve this basic misunderstanding. You see my father kept trying to understand his question within the context of his previous understanding. However, in order to truly understand something, we need to let go of our opinions, our previous understandings and all other mental associations. In order to truly understand something, one needs to let go of all preconceived notions and just absorb the knowledge.
This is a central teaching to Zen Buddhism. The concept in Zen goes as follows: instead of searching for knowledge, one must search for no-knowledge.
Enter the biblical story of Exodus. When Moses asked God what he should tell the Israelites when they ask how they know he is really God’s messenger, God says, “Tell them ‘I am that I-AM’”. (Many religious groups and theologians take this saying to mean the name of God. Notice the similarity in the sounds I-AM and AUM. This similarity translates to the Ancient Hebrew form as well.) Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj explains that “I-Am” is an abstraction in the mind of the Stateless State, the Supreme reality, also known in yogic thought as the Parabrahman. It is “pure awareness, prior to thoughts, free from perceptions, associations, memories”.
Once one lets go of preconceived notions, the mind is able to take a back seat in order to connect with the True Self. This is what is meant by the third sutra of The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, “Tada drastuh sva-rupe vashthanam”. “Be still and know I am That I-AM.” Once we silence our mental disturbances and get rid of our attachments, then we can reside in the Supreme reality, the I-AM.
This is a great kicked up version to your regular old Ginger Snap cookie.
Plus, you’re able to sneak in some veggies as well! The heat from the ginger
adds a nice kick to warm up any belly during the winter season!
-Erin Loscalzo, BambooMoves Teacher and Foodie
Bake at 375°F for 8-10 min
Yields 2 Dozen Cookies
1/3 cup Vegan Buttery Spread softened or Canola Oil
½ cup sugar + small amount for dipping
1/3 cup Molasses
2 cups flour, Whole wheat or Gluten Free
¼ cup water
½ tbsp. ginger powder
1 tsp. vanilla extract
¾ tsp salt
2 carrots shredded
½ tsp cinnamon
1 tbsp fresh ginger
½ tsp baking soda
2 tsp baking powder
Combine dry ingredients into a bowl and set aside. Combine wet ingredients until well mixed. Add dry ingredients to the wet mixture. The mixture will seem dry at first, but if it is too dry, add water 1 tbsp. at a time until desired consistency. Chill your dough for about 30 mins. During this time you can preheat your oven, practice cleaning meditation or Asana in your kitchen! When dough is chilled use a tablespoon to break off dough, creating a small ball. Roll this ball into sugar, or just dip just the top of the ball into a little sugar. Place on ungreased baking sheet and bake for 8-10 mins. Let your cookies meditate for 15 mins before tasting.
Bake. Bless. Enjoy!
Enjoy this wonderful winter recipe, courtesy of Erin Loscalzo, BambooMoves teacher and resident food expert. This soup is great to warm your body in the coming months. It also contains ginger and other goodies that help boost your immune system.
1/2 Yellow Onion, chopped
2-3 Garlic Cloves, chopped
5 Cups Vegetable Broth
1-1.5 lb. Sweet Potato, peeled & chopped
1 lb. Peeled Carrots, chopped
1 tbsp. Freshly Grated Ginger
1 tsp. Cinnamon
1/2 tsp. Nutmeg and Cloves
Salt and Pepper to taste
Saute onions and garlic. Add vegetable broth. Add remaining ingredients. Cook about 1/2 hour or until veggies are tender. Blend. Bless. Enjoy!
By Nina Rabinowitz, BambooMoves Teacher
As many of us continue to recover from the devastation left by Hurricane Sandy, I would like to share with you an ancient Chinese parable.
Near China’s northern borders lived a man well versed in the practices of Taoism. His horse, for no reason at all, got into the territory of the northern tribes. Everyone commiserated with him. “Perhaps this will soon turn out to be a blessing,” said his father.
After a few months, his animal came back, leading a fine horse from the north. Everyone congratulated him. “Perhaps this will soon turn out to be a cause of misfortune,” said his father.
Since he was well-off and kept good horses his son became fond of riding and eventually broke his thigh bone falling from a horse. Everyone commiserated with him.“Perhaps this will soon turn out to be a blessing,” said his father.
One year later, the northern tribes started a big invasion of the border regions. All able-bodied young men took up arms and fought against the invaders, and as a result, around the border nine out of ten men died. This man’s son did not join in the fighting because he was crippled and so both the boy and his father survived.
In the past week and a half, many of us have been through a variety of misfortunes, from loss of internet access to loss of a loved one. I am not relating this story to you to say that these seeming misfortunes will turn out for the best. Maybe it will. But then again, maybe it won’t. That is why this is an opportunity to practice equanimity, or steadiness of mind.
Equanimity means maintaining an undisturbed state of inner peace despite all seeming fortune or misfortune. Someone without an equanimous mind will respond automatically to outside stressors and joys. To some bad news, he will frown. To good news, he will smile. At the sight of something disgusting, he will look away. At the sight of something desirable, he will pursue. By our very natures, we chase after pleasure and try to avoid pain. At least that is what our mind does. However, we can choose to release ourselves from the chains of our emotions. We do this by developing equanimity. It’s important to note that when practicing equanimity, we are not learning to become indifferent or cold-hearted. Rather, we learn to create space in our minds and in our hearts to accept both fortune and misfortune. This opens us up to living fuller, richer lives, free of hostility and ill-will.
As the saying goes, “This too shall pass”. The owner of an equanimous mind knows this to be true, and therefore chooses to free himself from his attachment to pleasure and pain.
To quote the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, “Yogas citta vrtti nirodhah”. “Yoga is the cessation of the fluctuations of the mind-stuff.” When we work towards equanimity, we are truly practicing the essence of yoga and uniting with the True Self.